Thursday, July 24, 2014

A Penny from Heaven

Have you ever read about people finding pennies after a loved one dies? I'd read the stories and thought it was great that these people had found something to help them through their grief. Did I believe the pennies were really from heaven? Did I think the person who had passed on had somehow found a way to manipulate a penny into a place where it would be seen by one of their loved ones? A place where you might not expect to see a penny, but these people found a penny there. In some of the stories, the pennies even have the birth date or some other meaningful date to the person finding it or the person who had passed on. 

I never doubted the sincerity of the people telling the story, but I'm something of a skeptic or maybe like somebody from the Show Me State. If I couldn't see it for myself, I always figured it was some kind of weird coincidence and/or the surviving person wanting to find a connection.

And then we went to the memory care facility Monday to get my mother's things. She didn't have a lot there. Just her clothes and blankets and wheelchair. But to keep from making a lot of trips the people at the facility let us borrow a dolly that made a little cart to carry the boxes and bags out to the car. We loaded it down and rolled it out to my car. When we finished unloading it, I started to take the dolly back inside and there on it was a penny. Face up. Now it could have fallen out of the old purse Mom had at the home. That was certainly a possibility for she did have a few coins in that purse. But the purse was up on top of the piles of clothes. It seems unlikely that a penny would have fallen out of it and not bounced off the metal dolly to roll away on the floor.  Of course, it could have taken a lucky bounce and stuck on the railing, but the second I saw the shiny penny, I remembered the stories I'd read about all the pennies from heaven. And I felt a gentle touch from heaven that everything was all right. 

My mother had a similar comfort experience after her mother died. My grandmother died suddenly and so Mom was not really expecting her death as we were with Mom. In the days after my grandmother died, Mom had trouble sleeping. Then one night as she was lying awake in bed, she says she saw her mother coming over to the edge of a cloud to look down at her and tell her, in no uncertain words, she was doing fine in heaven and she wanted Mom to quit all that worrying about her. That things were good in heaven. 

Things surely are good in heaven. And some of us have a penny to prove it. 

Have you ever heard a penny from heaven story or experienced something like that yourself?



Sunday, July 20, 2014

Grandma Camp and Book Clubs


Did you ever go to "grandma" camp? That's what I call it when the grandkids come to spend a few days. We don't worry too much about anything except food on the table at mealtimes, having plenty of Popsicles and doing something fun. One of the things we did with them this year was go fishing. I think my son had taken his twin boys fishing already but without fishing success. We picked the right day, the right pond, and the right bait. I don't do the fishing stuff. That's their Pa's expertise. But I went along to enjoy seeing them and to make sure nothing but fish got hooked or fell in the water or ... well, you know the drill. 

Thank goodness my other son was along to help with taking hooks out of the fish. They were catching and releasing, and as my son told his wife when she came, they weren't fishing they were "catching." Seven kids fishing and seven kids caught fish. Even my granddaughter who freaks at the sight of a bug, was putting worms on hooks and pulling fish out of the pond. I was amazed. But just take a look at this little guy's face when he looked at the big fish he pulled in. He told everybody after that about his "big mouth bass." 

They had fun. Grandma and Pa got tired but enjoyed getting to spend time with the kids. It was a rough week for us. Losing my mom last Saturday and her funeral this week. We had already planned the kids coming to stay while my son and his wife went on a business trip. Having the kids kept me hopping and didn't leave much time for thinking. That will come. I'll miss seeing Mom and hugging Mom, but she was ready to move on to glory. 

Another thing already planned was a visit to the Lexington Senior Citizen Book Club. I love book clubs and I like it when I'm able to visit with the club. This was a great group of readers. They read my book, Scent of Lilacs. (By the way, it's still a free download if you haven't grabbed it for your e-reader yet.) They had some great comments and then tried to stump me with questions about Hollyhill and Jocie and friends. It's always interesting to hear what other people think about the stories that I write. Are you part of a book club? I'd love to hear from you if you are. 

And it will be fun to know what memories you have of "grandma" camps when you were a kid or maybe you're the grandma making fun sleepovers for your grandkids. Share a story if you want. I love getting your comments here too.

Wednesday I may come up with another mystery picture contest. Meanwhile, if you're a member of the Book Club Network, you can come check out Revell Books giveaway there. 5 copies of Love Comes Home and 5 copies of several other authors' books too. Revell's Facebook page featured Love Comes Home on their Fiction Friday. If you see this before 10:30 a.m. Monday you can still hop over to their page and leave a comment to be in that drawing. 

Thanks for dropping by and don't forget to tell me about your memories of "grandma" camp.



Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Butterflies on Thistles

Life is butterflies and thistles.
Hummingbirds and bumblebees.
Sleepless nights and sleep-in mornings.
Blooming flowers and chomping worms.
Truth and fiction. Sorrow and joy. 
Butterflies on thistles.

I'm off my schedule this week, but wanted to stop in to thank you all again for all your prayers and thoughts this last week as I had to tell Mom goodbye. Now my house is full of sleeping grandkids. That would make Mom smile. 




THANK YOU LORD FOR SIMPLE THINGS (Anonymous)

 Thank You, Lord, for simple joys… 
Homemade cookies, handmade toys.    
Cotton clouds in bright blue skies; 
Buttercups and butterflies,

Kitties, puppies, birds and squirrels; 
Little boys and little girls,

Starlit nights and sunny days; 
Words of hope with love and praise.

A smile, a friend, a big warm hug; 
Cocoa in my favorite mug.

Peanut butter on a spoon; 
Winds in March and flowers in June.

A cherished book, a special song; 
All the places I “belong.”

Feet that dance and eyes that grin, 
And a heart to hold my memories in.


What small things are you thankful for today? No small thing, but I'm thankful for you.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

My Mother, My Friend

Mom and Dad on a date
         
Mom on her honeymoon
 The first friend any of us have is our mother. And my mother was the best friend I could have ever had. She taught me how to embrace life and that the more love you give away, the more you are blessed with in your heart. She was cute when she was young, beautiful as a young woman and each year that passed brought her even more beauty. Here's a photo tribute to her.

Mom when I was a girl
Mom and some of her grandchildren
Mom and her sisters














Dementia stole her memories but not her spirit. And now as one of our family members said, the big four are together again. She meant Mom and her sisters. They did know how to laugh together and have a good time.  
 
One of my favorite pictures of Mom

Mom and one of her great grandchildren
Mom loved all her grandchildren and then when the great-grandchildren came along, she was ready with smiles and love for them too. 








Mom helping me make her famous crackerjacks


She didn't do a lot of needlework or craft type things, but she did have some specialities, like making delicious crackerjacks and a chocolate pie that was out of this world. She crocheted one afghan and wove one basket just to prove she could. She also once picked wild cherries to make jelly and she brought home huckleberries from Oregon and made wine. She had fun trying new things. 
 


   
Mom holding her youngest great grandchild

Mom loved babies. Each new addition to the family was treasured. During her last weeks at the memory care facility, her baby doll could always bring a smile as she carefully held and loved it. I'm so blessed that I was once that baby she held and loved.


Mom doing Physical Therapy

My mother passed Saturday morning with a last whisper of breath. I was with her when she went. I didn't see the angels that came to get her, but I know they were there. I will miss her smiles and kisses, but I celebrate her life well lived. My mother, Olga Elizabeth, headed on up to glory after 94 years here with us. I'm glad I was able to share so many of those years with her. I'm thankful she was my mother, my friend.

Mom's last good picture at The Lantern
Thank you for your many prayers and kind thoughts and comments as you read some of my posts about Mom's dementia. So many of you have walked the same hard roads or have lost your beloved mothers to other illnesses. We join hearts to remember all those beautiful mothers and if your mother is still with you, give her a hug for all of us who can no longer hug our moms. 





Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Facing the Truth of Dementia

"Stories can conquer fear, you know. They can make the heart bigger." ~Ben Okri

A sweet friend sent me this book as a gift. Tracy and I met at a writing conference several years ago and then exchanged e-mails now and again. She has a caring heart, and she has also walked dementia's road with her mother. We talked about the challenges of caretaking, the sadness of our mothers losing those wonderful family memories, and the sorrow of losing the mothers we knew and loved so well even before they passed on. Somebody once said dementia or Alzheimer's is the long death. 

Her mother has passed on. My mother is still hanging on, but she's not doing well. She doesn't know me anymore, but she still lets me hold her hand and hug her. Most of the time. She still gives me a kiss when I leave. But this last week, she has seemed farther away and I've had the feeling that something is wrong. It's so sad to sit with her and have her look at me with a "please, do something" look. Most of the time I can't understand what she's saying and she can't understand me either. It's like all the words have been dumped out of a sack and she can no longer sort them out to find the right ones to say or to hear. 

But then Monday when I was there, she suddenly looked up at me and said plain as day, "My back hurts so bad I can barely stand it." The nurse gave her some medicine, but with my mother's extensive osteoarthritis, there's not much that eases the pain. She lived with pain for years. She was tough and able to bear what had to be borne, but that was with memory to give her a reference point. Now each pain is new and unknown since she can't remember the day or hour before. When I went back Tuesday, she was no better. Nor was she any better today when my sister went, but they did let her lie down and she went to sleep. Perhaps that will rest her back. 

Dementia is such a difficult disease, and so many families are facing the same kinds of hard times that my family is dealing with right now. In the introduction to Living with Alzheimer's & Other Dementias, Angela Timashenka Geiger of the Alzheimer's Association says 44 million people worldwide are living with some kind a dementia related illness. I teared up reading the introduction. Not sure I'm brave enough to read the stories. 

Do stories help you deal with problems in your life? 

Many of the stories I've written bring a tear to the reader's eyes. Some of the tears because the story is touching, but some because fiction mirrors real life and sad things happen in life. Mom having to live out her final years with dementia is one of those sad things. It is not what I wanted for her. It is not what she wanted either. She was always so self reliant, so ready to enjoy life. It's not what I would want for anyone. I just heard of another friend who lived life to the fullest that has been diagnosed with some sort of dementia and is in a facility. Dementia happens and it's sad. 

The final sentence in Ms. Geiger's introduction urges all of us to take action in the fight "whether by sharing your experience, speaking up, or spreading the word--so that someday, the only story we have left to write is about the end of Alzheimer's disease." 










Sunday, July 6, 2014

Hot Dogs and Dachshunds



Hope you had a wonderful 4th of July weekend. Extra time off from work. Fireworks. Hot dogs. This little hot dog was getting spoiled at my house last weekend. Sumo loves to be held and needs to have a lift since he has arthritis in his feet and legs so can't scurry around the way he'd like. 

Did you eat hot dogs this weekend? The National Hot Dog and Sausage Council estimates that Americans ate around 155 million hot dogs this weekend. I didn't eat a hot dog, but I might have if somebody had invited me to a wiener roast. That's when hot dogs taste best. 

So did hot dogs really get their name from dachshunds? The term "hot dog" is credited to sports cartoonist Tad Dorgan. At a 1901 baseball game in New York, vendors began selling hot dachshund sausages in rolls. From the press box, Dorgan could hear the vendors yelling, "Get your dachshund sausages while they're red hot!" He sketched a cartoon depicting the scene but wasn't sure how to spell dachshund so he took the easy way out and called them "hot dogs." The rest is history. (Info from http://www.infoplease.com/spot/hotdog1.html)

I'm thinking that the vendors grabbed that name fast. "Get your hot dogs here!" has to be easier to yell than "Get your dachshund sausages while they're red hot." 

I'm right there with that cartoonist. Sometimes it's easier to think up a new word than to figure out how to spell it. For instance: "A chrysanthemum by any other name would be easier to spell." That may be the reason they usually go by the name "mums." :)

Here are a couple of photos left over from my book party last Sunday. I had so much fun talking books and laughing with my hometown readers. Wish you could have all been there. And then I got to sign books. In the first picture, I'm posing before the book party with Pauline, my almost 92 year old friend who drove up from a nearby town to get my book even though she had a different family party to go to. Pauline and I go way back. Her husband played the piano for the first quartet my husband sang in forty years ago. Pauline and I sat together at a lot of gospel singings in those days. She was a sweetheart then and she still is. She remembered to hold my book up so the title would show. 

Then Joy and Carolyn carried copies of my books home with them. Both were attending one of my Hometown Book Launches for the first time. Now I'll have to wait a whole year to maybe celebrate a new book. If I could only figure out a way to write faster. 

I'm cleaning off my desk today to get ready for a new project. Seems like I need a clean slate for that. Got to do some research for the new idea, but first I'm reviewing a book I wrote some years ago that was never published but just might find a home if I rewrite it a bit or maybe a lot. And for those of you who take time to read Jocie's Heart of Hollyhill blog posts on Monday or Tuesday, I think she's ready to start writing her book and posting a little at a time. I'll have to ask her.  

Thanks for dropping by. And next Sunday, I'm going to start a new blog giveaway. A mystery picture one I think. They're always fun even if you all are great guessers and I have a hard time fooling you. 















Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Some Winners - A Few Stories - Fun for All

And the winners are... This is when the announcers always pause to heighten suspense. No suspense for my winners. I've already contacted them all by e-mail and they've all already responded with the books they want. Such fun that so many different titles were picked. It's sort of a smorgasbord of my books. Who knows? If I'd picked more winners (you all would have been fine with that, I'm sure), I might have given away one of all my recent titles. 

As always, I feel like the winner when I have one of these contests. That's because I get to hear from so many of you and also get to read the stories some of you shared. I didn't get very many homecoming stories, but the ones I did get were great. I've already shared some of them here and I'm sharing a couple more tonight. Here's one from Denise about reunion time homecomings. 


"As a little kid, I always enjoyed the family reunions. Little kids can play with each other, and their differences don't matter--it's not until we age that some people let the differences separate them, rather than embracing each other. My mom was raised Plain in Lancaster, PA, but she didn't stay Plain. As I aged, I realized I was the 'outsider' in the family. I was the one who dressed differently, had a television, didn't wear my hair up in a covering, etc... than my cousins. To the outside world, they were 'different,' but to them, I was the oddball.


And, then, the Appalachian side always seemed to look at me sideways--I'm a Yankee, after all! And that was back when Southern Living magazine was only available to Southern states, and Delaware counted as a Southern state--but I was still a Yankee!"

Thanks for sharing your reunion story, Denise. You got to experience several different worlds and I'm sure it made you stronger and more tolerant of others' differences as you grew up.

Last of all here's a story that proves even four-legged friends can have good homecomings. Alicia shares this sweet story. 

"Special family homecoming that comes to mind is when I was able to bring our little dachshund home from the animal emergency care. He stayed at 2 different places for a night at each, and we were so sad and worried. What a blessing when we were able to bring him back to his family. He is a rescue and had been mistreated prior to joining our family, so we were extra worried that he would feel abandoned." 

And now for the winners. Are you hearing the drumroll? The first place winner of my Love Comes Home Celebration giveaway is Chris from FL who picked the heart necklace and my new Rosey Corner book, Love Comes Home. Debbie from GA, the 2nd prize winner then gets the Forget-Me-Not Willow Tree figurine and she picked Love Comes Home too. Mary from Australia can't say she "never wins" anymore. She picked my first Heart of Hollyhill book, Scent of Lilacs to go with the Praying the Names of God Journal

The 5 winners of the blog contest here are as follows. LL of CA chose Small Town Girl. Karen C of OH wants Christmas at Harmony Hill. Melanie of TX is heading to Rosey Corner for the first time so she picked Angel Sister. Nancy L of SC wants to visit  Harmony Hill and read The Outsider, and Nancy W of IN wants The Believer. A fun mixture of my titles. I'm planning more giveaways here in the months to come. I've got a stack of autographed books from other authors and I'm ready to send some of them your way. So come back to see what you might win next. 

I do appreciate all of you who commented here and to those who shared stories or enjoyed the stories others shared. Some of you commented and had your name in the hat several times. Maybe I'll look back through the entries and see who entered the most and give an extra prize. Think I should? 

As always thanks for reading!