Sunday, September 30, 2012

When the Truth No Longer Matters

This is my beautiful mother at the age she thinks she is now.  Or sometimes she thinks she’s younger than this, still a child going to school or one who lives in her parents’ house. She constantly wants to go home because they will be worried about her. Oh, to be able to go home to where confusion didn’t muddle things, where those she loves are still alive and well and ready to welcome her back. She has no use for this place where people are continually refusing to let her put on her shoes and walk home.

Other times she’s more the age she is in this picture. Early thirties or late twenties. Her children are still young. Her husband still needs to have supper cooked for him. A lot of the time she can’t understand why he doesn’t want to come around anymore. Lately that has changed somewhat to she just talked to him this morning or he just left. At times it feels as though I’m in the midst of a crowd of invisible people – those she sees in her memory’s eye who are so real to her. She’ll ask, “Has Maggie left?” Or “Where did she go?” I’ve never known a Maggie in our family or any friend of Mom’s named Maggie now or in the past. Well, we did have a Maggie cat once, but she’s talking about a person and not a cat. 

Most of the time it is a name I do know. People who have passed on. Her sisters. Her mother and father. My father. She sometimes doesn’t know me now. I’m way too old. Older than she is. I tease about that with my kids – about how they somehow got older than me. But I never imagined that someday, if dementia steals my reality, I might actually think that had happened.
And all that is why the truth no longer matters. Until recently I tried to not actually lie when Mom heads back into her dementia reality. I skirted the truth and did my best to avoid responding directly when Mom talked about going to see her mother. I could distract her by talking about birds or the grandkids. But things have gotten worse now. I don’t think she knows she has grandchildren. And what a terrible loss that is. It makes me sad to think about it. Even sadder than when she says I’m her aunt or her sister-in-law. To lose your family seems the worst.
But then she hasn’t lost her beginning family. She went to the grocery store with her mother just this morning and should have helped her more. All the “others” will be here any time now and we might need to cook extra for them. Or when did they all leave? And why didn’t they let her ride home with them?
The truth of all the “others” having long ago left her and moved on up to heaven does nothing but make her very sad for about five minutes. Then she forgets that you’ve told her that and starts asking where the “others” are all over again. Truth doesn’t matter. And so I’ve stopped telling the truth in plain words. Now I say that they’ve already gone home. I don’t have to add that home is heaven. I say maybe Dad is playing horseshoes. He could be, couldn’t he? I say they’ll all be waiting to see her tomorrow and then when tomorrow comes the tomorrow after that.  I say it’s too dark to go anywhere. I say that everybody will be settled in wherever they are. I don’t say I saw Maggie or whoever appears in Mom’s dementia visions. I just say she must have left before I came. And so I lie because the truth no longer matters to my mother. The truth is way too sad.
Thanks for reading. I promise to come up with something more cheerful Wednesday, but I know a number of you have gone through the same things with your parents or loved ones that we're going through with my mother.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Butterfly Season

The butterfly's attractiveness derives not only from colors and symmetry: deeper motives contribute to it. We would not think them so beautiful if they did not fly, or if they flew straight and briskly like bees, or if they stung, or above all if they did not enact the perturbing mystery of metamorphosis: the latter assumes in our eyes the value of a badly decoded message, a symbol, a sign. ~Primo Levi

It's butterfly season in our hayfield and garden. I know the summer is over and fall is upon us, but the butterflies have been out in force these last few weeks as if they know time is short. There's much to be done in order to insure butterflies for a coming spring. My spirits always lift when I see that first butterfly in the spring. It will float down on a sunny day and promise that any cold snaps will be just that - snaps, gone quickly as spring gifts us with flowers and summer edges nearer. All summer the butterflies float around, doing what butterflies do. Scaring off the birds with the eyes painted on their wings or bright colors warning that they're not good to eat. 

And then comes the last days of summer and the fall flowers begin blooming with intoxicating butterfly odors. The butterflies begin to keep me company on my walks in the hayfields, fluttering up from the flowers I pass by to race ahead to a new bloom. Dozens of the little white and yellow butterflies. Could be those yellow ones are why they're called "butter"flies. Could be I wouldn't be so entranced with them if I had seen what they looked like a few weeks before they began to light up my walks with beauty. 

There is nothing in a caterpillar that tells you it's going to be a butterfly. ~ Richard Buckminster Fuller

Maybe that's a lesson for us. Maybe we all start out as caterpillars or at least have our caterpillar days. And then we surprise ourselves with a butterfly day.  "How does one become a butterfly?" she asked. "You must want to fly so much you are willing to give up being a caterpillar."
That doesn't sound so hard - to give up being a caterpillar - but how many of us cling to what we have and fear to try our wings?  

I hope the butterflies floating through your world in these last warm days of the season will lift your spirits and bring you smiles.

Remember, if you haven't already entered, you still have time to throw your name in my hat for my birthday giveaway. See details on my website by scrolling down to the bottom of the Home page or going to the News & Events page. Some nice prizes including a beautiful NIV Study Bible and of course some of my books, too.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

If I Knew Then What I Want to Know Now

My aunt, grandfather, mother, father, 
and sisters. I was taking the picture. 
Other things may change us, but we start and end with the family. ~Anthony Brandt

Today is my grandfather’s birth date.  If I’ve done the math right, John Lewis Houchin was born in 1871 on September 23. Around that year anyway. He was one of four sons. I was sixteen when he died at the age of ninety-one. My memories of him are of an old man who sat on the porch in the summer time with a flyswatter handy. In the winter, he sat in a tall-backed rocking chair in front of a fireplace. He kept the fire going by feeding it chunks of coal and jabbing it with his poker from time to time. Sometimes he’d let me jab the coal with the poker. I still remember how that coal looked and sounded when it broke up under my pokes.

I do have a vague memory of once seeing him harness his work horses out in front of the house. He never moved into the modern era of tractors. I don’t remember him ever talking much even when I’d go and sit in the companion rocker beside his in front of the fire or in the swing on the porch during the summer. Now I wonder if that was his choice or if I simply didn’t know how to listen so that he would talk. I think of all the great stories he could have surely told me. Simple things like what his mother was like and the things he and his brothers got into when they were kids. Did he go fishing? Pick up pretty rocks? I know he played marbles because he had a jar full of stone ones that we weren’t allowed to play with.  I might have found out how he met his wife who died when I was a toddler, so I didn’t know her at all. He could have told me whether he liked farming or just did it because that was what men in his family did. So many things that now would be interesting to know.

The trouble with being a kid is not knowing what you are going to want to know fifty years down the road. I made the same mistake with my father. I didn’t listen to his stories well enough to ask the right questions to find out more. Thank goodness, I did listen to my mother’s stories before they were lost in the confusion of her dementia. That’s why I was able to write Angel Sister with the 1930s background. But if I hadn’t been such a kid, I might know a lot more about the 1890s too. Or about my dad’s motorcycle trip out west in 1931 when he was twenty-one. Or why my father’s sister never married or got a job even though she learned shorthand and typing. I know some of what my mother said were the reasons, but I never heard it from my aunt.

So many lost stories. And now I see it from the other side of the memory mountain. Now there are many things about my life that my grandchildren will never know. Things they don’t even know to ask or would not want to sit still and listen to if I told them. At least not right now. But someday, they may look back with some of the same regret I have as I consider my grandfather’s birth date and think how sad that I missed the opportunity to know these people, my family, better.  

Of course, I have written a lot of books and some of my life has filtered into those stories. So if my grandkids or great grandkids ever read those books, they will might get glimpses into my past. Trouble is, they won’t know which parts I remembered and which parts I made up. Maybe they’ll think all the exciting and good scenes were the remembered ones. A grandmother can hope, can’t she?

You don't choose your family. They are God's gift to you, as you are to them. ~Desmond Tutu

 Do you remember your grandparents and their stories?

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The Lighthouse - A 7 Minute Gift

Darrell, Eugene, Ronnie Hinson, and David singing "The Lighthouse"
One of the most beloved songs in Southern Gospel music is "The Lighthouse." Ronnie Hinson wrote it when he was just a teenager. He and his brothers and sisters were singing in church out of hymnals when he had the chance to hear the Speer family, a well known gospel singing group. That night, he says he fell in love with the Southern gospel sound. He took all the money he had and bought tickets for his family group to go to the Speers' next concert 150 miles away. Ronnie's family lived in California and most Southern Gospel groups were on the East Coast, but Ronnie had friends who sent him the new music on 8 tracks. That lets you know it's been a few years ago. The big groups started letting the Hinsons open up concerts for them when they came to California. The kids would sing some of those groups' top songs since, as Ronnie says, they didn't know any better. The groups had to politely ask them not to so that they could sell some of their own music to be able to pay for their travel out west. 

So the young Hinsons had a concert coming up opening for some of their favorite singers, and they were trying to find original songs or songs out of the hymn book they could recreate and that wouldn't be a copy of any of the groups. Nothing was working and it was around 2 a.m. on the day they needed to sing. Ronnie told the others he was going to the boys' room and that when he came back he would have a new song. The other kids laughed at him and laughed even harder when he came back with some words scribbled on a piece of toilet tissue. One of them wadded it up and threw it in the trashcan. They went back to searching through hymn books, but it got later and later. Then Kenny, Ronnie's little brother, pulled the crumpled toilet tissue out of the waste basket and sang Ronnie's song. Ronnie said it was just before daylight, but that the presence of the Lord filled the church where they were practicing and made it seem as light as noon. That song was "The Lighthouse." It has gone on to be one of the most beloved songs in all Gospel music. Ronnie says nearly every group has sung it and that at one time it occupied several spots on the Top Twenty list where different groups were performing it. 

Now comes the most amazing part. Ronnie Hinson had never actually seen a lighthouse when he wrote that song. He says he couldn't figure out why the song resonated with so many singers and listeners, and so he got on his bicycle and rode 30 miles to the California coast to see a lighthouse. He says the ocean was gray that day, and the area desolate, but there stood the lighthouse. Hope in the midst of dreary hopelessness. And he knew that the song came from God because he didn't even know what a lighthouse was when he wrote the song. 

If you want to read more about Ronnie and his story of writing "The Lighthouse" you can go to where I got most of this information. At the National Quartet Convention last week, Ronnie had the booth across the aisle from the Patriot Quartet's booth. Several years ago the Patriot Quartet recorded "The Lighthouse" for a very special reason. Joe White, who sings lead in the group, had just found out his mother had been diagnosed with a terminal illness. "The Lighthouse" had long been Mrs. White's favorite song and had helped her through some difficult years in her life. She had asked Joe to have the quartet sing it numerous times, but Joe always told her that the song had been sung by every other group and there was no way the Patriots could improve on the versions already out there. But when his mother became ill, the group made a special recording of that one song just for her. But then others began asking for them to sing it and so they put it on their next recording project. Since then, "The Lighthouse" is one of their most requested songs. It doesn't matter how many groups sing it. The message of the song still touches hearts every time it's heard. 

Joe had already gone home at that last hour of the Quartet Convention Saturday night, but the other three guys were still there. While everybody was packing up, Ronnie was kind enough to agree to come over to sing a bit of "The Lighthouse" with them. The treat of the week for them and all the people still around that night. Ronnie told them that he wrote the song in about seven minutes and that it was a good thing he was so young at the time. That now he'd probably mess it up trying to use all he's learned about song writing over the years.

Have you ever heard the song "The Lighthouse" and if so, did it speak to your heart?

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Birthday Newsletter and Giveaway

"There is still no cure for the common birthday."                  ~John Glenn
Birthdays! That’s something you have to have once a year as regular as clockwork. And the clocks seem to work faster the older I get. My sister sent me a birthday card with the picture of a dog with his ears and fur all blowing back like a race car just went past him. Inside, it said, and so another year just zoomed by. And it ever more did.
A good year in ways. A hard year in other ways. But that’s how it is for most everybody. With the sunshine comes the rain. The rain is how Mom is declining especially in her thinking ability. The sunshine is my beautiful family and two more books published (Words Spoken True  and  The Gifted) plus another one written. (Small Town Girl – releasing in 2013). More sunshine is all the wonderful reading friends I have.
To celebrate those friends and my birthday, I sent out a reverse birthday card yesterday – a newsletter to everyone who has signed up to be on my e-mail list. If you’ve signed up and didn’t get a copy yesterday or today, you might check your e-mail spam box. I hate it if my newsletter is considered spam but I sometimes get things that aren't spam sent directly to my spam folder. I do have some people to add, so if you are on the list and didn’t get a newsletter or if you aren’t on the list but would like to be, just let me know.
At any rate, I’m giving away some books to celebrate my birthday. I love giving away books and what is the very best book in the world? The Bible, of course. So one of the prizes is a NIV Study Bible along with a copy of one of my books. Another prize is a devotional and journal combined along with one of my books. Last for those who say they never win, I’ve got a special prize of an autographed copy of  a Liz Curtis Higgs historical fiction novels, Mine is the Night along with that copy of one of my books.  Deadline to enter is midnight EST on October 15. You can go to my website to enter or leave a comment here with a way to contact you, should you win. You have to let me know you’ve never won anything from me to get in that drawing.
One of my favorite quotes to read on my birthday is something  Satchel Paige said. “How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you are?” Not sure I know the answer to that, but I’m thinking maybe around 35. I guess I could try to figure out an answer to Paige’s question from my mother. She no longer knows how old she is and when she thinks about it she usually thinks somewhere around forty or younger. She certainly doesn’t believe she’s all of ninety-two. No, that can’t be, because she’s planning to go home and visit her mother.

Every day she plans to do that. If only she could find her shoes. I told her tonight that it was too late. We couldn’t go anywhere so late and that we’d have to sleep here. She doesn’t like “here.” Said it was a bad place. But when I told her it was too late and we’d have to see about it tomorrow, she looked at me and made more sense than she has for a while. She said, “And in the morning it will be too early and later it will be too bright and then it’ll be time to eat.” I think she’s on to us, don’t you? If only she was onto the fact that this is her home. No such luck there.
Thanks to all of you who sent me birthday wishes. As I said on Facebook, I felt like the popular girl at the dance.  And a special thanks to those of you who came by the Patriot Quartet’s booth to talk to me during the NQC. This year my Scottish friends from last year returned to buy three more books to carry home with them. Then I met a couple from Sweden. Also talked to people from lots of different states – Iowa, Michigan, Texas, North Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky, to name a few. A fun time.
Thanks for reading. Hope you have some fun times coming up for you. Oh, and how old would you be if you didn't know how old you are?

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Blue Skies and Clouds

If the sight of the blue skies fills you with joy, if a blade of grass springing up in the fields has power to move you, if the simple things in nature have a message you understand, rejoice, for your soul is alive. ~ Eleanora Duse
"Not a cloud in the sky." You've heard people say that, I'm sure. Yesterday was that kind of day here in Kentucky. The weatherman on the 6 o'clock news suggested sending your kids out to look for a cloud in the sky if you wanted to keep them busy. They wouldn't have found one. Nothing but blue skies ahead. That means no storms on the horizon. 
But sometimes we don't see those storms coming. That's how it was eleven years ago on 9/11. The terrorists were in the skies using airplanes as weapons and thousands of people died. Many on the airplanes. Many more in the Twin Towers. And a brave number of firemen and police officers who rushed into danger to try to save people. It's not something anyone old enough to witness the scenes on television will ever forget. The live picture of that second plane flying into the building will forever be seared on our memories and then the awful sight of those buildings collapsing. I saw a space type movie once where a whole world in space exploded in one of the scenes. That scene bothered me even though I knew it was make believe. My imagination was making it real. But the scenes that day eleven years ago were not make believe. They were tragically real.
We were at the Quartet Convention that day too. Not when it happened, but later in the day and then the rest of the week. The Convention is held at the fairgrounds in Louisville which is right next door to the airport. That airport has a UPS hub and planes go in and out every few minutes. But for the rest of that week in 2001, no planes flew. The sky was empty. And we prayed. For our country. For those families who had lost loved ones. For each other as we waited for what might happen next. 
There are things like that we can never forget if we've witnessed them happening. Pearl Harbor was one of those days. I wasn't born then, but I can imagine how people felt as they heard the radio reports of the attack and faced the sure knowledge that our country would now be joining the Allies in the war overseas. Husbands, sons and fathers would be taking up arms to defend our country. Many would leave and never return home. Others would return home, scarred by the horrors of war. Life would never again be the same. 

Here in Kentucky this week, the blue skies are peaceful and spirit renewing even though hard things are happening in other parts of the world. Wherever you are, may your blue skies ahead be something that brings sunshine to your life.
"By reading the scriptures I am so renewed that all nature seems renewed around me and with me. The sky seems to be a pure, a cooler blue, the trees a deeper green. The whole world is charged with the glory of God and I feel fire and music under my feet." ~Thomas Merton
Fire and music under our feet. Love the sound of that. Thanks for reading.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

A Week of Songs

That's a big gift when people say to you that a song helped them or brought them to some place in their life where they needed to be.  ~ Lenny Kavitz
The National Quartet Convention is in Louisville this week. The Patriot Quartet, the group my husband sings bass with, will be singing on a showcase Monday afternoon, so I have worked it out to go listen. At least I hope I’ve worked it out. My mother is not doing very well right now. We had a really odd night, but then oddness is part of dementia. Oddness and sadness and all the patience one can gather. So perhaps tomorrow if I get to go hear some of the songs the gospel groups will be sharing, I’ll get that gift of a song that will bring me to a place I need to be. A place of continuing patience and a little touch of wisdom. When you’re dealing with someone with confused thinking, you feel like if you could just find the right answer, then maybe things would be easier. But I’m not sure there is a right answer.
The Patriots are going to be singing their new radio release “On the Right Road Now” and a patriotic song “One Nation Under God.” At least I think that’s the plan. Then they will be meeting and greeting people in the Exhibition Hall. I enjoy meeting people at their booth and will have my books for anybody who might want to get an autographed copy. Last year I met a couple from Scotland and they went home with a heavier suitcase because they packed some of my books into it. It was fun talking to them. It’s fun talking to everyone who comes by, and especially fun when they are like me and love books. Of course they wouldn’t be at the Quartet Convention if they didn’t love Gospel music.
We’ve been going to the Quartet Convention for years now. For years, we went as fans. Well, Darrell was the big fan. I went along for the ride and usually ended up liking some of the songs. The songs that speak to me are generally ones with words that I relate to. If they also have a great melody, that’s a plus, but it’s the words that mean the most to me. Sometimes just a phrase in a song will touch my heart. The Patriots sing one “I Can Feel the Touch of His Hand” that borrows a lot of the beautiful ideas of the 23rd Psalm and I love the line “surely goodness and mercy will follow me.” It’s a line that other people respond to also, because sometimes they will come to the product table and ask for that “goodness and mercy” song. That’s one song I never get tired of hearing.
It’s interesting how people are touched by different songs. Songs that I don’t like all that much are often favorites of other people. I suppose that's true with books too. Actually, there’s no supposing to it. You can tell that's so by reading the reviews on Amazon or other sites where readers leave their thoughts on books. One person might love a story and give it many stars and great words while another person will totally pan the same story and think it’s awful. That’s what makes the world go around and opens the publishing door for many different types of writers. Thank goodness. Who would want to have only one kind of book or one type of song? That’s why we say “different strokes for different folks” or “to each his own.” 
I’m just glad some of you like the words I come up with. So thanks for reading, and if you happen to be at the Quartet Convention this week, come by the Patriots booth in the Exhibition Hall this week and say hello to me or Darrell. One of us will probably be there. 

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

The Honks Keep Coming In

A double dose of hope
What expresses hope for the future better than a rainbow? And two rainbows are even better. Hope can be amazing, and perhaps it was that message of hope about my little great-niece on my Facebook page that has so touched people. 

The honks are still coming in. If you didn't see my earlier post on this, the picture I posted was of my little niece smiling and standing behind her car with the message "Honk for No More Chemo." The fact that she's a cute little girl with an appealing smile didn't hurt either. But I'm not sure anything explains how the photo went viral and is still collecting comments at the rate of 100 every hour. 

A little bit ago the post had been viewed 17,841,285 times. The picture had been shared 24,252 times. 1,470,011 people had clicked the like button and 50,317 people had taken the time to leave a comment. I read through the last 221 comments and here is a sampling from those. 

"Honk Honk!!!!!!" (from Hawaii) (The honks are such fun.)

"I don't know her personally, but I will remember that face. What a gift!"

"I have not read a better post then this on. Congratulations."

"Good for you kid. Live a long and happy life. Don't know you but that doesn't matter. As for the parents, congratulations."
"St. Jude's is my charity of choice. Hurray Hurray." (In the comments I've read since I posted this on August 15, I seen a lot of support for St. Jude. Some of those who gave to St. Jude on a regular basis like the next commenter were extra pleased to see the picture of my niece and to know a child their money had helped to cure.)

"AAWW how great. God is good. We always give to St.Jude. I am going outside to blow her a kiss, the wind will carry it to her..GOD BLESS YOU ALL...♥" (Indiana)

"Chili's raising money for St. Jude's for the month if September. Please go in and donate." (Others mentioned fundraising opportunities.)

"more than like, LOVE!!!" (Saw this kind of comment often)

"Praise God & YOU ROCK KAELYN!!!" 

"Let's have a Praise Party for Kaelyn!! Thank you Lord and congratulations young lady!" (There are so many praise God messages every time I read through some of the comments that I think we're having that praise party already!)

"double, triple, quad-triple LIKE this!"

"honk honk honk great news happy for all of you" (Texas)

"This is awesome!! All the kids at St Jude are warriors and there is no better cause to donate to. Trust me I know." (Usually when I dip into the comments, I see at least one from a cancer survivor or a family member telling about a child who also was cured and now has children of his or her own. The saddest message I read was from the mother of a survivor who in his teen years died of a drug overdose.)

"Father God please Bless her with a lifetime of Remission. Thank you Jesus Amen." (So many wonderful prayers were offered up for my niece and her family and many more promises of prayers.)

"Honk honk !!!!! Praise God" (Georgia) (I have to admit I loved it every time I read a honk, honk comment. Great the way people got into the spirit of celebration.)

"Finally something worth reading!! GREAT NEWS!! Congrats!!"

"I don't know her but that is wonderful news." (I found it very touching that so many people were so ready to celebrate with this little girl they didn't even know.)
"HONKKKKK! nothing more then AMAZING!!" (And that is my feeling exactly - about my niece's great news of no more cancer and also the outpouring of support by strangers from all over the world.)

"And the people said.......... AMEN!" (I think they did. Over and over and the amens [honks] keep coming in.)

Thanks for reading and I hope you have many reasons to celebrate life and hope as we move toward fall. We won't talk about winter yet. Enjoy the days and the seasons one at a time.