What’s In A Decade?

I am sitting here at the very end of 2019…at the very end of a decade…trying to make sense of all that is swirling around inside of me. I’m out of practice on the whole “processing” thing, I think. I fumble around trying to untangle feelings and ideas, but don’t feel very successful most days.

Or maybe it’s just that things are thawing from the inside out, and with a new year and a new calendar I’m preparing for fresh beginnings. I suppose I can hope that seeds have been germinating through the last chapter of my life…and are ready now to be planted so that they can grow, and hopefully…oh so hopefully…bear fruit!

I’m looking forward to seeing what the next year looks like for me. I honestly have no idea.

Meanwhile, I’ve seen several beautiful, heart warming posts about the last decade and all that it has held for many. I enjoy them so much, and thought I should try that too! So I thought about it…and my mind went completely blank. Seriously. BLANK.

“Tera, what have I done with the past decade of my life?!?!”

“Well,” said Tera, “2010 was when we bought the car, and hit the deer on the highway right after that.”

Riiiggghhttt. That’s right. Brand new car. Big ol’ deer on the highway. Thousands of dollars worth of repairs. Yay for 2010! But you know, we are still driving that car, and I’m thankful for it every time I use it.

But before that…before we were driving out to Annapolis…right at the beginning of the decade…we lost Papa. And that was so hard.

This decade has been one of loss for us. We lost Papa, and we lost Uncle Tom and Jack and Phil and Earl and we finished out the decade with Grandma’s passing in October. I’m grateful for each of these family members in my life. I loved them, and I learned from them. And it was hard to let them go.

We also had to let go of places…the lake house in the Ozarks, the historic treasure in Annapolis, “Grandma’s Dollhouse” in the Rockies. Not as important as people, but significant connections to those people and our past and to areas that we love. I’m so grateful for the time I was able to spend in those places and the memories we made there. And it was hard to let them go.

BUT…it wasn’t all about loss and letting go. Four of my brothers got married, so that added four new sister-in-laws to the family! And the definite highlights of the decade are my niece, Addie and nephews Blake and Jaspen. Oh, what light they bring to our lives! I am so thankful for them and all that they mean to us. And I want to hold them tight!

As for places…well, it was in this decade that we discovered sunrises on Guthrie Lake. So there’s that.

I can’t say that I’m sorry to see this decade go. I was a caregiver for a big chunk of that time, and maybe soon I’ll be able to process those experiences and share more of them.

Meanwhile, I have lots of things I want to get to work on now that “the next chapter” is here. So…

Hello, 2020. I think I’m glad you’re here.


Many mornings of my life these days start about forty-five before sunrise with my mom texting me from next door .

“I’m awake.”

“Me too.”

“15 minutes?”


Then I get out of bed, slip on some comfortable, weather appropriate clothes, find some socks and my tennis shoes and sneak out the door. Mom meets me at my car with some coffee and we drive to Guthrie Lake for our morning walk.

I hardly ever regret getting up for that.

Usually, it’s a beautiful way to start my day washed with peace and grace.

This morning was the first crisp, fall-like morning of the season. Mist was heavy on the water. We were surrounded by fluid, soft gray-to-golden fog. It was perfect.

And Mom took this picture…


I know what I was feeling the moment this picture was taken.

Overwhelming gratefulness to be in that place. At that moment. Smallness at being surrounded by such beauty and peace. Amazement at the work of the Creator, and His goodness to us for the gifts He puts around for us to enjoy.

I felt ALIVE…because it’s fall and the air was chilly and comfortable and revitalizing.

But I look at the picture, and feel kind of fascinated..

I see an aging woman. Misty grayness is part of me as well as the air around me. But more than that…I see that I am a different person than I was seven years ago.

Because seven years of care taking will change a person.

It’s not just the graying hair. (Though talking about a society that makes us feel that we need to be “brave” to let our hair go gray is an interesting conversation to me.)

I am older. I went into this “young” and now I am “middle-aged”.  I have had very little time to myself in the last seven years. I feel I have let so many things go, and my life revolves around a tiny old woman who is a bit of a tyrant.

I have never had a clear dream for my life. Definitely expectations, but no set goals or plans or passions or dreams. I think I’ve let go of all expectations, and live with a constant drive to get through this day, and someday…in another chapter….things will be different.

I do remember growing up I would pray, “Help me to be nothing. Help me to surrender my life completely to you. Let me be content. Help me to love the unlovable.” And I distinctly recall saying that if I could think of one thing that would make me happy to do in this life, it would be to “help people” somehow.

Be careful what you pray for! 🙂

It’s interesting for me to realize that out of my five sister-in-law’s, only Erin knew me before I was a care taker. When I was the “social one”…the extrovert… and planned parties and traveled and could talk easily with anyone I met. When I was willing to volunteer for just about anything and was always busy with something.

I am not that anymore. Now it’s just easier to say no to everything. And I get uncomfortable around people. And tired. I feel that I spend quite a bit of my life tired. And living at the pace of a 99 year old.

But it’s not a bad place to be. There is good in this. I am in a calmer place than I have ever been in my life. I feel resigned most days. Not in a depressed, “woe is me” kind of way but in a “I don’t have to think about what I’m going to do with my life, because today is enough.’ way.

Some days I wonder if, when this is over, I will wake up and say “What happened to my life? Has it passed me by?” Sometimes I worry that I don’t try enough to do “extra-curricular” things and broaden my horizon a bit. But really, perhaps my life wouldn’t be that different anyway. And at least now I can be with someone who “needs” me. There is comfort in that.

So…I see an older, soberer, more peaceful woman in that photo from this morning. One who has done things she thought she couldn’t, and handled things she thought she wouldn’t. Who has learned where Grace comes from and how necessary it is to have….for herself and others. Who knows how to drink deeply of simple beauty and be content in morning sunrises. Who has surrounded herself in liquid golden grayness, and is working on learning the secret of carrying that with her throughout her days. A woman who has come to value quiet and alone time and is working on letting go of things beyond her control.

This care taking is a refining fire. And I’m thankful for the burn.











Where Has It Gone?

Where has it gone?

Seems to be a familiar theme in my life lately.

Where has it gone?

“It” being…

Time: How can it have been two years since I wrote a blog post? I don’t understand. It doesn’t feel like two years. The Ancient One is now 97,  and the last blog post was about her 95th birthday. I’ve done the math every which way and it keeps coming out at “2 years”.  Where are my days going?

Unction: I’m not sure that’s really the word I want to use. But obviously I’m out of practice with the whole “word” thing. This blog isn’t the only thing with cobwebs in the corners.

Okay…so I just looked up the word “unction”. SO not the word I want to use. I think I was thinking of “gumption”. I love dictionaries. But that made me laugh, so I’m leaving it there.

And moving on….

GUMPTION: Where’s that “get up ‘n go” that makes me want to write and share? I actually think I know the answer to this one – caring for someone with dementia is draining. And a lot of the time, when things are difficult, I don’t have the energy to write about it. Too used up, with few words to offer. Or too many feelings and words can’t cover it. It’s not just the blog that feels that way. Relationships, shopping, reading, oh….so many things seem so far away.

Grandma’s purse. Or stamps. Or belt. Or sweater. Or address book. Or pots. Or the silverware.  Or Grandma….yes, we seem to ask that “Where has it gone?” many, many times a day.

But I’m still here. My world feels very small. I hardly keep in touch with anyone. I am sorry about that. I feel I have very little to contribute outside of my little world.

And all of this sounds depressed and depressing. But I’m not. Really truly, I’m not.

I’m sitting here on this cloudy day, loving the gray coolness, drinking a health-filled smoothy and  finding myself wanting to write for the first time in a while, so I thought I would dust off the keyboard, wave my tiny, internet hand, and say,

“Hello out there! I’m still here. I’m really fine. I’m learning a lot about the downhill side of life, about loving in the hard times, and about wanting to be a more Christ-like woman. I’m in a good spot though. My life is filled with beauty….starting with my sunrise walks at the lake with my mom almost every morning and moving on to days filled with family and kindness and figuring things out and hashing and venting and  loving and flowers and forgiveness and grace. SO MUCH GRACE. ”

Thankfully, that’s one thing I don’t have to ask “Where has it gone?” My life is grace abounding!


“Hello out there! I’m still here. How are you?”




The Ancient One is 95

We are moved. There is nothing left in Arkansas but friends and memories and pieces of our hearts.

We are settling into life here…and it is good. The day that the new owners moved into their new house, The Ancient One turned 95. There is much to celebrate, and how better than a three course Sweden-inspired meal for a lady we all love so much.

It was beautiful. And delicious.

A New Chapter

I really dislike it when so much is happening in life that I’d like to write about and share with you and I don’t seem to manage to sit down and do that. Ideas and experiences start stacking up. Life becomes a run-away roller coaster. I seem to be processing things on some delay mode that makes it impossible to catch up. When I do finally sit down to write, there is so much I want to say that I just look at the blinking cursor begging for a title, then click that little “x” and close the whole thing down.

But get ready for a whole lotta run-on and fragmented sentences, cause here I am again, staring at that taunting cursor and wondering what in the world to title this post because I want to tell you about coming back from that east coast trip in February…about how everything felt very different. About how Jack seemed to know his time was near, but I thought I had it all figured out. He was hurting because of a pulled muscle in his back. He was weak because he wasn’t moving because he hurt. He had horrible side effects because of the new drug the doctor prescribed. He got worse because we stopped the drug all at once. He would get better. He would teach me to play pool. Things would go back to normal. We just needed to make it through. Then that Sunday morning I felt we would lose him if I didn’t get him to the hospital, where they could at least help us make him comfortable.

Even though he didn’t want to go.

He was the commander. How could I make him go, if he said he didn’t want to? This frail 91-year-old man who had been giving orders all his life…in his weakness he looked at me and said “I trust you.” What a morning that was…

Then the tests and the x-rays and the excruciating pain followed by a diagnosis of “stomach virus”.

And we were giddy with relief.

Only it wasn’t a stomach virus. And it wasn’t the drugs. It wasn’t even a pulled muscle. Everything I had held on to to make sense of what was happening…was wrong.

On Tuesday they diagnosed the cancer in his liver and on his spine.

On Wednesday we worked on setting things up with hospice to bring him home to die.

On Thursday, with Grandma and his brother Sam and his grandson Nick and me standing beside his hospital bed…he stopped breathing.

And before I could catch my breath…suddenly my tiny ancient grandmother was a widow again. She couldn’t comprehend it. Her confused mind could not at first allow her to believe it. She does not remember those few long days in the hospital… staying beside him, holding his hand and telling him how much she loves him and that she needed him to be well. When she talks about how badly she feels that she wasn’t there, I show her the pictures that I so awkwardly snatched with my phone’s camera as I wondered if it was really “okay” to take at the same time I was wishing I had my “real” camera with me.  She shakes her head and says, “Isn’t that something. I don’t remember it at all.”



There may have been a brief hush before the whirlwind…but I didn’t notice. So many phone calls and arrangements and questions. So much grief in hugs and eyes and voices. So many family members from each coast – beyond and between. Neighbors dropped off food and offered lodging. Everyone was taken care of. The service at the fire house was well attended. There are very few in the area that remember this community before my grandparents came.

The day after everyone left, Grandma, Mom and I drove to Mom’s house, and Grandma and  I stayed in the guest house that is now known as “Grandma’s house”, for soon we will be living there.

Death is complicated. Not for the one who dies. They get to miss it all. All of the hours on the phone with agencies and departments and official this-and-thats. All seem to feel bound to say, “May I start by offering my sincerest condolences.” which is a very nice gesture, but after the first half-dozen times, I wish we could dispense with that.

And why does paperwork have to be so confusing?

And why does signing anything give me the heebee jeebees?

And how many times can you tell an old woman that her husband died before your heart feels like a stone that will never have emotion again?

And flowers come. And cards. And gifts from complete strangers who offer kindness because “it was the right thing to do.”

Before we knew it, Mom and Scott and Jesse and Tera and Anna came to help pack up furniture and fix the boat dock that had been damaged in the winter storms. And we talked to more agents and representatives. And did more paperwork.

And you just do the next thing, because if you try to think two steps ahead of you nothing seems possible, but if you do one thing at a time progress is made. Most days.

And somewhere inside of the numbness you begin to realize that you’ve grown to love this place that at first you hated. And you know you are going to miss the people who you held at arm’s length for the first two years you were here. And the house that you thought meant nothing to you all this time suddenly feels comfortable and…yours. And you wonder if winter will never end.


And you just have to give it all to God….and know that He is in control and that all of this is happening in His perfect time. And you think that maybe He is keeping you in a constant state of out-of-your-comfort-zone unsureness so that you are sure to stay completely dependent on Him. And in that dependency you find peace. And in the peace – a knowing that all of this is going to work out, and that this is what life is about and that He loves you more than you could ever dream and that you will have the strength to do what you need to do and when because He promises that His strength is made perfect in our weakness. And that’s a beautiful thing.

And just when you think you might have a plan, they are showing the house to a couple before it’s even listed. And that couple makes an offer the same day, and with some back and forth, it looks like the house will be theirs by next month. So even though that seems too fast and you weren’t ready and didn’t even get a chance to stage the house or touch up paint or rake the driveway, it feels that that is God’s way of taking all the worry and stress of that out of your hands.

And now when it seems that maybe moving so soon isn’t the best thing to do (even though you KNOW that it IS the best thing to do) you just think of how God put that together and know that you don’t have to doubt or second-guess yourself. You can truly believe your Father did that out of His love for you. And that, too, is a beautiful thing.

So now…we will enjoy our last days at the lake. And we will soon start again going through 94 years worth of precious possessions. My family will come back in a few weeks and we will have a sale. And we’ll move The Ancient One to Oklahoma where she will never have to be alone. She loves it there, and is so happy to be with her daughter and son-in-law, who she has come to believe is perfect in every way, and grandchildren and great-grandchildren. It will be a new chapter. Her last adventure.

IMG_9327 (800x533)

I pray that it will be a good one.

IMG_9334 (800x533)



Just over a month ago, we gathered at the fire house to celebrate the life of my 91 year old grandfather, and to mourn his death.

Today, we gathered at the fire house to celebrate the life of a 43 year old wife and mother, and to mourn her death.

I watched the tiny, fragile 94 year old lady, widowed for thirty-four days, make her way through the crowd to hug the 40something year old man…exhausted and overwhelmed and a widower for three days.

She told him how sorry she was for his loss as he told her how sorry he was for hers.

I think my heart may have burst a little…



Blessed are those that mourn, for they shall be comforted. Matthew 5:4

Three Thousand Miles to Say Goodbye

At first I was upset that my month off was in January. I wanted to go to Maine…but Maine in January seemed a bit unfeasible. And I wanted to go with my three sisters and friend, Alicia. But January didn’t work for them.

I should have known…I should have trusted. God knew…He had a plan. Why didn’t I trust?

One of the places I have loved most in my life is my grandparents house in Annapolis, Maryland. So many good times and great memories. So much love. Things changed a lot for me as a child, but that house was always the same. Always there.

Things change. And there is a time to let go even when we don’t want to. My grandparents died, but my father and uncle held on to the house. I’m so glad. It would have been too much to let go of all at once.

Now though, the house is on the market. I’m sure it will sell soon. I will be forever grateful that Tera and I were able to go say goodbye…and January was the perfect time to go.

We had such a great trip, too. Started off with a beautiful latte our brother Caleb made for us to take on the road. Tera and I talked all the way to Birmingham, Alabama, and then went on to have a lunch that turned into a wonderful, uplifting, inspiring time of fellowship with our friend Jacob in Atlanta. We didn’t give him much advanced notice, but it worked out, and we were blessed.

Then we went on to spend two nights with our friends, the DiMaria’s, near Charleston, SC. It had been too long since we’d seen them, but again Tera and I were so blown away by their hospitality, friendship and the amazing fellowship we enjoyed. They made us feel so loved and welcome….and blessed.

Ice and snow seemed to follow us all the way to Annapolis, but never caught up. It was cold though…so very cold when we arrived at the quiet, empty house around 11:00 o’clock on Monday night. Tera ventured out of the truck and ran up to open the lock box that the realtor had on the door so that we could get in. We were tired. And cold. Shivering, in fact. And the code didn’t work. Good thing Dad is in a time zone so many hours earlier and we didn’t have to disturb his sleep. Tera called and he gave her another code to try. No luck. The neighbor had keys, but we didn’t want to bother them so late at night, so we went to a hotel. O’Callaghan’s is nearby, and when we were cozy and warm in our comfy beds there, we kept talking about how perfectly things were working out…how we didn’t have to unload or turn the heat up or settle in – just crash, sleep in, and go over in the morning. It was lovely.

IMG_1956 (Copy)

We did go over in the morning, and had a wonderful few days at the house. Just being there. Absorbing all we could, reliving memories…slowly coming to terms with letting go.

We were able to see our “aunts”, take walks, visit some neighbors and relatives of Papa’s…fit a lot into those few days.

It was all perfect. Sunday we loaded up some of our grandmother’s furniture and rugs, and headed home – through a perfect window of good weather and clear roads. Now it’s snowy and wet outside, but we are home – dry and safe and warm.

It was perfect.

Thank you, Dad and Suze, for letting us have that time before the house sells. We do understand your decision…really we do.

And if the house doesn’t sell for some reason, we won’t mind…

Unless your last name is Dahlby.
Unless your last name is Dahlby.

Of course I’m kidding.

Sort of.

Actually, I pray that whoever buys the house will experience at least half the love and wonder in it that we did. Then they will be happy indeed.

We stopped at a wonderful little coffee shop in Cookeville, Tennessee yesterday. They had a very cool “Pay It Forward” board and Tera and I couldn’t help but leave something. Felt like a very fitting way to end this trip….


Farewell 257

A house is a house. A shell. Wood. Stone. Metal. Hay. Sticks. Whatever. A house is just…a house.

Except sometimes it’s not.

Sometimes it’s so much more.

Smells and sounds and creaks and crannies and scratches and dents and scuff marks and worn places on the floors. Doors that won’t quite close and windows that will never open again because they’ve been painted so many times you wonder if the layers of color are thicker than the wood itself.

Sometimes a house is childhood memories and teenage memories and grown-up memories all bundled up and held close, so that when you open the door and walk into a room you can smell your grandmother’s lotion…even though she’s been dead for 10 years. Or walk down the basement stairs and see your grandfather at his workbench…even though he’s been gone for four.

Sometimes you can walk around the corner outside the house and remember being little and trying to stand and balance on the fire hydrant at the corner because your big brother could…so you have to try. Or walk through the garden gate and hear the click of the latch and think of a winding path and water fountain and Shirley Temples and tomato plants…knowing it hasn’t been like that in 30 years.

Sometimes a house is home base…a link to the town that has been and will be a part of you all your life. Where walks begin that take you through rows of houses down narrow streets you’ve walked with your dad over and over again. Over brick side walks that make you stumble if you aren’t careful. Past the flower shop you’ve dreamed of owning. Through St. John’s College. Down the street to the post office or bank where they knew your grandfather by name. Down Main Street to Ego Alley and the Market House and the City Dock where you watched boats and concerts and people. Along the wall and through the gates of the Naval Academy where you played frisbee or explored or sat at the sea wall and learned the difference between a yawl and a sloop and a schooner. Over “Sai’s Bridge” to the house where Tera was born. Or to see the house you remember living in with the huge lilac bush out front and marigolds that Mom let you make chains with. Or down the street where you learned to ride a bike.

Sometimes a house has staircases that you remember walking up and down a million times and no matter how hard you tried, you couldn’t do it silently. And you think of when your grandmother chased your brother up the stairs to prove she could still catch him…long, long before the back surgeries and crippling began. Sometimes those staircases lead to second floors with balconies that let you look over the wall and see the midshipmen parading by. Sometimes they lead to the third floor with its slanted ceilings and mysterious opening to the house next door.

Sometimes houses stay in the family. And you grow up loving them because they always were…no matter how many other changes happened in your life. And you know that they are loved…more than they should be…and you grow up loving them because they hold the people and things and times and laughter and tears that you love. And sometimes they become a part of someone…so that saying goodbye and letting go is like saying goodbye and letting go of those people who you loved and times that were great all over again. And doing that means missing them all over again, only more tangibly because you know you will never have this house to come back to again. And never smell that wonderful 257 or Papa’s Basement smell again. And maybe you fear that letting go of this means losing your connection to part of your life that you just can’t give up.

But sometimes the opportunity to say goodbye to such a house gives you a chance to realize how thankful you are that it is, has been and always will be part of your life. So instead of being tearful or sad, you can be overwhelmingly grateful for memories of sailboats and the Chesapeake Bay and Mimi’s charm and Papa’s ability to fix everything and getting your arm stuck in the bannister and bringing a live bird in to live in Mimi’s birdcage that hung over the bed on the second floor and the board where Papa measured you as you grew taller and lion faces on dining room chairs and tiptoeing to make yourself look like you had four eyes in the gold framed beveled mirror and standing on the balcony and exploring the town and taking care of Mimi when she had her back surgery and being here when Papa died.

I will always treasure these few days that Tera and I could come here now…bidding farewell to this house.

Because even though a house is just a house…sometimes it’s not.

Sometimes it’s so much more.

Home Is…

Home is walking into the house and not having to say who you are.

Home is making a batch of cookies and having them all disappear within two hours.

Home is being in my pajamas and not combing my hair until 2 in the afternoon on some days, just because I’m busy doing other things and it doesn’t matter.

Home is long talks with Mom or my sisters.

Home is crazy with people coming and going at all hours and not being sure who is home or when.

Home is hashing out internal conflicts until it makes less sense than it did before you started – and then maybe doing it all over again with the next person that innocently walks into the room.

Home is laughing till you cry at Andy Griffith or Caleb’s most recent pun.

Home is changing…always changing…because the people that make up “home” are human and humans change.

Home is two hours of Bible study on Sunday morning without realizing two hours had gone by.

Home is praying together…which is too beautiful for words.

Home is watching Mom paint beautiful pictures…starting with a blank canvas which shortly becomes colorful amazingness.

Home is sharing news and happenings and encounters.

Home is chair legs scraping on the dining room floor, and a long table set for six feeling like too many people are missing.

Home is respecting differing opinions…or telling each other that we’re crazy but that’s okay.

Home is spontaneous hugs from my brothers, because “you can never have too many hugs”.

Home is rolling eyes and careless words and hurt feelings and love that overcomes all of that.

Home is refuge.

Home is rest.

Home is….home. And I am so thankful for that.