Category Archives: Exploring My World

Christmas Trees, Booties, Elves and Skeletons

CHRISTMAS TREES decorated with booties, elves, and skeltons!  Really?  There are as many different ways to decorate a tree as imagination dreams up.  On a recent visit to Novant Presbyterian Hospital to visit a family member, the lobby was full of dozens of decorated Christmas trees. All were theme trees likely decorated by the various departments in the hospital, and were to be auctioned off as a fundraiser for the hospital.

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Booties and pink and blue for the nursery babies

 

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Lollipops and elves for pediatrics
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A  Christmas reminder to give to families in need
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Ribbons, red and green
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Celebrating wildlife and winter

 

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What is this about? Maybe not a great message for patients. Was it decorated by Radiology or Orthopedics staff?

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We enjoy the beautiful Christmas tree at our house
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Yet, I carry the tree from childhood in my heart, with  its plastic lighted star Dad placed on top, and its  shiny tinsel, we hung with care, one strand at a time.

Sue Marquis Bishop 2016

 

 

 

 

 

Fantasy and Food in Sugar Hill, Georgia

LUNCH AT THE SUGAR HILL BAKERY AND CAFE’ is a foodie’s delight in an atmosphere of  fanciful decorations that brings out the child in all of us.

ON A WARM FALL DAY, my sister Nancy invited me and her friend Debbie, to one of her favorite new places for lunch.  And want a delightful adventure it was!

THE RESTAURANT IS LOCATED IN SUGAR HILL, GEORGIA,  just a frog’s jump north of Atlanta. Parking is available. We approach the bright blue building  with painted sunflowers, pumpkin doormat, and a bicycle by the front door. It’s obvious we are not going to dine in a traditionally decorated milieu.

AS WE STEP THROUGH THE DOOR,  we are greeted by a big panda hanging over a chair.

img_0697 We enter an unusual environment reminiscent of  Alice in Wonderland, and find a cozy table nook to occupy.  The large bakery cabinet across the room dominates the room, brightly lit up trumpting all kinds of sugar confections and desserts.

The menu is simple, but varied, and includes healthy options for lunch.  That is a good thing, because we all want to save room for dessert.

WHILE WE WAIT FOR OUR FOOD,  we look over the fantasy created all around us with colorful and unexpected items on display, …stuffed animals, fur coats, jack-o-lanterns, trees, and lots of glitz, bling and twinkling lights on walls and ceiling.. The women’s restroom, an entrance to “the lion, the witch and the wardrobe” is imaginative. Unmatched vintage wood chairs are pulled up to tables scattered throughout. There is much to see in every corner.

THE THREE OF US ENJOY the choices we make for lunch, including Georgia sweet tea, chicken salad and sandwiches that are fresh and tasty. Finally, the time comes to select OUR dessert.  Such a decision!  We aren’t prepared for the large size of the dessert serving  that is delivered to each of us, especially the one Debbie orders. Some of the desserts necessitate asking for a box to take some home to savor later.  And good!  …. Sweet, flaky, custardy. smooth!  Oh yes.

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THE FOOD IS THE BEST REASON TO VISIT the Sugar Hill Bakery and Café, but the décor is the second best reason that makes having lunch here a respite from a busy life and the usual luncheon fare. It’s a quirky place for girlfriends to meet and chat, a place to take your children to be dazzled by the whimsy, or even for a couple to enjoy a cool drink to begin a romantic evening, in out of the ordinary surroundings.

A CHARMING WOMAN named Nancy (in the middle below) created and manages the Sugar Hill Bakery and Cafe’.  If you stop in for lunch, ask for Nancy and tell her what you appreciated about the experience.( Two Nancys and Debbie in photo below.)

Bon appetit’!

Sue Marquis Bishop 2016

 

 

 

 

When Thank You is Not Enough

“THANK YOU for being there.”   “Thank you for your support.”  But what do you say then when thank you is not enough? 

IT ALWAYS FEELS GOOD to do something to help another person in times of stress or need.   I am not as comfortable, however, being the recipient of caregiving.

Agatha Christie said that “you cannot give to people what they are incapable of receiving”,
(Funerals are Fatal, 1951).

A RECENT EVENT requiring major surgery brought unexpected assistance and loving support to our door…and this big sister learned an important late life lesson to accept my younger siblings generous offerings of presence at a special time of need.

WE DID NOT IMAGINE anyone needed to stay with us during my anticipated hospitalization.  However…, my sister and two brothers and spouses arranged among themselves (a surprise!) to plan a week in our home (at different times) just to be available to do what was needed.

MY HUSBAND AND I thrived on such loving care. I let go of organizing in my mind what needed to be done (meals and this and that),  and accepting the proffered gift that all was taken care of, I focused on my single task to get well.

THEY WERE THERE FOR BOTH OF US when I was in the hospital, and when I returned home. I know the surgeon’s skill and medical care made my recovery possible, but I am confident that my recovery was hastened by the emotional proximity of loving family, great meals, and laughter at stories and happenings that can only be fully appreciated by family who have been together for many years.

THEY HAVE NOW RETURNED to their own busy lives in Georgia and Florida, and we are all back into our normal lives.

“It may be more blessed to give than to receive, but there is more grace in receiving than giving. When you receive, whom do you love and praise? The giver.”   Jessmyn West, The Woman Said Yes, (1976).

Thank you Ed, Sue, Nancy, Milt and Ann! 

EACH OF YOU BRINGS SPECIAL TALENTS to our family , and as a family, we re richer for it (including my sisters by marriage). You are loving and caring individuals who are living productive lives and making a difference in your worlds. I remember well your births and witnessed your growing up years, and  I  still occasionally see your young faces in your adult expressions..

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I couldn’t be prouder to be your sister!

Sue Marquis Bishop
2016

The Dressmaker’s Legacy: A Poem

IMG_0153The Dressmaker’s Legacy

Grandma Mamie’s hands were always busy
creating beauty where there was none –
from threads, potato sacks, fabric scraps and wool,
she designed, tatted, crocheted, knit and sewed.
She had magic in her hands.

She might have been a famous dress designer
in another time – with other opportunities.
She could envision a garment,
make a pattern from newspaper,
cut the fabric and sew the new creation.

When her twins were two, she made
a white cotton dress with crocheted yoke and sleeves.
her daughters kept the yokes all their lives,
as a loving reminder of their mother.

When her twins were 15, they sketched a dress
with a hem longer on one side than the other.
They said it reminded them of a shirt untucked
on one side, so they named it the “shirt-tail dress.
Grandma designed it and made two.
Classmates at Gauley Bridge High School
wanted one too, so grandma made more, and
started a local fad in West Virginia.
The shirt-tail dress, ahead of its time,
a dress with an asymmetrical hem.

Grandma believed clothes for her twins
should be ready to wear at the same time,
(no favoritism here), so she cut out sleeves for one,
then sleeves for the other, bodice for one,
then bodice for the other, and so on.
Cutting and sewing parts in tandem,
both dresses were ready to wear – at the same time.

She crocheted elegant tablecloths,
intricate feminine collars for dresses and suits,
flat doiles for the arms of her chairs;
fancy ones with starched ruffles for her tables,
and bedspreads of pleasing patterns;
tatted delicate lace for trims;
knitted afghans to cuddle under in winter,
soft booties, hats and small quilts for
new grandchildren and great grandchildren.
She used scraps of leftover material and old clothes
to design and sew beautiful quilts by hand.
She worked magic with those hands.

Grandma’s hands were always busy,
Even when she sat at rest and her sight grew dim,
there was piecework in her lap.
In her 80’s, she was happiest when family visited,
eyes bright with anticipation,
especially when children were coming.
Her wrinkled face with thick glasses greeted us in smiles.
She held both our hands and looked into our eyes when she talked.
I remember staring at her slender hands – with age spots,
blue veins and arthritic joints – tenderly holding mine
and hoping a little of her magic rubbed off on me.

Grandma’s art is in my home now,
fruits of her labor all around.
A favorite quilt pulls at memories
each time I see it, or touch it,
made of fabric swatches from clothes
my mother, sister and I wore in years past.
Sleeping under the warmth of this quilt
brings comfort from the past beyond measure.
I treasure too, my babies quilts,
the kitchen napkins with crocheted edges,
her doiles I have framed, and
the white crocheted bedspread
I drape with care each Summer
on the white bed in the guest room,
as a artist displays a valuable art piece.

Her legacy is greater than treasured items.
Grandma Mamie passed on the value of work,
and the will to create beauty in practical things
that comfort – and make a home.

Sue Marquis Bishop
Copywrite 2013

Reflections on Loss of Loved Ones

A prose poem reflecting on the accelerating pace of losses in the years beyond 50, is shared on the 20th anniversary of April’s National Poetry Month.

Someone Left the Window Open

Someone left the window open and they are slipping through,
One by one, and two by twos –
Loving grandparents – drum majors of a parade –
Uncle Don who drove everywhere looking for little pink pigs like ones in my storybook;
Betty Davis, dear childhood friend, named for a movie star, who survived polio to be felled by its re-awakening in later years;
Uncle Frank, who told scary ghost stories, loved Florida and lived life his way;
Uncle William, who lived a formal life as Presbyterian minister till he retired and put away his suits for blue jeans and bluegrass;
Aunt Ermal, who was dietitian at Cumberland College, loved playing Sorry, and made memories with her fruitcakes;
Aunt Verna, who cared for her town as county public health physician;
Aunt Maggie, who liked brandy alexander’s, managed her own business and parachuted from a plane in her 80’s;
Aunt Shirley, who enjoyed taking care of her home and sang country songs while she washed dishes;
Aunt Fanella, twin sister of my father, who kept kinfolk connected and her faith strong;
Dottie, my 6 foot tall college roommate, who had a big heart, a hearty laugh and was a wonderful nurse;
Sweet Alice, my Indiana University officemate, loyal to her friends, who found love in later life;
Mother-in-law Nora, loving mother and grandmother, who taught first grade for 52 years;
Brother-in-law Don, who went at life in a run, and took good care of my sister;
Dad, a talented and happy man who lived life well, but left under the veil of dementia; and
Mother, who loved Christmas, her family, and her home in Madison, and lived to 91.
Someone left the window open, and we keep slipping through.

Sue Marquis Bishop
Copywrite 2013

THERE ARE MANY BENEFITS to living fully in the years beyond 50.  One of the hard knocks we experience with increasing age, however, is the accelerating pace of loss of significant others in our social networks.

I CONTINUE TO FEEL  the presence and influence of loved ones who are no longer here, in so many ways –  in funny family stories re-told,  sage advice remembered, family talents and traditions passed on. My life has been enriched by knowing them. I feel gratitude and joy, that they were part of my life.

Changing Carpets From Winter to Spring

In spring, nature is like a thrifty housewife…taking up the white carpets and putting down the green ones.” Mary B. Eddy, Miscellaneous Writings, 1896.

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ONLY A FEW SHORT WEEKS AGO,  we enjoyed a light carpeting of Southern snow as a snowstorm blanketed the North in huge drifts.  But…it only lasted two days in Charlotte, until it morphed into water and disappeared.

WHEN IT SNOWS IN THE SOUTH,  it only stops in for tea and a brief respite before melting and running away.

SIGNS OF SPRING are emerging here and there in Charlotte as February and March days turn warm, then cool, then windy.  Today, it is sunny and 80 degrees.

Dormant
buds bursting
open winter casings;

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Carolina
Jasmine’s display
beckoning us outside;

Blue
birds gathering
at the feeders:

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Pedaling
with the
wind in my face;
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Rosy
pink ground
cover kissing lawns;

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Forsythia
showing up
gray tree trunks:

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Reading
and dreaming
at Spring Park Pond.

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I’M READY FOR TOMATOES from the garden, flowers blooming in profusion, breezy days on the porch, walks in the sunshine, reading by Spring Park pond, cookouts, and yes… even Spring cleaning.

I AM GRATEFUL to be here, in this place, witnessing the emergence of Spring once again.

“Suddenly a mist of green on the trees, as quiet as thought.”
Dorothy M Richardson, Pilgrimage: The Trap, 1925.

Sue Marquis Bishop, 2016

 

 

 

 

 

17 Books of LOVE: The Ties That Bind Are Not Just Lovers

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LOVE COMES IN MANY FORMS. Human connections give life meaning.  We celebrate romantic love on Feb 14th. Seventeen (17) books reviewed briefly in this post, depict love and bonding in many different relationships and ages, and the grief of loss when it is gone.

An Available Man by Hilma Wolitzer (2012).
How do I learn to live as a widower?  One man’s journey of  how he navigated his new life as a widower, following the loss of his beloved wife. The reaction of others in his community as they responded to his changed status as a newly single man, was believable and often humorous.  Realistic depiction of grief and loss; risking new relationships.  A charming man to invite for a dinner party.

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion (2013).  
Socially challenged man searches for love.  A funny, touching story about a brilliant genetics professor with Asperger’s who sets out to find a wife.  I laughed aloud in places as he meticulously plans his strategy, and as his plans often go awry.   Australian author.

The Republic of Love by Carol Shields, Harper Perennial, (1992).
Finding someone in later life: The author is a master at noticing minute details of living, both emotional and material.  Fay and Tom find love and connection in later life.  Story depicts human need to have a special someone to share life.

The Rockin’ Chair by  Steven Manchester (2013).
Leaving a legacy of love:  heart-warming story of love, family, forgiveness, continuity, place, home and creating a legacy.  Everyone should have a grandpa John to go home to….

Finding Home by Jackie Weger (1987, 2014).
Love of family, search for belonging:   A story about a quirky and determined woman … a good-ole-girl with a big heart… who sets in motion a plan to find a home for herself and her large family.  So many funny parts I laughed out loud…and rooted for Phoebe to get her man and her house…and find a place to belong along the way.

The Illegal Gardner by Sara Alexi (Greek Book Collection 1) (2012). 
Non-romantic  bonding between two socially different individuals based on interdependent needs:  Takes place in a small Greek village.  An English woman’s journey, along with her Pakistani gardener, an illegal immigrant refugee with limited options for his family. Their chance meeting and ensuing working relationship provides comfort and meaning to their lives.  Themes: gardens, human needs for connection, opportunity, mutuality of relationship.

Forever Interrupted by Taylor Jenkins Reid (2009).  Young love and loss; bonding between women: A heart-breaking novel of two young adults who meet, fall in love and marry and hours later the bridegroom dies in a freak accident.  Is she a widow, when she hasn’t had time to even be a wife?  So truthful about the vagaries of grief. Hope and affection is discovered in unexpected places for mother and daughter-in-law.

Walk Me Home by Catherine Ryan Hyde (2013).
Bonds between sisters, connecting with strangers to create a new family:  Two sisters begin a long walk across states after their only parent is killed, to find an old boyfriend of their mother’s that they think would care for them now.  Their adventure takes them into Indian country where they meet a unique and no-nonsense Indian woman, who changes their lives.

11/22/6 by Stephen King, (2011).
Love story set in 1950’s: Time travel and attempts to right some wrongs in the past, e.g., killing of President Kennedy. Time travel to 1950’s is detailed in food, fashion, dance, customs, technology.  King must have been a jitterbugger by his detailed description of this dance 50’s style. Secondary theme is a love story.

Fortune is a Woman by Elizabeth Adler, Dell Publishing (1992).
Lifetime  bonds among three strong women: Settings from China to San Francisco to rural New Mexico. Story of how the lives of three strong women connected over years.  Unexpected events from start to finish  keeps you turning pages.  I didn’t see the ending coming.

Somewhere in Heaven: The Remarkable Love Story of Dana and Christopher Reeve by Christopher Anderson, Hyperion (2008).
A true love story.  This biography is a love story of two exceptional individuals whose lives continue to inspire.  Presents challenges of living every day paralyzed from the shoulders down… and what happens to the body.  Given this huge burden, it is amazing what Dana and Chris accomplished together!

1929: (Book 1), by M.L. Gardner (2009).
Bonding of friends during times of economic disaster to survive:  Story of three  American couples (all friends) who lose their wealthy lifestyle in the 1929 stock market crash, and must now find a way to survive poverty, and to rebuild their lives. Story focuses on what happens to them, their servants and in-laws during the years after 1929. Depicts the real life situation that many families experienced in our grandparents generation, as a result of the 29′ crash….the abject poverty for so many, the greedy who took advantage of events, and efforts to survive..   The  1929 series consists of 6 books, but I recommend only Book 1.

I know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou (1969).
Family, Community and learning to love self.  Powerful memoir from African-American writer of her early years. Compelling narrative raises questions about love, abuse, racism, home, country and family.  I heard so much about this book, I wanted to read it.  I’m glad I did.  Maya died last year in NC.

Where the River Ends by Charles Martin (2008).
A haunting story of love and letting go.  A final journey of an artist and the love of his life, who is dying of a terminal illness.  They steal away from her possessive family (the Senator, ) and take a harrowing last trip (at her request) up the river from SC to Georgia, in a small boat.  Her body dies a little every day, but she radiates joy, as they meet interesting people and share experiences along the way. Would you have done it?

A Gentle Rain by Deborah Smith (2007).
Love comes in all sizes; appreciating differences.   A warm, fuzzy love story of rural life in North Central Florida.  Eccentric characters include lovable, mentally challenged and other unique and strong characters.  Rich girl seeking her birth parents, arrives at farm and quickly makes herself indispensable. You will cheer for main characters, even though you just have to overlook too many coincidences and just enjoy the tale.

The Magic Hour by Kristin Hannah (2011).
Adult-child bonding. A child arrives in a small town in the American Northwest, who can’t speak, and doesn’t show normal social behaviors. Major focus of story is the building of bridges of communication between a woman psychiatrist and the feral child.

Tuesday’s Socks by Alison Ragsdale (2014)
Risking first love at 64 years.  In the Scottish town of Pitochry, Jeffrey finds a path to change the ordered life he has led and risk change that will lead to big life changes.  His day socks, a loving mother and a mysterious dog urge him on his journey.  This story is slow moving, but fits the rhythm of Jeffrey’s structured life and the baby steps he takes to finally change his solitary life.  Characters are believable.  A first novel by this author. Some lonely folks may need a push, sometimes more than once, to take a leap of faith.