Wednesday, March 30, 2011

It All Seems to Happen at Once.....

It's been a couple of weeks of being on my own again and they've been very busy.  First, I've just tried to get the house back in shape and my routines back to "normal".  Some days have been busy and productive, others have been the opposite.  The highlight of it all was meeting up with Jan and her friends, Katie and Frank, in Savannah.  They were there only a couple of days and I met them on Saturday, their only full day in town.  I got up and out early and met them in the dining room as they were finishing breakfast.  From there, we walked every square in the historic district (22, I believe).  I've probably been to all of them at one time or another, but not all of them at once and on foot......but with my walking routine, I really enjoyed the casual pace.  The weather was perfect and both the pedestrian and automobile traffic was was great.  We had a light lunch at Forsyth Park before walking back to the hotel.  Then, Katie and Frank headed for some shopping and Jan and I went for a glass of wine and some catch-up time.  Armacons know that there's no greater fun than getting up with another Aramcon!!  We then met up for an early dinner at Vic's on the River, after which I went home and they headed for Atlanta the following day. Our time was short but lots of fun and I'm glad they let me crash the day.  It was great to see Jan again and I enjoyed meeting Katie and Frank, who were delightful.  (I meant to ask the waitress at dinner to take a photo of all of us and I totally forgot.)

Lest you think all is calm, you have to know that my mother had no sooner gotten home than her cat bit her on the hand.  He is toxic and her hand became red, infected and swollen.  She wouldn't go to the doctor when I asked was only after her neighbor called me and left a message on my phone that her hand was really bad and I should call her and tell her to go to the doctor - as though I hadn't already done that....or that she would listen to anything I might have to say.  Once I told her that Rob had called me, she did go to the doctor.  He then prescribed an antibiotic that I'd never heard of and it made her nauseous and gave her diarrhea.  So, when I called her on Sunday (after enjoying my day in Savannah with friends), I learned of the problem with the antibiotic!!  On Monday she called the doctor and he prescribed a different antibiotic....and did I mention that, in the meantime, her cat bit her on the other hand!!  God bless my cousin Bill and his wife Betty, who came by my mother's the weekend I took her home and visited her again well as my cousin Dennis, who called us both over the last few weeks.  Their keeping tabs on my mother, especially, and me means a lot.  Bill and Betty stopped by my mother's today, brought her strawberries and chocolate cake, checked out her vacuum cleaner, and other things.....all of which means a great deal to us both.

As mentioned last time, a real treat of the previous weekend was the Pearl Fryar Topiary Garden.  Below you will find my many photos depicting a delightful experience that happened in a very serendipitous way.  I had seen Mr Fryar on 60 Minutes and heard him on NPR several times.....and every time I pass through Bishopville on my way to my  mother's I think of trying to find his garden.  It so happened that the one time I actually had the opportunity to do it, there was a new sign (sponsored by Coke Cola) pointing the way.  It was a Sunday and I didn't want to be intrusive, but as the Fryars were returning from church they invited me to look around and take as many photos as I liked.  I was the only one there, so I savored the moment.  Mr. Fryar came out and chatted a bit, answered questions and so on.  When he purchased the property, it was a corn field.....nothing but corn. His first goal was to win the local "Yard of the Month", which he eventually did.....the first black person to do so.  He had a vision of what he wanted to do, but no topiary training or knowledge of what he could or couldn't do.  Many of the plants were nursery discards with which he worked magic.  The good news is that he is now getting recognition and support.  The Garden Conservancy is going to maintain his garden when he is no longer able to do so, and he now has an assistant or apprentice to help him.  So, it's one of those things that will be preserved, which is a good, but I think I saw it at the perfect time while Mr. Fryar is still the driving force. It was a treat to have some time with him. (One of the interesting features in the topiary garden is a bottle tree, which is occasionally still seen in these parts. Slaves from the Congo in Africa brought the idea of the traditional bottle trees – live trees with colored bottles on the ends of branches – into this country. Bottle trees protected homes from evil spirits by trapping spirits inside the bottle, where they could do no harm.  Recently, the bottle tree has seen new life as a tree-like metal structure with a steady base and branches, where colored bottles are placed.  Mr. Fryar used the traditional style.)

From Home and Garden online:
"Pearl Fryar just wanted to win a local yard contest when he began artfully trimming his bushes in 1984. He wound up creating a horticultural phenomenon.
As an amateur garden artist with no training, Pearl spent years crafting a stunning topiary garden, pruning his way to international fame. What started with a few plants became a 3-acre masterpiece that attracted visitors from all over and put his tiny hometown of Bishopville, South Carolina, on the map.
Pearl, now 70, has grown 400 species of plants and made 150 topiaries, many of which began as salvaged seedlings from a local nursery. He's also expanded beyond the confines of his own property, creating living sculptures all over Bishopville."

For a better description than I can give, see this short article.

Mr. Fryar has made a very positive statement in his community and has a foundation to provide educational opportunities for young people.  He shares his knowledge by teaching at various local colleges, writing for gardening magazines, and is a sought after inspirational speaker. 

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

From White to Red....

No, we're not talking wine, we're talking the color progression of spring. A few windy days "deflowered" the Bradford Pears and their white blossoms were blown away and replaced by tender, green leaves. Overnight, the street looked like there had been a light snow but, thank goodness, it was only the delicate blooms from the trees. So, the white of the Bradford Pear has been replaced by the "red" of the mystery bush, which is abundant in the neighborhood. My mother liked it so well that I found out what it was and bought her one........but I've since forgotten the name. It comes in all shapes and sizes, trimmed or untrimmed. It really is beautiful and I've enjoyed seeing it's many faces. I hope you enjoy it, too.

I made it back safely from NC and am sure both my mother and I are happy to be on our own for a while.  It may be a little too optimistic, but I felt better about leaving her, and her ability to cope, than I have in a long time.  There seemed to be improvement with her GERD after leaving off a glass of juice first thing in the morning!!  I've been after her for months to give it a try.  She did it one day while here, but when I took her home I made a special plea for her to try several things for one week, one of which was to leave off the juice.  In a couple of days, she was much better.  I'm sure she's surprised as anything I say is to be taken with a grain of salt at best, foolish at worst.  My standard line is that I'm a freak of nature.....the only person who has ever lived 64 years and learned nothing!!  Anyway, I'm glad she's better and I hope she can maintain and enjoy the summer.

The trip back was unusually pleasant.  It's March Madness so I listened to UNC play and defeat Washington.  UNC has a young team and they were so rough that  I couldn't stand to watch them at the start of the season.  Just as that game was ending, I arrived in Bishopville, SC, which is the home of the Pearl Fryar Topiary Garden.  Mr. Fryar has been covered on 60 Minutes as well as NPR on several occasions.  The garden is actually his (extended) yard, which he began in the 80s, with no topiary experience.  Many of the plants he salvaged from nursery throwaways.  In any case, I'd been meaning to find it but we always have a car load of kitties and it's never convenient.  This time there was actually a new sign pointing the way.  It was a Sunday so I didn't expect to be able to really view it, but as I was at the little information stand a car pulled was Mr. & Mrs. Fryar returning from church.  I began to apologize for bothering them on a Sunday afternoon, when they invited me to pull my car into the driveway and look around, take as many photos as I liked.  So, I had the run of the garden.  After a little while, Mr. Fryar came out and chatted for a while, answered questions, etc.  It was a beautiful day and a totally enjoyable experience....the kind that just makes a day.  As you would expect, I have lots of photos......just not yet organized.  You'll see them as soon as they're ready.

Monday was a flurry of activity to get things back to normal.  Since one of my mother's cats sprays my house, I have to cover two sofas, take up all throw rugs, take plants off the floor (he eats them), and generally rearrange my house (as well as always have cleaning supplies at the ready).  Monday was devoted to putting the house back together.  Today I reseeded my front least I hope I have!  This isn't something I know anything about, but I did read up on it......if that counts.  It's the cheaper alternative to having it re-sodded, so keep your fingers crossed!  On both days I worked in a walk just to be outside and enjoy the beautiful weather and time of year.....though everything does have a yellow tinge.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Spring is in the Air...

The Bradford Pear trees are providing the first burst of color of spring and the days are feeling much milder, in the 60s and 70s. It's great to be outside and I couldn't resist taking these photos on my neighborhood walk.

Things seem to have leveled out a bit, which didn't happen a minute too soon. That is not to imply that all is well with the world. With the horrible earthquake and tsunami in Japan, probable slaughter in Libya, and who knows what is happening in Bahrain and Egypt - haven't heard a word about them in ages. Our news media can only focus on the one event of the moment, everything else slides into oblivion. No wonder we, as a nation, can't deal with two concepts at the same time! I continue to tune in to Al Jazeera online as much as I can and found it interesting that Hillary Clinton complimented them, in a backhanded kind of way, by saying something to the affect that you may not like all they do but they are better than the rest!

Allan and I went to Japan once and I also stopped over on my own.  We had a wonderful time and the people were so generous and the culture so interesting.  Whatever the job, they were so devoted to doing it well that no stone was left unturned.  It got to the point that we thought twice before asking for anything because we didn't know the extent to which they would go to make it happen.  They are a gracious, strong people and they will recover from this devastation, but it is difficult to imagine what life is like for them at the moment. It's just heartbreaking to see and my thoughts and prayers are with them.

We are leaving Wednesday to take my mother back to NC.  If the truth be known, I think we are both dubious of it.  In any case, it is going to happen.  Tuesday I have several appointments and will be out of the house much of the day so Monday was our day to get organized for the trip.......but for some reason we undertook a huge yard project.  Well, when we started we didn't realize it would be so big, we were just going to "trim some low hanging branches".  The more we trimmed the more there was to trim....and we were rewarded by everything looking better and better.  So, hours later and four (4) car loads for debris to the dump, the job was complete.  That's the type of thing my mother enjoys doing and she was active all afternoon (though it's 9:30AM the following day and she's still in bed!).  The weather was so nice and the encouragement so motivating that I enjoyed it, scratches, sore muscles and all.

Today (Tuesday) has been busy and full.  I had a dental appointment that was surrounded by all of the things necessary to move my mother back to NC (setting up the cat crate in the car, packing her things, double checking that all is included, etc.).  It's now 8:30PM and all is done...except anything I need to do for myself!  That will happen as soon as I post this entry. 

My fun diversion was my Living Liberally group.  It was my friend Gayle's last meeting before her move, which was highlighted by our first gathering outside on the deck of the restaurant with a great view of the water and the sunset.....our first real "rite of Spring".  It was great, though bittersweet. We are losing another young person from our group and it's sad to see her go and to lose that enthusiasm and freshness.  My suggestion was that we institute a new policy that before the young ones from our group leave they have to provide a comparable replacement!  

More when I get back.....

Saturday, March 12, 2011

What They Never Tell You......

My senior moments have become so frequent and there have been so many "balls in the air" that I've neglected to mention some of the other delights of growing older.  Then, I happened to run across a convenient list of what one can expect.  So, imagine that I'm David Letterman and here goes the "Top 7 Things Nobody Tells You About Aging"
  • #7   Your Feet Are Gnarly  (Yep!)
  • #6   Your Hands Are Veiny and Spotted   (Not too bad, but getting there)
  • #5   Your Teeth Become More Prominent   (I just hope they don't fall out!.)
  • #4   Your Nose and Ears Seem to Be Growing   (Oh, great.....Just what I need!!)
  • #3   Your Eyebrows Become Sparse  (Unless I draw them on, you don't know I have them anyway.)
  • #2   The Hair on Your Head Starts to Thin  (Don't even want to think about it)
  • And last but not least, #1  You Start to See More Hair on Your Face  (Yikes!)

That brings me to chin hair, the second of which I recently tweezed from the side of my face.  The first one I just fobbed off as a "once in a lifetime" oddity.  With the second one, I'm wondering if I'm soon to have a future as the bearded lady with Barnum and Bailey!

As if that isn't frightening enough, I'm now a redhead!  Over the summer, the chemicals on my hair lightened up to a nice color, but over the winter the gray began to take over.  So, I finally decided to do my semi-annual "coloring".  The shade was advertised as "dark golden blond" - not so!  The color guide on the box is never accurate so I really wasn't expecting that, but I also wasn't expecting red! I haven't made my way in life based on my good looks so I really could care less. I just know that it's such a contrast to the underlying gray that it will look very messy as it grows out. Blond worked out well because the gray just kind of blended in. My mother likes it because it's close (without the red tones) to my "natural" color.....when I was much younger, but it's too strong for someone my age.

Can't believe I just spent that much time talking about hair color.....

So much for the trials and tribulations of growing old.  Let's talk about something really important - Charlie Sheen!

On a more serious note, Pamela in California sent some interesting and useful information on how to pump gasoline......useful tips for getting more for your money.  You can get the info HERE.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Busy, Busy......and Another Senior Moment

I awakened this morning around 5AM with "monkey brain" - my thoughts ricocheting from one pending task to another.  Knowing that I would never go back to sleep, I got up and tackled the day.  My mother has developed a cough so the first priority was to call the doctor's office to see what was needed.  Lunch with a friend was on the schedule, followed by closing one back account and opening another.  Years after the big banks almost brought our economy to its knees, I've finally gotten around to moving my account from Bank of America.  It was done strictly on principle as I liked their online backing, etc.; BUT, a gray panther has to do what she can!!  To make it even harder, the girl at the bank couldn't have been nicer.  She had to giggle when she asked why I was closing the account and I told her I was "a little, old lady making a political statement."  My new bank is within walking distance, much smaller in size, has good online services, and is very friendly. All of that was prefaced by another day of visiting banks and gathering enough information to finally take the leap.

Tomorrow is another research day.  I'm comparing homeowner's and auto insurance.  I received my 6 month auto insurance statement and it went UP $80 on a 5 year old car.  Usually the insurance goes down as the car ages, assuming no accidents, etc.  I've spoken by phone with three people/companies and will discuss it with them in person tomorrow.   They've already provided some quotes that are much more reasonable than my current insurance so, in the end, it will be worth it, but this isn't the kind of thing I enjoy doing.......and it's also something I would probably let slide if I were still working, simply because of the time required.  But now I have no excuse.

Spent some time recently "hangin" with some of my younger friends from the Living Liberally group.  Rob and Amanda were in the group from early on and are such a nice couple.  He eventually went to work in Afghanistan for a couple of years and I tried to be as encouraging to them as possible.  He was then able to return and get a good job with the same company, except it was in Greenville, SC.  So, shortly after Cooper was born, they moved.  This past weekend they were back in town and the word went out (on Facebook, what else?) to join them for drinks at La Hacienda on Friday evening.  I was the oldest one there but it was so sweet of them to include me, and equally good to catch up.  There were others there whom I hadn't seen in a while because their jobs kept them from attending meetings, so it was a good reunion.

As  I've said before, one of the nice things about Living Liberally is the diversity of age within the group......and the young people are so open, accepting and pleasant. As with most things in this area, the group is populated with older people, and the younger folks show up by choice.....and they seem to enjoy being with us!  It's really great.  Anyway, a few weeks ago, Gayle (right) and I went for a walk on the beach on one of those first really great days.  On Tuesday, we found the new Bluffton Linear Walking Trail and walked it.  The day was beautiful and clear, the conversation eclectic, and the tone light......much more enjoyable than time spent with ladies my age.  But, as with Amanda and Rob and most young people who are here for any period of time, she and her husband are moving to NJ/NY area. He is already there and she will be leaving at the end of the month.  Her last Living Liberally meeting will be on the 15th.....but she already plans to visit the original chapter in NYC. Like Amanda and Rob, she will be missed by those of us who appreciate their wit, perspective, humor......and all those wonderful qualities that come with youth.

Interactive Segment: As proof that my brain has been overloaded, I experienced the ultimate senior moment. This is beyond wearing two distinctly different earrings....for days (which was karmic retribution from Mrs. Winfrey, my 6th grade teacher, whom we giggled at when she worn two different colored shoes).  In preparing my vegetarian grub over the weekend, I left all of the eggs out of a recipe!  No big deal, you say!  Could happen to anyone! Well, the recipe was for a quiche!!  Normally I would at least read down the ingredient list just to double check that everything is included, but I've done this recipe so often that I didn't even do that.  I was totally mortified......but at the same time it was too funny to fret over too long.  I'm sure (please God) that I'm not the only one out there stunning  themselves with senior moments. So, the interactive part of this is for YOU to share your funniest senior moments. Don't be shy.....and by now you must know that you are not alone. Use the comment section below to add to the conversation.