Sunday, January 15, 2017

How do you say goodbye when you just said hello?

Jan 13, 2017
The week before Halloween we got a call from the hospital saying Rodger had been taken to the ER. Four days in the hospital and my 69 year old father in law had a diagnosis. Dementia. 69- he was 69!

We hadn't seen Rodger in about 10 years as he had cut himself off from his sons and their families. He missed every grandchild's graduation, every wedding and every birth of a great grandchild. Everything. We struggled to understand why he did this. Why we weren't important enough to be a part of his life. We sometimes harbored anger, resentment and especially feelings of rejection. As we were all thrust back into each other's lives we came to a new understanding of why. Why he closed himself off from his family and lived in a world separate from ours.

Rodger was drafted into the army in 1968 and spent a year and a half as an infantry soldier in Vietnam. Looking through his photos the difference in his face from before Vietnam to during is remarkable. He went from being a fresh faced all American boy to a war torn young adult. And like many Vietnam vets his drug of choice to numb the pain was alcohol. Over the decades following Vietnam he seemed to have periods of sobriety- but they wouldn't last.
Photos Rodger took of Vietnam- 1968.
Painting a building- "FTA" 
Summer of 1967. Looks like your typical All
 American young man.
1968. What a difference a year makes when you 
are in the middle of a war zone. 

Seeing him in the hospital last October, with a decade of life written all over his face,
seeing his confusion, his vulnerability and helplessness turned all of the negative emotions I had been harboring into sympathy, concern, and love. Forgiveness came as easy as breathing. Just like that- we had Rodger back. Not the Rodger we had known. Not the Rodger who loved to fish Strawberry Reservoir, camp in the Uintah mountains or turn wood on his lathe in his wood shop. But a new Rodger. One that was heading to assisted living because he could no longer tell you what day it was, where he was, or even who we were. This new Rodger would go from being an independent 69 year old to a locked up, which shoe goes on which foot, and what did I eat for lunch 69 year old. But none of that mattered to us, because we had him back.
Big outdoorsman.
Doing what he loved most. 

Assisted living.
We were lucky enough to get him into the VA's assisted living facility and could now visit him every week. As long as we brought him Hershey's bars all was well in Rodger's world. Like so many vets returning from Vietnam Rodger struggled to understand how he was feeling. He would comb through books on Vietnam trying to find answers, trying to find vets who felt as he did. One of his ex wives shared with me that sometimes when she would attempt to wake him he would unknowingly attack her if she startled him. She learned to wake him from the end of the bed rather than the side. When they married he told her he couldn't be a father to her 4 teenage boys because he couldn't even be a father to his own sons. One can only imagine what he experienced in Vietnam. There is a name for what was lingering inside of Rodger. We now call it PTSD.

Now we know. Now we can try to treat PTSD because we have a deeper understanding and acceptance of this horrible mental disorder. Back in the 60's we did not. So instead of prescribed antidepressants and counseling a large number of our vets self medicated with drugs/and or alcohol. In addition to the trauma of fighting in Vietnam Rodger was exposed to Agent Orange. He was awarded a purple heart for wounds suffered in combat. But he never talked about it. Ever. He lost a kidney in his 30's, had back problems, high blood pressure, vertigo, Macular degeneration, a detached retina and finally developed dementia. I wonder how different his health might have been if he hadn't been drafted.
Last time we visited Rodger we took him a regular size candy bar.
This is how big he wanted the next one to be.
We found this 5 pound chocolate bar for him when we left the
VA the day we took that photo. We never got to give it to him.

Studies have shown that vets who suffered from PTSD and were exposed to Agent Orange had an increased risk of developing dementia. It actually doubled their risk.
We would spend 3 1/2 months getting to know the new Rodger through our weekly visits. We spent more time with him in those few months than we had in 20+ years. We loved to sit and listen to his stories. Things that never happened and conversations that never took place were what was happening in Rodger's world. Instead of correcting him we would enter his reality and play along. Ask him to "tell us about it." We joked with him and laughed at the nonsensical things his complex, intelligent, spiritual, creative- yet shrinking, dying brain would think up. We thought we were going to have more time with him. That at just 69 years old (did I mention 69) we would traverse to and from the VA for a good, long time. But our time with him would be cut short. At 4:15 this morning this gentle giant was called home.

Subdural Hemorrhage.
Rodger had suffered from vertigo for years. And while he was in assisted living he was put on a dementia medication that can cause dizziness. And insomnia. We were told by his care givers at the VA that he hadn't slept in three days. They found him on the floor of his room Tuesday morning. He had fallen. And although he didn't remember hitting his head, he developed a subdural hemorrhage. The CT scan showed that he had developed bleeding on his brain previously as well.

Surgery or Comfort Measures.
To do surgery or not to do surgery? After consulting with the hospital staff and neurosurgeon it was decided that Rodger's odds of a meaningful recovery were slim to none. That to draw out his suffering and stave off the inevitable were not humane or in his best interest. We were able to sit with him for the good part of the day and make sure he was comfortable with pain medication eventually being administered every 15 minutes. We were told we would have somewhere between days to a few weeks with him- but God had other plans.

One Last Goodbye.
With one last goodbye we would leave him yesterday afternoon and return to his body this morning. 12 hours after comfort measures were started he peacefully fell asleep. What a gift the last 3 1/2 months have been.  With a lesson on forgiveness, and memories we will cherish forever, how can we not be grateful? I'll never be able to look at a Hershey's bar again without thinking of Rodger. When we get his ashes from the mortuary we will take them to Strawberry Reservoir and up to Sage Creek in the Uintah mountains where he loved to be, and he will become one with the earth.
Ecclesiastes 12:7- "Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was:
and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it."
Friday the VA facility flew the flags at half staff in honor of
Rodger. We were very moved by this gesture. 

Saturday, September 3, 2016

More Scandinavian Christmas tags

Whenever I find some cute Scandinavian style craft supplies I get a little giddy! Alas, it doesn't happen very often but when it does- YAY!! Yesterday I found these cute little stamps at my local craft store and could not pass them up. I knew they would make some fun little gift tags for Christmas.
 This is such an amazing time to live in Utah. You can feel the ushering in of the holiday season when you go into the craft stores, see the turning leaves on the trees, and feel the cold when you open the door first thing in the morning. There are a million other things I could be doing around my house  but this time of the year says "Get your craft on!
I got another advent nisse in the mail this week for my grand daughter Roz. All my kids and grand kids will be together for Christmas this year and I am so excited!! I spent Thursday making pajama bottoms for the little girls to have when they come to Gigi's for the holidays.
 I made theses tags using the Hero Arts "Elves" stamp set by Lia Griffiths.
 The blank tags are available at Hobby Lobby. The ribbon I already had on hand.
The linen thread is from Hillcreek Designs.
 I love these adorable little elves....
 and the cute little mushrooms!
Maileg advent nisse elves. Love, love, love Maileg!!!
Lia Griffith Elves stamp set.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Scandinavian Christmas Gift Tags

Tis better to give than receive! I do love gifting a great present. Something that I have put a lot of thought and energy into. When you take the time to find or make a gift you know the recipient will love you are saying "I know you, I care about you". 
When I was designing projects for the book I was going to publish I wanted to have some very simple things that could be made quickly, with little effort. Gift tags and cards are such a good way to get your creative on during the holiday season. These were made using some stamp sets and some were made using rubber stamps I had hand carved. Oh my heck! That was a lot harder than I thought it would be. Never again!! 
 The deer, heart, and both bird tags were stamped with
 Close to My Heart's Scandinavian Wishes stamp set.
The rest were hand carved by yours truly! Did I 
mention Never again??

Friday, August 26, 2016

Peaches, peaches, and more peaches!!

This year we struck the mother load with our peach trees. We haven't had them in the ground for very long so we were shocked at how much fruit we got from the two trees. The Haven Hale produced about 300 peaches this year. It has only been in the ground for about 2 years now. The second peach tree we planted produced about 600 peaches and has been in the ground about 4 years. We aren't sure of the variety of the tree but were so amazed at how much fruit we got. We ended up having to make branch supports because the tree was so loaded we started having branches split. 

It was so fun to can sliced peaches, jam, syrup and peach butter. It was a bit tricky because I have a solid cook top but after calling the manufacturer to find out if I could home can on my stove I went to work searching for a smooth bottomed stock pot. I ended up finding a 16 quart stainless stockpot from Amazon but when I tried to find a canning rack to fit it was next to impossible. So, like any good food preserver I improvised! I found a round stainless cooling rack that ended up working like a charm. 

Preserving the fruits of your labor is so gratifying! I can't wait to share my peach butter, along with some homemade bread at Christmas this year!
Hale Haven peach tree
So pretty!
Not quite ripe but we had to thin them
before they split the branches.
Hale Haven peaches.
 Sliced and stored in sandwich bags for the Winter.
 Stockpot with cooling rack to keep the canning
jars off the bottom of the pan.
 Peach butter. Ahh, that's the good stuff!

Slow Cooker Peach Butter:

8 C. organic peach puree
3-4 cups of organic sugar
3/4 tsp. organic cinnamon
1/4 tsp. organic allspice
1/4 tsp. organic ginger
pinch of organic nutmeg.

Place the peach puree, sugar and spices into the crock of a slow cooker.
Mix well and set the slow cooker or low.
Crack the lid so the ingredients can cook down and thicken. (I used a small wooden spoon wedged under the lid).
Stir every now and then and cook until the mixture is desired consistency. Takes about 6-8 hours.
Place in sterilized pint sized canning jars leaving about 1/2 inch of head space.
Process in a water bath for 10-15 minutes. Use within a week of opening.

Maileg Advent Nisse

My goodness Maileg has some fun stuff! I ordered this cute advent nisse on Sunday and had her by Wednesday. I'm so excited to have my two little grand daughters here visiting for the Holidays this year and wanted an advent for them to wake up to every morning. There are pockets on the front of the dress to tuck little prizes or treats into.  I know, I'm early. But when maileg has their adorable goods go on sale you don't wait! 
This Advent Calendar Girl can be found at:


Friday, August 5, 2016

DIY Scandinavian heart ornaments

It's that time of year again! Time to start on the Christmas crafts. Normally by this time of year they are well underway at my house. Oops! I'm late! I have been so busy that they have had to wait.

 I love how easy these hearts are to make. And I think they scream Scandinavian Christmas! Gotta love that!! If Denmark had an official national symbol I'm pretty sure it would be the heart!! 

I bought a beaded garland at my local craft store with a 40% off coupon. They ended up costing me about $5.00. The galvanized wire was another $3.00 for the spool and I already had the jute. I was able to get 9 ornaments out of the garland and used about 1/4 of the roll of wire. They were super fun to make!!
Ahhhh, aren't they lovely!
Using a pair of wire cutters cut your wire about 10.5 inches long. 
 You will need 2 pieces per heart. 
 Put them together and twist about a 1/2 inch twist 
at the end of the wire. I like to leave about 1 1/2 inches 
of untwisted pieces at the very bottom
 Snip off one of the ends to about 1/8 of an inch.
 Fold it upwards so it's tucked under the bead once
the bead is slipped on. 
Slip the bead onto the tail. See how the twist is hidden?
 It's magic!
 Using either a pair of needle nose, or round nose pliers, 
roll up the end tail piece nice and tight to prevent that
bead from slipping off. If you cut your tail piece too short 
off your bead will go!

 Load 12 beads onto each side of your wire. I know- this is so hard!! 
Bare with me though!!
 Once you have 12 beads on each piece of wire twist it at the top. 
Make sure those beads are tight so that you don't have too much 
wire showing when your heart is finished. 
 Twist the wire about 1/2 inch here like you did at the 
bottom of the heart. I twisted a little bit more here but
that's okay. 
 Snip off one of the ends to about 1/8 of an inch
 and fold it upwards
Push the middle down to shape it into a heart.  
 Snip off the tail that is left leaving about 
 3/4' to 1" 
 Roll up the wire tail nice and tight.
Now you are ready for some jute or ribbon!
Wrap the jute around the center bead and tie
a cute bow. 

Friday, July 29, 2016


I love a good party! Especially one with a theme!
 This Spring we decided to throw a summer family luau. We started planning months before so we would be super prepared. It was a ton of work but we had so much fun! Luckily sister has a big back yard with lots of beautiful flowers and plants and an awesome fire pit. 

My Samoan friends, The Tue family, came to sing and dance for us and I even broke out the ukulele and played/sang. We had kalua pork, teriyaki chicken, Hawaiian rolls, fried rice, fresh fruit, pina colada cupcakes, Hawaiian chips, hot dogs, and punch. We learned the Hukilau, slow danced with our sweethearts and laughed into the evening.
We lined the yard with tiki torches, had paper lanterns in the trees and lights on the deck. We decorated with sea shells and sand, did hanging glass lanterns to light the pathway to the backyard and made sure everyone got a lei when they arrived. 
Our guests arrived in Hawaiian dress and the best dressed won a prize.

 It was so great to be together. 
We will carry the memories of time spent with friends and family with us always. 
Best dressed! Mom has mad tattoo skills!
 Looks like something straight out of "South Pacific."
 My family. 
Two of my cute kids and the hubbs. 
Yes, yes that is a coconut bra my son is wearing!
 Pj and Liz. So talented!
 Learning the Hukilau. Best effort wins a prize. 
 The kids had so much fun!
 Posu and Kelly Tue. Such lovely people.
 Beauty and grace.
 Oh grandpa! A Hawaiian shirt AND cowboy boots??
 Great pit of fire. 
 Learning the Hukilau.
 The Tues.
 My handsome boys!
 Posu and Liz.
 Beverages. Ocean water recipe I found on Pinterest. 
 Years of decorative painting paid off. Just don't look to closely!
 Leis we found on ebay.
 Yummy food.
 Beautiful fruit.
Mom and dad. 
We all danced with our sweethearts.