A Drive with Just Charlie

Growing up living in Wisconsin, many of my summer vacation memories revolved around trips to West Virginia and Ohio to visit with grandparents, aunts and uncles, and a bevy of cousins. I loved listening to my cousins (who spoke with a bit of a Southern drawl compared to my distinctly Midwestern dialect). I loved to hear their back and forth banter and all the family stories that unfolded. As much as I loved it, I recognized that my cousins had something I didn’t really have: first-hand stories to tell of times they had spent together with our grandparents.

Now that I have six kiddos who call me Grandma, I’m happy they live close enough for them to each have at least a story or two to tell about time they’ve spent together with me. My grandson Charlie has a few fresh stories to add to his collection because he took a little road-trip with me last summer. But, let me tell you a story about him first. I told this one on Facebook about eight years ago:

Charlie – age 4 1/2 showing off the birdhouse he helped paint

Conversation with my 4-year-old grandson, Charlie:

Charlie: Grandma, you smell.

Me: Ummm…do I smell bad, or smell good?

Charlie: You smell like my grandma!

Seeing that one come up as a Facebook memory made me wax all nostalgic and drove me to look through some of my older Facebook photos. Such joy this kiddo has brought to his grandma’s heart.

Charlie is now 13 and more of a young man than a boy. After last summer’s trip to Ohio, he now knows that his grandma sometimes snores and that she has a way of making the on-board navigation system say, “Make a legal U-turn at the next intersection” quite a lot.

With a short window of time for our trip, it was a lot of driving, snacking in the car on the way here or there, staying overnight in hotels without the greatest breakfasts (due to a world still reeling from Covid), listening to audiobooks, trying to figure out how to get motel televisions to play the shows WE wanted to watch, and such. Once we made it to Wintersville, Ohio it was a lot of meeting relatives he didn’t know he had (and that I haven’t seen in years), eating, driving, eating, and hanging out with (mostly) older folks who spoke with an unfamiliar twang.

The purpose of my last minute trip to Ohio was to attend the memorial service for a beloved uncle who went Home to heaven back in 2020. With Covid restrictions for large gatherings lifting, we could finally gather as a family to both mourn our loss and celebrate his homegoing. There is just something special about knowing beyond a shadow of doubt that you will see your loved one again in heaven. ‘Til we meet on heaven’s shore, Uncle Bobby.

Our trip to Ohio was over a long holiday weekend sandwiched between days I had to work. So, other than hotel pools along the way there and back, this wasn’t a trip filled with fun stops and great amusement. But it was certainly filled with family – it was so good to be together.

My family loved Charlie, as I knew they would — he’s an easy kid to love. And I love that Charlie had the privilege of meeting both my Aunt Linda and my Uncle Jim, my dad’s youngest sister and oldest brother. I am grateful that Charlie had the opportunity to hear what a godly influence and man of Christian character his great-great Uncle Bobby was as his children and grandchildren shared their stories about his life and legacy. Charlie got amply loved on by my cousins and second-cousins and even got to taste my Aunt Linda’s cooking.

One of my favorite candid photos from this trip is of my Uncle Jim chatting with Charlie (below). This warmed my heart more than you can possibly imagine. Uncle Jim reminds me so much of my dad–right down to the well appointed pocket protector. I loved hearing Uncle Jim tell Charlie some of the same stories of yesteryear that I had heard, and I my heart warmed as I watched him share a life lesson or two with Charlie and anyone else willing to listen.

My heart is a little sad today knowing my Uncle Jim joined the heavenly throng this morning and that I will not get to see him again on this side of Glory. Though my heart is heavy knowing the sorrow that his children and grandchildren are feeling right now, the sting of death is mingled with the confident joy of knowing my Uncle Jim is with his Lord and Savior. If there is a receiving line in heaven, I’m sure my Aunt Robbie was at the front of the line to see her beloved Jimmy again. Uncle Jim just celebrated his 97th birthday here on earth, so I’m sure there were a lot of loved ones who got there before him and were lined up to greet him, but I can well imagine that my dad was elbowing his way to the front of the line to be among the first to greet his brother when he showed up this morning. Jim was not only my dad’s older brother, but he was also someone who faithfully prayed that his little brother Jerry would come to know the Lord. I will forever be grateful for Uncle Jim’s faithful witness and God’s answer to his prayers.

Orange is for Sunny

I’m especially thankful this week for the beauty of my garden, bountifully brimming with daylilies. The riot of color brings my husband Wayne and I joy as we sit on our deck recovering from the Covid that finally caught up with us. I find that if I stay on the deck and squint a little, I don’t notice the weeds so much. Last night I ventured into one flowerbed armed with an empty 5-gallon bucket, emerging only minutes later when my bucket was full of weeds and my body said “enough!”

I have often been asked what colors I enjoy in my garden. Honestly, I would have to say ALL of them, but will admit that I seem to gravitate toward a lot of pink, purple and yellow. Over the past few years I have added lots of orange (or shades thereof) and splashes of vibrant red. Much of it is in garden splendor right now, so I thought I’d dedicate this post to photos of the sunny oranges in my end-of-July garden.


Well, friendly readers, that’s all for now. Thanks for joining me in admiring the color orange in its many luscious and sunshine-filled shades. I hope it brought a sunny smile to your face too. I tried, but just couldn’t whittle the orange-y beauty down to only six photos for Six on Saturday, the all things gardening meme hosted by The Propagator.

What Splashes Out of My Cup?

A conversation with a caregiver yesterday brought this previous blog post to mind. I’m reposting it here just in case someone else can learn by my example and my own life-lessons. God bless all of you dementia caregivers out there.

Barefoot Lily Lady

Lest anyone who regularly visits ‘Barefoot Lily Lady’ think that I’m living in an Alzheimer’s caregiving utopia where we are always sweet to one another and I always execute Pinterest-worthy caregiving ideas at every opportunity, let me share a slice of reality.

If you had a little window into our world, yesterday wasn’t pretty. And today I wasn’t exactly setting the best example either.

The fact is, I make mistakes in caring for her daily.

Let me confess that I am sometimes not very kind and respectful in my dealings with her – especially in the wee hours of the morning or after a night (or several nights) with little to no sleep.

Right now, as I am composing this post, I am viewing her via the camera in her room and she is ripping her blanket off the bed. I don’t think I have fingers and toes left to…

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Psalms and Peonies

“Let me hear in the morning of your steadfast love, for I trust in you. Make me know the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul.”

Psalm 143:8

“The Lord is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.”

Psalm 145:8

“Prove me, O Lord, and try me, test my heart and my mind. For your steadfast love is before my eyes, and I walk in your faithfulness.”

Psalm 26:2-3

“But I will sing of your strength; I will sing aloud of your steadfast love in the morning.”

Psalm 59:16a

“O my Strength, I will sing praises to you, for you, O God, are my fortress, the God who shows me steadfast love.”

Psalm 59:17

“Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you. So I will bless you as long as I live; in your name I will lift up my hands.”

Psalm 63:3-4

“I give thanks to you, O Lord my God, with my whole heart, and I will glorify your name forever. For great is your steadfast love toward me….”

Psalm 86:12, 13a

“It is good to give thanks to the Lord, to sing praises to your name, O Most High; to declare your steadfast love in the morning, and your faithfulness by night, to the music of the lute and harp, to the melody of the lyre. For you, O Lord, have made me glad by your work; at the work of your hands I sing for joy.”

Psalm 92:1-4

“Our soul waits for the Lord; he is our help and our shield. For our heart is glad in him, because we trust in his holy name. Let your steadfast love, O Lord, be upon us, even as we hope in you.”

Psalm 33:20-22

“For the word of the Lord is upright, and all his work is done in faithfulness. He loves righteousness and justice; the earth is full of the steadfast love of the Lord.”

Psalm 33:4-5

“When I thought, “My foot slips,” your steadfast love, O Lord, held me up. When the cares of my heart are many, your consolations cheer my soul.”

Psalm 94:18-19

“For the Lord is good, his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations.”

Psalm 100:5

Our Mailbox Garden

Our curbside mailbox is surrounded by a cute little flowerbed. It somehow survives the piles of snow heaped upon it by the snowplows every winter, shrugging off the melting snow’s road salt and sand.

It started as a little circle cutout around the mailbox, but this sliver of a garden expands a wee bit every five or six years to accommodate the flowers that always seem to find their way into my shopping cart at garden centers.

Tulips and daffodils usher in the first hint of spring, followed by petite ‘Blue Denim’ irises playing with grape hyacinth muscari at the garden’s edges.

A clematis scrambles up the back and over the top of the mailbox. Some years, by summer’s end, its purplicious beauty threatens to swallow the mailbox whole.

There are so many gorgeous flowers tucked into that tiny mailbox bed which cause those passing by to pause and enjoy. This time of year, however, Peony ‘Gold Standard’ is the hands-down show-stopper of the front yard. My hubby captured a few photos in morning’s light.

Mid-summer’s splendored thing will be the daylily. Well, daylilies plural. They’re a favorite flower of mine that always seem to make themselves at home in all but the shadiest flowerbeds.

Stay tuned…

My Top 3 Reasons for Choosing Assisted Living Memory Care

Someone recently asked me how I decided when it was time for my mom to be cared for in a nursing home or assisted living memory care. I’ve written about that decision a time or two, but decided I should write about it again.

Before I share my personal “Top 3” list, I invite you to grab a cup of coffee (or your favorite beverage) and listen to this video by Dr. Natali Edmonds — someone who has been a virtual mentor for me as I’ve learned about being a caregiver.

Dr. Natali Edmonds

“People who place their loved ones in nursing homes are not horrible people. They don’t love their loved ones any less than people who care for their loved ones at home. In fact, sometimes placing a loved one in a nursing home is the best thing for your loved one.”

Dr. Natali Edmonds

Now, here are my Top 3 Reasons

Reason #1: Sleep

Not mom’s sleep. My sleep. I wasn’t getting enough of it and it was beginning to affect everything. Long-term sleep deprivation is brutal. Whether I wanted to admit it or not, it was creating “excessive caregiver stress” and it was showing up in all of the areas of my life that mattered the most to me. It was harming my closest relationships — my time in God’s Word, my marriage, my opportunities to spend quality time with my grandchildren, my friendships. I was a tired and distracted employee and my job performance suffered. I loved teaching Sunday School, but I knew in my heart I wasn’t able to focus on preparation for my ministry and wasn’t as creative in my teaching as I once was. Those in my circle of friends were beginning to comment about how tired I looked.

Reason #2: Personal hygiene needs

Mom’s resistance to help with personal hygiene, to put it politely; bowel incontinence, to be specific. When my mom’s brain could no longer register the “urge to go” with the need to do something about that, life got a lot messier. Literally. Between multiple clothing and bedding changes, multiple loads of laundry, and floor and bathroom cleanup, daily life was getting too hard for one or two people to handle. Mom needed more hands on care and a bathroom that was designed with disabilities in mind.

Reason #3: Safety & Mobility issues

In the later stages of dementia, mom was beginning to forget how to walk. There were days when she needed coaching to put one foot in front of the other. Her legs were growing weak, making her a greater risk for falls. Using a walker helped, but not always. Sometimes she’d forget the walker in another room. Other times, she’d drag it behind her. On a few occasions, she couldn’t figure out what it was, so stuck it outside of her room so it wouldn’t be in the way. My house wasn’t designed for using a walker or a wheelchair. All of the bedrooms and full bathrooms were inaccessible to mom since they were located on the second floor.

We made the best possible use of this half-bath space to accommodate mom’s growing needs, including taking the door off the hinges so we could have more room to maneuver and help her.

The more of a problem “Reason #2” became for us, the more I knew she needed a safer place to live.

I applaud and encourage the many who have made “at home until the end” work. You are amazing caregivers! Please understand, however, that you will still be an amazing caregiver if you make the hard choice to reach out for help in caring for your loved one. You do not cease to be a caregiver by changing the location of where that care is given or who helps you provide that care.

I’d like to leave you with a little slideshow with just a few photos depicting how happy and content my mom was in this abode where opportunities were many, friendships were sweet, and help was always on hand.

“The best place for your loved one with dementia to live and grow old depends upon several things, including: what help they receive, their willingness to receive help, their physical abilities, and the specific dementia symptoms they have. Not everybody with dementia requires the same level of care.”

Dr. Natali Edmonds

The Merry Month of May

I don’t want to speak too soon, but I think winter is finally losing its grip and spring has sprung.

I took a barefoot stroll around a few of my flowerbeds this afternoon. The stroll was brief because the grass beneath my feet was wet and very cold. Even so, a warm feeling of peace washed over me. I could almost feel my winter-weary heart filling with the joy of spring as I meandered from one flowerbed to another inspecting the colorful spring blossoms.

Nothing beats the bright yellow of a daffodil in spring-time cheerfulness!

One of the first signs of spring in my Wisconsin garden is the very early blossoms of Pulmonaria, whose very unfortunate common name is lungwort. If it were not a tad bit prone to powdery mildew, I would say I love everything about this plant. It grows in the shadier areas of my garden, thriving well on the north or east side of my house, but blooms best if it gets at least a splash of sun and plenty of moisture. The leaves can’t seem to make up their mind as to whether they will be lance or heart-shaped, but each fuzzy leaf sports sweet silvery spots. To me, the leaves are incredibly cool, but it is said that the common name of ‘lungwort’ came about because their appearance reminded some botanist of a diseased lung. It has a habit of reseeding itself in the garden, but does so very politely. I have several cultivar in my garden, but the one pictured is a pass-along from another gardener, so I’m unsure as to its cultivar name. Based upon its beautiful blue, pink and lavender bells, it’s likely ‘Mrs. Moon’.

The demure pink and blue blossoms of Lungwort in an old crystal salt shaker

Winter has been slow in releasing its grip, and May is off to a chilly and rainy start, but the promise of warmer weather is in the forecast for the weekend. In previous years, the daffodils and some tulips were finishing their spring engagement in the garden; this year, they are just getting started. While it would be nice to have more sunshine, we need the rain. Another ‘upside’ is that the chillier temps will keep the daffs and tulips strutting their stuff a little while longer.

Raindrops on tulips just outside my front door

These beautiful tulips have charmed me out of a writing slump. My friend Wendy aptly described them as a “pretty sunshiny yellow,” although they take on a soft, orange-sherbet glow in certain light. Either way, they are incredibly sweet.

Well that’s my “Six on Saturday” – thanks for joining me on a little photographic spring tour of my early floral arrivals. And a special thanks to “The Propagator” for hosting “Six on Saturday” each week. If you check out Jon’s “comments” section, you can visit a whole bunch of lovely gardens, gather ideas and suggestions for your own, or have a go at posting your own six.

Another gorgeous harbinger of spring…magnolias!

“Jesus, Help Me!”

Barefoot Lily Lady

Even as my sweet mother’s memory slowly fades, one thing remains strongly present. Her faith in Jesus. Many times during the day (and night), I will hear her pray, “Jesus, help me.” She prays it as she walks from her bed to the bathroom, or as she tries to get her knees to cooperate with her as she travels from the kitchen back to her bed.

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This Too Will Pass

I had lunch with a dear friend today. My heart is richly blessed for having spent time with Maureen. It was fun catching up on what was going on in each of our lives since we last saw one another. We’ve both had ups and downs, both thoroughly enjoy spending time with our kids and grandkids (but wish we could have more time with them). Last time Maureen and I caught up with one another, the sting of death was still fresh in my heart, having lost my mother to Alzheimer’s during that year. Now, it was my friend’s turn to say goodbye to her mother under similar circumstances in this past year. We talked a little bit about being in a new season of life — a season which may hold challenges, health and otherwise, but new opportunities for growth in Christ too. Our time on earth will pass before we know it; but, for the present, God is not finished with us yet.

Only one life, so soon will pass. Only what’s done for Christ will last.

Barefoot Lily Lady

I am fondly remembering when my children were small. So much energy and love went into making sure they were dressed, well fed, clean and safe. I mothered my children back in the days before baby monitors and wifi cameras helped monitor the safety of a sleeping child. I remember hesitating to even walk outside into the backyard to hang my laundry on the clothesline to dry, always wanting to be within listening distance of my sleeping babies.

Mealtimes with my little ones could be fun but, if I turned my back for an instant in our teeny-tiny kitchen, one of my children could spread his meal all over himself and the floor beneath before I could count to three. The other child made highchair sitting into a baby Olympic event going from being seated in her highchair to standing on the tray in record time.

Little stinkers.

I remember…

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Are You the One in Charge Here?

A newer resident at the assisted living memory care home where I work said something today which reminded me of a sweet memory of my mom. I’ll call the sweet lady ‘Lillian’, so as to shield her true identity. As I walked in the building Lillian’s face visibly brightened. With wide-eyed amazement, she greeted me and exclaimed, “Oh, you’re here, Grandma!” As I got a little closer to her, with a deflated note of disappointment in her voice, Lillian murmured, “Oh, you’re not my grandma, are you?” To which I replied, “No, I’m your new friend Cindie and I just have one of those familiar faces that reminds people of someone else.” Lillian pondered my face for a few seconds and then said, “Yes, your face is kind. Just like my grandma’s.”

Oh, my. That warmed my heart. I spent a few more minutes chatting with my new friend Lillian, then went about my work, with memories of my own sweet momma on my mind. In the later years of Mom’s life with Alzheimer’s, in her mind, I was rarely her daughter. Sometimes I got to be her sister, her mother, or her friend. I’d like to share one of those memories with you . . .

Barefoot Lily Lady

Lately, my sweet mother has been more than a bit confused about her living accommodations, referring to our home as “this facility” and “this place.” Not long ago, she swept her hand out in gesture as if encompassing her living space and said, “Are you the one in charge of this place?” I told her yes it was our home and that Wayne and I both welcome her to live here. “Oh,” she replied, “are my meals and laundry included?” I assured her that they were. To which she replied, “Well, they haven’t fed me all day, and I think they’re stealing my laundry. I can’t find it anywhere.”

Not long ago, she was telling Wayne that “someone who works here” had given her some pills. She wasn’t sure who it was, but figured they knew what they were doing, so she took them. It was Tylenol, and it was…

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