Saturday, November 14, 2015


Just recently I bought a new study bible.  I had been considering a new bible for some time.  Maybe it’s the newness or the clean fresh pages, but something always draws me into a new bible.  That was partly the reason I decided to purchase a new one.   My first night with it, I smiled, but with a little hesitation, I did the requisite “open it and see what verse or page it falls on”.   Half expecting it to land on a verse to the effect of “Woe thou wicked sinner”.   I closed one eye but, I smiled at where it opened - The book of Ruth.  

As a widow, I was drawn instantly into the story of Naomi and her plight.  Naomi and her husband moved to a distant country called Moab with their two sons.  While they were there, her husband passes away.  Her two sons had married Moabite women but both sons also pass away before having any children to carry on the family’s name.  The book picks up with her decision to return to her homeland in Judah.   She tells her two widowed daughters-in-law that they should return to their own families as she has nothing to offer them.  Naomi is struggling with where God has her life.  The two women obviously love their mother-in-law but one, Orpah, decides to part ways with the family and return to her own family.  The other, Ruth, however, decides instead to stay with her.   I love Ruth’s words in this first Chapter.  

Ruth 1:16-18:

16 But Ruth replied, “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. 17 Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if even death separates you and me.”18 When Naomi realized that Ruth was determined to go with her, she stopped urging her.

Ruth’s faithfulness and determination to stay with her mother-in-law become how she eventually finds her new destiny.  When they arrive in Judah, people are obviously impressed with Ruth.  Her faithfulness was admired but many.  As a result, when Ruth finally meets a distant relative of Naomi’s named Boaz, he already knows her story.   Fast forward to the end of the book, Boaz eventually marries Ruth and gives her children.  The two become grandparents of David - A man after God’s own heart.  Ruth could not have known her destiny when she left Moab and yet God did. 

Are you waiting on your Boaz?   I know that I am.   By “Boaz” I don’t mean necessarily that someone to share life.  Are you currently believing God for something and while you’re sure He realizes it, it’s not happened yet?  Maybe healing of some kind or to change things so that you can get back to a life that you see for yourself - “if only”?    Whether you’re just really not sure what it is or you are positive you know what (and tell God frequently)… whatever “it” is….or the hope of it, I suppose... it’s what gets you up in the morning.    It’s that hope that maybe tomorrow you’ll get that answer that helps you fall asleep in the dark quiet of the night.  I have a hope for a “Boaz”. Feeling kind of lost where I find myself now!  It’s interesting that my bible opened up to a book whose underlying question is simply “God, where are you in all this?”  I realize the same providence that weaved Ruth into Boaz’s field on the very day he would happen to be in his fields is available to all of us.   It’s just hard to accept (for me) sometimes God is working even when I don’t see it or feel it.  

So, after being reminded of this, today I’ve decided to focus on what faithfulness looks like.  I need to remember that God knows exactly what I’m needing just the timing isn’t right.  And to not give up.   In this fast pace life, we expect (and want) equally fast relief from the dark and uncomfortable places.  The reality of these dark, quiet places are where we really grow the most.  So, today, I am reading and re-reading Ruth’s response.   It helps me to remember that God works with the faithful.   That in the uncomfortable places, I need to be determined to be faithful to the right things.   Not worried about what’s in it for me or when my trip to Judah will make clear my next step in life.   Instead, I will continue to pray for the grace to just focus on making the trip to Judah.  Or wherever He leads me next.


Wednesday, November 4, 2015


Hebrews 13:8 - "Jesus Christ is the same, yesterday, today and forever."

How many people do you know who are always the same?  No matter what time of day, what day of the week, or where you see them, they're always the same?  You never have to wonder or guess what kind of mood they are in because they don't have "moods".  They will have the same attitude and tone with you every single time you meet them.

I don't know about you, but I don't know many people who are like that.

I know that *I* am not like that.  Sometimes I'm tired and not as jovial, sometimes I'm in pain and can be a little grumpy or sometimes I'm just distracted with other things and not quite as attentive.  And isn't this just the way we are as humans?  We change with the situation or circumstance or even the weather.  Which of us can say we don't at least feel a little discouraged when we plan something outside and the forecast calls for rain?

How often do we get annoyed at the people we love who need to make changes in their lives, who say they are going to "do better", but then they fall right back into the same pattern?  Whether it's an addiction or just some bad habits, this can be so annoying and so disheartening.

I have, like most of us do, family members who have fallen into addiction and been in and out of rehab and in and out of jail too.  This particular person spent quite a long period of time in jail then got released and seemed to come out a new person.  A better person.  A wiser person.  We all had high hopes that he would step up and be a father to his four children, that he'd begin living a purposeful, productive life.  My husband and I took him to church with us several times before he started going regularly with his mother and children to another church in town.

Then I heard he'd gotten a job about 80 miles from here, he was moving up there to stay for a bit with his niece while he got settled and looked for his own apartment.

The next thing I knew, he was back in jail for use and possession.  I am heartbroken over it, and have listened to my family speak harshly about being "done with" him and giving up on him now.

And I admit, I felt this way too.  It's hard to keep believing in someone when they continually let you down.

Then my mind turned to God and how He must feel about me.  I am constantly letting Him down, going back on my word, not keeping to my declarations of devotion to live for Him.   How many times must He have wanted to give up on me? How many times would He have been well within His rights, as we mortals view them, to have turned His back on me?  But how many times has He instead readily said, "I forgive you.  It's okay.  Just come back to Me and you can start over.  Again."

That's a sobering thought when we look at others as hopeless and not worth giving another chance.  Jesus has told us we are to forgive 490 times. Matthew 18:22  Look it up, get out your calculator.
 70 x 7= 490
(note: I won't link the ESV of this verse up there since it changes "seventy times seven" to "seventy seven times"!!)  Anyhow, either way, that's a LOT of times to forgive, don't you think?  But I wonder how many times beyond that has God gone for me?

Makes things look a whole lot different.  And it goes back to Hebrews 13:8... God doesn't change.  We are always changing and our feelings and even loyalties are like the water flowing in a creek...never the same, always moving and changing.  God's love and mercy is like a rock, firm and unmoving.

Lord, help me to be like You, especially when it comes to extending grace to those around me.  Help me remember how often, how tirelessly YOU have forgiven me.  Let me see others through Your eyes!


Saturday, October 24, 2015


Being a mom and a wife have been the greatest blessings I could ever ask for.  It is exactly what I hoped it would be as a child, and it is what I prayed for as a teen.  But, along with these great blessings comes MAJOR duties, MAJOR responsibilities, a JAM-PACKED schedule, and a TO-DO-LIST that never ends. 

I feel like I went into motherhood blindly. Of course I was ready for children but I had preconceived ideas of how things would be.  For instance, I assumed my husband would be home every evening by 5 p.m. and that the kids would have their rooms picked up and be sitting quietly on the couch reading a book or watching tv while I finished cooking dinner. I thought we would then eat as a family, play some board games, do a family devotion and the girls would be in bed by 8 p.m.  My husband and I would then sit and talk about our day and head off to bed around 9 p.m. for a full 8 hours sleep.    HAHAHA yeah right!!!  

Life gets CHAOTIC at the Ratliff house.   If you watched the movie “Mom’s Night Out", I CAN RELATE!  My husband, John works a lot of hours and is rarely home by 5 p.m.  My oldest daughter, Morgan Grace has a wonderful imagination which sometimes leads us to paper forts all over the house or random drawings taped all over the walls. Sometimes we have full blown birthday parties for her imaginary friend "Neat-O" (oh yes, we bake cakes and invite Momaw over with presents…it's for REAL). 

You may possibly find my youngest, Isabella eating out of Scruffy's dog food or bathing in his water bowl. 

Oh and speaking of Scruffy, let's not forget about him peeing (in anger) from one end of the living room to the other!  

Also, we are very involved in our church; Morgan Grace plays soccer; and Isabella has physical therapy.  I try to exercise daily and let's not forget trying to maintain a social life. 

At times, I have gotten so stressed out from everyday life that I have literally cried because I just felt I couldn’t do it all; that I couldn’t be all I needed to be.  

This hectic schedule left, unfortunately, very little time for prayer and reading my Bible. I would even write it on my to do list in hopes of it getting it marked off. 

Now, like I said earlier, we are very involved with church and we always have been. I was raised to be there every time the door is open and I often volunteer for everything the church has going on.  There is also a mom's group that I meet with once a month and a homeschool co-op that I attend once a week. 

In the midst of all of this “serving Jesus”, I began to feel like I had lost Him. I had become so wrapped up in obligations and taking care of my family that I slacked in the ONE thing that mattered most. I hate to even admit it but hopefully someone can relate…. there were days that the only time I prayed was with my girls at bedtime or before dinner, and the only Bible reading I did was during Morgan Grace’s bible class.  How sad is that! To serve Him but miss Him….Oh how I longed to be a Mary and just sit at His feet. As a teen that’s what I did. I read my bible and prayed for hours. I was SO in love with Jesus.  When I became a wife and a mom, life became hectic.  My anxiety increased so much that it was affecting my health. 

Recently, one morning I woke up early in a complete panic. I couldn’t catch my breath, and I was scared to death. I had started a little “war room” in my closet but as you may have guessed I wasn’t very faithful to it.  The morning I woke up in a panic, this is the first place I headed, down on my knees in complete surrender to the only one who could help. In that moment, I realized that I could not be the wife, mommy, sister, daughter, aunt, daughter- in-law, Sunday School teacher, and homeschool mommy, that I needed to be in my own strength. In my own strength, nothing I do will last.  

God gave me a peace that morning that I hadn't had in awhile. FROG (fully relying on God) is a DAILY decision. Reading your Bible and praying SHOULD be a part of your daily routine!! There’s no way I would go without feeding my physical body so why do I feel that it is ok to go days or weeks without feeding my spiritual man?  It's as simple as the song we use to sing in Sunday School …. “Read your Bible, pray everyday and you'll grow-grow-grow; BUT, …… Don’t read your Bible, forget to pray and you’ll shrink-shrink-shrink.”  

I'm changing things up!!!  It wasn’t that I was living a bad sinful life, not at all,  but I allowed the busyness of life, the things I thought were right to do, take over and control my life. I truly believe the most important relationship I will ever have is the one with my Savior. The one who bled and died on an old rugged cross to save my soul! The one  who is ALWAYS with me even when I don’t feel Him. The one who loves me even when I don’t choose to spend time with Him. This relationship is what matters. 

Don't do what I did, don't get caught up in the busyness of life that you forget Jesus. He's far too precious to be placed on the bottom of our to-do list or on the back burner.


Monday, September 28, 2015

Women of the Bible: Naomi

The women said to Naomi: “Praise be to the Lord, who this day has not left you without a guardian-redeemer. May he become famous throughout Israel!  He will renew your life and sustain you in your old age. For your daughter-in-law, who loves you and who is better to you than seven sons, has given him birth.”  Then Naomi took the child in her arms and cared for him. The women living there said, “Naomi has a son!” And they named him Obed. He was the father of Jesse, the father of David.   Ruth 4:14-17

Oftentimes our mindset is to work while we are young so that we can be comfortable when we are old; however, with a little maturity and some life lessons, we learn that life doesn't always happen that way.  Naomi is a perfect example.  She had a home, husband, two sons, and two daughters-in-law, and by accounts life was good.  Then, over a short period of time she lost everything, everything except her daughter-in-law, Ruth and only because Ruth refused to leave her.  Naomi called herself, "Mara", which means bitter.  Thankfully, even  in her loss and bitterness, Naomi did not collapse or give up.  She put one foot in front of the other, did the best she could each day, and learned to trust God.  God never left her.  He led her through the pain to His perfect will.  Through perseverance and faith, Naomi was again blessed as we read in the above passage.  God did that for Naomi and He will do that for all of us who love and trust Him.

GOD NEVER changes and His promises are FOREVER!

God’s Promise

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.  Romans 15:13 

“Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.” James 1:12

God is not human, that he should lie, not a human being, that he should change his mind.  Does he speak and then not act?  Does he promise and not fulfill?    Numbers 23:19 

 (images from google)

Sunday, September 20, 2015

homemade brew...the healthy kind!


When I found this on YouTube, it was called "Good Girl Moonshine".  My husband, bless his heart, can't remember names at all, so he inevitably began to call it "Good Girl Juice" and occasionally requests that I fix him a bottle of it.  We can only hope he's not telling the guys at work what he calls it.  Ha.

Now, I was skeptical upon seeing the downright ecstasy with which these two sisters extolled the virtues and health benefits of drinking this stuff.  But since I'm always looking for something to help give me energy or lose weight, I was game to try it.

Here are the simple ingredients for making this concoction:

  1. ice (fill a 32 oz. container to the top)
  2. purified water (just don't use tap!)
  3. lemon juice  (2 Tsp)
  4. ginger root, grated  (2 Tsp)
  5. apple cider vinegar [also known as ACV] (2 Tsp) 
  6. sweetener  (to taste)
First of all, make sure whatever brand of ACV you get that it has "the mother" in it.  Ha-ha.. I know, that just sounds weird, but stick with me.  This simply means the ACV is organic and unfiltered, which leaves it with strands of the apple protein, enzymes and friendly bacteria.  It will appear as a sort-of 'sediment' which may float at the top or settle in the bottom of the bottle.  I use Bragg's brand because it has been around for forever and has a good reputation for being an excellent product.  ACV has TONS of benefits for your health, including stabilizing blood sugar, promoting weight loss, and aiding digestion among others you can read about here.

Secondly, purified water.  We all know the importance of pure water.  Don't take a chance with your tap water.  Thirdly... the lemon juice, make sure it is 100% juice and not a cocktail or a lemonade mix.

Fourthly, (is that even a word?) and probably the most complicated...ginger root.  My adventures in procuring "the perfect" ginger have been varied and somewhat disappointing.  I've bought it from Kroger, Walmart, Trader Joe's and Whole Foods.

I can't really tell that it makes a difference where you get it other than from Whole Foods, it will more likely be organic. (but check to make sure if that's what you're looking for)  No matter if it's organic or not, ginger root is gonna be different.  I've found some that are a dark yellow, almost brown color, others that are bright yellow and more moist.  Ginger is stringy by nature, but sometimes it will be MUCH stringier than others.  Those daggone strings drive me nuts!

Egads!  The strings!!!

Ginger will grate best when it's frozen, so pop that baby in the freezer soon as you get it home.  I've read posts that say you don't HAVE to peel it, but I don't like the papery texture of the ginger peel, so I use the back side of a knife and scrape the peel off as best I can.
We have grown extremely fond of ginger as witnessed by my empty tub of Trader Joe's famous Triple Ginger Snaps.  They're the bomb & a couple of them make a nice treat after a delicious, healthy supper.

As you can see below, I have an ancient Salad Shooter that I've started using after grating the old fashioned way quickly got too time-consuming.  I don't know how long my Shooter will work because, seriously, it's OLD and the grater cone has a crack in it, but it sure beats the grater EXCEPT for having to stop and disassemble the thing to clear the strings.  ARGH!


I've also used my old-fashioned crank know, the shiny silver kind your grandma probably had that you either clamp or suction to the counter.  It is tied with the Shooter for efficiency.  Meh.

So, really grating the ginger is the single most time-consuming part of this whole process.

I had been contemplating buying a zester, which is basically a very fine shredder/grater but I digress, to see if it would do any better for this. I had serious doubts and didn't want to end up with another kitchen gadget I had no room to store in my house, but the other day I found one in Burkes on sale, so I grabbed it and lo and behold:

IT WORKS!! And wonderfully well, I might add! I did enough for my 48 ounce bottle in two snaps. FOR REAL! No stopping to clean the blades, no immense waste from all the strings (there ARE no strings with the zester!) Be sure it's still frozen though, I'm sure that made it all the quicker.
So rejoice and cue the "Hallelujah Chorus" y'all...then run out and get yourself a zester RIGHT NOW!
And now back to your regularly scheduled post....

 I will admit to using ground ginger in a pinch.

However, let me spare you some pain by sharing what I learned the first time I used ground instead of fresh:  use ONLY 1 TEAspoon of the ground, not a TABLEspoon...and DEFINITELY not TWO tablespoons!!  (stop laughing!)   Be aware, too, that the ground will not completely dissolve, so just be sure to shake it each time before you take a swig so it's not all concentrated at the bottom or that last mouthful will FEEL like you put 2 tablespoons in it.

Once you finally have your ginger grated, you're ready to put your concoction together.  You simply put all the ingredients in your jar or bottle (more on that in a sec), shake it up really good and let it sit for about 5 -10 minutes (if you can wait that long).

As for sweetener, I have a couple different things I use.

Yes, I actually use regular ol' sugar too. Having had type 1 diabetes for over 40 years, I have tasted pretty much every artificial sweetener to come down the pike.  I have tasted some dawg-nasty stuff, trust me.  I don't really care for any of them, even the newest stuff, and I avoid artificial sweeteners as much as possible.

Then there are the side effects of using those types of things.  I have never been able to tolerate stevia, but I keep trying.  Most any artificial sweetener will give me a headache.  I don't need any of those, thank you, so when I am going to "splurge" on a sweet treat, I just go for the real thing and bolus to cover it.  Now you know.  So anyhow, I make a 48 ounce batch for myself (that's the size bottle I have) and so using around a tablespoon of sugar in that amount along with the properties of the ACV apparently, I don't need to bolus insulin for it.  It has never caused my blood sugar to spike.

Okay, now for the bottle.  If you watched that video linked at the first of this post, you will see they are using regular ol' glass Mason jars.  That's fine for most anyone, I suppose, but there are many downfalls to using those.  For one, my hands are too small to easily grip a quart jar.  They are glass...difficulty gripping them is a pretty sure bet I'm gonna drop one and break it all over the place.  Not fun.  They don't travel well.  Sure, you could go ahead and put the flat and ring on it if you wanted to take it with you in the car, but it ain't gonna fit in the cup holder, ya know?  Then there's the problem of actually carrying it from one place to another.  What do you do?  Put it in your purse?  No, I had to find a better solution.

My family is full of outdoorsy nutjobs.  Seriously, they love hiking, kayaking, camping, cycling (of course) and rock climbing.  We are always in the market for VERY sturdy equipment.  Somewhere along the line, my husband and boys found these things...

Nalgene bottles rock!  We have about 5 of them just between Hubby and myself.  They are made of a hard BPA-free plastic that's almost indestructible.  In addition to these Nalgene bottles, we get something called a Cap-Cap for them so that they're easier to drink from.

You can see most of the Cap-Cap in the above photo.  It essentially lets you have a smaller opening to drink from (eliminating that inevitable face-splash from drinking from the larger one) and still have easy access to the wide-mouth of the bottle for filling with ice and liquid.  I got some of my Cap-Caps on Amazon, but they also carry them in most outdoors or sporting goods stores.  REI is our favorite.  I swear I'm not getting kickbacks, but we do love our awesome outdoor gear!  You can also see this is my 48 oz bottle.  Nalgenes come in 16 oz, 32 oz and 48 oz sizes.  They also have different styles and cap-types available.

The single downfall I have found to using my Nalgene is that it's like a little baby drinking from a huge sippy cup.  You are NOT gonna sneak a sip from it in a meeting or group setting, trust me.  But if that's the only drawback, I'm okay with it.  Ha-ha!

I try to get a full 48 ounces of GGJ every day.  I haven't found that it gives me tons of energy which is really disappointing, but it is obviously helping me lose weight.  After the cycling kick-started my body into dumping some weight, adding this is the only thing that could be helping me continue to lose even after NOT being able to ride for over two months now.  Now THAT is exciting!

One more product before I go... this:

We laughingly refer to that as my Nalgene Purse.  It's made by a company called ChicoBag and we bought one for me (at REI) after a short hike up to Natural Bridge wherein I had to awkwardly tote that heavy bottle the whole time because I had on running shorts with nowhere to hang it on my pants.
It doesn't work as well with the 32 oz, only because you will have to roll or push the top of the bag down a bit to expose the top of the bottle, but is designed perfectly for the 48.  Even when I'm just around the house drinking my GGJ, I put it in the bag.  It keeps it from sweating on everything and makes it easy to grab and keep right with me.  I've been known to take it into the grocery store or even a restaurant with me.  It "wads" up into itself leaving you with a neat little stuff sack, has a small caribiner to clip your keys to when you head out for a hike or paddle.  It also sports a couple of little skinny pockets on the handle just right for a pen or a tube of lip balm.

Let me know if you start drinking your own Good Girl Juice and how it works for you!  I'd love to hear.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Let's Fight

As I sit in my quiet place tonight, I can hear the tree frogs and all of the night sounds outside.  I have just returned home from watching the movie -War Room at our local theater for the second time in two days. 

It is a wonderful God inspired movie but it didn’t tell me anything that I didn’t already know.  It did, however, reaffirm in me what I should be doing. 

I have all of my life said I want to be a better Christian but until a couple of years ago, I had never really done anything about it.  I went on a Walk to Emmaus and heard a talk on Growth through Study (You grow through reading and studying God’s word).  That did it; that taught me that there are different ways to help me better understand God’s word.  Everyone is different and has different ways of learning.  We each need to find what works best and stick with it. I am very bad about comparing myself to other Christians, always thinking they are better Christians than me.  But the Bible says and I am learning that we all sin and come short.   While I feel I have deficiencies in some areas, I have strength in others.  I am pretty good about showing people God’s love.  I love to encourage people, love on them, and nurture them.  I love talking to people and even going out of my way just to help them if possible.  Studying and growing in Christ helps me.

Now this movie, War Room has built a fire in me, a passion to fight on my knees for the lost and dying world, the sick, and the lonely.  

In our homes we need to turn off the tv’s and teach our children and our grandchildren what is most important and that is communicating with God.  Talking with Him is a two-way-street because we talk to God and He listens, and God talks to us and we need to stop and listen.  

I am learning that slowing down to listen is a good habit for me to develop in my prayer time.  I tend to tell God all of my concerns and requests and then amen and off I go onto something else.  I believe we all have so many things that we need to go to God about, but we also have to stop and listen to what He has to say.  I
 guess what I’m trying to say is let’s all make ourselves a War Room and take God more serious! I’m not saying add on a room to your house or clear out your already crowded closet.  Let’s just start with a few quiet minutes before bed or each morning before the house wakes up or even during our lunch times.  Let’s get serious about a two way conversation with Christ.  Let’s get to fighting!

Blessings, Carmella

Wednesday, September 2, 2015


        Some of you may have read my Mom’s previous blog about my youngest daughter’s diagnosis of Cerebral Palsy called, "Fearfully and Wonderfully Made". For those that have not I will do a quick recap. At 6 months of age Isabella was not rolling over or sitting up and was very weak on her left side. I mentioned it to her pediatrician who just dismissed it at which time we took her for a second opinion. Isabella had a 9 month checkup and the doctor agreed with me about my concerns and decided she needed to see a neurologist. We made the trip to Cincinnati where the doctor observed her for 30-45 minutes and said that he knew she had CP as he sees this very often and that she would walk, but closer to 2 years of age.  We decided to go through with the sedated MRI ,which showed no damage. The doctor told us that a lot of times the MRI never shows damage but they will continue to treat her as a CP patient. There was about a span of 6 months between the time we first saw the neurologist and the day of her sedated MRI. Almost every day, I wondered what the MRI would show.   I replayed my pregnancy in my mind a million times trying to figure out when Isabella had the stroke the doctors said she had.  I also questioned if I would ever see her walk the halls of our home, the isle at church or if she would ever walk to the door of my parents’ home when we went for a visit. I knew God COULD heal her but I just didn’t know if it was in His plans. Perhaps Isabella could reach more people and give more glory to God by being wheelchair bound or strapped to a walker. Having to reach a point where you were completely ok with your child being in such a state in order for her to honor God is completely sobering. I had always heard parents say as their children were heading to the mission field that if that’s God’s will for them then that’s the safest place for them. I too felt this way.  What if this was God’s plan for Isabella’s life? Who am I to reject it? After all King Darius turned to God because of the power of God shown thru Daniel’s trial.  My husband on the other hand had complete faith that God would heal Isabella and that she would walk. He took her before the church on a Sunday and had her anointed with oil and prayed over. From that point on he had unwavering faith. It was almost for those months that we lived as a house divided. He wasn’t wrong in his thinking and neither was I. I didn’t know if God would heal her by allowing her to walk but I KNEW either way He would be there and that was enough for me!!! We have continued weekly therapy with Isabella and I am so thankful to report that I have watched her walk the halls of our home, the isle of our church and to the front door of my parents’ home. I have watched her climb items in our home that a CP patient should NEVER be able to do. I have watched the strength in her left side be restored.  She climbs steps like a pro. Just this week I watched my friend’s amazed face at seeing Isabella walk. The nurse said that either Isabella has CP and it isn’t showing on the MRI or she never had it. But I say she had it BUT GOD healed her!!!! I know what she looked like at 6 months and my mommy gut said something was wrong. She began walking at 15 ½ months old. I am so thankful and so unworthy and the grace shown to me. Can God??  GOD CAN!!!!

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Honor Thy Mother

My mother has Alzheimer’s.
My grandmother, my mother, and me (1980)

She was definitively diagnosed in 2011 but all her life she lived in the shadow of the disease. You see her mother had what was presumed to be Alzheimer’s as well as her mother’s mother. So, despite science reports of no significant link between heredity and Alzheimer’s, my mother read everything she could and did everything she could to avoid or delay the “inevitable.” As a young adult, I became aware of my mother’s near obsessive fear of developing this disease. Yet, as she became more and more forgetful, despite taking the new medications, she was more and more determined to deny it. Over time, my siblings and I took over more and more responsibility for her; until in January of this year, we had to have her placed in a nursing home.

My own relationship with her has changed considerably over the last couple of years. When I became a single mother of a young daughter in 1997, my mother made it her personal mission to replace my daughter’s missing father. She would spend months of each year with us, taking vacations with us, and spending most holidays with us. But in 2013 she became agitated and anxious to return to her home each time she was at my house, frequently after just arriving. Since the purpose of these visits had changed from her caring for us to my daughter and I caring for her, the complexion of our relationship changed when she was no longer able to independently come and go on her terms. I became the antagonist, and, ironically enough, this has been the aspect of our relationship that she has been able to hold on to as her memory has faded and her mind clouded.

It has been difficult to watch the mother I know slowly slip away. Initially, she was more & more forgetful. Her stories and tales became repetitive and limited, with many of them seemingly escaping her memory. She began to rewrite history, contriving memories or misconstruing actual events. Now she most days doesn’t recall anyone who is not there with her, including our father whom she seems not to recall at all. However, when one of her loved ones enters her room, her eyes still light up with love and recognition, even if she can’t always come up with a name. At least right now, she still recognizes us as her children and grandchildren and is always happy to see us. Scrapbooks and photo albums have replaced her actual memories; and we review them with her repeatedly during each visit - often more than once as she does not recall having just looked through them.

Further challenge is the job of going through her house, her things, her mementos, her treasures to determine what is to be kept and what is to be discarded, who will keep what and what becomes of the rest. Going through my father’s things after he died wasn’t easy, but this is different. This feels more like I am violating her somehow – I mean she is still alive, still here, although I know she will never be coming home again. The whole process has only been further complicated by the fact that as her memory was fading, she promised the same items to different people. I mean my grandmother's antique roll-top desk doesn’t split four ways.

All this to say, the last few years, especially the last few months, have been emotionally taxing and difficult. It’s been impossible to not get frustrated with her, whether it’s arguing with her about getting dressed or eating, or wishing she had left clear instruction of what is to be done with her valuables. Don’t hear something I am not saying. I still love my mother very much. Dealing with her Alzheimer’s wouldn’t be so difficult if that weren’t true. Sometimes when I look at her, my heart breaks, not seeing a glimmer of the woman I knew, the mother who raised me and loved me beyond a love of anyone else on Earth. I am learning how to function in the paradox of living as an orphan while also ensuring care and provision for my mother.

So last week, when I received a call from the nursing home telling me that my mother had been selected for their Hall of Fame, I was initially conflicted by their request for a brief biography of her. Since they needed it by the next afternoon, I didn’t have time to really think about it. I contacted my three siblings, posted a request on facebook asking for input from family and friends, and set to work. By the next afternoon, my deadline, I had almost three pages thrown together. It was such a gift to me, taking the time, reflecting on my memories, recalling stories she shared through my childhood, and receiving beautiful commentary from others who loved her. The simple act of pulling together her brief biography gave me the chance to refocus on the wonderful woman my mother was, the beautiful woman of love and service. I am so thankful to the nursing home for the opportunity to breathe life back into the woman of my memories. I pray that from now on I can do a better job of keeping these memories in the forefront, and truly honoring the woman who was and is my mother.

In honor of my mother and for completion of this message, here is my mother's biography:
Born Mary Dean Holder, May 6, 1936 to parents Edwin and Irene, Mary had two brothers, one older and one younger. They grew up in the little town of Vanceburg - the county seat of Lewis County in eastern Kentucky, on the Ohio River. Her father was an influential attorney and a World War II veteran of whom she was very proud. She always spoke of her mother as a perfect southern lady who was quite beautiful. Her recollections of her childhood included fond memories of the family dog, Suzie, train trips to the grandparents in Maysville, and living across the street from the old “Commercial hotel” in downtown Vanceburg.  As a young girl, Mary helped her teachers with the younger students, started young as a Sunday school teacher at Vanceburg Christian Church, and worked at the movie theater where she had the opportunity to see many films. Her favorite was Gone With the Wind. She graduated early from high school just a few days after her 16th birthday, and she was valedictorian of her senior class.

So, at the tender age of 16, Mary left home and all that was familiar to travel over 360 miles away to attend nursing school at Murray State University. Trips home were virtually non-existent as it took almost a full day by bus. After completing the initial course work, Mary relocated to Owensboro as a student nurse and lived in the dormitory on the hospital grounds, working countless long hours to complete her nurse's training. After she graduated in 1955, she worked for a time in Frankfort, Kentucky and Cincinnati, Ohio in child psychiatry before returning to Owensboro where she married Joseph William Barlow in 1958. Upon her return to Owensboro, she began working at Owensboro Daviess County Hospital (ODCH) where she worked for more than 30 years, until she retired in 1995.
Mary became a friend to many over the years, developing relationships with “girls” from home, from nurse’s training, from church, from work, or from wherever she went. She has remained friends with these women over her lifetime, sharing with them raising children, traveling, sports, work and grandchildren. She is a loyal friend, who was always there when it mattered. Friends, as well as those who worked with Mary, have described her as intelligent and forward thinking, a great example for others. They loved seeing her as she always had a smile or laugh or  jokes. She is full of love and kindness with an infectious, joyful laugh, an overall wonderful person.

As a young wife and mother raising four children, Mary was a charter member of Century Christian Church. The new congregation began meeting at what was then Southern Junior High while the church was being built. During that time, she and her husband were active members of the Fish & Game Wildlife Farm with Mary serving on the Women’s Auxiliary.
While at ODCH, Mary worked for more than 30 years in Obstetrics and Labor Hall, assisting with deliveries and helping young mothers learn to nurse and care for their new infants. She always worked hard and was loved by her patients. Many times while out about town with her family, she would be stopped by an enthusiastic, grateful mother who would make sure Mary’s family knew that Mary’s face was the first one seen by her son or daughter. These mothers couldn’t say enough about how fortunate they were to have had Mary care for them at such an important time of their life.
Once recruited as a chaperone by her nephew for a KWC trip to NYC, Mary discovered a love of arts which led her back to NYC’s theaters and museums multiple times. She shared this love and passion with her family even taking many of them with her to New York to experience it firsthand. Over the years, her love of the performing and visual arts grew as did her passion for travel – seeing and experiencing new things. She and her husband’s travels led them into each of the 50 states, including Alaska and Hawaii, England, Scotland, Wales, France, and Australia. With others, Mary’s travels expanded into Mexico and Europe, including East Germany. She also passed along her love of sunshine and beaches to her family. She would spend hours soaking in the sun on many beautiful beaches, her favorite being Kiawah Island, SC where she visited many times with her family.

In 1981, Mary took a position as the head of the newly created Infection Control Department at Daviess County Hospital. Over the next 14 years, Mary ran the department efficiently and gained the respect of the doctors on the Infection Control Committee. She not only developed the department, but also implemented protocols and procedures for infection control for newly discovered infections like MRSA and AIDS. Mary’s work with each of these programs required attending national conferences to learn the most current and advanced management plans. Mary was progressive during the AIDS endemic, not only by taking AIDS awareness and education into the community but also by working side-by-side with AIDS victims on the local AIDS council, and even attending the bedside of those suffering with AIDS symptoms. Over time, she rose in leadership within her profession becoming the local expert in Infection Control. During her tenure, the hospital had no outbreaks of infectious disease.
seen here with her "Lunch Bunch" from ODCH

Beyond the walls of the hospital, Mary worked with the Kentucky Nurses Association (KNA), served on the Green River Area Development District (GRADD) Health and Aging Council, the Association for Professionals in Infection Control (APIC), and served as the president of Owensboro's chapter of the National Organization for Women. She has always been very proud of her work lobbying for the seatbelt law in Kentucky, as Kentucky became one of the early states to pass such legislation. In 1989 Mary was honored as KNA’s Nurse of the Year for her years of dedicated service to her community and to the state.
Later in life, Mary was active in Owensboro Christian Church (OCC) and assisted with fundraising for the new sanctuary for the building on College Drive, and then again for the purchase of the old Lincoln Mall. She served faithfully on the Compassion Team who delivered meals to members’ families dealing with illness or the death of a loved one. She developed the Emergency Response Team (ERT) - through which she recruited, scheduled, and coordinated healthcare professionals to be on site during church services and functions to provide immediate care in the event of a health-related emergency. She worked tirelessly to obtain needed equipment including an AED and a stretcher for the ERT program.
No summary of Mary’s life would be complete without mentioning her University of Kentucky Wildcats! They have been her favorite pastime, second only to time with her family. Mary was not only a fan, she was a regular. With a dear friend, she held season football tickets and attended every game for years. For over three decades, she annually attended the SEC basketball tournaments. Friendships were forged over rivalries and each year the same group would come together to disagree over which team was best (although most years UK won). She even traveled to Hawaii for the Thanksgiving tournament one year. Both years she attended Final Four Tournaments (1998 and 2012) her Wildcats brought home the national title! She has remained a die-hard fan. No matter what, she always roots for her “boys.”

After she retired, Mary dedicated her life to serving her church and her family. Her commitment to OCC became more devout after retirement, even serving in the church offices a couple of days a week, assisting with many women’s ministry activities and coordinating the ERT. Over the years, she has assisted her youngest daughter as a single mother in raising her toddler daughter; she has provided care to her husband during his illness until his death, as well as caring for her five additional grandchildren. She relocated herself to Colorado for most of a year to support and care for her middle daughter who was going through chemotherapy and helped with her school-aged son. When each of her brothers lost their wives, Mary spent several weeks with them individually, caring for them in their grief. Mary has dedicated her life to the compassionate care of others, through her profession, her church, her friends, and her family.