In her dedication Harriet describes caregivers as the unsung heroines and heroes of life. Do you agree with this statement?
The title of the first chapter is “Caregiving is an Expanding Role.” Think about some of tasks associated with caregiving and share them with the group.
Are you a stand-by family caregiver, someone who is available when schedules conflict?
Which caregiving tasks do you think are hardest for family caregivers?
Is your community wheelchair friendly, with wide store/restaurant doorways and enough wheelchair parking places? What else is needed?
Harriet shares some personal stories in The Family Caregiver’s Guide. Is there a story that touched you?
Pretend you are an architect. How would you design a place for home caregiving?
Which skills are essential for family caregivers?
Although most caregivers are women, men are assuming this role. What special skills do men have?
Is anyone really prepared to be a family caregiver? Share some of your thoughts.
Harriet devotes an entire chapter to caregiving “nuts and bolts.” Think of some other things that are necessary for home caregiving. Have you seen any new products?
Caregiving is an evolving role that involves constant learning. Are courses available in your community? If so, what are they?
In the guide Harriet writes about sleep deprivation. Have you ever been sleep deprived? How did it make you feel?
Does your loved one have a health problem? How do you feel about this problem?
Becoming a care receiver can be demeaning and make the care receiver feel helpless. Think of some ways to reduce this feeling.
You may have arranged for mobile services for your loved one. How did they work out? Were the costs reasonable?
Self-care is important for caregivers. Share some of the ways you practice self-care.
The Family Caregiver’s Guide ends with a chapter about the rewards of caregiving. Discuss these rewards. Which one seems to be most important?
Each chapter ends with Smart Steps—reviews of the main points in the chapters. Was this section helpful? Did you follow any of the suggestions?
Harriet writes about the benefits of affirmation writing. You have read The Family Caregiver’s Guide. Would you read the second book in her series, Affirmations for Family Caregivers?
I respect Indie authors because I am one and care about authors who have good books with weak covers. A book cover can make or break a sale. Your book cover needs to look professional and be a “grabber.” What makes a good cover?
First, the cover should match the content. While this sounds like an amazing grasp of the obvious, it isn’t. Many books have covers that don’t fit the contents. I used to have a publications lawyer and she added a clause in my contract that said the cover couldn’t be changed without my consent. Covers are often changed for overseas markets, she explained, including “bosomy covers” on serious books.
Just as words speak for your book, the cover should speak for your book. This advice comes from marketing director/author, Jeff Goins. In his article “Three Things Most People Don’t Know About Book Cover Design, he says good books provoke readers. “They make you think. And so should their covers.”
What makes a good cover? When I researched book covers, I learned that readers tend to think of themselves as younger than the people on book covers. Though my latest book is for grandparents, notice that the couple on the cover are young grandparents. Also, they look happy—another important point. The publisher, graphic designer, and I chose the font together.
The first cover design had a red title, but the book distributor nixed it. The distributor suggested blue and we followed his advice. Look carefully and you’ll see the letters outlined in white to increase visibility. Graphic designers call this “drop shadow” and it can be very effective.
In the online age, the subtitle of a book is as important as the title. Your subtitle may refer to the genre, such as “Book two of the Detective Marley series.” Coming up with a subtitle took hours and I finally wrote one that worked: Tested Tips, Research & Real-Life Stories to Make Your Life Easier. This subtitle tells potential buyers what to expect from the book.
A good subtitle shortcuts the decision-making process, according to Kevin Tumlinson, author of the article, “The Psychology of a Good Book Cover.” Tumlinson thinks a good cover should make the eyes move. “If the reader is thrilled by the cover image as they ‘read’ it, there’s a better chance they’ll assume the book will be equally as thrilling,” he notes.
The second cover design has a medallion on it. When the book was released, neither the publisher nor I knew it would be named a finalist in the Book Excellence Awards. Several months later, the book received a second award and I notified my publisher. I asked she would add another medallion to the cover. Her reply: “We don’t want to clutter the cover with medallions.”
Because I have a graduate degree in art, I always have book cover ideas. For me, hiring a graphic designer is worth the money. Trends can make an existing cover outdated. That happened to me and I recently changed a book cover. It was worth the money and sales increased immediately.
Look at award-winning covers online before you approve your cover. Pay close attention to covers in your genre. Which ones do you like best? Why do you like them? Do any design ideas apply to your forthcoming book? As Kristen Eckstein notes in her article, “The Five Secrets to a Killer eBook Cover, “Your goal is to stand out from the crowd.”
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 yellow onion, chopped
1 carton (32 ounces) chicken broth, unsalted
1 can (28 ounces) tomato puree
1 teaspoon garlic powder (more if you love garlic)
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 ½ teaspoons dried basil (or 2 tablespoons fresh basil)
Pour olive oil into soup pot. Saute onions over medium heat for 5 minutes.
Add chicken stock, tomato puree, garlic powder, sugar, salt, and basil.
Cover and simmer for 5 minutes.
Garnish with shaved Parmesan cheese. Makes 8 servings.
Note: To make this a meal, add ½ cup pasta or cheese tortellini. Simmer 10 more minutes or until pasta is cooked. This recipe is from The Family Caregiver’s Cookbook.
In 2013 the connection between my husband’s Dacron descending aorta and the real aorta failed. His health care team kept giving him transfusions but couldn’t keep pace with the blood loss. John was bleeding to death. He had three emergency operations and, during the last one, suffered a spinal cord injury. To promote healing, he was kept in an artificial coma for a month.
When John regained consciousness, he was paraplegic, and couldn’t control the lower part of his body. Though feelings returned to his right leg (the good leg), his left leg was weak and unreliable. After eight months of hospitalization for wound care, he was dismissed to my care, and came home to the wheelchair-friendly townhome I built for us.
A year passed and one day John received an appointment notice for therapy. John had been sedentary so long that I had my doubts about therapy. But dedicated therapists taught him to stand, stand and pivot, and walk several yards with the aid of a walker. It was a miracle and his therapists were miracle makers.
This is our fifth year in our townhome. John has been hospitalized twice for pneumonia, and once for pneumonia and pleurisy. In December of 2018, when a paid caregiver was with him and I was fixing John’s breakfast, I heard a thud and cry of pain. John had fallen. I called the fire department’s non-emergency number. When the team arrived and assessed the situation, they called for an ambulance.
Test results showed that John’s pelvis was fractured in three places. He was bleeding internally and had surgery to correct this. John spent six days in the hospital and was transferred to a rehab facility. This reactivated my anticipatory grief. I had experienced this type of grief before, yet this time it was stronger. Far stronger. Why was I grieving? Answering this question took several weeks.
I’m grieving for the active lives we once lived. John and I have walked on the Great Wall of China together, hiked the Inca Trail, and explored back streets of London. His hobbies—fly fishing in mountain streams, hunting with family members, traveling to far-off places—are gone now. Our walking program is gone too. John’s world is his wheelchair.
I’m grieving for the pain John has endured. His health care team tried several pain medications and all were ineffective. Finally, the team found the “right” medication and his pain was reduced. When he was transferred to rehab, however, his pain wasn’t under control. I worried about him and John worried about himself. A physician came to check on John and changed the dosage times of his medication. Her idea worked and John’s pain slowly ebbed.
I’m grieving for John’s despair. Using a Hoyer lift to go from bed to wheelchair, and wheelchair back to bed, caused excruciating pain. One person pushed John to roll him over, which caused more pain. Later that day John admitted, “I can’t take this level of pain anymore. I would rather die.” I wanted to sob but controlled my feelings.
Sometimes I grieve for the future. John’s life will probably be more limited. He may never regain the strength he once had and this discourages me. Then I think of our years together: dating for four years, our wedding day, having two daughters, growing our careers, and celebrating 61 anniversaries. John is the foundation of my life, my lover, my best friend, my defender. Each day I spend with him is a gift.
In 2007 four family members died, my daughter (mother of my twin grandchildren), my father-in-law, my brother, and the twins’ father. The court appointed my husband and me as the twins’ guardians and caregivers. As time passed, and we celebrated their birthdays, I became acutely aware of the twins’ maturation.
They looked different, their conversation became more complex, and their goals changed.
I learned two kids and two grandparents can meld into a family. It was a miracle. Before their parents died, the twins and their mother came to dinner every Sunday. Though they didn’t know us well, they knew our personalities and were familiar with our house. When the twins moved in with us, they also discovered our strengths and weaknesses.
They learned that Grandma was an organized person and the house ran like clockwork. They learned that Grandpa loves ketchup and puts it on almost everything. In Grandpa’s mind, ketchup is a vegetable. They learned that we kept our promises. I think the most important thing they learned is that they were loved and safe.
Similarly, I learned that grandkids are kind, helpful people.
I’ve been a writer for 38 years and, while I can crank out thousands of words in record time, I’m a technical nerd. “Can you help me?” became a common question. Invariably, the twins would stop what they were doing and rush to my aid. When the twins left for college my technical support also left. Thankfully, they answered emergency emails and phone calls.
As the years passed, and birthdays were celebrated, I realized grief could be shared. Family members, friends and total strangers rallied to help me. I don’t know what I would have done without their support. In the early stages of grief, the twins didn’t want to talk about their grief. Now they are more open about it and we share stories about their parents.
One of my favorite stories involves my daughter and Peanut the hamster. The hamster cut his back on the bottom of the exercise wheel. My daughter called the vet and he told her it was safe to super glue the fur, pulling the cut closed. The wound healed and Peanut lived a long life.
For me, 2007 was the year of death and I didn’t think I could be happy again. But I am happy and have a new and meaningful life. I didn’t set out to create this life; it evolved slowly. Writing grief healing books and articles, doing my grief work, and watching the twins become adults contributed to this life.
Today, many grandparents live thousands of miles away from their grandchildren and rarely see them. Worse, gthese randparents and grandchildren don’t get to know each other. Our story was different. With love, caring, and persistence, the four of us became a grandfamily. Much of my happiness comes from my grandkids—two of the kindest, smartest, finest people I know.
I have a caregiving support system. Yes ___ No ___
It includes family, friends, and spiritual/religious support. Yes ___ No ___
Paid caregivers are part of my support system. Yes ___ No ___
Family members are part of my support system. Yes ___ No ___
I stay in contact with other caregivers. Yes ___ No ___
Some caregivers live in my town/city. Yes ___ No ___
Other caregivers have similar lives and concerns. Yes ___ No ___
A support group is part of my support system. Yes ___ No ___
I use online caregiver support. Yes ___ No __
My support system reduces the isolation I feel. Yes ___ No ___
Laughter is part of my support system. Yes ___ No ___
I take breaks from caregiving. Yes ___ No ___
Originally posted on Literary Titan — Thanks for reviewing!
It is common to see grandparents raise their grandkids. The reasons vary from the children getting in trouble, passing away, divorce, teen pregnancies, parents being in jail, not being in a capacity to raise the kids, or not having the right parental skills. Grandparents raising grandkids may seem easy, but it’s not. Harriet Hodgson takes us through the struggles, the fun times that create the relationship children have with their grandparents.
Harriet Hodgson uses real-life example to delivery some poignant and sage advice. She raised her daughters’ children, and so speaks from a position of experience throughout the book, but not as a teacher, more as a knowing grandparent. The kids were twins and raising them was an amazing experience. The author notes how difficult it can be when grandkids ask for information which you think would be best explained by their parents. Losing her daughter was painful. Grieving for her daughter, the twin’s father, her brother, and father in law was among the lowest moments in her life.
This book reads like a parenting guide for grandparents. Some may feel that, since they are grandparents, they know how to raise kids. But remember, you are raising kids from a different perspective now and this book illuminates those differences and helps you tackle them. The author writes about family values and helps one understand what children want and how they should be treated. Raising teens can be an uphill task for anyone. The writer shares her experience raising her grandkids in their teen years, and how adolescents react to issues.
The tips Harriet Hodgson shares should be mastered by everyone as they will always come in handy at some point in life. The book is written in a flowing style, with the author listing her thoughts then explaining later in detail. This book not only educates you on parenting, but also helps to understand and cope with grief.
Throughout the bok Harriet Hodgson words are backed by research and science. That is the other amazing thing about this book. Everything listed is a fact, and one gets to understand how some families come to be. From the texts in the book, one can tell that Harriet is excellent at care-giving.
I’ve learned a lot just by reading this book. Mourning can take a toll on someone, but there is always that period where you rise up. The author did well by talking about stress and the effect it has on kids and how one should take care of their health. You understand how you can encourage a child to aim higher and get to the peak in everything they do.
Originally posted on AlzAuthors
If you told me I would write a series for family caregivers, I would reply, “Thanks, but I think you’re delusional.” I would say this gently and go on my way. Although I’ve written about my caregiving experiences, I never thought of writing a series. This is odd because I’ve cared for three generations of family members.
My mother had a series of mini strokes and, according to her doctor, they added up to Alzheimer’s. I was her family caregiver for nine years and didn’t realize how exhausted I was until she died. A few years later I became my twin grandchildren’s guardian and caregiver.
On a Friday night in February of 2007 the twin’s mother (my daughter) died from the injuries she received in a car crash. My father-in-law and brother also died. In November the twin’s father died from the injuries he received in another crash. It was unbelievable. The court appointed my husband and me as their guardians, and we did this for seven years.
I hoped life would calm down, but it didn’t. In 2013 my husband’s aorta split and I drove him to the hospital. He was bleeding to death and the ER team took quick action. Unfortunately, successive blood transfusions couldn’t keep pace with the blood loss. My husband had three emergency operations and suffered a spinal cord injury during the last one.
The injury paralyzed his legs. My husband was hospitalized for eight months and dismissed to my care. During this time I visited him three times a day, moved us out of the house we had lived in for 20+ years, built a wheelchair-accessible townhome, and maintained a writing career. Many people have asked me how I did all his and my answer is the same: “I don’t know.”
A week after my husband moved into our townhome I sat down at the computer and started writing The Family Caregiver’s Guide. The purpose of the guide is to make family caregiving easier. Caregivers have little time for reading, so I wrote succinctly and listed Smart Steps at the end of each chapter—self-help tips for readers. As with my other books, I tell a personal story and back-up points with research. Many of the points I make pertain to Alzheimer’s disease. Fifteen five-star reviews of the guide are posted on Amazon. Some of the comments:
. . . even though the subject matter is a challenging one for any of us, there is a sense of “I can do this” . . .
The book is like a friend that you can return to time and again for assistance and strength.
I loved the Smart Steps at the end of each chapter, a brief review of what has helped her and should be a life line for you.
A great resource for any caregiver.
The reviews and comments I’ve received are gratifying. Many people have said they wished they had the book before they became caregivers. The Family Caregiver’s Guide came as a surprise and there were more surprises to come. One book led to a four-book series from WriteLife Publishing. My heart, soul, and life are in these books!
½ cup granulated sugar
½ cup soft butter or butter-flavored Crisco
1 large egg, room temperature
1 cup light molasses (not blackstrap)
2 ½ cups pre-sifted, all-purpose flour
1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon ground cloves
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup hot water
Heat oven to 350 degrees.
Coat a square baking pan or foil pan with cooking spray.
Cream granulated sugar and butter together.
Add egg and molasses. Beat until well combined.
In another bowl, whisk flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and salt together.
With beater on low, add dry ingredients to wet.
Add hot water and combine well.
Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for about 35 minutes, or until gingerbread starts to pull away from pan.
Serve slightly warm with homemade, sweetened whipped cream.
Garnish with lemon zest or candied ginger. Makes nine servings.
Homemade whipped cream: Chill bowl and beaters for 1 hour. Pour 8 ounces whipping cream into bowl. Add 2 teaspoons sugar, 1 teaspoon vanilla, and beat until soft peaks form.
During my 38-year career as a freelance writer, I’ve given away many things. I’ve written and edited newsletters for several organizations, edited copy for beginning writers, given free workshops, spoken at national and local conferences. Giving is part of my life and I’m glad to do it.
A couple that lived behind me asked if I would help them get their daughter’s poems published. Their daughter was a park ranger, experienced hiker, mountain climber, photographer, and fire fighter. Sadly, she died suddenly of heart failure at the age of 28. The parents wanted to make their daughter’s poetry into a book for family members.
“Can you help us?” they asked.
I agreed and the couple delivered two scrapbooks of poetry to me. One contained typed poems and the other handwritten poems. As I read the poems I realized some were duplicates. Their daughter had changed a few words of some of the handwritten poems. “This is going to take me a few days,” I told the parents.
As so often happens with writing, one task led to another. First, I grouped the poems into categories. I corrected English errors and it was tedious work. Four or five poems were missing titles and I created titles from their daughter’s words. Finally, I wrote an introduction to the book and a page about the national park.
Since the parents weren’t familiar with publishing, I went on the Internet and found several publishers that deal with small press runs. I ordered a customer kit for them and contacted a graphic designer I’ve used many times. Meantime, the parents contacted a gift shop in the national park and asked if it would be willing to carry the book.
I thought the book was ready to submit to a publisher, but the graphic designer contacted me and said it was a bit short. “Do you have any photos?” he asked. The parents looked through trunks of items and found several photos that would work and emailed them to the designer. I found two poems I had missed and turned a paragraph of an essay into a poem. These additions changed the pagination and the designer had to lay out the book again.
By now, two weeks had passed, and my mind was a jumble of words, grammar, and design ideas. “You’ve really spent a lot of time on this,” my husband said.
Helping the bereaved parents took me back to the day my daughter died. I cried for the parents and their young daughter. I also shed some tears for myself. Thanks to the parents’ persistence, a talented graphic designer, and an independent publisher, a casual collection of poems became a beautiful book. I feel blessed to be part of it.
You don’t cry as much.
You can tell your story without sobbing.
You laugh start to laugh, although laughter is a bit rusty.
You have your first belly laugh.
You are aware of the outside world again.
You attend your first support group meeting.
You continue to attend support group meetings.
You want to help others.
You think about establishing a memorial.
You make a life change in honor of your loved one.
You welcome quiet.
You can be peacefully alone.
You choose to live and enjoy the miracle of life.
You remember your loved one and smile.
- Tuesday, June 12, 10: a.m. – 11:30 a.m. 125 Live Center for Active Adults, 125 Elton Hills Drive North, Rochester, MN, 55901. Refreshments will be served.
- Saturday, June 30, Noon – 3 p.m., Barnes & Noble, Apache Mall, 1201 12th St. SW, Rochester, MN, 55902. Attendees will receive helpful handouts.
After my husband’s aorta dissected in 2013 I built a wheelchair-accessible townhome for us. Living there hinged upon my health. If my health started to fail we would have to move, a worrisome thought. My husband and I hoped to stay in our townhome for years.
Then I started to have some odd symptoms and made an appointment with my doctor. Since she had a previous appointment, I was seen by a nurse practitioner, someone I knew and trusted. She ordered tests and they showed a dark smudge in my tummy. A surgical appointment was made for me in case I needed a hysterectomy.
Who would care for my husband while I was in the hospital?
Life answered this question. Days before my surgery, my husband developed pneumonia and pleurisy. He was in such pain I called 911 and he was transported to the hospital by ambulance. Four days later he was dismissed to my care. He did well the first day, but the second day my husband was so weak he couldn’t transfer to his shower chair and slid to the floor. I called 911and firemen came and lifted him up.
Clearly, my husband needed follow-up therapy. I called his physician and she contacted a social worker, who arranged for admittance to a rehab center. As it turned out, I had stage one uterine cancer and had a hysterectomy. I was hospitalized for two days, dismissed, and told not to lift anything that weighed more than 10 pounds for six weeks. These are my tips for family caregivers who have chronic illness or are facing surgery.
Start with the primary care physician. The primary care physician is key to health care and management. If your loved one doesn’t have a primary care physician, it’s time to get one.
Compile a list of contact names. Keep an ongoing list of names and contact information for the people who care for your loved one. Ask for business cards and keep them in a central place.
Visit assisted living communities. My husband and I toured the best assisted living communities in our town. We put a deposit down on one facility and added our name to a list at another.
Ask family to help. Long before my surgery, my daughter offered to come and stay with us. Contact your religious community if you don’t have family support. Social services is another source of information.
Continue to monitor care. One staff member yanked my husband’s leg and when my husband said, “Oh that hurt,” told him not to complain. I reported this to management and recommended additional training for staff.
Track and manage medications. To maintain normalcy, my husband came home every day for several hours, but he was so sleepy he could barely stay awake. I contacted his primary care physician and asked which meds caused sleepiness. One medication was eliminated and the dosage of another was reduced.
Be an advocate. Ask for more information if the documents are confusing. Laws change and your will, and your loved one’s will, may need to be updated. Keep documents in a safe place. Be a keen observer and note any misinformation or mistreatment you see.
Family caregivers are the backbone of American health care. We must care for ourselves to care for others.
Article originally written for The Caregiver Space website, www.thecaregiverspace.org/authors/hhodgson
For more than a year, I kept a caregiving happiness jar. At the end of my caregiving day, I wrote a note about something good that happened, and put it in a jar. Every so often, I withdrew random notes from the jar, and read them. The notes were revealing.
First, the notes proved that there were many positive things in my caregiving day, something I need to remember. If I added up the notes, I think they would outnumber my disappointments and challenges. Writing and reading the notes helped me see the caregiving big picture, and my wide-ranging tasks.
When arranged by date, the notes were a written graph of my husband’s health. My husband suffered a spinal cord injury during prolonged surgery--13 hours and four surgeons--for a dissected aorta. Recovering from spinal cord injury is rare, but my husband’s progress was truly amazing.
Recently my husband had a check-up with one of his physicians. “I visited you in the ICU,” she began. “I can’t believe you are the same person.”
With the help of dedicated physical and occupational therapists, my husband learned to stand, stand and pivot, take a few steps with a walker, and walking short distances in our townhome. His progress was documented in my Caregiving Happiness Jar, and some notes make me cry. Here are a few sample notes.
John says he is getting stronger. Horray!
Wonderful therapy session today. John is making progress!
John had an evaluation re/his general condition. The rehab supervisor gave him good advice and ordered a special mattress for him.
John exercised on the NuStep bike this morning and did very well.
Today John walked the width of our townhome twice with a walker.
As my caregiving days became busier, however, the notes in my jar dwindled, and finally stopped. While I’m ashamed of this, I understand how it happened. Whether it was extra doctors’ visits or learning a new procedure, my caregiving responsibilities kept increasing, and I was just trying to make it through a day. At night, when I climbed into my four-poster bed, sometimes I was exhausted I couldn’t sleep.
Months passed, and I forgot about the jar until this morning. A disabled woman posted about her kindness jar on a caregivers’ website. Reading the post made me think of my forgotten Caregiving Happiness Jar. It won’t be forgotten anymore.
One of my 2018 goals is to revive the practice of writing notes that document my caregiving. The notes will make me aware, yet again, of my husband’s unfailing courage. The notes will help me understand all the effort I put into caring for him. The notes will help me see the miracle of being married to a loving husband for 60 years, and the miracle of our shared lives.
Do you have down days? Do you wonder if you’re making a difference? Keeping a Caregiving Happiness Jar may answer these questions and more. Like me, at the end of the year, you will find your jar is filled with love. Find a large jar or box, and write a note today. You are making history.
I hadn’t heard of a cookie swap until I married and moved to Minnesota, my husband’s home state. Minnesota was settled by Scandinavians and Germans, cultures that have impressive baking skills. Recipes were passed down from one generation to the next. Sharing food was, and still is, a way to celebrate Christmas and make the holiday easier.
If you’re looking for fun and socialization, a cookie swap is the answer.
In a website article titled “Host a Cookie Swap Party,” Good Housekeeping magazine describes the party as “low-key, high-payoff.” The magazine published a book to ensure the success of your party, The Great Christmas Cookie Swap: 60 Large-Batch Recipes to Bake and Share.
Martha Stewart shares ideas in a website article, “8 Steps to Hosting a Cookie Swap.” As Stewart notes, “Everyone leaves with finished gifts—and plenty of new recipes.” Cookie swaps in Minnesota can be gifts or desserts for the family. To host a cookie swap you need to consider invitations, types of cookies, set-up, recipes, cookie containers, and refreshments.
Invitations. You can create one on the computer, buy invitations, or use an Internet template. The number of people you invite depends on how many can fit in your home. Computer invitations are inexpensive and easy to make. Ask guests to bring their recipes and print out one for each person. Send out invitations one month before your party.
Types of cookies. To ensure a variety of cookies, ask each person to make a specific kind—drop cookies, cut outs, bars/squares, refrigerator cookies (which are rolled into a log and cut into discs), cake mix cookies (really popular now), stamped cookies (shortbread) , rosettes (fried cookies), or biscotti (twice-baked cookies).
Set up. Put a tablecloth on the table and set several plates and platters on it. Each guest arranges their cookies on a plate or platter. Make signs to go with the cookies, such as “Beth’s Orange Drops” and “Grandmother’s Coconut Squares.” Food allergy signs, such as “contains peanuts,” are also a good idea. Use paper plates and napkins for easy clean-up.
Cookie containers. You have several options here. At holiday time, grocery and discount stores carry metal and plastic tins. “Cookies for Santa” plates are also available. Cookies may be packaged in Chinese take-out cartons, available at craft stores. If you use take-out cartons, cookies should be put in plastic bags to keep them fresh, and then put into food cartons.
Refreshments. Coffee, tea, punch or hot cider may be served. Add crunch with a homemade or store-bought vegetable dip tray. A fruit platter, again, homemade or store-bought, is always welcome. Soup and small sandwiches are another idea. No need to worry about dessert because you have dozens and dozens of cookies.
Pass out food preparation gloves, available at grocery stores, before guests swap their cookies. Each guest takes home a box or plate of assorted cookies and the recipes for them. Provide zipper plastic bags for the recipes to protect them from food spills or getting wet. Cookie swaps are really fun. Start planning your swap today!
- Find a comfortable place to sit and eliminate background noise, if possible.
- Slow your thoughts and clear the clutter from your mind.
- Think of something positive in your life. (It can be large or small.)
- Create an affirmation about your positive thought. If you can’t write a sentence, write one word, such as love or grateful.
- Use the present tense. Affirm the life you are living now.
- Check your affirmation for tone and word choices. Tweak the affirmation if you must, but resist the urge to overwork it.
- Stick with one-sentence affirmations. They are easier to write and remember.
- Keep writing affirmations and read them aloud from time to time.
- Watch for forward steps in your life journey.
- Find ways to apply affirmations to daily life.
This is one of the easiest cookie recipes ever. You don’t need a mixer. All you need is a large bowl, the ingredients, and a wooden spoon. Makes about 45 cookies.
- ¾ cup pre-sifted flour
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1 cup light brown sugar, packed
- 1 ½ cups quick oats
- 1 cup mini chocolate chips
- 1 ½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- ½ cup canola oil
- 1/4 cup water
- Coat baking sheet with cooking spray. Tear off a long strip of wax paper and lay on counter.
- Using a wooden spoon, mix flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg together in a large bowl.
- Add remaining ingredients and combine well. Chill for 1 hour.
- Heat oven to 350 degrees.
- Drop teaspoon-size dough onto prepared baking sheet, leaving two inches between cookies.
- Set pan on middle oven rack and bake for 10-12 minutes.
- Let cookies rest 30 seconds before removing from pan. Set on wax paper.
- Store cooled cookies in container with a tight-fitting lid. Note: Coconut, walnuts, or dried cranberries may be substituted for chocolate chips. These cookies freeze well.
What should you say to a grieving friend? What shouldn’t you say? Finding the right words may be so hard that you decide to send a sympathy card. “Well, that’s done,” you mutter to yourself. Later, though, you may wish you had talked to your friend face-to-face. Of course, this isn’t always possible.
Instead of sending sympathy cards, I send bereaved friends a grief affirmation book that I wrote several years ago. The gift is always welcome. One friend wrote such a beautiful thank-you note that I cried. In addition to writing grief recovery books, I give talks about affirmation writing.
A few weeks from now I’m giving a webinar about affirmation writing as a grief healing step. The webinar closes with ideas for applying affirmations to daily life. When I wrote the script for my webinar, many ideas came to mind, including the idea of Hope in a Jar. Things in jars are popular right now. You can buy cookie mix in a jar, cake mix in a jar, or keep a Happiness Jar, an idea that comes from author Elizabeth Gilbert.
Why not Hope in a Jar? It is easy to make. Get a Mason or Ball jar with a lid. Write one-sentence affirmations, save them on your computer, and print out the file. (You may also hand-write affirmations.) Cut the affirmations into strips and put them in the jar, with the print facing inwards. Tie a bow around the top and affix a tag that says, “Hope in a Jar. Read one a day.”
You don’t have to be a writer to create the jar. Only a few things are needed—motivation, a computer keyboard, or paper and pen. I recommend one-sentence affirmations because they are easy to write and remember. Write affirmations that comfort you. To get you started, here are a dozen affirmations I have written.
- Every so often I call time out and take a break from grief.
- Instead of pain leading me, I lead the pain.
- Happy memories of my loved one are comforting.
- Slowly, surely, I’m a creating a new life for myself.
- Getting better! I can talk about my loved one without crying.
- Well-meant advice doesn’t always have to be followed.
- In defense, I’ve prepared answers to the question, “How are you?”
- With every breath I take, I’m thankful for the gift of life.
- Quiet time is part of each day, a time to rediscover myself.
- I keep my loved one close by living her (his) values.
- Sometimes I just want to be alone and that’s o.k.
- My life is what I make it.
You can fit 60 affirmations or more in a jar. When you create this gift for a bereaved relative or friend, in a sense, you’re creating a gift for yourself. Writing affirmations changes your thinking from negative to positive. What’s more, writing makes you aware of your own grief journey, and the progress you’ve made. Although your progress may be measured in baby steps, it is still progress.
Simple as the idea sounds, Hope in a Jar can have a significant impact on the recipient and you. It’s hope that keeps us going!
Written for the Open to Hope, www.opentohope.com
- I take prescription meds as directed and only as directed.
- For emotional wellbeing, I spend time with upbeat people.
- When I have negative thoughts I counter them with positive ones.
- Even though I have little to give, I still give to others.
- There is at least one plant in my home and I enjoy caring for it.
- To keep my mind active I read and attend social functions.
- I limit television news viewing to one program a day.
- I eat a balanced diet and drink water to stay hydrated.
- Thanks to a bedtime routine, I sleep well most nights.
- Because I’m a spiritual/religious person I’m grateful for each day.