My Top 5 Tips for Holiday Holes

Loss is something many of us endure, belonging to a club none of us wanted to join. It is felt most poignantly during holiday gatherings. As a matter of fact, most of us feel conflicted over the annual gratitude feast and dreaded festive merriment. As much as we want to celebrate our living children, we find the hole of a missing loved one hard to bear.An Attitde of Gratitude (3)

I’m a relative newbie when it comes to loss. Our second son died just a year and a half ago. This will be our second Thanksgiving and Christmas without him. Here’s what I’ve learned about not just getting through the holidays, but savoring them.

  • First of all, establish some new traditions. Building new memories without holes helps ease the angst.
  • Secondly, honor or miss a loved one quietly. Siblings, children and everyone gathered are aware of the gaping hole left by the loss of a loved one. There’s no need to draw attention to it.
  • Third, be a blessing. We have new neighbor, and one set is celebrating Thanksgiving alone. Of course we invited them, and will call to reassure they’re welcome. When you focus on the needs of others, your own grief takes a backseat.
  • Fourth, have your own remembrance celebration before the family gathers. My husband and I like to talk relive our favorite memories right after the turkey goes into the oven.
  • And last but not least, fix favorite foods. Everyone in the family has favorite dishes, and we honor our missing son quietly by serving his favorites. Everyone thinks of him and it’s never awkward.

Get up and dress up and paste on a smile. Your bravery will not go unnoticed, and you will bless the entire family when you incorporate these tips into your holiday celebration. The hole in your heart lives there because you loved so deeply, and I never want it filled with a second-rate imitation of the love we shared with our son. In the journey of loss, I’ve come to welcome the hole as the place where our son’s memory still dwells as vibrantly as ever.

Finding Your Roots

studiesI found my passion for writing in high school when I was required to keep a writing journal in English class. I wanted to be the next Erma Bombeck, but I found, to my dismay, I’m just not that funny. What I did find was an intense passion for words, paper, pencils, and memoirs. A lifestyle blog brings me full circle to my roots, when I courted words and collected quotes, and now share them with the great void of the internet.

Life propels us on a journey in which we visit many a foreign country. Some jobs definitely cause that sense of where am I going and force us to reconsider choices made. Each country visited, though, develops within us new skill sets, new perspectives. I loved nursing with a passion, but it was always the people, not the job. I have been a serial entrepreneur much of my life, first in freelance writing, then in beads, selling travel, selling self-care products. Each venture was exciting, daring to strike out on my own and loving the travel to new endeavors. I learned about stock and inventory, about bookkeeping, about meeting the needs of clients. But in this season of my life I am writing once again. It’s time to return to my roots.

Roots keep us tethered to reality. We all know pie-in-the-sky cloud people who live in the stratosphere. Usually they are managers. And we all know floaters who drift through life following the path of least resistance. Usually they are unhappy or wistful dreamers. I am writing to the ones who relish life with a carpe diem mentality, who find zest in what they love. Too much of the world mimics the next big trend, copies styles, and blends into the crowd. Roots require authenticity. Roots require me to be just who I am. No more. No less.

Dig deeply under a plant, and you find the vascular system of a growing entity. In my personal endeavor to rekindle my writing career, I am traveling to Dallas for a book fair, and working on my fourth novel. Writing conferences hone my craft. I am freelancing once again, and loving it. Each of my writing endeavors connects the facets of my writing career, past to present. Like tendrils of sentient tissue, my roots are extending and strengthening my resolve.bookmark4

I want to encourage you, gentle reader, to be true to yourself. If you find yourself in a dead end job you hate, make a change. If you buried a passion, resurrect it. Find your roots and explore them, strengthen them. Enjoy being you. Me? I love a cup of tea and my paper and pencil. I like to start each day with words.

A Wimp in a Whirlwind

We all want, yearn, for a calm life: idyllic days with enough money and a vacation on the horizon. Then life spins out of control. In the vortex of loss, financial setbacks, and desperation, our true selves emerge.

That’s when I realized. I’m a wimp. Oh, I can quote scripture and sing fervently when life rolls along as expected. I can juggle my disappointment when sideswiped by a minor setback and manage very well, thank you!. But caught in a whirlwind of desperation, I spiral into a morass of self-pity, hopelessness and doubt.

“Where is God in all this?” A dozen Christian ministries promise blessings, but mine are missing. There must be something wrong with me. One catastrophe after another leaves me reeling.

I’m a wimp, alright. But here’s the things. God’s okay with that. Yes, He is training me to be strong and of good courage, but He is full of mercy while I am yet brokenhearted,, devastated and the weakest among us. All He asks is for me, for you, to admit our forlorn condition. Ask for His intervention. Be willing to accept no solutions to problems. Be willing to be at peace amidst the storm.clouds 3_edited

This is my life right now. Yes, we still own two properties. Each home is problematic in one way or another. Now we owe two sets of property taxes. There is no light at the end of the tunnel…yet. In the midst of trial, I still find my hope in a King who knows my name and holds me in the palm of His hand.

Today we decided to continue to live in the midst of chaos. Such a big decision. We had put a moratorium on all extraneous spending this summer, expecting an end to the whirlwind, but we can’t live like this indefinitely. At some point we need to begin enjoying life again. That day is today.  I am choosing to look at the clouds and see better weather on the horizon, rather than expecting another storm. My sweet husband is smiling ear to ear at the prospect. Next blog…where are we going? Stay tuned!

When Loss Is Life

when loss is lifeNo one expects loss. We live as if life, the precious commodity, belongs to us. Yet loss is a part of life, and when it tragically and irrevocably attacks, it changes you forever. And I mean forever. Life is not the absence of loss, rather loss exists as a part of life.

March 11 dawned as an ordinary Sunday morning. We prepared for church and when word came that Brenda was calling an ambulance and would I help with the kids, I seriously thought it was nothing. Our son hadn’t been feeling well, but doctors were talking seizure disorders, not death! As I fed the kiddos, Bill took me aside and said the medics were working to revive him and in that moment, my life spun out of control.

We hustled the kids into the car and raced…and I mean, raced to the hospital. I literally ran into a cubicle filled with family, and Brenda teared up when she told me, “We lost him.” I tried to hold it together for her sake, but when Bill and the boys and I went to see his lifeless body, I sobbed. Literally sobbed over his body. It was like an out of body experience. I had no idea it would hit me like that. But it did.

Since I blog, I kept a record of the adjustments throughout this first year of life without Alma. I knew the stages of grief, but I learned a new set of mile markers. My grief skyrocketed through all the Kubler-Ross stages in days and hours, only to repeat their eccentric gyrations again and again. In reviewing the chronology of my dance with grief, I realized it hit me hardest as months progressed after the support of services and cards passed.

Throughout this year my mind felt numb. I virtually went through the motions. I did the next thing in front of me, but thoughts were intangible wisps and hard to connect. Prior joys like sewing, knitting, and playing the piano fell by the wayside. I not only couldn’t concentrate, trying to made my heart overflow with sorrow. My chest often felt like it might explode with pain. Was I having a heart attack?  When I was still alive after a few days I realized it had to be stress, painful nonetheless. What helped me the most was talking about him, about what I was experiencing, about my pain to friends who would listen. Blogging brought healing.

Ten months to the day after Alma’s death, however, I woke up. I could focus again. I could knit and keep track of a pattern. I sat down to finish a quilt and had to relearn how to thread my sewing machine, but I was able to actually accomplish a goal! Like a mother grizzly coming out of hibernation, I felt awake. Alive.

This chronicle of my year of life with loss is meant to be a path for you as well. Be kind to yourself. Give yourself time. Blessings…

*Note: This chronicle of my year of grief is available on Amazon. It is meant to be a solace for others who wonder, “Is this normal?” “Am I dying?” “What’s wrong with me?” I’ve made it 99 cents, affordable and public. I hope you can share it with others who find themselves lost in the fog of grief.

 

Change is In the Air

Happy 2019!  I took a couple weeks off through the holidays.  It was a difficult Christmas with one less at the table, and Alma’s birthday January 1st came as a double whammy.  We gathered to share his favorite foods and tell stories in remembrance of him…it was a good day.

alma's handsThis is one of my favorite stories, Alma describing how he built a breakfast bar for their home.  “OK, so you start with a pile of scrap 2x6s from building the house. You put them through the table saw twice to make them more square, then through the planer twice, then through the drum sander several times per side. Then you cut both ends off to make the ends square, then you put them in your homemade Taylor press with some glue and a few screws. At this point you have a plank, that you now have to run through the planer 4 times, then through the drum sander 6 times. Cut it to size and shape, add some trim, some stain and lots of lacquer an, Wammo, you have a butcher block breakfast

I am beyond thankful to friends and family who have gotten us this far, and look forward to a year of adaptation, change and joy!  Yes, change is in the air.  Blessings to all.  I’m back!

Odd Numbers and When to Celebrate

ann347. It’s an odd number, isn’t it? Not quite golden, but close. Very close.

We opted for a big shindig on our 40th, never realizing a third of our family would be missing at our 50th–so glad we didn’t wait! I always thought I’d die young, so I’ve tried to squeeze a lifetime into each moment. Now I find the unthinkable has become my new reality. I live, yet the bones of my bones lies dead. I didn’t ask for this. I wanted it the other way around.

Being real, this is my story. My life. And 47 is a great number, because it symbolizes 47 years of learning to be one, surviving our ups and downs, trials and blessings. In this arid desert we tend to grieve better separately, at the same time, but each in our own way. We’ve learned to give space and to seek solace, and our advice to our friends is simple–celebrate now. Never wait. Loss can strike viciously, suddenly, with never a chance to say goodbye. Celebrate life every chance you get.ann1

Here’s the important point: We celebrate together. We celebrate life. We celebrate the family we have, both here and beyond the veil. Bill, I love you. I loved our evening out. Here’s to another 3, anyway. Let’s be golden!

 

Always Find Time to Smile

The world gets whacko sometimes, doesn’t it? We thought road rage was bad, but that devolved into interpersonal aggression in every corner of the country. Between wars, threats of terrorism, Facebook bullying and politics in general, life gets grim…but look at that as all the more reason to smile.

I mean this from the bottom of my heart: The simplest antidote to all this pent up rage is the application of a smile. Paste it on if you have to, but find it. Wear it. Share it. This is the time and the place to do just that!

As a guest columnist, I’d like to share with you one of the things that makes me smile. My second book has just been released, and writing has brought me more pleasure than you can imagine. I started writing the books because I cherish five granddaughters and certain life lessons needed learning without preaching. What I didn’t expect was to fall in love with my heroine.

Christine is a girl, every girl, your girl. Perhaps she is you. Born a commoner, she finds herself a princess being trained for royal duties. Doesn’t that just describe each gal on the planet? We do the mundane. We sweep. We cook. We fold laundry. Yet in our hearts we know we wear invisible crowns. We know those simple acts serve a greater good and to the little minions we treasure, we are heroines.

Living vicariously through Christine and her adventures draws me from the sad notes in life and restores my joy. Seeing my granddaughters enjoying the books puts a sparkle in my soul. Do I see myself writing more books? Of course!

And that is my challenge to you, dear readers. Find those grace notes that bring a smile to your face, and put them consciously, intentionally into your life. When you share your smiles, you’ll find others smiling back, and who can be spewing rage when faced with a smile bubbling up and overflowing?  We exercise no control over the world at large, but we each influence a small corner of the world where we hang our hats. So smile and clean up your corner of the world.

The Common Princess 005 book 2 cover aaron

 

How To Save Time & Money with the Q.O.D. Meal Plan

As adults, certain chores get repetitive, don’t they?  Chores like meal planning and cooking 3 squares a day just burn my grits..  Eating occurs a little too predictably at our house, but I learned a secret.  The Q.O.D. meal plan saves me time and money, so it’s a win/win.

What is it you ask?  You didn’t take Greek or Latin in high school?  I did, but darned if I can give it to you in any particular language, just medical-ese.  Any nurse will tell you it refers to a medication administered every other day.  Yes, Q.O.D. means every other day.

When applied to my kitchen, it’s a prescription I find quite appealing.

  • Cook Monday, enough for two meals.
  • Cook Tuesday, enough for two meals.
  • Wednesday eat Monday leftovers.
  • Thursday eat Tuesday leftovers.
  • Friday date night go out for a bite.
  • Saturday eat light while prepping Sunday dinner

Bgrey and black pen on calendar bookoom! I cooked three times, stretched my meat, and saved money on my grocery bill in the process.  Adapt my Q.O.D. meal plan to any variance of days in the week and it still works.  Cook Sunday/Monday, reheat Tuesday/Wednesday, cook Thursday, date night Friday, reheat Saturday…it adapts to any schedule.

I know, I’m fortunate my husband likes leftovers.  As a matter of fact, he thinks they taste better the second time around. (His momma trained him well.)  I live in the fast lane on a fixed income.  Saving time and money ranks right up there with winning the lottery.  Remember: Q.O.D. and score big!

How to Avoid a Moldy Life

The choice is yours:  A moldy life or living instant in season.  The Bible offers this one short phrase as an injunction for all of life.  At first I wondered what it could possibly mean, but I learned its lesson the hard way.  I now base much of my life upon it…but what does that mean to you?

Nike says it succinctly: Just do it.  I add the now.

I like this wry explanation. “Someday is not a day of the week.”  Penned by Denise Brennan-Nelson, her tongue-in-cheek view of the antithesis makes me smile.

Defined by action, being instant in season requires immediacy.  Thinking of someone?  Call or pen a note.  Yes, I’m old school.  Our children text or email, but the result remains the same.  The lifeline you toss to another may be just that.  Solomon talked about it:  “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver.”  A prayer into the universe gets directed to you and what? You procrastinate? You choose not to answer?  Whose hope, whose life drowns because you chose to do it someday?  Lifelines save lives and heal hearts, as I’ve learned so poignantly these last few months.  Instead, be instant in season.

We once lived in an over-sized garage. We never redecorated or made it our own because, of course, it was just temporary.  Why pour money into something we’d be leaving behind?  Four years later it looked exactly the same as when we moved in, and I learned my lesson.  Make your life your own today.  Live in the now. Embrace the tangible and make it real.

The basis of living in season is falling in love with your life.  Create a life beyond mere existence, a life of passion.  Yes, goals may be long term, but actionable steps make the promise real today, not tomorrow.  Distilled down into the nitty-gritty, it requires taking responsibility for your hopes and your dreams, being the architect of your own future.

neverWhat happens when we fail to live our lives instant and in season?  Ever have to clean moldy food out of the refrigerator?  Your hopes and dreams become diseased and unhealthy when harbored past a designated shelf life.  Turned in upon themselves, you create your own desert of depression.  The cure?  Toss out the old and dream up some new.  My planner for 2018 reminds me of a favorite C.S. Lewis quote: “You are never too old to set another goal or dream another dream.”  I look at it and read it several times a day.  Yes, I believe that.  With all my heart.

Are You a Bible Wrecker?

bible 4I know people with pristine Bibles.  I am not one of them.  I am an inveterate Bible wrecker and it makes the Word of God come alive for me.  Worse yet for all you pristine Bible lovers, I plan on never mending my ways.

Of course I bean with underlining my favorite passages as a child. I then proceeded on to color coding.  I chose word topics and using colored pencils and highlighters, colored verses with or about those words.  That very soon led to personal indexing.bible 2

Threading ranks as my second favorite form of Bible wrecking.  I find a topic of study, and cross reference one verse to the next and so on throughout the Book.  I found I needed to add the starting and closing verses to the Bible’s concordance in the back to be sure I could find it at a moment’s notice.  Indexing is key for me, because nothing is more frustrating than knowing I have a scripture somewhere in a book of 66 books.  I started running out of space for indexing, and had to get creative.

bible-1-55894952-1539785010836.jpgThen I started adding quotes and reference material by way of inserts.  I began with typing them onto thin tracing paper, but with the advent of computers, quickly resorted to using regular copier papaer.  I learned the hard way not to use rubber cement as a medium for insertion.  It eventually dries out and the insert becomes a nuisance.  Worse, it discolors the margin as it dries.  I now favor a high quality paper crafting glue.bible-5.jpg

I finally starting adding Washi tape to highlight books since my Bible had no tabs.  Word of warning: Don’t wait to do this.  It’s hard to cover over notes in the margin.  Since my Bible is starting to fall apart, my next new Bible will have Washi tape inserted at the start.

I do enjoy Bible journaling and art journaling, but I use other versions for that pleasure.  When Alma died I found it hard to hold thoughts in my head, and focusing on short phrases kept me in the Word.  I had a wide-margin version of the Bible I already used for that form of meditation and worship, and focused on that medium of study.  I am not an artist, but the whole point is that you don’t have to be.  It’s a form of personal meditation, and I am chagrined to share my simple artwork…but it illustrates the point.  Just do it and stop worrying about perfection.

Being a Bible wrecker offers me a creative outlet and a way to express what the Word means to me.  It also prepares me for sharing intentionally at a moment’s notice.  I hope it makes me a warrior for the Word, not to use it as a weapon, but as a way of zealously defending the King.  Last but not least, it seasons my life with all the benefits of a life with Christ.  Peace, joy, and strength keep me going through this season of loss and change.  The Rock and His Word never fail.  Yup.  I plan on being a Bible wrecker ’till the day I die.  #noregrets