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Saturday, September 24, 2016

O Little Town by Don Reid

Christmas, 1958: Elvis is on the radio, Ike is in the White House, the Lord is in his holy temple.  But there is no peace in Mt. Jefferson.

In a small town where everybody seems to know everybody, there are still a few secrets. Three families find they are connected in ways they never suspected: an angry teen, a dying man, a lonely wife, a daughter in trouble.  

Just ordinary people, muddling their way through ordinary challenges. Illness. Marriage. Bad decisions. Friendship. Faith. Forgiveness.

Spanning three generations, O Little Town is a tender tale of love and redemption and a lonely gravesite where roses mysteriously appear every Christmas. It will touch your heart.

Cafe Lily's Review:

I really enjoyed this book!  I found it in my "waiting to be read" pile and pulled it out, on a summer day that was hot and muggy.   

(I love reading Christmas / winter books on super hot summer days.  It's just a quirk I have.)

This was a quick, easy, and light-hearted read.   Definitely a nice "feel good" story, perfect for gift giving.  I loved the time period it was set in, and all of the characters. 

The writing style was easy to follow and the small town dynamics were perfect. I highly recommend this!


Tuesday, September 20, 2016

A Work Of Heart - Precious Memories 10

 She opens her arms to the poor and extends her hands to the needy.
                                                                                   Proverbs 31:20  NIV

My mom was a hard worker and instilled the importance of a strong work ethic in me.

She stayed busy from the time I woke up until I went to bed at night. She had her cup of coffee with her at all times, while she was ironing, hemming clothes, cleaning, mopping the floors.

I even remember her washing the walls.   Who washes the walls anymore? 

We were not wealthy by any means but what we had was kept clean. I remember my mom saying, “Soap and water don’t cost much.”   In other words, no matter your socioeconomic status, you can keep yourself presentable.

In my mind, she functioned on very little sleep. This would ring true in her later years, when she worked long hours as a nursing assistant.

Growing up, I remember her being up before my dad went to work, making his coffee. “The Star Spangled Banner’ played promptly at 5 am on the radio she had in the kitchen. I have no idea what station she was listening to. I just knew what time it was, based on that tune.

When I was sick and feverish, I remember the icy cold cloth she would place on my forehead and change dutifully when it became warm. I remember the feel of her cool hand on my cheek and forehead, when she thought I was asleep. Always hovering, checking on her baby, praying the fever had broken.

Whenever I smell “Vicks salve", it reminds me of my mom.  It's commonly known as "Vicks Vapo-Rub."   Just one more scent that smells like love.  

She would dutifully rub it on my back and chest, chasing away a cough and cold.

My mom loved her job, as a nurse’s assistant and provided private home care. She loved taking care of those in need, and would often work overtime, weekends, and holidays so her patients would be comfortable and their families would have a break. I still have some of the letters she received from the families she worked for, thanking her for the care she provided.

My mom took her job very personal. Her patients became her family. She went above and beyond what she was asked to do, and cared for some of her patients 12 to 15 years. My mom never quit a job or removed herself from a case, that I can remember.  She was dedicated, loyal, and trustworthy. The families she worked for knew their loved one was in good hands.

I remember many times, Mom receiving job offers and she had to turn them away, because she was already committed. She felt terrible when she had to turn a family down. She was in high demand, because word quickly spread and families began to seek her out.

She was the type of caregiver, that those of us who need caregivers DREAM about.  She was always on time, she always showed up, and she always went above and beyond.

If she would have been paid based on what she was truly worth, no one would have been able to afford her.  But she didn't just care for others based on the money - it was truly her calling and passion.

She retired well into her 70's when she could no longer physically handle the work.  Had her body of cooperated, I fully believe my mom would never have retired. She loved her job and her patients that much!

As I grew up and watched her work, my mom taught me to respect and esteem the elderly, and those who could not care for themselves. To be patient with them and love them.  She always reminded me that a gentle human touch, goes a long way.

Little did she know, she was preparing me for the journey ahead of us decades before we would take it.  Though I wasn't her only caregiver, I would need many of the lessons she had taught me.

As the tables began to turn, my mom needed patience, love, gentleness and understanding.

And so I began my own "work of heart", attempting to follow her example.

*The Precious Memories posts you read here, are dedicated to my mother, who battled Alzheimer's. I share snippets of our story, and some things I learned along the way.

Precious Memories Part 1 
Precious Memories Part 2
Precious Memories Part 3
Precious Memories Part 4 
Precious Memories Part 5
Precious Memories Part 6
Precious Memories Part 7 
Precious Memories Part 8 
Precious Memories Part 9

Friday, September 9, 2016

Harpsong by Rilla Askew

I love the cover of this book.

It intrigued me, and made me want to know more about the folks in the photo. This book is fiction but covered the "dust bowl" depression period, and so I was interested in reading more about that time period.

Sadly, I did not enjoy the book that much.

It was a very heavy, gritty, hard read and I felt wrung out mentally and emotionally. This story follows a 14 year girl who runs off with a drifter. The book details their adventures, heartaches, and what I considered to be a horrible way of living!

I didn't like the way Harlan treated Sharon and what he put her through.  She finds him charming and tempting, but he doesn't take care of her properly and chases only after his own dreams. 

He aggravated me with his lazy, selfish lifestyle and the heart wrenching sorrow he puts Sharon through.

For more sensitive, conservative readers, there is some profanity laced within the story.  While it reflects the scene and what is taking place, it could be offensive to those who choose to avoid profanity in their reading. 

I'm noting it here, for those readers as I usually try to do.

Monday, September 5, 2016

Entertaining Angels - Precious Memories 9

Fall was just beginning to chill the air and crisp the leaves.

One morning, I woke up missing her so much. I ached with grief. Growing up, the month of October for me meant waking to the wonderful smell of baking. Specifically, her pumpkin bread. Mom baked loaves and loaves, and we’d eat some and freeze some.

Some would be given away as holiday gifts, others would make their way to the table at Thanksgiving and Christmas. That pumpkin bread was a comfort to many. Baked with love, it took her a lot of time. I can remember watching her bake all day, when she had a day off from work.

At one time, I had my mom’s recipe.  I can still visualize the yellow paper she wrote it on and see her handwriting in my mind. It was two pages. Somehow, moving twice in a year’s time, I temporarily lost that recipe. (I hope its temporary anyway.)

I have gone through my cookbooks with a fine tooth comb, hoping to find it tucked in the pages where I kept it. I wanted desperately to bake that bread as if it would help me feel closer to her. It was another scent that smelled like love.

Instead, I went on with my day, working, doing laundry. Choking back the tears. Feeling blue. Trying not to bring down those around me.

I have no idea where she came up with her recipe but it was perfect to those of us who anxiously awaited this time of year. Moist, chock full of walnuts and raisins, it was a little taste of Heaven, brightening up chilly fall days. I lamented all day about not having that pumpkin bread, because that meant I didn’t have my mom either. It was like a fist in my gut all over again.

Working through grief is strange. It just crashes like a giant wave at the most unexpected times. I was down in the laundry area of our apartment building, still feeling pretty low, sorting whites and darks.

My mind was thinking of her, as I switched a load. I heard my neighbor coming down the hall and I noticed she had bags, but I didn’t really pay attention to where she had been. I was too wrapped up in feeling blue and sad, trying to put on a brave face.

My sweet neighbor greeted me and said, “Here! I got you something.”

When I turned around, she was holding out a loaf of pumpkin bread.

I cried.

Realizing, it wasn’t the reaction she was expecting, I hugged her and quickly explained why I was shedding tears over such a lovely gift. She smiled and understood.

Though she’s several years older than me, she’s walked in my shoes. Her mom is in Heaven too. I later told her that I was pretty sure she had angel wings on for at least a moment. She had no idea what I was going through all day and that gift was like a little whisper from Heaven.

It wasn’t my Mom’s recipe of course, but just the fact that God took a moment to show me that He knew and He cared, somehow made the day pass a little easier. Ann Gabhart, (an author I read frequently), described one of her personal stories like this as “pennies from heaven.”

One day, we’ll be together again and tears won’t be an issue. Grief will be gone, replaced by unspeakable joy, knowing that death can no longer separate us from our loved ones.

I recently re-read 90 Minutes In Heaven by Don Piper. It brought me a sense of comfort to think about all that my Mom is experiencing. Time for her isn’t passing at all.

What was best for her, had to be best for me. Heaven is best.  She’s busy with the others, I’m sure, preparing for us to arrive.  If Heaven has a window, no doubt, my mom is watching faithfully, looking for me to come home.

 *The Precious Memories posts you read here, are dedicated to my mother, who battled Alzheimer's. I share snippets of our story, and some things I learned along the way.

Precious Memories Part 1 
Precious Memories Part 2
Precious Memories Part 3
Precious Memories Part 4 
Precious Memories Part 5
Precious Memories Part 6
Precious Memories Part 7 
Precious Memories Part 8

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Be Still My Soul - Cadence of Grace (1)

There are many books on my "to be read" list. I decided to start tackling that list in my spare time.

I've wanted to read this series for awhile and just started the first book, Be Still My Soul.

So far, I have found it very relaxing to open the pages and be transported back to the Appalachian mountains. I sometimes need an easy read to sink into and just get lost in. 

Here's the Goodreads description:

Night’s chill tickled her skin. Lonnie pressed her hands together and glanced up. He was even more handsome up close. Having grown up the shy, awkward daughter of Joel Sawyer, she’d hardly spoken to any boy, let alone the one who had mothers whispering warnings in their daughter’s ears and fathers loading shotguns.

Pretty Lonnie Sawyer is shy and innocent, used to fading into the background within her family, and among the creeks and hollows of the Appalachian hills. Though her family is poor and her father abusive, she clings to a quiet faith. But when handsome ladies’ man and bluegrass musician Gideon O’Riley steals a kiss, that one action seals her fate. Her father forces her into a hasty marriage with Gideon—a man she barely knows and does not love.

Equally frustrated and confused by his new responsibilities, Gideon yearns for a fresh start, forcing Lonnie on an arduous journey away from her home in Rocky Knob. Her distant groom can’t seem to surrender his rage at the injustice of the forced matrimony or give Lonnie any claim in his life. What will it take for Gideon to give up his past, embrace Lonnie’s God, and discover a hope that can heal their two fractured hearts?

Monday, August 15, 2016

When The Truth Hurts - Precious Memories 8

My mom had always insisted that I never to lie to her. I was brought up that if I told the truth, the punishment for whatever I had done, would be far less than if she had to ferret the truth out of me.

All of my life, I tried really hard to tell the truth.  Even when I knew I was in trouble. 

So imagine the guilt I battled, when I had to embrace a technique called “therapeutic fibbing” to manage my mom’s dementia and confusion. Sometimes, in order to keep your loved one calm and soothed, you need to be a little creative with their reality. You cannot rationalize with dementia. If your loved one thinks it’s June, and there is a foot of snow outside…. it’s June.

Their reality has to become your reality. What was best for her, had to be best for me.

I cannot tell you how many times I repeated that as a “mantra” of sorts, walking down the hall to her room. Bracing myself for whatever I might face that day. Dementia patients feel grief over and over again, if you tell them the truth. For example, when they ask about a loved one who is dead, telling them the truth can be cruel. They don’t remember what you’ve told them, and they will relive that “death” over and over again if you try to explain it. Or, they might get upset with you, and accuse you of lying to them (even though you are telling the truth). They can’t believe or process what you are saying, so to them, it may become offensive.

Bob DeMarco put it perfectly when he wrote:

When someone living with Alzheimer's repeats the same question for the tenth time, you'll learn once you make it to Alzheimer's World that they are asking you the question for the first time -- each time.

When my mom would ask about “her people”, or my father, or whomever popped into her mind, I made up excuses as to why they were absent. When she wanted to know when she was moving, I would say soon.  When she asked about her dog, I would say it happened to be at the groomer’s or out for a walk.

Lies, all lies. My heart was so heavy, but it was the best I could do. My main goal was to do my very best, to keep her happy for whatever time she had left. I worked very hard to avoid situations or conversations that brought her stress, anxiety, or more confusion. Some days were easier than others. When she would ask, “Are you taking me home?” that was the hardest.

Instead of outright answering her with a “No”, I simply told her that I didn’t have an extra bedroom right this minute, and we needed to have enough room for her things. I assured her I was working on it and it would all be taken care of. She was satisfied, thinking the ball was in motion and it bought me some time until she asked again.

When she refused to get out of bed, and pointed to “that” on the floor, (we never really figured out what that was), I would bend down and begin “sweeping”, pretending to mop and clean, until “that” was no longer a concern. When she would tell me all about her plans to move, and go “home”, and what type of job she was looking for, I would tell her that was a very good idea and it sounded like she would really enjoy her new job. She would smile and continue telling me about all of the ways she could help people. I told her they would be lucky to have her.  I was lucky to have her.

During one visit, she showed me a little coin purse she had, where she was hiding her “bus fare.” I told her that was really smart, and to just keep saving. She was so proud of the progress she was making towards her bus ticket. We talked about where she would go, and how long it would take to get there. I tried to honor and respect my mom, though she was no longer the mom I had known growing up. I would see glimpses of her now and then, but as time went on, those faded more and more.

There was a man at the memory care facility who used to really bother me. I often overheard him talking over his mom while she was speaking, as if she wasn’t even there. She would tell the same stories over and over, and I knew he was tired of hearing them. Sometimes I would ask her a question and try to include her in conversation. He would answer for her or loudly talk over her, drowning her out. I could see the distress on her face and the frustration. It was so sad. He was more interested in having his say, and correcting her mistakes, than letting her be.

Though seeing those interactions, hurt my heart, I did understand the long days of confusing conversation. I knew how taxing it was mentally to try and interact with a dementia patient. There are many things I would do different, if I could. I’m sure maybe one day he’ll look back and say the same. It is a learning process, and no one does all of it right. It’s like raising a child for the first time. Everything is a new learning experience.

Changes took place daily, sometimes hourly with my mom. The woman who adored Godiva chocolate cheesecake, suddenly hated chocolate. She would tell me it was bad and refuse to eat anything chocolate. So we switched to something else. It was exhausting to keep up.

Alzheimer’s and dementia expert Carrie Hill, PhD,states that “Alzheimer’s affects the brain in such a way that trying to reason or use logic with the person no longer works.” “The bottom line is,” Hill explains, “that if a white lie is the only way to make your loved one feel better in a particular situation, and it isn't hurting anyone, then you're helping your loved one by entering their world instead of forcing reality upon them.”

*The Precious Memories posts you read here, are dedicated to my mother, who battled Alzheimer's. I share snippets of our story, and some things I learned along the way.

Precious Memories Part 1 
Precious Memories Part 2
Precious Memories Part 3
Precious Memories Part 4 
Precious Memories Part 5
Precious Memories Part 6
Precious Memories Part 7

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Shelter Dogs On The Run

I love stumbling upon heartwarming stories. Being an animal lover, and former Humane Society Volunteer, this made my day.

The Santa Barbara County Animal Shelter teamed up with the St. Joseph High School Cross-Country Team to give their shelter dogs a bit of outdoors time.

I hope more high school track teams will take note, and team up with their local rescues and shelters.

What a GREAT idea!

 You can see the video here.

It is worth taking the time to watch. These dogs are in pure heaven, going for a run.

Pay special attention the last little dog  :-)