In Loving Memory of Tillie Cutler

Paul, Tillie & Me

July 9th my mother-in-law passed away. She was an amazing woman whom I admired tremendously.  Though she had humble beginnings and she and her husband often struggled to make ends meet during their family rearing years, all of her children went to college with several gaining master’s degrees and one earning his PhD.

As I think about the times I spent with her, there are several lessons I have come to realize

  • Faith is the Foundation– Tillie was an amazing Christian woman. Her faith in a Savior named Jesus was so strong that not only did her husband become a Christian, but went to seminary to become a Minister of Evangelism, all 3 of her sons became Lutheran Ministers and her daughters serve in their local congregations in a variety of ways.
  • Family First – Tillie always put her family at the forefront of her life. Moving from Iowa to Florida to be closer to her oldest daughter Cathy, she and her husband eventually moved in with them and helped to raise their children.  Though the rest of her children were spread out around the country, she made it a priority to make it to baptisms, confirmations, graduations and weddings of as many of her 18 grandchildren as physically possible.
  • Give generously to others – Some would say Tillie had the gift of hospitality.  Though they didn’t have very much money, and raising 5 children even with money is challenging, Tillie and Ed opened her home to countless people both near and far as they hosted several missionaries.  Many of my husband’s close friends growing up share stories of how their home was the hub.  Many of them even spent short periods living with them.  As my Sister-in-law wrote in her obituary, “with Ed’s gift of evangelism, one could say Ed and Tillie were a tag team.  Ed would bring in a neighbor or stranger and feed them God’s word and Tillie would shower them with food and a listening ear.”
  • Expect greatness from those around you – She expected a lot from those close to her, not because she was demanding, but because she knew that each of us has the capacity to do amazing things in this world. In this way she also gave those around her encouragement, lifting them up to reach for higher goals and never giving up on them when they fell short.

My brother-in-law wrote, “Mom touched the lives of many people around the table.  Her listening ear and sage counsel saved many lives from heartache and pain, and instilled confidence to live life to its fullest.  Her stalwart defense of her family members against any assaults was commendable.  She did not mince words.  She would say it the way that she saw it, plain and simple.”

To fully acknowledge the life of this amazing woman would most likely be more of a novel then a blog post.  However, for me and those closest to her, her life can be summed up in one word LOVE.

Thank you for the lessons Tillie, you will be missed.

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Having a Heat Wave

Summertime tips for Caregivers

Seniors are especially at risk in high heat situations. Large stretches of the USA are experiencing extreme temperatures.

Here are some summer heat tips for helping elderly loved ones avoid heat stroke or heat exhaustion

  • Encourage fluid intake.* Water is best.  Pick up some bottled water to keep in their fridge.  It’s easy to grab and can help them track their water intake. Some fruit has a high water content (such as cantaloupe) is also helpful.  Remind them that sugary drinks, caffeine, and alcohol act as diuretics so fluctuating those fluids with water is key.
  • Make sure their air conditioning is working and turned on. Whether in an effort to cut expenses or because many older adults, especially those on blood thinners, get cold easily, they may not have their air conditioning turned on.  However; they may not recognize that being in air-conditioning can help them avoid heat stroke/exhaustion.  Explain the reasoning behind having the air on and then find them a sweater to wear in the house.
    • If they do not have air-conditioning, consider going to a mall, movie theatre, museum or city cooling center.  Another option is having them stay with a family member until the heat wave passes.
  • Take a cool shower or bath, especially in the evening before going to bed.
  • Wear light-colored, loose-fitting clothing that breathes.
  • Discourage activities such as cooking/baking in the oven as well as thorough housecleaning during heat waves. 
  • If going outside, apply sunscreen and keep it on hand for re-application.
  • Regularly check in on elderly relatives, friends and neighbors in person if possible. If you live far away, contact another relative or neighbor who can stop by and check on them.

Know the signs of heat stroke (i.e.: flushed face, high body temperature, headache, nausea, rapid pulse, dizziness and confusion) and take immediate action if you or your loved one is having any of these symptoms.

For more caregiving support visit

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DIY Lessons in Caregiving Part 3 – Ask for Help!

I will admit that I am mildly obsessed with the show Flea Market Flip. Though the contestants find the items and come up with the plan of how to reinvent the items, there is a team of professionals who support them physically with the transformation.

So how does this apply to family caregivers?  Caregiving is probably one of the most difficult things any of us will ever do.  Effective caregivers understand that developing a support “team” helps them care for their loved one both physically and emotionally. Caregiving teams can consist of family members, friends and health care professionals who can assist in finding services and resources to help care for your loved one.

Seek Help

Check with your village/city/township or local hospital to see if they have an older adult services division.  Then CALL THEM!


  • Ask for help – if you have other family members in the area call and ask them to help you with the care needs. Then LET THEM DO IT! Let go of the need to control because it is part of the cause of your burnout.
  • Volunteers – Check with local senior services or congregations to see if they have volunteers that would be willing to sit with your loved one while you take time to run errands or just take a break.
  • Respite Care – If you care for someone in a home setting you can hire a caregiver to come to the home to manage their care for a week or two. Consider as well scheduling a respite stay at an assisted living or skilled nursing facility.


  • Support group – Though it seems that there’s no time to add another item to your calendar, it is important to make the time. Group participants understand how challenging the caregiving journey is, especially when caring for someone who is declining both physically and mentally. Aside from being a great emotional support, the group leaders and participants may have suggestions on resources to help navigate the health care system.
  • Develop an “on-call” friend – ask a close friend to act as a sounding board (sometimes just a venting board) so you can release the pent-up emotions without concern of judgment or criticism.
  • Consider counseling – counselors can assist in dealing with the natural feelings that come with caregiving. Among these are anger, frustration, sadness, anxiety, and guilt. Talking to a professional can offer suggestions on ways to reduce stress and support healthier ways of relating. Unfortunately, many caregivers don’t take time for counseling until their caregiving days are over. (If you are a working caregiver, counseling may be provided as part of your health insurance package so call your health insurance provider. Companies offering Employee Assistance Programs (EAP’s), may also cover counseling.  Caregivers age sixty or over may qualify for counseling under the Older Americans Act, Title III-B.)

Instead of DIY caregiving try DIWH (Do it with Help) and start creating your team TODAY!!


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DIY lessons in Caregiving – Part 2 – Painting

As I mentioned in Part 1: lately I’ve been doing a lot of DIY (do-it-yourself) projects around my house.  While doing these different projects I have come to realize several things.

  1. Planning ahead is helpful
  2. Having the right tools is crucial
  3. Asking for help can make a big difference in the outcome

Today my focus is on having the right tools

So, one of these projects was painting our family room.  One would think when painting what you would need is paint, paint brushes/rollers and something to cover the floor right?  Well not exactly.

I gathered my supplies ready to attack the project head-on when I quickly realized something was very wrong.  My husband had purchased paint rollers over the years and I figured I would use those to paint the walls with.  However, I quickly learned that there is a difference in what tools you actually use to paint.  Though they were the right tools, the quality was not the best and it took me longer than it should have to paint just one wall as the roller kept sliding off of the handle every 5 seconds and I had to continually stop to readjust.  Though frustrated, I continued this same process on a second wall.  Finally I gave up and went to the hardware store.

At the store I spoke to several experts who knew just what item would work correctly and gave me some tips on painting techniques that would help the paint to go on smoother.  The next day when I started to paint with the new roller things went much smoother.  I finished the next 2 walls in a third of the time it had taken me the previous day and the paint looked better on those 2 walls (leading me to re-do the other 2).

So, how does painting my family room relate to caregiving? 

Caring for an elderly loved one requires us to search out the right resources/tools to help them as they age.  Tools could be home health support, evaluating different care facilities for long-term care needs or independent/assisted living communities.  Community support programs for shut-ins such as Meals-on-Wheels or volunteer programs for companionship.

Many times as caregivers we utilize only the tools we currently have which mostly involves us doing EVERYTHING ourselves while completely frustrated.

By taking some time to investigate and consult with experts in the community caregivers can find the proper tools/resources to help their loved one as they face physical and emotional challenges that can be associated with aging.

Check back next week for Part 3 – Asking for Help

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DIY lessons in Caregiving – Part 1 – Planning ahead

Lately I’ve been doing a lot of DIY (do-it-yourself) projects around my house.  While doing these different projects I have come to realize several caregiving insights. So I have put together a 3 part series to share caregiving insights from my DIY projects.

  1. Planning ahead is helpful
  2. Having the right tools is crucial
  3. Asking for help can make a big difference in the outcome

Planning Ahead

For many of my projects I figure I will just improvise and more than likely any tools or supplies I need I can re-purpose from something I already have or I am sure I have the right tool somewhere in the garage.  Though improvisation can be hilarious at a comedy club, when doing a DIY project more often than not it ends in frustration quickly lead to becoming overwhelmed with the project.  Unfortunately I am not as adept as one might think to actually plan out what I might need for the next project the culmination of which is insanity, doing the same thing over and over expecting different results.

Unfortunately this type of behavior doesn’t just manifest itself in DIY projects.  Many caregivers I know live in a constant state of reaction to changes/challenges in their loved one’s health status leading to “improvising” very important decisions because they didn’t prepare for potential issues.

Lessons learned:

Plan ahead for what you think you may need and then be flexible when new needs arise.

This sounds reasonable, however, if you don’t even know where to start this can seem overwhelming and lead you right back to your make it up as you go along style of caregiving.

I also realize that in our busy world, if something isn’t happening immediately, there isn’t a sense of urgency to know about resources available for the “what if’s” in life.   Unfortunately neglected “what if” planning can lead to uninformed reactionary decision-making when a crisis strikes.

The good news is it doesn’t have to be that way.  There are preparations that can be made TODAY for the “what if’s” in life.

See my post “What If” to help you start planning ahead today

Also visit Strategic Caregiving for more insights

Check back next week for DIY lessons in Caregiving – Part 2 – Having the right tools.

Just for fund here are some of my DIY projects:


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Hang onto your Joy

I was listening to a Joel Osteen message about Joy and how nothing can take our joy from us.  This means that no issues with a spouse, illness, loss of job or abilities or challenges associated with caring for an elderly loved one can take our joy away from us. We can however, give it away.

This is quite a revelation!  Even though I have a conceptual understanding of my control over my reactions to people and situations in my life, I was daily giving my joy away to inconsequential events such as being stuck in traffic, fear of running late for a meeting, worry about personal and family health issues.  Now you may think that worrying about health issues is not inconsequential.  Any health issue that you or a loved one is facing is most certainly of consequence.  What is not, however, is the act of worrying about these challenges.

Worrying does nothing to change the traffic pattern, fear doesn’t change what time you get to your meeting and most importantly, worry does nothing to change the outcome of the test to see if the cancer has spread.

Worry and fear can negatively affect your personal outlook, relationships with loved ones and health (which is ironic as that is the very thing you’re worrying about).  We allow worry and fear to steal our joy from us and for what?  Something we have little to no control over.  The test results will be what they will be, worry and fear will not change them, but could hamper our ability to make good decisions about next steps and treatment options.

Studies have shown that there is a strong association between positive health outcomes and people with strong social well-being (happiness & joy that comes from within).  This is great news!  This means that you can have a positive effect on your health by adjusting your focus to things that are positive and joyful!

I’m not saying it’s going to be easy to change your focus to become joy-filled, but there are some steps that can help you start your joy journey today!

  • Focus on the positives – spend time with people who fill you with joy :family, friends, children, grandchildren.
  • Disengage from “drama” people in your life – you know who I am talking about. The people who can turn any story into drama (i.e. – a dog jumping on their leg becomes a vicious attack).  These people especially focus on the potential negative aspects of your situation.  Politely turn down their offers to hang out and focus attention on positive people.
  • Create a Joy Journal – get in the habit of writing down positive experiences EVERY DAY! At the beginning you may have to really stretch to find them (i.e. – I got out of bed today).  After a while you will start to notice that there are more positives in your life than you realized!

I heard this saying “Worry does not change tomorrow’s burdens, but steals joy and power from today”. SO TRUE!

Take hold of your joy TODAY!  Don’t give it away no matter what the circumstance.  Things may be stressful, life can be challenging, but you have the power to find the joy in life no matter what else is going on around you.

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A Tribute to My Mom – Happy Mother’s Day


I have been blessed to have the best Mom in the history of Mom’s. Maybe I’m a bit biased (just a little), however; if you were to ask my friends from childhood through today about my Mom they would probably tell you the same thing.

me and mom


Most women have the ability to become a Mom (I unfortunately I was not one of them), however; I believe that some people are just born to be Mom’s. They have some kind of special DNA which makes them innately more gifted at the job than others. My Mom is one of those women born to be a Mom.

If you were to ask my Mom about herself she will talk about me, my sister, her grandchildren and son-in-laws without ever actually mentioning anything about herself. She always seems to be amazed at what a great family she has never realizing her love and support has been the cornerstone of our family.

She has always been my hero; overcoming obstacles that life has thrown at her with strength and dignity (see One Word can Change Your Life). She is the kind of person who will show up for you when others are walking out on you. She will give you the shirt of her back and has literally given me the shoes off of her feet. She has taught me the meaning of unconditional love.

So in honor of her I want to share life lessons from my Mom.

  • A note of encouragement can make a huge difference in someone’s day (see Encouragement by Mail)
  • Always show up for others (even if you don’t think they deserve it)
  • Make family a priority
  • Family and forgiveness go hand-in-hand
  • Keep moving forward even when it’s hard
  • Unconditional love cannot be earned, it is given freely whether or not you think the other person deserves it
  • Encouragement is a gift you can give to anyone at any time
  • Be nice to everyone (AKA: kill them with kindness)
  • If someone doesn’t like you or want to be your friend it’s their loss not yours

Thank you Mom for all the love, support and encouragement you give so freely.

Happy Mother’s Day!!!

For more support visit

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