It’s been a long and challenging few months since I’ve posted. Thank you for spending a few minutes with me today to reflect and project.
Spring is close and I feel a renewed energy in the air. I hope I can share some positivity if you are struggling to find the beauty of the season. Let’s start with some visuals.
Bright cheerful flowers, brilliantly budding trees, azure blue skies. True masterpieces lifting my soul to a brighter place. Although I know rainy days, heavy grey clouds, and frightening storms are scattered throughout the season, I have a renewed determination to endure those days with faith, hope, and love.
I’m finally scheduled for my first COVID-19 vaccine this week and my husband has received both of his. Soon I will be able to visit friends and family with less fear of being infected by the virus.
My husband of 49 years, Wart-nicknamed by his grandfather for being a worry wart- made it through three months of cancer treatments and is doing better than expected thanks to his strong stamina, attentive doctors, and some TLC from me. While the emotional toll has been hard, his physical pain has been minimal. With a positive prognosis, a little more energy, and some warmer weather, he’ll be outside cutting grass and growing his tomato plants soon.
We’ve seen Hammie, our grand dog more than our daughter, Laura. Hope she’s ready for all the hugs she’s missed. I’ve got a year’s worth coming her way.
Hammie’s had to tolerate a bunch of them, but he doesn’t mind as long as he got a treat.
Spring brings a freshness that exceeds the cold, dark, winter days. Sometimes I have to remind myself that life is good. But, I know it is and I am blessed.
The new season brings thoughts of visiting family and friends, participating in outdoor adventures, and maybe even scheduling a face-to-face book signing.
Time to snuggle up with a cup of hot cocoa, a warm blanket, and a heart-warming book!
The Dahlonega Sisters are back and ready to entertain!
Will digging up family secrets uncover bones best left buried?
Marge Ledbetter fears once she spits into the small vial and sends it off, nothing will be the same. But she must disprove the outrageous secret she’s been told by a dying woman before it becomes the latest gossip to spread throughout her quaint gold rush town, Dahlonega, Georgia.
Her older sister, Rose Ellen, who is a tad haughty, enthusiastically approves of the ancestry search in hopes of finding a famous relative to add to her bragging list.
Marge’s eccentric twin, Mutzi, vehemently disagrees, fearing the rumor she’s heard most of her life about her and Marge not being sisters is true.
Will the results disprove Marge’s tightly held secret or will The Dahlonega Sisters be faced with news that changes their family dynamics forever?
It never ceases to amaze me how often a friend says “How do you know Jane?” Insert any name you like. The response for me usually is through thirty-three years working at the same place, a lifetime of volunteering with Girl Scouts and a hospice group, or along my writing journey.
It’s fun to make the reconnection and it reminds me of how small our world really is. No matter where I’ve met them, they have a common link, they are good-hearted, respectful, caring friends who have made a difference in my life.
A few days ago, that very thing happened to me. It sparked one thought and then another. Before I knew it, the following poem came to life. I hope you enjoy it. Feel free to share it with those people that have woven love into your life
Another week on unstable ground. Call it COVID 19 or Corona Virus, whatever you call it, this intrusion into our lives is draining most of the world.
Where do you turn when you need to energize your internal battery?
I turn to Mother Nature to remind me of the rebirth that takes place after cold wintery days leave me feeling a little depressed and restless. This year, I need it more than ever.
The trees are in bloom, like the last mature one standing in our yard. Watching the bare drab limbs transform to a beautiful white cape makes my heart soar.
I can’t help but feel hope when I see the transformation.
On my daily walks, I see bright bursts of yellow daffodils force their way through thawing brown soil, begging for attention from anyone passing their way.
Last fall, my husband transplanted some flowers that were taking over his vegetable garden. Apparently, they enjoyed the move as they are blooming better than ever.
I guess they’ve been refreshed with the new environment.
Change. It’s one of those things most of us struggle with in our lives. The new restrictions and precautions require all of us to do things differently, and that isn’t always easy.
I wrote this poem some time ago, but I think it might help to put things in perspective with the concept of change. It may not be fore everyone, but it is what is in my heart, so I will share it. Perhaps it will help renew a spirit.
God tills the ground with gentle hands and prepares for us each day
A road to the salvation land providing we don’t stray
Some days our mind won’t comprehend the journey that we’ve been on
When dark clouds threaten overhead, I pray He’ll send a song
To ease the burden that weighs you down and threatens to blind your sight
For music has a soothing way of shining His great light
Then slowly with the lightest touch He’ll discreetly lift your load
Transparent to the human eye He’ll pave a brand new road
The surface will be different from the path you’ve always known
But fertile land will reappear with seeds of love He’s sown
Seems like such a short time ago, our grand dog, Hammie was just a pup. He’s 11 years old now. How time flies, except when you’re confined to quarers for an unknown length of time.
It’s tough right now, trying to find the silver lining in our disrupted world. We’ve been invaded by an invisible, unexpected, and uncontainable virus. As unpredictable as the Corvid-19 journey has been, so have been our responses to it. Confusion, denial, fear, anger, frustration. All reasonable, all understandable. Yet, with any crisis, there is opportunity from which we can benefit. Even Hammie is taking the Shelter in place command seriously.
Some folks use humor to get through the stressful situations. That includes me. I love some of the social media pictures and quotes that make me laugh out loud.
I ignore the rants and raves that do nothing more than stir negative emotions. It doesn’t mean I am oblivious to the seriousness of the situation, but many of the political pokes and ventings do nothing but spread anger and fear. I choose to focus on the positive.
So here are a few of the positive opportunities I’ve been given.
I’m saving lots of money because I traded trips to the casino for daily runs to the store in search of toilet paper. Down to two rolls. I got desperate and ordered some on line. Good news, I found some. Bad news, the deliver day is May 22. I thought it was a typo, but Alexa confirmed it.
I’m getting my daily 10,000 steps in by walking room to room and taking note of the chaos I’ve neglected for some time. Every once in while, I find an object that’s been missing for months. Found a Christmas present I forgot to deliver yesterday. Now won’t they be happy when it shows up in their mailbox. Spreading the joy.
My daily wardrobe consists of sweat pants and a t-shirt. Haven’t had to wash a bra in a week! Just think about the water and soap I’m saving. I saw a Facebook post that said to cut them up to use as a mask when necessary.
I’m not gaining weight because we aren’t eating out. All the burger and chicken are gone by the time I get to the store, so we’re cleaning out the freezer, trying to identify what’s each shriveled, rock hard, frosted package contains.
I’ve got lots of time to clean those closets and organize the pantry now. Could wash windows too. Choosing to save those fun thing in case I get really desperate!
Best part is that I have more time to write, and I am. Veins of Gold is taking form. The Dahlonega Sisters are busy keeping me front and center by my laptop.
The girls wanted me to do something to brighten your day, so they suggested I reduce the price of their first book, The Gold Miner Ring. The e-book is now available for $1.99 at your favorite site. Here’s the link: https://books2read.com/links/ubl/mVrL2p
Stay safe everyone and don’t forget to lighten up. This too shall pass and with a little luck, we’ll all learn something positive from the experience.
I’m trying to juggle writing the second book in a series, editing a romantic suspense, drafting a short story and poem for upcoming contests, and marketing my first novel. It’s overwhelming.
Sometimes, I have to step away and play for a little bit. What do I do when I’m not stuck in front of my laptop pecking away at the keyboard?
I weave baskets. Yes, old fashion basketry. Did you know some of the oldest baskets date back 10,000 to 12,000 years? Believe it or not, I’m not the only one interested in this craft. In fact, there are hundreds, probably thousands, of men and women who belong to guilds all over the United States.
Every August, my daughter and I attend the Missouri Basketweavers Guild (see basketweavers.org) convention, spending the weekend creating amazing baskets and sharing time with other weavers. In order to keep our skills fresh, and just because we love doing it, we gather in my home with another dear friend about once a month and create something new.
I finished my first basket of the year this weekend. It’s called Lucky. The pattern was designed by Dianne Gleixner, a gifted instructor I met at one of the conventions I attended.
Basket weaving is my guilty pleasure, right after wine and dark chocolate. It uses another part of my brain that needs attention too. There’s something therapeutic about working the reed, packing the rows snug, and shaping it until it looks like the one in the picture.
Just for a little while, my mind isn’t consumed by plots and dialogues, inciting incidents and Amazon ads, Facebook posts and Book This or Book That. In order to achieve success in the craft, I have to focus on the pattern and use my hands and fingers in a different way. It frees my mind from writing, just for a short while.
What is it that you do when you need a distraction from your work? Do you sew? Read? Solve puzzles?
How about taking a few minutes to share, you never know when you might inspire someone to try something new.
Some time ago, a friend and fellow author, Amanda Bretz (https://amandabretz.wordpress.com), described a tender moment between herself and her father. No words were uttered. A simple squeeze of the hand spoke as loud as a pastor from the pulpit. The power of touch amazes and encourages me, especially when words are not enough.
As a writer, I draw upon an infinite source of words to fill the pages of a book, yet there are times when words are not enough to convey the intensity of the moment. A gentle kiss, a stroke of a hand on one’s cheek, a strong embrace conveys emotions unreached by mere speech.
Perhaps that was why I wrote the following poem some years ago as my mother suffered the debilitating effects of Alzheimer’s disease. Although she could not verbalize her thoughts, we spent many hours just holding hands and sharing gentle squeezes, along with heartfelt smiles. I think if she could have expressed her thoughts, she would have said these words.
The memories of yesterday Will become distorted over time The written word will lose its strength A verse will lose its rhyme
The laughs we shared will pass by me My words will make no sense Such simple things we once enjoyed Will now seem rather dense
Old photographs will fade away Your face may lose its name You’ll think I’ve traveled far away But my heart will know you came
No need for words, no bouquets bright No trinkets made of gold No promise for a miracle Just your hand for me to hold
Your love’s the only treasure It will endure through all the pain Just speak to me in silence You’ll be my sunshine in all the rain
Have you been struggling to find the right words? Could the answer be in the power of touch?
It breaks my heart everytime I watch or listen to the news and hear of another young person arrested and jailed because of poor decisions influenced by drugs and alcohol. What life experience took them down the path they are walk? Who owns the problem?What is the solution?
So many questions. So few answers.
I welcome your thoughts.
When the Bough Breaks
From the boughs of a cradle, much like you and me,
so dependent on others, so innocent and free.
He grinned with a smile that would capture your heart,
no clue that his world would soon fall apart.
Left alone once too often; forced to grow up too fast.
The pleasures that warmed him were soon part of his past.
The drugs and the booze became his whole life,
such a sense of abandon, such continuous strife
From street gangs to prison, he followed the path.
Consumed by his anger, his hatred, his wrath.
Now death by injection, the sentence he waits.
So hopeless and helpless behind steel gates
The cradle is empty, the smile worn away.
No family or friends to protect him today.
He was still just a child when he sealed his fate.
Can a difference be made or is it too late?
Is killing the answer for the decisions he made?
Is one life for another a meaningful trade?
Does the slaughter discourage repeat of the act?
Is revenge more important than facing the fact?
What lesson’s excluded when just learning to crawl
that leads one man to stumble and one to stand tall?
Is it instilling belief in one’s own self-worth?
Is it learning to love from the day of our birth?
What’s missing from life that leads children astray?
When brown bottles and needles can lure them away?
Are they lacking the skills essential to cope?
Have they sunken so low there’s no sense of hope?
To own our own actions, to build on mistakes
To take pride in achievements – is that what it takes?
Much like the intricate quilt given to me by an aunt, I believe that we are all connected by a nearly transparent thread of life. If I take the time to look, listen, and ask questions, the delicate tapestry of my world is revealed. I also believe that when I follow my heart, I end up exactly where I’m supposed to be. I’m reposting a fresh version of a story from a couple of years ago that reinforces those beliefs.
As I skimmed a list of volunteer opportunities in my local newspaper, my eyes settled on two words, Story Keeper. I paused to read more. Story Keepers capture the meaningful moments of a patient’s life. The simple description intrigued me as I’d always dreamed of writing life stories of other people.
As enticing as the opportunity sounded, the thought of volunteering with a hospice care organization weighed heavily on my mind. The pain of watching my mother die a slow, difficult death associated to Alzheimer’s made me question my ability to perform the service and keep my emotions under control. I cut out the contact information and let the thought simmer.
The clipping remained visible near my laptop for the next two weeks, tugging at my heart and urging me to act. Finally, I picked up the phone and called the manager of volunteer services listed in the ad.
“I may be interested in the Story Keeper position. Can you tell me more about it?”
“We’re looking for someone to record the life story of a hospice patient for their family to keep as a legacy after the patient passes.”
“Oh,” I felt a hint of disappointment. “I’m not adept at electronic things, more pen to paper.”
“Why don’t you come in and talk further about it? It’s a new position. We can work through the details. And while it doesn’t involve writing, you never know where the journey will lead you. Maybe it was meant for you.”
The charismatic manager’s reassuring words urged me to make a leap of faith. I met with her to learn more. Within two weeks, I’d completed all the prerequisites: TB tests, study guides about working with hospice patients, and Hepatitis injections.
It wasn’t long before I was assigned my first visit. I studied the manual that came with the small, hand-held recorder. Since I was the first person to fill the position, training had been minimal. The anxiety and nervousness I anticipated never surfaced. Instead, an unexpected tranquility about the process made me excited to get started.
“The patient is hesitant to make the recording.” My manager warned me on the drive to his home. “The wife is urging him to do it for her. I thought you should know before we get there.”
The patient’s wife greeted us at the door and invited us in. The man, already seated in a recliner, extended his hand and nodded as he studied my face.
My manager made introductions and a brief explanation for our visit. The man frowned and grumbled, pursing his lips. Then it was my turn to speak. I wanted to help him relax and feel comfortable about the recording.
“We’re just going to talk today. I’d like to get to know you and your wife.”
“Ok.” The tense lines around the man’s eyes eased.
“Did you grow up in Florissant?” I smiled and tilted my head awaiting his response.
“Jennings. I went to Corpus Christi grade school.”
“I know that school. I attended St. Paul the Apostle. We were practically neighbors.”
“I went to St. Paul’s!” His wife announced with excitement. “Oh my goodness! You’re Dorothy’s daughter. I saw the resemblance to your mother when you first arrived, but couldn’t place who you were.”
My eyes welled with tears at the mention of my mother. I was unable to say anything for fear I’d start crying.
“I’m your grandmother’s niece. We’re cousins. I grew up two blocks from you.”
I realized that I knew her parents well, but because of our age difference, our paths had crossed briefly, probably at a funeral, but at a time when I was too young to remember. The emotional journey over the next hour was emotionally rewarding. The wonderful stories about my mother, who was an only child, and her distant cousins with whom I had lost touch over the years, brought such joy to my heart, I left the visit feeling like I was given a gift, one that I would treasure for life and share with my siblings. I even learned that my grandfather saved my cousin from drowning in the Mississippi River when she was a teenager.
Over the next few visits, I recorded heartwarming and memorable stories told to me by the patient and his wife. From their heritage, to their marriage and their many life experiences, we worked together to create a treasured gift for their children, grandchildren and future generations. I completed the project and presented the audio recording to them on their 65th anniversary.
Although the story doesn’t end there, in fact it is just the beginning of my journey, I’ve learned my readers are busy folks and prefer quick reads. I’ll share more in my next post.
Meanwhile, I’d love to hear from you.
When have you made an unexpected connection with someone?
Do you follow your heart or are you more likely to try and control where you are headed?
Blogs, email, text, twitter, FaceBook and occasionally, a phone call or face to face talk. So many ways to connect to others. But how do we connect with friends and family who have dementia and are losing or have lost these lines of communication? I wrote this poem during the final stages of my mother’s journey through Alzheimer’s. I think it’s what she would have said.
Silence Has a Voice
My memories of yesterday
Will become distorted over time
The written word will lose its strength
A verse will have no rhyme
The laughs we shared will pass me by
My words will make no sense
Such simple things we once enjoyed
Will often make me tense
Old photographs will fade away
Your face will lose its name
You’ll think I’ve traveled far away
But my heart will know you came
No need for words nor bouquets bright
No trinkets made of gold
No promise for tomorrow’s light
Just your hand for me to hold
Your love’s the only treasure
It will endure through all the pain
Just speak to me in silence
You’ll be my sunshine in the rain
Black stained glass graces the tangerine wings that rest upon mossy green foliage while hints of dandelion yellow tickle about
Perhaps you have a loved one who just needs to hold your hand. Don’t miss the chance to visit with him or her. Words aren’t always necessary. Silence has a voice.