Tuesday, February 21, 2017


About three years ago, while visiting me in Texas, we sat across from each other in a coffee shop. I cautiously talked to her about my concerns, tried to get her to agree to see a doctor. After hearing me out, she angrily told me, "There's absolutely nothing wrong with my brain." 

Deep inside I knew there was much wrong. Much unfixable. 

Our grandson, who was also visiting, was eight at the time, and I'll never forget how she cocked her head one way, then the other, and crinkled up her eyes, questioning, as he tried to explain how to play Candyland. He told her, you drew a card, and moved however many colored squares there were. Sometimes you got the lollipop and had to go back all the way to home. This woman who used to beat the shorts off of me at Scrabble could not grasp it. Too many rules, too many cards, too many colors.

After our visit she begrudgingly agreed to see a doctor, who immediately recommended a neurologist. Mom refused to go. All these years, when life had stripped away most everything else, she still had her intellect and nobody but nobody was going to tell her that was leaving her too.

A social worker was sent to her home, and Mom thought it was nice that 'some lady came by for a visit and seemed to want to be my friend." Mom told me they 'played games' and she thought she'd done pretty well. I still remember how surreal it felt like to stand there in our hall, phone to my head, and hear the social worker tell me the results of her testing. Hear her say, "your mother is definitely demented.' In spite of all my suspicions and concerns, hearing it spoken outloud by someone else felt like being crushed, a brick wall falling in on me.

It's been an exhausting journey, for her and for her four kids as we've walked alongside; as she found herself more and more lost at every turn. Like being in a corn maze with no solutions. Cruel, tricky dead ends that had no way out. Mazes disguised as how to dress herself and button up shirts, remember names of people - new and old, understand that there were seasons and days with names, that you had to eat at least once a day, that the fan wasn't scary, and if you laid down for a nap and woke up it was still the same day; and the cold white stuff coming down from the sky was called snow, and those creatures coming up to her window had a name and it was deer. Too many lessons coming from too many directions, too fast for her to stay up with it all.  Our conversations usually looked and sounded like a frustrating, heart wrenching game of charades that neither of us ever won.

It's been heartbreaking and exhausting and overwhelming for her and for us. A whole new world, that no matter how much we tried to adjust it to fit her, was still more than she could grasp. 

Last Friday, before she had this final fall that was the beginning of the end, we facetimed. My phone rang, and there she was, looking around all panicky, til she found my face on the screen. She said, "Beverly." That's all - just my name. I don't remember what we talked about for that 10 or 15 minutes, but I think maybe we discussed coffee and stacks of pancakes and snow and such. And then I told her, "I just want you to know I'm praying for you every single day, and I love you so very much." And she immediately came back with an unusual full sentence, "Oh I know you do, and I love you too, darlin'." 

Now we're here, at this place, where she's in the final stages of fighting a battle she could never win. The photo my brother sent me yesterday, taken just that morning, took my breath away and broke my heart into tiny shattered pieces. I had to look hard and gaze at her eyes and brow, but I could still see the mother I've loved for all of my almost 62 years. Look past the shock of white hair and dropped mouth to find her still in there. 

We're in that awful, rip your guts out, middle of saying goodbye to life together here on this earth, and it's so much harder than I ever thought it could be. 

I called today to check on her. When the nurse asked me if I wanted to talk to her, again I wasn't ready. How do you talk to someone when you know it's quite possibly the last time. Who's ever ready for that? Everything in me was scared to death, but I said ,'yes', and waited. No noise. So I started talking anyway, and said to the silence, "Mom, this is Bev. Beverly. I just wanted to tell you I'm still praying for you every single day, and I love you so very much." Immediately guttural noises came across the phone line. She knew me, heard me, and wanted to be heard.

I'm going to choose to believe if they could be translated from that language that is halfway here and halfway already in heaven, they would surely say, 

"Oh, I know you do, and I love you too, darlin'." 

Monday, January 23, 2017

While the earth remains....

After all the hullabaloo and build up to welcoming in a fresh-faced, brand new year, already 1/12 of it has just about slipped by. Like the raising of a houseful of children, time moves slow day by day, but at the speed of light when I look back.

To say January has brought with it an abundance of snow would be putting it mildly. White mounds of it tower all around us, piled up on itself til there's nowhere left to go. And yet it still comes down. Most of us were giddy as kids when it started up, back in November. Now the only ones still singing its praise are those earning double-time pay, trying to keep the roads clear.

Tonight I'm snug inside. Inside where it's almost time to turn back the covers and snuggle into my warm bed. Outside is a snow globe of winter wonderland, complete with miniature evergreen trees, and the glow of lamplight casting a shimmer on icy streets and sidewalks. Looking out on this albeit lovely scene, I'm thankful to be this side of the window where it's warm.

Days that run into more days of the same, months of the same, make me wonder - will spring ever come again? It will. One cold, wintry day at a time won't seem fast, but when I blink and turn around, a couple of months will have slipped by. Trees will be shamelessly showing off their brand new yellow-green baby leaves. Daffodils and such will be bravely poking their heads up through the quite possibly still frozen ground, checking to see if it's safe to come out. Red-breasted robins will be doing their courting dances on the lawns. Soon mom and dad will be darting back and forth, heads cocked to the ground, listening for the sound of fat worms below. They'll snatch them up in their beaks and deliver them into nests overhead, where their bald, hungry babies wait. Spring will come.

In the meantime, I get to choose to embrace this waiting. This time of snow and grey skies and a sometimes forced slower pace. A time of soups and muffins filled with melted chocolate chips. A time of old movies and Netflix, of the knitting of scarves and, of course, the reading of books. I get to choose to embrace the time of  year when nightstands are piled precariously high with pages waiting to be savored. Soon spring will call me outdoors into more activities, and the pile on the nightstand will whittle down to something more reasonable looking.

So just for now, I'm choosing to say "Thank you, God", for the quietness of winter, with snow and cold and soups bubbling away on back burners, and full knitting needles, and books to curl up with, and such. Thank you it's too cold and nasty, and just too much trouble some days, to venture out and about. Thank you that I'm forced to stay this side of the window and gaze down on how lovely a slower pace can be.

And for those moments when I lose perspective, when the slowing down feels forced and everything in me fights it, when I dwell instead on slushy streets hard to maneuver, high utility bills, the necessity of pulling on jackets and boots and gloves and caps and salt for sidewalks, than you for the promise of spring, with dancing robins, baby leaves and cold-headed daffodils, waiting just around the corner.

While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease.  Genesis 8:22

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Oh my - January is already half way over! I've intended to come back here, with updates, but have been up to my eyebrows in New Year's stuff. So here's a run down of what I've been up to:

I got my Power Sheets filled out, to the point of yearly goals and also ones just for the month of January. My word for the year is Strong; my emphasis for the first half of the year is Stretch and for the month of January it's, appropriately enough, Begin!

Sometimes it's just hard to get started, isn't it?
  • I went back to using a Homemaking binder, with tabs for a weekly calendar, nest-tending, finances, goals, study/reading plan, connections, and creating. It took a lot of work to put it together, but I think I'm going to love having everything in one place. It certainly decluttered my kitchen countertop!
  • I made a new, super-simple menu plan, with a meal category for each day of the week; within those categories are a handful of recipes to cook. Ex: Monday is soup/salad/sandwich (minestrone, chili, potato, broccoli cheddar.) Tuesday is Mexican (tacos, enchiladas, burritos), Wednesday is Italian (spaghetti, manicotti, lasagna, alfredo), Thursday is comfort foods (BBQ, meatloaf, mac & cheese), Friday is fish, seafood or stir fry, Saturday is grill or go out and Sunday is pizza. I printed out one master menu, made a bunch of copies and put them in my Homemaking binder, so each week I can circle the choices, and make a grocery list from there. I'm thinking this is going to be easy peasy lemon squeezy. Cub Sweetheart isn't a very picky eater; he mostly appreciates it when I cook supper. I think all the cooking shows and websites have made cooking so over-complicated that a lot of women don't even cook anymore. For me, cooking at home not only saves money, it saves calories. It also makes going out to dinner more special if we go less often.
  • Cub Sweetheart realized he left his wool scarf in Texas where it's generally unnecessary, so I've got one on the sticks for him right now. It's a charcoal grey wool blend that should be warm and not too scratchy. I also have a new friend coming by tomorrow to learn to knit on circular needles. I believe her goal project is baby leg warmers, and what is there to NOT love about baby leg warmers?
  • We've got a ridiculous amount of snow up here in northern Idaho. How much snow? So much snow that they brought a front end loader and dump trucks into our neighborhood his past week, to haul some of it out. They 're out of room for piling it up! I walked Lily earlier this week, and looking at the thermometer in the window I saw that it was 24 degrees, and thought 'oh, not so bad.' Who have I become?! I'm purposely not looking at the weather down south, because what good would that do anyone? It's beautiful here, I love the sound of my boots on the snow-covered sidewalks, and the fields of snow surrounding us on all sides. That's what I'm focusing on right now. Also planning a trip to Petco to find boots for Lily. The snow has packed down and is hurting her teensy-tiny feet so our daily walks are on a hold til I find some for her! It's her happiest half hour of the day, so hopefully I can find some.
  • We've been seeing a lot of movies lately - do NOT go see Manchester by the Sea! Dark, depressing, glum. Great acting, but dark, depressing, glum. Not to even mention the language. I should have checked Plugged In before we bought tickets.
  • DO, however, go see Hidden Faces, about the three black women who played a part in NASA's space program - so inspiring! I also loved A Monster Calls. I read the book first, so I knew what to expect. The story was sad, but it was a beautiful movie. They changed the ending from the book, and rarely does it ever happen, but I thought the movie was better than the book. Cub Sweetheart is requesting that I go see La La Land with someone else, maybe my girls will be up for a night out.
  • I've been reading quite a bit too. I read A Man Called Ove in December and we're discussing it at book club this week. Read it! It's so wonderful I found Fredrik Backman's other two books and enjoyed them too. Ove was my favorite. BTW, there's apparently lots of discussion as to how the heck to say his name (Swedish). Here's what I found: BookBrowse note- In Swedish Ove is pronounced (approximately) Oover. The author has another book coming out this May, so I'm anxious to check that out.
  • By my bathtub is Everyday Weather and How it Works, a delightfully old book by Herman Schneider. (I decided to study General Science this year, in addition to Literature, Art and Music and improving my chess game.) I'm also reading Power Thoughts by Joyce Meyer. Other choices stacked up on my nightstand are:
  1. Idiot's Guide to Chess
  2. Choosing to See, Mary Beth Chapman (Steven Curtis Chapman's wife - memoir)
  3. The Underground Railroad, Colson Whitehead, fiction
  4. The Queen of Katwe, Tim Crothers non-fiction (I missed the movie at the theater)
  5. White Trash, Nancy Isenberg non-fiction
  6. The Rent Collector, Cameron Wright, fiction
  7. Letters for Emily, Cameron Wright, fiction
  8. Tattoos on the Heart, Gregory Boyle non-fiction about gangs and compassion
  9. Rules of Civility, Amor Towles, fiction
  • I finished the year reading Gentleman in Moscow by Towles - it was beyond wonderful. So much so that I had to grab his debut book, Rules of Civility which has received great reviews. My goal for the year is to read 50 books; that'll include a mish-mash of fiction and non-fiction, and books of study. I'd like to start out with a list of about 25 and 25 open slots for anything wonderful that pops up throughout the year. Any suggestions?
  • One of my other goals for the 2017 was to have adventures with Cub Sweetheart. In keeping with that, our Christmas gift to each other was a trip to Las Vegas the end of this month to see Celine Dion and Cirque du soleil. Should be a warm, fun few days away. We're beginning to talk about plans for later this year, and maybe, just maybe the Grand Canyon will make it on the trip list finally. Or a drive through the California wine country. Or heading up to Canada to see the Olympic National Park. So many wonderful places to consider going! Half of the fun is in the planning. Any suggestions as to where to go? Where has been your favorite place state-side to visit?
  • Our home in Texas got sheet rocked this past week, so things down south are at least progressing. For right now it looks like we'll be here in the frozen tundra of northern Idaho for much of the rest of winter, so we're settling in, enjoying the beauty of the season and drinking lots of tea and cocoa. 
Stay warm everyone!

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Strength and Dignity and Laughing

I've made resolutions for way more years than I can remember. To be honest - I don't make resolutions anymore. I do still make plans. And set goals. Sticking with the 'be honest' thing, I don't succeed at all of them, or even most of them, but I do hit some. That keeps me coming back for more.

This year I heard, just a few days before January 1, of something called Power Sheets, by Lara Casey. Likely many of you have already heard of them, and her. I was able to put in a quick order and the 2017 planner arrived on my doorstep, perfectly enough, on December 31.

Something Laura uses heavily in her planner, which I've been doing for at least the past five years, is to come up with a word (or phrase) that will define the upcoming year. My word this year is STRONG. One morning while I was walking Lily it seemed to pop through, very clearly, that was the direction I need to go this year.

So I'm taking a verse from the too-much-ignored (in my opinion) Proverbs 31 woman, "She is clothed with strength and dignity, and laughs without fear of the future. Prov. 31:25.

So strength (or strong) - in four areas: spiritually, physically, mentally and emotionally.

I'm working out, in my Powersheets and my journal what exactly needs to happen in those four areas. How do I get stronger? Getting stronger physically generally involves lifting weights in repetition. So I'm thinking / wondering if that train of thought follows through the other three areas.

A couple of summers ago, after a few difficult events, I felt mentally and emotionally spent. It left me wondering if I could have done something to be better prepared? Could I have gotten stronger mentally or emotionally ahead of time, and how do those two areas tie into being spiritually and physically strong? Surely it all goes together!

Would that mean that by going through a nasty divorce, or losing a child or spouse, one would get stronger emotionally or mentally by going through such a tough time? Do I have to have a devastating event and question God's very existence to become spiritually stronger? Or can work be done ahead of time to steel oneself up for the onslaughts of life that inevitably come?

Hmmmm...... that's what I'm pondering.

Hmmmm...... does anyone else think like this? Surely it isn't just me?

I took an EQ test. Has everyone else heard about this too? Our son is doing his doctorate work on EQ and leadership and a bunch of other stuff I don't understand, but I became aware EQ exists, and whether we have a high or low EQ can make a huge difference in how we live our lives. And EQ, unlike IQ, can be increased. EQ, by the way, is emotional quotient. So maybe there's something there in becoming stronger emotionally, or at least growing up.

So far the Powersheets seem like a great way to work through living intentionally in the year ahead. Looking at what worked, what didn't. What needs to be left behind, added on, etc. At January 4, I'm still working on my plan, but I'm getting there bit by bit. The plan, so far, is to get stronger in 2017 - that includes my core, arms and legs. It also includes those parts nobody but me and God can see.

Like most of the rest of us, I'd like to shed a few pounds, read a bunch of books, call friends and family more often. I want to be a better wife, mother, daughter, sister, friend, person. Heck, I'd like to be a better dog-owner! I'd like to be more organized, have a cleaner house and tend our finances better, and I'll likely work toward some of that too. But getting STRONG - that's something that seems to me a goal worth pursuing, at least for 2017.

I'll let you know how it goes. 

Monday, January 2, 2017

Eagle watching

We've had a oozy kind of finish to the year; Christmas prep was pretty much done by mid-December, and it was beyond lovely to be able to take time to knit, watch movies, and have impromptu outings.

Do you see that elk? Something so beautiful about coming across wildlife unexpectedly. 

The eagles migrate through where we live in northern Idaho, on their way to warmer places. For almost the entire month of December they're here in droves, scooping up the salmon who are spawning (which sounds so much nicer than - 'laying their eggs and immediately dying'.)

A few days after Christmas Cub Sweetheart suggested that we jump into the Jeep and head out for the day. First stop was omelets at a little local place, then we were off to do some eagle watching.  Lake Coeur d'alene is beautiful year-round, and also pretty chilly most of the time. Right now the water is around 42 degrees.

The Bureau of Land Management had watching stations set up, with a grown eagle that had been stuffed (not sure what the proper taxidermy term is). They also had huge telescopes set up for us to look through. We were able to see several eagles they'd spotted.

The eagles fish twice a day at least, stuffing themselves with as much salmon as they can before they head out on the rest of their journey south.

There is something beyond majestic about seeing an eagle hunting above you. Their wing span is about six foot.

We watched until we couldn't feel our toes and fingers.

It was a great way to end the year. Thanks eagles and BLM for a great afternoon out in the wilderness. You'll be back and we will too. 

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Collateral beauty

I'm a easy cry. Watching re-runs of Price is Right or Hallmark movies or such, I tend to turn on the waterworks. Tucked away in my theater seat, I'm often wiping tears away before the house lights are up again, and anyone and everyone can see what a sap I am.

But for the past couple of years something has been different. Since my older brother died, almost two years ago, I seem to be stowing away buckets of tears for another time, another season.

ALL women know we are blessed to have a good cry now and then, whether it's over hurt feelings, or conversations gone wrong, or even the happy moments that don't wreck our faces entirely but still having us grabbing kleenex. Sometimes we need to run a hot bath and have a good cry away from the rest of the world.

I think I'm stuck because I know / knew, somewhere inside of me, that if I started I might not stop. If I started it could turn into a marathon of tears.

The buildup started with losing my older brother to tragic circumstances (and our last conversation went badly); then months followed with the painful realization my mother was being won over by dementia. In spite of her continually telling me, "there is nothing wrong with my brain!"  Rough conversations and yelling at each other in frustration over things like whether the 'windy thing' in her apartment should be running or not and had the rent been paid, or paid twice, was she eating ... generally being beside myself with worry that she was living alone and clearly shouldn't be; what if she walked out of her little apartment and wandered into traffic? What if she got hurt and nobody knew she was allergic to penicillin and codeine? But how on earth were we going to convince her she needed to move into nursing care? Months of worry and struggle finally culminated in her moving into a facility where her life shrunk to a small shared room divided by a curtain, one long hall and an activity room where she takes all her meals and spends much of her day. 99% of her interaction with the world is people as lost as she is, or people working at her facility. Food is set in front of her and sometimes she eats, sometimes she doesn't bother. Someone helps her, every day, get dressed in one of the blue outfits I've sent her. Blue, her favorite color. Blue, her only color.

After leaving her there in late summer, hugging her goodbye and feeling how small and fragile she'd become, we drove away. That was the one moment where I almost melted into a puddle of sadness, but nurses saw the situation, rushed us and took her away. Something in that moment, and not being able to cry got me stuck into this middle ground numbness. I walked down the hall and out the door. Climbed into our car and drove back to Texas to have my cornea transplant, followed a few days later by our son getting the scary kind of sick where you pray deals with God. Then in the spring my cornea stitches tore lose and needed to be reattached. That was followed up by selling our Texas home, packing everything up into storage, loading us and the pup into the van and heading to northern Idaho, where we've been for four months.

I'm not normally one for a pity party, but it seems to me if there was a girl who needed a good cry, it was surely me. Yet none came. For months and months and months I've been holding back Hoover Dam.

But lately I've begun to sense a thawing. Maybe permission to let go, let the hurts and challenges and scares and sad things soak in and let myself feel the full weight of it.

Ends up, being constantly brave and stoic is exhausting.

Living near our girls, and being in their homes I've watched as Christmas is lovingly prepared all around me. Sweet handmade gifts being made, lights strung on freshly cut trees, embroidered stockings hung, and little ones making lists. It's brought back memories of Christmases long past, baby dolls with eyes that opened and closed, and six of my father's socks hung in a row over our gas heater; Christmases where my mother wrapped every single gift in white tissue paper, tied with red ribbons curled with the scissors. Garlands of popcorn we six kids strung on thread and wrapped around our always-scrawny tree. Then years later, when she'd begun to decline, she'd send packages of shredded coconut because she remembered I loved it, but no longer had the presence of mind to buy a box of candy. There were huge, goofy socks and other awkward things she'd wrap up and send because she wanted to send gifts but didn't remember how to do the whole process. There were the predictable bags of pistachios she'd include for Cub Sweetheart because she loved him but couldn't remember enough about him to know what else to send.

This year she has no idea it's Christmas. The staff put up a tree where she lives, and she'll open packages I sent her, with the help of an aid. She'll bake cookies and sing songs and watch old movies, all in that one little room at the end of the hall. But she will never, ever again wrap gifts in white tissue paper, and tie them with red ribbon. She won't pack it all into a box the wrong size, seal it up with surgical tape because she's not organized enough (even in her sharpest years) to have packing tape on hand. Knowing Christmas is beyond her now makes recalling my childhood memories, and all those awkward gifts she did send, a treasure. Holy.

Today I walked down to our mailbox, inserted the tiny key and opened the little metal door. Took out an envelope and carried it back home. I hesitated to even tear the envelope open; rather, I just looked at it for awhile. Looked at my name on the front of the envelope, in my father's handwriting. A bit squiggly and uneven, the way handwriting gets after 91 years. His return address in the upper left corner. I carefully tore the envelope open, took out the card and the check that is always there. Read his note, which of course included how much he's already looking forward to ordering the seeds for his 2017 garden, if his knees hold up, and looked at the check written out to me. Looked at the end of the message, where he signed, 'Love you, Dad'.

The check will get deposited by phone, but I won't shred it. I set the envelope aside to save so I'll have his handwriting someday. I sat there, on the sofa for a few minutes, soaking in how fleeting time is; I won't always open my mailbox in December and see an envelope with my father's handwriting on it. Treasure. Holy.

Yesterday we saw the movie, 'Collateral Beauty' (which I heartily recommend, BTW.) A movie whose theme was seeing the beauty that falls out from tragedy changes everything. For me, today, there was fallout, collateral beauty in an envelope with my name written in squiggly handwriting. Tomorrow, when I face time with my mother, and she sees my face and smiles as she remembers me, there will be more. It's tremendously difficult to talk to her now; back and forth conversation is almost impossible for her at this point, but I'll be sure to thank her for all the wonderful Christmases she gave me over the years, for all those white tissue wrapped packages tied up with curly red ribbon. For the bags of coconut and goofy socks. I'll remember for the both of us.

Maybe at some point during this holiday season I'll run a hot bath and have a good cry over the collateral beauty that is swirling all around me. 

Sunday, December 4, 2016

December musings

I had no intention of taking a big break from writing, but life got away from me.

All mostly in the best of ways.

We've settled into our little Idaho home. Replaced floors, stocked our kitchen to function better; reorganized some closets, drawers, and Cub Sweetheart redid our laundry room so I have cabinets to hide cleaning supplies, etc., a shelf for baskets, and a place for the ironing board and iron I never use.

The iron and ironing board retired in 2010, but I keep them around for nostalgia's sake. And sewing.

We ran down to Texas in October, had some fun times with our kids and their kids there. We checked out our little Texas house that's in the process of being built. Then headed back up to Idaho.

Back in Idaho, I agreed to be Landon's room (grand)mom for this school year, so CS and I helped throw a Halloween party for 29 kids. Very fun! Halloween was all around fun here actually. CS and I ended the evening sitting on our in-town daughter's porch, under a propane heater, handing out treats to cute little kids.

Thanksgiving (multi-holiday catch up here!) was great fun. We all gathered at our out-of-town daughter's house where we cooked a 20+ pound turkey, twenty pounds of potatoes, and for the first time ever in my life, had enough people gathered together that we had a 'kids' table'. Warmed my heart to pieces.

We've made some sweet friends since moving to Idaho for the interim. A couple from our church - they're in our same age bracket, same stage of life, same values, same hair color :-) The biggest difference between us is height. They're on the shorter side, we're on the taller side. They're from California, and we're having fun getting to know them better. Having moved from the lake over three years ago, and now moved again, and without a home in Texas, it's been awhile since we made any couple friends. Feels nice.

Like everyone else, we're in the middle of getting ready for Christmas. The weather here in northern Idaho makes it easy to feel festive. We've already had light snow showers several times, and coats, boots, gloves and caps are all gathered by the front door. No going out without them! Hear tell we're supposed to dip into the single digits and Miss Lily is ready with a cute-as-can-be red plaid coat. CS isn't real fond of dressing the dog, especially if he has to walk her, but who doesn't love seeing a little white dog in a red plaid coat? Especially in December? Exactly - that's what I told him.

My mom has now been in a memory-care facility for about 16 months, and she's slowly declining. Short term memory is non-existent, and slowly but surely I can see her long-term memory fading away too. The social worker where she lives has been beyond fabulous, working with me to set up Facetime with her every other week. After a try or two we realized my mom's hearing difficulties were causing additional problems, so they came up with a set of headphones. When we had difficulties with her grabbing at the headphones, we came up with a 'fidgit blanket'. Has anyone else ever heard of them? They had plenty on hand, donated by a group of women from some church, so we're going to see if keeping her hands busy will help. I also ordered 'conversation cards' to try to be better prepared to talk to her. It's a heartbreaking struggle to try to find something / anything we can talk about. I just finished reading The Long Hello by Cathie Borrie. 

For anyone out there with a parent / relative with memory decline, it was a gentle read. I read through it in two long soaks in the tub, and there was enough insight into what my mother is going through to warrant the read. I am also reading another book, Creating Moments of Joy, by Jolene Brackey (A Journal for Caregivers), and it's been really, really helpful. Such insight! I'm learning not to say, "Mom, do you remember.....?" because she doesn't. Rather, I say, 'Mom, I remember when you made chicken and dressing for our Thanksgiving dinner and it was the very best part of the day." When she smiles I know it doesn't matter if she remembers it or not. She knows I do, and she feels loved. And that's what it's all about.

I've been doing a lot of reading lately too. My recent recommends are: All three books by Fredrik Backman, but I especially loved A Man Called Ove. Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger was wonderful. Not cheery, but wonderful. I can't remember if I mentioned before (that's what happens when you take an unexpected/unplanned blogging break), that I read Go Set A Watchman by Harper Lee. I really enjoyed it. Not as much as the original, but that doesn't take away from the fact that it was a good read. Very interesting and I'd recommend it.

I've also retaken up playing Chess, mostly with my oldest 'Little'. (Can you call them that when they're taller than you?!) He and I have both been reading 'The Idiot's Guide to Chess', and both of us are improving, although he still beats me every time. I learned the basics of the game when I was less than ten, but haven't played for years. I'm finding as grandkids start growing up it's vital to find something to stay connected with them. CP is my very first grandchild, absolutely treasured in my heart, and I don't ever want him to outgrow me. So I'll learn to play chess, and get good enough that I can beat him often enough that he doesn't feel bad when he beats his Grammy.

Well, this is long enough catch-up. We're in Idaho one more week, then we head back to Texas to love on our kids and their kids, and check out our in-the-process house. It'll be nice to have temperatures a bit higher, but I'll be okay with coming back to snow and pots of chili and knitting by a fire. I'll try to post some photos and news when we get back.


P.S. Let's all try to be nice to everyone in line, in front of and behind us. In the grocery, in traffic, everywhere. We're all stretched thin right now, and kindness is the best gift we can give.