One of My Favorites

Welcome to Day 26 of my month-long challenge. We were prompted to share a favorite quote.

One of my favorite quotes is by Hunter S. Thompson. Although I’ve never read this book, I love this quote…

“Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming, “Wow what a ride!”

Hunter S. Thompson, The Proud Highway: Saga of a Desperate Southern Gentleman, 1955-1967

I would add that my goal is to slide into Heaven having fully used up everything God had given me to live and love well.

The last few years have attempted to knock me off my feet. Stress has a way of making everything hurt. I’ve realized that my body may always hurt, but it won’t stop me from living my life to its fullest. Anything worth doing comes with a sacrifice. It usually involves enduring pain and hardship.

Athletes do this well if they want to reach their full potential.

Dancers push through the rigorous discipline of practice to achieve their best performance.

Musicians master their talent with finger drills and playing their instruments hours at a time. I’ve seen guitarists with bloody finger tips who play on. Such commitment to excellence is inspiring.

How God-glorifying to use up all that He has equipped me with—my gifts, my talents, my very heart, to lay it all at His feet one day. Showing that all I did in this life was for His pleasure and glory.

For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.”
‭‭Romans‬ ‭11:36‬ ‭ESV‬‬

This is my 26th post in The Ultimate Blog Challenge to post everyday in November.

Long-Distance Family

We gather together to ask the Lord’s blessing

Today is 24 days of posts in November. I’m amazed I’ve made it this far!

Nikki asked a really good question about celebrating the holidays.

“I have been thinking about the differences in holiday celebrations now compared to when I was a kid. Our family isn’t quite as close-knit — everyone in my generation has moved away whereas my parents lived near their parents so we could all gather for the holidays. Have you noticed the same in your family?”

In my generation most of us stayed close to our parents, so holidays were always a big event.

Our children all moved away after they were married. Some it took years and our last one moved when she got married. All three living in different states from us.

I never considered this would happen.

When our daughter moved to GA with two of our grandchildren ages almost 4 and almost 2 in nearly killed me. I didn’t see this coming and my heart was broken.

I had well-meaning friends who said things like, “At least you are close enough to drive there and see them.” This was like pouring salt in my wounded heart.

But God! He had other plans.

My hope was that our family would share life together. We would be available to babysit so our kids could cultivate their relationship in the throes of raising a family. Holidays would be challenging in how we would seat everyone around the same table.

First our daughter, son-in-love and two grandchildren moved to GA. in 2011.

A year later my Mom died in 2012, leaving me feeling orphaned since my Dad died 9 years earlier.

Second, our son moved to Tennessee for his dream job in 2014. He took his sweet wife and three more of my precious grandchildren with him. While I was happy for the dreams they were pursuing, my heart was broken for what could have been. It haunted me daily.

Then Disney came out with a new movie and a hit song that was played everywhere. It had the three words I kept hearing God say to me. “Let it go!” I was afraid to let go of my desire for fear that my kids would never move back.

Finally, when our youngest daughter got married and moved to yet another state in 2018, I was undone. Finally I knew I had to let go of what I had imagined life would be to let my kids have the freedom to follow their dreams. I needed to be their biggest fan, not their strongest antagonist!

This made all the difference.

I was able to let go and trust that God was leading our kids exactly where he wanted them to be.

Our holidays change from year to year. We have enjoyed times where we are all together, but more times than not, we’ve had to adjust our expectations and enjoy the ones who were able to be with us.

Most times we are the ones who travel to see them because our kids and grandkids are a priority to us, even if it’s not convenient. I love them and anytime we are able to spend together.

FaceTime is an almost daily occurrence, and for this I am so very thankful. I think often of my grandmother, Grace, who moved away from her family at 16 years of age. There was no telephone, no internet, no cars even. Miles separated them and the only communication took weeks to receive.

As I write this we are with one third of our family for Thanksgiving. The other two-thirds are spending Thanksgiving with their in-laws. We are choosing to focus on being present and enjoying what is, rather than being sad over what could have been.

But God! He is the only reason I’m able to say this.

We almost lost two grandchildren in the last two years, and I lost my brother this year. The distance that separates us doesn’t seem as significant now.

As my youngest daughter recently wrote about raising an infant with special needs, “Every day is thanksgiving, and even though I can still struggle with a heart of complaint. I pray my perspective is always pointed to what God has blessed me with rather than what I think He has taken away.”

Yes, Perspective. it makes all the difference in how we move forward from grieving what could have been to what we’ve been given.

This is my 24th post in The Ultimate Blog Challenge to post everyday in November.

About Elias

Yesterday I invited questions from readers, and I received some outstanding ones. Thank you all!

Tamara asked about our youngest grandson Elias.

Our daughter and her husband were expecting their first baby on January 29, 2021. Tom and I were so excited to finally visit them in Arkansas to see Heather pregnant. It was such a happy anticipation to welcome grand baby #9 and watch Matt and Heather receive the blessing of parenthood.

After our wonderful visit. I got a phone from her saying the doctor was putting her on bed rest. I flew out to take care of her and to help keep her baby safe and secure.

But what we didn’t realize was God was working to rescue Elias from a virus he had contracted during the first trimester called CMV. Babies that go full term with this virus often have very serious health disabilities including hearing loss, lung, liver and brain damage. Some don’t survive.

Elias Angel was born on October 14, 2020, at 24 weeks and 5 days. He was 1 lb 6.6 ozs and 12” long. Roughly the size of a water bottle.

Elias and Ollie Octopus at one month old

“For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.”
‭‭Psalm‬ ‭139:13-14‬ ‭ESV‬‬

The NICU staff was amazing. Our daughter calls them God’s angels. They began Elias on medication right away to fight the effects of CMV. Everyday he surprised all of us making forward progress.

From his little NICU cubicle we were able to watch God do what He normally does in the “secret place” as Psalm 139 declares. We were in awe of this miracle being formed before us.

He was in the NICU a total of 116 days. When Matt and Heather were finally able to drive him home from Oklahoma to Arkansas (a two hour drive), Papa and Nana were there waiting to see and hold him for the first time. What a moment that was!

He was so tiny and quiet. The ventilator and his immature core muscles made his voice very weak. The only way we knew he was crying was when his heart rate monitor would go off. His care required 24 hour diligence with feeds and medications.

Fast forward to today, Elias…

  • Is still making forward progress, thanks to an amazing team of doctors and therapists
  • can hear well
  • can see and recognize people
  • Has the cutest personality
  • Loves to belly laugh (still quiet but now he’s audible)
  • Is trying his best to crawl
  • Is eating baby food
  • Has two teeth
  • Loves books
  • And kisses Mommy every chance he gets

His prognosis is wait and see. Every child in his condition is unique. There are no certainties. But one thing we know! But God! He has been leading every step of Elias’ treatment since the day He was conceived. He is our miracle baby and one whom we call our Tiny Warrior.

He now weighs over 14 lbs at 13 months of age.

I write a song for each of my grandchildren. This is Elias’ song, sung to the tune, Jesus Loves The Little Children…

🎶Nana loves Elias Angel. He’s as sweet as he can be. When he was born he won my heart, tiny warrior from the start. I thank God He brought you to our family!🎶

This is my 23rd post in The Ultimate Blog Challenge to write everyday in November.

An Invitation

Our Micro-preemie Grandson’s, Elias, first time
seeing our Christmas tree.

First of all, thanks for coming my blog and reading about whatever is on my heart for the day.

I have a favor to ask of you! Now that you are here, what would you like to know? What question would you like answered or discussed? What is causing the most pain for you right now? Go on, Ask Me Anything!

I will select one or two and answer them if I’m able.

So, leave a comment below and ask me a question! Thanks for taking the time to consider and comment.

This is post #22 in The Ultimate Blog Challenge to post everyday in November.

The Power of Words

When we moved into our neighborhood in 1992 our children were 10, 8 and 6. We had a cat named Bunny and a guinea pig named Cupcake. I homeschooled all of our kids since day one and this neighborhood was full of other homeschooling families. It was so nice to be able to plan things together and not feel so isolated.

Imagine my disappointment when we went to our first HOA meeting.

The air was so tense neighbors were using it to fling lots of complaints and insults at each other, many of which were warranted. But still. There is a positive way to say things that produce results. This was not working. I had an idea but had to ask myself if this was a challenge I was willing to take.

I asked the HOA President if he would be open to me starting a neighborhood newsletter. I told him I could say what needed to be said in a way that would be more “hearer friendly”. Since things were so volatile, he was more than will to let me try. I said I would never be on the HOA so my words would always be from one neighbor to another, not from the Board make directives to the “homemoaners”.

Our Sun newsletter began in 1999 with the byline, “helping our neighborhood shine”.

It was more of a hope than a reality. But I knew the power of words, and this was a challenge that would have tremendous rewards. Not only for our quality of life, but for our property values too.

It began as a monthly newsletter. I write a regular piece for the front page that focuses on the importance of being a good neighbor. Other regular columns are from the HOA President, the Architectural Review Board highlighting Yard of the Season, and our Neighborhood Watch report. The last page is the Kids page with seasonal jokes, puzzles and challenges.

As the years have passed we have changed the newsletter to be distributed quarterly. Some have suggested we go digital, but honestly we have found people are more likely to read a colorful newsletter dropped at their door, then they are to click a link on their computer.

Our neighborhood was established in the early 80’s. The fact that our HOA is still being run by neighbors who volunteer their time for a year commitment is an anomaly. It’s even more so that our board gets along well. When there is a disagreement we have learned how to work it through in a civil way.

Words have the power to tear down.

We’ve seen this more so on social media in recent years. And we can never take those words back. It is best to use our words to build up and say what needs to be said without a pointing finger.

Our pastor says, “Every time you point a finger at someone remember there are three more pointing back at you.” Which goes with the saying, “Better to remove the log from your own eye before going after the speck in your brother’s eye.”

We are all capable of tearing down or building up. This challenge was to see if a simple newsletter could shine the light of kindness on a battlefield and bring peace. I’m thrilled to say it did, and our neighborhood is shining all the brighter as a result.

What challenge have you taken and found positive results?

This is the 21st post in The Ultimate Blog Challenge to post everyday in November.

My Top Twenty Loves

Today’s prompt is a great post to follow yesterday’s, I Hate Pandas, post. What do I love? This could be an entire month’s challenge because I have so many. I’ll give you the list first and then hone in on one of them.

  • God above all else. I spend the first hour of the morning with Him and reading His Word through the You Version Bible app on my phone. It is free and full of great devotionals too.
  • My husband of 42 years. Besides God, He is my why in all I do.
  • My three grown children and their spouses. I call them my “in-loves” because I love them, it’s not just a legal connection.
  • My nine grand-children. They are each unique and I couldn’t enjoy being involved in their lives more.
  • My hometown. Orlando has changed dramatically since I was born here in 1959. But it’s still home to me.
  • My extended family and the history we all share, including our grandparent’s 32 acres of groves west of Orlando.
  • Writing: Books, articles, blogs, newsletters (both neighborhood and Nana’s newsletter for my kiddos)
  • The beach
  • The mountains
  • Traveling and/or Road Trips
  • Birding
  • Photography
  • Planning events like parties, neighborhood events (the pandemic provided me with lots of opportunities to help with all of us being homebound.
  • Baking is my first love in the kitchen. My Mom wouldn’t let me cook since she used the pressure cooker to make meals fast after a full day at work. So I learned to bake. Favorite thing to bake? Pies
  • Cooking and having themed dinner parties. Favorite meal to make? Anything my husband loves. One of his favorites is Chicken Cacciatore.
  • Golf.
  • Reading, but this one often takes a backseat to all my other loves. I can get completely lost in a book, so it always feels selfish to block everything out to read.
  • Researchiing about things I don’t know–geneology, history, song lyrics I may remember wrong 🙂
  • Thanksgiving
  • Christmas

When Tom and I were first married he worked in retail. He was the area manager for 3 jewelry stores and I hadn’t yet found a job. I spent much of my time in our yellow-carpeted condo alone. Being such an extrovert this was hard. And I had moved away from another one of my loves–Orlando–to Bradenton, 2.5 hours away on the west coast of Florida. I was lonely and homesick.

The couple who managed the property where we lived was always home. She was such a kind lady and one day she asked if I’d like to come over and bake bread together? I jumped at the chance to have something to do and baking was always a favorite.

She started with helping me learn how bread dough should feel after kneading it. She was a hands-on teacher and this is how I learn best. I caught on quickly and was soon making homemade bread, hamburger buns and more. You just can’t beat the aroma of bread baking in the oven on a chilly day.

Next she moved on to a more challenging lesson – the art of making a flaky pie crust. She even shared her family recipe with me. I had no idea how this one day and this first pie would define my baking life. i.g. our family always celebrated birthdays with pie instead of cakes. It became our dessert of choice and for good reason. Mrs. L’s pie crust recipe is amazing.

So of all the pies I’ve baked, which is our family’s favorite? Apple Pie. It even won the blue ribbon at our county fair.

Debi Walter’s Blue Ribbon Apple Pie

INGREDIENTS

  • 6-8 honey crisp apples
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 T. cinnamon
  • 1/4 t. ground cloves
  • Nutmeg, freshly ground, about 1/8 t.
  • Butter
  • Milk and Sugar for the top crust

DIRECTIONS

Preheat over to 400.

Roll out pie crust and line the bottom of a 9″ deep dish pie plate. Core, peel and slice thin the apples in a large bowl. Pour sugar over apple and stir to coat. Pour in flour next and stir to coat. Add spices and stir well. You can add more spices to your liking. We like a lot of spices in ours.

Fill the lined pie plate by layer the apples one by one in a circular pattern starting from the outside to the center. Repeat this layering until you have filled the pie using all the apples. Dot with butter.

Roll out remaining pie dough and cover the apples, sealing and crimping the edges.

With a pastry brush lightly brush top crust with milk making sure it doesn’t pool. Sprinkle lightly with sugar.

Bake for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 and bake for an additional 45 minutes until bubbly. I keep a watch on the pie and usually lay a large sheet of foil over it to prevent over-browning.

Let pie cool completely before slicing to have a nice and neat slice of pie. But if you can’t wait, it’s great warm out of the oven with vanilla ice cream.

Bon Appetit

This is my 17th post in The Ultimate Blog Challenge to post everyday in November.

I Hate Pandas

Please share

Now before you click away, let me explain. I am an animal lover and panda bears are the cutest. I was even able to visit the National Zoo in Washington D.C. as a kid to see the two pandas China loaned to us in the 70’s.

So why do I hate PANDAS? It is an acronym for what our 12 year old granddaughter came down with in the summer of 2019. It stands for Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorder Associated with Strep. That is a mouthful for the most horrific time in our family’s life.

When we were given the prompt to talk about an adversity we had endured, I knew what I would write about. I’m just not sure I can tell the whole story–partly because this is my granddaughter’s story. It’s her’s to tell when she is ready and old enough to process it all. And partly because it’s hard to go there. So for the sake of getting the word out about this disorder and to help other’s who may be facing it and not know it yet, I will share my Nana’s heart on the matter.

I got a phone from my daughter telling me how concerned she was about her oldest daughter. She told me she woke up one morning paranoid, crying, in severe pain and unable to get herself dressed for school.

You must know a little background: she is a driven young lady, makes good grades, plays volleyball and loves the independence she is gaining as a pre-teen. But suddenly she reverted back to a 6 year old. She couldn’t write in cursive. She no longer remembered her multiplication tables and she stopped eating and drinking. She had an unfounded fear of water, so she wouldn’t wash her hair, brush her teeth or drink it unless forced.

In a few short weeks she was unrecognizable and we were all afraid.

Our daughter and her husband were frantically seeking the medical community’s advice through multiple ER visits and pediatrician appointments. But she was declining so rapidly it became impossible to get her to leave the house. She lost 14 pounds in just a few weeks time because she wouldn’t eat. She was fading from us. But God.

Finally while searching for answers, they found a 20/20 special on ABC that featured a story about this strange psychotic response children were having after having strep throat. Our granddaughter had just recovered from a strep infection a couple of weeks before this began. They were drawn to finish watching to find out more, and it was hard to do. The way this disorder effects different children is like having a front row seat to a horror movie, but the characters are children you love.

This show was the answer they needed that led them to a pediatric neurologist in Washington D.C. (ironic given my first paragraph). Miraculously they were accepted by the doctor and she cleared her schedule to see our granddaughter. She said that our granddaughter was one of the worst cases she had ever seen, but since they got her to treatment quickly she was confident she would recover. She also added, but it might take two years.

The most frightening part of all this was not being able to rely on the medical community for the help she needed. Several times the emergency room doctors wanted to admit her to the psychiatric ward. They even questioned our daughter and son-in-law’s quality of care. It was hard to know who to trust. Unfortunately, many still haven’t heard of PANDAS, and insurance doesn’t cover the expenses either. It was difficult on so many levels. This is why I tell my part of the story as often as I can and to whoever will listen.

It has now been two years and our granddaughter is fully recovered, like her doctor said. It took time, treatments and lots of donations given by friends and family to see her through. But God! He orchestrated every detail and every step. He carried us through this dark valley of the shadow of death and rescued her from the grip of PANDAS.

For more information on PANDAS please visit the Pandas Network website. And if you know of any children who suffer with strep on a recurring basis, make sure they get retested after their initial round of antibiotics to make sure it is gone. I hate PANDAS and will do anything I can to get the word out. Please share this post if you feel so led. This Nana is grateful our precious granddaughter has recovered. Not all children do; their nightmare continues…

This is my 16th post in The Ultimate Blog Challenge to post everyday in November.

Photo by Fabian Centeno on Unsplash

Many Publishing Options, Which One To Choose

Our prompt is to share with you something we have to offer. Hmm. I had to think about this for a while. Then, I realized that I haven’t finished telling you the story about my experience in publishing my first book.

I shared about how I needed to hurry to publish my book in my post, 10 years. What I didn’t tell you is how I ended up with my new publisher, Prevail Press.

My first publisher made my book available, but I had no help in the marketing aspect of the book, other than ideas on how to tell others about it. It was discouraging to say the least. All that work yet no one could find it. I ended up giving away lots of copies with the hopes they would tell others which would lead to more sales.

Mind you, I never wrote this book with making money in mind. I just wanted to recap how much money we spent on the initial print, which was significant. And I wasn’t anywhere close!

I have been a part of a Writer’s Group for nearly 20 years. It was my involvement and growth in this group that led me to the next step in my publishing journey.

Rob Swanson, who leads our writer’s group got the idea to begin a publishing company that doesn’t work anything like a typical vanity press or self-publishing company.

First of all, he is selective on the quality of writers accepted to publish through Prevail Press. He does this to protect the reputation of his company. Good books draw good customers. And a relationship of trust grows.

Secondly, by switching to Prevail Press I didn’t have to buy hundreds of copies of my book. My book was now available in a print on demand format as well as an ebook, so the overhead cost was minimal. An added benefit when you don’t have a lot of money to invest in the first place.

Thirdly, I make more royalties per book than I did previously. There really are so many more benefits with this method than my previous publishing experience.

Finally, Prevail Press is a micro-publishing company and is in my opinion the BEST OPTION for up and coming authors, unless you are able to secure an agent and go the traditional publishing route. Not all authors who make a submission to Prevail Press are selected, but you can begin the process by reading the Submission Guidelines.

We now have two books available through Prevail Press–Through The Eyes Of Grace, an historical fiction, and Cherishing Us – a book by my husband and me offering 365 healthy marriage tips to help your relationship grow.

In case you don’t know, Tom and I have had a marriage blog, The Romantic Vineyard, for the last 14 years. It has been our passion to help marriages grow strong to last a lifetime. We hope you’ll stop by and visit there when you have the time. We offer date night ideas, date night questions, and lots of resources to help you succeed at loving your spouse well.

I also encourage you to check out the other authors published through PP. There are some outstanding books you might really enjoy. Check out the offerings here.

This is my 15th post in The Ultimate Blog Challenge to post everyday in November.

Kindness Is Appreciated

It was an awkward moment in July when I called to see if a friend was still on for providing dinner for our family. By his answer I knew he had forgotten. We had to kick into gear since there were nearly 30 already gathered at the home of my niece to eat.

We stopped at Publix and bought all the chicken tenders and macaroni and cheese from the hot deli, as well as Cole slaw, potato salad, Hawaiian rolls and baked beans. I felt bad for the customers waiting with the next number to be served at the deli. Their stares revealed their anger that we were taking all the available hot food. I avoided eye-contact because we had no other choice.
I managed to hold back my tears. We pushed our heavy cart with our heavy hearts to the cashier, which is when it happened…

Friendly Cashier, “Hello, You must be having some party!”
Me: “Actually no. My brother just died on Monday from Covid and the person who offered to bring us a meal tonight forgot.”

The poor cashier. I don’t remember what he said, but all the blood drained from his face.
Why did I do that? He didn’t deserve my blunt response, but I couldn’t help it. My emotions had been building all day and he happened to be there at the wrong time to be the recipient of my outburst.

Of course, I apologized, through tears. I tried to explain that I’m not normally like this, but I think the damage was done. He was embarrassed.

Harsh words are like that. Once spoken they can’t be taken back. Oh, we can do all we can to apologize and make it right, but if it’s not in the heart of that person to forgive, the relationship may never be restored.

We live in a harsh world right now. So many fling words on social media without thought. It’s hard to think the best when we’re hearing the worst.
But we are better than this. We don’t know what someone is going through unless they explode the reason in your face. I hope my obvious heartache and loss helped this poor guy give me sympathy instead of anger. But it’s his choice.

We all face heartache from time to time. It’s in these moments when kindness is appreciated.

This is my 11th post in The Ultimate Blog Challenge to post everyday in November. It was originally published in our neighborhood newsletter, which I began in 1999.

Stumble

Our prompt was to share a time when we stumbled in our lives.

Goodness, this is a hard one to share, but I’ve learned the purpose of stumbling is to help us grow. When shared, it helps others learn from our mistakes. So here goes…

I was 19 and newly married. I had moved from the only home I had ever known to a town I had only visited a few times during my short, five month engagement to Tom Walter.

My grandmother had lived with us for a while before Tom and I got married. She had prayed for my future husband for years. When she met Tom, she loved him and expressed it with food. She made him her chili when she learned how much he loved spicy food.

On one of my trips to Bradenton, I carried a mason jar full of Big Mama’s chili. It was love for him in a jar and it worked. Tom loved her as much as he loved her chili. This recipe still holds a special place in our story. (You can find her recipe under the From My Kitchen tab above).

Just a few months after our wedding, we visited my family only to discover my grandmother was sick. At 90 years old, she was unable to get out of bed. We were home for the weekend but I never went in to see her. I couldn’t bear seeing her frail, so I avoided her. I had no idea this would be my last chance to see her alive.

Just a couple of months later, she died.

I can’t express the regret I felt. I remembered many times as a teen trying to comfort her in her old age. She loved me, her youngest granddaughter, of this I am certain. But I stumbled with the emotion of letting her go. I thought if I ignored it I would get another chance, but I was wrong. So very wrong!

This regret is what fueled my passion to discover and write her story. I have found stumbling happens for a reason; it’s the platform that launches us to a place we would never get to had we not stumbled in the first place.

It’s easy to stand here today in my 60’s and judge my 19 year old response to death and dying, but that’s not fair. I did as much as I was emotionally able to do at the time, and it was for a purpose.

God takes our broken pieces and makes them into something special to be treasured—like a stained glass window. Today I’m holding up my broken pieces for you to see. God made something beautiful in spite of my mistakes.

How have you seen your mistakes made into something beautiful?

This is Day 6 of The Ultimate Blog Challenge to post everyday in November.