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    May 2019
    M T W T F S S
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When I was about three years old, we lived in a great, big house with a huge backyard that had about a 100-foot long slope on it, perfect for sledding, although it was steep. A ski lift would have been helpful in getting up that hill. Or that’s what I thought. When I visited there as an adult, I discovered a small, cottage-type house, with a small backyard that had a small, maybe eight-foot-long slope and a bit of a yard beyond. Really, it was just a berm. I was shocked. If you had asked me before I visited there to describe the place, I would have told you about the great big house with the huge yard and steep hill.

This experience was an object lesson for me. I try to remember it when dealing with little ones, because I remember being scared one winter day when my Dad offered to throw me down the hill in the snow—for fun. Fun! HA! He had already pitched my big sister Kathy and my cousins Marlene and Delma down the hill. I couldn’t understand how they enjoyed the experience of rolling down that huge, extremely steep hill! They were so brave!

I also remember an incident in the ballroom-sized room on the second floor of our house when my cousins Wilma and Peggy were spending the night. Peggy and I begged and begged Wilma to read us a story before we went to sleep. After all, she was a grown-up (probably nine or ten years old.) She finally gave in, I realize now, to shut us up, and began reading the story of The Three Bears at high speed.

Wilma stood there, across the room from our bed, with Peggy and me clustered around her to see the pictures, her hand twitching on the light switch as she read at triple-fast speed: “Someone’s-been-eating-my-porridge,”-growled-the-Papa-bear.-“Someone’s-been-eating-my-porridge,”-said-the-Mama-bear.-“Someone’s-been-eating-my-porridge-and-they-ate-it-all-up!”-cried-the-Baby-bear.

We asked her, politely I’m certain, to slow down, but only got a “Do you want me to finish this or not?” in response. Wilma continued: “Someone’s-been-sleeping-in-my-bed-and-she’s-still-there!”-exclaimed-Baby-bear.-Just-then,-Goldilocks-woke-up-and-saw-the-three-bears.-She-screamed,-“Help!” (Big gulp of air) And-she-jumped-up-and-ran-out-of-the-room.-Goldilocks-ran-down-the-stairs,-opened-the-door,-and-ran-away-into-the-forest.-And-she-never-returned-to-the-home-of-the-three-bears.-The-End. CLICK!

Instantly, there was pitch black darkness, punctuated with the cries of frightened three-year-old pests. I couldn’t walk the vast expanse of that room (which of course you realize, was actually a small, dormer room) in the dark! Knowing Wilma now, I would say she turned the light back on as we trekked to the bed. But, knowing her then, I wouldn’t bet that big house on it.

All this to say, we really should be able to extend grace and understanding to each other, since everyone’s perspective on life is so different. We can’t accurately judge the magnitude of anyone’s problems, including our own, because problems grow and shrink with our ability to deal with them from day to day. So I invite you, just take a deep breath, look up, and give all your problems to the God who loves you and sees everything from an eternal perspective.

Don’t miss the rest of the Stories My Family Tells as I Write 31 Days this October. Click here to check out the wide range of topics from a wide range of writers.


The True Story Behind “Bubby Beats Feet”


Raising Readers

In earlier days, around the room,

the children would draw near

as Mother read a poem to them.

Such memories, so dear!

The above poem describes a favorite scene at my house growing up. Sometimes my Mom would read poems from The Best Loved Poems of the American People. One of my favorite poems was “Sleepin’ at the Foot O’ the Bed” because I remember doing that myself if we had a lot of family over. Another poem I liked was a rant against “Dried Apple Pies.” It started out: “I loathe, abhor, detest, despise, abominate dried apple pies.” Sometimes Mom would mix things up and “write” a letter to Aunt Goldie, then let us fill in the blanks she had left. It was our version of Mad Libs, and I remember a lot of laughter.

Mom and Dad made certain there was a lot of reading material in our house. We had a set of books of Illustrated U.S. History, and another set called Step-Up Books with titles like The Adventures of Lewis and Clark and Meet Theodore Roosevelt. There were science books in the series, like Animals Do the Strangest Things and Fish Do the Strangest Things. I still remember being fascinated reading about bower birds and angler fish.

We also had a Bible story book with pictures and questions. Kathy, Wayne, and I would take turns each night reading one of the stories from it before bed. We read through it so many times, we memorized all the answers to the questions.

I didn’t realize at the time that all this was a deep-dyed plot by our parents to rear up life-long readers. But it worked.

Don’t miss the rest of the Stories My Family Tells as I Write 31 Days this October. Click here to check out the wide range of topics from a wide range of writers.

Mom’s Life Lessons

Growing up, my siblings and I got all the usual Mom advice and words of wisdom. You know the ones: Always have on clean underwear in case you are in an accident. “Please” and “thank you” really are magic words. And who can forget “Your face is going to freeze that way,” or this classic, “If all your friends jump off a cliff, does that mean you’ll jump too?”

It really is all good advice (except maybe for the face-freeze one. What is that all about?) But the best words of wisdom we received from Mom is a list she wrote of the important lessons she had learned in life. I’m so glad she wrote them down so I can share them with you. In her own words, here are Mom’s life lessons:

  • I have learned that your family is the most important thing in life.
  • I have learned that what you have isn’t as important as what you are.
  • I have learned you have to trust God for all things.
  • You must trust people, though many of them will let you down, hurt, and disappoint you.
  • I’ve learned not to judge people by first impressions because many times first impressions are wrong.
  • I’ve tried to learn to be patient and let God take care of everything.
  • I have learned how good it is to have the love of a good man.

I don’t know about you, but I think that about covers it.

Don’t miss the rest of the Stories My Family Tells as I Write 31 Days this October. Click here to check out the wide range of topics from a wide range of writers.

Keys to a Happy Marriage

Scott and I recently celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary with a trip to Pensacola, Florida. We also spent our honeymoon in Pensacola. It’s a lovely place. See?

The view from the balcony of our condo on our 25th wedding anniversary trip to Pensacola

The view from the balcony of our condo on our 25th wedding anniversary trip to Pensacola

We have a lot of wonderful memories from our honeymoon, our 25th anniversary trip, and also a couple of trips we took to Pensacola with our daughter. We loved the sun, the beachcombing, the fresh seafood, bird watching, seeing dolphins playing in the surf, sightseeing—you know, the kinds of memorable times everyone can have in a beach town.

However, (you knew there was going to be a “however,” didn’t ya?) I can also share a memorable experience Scott and I had which I’m fairly certain no one else has experienced—at least, I hope not. No special reason to ask, but. . .did you ever lock your keys in your car? Really? And your extra set also? Yes? How cute.


Scott and I managed to lock not one, not two, not even three, but FOUR sets of keys in our car. Yes, at the same time. All of them. Every set we possessed between the two of us was locked in the car. At the same time!

How did we manage that? Skills, baby. Skills. We had parked close to a nature walk along the beach and were putting everything we didn’t want to carry into the car truck. We were being security conscious, you know. Sigh.

I was carrying a small beach bag with some things I thought I might need. We were standing at the back of the car after we loaded all the stuff in the trunk, including two sets of car keys. Scott, knowing I had keys in my bag, took the third set out of his pocket and tossed them in, saying “Well, no need to carry those things around.” Then, he grabbed the top of the trunk lid, and started it on its downward swing.

Now, pay close attention here. I had the last remaining unlocked-up set of keys in the bag I was carrying. But when I heard Scott say, “No need to carry those around,” the fact of the fourth set of keys slipped my mind, and I thought to myself, “Why carry this bag around? Travel light.” So as the lid was coming down, and just before it shut, I swung my bag into the trunk. Where it would be secure. Cause I’m security-conscious like that.

Well. I had never seen that look on Scott’s face before, and it’s not a look a bride wants to see on the face of her newly-minted husband—a mixture of incredulity and the sudden consciousness that he may have made a terrible mistake. (I’ve seen it since then, believe me, but this was the first.) I still didn’t realize what I had done. Scott had to tell me. Oh, well. As my Uncle Randall used to say, “Well, children. It’s just like everything else.”

We made it through that first what-in-the-world-have-I-done test, and many others since then. And after 25 years, I’m happy still to say, if I must get locked out of a car with anyone, I choose Scott. Right, honey?

. . .Honey?

Don’t miss the rest of the Stories My Family Tells as I Write 31 Days this October. Click here to check out the wide range of topics from a wide range of writers.

Sleep Disorders

When my baby sister Mary Ellen was young, she was ornery, sassy, funny, and surprisingly smart-alecky as a four-year-old. And she really hasn’t changed much. (Except she’s much older now, of course.)

One morning, we were all up and going about our day when we couldn’t find Mary Ellen. We searched the house and the yard, giving special attention to the trees she liked to climb—the ones that over hung the creek. Mom was starting to panic, when I noticed one small foot peeking out from under some clothes by her bed. It was Mary Ellen, oblivious to our frantic search, sleeping peacefully underneath her bunk bed.

Another time, Mary Ellen was the one panicking, yelling at Susie in the top bunk. “I can’t get up! I can’t get up!” Mary Ellen had gone to bed with chewing gum in her mouth and when she woke up, the very top of her head was stuck to the headboard.

It’s never dull when Mary Ellen’s around, that’s fer shur.

See, it started as a baby. Although to be fair, our Uncle Stanley taught her this.

See, it started as a baby. Although to be fair, our Uncle Stanley taught her this.

Don’t miss the rest of the Stories My Family Tells as I Write 31 Days this October. Click here to check out the wide range of topics from a wide range of writers.

The Slippy Sunday Service

I love my little brother. Really, I do.  Even though, as soon as Wayne grew big enough to toss me around like a rag doll, he started exacting his revenge for all the times I had beat the socks off of him when we wrestled as kids. (One time, Wayne managed to pin my shoulders. Wanting to gloat, he yelled at Dad to come see. But, before Dad got there to see Wayne’s triumph. . .I flipped him. heh, heh.)

What? Oh, yes. Back to revenge. Once when I was about eighteen years old, I was relaxing on the couch, just minding my own business. Mom was in the kitchen basting a turkey for dinner, and Wayne was just hanging out, being a pest. As soon as Mom said, “Wayne, will you put the turkey back in the oven for me?” I knew he was coming after me. Picked me up. Carried me into the kitchen. Said to Mom, “This turkey? I don’t think she’ll fit.”

Ha. Ha.

What does this incident have to do with the Slippy Sunday Service? I can’t decide if the following is something Wayne did on purpose or not. I’m thinking not, because of the potential for disrupting the church service, and this is Wayne after all, not Mary Ellen. But the desire for revenge can be very strong.

At this time Wayne was in charge of cleaning the church. He did a good job—too good, if you ask me. This particular Sunday, when the congregational singing was finished, I turned on the piano bench, and started to slide to the edge so I could exit the podium as I did every Sunday morning. Little did I realize that my little brother had so thoroughly cleaned the church that he even polished the piano bench.

Yes, he did. And yes, I nearly did slide off the edge of the bench onto the floor in front of the entire congregation. Oooh, it was close. Probably the only thing that saved me was the lightening-fast reflexes I had developed in response to the brotherly revenge-taking.

So, innocent mistake or diabolical plot? Wayne says mistake, but then he laughs. And I still remember the look on his face when he got flipped just before Dad walked through the door.

Don’t miss the rest of the Stories My Family Tells as I Write 31 Days this October. Click here to check out the wide range of topics from a wide range of writers

Mom and the Chimney Sweep

I’ve hesitated about telling this story, not because I don’t like it—it is one of my favorites. But I’m not certain I can tell it coherently, since Dad is barely coherent when he tells it. It’s been over 45 years since Mom had this unfortunate run-in with the chimney sweep, but it still leaves Dad struggling for control when he talks about it.

Long ago, we lived in an old clapboard farmhouse set near the edge of a small town. I’m sure you can picture that house—two story, two front doors, tin roof, no central heating. There was a coal burning stove on the ground floor which kept an area about three feet on all sides of it warm, and no where else. The heat certainly didn’t make it up stairs to our bedrooms.

Anyway, one day Dad and Mom decided the chimney needed to be cleaned, and since I mentioned before that Dad is the one who fixed things around the house, Dad took on the role of chimney sweep. Mom was his helper.

Picture it: Dad on the roof with his tools; Mom down in the family room with a bag to catch the soot. (Oh, my goodness! I can hear my Dad starting to chuckle.) Dad yelled down through the chimney, “Ready, Rube!” (Rube, as in short for Ruby.) Mom leaned in close to the hole in the chimney where the stove pipe was attached in happier times, and yelled, “What?”

Actually, it was probably more like, “Wha? Augh! choke, cough, hack” because, of course, the soot was already on the way down as soon as Dad had said, “Ready, Rube!”

mamas eyes

Rube, apparently, was NOT ready

Dad said when he had climbed down off the roof and made it back inside the house, Mom was still just standing there, covered in soot, holding the empty, useless bag. Although, I can’t figure out how he noticed all those details since he was on his hands and knees, beating the floor with the palm of his hand, gasping for air as he laughed.

We’ve all enjoyed many laughs over this story through the years, including Mom. But she never again volunteered to be an assistant for this, or any other, chimney sweep.

And I can’t blame her.

Don’t miss the rest of the Stories My Family Tells as I Write 31 Days this October. Click here to check out the wide range of topics from a wide range of writers.

Aunt Eileen’s Chicken Dinner

These Stories My Family Tells are obviously ones we’ve heard many times in my family. That’s kind of the point. So, when we were young and any of my Dad’s siblings would come to visit, we knew we were going to be hearing some funny stories, well told. One of my favorite stories is one my Aunt Eileen used to tell on herself and I started anticipating hearing it the moment she arrived.

My Dad’s family grew up way, wa-a-a-ay back in the hills of Eastern Kentucky. Roads? Were there roads? Of a sort—a narrow, gravel track winding its way to the homestead. So, these were not people who popped into town for non-essentials. They stayed put, raised their own animals, and tended a large garden.

My Aunt Eileen had a lower pitched, gravelly-sounding voice and would always start this story with a laugh. “One time I decided to help Mommy with supper,” she would say, and I would start grinning.

Supper was whatever food was found in the garden or barn yard. But Aunt Eileen didn’t want to help with one of the easier tasks, such as picking a few tomatoes, or shucking some green beans. No, she would prepare the chicken. And that didn’t mean pulling a dressed chicken out of the refrigerator. The chickens were roaming around outside in the yard, scratching for bugs.

But after all, she’d seen her Mommy wring a chicken’s neck before. How hard could it be? For someone who knows what they are doing, wringing a chicken’s neck is a quick, simple procedure. However, for a six-year-old child who lacks the strength and skill, it’s neither simple, nor quick.

Eileen grasped the chicken around the neck and started swinging, but the chicken wasn’t cooperating. It wouldn’t die. Swing, swing, swing. . .swing, swing, swing. Still alive. Finally, Mammaw saw what Eileen was doing and ordered her to put down the chicken.

When my aunt released that poor chicken, it went staggering around the yard as if it had been on a weekend bender. “Brrrraaaahk, brok, mrrrrahhhk!”

My aunt would laugh and laugh. It makes me happy that she passed on one of her cherished memories and in the process, created a cherished memory for me.

Stella is not amused

Stella is not amused

Don’t miss the rest of the Stories My Family Tells as I Write 31 Days this October. Click here to check out the wide range of topics from a wide range of writers

The Economics of Halloween Candy

Are you stocking up on Halloween candy yet? I used to love Halloween. It was the only time there was a lot of candy in our house. You know that is the focus for kids, right? Also, it doesn’t matter how much you are trying to impart the deeper meaning of the traditions behind various holidays, here is the way kids think: Easter = chocolate bunnies, Memorial Day = s’mores, Independence Day = ice cream, Halloween = candy, and Thanksgiving = pie. Christmas is special though. Christmas = presents.

But getting back to Halloween: Mom used to tell us a story of a politician in the making. Once after the annual neighborhood candy shake-down (saying “Trick or treat” is actually a threat, you know) she heard our five-year-old brother Ronnie dividing up the candy with his cousins, David and Danny. Like this:

  1. Ronnie, to David: “One for you and one for me.”
  2. Ronnie, to Danny: “One for you and one for me.”
  3. Repeat until the candy is gone.

Is not that an excellent example of a politician’s definition of equal division of goods!

Probably the five-year-old actually thought he was being fair, and I’m sure Mom corrected the situation.

Still, it seems the kid had a career path chosen at a very early age.

Don’t miss the rest of the Stories My Family Tells as I Write 31 Days this October. Click here to check out the wide range of topics from a wide range of writers.