solc21 #31 in focus

Today completes my tenth year of participating in the Slice of Life Challenge. It has been a life changing experience for me. There have been many moments of growth, encouragement, and learning along the way.

I feel like I have made some new friends, even though I have never met them face to face and sometimes don’t even know their whole names. Yet that is not necessary for being true soul mates, and that’s what I consider them to be.

I am most grateful to the Two Writing Teachers blog for setting this up and keeping it going. They have done a wonderful job, every year. It can’t be easy. I hope it has been as rewarding to them as it has been to me.

In particular, this year has provided the opening of a special path for me. Since last year’s shut down I have found it very hard to write – even though it all began during last March’s challenge, and I did complete that. But after that time, honestly, I have sometimes had trouble even gathering my thoughts, much less putting them down on “paper.”

As always, this challenge has encouraged me to step up to the plate again. I don’t feel like my posts have been as well done as some in years past, but it is a new start, and for this season that is worth so much.

Again, I am grateful.

I always say I’ll write regularly from now on, but it never happens, so I’ll keep that thought in my pocket for now. Maybe I’ll do better. I hope. We shall see. If I do not, I will be the one missing out.

Writing causes me to have an “examined life,” and helps me be the person I am meant to be.

on writing:

senses awaken

scrambled thoughts and hopes align

focusing my world

Thank you, Two Writing Teachers, for another good month of March writing.

solc21 #30 push and pull

Spring always has a hard time pushing through the door. Some days it comes in strong, with warm breezes, brilliant blue skies, greening layers, and blossoms and blooms.

Other days it is tough. It is pulled back by winter winds, pouring rain, drooping flowers, and a gloomy outlook.

But we know, don’t we? We understand that Spring will prevail. It may seem delicate and unsure, but it has strong roots. The season of change is working, growing, changing. Eventually we will see it all.

Yes, eventually all of Nature will be on the same page – deep into Spring, and moving onward towards Summer, the season of full life and rejuvenation for the next generation of green.

*******

In this season, in this year, Spring reminds me of America. Our country is going through some big changes right now, with lots of push and pull, back and forth. One step forward and two steps back. But our founding fathers and their guiding principles have deep roots. Today, people are working, growing, changing. I’m hopeful we can somehow find our way to being on the same page. I’m praying that right will prevail.

solc21 #29 appetites

As I have gotten older, my appetites have changed.

Where once I longed to be with others, I was often in a group. I enjoyed the companionship of people so much. Now I still enjoy friends very much, but in smaller doses. Even in larger groups, I seek out one or two to be with.

Formerly I thought it was important to know what was going on in the world around me. I would encourage others to read the newspaper and be aware of all that was happening in their community. Now that doesn’t seem as important. Sometimes it feels enough just to keep up with the friends and family that are closest to me.

I used to love to wear bold colors, and fancy clothes. Now I don’t like drawing attention to myself (and I am a larger size) so muted colors seem best.

I loved going on home tours in the past. I always got inspiration there for at least one thing to replicate in my own home. Now everything is so over-the-top that I often come away shaking my head and liking my own house a bit better as is.

My thoughts on church are different, too (although God never changes). Things like worship styles, music, and even a desire for more Old Testament understanding.

My tastes have changed in many things – book genres, movies, TV shows, spare time, sleep habits, home decor, shoes, paint colors, even scents. Some changes come with age, some with current trends, and some, I think – I hope – with wisdom.

I will always love a good chocolate chip cookie, though.

solc21 #28 not a drop

“Water, water everywhere, and not a drop to drink.”

Over the last three days we have had a tremendous amount of rainfall here in Tennessee. And with lots of rainfall around here, our sweet little Harpeth River floods.

And because the no-longer-sweet-or-little river runs though the middle of our town, this flooding gets into many neighborhoods all over.

And there’s this:

As I type this there’s a helicopter flying over from a Nashville TV station, filming our situation no doubt. And there have been lots of sirens, too. Many road closures.

I’m very thankful for the sun today. Hoping the water will recede quickly, but it will probably rise more first before it does.

So, Spring, we are grateful for your nourishing waters. But we have had enough for a while, thank you. Surely someone else needs them more than we do for now.

Amen.

solc21 #27 xoxo

One day at the beach the clouds decided to play tic tac toe.

You can often see airplane trails cross in the shape of an X in the sky:

But look to the right in the picture above. It takes a combination of curving paths and swirling winds – and serendipity – to make circles. Here’s another:

Wow! There were several in the sky that day.

Even in a “negative” image – a clear space of blue inside a white cloud:

Of course the pictures don’t do it justice. It was an awesome sight!

I suppose the O’s won the game, maybe just by showing up. They were definitely more numerous that day.

Along with tic tac toe, XOXO can be a sign of love we put at the end of our letters and notes. This was a sign to me of God’s power and His love. A sight I won’t forget.

And a memorable reminder of the most important X’s and O’s ever:

solc21 #26 another side

Our book club read American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins this month. If you are unfamiliar, it is the story of a Mexican immigrant and her journey to try to get to the United States. There is also a big controversy that has somewhat overshadowed the book itself. We discussed both at our book club gathering last night.

The story tells of a woman whose entire family is shot and killed at a backyard BBQ by a cartel. Only she and her eight-year-old son survive, and she decides to somehow get both of them from Acapulco to the US border. In truth, she has no choice but to do this. The rest of the book details this trip and the extreme hazards along the way.

I was unfamiliar with so many things recounted here. I knew little about the cartels that are so prevalent in Mexico. (They extend to the US, also.) I did not know that Acapulco was no longer the tourist destination of my youth, but a very dangerous city. I did not know about The Beast, a freight train that some migrants climb atop to ride as part of their perilous journey north. I did not know about the cloud forests of Honduras. I learned more about the trafficking and robbery that occurs along these migrant routes. I also learned about the brave Mexican people and organizations that offer lodging, food, and other assistance to the migrants as they travel.

I have never imagined what a migrant journey would be like.

It is an interesting time to read and discuss this book, considering all that is currently going on at the US/Mexico border. Reading the book definitely provided a view into another side of the migrant issue. I came away with a better understanding of what migrants might have to go through, and I have more compassion for these individuals and their life situations.

The controversy is over the author, a white woman, telling the story of a life she has never lived.

Haven’t authors frequently done that in countless other books? No book is perfect. Each is always a reflection of the author and his/her perspectives and opinions.

The author says she did five years of research, as authors often do. She makes statements in her author’s note declaring that perhaps someone closer to this life could/should have written the book, but ends that thought with: “But then, I thought, if you’re a person who has the capacity to be a bridge, why not be a bridge? So I began.”

Many Latinx authors have denounced the book, stating that it is full of negative stereotypes. Some have called it “trauma porn.” One immigrant said that it was not written for her, but “for white people by a white woman.” One white male author, who wrote about Iranian immigrants several years ago (The House of Sand and Fog), said he was sure his book, well-received at the time, couldn’t be published in today’s society.

If there is an evil in this, I believe it is the publishing industry. It is a profit-seeking enterprise, always in the business of making money. This book received a large advance and tons of pre-publication publicity and endorsements (until the death threats started and the book tour was cancelled). No wonder other authors resented the focus here and not on their own works.

My opinion? This is a well-written book, with great place descriptions, exciting action, and well-developed characters and relationships. It had the ability to draw me in, make me think, and at times it broke my heart. I came away with deeper understandings and increased compassion. I thoroughly enjoyed the reading experience, and I would highly recommend it.

solc21 #25 lasting

I was so fortunate – blessed – to have been raised in church and faith. In my family and in my youth group. Along with my parents, there were many adults who poured into my life and the lives of my friends. God showed Himself to us through these leaders. They were conduits of His love.

When I met my husband to be when I was in college, and he came to church with me, they loved him, too.

Today one of those precious mentors – and his wife, also a dear friend – had lunch with us. We have recently reconnected, after the death of their daughter, and because they are considering a move back to their hometown, we have promised ourselves to get together regularly while they are still living here.

Our times together consist of sharing memories, speaking of God’s work in our lives, funny stories, and heartfelt thoughts. They sometimes talk of being old, but we don’t see them that way.

After our times together, I am always left with their afterglow, and a sense of deep thankfulness for the friendship we have shared for so long.

There were times in earlier years when we were busy with our children, or work, or whatever, and we neglected these opportunities to be with them. I pray we never let that happen again. They are a treasure, a very special gift.

Thank You, God, for continuing to show Your love for us through these dear souls.

solc21 #24 grrrr

I have said before that I do not like change. Never have. I remember my father telling me, when I was young, that, “The only thing that stays the same in this world is that things will always change.”

That’s very true. But I don’t have to like it.

The worst change, of course, is one that is forced upon you. If I decide to make a change myself, it is hard, but when it is decided for me, it is almost impossibe.

For a while at least. But not being able to “change” most of these forced changes, one must learn to adapt.

WordPress now has forced me to use their new block system for writing posts. It has been “suggested for a while, but now I don’t have any choice. (Yes, they say there’s an option but it is NOT the same…)

I do not like it.

But having no choice, I am learning to adapt.

All that to say, when things look odd with my writing, it may not be ALL my fault.

I’m sure that once I learn this new system, I won’t even remember the “good old ways.”

solc21 #23 spring peeks through

Spring has ways of showing up quietly.

Slowly, but persistently.  Little by little each day.

These pictures were from last week.  Already, there is more green everywhere, along with more buds and blooms.

And in my heart, more thankfulness.

So many gifts to enjoy.

Welcome, Spring!

 

solc21 #22 privet perfect

Every year I promise myself NOT to write about privet in March.

Yet it seems I write about the return of privet every year.

This lowly, naturalized shrub grows wild where I live. It is one of the first greens to show up every spring. Once the season progresses, with grass sprouting below and leaves filling in above, privet goes almost unnoticed.

Well, except when it blooms. A little privet is an intoxicating aroma. Too much blooming privet can be “cloying,” as Southern Living’s Grumpy Gardener says. Either way it is hard to miss then.

But after early spring and blooming season, it just quietly plays its backdrop role and highlights other growing things.

So this year I wasn’t going to write about privet…

But then… come another spring, when things start sprouting and singing that new life has arrived, the privet gets me every time.

How can I not notice, when it peeks at me over my fence and says, “I’m back!”

Indeed you are. Welcome, old friend!

solc21 #21 a little more mama

Today in church we sang “Because He Lives.” One of my mother’s favorite songs.

My mother wanted to have only a graveside service when she passed away. So we did as she had requested.

She had been very active in church and some were surprised we didn’t have a full funeral service there. Mama had sewn costumes for the Christmas and Easter productions at the church for years, and the choir director she had worked with on those programs was especially disturbed that we didn’t have a service.

He told me he went to visit her and sang “Because He Lives” just for her. I don’t doubt that is true.

So today we sang that song, the day after what would have been Mama’s 100th birthday, in the same church where I had attended that choir director’s funeral service two years ago.

It was a blessing, and a reminder to me that love can last a lifetime, and beyond.

This afternoon, I went for the funeral visitation of the mother of an acquaintance.

This friend told me that she and her mother were very close, and she had lost not only her mother, but also her best friend.

I was able to tell her, from experience, that your mother never truly leaves you. You will miss her terribly at times, but her spirit will live on.

Once again, Mama, I thank you. Sending you my love.

solc21 #20 happy 100th birthday

The first day of spring brings hope and encouragement. New life entering a warmer, more welcoming world.


March 20 is also my mother’s birthday, and during her days on this earth she also brought hope and encouragement to many.


If she were still alive, she would be 100 years old today.  Happy Birthday, Mama! You have been missed now for 18 years.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I have subscribed to Brian Andreas’s Story People emails, and here’s what they sent my way today:

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Thank you, Mama, for planting that seed of belief inside of me so long ago.  You helped nurture and water it in me, and I have done my best to continue to nurture it, too.


My mother spent fun times with both our children when they were young, and she nurtured those seeds there, too. And today, even though she never knew them on this earth, I think she has had a part in nurturing our grandchildren as well.


Now as we await our newest little one, I feel sure Mama is up in heaven with Little Liza’s soul right now, tilling the soil of her tiny heart to accept the seed of belief that her parents will plant in her when she comes to be here with us this summer.


I’m sure she did just that with our other Littles as well, and it is now such a joy to watch their belief and trust grow as their bodies grow, too.


Thank you, Mama.

Happy 100th birthday!

solc21 #19 today’s writing

The month of March is always a time of self reflection and personal growth because I write every day.

It is a gift to myself, somewhat like eating healthier food and feeling much better because of it.

But, sadly, these good habits disappear eventually. Often, far too quickly.

I obviously need more discipline in my life.

**********

I was looking through drafts in my blog and found the following. It was written one day when something made me think about writing, but I was so out of practice that this was all I could muster.

Not the best writing. But it does describe a beautiful day. I’m ready for spring to progress into summer. At least spring starts tomorrow!

Meanwhile here’s a happy day to think about:

**********

If I were writing every day, I know what I would write about today.

I would tell about the gorgeous blue sky, cloud-free and shining. No humidity in the air to slog through.

I would describe the sound of mowers and leaf blowers. The smell of fresh cut grass.

I would try to capture the feel of the breeze, insistent and refreshing. Warm skin with no sweat.

I would celebrate the taste of fresh peaches, and the coldness of the ice cream in a cone. Grilled corn on the cob.

If I were writing every day, this day would be easy. It’s a great day to be alive, to be outside, and to participate in the turn of the season from spring to summer.

If I were writing every day I would write about this.

solc21 #17 lucky day

‘Tis a day for all things green! Hope the luck of the Irish has come your way today. I find it celebrated all around:

Received in an email:

In our local online newspaper – new babies at the hospital:

From church, showing how St. Patrick used the shamrock to explain the Trinity:

Both of our children are traveling with their families on this rainy, stormy day. I am hopeful for “luck” and more importantly praying for blessings and traveling mercies on them as they go.

They say we all have a little Irish in us – maybe if not in our bloodline, then surely in our spirit.

Here’s a blessing for you today:

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solc 21 #16 word of mouth

I have been looking for a new lampshade for a lamp my husband recently painted. The new color looks great, but now it needs a brighter shade.

It is very hard to find shades that fit on harps.  The other kind that sit on the socket don’t stay straight and generally don’t look as good.  That is the only kind I have been able to find. And trying to find the right size and shape to go with any lamp is also challenging.

A friend of mine has an antique alabaster lamp that was her mother’s. She told me how she had turned it on the other day and the bulb blew. So she replaced it, and when she turned on the lamp again with the switch that was on the cord, the bulb blew again and the switch started smoking in her hand. “It needs rewiring,” she said.

Indeed.

Then today this same friend was telling me about a lamp store that she thought had gone out of business. She was so excited to find that they had simply relocated. She knows that they can fix her lamp. She went on about the quality of their merchandise – “A real lampshade, you know, made of fabric, not cheap cardboard.”

I got excited and told her about my own lampshade dilemma. She just wanted me to know how happy she was to find this store again, but she added that she was sure they would have what I need.

I am happy, too. We are going to go there together soon.

Nothing better than a good recommendation that is “word of mouth.” No Googling involved. Perhaps old-fashioned, but also very true.

 

solc21 #15 an old friend

Our granddaughter was at our house today and we were playing “library.”

Basically she gets several books off the shelves, displays them throughout the room, and my husband and I can then peruse the books and choose some to “check out.”

Inevitably she gets some out that we have neglected to look at in quite some time, so we end up scanning through a book or two, to the great distress of the librarian who wants us to keep looking so she can have as many “checkouts” as possible. She tries her best to keep us on track.

Today’s book that caught my eye was Southern Seasons, an illustrated cookbook by Robert St. John and the immensely talented watercolor artist Wyatt Waters.

(Let me interrupt this tale for a moment and say, if you have never seen this book, you should find access to one as soon as possible. It has amazing recipes and the artwork is stunning.)

As I was flipping through, I found this painting, which stopped me in my tracks.

It is, of course, from To Kill a Mockingbird. The caption is as follows:

This brings back so many memories and so many deep-seated thoughts about this amazing book, and my reactions to reading it, and watching the movie, and just a general nostalgia for a simpler time.

Not a period of time without its own troubles, but certainly somewhat less corrupted than today’s world. A place in time and space where time was slower and people knew each other a little more personally.

As with everything these days, that point could be argued, but it was that way for me, and it remains that way in my mind.

And as for how this relates to today, we happen to have a tree in our backyard where we sometimes hide things for Madison or our grandsons to find. Just today she could have found this there, if it hadn’t been raining too hard.

I have tried to tell her about this part of the story, and she sort of gets it.  At least she gets excited looking for what is in the tree.

One day she will be old enough to read the book, and make her own connections to it.

But for now, this art helped me explain to her the reason why finding a treasure in a hole in a tree can be a mysterious serendipity, every time.

solc21 #14 important questions

We kept our daughter’s children last night so she and her husband could have dinner out to celebrate their anniversary.  Yes, that 14th anniversary was last July, but no matter, we finally made it happen.

Our daughter has a wonderful habit of asking our granddaughter, Madison, questions about her day as she puts her to bed. I knew this would be coming in between prayers and one last song, so I thought I was prepared.

  • “What kind of pancake did you have today?”
  • “What did you do at the playroom when Mommy and Daddy were working out?”
  • “What you think your teacher is doing next week for Spring Break?”
  • “What is it about that boy in your class that you like so much?” (groans in reply on this one…)
  • “Did you make something special during rest time today?”
  • “What do you want to do when you come to our house tomorrow?”
  • “Can you say your memory verse one more time before you go to sleep?”

Pretty thorough, right?  We covered a lot of ground.  Then Madison said SHE had one question before turning out the light….  “I’ve been thinking about the beginning of the world, before all the builders, when it was just the very first people here. Do you think there were any roads or buildings, or just hills and grass?”

Out of the mouths of babes.  Lots of deeper thinking here. At least I had an answer – “There was only Nature, sweet girl, and it was all God’s creation. It was a garden – called Eden – and it was so very beautiful.”

Madison is spending the night with us tonight – just her and not her brother. She is excited for this special time with Nan and Pops, and we are, too. And I know I need to up my game with the questions. I’ve been pondering all day.  Can’t wait!

solc21 #13 one more thing

I’ve been pondering about social media sites and the real value of expressing one’s opinions. And trying to weigh the worth of all this.

Our daughter has taken herself off Facebook and Instagram to get away from the mindless chatter, thoughtless diatribes, and constant “keeping up with the Jones” attitudes.

She says it has freed her time and her mind to devote to much more meaningful pursuits.  I am so very proud of her!

God desires for us to dwell in Him, not on our screens.

Recently she signed back in for a brief moment and posted what you see below. Those are her children in the picture, by the way, some of the main ways she redirects her now-free time.

I love what she said, and the spirit in which she said it. The best way I can share it is just to repost it here:

solc21 #12 free speech part two

Yesterday I wrote about my ponderings over a post that had been removed from the Nextdoor website. I wondered why it had been removed, and because it had, I couldn’t read the entire post. So I asked my neighbor, and she had saved it, and she sent it to me in its entirety:

Hey, friends & neighbors who raise chickens! I am sure your hens lay the most delicious eggs ever! And you care a lot for them. However, if you live in the city limits of Franklin, you may not know something. There is something called Title 10-Animal Control, a city ordinance that says it is unlawful for any person being in charge of any animal or fowl to permit them to run at large in any unenclosed lot within the corporate limits. You are also required to have a permit from the health officer of the city of Franklin. Please be a good and considerate neighbor. It will be very much appreciated.

My neighbor had more to say:

I wish I had also saved the comments, which are also now removed. All their comments actually upset me. They all made fun of her & the situation. One saying, “A nagging neighbor would upset me more than a 2 pound chicken.” Another was a guy making fun and said he too had seen hoards of chickens around town making chaos. Then another responded to him saying he saw one with a bomber jacket on. Another said that she should talk with her neighbor instead of posting such a message. (Not knowing if she did talk to the chicken-owning neighbor first or not.)  On and on.

NO ONE wrote one thing positive or encouraging to her. They do not know (or care) that it is a daily occurrence with these chickens. They scratch up the flowers beds, get mulch on the driveway & poop in her garage!! I wonder how these commenters would feel if they had invested money for flowers, mulch, landscapers at their homes only to have it destroyed by chickens, not to mention their poop on the walkway.

I was upset by everyone’s response & was going to write something, but by this morning it was gone. I think she probably took it down herself since she was just getting blasted by people.  If it bothered me that much, I’m sure it did her. To say the least, I was very disappointed in mankind yesterday. They were very cold.

All of this answered my original questions, but now I have further thoughts.  It seems far too important for people to express their opinions these days. Things are said or written online that would never be said to someone’s face.  My husband (not a social media user at all) said that is all these forums are good for. I think he may be exactly right.

So now we still have chickens, and also ridicule and hard feelings. All of this, of course, is my opinion – possibly as unnecessary as what I am writing about. But there is a black and white reality that guides our world, whether we like it or not. The part of that reality in this case, and in many others, is called the Golden Rule.  It applies to both sides of any discussion or argument:

Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.