“Norris writes with a lyrical pen, painting landscapes and intense emotional moments with easy grace.”
The Long Way Home is a compelling work of fiction set in 1950s Madison County, Nebraska.
At the heart of the story is Maggie Davis, a middle-aged widow and recent heiress to a grand Victorian manor. The stately home, which Maggie shares with her spirited nine-year-old daughter Jenna, also serves as a bed and breakfast to a once regular, but now transitory, clientele.
The kitchen table is the epicenter of lively, often contentious, dialogue where no topics are off-limits. An outspoken neighbor and routine visitor delights in keeping everyone on guard with her opinionated tirades but is frequently reigned in by an elderly, equally forthright family member who has recently become a permanent dweller at the manor.
Maggie finds herself struggling with the painful memories of her husband’s tragic death, as well as the stirrings in her heart associated with a new house guest. A scandalous scheme to swindle her out of her property rides on the heels of a sudden, unexpected death, pointing to a member of the family as a suspect. Set against an intriguing backdrop of family secrets, scandal, and love, the story culminates with an emotional twist.
One of the most cherished moments while reading occurs when you come across a thought, a feeling, a way of looking at things that you once believed was unique or particular to you. And behold, here it is, written by someone else, a person you’ve never met, maybe even someone long since passed. And it’s as if a hand has stretched out from another time and place and grasped yours.
The kitchen table. In my family, it was here that important discussions had their genesis. Opinions were readily expressed on religion, politics, family values, money matters, raising children, taking care of the elderly, education, social responsibility, and death. Typically, children listened, and adults talked. That said, at a very young age, I had a clear idea of the persuasions, perspectives, and prejudices of those who sat around the table with their cups of strong, black coffee. Occasionally, discussions were heated, and tempers flared. For emphasis, there was an occasional smack of the hand on the tabletop. But, at the end of the day, these same strongly opinionated kinfolk showed their unending love and respect for each other with hugs, kisses, and goodbyes—until the next spirited visit took place.
It is easier to find a score of men wise enough to discover the truth than to find one intrepid enough, in the face of opposition, to stand up for it.
Archibald Alexander Hodge
Now, more than ever, the pursuit of truth is paramount to our well-being and future—individually and as a people. Standing up for truth is essential, even when it’s not popular. I was fortunate to have a mother that insisted truth be upheld and honesty regarded as an invaluable character trait. She consistently modeled her teaching by example, often saying, “Stand up for the truth at any cost.” It was an early, life-changing lesson.
Having entered the autumn season of my life, I often sit in thoughtful solitude as golden memories drift through my mind like colorful falling leaves driven by a brisk wind. I ponder each and every one, drawn into the glorious fragrance of sweet remembrances. There is comfort in the simple things, a blessed calm in the knowledge that everything will change. Having lived long enough to more fully understand the circle of life, the seasons now bring a certain kind of hope. ~ D. L. Norris
Today is my sweet mother’s birthday—she would have been 93 years old. Although I miss her every day, she left me with such a beautiful legacy—my love of reading.
My mother was an avid reader, and I was often the happy recipient of her uncanny ability to bring a story to life. I would sit comfortably on her lap or plopped cross-legged on the floor in front of her chair to be whisked away to a faraway magical land.
The Velveteen Rabbit. I was utterly engrossed in every word of Margery Williams’ delightful tale, allowing my young mind to imagine the well-worn little rabbit snuggling with the boy or his deep conversations with the Skin Horse. “Real isn’t how you are made,” said the Skin Horse. “It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.” Of course, this one quote opened up an entire world of fantasy for me. If this were true, then my entire stuffed animal and doll collections had the potential to become real also. It was a life-changing concept for an imaginative seven-year-old.
And then there was The Ugly Duckling by Hans Christian Andersen. Tears always appeared in my eyes when my mother read of how the little duckling was ostracized by his siblings and other farm animals simply because he was different. The redeeming finale of ugly duckling transformed into beautiful swan never failed to bring a round of cheers.
Of course, Cinderella was my hero, both while she was a mistreated young stepsister and later when she became a lovely princess. I knew that all things were possible when one simply believed because Cinderella said so. Besides, she had Gus the mouse to substantiate her claims.
There was Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White, The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett, and a score of other classics never to be forgotten and first introduced to me by my mother. I’m still reaping a blessed return on her incredible investment.
Set peace of mind as your highest goal, and organize your life around it.
Merriam-Webster defines peace of mind as ‘a feeling of being safe and protected’. However, it also means the absence of worry, stress, and anxiety. The very phrase, “peace of mind” involves a wide array of emotions.
It begins with a feeling of security. From this sense of being secure, emerges a feeling of genuine happiness. This happiness cannot be artificially achieved, but must be experienced naturally and within. Finally, this happiness also brings about a sense of optimism about what the future holds.
Why do we need peace of mind?
The importance of peace of mind cannot be overemphasized. With stress levels on the rise, peace of mind is a challenging pursuit. But, psychologists believe that experiencing peace of mind in daily life is crucial for overall wellness:
Reduces stress: Stress can lead to a wide range of cardiovascular diseases, such as heart attack, diabetes, and high blood pressure. Hair experts say that stress also happens to be the primary cause of hair loss and hair damage. Reducing stress leads to physical wellness and allows you to lead a healthier life.
Promotes optimism: Attitude is the key to success. A positive attitude fills you with hope and energy. You can accomplish things that you previously thought were impossible.
Reduces fear and anxiety: Feeling anxious or fearful can sap your energy and affect your working ability. Possessing peace of mind can lessen your chances of being fearful and can significantly improve the overall quality of life.
When you are at peace with yourself, those around you experience an increased level of happiness.
Visionary thinking provides a broader perspective. It’s like a panoramic view, expanding the picture of what you are able to see. Visionary thinking calls for three things: (1) Learn. Be sure of what you know and value it—but never settle. Form new relationships, read new books, and learn new skills. Challenge yourself to become a lifelong learner. (2) Listen. Seek out those who have expertise in areas where you are lacking. Partner with people who can do things you can’t. Ask questions that broaden your understanding, and then listen carefully. (3) Look. It’s hard to see the big picture while you’re inside the frame. There’s an entire world beyond your own, so look for ways to view it through the eyes of others.
My sweet dad passed away early this morning. He was 94 years old. For all accounts and purposes, one could say that he lived a long and full life. That’s true. But, I still wasn’t quite ready to let him go.
He was born on Monday, March 15, 1926, at a time in American history when Calvin Coolidge was the President of the United States, when you could buy a new house for $7700 or rent one for $20 a month, buy a new car for $360, purchase gasoline for $.12 a gallon, and pick up a loaf of bread for $.09. A simpler time? Not according to stories told by my dad through the years. Life was difficult, and not for the faint of heart. He managed to live through the respective Dust Bowl and drought eras of the Midwest—and later survive a near-fatal bout of Scarlet Fever and a kamikaze attack on his US Navy ship Goodhue in the Asiatic Pacific. He eventually made his way back to the states to meet and marry my mother – a blessed union that would last for 72 years. My sister and I made him a wonderful, long-suffering, patient, and caring father. Seriously.
Because of advanced dementia, he has spent the last three years in a local memory care facility where he soon secured the title of “one of our kindest residents.” It didn’t take much to make him happy—a comfortable chair, a warm blanket, a nourishing meal, a short conversation involving current events, a friendly voice, a gentle touch, and a handful of unsalted peanuts. Due to the coronavirus outbreak, the facility has been on lockdown for several weeks. I’ve missed him terribly. Last evening, the care center called and asked if I would like to see him one last time and say goodbye. With mask, gloves, and gown, I entered the room to find him in a deep coma. I told him again how much I loved him, and that I was more than fortunate to have called him Dad for so many years. He struggled to open his eyes. I told him it was okay to go home, to fly away with the angels. A few hours later, he did just that. – D. L. Norris