Six on Saturday: My Favorite Gardening Reads

A deep blanket of snow is covering my garden right now. Of this I am glad. As much as I long for warm Spring weather and the accompanying tulips and daffodils, I really want my gardens to be protected by a thick blanket of snow for as long as this crazy on-again, off-again cold weather lingers. Rather than show you pictures of snow, snow, and more snow, I thought I’d follow the lead of one of my favorite gardening bloggers and share some of my favorite garden-related books. (You can read Carolee’s inspiring post on her blog Herbal Blessings here.)


If I have to pick a favorite, it would undoubtedly be Creating a Perennial Garden in the Midwest by Joan Severa. I read it nearly every winter gathering ideas, hopes and dreams for the garden sleeping beneath the snow in my own little corner of the world.

Joan Severa passed away in 2015, but I was blessed to meet her in the days before I began caring for my mother. Back then, before momma’s Alzheimer’s diagnosis, I actually had time to attend an evening garden club meeting that met in my neighborhood. One sultry summer evening our garden club members got together for a little neighborhood walking tour of area gardens. Joan’s garden was one of them. I was so delighted to learn that she lived within walking distance of my own home and garden. It was a “two-fer” tour, as she and her next door neighbor and best friend Chris had seamlessly merged their adjoining gardens into one lovely gardenscape. It was so very inspiring.

Back to my favorite gardening book. It’s my personal favorite because Joan shared things I need to know as I garden not only in this USDA Zone 4 Midwest area, but in this very neighborhood. Lovely photos of her own garden compelled me to keep turning pages, and her engaging writing style made me feel much like we were sitting on a porch overlooking her backyard paradise whilst we sipped tall glasses of ice tea. Joan’s engaging writing included suggestions for how to choose and create a garden site, plants that do well around here, how to care for said plants, step-by-step instructions for the best way to create and use mulch…and most importantly, for me, what plants to avoid. The book is filled with photographs too. Absolutely LOVE it!

My second favorite? A Gardener’s Journal, a 5-year garden record book. I’m the author of this book as I make notes of how my own garden is doing in a given week, what I planted, what came up (and what didn’t), when certain bugs appeared (and how I tried to get rid of them). I also note ideas for next year and jot down the names of plants on my ‘wish-list’ (just in case someone wants to buy me a present). Here is a peek at one page in my journal.

Favorite #3 – Further Along the Garden Path, by Ann Lovejoy. My friend Judy gave me this classic book out of her own garden library. As I page through this beautiful book and guide to the gardening year, the amazing photos taken by Mark Lovejoy actually remind me of Judy’s garden paths which meander through her mostly wooded landscape. A lovely surprise awaits around each and every turn in the path.

When I moved from Milwaukee to Fitchburg in the summer of 1999, I left behind my own beautiful garden. Even though I had dug up divisions of various perennials to plant in my new garden, I didn’t get the diggings planted soon enough and lost many of my Milwaukee garden treasures during that brutally hot summer. Judy generously shared pieces of her Verona garden with me, helping me create new gardens in my new gardening space. I think of her with love and gratitude whenever I read this book or see a flower that she shared with me.

I have spent hours browsing through this little book, filling my mind with landscape plans and ideas for my gardens. Beds & Borders contains 40 professional landscaping designs. You can use the sketches and plant lists as a do-it-yourself guide to creating your own oasis of floral loveliness, or you can order blueprints of your favorite designs to hand off to a professional landscape artist. In addition to too many hours of gardening daydreams within, novice and expert gardeners will find the book to be filled with oodles of gardening tips and design techniques.

And one more pleasurable read. An Island Garden, by Celia Thaxter with pictures and illustrations by Childe Hassam.

Beautiful. Enchanting. Educational. It’s the inspiring story of her Appledore island garden, written in vivid detail, every word a delight to the senses.

If you love gardens as much as I do, you simply must find a copy of An Island Garden. Once you have the book in hand, clear your schedule, make yourself a cup of tea and find a cozy spot near a window – preferably one which overlooks one of your snow-covered gardens. As you read, I promise you will be transported to Celia’s island garden, hear the crash of the waves, smell the sweet aroma of carefully tended blossoms, gaze in wonder at the sight of magnificent old-fashioned hollyhocks swaying in the warm ocean breeze, and hear the sweet song of nesting birds.

Whenever I read this book, I feel as though I’m kneeling in the dirt right next to Celia helping her tend her beautiful garden while she mentors me in tending my own little patch of this earth.


It’s a bit warmer today and the snow is beginning to melt. I think I even heard a robin singing, but the closest I’m going to get to gardening this week is filling the bird feeders for our hungry squirrels. I will probably get my gardening fix by paging through the gardening catalogs which seem to be arriving daily or re-reading one of my favorite books. Of course, there’s always visiting all of the other Sixes, courtesy of our meme host The Propagator at https://thepropagatorblog.wordpress.com/

Signing off to dream of daffodils and tulips.

Date Night for Seniors…with an Unexpected Twist

January in Wisconsin was unusually cold, courtesy of the Polar Vortex. One Friday, when temps had dipped well below zero, my hubby and I were contemplating whether or not we’d cancel our weekly date night. Since we had a caregiver for mom lined up (who was willing to brave the horrible weather), we decided to go ahead with it, but not travel too far from home. Our evening out would include dinner out at a nearby restaurant that we enjoy, then we would do a little grocery shopping (yes, we’re old enough that we sometimes grocery shop on our date nights).

Me and my guy – photo courtesy of our dear friend Don Yantis

After all that senior excitement, we decided to go home and relax while watching a few episodes of one of our favorite whodunit detective shows. Momma hadn’t been feeling well and was not in the best of spirits all day. Expecting to find her in bed and not feeling very social, I smiled when we walked in the door and saw her seated at the kitchen table working a puzzle with her amazing caregiver. Wayne went upstairs to queue up our show so we could hunker down for the evening watching another episode of Psych.

Momma really enjoys her weekly time with Kathryn, always lighting up when she sees her. Kathryn has a special way about her and easily keeps mom engaged with puzzles, coloring, or looking through picture books together. Honestly, I think Kathryn is better at keeping Momma happily engaged than I am.

On this particular night, Momma was engaged, but seemed just a bit frustrated with placing the puzzle pieces. After putting the last grocery item away, I walked past the kitchen table to head upstairs for movie time and noticed mom was starting to slump forward in her chair (Kathryn had noticed too). The color in Momma’s face drained, her hands and arms were tremoring, eyes were fixed, pupils dilated, and she was making sounds, but I could not detect any words. I recognized it as an episode of vasovagal syncope (VVS) much like the one mom had experienced about a month ago.

Briefly, VVS is a fainting episode which happens when the blood pressure takes a nose-dive, usually during periods of agitation, stress or anxiety. Momma had not had a good day and was physically worn out by stomach pain from persnickety bowels and back and forth trips to the bathroom. Shortly before this episode, she had mentioned not feeling well and that she had to go to the bathroom again. Next thing we knew, she was slumped in a classic VVS faint. Episodes of this nature are generally not serious and last a minute or less. I knelt next to her, supporting her with a little sideways hug so she wouldn’t slump to the floor. Unless you see it coming early and can get the individual lying down and feet elevated above the heart, there’s really not a whole lot you can do to circumvent an episode of VVS once it has begun. I decided to pray out loud for mom and had no sooner said ‘Amen’ when she began to stir in recovery.

The rest of the evening is a bit of a blur, but I remember being thankful that Kathryn was there. In addition to the symptoms I already mentioned, Momma loses control of her bladder and bowel during these episodes. Kathryn was so very helpful in getting Momma cleaned up and ready for bed. Once mom was comfy in her bed, Kathryn sat with mom in her bedroom and shooed me off to join Wayne for what was left of our movie night.

I sensed that life as we knew it was taking yet another detour, the path ahead uncertain, and most likely containing many twists and turns. How grateful I am to have the calm assurance that Someone is traveling with us, leading each and every step of the way.

Being the hands and feet of Jesus

As my dear mother’s struggle with Alzheimer’s grows increasingly difficult to manage, it is becoming harder for me to leave the house for any length of time. While my hubby is very capable and always willing to help in many ways, sometimes the help mom now needs is very personal in nature. For this reason (and many more), it’s such a blessing to have a daughter who lives nearby who often helps her grandma when I need to be away. I recently had to take my brother to the doctor and the timing of the appointment didn’t work out for Beth’s schedule. Thankfully, my friend Rita was more than willing to help.

Rita – the hands and feet of Jesus

It would be my heart’s desire that caregivers everywhere had someone like Rita in their lives. Someone with the ability to read between the lines. A friend who puts their own life on hold in order to be a blessing. Seriously, if I post something on Facebook or my blog about being tired, I can almost guarantee that shortly thereafter I will hear the “ding” of an incoming text and it will be Rita offering to help look after Mom.

Just last week Momma was having a very hard evening. I had called hospice to let them know that she was having high levels of anxiety and breathing difficulties. Before I knew it, two hospice nurses were at the house helping me with her needs. Toward the end of their visit, I noticed a familiar look on Momma’s face and a slight slump in the way she was sitting. I told the nurses that it looked like Mom was going to faint. And faint she did – she slumped over hard and for a much longer period of time than her usual syncope episodes. Even though I’ve been through this several times now with mom, this one felt a bit different and, I must admit, this time was a little scary.

Unbeknownst to me, in the midst of the ordeal, my hubby Wayne put out a prayer request on our church’s Facebook group and several in our church family began lifting her name up in prayer.

We had a hard time getting Momma to recover from her faint and struggled to get her limp form into bed where we could better help her. I was so very glad to have two nurses there to witness the episode, help me care for her during the episode, and help get her cleaned up and ready for bed afterward.

Momma was now resting comfortably in her bed and the nurses were preparing to leave. I heard my phone ring. Rita called to see if I needed any help; specifically offering to come spend the night so I could get some much needed sleep. I smiled as I listened to her kind offer and quickly responded with my “Yes, please!”

As I said my goodbyes to the nurses and awaited Rita’s arrival, I offered up a prayer of thanksgiving to God for sending TWO hospice nurses tonight and for giving me a friend like Rita – a friend who is truly the hands and feet of Jesus in my life right now.

What Splashes Out of My Cup?

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 count the number of times I have put her bedding back in place today so that she can be warm and cozy. This gathering behavior is common in this later stage of Alzheimer’s where they derive pleasure from manipulating and touching things.  (Here is a very helpful summary of what renowned Alzheimer’s expert, Teepa Snow, calls the “Gem Stages” of Alzheimer’s. My mom is “Amber,” heading into “Ruby” territory. You can request a free DVD or download on this subject on this page.)

The truth about myself is, I often hear my tired and groggy self barking out requests like a drill sergeant giving orders. Last night it was “Please STOP taking your blankets off the bed!” The “please” was moot given my obviously frustrated (and angry) tone of voice. I sometimes forget that the truth about Momma is that she just does not understand what she is doing and she cannot stop this tactile behavior.  Alzheimer’s has eaten away the part of her brain which helps her understand my words and discern how to implement any instructions I give her.

Every day I am as sad for her obvious anxiety and anguish over knowing something is wrong with her brain as I am frustrated with her inability to follow simple instructions.  In those times of frustration, I am sometimes mortified by what comes splashing out of me. As I whipped the blankets off of the end of the bed for the umpteenth time, it certainly wasn’t godliness, love, or the Word of God splashing all around me when life’s cup was jostled.

Today, as I reacted in frustration, God brought to mind a lesson one of my Awana teachers gave years ago (MANY years ago). I am recalling her poignant illustration for life. Our Bible teacher entered the room carrying a cup filled to the brim. Each step was taken slowly and carefully so as not to spill a drop. Just as she reached the front of the room, another teacher abruptly stood up and bumped our Bible teacher’s arm, sending the beverage splashing all over those seated nearby. Yes, it was all staged, but the teacher used that moment to remind us that water came out of her cup. Not coffee. Not soda. Not milk. Water. And the reason that water came out of her cup when she was bumped was because she had put water into her cup. My teacher used that teachable moment to help me understand that if I want godliness to splash out of me when I get bumped in life, then I need to grow in Christ by spending time in prayer and in His Word.

When the bumps of life come along, what spills out of me? 

Lord, please help me take time to fill my cup to the brim with your Word. When Momma bumps me next time, may she be splashed with your compassion in my attitude, loving-kindness in my actions, joyfulness in my countenance, and grace in my words. 

My Mother, My Friend

Momma and Me – a favorite picture

Momma and I sat in her bedroom talking tonight. I couldn’t help but notice she was being extra sweet and using the tone of voice one sometimes reserves for meeting a new friend. As I helped her get ready for bed she eyed me keenly, then said, “I don’t believe I know your name.”

I moved a little closer to my sweet mom and then replied, “My name is Cindie. What is your name?”

“Well, I’m Charlotte. I’ve always been Charlotte,” Momma replied matter of factly as she flashed one of her lovely smiles.

Putting my hand atop hers, I gazed into her brown eyes and proffered, “Pleased to meet you, Charlotte.”

“It’s nice to meet you too, dear.”

I’ve sort of dreaded this day, knowing Alzheimer’s would eventually snatch away my identity from her brain. I imagined that I would be utterly and completely heartbroken. Oddly enough, I wasn’t. For some reason it didn’t sting as much as I thought it would.

Today I wasn’t the daughter, as much as I was a new friend helping another friend.

Where?

Late to the party, but I am joining (on a Monday) the Five Minute Friday writing community, hosted by Kate Motaung, for our weekly writing adventure. Please click here to learn about Five Minute Friday. This week’s prompt is, “Where.”

Where Am I?

Momma asks this question every single day. Every. Single. Day.

I usually answer, “You’re at my house, Momma.” She will then peer about the room with a furrowed expression, and say, “Where?”


My sweet mother is hard of hearing, so I often must repeat what I said. However, it really does no good to explain to Momma where she is or why she’s here. But I do anyway. While she will soon forget, and it really doesn’t matter to her, it matters to me. When I tell Momma that she is here because I love her and want to take care of her, I need to hear myself say that even more than she does. In saying it out loud, I am reaffirming my purpose in my heart.

She will ask again. And again. And again. Each time as though it were the first. It’s at times such as this when I must I remind myself that Momma truly feels lost.

“Where is my purse?”

Where is my money?

“Where do I buy food?”

“Where is the bathroom?”

“Where are the kids?”

“Where are my shoes?”

These, and so many other “where” questions lurk in the worry corner of her mind. Lately, one of her most frequently asked questions is

“Where is my family?”

When she asks this question, she’s really not thinking about me, or her other children, or even her husband. Momma wonders when her parents are going to come and get her and take her home. It accomplishes nothing telling her that they’re already in heaven. If I do that, she stews and is angry that no one told her that they died. Instead, I say, “They’re not going to be able to come today.” Then, I answer her question with my own question, “So, what was your favorite memory with your Dad?” I absolutely love it when she reaches way far back into her cache of childhood memories and pulls out a special one.

While it is heartbreaking to hear Momma struggle with all of the where’s in life right now, I know she has a hope for a future “where.” A place where every tear will be wiped away, every worry and fear erased, and where pain and earthly sorrow will be gone forevermore. Momma is looking forward to her heavenly home – where no more memories will be lost to Alzheimer’s.

Tuesday’s Caregiving Tip: Remove the Obstacles

For some of my readers, this post may be TMI. When writing about my mother, I try to be judicious in the stories I tell and respectful in the details I share. I hope this isn’t crossing that line. What I am about to tell you needs to be written because it is a daily reality faced by those afflicted with Alzheimer’s and those who care for them.

Read on if you’re game. Continue reading “Tuesday’s Caregiving Tip: Remove the Obstacles”