Book Review: How to Go on Living When Someone You Love Dies

Bill’s sister wandered through a book store and found this.  She sent it to me.  First published in 1988, I found it still the most comprehensive and helpful book on the subject, despite its age.  This comprehensive guide covers all facets of grieving and healing after loss.  She begins with a thorough lesson on grief–the physical, psychological, and social impacts.  She recognizes the practical implications and how they affect everything from your wallet to where you live.  She doesn’t stop there.

Whether you’ve lost a spouse, a child, a relative, a best friend or a beloved pet, the manifestations of grief threaten to overwhelm daily life.  While no map exists with a direct path to healing, insight does help.  A lot.

We lost Alma so suddenly, there was no time to say goodbye.  He was gone by the time we reached the hospital, and I found myself sobbing over his body, a part of me astonished by the depth of my expression, and a part of me asking, “What just happened here?”  I remained paralyzed for weeks, racked by the shattering question, “How could my son lay dying 100 yards from me and I not know that?  How is that even possible?”  Healing remains slow and each gain hard won. waiting

But let me be totally honest.  I didn’t want to just say goodbye, I wanted to say, “Could you fix the mower?” “I’d love a new coffee table, would you make me one?” “Katelyn is getting pretty saucy, could you start a boot camp and bring her in line?” “Would you go with us to Alaska?”  I still want to say all those things, and I still watch for him to walk through that door.  I am not the only one.

Finding the will, the courage, the peace, the strength, the oomph to go on living is a good thing.  I heartily recommend this excellent read.

Art Journalling for Grieving Parents

I admit it freely.  I am not an artist by any stretch of the imagination.  I accepted that grim verdict in kindergarten, when my stick figures looked like trees from stories straight out of Grimm’s Fairy Tales, the scary ones (and that’s about all of them).  Fast forward 60 years, tamp in excruciating loss, and something magical happens when I get creative with my favorite scriptures.  Don’t get your hopes up.  It’s still not art.  But it’s MY art, and I love the experience, even when I don’t necessarily love the outcome.

My fascination began several years ago.  I first purchased a Bible with wide margins, because of course I needed space for my masterpieces (smiling, here), and I was NOT going to try anything disastrous in my study Bible, already cross-referenced and color-coded to my heart’s desire.  I found one with simple wording, and I loved it.  Then I got some colored pencils.  Awkward first attempts humbled me and brought it all to a screeching halt.  Nothing on the page resembled the fantasy in my mind.  Feelings of inadequacy were overpowering, so I put it all away for awhile.

Then Alma died.  My brain short-circuited.  I know no other way to put it.  Thoughts turned in circles or wandered off and got lost in a haze of confusion.  Taking a thought from point A to point B took repeated tries and enormous energy.  In between it all I cried a lot.  Counsel like, “Be brave,” or “You’ll get through this,” or “It just takes time,” did little to dissipate the swirl in my head.  I lacked a North Start for orienting myself inside of myself.  In describing sudden loss Dr. Rando aptly states, “The loss is so disruptive that recovery almost always is complicated.  This is because the adaptive capacities are so severely assaulted and the ability to cope is so critically injured that functioning is seriously impaired.  Grievers are overwhelmed.”  How good to know I was normal!

In desperation one day I picked up my journalling Bible.  A short verse that spiraled in my brain found expression on the page and amplified itself into a meaning I could understand.  I began coating pages with gesso, invested in paint markers and calligraphy pens.  I still am not an artist, but God does not require that of me.  He only asks for a willing heart and acceptance of His love; He inspires the outcome.  I hope He likes His handiwork, because it’s not really ART, just art.

How long will this stage last?  I have no idea.  Some days I think I function pretty well.  Other times I am reduced to tears.  As adaptive changes take place within Alma’s family I grieve all over again, and I feel like I’m losing him over and over and over.  Three steps forward, four steps back; five months later I’m still all over the map.  I hope Someone has a perfect plan for all this, because I feel very much like a marker in a game of Parchesi.  I wonder how I’d draw that…

And Now She Makes Music? Is This Kindergarten?

I ought to begin by admitting that chronologically speaking, none of us are actually in kindergarten.  I leave it to you, gentle reader, to decide if we function at grade level or not.  And I include myself in this grading of our work habits, for I am one of those in the mix of household personalities who make up our sweet little home/work stations.

I like to work from the living room couch with my laptop on the coffee table, but my grands find their own favorite nooks for their studies.  Katelyn likes to start out in the sun room, nestled into the cushions of a comfortable wicker chair with a bench for her work surface.  And she hums.  Yes, this child who rarely sings at church, tunelessly hums her favorite hymns as she works.  She likes to hum in the rocker when she’s touching up her work, making everything perfect.  But she’s always humming.  Hers are happy sounds.

Matthias either smooshes into the pillows of the reading nook or spreads his books across the dining room table.  He erases a lot.  Rattles his papers.  Sighs when Katelyn hums too loudly.  (He sighs a lot.)  Creaks in his chair.  His are working sounds.sounds of school

Meanwhile, I sip my coffee.  Write.  Work on Sunday school lessons.  Knit.  Work on Posh.  Post on the Expo.  Do what I do, all the while enjoying the serenity.  I love their companionship on these peaceful mornings.  It is the quintessential kindergarten scenario of parallel play.  We work alongside each other, never really interacting.  It spells warmth and comfort.  Our lives are colored in shades of happiness.  Perhaps by coloring outside the lines and spelling by heart I prove I am still a kindergartner at heart.  Mrs. French, my first teacher at the Old Rock Creek elementary school, would be so proud.

Three Reasons Why Nothing Phases Me Pleases Me

No one who knows me would doubt that I love Posh.  I do, but please realize my Posh addiction is not based on blind endorsement of every product.  As a matter of fact, not every product is a favorite; but Posh has hit it out of the park with a new anti-aging serum–Nothing Phases Me.  Let’s look at value, ingredients, and results.

Posh loves to say everything is under $24, and in line with that, the new face serum is super affordable.  For an anti-gravity cholesterol serum, the price point alone makes Posh a winner.  It works out to 1 ounce/30 ml  for $24.  Perricone MD runs $89 at Ulta.  Dollar for dollar, Posh wins hands down.  Its value simply cannot be beat.

Ingredients require some research.  Nothing Phases Me contains three types of crystal-encapsulated cholesterol, blueberry extract, and phaseshyaluronic acid.  The two I see most often paired for exceptional skincare are Vitamin C (in the blueberry extract) and hyaluronic acid.  This show-stopping duo caught my immediate attention.  Percentages of each compound are deemed proprietary information, so we have to look at results to judge its efficacy.

I can only share my own personal results.  I can feel it seeping into my skin, always a good sign.  I put it on underneath my moisturizer and like the way it glides on.  I refuse to post before and after photos, because replicating exact conditions seems impossible–they end up looking faked or lame, so what’s the point?  Besides, I’m camera shy.  Instead, let me offer you samples and a personal promise.  Try it.  You’ll like it!

An Epic Romance

They met at a reunion in Kirtland, Ohio.  Sylvia said she thought he had the most kissable lips she’d ever seen.  “Grandma!” I exclaimed, shocked and too young to appreciate the gift she was giving me.  ‘Twas love at first sight.  He took her picture and wrote the date on a leaf.  An epic romance.  They married during a drought and guests had no rice to throw on the newlywed couple, so folks improvised with oats instead.  Theirs was an epic romance that made a difference.epic 2

Marriage is hard.  My mother divorced and remarried.  Twice.  Divorced again.  When my own marriage floundered, the example of an epic romance tethered me, and God swooped in to save the day like the real action hero we know Him to be.  After all, Bill and I didn’t promise to always love each other; we promised to always stay together.  Some days we don’t feel the love, we practice it.

We know the statistics.  Fifty percent of all marriages fail, but did you know that the percentage increases in second and third marriages?  That first tendency to throw in the towel sets a couple up for continued failure.  In our country alone, there is a divorce every 36 seconds.  That’s painful to read, isn’t it?  It’s time to stem the tide.

Our children need to see epic romances.  Children whose parents are happily married experience a fourteen percent drop in divorce.  The facts speak for themselves.  Men, always woo your honey.  Ladies, always strive to spoil your honey with kindness.  “A good marriage requires falling in love over and over again…with the same person.” (Mignon McLaughlin)  Perhaps Barbara De Angelis said it best:  “Marriage is not a noun; it’s a verb.  It isn’t something you get.  It’s something you do.”  The little things that keep sparks flying are also noticed by little eyes, who are learning about life.  About marriage, about real romance.  About epic romances.


We Need a New Holiday

Today is World Mosquito Day…is that even a holiday?  Seriously?  Who are these people?  Personally, I’m not entirely sure God created mosquitoes.  I think they might be some aberration from the fall, a miniature hummingbird type of insect that started drinking human blood instead of nectar, right out of a horror movie.

Face it.  We live in a dying world.  Even if you don’t believe in creation science, the second law of thermodynamics imparts a truth about entropy and degeneration affirming that same concept.  So I get maggots.  I get vultures.  I just don’t get mosquitoes, nor do I wish to honor them with a day of recognition.  It’s like saying, “Yes, this is the day we honor yellow fever.”  Or how about, “This is national plague day, because we love it so much.”

To right this wrong, I’m changing it.  Right here and now.  I welcome your support in my campaign to make this World Smile Day.  Smiling improves the spirits of the person who sees the smile, and get this, it also improves the mood of the person who smiles as well.  It benefits everyone.  In a world of snarling politicians, loco gunmen, nutso terrorists, and rude drivers, I think smiling ranks right up there with Mother Teresa.  Just smile.  All day long.  Through tough times, challenging encounters, red lights and dawdlers in aisles.  Smile through Facebook; I know it’s hard.  Smile at arguing children.  Just smile.

I found seven physiological benefits derived from this small change in your day:  Smiling improves mood, lowers blood pressure, relieves stress, enhances your immune system, lowers pain thresholds, improves relationships, and increases longevity.  Even when you feel like it’s a plastic smile, just paste it on a cranky face without a trace of genuine good will, and the smile begins its work.  Study after study confirms that any smile triggers these benefits.

This gal’s laughter is absolutely infectious!

I find it no accident that many of my smiles come from little ones who know what a good belly laugh sounds like, who smile so willingly, who model a life of joy.  When I need a manufactured smile I think of them, and it just floats to the surface.  I challenge you to find your happy place and do likewise.

Show some teeth today!  Let’s not celebrate mosquitoes, those dratted blood suckers.  Let’s celebrate smiles and make it our new holiday!

smile 2
These little beauties always bring a smile to my face.

Word Meanings

Gone.  A word with new meaning.  This morning a song from Fiddler on the Roof hums through my mind.  “One season following another, laden with happiness and tears.”  The beginning of a new year, which for me occurs at the start of the school year, not January 1st, gives rise to introspection.

Our next milestone is September 12.  Six months since Alma’s passing.  I’ve learned “gone” is not “the pie has been eaten.”  I can always bake more pie.  “Gone” is not “he just pulled out of the driveway.”  Cars return.  Gone assumes an infinite proportion when you lose a child.alma

Gone really means never again.  Never again will I catch a glimpse of my son working on a project in his shop.  Never again will he plop down and say, “What do you need, Mom?”  Never again will I see his crooked smile.  Never again will I hear his understated little phrase, “Well, that’s unfortunate,” when something goes wrong.

I weep less often now.  I try to keep my sorrow out of conversation.  I work on being brave.  I try to write about happy things.  Life moved on for everyone else, but here I am, a first grader in life stuck with new word meanings.  Gone means never again.  Who knew?

I Wear the Title of Unicorn Proudly

Red hair evokes so many emotions.  As a child I really thought Anne of Green Gables was written about me, and hated being called carrots.  After all, my hair was auburn in color!  Couldn’t that horrid Billy Jenks see that?  I knew I was a rare thing, sort of like a unicorn, but I secretly longed for beautiful blonde hair.   Always be careful what you wish for!

I had no idea my hair color came from a genetic mutation.  What?!!  Called MC1R, I understand this rare pigment endows just 1-2% of the population with red locks, be they strawberry blonde or carroty orange or auburn.  According to Erin LaRosa in The Big Redhead Book, we are the “unicorns of the human world.”  Far be it from me to argue with this sage tenet!

Now I feel better about being a redhead…just a few years too late.  My once auburn locks lightened over the years, and so much white now mixes into my multi-hued locks that my granddaughter doesn’t even think of me as being a redhead!  What’s with that?  Shopping at HyVee last month, a gentleman stepped back to grant me passage down a crowded aisle and said, “There you go, Blondie!  Slip right through there.”  Nooooo!  I don’t want blonde hair.  I want to be a unicorn!  unicorn 1

Ultimately I am left with a deep philosophical question:  Does my hair make me unique…or is it my personality?  I showed my oldest son this favorite picture of how I wish to be seen when I reach old age, and he quickly stated, “Mom.  You’re already there!”  So proud to be an old unicorn, lol.  Fortunately, K will never go through the negative angst associated with being a redhead.  She already loves her red hair and is delighted to be a sweet young unicorn.  I have done something right.  (Not to claim full credit, but some should be due.)  Unicorns unite!

Crisp Thoughts Come from Insightful Reading

“So many books, so little time.”  The quote is attributed to Frank Zappa.  Visit a local bookstore, library or Amazon, and you know that books abound.  Here’s the thing:  Reading without contemplation, without introspection, without making the author’s message personal, is a lot like eating a Snickers for lunch.  Tasty, but little to no nutritional value.  Pure pleasure reading produces the lamentable Scarecrow of Oz, unable think deep thoughts.

One of the best books I found for encouraging me to think, reflect, and create coherent thoughts comes in the form of a workbook.  You’ll find it loaded with inspirational quotes and writing prompts for learning the craft of writing, but basic to the heart of the process are the daily morning pages.  The simple act of capturing thoughts on paper trains the mind to think critically.  Consistent practice produces the tendency to think more critically about literature, politics, diet and all parts of the geographical map where my mind wanders.

Ya’ll know how much I value a reading plan that stretches the mind to think When Not to Lose Weight.  This I consider just as important.  Learning how to think critically comes with practice.  Using that old gray matter for something besides figuring out “who done it” in a page turning mystery requires usage.  Reading insightful literature.  Consistently practicing my morning pages.

I like to use a three ring binder for my morning pages.  I use a 3-hole punch to insert not just notebook paper, but beautiful papers igniting my creative juices.  Sometimes I continue to journal after my morning pages, and that lovely paper makes my pen slide better across the page.  Really.  I like to write snippets for my book, list topics I need to study, work on my to do list, write about a good book or a controversial topic.  In short, I write.  At the end of each year I remove the bundle and start anew.  What are you doing to become a better thinker of great thoughts?books

Forget the Gold Standard. Go for Orange.

We grow one crop really, really well.  Corn, with all those sweet golden kernels, is a personal fave, but it’s a matter of unrequited love.  Despite endless fertilizing, loving care and excessive weeding, corn routinely jilts us without a backward glance.  Both Bill and I like broccoli, but it’s a one-sided affair.  We like broccoli, but it sneers at us, bolting out of control without warning.  Some veggies just don’t belong in our backyard.

Surprisingly, our heavy clay soil, which sucks up organic material and digests it as if never applied, produces against all odds, abundant root crops.  Now I bear no love for any of the “ips”–turnips, parsnips, so they never appear in a Rhoads garden.  In point of fact, in case you haven’t figured it out yet, we grow truly magnificent sweet potatoes.  Yup.  And we love them.  From first planting until the last yummy morsel in the belly, we enjoy these magical orange sweeties.

A good crop requires a little preparation.  Well, really, a lot of preparation.  To get you ready, start dreaming about them in the fall, because then it’s Thanksgiving and then it’s Christmas and if you pause to catch your breath, you’ll be behind schedule.  To avoid that problem, I like to start in early December.  If you prefer growing them to buying them at a local grocery store…here’s the low down:

  • Start a couple sweet potatoes skewered with toothpicks over quart jars of water, much like growing an avocado seed.  I start mine before Christmas.  Keep water levels steady while it grows a jar full of roots.
  • As green shoots sprout, pinch them off at the base, and root them in water.
  • By mid-February you need to be planting them in pots to harden before transplanting them into the garden.
  • Transplant your precious babies or purchase slips to plant just around Mother’s Day.
  • Weed well just before they vine out of control.  You’ll thank me later.
  • Harvest before the moles get hungry.  Fair warning.  Their funny shapes crack us up.
  • After harvest you need to lay them out in a warm place, about 75 to 80 degrees, to let them sweeten up.
  • Wrap individually in newspaper and store them in a dry place.

sw pot 1Ours last all winter and all summer besides.  We grow Goliaths of majestic proportions, and right now we are finishing up last year’s harvest.  As usual, all the ones too big to use as bakers remain.  This is my favorite way to handle the biggies, and yes, we gorged ourselves with half a cookie sheet of these just the other night.  Thinking you might be interested, here’s the recipe:

Roasted Savory Sweet Potatoessw pot 2

Cut up the sweet potato into chunks.  Dribble with olive oil.  Sprinkle with salt and garlic pepper.  My favorite blend comes from an Italian neighbrohood in St. Louis, and it offers just the right blend between savory and sweet.  Roast at 350 degrees for 30 minutes and chow down!