Tom’s Trail

comments 4
Nature / Neighbors / Pictures

My neighbor Tom prefers living off the beaten path—taking the road less traveled, if you will. Sometimes that even means constructing the trail himself. And that is fine with him.

He and Brenda moved into their Portico a year ago. Their Phase 3 lot nestles along the treeline at the edge of the Maples. A few steps beyond their courtyard is a low stone wall marking the line between our property and undeveloped land owned by the county. It is here that Tom built their own private pathway into nature.

On a recent sunny day, Tom invited me to walk his trail with him. I had no idea where the path led, how long it was, or where it would end. But this is where it begins, at the end of the wall.


With Tom leading the way, we walked the path that he had cleared himself. The first part looks like this.


Later you come out of the trees into this landscape.


Tom’s Great Dane, Tak, frolicked along with us.


The peace and beauty of the location made me feel like I was on away on vacation. In actual distance, though, we were never far from our community. This is the only glimpse I caught of the Maples, or of any inhabited land.


The trail ends here, with an invitation to sit and think.


After pausing to take in the view and to soak up some of nature’s beauty, we started back down the trail. This time I noticed that the views looking upward were as lovely as those looking straight ahead.


I caught this shot of Tom and Brenda’s home as we neared the end of the trail.


Then we were back, except for taking a minute to enjoy the flowers that Tom planted along the wall.


He is generous with his invitations to come walk his pathway. And fall is the perfect season to do it. Next time we have a sunny day, you might want to take a mini-vacation on Tom’s trail.



Picking up the Pieces

comments 8
Home Elements/Decorating

Hi readers,

I’ve missed you, and I’ve missed blogging. It has been 15 days since my last post, and nearly a month since I lost Mom. As I said when I last wrote, my thoughts have been too scattered to concentrate enough to write. Or, for that matter, even to read. I was relieved when someone told me that this confusion can be a normal part of grieving.

Lately, I’ve been feeling better—most of the time. When sadness sets in, I play the music our choir sang at her celebration of life and look through old family pictures. There are a lot of them; Mom kept them all, boxes of them.

Here’s one of my favorites. Mom loved coming to my Abbey, and the sun room was where we usually ended up.





There’s another activity that has cheered me recently. It’s a lot more expensive than listening to music and looking at photos, but it has been a great distraction. I had just begun a fairly large redecorating project when Mom passed. After a break of a few days, I gradually went back to transforming my master suite.

All during the summer, I had been mulling over a complete color change. The lavender walls and purple accessories that had pleased me so much at one time began to annoy me. Here is a before picture of my master bedroom in all of its lavender glory. The photo bomb is courtesy of my cat, Angie.


Painting came first, of course. Out with the lavender and in with a soft tan. Then came accessorizing, layering, and generally creating a new look. Just as I didn’t do my own painting, neither did I do my own designing. That was mostly the vision of my good friend, Dee. My main contribution was swiping my credit cards, which, by the way, is one of my specialties.

Here is how my bedroom looks today, with Angie reprising her photo bomb.


I think Mom would have liked this new look. She liked pretty much anything I did. And I’m sure she would be happy to know that I am not spending all of my time mourning.

Remembering Mom

comments 5
Mostly Musings

I lost my mom Sept. 7, two weeks after her 96th birthday. I keep reminding myself that she lived a very long, full life, with 95.5 of those years good quality time. That helps, to a point.

I have no doubt that she is, as they say, in a better place. But this is a bewildering time of transitions for me. I’m working to let go of the images of her final week on earth and to get back to memories of all the decades that she filled with family and friends, love and laughter.

Perhaps you’ve noticed that I haven’t been posting as frequently the past couple of months. This is why. My thoughts and emotions are so scattered that I can’t harness them enough to write anything coherent.

So today, I would like to re-run a post that I wrote on Mother’s Day, 2014. I’m not updating it to reflect anything that has come later. I’ll save those thoughts for a later post.

Happy Mother’s Day

The question that he frames in all but words

Is what to make of a diminished thing.

–from The Oven Bird by Robert Frost

The majority of my friends no longer have a living mother to celebrate with today. I know that. I am grateful that Mom is alive at 93 and that she was able to spend a few hours with me this me


Mom was diagnosed with mild dementia about seven years ago. At the time, she was still able to live alone, with some support from me. She drove her car until she was 90. She had a social life centered around our church. Her Christmas card list was longer than mine.

But over the years, the dementia has stolen more of her memory and more of her quality of life. Then, in November, she had a stroke that caused little physical damage but left her memory and speech permanently diminished.

I am fortunate. She remembers me. She also remembers my brother and sister-in-law and a handful of friends that she sees most often. She is one of the highest functioning residents in the memory care unit where she lives.

As one of my friends pointed out today, I am now the one mothering my mother. I, who have no children, am trying to give back to Mom a fraction of what she has given me for 66 years. Sometimes I do fairly well. But not always.


Mom does remember Home Sweet Abbey. Nothing makes her happier than coming home with me for an afternoon. When she sees me arrive to pick her up, after punching in the code to open the door of the locked unit, she claps her hands in glee. We make the five minute drive, and I help her through the door from the garage into my kitchen. Immediately, her eyes begin scanning the room.

She is looking for my cats. For Angie and Shadow, though she doesn’t remember either of their names or which one used to be hers. As we approach them one at a time, I begin whispering Good Kitty, hoping the cat will be receptive to Mom’s persistent petting. Today the girls were fairly cooperative.

Mom found Shadow in one of her favorite napping places in my sunroom.


Then Angie shared the couch with Mom for a while, as we watched old episodes of The Lawrence Welk Show.



While we enjoyed our cookies and ice cream, the sky was darkening ominously. Mom noticed and said, “We’d better go back.” I agreed. It wouldn’t be easy getting her, her gifts, and her walker from the car to the nursing home in the rain and hail that were predicted.

Now, back home, the rain batters my windows and Robert Frost’s question lingers in my mind. What do I make of the diminished thing that was this Mother’s Day? How do I remember the beautiful, sweet, brilliant, loving person my mother was without mourning what she has lost? And what I have lost? And, isn’t it too soon to mourn, anyway? I still have her. Or do I?

Yes, surely, a diminished thing is preferable to nothing. And for that, I am grateful.

Yes, I am grateful.


If you would like to read the obituary I wrote for Mom, you will find that below:

Marjorie A. Dierksen, 96, Woodstock, died Sept. 7, 2016, at Hearthstone Manor in Woodstock.

She was born Aug. 25, 1920, to Bruno and Hilda (Hagen) Hahn, on the family farm in rural Davenport, Iowa. She married Carl Dierksen Aug. 14, 1940, in Marshalltown, Iowa.

Marge led a long life filled with adventure and love. She was a farm wife and full-time mother while her children were growing up. Then she worked as a secretary at the Rock Island Arsenal in Rock Island. After she and her husband moved to Colorado Springs in the early 1970’s, she worked as a secretary at the U.S. Air Force Academy. In 1989, they retired and moved to Woodstock.

Through the years, she traveled extensively in the U.S., took a trip to Germany to visit a castle where distant cousins live, and learned to fly a small airplane. She enjoyed sewing, quilting, scrapbooking, and going out to lunch with her many friends. Even in her 90s, her Christmas card list held more than 100 names because she kept every friend she ever made.

She was an active member of Grace Lutheran Church, Woodstock, where she was blessed to be a blessing. She served on the church council, as a deacon, as a home communion minister, and as leader of Grace Circle. She also participated in the sewing circle, Ladies Aid, and Senior Luncheons. She worked on Mistletoe Magic and the rummage sale for many years. She loved to tell the story of how she and Carl found the Lord.

She is survived by her children, Caryl Dierksen, Woodstock, and Craig (Rosie DeLullo) Dierksen, Kiowa, CO; two granddaughters, Tina (Scott)Takahaski and Jessica Mears (fiancé Mike Walker), both of Colorado; two great grandchildren, Drew and Morgan Mears; and the residents and staff of Traditions at Hearthstone, her final family.

She was preceded in death by her parents, her husband in 1996, and her beloved cat, Molly.

A Celebration of Life will be held at 11 a.m. Thursday, Sept. 22, at Grace Lutheran Church, 1300 Kishwaukee Valley Road. A visitation, beginning at 9 a.m., will precede the service.

Memorials in her name may be made to Grace Lutheran Church, 1300 Kishwaukee Valley Rd., Woodstock, IL 60098; JourneyCare Hospice, 405 Lake Zurich Rd., Barrington, IL 60010; or to a charity of one’s choice.


My Champagne Girlfriends

comments 2
Just for Fun / Social Life

It was late August, my first summer at The Maples, a hot, sunny afternoon at the pool. Two of my best friends, Marylee and Margie, were over for one of our monthly get-togethers. Because it was their first time at the pool, I wanted to make it a bit celebratory. What better way, I thought, than to share a bottle of champagne?

I got the girls situated at a table, cranked up the umbrella, and set out a few snacks. Glass is strictly forbidden in the pool area, so I went inside the clubhouse to open the bottle of bubbly and pour it into plastic flutes.

There, I found a couple sitting at a table while our sales consultant gathered information for them. We introduced ourselves. I explained about my girlfriends and the champagne. It was only polite to offer them some, I thought, wishing I had brought two bottles. Jan and Steve declined, probably thinking alcohol and contracts involving large sums of money are not a good combination. So I told them I would repeat the offer after they had finished their business with Carol.

I went back to the pool and found the girls already enjoying the water.

MM pool

A few minutes and a few of sips of champagne later, my intention of sharing with Jan and Steve had fled my memory.

Jump ahead a few months. Steve and Jan had bought their home and were living in a rental in the community while it was built. One day I passed Jan on the sidewalk. She asked how my champagne girlfriends were. It took a moment for me to remember what she was talking about. My girlfriends and I drinking champagne at the pool… me going inside to pour from the glass bottle…

Oh, no, I said. I forgot to give you and Steve the glass of champagne I promised you. I’m so sorry. I’ll make it up to you.

And I did, later, after they had moved into their home. My poor manners were forgotten, but the nickname champagne girlfriends stuck.


Margie, Marylee, and I met when we all were working at The Woodstock Independent. Those days are long gone, but they remain good friends, who are also good for me. They are more adventuresome, livelier, and yes, more bubbly than I am. Like champagne.

We get together monthly, taking turns hosting in our homes. The details change, but the general plan doesn’t. The hostess provides dessert and beverages, which often but not always include champagne. The other two bring appetizers that range from basic chips and dip to artistic creations. Here are a few of our better efforts.



When they come here, we always gather in my sun room, which they named the bistro because of its high table and stools.


I don’t have a photo of the three of us in my sun room bistro. But here is one Margie’s husband took at her home.


And here’s to many more adventures with the champagne girlfriends!