a man and his mower SOLC23 #21

For seventeen years we lived in a house with quite a small yard. My husband was happy to say that he could cut, trim, and use the blower on the entire yard in less than one hour. It was a great yard to have during that time in our lives – an era of of long hours of work, raising children, and trying to fit in a few other pieces of life here and there.

When my husband retired a few years ago, he was so happy to have time to spend outdoors. Our little yard was “an easy fix,” and he soon began cutting an older, disabled neighbor’s yard, too. Still he had time on his hands.

When we bought our new/old house (with its 1+ acre yard) last year, things changed. The previous owners had a “yard man” who had cut for them for years. As we were living out of town during the remodel, we also employed “Timmy’s” company (and “Ricky” who actually cut the grass) and were pleased with the job they did.

My husband and I had discussions on whether or not to continue with them or get our own riding mower so he could cut the yard himself. Our decision was made for us when the county decided we needed to have a back-up septic system site (which is an entirely different long story).

For months now (and months to come) our yard is (and will be) dotted with a grid of stakes placed by the surveyors and soil scientists that we have employed to secure that second septic site. And that is just TOO MUCH to expect any hired yard company to maneuver around.

So we are the proud owners of a new Cub Cadet.

In typical fashion, my husband researched several options and chose what he decided would be the best mower for our yard and our budget. Yesterday he put “Cubbie” to the test. It passed with flying colors.

And made an outdoorsman very happy to be back at work.

happy birthday SOLC23 #20

If my mother – also known as Orcelia, Orcie, Mama, Meemom, the Hat Lady, Mrs. Austin – were alive today, she would be 102 years old. Here she is, doing what she loved best, fitting someone in a beautiful hat she had made.

When she went to heaven twenty years ago at age 82, I thought she was old. That age doesn’t seem so old anymore.

Mama was a wonder! She was enthusiastic, supportive, talented, creative, beautiful, fashionable, and very intelligent.

Like everyone, she had some “other” characteristics that weren’t as wonderful, but when I think of her (so often), I seldom think of those “other” things.

For a long time, I lived my life in my mother’s shadow, and being bashful, that was a good place to be. That is not really the case anymore, as times change and people age. But every once in a while I will get to talk with someone who knew Mama, and it does me so much good to hear those stories of her life, and the way others speak so kindly of her.

Our “immediate” family of ten – my husband and myself, our two children and their families of four each – has only four out of those ten people who knew Mama. But we talk of her so often, I’m sure the others feel like they knew her.

Which is as it should be. Even in her absence, she still exerts a mighty – and mighty good – influence. May we all be remembered that way.

Happy Birthday, Mama! I love you!

here again SOLC23 #19

Tomorrow is the first day of Spring!

Today is bitter cold, with a freeze warning, and snow flurries now and again.

Still, I know Spring is coming. The grass is greening, trees are leafing, birds are calling, and flower buds are blooming. And even with my rotten allergies, all of that brings me so much joy.

Plus the forecasted high this Thursday is supposed to be 78 degrees. Ah, seasons in Tennessee!

I am so grateful for the dependability of the seasons, and for God’s beautiful earth, and for my ability to rejoice in the new creation each year.

Thank you, God.

a new look SOLC23 #18

When we sold our home of seventeen years last year, we were blessed that a precious young couple decided to purchase it from us.

They have been so kind to stay in touch, keep wayward mail for us, and let us see how they are making the house their own home. Nothing could please us more.

The large great room has a fireplace on one end with bookcases on each side. It had a traditional look when we were there: not too formal, just comfortable. The new owners have made some changes that suit them and their tastes and lifestyle.

She decided to paint the entire fireplace wall one color. I wouldn’t have thought of it, and had someone suggested it, I might not have done it.

But it is stunning! A beautiful new look:

erin go bragh SOLC23 #17

I have no idea if there is Irish blood in my family. I’d like to think so. We have been hard-working, fun-loving folks of faith. That’s what I think of when I consider the Irish tradition.

I am happy that there is a day each year to remember the Irish contributions to America and to wear green to keep that spirit.

Plus leprechauns, shamrocks, pots of gold, and hot cross buns add joy to those cold wet days of March (today was sopping).

Here’s a toast to your health -“Sláinte!” May God hold you in the palm of His hand.

planning ahead SOLC23 #16

When we stay near Rosemary Beach, Florida, along Hwy 30A, we enjoy the walkability of the area. There are so many restaurants, shops, a farmers’ market, summertime music nights, and of course – the beach – all with access available on foot. So, we walk a lot.

As we do, we have noticed the planning that went into making sure that visitors can indeed get where they want to go – on foot. Consider the wooden pathways that are everywhere, nicely lit in the evenings, beautifully landscaped, never crowded, but always “getting you there,” wherever it is you want to go.

There is a small restaurant in Rosemary called Summer Kitchen that has some interesting history. It has been there since the beginning of the town (1994) and has had several locations. It was first established to provide food for the workers building the planned community.

On its walls are several pictures from those days gone by, and one caught my eye. There are only a few buildings, all alone against the big sky, with very little “landscaping,” situated along the beginning of a road. But those town planners, even then, had chosen cobblestones for the streets, with granite curbing. To stand the test of time.

Those streets are easily evident today:

they are young, they can do it SOLC 23 #15

We have been blessed to build and remodel several houses in our lifetime. We have had some excellent construction people with whom to work, and we have done many, many things ourselves.

Just living through all of this work is a challenge. In the past 5 years, we have remodeled 3 houses in varying degrees of chaos and change. So we are thankful, but we are tired. And ready to settle down. Although we do hope to make a small addition to our lake house… someday.

Meanwhile, our daughter and son-in-law have recently purchased an investment home to rent at the beach. That sounds fun, doesn’t it? But the house had been neglected for a while and was very outdated. Our daughter is a designer, so they bought it with big plans of change.

They have worked with contractors (some good, some not-so-much) for work on the inside (floors, tile, paint, etc) and outside (paint, roof, removal of a leaking chimney, pool re-do, landscaping), and cleaned out a LOT of stuff from the house, and purchased furnishings, and transported truckloads of things over the seven+ hour trip – several times. They have worked (and worked and WORKED) and the transformation is (almost) complete.

This beach rental is now amazing. It is very accommodating for up to 14 people (4 bedrooms, 4 1/2 baths). And it is gorgeous! Her designer’s eye has made it beautiful and comfortable at the same time.

Honestly, even with what we have done to our houses, this is HUGE, and makes me tired. I am so very proud of them, and I try not to worry, because as my (almost 100 year-old) aunt says,

“They are young. They can do it.”

And they did!

the perfect choice SOLC23 #14

When I retired from teaching I found that my role on the local public library Foundation was a good way of staying involved in the community. This eventually developed into a county-appointed spot on the decision-making library Board of Trustees, the responsibility of which honestly was not as much “fun” as making choices of energizing ways to support the library through the Foundation. But I am honored to serve.

When I took the position of co-chair, the Board was faced with solving the problems that had developed from having a stagnant library in a growing and active community. One thing led to another, the Director retired, and we were in need of a new leader.

The search committee was formed, then we worked first with the county (who holds the purse strings), and after several steps we were off! “It will take a year,” we were told. We hoped not, since our library needed leadership. Now. The bottom line was that we had over 30 applicants, went through several stages of Zoom and in-person interviews, and ended up choosing a new Director in four months time.

The beginning of the search was a scary time. Who will apply? How will we know who is the right choice? What is our first priority? Meanwhile, the Board was also working with an “Interim Management Team,” who did an excellent job. But it was awkward because we all had the responsibility to make the library run well, but none of us really had the authority to deal with certain issues such as personnel, etc.

You can imagine how thrilled we were that one of the applications we received early in the process was from a well-seasoned and most professional librarian who seemed like the absolute perfect fit. Honestly from that point on we went through all the motions of consideration, interviews, ranking, etc., “knowing” how it would all turn out. What a relief.

Then, in our second round of Zoom interviews (where we were each in a separate room of the library to prevent computer audio feedback) we reassembled after the first applicant’s interview was complete. Each of us came into the room with our mouth agape, with a smile and a shake of our head. Here was a new possibility. Should we really consider changing from our other “choice,” who seemed so perfect?

After eight in-person interviews, it came down to the “natural” choice and this “surprise” candidate that we were all so impressed with. It was a tough, hard, agonizing decision, but we chose the library director that appeared after we thought we had already made our decision. We thought she had the energy and insight that was required for our system. This surprised several people, including, honestly, some of us on the search committee. Surprised us, but we did not question the choice, not ever, once it was made.

Now, just seven months into her employment, our new Director shines. The things she has already accomplished are remarkable, and the plans she is coordinating for the future are amazing.

I am so thankful for the search committee members who were willing to reconsider possibilities, and think ahead for the future.

And I am MOST thankful for our excellent library Director, who was and is the perfect choice!

new/old things SOLC23 #13

When we sold our house last year we purchased an older ranch home. The “draw” was a (mostly) one-level home, a yard for my husband to have projects (and a shed) in, and a little distance out from the busyness of our growing town.

The unexpected bonuses include the most wonderful neighbors, a swimming pool (so far its a bonus…), a farm of open fields behind us, and (since we completely remodeled) a chance to update a solidly built house with the things we like.

I always call it the new/old house, because that’s just what it is.

We are trying to add things that we not only like, but that also “look like they have always been there.” So when we built the required burn pit (a necessary part of those yard projects), we wanted it to “blend in.”

My husband chose the spot away from the house and from trees, and he leveled the ground a bit. Then he let me help lay the stones. We like how it turned out, and it has already proven quite useful.

It’s not old, but it’s not too new looking…. just right for our new/old house.

we can see clearly now SOLC23 #12

My father was a spectacular window cleaner. He used his special formula (definitely including ammonia) and wiped with old newspapers. That seems counterintuitive and I can’t tell you why that smeary black-inked paper did the trick, but the windows he cleaned sure did shine!

It wasn’t an easy task, either, because he lived during the days of storm windows, non-removable panes, and no tilt-ins. So it was an all-day or several-day task. But what a difference it made when he was done.

Daddy liked cleaning windows, and he would sometimes come to our house and clean ours, too. What a gift!

Fast forward to today and we choose to have a professional clean our windows. He does an amazing job and is also just a nice guy whose business we like to support. Plus, when he comes, we don’t have to do it ourselves!

The first time he came to our former home, we told him there were some windows that we couldn’t get open – they had been painted shut or had just warped over time. “I’ll get them open,” he said. And he did.

Eventually we replaced those old windows (and storm windows) with newer thermopane insulated ones that tilted in and had removable grids. We liked those so much better and so did our cleaner. His charge reflected the easier task involved in cleaning them.

Now in our new/old house we have replacement windows, but the grids don’t come out. The garage windows are split between the garage and the bonus room and are in small enclosed compartments that make access very difficult. BUT… our cleaner seemed to have seen all that before.

He came this week and cleaned all the windows as well as the screens and even fixed some loose insulating foam strips. What a difference he made! We are honestly surprised – and delighted – by how much better we can see now.

“We can see clearly now the grime is gone. We can see all shrubbery outside the house. Gone are the dusty smears that had us blind. It’s gonna be a bright, bright sunshiny spring.”

joy SOLC23 #11

When we moved into our new/old house, we made the break from cable to streaming.

We are also trying to stream our music, although there are some CD’s I can’t get rid of. I even have some OLD cassettes I would like to convert. Chances are slim, but I keep holding on to about 12-15 of them.

Meanwhile, my husband has wirelessly connected us throughout the house, and we can enjoy favorite tunes on demand. He likes to find old classics as well as recent hits. Concert nights are fun.

One afternoon recently I was sewing on some curtains, and I needed some background music, so I chose Christian contemporary songs. Beautiful, peaceful, inspiring. I was playing them through the TV that day, and when my husband came in we both watched the video for one song that left us both in tears. What a blessing we received.

Another day after that I turned on the TV and found the volume set quite LOUD. I asked my husband if he had been listening to his music, and he replied that his choice that day had been Christian music, again. And he played this one for me:

“There’s joy in the house of the Lord, there’s joy in the house of the Lord today, and we won’t be quiet. We shout out His praise!”


pilgrimage SOLC23 #10

We are traveling I-65 South today, from Nashville, into Alabama, through bumpy Birmingham (those roads!), south of Montgomery. Then off the interstate through Georgiana, Andalusia, Florala, DeFuniak Springs.

Our destination? The BEACH!

I started coming this direction as a child with my parents. They and my grandparents were mostly interesting in deep sea fishing back then. My mother always packed lunch for the road (I remember cheese and miracle whip sandwiches on white bread with the crusts cut off. Wrapped in waxed paper of course. Eaten on concrete picnic tables at a roadside stop.)

As a teenager I could choose a friend to come along. We would sit in the back seat listening to my father and grandfather argue about directions, especially through Birmingham, as the interstate was being constructed back then (those roads again)!

These days the trip is as fast as it has ever been, except for the TRAFFIC. We are fortunate that we can make some choices about when we travel, to try to avoid the crowd. Last summer, however, we didn’t choose wisely, and our 7 1/2 hour trip lasted 10 hours. No wrecks, no construction hold-ups, just VOLUME.

It is smooth sailing today. And the destination is always worth the drive. We are looking forward to a few days at the beach!

essence SOLC23 #9

We are bombarded with words these days.

Spoken words (and I am not an auditory learner), written words, sung words, poetic words, explanatory words, inciting words, factual words, rambling words, even artistically illustrated words.

I have believed in the power of words all my life and cherished the beauty of them.

But sometimes it is overwhelming.

As a reader I find myself skimming all too often these days. Trying to get the gist in a nutshell. Not always an easy task.

As a writer I am trying to use words wisely. I am a rambler, so this is hard. It takes more time and more thought to choose only the appropriate and necessary words. But I continue to work on it, because I believe it is important.

Just as a quiet person adds meaning to the words they do speak by the silence that surrounds them, I want my written words to be the exact right words to call understanding and appreciation into being.

I am trying to find the essence of meaning as I write. It is a work in progress for sure.

in control SOLC23 #8

Everyone wants to be in control these days.

We find ourselves in an interesting world, I think. It seems that control is a big thing – always has been I guess, but it seems more prevalent and open these days. And the things people and entities do to assert that control can be alarming.

Meanwhile, as individuals we often feel like we have less and less control than ever.

Currently on our new refrigerator is a light that blinks when we get water from the door. There are red letters that say, “Replace Water Filter.” and also another light that reads, “8 Days Remaining.” That seems a bit threatening. Eight days until what? No water will be dispensed? The refrigerator shuts down? I guess we will find out in eight days. It will take at least that long to order and receive the proper filter, I’m sure.

Oh but there is comfort in my soul, even so. Because I know Who is truly in control, and I am learning to let go and let Him guide me through these interesting times.

unspoken SOLC23 #7

My dear Aunt Rosie turns 100 years old this year. What an inspiration she is! She always has insight that time and life have brought her, and one of her frequent sayings is, “It’s all part of the aging process.”

So true. But ugh. Aging can be challenging. Still mostly better than the alternative, I guess.

My husband has taken to commenting about his arms and hands (and indirectly mine as well). He notes that “old people” have sores and cuts or scrapes on their skin. And I can add wrinkles to that lovely list. My hands held next to my grandchildren’s are alarming looking. But I’m not unhealthy, just old.

Another “old person’s thing” is not sleeping well. Nobody likes to talk about it (except for those who post everything on social media, but that’s another story…). If it ever comes up in conversation that someone didn’t sleep well the night before, there is always a friend or acquaintance who says, “Yes, I have nights like that, too.” End of discussion.

But after a while it becomes routine, and it remains an unspoken reality that some nights just don’t provide much rest.

My husband wakes up in the middle of the night, and “gets to thinking” about things, and there he is. My situation is different in that I sometimes can’t go to sleep easily. Neither of us generally worries, we just run things through our minds, overtime.

And my Aunt Rosie has those nights, too. The difference is, she gets up and sews, or cooks a pound of bacon, or watches TV. As always, making good use of her time. (She is truly amazing!)

My husband and I may get up and get a glass of milk, and sometimes I will read, but we are not as productive as Aunt Rosie is. Last night we were both awake, and I said, “I guess we are just old.” His reply: “Yes, it’s like those sores on our arms.”

So with all this rambling here, I am glad that this condition is usually unspoken as we become used to a restless night every now and again.

Those nights are also good for prayer and praise to the One who is always close, no matter what time we seek Him.

a broken promise SOLC23 #6

When I look back through the years of my March writing, I have chosen to write SO MUCH there about Spring. So this year I promised myself NOT to write about Spring. What new things can I say that I haven’t already written?

Six days in and I am already breaking my promise.

But that’s OK, because THE Promise of Spring has never been broken, and all that is contained in that gift is filling my heart and soul these days. I rejoice that His mercies are new every morning, and a Spring day is always brimming with life and love.

Many thanks to Fran Haley at litbitsandpieces who shared a pantoum poem. Her words are always inspiring, so I have attempted such a poem about Spring. I’ll pass along her instructions, too: “here’s the pattern for repeating the lines in the pantoum (and the poem can be longer): 1234 2546 5768 7381.”

Promises Fulfilled

Awakening greens

Cloudless blue sky

Birds singing sweetly

Fresh breezes delight


Cloudless blue sky

Golden warmth from the sun

Fresh breezes delight

Buds and blossoms appear


Golden warmth from the sun

Lasting longer each day

Buds and blossoms appear

Sometimes sprinkled by rain


Lasting longer each day

Birds singing sweetly

Sometimes sprinkled by rain

Awakening greens

time enough SOLC23 #5

At my age I frequently run into other people who have retired. I myself have never been happier. Retirement has been good to me and I am enjoying every minute.

Many others are the same way. They have taken up new hobbies, or found new ways to serve, or read more books, or grown a garden, or lunched with friends whenever they want.

Some are not quite so content. Maybe they weren’t ready to retire, or perhaps it hasn’t turned out as they thought it would, but for whatever reason they are not happy. Possibly, honestly, the best thing for them to do would be to find another job.

I don’t take any day for granted. When I first retired I was often asked, “Have you found your new routine?” Actually that first year was filled with many one time experiences, so my schedule changed as needed. But the truth was in my answer, “I have lived by routine all my life. That’s the last thing I want now.”

And I have never been a good time manager. I always have too much to do and not enough time – or so it seems. Even in retirement, there is always something on my calendar or to-do list.

But that is OK! I am blessed. I am thankful, I am content. And I love this quote from Brian Andreas, who says so many wise words at Story People:

Everything changed the day I figured out there was exactly enough time for the important things in my life.

**Next Day Addendum**

Of course the true wise words come from above, and from those who speak in His name. Interestingly this was in my daily email devotional today from Proverbs 31 Ministries, so I want to share:

He knows. He cares. He is enough. And He is longing for you to stop striving and start resting. You don’t have to do things in your own strength. You don’t have to carry your burdens on your own.

Lord, thank You that You are the creator of time. Thank You that I can trust You, that You will give me exactly what I need so I can do what You have called me to do. Help me to lean on You — especially when life feels overwhelming — and to expectantly look for how You are going to show up in faithfulness on my behalf! In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Yes, Amen.

a better gardener SOLC23 #4

When we bought the old house that we remodeled last year, along with it came an “old yard.” It has been fun to see what plants are here, started years ago by former owners. We have a large number of buttercups, some beautiful lilies, several gorgeous crepe myrtles, a couple of dogwood trees, and still a few mysteries.

Last year we had some shrubbery removed to make way for a fence and a back deck. There was one such mystery plant, a spindly bush that I almost had removed. But thank goodness it got overlooked. One day we pulled in the driveway and I saw a beautiful blossom sticking out from behind the old shed. As it turns out, that spindly bush is a lilac, whose aroma we enjoyed last year. Right now, it is covered with new leaves and many tiny buds! More delightful smells to come.

We also had two large pine trees taken out to make room for a new shed. As soon as they were gone, I worried about the giant rhododendron that had been in their shadow. Now, the lovely shrub had so much more sun – I feared it would fry in the heat. Again, we have been blessed, as it is still quite hardy and is now covered with numerous buds, with the promise of beautiful flowers to come.

I enjoy gardening but I am thankful for God’s hand in making sure I don’t regret what I might have done. He made the perfect garden, after all!

blown away SOLC23 #3

The wind is just ferocious today. Trees are down, power is off, cars are tossed across the interstate – yet looking outside the sky is now a beautiful blue with puffy clouds skittering across it. True, we had quite a rain earlier. Yet I am used to strong winds before a storm, not lingering afterwards. Fortunately these blasts are forecasted to end soon.

I am blown away by the power of weather. Just a sigh from God today, not His full breath, but so forceful. And there’s nothing we can do to stop it – just batten down and hold on. And be thankful for this clearing and cleaning of the air.


Somehow a touch of spring brings out the little bit of poet resting inside me, and on a day like today this rhyme comes to mind:

The busy wind is out today, a’blowing all the clouds away. 

And chasing butterflies and bees. And making music in the trees.

My kite it carries far and high ‘Til it is lost up in the sky.

Truth is, this isn’t exactly how I remembered this verse, it was more like “a’chasin’ kites and cares away,” but this is probably the original. I’ll try to remember it the “right” way.

I am blown away by how hard it was to find this snippet of poem through Google. In fact, I had to use Duck, Duck, Go to even get this much. I thought this would be a staple of children’s poetry, but I guess that just shows how old I am. Lots of years – and new poems – between the time I first learned this and now. Even so, I’ll still try to teach it to my grandchildren.


I attended another funeral today (just as I did yesterday). Another precious soul gone from this earth too soon, yet resting in the arms of Jesus after a pain-filled journey here on this earth.

I am blown away by her joyous celebration of life. She was in my Bible study group and was always very quiet. Sadly, I never knew what she looked like healthy. Her strength and determination to be there were admired by us all, especially when we knew it wasn’t easy for her. But the service today revealed a dear woman who was active in her church (again through pain), was dedicated to her family, always found the good in life, and smiled through every day she was here. And oh, how she loved the Lord, and wanted others to know Him, too. Such a witness her life was – may we all be more like Nancy.

do not delay SOLC23#2

When I was a newlywed of 22 I met a friend who has been a part of my life ever since.

She and I, along with our husbands, were in the same Sunday School class of young couples in our church. We were all growing and learning about life, love, and the Lord together. I remember those times like it was yesterday.

I recall parties where she was always setting up ahead of time and cleaning the kitchen afterwards. Once when we met at our house she scrubbed so much I stopped her and said, “Enough – now you are getting into old dirt!” She was there for me when we had our first child and didn’t quite know what to do with our precious colicky little girl. She didn’t know either, but she was willing to try.

Her own life wasn’t so picture perfect, as after only a very few years of marriage her husband left her. This was the first divorce of friends we had ever witnessed. I remember her saying, “It would have been easier if he had died.” She did remarry several years later, but it was different….

Through the years, she was known as a dedicated employee, a sister beyond compare to her own sister, a loving aunt to her beloved niece and nephew, a devoted daughter to her ailing parents, a quick wit, a sharp mind, and a loyal friend.

So time marched on and our paths grew apart, especially after we moved to a nearby town. There were Christmas cards exchanged every year, which included wishes for or promises of a lunch date and catch-up visit in the new year. But those never came to be.

Today I attended her funeral. Even though she had suffered for years with debilitating arthritis, the heart attack was unexpected and devastating to those who love her. I was happy to be a part of the celebration of her most significant life, but I deeply regret those visits that never came to be.

Who are you missing today? Who has been on your mind? Call that person. Do it now. Make time for some precious moments together.

Whatever you choose to do, do not delay.