Monday, December 30, 2013

Wishing You a 2014 Filled with Hope!

I finished sewing my last item for 2013 on the 23rd of December in the nick of time for Christmas and went to bed for a long winter's nap. This was the start of my "let down" and "rest up" which has continued through today, interrupted only by Christmas celebration activities.

My oldest daughter loves to cook and bake and wanted full reign in the kitchen, and my arm didn't have to be twisted much.  This freed me to rest, relax and read Ann Voskamp's most recent book, The Greatest Gift.  It is a beautiful book that "unwraps" the true meaning of Christmas.  It is warm and loving and made me better appreciate our many blessings this Christmas season.

With our family gathered, Christmas seemed to push away all of the harsh realities that we had been dealing with since my husband's lay-off from his more than twenty-two years employment at The Orvis Company. This loss was coupled with another no less significant to me: the sudden loss of my lyme-literate doctor right in the middle of an extensive and radical treatment. My course was complicated and switching doctors in the middle of it was no small feat.

We "started over" by replacing our health insurance as best as we could afford and then did an extensive search for a special doctor to take me to the end of my treatment.  My husband's journey in replacing his job was not so short term.  He has had to learn what I had learned when my health prevented me from working as a nurse years ago: that we are more than the sum of our roles in life.  Though jobs provide identity, self-esteem and structure life, without them, life goes on, and self-esteem need not be related to one's earning capacity.

He is learning that his worth is huge to our family, unlike his worth to the large company that laid him off only a couple years after honoring him as one of their best employees. This sort of betrayal has been devastating and recovering from it, not without dangers! Being so close to retirement without a job makes him and others in this situation very vulnerable for victimization by employers  who scam honest and hard-working people in need of work, by promising viable salaries when it is never their intention to make good on their promises.

Christmas came in the nick of time, giving my husband respite from such an employer, and also by reminding him and us too that we are surrounded by Christ's love, along with the love of  family which is enough to renew hope and clarity of vision. He wisely used a bit of his unpaid time off during this holiday week to further pursue other job leads, and may well have found another. We are guardedly optimistic.

On Christmas Eve, I couldn't help but hear the familiar words to "I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day" in a new and more meaningful way. This carol was originally based on Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's poem written in 1863.  He wrote of being discouraged by the war surrounding him and, it is reported that in dispair, he bowed his head and wrote:"There is no peace on earth," I said; "For hate is strong And mocks the song Of peace on earth, good-will to men!" Then pealed the bells more loud and deep: "God is not dead, nor doth He sleep:  The wrong shall fail, The Right Prevail, With peace on earth, good-will to men." It is still resounding in my heart and with it renewed strength, courage, and hope for 2014!

We at Little House wish you all a very Happy New Year, filled with hope in new possibilities for whatever circumstances you may be facing in 2014!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Merry Christmas!

Christmas is here at last and our celebration begins with going to Christmas Eve Mass as a family. Usually a simple supper follows, though this year our daughter who loves to cook fixed some fun hors d'oeuvres. The rest of our Christmas eve is usually filled with last minute wrapping of packages, picking up messes, or last minute food preparation for Christmas breakfast and dinner, visiting and perhaps a TV program before settling in for a long winter's nap. Family gathering and relaxing  is central to the event.

Santa comes while we sleep.  No more middle of the night assembling of toys with directions written in foreign languages we can't decipher or a last minute scramble to find a screw or nut that was missing from a kit. Our eldest has taken over the filling of stockings, though we all contribute small, practical or silly items to fill them. I used to count them all to be sure all were evenly filled. Now if anyone's stocking isn't full enough, a can can be pulled from the pantry.  This is motivation to all to be sure that enough stocking stuffers are gotten so that no one ends up with a can of baked beans in their stocking, which for some of us would be akin to "coal".

Our morning is lazy and all assemble around the Christmas tree in PJs and robes to open packages, and we break for coffee and breakfast, as needed. Our traditional Christmas breakfast is sausage biscuits, orange juice, tea and coffee or hot chocolate, though this year I think we may be having pancakes and bacon. We continue to meander through our day: visiting, cooking Christmas dinner, and enjoying our gifts and each other.  Sometimes friends stop in and sometimes we pull out a jigsaw puzzle or game.

I always ask for books and sampling a bit of each is a delight. Nothing is nicer than going back to bed with a good book in the afternoon and napping as the smells of turkey or ham warm the house. Some prefer to gather around the TV with a movie. Differences are permitted for happiness is whatever one prefers.

Christmas is the finale of every year, and we are finding that no matter our circumstances, just as morning follows night, so Christmas comes to finish off the year, no matter how challenging. Ornaments from generations decorate our tree, the family manger made by my husband as a boy and the creche figurines purchased at the Five and Ten Store with his mother along with the tiny old cardboard village houses, figures and bottle brush trees now tops the old upright piano that has been with me since childhood.  But most importantly, Christmas comes with family gathered to love and share this season together.

Nothing is perfect.  Our family, like others is a group that is unmatched.  There are tensions, and conflicts and often over little things that seem inconsequential in the big scheme of things. Love of family prevails and with it our faith in a loving and giving God that continues to bless us in all circumstances!

May God's peace be with you all this Christmas and holiday season!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

The Cobbler's Children

You know what they say about the cobbler's children wearing no shoes?  I have at last filled my orders and posted them and it is now time to attend to our own Christmas.  We will be working at posting more wares here soon and continue sewing, but I will take a pause to sew a bit for my own kids.  I foolishly offered to stitch for them as I have in years past.  It is a way of stretching dollars, as all sewers know and I reflect on the many projects that I had to finish while hiding out and sewing into the wee hours of the morning.  Why should life change now, just because I am older?

There was the colorful little clown rag doll I made for my first daughter for her first Christmas followed up by a life-sized teddy bear for my second daughter, made from a special stretchy fabric that I didn't realize I was over-stuffing until I poked a hole in his neck and then had to attach his head to his shoulders  with a banded neck. A scarf around his neck covered the error made the day before Christmas! Fortunately he was a rather odd looking bear to begin with. There were bed pockets  for my oldest daughter that turned out to be more work than I ever imagined and are still waiting to be used after she cleans her room (never?).

We have also done the parent scramble looking for the toys that were sold out months before, like the Big Bird that had a tape player in his back and moved its beak as the story tapes played. We found the last one in Denver that year! My second daughter was about the same size and was mesmerized by this life-like toy that sat and told her stories.

Perhaps with age these memories take on more significance, like my favorite Christmas with the trunk full of doll clothes that were so richly detailed and made by hand by my own mother.  I don't remember that these home-made gifts were favorites with my children at the time?  Yet, they didn't pass up the opportunity to have me make something for them this year. With only days to go and nothing started for our own Christmas, the race is on. I am realizing that once again, I am without what else is new.  Take what I have and change it to make what they want.  It is an old trick.They are older and wiser now, and have grown more particular. Can I pull this off?  The worst case is that they may never ask me for another home-made gift again, and with that thought I am positive that this will be a win-win situation regardless how their gifts turn out, I am set to sew!

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Tis the Season continued...

Who would have thought that a funeral could bring such warmth and love.  It was the nicest one I had ever been to.  Perhaps I have been sequestered too long and yet winter is just starting here in Vermont, where snow keeps many locked in and "cabin fever" is a very real phenomena.  It was a big town event, and there wasn't a dry eye. Everyone showed up to pay their respects and to comfort the family hit so hard by this untimely death.

The minister was a great uncle of the young man now gone from our midst and he didn't miss anything in his eulogy. He talked openly about all the issues that plagued this young man.  How wise he was for the same issues plague many of his friends, no doubt and they were there in great number!  There was no shame or blame, but only compassion and open expression of the tragic loss of potential and talent with the loss of this dear young man. It was clear that this boy had touched so many in his few years.  I was struck that it was his humanness that spoke louder than any perfection could have.

The pastor encouraged any who wished to get up and speak about how he touched their life and many did. They spoke about him being silly and fun, though sadly he couldn't share his needs as well as he could address the needs of others.  I was glad that my chair was right next to a table with a box of tissues and I sat there pulling them them out and passing them as well as attending my own tears and nose. It wasn't just loss but life in this big gathering, with standing room only. It was community, heart and soul, all gathered here.

I was reminded that we all need encouragement to carry on in the midst of losses. The minister was there to comfort and remind us that God is all loving, forgiving and accepting and is sufficient for our needs and healing as we carry on with the life missions that each of us have.

It was not just a funeral message, but an an advent message as well. How easy it is to get bogged down with the holiday season, overwhelming us beyond what is already sometimes overwhelming in the day to day of our ordinary lives. We need to be reminded how precious life is, and to take time to appreciate its gift. We need to reach out and pray and give to those around us. It is love that not only makes our pains and losses bearable but enriches our lives. It is this love that is the real Christmas message that brings hope, peace and joy to our lives.

Again may you rest in peace JP.  Your life was a gift to so many!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Tis the Season...

It was a sobering day today.  I was awakened by someone at the door.  I often ignore such intrusions on my sleep, but thought perhaps it was the postman delivering a package and so I got up, threw on my fleece vest and ran for the door.  There was my youngest daughter’s best friend.

I was eager to see her. She has been on my prayer list as she is separating from her husband and there is a custody battle going on over her child.  It has been anything but easy for her, for though there was no proof of neglect or abuse, her mother-in-law took the child to care for him and then never gave him back. She alleged her an unfit mother, and my daughter’s friend had the choice of their child going to state custody or letting the mother-in-law keep their young child until this issue was resolved. She made the difficult choice that only a good mother could make.  She chose to have her child stay with his grandmother rather than to go to a stranger.

That is not why she was at the door today however.  She came to inform us of what would be any parent’s worst nightmare come true. Her brother had committed suicide and she had come to tell us.  I immediately woke my youngest daughter who had come to stay with us as she does each week, to work a couple of days in our area and then returns to her apartment about one and a half hours away.  I was glad that she was here to see her friend.

We could not believe the horribleness of it all!  I used to be a psych nurse and manned a suicide prevention line years ago and know the subject well.  He was mentally ill and took the “permanent solution” to solve his “temporary problem”.  Clearly he was not thinking straight, and was suffering and did the unthinkable.There are always signs before such an event, but often go unnoticed by even the most trained of eyes.  It happened with a close friend of mine when I was a young woman, though I knew what to look for. Hindsight is 20/20, but life is not lived with hindsight.

We hugged her and cried with her and offered our sympathy and support.  I hurt for her and her parents. His life had been fraught with difficulties, but no one ever thought that this would be a choice he would make.  I assured her that no parent, friend or sibling can prevent this from happening and no one is to blame.  It was his bad choice, and sadly nothing can be done about it now. Much grief will ensue, especially after the shock starts to wear off. She did not stay long as she needed to return home and start making the endless phone calls to friends and relatives to let them know.  She had another friend who was to be by her side throughout the days ahead, thank God.
We thought about her all day long.  It is the holiday season, but for a person who is depressed, lonely or mentally ill, that can be a season that is anything but joyous.  We painfully considered that this beautiful season will be scarred by the anniversary of his death every year for this family and we ached for the hearts that were broken by this tragic event. If only he knew just how devastating this is for all those that love him, especially his family, I am sure that he would never have chosen to inflict this pain on them.

In tribute to the loss of this young man, I thought I would share his story. It is one that speaks loudly to all of us. This is the sort of event that dwarfs all other problems and puts everything in perspective. The everyday crises and upsets are so inconsequential!

It is a reminder to us just how precious each day is and made us appreciate what we, too often, take for granted! Though this young man chose to end his mental pain permanently,  none of us ever knows what events may befall us in the future and treasuring the present is really the most that we can do.  This is the season of love. Let us not forget to reach out to those around us to make everyone feel cared for and loved this Christmas and holiday season.

May you rest in peace JP! You will be sadly missed!


As it gets closer to Christmas, I can't live without my do-lists.  I am hopelessly behind.  My annual Christmas letter is in draft form only. Did I buy cards last year on sale? I cannot remember, and have only a clue in which heap to look to see if I did.  I am sewing orders, and then more fleece socks for the last sale at the Holiday Inn in Rutland, Vermont on the 16th.  The Christmas tree is up in the living room and to be decorated tomorrow, in the nick of time for The Brycer to come and do his monthly dusting, vacuuming and scrubbing. I am still shuffing baskets and bins to the basement to get stuff out of his way, leaving only my current projects in my upstairs dining room studio.

I prepare for the pile up on the dining room table to clear the floor for him to vacuum and I begin the tedious task of unburying my desk, dresser tops, and counter tops and work to put everything where it belongs.  It looks like we had a wild party of scavengers come through the house, turning everything upside down!  I can hear my mother say, "This isn't the way you were raised!"  My mother would be appalled, or would she? She knew me better than anyone and tore her hair out like I do with my own kids!  Some training just doesn't "take", though she did manage to train us kids make our beds every day and hang up our clothes when we took them off and put our toys away? I have since learned from my children that that is what chairs and floors are for and save time and leave my bed covers turned back for a quick return day or night!

As a young adult, I used to prepare for Christmas before I returned to my job as an educational consultant every fall.  My Christmas cards would be signed and addressed, and packages would be wrapped, hidden in black plastic bags and stuffed into closets, and my children were programmed to want what was on sale and affordable (though in truth, that only lasted for a year or two, before they smartened up, and marched off to tell Santa a couple weeks before Christmas what NOT to bring in addition to what to bring).  Nothing is perfect but at least Christmas Vacation was ALMOST always a vacation, as packages would be mailed on time along with my Christmas letter, and I would "settle in for a long winter's nap"...

I was in such control that I even initiated more traditions, not knowing how hard they would be to keep in the years ahead.  Yes, we had a special Advent Elf, that brought a package to each child each day during Advent. At the time, I started this I only had one child and it grew exponentially with our second!  We soon found The Advent Elf forgetful, and so another tradition was established: he took to hiding his packages and so the kids would hunt for them in the morning as we scrambled to get them out!  What was I thinking?

Whatever happened to the Laura-Ingalls-Wilder-sorts-of-Christmases where a stick of peppermint candy and a pair of pretty red mittens would satiate our wanton children's appetites for surprise gifts. Surprises we learned weren't fun if they were the wrong color, and too practical! Fortunately, we did invest in a few Christmas music boxes, and lovely creches and ornaments and so little by little it has become less about the packages and more about the decorating and celebrating. A few years ago, I informed our now adult children that The Advent Elf had died, unless they wanted to keep it going by bringing their worn out parents little gifts each day! It is interesting that that idea has never caught on, though it does seem that our oldest child has taken on the role of Santa, and works to see that our stockings are full.  I had taken to filling them with items from our pantry and I am sure that she still lives in fear of getting a can of baked beans in hers! She likes molasses but in beans it is not a treat!

It is the Advent Season, and we prepare for our traditional family gathering with Christmas Eve Mass, a Christmas breakfast and opening of packages in the morning and a Christmas dinner in the late afternoon. We have also taken to doing a jigsaw puzzle or some other family activity while we are still gathered.

We bustle about to prepare. I foolishly suggested that I make a handmade gift for each my daughters and though I tried to eat my words as soon as they fell out of my mouth, this is another tradition that they love. They remember dolls, teddy bears, aprons, and whatever else I could make to stretch our dollars. It is reminisce of my most favorite Christmas as a child when my mother made me a trunk full of doll clothes, complete with tiny pockets capable of holding a kernel of popcorn. Traditions are traditions and don't change!

I even look forward to the little irritations and clashes of personalities that inevitably arise during our decorating: I want to get it done and over with and to sip a cup of hot cocoa in front of the beautiful tree. An "unnamed other" hangs similar ornaments all in a row and another is too fast to be careful enough for "The Ornament Nazi" who needs to see it perfectly done, down to the last red bow on the tree. I smile and am glad to have turned that task over to another who has been well-trained by me.  Some tasks are best delegated to be sure!

Well, back to my do-lists.  There is still much to be done! I do look forward to ending this overly-challenging year by preparing to celebrate again the most wonderful gift of the season: the spirit of Christmas renewing our hearts with God's love made manifest right here in our own family. We are delighted that our grown kids remain young at heart and  wouldn't miss our traditional Christmas!

P.S. Perhaps it was not such a good idea to read my blog to my husband and oldest child right before the tree decorating event. There was a huge "blow up" and so I rescind my "looking forward to the little irritations and clashes of personalities that inevitably arise during our decorating".  We did survive another year and I am thinking of creating new traditions.  Perhaps at least two trees in two different rooms for our decorating party next year to avoid the clashes of personalities that seem to grow bigger every year!?? Or perhaps we start with sipping a cup of hot cocoa laced with a bit of Vandermint liquor to remind everyone to "lighten up" on creating the perfect tree.  It is up and decorated now and I am enjoying a cup of cocoa now!!

Thursday, December 5, 2013

The Winner of The Tomato Pincushion is....

Pamela A has won the drawing for the extra large tomato pincushion! If you didn't win this time, please know that our Common Thread Give-Away is held every month and so stay connected and we will be informing you weeks from now as to who the next Give-Away Artist will be.  We appreciate your interest in our work and want to show our appreciation to you by having give-a-ways each month! Congratulations to Pam!

Thank you all for leaving your comments and stories. I enjoyed hearing about your early sewing days and had to smile at the one about getting her grandmother to do her stitching for her.  I am certain that my mother felt the same way about trying to teach me to knit...picking up my dropped stitches wasn't so very fun!

Please know that in the middle of our drawing we experienced some technical difficulties and didn't want to work on our website until the drawing was over, so we posted my email  address for you to send your comments. We hope that everyone got a chance that wanted one. We will work on our site to assure that this doesn't occur again! Thank you for your participation and feedback that you left us! I would love to give you all a pincushion if I could.  I hope you will visit my ETSY shop and come back and visit my website again!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Thank You!

Hannah here, hijacking the blog for a moment. I just wanted to thank everyone who stopped in at the Poultney High School show over the weekend!  It is always a treat to visit with customers past and present!

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Free Give-Away Pincushion--A Perfect Gift

I am December's Common Thread Give-Away Artist.  I will be giving away one of my over-sized red wool tomato pincushions. It is likely no mistake that I came to be a creator of pincushions, though I hadn't realized how this happened until I sat down to write about the pincushions I have received as gifts. This writing made me realize how near and dear these pincushion gifts were, along with the friendships that they represent. These relationships literally transformed my life.

When I was young, I had an inexpensive pincushion from the dime store.  Didn't we all...the small red tomato sorts with the little strawberry emery attached to sharpen our needles. It was added to my personal sewing notions that I needed in order to take the required basic Home Economics Sewing Class 101. This was the class where everyone had to make a gathered skirt with a zipper on the side, a waist band at the top and a hand-stitched hem on the bottom. Though we all had at least one of these skirts, it was never my favorite and I avoided wearing it until it was the only item left  in my closet clean to wear. I can still see the material and even have a piece of it in my crazy quilt.  My mother made a cummerbund to wear with it, likely knowing that I needed an incentive to wear it.  I laugh to think of the style.  It was a good thing that I was a bit too young to have hips, as this would have been a skirt to turn them into holster hips to be sure!

I was fortunate that my next project got to be whatever I wanted to make.  I just had to go with my mom and purchase a pattern and material of my choice.  I still have the pattern and the material was a red pillow ticking material. A picture is worth a thousand words and will date me. It is hard to believe that girls didn't wear pants to school and on cold days we wore jeans under our dresses? I hope you are laughing now to be sure...but it is all true!!

I loved my Home Economic's teacher.  Her name was Mrs. New.  I even called her "Mom" on many occasions,  a Freudian slip of the tongue. She was my "mom" at school.  Soon I was getting out of study hall to get extra sewing time in her class.  She talked of love and home values and was the comfort zone that I needed at school.  Her favorite saying was, "This above all to thine own self be true and it must follow as the night the day, though then can'st be false to any man" (Wm Shakespeare). She was sewing my character as I sewed the seams of my red pillow ticking dress. Though to be sure, I did a lot of seam ripping in those days to correct the errors of my ways...and I am still doing lots of "virtual seam ripping" to correct my character flaws today!

But back to the subject of pincushions.... I have been gifted eight pincushions in my life, including my first tomato pincushion.  I didn't value the first one, as it was replaced with personal ones made specially for me. I am a soft touch for hand made gifts that required patience and love to create.

This is the precious pincushion that Bertha made for me.
The portrait that Bertha drew of me along with her special note.

Above, living quarters for a migrant family.  Below, Bertha.
Bertha, and her siblings.
My second pincushion was made and given to me by a young migrant girl, Bertha Hernandez. I even saved the letter and her hand drawn picture of me.  I loved this young girl, her brother and her family, along with other migrant  babies we had in our migrant nursery the summer break of my third year at college. My job was to set up and run a day nursery for migrant children in southern Colorado. Bertha and her friend would come into our nursery class at the end of the day and join us as we rocked the babies and sang to them while we waited, for the school bus to come to take them to their temporary homes. We had them bathed and fed and snuggled, and perhaps Bertha felt like I felt in Mrs. New's sewing class. My classroom nursery was a home away from home for her, the migrant babies and me.

A very special personal pincushion from Suzanne Clark.

Just a tiny gift from a friend. Stuffed with pine needles and smells of pine.

This beauty was made for me by Pam and Dennis Conrad.

Twin appliqued basket pincushions by Pam Conrad for my mom and me.
Later, special pincushions were made by my best friend, Pam Clark (now Conrad) and her sister, Suzanne. Both were very creative and each pincushion was different and special in their own ways.  I have always had room to keep them! I cannot look or use them but what I think of all the good times that we shared together during and after college. I hadn't a clue then that they would be the heart and inspiration behind my Little House Home Arts business and that I would become known locally as The Pincushion Lady.

Gift for myself from a quilt show.  The bag for threads is invaluable!
My latest pincushions were gifts to myself. It is important that you gift yourself just as you gift others. My scrap bag pincushion is one of my favorites and sits by my chair as I sew, catching all my little bits of threads. And my last pincushion is one that I made and loved so much that I had to keep it.It was designed after a hat-pin pincushion I found in an antique store. It has soda cans it it to form a foundation. I love crazy quilting and the hours put into this made it such that it would have been like selling my soul to have sold it afterwards.

A very special crazy quilt hat-pin pincushion made by me.  I couldn't sell it.

Each pincushion I make is made with the love that was sewn into those that were made for me.  It is funny how our lives are shaped and it isn't until we look back and see the patterns that we come to understand just how transforming and important these little personal gifts of love are to us.

Pincushions now represent to me the love of home, family and friends. Stitched with love, they represent the way our friendships are made....with bits of time carefully sewn to create a bond of friendship that gives and receives, helping  us to grow into the people we are to become, with character, and love that overflows to pass on to others.

To win my special wool tomato pincushion, simply leave a comment, Monday, December 2nd, through Wednesday, December 4th.  A drawing will be held and the winner announced on Thursday.  If you don't win this pincushion, please know that there are many for sale in my Etsy Shop. If you prefer something other than a pincushion, you will find many other sweet gifts to share with your friends and family!
EDIT: If anyone is struggling to post a comment, please feel free to email me at with your comment to be entered.  To anyone who has commented but whose comment isn't showing up, It has been emailed to me but isn't appearing on my page - you TOO are entered!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Willing Thankfulness

It find it ironic that this is Thanksgiving week.  We will have a simple family turkey dinner and also celebrate my youngest daughter's birthday.  We are up to our ears preparing for The Vermont Farmer's Market Christmas Fair at Poultney High School  in Poultney, Vermont on Friday and Saturday (10:00 a.m-4:00 p.m.), to be followed by The Common Thread Give-Away on Cyber Monday, Dec 4th. I am to be the featured artist and will be giving away one of my special pincushions and we are posting almost all of my wares in my Little House Home Arts Etsy Shop for the occasion.

I recently complained to my doctor that I don't multi-task well, and she laughed and told me that at my age I need to give up on that goal. Being realistic about my limits, however, continues to be a weakness of mine, and so I find myself full-speed ahead and going in all directions, with certain chaos ensuing. My doctor is right.  Clearly, my ability to organize more than a one ring circus is past!

Thanksgiving week also brings another tradition.  It is the time to "squeeze in" (pun intended) my needed mammogram.  It doesn't require long-range planning that way and still gets the job done before the new year begins with new insurance deductibles.  So while everyone is making their Thanksgiving pies and rolling out their pie dough, my breasts will go through a similar process! My daughter recently found me a card commemorating a song I re-wrote for the aftermath of this procedure. "Do your boobs hang low, do they wobble to and fro, can you tie them in a knot, can you tie them in a bow?"...Clearly the card must have plagiarized what has now become my Thanksgiving season song.

Have you ever noticed that "it never rains but what it pours"? And so it is this Thanksgiving Season that the reality has hit that my husband's new job of many months has not yet brought the promised salary and it is time to face the facts that we can no longer stretch the pay that equals one-third of his previous salary to meet our needs. I have to smile and consider the holiday season and realize that "genuine thankfulness" will require an exercise of will.  There is no doubt that blessings abound, but clearly this season we may have to go looking for our blessings beneath the clutter, the chaos, the physical torture, and our needs appearing to out-weigh our fortunes. But isn't that where true blessing are often found?

Buried under it all, we have found many blessings: a Thanksgiving Day child now 26, our bellies soon to be full of turkey and trimmings to make us sleepy and relaxed  prior to a busy two day craft sale, and then a cyber sale. I am also thankful that my oldest daughter is doing most of the cooking, and is now "brave enough" (in her words) to pull the giblets out of the turkey herself! Our pantries are filled with our home-canned goods, our freezer is full as well and our Thanksgiving gathering will remind us that we have the love of each other! Could we want for more?

I wish all of my readers a truly wonderful Thanksgiving Day, filled with gratitude for your blessings, no matter the circumstances that may surround you! (And if you live in or around Vermont, do come and see us at Poultney High School on Friday and Saturday!)

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Part Seventeen: Living with Chronic Lyme Disease: a long and difficult journey

Part Seventeen: Encouragement to Never Give Up

I have completed five successive years of treatment on the Marshall Protocol and six months of other treatment prior to starting it. This does not include other treatments that have lasted days, weeks or months before.  The end will be determined by my body versus the number of years. I did suffer a minor stroke in the middle of this treatment, and was fortunate that my return of function was no less than remarkable.

I don’t count the days till the end of treatment Iike I used to. It is a way of life for me right now.  I take few prescription medications. Although I still suffer Herxheimer reactions, I am otherwise comfortable in treatment. These reactions, I am told, are signs that the MP is still finding bugs to kill and is considered good, no matter how inconvenient. I am learning to live with this paradoxical thought process.  It isn’t too different from other sorts of disciplines. Persistence in the day to day tasks is never easy, though the outcomes are desirable.

Life is good and getting better as my health improves. Will it make me well?  Who knows, nor do I know how long its effects will last. That is not what matters. It is the necessary investment in living my life as completely as I can. Of course no one knows the course of their life, and it is just as well that we don’t. I simply live it prayerfully day by day.  This has been a long and difficult journey, but there seem to be no losses without gains and no gains without losses, and I am ever so grateful for my life, no matter the hardships and struggles.

I sometimes worry about my girls and their future or even sometimes about my own and my husband’s.  His recent lay-off was another "bump in the road", but I am learning that in all issues we experience in life, there are opportunities for creative problem solving and all of us will, no doubt, get ample chances to courageously and creatively live our lives, taking one challenge at a time, one day at a time.

I hope that my journey will in some way encourage you or another to fight the fight, keep the faith, seek knowledge in whatever illness or problem you struggle with so as to better advocate for yourself and be a careful consumer of medical care or other forms of support or assistance.

There are no perfect doctors or nurses or counselors—trust me on that one! Though trust is important in a patient-doctor-therapist relationship.Trust yourself even more to know when to seek more information and dare to ask the hard questions.  Where is my illness going?  Am I overcoming the issues that I have and how can I change the direction of their course? What can I do to take better care of myself?  Is there something that my present doctor or treatment isn’t providing?  This isn’t about being critical, selfish or demanding. This is about maintaining what is most important to your life, your health and well-being.

For me living is about loving our families and friends and taking care of ourselves and our homes and creating bits of what is beautiful and comforting—a form of prayer and praising the God that has blessed us all. Do take care of yourselves, each and everyone.  We may well live a long time and where will you live, if you don’t have a healthy mind and body?

(This is the end of my seventeen blogs on Living with Chronic Lyme Disease.  Know that at any time I welcome any questions you may have.  You may post them in the comment section or email me privately at  I would be happy to answer them from the experience that I have lived.  I am not an expert on the care of others with Lyme Disease or Chronic Inflammatory Illness, though I have become an expert when it comes to my own care. None of my blogs are meant to be actual medical advice but rather meant only to empower others to face health issues as equal partners with their medical providers and/or counselors and never give up questioning and exploring what alternatives may be available for conquering the issues that you are facing.  Living life with chronic illness is a daily challenge and it is my prayer that no one give up on living their life to the fullest extent possible.)

(The illustration above is done by Hannah McMillen and the figure drawing by Sarah Kate McMillen.)

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Part Sixteen: Living with Chronic Lyme Disease: a long and difficult journey

Part Sixteen: Ten Lessons I Have Learned Along the Way 

1) I have learned that I remain valuable to God, myself and my family as a person, and not just as the functional role of mother or wife or work I perform. What I am able to do and what I am able to be throughout my life will continue to change (hopefully increase as well as decrease) and to accept this is critical to survive.

I believe all losses bring gains with them. Even helplessness has purpose, no matter how difficult it might be. In caring for my mother, I learned that her helplessness provided me with lessons as to how to love in a deeper and more real way. Perhaps my time to be helpless will do the same for another, though the timing of that will be God's decision and not mine if I can help it.

2) I realize that I am not ultimately in control of my life or death, but hopefully will have some control over how I accept it and deal with it and that will make a difference to others.  I have accepted pain and loss as part of life, and I believe that there is redemptive value in suffering . I thank my father, mother and brother, as well as Mother Teresa, Pope John Paul, and others whose example strengthens me!

3) None of us can pick our death process, but we can alter it somewhat by the care we choose, and I hope with as much as has been possible, to have changed the course of my illness and death. The MP has high risks, but I prefer taking the risks to arrest or change the course of my illness, rather than to give up and into what was inevitably the downward progression of my illness. I believe that maintaining a positive attitude and hope are everything when it comes to fighting illness. Ongoing learning as well as prayer does this for me.

4) I don’t assume what my family will or will not sacrifice for me and my care.  That decision of commitment is their’s to make and not mine. I am, however, grateful for the support of my family thus far in all that I have struggled with as well as sought to accomplish. I pray that my strength in facing whatever I need to face will be an example and source of strength to them in facing the illnesses and decisions in their lives. That might, in fact, be my greatest gift to them.

5) My girls, having acquired Congenital Chronic Lyme Disease from me, is a good reason for me to be a guinea pig for scientific research for the betterment of medical treatment for the next generation of Lyme patients or those with chronic inflammatory disease. I hope that my participation in, what I consider to be, the next leading edge of treatment of chronic inflammatory diseases will in fact make someone else’s journey easier than my own, most especially the journeys of my own daughters.

6) I have seen that chronic illness debilitates versus kills quickly.  It is my goal to maintain what function I can for as long as I can, for that, to me, is what it means to live and die with dignity. Giving into illness robs us of what function we might be able to preserve and it is important to me and to my family to preserve whatever functioning I can.  I often joke about still being able to feed myself and wipe my but. There are no tasks too small to take for granted!

7) I pray that I can preserve what brain function is left to me despite several brain lesions caused by my illness. I value others and being able to read, write and communicate with them means that I can practice what I value. Pursuing on-going treatment is a good investment in keeping this damage to a minimum.

8) To euthanize myself is not an option for me—I believe in living or dying according to what God has in store for me and I am hopeful and trusting that the cost of my care will remain reasonable and affordable. I am committed to working at this goal.  This means being a careful consumer of health care. Tests or treatments that aren't likely to maintain or improve my care or contribute to what will help my girls should be done only with careful consideration as to its gain.

9) I learned in caring for my mother, that long term end-of-life-care is so expensive, that it can deplete most people’s financial resources. On my worst days, I will choose to fight my illness to eliminate or at least shorten the amount of time I might need this sort of care and thus be as small a burden to my family as possible.

10) I read on facebook once that a chronic illness is like holding a glass of water.  For a few minutes, is no big deal, holding it for half an hour, a bit inconvenient. The longer one has to hold it, the more tired, and frustrating the experience, and for a very long time, it can be likened to torture. The same can be said for having or supporting another with chronic illness.  Support given short term is easier than long term support, and the more care required, the more stressful care-giving can be. It is important that we all set the glass down as best as we can from time to time, making “holding it” or “caring for another” tolerable or even a learning experience versus a torture.

There are good lessons to be learned by experiencing an illness or dealing with someone that is dealing with chronic illness. The more that I can do for myself, however, the easier on all those around me. Setting down the burden of my illness is a spiritual activity that I will practice and  it is important that I encourage others to do the same with my illness, their own or for caring for those that they love. Stepping away from it as best as you can in either mind or body will help to maintain mental and spiritual well-being and freshness to be better able to better cope and deal with it when you have to.(To be Continued...)

(The illustration above is done by Hannah McMillen and the figure drawing by Sarah Kate McMillen.)

(*Caution: These blogs are not meant to be actual medical advice but rather meant only to empower others to face medical issues as equal partners with their medical providers and never give up questioning and exploring what alternatives may be available for conquering their illnesses.  Living life with a chronic illness is a daily challenge and it is my prayer that no one give up on living their life to the fullest extent possible.)

Thursday, November 14, 2013

November's Winner of the Common Thread Give-Away is...

Pam is the lucky winner of this month's Common-Thread Give Away. There was no last name left but this particular Pam is the one at high-place. Congratulations Pam!

The Apple Doesn't Fall Far From the Tree

This is an example of how "the apple doesn't fall from the tree" or how from a little acorn grows yet another oak tree, much like the one from which it came.  Read what my youngest daughter just wrote and posted on facebook.  Should I be proud that she  "takes after her mother" in more than physical resemblance?  Should I admit that I am her mother?  Read this and let me know!

"just a small word of advice to you all..... do NOT leave a pizza box in your oven from a previous time of ordering pizza, placing it in the oven to stay warm, and leaving it there intending to eventually deal with it when you take recycling. From personal experience acquired tonight, I can surely tell you that chances are that you will in fact NOT remember, or in other words forget, and will turn your oven on to pre-heat, soon realizing as the smoke is billowing out of the top, that in fact something large indeed must be burning!! And when you rush over to open the oven to find out the issue, you will be forced to face your now flaming idiotic mistake! You will then in fact proceed to run frantically through your house, with a flaming pizza box in hand, rushing it to the outdoors, praying that along the way you haven't managed to make yet another idiotic mistake of catching any of your other beloved belongings on fire!! Trust me, the procrastination of dealing with the old pizza box is not worth the chaos of running a flaming box out of your house, even if you would like to enjoy the smell of a wood stove  DEAL WITH THE PIZZA BOX YOU LAZY FOOL!!"

My youngest daughter has gone from graduating with honors from Castleton State College to The School of Hard Knocks, where she will obviously learn some of the more practical lessons of life.  Just like her mother, she will realize that not everything is in a degree and that "common sense" isn't an innate, inborn quality and must, for some, be acquired by trial and error! Would she have listened to me if I had told her that she was "a lazy fool"? Never!  So save your breath dear mothers and realize that there are lessons that come later in life, and with them comes the sweet joy of seeing your dear little ones, that aren't so little anymore, at last do a bit of "growing up". But do keep them in your prayers, for they need protection from themselves in this stage of "learning the hard way"!  It is good that we take on the job of reminding God and His angels to not be fooled by their size or their degrees!  They are still our "little ones" that are beyond the safety nets of their parents now!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Part Fifteen: Living with Chronic Lyme Disease: a long and difficult journey

Part Fifteen: The Marshall Protocol,  My Present Very Long Term Treatment

After experiencing three recurrences of symptoms following three five-to-eight- month treatments of antibiotics, anti-malarial medications or anti-TB medications to kill off lyme and its common co-infections, I am now in a very long term treatment regimen called the Marshall Protocol. It is an "out-of-the-mainstream" treatment that is monitored, in my case, by a Lyme-literate doctor. I am also connected to an on-line study-site support group connected with this protocol and the research doctor that is heading the research for this new and progressive, but not widely accepted, treatment of inflammatory sorts of chronic diseases, referred to as TH1 illnesses.
Although the Marshall Protocol is too involved to cover in this brief blog, at the heart of this protocol is the belief that chronic inflammatory illnesses are caused by infections of various sorts. It is Dr. Trevor Marshall's belief that these illnesses have mutated into a sort of bacterial soup within our systems that go on to dys-regulate Vitamin D, which is both ingested as well as manufactured within our bodies in response to sunlight. It is theorized that this Vitamin D dys-regulation shuts down the immune system’s ability to fight off infection. By reducing Vitamin D through diet, light exposure and medication, the immune system is reactivated and with the help of low-dose, pulsated antibiotics the body is able to then kill off these mutated bacteria and restore health.

It is a slow and hard treatment that is marked by Jarisch Herxheimer reactions that are not pleasant, but indicative that "kill off" is taking place. This "kill off" must be done very slowly lest the "kill-off" kill the patient. Most of the reactions are tolerable and my goal is to monitor my reactions and modify them with the few and specific medications deemed appropriate on this protocol.  It is actually a fairly natural kill off with little of the side effects of full-dose antibiotics, though it is believed that these low doses antibiotics effects are potentiated by eliminating Vitamin D and so the "kill-off" effects are equally as effective as full dose antibiotics.  It is not without risk and comes with no guarantees, but then that is true for any medical treatment, which is why it is said that doctors practice medicine.

It is a very involved process that I have oversimplified. I don’t profess to have expertise despite my nursing background when it comes to the biochemical processes involved in this treatment. I can read it with some understanding but retaining it, much less explaining it to another is beyond my scope. Again, I refer you to articles found by googling "The Marshall Protocol" if you are interested in learning more about it and I hope that my basic understanding of it isn't in any way misleading. My story is just that--my understanding and perception of my journey of living with Lyme Disease and is not meant to say what is right for another with this illness (or any other chronic illness for that matter).

Many in the medical world don’t consider the Marshall Protocol (MP) option a good one for various reasons.  I can only say that its long term treatment, usually lasting three to five years looked short to me, with my history.  My illness was beginning to seriously affect my brain and its ability to process, read or write.  I value all of my body, but most especially my brain. I never say "never" when it comes to what I am willing to do to support my health, providing it comes at a reasonable cost.  I have also learned throughout my illness that there are good lessons to be learned with every loss.  Still I minimize what losses I can, for I value all of me and feel the same way about those I love. There isn't a part of our bodies that is easy to do without, though I have had a chance to experience temporary losses of all sorts in the course of my illness.

My doctor thought that perhaps it was time for me to step away from what wasn't working in a sustainable way for me and I was delighted to have yet another option, though I was assured that there were yet other options should I not choose this one. My doctor felt that the Marshall Protocol offered me the best chance of potentially permanently arresting my disease process and hopefully even regain lost function.  It didn't take much for my arm to “fall off” with only a bit of a twist and I jumped at the chance to reverse what had become a clear and steady declining progression in my health.

Treatment on the Marshall Protocol  includes a healthy diet, with many restrictions.  Sugar increases inflammation and so needs to be mostly eliminated. Indiscretions, I rationalize must be allowed occasionally as part of living life, but foods fortified with Vitamin D are eliminated very strictly while on the MP as well as other foods that interfer with a body's inflammatory process.   I am certain that the next question you would ask, is can a person live without Vitamin D. If they have an inflammatory illness where it has become dys-regulated in their body? The answer is yes. While Vitamin D is important in bone health, those with a dys-regulation of Vitamin D can develop bone issues like those who lack Vitamin D. Throughout this treatment our doctors do lab work periodically to be sure that the treatment isn't cause for greater decline.

Exercise is also very important and the right amount.  Too much during treatment is not advised, and every time I have pushed myself beyond, I realize this truth! Spirituality is critical to my well-being too. It helps me keep everything in perspective . I credit prayer and God to keeping me "balanced".  My creativity is essential to my well-being as well. I would be lost without it.  It gives purpose and structure to my days, and makes me less dependent on others to feel good about myself.

The results of this protocol to date have been positive. My sleep is restful and restorative, which is huge to healing.  My aches and pains have been mostly eliminated. My thinking has largely cleared and I am able to read, write and cognitively process more quickly. I shock myself and my family with being able to remember names and words, not easily found prior to treatment.  Unfortunately, with my Herxheimer reactions, I still have much inflammation which  which causes skin lesions and muscle and joint weakness.  It is also necessary for me to rest a lot.

My reactions seem to show that their is still much "kill off" going on, and so I don't believe I have exhausted this protocol yet. I have had little to no acute illnesses while being on this protocol five years.  I still must limit my exposure to light and activity and prefer the comforts of home, where I can rest as needed.  It is my hope to get back to swimming at our local college pool to regain my strength and stamina here soon. With my family's support, my writing and sewing, I am leading a more productive life.  Do I have a ways to go? Definitely, and I continue to hope for more energy though that has improved as well. (to be continued...)

(The illustration above is done by Hannah McMillen and the figure drawing by Sarah Kate McMillen.)

(*Caution: These blogs are not meant to be actual medical advice but rather meant only to empower others to face medical issues as equal partners with their medical providers and never give up questioning and exploring what alternatives may be available for conquering their illnesses.  Living life with a chronic illness is a daily challenge and it is my prayer that no one give up on living their life to the fullest extent possible.)

Sunday, November 10, 2013

November 2013's Common Thread Give-Away

"Bounty" by Kim Gifford
This month's Common Thread Give-Away Artist is Kim Gifford. It is always my pleasure to feature Kim. Although I do not see her as much as I would like, just thinking of her makes me smile. To know Kim is to love her.

Her talents are many as a writer, teacher, artist, photographer, and sensitive philosopher-psychologist-sort of person.  She describes herself as "free-spirited" and happy. Indeed she is and it is hard to not be the same when you are around her, read her writings, or look at her artwork.  Her joyful spirit is infectious! She seeks activities that are fun-filled and captures all of it in her stories, artwork and photographs. Make no mistake however, that there is a serious side to Kim too. Her writings are laced with much understanding, meaning, humor and wisdom. She is a deeply spiritual person whose life is filled with love, caring and purpose.

To qualify for the  8" x 10" whimsical drawing, "Bounty" that is printed on watercolor paper and is matted with an 11" x 14 " mat ready for hanging or framing, just visit her website at and leave a comment for her anytime between Monday through Wednesday of this week.  The winner will be announced on Thursday. Who wouldn't feel truly blessed to win this fun picture?

In this blog I have included a picture of Kim and her pugs ready for fun, as well as a sample of Kim's photography and artwork to entice those of you that don't know Kim to peruse her website and get to know her, her writings, photography and artwork. Her cards and prints might just make a perfect gift for a special person in your life this holiday season.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Part Fourteen: Living with Chronic Lyme Disease: a long and difficult journey

Part Fourteen: Treatment Options

I have had Lyme Disease for so long that it has affected my brain, joints, muscles, skin, bladder, heart, digestive and nervous systems. I was deteriorating and my prognosis was not good without ongoing, and more aggressive treatment. My Lyme-literate doctor decided that I needed more extensive antibiotic treatment. I improved though after treatment, my symptoms reoccurred. More treatment was prescribed in hopes to produce more kill-off of the infection that had likely mutated and hid, and again I improved, but still again my symptoms returned after discontinuing treatment.

I was then tested for co-infections that would necessitate a different sort of treatment and was found to be positive for Babesia, but not Bartonella. As stated before, with all the different strains of infections, sometimes tests don’t tell the whole story and so clinical symptoms supported further treatment for both of these co-infections. Anti-malarial, and anti-TB medications were used.

Treatment is not as straight-forward as it would seem to be. There are many sorts of treatment regimens including herbs and different antibiotic medications, rife and various mixtures of treatments known as protocols. Lyme, as stated before, has the ability to change into different forms to evade treatment, and then come out again after treatment is discontinued. So sometimes treatments are pulsated or given by IV to better attack different tick-borne disease entities in their various forms or sometimes different protocols are thought to better get at persistent strains.  “Pulsating” means to not take a treatment every day. Sometimes pulsating medications will fool such hard-to-kill-bugs to coming out of hiding, and then surprise attack them.

I am simplifying the many treatment options available. Unfortunately the word treatment is used whether a doctor is going after the infection or only treating the patient palliatively.  This is confusing for patients as one treats the cause and the other only treats the symptoms. The difference is huge, though both may be very important.

Some palliative care may make the patient feel better, but may potentially support the underlying infection to grow more and thus make the patient sicker in the long run. Steroids are notorious for this. I have been fortunate that in my palliative treatment preceding my diagnosis with Lyme, steroids were very rarely used to treat my inflammation. This isn't always avoidable in cases where inflammation is life-threatening.

I am not here to give advice as to what is the best option for all patients, but I do have to say that in my case, I would likely have deteriorated even more than what I have, had I not “lucked out” and “fell into” the care of a “Lyme-literate doctor”, though it took me thirty-eight years before finding a doctor who even considered Lyme disease behind all the medical issues I was having. My story is NOT an uncommon one.  I have since had to advocate for myself to continue finding such supportive Lyme-literate doctors.

Being a nurse and in the medical field, I have even had to step away from beloved, well-meaning, non-Lyme-literate doctor and nurse friendships and even lost credibility by openly sharing my out-of-the-mainstream Lyme treatment experiences in hopes of better educating my colleagues. I have learned the hard way that change in a traditional institution takes many decades. Medical knowledge comes at a high price and isn't easily given up for new theories and beliefs
I want others to know that long term treatment, though not particularly fun has been financially affordable and has also been less damaging than palliative care. I learned the hard way prior to being diagnosed with lyme that palliative medications prescribed by my rheumatologist made me feel worse and not better.  I am chemically sensitive and this wasn't always respected by doctors determined to make me feel better using pain, muscle relaxing, anti-depressant and anti-inflammatory medications. Sedatives of various sorts were also prescribed with great hang-over side effects.

Long term antibiotic treatment (especially the low dose ones used on the Marshall Protocol- to be discussed in a future blog) has alleviated pain, restored restful sleep without sleep medication, and has even restored function that I would not have without it and I am sad that my friends in the mainstream medical world, of which I was a part, remain closed to accepting these positive changes.

Essentially my treatment choices were “no-brainers” when I considered what was happening to my body and brain. My choices were mainstream palliative/pain and comfort care and deteriorate or continue to seek and try other alternative options, and I did what likely anyone would do with the help and direction a good Lyme-literate and caring doctor who encouraged me to continue treatment of the underlying infection.

Antibiotic treatment can cause kill-off reactions called Jarisch Herxheimer reactions and are not comfortable, yet my body could tell the difference between these tolerable but unpleasant reactions and the serious side effects caused by palliative medications that weren't eliminating the cause of my disease that my body could not tolerate.

If someone is mildly affected with lyme disease, perhaps aggressive treatment’s Herxheimer reactions would be worse than the disease, though early intervention may well eliminate the disease entirely.  I didn't have this choice.  By the time I was diagnosed and treated, I was severely ill and fighting the infection was my best hope of arresting the progression of what looked to be serious and progressive neurological decline if I did not.

I do recommend that consideration of long term antibiotic treatment be an option, at least left open, when advocating for what is best for yourself.  Even if you are challenged  income-wise and we have been off and on, one can be a careful consumer and search out affordable Lyme-literate doctors and obtain medication through special discount pharmacies. From my days in nursing I know that pharmaceutical companies will offer free medication for those in financial need, and so I encourage people to first determine what options they have for care, consider their goals (wants and needs), and then seek out affordable ways to make it happen. Even expensive specialists will sometimes discount their care to people who can’t afford it otherwise. (to be continued...)

(The illustration above is done by Hannah McMillen and the figure drawing by Sarah Kate McMillen.)

(*Caution: These blogs are not meant to be actual medical advice but rather meant only to empower others to face medical issues as equal partners with their medical providers and never give up questioning and exploring what alternatives may be available for conquering their illnesses.  Living life with a chronic illness is a daily challenge and it is my prayer that no one give up on living their life to the fullest extent possible.)

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Sleepy Hollow Cemetery

Finding ourselves at a Saturday doctor’s appointment in Concord, Massachusetts, we took the opportunity of stopping by one of my favorite “haunts”, Sleepy Hollow Cemetery. There is an Author’s Ridge there where the Alcotts, Hawthornes, Emersons and Thoreaus are all buried.  The fall season added much to this scenic landmark.

We found this site years ago as we visited the Alcott house.  Louisa May Alcott is among my very favorite authors.  Of course, Little Women, is a story that no young girl should miss reading. Doesn't everyone fall in love with Jo March, the character that most resembled Louisa in real life. Her sisters were dear too as was Marmee, their mother. Jo is the tomboy who scorches her dress standing too close to an open fire place, stains her gloves and can hardly be taken out in public for her unrefined personality and sadly turns down the beloved boy next door, Laurie and marries instead a strange older professor, that disappoints all young readers, but later delights senior readers, that appreciate that mature is a good characteristic in a man.

I then went on to read Little Men, Jo’s Boys, and Eight Cousins.  I hadn't a clue that there were more serious writings of her life as a nurse in Hospital Sketches, as well as her diary. She is a real heroine figure to me.  She lived by her pen and mind, helping her family scrape by financially by selling her stories and whatever other talents she could market.

It is only recently that it has been discovered that she wrote less-classical tales written under a pen name, lest she shame her good character as they reveal the wilder side of the “Jo” character within Louisa. These stories are filled with damsels in distress and some real villains.  There is even one about a clever and evil woman who steals the heart of everyone, getting them to fight over her while she goes off and marries the senior master of the house, the one with all the money, using her wily theatrical talents and clever brain pushing all the others out of their inheritances!

What wasn't there to love about Louisa, and with it her neighbors and friends, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nathaniel Hawthorne and Henry David Thoreau?  It is sad to see that Walden Pond is now surrounded by residential living, hardly a place to seek to gain that sense of being at one with nature and finding oneself.

Still, as we strolled through the cemetery and took pictures, I couldn't help but listen to one woman’s rendition of this group of progressive thinkers of their day, the Transcendentalists. She described them as hospitable enough, but likely the sort that in today’s world would only be useful in being leaders of literary discussion groups, but impractical and definitely not the sort to have good jobs or be responsible.  I wanted to step up to her and remind her that she was standing on Hallowed ground, being the cemetery where my dear and kindred-spirited friend was buried. I was a person of responsible jobs and now find I fall into the other category and like myself better now than before.

All of the family plots had chain railings that were no longer effectively keeping people off the graves, except for the Hawthorns.  The chain surrounding their graves was very heavy and had even had been padlocked together. It spoke loudly to stay out of the family plot and not to tread on them, though the chain was still so low to the ground that it could be simply stepped over.

The woman’s comment was most interesting, as these thinkers and writers are the very foundation of American literature and are still being read in schools today and certainly earned respect among the writers and scholars of their day as well as ours. I couldn't help but wonder what will this arrogant woman’s legacy be when she is gone, though I loved touring the grave sites of the obscure as well. My husband  found and photographed a stone that that simply read “At Rest”, for the head stone had likely been damaged and the foot stone was now set in front of the headstone. He also found the memorial tomb of a baby whose statue is so worn that it is nameless now but still a beautiful and loving tribute to the dear little one that now, no doubt, has been reunited with its parents for another lifetime.

Emerson’s wife and daughter' tombstones were covered with a flowery rendition of their lives carefully scripted.  Their talents, more simple, needed more words that the one line epitaph on Emerson plaque on his large stone. Lidian Emerson, Ralph's wife's stone read "In her youth an unusual sense of the Diving Presence was granted her and she retain through her life the impress of that High Communion. To her children she seemed in her nature ascendancy and unquestioning courage a Queen: a Flower in elegance and delicacy.  The love and care of her husband and children was her first earthly intent, but with overflowing compassion her heart went out tot he slave, the sick and the dumb creation.  She remembered them that were in bonds as bound with them."

Ellen Tucker Emerson's epitaph read, "Her life was happy in that among the scenes of real life she wrought upon the plan that pleased her childish thought. She cherished the old Religion.  It was her guide through each day and the temple to which in solitude she withdrew.  The joy of her Father and Mother and the comfort of their last years, her love embraced the widest circle of kindred and friend.  she loved her Town. She lived the simple and hardy life of old New England, but exercised a wide and joyful hospitality and she eagerly helped others. Of a find mind, she cared more for persons than book and her faith drew out the best in those around her."

Aren't they beautiful, though it did make me wonder about his daughter's child-like mind and not being into books, though her father penned volumes. Was she of limited ability, but loved all the same and isn't it interesting that families seem to often be a rather unmatched group. Her father being an intellect and his daughter not?And his wife like an elegant and delicate flower that communed with God?

It speaks of the life in those days, not so easily taken for granted and definitely valued. And their loving tributes so different to our politically correct language of today, embracing unique differences, and definitely kinder. I liked their tributes to those they loved, finding the good in everyone and accepting and loving them just the way they were and carefully and poetically choosing the right words for the world to remember them by.

Cemeteries can tell us a lot and help us grasp as well, that we are here, but for a short time.  I always have to ask myself when I stroll through one, “Am making the most of my short life here on earth? What will be remembered about me?” I think I have some serious work to do in that department, lest my epitaph read, "a recluse that loved to sew" or  "disappointed in her careers, she closed herself off from the world and communed with Zeldie her cat" or "Wanting to be hospitable but worried about her messy house", or "loving and stingy but kind and proud of being thickly dense in bones and brain?" And I wondered if I should write my own epitaph, lest my stone read just “Mother” or “Jane, Daughter of George and Mary, Wife of Tom, Mother of Hannah and Sarah Kate, Maker of pincushions”...still what is so bad about that?,,,,perhaps a big stone could be purchased and more engraving added,  “once a nurse and teacher and died, bravely and courageously, a willing guinea pig for medical science to discover a new cure for Lyme Disease”.

Will  my kids and husband add a flowery note about their loving admiration, and bit of grief without me? Consideration needs to be given perhaps to the size of the stone to keep me in my place and not let me wander?....Lots to think about for sure, especially near Halloween and All Saints Day. We are all, after all, special saints and most of what will be written will be penned in hearts versus stones, and if not, I'd best get to saving so I can get my last words scripted carefully for future generations to ponder.