Fall is Fading

My mother loved to make our annual trip to the apple orchard.  This time of year brings melancholy moments and today, my thoughts turned to her.  This poem found its way into my collection after one of our visits.  Perhaps another simple soul will enjoy it too.

Here’s to you mom.  You’re always just a thought away.

Memories of Autumn

Leaves painted in gold, slowly drift to the ground

Crisp autumn winds make them dance all around

The apples are ready, wagons stuffed full of hay

The trip to the orchard makes for a wonderful day

Mums bursting in color,Purple, rust and bright yellow

The cider’s been brewing, it’s sweet, warm and mellow

The sun’s warm on my back, fall has made quite a splash

I cherish the moment, it will fade in a flash

Inspiration is essential to writing passionately.  Soon I’ll be nestled in this rugged swing, listening to a nearby babbling brook, greeting the crisp morning chill as I put pen to paper and let my imagination flow.

Not only will I have the perfect inspiration, I’ll be visiting family.  The hours of endless chatter and laughter are priceless.  Georgia’s on my mind and life is good.

Where do you find inspiration?

Seasonal Thoughts

My Old Friend

You were my friend, you beckoned me

You listened to my pain

You caught my tears, you dried them up

You were my shelter in the rain

Not even once did you turn away

Nor secret did you tell

You listened to my tender thoughts

You knew me oh, so well

The thought of you would comfort me

When we were far away

I’d close my eyes and you’d be there

In your arms I longed to stay

Too young to know our time would end

We’d part our ways too soon

Now cherished memories are all I have

Beneath the harvest moon.

North, South, East or West?

Devoting time to the start of my third book and family emergencies have distracted me from writing on my blog recently, yet each day on my journey in life brings me closer to understanding the direction in which I am heading.

When I began my blog in March, my search for a purposeful life (after retirement) was evident in my posts What Now and What Now Continued.   I hoped that my mission would become evident to me through my writing.  I often find that the veiled truth is revealed in such subtle ways that only come to light when I script my thoughts.  I have struggled to find a constant theme for my blog, but I may be getting closer to identifying a topic of interest that would bring the results for which I was hoping.

Volunteering with a hospice group has provided me with an opportunity to share my poetry and books in a way that provides comfort and/or distraction to others who desperately want to find peace in their lives.  The satisfaction that it brings to me means more to me than any number of books that I have sold.  I would love to incorporate more of that into my blog.

Another opportunity to share what I consider a gift also presented itself this week.  I am blessed me with a calm, insightful demeanor that seems to sooth others during a time of crisis.  I find unexpected words of comfort and often, friends and family have related that my efforts helped them find peace.

My niece has been a caregiver for her grandmother for five years.  Her grandma is in the final stages of Alzheimer’s disease and the time has come where caring for her in her home is no longer advisable.  While some may find it a relief to relinquish the responsibility, others struggle with strong emotions, such as guilt, that surface during such a transition.  Hopefully, my words are helping her to get through this painful experience.

My niece said she could not stop crying.  I shared with her that grieving is not only appropriate, but necessary.  It comforted her to realize what a special gift she has been given in the unique relationship with her grandmother she has served.  It cannot be replicated by anyone who did not serve in the same role.  For every difficult moment, there were many cherishing memories that she will be able to hold in her heart for years to come.

As caregiver, she served in a parenting role, always setting limits and having to insist on difficult tasks like bathing and taking medicines.  Now she has the opportunity to return to the role of granddaughter and enjoy the remaining time by bringing love and tenderness to her grandmother during her final days.

The Peaks and Valleys of my life have blessed me with peace, strength, and a sort of wisdom, which are meant to be shared through my blog.  Perhaps a new opportunity presents itself.

From the Boughs of a Cradle

Poetry flows freely from my pen onto yellow pads, yet it seldom finds its voice at the keyboard.  Perhaps that makes sense since it’s difficult to walk leisurely through the woods while pecking away on a laptop.  My appreciation for the stimulation that Mother Nature provides began as a small child while wondering the hill of the Missouri Ozarks.  My love of poetry can be attributed to Robert Frost.

Mr. Frost shared the same love for God’s creations that I do.  He created his own footprints in The Road Not Taken and he touched the hollows of my soul through poems such as Bereft.  I felt a kindred connection to his need to share melancholy thoughts in the form of poems.

While I cannot compare my writings to such a master of the art, I share with you a poem that formed from my futile thoughts one evening after watching the local news.

From the Boughs of a Cradle

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

 Will his soul die before us as inevitable fate

Or will a spirit embrace him?  Is it ever too late?


By Diane How

A Glance Back

Trying to measure where the last two years have disappeared is like trying to hug a passing cloud.  I could no more complete an after action report accounting for the time than I could return to working full time every day.

Often, an inner voice urges me to accomplish more than I have done, yet another voice reminds me that I have crossed off a few bucket-list items.  Sometimes I yearn for more, but today, I choose to focus on those things that have brought me pleasure and a sense of fulfillment.

Writing tops my list of achievements.  No, I cannot proclaim a best-seller, but I did publish my first book, Peaks and Valleys.  The non-fiction memoir begins in the 50’s in my childhood hometown of Pine Lawn, Missouri.  As indicated by the title, many of the tales brought a smile to my face as I wrote them.  Some of them were written as tears fell from my eyes.  Revisiting the happy, and sometimes painful, times of my life had a therapeutic consequence.  When I finished, it brought me peace, comfort and an appreciation for the experiences that made me whom I am today.  The journey is worth taking, for everyone.  I hope others will be inspired to follow my path and clean out a few of their own closets along the way.  The book is available through Amazon.com and Kindle.

I also wrote a second book, Burning Embers, for which I am currently searching for a publisher.  Writing a romance/suspense novel in thirty days was not on my original bucket list, rather it was a challenge introduced to me through a writing club that I joined named Pen to Paper Writing Club.  I found the experience so rewarding that I drafted an outline for my next novel which I will begin shortly.  Who knew I had an imagination?

The poet in me continues to surface whenever I cannot find the words to speak directly to friends and family.  I have contemplated publishing some of my poems, but finding gratification in the positive effect the words provide the person for whom they were written is enough for now.

As a multi-tasking person, all that writing wasn’t quite enough to keep me busy, so I began this blog.  My social media skills are limited and until one of my fellow writers encouraged me, I had never visited a blog site.  Now I follow a few that tickle my interests or touch my soul.  I’m still in the beginning stages, but I find it another way to release the writer in me. (http://authordianemhow.com)

More recently, I began volunteering with VITAS Hospice Care as a Story Keeper.  This rewarding opportunity entails recording life stories of patients who are in hospice care so that they may leave a treasure for their loved ones and future generations.  I wrote about my first visit in one of my blogs.  It is amazing how God directs us on our journey to the right place at the right time.  If you have any doubts about following His lead, read When you volunteer are you giving or receiving?.

Every day has not been as uncomplicated as this post makes it sound, but as I said, today, I am sticking with the positive, happy times.  My husband and I have found time to fish, gamble and spend time with our daughter and her boyfriend.  We’ve even managed to get in a few short trips to Branson, Lake of the Ozarks and Georgia.  Lunch and dinner dates fill a few of the squares on my calendar and provide me with the chance to catch up with family, friends, former co-workers and my wonderful Girl Scout buddies.

I yearn to know what memories filter through when you look back a few days, months or years.

When you volunteer, are you giving or receiving?

Haven’t posted much these last few weeks because I started a volunteer position.  I wasn’t prepapred for the astonishing outcome, but it just goes to show that God knows where he wants you next, you just have to trust in Him.

I enjoy my leisure time since retiring and spend many hours writing.  Still, I yearned to become involved in an organization that would give me a sense of purpose.  As I skimmed a list of volunteer opportunities in my local newspaper, my eyes settled on two words, Story Keepers.  I paused to read more. 

VITAS Story Keepers capture the meaningful moments of a patient’s life.  The simple description intrigued me; yet, the thought of volunteering with a hospice care organization concerned me.  The emotional pain of watching my mother die a slow, difficult death from Alzheimer’s still weighed heavily on my heart.  I was not sure if I was ready for the task. 

I kept the clipping visible over the next week.  Finally, I picked up the phone and contacted the manager of volunteer services, Angela O’Hara, to learn more about the position.  Ms. O’Hara talked with me at length and explained that the position involved making an audio recording of the patient’s life.  Although I understood it would not involve writing in the capacity I had hoped, the thought of helping someone else document their life compelled me to become a Story Keeper.

 I completing all the necessary paperwork and training material provided by VITAS within a week.  It wasn’t long before I received the name of my first patient to interview.  Ms. O’Hara and I met the patient and his wife in their home.  After brief introductions, we settled down on the sofa and began conversing to get to know the elderly couple and to make them feel at ease with the Story Keeper process.

 The interview took an unusual and remarkable turn when the patient told us the school he attended.  I shared with him that I was familiar with the school, as I had attended a school in a bordering neighborhood.  Simultaneously, the patient and his wife remarked that she also attended the school which I mentioned.  The wife then turned to me and asked me if I was the daughter of Dorothy Hootselle (my mother).  She said she could see the resemblance when I first arrived, but could not place who I looked like.

 She introduced herself as my grandmother’s niece, who grew up just two blocks from my childhood home.  Both she and her husband knew my family intimately and shared stories with me that I would never have heard had it not been for the visit.  The patient’s wife even shared that my grandfather had saved her when she nearly drowned in a river.

The emotional journey over the next hour was overwhelming and rewarding.  The wonderful stories about my mother and her parents brought such joy to my heart, I left feeling like I was given a gift, one that I would treasure for life and share with my siblings.

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 using the comprehensive questions offered in the Story Keepers Shared Stories User Guide to provide a gift for their children, grandchildren and future generations.  We completed the project and presented the audio recording to them on the patient’s 84th birthday.  The smile on their faces spoke volumes.

Being a Story Keeper for VITAS has provided me with a rewarding opportunity to influence the life of another.  The unexpected bonus of meeting two people who fulfilled a void in my life made the experience astonishing.  It is another example of how there is a thread of life that connects us all.

A Special Day for Special People

To father a child is not the same as to serve the role of a Dad.   My respect for the love, caring and extraordinary effort that it takes to perform the duties of a Dad grows each day.

My own father rose early every morning and labored hard to bring home enough pay to keep food on the table for a large family.  When not at his place of employment, he struggled to keep our car functioning, often with what seemed like bubble gum and bandaids.  In the silence of his mind, he worried about unpaid bills, the rearing of his many offsprings and the health of his aging parents and in-laws.

There was no time to dwell upon unfulfilled dreams.  A few dollars left at the end of a paycheck meant he could buy a bag of apples or watermelon from a produce stand.  Life was not easy for my dad.  He did the best he could.  He taught his children to respect others, to be polite and gracious, to be thankful for every gift and not complain.  For this, I will always be grateful.  I miss my Dad.

My husband also is a Dad, a very good Dad.  He was not priviledged to have a Dad when he was a child.  Yet, somehow, he learned the importance of the role.  For forty years, he has been present and active in his daughter’s life.  I measure the success of his efforts by the person Laura has become.  He taught her to believe in herself and have the confidence to succeed in whatever she chooses to pursue.  They spend many hours a week staying connected and sharing the joys and frustrations of life.

So I take this opportunity to remember my father fondly for the years of caring and guiding me into adulthood.  I thank my husband for the commitment he’s made to being a wonderful Dad.

I extend a round of applause to my brothers, Rob, Larry and Craig, and nephews, Robby, Jeff, David and Kyle.  It makes me proud every day as I watch you shine in this significant and challenging role with your own children.  We are blessed that you have taken your role to heart and make such a difference in our world.  Hope I didn’t forget someone, but remember, I’m over sixty now and there is that senior moment thing 🙂

Do you have a memory or special story to share about your Dad?  I’d love to hear about him.

Burden or Blessing

Burden or Blessing

It’s easy to know Him when our troubles are few

To find hope in a sunrise when each dawn breaks new

To feel all His glory and have faith in His word

So easy to know Him when not facing the sword

But when troubles surround you and take hold of your heart

When the struggles with reason drive you further apart

Know that He loves you, for this He has shown

The miracles performed were for the weak and the worn

The blind man had vision; the lame He made walk

The deaf-mute who trusted could suddenly talk

To the least of our brothers He’s provided the best

Just give Him your troubles; He’ll do all the rest

And rejoice in the moment when you feel that great weight

It’s a sign that He’s near you and delivering your fate

For He’ll never abandon or forsake one in need

He hears your requests in the prayers that you plead

by Diane M How