Life Choices


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

A Tapestry of Hope

Threads of life connect us all.

Multi-colored ribbons of endless textiles

Tribal motifs, gentle cottons, sturdy burlaps, luxurious silks

Each strand has purpose, each purpose has worth

Some with frayed ends, others miraculously unspoiled

Common and uncommon, grounded by perspective

Woven with tenderness, this rainbow enchantment

Spreads a superlative quilt of warmth and refuge

Over mountains and oceans, religions and politics

Strengthened in crisis, prominent amid disasters

Immune to pandemics, persistent and loyal

These threads of life called LOVE

by Diane M How

Who are the people in your world?

Do you share the same morals and values?

How has it affected the life you are living today?

Recharge! Refresh! Renew!


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.

The Byways

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

How do you recharge?

Is change difficult for you?

What does your tomorrow look like today?

My Silver Lining


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.

What’s your silver lining?

More Than Just Writing


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.

Power of Touch


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.

      Timeless Treasure

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?

Tell me your story. I’d love to hear it.

When the Bough Breaks


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?

How much is genetics and how much is fate?

Can a difference be made or is it too late?

The Threads That Bind


quilt

The Threads That Bind

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?

Silence Has A Voice


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

 

DSCN0372

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.

An Invitation


Summer’s winding down, but the memories made will linger. Come with me and revisit your favorite  island getaway, if only in your mind.

An Invitation

Come walk with me on sifted sands

Along my island shores

Come find the peace within yourself

That leaves you wanting more

The gentle swells, the rolling waves

Will mesmerize your heart

The azure skies, the silent breeze

You’ll never want to part

The moon will rise to greet you there

To cleanse your weary soul

The lofty palms will wave to you

And whisper ‘please don’t go’

by Diane M How

Where is your favorite beach? I’d love to hear from you. 

This poem received an honorable mention in a 2014 contest. An Invitation and two short stories, Love Revealed and Autumn’s Predicament, are published in Writing Sense-Ably is Saturday Writer’s 2016 Anthology