Thankful for memories

I discovered recently while having Christmas ornaments made with family photos that my family did not take a lot of holiday pictures.

There were a handful of photos when I was a baby and small child, and then virtually nothing during the rest of my childhood. Of course, back then, we didn’t have the devices that make taking photos and videos so easy now.

family portrait red

It made me a bit sad that there were so few photos of holiday celebrations, but I am thankful I have the memories. There were no fancy Thanksgiving recipes, it was all from boxes and cans, but it was my favorite meal of the year, because it was made with love and it was a meal my parents and I looked forward to so much.

There won’t be any more meals with my parents in this lifetime, but I consider myself fortunate to have such memories.


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A fragile healing over the grief

Today marks six months since my mother died. In many ways, it seems impossible that so much time has passed. A half a year! I think of her multiple times daily, and honestly, most of my thoughts are fixated on those last months. I wish her end had been less painful, though I know dwelling on it will not change anything.


But certainly there are some things moving along in the right direction. The house is refinanced, and I hope to have credit card debt cleared in less than a year. My job is going well, and I’m thankful for the good benefits it provides.

I’m writing not quite as much I think I should, but I am writing. I won a writing award. I was interviewed for a documentary.

To use a not-so-lovely analogy, my grief feels like a bad wound that is slowly healing. If I leave it alone, and don’t pick at it too much, it will eventually heal and a scar may be the only reminder. But it won’t burn or hurt permanently, if I tend to it well. If I let time take its course, and focus on other things, the healing process will work.

I just need to trust in that process.

I need to resist the temptation to open that wound.

My mom would wish me peace over pain. I need to honor her wishes.


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Guest post: 5 tips for reducing your risk of developing Alzheimer’s

By Vee Cecil


Image via Pixabay by JanTemmel

It seems every week, there’s a new study recommending that people do this or don’t do that to reduce their risk of Alzheimer’s. The most reliable tips line up with an overall healthy lifestyle. Guest blogger Vee Cecil highlights several popular recommendations. – Joy

Alzheimer’s disease isn’t a normal part of aging, although it is much more prevalent among seniors ages 65 and older. In fact, the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease rises with age, doubling every five years beyond age 65. The aging population in the United States continues to grow as the Baby Boomer generation enters its senior years, thus, the incidence of Alzheimer’s disease is also on the rise.

As members of the Baby Boomer generation are expected to live longer, healthier lives than the generations before them, Baby Boomers, as well as younger generations, seek ways to maintain their health and well-being long into their golden years. While there is no surefire preventative measure that eliminates your risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, there are a few lifestyle changes that may help to reduce your risk.

  1. Exercise regularly and avoid excessive weight gain. A healthy weight and a physically active lifestyle help you to avoid developing diseases such as heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes. In fact, studies have linked diabetes to a higher risk of Alzheimer’s disease. If you are among the 10 percent of older Americans who have diabetes, proper management of the disease is essential. If you aren’t already physically active, consider taking up a cardio activity like walking or swimming. Swimming is an especially good choice for seniors because it strengthens muscles that help reduce your risk of falling and is also easy on the joints.
  1. Eat a diet rich in vitamins and nutrients. According to an article appearing in ABC News, 16 researchers presented convincing evidence of the benefits of various nutritional strategies in reducing the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease at the International Conference on Nutrition and the Brain in Washington, DC, in 2013. For instance, minimizing your intake of saturated and trans fats and getting enough vitamins and other nutrients from diet staples such as vegetables, legumes, fruits, and whole grains may contribute to a reduced risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.
  1. Berries, in particular, have beneficial properties that may combat memory impairment. “Berries contain high levels of biologically active components, including a class of compounds called anthocyanosides, which fight memory impairment associated with free radicals and beta- amyloid plaques in the brain,” explains For maximum benefit, make berries a part of your daily diet.
  1. Reduce your risk of heart disease. Scientists continue to research prevention strategies, but there is not yet a proven way to prevent Alzheimer’s disease. However, there is strong evidence to suggest that many of the same risk factors that increase your risk of heart disease also increase your risk of Alzheimer’s disease; therefore, it’s possible that lowering your risk of heart disease would also lower your risk of developing Alzheimer’s. Such risk factors include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, excess weight, and diabetes. A combination of physical activity, cognitive stimulation, social engagement, and a healthy diet is a multi-component approach in development with the hope of reducing the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
  1. Stay mentally active. That includes reading, writing, and participating in any activities that engage your brain, such as puzzles, games, and even activities like sewing or crocheting. Studies have shown that people who remain mentally active and regularly participate in reading, writing, and other brain-challenging activities perform better in tests that measure memory and thinking. Learning promotes brain health, and activities that engage your mind are thought to help reduce memory decline over time.

There may not yet be a proven method for preventing Alzheimer’s disease, but taking steps to ensure your overall health and well-being will help you lead a longer, more vibrant lifestyle long into your golden years. Because the risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease overlap with those associated with other diseases, such as diabetes, a proper diet and regular physical activity will go a long way in preserving a healthy body and mind.

Vee Cecil is passionate about fitness, nutrition and her family. A Kentucky-based personal trainer, bootcamp instructor, and wellness coach, she also recently launched a blog, where she shares information on how to lead a happy, healthy lifestyle.



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Finding comfort in terrible times

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m a journalist and I’m often required to cover tragedies like the Paris terrorist attacks. In this digital age, where we are all just a tweet or a Facebook post away from another even if we are physically an ocean apart, watching the horrific scene unfold virtually live was chilling.

It’s also soul-draining to watch the death toll steadily rise, and watch the videos of the blasts and people running and screaming for their lives, as CNN and other news network repeatedly air the footage.

Artwork created by Jean Jullien.

Artwork created by Jean Jullien.

While the evil forces at work seem almost impossible to defeat, there are always signs of humanity, even in the darkest of times. For example, there were reports of strangers in the area opening up their homes to people fleeing the multiple attack scenes. These people offered shelter to those who needed it most, and did so without prompting. In an example of technology being used for good, a Twitter hashtag was set up so that those escaping could find a nearby safe haven. Churches and temples also opened their doors.

There was also a restaurant in the area of the attacks that was placed on lockdown for several hours. Though it’s doubtful that anyone had an appetite as word spread about what was happening around them, the restaurant served everyone a lovely meal. The staff said they were just doing their jobs. This was the definition of comfort food, offering sustenance to the weary.

It makes me think, on a much more personal level, how strangers and acquaintances have offered me comfort in my darkest days of caregiving. Even in the worst of times, there are people around us willing to make a difference, to offer a helping hand.

To those near and far, who offer comfort to those who need it the most, thank you.

Peace for Paris

A photo posted by @jean_jullien on

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Applying writing wisdom to life as a caregiver

I attended the Atlanta Writers Conference this weekend and learned interesting tidbits about the publishing industry and enjoyed hearing about other writer’s projects.

Raymond L. Atkins, an author and guest speaker at the conference, told about how he handled a situation where the publisher selected a cover image that he felt didn’t fit the plot of his novel. The publishing house wanted to market the book as a mystery, when the author knew his book was a romance.


The chosen cover featured an ominous barn. The author was puzzled because there was no such building in his book.

The publisher said they knew that, and wanted him to add a barn to the story.

The author didn’t really want to, but according to his signed contract, the matter was out of his hands and at the discretion of the publisher. So he added the darn barn.

Two pages later, that barn burned down.

To me, this was a great example of “when life hands you lemons, make lemonade.”

As caregivers, we may find ourselves following advice we question but feel powerless to challenge. But we always have power over our own actions and our attitude.

Don’t be afraid to burn barns, figuratively speaking, of course!

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The Day I’ll Finally Stop Grieving

This is not an easy read, and if you are looking for uplifting, then move along. But for me, where I am in the grieving process, this really hit home. I agree with the author that grief does not have an expiration date. That doesn’t mean that we don’t or shouldn’t go on and lead a productive life, just that our love for those gone will always be a part of us.

Source: The Day I’ll Finally Stop Grieving


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A mix of tricks and treats on Halloween

It seems strange not picking up the phone today and wishing my mother a happy Halloween.

Even though we never spent the holiday together after I was grown, my mom always went out of her way to make Halloween special for me as a kid. That included a nifty handmade “Planet of the Apes” costume when I was very small. As I got a little older, my parents faithfully took me to a nearby park for a community event which was like a carnival, complete with games and you guessed it, candy!

halloween cards

Every time I passed a Halloween card display this month, I felt a pang in my heart. Never again would I pick out a Halloween card for my mom. And never would I receive another one from her.

But, I also have kept the cards she sent to me over the years. So I pulled a few of those out, and read the messages from happier times. This lifted my spirits.

I have no shortage of written memories from my mom. Much of the correspondence may be of the mundane variety, but there is her writing, her words, her expressions of love.

So perhaps there are more treats than tricks this Halloween after all.

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