layers – SOLC 2017 #31

A while back I took a class in Adobe Illustrator. I learned what it felt like to be at the (very) bottom of the class. (I learned so many other things, too! After all, there was no where to go but up.) It was all new to me, including the concept of designing in layers. I didn’t know that so many of these eye-catching works of art that I had admired were often built from layers stacked on top of each other, allowing easy changes to one part without disrupting the entire creation. I was smitten by that new idea (even if I never mastered that technique)!

This morning I looked out my kitchen window and actually SAW the layers in my view. There was the far-off background of the cloud-dotted sky, the next layer of trees in the distance, the closer and larger trees near by, the fence and shrubs in my own backyard, and last the dogwood right outside my window. What really caught my eye was the redbird that went from one layer to another. Closer, then farther away. (If I were using Illustrator, I would have to decide in which layer he looked best.)

On TV an advertisement for tourism in another city announced: “Come. Shed life’s layers in Asheville.” I could feel myself relaxing just pondering that idea. So often, stresses and responsibilities pile up in us and on us very quickly, but yet, when we have time off, a few days are needed until we fully unwind. The tension often has to be pulled away, layer by layer, uncovering our true self, one tier at a time.

This year’s SOLC has not heaped more layers of pressure onto my schedule. Instead, it has uncovered the layers of observation, and thoughtful consideration, and word play that often get concealed by everyday life.

All these thoughts about layers have caused me to think about the pieces required to make the Slice of Life Challenge work:

  • I can’t even begin to imagine the time spent in setup, getting the rules in a clear format, finding inspirational quotes and posts, recruiting Welcome Wagon helpers, and soliciting and distributing prizes.  Once the challenge starts, it requires checking daily, especially at first, to insure things are running smoothly for all.
  • There are so many different writers (and those amazing teachers whose classroom students are also writing!) and that means there is the time, thought, and talent that each one puts into his/her writing, each and every day.
  • The comments from around the world are like the glue that holds all this individual effort together – they unite us as writers and give us the firm foundational assurance that what we say matters, and that our voice is heard and appreciated by others.
  • As I contemplate my own writing, how one post can spark another, and how the history of this little blog overwhelms me when I see how long ago it was begun, I see many layers here, and I realize how much this opportunity means to me.

Layers upon layers.  Many thanks to ALL who have participated in the 2017 Slice of Life Challenge. I leave March a better person than I was when the month began.

for this place I am thankful – SOLC 2017 #30

Our county is shaped like our state – quite long from east to west.  And also like Tennessee, there are differences that distinguish the areas of our county and make each of them unique. Our county is growing fast. We have a contrast of old and new everywhere we turn. As I drove throughout this beautiful landscape today, I thanked God for the variety I saw everywhere I traveled:

the land

  • hills and hollows that twist and flow into each other with just enough opening in between for viewing more and more of the same
  • wide flat treeless fields sliced by fence paths that reflect the care that’s been given them through the years
  • wooded hillsides leaf deep with rocky outcroppings, falling down to a flat grassy field, or sometimes almost to the road itself

the water

  • creeks that twist and turn and parallel the road until they slip under and out the other side on their downhill journey to the next watering hole
  • the chameleon we call the Harpeth River that appears where you least expect it and reflects different shades of green or brown depending on the depth of the water or the height of the bank or the speed of the flow
  • manmade ponds with sparkling fountains shooting up proclamations – fresh and cool and clear water can be found right here, all around

the roads

  • wider and wider spaces with more and more lanes for the ever-growing numbers of residents to make their ways to work, and then back home again at the end of the day
  • curvy potholed country lanes that follow the fencerows and property lines and are sheltered by the canopies of old growth trees
  • square plotted lines across former farms that bring civilization to the middle-of-nowheres of just yesterday

the houses

  • antebellum jewels with columns and porches that shimmer in the light of preservation, or droop in the shadows of neglect
  • new construction of the grandest order, at times overlooking small shacks with asphalt shingle siding or peeling paint and crumbling foundations
  • a Disneyland of perfect cottages and townhomes with meandering sidewalks, luscious landscapes, and seasonal décor on every doorway

the barns

  • arts and crafts styled with stained wood corbels, exposed beams, stacked stone walls, and paved drives
  • stair step sizes, all the same barn-red color with white tin roofs and sliding metal doors, situated like a circle of wagons protecting the inner corral
  • weathered wood structures standing only because of the trees that have grown up around them or because of the vein of sheer determination found in the hardwoods they were constructed from so many years ago

the people

  • farmers in trucks or tractors driving slowly down the middle of roads, with a wave and a nod for any and all – strangers or friends – that they happen to meet as they survey the day’s demands
  • hipsters with skinny jeans and knitted caps, or the thinnest of moms in workout clothes or yoga pants, coffee mugs always steaming, focusing on phones that are glued to their hands
  • professionals and laborers with a brisk walk, a smiling face, and a helping hand


This is my place – my home – my world.



a tell-tale tail – SOLC 2017 #29

You must be from the wildlife control service. I am glad you could come today.

Yes ma’am. Hello. Where are your squirrels?

I guess they are in the trees. I don’t have a problem with squirrels. I called about a skunk odor in our house.

Oh, sure. We get lots of calls…. Well how long have you had the stink?

It actually isn’t smelling now. It lasted just a short time one day last week. That’s when I called you.

Yes, ma’am. We sure have been busy. So – it ain’t stinking no more?

No, but this happened around this same time last year, and that time it lasted for a couple of days. But it went away when I aired out the house. Recently our neighbors have seen skunks nearby, and since the smell returned last week, I’d like you to check things out.

Sure thing, ma’am. Happy to. How do I get into the crawl space under your house?

Well, I don’t think the skunk is actually under my house. I think maybe it just sprayed outside, over near the HVAC unit, and the HVAC fan brought the smell into the house.

That’s what everyone says, ma’am. Nobody wants to think a skunk’s under there. But there almost always is. Let’s go look at your AC unit. I can usually spot skunk hair on the entry points. If any skunk hair is caught on those, we will know you got a skunk underneath there.


Yes, ma’am, here it is. There is hair that got hung when the skunk crawled in and out. What we can do is close up all but one of these holes under the HVAC unit, and then set the trap on the one that’s still open.

You mean I have a skunk under my house??

Well, it may be under there now, or not. It may just use this as a vacation home to come and go from time to time. Or it may have made a nest. Might be getting ready to have babies. It is mating season you know. That’s why you see so many dead skunks on the road this time of year. They just go crazy. Either way it has definitely been here and it will come back.

So why are those holes there under the HVAC unit anyway?

They are basically for the arms on the skid steer (forklift) to get under them at the warehouse so these heavy units can be moved around. But the holes for that leave openings when the unit is set in place at your house. The skunk or whatever critter can scoot in here and then go into your crawl space. Unless that opening into your crawl space is closed up. Let’s just look (shines a flashlight). Nope, yours isn’t screened off so the animal can go in and out from this space under the HVAC unit back and forth and underneath your house, too.

Oh, dear. I guess we were lucky not to have more odor all the time?

Yes, ma’am. Coulda been worse. And sometimes they chew up the duct work and/or insulation. I’ll check out your crawl space under there after we catch the skunk. I can fix all that for you too.

So… you quoted me a price of $95?

Yes ma’am that is for us putting these panels on to cover the holes. The panels are made of sturdy metal – we screw them in place and they are guaranteed for as long as you own this home. Now, we also charge $175 to set the traps and $75 to remove each animal we catch.

I see.

Tell you what, we will only charge you for removal of one animal no matter how many we catch.

Oh, my. Well, I don’t want a skunk under my house and I sure don’t want my home to have that scent again.

All right, we’ll get right to work then.


Ma’am we decided to set three traps once we saw the skunk.

You SAW a skunk today?

Yes ma’am we musta scared her when we screwed in those panels. It makes a loud noise for sure. She tried to back out of this little slit on the side here but it was too small. We’ll catch her though.

You mean there’s a skunk under my house right now.

Yes ma’am. See here:

Well we can’t have that. No indeed. Oh my goodness.

(Are you wondering if they just stuck a skunk tail in there like that? Just to make me think there was a skunk? That’s what I was wondering, but then again, we had definitely had that smell…)

So, ma’am, we set two traps in case there’s more than one skunk but we know there’s one in there for sure. And we set a third trap to catch another one if it tries to get back in.

Oh my goodness, how many do you think there are??

Well, probably just the one, and we’ll catch it. But if there are more we’ll get them too.

Oh, dear. Well, thank you for your help.

We’ll come check on things but you can call us if you see a skunk in the trap.

You want me to go over there and look into those traps?

Yes ma’am if you would.

But what if, … I mean,… could I get sprayed?

The skunk can’t spray once it gets caught in there because the trap ain’t tall enough for the skunk to lift its tail. It has to lift its tail to spray. You can stand back away from the trap and you might not see the skunk real good but if there’s one in there the container of peanut butter will be moved.

You use peanut butter to lure them in the trap?

Well, you can use a lot of different things, but the peanut butter works real good.

OK. Well, I guess I’ll see you tomorrow then. And hopefully we will catch a skunk.


Afternoon, ma’am.  Did we catch anything?

No, I did check from time to time, and I would have called you, but there was nothing there as of the last time I checked.

That’s ok, it’ll get hungry before long. I’ll go take a quick look and I’ll check back tomorrow.


The next morning I checked the traps and sure enough there was a skunk in one of them. It was hard to see but definitely there. And not smelling – yet.

I called my new best friends, and they came by that afternoon and removed the trap and the skunk without incident. They left the traps for five more days but no other skunks came in or out. When they came the last time they removed all the trappings and closed up the last hole. They found no damage under the house either.

I am thankful for people who are willing to do this kind of work. A job well done. Money well spent.  Now to get that hanging limb out of the tree before it falls on our neighbor’s shed. That’s a tale for another time.

ghost trees – SOLC 2017 #27

On a cloudy, showery day

with overcast and gloomy skies,

the wooded spaces have a certain gleam –

an otherworldly brightness

in contrast to the dark.


As spring returns,

the ghost trees linger:

holding tight to leaves from yesteryear –

no sign of green among them,

only sun-bleached transparency remains.


Are they reluctant to let go

of memories of warmer times

and sunnier, carefree days –

or are they protecting the tiny buds

that soon will come, again?


Either way, they know and value

the reason for their existence –

providing a sheltered place in the forest

filled with life and growth –

for that which was, and also is to come.


American beech trees hold tightly to their dead fall leaves until the new spring buds are ready to open and start anew.


the written word – SOLC 2017 #26

Our local Library Foundation supports the work of the six libraries in our county system. The board members work to gather support for programs above and beyond what public monies can supply. (With 75% of our taxes going to education, the library shares what remains with roads, recreation, law enforcement, utilities, etc…)

Our next event is a reception for the second annual Student Art Show. One piece of fourth grade art from each of the thirty schools in our county was submitted by the school’s art teacher. These pieces will be framed and displayed in the local libraries for the next year. This is a project that spotlights the art programs in the schools, and adds happy child-created art to the library spaces.

Here are a few pieces from last year:

One of our board members suggested that everything we do should have a connection to the written word, since that is what we are promoting at the library. What a great idea!

So, we are excited to have Linda Ragsdale, an author/illustrator, joining us to help the students (and adults!) make the connection between art and literacy, and to show how art is part of the “real world” beyond school years. Linda has an enthusiastic and encouraging spirit, as well as a touching life story. She is the founder of the Peace Dragon project, and you can read more about her here.

If you happen to be in Franklin, TN on April 6, come join us in our celebration!


a simple reminder – SOLC 2017 #25

Last fall is was our privilege to host the rehearsal dinner for our friend’s son. There are many reasons why this was a special opportunity for us, but suffice it to say that this friend is a treasure.

So we set to work to get our house and yard in order for the 70+ guests. One of the things I did to prepare for the party was “refresh” the plants in my outdoor pots. (That means I mostly threw out many of the spindly, ragged specimens and purchased new ones. These are not easy to find in early fall.)

One pot I filled with two beautiful “coral bell” plants. The lime green and plum were a perfect combination. This pot hung on our porch, and I was pleased to note during our warm winter that it never died. Recently it has begun its spring growth, and is looking better than ever.

Now when I look at this plant, it reminds me of that fun evening (with no rain – an answer to prayer!), and the cute couple celebrating their marriage, and mostly our sweet friend who was so pleased with how things turned out.

I am thankful for the privilege we had to do what friends do.

on writing – SOLC 2017 #24

My ideas are a little scarce today and I am short on time (leaving for a day-long visit with my precious aunt) so I am going to share someone else’s words that have been speaking to me.

Each month in the Nashville Arts magazine, Marshall Chapman, a local singer/songwriter, has a column called “Beyond Words.”

This month she begins by asking, Where does that first heartbeat come from? From there she shares how she felt when she first learned about infinity. Then at the end she wrote these inspiring thoughts, about songwriting – and writing for all of us:

It’s hard to explain where songs come from. I often say, “My songs are smarter than I am.” And that’s true, in a way. Because the really good ones don’t come from us. They come through us. I’ve also said, “The hardest part about writing is creating the space so it can happen.”

And every now and then, if you’re open to it and the stars and planets are lined up just so, something great will present itself. And whenever that happens, it’s like seeing infinity. Or hearing that first heartbeat.

I encourage you to read the entire column here. Meanwhile, I am going to keep trying to get out of the way, so that, perhaps, something can present itself, and come through me.

something to ponder – 2017 #23

We have lived in our house for 12 years. We love the floor plan, the location, the neighbors, and the size of the yard. We have made it our own (after a lot of work). It is HOME.


All our bedrooms are upstairs. It is not an issue for us now, but our fourteen-year-old dog has some problems with the stairs. And one day we may, too.

We have been blessed to be able to “build” (have built for us) three houses. And we have also renovated three other houses that were built by someone else (including where we live now). Each had its challenges, and its rewards.

It isn’t time for us to make a move, and we aren’t considering it right now. (Good thing, since property values are so very high and prohibitive in our area right now.) But every once in a while it does cross our minds.

Here is a renovated home for sale in our area:

There is such a sense of place, and history, and established trees, and the pleasure of preservation, and carrying forward – all are involved with bringing an older house back to life.

Here is a newer home that is also for sale:

The builders have chosen a classic style with current detailed touches and an open floor plan. It speaks of roots, and being established, and sturdy materials, and practical usefulness.

Which one appeals more to you?

don’t I wish – SOLC 2017 #22

A bad habit is developing in the evenings at our house. I have been eating a small (truly very small) dish of vanilla bean ice cream. It is plain and natural and soothing to my digestion. There are (I reason with myself) much worse things that I could be consuming.

But it is becoming a habit.

Yet I continue almost every night.

To make things worse, now I am wishing for a topping. Not just any topping, but one remembered from my past. Something that isn’t made anymore. I can see it, smell it, almost taste it now. But I can never eat it again.

PDQ – Pretty Darn Quick – was a mix of flavored beads and chips that could be mixed with milk or sprinkled over ice cream. The chocolate milk was good – but oh! – that ice cream! Crunchy, chocolatey morsels that added just the right amount of interest and delight to plain vanilla ice cream. PDQ was made by Ovaltine, but it was discontinued in the late 1990’s. I have missed it for a long time.

It also came in strawberry and eggnog flavors. I never tasted either of those. I never wanted to! But the eggnog mix had many fans, including my father.

Here is some interesting news I discovered while searching for a picture:

The closest thing available now is Benco Instant Choco Drink which is manufactured in The Netherlands and sold in Europe.  It tastes very similar to the PDQ Chocolate drink mixes.

And it apparently can be purchased on E-bay. Maybe I’ll try to get some…

I guess sometimes wishes really can come true!


resilience – SOLC 2017 #21

The Bradford pear tree does not enjoy the favored stature that it once had.

There was a time when people planted them everywhere and couldn’t get enough of their lacy white blooms and beautiful oval shape. A neighboring community was just developing its town center back then and planted these trees all over, knowing they would grow quickly and fill out symmetrically.  They even had a spring Pear Festival in their honor.

Now they have fallen from that favor and are dismissed, even disgraced, for their smelly aroma and their tendency to split and break apart over time.

Some, however, seem stronger than others. Maybe they are a different variety, or were planted in better soil, or are out of harm’s way when the winds blow through. This tree-lined driveway takes my breath away when viewed with sunlight pouring through its newborn blossoms. (I was a little late in snapping a photo this year.)

On one side of our sloping lake property these Bradford pears prove that some CAN withstand the winds that blow.

Bent but not broken. (The trees look better than the fence.)


these are the gifts – SOLC 2017 #20

Today would have been my mother’s 96th birthday. The first day of spring will always be her birthday in my heart.

My mother was the epitome of so many beliefs, talents, and dreams:

* joy in the little things

* creativity

* knowing how to be a friend

* generosity

* a loving and enduring marriage

* enthusiasm

* an eye for decorating

* discernment

* a flair for fashion

* intelligence

* a talent for teaching others

* laughter

* determination to do a task right

* LIFE! *

* love *

*** always so much LOVE ***

There are bits and pieces of her life reflected in mine. Most are mere aspirations on my part for these higher, nobler traits that defined her life.

The models and the memories are the gifts my mother gave to me.

I have missed her so much these last 14 years.

But her gifts live on.

a good news text – SOLC 2017 #19

As a classroom teacher I often found myself dwelling in the minutiae of reading instruction – small groups, centers, checklists, notebooks, grades.  My students did absorb some of the joy of reading that is so vital, but, sadly, never enough.

Too many details to attend to. Both as a teacher, and as students, too.

It was a gift when I was able to serve as a reading specialist for the last ten years of my career. Time to focus on reading as thinking, and strategies, and rich literature.  Learning how to spread this joy to students.  Ways to help teachers be able to use all this – and more.

Balanced literacy was the guiding light for our system to bring real reading experiences into our classrooms and into the minds and hearts of our students.

The tragedy came when a new director of schools came and enforced his backward-thinking regulations into our schools and tried to take so much of that joy away.

Those of us who believed in doing the right thing and couldn’t let our students slip back into a reading routine that couldn’t be internalized carried on. Quietly, but with conviction. Supportive, but with determination.

So many excellent teachers in my school kept the faith. It was my joy to help them carry on.

After my retirement, a new reading “coach” was hired. Lacking background, data driven, and absorbed with a demanding personal life. Concerned about keeping her position. Not much support for the teachers who wanted more than the basal party line. But I was gone from there, and there was little I could do.

And so … my heart sang when I received this text from a teacher who still “carries on” :

I think of you when we read those rich literature stories- scarlet stocking spy, train to somewhere, swamp 😇… better than the basal!!!!

Bless her!  How fortunate her students are.

How this message made me smile.

this is good – SOLC 2017 #18

One night last fall, after my husband had gone to bed, I saw the last half of a TV show that caught my attention from the first moment. Entering the plot halfway through confused me, and drew my focus as I tried to figure out who was who and how they all related to one another.

It turned out to be the first show of “This Is Us.” Luckily I had recorded it, so I could go back to the beginning and watch it all.

I was hooked.

I tried to get my husband to watch other weeks with me. He declared it too depressing. He deals with lots of real world angst daily. And he wasn’t willing to watch through the whole show to see the resolution that always comes.

(For some reason we did watch the season finale together and he was a teary mess at the end.In a good way.)

I am thankful for the writers and producers and actors and whoever else is responsible for taking the messy lives these characters have created (as we all do) and finding the redemption that is always there if you are willing to work through the hard parts.

Just like real life

Today’s paper had a review of the show’s season that said, “It can be a bit too eager to surprise and a lot too tidy in its circularity and its urge to wrap things up with a speech and a lesson.”

I for one am so grateful for that very thing.

The review went on to offer praise for other aspects of the show. But the review of critics is only one small reason for this show’s success this year.

The bigger reason is that it speaks to the heart. In the good times and bad.

Yes. This is ALL of us.

a special treasure – SOLC 2017 #17

Written to a friend after having breakfast together:

What a delightful morning I spent with you yesterday. Thank you for giving me the first few hours of your Spring Break. I hope you enjoy every minute of these days off as much as I enjoyed my time with you.

I am so very thankful that we share such a special friendship. Even though our backgrounds are so different, and we don’t see each other now as much as we once did, we know each other’s hearts, and that is where the true knowing lies.

I hope we can visit again soon, and I know that whenever that happens, we can take up right where we left off as if no time had passed.

Your friendship is a special treasure to me.

light – SOLC 2017 #16

Our yard looks so barren this time of year. We have trimmed back last year’s growth. Maybe it is the spirit of anticipation that makes what we have now look so stark. Here’s a view of our fence:

Our plants are waiting for new growth, just as we are. By the way, how many crepe myrtles do you see here?

There are two. The second one is behind the iron urn, but what hides it even more is the darkness of the shadow. The darkness covers up things. And “Darkness can not drive out darkness: only light can do that.”  Martin Luther King, Jr.

Each day, as I wake to the morning’s light, I am thankful that the night has passed and that the light has come.

We are called to be light in a dark world. We cannot not do this on our own “power.” But we have a source that lights our way and helps us spread light to others.

I hope your day today is filled with light, and love, and all good things.

please don’t worry – SOLC 2017 #15

This cold weather has taken us all by surprise. The winter was not very chilly this year.



Yes, we enjoyed that unexpected warmth.



We can see that those higher temperatures inspired you to send out your shoots and buds earlier than usual. It isn’t even officially Spring on the calendar yet.



Spring lives inside us, even through the icy days.

The promise of Spring gets us through those dreadful bitter nights.



But now we worry about you. Have you come out of hiding too soon?



Even in the frosty evenings, the warmth of the ground comes up

through our roots and into our stems and leaves.



But those cold rainy days must be discouraging.



We try to shield ourselves as best we can,

but we need the life-giving rain for our growth.

And we remember the sun, and long for it.



One year we had a freeze on Mother’s Day and our crepe myrtles really suffered.  Should we be worried about that this year?



We have no answers about your timeline,

but we would ask – did those plants die?



No, they were only damaged. Today they are as strong as ever.



As we will be. Please don’t worry.

The return of this wintry weather is only a delay, a setback.

Life will prevail.

You’ll see.


turnaround – SOLC 2017 #14

How can we be almost halfway through the 2017 SOL writing challenge?

I remain as anxious, excited, and enthusiastic as I was that first day. Plus, as each day passes,  I have become a little bit more comfortable with digging deep and sharing from within. Even now, it is hard to imagine a day without writing.

Previously, one of my excuses for not writing much was that I had been reading – a lot. Yes, I was building vocabulary, being inspired, and getting lost in a story, but I wasn’t sharing my own voice.

What’s funny is now that I have been bitten again by the writing bug, I am not finding much time for reading. (Thankfully I had already read this month’s book club’s selection before March began.)

I am looking forward – with reading/writing as well as so many pieces of my life – to finding that perfect balance.


redbud winter surprise – SOLC 2017 #13


not a sound to warn us

no sense of time when we awoke

what a surprise to see

the flocked trees and white roofs

when we looked outside



where was this two months ago?

and will there truly be more tonight as they say?



the young leaves and buds are shivering

and even now, as it has melted

what will the continuing cold do

to our new spring greens?


still – this beauty was so peaceful



eyes to see – SOLC 2017 #12

At the church service today, I took the time to see – really pay attention to – the people around me. (Being a writer causes one to do that, you know.) Some observations were readily apparent. But then I wondered – what parts of their lives was I actually witnessing?

The man beside us laughed loudly at jokes and made numerous side comments throughout the service.

  • Was he truly that delighted to be there and wanted all to know?
  • Or was that his “cover,” so that some insecurity wouldn’t be noticeable to others?

The children singing for the special music clapped uncomfortably and swayed stiffly from side to side.

  • Were they embarrassed, as young people can be when placed on stage in front of a group?
  • Or were they singing with joy and doing their awkward best?

The woman in a wheelchair in front of us nodded off to sleep from time to time.

  • Was she that bored and unmoved by the service?
  • Or was it all she could manage just to get up that morning and get dressed and be present?

Another woman near us rocked repeatedly from side to side and nodded her head often.

  • Was she consumed by that much attention deficit?
  • Or was it in response to the tremor that was apparent when her other movements stopped?

What we see in others is often colored by the lens through which we are looking.

To have a vision filled with understanding, compassion, and kindness is my prayer.