Monday, December 22, 2014

A Very Long Edge

It's taken 15 long years to see the unfolding of "Portraits of White".  From the first day I wrote the song, while driving through literal portraits of white dancing across the earth, thanks to fresh fallen snow and harsh winds, to the recording of the song, to the performance of it at my concert a few weeks ago.  There is more to come, I hope. 

Dreams and prophecies can be that way.  A seed is planted, an idea pops in your head, but if you're not careful, you'll forget about it.  If you're wise, you will nurture that dream, seed, idea, etc.  

I have been focusing on the story of Mary, Joseph and Jesus for years - and not just at Christmas time.  But this morning, I saw things from yet another angle.

Have you ever considered why the shepherds were the only ones to see angels in such a spectacular way?  A whole host of angels appeared....but only to them.  They were so excited that they did exactly what they were told to do.  They went looking for the miracle and when they found him, they ran around telling everyone about it.  

Mary had a completely different reaction, however.  It says that Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart.  Mary's prophecy was given in a 'one to one' situation.  The angel appeared to her while she was alone.  She seems to respond in the same way - pondering every moment and keeping much of it to herself.  The shepherds heard the prophecy in a BIG way and they responded that way too.  A frenzy of activity accompanies their part of the story.

Did you ever ponder the fact that after all that excitement it took many, many years before they probably ever heard of Jesus again.  In fact, it could have been as many as 30 years before they heard of him again, even though they probably told the story over and over to everyone they knew.

I think it's that way with dreams and words of hope.  In the moment, some of us react with excitement and want to tell everyone.  Others of us are quiet and hold them close to our hearts, telling only one or two close friends or relatives.  Either way, the promise may take a long time to be fulfilled.  

Living on the edge is exciting at times.  At other times, it means years of waiting.  That makes for a very long edge.  But either way, I want to encourage you to be patient.  Enjoy the moments along the way.  Cultivate the seed. The day will come when you will see the fruit of your hope and faith.  And the truth is, the dream may unveil itself in ways you never even imagined.

Here is proof that dreams can come true if you work hard, be patient and believe.




Thursday, December 11, 2014

Fear: The Dream Monster (and how to get rid of it)

"Portraits of White" Begins
At 7:00 p.m. on December 6, 2014 I stepped out onto the stage with complete peace and confidence.  I was in my sweet spot and my whole being felt it.

Conductor, Ed Kee, and I run through last minute details before the concert.
At 4:00 p.m. on December 6, 2014, I was sitting in the bathroom with a serious case of diarrhea.  I rarely get nervous before a concert, but this was not a normal concert.  This was the birth of a dream I had been carrying for years.  I was suddenly struck with paralyzing fear.  I had 2 hours worth of lyrics, music notes and stories to remember and though I had been preparing for this for over a year, I wondered if my brain and physical body would hold up now that the moment had come.

I have already heard from a few people who have been encouraged to step out and pursue their own 'inklings' (or fight to keep them in some cases) as a result of my own story Saturday night.  I thought it might be helpful for you to know that pursuing what's in your heart will usually mean fighting to the very end.  Even up until the moment you step out on to the stage.

I fought my worst battles with fear when I first started dreaming this dream and right before I finished the dream.  Don't get me wrong, there were certainly moments of doubt and fear all along the way, but the worst came a week before the concert.  

Here's some of the thoughts I had to fight:
  • You shouldn't be so honest in your stories - people will think you are weird - don't tell the truth. 
  •  No one else struggles like you do. Keep it to yourself. Play it safe.          
  • You can't do this.  It's going to bomb.                   
  • You've taken on something that is too big for you. 
  • What were you thinking?
  • It'll be just your luck that a big snow storm will come and ruin it all.  You've been set up and it's all going to fail.
A friend kept checking in on me all week and when I began to tell her of my terrible battles with fear (especially in the night time) she asked me to name some of my fears so she could pray specifically for me.  Even before I told her anything, she had been sending me e-mails and notes in the mail speaking truth to me and encouraging me.  I don't know if I could have made it through without her prayers and words of truth.

It became very apparent to me that "Portraits of White" was not just another concert just by the sheer magnitude of the monster that started to raise its ugly head at the last moment.  It's as if it took one last swing at me to try and make me run the other way. I'm so glad I didn't run.  

The best way to slay the 'dream monster' is to keep going.....right smack toward it.  You might want to gather a few friends along the way to help you.  When you really start pressing in to becoming who you were created to be the battle will get FIERCE at times.  Don't give up.  Don't back down.  Rally your friends. Pray like crazy and hang on.

When you finally step into your 'sweet spot' it will feel absolutely amazing and worth every battle. The best part is, you will take others along with you and soon a big army will arise.  An army of people wanting to step out and do bigger things.  Greater things.  Things that could potentially change the world.

As I said in my concert:  "I would rather die trying to thrive, than live having just survived".  If you live this way, you will surely encounter the dream monster.  But you'll never feel more alive when the battle is over.

A nice way to end an amazing evening.  My long time husband and supporter surprises me on stage.







Saturday, November 8, 2014

A Dream Coming True

If you have been following my blog, you already know that I have been planning to do a big Christmas concert this year.  The time is fast approaching and this week I sent out a press release to the local newspapers to announce the show.  I thought I would include this release as one of my blog entries.  It tells the story so well.

Whether December heralds a joyous or not-so-joyous holiday season, Frances Drost, singer, songwriter, and storyteller, invites you to join her and guest conductor, Ed Kee, to a one-night only concert, December 6.  Portraits of White: The doors open at 6:00 and the show starts at 7:00 pm, at the Rose Lehrman Arts Center, HACC Harrisburg’s Area Community College, One HACC Drive, Harrisburg, PA.

Frances writes mostly at the piano, with orchestration added later, to create scenes that are rich in story.  Take depression and loneliness, for instance, tough emotions especially during the “happiest time of the year” and Frances weaves story and music together, taking you with her on a journey back to the heart of Christmas. 
“There was a Christmas not too long ago when I found myself disliking almost everything about this holiday. I think there is something to be gained by looking at the conflicting emotions we feel.  What I do is give permission (to the people that need it) to stand up and say “I am not alone!”

“Behind the songs there are stories, which you don’t get on the CD, but I have seen how people connect to my stories so I expand on them in the concert.”

Based on the music of Portraits of White, her seventh CD project, released in December 2013, this concert is sure to delight the senses, with a live orchestra and multi-media production. The title track is music set to images onscreen featuring the beauty of snowy landscapes.

Frances’s music will warm and encourage you to take another look at your own relationship with Christmas.
Frances has been connecting with audiences both locally and across the U.S., for over a decade. Her commitment to traveling from her home in Newville PA to Nashville TN regularly to build her career has connected her to musicians that have helped shape the course of her life and music.  

Ed Kee, from Franklin, Tennessee, is one of those musicians. Frances is delighted that Ed accepted her invitation to be guest conductor for the Dec 6th concert. Ed has been a highly visible creative force on the Nashville music scene for over 30 years, where his music career finds him in such roles as studio singer, arranger, orchestrator, producer, record label executive and music publisher.  Frances and Ed have joined their professional skill and talents over the last year to bring about this one-night musical journey on December 6th.

Frances has held the dream of a concert like this for a long time, — in fact, since childhood.Portraits of White, the title track, sparkles with Frances’ childlike delight of a new snowfall. She vividly remembers the birth of this song in 2000:  driving through snow blowing like angel-hair across the road, to record Big Blue Sky, her very first CD project in 2000 in Chambersburg, PA. 

It has taken 14 years for Portraits of White, the song, to find its way to its own CD project and finally now, to a bigger stage and live orchestra - it is a dream come true for the little girl who loved snow, ice skating on her farm pond to music and putting on ‘shows’.  After all, there was a time when she loved the holidays, so it’s not all sad and she has found a way to laugh at herself and bring others with her in the laughter.

Frances was the winner of the Momentum Award for “Female Artist Of The Year” and was also nominated for “Inspirational Artist Of The Year” at the 2009 Momentum Awards ceremony in Nashville.

So get your tickets now (there aren't many left) - this is a one-night event that promises to be not just a concert, but an experience that Frances believes will impact how you feel about the holiday season.

Visit http://www.francesdrost.com/events to get your tickets and more information about Portraits of White.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Sunday Afternoon Grief

Mother's memorial service display of flowers with our baby pictures.
The first Sunday without my mother was the day we celebrated her life with a memorial service.  I was surrounded by family and friends.  I was in a daze.  I felt fine.

The second Sunday without her I was so tired and numb from the array of emotions leading up to her death that I didn't feel much.  In fact, it was a rather normal day.

The third Sunday I was driving home from church and suddenly a wave of grief came over me as I realized that normally Tom and I would go and visit her in the evening.

We would not be visiting her anymore on Sundays.  Not any day of the week. She is really gone.

It was a very rough day.  I tried to nap but my puffy eyes wouldn't let me.  I didn't want to ride the motorcycle because my last memory of the motorcycle was trying to get home from our long trip on bikes in time to see her before she lost consciousness.

I cried most of the day. My sister called from Canada but between my own tears and a bad satellite connection, we were unable to talk long. How can it be so awkward, even with family?

There were some Sundays in the past that I would have rather stayed home to sleep or ride my motorcycle than go and visit.  Now I am free to do any of those and they aren't as appealing.  I miss her, I admit as I sit here wearing her blue gingham pajamas.

I can feel a growing apprehension of facing Sundays without her. I don't want to start a new pattern of dread in my life so I tried to approach this Sunday differently.  Knowing my husband had a meeting after church and I would go home to an empty house (which is very hard) I decided to see if a friend could have lunch with me.

I was nervous as I pulled into the restaurant parking lot.  Maybe this wasn't a good idea.  Grief can hit at the worst times and I prefer to be alone when it happens.  I wondered if I did the wrong thing by suggesting we meet.  But I am so glad I did. As she shared her own story of loss, we found similarities in our journeys. Both surprised that we shed very few tears at the funeral. The tears come before and after, but during....not so much.

I find this to be a tricky path.  My heart is full of emotions. I have a certain sense of composure that I want to maintain around the public. What's strange is that I want this composure even around my closest friends and family.  I don't want anyone to touch the faucet that controls the tears.  It makes everyone feel awkward if I cry so I don't want to talk because talking makes me cry.  It's not that I don't want to talk about her. Or about my feelings.  I just don't want to cry in front of you.

There are still so many more rivers to be released and once they start, they are hard to stop.  A few drops of rain are manageable.  A flood?  That's messy!

No one knows exactly how to handle their grief.  It's different for everyone.  There are days I want to be with people - it helps take my mind off of the loss.  There are other days when I want to be alone. I don't have anything to say.  I don't want to have to talk.  I just want to be quiet.

This stage is hard for friends.  It's awkward.  I get that.

Someone asked me today if I am attending a support group for grief.  I guess it hasn't crossed my mind too much.  I find support as I write out my thoughts.  There are so many of you that have walked a similar path and you've told me how much you relate to what I write. There is a sense of healing that comes every time I read your story, hear your path. Hear what you wear that belonged to your mother.

Just today, someone told me that they used to take Sunday afternoon drives with their mother.

Another used to go have dinner with their mother on Sundays.

Others tell of how hard it is to go home to an empty house when their spouse passes.  Especially Sunday after church.

Thanks to the friends who wait patiently for us until we figure out what it is we need. Sometimes we just don't know what we need or we are too afraid of uncontrollable emotions if we open our mouth to say what we need.

It's Sunday afternoon again.
I had lunch with a friend.
Tried to sleep.
Went for a long walk.
Remembered the friend who told me today that her mother died a year ago.  Her husband passed away 8 months ago. She found a part time job to help her face the grief and the lonely house.  It's helping.  But of course, she said it with tears in her eyes.

I understood. It's that 'Sunday afternoon grief' that comes any day of the week.





Friday, October 3, 2014

The Window of Grief

'Lil Moe was rescued from the side of the road over a month ago and though I found a home for her, I am currently kitten-sitting while her new family is hiking the Great Smoky Mountains of Tennessee.  We both stare out the window.
I should be working on my christmas concert.  Instead, I'd rather just sit and stare out the window. Truth is, I AM staring out a window - it goes with me everywhere I go.

It's funny how everyday things look different when you view them from the window of grief.  Simple things make you cry.  You brace yourself for those moments but alas they don't happen when you think they should. Then, suddenly, without warning the strangest things bring you to tears and usually at inconvenient times.

I learned what grief feels like when my father died so I am better prepared for this season of my mother's passing and am less concerned about those unexpected 'grief moments'.  In fact, when they come, I try not to fight them.  They are different than the ever-present compression in your chest that makes it hard to breathe.  They come and go.

Today has been full of them.
  • A friend invites us to the beach over Thanksgiving......I realize my mother won't be here - it feels cruel to go without her, yet staying home doesn't make sense either
  • I arrive on the campus of Messiah College today for a speaking engagement.....Messiah College is rich with family history
    • my mother fell in love with her first husband here when she was 14  
    • she later returned as a widow to work for the Dean of Students
    • she fell in love a second time and met my father here and re-married
    • my father was a professor here later when my older brother Nathan drowned in our farm pond (my father had been at Bucknell University that day to look at their new science building as Messiah was considering a new science building too)  
    • mother called the college that day to ask them to get a message to Orville saying he should come straight home when he arrived back at the school....(this was before the days of cell phones)..she didn't want him to find out over the phone that Nathan was gone
  • today I spoke to Administrative Assistants in the very same room where my mother and I enjoyed a delicious lunch together a few years ago with classmates of her's from the 40's as my father was honored with a scholarship in his name at the college - she enjoyed being with them and hearing stories about Orville from his college days - it was meaningful for both of us - now I am here without her
  • as I drove to the college, I tried to rehearse my christmas concert in the van, but the songs only evoked tears - it's going to be interesting to do holiday music when the holidays are such a potent time of year when you've lost your loved one
All this was happening in my heart as I walked the campus and spoke to the diverse group gathered for a special luncheon.  However, there were no tears.  Only the deep compression in my soul.

Last night, there were tears.  We had just finished rehearsing "All To Jesus I Surrender" as a worship team and suddenly, out of nowhere they came.  I think it was the combination of beautiful acoustic guitar and piano bursting into spontaneous praise without any voices and the refreshment of doing an 'old song' that my mother would have loved.

There will be times in the season of grief when you will view everything through the window of losing your loved one. When that happens, open the window wide and let the memories (and tears) pour forth.  It is a healing balm and lets the sunshine back in....even if it takes years.








Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Five Yellow Roses

These are the 5 roses we gave to our mother before we put her body in the ground.

This morning at 6:55 a.m., my mother, Bertha Mae Sollenberger Heisey went home to be with Jesus.

Tomorrow we will lay her body in the ground.

Tonight I sit on my bed, under my warm blanket with my kitty at my feet and a candle burning on my dresser.  I haven't wanted to write anything, anywhere for the past six days.  Until now.

I feel a huge sense of closure about to take place that I never saw coming until we came home from the funeral home this afternoon and realized a significant event is taking place tomorrow.  It's suddenly not just about burying my mother but it's also about saying goodbye to the woman tied to decades of memories about two brothers who have been gone for over 40 years but are very much present in our memories and family stories.  Nathan was only 2 when he drowned and Doug was 26 when he was killed in a tractor accident.

I was hit with a wall of tears tonight after returning from the funeral home this afternoon where we ordered five yellow roses for the private burial tomorrow.  She loved yellow flowers.

You see, tomorrow at her graveside at 1:00 p.m., we will arrive and receive the five yellow roses. One for each child she bore. No large spread of flowers on a fancy casket, just a very plain wooden one made of pine and five long-stemmed roses.  At first we ordered three. One for my brother, my sister and myself to place on this special box that holds my mother who once held us.  Almost simultaneously we all realized that we needed five.  Doug and Nathan are as much a part of us as they ever were, especially at this time.  As soon as we lost our mother, they gained one back.

I have detached myself from everything since arriving home from a motorcycle trip that we cut short when she had an emergency surgery a week ago so that I could sit by her side until she departed and I am so glad I did.  This morning when I got the text from my sister that she had passed, the tears ran freely but the peace I had deep inside far surpassed the tears.  We have prayed for this day for so long that I felt a refreshing sense of peace and relief that she finally got her wish.

Day after day I have arrived in the morning (my siblings taking the night watch) and just sat with her most of the day.  It was as if I was able to just 'be'.  The next few days are going to be very busy and I knew they would be.  Until she was actually gone, I wanted to spend these last few days just soaking in what it feels like to be present with her even when she seemed to lose consciousness.

I was not with her when she actually passed, but I was at peace with that, knowing it might happen that way.  My sister got that special privilege and I was so glad.

I didn't know how significant the decision to get 5 yellow roses would impact me until we got home from the funeral home and I burst into tears.  I was too young to remember any of the funerals and burials of my two brothers but their loss has had a huge impact on my soul over the years as I would listen to the stories of their deaths over and over and over....and over.  It's as if I wasn't able to experience something that has had such an impact on my mother's life and mine, but from a distance.

I suddenly realized as I spoke it all out loud to my siblings that somehow I feel like this is a very significant passing.  My mother, the one who told the stories is now gone.  With her go the details and potent feelings.  Though I have plenty of my own feelings about it all, they were always attached to her.  It feels like such a closing of a chapter.  A book. One that I now realize I have needed.

Tomorrow I will get to see five yellow roses offered to my mother who gave birth and life to five of us and had to let go of two of us much earlier than any mother ever should.  It's one of the reasons she has wanted to die.  She has walked through much pain here on earth and was ready to be released from it all.  I don't blame her.  She is now free.  Doug's wife and one of his daughters will be present to place the rose in his memory.  I don't know yet how we will release Nathan's rose but I'm so glad we decided on five, not three.

There are two boys that I know must be really glad to see you Mother and three children left who will really miss you.  Thus, the five yellow roses.





Thursday, September 11, 2014

The power of washing feet.

Mother and I in our old farm kitchen...1970's??
Mother and I July of 2014













In many ways my mother and I are about as different as night and day. I'm thankful for these later years together because it has given me a chance to discover many similarities I didn't know we had.

The pictures make a good visual of how our lives have changed over the years.  Here are just a few of our differences:

She had five children.  I have none.
She loved being a mother.  I'll never know what that feels like biologically.
She loved to cook.  I don't like to cook, but I do because she showed me by example.
I have chosen a career in music.  She doesn't relate to that kind of life at all.
I ride a motorcycle.  She doesn't like that so much but tries to smile about it.
She still wears a prayer covering.  I don't...but I still pray.

And the list goes on.  But you get the idea.

To be completely honest, through the years this has created some tension.  And that's putting it mildly. Learning how to be a good daughter when there are so many differences created its challenges.

There's an old tradition we used to practice in the church background I come from.  It's called 'foot-washing'.  I remember when we would sit very reverently in the church pews, men in one room and women in another.  It was a very sacred event and one that I treasure.

With white towel-like aprons, tubs of bleach and hot water...well, semi-hot water, you would kneel in front of the person next to you, take one foot in your hand and gently scoop the water up over it. Then the other foot.  Next you would hold one foot in your hand on your lap and dry it with your towel. When you were finished both parties would stand and embrace as a sign of unity.

It wasn't so much about getting feet clean as it was letting them know that you cared about them. You humbled yourself in front of them to honor them.  It was hard to do this with someone you were angry with but that was kind of the point.  The room was filled with the smell of bleach and the sound of beautiful harmonies as we sang familiar songs together without any instruments.

I have often compared these last few years with my mother to those early years of childhood when I learned to wash the feet of other sisters.  It's not that I sit and wash my mother's feet, though I have certainly helped her shower, etc.  I trim her nails, tuck her in bed, comb her hair, hold her hand.

But it's more about the position she has been forced into by losing her sense of independence and my willingness to set aside our differences and serve her. It's not easy for these precious elders to let go of all that they know and become so dependent on others.  I cry often for them.  For her.

But what seems to happen in the process, at least in my case, is a gentle breaking down of walls between us.  Just these physical acts alone seem to bring about a deeper love and respect toward each other.

So many times on facebook when I post something I've done with my mother, people comment as to what a wonderful daughter I am.  I sigh and shake my head. I don't feel like one.  I just want you to know that it has not been perfect for us.  I hope this helps other daughters who have struggled in the past with their mothers.  Hang in there.  You might not need to 'wash her feet' per se, but welcome any kind of act you can do toward her to embrace humility and extend honor.  You'll be surprised what can happen in your own heart.

We don't practice foot-washing anymore in most communities of faith and I feel sad that we don't. But I get to practice humility and gentle acts of love every week for my mother and I wouldn't have it any other way.









Saturday, September 6, 2014

The Grape Pie




One day after announcing on facebook that I was making a grape pie, I was shocked by how many people had never heard of grape pie and wondered what it was. I smirkishly told them that it was made of grapes.  (hee hee).

My mother was a fabulous pie maker.  My favorite pie of her's was lemon meringue - with more lemon than meringue.

But when she decided to make a grape pie not too many years ago, I was intrigued to try this 'grape' pie she raved about.  Made with concord grapes, it turned out she was right and it has become my favorite fruit pie.

However, I was not prepared for the high price of concord grapes that appeared in our little hometown grocery store around September only.  I realized that this pie was not only amazing, but very costly.

Being the frugal, homegrown farm girl that I am, I decided to plant my own concord grapes so that someday I could have my own grapes for lots of pies.  I had no idea how many years it would take before I had enough grapes to feed a mouse, let alone make a pie.   My husband has tended the vine carefully for years and some years we complained that it wasn't producing and concluded that it was a waste to plant the crazy thing.

Today I harvested not only enough grapes to make 1 pie, but 2 pies and some homemade grape juice.

When I was first married, I was determined to become a good pie maker because my groom really likes fruit pies.  No problem, right?  How hard could it be to make a pie?  My mother did it all the time.

Let's just say that Tom soon learned to stay out of the kitchen when I was making a pie.  Such a gift of love I was working on - complete with thoughts of 'doing him in' with the rolling pin if he didn't leave me alone.  It's not the filling that's hard, it's the flaky pie crust that melts in your mouth that's difficult and that's what I was after.

I would get so angry at the pie dough, the board, the rolling pin and anything else in the room when the dough would stick to the pin, or the board, or worse yet, not be big enough to fit the pie plate.  Did I mention that Tom would pop into the kitchen right in the midst of this tsunami-like flood of emotions and ask a simple "why are you doing it THAT way?".   That's when he learned to stay out of the kitchen.

These days I have a much easier time making the pie because I found a great crust recipe so it's not really an issue anymore.  Of course, the fresh 'hand-picked grape' pie that's in the oven right now gave me a fit as I was rolling out the dough. (I think it knew I was cooking up a blog about it).  You'll see in the pic below that I had to improvise with the top of the crust because there wasn't quite enough dough......proof that the pie knew what I was up to and decided to rebel.  I'll eat it anyway!

I took pictures so you can see that this is not an easy process. But boy oh boy, is it ever worth all this work when I sit down and bite into the sweet-tart taste of the grapes and the pie crust that melts in my mouth. Hallelujah!!!

It will be extra special because they are my own grapes that we've worked hard to nurture all these years.

It will be extra special because I made the pie from the cookbook that my mother gave me at Christmas time in 1984.  On the inside of the book, she wrote:

                                                       Christmas 1984
To Frances
     From Mother

It will be extra special because I will never make or eat a grape pie again without thinking of my mother who nurtured me so tenderly for many years without seemingly much fruit.  I remember the story of the day she "turned me over to the Lord" because she no longer knew what to do with my habit of back-talking her.

Recently, I learned that the nursing center where she lives feels that she is steadily declining and told me we need to make some end of life decisions.  I realize that time is short and I don't know how long I'll have to be with her. To remind her of the pies she used to make and so many other special things she did for us.  I have observed this decline every time I'm with her so it wasn't news to me and I am preparing my heart.

This grape pie was a lot of work, not just today but over the years.  It's been years in process, but it will be worth the effort.

Anything in life THIS good is not without a lot of effort.

What a nice reward to have Tom walk in the kitchen just now and see my fresh pie and say
"wow - look at THAT pie - now that's a pie worth taking a picture of".  
He has redeemed himself.


Thursday, August 21, 2014

The Time Has Come!

A celebration gift from my friend.

I'm sitting in the hotel in Nashville waiting for my first meeting of the day.  I have two friends with me who have been such supporters of my vision and journey.  Last night when we settled into the hotel, Ellen presented me with a little elephant in celebration of making it this far.  She has followed my blog and given me unique gifts along the way.  I treasure them (the gifts and the friends)!

It was a great reminder that over a year ago I began to share my dream of doing not only a CD, but a big Christmas concert too.  All of it has come about "one bite at a time".  That was the theme of last year's blog - "The Elephant Diet" - accomplishing your dreams and goals one bite at a time, amidst all the hurdles and setbacks.

Ellen and her mother know all about dreams and what it takes to see them through.  She is a ballet dancer and applies herself with serious discipline.  She's not even 16 yet, but she gets this.  And thanks to her mom, Lisa, and the dedication to her daughter, she is able to pursue her dreams.

Tonight I get to rehearse with the orchestra and conductor and put feet to this dream.  It is now in motion in full force and it was nice to have the little elephant gift last night to remind me that anything is possible!

The first blog where I mention my idea of a christmas show.


Wednesday, August 6, 2014

The Hope Room


"The Hope Room" can be just about any room, any place or any person.  It can be accessed any time of the day or night. The common thread is a gentle pulse of hope that begins to pump light into the dark corners of your mind and soul.

This idea of "The Hope Room" came to me when I walked into physical therapy one day feeling very down about the lack of progress in my ankle.  It had been over 3 1/2 weeks since I started therapy with little change. But, surrounded by others who are dealing with injuries and working with professionals trained to help us get better, I found myself starting to feel better by the end of my session.  A renewed sense of hope.

It's good to be here, I thought.

The Hope Room can be a sanctuary, a theatre, a piece of music filling the air waves as you drive, a coffee shop, a written or spoken word and even your kitchen table.

I found it in the conference room at the retirement community where my mother lives.  There are 104 residents in the skilled nursing care facility but there were only 14 family members represented who sat around the table.  I wondered why there weren't more.  It became a room of hope for me as I realized that I am not alone in this journey.  Many expressed the same exact sentiments that I have.

We met around a large table to discuss how to make our loved one's experience better there.  I'm pretty sure I was the youngest one there.  My mother was 43 when I was born so many of my friends have grandmothers the age of my mother.  I am sometimes asked if I'm her granddaughter.  But regardless of the age differences, we were all in the same room for the same reason.  We wanted a sense of hope.

Monday I had lunch with a new friend.  She lives in North Carolina but is visiting PA.  We met when we shared a stage together months ago at a local women's conference, leading worship.  We hit it off immediately.  Now we were sitting at a little cafe in Harrisburg and she began to tell me her journey with her mother who died a few years ago from cancer.

There it was again.  There were no physical walls surrounding us in the outdoor cafe, but I felt loved and embraced by the hope that filled my heart as we compared notes as if it was a room for just two.

It was "The Hope Room".

It keeps popping up everywhere I go.

Look for it.  You will enter it as you keep your heart and eyes open for it.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The Unsigned List



When someone lives in skilled nursing care, you must sign them out when you take them outside or off the premises.  I was heart broken when I signed my mother out for the 3rd time in three weeks and no one else had been signed out on the chart. 

Recently, I took her out for a stroll.  We sat by the pond and enjoyed the water fountain, the turtles who popped their heads up once in a while and the frog who plopped himself near us, just to entertain, it seemed.

I have this growing compassion in my heart for the elderly and some days my tears are not just for my mother. It’s for many who sit there day after day just watching time move on.  Because my mother is in that stage of life right now I see a lot of things when I visit her.  But to see an empty, unsigned list of residents who don't get to go out and enjoy the sunshine with their family grieves me in the depths of my soul.  Just going for a root beer float or a pecan roll and hot chocolate at Panera Bread does a person a lot of good.  I realize there are probably many factors that contribute to the unsigned list, but I hope it's not because people aren't visiting their loved ones.

Years ago when I had to move my mother from her cottage to an inside apartment, a grounds keeper came by and shared his observations with me.  He has witnessed a lot since he's worked there many years. "Families only tend to come around when the older person is moving, as if to take what they want and leave", he said.  I've never forgotten that conversation.

If you have a loved one in a facility somewhere, please do all you can to visit them and give them some sort of experience that keeps them in touch with the outside world.  A phone call, a card or a letter can do so much good if you don’t live close. In fact, in these days of technology, a hand written letter is really special.

Even now as I'm writing this, I realize that I need to do better with my father-in-law. He lives in Michigan and we rarely go see him, but I can at least write him letters.  In fact, I just sent him a card last week because of writing this blog.  I get so wrapped up in caring for my mother that I forget he needs to hear from us too.  Fortunately, my husband calls him weekly.

We all have very busy lives, but don't forget your loved one who sits day after day waiting for someone to be a friend and keep them connected to the outside world.  Don't let the list go unsigned too long.  bv

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Apple Juice

She lifted the glass of apple juice with her shaky, skeleton-like fingers, barely able to hold the glass and said "thank you, Lord, for this apple juice".   I choked back the tears.  My heart whispered in agreement.  It's the small things these days that my mother needs on this wilderness path of aging.

She doesn't have much of an appetite lately, but my hopes were raised for a short moment when she suggested a menu that she might enjoy. We were going to have steak on the grill, baked mac and cheese (like she would have made it) and fresh corn on the cob.  But in the end, even with my offer to make a home-cooked meal, she was too tired to stay at my house and eat.  So I took her back and tucked her into bed.

Today when I visited her over the lunch hour, she mentioned that once again she was not hungry.  I suddenly remembered that she loves apple juice.  In her old room they had learned that about her and would give her apple juice at every meal.  She doesn't remember to ask anymore and I forgot this small detail in the process of all the changes that nursing care brings.  I'm trying to find things that appeal to her and it's not easy.  I was glad to remember this and bring it to their attention.

I told the nurse that she would like to have it at every meal. I didn't expect that they'd get the message in time for lunch but when her tray arrived with apple juice on it, I was so grateful.

Apparently she was too and for one moment, all was peaceful as she sipped her apple juice.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

My Mother's Prayers


My mother used to tell me that for years she prayed for a piano player.  God apparently answered her prayer because I play the piano and I LOVE to do it!

There's another prayer she used to pray often.  She would ask God to heal my feet.  I have absolutely no arches and two large-sized bunions.  It's not the foot of a model, that's for sure!

I had a flashback to childhood when I was at my first appointment with the physical therapist a few weeks ago.  He looked at my feet and I could tell he was a bit taken back.  When he saw the big calluses I have on the bottom of my feet, he asked if I ever rub them.  That's when I remembered the days when I was a little girl and my mother would offer to rub my feet.  She would use 'bag balm' that she swears by (if she were a swearing woman, which she's not) into my feet and pray that God would heal them.

So here I sit in the physical therapist's office needing healing in my foot.  Apparently my foot structure did not tolerate the ice skating venture.  There has been no specific injury, but a gradual intolerance of all that I was asking of my foot, based on my poor structure.  The orthopedic doctor said he doubted I'd ever be able to skate because of it, but the physical therapist believes they can construct a support system for my ice skate that will allow me to skate in the future. I choose to believe the P. therapist.

It's been a terribly long journey of healing and it's not over yet, but this morning I was told that I can take a 15 minute medium-paced walk and see how it goes.  From there I can begin to increase the amount of time, though not the speed.  I have renewed hope.

I'm sure I will have a much stronger ankle and overall body when I go back to skating because I am faithfully doing all the exercises they are giving me and doing them on both feet so that both ankles will be strong.

I'm so glad God answered my mother's prayer for a piano player and that He chose me as the recipient of that gift.  I use it with joy.   I wish that God would answer her prayer for my feet and that I would have arches and no bunions.  He hasn't answered that one....yet. But I'm learning a lot about developing my feet in preparation for going back to skating and it will pay off in the end.

There is one big prayer that my mother prays regularly and I have joined her in the prayer.  She wants to go home to heaven.  I want her to be able to go, since that's what she prefers.  She's tired.  She's lived a long, full life.  She's lost two sons and two husbands and she's a tad weary of life here on earth.

I don't understand why God doesn't answer this prayer of hers, but I think somehow in the long, drawn out process of aging, there is some therapy that is strengthening her, and I, until the day He does answer that prayer.  She and I would prefer the 'quick fix' but that's apparently not the road we will be granted.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Do You Know Where We Are?


We were only a minute from my mother's little box of a room when she asked me this question.  She had put her root beer float down on the floor of the van because she was full.  She thought the idea of a root beer float was a great invention.  I guess it's the dementia that keeps her from knowing they were her specialty not too long ago.

When she suddenly said to me, "do you know where we are?" I had two answers. One was in my head.

1)  Yes.  We are on Scotland Avenue, in Chambersburg, PA, near your room.

It's the room we are trying to embrace as your new home.  We've driven this way a million times.  But it feels foreign right now.  I asked her the same question in return.  "Yes", she replied with confidence.

The other answer was in my heart.

2) No.  I have no idea where we are, mother.

In fact, right now I feel very lost.  One minute you are your normal self and the next minute you say things that don't make sense. I used to laugh and sometimes still do, but mostly, I feel very sad.  Sunday you were shopping for birds.  When I asked the nurse just to be sure, she shook her head in slow motion.  "No - no one went shopping today".  She confirmed what I feared.  It wasn't true.

I know that I'm your daughter and that you still know who I am.

I know that I am struggling with what is the best thing for this stage of your life.  You wanted to move here to this retirement community and loved it up until the past year or so.  It's probably not the Home's fault. It's just that you like to do things that are impossible for you now.  Gardening, cooking, reading....things that are basically a personal retreat. You're not interested in card games, movies you don't understand and can't hear and services that just don't appeal to you.

Now my heart breaks when I leave you each time.  You sit in your chair like a lost child or a stray animal looking for a home. Worst part of it is, there are so many like you in this position.

I know that I feel completely helpless, but I'm doing all I can to find the right situation for you.  Today a contractor comes to look at our house and give us an estimate on building a room for you here.  I'm afraid of so many things.  Can I really properly care for you?  Will agencies that say they will help, really help us?

I'm looking into another facility 5 minutes from me, but they don't have a bed right now.  That would be handy and I could bring you home and fix you good meals and take you with me to church and let you be part of a faith community again.  I will also be checking out another facility that is not as close, but has many of your high school classmates there whom I know would shower you with love.

No mother,  I guess I would have to say I don't know where we are right now.  But we'll find our way on this road together.

Peace.  Much peace to you.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Not Just A Cup Of Tea


This morning there is steam rising from my cup and tears flowing down my face.  I can't seem to stop the bouts of tears these days once they've started.

For months I've tried to be strong while moving my mother to a new room, hobble on crutches and plan a Christmas show. I have had to forfeit exercise and motorcycling - both things I love and that help keep me sane.

Saturday the dam broke.  I found my mother with wet hair, sitting in her wheelchair wearing mismatched clothes and her shoes on the wrong feet.  I was horrified.  I took the necessary steps to notify whomever was in charge and let them know this was unacceptable.

You think a mama bear is nasty when her cubs are in danger......have you met a baby bear who's mama is in danger????  Just as scary, let me tell you, but this baby bear feels helpless to defend her mama.  Of course, those in charge were very apologetic but my heart took a severe blow that I am still recovering from.  It feels like Big Foot is stepping on my chest and I can't breathe.  I felt this way when my father died.  It's the familiar feeling of grief.

Tears poke a hole and let some air in so you can start to breathe again.  The tears just keep falling.

But this morning, on the other side of Saturday, things are looking more positive as I look into changing her care, whether it be bringing her home to live with me or moving her closer to a facility where I can get there in 5 minutes, bring her home for dinner and take her with me on jaunts...just to have some kind of normalcy again.

I am about ready to have a cup of hot tea.  The mint garden leaves are brewing now and their smell takes me back to the farm where we grew our own tea.  Mother would serve it in a yellow teapot that has a cracked lid, which none of us want to part with.

It's more than just tea.  A dear friend grew it in her garden and a few weeks ago I went to get some from her to grow in my own garden.  I took my mother along so she could get out and see a garden again.  That was one of her favorite things to do and she was good at it.  We all stood and talked about life and soil. My mother soaked it all in as she sat there with us.

When I drink this tea this morning, it will remind me of that morning with my friends, my mother and my home growing up.  The hot tea is like a warm blanket in my soul as I grasp the cup with my hands. My heart seems to need a lot of comfort these days as I walk through this aging process with my mother.

It's not just a cup of tea anymore.

My lips will sip and my heart will drink.

Monday, July 7, 2014

A New Edge - What If I Bring My Mother Home?


What if I would bring my mother home to live with us?  THAT would be a new edge.

I originally started out blogging this year with ice skating in mind.  That was my edge.  And it was life-changing for me, inside and out. But I encountered a setback with my ankle and so I turned to blogging about life on crutches.  An edge I would prefer not to experience.

I’m off crutches now but I’m still healing and tired of writing about crutches. You’re probably tired of reading about it too.  I can’t skate yet, so I won’t be writing about that either. Hopefully, I can return soon.  I'm now allowed to exercise from the knees up.  That should be interesting.

So thus begins my new line of thought. This will be a very crazy journey. But since there is a growing amount of readers, like you, who are participating in my journey, I have come to love sharing my thoughts in the blog. I love the feeling of this community.  You offer support and insight that is personally very valuable.

So back to my question:  What if I would bring my elderly mother home to live with us?  What if I could help usher her into her next phase of life, eternal life, with love and special care.

I have so many questions and thoughts churning in my heart and mind, as you can imagine.  I am sure this is a troubling question for many of us who have aging parents.  What is the right thing to do?  I suppose that I might make a decision that everyone won’t agree with either, but I’m taking that chance.

Someone recently came across an older blog post and sent me this message through an email. It was pretty timely because I haven’t heard from them for years and they have no idea what I have been contemplating. I don’t know what the outcome will be, but I feel like I need to pursue this and see where God takes it.  So here’s what I’m doing…….
  • Talking with my husband, researching the possibility and gathering information. It always affects our family when we live on the edge. 
  • Contacting friends and family to see if anyone might be able to help me care for her.  
  • Meeting with the Office of Aging to find out what resources there are for this type of adventure.  I found out there is a whole program for this type of transition.
  • Meeting with Hospice.  
Thanks for joining me in this new phase. I’m actually excited about learning about this process and giving it much prayer and consideration.  Maybe it will help others who are facing this very situation in their own family.  I’m not sure how it will all end up and it will be hard either way, but I am enjoying thinking outside the box.

I close with the message I received in response to “Crutch, Crutch, Goose”.

“Dear Frances,


I was searching some things on the Net today and happened upon your site, and the blog, "Crutch, crutch, goose".  It touched me deeply.  My mother had a severe stroke at age 72, in 1998, which left her completely left side paralyzed and wheelchair bound.  It changed her life and our life forever.  This was very traumatic for our family since she was "our rock" and so independent.  We cared for her, at her home or in our home, until she went to be with her Lord in 2011.  I then continued to care for my 95 year old father until he went home in March of 2013.  I resigned my job of 16 years and slowed down our ministry to do what I felt I needed to do.  I absolutely have no regrets. 

During this process and the many years of caregiving, I wrote the following.  It has comforted me on many occasions, and I'm hoping it can be an encouragement and comfort to you also.  I hope you do not mind me sharing this, but I felt compelled to do so. 

 ****************************************************************************

Just as they once shielded us, we now begin to shield them. Their eyes become a little dimmer, their walk a little more unsteady, and their talk a bit softer. Slowly they begin to slip through our fingers. No matter what we do or how much we offer, each smile, each step, and each word takes more effort than before. 

Who are these people who take so much of our time and unknowingly tear our hearts in two? They are called mom and dad; mother and father; grandma and grandpap; nanna and pappap. They are the forgotten ones of our new technological generation. The ones who have somehow become acquainted with the daily aches and pains of every day living. The ones who have learned that a simple task is no longer simple, but a long, drawn out process for which they always need assistance. The mundane is now elaborate, and every morning brings challenges beyond their control.

But then again, for us as their next generation, each day somehow offers new possibilities in caring and serving. We learn patience and understanding, often seeing ourselves in their struggles. We learn that love is more than receiving from these individuals who have given every breath so we could take our first.

It is not our duty, but our privilege to care for them. It is our chance to act on servanthood, and offer unconditional love to them for one last time. It is our chance to return the favor. Remembering this, let’s offer one more day, one more hour, one more conversation or word, one more act of kindness. We just never know when that "one more" may be their final step to eternity.” - Darlene Scott, Heirborne Promise 

Sunday, July 6, 2014

When She Calls "Yoo Hoo"





My mother has a bird feeder hanging outside the window of her little room in the nursing center. It was empty when she moved in and I inquired as to how we go about getting it filled.  Since it's up to the family to keep it filled, I take bird seed with me every time I go.

When I first filled it, I would ask if the birds had come - with desperate eagerness every time I talked with her on the phone. They didn't come for days. I pleaded with God to please give her this small favor and send some birds. I knew they would brighten her day.

One day I visited her and sure enough a gold finch landed on the feeder and I about jumped through the roof with excitement. She did too, in an elderly woman kind of way.

When I go to see her, I usually fill the feeder first. She doesn't know I'm coming so it usually surprises her when she suddenly sees me appear right outside her window.

One day, recently, because of the glare on the window with the rising sun, I couldn't see well. I bent down and peeked in her room to see if she was in there.  I was about to give up when I heard something I haven't heard for years. Her familiar "yoo hoo". It starts up high for the "yoo" and goes down a few tones on the scale for the "hoo". Same way, every time. I smiled and waved.

A chill ran up my spine. The power of those two words, within a nanosecond, flung me back into childhood and a lifetime of being her daughter. I could see and hear glimpses of moments in time when I heard that familiar call.

...calling my father in from the fields

...calling up to me in my bedroom on the farm

...a call that sometimes irritated me like crazy

...a call that I have considered using when my own natural voice doesn't seem loud enough, but then wonder if I really have the gall to do what used to drive me nuts.

But today it was the most welcomed sound. A moment from the past, as if all was normal again.

I don't know when the Lord will call her home. She prays almost daily that it will be that day and usually asks me to pray with her that it will be soon and so I do. I know the Bible says that His sheep know His voice. I wonder if He will call "yoo hoo".

I'll probably have chills up my spine and tears down my face when He calls her.





Thursday, July 3, 2014

Crutches, Grudges and Gratitude. The journey to healing.



My hero, Andy
I've known Andy for years.  He is always on crutches and I never thought much about it until I saw him on my first day off crutches.

We reconnected at a gathering of friends and I immediately began to tell him that I have a new appreciation for what he must face having to always be on crutches.  He smiled and said he'd be glad to give me tips on using them, and his tips made a lot of sense.

I asked him more about his story, something I had never really taken the time to do in depth.  He had polio in his mother's womb.  She was Vietnamese and they apparently never had access to vaccinations in those days.  He's never known anything but crutches.

I have been thinking a lot about how similar being on crutches is to healing from soul wounds or adjusting to changes in life.  So here's my take on the stages of life-altering events...whether for a short or long time.

Denial

First you deny that you are hurt.

Anger

You realize you are hurt and feel angry about it.

Humiliation

You start using crutches, seen or unseen and find it very humiliating and even hurtful to your pride.  (I honestly didn't think I had much pride, but wow - was I ever in for a surprise).

You have to ask for help. You become dependent on other people and that feels really yucky.

Discouragement

You start to feel down.

You still don't improve and you start staying home instead of going out because it's just too complicated and hope begins to dwindle.

Resignation

You stop fighting.  You become resigned to the fact that you are hurt and life is different.  "Deal with it" you tell yourself. Learn to adjust.

Adjusting

You start getting used to being on crutches (in my case) and they start to become part of your day.  This can be good and bad.  You become a little more bold about asking for help and being very thankful when people offer to help. In fact, you know now that you need help.  That’s even better!

Smiling

You begin to realize that many people have had much worse to deal with and if they can 'do life' with a handicap and thrive, so can you, at least until you can get help.

You start to smile more again.  You start to even think an unthinkable thought: "ya know, if I had to live this way the rest of my life, I probably could.  I'd have a lot of attitude adjustment to do, but I could make it".

And so there is my take on the stages of crutches.  It struck me as I was starting to get adjusted to them and moving a little more easily on them, that this probably isn't much different than any other kind of injury: body, soul or spirit or even similar to the stages of grief.  Healing takes time.

I hope that Andy can be free of crutches some day but without a miracle he most likely won't be.  I do believe in miracles and I know he does too.  But, I hope that no matter what stage I am in and no matter what type of injury I might face whether for months or a lifetime, I will have the smiling attitude that my friend, Andy, has.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Someone Else's Shoes

When I was a little girl, I loved trying on my mother's clothes and shoes.  Of course, they never fit, but that didn't matter. It was all pretend.

It takes years to grow into someone else's shoes and sometimes it takes something drastic to make them fit. I wish it wasn't that way.

My father passed away on May 31, 2001 and in the midst of my grief, I stopped writing songs.  It wasn't on purpose and I'm not even sure I noticed at first.  But I just didn't have anything to say.  I was still writing by 'inspiration only' in those days.  Grief had stolen my inspiration and the songs went with it.  Fortunately, since then I've learned how to write by inspiration and perspiration thanks to writing songs for terminally ill children.  I couldn't wait for inspiration then, I had to write a song no matter what.

A year after my father died, I took my mother to visit his grave and when I stepped out of the car to walk over to the sacred spot,  I heard a distinct melody and lyric in my head:

"Now I understand, things I couldn't see before"

I went on to finish the song and it remains one of my favorites to this day.  It jump-started my songwriting and I entered another season of writing.  The song pretty much tells the story.

When I was a little girl
we would go and visit my grandpa's grave
almost every holiday we would stop and see
I would watch my mother kneel
say a word maybe shed a tear
I would wait so impatiently
I guess I couldn't see

But now I understand things I couldn't see before
feelings I could never know 'til they came to visit me
now I understand there are things I'll never know
'til I've walked a mile or two in someone else's shoes

Here I am I'm older now
I go and visit my daddy's grave
almost every time I'm near I stop and say hello
I share my heart and shed a tear
I'm feeling things I never felt before
I guess I see what my mother saw
and what it meant to her

Now I understand things I couldn't see before
feelings I could never know 'til they came to visit me
now I understand there are things I'll never know
'til I've walked a mile or two in someone else's shoes

It's amazing how I'm right back in that same spot of awareness again, but in a different set of circumstances.  

I was recently in an airport utilizing the handicap services they provide because I've been on crutches for weeks due to an ankle injury.  The skycaps had to keep reminding me to sit down in the wheelchair from the side, not try to hurl myself over the metal feet sticking out from the wheelchair.   After having to be reminded each time, I had a flashback to my mother and I on many excursions where I continually have to remind her to sit down in the car first and then swing her feet around after her.  It's easier than putting her feet in first.  We learned that in physical therapy when she fractured her hip.  But she always needs reminded and I have tried to be patient with her every time.  

Now the tables were turned, or perhaps it's better to say the wheelchair has turned, and I needed reminded of the same principle, each time.  She has the excuse of being 91 years old and lapsing in memory.  I have no idea what my excuse is.  

But the last time I needed reminded, I smiled.  I was so glad I have been patient with her. 

My graveside experience with writing "Someone Else's Shoes" came to my mind and once again I knew that it's always easier to extend mercy to others when you yourself have somehow stepped into their shoes, if even for just a moment.  

Buy "Someone Else's Shoes" here if you like.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Crutch, Crutch, Goose - a new game with my Mother

You've probably played the game "duck, duck, goose".  You know, the one where you sit in a circle and hope you are the one chosen to run around the group like a maniac.  Then you get to bop someone else on the head and they take their turn.  Such excitement and anticipation in the air.  Or not?

I play a version of this game often.  I sit and meditate. Then BOP, an idea pops into my head and I'm up and running around like a maniac.

Bop - "let's do a Christmas CD"
Bop - "let's learn to figure skate"
Bop - "let's put together a christmas show"
Bop - "move your mother to the nursing center"

oops.....that "bop" wasn't my idea.  But I was off and running, or hopping actually, to get her situated in her new spot.

Being on crutches has slowed me down......a LOT!  This has not exactly been like pulling off a busy highway and viewing the scenic overlook.  It's been more like having to pull off and sit in a garage while your car is fixed.  You have to look much more intensely for the positives in this pause than if you pull over to see the Blue Ridge Mountains on Skyline Drive.

In the midst of all this hustle and bustle of moving my mother, it is so easy to lose sight of the positives.

Until last Saturday morning.

I had been planning a special picnic lunch for my mother.  Spent most of Friday afternoon making food preparations and creating the perfect scenario in my head.  Early in the week I had promised her that I would take her out for lunch.  I thought that would be a nice change from the institutional food and atmosphere she has had to adjust to.  But now I felt that just wouldn't do.  I realized that what she really needed was a touch of home.  Familiar things that would tie her to the past.  Memories are all she has left and they are fading too.


So I started conjuring up this picnic idea in my head.

Sunshine.
Picnic table in the woods.
Home-made foods served on her fiestaware.
Set on a family heirloom tablecloth.
Root beer floats.

And then we got a call at 9:00 p.m. Friday night.  She had fallen in her bathroom, hit her head on the tile floor and would be heading to the ER.  We arrived before she did.  You could say she hit her head alright.  She had a massive goose egg on her forehead and I gasped when I saw it, trying not to let her see my reaction.

I held her hand at one point to help her lift her arms for the nurse and saw the skin drape down over her bones like a wet dish rag.  She's only 95 pounds and I'm convinced most of that is just bone.  It was a long night.

She wondered about our lunch plans.  Could we still go through with them?  "Let's just take it one step at a time", I said.

Saturday came and it was sunny, but there was a very blustery wind that came with the sunshine so I wasn't sure we could go to the park as planned.  Plus, I had no idea what kind of shape she'd be in from falling the night before.

I made the root beer floats ahead of time, put them in the freezer so they'd last in the cooler, packed the blue fiestaware, cheery tablecloth, would she even remember the cloth I wondered, chicken salad, fresh kale salad with fresh strawberries, avocado, almonds, feta cheese and homemade honey-lemon poppy seed dressing and drove the 30 minutes to the home.

A nurse carried all the food in for me.  She suggested a little sunroom at the end of the hall.  My mother wasn't up to going out the nurse thought.

I stepped into her room and gasped again.  I don't have children so I don't know what it's like to watch your child suffer from bruises and ailments, but I do know the feeling of seeing your aging mother becoming more frail by the week and I shivered at the sight of her black and blue face.  A child always has the hope of growing up and getting stronger.  At 91, it's a very different scenario when they are bruised or ailing.  It seems to only weaken them.  You take a deep breath every time the nursing center number registers on your phone.  Is this going to be it you ask yourself?

I could see we had about 2 options.  Let her lay in bed and have the picnic lunch in her room or try to get her up and sit in the sunroom.  She seemed interested in the sunroom so I went to get it ready.

We hobbled out to the room together, she with her frail body clinging to the walker for support and me with my injured ankle and grieving heart.


When we sat down at that table, however, it was as if we entered another world.  She recognized the tablecloth immediately.  We talked of gardening, cooking, where the tablecloth came from, though she doesn't remember, and how she had walked by this sunroom many times never dreaming she would end up here.

I realized as we ate that it was the first time in weeks that we had anything that resembled 'normal' to do together.  It had been weeks focused on parting with her furniture, signing papers, releasing her old room, filling out more papers, getting used to a very small room, new staff and procedures. It had taken its toll on both of us in different ways.  Now, we sat at a table together, sipping root beer floats, eating from her plates (that I inherited from her) on her tablecloth and enjoying home-grown food.

Every time she sipped the root beer float she would say "this is delicious!".  I would remind her that this was the treat she served everyone who came to visit her in her cottage.  She would put scoops of ice cream in a glass and cover it with root beer, then put it in the freezer.  When unexpected visitors came, she would simply remove the glass from the freezer, put a straw in it (the kind that flexes near the top) and serve it with some pretzels. I don't know of anyone who didn't love those root beer floats.  But she has no recollection of this tradition.  I sighed.  How can she not remember that?  It was one of her trademarks.

At one point, we ate in silence and suddenly she slid her hand across the tablecloth.  "This is a connection to the past", she said.  Gulp.  Lump in my throat.  She can't remember the root beer floats but she can remember the tablecloth?  Memory is so unpredictable.

It isn't the most ideal stage of life for her right now and I shed many hidden tears over it.  But on this day, there was no running around in circles like maniacs playing duck, duck, goose.   We just sat and enjoyed memories together.  Me on my crutches and her with her goose egg bump on her head.   It's making lemonade out of lemons they usually say, but we had root beer floats instead.

Thanks to her goose egg bruise and my crutches, we made do in our new situation and created a new game...."crutch, crutch, goose".

With or without the crutches and goose egg - we will do this again!