Sunday, 21 February 2021

Hearts, Vaccines and Other Things

I was going to send out a cheerful Valentine's Day message a week ago to everyone who is alone like me because there are more dimensions to love than simply having someone special in your life to share the ups and downs with and who makes your heart happy. But like so many other things the past eleven months, I've been a day late and a dollar short when it comes to most everything. I used to send out a pile of greeting cards to family and close friends each time a special day rolled around: Valentines, St. Patrick's Day, Easter, Mother and Father's day, birthdays, Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas. But when we were basically told to stay home, I did just that. And with no cards on hand like the ones I always purchased at the dollar stores, I resorted to texting like most everyone else. It was efficient and got my message across, but like a few of us who remember the days before cell phones, it made me feel bad. Opening something personal with a bright, cheerful message is a welcome change from all the junk mail and bills.

All seemed to be going well until five days before Halloween when I realized that I hadn't sent a card with something special inside to my grandson. I hurried to the store to get one, knowing that it would never reach him in time. I felt just awful but took it right to the post office and then sent a text to my daughter telling her it was on the way. (She seldom answers her phone which is incredibly annoying to me.) My granddaughter lives close enough that I'm always able to do things for her, even if it is at the last minute. But when the same thing happened at Thanksgiving, I realized I had a problem so I stared making lists again and managed to make it through Christmas without another relapse.

When the new year rolled around, I figured I had it under control since I got the cards and texts out on schedule, but not writing my planned post simply flew right over my head. However, I do have a semi-reasonable excuse for not writing anything like planned. I was fixated on getting my first Covid vaccine on the eleventh of February at a place I had never been where the heath department could administer numerous doses at the same time. Trying to decide if I really wanted to have something put into my body that hadn't been DEA approved or even fully tested was a struggle. I've never wanted to be part of trail study for anything, always figuring I had enough health issues to deal with.

But after a lot of prayer and thoughtful conversations with other people, I decided to take the plunge. I suppose being older, having congestive heart failure and diabetes helped convince me that taking the proverbial risk might not be such a bad idea, but I still hadn't made up my mind completely when I arrived at the indoor arena and was told to pull into a certain parking space. I was greeted pleasantly enough by a man and a woman who seemed to know what they were doing. But as they asked me certain questions, explained side effects and that I wouldn't be able to get my allergy shots until two weeks after the process was complete, I started to panic. My heart began to race and I felt like I was going to pass out. The young man with the needle in his hand told me I wasn't required to get it yet and if I had any serious reservations I could leave and come back at another time. But the fact that I might not be able to get on a plane so I could see family and friends within the next few months without having the documentation made me tell him okay. 

I sat outside in the parking lot for the allotted time waiting for my anxiety to lessen. But while I was trying to check out the news on my phone, several people from the National Guard came to my car to tell me that the paramedics in the ambulance wanted see me. They said it wasn't an emergency but  encouraged me to visit with them anyway. So I drove to where they were and got out of my car.  In reality, they hadn't ask to see me at all. Someone from inside the arena had radioed the outside monitors that I was scared so they wanted to make sure they wouldn't have to deal with some real, or imagined, medical emergency. I was mortified for feeling like such a baby. 

I can't say that the next one will be any better since I've heard that the side effects can be much worse. I ended up with a sore arm and one day with a headache and a very upset stomach. But I will try to act a little more mature when I get the second dose. I'm sorry to say that when my sister wanted to know how it had gone, I had to fight back the tears as I tried to explain how hard it is to always be alone when difficult decisions have to be made. Life would be so much easier if I knew there was someone around who cared and who would be there to help if I ever ran into trouble. My sweet sister tries to be understanding when I have one of my moments, but she's been married for 48 years and has never even had to work outside the home. That makes many of our life experiences very different.

On a slightly different note, two days before I had my none-to-desirable experience, I got a call from my older sister who had just been admitted to the hospital. She has spent the last 25 years with anorexia and occasional bouts of bulimia if she can't get thin enough. She's almost 74, exercises 70 or more minutes a day, eats barely enough to make it to the next meal, shakes all the time and insists that being 20 to 30 pounds under the lowest weight in her height category will keep her cancer from returning or ever getting really sick. She was totally shocked when the doctor told her she had congestive heart failure and the bottom half of her heart was seriously damaged. She claims he doesn't know what caused it and maintains that it's a side effect from having radiation treatments 17 years ago because her arteries are clear. 

While I have to indulge her fantasies because she's not going to change, it makes me sad. Life is hard enough when we have to face the outcomes from some of our choices and behaviors, but denial is never the best practice. I want her to take care of herself so she can live to be 90 plus like she desires, but she's already cutting out more calories so she won't gain any weight while she can't exercise as hard. 

I suppose the one positive from both of these experiences is deciding that I really need to take better care of myself while I can. None of us know what tomorrow might bring, and each moment we've been given to live is a blessing and a gift. That's why I'm going to see a cardiologist as soon as I can get an appointment. I thought I had everything covered with the family doctor I was seeing who also gives my allergy shots. But I found out when asking his nurse for a referral that he wasn't even aware that I had congestive heart failure. Apparently, the records that were sent from my previous doctor in Missouri went to the record's department rather than his office and sat there for five years. That certainly answered my questions as to why he never seemed overly concerned when I told him how I was feeling when I went in for my semi-annual visits. 

I guess the bottomline is that we can only count on ourselves when getting the kind of mental, emotional, physical and spiritual help we need. People who claim to have answers and even professionals in any given field can make mistakes, and if we're not careful we can end up a victim of something that could be avoided.

Since it's after 5:30, I guess it's time for me to eat some of my homemade vegetable, bean soup. It's really good, but I always have to have a little treat afterwards. I guess that comes from growing up on a farm where we were always so physically active there was no need to worry about calorie intake. My how times have changed!


Monday, 25 January 2021

Kismet Finds a Way


I’m so excited that KISMET FINDS A WAY is now available on Amazon in digital, print and Kindle Unlimited at https://amzn.to/2BXNSdv Unlike the other books I’ve written, this story is based on a major, life-altering experience I had right after college graduation. If there had been someone I could turn to for help and advice I might have chosen the path not taken. But history cannot be rewritten, and everyone discovers truths about human nature that are often not easy to digest. 

    

Andrea Halbert always lived by the rules. She was an obedient child, honor student, college graduate, loyal member of the community, and totally committed to making a success of her life. But she had never found Mr. Right. Then one dark, fall night, after moving to a brownstone in a city far away from home, a stranger enters her life in a very unsettling way. He is handsome, charismatic, and has a passion for living that makes her head spin, but he also has a dark past and secrets he doesn’t want to share. Her head tells her to be careful, but her heart doesn’t want to listen. Will a whirlwind romance, and some choices she does not see coming, cause her to fall from grace, or will she be the catalyst in helping a man she is unable to forget find his forgotten dreams? 

     

I dedicated the book to a very dear friend, DiAnne Pack, who lost her battle with cancer last month because she taught me so much about faith, courage and endurance during the tough things life throws our way. (If you read my last post, you learned about her. But for those who didn't, here's the brief version I put in the release.) When Covid hit Branson, Missouri, she lost her job and home in one day. The next week she was admitted to the hospital with fluid in her lungs. A week later, the doctor found an inoperable mass somewhere around her trachea. With no family to help, she lived in a motel room while going through 2 rounds of radiation and one of chemotherapy. When I saw her last September, she was down to 78 pounds but determined to keep on fighting. On Christmas morning, she lost consciousness and fell on her face breaking her nose. The picture of all the bruising was heartbreaking. She had just moved into a doublewide trailer when she stopped answering my texts and calls the first week in January. The Thursday before last, I heard from another friend, who had no additional information, that she had died. I may never know how it happened or if she was alone at the end, but I will never forget how completely she had turned her life over to God. We all have excruciatingly difficult challenges that bring us to our knees and cause our hearts to crumble. That humanness binds us together, even when we could have chosen a different path and didn’t. That’s why this book means so much to me and took such a long time to write. A split-second decision, or one piece of news, really can change the course of a life.


Each book I've written comes from my heart and reflects experiences, beliefs and things I've gone through as the years progressed far more rapidly than I ever thought possible. I have learned so much about myself and why I acted like I did while exploring my characters and coming to see life through their eyes. Each life is different, but they all contain many of the same elements of love, loss, heartache, joy, wisdom, regret and contemplation. While I often wish I had been dealt a different hand when it comes to certain aspects of my life, I know the valuable lessons I've learned through the hardest knocks have been the ones of most value because they caused me to reach inward and find the strength to go on when I thought I couldn't. 


KISMET FINDS A WAY is my fifteenth book. I would love to send each of you a digital copy of one of my books. It's my way of saying thank you for reading my blogs. I know each of you have your own unique story to tell and I would love to hear from you. Just send me quick email at janhill720@gmail.com and let me know where you want me to send it. 


Books by JS Ririe (my pen name):

 

Beyond the Glass Doors

Rivers of Rage

Final Allegiance

Book 2 - Resilience

Book 3 - Safe Haven

Book 4 - Unsheltered

Book 5 - Welcome Redemption

Indecision’s Flame

Book 2 - Lost

Book 3 - Exposed

Book 4 - Reawakening

Book 5 - Betrayal

Book 6 - Unraveling

Book 7 - Destiny

 

Happy Reading! 




Sunday, 17 January 2021

Rough Days

It's been another tough few days around here that have taken me to my knees more than once for some much needed relief. But as is always the case when we can look beyond the moment, there are lessons to be learned and a way opened where our faith can be increased. It is during those tender moments when  we can draw just a little closer to our Savior and be made more aware of how thin the veil really is between this life and the one that comes next. 

As I wrote some weeks ago, I lost my brother the day after Thanksgiving. His life had been far from easy, and we were very close having gone through so many earthy experiences together. He was three and I was five when we left the house one spring morning to play. My mother had told me to keep my eyes on him, but it didn't take me long to become distracted. As a very curious farm boy, Sandon quickly disappeared and went to find our father who was in the field getting ready for spring planting. The noise was too great for him to hear my brother coming and when the tractor lunged forward, our father looked back to see his little coat wrapped in and out amongst the blades of the tandem disk.

With superhuman strength he was able to get my little brother out, but he wasn't breathing. When daddy came running to the house with Sandon dangling in his arms and screaming for the keys to the jeep, I hurried to see what had happened. My mother took one look at me and said, "If you had been watching him like I told you to this never would have happened." 

My brother was in a coma for over six weeks, and had  been deprived of oxygen several times. Despite many prayers, he didn't awaken to a joyful, happy life. The crushing of his trachea had caused brain injury that affected the right side of his body and the accompanying motor skills that went with it. He had to learn to walk and talk and do everything over again. He was never able to do things other children took for granted, but he always fought to keep going. 

He walked with a bad limp his entire life and had to have the bones in his right hand welded so it wouldn't turn under permanently. While he enjoyed many good friendships and became the father of six children, his life wasn't easy. Due to some bad choices, he ended up falling into a fire pit where he couldn't get out and spent the last twelve years of his life in a nursing home. He went through continual skin grafts and untold amounts of both physical and emotional pain that would have reduced the strongest man to tears. He eventually ended up in a wheelchair and had only one daughter who would even talk to him. My heart is still breaking because I miss him so much.

But that pain was compounded on Thursday when a friend from Branson, Missouri sent me a text saying that my friend, DiAnne, had lost her battle with cancer. For those of you who haven't read all of my blogs, I'll give you just a quick rundown on what the last ten months of her life were like. 

Right after Covid restrictions started, she lost her job and her home the same day. A week later, fluid filled her lungs for no apparent reason, and she was hospitalized. By the time the doctors got the condition under control,  they found a large, inoperable mass somewhere around her trachea. She had no close family to help but decide to fight back with all she had. While living in motel room because she had no other place to go, she went through two rounds of radiation and one of chemotherapy. When I saw her in September, she was down to 78 pounds but determined to make it until I came back the next spring. I told her we would celebrate with a picnic by the lake and release balloons with her name on them into the air.

Despite all she had gone through, she was doing quite well until Christmas morning when she passed out at a friend's house, fell on her face and broke her nose. She was severely bruised and ended up in the hospital for a few days because she was dehydrated. (I'm including a picture so you can see what she looked like. She has become one of my biggest heroes.) 

She was trying to move into a doublewide trailer when I last heard from her. She was excited about finally having her few belongings back but was extremely tired. I tried for two weeks to reach her by phone and text knowing something awful had happened but had made a serious error in not getting the phone number of the woman who had been helping her along the way. I may never know what happened at the end or if she spent her final moments alone, but I have learned to pay more attention to details. 



That brings me to Thursday afternoon when my son called me to say that they were putting their 16 year-old dog down on Saturday and wanted me to be with them. I'm allergic to both cats and dogs and had watched her a number of times when they were away from home. But when they asked me if I would take care of her for two years while they were living with my daughter-in-law's parents so they could pay off all the hospital and doctor bills they had accumulated while she went through stage four melanoma-lymphoma, I had to say yes. It was a tough adjustment for Ruby because she was used to sleeping with them, and I couldn't even have her in my bedroom. But it was nice having someone to talk to because I had been alone for 18 years. 

I couldn't stop the tears from streaming down my cheeks as I sat with them in that quiet room and we all said our goodbyes. Ruby had come into our lives as a way to help my daughter-in-law deal with the fact that she would never be able to have a baby. She was their child, even after they adopted my beautiful granddaughter several years later, and never lost her place in the family or the love they had for her. My son is the most compassionate man in the world. He just held her in his arms and kept telling her how very much he loved her and that he would see her again soon. 

It was one of God's tender mercies for me because I could see my brother opening his arms to her the minute she passed through the veil. Together they would run through the fields and be free from all the pain life had brought them through accidents and old age. I could see Ruby licking his face as they laughed together and then went off  to do some more exploring. They were both young, healthy and truly happy again. Sandon loved dogs with his whole heart but could never have one when he was growing up because any animal would bump into him and knock him down or get under his feet and make him trip.

I even had the brief thought that perhaps my brother and my friend would meet and share past experiences of pain and heartache as they learned more about what God had in store for them because they had made it though so many tough tests with faith and courage during this life. 

My heart is still very tender, and I'm crying more than I usually do, but I am so grateful that I know God lives and this life isn't the end. We will be reunited with those we love and experience more glorious reunions than the mortal mind can envision. My prayers are with all of you have are going through though times of sickness, sorrow and pain. The days will get brighter, and if we don't lose hope, we will catch a glimpse of the beauties God wants us to see in even the worst of times.




Sunday, 3 January 2021

Ring Out Wild Bells

I just got home from church where I was reminded of an old hymn that is seldom sung anymore but is quite applicable to how so many of us feel about the ending of 2020. It was written by Alfred Lord Tennyson and published in 1850 as part of his elegy to Arthur Henry Hallam, his sister's fiancé who died at the age of 22. His thoughts are profound and so applicable they could have been written today.

The first verse reads:

Ring out, wild bells, to the sky,

The flying cloud, the frosty light:

The year is dying in the night;

Ring out, wild bells, and let him die.

It goes on to talk about ringing out the false and grief that saps the mind, the feud of rich and poor and ringing in redress to ALL mankind. To ring out a slowly dying cause and ancient forms of party strife so sweeter manners, purer laws and nobler modes of life can be enacted. To ring out the want, the sin, the faithless coldness of the times, mournful rhymes, false pride in place and blood, the civic slander and the spite, old shapes of foul disease, the narrowing lust of gold, the thousand wars of old and the darkness of the land. 

It tells us to ring in the love of truth and light, the common love of good, the thousand years of peace, the valiant man, and free the larger heart and the kindlier hand. But the very last line covers it all for me. Ring in the Christ that is to be. He is the way, the truth and the light. If we follow him, we don't need to be afraid of what may come because we will already be on the path the leads us from bondage of any kind - including the sorrows we heap upon ourselves through sin and poor choices, the decisions of others and simply the things that happen as part of daily living.

I've been thinking of that old poem turned into a song since being reminded that it even exists. It's one few people could sing without having the words in front of them, but it truly embraces what we've gone through as humans this past year and all the struggles that lay ahead since so many things are out of our hands. We can't control how far the virus will spread, who it will claim, future mutations, the effectiveness of vaccines or if any measure we're told to take will be enough. We can't change the course of events in our country surrounding the election, the increased amount of violence, terrorism, vandalism, propaganda spread, personal agendas being being pushed forward instead of the rights everyone shares, toppling of statues that meant everything to people who paid for and constructed them or the rewriting or exclusion of history so the same mistakes will not be made again. 

Nor can we do much about the loss of jobs, businesses, freedoms we so took for granted, and laws being enacted that the general public knows nothing about. We can't control the way the media discloses news, covers up evil that needs to be exposed and causes panic among people who believe what they're being told without asking any questions or looking for answers away from what they've been conditioned to listen to and accept.

Personally, I don't see 2021 being any better than the year we've just gone through, unless the majority of citizens in our free nation return to the principles and promises our country was founded on. A belief in God, freedom from oppression for all and the desire to put aside evil and concentrate on the Christian values that caused our founding fathers to give all they possessed in a fight for freedom that never would have happened without divine intervention. I was reading a short statement about the cost in lives  during World War II and something struck me that I hadn't thought much about before. Along with so many Jews and others, over ten million Christians were put to death because the socialist and communist countries who wanted to control the world didn't want anyone believing that we were created by a loving Heavenly Father who is concerned about our welfare and wants us to return home to him. 

I can't do much about some of the wealthy and powerful whose evil desires are to strip us of every freedom. It's part of Satan's plan to dominate and control that has been reinventing itself since the world began, and we will never stop fighting the war between good and evil until Christ returns again. But I can take more control of my own life by doing the things I know are right and standing up for what I know is true. Love is the only unifying force in the world, and when people can only see hatred and evil, the good can never be felt. I choose to live this new year with more faith, hope, love, compassion and courage. I chose to find joy in the simple things and make my home a place where the Savior's spirit can dwell. I chose to spend more time with family and friends, be more sensitive to the needs of others and spread more light wherever I go.  I am only one, but I do much good in my small circle of influence if I so desire. May each of you find peace and joy as you contemplate the coming year and how you want to spend it. 

I'm including a couple of items I found helpful and useful. The first is a letter from a  Covid  survivor and talks about how best to treat its symptoms at home. The other is a list of some of the things hydrogen peroxide can do. It's really an amazing product that so many of us have forgotten about.

HOW TO FIGHT COVID AT HOME

No one ever talks about how to fight Covid at home. I came down with Covid in November. I went to the hospital, running a fever of 103, a rapid heart beat, and other common symptoms that come with Covid. While I was there they treated me for the high fever, dehydration and pneumonia. 

The doctor sent me home to fight Covid with two prescriptions - Azithromycin 250mg & Dexamethason 6mg. When the nurse came in to discharge me, I asked her, "What can I do to help fight this at home?" She said, “Sleep on your stomach at all times with Covid. If you can’t sleep on your stomach because of heath issues sleep on your side. Do not lay on your back no matter what because it smashes your lungs and that will allow fluid to set in.

Set your clock every two hours while sleeping on your stomach, then get out of bed and walk for 15-30 min, no matter how tired or weak that you are. Also move your arms around frequently. It helps to open your lungs. Breathe in thru your nose, and out thru your mouth. This will help build up your lungs, plus help get rid of the Pneumonia or other fluid you may have.

When sitting in a recliner, sit up straight - do not lay back in the recliner, again this will smash your lungs. While watching TV - get up and walk during every commercial.

Eat at least 1 - 2 eggs a day, plus bananas, avocado and asparagus. These are good for Potassium. Drink Pedialyte, Gatorade Zero, Powerade Zero & Water with Electrolytes to prevent you from becoming dehydrated. Do not drink anything cold - have it at room temperature or warm it up. Water with lemon and little honey, peppermint tea and apple cider are good suggestions for getting in fluids. No milk products or pork. Vitamin’s D3, C, B, Zinc, Probiotic One-Day are good ideas. Tylenol for fever. Mucinex, or Mucinex DM for drainage, plus helps the cough. Pepcid helps for cramps in your legs. One baby aspirin everyday can help prevent getting a blood clot, which can occur from low activity. "

Drink a smoothie of blueberries, strawberries, bananas, honey, tea and a spoon or two of peanut butter. 

We always hear of how Covid takes lives, but there isn't a lot of information out there regarding how to fight Covid. I hope this helps you or someone you know, just as it has helped me.

 

 “Hydrogen Peroxide” is the miracle hack that solves just about anything, and it costs under a dollar. Besides dapping it on any injury, it also:

-      whitens teeth

-      cleans the grout in showers

-      refreshes the scent in washing machines

-      cleans hard water in dishwashers

-      is the best mirror and window cleaner  . . . .

-      takes away any hard water buildup on faucets and plugs in the bottom of sinks

-      cleans any food grease buildup near your cooking area (for example the grease shield that collects near the steam vent)

-      spritz floors with it after cooking with grease and simply swiffer it up

-      takes away grimy handprints on anything stainless steel

-      kills the nasty norvirus that causes most cases of the stomach flu

-       kills yeasts, fungi, bacteria, viruses, and mold spores. 

-      disinfects counters and cutting boards

-      gets rid of garbage can germs

-      removes grass stains, blood stains, and drink stains like fruit, juice

-      dab onto pimples or breakouts to help clear skin

-      helps heal painful canker sores. Swish a tablespoon or so of hydrogen peroxide around your mouth for about 10 minutes

-      whitens yellowed nails

-      induces vomiting when pet have eaten something toxic

 All you need is hydrogen peroxide and a spray bottle. Don’t dilute unless recommended to do so. These are just a few examples, but it’s one of the most effective disinfectants and cleaners available. And there’s no smell.




Tuesday, 15 December 2020

Gifts for Christmas

There's nothing I can say about the past few months except that they've been hard and my heart hurts, not only for my own family but for the families of so many others throughout the world who have experienced pain and suffering in so many ways during 2020. This has been an unprecedented year of losses that few of us saw coming, and yet we've been expected to roll with the punches and do what we're told instead of being able to make many of our own decisions like we have in the past. This isn't about casting blame for things that cannot be changed. It's about acceptance and moving on with hope and love for others despite many setbacks and challenges.

My brother died the day after Thanksgiving. He was diagnosed with Covid on Sunday and left us on Friday morning right after the nurse at Good Samaritan read him the messages one of my sisters and I had sent to him a couple of days before. He didn't have a cell phone, and it wasn't always easy to reach someone at the nursing home who could get one to him, but we did the best we could to keep in touch. He'd been isolated from the other residents for months because he left the center three times a week for wound care. While his death was listed among those of dying with the virus, I believe it was simply his time to go return to his heavenly home and be with our parents and others who had watched over him throughout his life. In that respect, I can't be sorry because he is no longer in pain, but I will miss him so very much.

Many of you will remember seeing the picture of my family that I posted a few weeks ago. He's the happy, smiling boy in front with the withered right arm who has taught me more about overcoming adversity and living with joy than any other person I have ever known. I think I've mentioned his story a few times in the past, but I do believe that recalling a few of the things he's lived through is appropriate at this time of year when we celebrate the birth of our Savior who died while hanging on a cross for each of us so that we could repent of the things we do that our wrong and still return home to him.

Sandon was run over by a tandem disk when he was three. For those of you who don't know what that is, it's a piece of farm equipment that loosens the soul so it can be planted in the spring. I was five and supposed to be watching him, but he somehow slipped away and tried to climb on the tractor behind daddy without being seen. The unthinkable happened, and when our father looked behind him after thinking he had run over a rock, he saw my brother's body wrapped in and out between the monstrous blades. With superhuman strength, he lifted the disk in one hand and pulled Sandon's lifeless body out with the other. 

My brother was in a coma for six weeks. When he came out of it, he was left with complete paralysis on the right side of his body and the accompanying brain damage that controlled many of his motor skills. He had to learn how to breath and talk again and spent his entire life trying to walk and do things like other kids did. He endured a dozen surgeries the doctors hoped would help, but it was the 1950s and 60s. He was the only person who had survived such an accident and physical therapy wasn't even a career choice back then. So my father, the doctors and other people they knew did the best they could to help him. I won't go into any of the details because it's a long, complicated story with so much pain and suffering. 

But my brother never gave up hope, and he never blamed anyone for what had happened. Even when our father died when he was 10, he tried to become the man of the house and did everything he could to make sure the rest of us were okay. He graduated from high school and eventually married and became the father of six beautiful children. But like so many of us, he lost his way for a time and ended up getting divorced. That led to some poor choices where he eventually fell into a fire pit and couldn't get out. The people he was with dropped him off in front of the emergency room doors and disappeared.  When I saw him in the burn center at the University of Utah hospital a few days later, his body was swollen to twice its normal size. (It took time for the police to figure out who he was because he had no identity with him.)  No one believed he would survive, but he did. He spent the last 12 years of his life in nursing home and eventually lost the ability to move around on his own. But what he didn't lose was an indomitable spirit that kept right on fighting until the end. He never complained and he brightened the days of other residents with his ready smile, quick wit and ability to love, even after all he had suffered by the hands of people who didn't understand that he was just like everyone else inside. He wanted to feel important and capable of doing things on his own. I wish I had even half of his courage.

I guess the real beauty of this season for me is knowing that God and my Savior live and death isn't the end for anyone. It's just the beginning of the next part of living. Although I'm not ready to start that part of my journey yet, I do look forward to seeing people who have gone before and made such an impact on my life. It will be a glorious reunion for all of us when we get to that point. That knowledge gives me hope for a much brighter future, even though the world is in extreme chaos right now.

I want to conclude with something I read this morning that brought home how important it is for each of us to look out for our neighbors even when going through tough times ourselves. I love thinking of ways to brighten other people's days. It makes mine feel a little less dark when the clouds appear and the sun is hidden from view for a few hours or days. My hope is that everyone is having a glorious Christmas season despite personal struggles. It is a glorious time to be alive.

I saw a cashier hand a little boy his money back at the mall, the boy couldn't have been more than 5 or 6 years old. The Cashier said, 'I'm sorry, but you don't have enough money to buy this doll.'' The little boy turned to the old woman next to him, ''Granny, are you sure I don't have enough money?'' She replied, ''You know that you don't have enough money to buy this doll, my dear.'' Then she asked him to stay there for just 5 minutes while she went to look around. She left quickly. The little boy was still holding the doll in his hand. Finally, I walked toward him and I asked him who he wished to give this doll to. 'It's the doll that my sister loved most and wanted so much for Christmas. She was sure that Santa Claus would bring it to her.' I replied to him that maybe Santa Claus would bring it to her after all, and not to worry. But he replied to me sadly. 'No, Santa Claus can't bring it to her where she is now. I have to give the doll to my mommy so that she can give it to my sister when she goes there.' His eyes were so sad while saying this, 'My Sister has gone to be with God. Daddy says that Mommy is going to see God very soon too, so I thought that she could take the doll with her to give it to my sister.'' My heart nearly stopped. The little boy looked up at me and said, 'I told daddy to tell mommy not to go yet. I need her to wait until I come back from the mall.' Then he showed me a very nice photo of himself. He was laughing. He then told me 'I want mommy to take my picture with her so she won't forget me.' 'I love my mommy and I wish she didn't have to leave me, but daddy says that she has to go to be with my little sister.' Then he looked again at the doll with sad eyes, very quietly. I quickly reached for my wallet and said to the boy. 'Suppose we check again, just in case you do have enough money for the doll!'' OK' he said, 'I hope I do have enough.' I added some of my money to his without him seeing and we started to count it. There was enough for the doll and even some spare money. The little boy said, 'Thank you God for giving me enough money!' Then he looked at me and added, 'I asked last night before I went to sleep for God to make sure I had enough money to buy this doll, so that mommy could give it to my sister. He heard me!'' 'I also wanted to have enough money to buy a white rose for my mommy, but I didn't dare to ask God for too much. But He gave me enough to buy the doll and a white rose.'' 'My mommy loves white roses.' A few minutes later, the old lady returned and I left with my basket. I finished my shopping in a totally different state of mind from when I started. I couldn't get the little boy out of my mind. Then I remembered a local newspaper article two days ago, which mentioned a drunk man in a truck, who hit a car occupied by a young woman and a little girl. The little girl died right away and the mother was left in a critical state. The family had to decide whether to pull the plug on the life-sustaining machine because the young woman would not be able to recover from the coma. Was this the family of the little boy? Two days after this encounter with the little boy I read in the newspaper that the young woman had passed away. I couldn't stop myself as I bought a bunch of white roses and I went to the funeral home where the body of the young woman was for people to see and make last wishes before her burial. She was there, in her coffin, holding a beautiful white rose in her hand with the photo of the little boy and the doll placed over her chest. I left the place, teary-eyed, feeling that my life had been changed forever. The love that the little boy had for his mother and his sister is still, to this day, hard to imagine, and in a fraction of a second, a drunk driver had taken all this away from him.


Tuesday, 24 November 2020

Give Thanks

It's been a hard year, and I believe most of us are ready to see it end. But it would be a shame to rush past one of the most important days of the year just because we're tired of the Coronavirus, wearing masks and social distancing, the election, riots and civil unrest and unprecedented fears for the future. That's why I really took to heart that challenge to spend the seven days before Thanksgiving flooding social media with some of things I am thankful for. Despite trials none of us want, our hearts should be filled with gratitude for the things we still have. That's why I'm going to share what I wrote with you. It took a couple of days to get the hang of it, but within 72 hours I was no longer viewing the world through such dim glasses. I felt hope return and my heart lighten. Maybe doing something similar will help you view life a little differently too. 


So glad people are taking the prophet's challenge to heart. Can't seem to get away from my computer even though there's plenty to do around the house. Love looking at pictures of family and friends I haven't seen for such a long time. Moving around is fun but has its drawbacks. Thanks for being such great examples and compassionate friends. #givethanks

 

Even though summer is gone until next year, I'm grateful for the love of gardening. I have 8 flowerbeds and a small vegetable garden in my yard and while my knees don't work as well as they used to I love digging in the soil and seeing the fruits of my labors. God has given us so much beauty to enjoy in the world. Each flower petal is an expression of his great love for us. #givethanks

 

Far too many miscarriages could have kept me from being a mother. But in his kindness and mercy, God gave me two precious children who would teach me about love, understanding and acceptance. They have become strong, compassionate adults who have survived some of life's greatest heartaches and biggest setbacks with courage and grace. I love reflecting on simpler times, like in this picture, when their faces were filled with nothing but smiles, hope and peace. I think most of us could use a little of that right now. I am so blessed to be their mother. #givethanks

 

This is the last picture I have of my father. He died a few days later from a massive heart attack leaving seven children alone. Not a day goes by when I do not feel the loss and often ponder how my life would have different had he not been called home. But I’ve come to the conclusion that blessings arise from even the worst life experiences. I’ve felt his arms around me offering support and comfort during times so painful I wasn’t sure the sun would ever shine again. And knowing he was watching over me kept me from making even more debilitating choices than I did. His death forced me to my knees so often that I began to understand my Heavenly Father’s existence and love more than I imaged possible. I didn’t have to see or feel a person to know he or she was there. Increased faith, hope, charity, understanding and love came because I lost my father as a child. Although I know he is waiting for me when my mortal journey is over, I’m not quite ready for that reunion yet. I feel there is still much for me to accomplish before I hear his deep, melodious voice again. #givethanks

 

What can I say about my two precious grandchildren except they are loved beyond anything else this life has to offer and the answer to so many prayers? Not being able to give life to a child was hard enough, but watching my daughter and daughter-in-law struggle with similar issue nearly broke my heart. I am so grateful for their perseverance in the face of so much heartache and so many tears. Their children are absolutely perfect, and the greatest gift God could have sent into our lives. I cherish each moment I get to spend with them. #givethanks

 

Strong, faithful, Christian women who sacrificed all they had for their families and what they believed in is the way I view my line of maternal grandmothers. I like looking into their faces and seeing certain physical characteristics emerge as I age. I also like contemplating what other things I inherited from each of them – my love of all things beautiful, my ability to bake edible bread, certain health issues, my abiding in faith in my Savior and my Heavenly Father, my strong allegiance to my country, my commitment to my family and my desire to be in the right place when my time on earth ends. I want all who come after me to feel the same way about our marvelous ancestors who helped make us who we are. #givethanks

 

It was often hard for me to rejoice in the talents that seemed to come so easily to others. I wanted to sing, dance, play sports, paint beautiful pictures, be outgoing and charismatic and do something truly meaningful with my life too. But I was an introverted child with a bad heart who seemed to lack many natural abilities. That’s why my Grandma Ririe became such an important part of my life. She saw something in me that was very easy to overlook – my love for the written word. She nurtured and guided me through my difficult teenage years, showing by example that it was okay to be different. She was a writer who only had one story published in the London Mystery Magazine, but she gave me the desire to pursue my fondest dream. She’s been gone since I was nineteen, but her outpouring of love helped me publish 14 books in the past five years. Those stories are snapshots of my life as I’ve come to see trials as blessings and tried to help others as she helped me. My greatest reward is seeing my own granddaughter follow in our footsteps. She has the ability to become truly great and wants to publish her own book before she turns thirteen. I am so proud of her. #givethanks 


Hope you have a truly beautiful Thanksgiving, even if you can't be with your families. I will be watching my son's two dogs so he can fix dinner for his father, his step-mother and her grandchildren who are afraid of them. I will fix dinner for us the day after. Stay safe and know you are loved.

Tuesday, 3 November 2020

Times of Uncertainty

Like so many Americans, I'm feeling a little unsettled today. Elections have a way of doing that, but the stakes have never been higher. In many ways, I feel like we're fighting for more than just the continued safety of our great nation that was founded on Christian principles with God at the helm. I feel like we're fighting for everything I've ever held dear, family, the right to express how I feel, worship the way I desire, work to build my own part of the American dream, protect the lives of the innocent, have the money I need to survive on as a senior citizen with a less than substantial income, not have history be rewritten or repeated and feel truly at peace in a world that seems to have lost any semblance of sanity. I applaud those who have been able to speak out in defense of the things they value and love in the face of severe criticism and even the loss of their lives. My tears are real as I feel the need to say goodbye to so much of what I remember about daily living. I never thought I would live to see so many prophesies being fulfilled at such a rapid rate.

But I know I can't give way to fear, regardless of what happens. The outcome of this election is not going to change who I am inside, how I feel about the things I value or the positive way I chose to conduct my life. I will still smile and talk to people I don't know, spend time with family and friends and pursue interests I find challenging and meaningful. I will listen to uplifting music, pray for those who need help and remember that we're all brothers and sisters created by the same loving God who cares for each of us equally. And I will find a way to be happy when I'm feeling down because I know who will win this war against good and evil, even if a few major battles are lost. 

There is a stone sitting on my deck. A craftsman cut an image of a father holding his son's hand onto the smoothly, polished surface.  Three simple words stand beside it - Expect a miracle. I still believe in them, regardless of the fact that so many of the ones I hoped for throughout my life never happened. For example, I kept believing that one of the babies I was trying to carry would survive until I was forced to have an emergency hysterectomy just weeks after having another miscarriage that now numbered in the teens. The doctor found eight tumors in my uterus that were in different stages towards malignancy. I never considered all of the ramifications back then. I was in too much pain. But sitting here today, I realize that had I carried that last baby it may have been too late to save my life from all the cancer that was growing inside. Maybe that tragic event had to happen so I could raise the two, beautiful children God had already sent to me in a different way. After all, I just wanted to be a mother, and that gift had not been denied. 

So you see, we don't always understand what miracles really are, or how each challenge we face will help us grow. I never thought I would survive after my mother blamed me for the accident that nearly claimed my brother's life. I was five and he was three. I was supposed to be watching him, but he still made it to the field and tried to climb on the tractor behind our father. He wasn't seen, and when the tractor lunged forward, the blades of the tandem disk ran over his body, pinning him to the ground. With superhuman strength, my father lifted the disk with one hand and pulled him out with the other. My little brother spent six weeks in a coma, and an entire life in pain because he remained partially paralyzed and could never do the things other people took for granted. But the positive influence, and the help he has given others, cannot be measured. I often wonder about the real miracle that was set in motion that heart-wrenching day. Maybe the accident could have been avoided, but at what cost to all the lives of the people involved? Not one of us has ever been bitter or angry enough to take out our frustrations or agony on anyone else.

We will survive the coming days, regardless of how hard and painful they might be, as long as we never lose sight of who is really in charge. God will not be mocked, and everything he has proclaimed will come to pass. If we want to remain on his side, we can't allow ourselves to be led away from what we believe. Nor can we stoop to some of the actions of others who think it's okay to harm, destroy or blame others simply because they have different opinions. We are in this together as a nation, and we will rise or fall together. I just hope we can all keep that in mind during the coming days when tempers flare, and we need to decide how we're going to react. Personally, I don't want to become anyone different than the woman I am today - unless it's learning how to be more like my Savior.