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

do you know…?

Dear Daughter,

  • Do you know how beautiful you are? Your sunkissed hair, your shining eyes, your sweet smile, your shapely shoulders, and your tiny fingers, all so lovely. Dad and I still look at you, as we did when you were first born, and wonder how WE could have a child as precious as YOU.
  • Do you know your heart and your compassion show in all that you do? I think about the people you have befriended, the tender spirit you have when watching a touching movie, the sadness in your soul when you hear of someone in need.
  • Do you know that we wish we had written down the funny words that you used to say? We never did really know where “jellybong” came from but it still makes us smile.
  • Do you know that I sometimes wish I could still stroke your hair the way you liked when you were little? Right behind your ear – so soft and smooth.
  • Do you know how I would love to hear you play the piano? I remember so many songs, especially the Titanic, that were so expressive when you touched the keys.
  • Do you know you are a dog whisperer?  Belle and Maggie and all other dogs melt around you. They are good judges of character, you know.
  • Do you know we are just teasing you about being little MeeMom? But you could do a lot worse. You definitely have her style, her creativity, and her passion.
  • Do you know how you really can be “blonde” sometimes? We like to point out your forgetfulness and confusion by saying “cha-ching,” referring to that money spent on education.
  • Do you know how smart you really are? We know.  It’s a natural understanding of so many things, mixed with hard work on the things that puzzle you sometimes.
  • Do you know how brave you were to start a new school in seventh grade? Middle school is never easy even when you are on comfortable ground.
  • Do you know how smart you were in college to realize that your first course of study didn’t “speak to you?” And maybe that’s why you were surprised to learn there were dead bodies in forensic chemistry.
  • Do you know it must have been an omen that you went to see “Fever Pitch” on your first date with your husband? Good thing you have learned how to love sports (because you love him).
  • Do you know how much fun it was to plan your wedding with you, because you already knew so much about what you wanted? I think of that fun summer every time May rolls around – and I am always thankful it is behind us, with happy memories to think on (and the hard work behind us).
  • Do you know someone is always telling me that their daughter wants a wedding just like yours? It was a fun evening, and so “magical” – the music, the flowers, and the dancing. But mostly because of the love that was evident there.
  • Do you know how warm and comfortable your home is? Your sense of style is welcoming – and inspiring, too.
  • Do you know how proud of you we are that you have your own business? We understand what all that takes – not just the creative part at which you excel, but the day-to-day hard work that it takes to keep it going.
  • Do you know how blessed we have been ever since you came into our lives? We thank God for you.
  • Do you know you will always be our “sweet pea”? We love you with all our hearts.

Do you know these things?

We know all this, and more, because of you.

We love you,

Mom and Dad


My understanding of the meaning of the word mentor can be defined as someone you look up to. To me it means someone who you want to emulate in every way. You have the opportunity to choose this mentor for yourself, if you want one. You get to decide what you want to become, and then you find someone who possesses those qualities that you hope to see in yourself. When you choose that person as a mentor, you decide that you will strive to become more like someone who has their type of character.

The world seems to define mentors differently these days. People have mentors chosen for them. It might be that someone new on a job gets another employee assigned to them to help them learn the ropes. Or it could be that someone who is struggling with their responsibilities has another worker chosen for them who will provide a model to help them improve. I don’t see a lot of folks choosing their own mentor these days. They are not deciding for themselves who or what they want to become. Someone higher up sees a need and then provides the “mentor” to fill in the gap.

The mentors in my life have been of my own choosing. I had an amazing fourth grade teacher that was the first spark in lighting my fire to want to become an educator. There were youth leaders that taught me of God’s love and showed me how to put the feelings of others first. Quiet yet passionate teachers in high school and college showed me the power of well-chosen words, and the strength of silence in between them. So many artists and artisans – drawers, painters, potters, calligraphers, and collage creators, all who are able to put their visions into a form that others can see and understand –  have inspired me with their craft. Recently, through Two Writing Teachers, I have found writers whose work stirs my soul and challenges me to improve. And all through my life there have been those older and wiser persons whom I have been fortunate to hear, and wise enough to listen to, as they live their lives with meaning and purpose.

These are two entirely different ways of defining the concept of mentor. Because I think that the choices we make for ourselves are the most powerful, and because I believe in the power of having heroes and modeling our lives after someone of character, and because the first steps of any action need to be grounded in belief, my original definition of mentor best fits my own life. I am sure that this type of mentor – self-chosen, uplifting, and inspiring – yes, this mentor is most likely to make a real difference in our lives and consequently in our world.

back to school

I love summer. I adore the lack of schedules, the freedom of thought, the comfortable clothes, the contentment that it brings.

So this time of year I get cranky thinking of it coming to an end.

But I love teaching, too. In an effort to prepare myself for the days ahead, here’s my reminder list of what will make me happy to be back in school to start a new year even though I have to leave the beloved summer behind:

  •      Getting back in a routine (although I fight against it)
  •      Shiny floors
  •      The new, clean feeling of the start of a school year
  •      The smell of crayons
  •      Suntanned children
  •      Finding lesson plans that really work
  •      Students with eager smiles for their new teachers
  •      New bulletin boards
  •      Colorful folders and spiral notebooks with neat designs
  •      Thoughtful read alouds
  •      Organized supply boxes
  •      Happy hall displays
  •      Knowing you can make a difference in these lives this year
  •      Welcome Back signs
  •      Empty notebooks waiting to be filled
  •      Quiet voices (at first…)
  •      Dust-free shelves
  •      Knowing where everything is
  •      Boys and girls who have grown taller… and wiser
  •      New books
  •      Websites to try
  •      New marker sets
  •      Visiting with friends I have missed
  •      The look on students’ faces when they “get it”
  •      Curious and confident children
  •      Mornings – starting the day at home and at school
  •      Endless possibilities ahead

to be continued….


I love old linens. I guess I inherited this fondness from my mother and my aunt, maybe my grandmother, too. They are all amazing seamstresses.  They can tell you the names of all kinds of fabrics and they can judge the quality with their eyes without even touching it.  I guess my love for these materials is similar to my relationship with music. I am not literate or talented with fabrics, or with music, but I have a great appreciation for them.

One of my favorite aspects of these works of art is the decoration placed on them by talented and patient hands. And some pieces, such as lace, involve the whole fabric, not just an added adornment. In a house on a home tour that I attended there was a dining room that had only one window. To make the most of the scant natural light, the owners placed a delicate window treatment there. It was the most fabulous lace I had ever seen, obviously antique and handmade. I couldn’t take my eyes off of it, and will always remember how beautiful it was.

On the other hand, sometimes the result can be very disappointing. My mother used to always say, “I can’t believe they put this tacky lace on this blouse (or this dress). That has just ruined the whole garment.” And she was always so right. I said the same thing just the other day to my daughter as we were shopping and I spotted this kind of unfortunate result, although I prefaced my remark with, “You know what Meemom would say…”

One of my favorite kinds of fabric work is hemstitching. There is something so beautiful in the simple pattern of the handwork there. There’s no bright color, or pretty picture, or thoughtful saying stitched in words. It’s just the simple repetition of a design that takes time, and skill, and determination.

The hours spent result in a simple pattern of square holes along the edge or hem of a napkin, tablecloth, or even an antique garment. You have to pull threads from the fabric that are parallel to the finished edge, and then hand stitch the cross threads in bundled groups as you secure the hem in place.

Of course, hemstitching can be done on a machine. It saves time, it still looks good, and it is much more cost efficient. A hemstitching machine pierces holes in the fabric and two separate needles sew the hole open. But it just isn’t the same.

One blog describes a hand-hemstitched handkerchief with these words:

It’s the Brooks Brothers shirt of handkerchiefs, the Gary Cooper shy smile of handkerchiefs, the firm handshake of handkerchiefs. Make one for someone who really uses handkerchiefs, every day. Someone who takes one from his top dresser drawer each morning, folds it over firmly, and puts it in his back pocket just as surely as he never forgets his wallet. As surely as he never forgot to give his wife a kiss every morning before work. Or every evening when he got home. For forty-five years.

I am thankful for the artists who have made these treasures through the years, and I am grateful to my family for cultivating this knowledge and appreciation within me.

along these miles

I visited my aunt and uncle today. It is an easy drive, about two hours each way, on a familiar road. We had a good time together, and it was a great trip. I really should go more often.

I wondered today how many times I have driven this route. It is the same highway that leads from my hometown to the small town where I spent four years of my life in college. I came home many weekends at first, though fewer times as the years went by. I drove it alone listening to my eight-track tapes and I drove it with friends whose animated conversations made the trip go faster. I drove it when I was so tired that I leaned my head back so I could see through my squinted eyes. My boyfriend drove me home for the first time one Thanksgiving, and many times since then we have driven this route as husband and wife.

One dark night I was a passenger with my daughter when a bull ran into our car on this road. Yes, IT ran into US. We had no idea what had slammed the vehicle as we were traveling 70 miles per hour, but we thought it was still on the hood. Somehow my daughter miraculously slowed and pulled over without hitting anything or anyone else. (Actually the hood was knocked open on impact, and it stayed that way, blocking our view.) The gigantic animal had escaped from the local stockyard earlier, and the police had been attempting to catch it all evening. Then the bull “caught” us.

I have taken this course to be at parties, go to ball games, attend funerals, celebrate Thanksgivings with my family, go on vacations, enjoy weddings, and make college visits with my own children. So many travels back and forth along these miles. The exits and landmarks are familiar and reassuring as I venture along this well-traveled route.

Today I realized that I have never traveled that route alone, even when I was by myself in the car. And even when I have had family or friends with me, I know that there has been another presence there. I recognize that God has been my protector and my guide every single mile of the way. Yes, even when the bull totaled our car – we walked away with no injuries at all.

Today I remembered to say Thank You for His care along those countless miles.

i’m going to Disneyworld!

“I won! I won!” my mother exclaimed into the phone.

“Won what?” I asked.

“I won the contest,” she said.

“What contest?” I replied.

“Oh I know I told you about it. I entered and then they called me and asked me a lot of questions and I had a feeling I had won and I did!”

“What contest?” I repeated.

“Well you obviously don’t listen to a thing I say. I entered the contest to go to Disneyworld sponsored by Popsicle. I know I told you. I sent in tons of entry forms. And then they called about two weeks ago with lots of questions and asked for quotes about why I eat Popsicles. So I got to thinking that I must be the winner. And sure enough they called again today to say I won. Tickets for four, travel and hotel included. We are going in August. Want to come along?”

“Congratulations! That’s great. Sure we’ll come with you. This will be fun!”

So began our adventure of taking a trip to the Magic Kingdom and Epcot years ago, before we had our children. I had just completed my Masters, so it was a fun way to celebrate. And it was an adventure – any outing with my parents always was. They were enthusiastic about everything and always had their own way of doing things.

When we arrived at the Orlando airport, we were met by a limo to take us to the hotel. My mother sized up the tall dark driver and his English accent, and, never missing an opportunity to start a conversation and possibly make a new friend she asked, “What island are you from?”

“Egypt,” he answered with a smile.

We reached the hotel before check-in time so they stored our luggage for us downstairs. When we did get to our rooms, my mother discovered that her shoe bag was missing. She proceeded to call and quiz the hotel desk clerk about retrieving her missing bag from the hotel storage room. A thorough search turned up nothing there, and my mother became a little upset. How could she spend five days here with only one pair of shoes?

After a slightly heated discussion back and forth it was determined that we had left that bag at the airport. My dad said it was easy to see why because my mother, a last minute packer, had brought eight different bags, and so it was hard to keep up with them all. (Yes, eight bags. Travel was less restricted back then.) The hotel retrieved the bag for her and we turned our attention to planning our days at the parks.

When we walked through the gates at the Magic Kingdom, we gawked just like any other first time visitors. We walked up Main Street and marveled at the perfection and cheerfulness of the surroundings. Animated movie characters had come to life and greeted us and the thousands of other tourists. We celebrated our good fortune by attempting to soak in every single detail along the way.

My husband and I were about twenty-five years old at the time, not necessarily interested in the same attractions as my parents, so we soon decided that we would all enjoy this a lot more if we split up. I felt a little guilty about doing this, since we were only there because of them, but we agreed on a meeting time and place and then we went our separate ways. Our afternoon was spent enjoying the rides and taking in the whole atmosphere of the park. When we met back with my parents, we were anxious to hear how their time had been spent.

“Wonderful, just wonderful!” beamed my mother. “We have had a great day!”

“Except for the parade,” added my dad.

“Well that was funny. But I wasn’t going to tell them about it,” mom replied.

“What parade?” I asked. “What happened?”

“We were just standing on the corner of a sidewalk, trying to decide where to go next, when we heard a marching band. You know there is something going on around here all the time. So we stood right where we were and we had the perfect spot to see all the characters and musicians march right in front of us. It was wonderful!”

“So what went wrong?” my husband asked.

“Well, we waited for all the hubbub to pass by and we forgot all about the sidewalk curb. So when we took our first step I fell right down on the street. And your daddy was holding my hand so he fell down too, and landed right on top of me.”

“Oh, goodness, did it hurt?” I asked.

“Just our pride,” my dad answered.

“Of course, people rushed over to help us up. Wasn’t that nice?” Mom added.

“Help YOU up,” said Dad. “They just kinda rolled me over to get me out of the way to help you,” he explained. “Nevermind about me. I got up all by myself.”

“Maybe they thought you had knocked me down,” said Mom with a smile.

My husband and I looked at each other and smiled as well. We knew we had been right that the best way to enjoy the rest of the trip was to venture off in sets of two, setting times and places to meet and share stories.

That’s just what we did, and a wonderful time was had by all.


inspiration from the past

My friend, the artist/photographer/creator/deep thinker/unselfish spirit, asked me to come over one day and make collages, or “cut and paste” as she called it. “OK,” I said reluctantly. I couldn’t imagine creating anything worthwhile without planning it for weeks or months, but I thought I’d give it a try.

When I got there, she had covered her dining room table with a protective cloth and had out an incredible assortment of supplies. There was a beautiful array of scrapbook paper, markers of all shapes, sizes, and colors, magazine pictures, photographs, samples of some of her previous work, and paint, scissors, and glue, of course.

I was both impressed and overwhelmed. Then she showed me her laptop where she had collected over one hundred samples of collages and other artwork she liked and pasted them into a document that we scrolled through for inspiration. I felt the pressure starting to build, and I knew I was going to really struggle with this that day.

Then, then she showed me some of these pages from a calendar that she had found in an antique shop:

I was totally in awe. As an amateur calligrapher, I was taken by the hand-written work. And so many of these quotes had such a depth of meaning to them. “This is a treasure!” I exclaimed.

“You can use them, too,” she told me.

“Oh, I could never cut these apart. They are amazing, they are one-of-a-kind, they are gorgeous.”

“We can make copies of them then,” she said with a smile.

And so, I was inspired, and that day with my friend I made some collages from these sayings. The ideas just came into my head without warning and without effort on my part. Afterwards I was so excited, and I made a list of other ideas that came to me for more work.  I am ashamed that I have kept myself busy with other things since then, but now I am anxious to get back to these while I have some time, before the summer fades away.

praying together

Recently my son and I saw an old friend of mine and one of her daughters in a local bookstore. We spent some time catching each other up on our families and current situations. I learned that another of her daughters has had mono and can’t seem to shake it. I assured her that I would keep her in my prayers.

As we left I told my son about this daughter. “I prayed for her before she was born,” I told him.  In answer to his quizzical look, I explained that this mom and I had been in a prayer group together long ago and she and her husband were hoping to have another child. Our group asked for God’s blessings on this family, and her beautiful daughter was an answer to that prayer.

Today a friend stopped by to visit for a few minutes. We were talking about the fast summer, and comparing notes on what we had each been doing. Her family is trying to plan a trip in August, but getting everyone’s “grown-up” schedules coordinated can be tricky. I told her we had managed to take a trip to the beach with all five of us in June, and I hoped hers would work out as well.

She paused for a moment and then asked how it is with “another” family member included, meaning our son-in-law. “Oh, he’s one of the family now,” I explained. “He puts up with us quite well, and we can’t even remember the days before he was part of our trips.”

“I remember praying for him before we knew his name,” she said. That was when I paused, and then recalled another prayer group we were both a part of and the requests we made for our children, including asking God to bless them with just the right person He had picked out for their lives. Through tears I said, “Yes, thank you for that, and for this sweet memory, too.”

I continue to thank God for Christian friends and answers to prayers.

For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them. Matthew 18:20

the taste of a summer day

When we got married thirty four years ago we moved to an unfamiliar town for my husband’s job. The neighbors on the other side of our duplex were just a bit older than we were, and they were new in town, too. They were very friendly and always shared information about day to day housekeeping and maintenance with us, the newlyweds next door. I wasn’t a very good cook, so thankfully she was happy to share recipes with me. One that I use to this day is her squash casserole.

There’s something about the blend of fresh squash, onion, seasonings and cheese that just tastes like summer, even when the weather is cold. Both of our children love squash casserole, so it was a staple when they were growing up. Now when we are all together I’ll make it, but our son-in-law is less than enthusiastic about it. (Truth is he will NOT eat it, so I always have a potato dish, too. If I make some just for my husband and myself, I’ll also fix a small dish for my daughter so she can enjoy it as well.)

I’m still not really a very good cook, but there are some dishes that I can do well, and this is one of them.  It’s worth every bit of the slicing, dicing, boiling, straining, mixing, and baking to have that taste of a sunny day served with your meal.

Squash Casserole

1 lb. squash, sliced

1 small onion, diced

1 cup milk

2 eggs, beaten

½ cup sour cream

¼ cup mayonnaise

1 ½ cups grated cheese

1 cup cracker crumbs

Salt and pepper to taste

Cook squash and onion, then drain. Mix remaining ingredients together, then add to cooked squash/onion. Stir well. Spread in greased 13×9 casserole and bake 45 minutes at 350, until firm and top is brown.

when failure isn’t an option

My college roommate and I were in the same sorority, and our “little sisters” were roommates with each other, too. The four of us became good friends, we were in each other’s weddings, had baby showers when our children were born, and that closeness has lasted through many years. Even though we each live in different places, and have led quite diverse lives, when we get together we still share a camaraderie for which we are ever thankful.

A few years ago we visited the Eastern Shore where one of our group lives. We shopped in Annapolis, Baltimore, and St. Michaels, and it seemed that everywhere we browsed we saw a similar saying on plaques, boxes, and charms.

What would you do if you knew you could not fail?

As the acting quizmaster of the group (my son can vouch for my skill in asking questions), I brought this up to my friends as we were talking one evening. “Everywhere we go I see the same quote, so I am wondering how you each would answer this question?”

What would you do if you knew you could not fail?

Of course there was a pause in the group, and no one jumped in with an answer immediately. Not being deterred, I went on. “Isn’t there something you’d like to do but you are a bit afraid of not succeeding with it? What if you had a guarantee that it would work out well in the end?  What would you want to do?

What would you do if you knew you could not fail?

My “little sis” was the first to reply. She had worked in a variety of jobs and companies through the years, yet she had never quite found her niche. Her answer was not surprising. “I would own my own business,” she said. “And it would be a success. Hopefully I would make plenty of money, but above all I would be fulfilled.”

“Your experience would be so helpful and you’d know just what to do,” we said.  “Go for it!”

My roommate was the next to offer her answer.  She had taught school briefly, but had quit to raise four children. They had been homeschooled for some of their school years, and she was very involved with their sporting activities. Her husband had grown up in our college town and was a banker and community leader. Together they helped establish the local YMCA there, where she and her family continued to live after we all finished school.

What would you do if you knew you could not fail?

“I would be involved in politics,” she stated quietly. “What?” we chorused as we looked at her incredulously. We had no idea she had these aspirations. “Seriously?” I asked.  “Well, maybe not me running for office,” she went on, “but I would like to keep up with current issues and maybe run a campaign or something. I want to be involved with making our country a better place than it has come to be today.”

“That’s a great idea. You should go for it. You’d be perfect – and you could keep us informed and accountable, too.” we decided.

What would you do if you knew you could not fail?

There was more quiet, and I knew that I should share my thoughts then, since I had started this whole conversation. It wasn’t easy to put my dreams into words, but these were my dear friends, and maybe saying the words might be the first action step in making those dreams come true. “I’d like to write a children’s book,“  I offered. “There are so many books that I love, with just the right words and the perfect pictures, I would like to make a book like that, one that is special to someone. Maybe someday,” I pondered.

“Of course you can,” they chimed in. “We’d be the first to buy it, too.”

The last person on our group was still silent. She’s the one who had said in college that she wanted to live in Washington, D.C. and be the head of a government agency one day – and that’s exactly what she was doing. She had raised her two children successfully after her divorce, and owned a beautiful historic home in a peaceful small town where she knew everyone and had a very happy life. Maybe she had already done everything she ever wanted to do. Perhaps the thought of failure had never crossed her mind.

What would you do if you knew you could not fail?

“I’d like to get married again,” she said softly. “I don’t have anyone in mind right now, but I’d like to see if I can do better the next time around. Sometimes I do get lonely.”

This was not what we expected at all, but we smiled. “He’d be a lucky man,” we said honestly. “Lucky indeed to have you.”

These events happened several years ago, but I’ll never forget the candor of it all. It’s a rare thing to have friends that you can bare your soul to and feel better about it afterwards. We have never really talked about it since, but I think it bound us even closer together to see inside each other’s thoughts and know more about what dreams we hold dear.

And by the way, my little sis does own her own business, and my roommate is very involved with keeping up with political trends and candidates. My other friend is in a “permanent relationship” that  makes her very happy, and who knows, maybe I will write that children’s book one day after all.

wrapped in light

We have had dry days of 100+ degree heat, followed by rainy days without end. Then last night, last night these two forces of weather, sun and rain, came together in a magnificent way.

Uncharacteristically my husband and I went to Nashville for dinner. The food was delicious and it was nice to have a change of pace. This is the city where we both grew up, and although we live only fifteen miles away, we don’t come here often. It has changed a lot in the years since we were more familiar with the area. We found it interesting to gaze out the restaurant windows on the city skyline. Normally we are more used to a small town or rural landscape, but it some ways it still felt like home, a comforting, familiar sight.

As we exited after our meal, we noticed a rainbow in the sky. The clouds had thinned and broken apart, and a slice of sun from the low western sky was shining on a bank of clouds that remained. The longer we looked – we couldn’t take our eyes away – the brighter it became. Then we noticed a double rainbow had appeared and our eyes swept across the sky. It happened that we were on enough of a rise, with open areas around us, that we could take in the entire arc of colors. And as we looked, the center semicircle below the arch glowed a brighter and deeper shade of coral-pink.

Seeing an entire rainbow is most unusual in a crowded city, making the whole event seem even more magical. We took a few pictures, but mostly we gazed in wonder. We couldn’t get the whole sky in any one picture, and even if we could have, the picture didn’t come near to expressing the feeling we had of being wrapped in light. We were surrounded by the radiance and reflection so much so that we could almost reach out and touch it. We glanced around and saw that other people were frozen on sidewalks, captured by this spell.  It was breathtaking, and just so amazing to realize how special it was to be right there in that moment in time to take it all in.

only a part of the whole

Look at the size of the tall buildings – Nashville’s “skyscrapers.” Can you imagine how small we felt, being so surrounded by this splendid display of God’s promises?

pimento cheese part 3 (last one!)

My daughter Beth noticed that I left out one ingredient for her pimento cheese. She mentioned it in the comments on the last post –

Thanks for sharing the recipe! One missing ingredient is 2 Tablespoons of honey mustard… gives it the sweet but tangy kick!


So here’s the recipe  – complete! – one last time:

1 pound sharp cheddar cheese, grated (if you buy the already-grated kind, get it finely grated)

1 – 4 oz. jar pimentos, drained and chopped

½ cup mayonnaise (you do know that Hellman’s and Duke’s are the best – right?)

2 Tbsp honey mustard (for that sweet but tangy kick)

½ tsp garlic salt (or to taste)

1/3 cup minced parsley (adds that all important color)

Mix the mayo, garlic salt, parsley and pimentos first, then add the grated cheese. Refrigerate. Delicious on a sandwich or served with crackers.


pimento cheese part 2

I should also mention that you should never, never eat “store-bought” pimento cheese. Ugh. That really is gross. It’s often like some kind of cheese sauce with gloppy big pimento pieces in it. If you can’t see the shreds of cheese, don’t eat it.

That means you have to make it from scratch if you plan to eat pimento cheese. This isn’t as hard as it sounds. It’s fine to use cheese that is already grated. Just remember to mix it up ahead of time to give the flavors time to mingle.

My daughter, Beth, makes the tastiest pimento cheese, and she learned from the best:  Daisy King, better known in these parts as “Miss Daisy,” Tennessee’s “First Lady of Southern Cooking.”  She has been a maker and promoter of southern food delights for many years. Miss Daisy’s a wonderful cook and a graceful southern lady, and she’s had several eating establishments through the years, beginning with a tearoom in an antebellum home that was hugely successful several years ago. More recently my daughter worked at the “City Market,” part grocery and part restaurant, and Miss Daisy was her mentor there.

Beth has modified Miss Daisy’s recipe a bit, mostly because it calls for Durkee’s sauce and we don’t keep that on hand at our homes. Pimento cheese is a bit like deviled eggs – everyone likes certain things included and has their own take on it. Here is Beth’s recipe – um, um, good!

1 pound sharp cheddar cheese, grated (if you buy the already-grated kind, get it finely grated)

1 – 4 oz. jar pimentos, drained and chopped

½ cup mayonnaise (you do know that Hellman’s and Duke’s are the best – right?)

½ tsp garlic salt (or to taste)

1/3 cup minced parsley (adds that all important color)

Mix the mayo, garlic salt, parsley and pimentos first, then add the grated cheese. Refrigerate. Delicious on a sandwich or served with crackers.