getting rid of the weeds

I have an important job to do.

I don’t want to do it. It takes effort, I’ll be sore from the strain later, and I’ll get hot and bothered in the process. But I need to weed the monkeygrass.

Last year I spent one morning finding the weeds (that are sometimes hard to tell apart from the monkeygrass) and following them to the roots to pull them out. It was slow going and back breaking, but that area does not have weeds in it this year.

However, afterwards I was stiff, and I developed some kind of rash, and I thought of a million reasons why I couldn’t and shouldn’t (and wouldn’t) go back and finish the rest of that spot. Sometime later I did spend a few minutes pulling off the tops of the most obvious weeds, and it looked better temporarily, but this year those weeds are still there.

So now I will do the hard work and get rid of all the weeds, hopefully once and for all.


I have another important job to do.

I don’t want to do it. It takes effort, I’ll be sore from the strain later, and I’ll get hot and bothered in the process. But I need to get rid of some weeds in my life right now.

Sometimes the things I spend time on start out like the weeds in the monkeygrass. They look like good things, or at least they don’t look like bad things. You can’t really see them, they blend in. But then they get out of control and try to take over. And unless you get rid of them at the roots, they always come back again.

I need to cook more healthy meals. I need to walk more, and I need to lose weight. I need to be a better housekeeper.  I need to write more notes of thanks and encouragement. I need to be more consistent with writing on this blog. I need to follow up on some plans I have for various art projects. I need to go to bed earlier to be rested and ready for the next day. I need to smile more and worry less.

Yes, I have an important job to do. And  now it’s time for that hard work as well.  I want to get rid of those weeds, too, hopefully once and for all.

number 100

Incredibly to me, this is my 100th post on fireflytrails. What began as a wish a few months back when I accepted the March Slice of Life Writing Challenge has become a habit that I just can’t shake. In fact, this writing has become nourishing and medicinal for me in ways that I never would have believed.

At first I thought – I knew – that I didn’t have time to write every day. As I began to find that time, and sometimes make that time, I then learned that I no longer had time for those other things that I previously thought were so important.

I have begun to see things differently, with the eye of someone who wants to notice things and remember enough details to share these findings with others. I have taken pictures of discoveries and things that cause me to think, even though I often use the pictures only to help me with my writing, rather than to supplement the posted piece.

In conversations, when I tell about an event or recall a story from the past, I’ll often say, “That sounds like a good tale for fireflytrails.” I have come to understand – and I continue to learn – that even a story about a specific individual can be written with a universal voice. And I find that readers connect with pieces that relate to their own stations in life, even when I make it strictly personal (and use too many “I’s” and “we’s”).

(Two asides about this before I go on:  1) Lucy Calkins is so right (of course!) about beginning your writing experiences by telling small moments. The pieces I am most pleased with, the ones that reflect my potential as a writer, these are the essence of small moment writing; and 2) I understand that the Common Core standards are text-based, and certainly that should be a focus, but don’t tell me that connections don’t matter, or that prior knowledge isn’t a huge piece of how we comprehend our reading.)

I have also discovered the value – the true worth – of the comments that readers have made. I never thought about this in the beginning, and I would have never believed how significant the comments would be. But now I know.

It means that someone read what I wrote. (How great is that?!?) And then he or she took the time to write their thinking about what they read. (Awesome, isn’t it?) The comments I have received have made me smile, cry, think, and reflect. The validation is so important, but so is the growth and revision that these comments have inspired.

I am also learning that there are many ways to tell a tale. I have investigated points of view, perspectives, formats, and word choice enough to know that there is a world of possibilities out there, and I want to continue that journey for a long time.

When I read the acknowledgements in a book I notice that the author thanks his or her editor. I never comprehended that – and I still don’t have a deep understanding – but now I do at least have a clue. I value the eyes of others on my writing, and so many times people have responded with words I wish I had included in my original piece. So I’m thinking an editor must be something like that, and so much more.

I can’t thank Stacy and Ruth of Two Writing Teachers enough for hosting their blog and encouraging others to write. The community that I have discovered here is an important part of my life, even though I have never personally met any of these writers. (But I may know some of them better than I know my face-to-face friends, because so many have shared their inner thoughts and feelings – who they really are – in their posts.)

There are so many OTHER useful and inspiring parts of Two Writing Teachers, too. (Go ahead and check it out now!) It restores my faith in so many things – education, parenting, literacy – to know that these two women have decided to make a difference and promote what’s important just because it’s the right thing to do.

So I have done something I never thought I could do. One hundred posts! Deep down I know that writing was always a dream of mine, just waiting to spread its wings and fly. Now I am learning what hard work is required to just stretch those wings. And I hope, with God’s grace, to keep easing that dream out of the nest.  With lots of hard work and more of His inspiration, I hope that my dream will be able to fly – maybe soar – someday, too.


I love music!

Unfortunately my only musical talent lies in its appreciation, not its production. Fortunately for musicians, there are people like me who are stirred deeply by their work.

There’s something about music that speaks to our senses and takes us out of ourselves. Music can mend our broken spirits, help us celebrate joyous times, heal our hurt places within, and lead us in praise for our Creator.

Music can help us smile, make us weep, spur us to action, or soothe our souls.

As a would-be writer, I am often moved by the perfect turn of a phrase that a songwriter employs to grab our emotions. So much said in so few words. Of course the melody, rhythm, and mood contribute to its effect as well.

A really good song brings me chill bumps when I hear it. I turn it up loud and love to be surrounded by the moment. I can feel it deep within, where the essence of who I am and what I wish to be resides. There’s always a song stirring around in my head, repeating its refrain, making my toes tap the rhythm, bringing sunshine to my thoughts.

Currently – today anyway – the music that speaks to me is Springsteen, by Eric Church:

When I think about you, I think about 17
I think about my old jeep
I think about the stars in the sky
Funny how a melody sounds like a memory
Like the soundtrack to a July Saturday night

I love music!

midsummer spring

I shake my head,

blink my eyes,

lift my sunglasses,

thinking it’s their tint.

That must be the problem.

But no, it’s just the same

without them.


There’s so much green

everywhere I look.

Not the deep green I know,

the green I expect.

That aged green should be established now,



No, this is a spring green,

a green that jumps out at you,

one that is full of new life.

Not often seen this time of year.


The grass, once crispy, is practically glowing,

the boxwoods are crowned with new green shoots.

The lilies have new leaf blades

and sometimes flowers.



The dried-out lantana,

overheated in the iron urn,

reduced to nothing but brown sticks,

now is full and green and ready to bloom.


This summer has been unlike others.

There’s been heat and drought

like we’ve not seen here before.

Plants withered and died,

roots remained, but hidden.


When the rains came,

the glorious rains,

roots awakened

and plants were revived.

Some started their growth cycle

all over again.

Now it looks like spring in July.


Even the lightning bugs

have joined in the dance.

a moment of understanding

Today is our daughter and son-in-law’s sixth anniversary. How can it be that long ago that we celebrated their marriage with friends and family? It was a wonderful evening, a celebration of their love, and I trust it was just what “our little girl” wanted for her wedding. The evening was all about the bride and groom, so in love and so wrapped up in each other.

As any mother of the bride can tell you, there were numerous responsibilities and people and details and tasks to check on that night. It was so busy moving from moment to planned moment that I hardly had time to think. As I watched our daughter come down the aisle, I thought sadly how little time I had spent with her that day. “But that’s as it should be,” I thought. “She’s taking this step into the next part of her life, with a wonderful young man, and we are so thankful.”

The ceremony at our church was beautiful and the reception was held in a plantation garden nearby. Guests were already in the tent when my husband and I got there, and I was welcoming folks when a bridesmaid came to me and said, “Beth needs you. She told me, ‘Go find my mom.’”

I rushed outside the fence and found her and another bridesmaid struggling with her dress. “Please help me, Mom,” she said. “We can’t get it bustled the right way.”  Because I had practiced this a few times, we were able to quickly get it into shape so she could enjoy the reception and the rest of the night without dragging the train of her dress behind her. With a couple of button loops and a quick hug she and her new husband were on their way.

I stood outside the fray for a moment and smiled. It was then I knew that, from time to time, there would still be a place in her life for her mom after all.


thin spaces

My husband’s grandmother was one of the kindest, smartest, and most encouraging people I have ever known. She lived an inspiring life, not due to opportunities that came to her, but because of how she chose to make the most of what happened along the way.

“Mommy” married late in her life, into a family of curious folks, and she loved them all dearly. Before this marriage, and after, she provided care and often a place to call home for her own mother and her brothers at various times of need in their lives. She was a mother to her husband’s children and she took care of him during his bout with cancer. After his death she was the glue that held the family of grown children together.

These children were all their own kind of people, including my husband’s father. They just lived life differently from most folks. My husband was adopted, and she, of course, was the stepmother, and towards the end of her days she would have a good laugh with my husband and tell him they should both be glad they didn’t have that family bloodline coursing through their veins. Yet she appreciated and cherished each of them for who they were, and was ever thankful that they had taken her in and given her a family to whom she could belong.

She was an intelligent bookkeeper who had a good business mind. Her husband was a dreamer, and she would often have to be the level headed one in the relationship. She often said, “He had his head up in the clouds with his grand ideas and big plans, and it was my job to hold his feet down here on terra firma.”

Mommy knew more about current events than anyone else I knew. Even as macular degeneration claimed her eyesight and congestive heart failure weakened her physical condition, she was always listening to the TV or radio so she could keep up with what was going on. Once she asked my husband, “Honey, do you work with computers?”  “Yes ma’am, every day,” he answered. “Well, I think they can cause more problems than they solve. I think they are of the devil,” she replied. “Some days I would have to agree with you on that,” my husband nodded.

We loved to hear her play the electric organ when we would go visit. The concerts were wonderful, filled with old hymns and other songs from her generation. When our daughter first learned to play the piano, Mommy would listen to her and encourage her ability. She loved toe-tapping tunes as well as emotion-filled melodies.

Mommy was an accomplished cook, and she would have the family for Christmas dinner, laden with her homemade delights. I best remember her rolls, the most delicious I have ever had anywhere, always soft and scrumptious, melt-in-your-mouth wonderful, in an endless supply. And she always sent us out the door with a frozen coconut cake that was heavenly, even to someone like me who doesn’t normally like coconut. I remember the light-as-a-cloud texture of the cake, the creaminess of the frosting, the hand-grated coconut. What I would give to taste those rolls or that cake one more time!

During her last days Mommy became so weak she had to go to a nursing home. The last time she was conscious when we visited her was one evening after dinner, and her room was quiet and still. She spoke clearly to us in a soft voice, and told us of the joy that was filling her soul. “Don’t be afraid of this time in your life when it comes.  I can hear the angels singing. I see a lovely place full of light and peace. Don’t be fearful of this when you are old one day. This is all so beautiful.”

There is a concept in Celtic tradition called “thin spaces” — the moments when we experience a deep sense of God’s presence in our everyday world, where the veil between heaven and earth is lifted for a brief moment. This was one of those times. We were so aware of the presence of God in that small room, and His glory was reflected on her face. These thin spaces are said to be times when God draws you up into his arms and whispers His love to you, and so it was that night. Of the countless ways Mommy influenced our lives and touched our hearts, this was the best gift she could have ever left with us, and it continues to dwell in us all of our days.

did I tell you…?

Dear Son,

  • Did I tell you I found a picture of you from when you were little the other day? You were making a goofy face and it made me smile.
  • Did I tell you that your middle school English teacher asked about you? He said he still remembered your class fondly (really?) and he said to tell you hello.
  • Did I tell you I found those buttons the other day that I wore at your football and basketball games? I was so proud for people to know that “Number 66 is my child.” You have such athletic talent and heart, I hope you keep putting that to good use throughout your life.
  • Did I tell you that I saw some “big guy” carrying two children the other day and it reminded me of the work you did for the church childcare? I know those kids loved crawling all over you.
  • Did I tell you that the Mack’s Prairie Wings catalog came today? I bet you are already looking forward to duck season. How a sleepyhead like you can get up so early to hunt is a puzzle to me.
  • Did I tell you how many times we have watched and laughed at Duck Dynasty? Thank you for showing it to us, along with other TV shows and music, too.
  • Did I tell you that I appreciated your bringing movies for us to watch the last time you came home? I’m sorry we never got around to watching them – please bring them again the next time.
  • Did I tell you how proud I am for all the hard physical work you are doing this summer? Outside in the heat, we know that has to be tough.
  • Did I tell you how we noticed that you are so upbeat when we talk to you after work? Even when you are so tired – you must really be enjoying it.
  • Did I tell you how I really do like your shaved head? Even though I thought I wanted you to let your hair grow.
  • Did I tell you that I think I know how bad it hurts when a person whom you believe is someone special turns out not to be? And did I say how proud of you I am that you took the high road and did all the right things?
  • Did I tell you how I miss your voice when you don’t call for a few days? Texting just isn’t quite the same – but don’t stop that! It’s always good to hear from you.
  • Did I tell you that the neighbors complimented our driveway that you cleaned? Your painting and mulching and other jobs have really made a difference around here.
  • Did I tell you that we are so proud of you for choosing a hard major and for sticking with all the work it requires? We know it will be worth it when you are able to work in a job that fits who you are, one that you love.
  • Did I tell you that I always think of you when I see a good-looking truck? You have waited (patiently?) for a new one for a long time, and it will be awesome when you finally get it.
  • Did I tell you I think about you when you are traveling?  Please be safe.
  • Did I tell you that our friend’s daughter had an accident? My heart goes out to them and I pray for God to take care of her. And selfishly I can’t help but think about you, too.
  • Did I tell you that I still worry about you even though you are so grown up? I guess we always will.

Did I tell you that you mean the world to us?

You have told us (and showed us) so many important things yourself.

We love you,

Mom and Dad