change is in the air – solsc#31

The month of March is a season of change. The old story about the lion and the lamb holds true. This is a change I am thankful for every time.

As I said before, change is hard. Something within us fights against it and tries to alter its course. You see that in nature as well. When change is meant to be, however, there’s nothing we can do to stop it. Thank goodness.

Spring skips down the hillsides and through the valleys, trailing birdsong and fresh scents in its wake.


The bright midday sun highlights the creepy, crawly, wiggly, squirming, constant change surrounding us.


Morning and evening glow with expectation and delight.


All around me I see evidence of the coming of spring, and warmer weather, and leafy green, and gentle sighs.

We welcome new life, and hopeful skies, and beckoning porches, and smiling faces.

Thank you, SPRING, for

       – smoothing out rough edges,

               – erasing bitterness,

                        – softening countenances, and

                                    – singing with joy.

a mixture – solsc#30

Life is a mixture.

↑  This weekend we celebrated the upcoming wedding of our son and his sweet fiancé with a group of special and dear friends. We had time with our future daughter-in-law’s family. We were thankful to see our son so very happy and content.

↓  One of the hostess couples could not be at the party because he had an arteriogram Friday and is having triple bypass surgery today. Although we know he has a strong heart (other than the blockages) and is healthy, we know he will have a tough recovery after this invasive surgery.

↑  On Sunday our granddaughter was baptized in a sweet service of commitment. We got to stand with our daughter and son-in-law as she was dedicated to God. Such an abundance of love all around.

↓  Today little Madison had her six month checkup. She is healthy, but those painful shots made her sad and sore. So heartbreaking to see her in pain.

↑  My aunt has come through knee replacement surgery extremely well  (at age 91!), but recently has lost all energy. A trip to the doctor today uncovered some confusion about the heart medications she was taking, and so now we are counting on her feeling much better soon!

I am thankful, during this Holy Week and always, to know that the God I love and serve is holding my hand – and those of my loved ones – along every path this life leads us through. He is there through the highs and lows, and is able to lead us through the valleys and into the Light.

former things



filled to overflowing – solcs#29

some days

there is too much living

to have time to write it all down


a party given by dear friends

for our son and his fiancé

time spent with the family

we will soon make our own


celebrating the baptism

of our first grandchild

and rejoicing in

His gifts to us all


the writing is a mere reflection

of the memories in my heart

and the joy deep in my soul

the music in me – solsc#28

the concert was entertaining

and energizing

the rhythm seeped into my bones

through the vibrations in the floor

even an old listener like me

couldn’t sit still

lights flashed and danced,

and images added their effects

stress fell away…

but the next morning came early

and the lack of enough sleep

dragged me through

the next day


I have the music in me

dismissed – solsc#27

Inspired by other writers’ posts, I am using this poem style I saw on other blogs:

Today… I was dismissed from the radiation oncologist’s care. I don’t need to return there anymore. Everything looks good and I am doing well.

Before that I had one month of healing from radiation treatments.

Before that … I went for a treatment every weekday for six weeks, for a total of 30 treatments.

Before that … the oncologist told me that follow up radiation is routine, and he prescribed that for me.

Before that … the after-surgery pathology results showed there was no cancer in the lymph nodes, indicating no need for chemotherapy.

Before that … I had lumpectomy surgery to remove the small spot.

Before that … at another meeting with the surgeon he told me my options and assured me that this was very treatable – just a “bump in the road.”

Before that … it was discovered that the spot was grade one (non aggressive) cancer.

Before that … I had a biopsy of the area in question.

Before that … I met with the surgeon (a neighbor and friend) who recommended doing a biopsy.

Before that … the radiologist saw something suspicious on my mammogram.

Before that … I had my yearly physical and routine annual mammogram.

Before that … I had no idea of what the next five months would hold.

From now on… I will ever be grateful that this was caught early and was treated successfully. And I will encourage others to have routine health screenings whenever they can.

I am feeling very blessed.

change is hard – solsc#26

When I was young

my dad always told me

that the only thing

you can be assured of in life

is that things will change.


He told me this

because I did not like change.

Change is hard.


The seasons are changing

from winter to spring.

There are all kinds

of spring signs

to behold and rejoice in –

flowers blooming,

birds building nests,

leaves emerging on trees and bushes,

and warmer air all around.

But change is hard.


Today winter is fighting back.

Our temperature has fallen

almost 30 degrees

since morning.

The wind is blowing

and the rain is falling.

Those signs of spring

aren’t so perky anymore.

They now know

that change is hard.


But change is a good thing.

Perhaps if it weren’t so difficult,

we wouldn’t realize its value.

So just as in nature,

people hang on

and ride it out,

knowing that what is to come

is better than what was behind.


Something worth waiting for,

even though change is hard.

low fat dessert – solsc#25

At book club the other night, our hostess served the most delicious chocolate cake with ooey gooey chocolate sauce and ice cream, too (of course!).

She explained how it came about – she had eaten at one of our downtown (expensive) restaurants and paid eight dollars for a decadent dessert. It reminded her of something her mother used to serve.

When she talked with her mom she described the tasty treat she had eaten and her mom gave her the old recipe that she had remembered.

And we book clubbers were the beneficiaries of this process. We all licked our lips and proclaimed how it was one of the best things we had tasted in a while. The amazing part is that the cake makes its own sauce when you bake it. It was new to everyone there.

Well, almost everyone. It was an old recipe I had as well. In fact I have two versions. One came to me in a wedding gift from my cousin – favorite recipes of hers in plastic sleeves, and organized by categories in a wooden file box. Yes, I use many recipes this box still, including ones I have added through the years.

The other copy was from a friend who served it one night. I had forgotten that I had it already, and when I asked for the recipe I received it in his beautiful script. Notice he called it a “lowfat dessert.” Don’t be fooled.

choc cake pudding

So I am thinking I MUST make it again soon. And I probably need to go through that box and find what other delicious foods are waiting for me there.

Here’s the complete recipe. The versions on the cards are different, but this is the one I have made, and will make again soon.

Chocolate Cake Pudding


¾ c. sugar; 1 c. flour; 2 T. cocoa; 3T. melted butter; ¼ t. salt; 2 t. baking powder; ½ c. milk; 1 t. vanilla

Sift sugar, flour, salt, baking powder, and cocoa into 9” square pan. Stir in milk, butter and vanilla.

Spread out in pan, mix topping and sprinkle over the top.


½ c. sugar; ½ c. brown sugar; ¼ c. cocoa

Pour 1¾ c. hot water over all, DO NOT MIX OR STIR. Bake at 350 for 45 minutes.

Serve warm with vanilla ice cream. Enjoy!

walking alone – solsc#24

Today I was scheduled to walk with a friend. We had developed this Tuesday routine back in the fall when I was newly retired and she was between jobs. Since then, her new employment and the cold weather brought an interruption to our weekly visits, but we were both able to walk today.

When I stopped my car in the park, I found her text message saying she wouldn’t be able to make it after all. I started to go on home and “get some things done” and then I stopped…

There were several walkers already on the trail.

Each was walking alone.

I could walk by myself.

And so I did. As I started the trek I wished I had brought along my camera. There were so many things to see. And so much to think about along the way.


The bright sun low in the sky, shining like a spotlight in my eyes.

  How I have missed that warmth on so many recent gloomy days.

The little gray squirrel scampering across the path right in front of me.

  He wasn’t frightened of me at all, must be used to walkers crossing his path.

The sparkling dew on the blades of freshly greening grass.

   Such perfect work – not one blade was overlooked – complete and equal coverage, beyond human capability.

The azure sky with only jet trails as clouds.

  So many trails – so many travelers. How happy I am to be at home.

The tiny leaves emerging from the privet limb sticks.

  They know deep down that spring is coming, so they came on out without delay to celebrate.

The dried white hackberries covering parts of the path.

  Do all living things lose their color as they age?

The chalk messages of hope and redemption spaced along the way.

  Starting with the wages of sin, and including the important repentance message the takes us to the ending assurance of God’s eternal love and presence.

There were sounds to notice – the bird songs! – and smells – freshly cut grass! – as well.

  As I talked with God along the way, I didn’t ask for anything more. I could only express thanksgiving for oh, so many blessings in my life.

I missed walking with you, my friend, but I had lots of company along the way.

counting the days – solsc#23

I awoke this morning realizing that all my “teacher friends” are headed back to school today after a week of spring break. I know that if that were me, I would be counting the days until testing, and then to the end of the year.

But I don’t have to count those days anymore.

Since retirement I have counted the days for different reasons. First I was watching the calendar until our first grandchild was born. I used to wonder what she would look like and what she would feel like in my arms. She actually came a little early, last September, so healthy and precious.

So I don’t have to count those days anymore.

In November my routine mammogram showed a small spot of cancer. I had surgery – with such encouraging results, no lymph node involvement. Recently I finished the routine follow-up radiation treatments for 30 days.

And I don’t have to count those days anymore.

Our son is getting married on May 2, and we are so looking forward to the wedding and even more so to having Landon as a part of our family. She is a perfect match for him – such a fine young lady, and we are so thankful.

I am enjoying counting the days to their big event (41, counting today).

The days go by faster for me than they used to. And I don’t intend in any way to “wish my life away.” Rather than just marking time, I am enjoying the ride.

spelunking – solsc#22

baby’s cries abound

missing time once spent with them –

undercover sleep

inside dog bed

Belle, our daughter’s dog,

memories of former beds

noticing things change


once she ruled this house

now adjusting quietly

not their baby now


yet, she has it good

many hands still pet and love

resting can be fun

Belle resting 2

“once I picked my beds

snuggled wherever I chose –

still, I love that girl!”


neighbors – solsc#21

When we first saw the cabin at the lake and the neglected state it was in, their house was our inspiration for what we could make this house become.

At the sale they sat on the hearth next to my husband and asked if we planned to flip the house. He answered, “No,” and they nodded.

When my husband was the only bidder at the auction and the property was declared ours they said, “Welcome neighbor!”

The first weekend we were there they pulled their boat up to our dock and said, “Get in. Let’s go for a ride and talk.”

Each summer holiday, Memorial Day, the Fourth of July, and Labor Day, they decorated their driveway with flags and welcomed family and friends.

Whenever we needed a yard man, or a plumber, or any kind of help, they knew just what we needed and passed along good advice.

They generously complimented the upgrades we made to our house, and proudly showed us what they had done through the years to their own.

They told us of health problems that they were dealing with in their old age and they came less often as the years went by.

We cried at the end of last summer when they told us they had to sell their house after coming to Pickwick for over twenty-five years.

The “pending” sign in their yard made us gasp last week when we went to the lake. It was hard to think about them not being next door.

We couldn’t have had better neighbors. Even though we came to the lake from opposite directions, and we live in cities three hours apart, I pray we continue to keep them as friends.

birthdays – solsc#20

Yesterday our granddaughter had her first half-birthday. What delight she has brought to our lives in six short months. She causes us to remember our family’s past, gives us joy in the present, and shines forth hope for the future. We are so blessed by having her in our lives.

Today would have been my mother’s 94th birthday. It is right and just that my mother was born on the first day of spring. She was the definition of joie de vivre, our biggest cheerleader, and a creative hot mess. We miss her every day.

I have had glimpses of my mother when our granddaughter raises one inquisitive eyebrow. Last night my daughter said that she can see Meemom in Madison’s smile.

photo 51

Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow, Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside.

All I have needed Thy hand hath provided; Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!

buttercups – solsc#19

Spring starts tomorrow.

Today, and for the last week, buttercups have emerged.

Now they are brightening the dull winter-worn landscape.


There is a sweet loveliness in buttercups. Their pleasing creamy yellow and lively green colors contrast so nicely with the deep blue sky above. Their frilly lace design and their two levels of petals dance smoothly in the breeze.

There is a permanence in buttercups. Once established, they carry on, year after year. Long ago I planted some, temporarily, at a house we were renting as we built our first family home. When I dug them up to move them I thought I got them all. But the stragglers remain there to this day. Multiplied, of course, as buttercups do.

There is a history in buttercups. In my neck of the woods you can drive down country lanes and see buttercups bunched in ditches, hiding behind stone walls, spreading underneath brambles. I wonder at the history of how they started there, and I smile at the contrast they provide.

There is an alias in buttercups. The genus name is narcissus, and the common name is daffodil, and these two titles refer to all of the many different colors and shapes that you can find. A jonquil is a specific type of daffodil that has a strong scent as well as a name that’s fun to say. But a buttercup is a totally different plant: however, I grew up saying buttercup to name these flowers (such a perfect description!), and it would be hard for me to change now.

There is an annoyance in buttercups. For those of us with allergies, they can get our noses blowing or our sinuses stopped up this time of year. My sweet students who used to bring these in to their teacher heard me say I wanted to let all the class enjoy them. So I’d put them on the table instead of at my desk, out in the open instead of under my nose. They had no idea the real reason I was so generous to share.

There is a thankfulness in buttercups. Even as they sometimes push through the snow or open on a cold blustery day, they signal winter’s end. Brighter, warmer days to come. New growth and color on the horizon. A full circle of life.



This is our son, long ago,  amidst the transplanted buttercups at our first family home.

just in time – solsc#18

So much snow.

And ice.

And cold.

Yet just below the surface,

plotting their return and

knowing the time is coming,

the perennials make their stand.

The last two weeks of February in middle Tennessee were colder and snowier than the last three winters combined. But then, as soon as we had a warming day, the green shoots appeared. This gave me cause for rejoicing, but also a little concern.

We always cut back our monkey grass in February. Cutting off the old, brown blades leaves room for the new shoots that signal this year’s growing season.

Now it is March and it has been too cold (and too snowy and too icy) to cut the monkey grass. If we wait til the shoots come up, and then cut the old growth back, we sheer the tips of the new year’s growth. Then it starts out with split ends and a crewcut before it barely lifts off the ground.

I knew we were in trouble when I noticed the Stella d’Oro lilies sending up their greenery announcing the coming blooms.

photo 2 (2)

Sunday, thankfully, was clothed in the promise of Spring. The encouragement of blue skies, warm air, and birdsong filled our souls. So we dared to cut the monkey grass.

Just in time. No new shoots, not yet. They will come. And the pathway to the patio leads us to fuller days ahead.

photo 4 (2)

driving in the rain at night – solsc#17

I hate to drive in the rain at night.

Other people drive as though there is no water on the road, no splashing of puddles on windshields, no possibility of hydroplaning. Not me. I drive terribly slowly in the rain.

I hate to drive in the rain at night.

Other people must be able to see the lines on the road that divide the lanes. Not me. These marks become invisible to my eyes, blurred with reflections and shadows.

I hate to drive in the rain at night.

Other people might not even use windshield wipers. Not me. These blades can’t be fast or sweeping enough for me, yet sometimes even their motion is distracting as well.

I hate to drive in the rain at night.

Other people may feel an adrenaline rush, darting among spaces and openings freely and easily. Not me. I am tensed up and deliberate, watching for danger on all sides.


And yet…

There is beauty while driving in the rain at night.

Glowing illuminations that can’t be missed:

photo 2


There is beauty while driving in the rain at night.

Cascades of color that sweep down the road:

photo 1


There is beauty while driving in the rain at night.

Watercolor impressions of movement and light.

photo 3


There is beauty while driving in the rain at night.

Shimmering reflections that brighten the dark:

photo 4



Even though there is beauty…, still, I hate to drive in the rain at night.


happily ever after – solsc#16

Recently I wrote about establishing a writing space, which is still to come. My temporary spot is working well for now. I sit at my great-aunt’s secretary, which I inherited years ago, in our great room facing the wall. And here is what I see when I look up:

cake flowers 3

The top of the secretary holds several treasures – my mother’s demitasse cup collection, some of my grandmother’s china, pieces of Belleek china we brought back from Ireland and other special pieces I hold dear. (Those objects sound like other stories waiting to be told, don’t they?)

The flowers you see in the picture remind me of our daughter and son-in-law’s wedding cake.

wedding cake 5

Beth and Jamie married in 2006, just after she graduated from college as an art major with an emphasis in graphic design. In one class the professor had matched students to townspeople who wanted to develop a website for their businesses. Beth’s partner was Cory Lewis, a sculptor who had branched out into using her pottery skills in cake décor. The website, Cake and Clay, was the result.

Beth created Cory’s first website and when it came time to “settle up,” Cory said, “I hear you are getting married,” and offered to trade a wedding cake made by Cory for the website Beth designed. Beth was thrilled and said, of course, “Yes!”

So Cory made a beautiful white four layer wedding cake with strawberry filling and then rode in the back of her friend’s van with the cake for the four hours it took to deliver it from its creation in Oxford, MS to the wedding in Franklin, TN. The cake arrived in separate layers which Cory assembled here, and the hand-formed the sugar flowers (created to match the live ones used in the wedding arrangements) were arrayed in the flat boxes they traveled in, ready to be displayed on those tiers.

Roses, calla lilies, hydrangeas, and greenery spilled down the cake in a dramatic display. It was stunningly breathtaking – gorgeous and delicious and exactly what Beth wanted.

wedding cake 2

We are ever thankful that Cory gave this priceless wedding gift to Beth and Jamie, and touched by her thoughtfulness. Beth often says, “I got the much better deal in that trade.”

wedding car

The happy couple remains so much in love, and have recently added to their family a precious daughter. What is amazing to this day is that the flowers also remain intact, still beautiful and life-like, almost nine years later – a testament to a true artist and her enduring expression of talent and generosity.

cake flowers 2

football genes – solsc#15

My father, Gene Austin, was a football player. I, of course, never knew him as such. He was born in 1915 and was 41 years old when I was born. But I did hear about his playing days from time to time. Those were happy memories for him.

One of my father’s aunts who had no children of her own followed his football career faithfully. She made this word collage for him before such things were considered popular. My dad always cherished it. It is now almost falling apart, but it hangs on the wall of our son’s room.

Boy's Life football picture

After only one year of college, Daddy came home and coached some teams. After that, Daddy worked as a football referee for over fifty years. He loved the game more than anyone else I know. It was a huge part of his life and he knew the game inside and out. He had no male family member to pass this along to, until….

Our son was also a football player. His freshman year in high school the team won the state championship. Mark got to “go in” at the end of a few sure-win games, and that time on the field was as exciting to him as the state championship ring he received at the end of the season.

BGA Championship plaque

Sadly my dad attended only one of Mark’s high school football games. It was a big rivalry game and one of only two that freshman year in which Mark did not get on the field at all. Still the excitement over being there and the important win for Mark’s team was thrilling to Daddy. Then, that October, my dad passed away.

We lamented the fact that Daddy couldn’t see the boys win State. Or that he couldn’t follow Mark through the rest of his high school football career. Yet the advice Daddy left with Mark served him well, and he felt his granddaddy’s presence with him through the next three long lean years when his team won only two games. Yes, only two victories in three years, and one of them was a forfeit.

Fortunately there were other benefits, lessons learned along the way. Playing as a team, never giving up, and, at last, a victory in the very last game of Mark’s high school year. Nothing like going out on top! And we always said that Daddy was looking down from above, whispering advice in Mark’s ear, and shining down on #66, sharing his love of the game.

football light

still in my bones – solsc#14

Retirement is the best thing EVER! After working (almost) nonstop for 34 years, each day now is a real gift of time. Time to make choices about what I will focus on, time to breathe deeply, time to enjoy family and friends in a much deeper way. I am ever so thankful.

But I have to admit that education is still on my mind – still in my bones, so to speak. Just in the last two days this has been brought to my attention in several different ways.

First, at our book club meeting, one of the fellow readers said she always made pictures in her mind when she read, and that a certain character in our book reminded her of someone we all knew. I just HAD to say that (some) reading teachers (the good ones) help their readers do just that, so they can connect to the story, and not just say the words on the page.

This reminded me (sigh) of the conflict between phonics-based and comprehension-focused instruction that arose in our district when new leadership was hired. A bitter struggle, and a powerful reason I am thankful for my retirement.

Then, I had a conversation with a friend who is a long-time journalist and who is newly focused on education issues in her current position. She said no one could tell her anything about Common Core from an academic standpoint. She had heard many concerns from a political viewpoint, but nothing academic.

I gave her my take in ten thousand words or less. And I left her feeling like I needed to do more research of my own to remind me why I felt that way (AND to share with her, of course). Retirement gives me to the time to do that, if I choose.

Then just last night I spoke with a young teacher about her new job this year, having moved from Kindergarten to fourth grade. She talked of a lack of teamwork in her grade, and what she saw as a focus on boring worksheets and little practical learning. Thankfully she has chosen a different path.

Then I lamented the focus on test scores and data in general, knowing that there are so many more important things to teach than just the items that can be measured by a multiple choice test. I believe that the focus should be on the child, not on the numbers that he or she is identified by and buried beneath. Retirement has given me distance from those pervasive beliefs about data.

I have amazed myself by how little I have thought about school and education since I have retired. These encounters showed me that “I’ve still got it.” I have opinions based on knowledge and experience. I have much to share with those who care to know, and reasons to back up my thinking. This still stirs my blood with a passion for what I believe to be right and true.

relating to what we know – solsc#13

My husband and I were having dinner at a restaurant near a young couple and their cute baby. This little girl was sitting up well in her seat, playing patty-cake with her hands, using a sippy cup, and eating just a bit of her parents’ dinner – “table food.”

She was doing several things that our six month old granddaughter isn’t doing – yet. But she was smaller than our little Madison.

There was a time when I could estimate babies’ and children’s ages by their activities. Way back when our children were small. Then that ability left me for a long while. But now that there is a little one back in our lives, I tend to notice and relate – and compare.

I tried not to stare but I did keep an eye on her pretty face during our meal, and kept noticing all the fun things she was doing.

We spoke to the sweet couple as we left. They were so happy to hear the compliments and praise we heaped upon their little girl. And we were happy to hear that she is nine months old, and we have lots more fun to look forward to soon with our own sweet granddaughter.

the no-post day – solsc#12

Yesterday I was busy writing!

I wrote two drafts, I worked on a third one that just needed pictures inserted, I added to my writing idea list, I copied some quotes for inspiration, and I pondered how I could use these wise words in later pieces. I even felt that I was a bit more observant of things and people around me throughout the day, which always leads to many ideas for future writing.

I was energized by the possibilities and realities of being a writer every day for the month of March!

And then I awoke this morning and realized that yesterday I forgot to post anything to the Two Writing Teachers blog for the March Slice of Life Story Challenge. I hadn’t even added anything to fireflytrails.

Oh, no!

Knowing there was nothing I could do about missing the posting after the day was over, I pouted and sulked for a bit. Phooey! And then I thought about some other things:

  • I did write yesterday. (If writing every day is my goal, I have accomplished that so far.)
  • I am not really doing this to win a prize. (Good thing since I am now out of the running for that.)
  • I commented on several other writers’ posts. (So I did hold true to that piece of the challenge.)
  • I was dreadfully disappointed in myself. (And there have been MANY days in the last year I have gone without writing and didn’t give it a thought.)

So even though I blew it, officially, I did write. And writing is the key. Maybe I am becoming a “real writer” after all.