Mom is laughing-out-loud about my little-old-lady designs inspired by a stay in a skilled nursing facility earlier this year. I did not know that UTIs effect elderly women big time until Mom was knocked for a loop with one that sent her to the hospital and then skilled nursing for a six-week long recuperation. My mother has Shy-Drager syndrome, a progressive disorder of the central and sympathetic nervous systems. The UTI intensified the Shy-Drager syndrome so much so that she had trouble with the smallest tasks: eating, going to the bathroom, and getting dressed.

Mom’s fingers could not work the little buttons on her shirts, her eyes could not see the buttons or the button holes, and her mind could not sort out which button went with which button hole. That’s where the idea for LOL Designs was sparked.

It was a simple thing to change the little buttons to larger ones. Being a designer, I decided to experiment with the idea of color to trigger the brain to remember. I found big buttons in bright colors, asked Mom which color she would like for the top button, the second button, and so on. I could have made the choice, but something told me to engage her in the process. Next, I changed the buttons – using the pattern that Mom chose – on three shirts. Voila!



Not only did the new buttons help her with this task, but they gave new life to her shirts. In fact, she gets comments every day about her colorful, big-buttoned shirts. If there is one thing I have learned from being my mother’s caregiver is that just because she and her friends are older does not mean they don’t like to look good.

That got me thinking. Why don’t fashion designers create a line of clothing for LOLs (little old ladies) that make it easier for them to dress and still be fashionable?

Sand Mandala -Lessons of impermanence, compassion and being in the moment

Like sand through the hourglass, our lives tick away as painstakingly as the Tibetan Buddhist monks creating the intricate patterns that make up a sand mandala. If only my life could be filled with the compassion of the Kalachakra mandala, a sacred work of art which blesses the sand – and the world – through chants and prayers. The Buddhist teaching of impermanence inspired the Kalachakra mandala.

A few years ago, I shared the sand mandala experience with my eight and five-year-old grandchildren. We marveled at the patience it took to create the design. I loved it when my five-year-old granddaughter noticed how the monk indented three small dots of green sand with a tool making what she called a “bowl” to receive three small dots of white sand.

I told them what would happen to the mandala when it was completed. “The monks will scoop up the mandala, take the sand to the pond, and release it,” I said. My eight-year-old grandson replied,

And then the pond will have a sand mandala too.

Impermanence – it is such an elusive concept to grasp. We seem to hold onto it one moment with fingers cupped in understanding only to lose it the next as if our mental fingers open up to let the “impermanence sand” drift through to join other thoughts that escape us.

I can at least follow another Buddhist premise of “being in the moment.” I can enjoy the making of the sand mandala, the joy my grandchildren and I had in watching it grow from dots to bowls, to flower designs. Finally, I can play with the idea that the sand magically reconnects in the bottom of the pond to form another sand mandala. I feel blessed with compassion to share the experience with my grandchildren and, now, with you.

What now?

As I looked down at the funeral paraphernalia on Dad’s coffin, I wondered what happens now. To be more specific, what do Buddhists believe happens when a person dies?

Dad was a Buddhist, although not a very good practicing Buddhist. He left that to Auntie Tai, who prayed religiously at the family altar. As a Buddhist, he was subject to reincarnate into another life. I had no idea if he would reincarnate immediately or if there was a certain time before he would return. And if there is a waiting time, I had no idea where he would wait.

I tried to talk to Dad about Buddhism years ago, but he was not forthcoming. Mom raised me in the Southern Baptist Church after my parents split up, and we moved to Florida. For some reason, I did not have a conflict exploring Buddhism and Christianity. In fact, I felt even more curious about Buddhism. I especially wanted to know what was in store for Dad. Ultimately, I wondered if the same things would happen to me when I die.

Have you ever wondered: “What now?”

Third rock from the sun


Sometimes when life gets to me and I wonder how I will manage, I think about a sunrise, a sunset, about the planets floating in space. How is it that Earth – the third rock from the sun – hangs out as it does, whirling in space without my falling off? And I do not mean the whole magnetic field thing but rather the energy behind the magnetic field. It’s beyond my understanding, but one thing I have come to know is that the same energy that holds the earth in its place is also working somehow in my life. Then, I feel that everything is working out in Divine Order.

Just in time for the holidays – Carole’s Kookie Recipe.

The principles of good design can be applied to any aspect of life – even cooking.  The perfect combination of ingredients – whether furniture & fabrics or flour & flavorings – can create a little magic in your life.

I discovered the Barefoot Contessa’s Blue Cheese and Walnut Crackers and filled my kitchen & goody boxes with wondrous smells & flavors.  I also discovered a recipe for Lavender Cookies which was a disaster until I tweeked it.

Just as I like to mix styles of furniture, I found that by mixing these two recipes, I could create an “eclectic” Kookie recipe that even the Contessa would like.

The basic recipe is very simple:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F

1 cup Unsalted Butter (I prefer Land of Lakes.) melted
1 cup sugar
1 cup self-rising flour
1 egg

Now, here’s where you can creative!  For my Bleu Cheese & Walnut Kookies:

add 4 tablespoons  Bleu Cheese to the batter (more or less – to taste – I use less)

Spoon 1 soup spoon full of batter into a buttered muffin tin (I discovered that a piece of parchment in the bottom of the tin makes it easier to remove the Kookies.  Thanks to my favorite chefs, Jacques and Julie, for that tip.) Smooth the batter out in the muffin tin.

Chop walnuts (I prefer a rough cut) & top the batter with the walnuts

Cook for 15-18 minutes until the edges of the Kookies are golden brown.
Let the Kookies cool for about 10 minutes and then take them out of the muffin tin and place them on a cooling rack or, better yet, right into your mouth – don’t forget to remove the parchment or you will have a little extra ‘fiber’ in your diet.  The Kookies will have a crunchy outer edge and a chewy inside and the buttery taste will melt in your mouth.  Enjoy!

BTW – This recipe was a finalist in the RTD cookie recipe contest.

As a designer, I did not stop there. I adapted the basic recipe with other ingredients, depending on flavors that I know my family and friends love, to create Designer Kookies. Other favorites are Lemon Kookies and Sesame Kookies. We are kooky for Kookies!


Turning Point

There is no way to tell you when it will happen; however, at some point in your life, things will change. I know because it happened to me. My moment was when I gazed down at my father’s grave. Thus began my spiritual journey.

Although your moment and your journey will no doubt be different, we can learn from one another. As Deepak Chopra, M.D. said,

We have stopped for a moment to encounter each other, to meet, to love, to share. This is a precious moment, but it is transient. It is a little parenthesis in eternity. If we share with caring, light-heartedness, and love, we will create abundance and joy for each other. And then this moment will have been worthwhile.

We are all on a spiritual journey, whether we realize it or not. Becoming aware is the turning point, the moment when life begins to change. Will you embrace the change? Where will your spiritual journey take you? Will it be a roller coaster ride? Will you discover the “butterfly effect” and evolve from a leaf guzzling caterpillar to a beautiful free-flying butterfly?

Let’s explore the journey together. I will share glimpses of my journey, from the moment I stood over my father’s grave and wondered what happens when we die, especially when there were so many unresolved issues. Post-traumatic flashbacks haunted me and drew his spirit to me at his funeral.

I knew he was not dead. I knew he was very much alive somewhere. I had no idea where.

Afraid of ghosts all my life, I faced the hurdle of overcoming my fear to find the answers to my questions. The roller coaster took me to the depths of hell – the Tenth Hell of the Buddha, to be exact.  And, so my quest began.