Cardinals Appear When Angels are Near

Cardinals appear when angels are near. Have you heard this saying? Or that a cardinal is a representative of a loved one who has passed away? I’ve heard people say these things, but never gave it much merit. Not until about a year ago.

Before I tell my cardinal story, let me give a little background as to why I was so dismissive of the notion of cardinals being spiritual messengers. It’s no secret that my Mom was very much into the spiritual world. She read tarot cards for forty years or so, participated in a seance or two (that I can recall), and on one occasion I watched her become a physical medium for a spirit. I was twelve, and it scared the bejeezus out of me. It is my fear that keeps me from giving the spiritual world much thought. If I don’t believe in it, if I don’t dwell on it, then nothing scary will happen, right?

As far as the cardinal thing, my thought was that there are more cardinals in certain regions and thus more sightings. Seeing a cardinal in North Carolina is common. No big deal. It’s our state bird for crying out loud. But what I hadn’t keyed in on is the difference between a sighting and a visit. It’s not merely a sighting that constitutes a visit from a loved one, it’s how the bird behaves.

The first anniversary of my Mom’s passing is just two weeks away. It was this time last year that Mom took a turn for the worse, and also when I started getting visits.

When Dad passed away nearly twenty years ago, I was heartbroken. Dad and I were close, and I still think of him every day. Mom said when I was growing up that if she needed to find me, she knew to look wherever Dad was. In the years after Dad died, the bond between Mom and I became strong. Sometimes we were like oil and water but also like best friends. That lady sure put me through the paces in her last years, but we had a relationship that I’ll hold in my heart forever. I don’t know if it’s more difficult losing your second parent–it’s tough to gauge grief–it’s hard and not something you can prepare for. So when Mom became ill and I felt it was the beginning of the end, I was heartsick. There was a sadness in my soul that ran deep, and there was nothing to be done about it.

When I got the phone call at work that Mom wasn’t doing well, I left the office for the privacy and comfort of home. I’m an introvert and draw strength from within, and I was too rattled to be any use at work anyway. I remember that day clearly–I stepped onto my front porch and sat on the top stair, knees to chest, arms hugging my legs. I felt a sadness envelop me, and my heart ached. As I sat there, I noticed a rotund cardinal perched in the crepe myrtle tree that was just feet from my deck.

This guy started perching in my crepe myrtle about two weeks before Mom passed away.

Like I said, it’s common to see cardinals here, so at first I didn’t think much of it. But he was behaving differently than any other cardinal I had seen. He wasn’t leaving. Typically, they light on a branch for a moment or three and flit away just as quickly. This guy stayed. I watched him for a couple of minutes before going into the house to get my camera, thinking he would certainly be gone by the time I got back outside. Nope. He was still there. I took my seat on the top stair and snapped a few photos. I changed lenses so that I could zoom in–still there. It still hadn’t hit me what this might be.

I talked to my sister that afternoon, about Mom and what to do, and what we would do without her, and I mentioned the cardinal. My sister said “Oh, that’s an angel, Kelly. It’s probably Dad.” I said no, there are cardinals everywhere here. Nothing out of the ordinary. But I kept seeing the cardinal, or at least a cardinal, every day. Sometimes perched on my fence, other times in that tree, and I started to think maybe there was something to this.

As I said, Mom passed away just about two weeks after the cardinal started visiting. I live more than a thousand miles from my family, so the morning after Mom died, I conference called my siblings to discuss arrangements. I sat at my desk in front of a bank of windows that look out toward the crepe myrtle tree, and as I was going over the list of things Mom wanted at her funeral (she had been planning this event with me for decades), the puffy cardinal perched on a branch that reached nearest to the window. He sat so precariously toward the end of the branch that it bobbed slightly from his weight. He looked straight at me and held his gaze nearly the whole time I was on the phone. I kept saying to my brother and sisters how I couldn’t believe this cardinal was still staring at me.

Well, color me a believer.

When Dad was alive, we looked out for each other–he sometimes stayed at my house when he had early dialysis before he and Mom moved closer to the hospital. We would have breakfast together on Friday mornings. Any time he was admitted to the VA hospital in Iron Mountain, Michigan I would visit on my way to or from work. We never talked much, but we liked each other’s company. I truly believe that cardinal was Dad trying to ease my pain, making sure I was not alone.

After Mom’s funeral and when I was back in North Carolina, the cardinal sightings continued, but not as intensely as in the two weeks before Mom’s death. Shortly after I returned home, toward the end of a walk with my dog and as I rounded the corner to my house, there were four cardinals in a bush. I have never seen a group of cardinals before, but I’ve read that cardinals will flock during winter months. This was late April in North Carolina when the temp was rising. There was one bright red (male) and three tan with light red tails (females).

I stopped and caught my breath, because not only are my parents deceased, but two of my sisters are as well. A male and three female cardinals. They didn’t stay long. It was as though they wanted me to see them, and they flew off. I felt this time that it wasn’t Dad making sure I was okay, rather a message that they were okay–they were together.

About five months after Mom’s passing, I came home from work to a light red feather lying on my welcome mat. I smiled and thought, thanks for stopping by, Mom. I miss you too. I’m still not open to the spiritual world by any stretch, but I now take comfort in my cardinal angels.


5K in Every State: Illinois!

Y’all, I’m checking states off my list! In June I hit Virginia, and although I’m somewhat tardy in reporting this next one, in September I did a 5K in Illinois. Can I get a Kimmy Schmidt high five? This was actually my second attempt at a race in Illinois – the first one was a wash (take a peek). No, really. It rained so hard I couldn’t convince my feet to step out of the swag tent. We ran like children to the car and went out to eat instead.

Nine states done! Woot woot!

But the second time was a charm. I have family in Illinois and pop in a couple of times per year, so scheduling a visit around a 5K was no big. And the bonus was that my niece and grand-niece joined me! These two were so sweet to walk with me, and what a trooper Little A was for walking the entire 3.1 miles (she’s 4). Honestly, she complained less than I did.

My team is ready to roll!

The walk was in a little town, a “subdivision” if we’re using the local vernacular, not too far from home base. Plainfield is in northeastern Illinois, southwest of the city. Its population is less than 50,000, with a historic downtown of boutiques, shops, and restaurants. We did the Plainfield Harvest 5K, but there are lots of other festivals and events throughout the year. It was a darling little place, and I recommend giving it a look if you’re in the area.

DuPage River in Plainfield IL
Part of the walk was along the DuPage River – beautiful
Cornfield in Plainfield IL
If there’s a cornfield, you’re probably in the Midwest
It was a leisurely walk…

Typically, my 5k trips take me to places I haven’t been, but this one was all family, all the way, which was a nice change of pace. Sometimes I get so wrapped up in seeing the world that I forget how much I enjoy hanging with the fam. After the race we grabbed a couple slices (only in Chicagoland will you be provided post-race pizza rather than the usual banana and granola bar) and headed back home where we set up for my grand-nephew’s birthday party, complete with a piñata! I’m telling you, no matter how old you are, a piñata causes some excitement. These kids were little and no match for my candy-stealing skills. I’m kidding!

It’s been a few years since I’ve been able to stay a while and visit with the Illinois contingent. Most of my travel energy was devoted to getting to the middle of Wisconsin (which is no easy task) to spend time with my Mom, usually leaving me with just an overnight in Chicago. Since Mom passed away, I haven’t been back to Wisconsin. I have to admit, as much as I loathed the Planes, Trains, and Automobiles spectacle of getting to her, the empty slots on my travel calendar where Mom used to be are weighty. Still, it was nice to settle in and relax for a few days with my sister and extended family in Illinois–and the fact that it came sans guilt for enjoying family time without Mom was a pleasant surprise. A relief.

We visited the Chicago Botanic Garden, which was beautiful! If you haven’t been, get there. Seriously, go. We burned the better part of four hours and saw just a fraction of the place. It is huge! We saw the Japanese Garden, the Rose Garden, and the Waterfall Garden. There are 26 other gardens/features to see, which means I need to get back to the CBG.

Chicago Botanic Garden
Chicago Botanic Garden – go see!

The best part of this trip was spending time with my people, some of whom I haven’t seen in quite a while, and doing everyday things with them. You’d be surprised the bonding that can come from a trip to WalMart for a Halloween bucket or a beer run to the corner gas station. It seems the older I get, the faster time passes. Truth be told, as much as I treasure my freedom to travel near and far, I could use a little more “every day life” in my life.



Most of What You Need to Know, You Can Learn from Gardening

Last week’s spurt of container gardening to pretty up the approach to my yard has got me thinking back to my gardening roots. I have never been much of a flower gardener (aside from the occasional potted plant on my deck), but Mom and Dad loved their vegetable garden, and by extension, it became part of my life, too, albeit briefly.

Our first garden that I can recall was when I was 10 years old and we had just moved from Illinois to Wisconsin. We rented the downstairs of a small, two-story house in the middle of farm country and forest. My parents purchased a pub and diner in a nearby town, but had not yet closed on the house that went with the deal, so tenants we were.

Dad tilled up a small patch of earth so he and Mom could grow tomatoes, green beans, radishes, carrots, corn, and cucumbers that summer. Not to be left out, I insisted on a corner of the plot just for me.

Much like when a child promises to feed and walk the puppy but inevitably slacks, so I did with my garden. I watered it some, and pulled a weed or two, but Dad helped me a lot. He let me think the glory was all mine, though.

I and my niece show off the biggest tomato from our garden at the rental

And Lord, did I make a fuss about having grown the largest tomato! I’m not certain who snapped this photograph, but I directed the shot to be sure the depth of field was so that the tomato looked as big as it could compared to my crouching niece. (The photography bug got me a couple of years prior.) This photo was taken with my Kodak Instamatic 104.

The Kodak Instamatic 104 is one of my treasures

I have fond memories of that summer. Family visited often, which provided me with some company other than the June Bugs and bats. Seriously. My nephews, niece, and I would run through the huge cornfield that began at the edge of our yard and rolled on for acres upon acres. We ran without a care in the world, the sharp leaves slapping our arms and faces.

We went on nature hikes so I could take photos, and on one such outing we happened upon a skunk. This was revelatory as to who could keep their calm and who could not in a hairy situation (a good thing to know about the folks you’re tramping through the forest with in northern Wisconsin, i.e. bear country). Mostly, we generally horsed around like kids do.

The following summer we were in our permanent home, and I guess that sense of ownership took hold of Dad, because he dug up half the county and planted enough seed to feed an army. We added cabbage, zucchini, squash, and peas to the mix, and the corn section gained a whole lot of real estate. If Mom and Dad were home, there was a good chance they were working in the garden.

Sister and Dad planting one corner of the permanent garden
Mom was super excited about those carrots!

My sisters would come help and be sent home with fresh-picked veggies, but as I went from tween to teen, I found other things to occupy my time. Looking back, I wish I had spent more time in the garden with my family, but that is now in the column labeled “lessons learned.”

Was Dad inspecting or eating the tomatoes?

Still, whether they knew it or not, Mom and Dad taught me a few things during those couple of gardening years that hold true for just about any aspect of life:

  • Plant only what you can keep up with
    • Give yourself permission to say no
  • Sunshine, water, and fertilizer are essential
    • Feed your body, mind, and soul
  • If a crop doesn’t grow, plant something else
    • Plan your journey, and be willing to choose another path
  • Pick your bounty before it turns
    • Make your memories now

All these years later, I can’t plant a thing without thinking of Mom and Dad, which is one of the best gifts they have given me. When I dig into the soil from which life originates, plant with the hope and anticipation of a child at Christmas, see the beauty of a bloomed flower, or savor a plump, just-picked tomato, I smile and think of Mom and Dad.

Happy summer, y’all!

My First Mother’s Day Without Mom

This is the first Mother’s Day since Mom passed away. One month ago today, actually. Ironically, today was going to be our first Mother’s Day together in over a decade.

Since I adopted my sweet baby girl, Grace, Mom had wanted to meet her. For over three years, I sent pictures of Grace to Mom, showed Mom videos of Grace, and I told her what a comfort Grace had been to me since the day I brought her home from the shelter. Nearly every time we talked, Mom would say she wanted nothing more in life than to meet her grand-dog. It sounds dramatic, but trust me, Mom had a flair for it.

Grace even signed cards to Mom

With me living 1,200 miles away and Mom no longer traveling, it was almost impossible for Mom to meet Grace. Almost.

This year I planned to drive from North Carolina to Illinois and rendezvous with Mom at my sister’s place in May (sister was going to pick up Mom a few days prior and bring her to Illinois). After a few days in Illinois, I would drive Mom home to Wisconsin, all with Grace at our side. Finally, Grace and I would make the trek from Wisconsin back to North Carolina on our own…all Thelma and Louise, but without the cliff.

Mom was beside herself about meeting Grace. She talked about finally meeting the grand-dog every time we spoke. Then she would say she didn’t think she would live that long, and I would say in a teasing yet gentle way, “Mom, surely you can hold on until Mother’s Day to meet Grace!” And Mom would chuckle and say “Okay, I’ll wait until May.”

But Mom couldn’t wait until May. She passed away on April 14, which makes this first Mother’s Day without Mom that much more sad. The thing she talked about for over three years, I missed by a month. Things happen the way they happen, and I’m not blaming myself, but it hurts my heart. I would have loved to have done that for Mom. I would have loved to have seen her face light up and her heart swell when she met my sweet, lovable, snuggly Grace.

In the week leading up to today, my friend Karen asked what I was doing this weekend, and invited me to visit with her and her Mom who lives in an assisted living facility. Karen is gaga over Grace, and her Mom loves dogs as well, so of course Grace was invited.

I think Grace is gaga for Karen as well!

A couple of years ago I took Grace to a therapy dog class in hopes that we could visit nursing homes and such spreading Grace-style cheer. It’s something I feel Grace would do well, and something I would enjoy. Maybe because I surprised my parents late in life and they were older than the typical Mom and Dad–it’s hard to say–but I definitely have a soft spot for the older folks.

The problem was, Grace and I didn’t do well in the class. Grace was easily distracted and began to lose her manners as the weeks went by, so I pulled her from the program.

Fast forward to our invitation this weekend, where Grace was the life of the party at the senior living facility. I was so proud of my girl and Mom would have been, too. We spent time with Karen’s Mom in her private quarters, where Grace gently took treats, snuggled, and gave kisses. Karen’s Mom was delighted.


Being the perfect pup for Miss Dolly

We joined other residents and their families for a Mother’s Day Tea in one of the common areas. The place was packed like a Friday night happy hour and with the noise level to match. In all the chaos, Grace didn’t miss a beat. She sat when I asked her to, she let people awe over her and pet her, she had her picture made with several folks, ignored another pooch who walked through the room, and sat nicely while a little fellow of about three timidly pet her and ran off squealing.

Giving the facility director some puppy love

The staff gushed over her, sat with her, loved on her. This is exactly how I imagined she would behave in this environment. Grace was made for making people smile, for bringing them comfort, and it brought me as much joy as it did the residents.

Grace loved everyone she met

To bring this back to Mom, and the ache in my heart that she is gone, that I did not get to be with her today and watch her face light up at the sight of my smiling dog–my first Mother’s Day without Mom was made less painful knowing that a few other Moms enjoyed the company of a sweet, little red shelter dog who loves as big as the world.

I am blown away by the people in my life who made sure I was not grieving alone this weekend. Whether you reached out to me in person, or simply held me in your thoughts, thank you.

To Mom: I miss you more than words can say, but I take comfort in believing that you’re smiling. Smiling because your grand-dog and I did some good in the world today. Happy Mother’s Day in heaven, Mom.


A Conversation With Dad

Preface: I wrote this several months ago, and because it includes feelings about my Dad, I left it in draft form so I could reflect on it more before I posted it. I forgot that I opened with my admiration of Maya Angelou. At the time this was written she was living, and I am leaving the opening paragraph as I originally wrote it.

If I were given the honor, the privilege, of having conversation over tea with anyone, it would be beyond difficult to choose. I would, however, likely be enjoying tiny cucumber sandwiches this very moment with Dr. Maya Angelou as we discuss (more like, as I listen to) how to solve the world’s problems. She would be my choice for all the obvious reasons: she is a strong and wise woman; she has experienced more than most of us ever will; she is a humanitarian; and she is an incredibly gifted writer and story teller. Tea with Ms. Angelou would be intriguing and splendid, and it would not only make my day, it would make my life.

Still one of my favorite books.

In real life, I had the pleasure of taking my niece, Jakie, to tea when she was a little girl. Complete with fancy hats and boas, we sipped and ate and chit-chatted. It was a joy to see how much she loved it, and I’ll always treasure that memory of her feeling special in that moment. It’s those little snippets of closeness with loved ones that remind me how blessed I am. So I’ll stick with my cherished friends and family for tea and parties and life in general.

But when I get to thinking about who I’d most like to have a conversation with, it’s my Dad. Not only because I miss him terribly (he passed away 15 years ago), but because I never took the opportunity to truly talk with him. We were very close, but we were also two similarly introverted people. Mom says she always knew where to find me – where Dad was. We wouldn’t necessarily be interacting, but we simply would be in the same room. Dad would be reading the paper and I would be next to him doing my homework. Dad would be changing the oil in his old, green Biscayne, and I would be a few feet away shining the bumper on my Impala with steel wool just as he taught me. No words spoken, just nearness.

Dad loved tinkering with the vehicles.

I am so thankful for and treasure the time I had with Dad. We weren’t always reserved; we had some great laughs – usually at each other’s expense. The time he snapped a picture of his own eyeball instead of me and my friend Janie (yes, the flash was on). He would drive me around to take pictures of the fall colors, tadpole catching for biology class, and he taught me to shoot a .22 rifle.

Dad served in World War II, and I regret that we didn’t talk much about that. He was reluctant to discuss it, but I can’t shake the feeling that if I had continued to talk with him he would have eventually shared more. I never asked him about his family – his parents, his brothers and sisters. I met my Aunts and Uncles but only a handful of times. I may have seen my Uncle Frank once in my life. My Grandparents passed when I was a baby, and I’m sure Dad would have loved to tell me about them…had I asked.

Dad, center, and his brothers (Uncle Ivan and Uncle Frank).

There is no going back and changing the past, and again, I am thankful for every moment I was given with my Dad. I try to not make the same mistake with Mom and, as a result, we have some pretty interesting and heated conversations, and we have fun. She and Dad were opposites. For all of Dad’s stability and predictability, Mom was (and still is) a fiercely independent wild card. But I listen when she talks about her childhood, and although we don’t agree on contemporary issues, I certainly know her opinion. She is a pistol. All 4’11” of her. As much as I regret not knowing these things about my father, I am blessed to know them about my mother.

Mom and I at Hilton Head Island, SC.

The irony, the beauty, is that I was a Daddy’s girl, yet through the years I have become equally as close with my Mom. Dad would like that. I learned so much from my father, and what he continues to teach me since his passing is that each moment is a gift. Take the time to talk, to be interested, to be present. What Mom teaches me is that each moment is unique and unpredictable; each moment is worthy of being memorable. Here’s to cherished memories, and to always making more.


Most Embarrassing Travel Moment

My guess is most of us have had one of these. Even the most seasoned traveler can’t control the universe and sometimes things just happen. I had an embarrassing moment on my way back from Wisconsin a week ago, and I’ll get to that, but it triggered a memory of traveling with my family nearly 40 years ago.

Just about the whole pack of us headed to Florida for a Disney vacation. Mom, me, three of my adult sisters, brothers-in-law, and several of their children. It may have been the first time any of us had flown, and we loaded that TWA jetliner with as many suitcases as FingerHut would sell us. I say this in the most endearing sense as I loved watching the Beverly Hillbillies when I was a kid, but we were the Clampetts of the sky, I’m sure.

Sister Judy in front, Mom behind her with me or one of my nephews, next row
is sister Debby, and the final row is a nephew and a brother-in-law (doing the wave?).
And that was only half of us on the family vacay. Circa mid-1970s.

We had armloads of luggage without wheels, each piece weighing more than each of us. As we were plucking them from the conveyor belt at baggage claim, Mom’s smallest suitcase, the one with her unmentionables, popped open. Yep, her delicates were strewn about, exposed for all the world to see. If that weren’t bad enough for this very modest Midwest, stand-offish brood, a complete stranger popped his head in amongst all the commotion and said “Oooh, I like that!” You can imagine our horror. We were mortified, but we had a grand vacation and still reminisce about that trip today.

My incident last week: I was at O’Hare, people watching of course and charging my phone. Earbuds in, iPad streaming because my phone is junk (if anyone offers you a Samsung Charge, just run…run as fast as you can and don’t look back). The phone was charged and it was time to move on and free up the outlet. I pulled the jack out of my iPad before shutting the music down – I know, rookie mistake – and BLASTED, I mean BLASTED the chorus line “It’s raining men! Hallelujah!” for all of United Terminal C to hear. There was a giggle from nearby, and I packed up so quickly and bolted to the nearest Hudson News that I nearly tripped myself.

As it was nearly four decades ago, I was again the people who people watch.


One Week in Wisconsin

Although I’ve been in North Carolina for nearly 15 years, my roots are Midwest. I did most of my growing up in Wisconsin (I’m a bona fide cheesehead), and most of my family is there, in Illinois and Minnesota. Last week I headed to America’s Dairyland to visit with Mom.

You wouldn’t think getting from here to there could be such a production, but Mom lives 2 hours from the nearest airport and there are no direct flights, with connections being 40 minutes (too risky) or nearly 3 hours. It makes for a long travel day, but a nice plate of sushi helped me pass the time. Thank goodness major airports have turned into shopping malls with terminals. Kayak told me I could actually get to Alaska in the same amount of time it takes to get to Mom in Wisconsin. How crazy is that? And yes, on April 29, it was snowing when I arrived.

But it’s all worth it to see her. Just look at this cuteness!

Looking good at 85!

Mom and I have always lived near one another with the exception of the past 5 or 6 years. It’s been tough for both of us. Sometimes we cry when I arrive or when I leave, and this time we cried when I called to say I had arrived safely at the airport on my way home.

It’s been quite an adjustment now that we’re 1,200 miles apart, but since we have so little time together these days, I try to make the most of what we have. And no matter the distance, we’re always with each other in our hearts.

During this visit, we took a day trip to see one of Mom’s closest friends. Mom and Clara have known each other since they were young girls, but hadn’t seen each other for at least 25 years. It was so sweet to see them together, chatting and laughing like they hadn’t missed a day.

Mom and Clara

We met Clara’s daughter and grandson who were about the nicest people I’ve ever met, and were treated to an incredible home cooked meal. Another evening we drove a full two blocks (it was raining) to see Mom’s sister who had a meal waiting for us too. You can’t drive across the street back home without a whole mess of food being put on the table. I’m all right with that. I cooked dinner for Mom one night complete with sparkling wine – we did it up nice!

I got to catch up with some dear friends of my own, my sisters, and my brother-in-law even took me out for a Friday night fish fry. One thing I miss is a good fish fry. I didn’t realize until I moved south that the Friday fish fry wasn’t a staple everywhere. It’s a Midwest and Northeast thing because of the large Catholic demographic in those regions (no meat on Fridays). The other thing I miss is a nice big bag of cheese curds. These too are found predominantly in the Midwest, Northeast, and Quebec. My opinion: everyone ought to add a bag of fresh, warm, squeaky curds to their bucket list. Seriously.

I had breakfast with friends at the Pal Cafe.
My Grandmother worked here circa 1930s/1940s.
With Sister Jude at the local lanes for a fish fry
Deep fried cheese curds. They make life better 🙂
Fresh cheese curds. Salty, squeaky, and not found in NC.

It was wonderful to see Mom and spend precious time with her. Going home always throws me into self-reflection mode and this time was no different. Life is fragile and fleeting and I wish it hadn’t taken me so many years to realize that. But it’s not productive to dwell on the past, so I’ll cherish the present and embrace what the future holds.


Improvised and Inexpensive Closet Organization – Mom’s Place

Yep, another closet. Everywhere I turn, there they are. Even at Mom’s. Back in October I took a little trip to visit Mom in Wisconsin. It was too cold to enjoy the outdoors (26 degrees for my a.m. run), and Mom goes to bed early, so I was itching to find a project. My shopping options were limited since she lives in a small town. There was a dollar store, a Shopko, and down the road a hardware store. I made use of all three for this little fix-up.

Mom and her dog, Beamer – they are a cute pair.
26 degrees, but the sunrise was beautiful!

I hadn’t planned on doing a before and after while on vacation and had only my cell to take pictures. And the lighting was not so good.  But you’ll get the idea.

Anywho, I spied a really messy closet (I lit up like a kid on Christmas morning!). Actually, two closets that are kind of one. It’s an odd set-up. I deemed the right side a broom closet and the left side a storage closet. Mom was hanging her coats on nails in the broom closet, stacked her cookbooks on the shelf above, and had a ridiculous number of plastic bags tossed in with a lot of other stuff.

The storage side was even worse. It’s a good-sized closet given the size of her apartment, but there was a lot of wasted space. There are two shelves along the back wall, and the rest of the space is open floor. Not even a place to hang coats.

The split closet was a mess. Mom needed help!
Coats on nails and cookbooks piled above.

So the first thing I did was install a tension rod supported by end brackets. Back up, the first thing I did was ask Mom if I could organize her closet. Then I installed the tension rod. Finally she had somewhere to hang her coats – and all of them, not just a couple. Above that, I attached a wall-mounted coat rack (similar to this one) for her purses. I did some good old cleaning out and organizing (like putting the cushion for the sofa bed on the sofa bed) and things were looking better.

Coat rack and place to hang purses!

I bought some white plastic bins from the dollar store to wrangle the smaller, everyday items Mom was always searching for and made labels from a paper grocery bag and string.

Dollar store bins handle small items.

I pulled everything out of the broom closet, and without the coats hanging on nails, there was room for – of all things – the mop and broom. I straightened up the cookbooks by putting the loose recipes in a bin and setting the books upright.

Finished product – not perfect, but much better!


A little funny, but not surprising, that I was organizing while on vacation. Even when I’m shopping I’ll tidy up products on the shelves. I can’t help myself. But, when it was all said and done, Mom loved it. She still uses the bins and is so happy to have a coat rack. I was kept busy and Mom is happy (and a wee bit more organized). That, folks, is called a win-win!


Remembering My Sister Lost to Dementia

This is a difficult post, a sad post. My sister, Vickie, has passed away. She fought a long and hard battle (this is such an understatement it shames me to write it) with dementia and left us on Saturday at just 61 years old. This post could go in many directions, from information and awareness about Lewy body dementia to the why of it all, but for the purpose of honoring my sister and for my own healing, I’d like to share with you just a few of my memories.

I remember Vickie rubbing my back and comforting me when my feelings were hurt from my first spanking.
I remember her bringing me a new doll when I was sick.
I remember my sister’s smile that was as big as the world.
I remember a woman who fought and overcame so many challenges in her life – she truly was the queen of perseverence and starting over.
I remember her loving her son almost to the point of ridiculousness (I know it’s not possible to love a child too much, but she tried).  At 13 he still was not allowed hard candy.  Honest to goodness; I could not make this up.
I remember Vickie adoring her granddaughters.  They were her world.
I remember a sister, a daughter, a wife, a mother, and a grandmother who valued relationships with the ones she loved and who took joy in building them.
I remember Vickie being fierce in the face of adversity.
I remember her giggle.
I remember being proud of my sister.
I remember the final days of her war with the disease, the one she did not win, the one she at last embraced and that took her from this world.

Vickie, you are so much more than I can ever convey. What you will never be is forgotten.

All the love in the world to you Sis,

Vickie Gropp-Kerley
1950 – 2012