Friday, November 16, 2018

Julie and Julia

   Over the past few months I've written a couple of book reviews and now it's time I guess for a movie review. I love the movie Julie and Julia. It just came out on Netflix and although I've seen it a few times already I began re-watching it. There are so many elements that strike a chord with me. Not bottom on the list is the fact that the modern day Julie began writing a blog and later it was turned into a book and then a movie. Wow! I love how she began her journey of writing and doing what she loved and was passionate about. She wasn't great at really anything at all and was doing an average job at the average workplace while living in a small apartment with her husband. Then all of a sudden she decided to try cooking all the recipes in an entire cookbook and blogging about it. After that, her life began to take on more sparkle and meaning.
   The movie flips back and forth from Julie to Julia Child who was seeking her next venture in life during the post WWII era. She and her husband were living in Paris and she needed something to occupy her time and took up French cooking at a local cooking school. She threw herself into the class and mastered the art of cooking. Now she is famous for her book Mastering the Art of French Cooking which she co-authored with Simone Beck and Loiusette Bertholle. One small step to try something new and interesting eventually turned into a true passion that made Julia Child a household name. (to find the two volume set:
   There is just something so powerful about doing what you are passionate about and seeing it flourish. All too easily we get stuck in the every day sorts of things that take up our time. It's all about perspective. What is keeping you from doing what you love? Most of us won't achieve world wide fame but we can enjoy the aspects of life that make us the happiest. It's the accumulation of the little joys in life that create a spark of the magical. I am passionate about being the one (together with my husband) to raise my children. But parenting is not always easy or satisfying. I need a change in my perspective at the end of nearly every day it seems like. However, if I remember to appreciate those little joys, my passion and vision are restored. Today my son crept quietly into my bedroom while I was trying to will myself out of bed on a dark and freezing morning. He said he was scared in the night and hopped into bed with me. We snuggled and whispered and soaked in the comfort of our Mama and little boy connection. There it was! The spark of love that keeps me going and fills me with gratitude and reminds me of my true passion in life. 
   What are YOU passionate about? Are you taking time to live out a passion you have? Post a comment!! I'd LOVE to hear from you!

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

On the Other Side of the Wall: Remember Me

   Grandma's Alzheimer's was a long process. The end stages lasted approximately eight years. Our whole extended family was confronted with the strange sadness that while Grandma sat in the chair she no longer knew us and the lady she had always been was long gone. For the younger members of our family there was no other grandma than the one with Alzheimer's. My youngest sister never knew her as anyone different than the one with the blank stare behind the eyes who shouted at the bathroom mirror. That's the thing about disease. We have the before disease period of time when life is status quo or normal and later we realize how precious that time was. Then once a disease sets in we have the disease phase of life. In the case of Alzheimer's the disease phase brings a forever change. If  Grandma had known what was happening to her, she would probably have told us to hold tightly to the memory of the lady she was before dementia's cruel dark fingers took hold of her.
   So who was Grandma? Who was she before Alzheimer's? How has the essence of Grandma lived on in us? She was happy, warm, friendly, and generous. She always seemed to be smiling and in the kitchen either cooking or cleaning up from our large family gatherings on birthdays and holidays. She wore bright red lipstick and always had her short hair fixed nicely and curled under. One of her favorite hobbies was writing; poetry in particular. I always thought I would find a diary of hers tucked away someplace in their house of the days when she was a girl like me. I don't know how, but she was aware that I liked to write and often asked me what I had been writing lately. She always asked what I wanted for my birthday and lists were scattered on the kitchen counter top, her slanted lines of cursive on the backs of letter-sized white envelopes spelling out the wishes of us grandchildren. Once we walked down the street to a small shop that sold toys and she bought me a small doll for a present. Grandma kept several bird feeders outside the dining room window where she could admire the birds while she ate a soft boiled egg for breakfast from a chintz egg cup with a spoon and drank coffee from a tea cup. When we stayed overnight at Grandma and Grandpa's house she made small round pancakes and Grandpa made a blueberry sauce to pour on top. Music was one of Grandma's favorite things. She loved playing the piano. After every concert or recital she attended she kept the program as a special memento of her family's many musical talents. If her children or grandchildren were performing, then she was there in the audience. Grandma loved flowers and enjoyed taking us around her gardens and showing us the latest blooms. My favorites were her bleeding heart plants, pink peonies, and the exotic venus fly trap she had growing by the front porch. She loved jewelry and had various jewelry boxes filled with costume jewelry that was so popular back in the day. Her house was filled with her collections of beauty: carnival glass, shells, rocks, and butterflies. Nature was important to her and deserved admiration. Grandma's faith was solid and the center of her life. She lead in prayer before meals and was active in ladies groups at church.
   Grandma's attributes live on in all of her grandchildren. Even her great grandchildren who never met her are like her in so many ways. What do my kids love most? Butterflies, rocks, shells, music, church, birthdays, baking, flowers. She must smile from heaven on all of us, happy to see us doing what she loved so much, keeping alive the loves of her life. How she would marvel at her transplanted peonies blooming in front of my house over eighty years since she first planted her own garden. Her love of  music, nature, and family gatherings continues to thrive in everyone of us in our extended family. The memory of Grandma is a powerful one and has triumphed over the changes Alzheimer's brought about in her.
   How will my children remember me? I hope that they will think of all the fun times splashing in the lake, laughing around the table after dinner, snuggling on the couch, going out for ice cream, and hearing my voice cheering them on at soccer and races. The future is unpredictable but we can take comfort in the fact that even when horrible diseases like Alzheimer's strike, the amazing power of memory will carry us to live on in those we have loved.

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

On the Other Side of the Wall: Making Memories Part 2

   My worst fear, I think, is getting Alzheimer's Disease. After seeing my grandmother suffer from the loss of  her mind and all of her memories I came to the conclusion that I never wanted to go through that myself. It was heartbreaking for us watching her more than it was for her personally, in my opinion. I'm not sure she ever really understood what exactly was happening to her at the beginning. Then as the disease progressed she became less and less aware of her life. Her own memory was washing away like words drawn in sand and then pulled out to sea with the tide. All that we had left of her were our memories. She was still alive but could not remember her past and her present life was a confusing fog of dots that wouldn't connect.
   Photos became even more important to me personally because they were something physical that was left of the happy times we spent together through the years with our grandparents. Since my great-grandfather was an avid photographer, I could even look at the past one hundred years of family picnics, jokes, vacations, and trips to the beach. There was the evidence of so many memories that were made.

That's why now as a mother of three children I am busy keeping track of the memories we make as family together. Our living room bookshelves are filling up with photo albums and I have five years of video clips that I need to burn onto DVD's for my kids to watch. I might even need to get a new large plastic bin to store my journals because the one I have is almost filled to the top. I guess I'm storing up my memories just in case.

   Do you have favorite memories? I do. We get so busy in life getting all of our work done; the dishes washed, the weeds pulled, the endless laundry folded that it may be hard to slow down a little and pay attention to life as it is happening. We may even be so busy grabbing our phones to take another selfie that we aren't fully experiencing the snapshots of life as they occur. One of my favorite "snapshots"  of my grandfather happened on a warm September day when he stopped by with a large cardboard box. I was out mowing the lawn as usual when I noticed his car in the driveway. I pulled the small ride-on mower up to the side of the garden and turned it off. As I was getting off, I looked over and there was Grandpa with the arms of his long sleeved white shirt rolled up to the elbows holding a large juicy nectarine he had picked from our tree. He was leaning forward savoring every bite and letting the juice drip to the ground in front of him. In my mind's eye I can see him clear as day. When he was done with the nectarine he walked slowly to the car and popped open the trunk and pulled out that cardboard box and handed it to me. It was my eighteenth birthday present. He had written the word North on the top of the box, something he often did with gifts: handwritten instructions for how to open it just so. I was excited he had remembered my birthday and I hoped it was the gift I had hinted at a few weeks prior. Sure enough when I opened it later, there was the white bowl and pitcher set I had spied in their attic one day when we had visited their house. I'm not sure why I was paying close attention to my grandfather that day. But boy am I glad now, that I took a minute to stop what I was doing to take that mental snapshot of my grandfather. It didn't just happen though. I had to stop for a minute to take notice and appreciate that picture of the grandpa I loved.
   One thing is for sure there is no guarantee of the future. We have no idea what will happen to our health or how long we will live. Now is the time to make memories with our loved ones and to also try to leave evidence of those memories to be cherished.

Monday, July 9, 2018

On the Other Side of the Wall: Making Memories Part One

   In June we took a homeschool field trip to a place I went to as a child: Oliver's Candies. I remember walking there with my grandmother when I was about eight years old. It was a small store with a counter, a cash register and a few shelves along the wall displaying a variety of chocolates. Today the store has expanded to even house an ice cream shop and they are making renovation plans to move the heavy machinery for the chocolate making to another location to allow more space for the store. We learned they ship chocolates all over the world and just shipped to Norway. Wow! How cool is that? The little place Grandma took me to has turned into a full fledged  home-made chocolate factory. My grandparents would be so proud! They brought those chocolates to nearly every family gathering and all of us feel nostalgic when we hear the name Oliver's Chocolates. After our tour and candy shopping I drove past my grandparents' house which is now a light gray color instead of mint green. I pointed to the front porch where we used to hang out when the weather was nice. The square milk box to the right of the front door was still there and I explained how the milk was delivered and put in there. As we drove down the road we passed the school playground where my siblings and I used to swing on the swings whenever we visited. A mile down from there we ate our picnic lunch at a park with friends in the shade of acres of enormously tall trees. I really loved being there in the town where I spent so many holidays growing up. Now my children have been there too and it just feels right. That's what's so great about making memories with our loved ones. We create places in our minds and hearts that just feel right and feel at home with the remembrance of those people we lived life fully with in those moments.
   This past week on the 4th of July was my niece's graduation party. She and her family traveled in from out of town to celebrate with the majority of our extended family that lives in Upstate NY. My kids had been counting down the days for about a month looking forward to seeing their cousins. Throughout that day, I'm sure a thought that came across each of the adults' minds was how time had gone by. When I look back at all the holidays, dinners, graduations, weddings, picnics I have spent with family I am thankful for the memories we have made. No, we don't see eye to eye on everything. But over the years we have gathered. We have celebrated. We have come together as family.
   When you have little children you are getting through each day as it comes. You are living so much in the hour to hour and day to day that you can't really think about even a year from then and what you and your kids will be doing. You are are consumed with keeping your little ones safe and happy through the bumps and bruises, the tears and laughter of early childhood. Now I am just barely past those days, with my youngest turning six soon and we are approaching the next phase with our kids. Making memories is a big part of life from here on out. As the cousins pulled out of our driveway after a week full of fun and drove around the bend there were instant tears from my oldest. Her big week of the cousins here was coming to an end. She will cherish every second they spent jumping into the pool, hiking in the woods, swimming in the lake, painting rocks, eating popsicles, painting nails, baking macaroons, watching fireworks, making music, shopping, playing games together. Making time for each other is important for the next group of cousins coming up. It's our job as the current group of adults, to continue making it all happen for our kids until they are parents and get to carry the baton for their families.

Friday, June 15, 2018

Favorite Things: June Favorites

It's time for a few more favorite things! Here are my picks for homeschooling and more.

Preschool Program
   For the past seven school years I have been busy homeschooling my three kids. It has been a journey for sure, full of ups and downs. When our now sixth grader was starting pre-school we chose a curriculum that was recommended to us by a close friend. She told me it was a fun hands-on, project driven program and all the supplies would come in a box. Since my daughter was loving arts and crafts at the time and I am not a super arts and craftsy kind of person this seemed like the perfect fit. I have used this program for all three of my kids and YES everything I needed came in the box. Readymade Preschool has been a fun way to kick off homeschooling for each of my kids!

   We bought our home about fourteen years ago and I needed some packing paper. The huge roll lasted through our move and was still around in a closet a few years later when we started projects like painting with watercolors with our kids. That paper has come in SO handy. We love to use it as a "canvas" for the kids to get creative with or as a drop cloth for whatever projects we might be doing. I just fold it all up and throw it away when we are done. No need to clean the table, just throw away the paper.

Homeschool Blogging
   I was hired by Global Student Network this year to be one of their homeschool bloggers. It's been a thought-provoking challenge to write about my experiences with homeschooling. I'm thankful for the opportunity to write for GSN and grateful to play a small role in encouraging the homeschooling world. Here's a link to one of my favorite topics, staying connected as a homeschool parent. Not an Island: The Solution to Homeschool Isolation

   It's SPRING in NY...need I say more? We waited about five months to get our springtime weather back. I love my gardens this time of year. My favorite flower, the peony, has blossomed and it's sweet rose-like fragrance has filled my home. Some of my peonies are from my grandmother's garden which makes them almost 100 years old.

Anne Morrow Lindberg
   About thirteen years ago a close friend of mine gave me the book Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindberg. I recently got it out and began to read it again. She was a writer and a mother. I found myself relating to what she had to say about making time to do what she was passionate about as she raised her children, managed her household, and invested in numerous friendships. Here is an excerpt that I'm sure many if not all women can relate to: "For to be a woman is to have interests and duties, raying out in all directions from the central mother-core, like spokes from the hub of a wheel. The pattern of our lives is essentially circular. We must be open to all points of the compass; husband, children, friends, home, community; stretched out, exposed, sensitive like a spider's web to each breeze that blows, to each call that comes. How difficult for us, then, to achieve a balance in the midst of these contradictory tensions, and yet how necessary for the proper functioning of our lives. How much we need, and how arduous of attainment is that steadiness preached in all rules for holy living." I have added the italics to emphasize what she was saying. Balance and steadiness are so essential even now so many years after she wrote this in 1955.

   I have been reading about the life of David, one of my favorite people in Scripture. This time around, it's hit me that he was a writer. There were years when he had no idea what was going to work out in his life, how he was going to survive rejection, loss, suffering and through all of those hardships he wrote. He composed. He played music. He created. The world still knows what God inspired him to write down. So much beauty is expressed in his writing of the Psalms that speaks to me every time I read them. Psalm 51:10 "Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit to sustain me."

Family Friendly Hotel
   In April my daughter and I went to Pensacola, Florida to visit family. After so many months of COLD and snow we were excited to travel together and for her to see the ocean for the first time ever and of course to spend time with extended family. We stayed at a hotel for our first night there and it was the ideal place for us. It was right on the beach and even had a heated pool with a lazy river. If you are ever in Pensacola, check it out! Holiday Inn Resort Pensacola Beach

What are some of your favorite things this time of year? 

Friday, May 11, 2018

On the Other Side of the Wall: Where Am I?

   One of the phrases Grandma used most often while she was living with us was "Where am I?" She was confused about her whereabouts but just imagine if she was using the question to ask herself where the heck she, as a person, really was. Like where did she go? This is a question I'm sure most loved ones ask who see Alzheimer's first hand. This is a question that stirs up a variety of emotions and ultimately leads to a form of grief that your mother or grandmother is no longer who she had always been. In a care-giver's mind is that person still there? In later stages of Alzheimer's Disease the brain has deteriorated enough that a person can no longer converse or interact with his or her surroundings.
   As we took are of Grandma two schools of thought floated to the surface and affected our styles of care-giving. One perspective was that Grandma was still there somewhere under the layers of her dementia; her true self was there. The other perspective was that she was not there; her brain had deteriorated so much that she was truly not herself any longer and was never coming back. When I looked into my grandmother's eyes she was not there. Instead of a cheerful light there was a dark and blank sort of sheen. It was very clear to me that we had lost Grandma. As much as I hated Alzheimer's for doing this to her I didn't hate her but viewed her as a victim of a disease. It was not an emotional upheaval taking care of her because she was now a person needing care not the loving grandma from my childhood.
   The other perspective, very different from my own, was that Grandma was there but not able to respond. I have to admit that when people treated her like she was still there it came off as weird and fake; as if they were talking to a doll that was actually a person. It was annoying to overhear someone else talking to her in a one-side conversation as Grandma sat there with her empty eyes. I wonder why that was so irritating to me. I think what bothered me was the backwards idea that anyone talking to Grandma as if she was still there thought they were doing it for Grandma. But it was clear, there was no guess work. She was not in a coma somehow hearing us. Anyone talking to her like a doll was doing it not for Grandma but to feel better for their own self. It wasn't real. It was just someone trying to pretend Grandma could understand a conversation that meant nothing to her. 
   Regardless of how you see a disease, care-giving should be just that: providing care. The person's true self may have vanished but a human is still lying in the bed needing your respect. My mother did an outstanding job maintaining a consistent level of care for Grandma all the way to her death. It didn't matter where she had gone. She was still a person. She still needed our care.