Research indicates that expressing thankfulness can increase one’s happiness, reduce stress, and improve sleep. Grateful people invariably have an advantage in overcoming trauma with enhanced resilience, helping them to bounce back from stressful situations. Thankfulness also helps people experience increased positive emotions, appreciate pleasant experiences, and build strong relationships. It is also associated with better physical health and decreased depression, anxiety, difficulties with chronic pain, and risk of disease. Incorporating gratitude into your daily routine can be as simple as maintaining a gratitude journal, writing thank-you notes, or expressing appreciation to loved ones. So, take a moment to reflect on the things you are grateful for today, and let the benefits of thankfulness work their magic!
Where the Heart Is: A Homecoming by D. L. Norris is an endearing tale that will ignite strong emotions in readers and lift their hearts with its satisfying denouement. The sudden death of Jenna Davis-Wilson’s father changes her life and the life of her family in ways Jenna could never have imagined. Jenna and Marcus decide to move back to the old family manor in Tilden, Nebraska, together with their two children — nine-year-old Ben and six-year-old Allie. While Jenna and her family are settling into their ancestral home, Jenna inadvertently unearths dark family secrets. Can Jenna reconcile with the past without destroying a treasured family relationship?
Written with grace and heart, this multifaceted story explores themes of family, parenthood, faith, and humanity. The female heroine must navigate a complex web to heal the legacy of her ancestry, find reconciliation, and build meaningful friendships. The characters are cleverly imagined and wonderfully written, each dealing with unique situations. Aunt Lee represents the older generations, and her views often contrast those held by younger characters in the story. The family dynamics are intelligently accomplished, and readers will enjoy following each thread of the story and deeper layers of the characters as they evolve. Norris is a master at creating indelible, fascinating imagery and inventing a world that feels real to readers. The writing is moving and lyrical, peppered with sparkling dialogues and compelling descriptions. Where the Heart Is: A Homecoming redefines the concept of home and shows readers how they can grow past their hurts and establishes strong bridges between their past and their present while connecting meaningfully with those around them. The idea of coming home is explored at different levels, and for Jenna, it is about dealing with what has been hidden, secrets, and changes she never anticipated. Her journey to recreating “home” from this place with memories that tug at her heart is extraordinarily beautiful. It is cleverly rendered, human-embracing, and poignant. You will hear the heartbeats of Norris’ characters and will fall in love with each one of them.
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 reined 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.
My next literary endeavor, Field of Memories, is in process with a projected completion of early autumn. This heartwarming collection of short stories is a life work, and what a glorious journey it has been—slowly filling pages with precious, unforgettable moments. I invite you to take a brief, yet remarkable trip with me to the summer of 1955 and experience a space in time when life was just a little simpler. Likewise, if you have a special memory from this era that you’d like to share with our community, we’d love to hear it.
The Little Blue Record Player
Mom was packed and anxious to leave for Disneyland in southern California. She and the church choir were traveling on a big tour bus to the famous Mickey Mouse theme park to perform for several days. It was early summer of 1955, and I stood in the church’s parking lot to wave farewell as the bus made its way down the road. A smile quickly appeared on my face. I’d be staying home with Dad, and everything had the makings of a picnic in the park.
Of course, I didn’t wear any of the clothes Mom laid out for me but instead selected my own for the next few days while she was gone. Nothing matched. Dad didn’t even care that I wore my black Sunday school shoes, lace-trimmed socks, red-flowered shorts, and an orange-striped T-shirt—every day—for a week. Best of all, he didn’t even mind that I played with Marie, who was four grades ahead of me and several inches taller. We also ate different things, such as hotdogs and root beer floats from Foster’s Freeze, instead of food cooked in the kitchen. Bedtime was falling asleep on the sofa while watching Gene Autry, Wyatt Earp, and Death Valley Days with Dad. Needless to say, baths were few and far between. I was living the dream.
As fate would have it, my vacation was short-lived. When Mom got home, I was ushered straight to the bathtub. My shorts, T-shirt, underwear, and lace socks went equally as fast to the laundry room. My black Sunday school shoes were scuffed beyond repair and thrown in the trash. In no time, my hair was washed, curled, and pulled back with matching barrettes. My clothes were color-coordinated once again. The aroma of fried chicken and biscuits wafted from the kitchen. Mom was back, and with her reappearance came the warm feeling of life as it was supposed to be. Once everything returned to normal and was nicely in order, Mom surprised me with a little blue record player, an assortment of Disney records, and Mickey Mouse ears. I was in heaven. The sound of Cinderella singing, “A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes,” was heard throughout the house for the next several weeks.
I expect to pass through life but once. If therefore, there be any kindness I can show, or any good thing I can do to any fellow being, let me do it now, and not defer or neglect it, as I shall not pass this way again.William Penn
Anyone who knows me, even casually, understands how much I loved my mama. She was such a joy in my life, and it goes without saying that I miss her every day. Still, her legacy continues—in my heart and in the hearts of those who were influenced by her life. One thing that always made me so incredibly proud of her was how she conducted her life. She built a strong and unwavering foundation of love—extended to everyone regardless of faith, politics, lifestyle preference, or ethnicity. Clearly, if you were kind, then you had a seat at my mama’s table. Plain and simple.
Today, when kindness seems to be a waning commodity, I find that I revert frequently to the tried and tested life examples of my mother.
I remember on several occasions, going to visit her and Dad on a Saturday morning only to be warmly introduced to door-to-door missionaries sitting in the living room. Happily sipping coffee and enjoying my mama’s freshly baked cinnamon rolls, they were not there to preach or convince her that she needed to convert to their beliefs. No, that had been established long before that they need not waste their time by attempting to sway her from her solid faith. They were there because they were kind, and that was always enough for my mama to consider them friends. In the beginning, she had gently reminded them when they were getting ready to depart, “Here, honey, you can take your magazine publication with you.” This weekly visit based on mutual love and respect continued through the years and was simply a small gathering of precious ladies sharing life and relationship. My mama had such an array of friends—for at least one very delightful reason. She was never judgmental, and everyone was welcome.
From my memory bank, I easily withdraw a beautiful picture of my mama with her arm around a gay family member who had recently lost his dear partner. She shed tears of compassion, connecting effortlessly with his pain and heartbreak. Another time, my heart was overwhelmed when she purchased groceries and clothing for a struggling immigrant family that lived nearby—and not just once. Despite her spiritual and political ideology, she never allowed beliefs to crowd out her love and respect for others. Mama was quick to say, “I have but one job, and that is to love without condition.” She didn’t need a bracelet to remind her what Jesus would do—she knew it by heart.
Stories of my mama’s life, legacy, and Godly example are endless and could easily fill a book or two. Thank you, Mama. You took a part of my heart when you went away, but you left me so much more. My life has your fingerprints all over it. Until we meet again.
At the end of the day, it’s not about what you possess or what you’ve achieved. It’s about who you’ve lifted up, who you’ve made better. It’s about what you’ve given back.
My daughters grew up following the whimsical adventures of Anne of Green Gables, with her memorable antics and quotable musings. A favorite saying was “tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it yet.” When either of them experienced a difficult day because of poor choices, the prospect of a new day and a clean slate was more than hopeful.
Regardless of circumstances, each of us needs to believe in a new and better tomorrow, along with the hope that great and wonderful things are possible.
He will be 97 years old in a few days, my sweet papa. I miss him terribly—his dry sense of wit, his stoic Norwegian temperament, his way of making you feel loved without saying it. He left three years ago as quietly as he lived, and I’m forever grateful for the legacy he left behind. The short story that follows was written a few years ago as we painfully grappled with his diagnosis of dementia and the challenges that ensued. As a family, we learned so many valuable, heartwarming lessons during that time, and through it all, love graciously prevailed.D. L. Norris
The gray corridor is long, and dimly lit. Empty bookshelves line the walls where volumes of life history once resided; fascinating stories of childhood, travel, talent, family. One by one the books have been removed from the shelves and cast into an irretrievable space.
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 over 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.
Dad. My hero, my safe place. My childhood memories of him are many, far too many to capture in this simple writing. I loved coming home from school and finding him in his upholstery shop – the old brown Zenith radio playing in the background, the steady hum of a sewing machine, the smell of wood varnish and paint thinner, and the delightful discovery of leftover scraps of fabric on the shop floor that were destined to become articles of clothing for my dolls. At the close of each evening, my last recollections before drifting off to sleep were of hearing my dad winding the old cuckoo clock and rechecking the front door lock. My, how safe and secure I had felt. I always knew where to find him, and there was little need to be anxious or afraid.
Now, in his twilight years, there is a quiet, notorious thief that routinely creeps in and steals one precious memory at a time. I feel I may have lost sight of my dad for the first time, somewhere along the winding road of dementia. Strangely, he is content in his new world. He does not worry. He does not recall painful events or losses. He only lives in the here and now. A protective shell of no remembrance covers his mind. He is genuinely thankful for the trivial things; a comfortable chair, a warm blanket, a nourishing meal, simple conversation involving current events, a friendly voice, a gentle touch, and a handful of unsalted peanuts.
For all the countless memories that have been stolen, there remains something untouched by this ravishing disease. His spirit. I catch glimpses of his kindness, loving ways, and gentleness. I see the smile that lights up his face and eyes – all poignant reminders that he is in there somewhere. My heart knows it. Occasionally he will ask me, “Have I always lived here?” Oh my. I take a deep breath. “No, sweet Papa. You have traveled the world, once upon a time. In your 93 years you have experienced a myriad of wonders. Why, the many stories of your life could easily fill volumes.”
“A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies. The man who never reads lives only one.”George R. R. Martin
In times of uncertainty, our hearts long for a return to normalcy and stability. We look for comforting signs that speak of consistency as we navigate through the unknowns. Being a hopeful thinker about the future helps to build our resilience, giving us yet another tool for handling stress, change, and adversity.
Personally, I have discovered immense joy in the signs of approaching spring (especially if winter has seemed long) —purple crocus, bright yellow forsythia, and the return of beautiful migrating birds. It doesn’t change the fact that we may be in the middle of a crisis, but it does remind us that there is still beauty all around us. For those of faith, it is a clear demonstration that someone higher than us is in control. Where will our hope take us? To a place of peace and calm if we allow.
In the early days following the death of my precious mother, my heart was crushed. Grief was excruciating, life-draining. There is little doubt in my mind that even with the assistance of a support group, I had lost my way. I know that some thought my grief was intense and, to a degree, unwarranted. Because of, unsolicited counsel was free flowing. In retrospect, I know now that no one can tell you how or how long to grieve. Grief will not simply go away in time.
Five years have now gone by since she departed, and with this passage of time, my grief has changed. No longer do I view it as a mortal enemy, but rather a gentle companion. Slowly, grief released the torturous hold on my heart and graciously allowed me to bask in genuine joy. I will never forget my dear mother, never stop missing her. But I am learning to live without her.
To those of you who may be in the initial stages of grief, my heart is with you. If you are so inclined, feel free to share your experiences either privately with me, or with our community of followers. I have learned valuable lessons extracted from my very personal experience with loss—and subsequent grief.
In closing, be gentle with yourself. Give your heart the time it needs to grieve completely. Do not try to short-circuit the process of grief—it cannot, will not, be manipulated. Most importantly, believe that there will be joy again.