Thursday, December 7, 2023

SJT: Darkness and Light

I love this time of year when we look for light to pierce the darkness and bring hope to our troubled world. And this year seems fraught with so many troubles. There's something magnificent and holy about holiday lights, especially as we think of them heralding the birth of the Lord, the light of the world.

One of my favorite hymns is "The Lord is My Light." My children know it's supposed to be sung at my funeral. When I searched for an arrangement to share with you, I quickly learned of a different hymn from the one I know (with the same title). Here's an arrangement performed by selected Temple Square sister missionares at the 2020 virtual celebration for Light of the World. Each year our church features specific ways to help us #LighttheWorld. during the month of December. You can download a PDF of 50 Ways to Let Your Light Shine. Stick it on the fridge and let it prompt you to action.

Jone asked us to consider how we honor/embrace this time of darkness.  I often comment that once daylight savings time begins until Dec. 21 marks the time I spend crawling into the cave.  Once we have that shortest day of the year, I'm glad to begin crawling out of the cave. I'm not sure that I embrace the darkness. It's more a time of enduring for me, but the lights of the holiday season brighten those all too short days. And I'm happy to report that our days in NC are not as short as our days were in WA. 

Another question Jone posed, "Where do you find the points of light in your life?" set me thinking about specific points of light. They include community (family, church, friendships - including my virtual friends I've made through blogging and the Strive Hive, and my bookish connections to name just a few). We were fortunate to have a visit from our son this past week. There's nothing like having someone you love around for a few days to bring light into your life. I'm amazed at the friendliness I encounter in my new community, a definite bonus as I'm adjusting to our new home state.

Another point/source of light in my life is story. When I started thinking about this post, I searched for some quotes from a favorite book, The Tale of Despereaux, by Kate DiCamillo:

"The world is dark, and light is precious.” 


“He let the light from the upstairs world enter him and fill him. He gasped aloud with the wonder of it.”

“Why would you save me?
Because you, mouse, can tell Gregory a story. Stories are light. Light is precious in a world so dark. Begin at the beginning. Tell Gregory a story. Make some light."


And now, dear friends, I'm off to partake of the light from your stories and be inspired on my spiritual journey. Thanks for being part of my community and one of my points of light! 

Jone is hosting our gathering this month. Pop over to read posts

as fellow travelers share their spiritual journeys. We welcome all to join us.

Tuesday, November 14, 2023

Slice of Life: Celebrating Books and Friends!

I started my first book club in Houston in 1987 as a young mother of a one year old and a three year old. I refused to become like women I knew who would regretfully say, "I haven't read a book since I had children."

The next ten years found me reading books and gathering monthly with a delightful group of friends. We moved to the Seattle area in mid-1997. 

Within a few months, I launched another book club in 1998. We celebrated a landmark year, twenty-five years together, in Austin this past weekend. Twelve of us gathered, but we missed many who have been part of our group over the years. Five of the twelve who gathered were part of the founding group from twenty-five years ago. If you've ever been a part of this group, you were probably mentioned at our gathering. We love to stay connected with those who have moved away and usually someone in the group has stayed in touch.

We celebrated twenty years in Victoria, Canada; twenty-five years in Austin, Texas; and we have all kinds of ideas for our thirty year event - Prince Edward Island, a cruise, a European jaunt! But we've learned over the years that it isn't the destination that counts, it's the time together.

What did our celebration include? 

Late night conversations, laughter, two lovely breakfasts provided by superb cooks, a visit to the Umlauf Sculpture Garden, Rudy's BBQ and warm cookies at Mallory's home, a river cruise, walks together, Austin murals, dinner at Guero's Taco Bar, a sharing of our favorite book from the past year, a morning at the Capitol and the Texas Book Festival, Jeni's ice cream, and a late lunch at Licha's Cantina before it was off to the airport and a return to our regular lives. 

It was less than 48 hours of joyful friendship time, but the bliss we share as bookish friends remains. Even though quite a few of us have moved away, we still join the monthly book club gatherings on Zoom whenever we can. There's something unique about friends who bond over books!



Thursday, November 2, 2023

SJT: Renewal

It's easy to think of fall as a time of decay and death when nothing happens. Fran's topic of renewal encouraged me to look at Bible verses that speak of renewal giving me a changed attitude to this time of year.

"Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will." Romans 12:2, New International Version

In Ephesians 4. we are taught to no longer be children, to put off our former selves. and to grow up unto Christ in all things. Wow! That's a task that is easier said than done.

However, the key to this arduous task of transforming our minds is found in this verse: "Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes." Ephesian 4:23 (New Living Translation)

Letting the Spirit renew our thoughts and attitudes requires that we study, pray, and listen. Having the help of the Spirit is the only way that we can cast aside the old (wo)man and embrace the new (wo)man. Growing up unto Christ is a lifelong task.

This writer refers to autumn as a "time of reflection and letting go of what doesn't serve us." We can use the slower pace of this season as an impetus to examine our spiritual journeys and make plans to renew our thoughts and attitudes. Indeed, the falling back of daylight savings time gives us an extra hour this upcoming weekend, a perfect time for reflection and renewal!

Fran at Lit Bits and Pieces is hosting this month. Pop over to read posts

as fellow travelers share their spiritual journeys. We welcome all to join us.

Tuesday, October 24, 2023

Slice of Life: Moments of Blessedness

The October prompt for our memoir writing group came from my friend Coleen:

“Get a book in your hands. Anybook. Close your eyes. Open the book to any random page. Point anywhere on the page and open your eyes. See what your finger is pointing to and from that, do free association to start writing. The idea is that prompts can truly come from anywhere :)       

I tweaked Coleen’s prompt a bit by picking up four different books and pointing randomly to a line on the page. I settled on these lines from the poem, “Anna, a Prophetess,” from the book Grace Like Water: New Testament Poems by Merrijane Rice:


“Some days you see in an instant

how really blessed you are.”


I chose these lines so I could spotlight the small moments that help me recognize the blessedness that surrounds me. Living this way increases my awareness of the goodness in our world.


This time of year is an especially festive time of year for me. I had two children in October and I feel blessed by each of them and their families. Halloween has always been a favorite holiday. What’s not to like about a day for dressing up and getting candy? And then November rolls in with Thanksgiving, a holiday dedicated to being grateful, enjoying a big meal, and relishing time together with friends and families.


I am glad to live in a place with many trees and I marvel daily at the fall colors unfolding all around me. It’s fun to find spectacular color in my new hometown of Greensboro. I’m always on the lookout for it. If I’m driving, Robby snaps a memory pic for me, a tradition he started last year.


Last Sunday morning, Robby was here. We made a jack-o-lantern out of orange construction paper backed with bright yellow paper to illuminate our creative cutouts. It made me happy to see it on the wall at their house this week.


On Friday Sara and I went to Cava for a birthday lunch. Ollie was with us and I can’t believe how quickly he’s growing up. It feels bittersweet since we know he is probably their last child. I sometimes tell the grands that I want to put a brick on their heads so that they will quit growing.


We were at Sara’s on Saturday so that she and Will could celebrate her birthday with a breakfast without children. Jack was disappointed that he was not invited which gave me a great idea to take him out for breakfast on his birthday week. Jack read the third chapter in The Fly Guy to me. I love that he has become a reader in just a few short weeks. This morning he read me another book, What Do You Do? by William Wegman about dogs dressed in different clothing and having different occupations. It was fun to see his excitement when he finished the book and proudly proclaimed, “I read the whole book.”


Yesterday when Robby was here, he put small battery-operated candles all over the house and left a note for Grandpa to find the fifteen candles. But the best part of that visit was the reason he was here. Sara was heading with the boys to the Primary program practice on Saturday morning. At last week’s practice, he would not say his line into the microphone, despite knowing it perfectly.


So she inquired, “Robby, what would be a good reward if you said your line today at practice? Candy? An extra show to watch on TV?”


Robby quickly replied, “I know a good reward. It would be if I could go to Grandma and Grandpa’s house this afternoon.” Those words definitely delighted my grandmother heart.


I count the 12 canned lights that filled our home this week as an added blessing, transforming the primary bedroom, playroom, and living room into spaces filled with light. Until we got this added light, I felt like we were living in a cave. We also added a new light fixture to our kitchen eating space.


Blessed moments in my life revolve around nature, family, and home. A walk outside gladdens my heart. Absolutely nothing rivals the joy that spending time with family brings into my life. Our house in Greensboro, filled with familiar furniture, art, and family photos is rapidly becoming a home we love with the additional lights installed this past week and the beautiful colors from the maple in our front yard. Pausing to recognize moments of blessedness fills my heart with joy.

Tuesday, October 17, 2023

Slice of Life: By the Book

I’m in a memoir writing group. Last month, Shannon invited us to write our very own By The Book interview (like they do with authors in the NYT Book Review). I didn’t get mine written because I was having too much fun in Oklahoma at my 50th high school reunion. Because it’s almost time for another month’s prompt, I’m answering Shannon’s questions for my slice of life this week. I probably could have answered one question per slice, but I need to catch up and be ready for the next  prompt.


  • What books are on your night stand? 

The River We Remember by William Kent Krueger (just got this from a new Greensboro friend at book club this afternoon & started it right away), Every Needful Thing: Essays on the Life of the Mind and Heart edited by Melissa Wei-Tsing Inouye and Kate Holbrook, The Life Council: 10 Friends Every Woman Needs by Laura Tremaine, Finding Your Family Tree: A Beginner’s Guide to Researching Your Genealogy by Sharon Leslie Morgan, The Essential Questions: Interview Your Family to Uncover Stories and Bridge Generations by Elizabeth Keating, PHD, Just Jerry: How Drawing Shaped My Life by Jerry Pinkney, The Path to Kindness: Poems of Connection and Joy edited by James Crews, and Our Day of the Dead Celebration (picture book) by Ann Aranda.


  • What was the last great book you read?

The Lincoln Highway by Amor Towles


  • How do you organize your books?

I organize my books by shelves: unread fiction and nonfiction, fiction I’ve read that I want to keep, professional teaching books, books of religious/spiritual nature, poetry, family history/writing/inspirational, children’s seasonal books, picture books related to family history, children’s picture books, children’s poetry books, middle grade fiction, and cookbooks.


  • What is the best book you ever received as a gift?

Ramona the Brave by Beverly Cleary is a special book to me. It was repurposed by my friends at Islander Middle School when I retired. They wrote their sentiments on pages of the original book. From the opening lines on its release date of June 19, 2014 with a lovely book description to the inspirational quotes, to the original poems and precious notes from my teaching colleagues, this book is one I’ll always treasure.


  • Has a book ever brought you closer to another person, or come between you?

My daughter Sara and I read Joan Bauer’s Rules of the Road aloud to each other when she was a teenager. I can remember when we started it while waiting in line for gas at Costco. I adore strong female characters!

We continue to pass books back and forth to each other. It’s always fun to share book love with her whether it be our latest picture book find, a book club selection, or just something we pick up for fun.


  • What kind of reader were you as a child?

I loved books. I remember my sister Kay reading to me. She instilled a love of story in me. I remember hearing Tales of the Arabian Knights and other fairy tales as bedtime stories with her. She’s nine years older than me. Once I learned to read, I discovered a joy that sustains me to this day. I am a frequent library user.

Some of my happiest memories are the libraries that I’ve loved throughout my life. My friend Dortha and I loved to spend our summer days with a walk to our Carnegie public library to check out books, followed by a stop at Rexall Drugstore on the way home for ice cream.

I devoured the Bobbsey Twin books, Nancy Drew mysteries, Trixie Belden and the Cherry Ames nurse series. I was convinced I wanted to be a nurse until my ill-fated summer as a candy striper. As a teenager, I moved to Victoria Holt, Catherine Cookson, and Gwen Bristow’s Civil War trilogy (all influenced by my sister Kay’s reading tastes).


  • Which writers, dead or alive, would you invite to a literary dinner party?

Kate DiCamillo, Lois Lowry, Sheila Turnage, Laurie Halse Anderson, and Jacqueline Woodson. I revere all of them, along with many others, for their contributions to middle grade literature. I would love to hear their perspectives on writing for young readers in today’s world.


  • Describe your ideal reading experience.

You'll find me in my pajamas on a snowy day beside a roaring fire, with a mug of hot chocolate and chocolate chip cookies still warm from the oven accompanied by a wonderful novel I can dive into and get lost in with no regard for chores, laundry, or outside responsibilities.


  • What genres do you like and what genres do you avoid?

My favorite genres are historical fiction, picture books, and poetry. I like middle grade fiction because I'm still a sixth grade teacher at heart. I tend to avoid nonfiction, but thanks to our book club’s ardent interest in this genre, I have read many nonfiction books and even liked more than a few. I don’t generally pick up science fiction or thrillers, and I abhor horror (because I am easily frightened!). But I do love a cozy mystery.


  • What do you plan to read next? 

The Hyperion Network by Laura Manning

I know I said that I didn’t like thrillers, but this was written by a classmate that I’ve known since elementary school. It’s always good to stretch one’s horizons!

Wednesday, October 4, 2023

Spiritual Journey Thursday: Gathering Gladness

It's Spiritual Journey Thursday, an open gathering for bloggers who write monthly about our spiritual journeys. I am hosting this month with the theme of A Glad Heart.

This post was complete and while trying to figure out Inlinkz, I lost all of it. So here I go again! 

I chose the theme of a glad heart and then tweaked it a bit to incorporate my OLW for 2023, gather.

One of my favorite poems is Mary Oliver's, "When I Am Among the Trees." I'll share the first stanza, but you can read the entire poem in Devotions: Selected Poems of Mary Oliver (p. 123).

"When I am among the trees, 

especially the willows and the honey locust,

equally the beech, the oaks and the pines,

they give off such hints of gladness.

I would almost say that they save me, and daily."

My favorite way to "gather gladness" is to go on a walk, phone in my pocket, paying attention, ready to capture pictures of the beauty that surrounds me. The purpose for this morning's walk was to gather "hints of gladness" for this post. Come stroll with me!

"The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy." Psalm 126:3

 "My mouth is filled with your praise, declaring your splendor all day long." Psalm 71:8

 "Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again. Rejoice!" Philippians 4:4

 I look forward to reading your posts and being inspired by your spiritual journeys.

You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!

Click here to enter

Tuesday, October 3, 2023

Slice of Life: Still Basking in the Glow

I've been home for a week and I'm still basking in the glow of our 50 year high school reunion. It was a blessing to see so many friends from my years in elementary school, junior high, and high school. I grew up in McAlester, a small town in southeastern Oklahoma. There were 290 of us in our graduating class. The memorial slide show honored 90 classmates who have died. That's way too many of us. 

I know that coming to a reunion is hard for some in our class. I talked long and hard to one particular classmate to convince her to join us. I appreciate each and every person who came, even though I didn't get to say hello to everyone. I'm grateful for all the photos that have been shared on Facebook. Now if only I could remember the names of each and every person.

We were fortunate to have a hard-working committee relentlessly tracking folks down, planning a wonderful weekend, and creating beautiful spaces for our celebrations. Here are a few pics from our delightful gathering with some of the folks who are part of my stories and memories.

Dortha was my first friend when I moved to
McAlester the summer before 2nd grade.
We lived on the same street.

Dortha pointed out that our old house was torn
down sometime in the past few years. 
That's why it's good to have old friends in your hometown.
We only lived on "D" street for a year or so
and then moved to Tyler steet, just two blocks from Dortha.

Friends from our elementary school, William Gay:
Donny, Elaine M, Dawn, me, Freddie, Elaine J. and Laura.
Dortha, Bucky, Steve, Charlie & Carol (did I miss anyone?), 
we wish you were in the picture too! Some of you had already 
left Pete's Place when we called for the William Gay pic.

I sat by Elaine in typing in 9th grade. We were 
always competitive and I could hear 
her return the carriage before I reached
the end of the line. It always slowed me
down even more!

Dawn, another friend from William
Gay, was my freshman roommate 
at Oklahoma State University.

I met Susan and Jan in junior high and we
formed the OMS (Old Maid Society) in 
high school. All of us eventually married!

Lunch with family and friends at 
Compass restaurant in the old Hunt's
Department Store building.

How does Bucky manage to show
up in so many places?

The Okla Theatre, as we knew it,
in the photo behind the camera.

Love that my niece, Kara, another
MHS alum, and her mom Kathy joined
me for the weekend from TX and Stillwater.

Three cousins: Carol, me, & Rhonda with classmate, Kim
(he goes by Nolan now). We grew up attending church together.
Classmate Laura has written her first novel, the Hyperion Network.
I still think we should have all read it before the reunion and
enjoyed a book club discussion with the author.
Three cousins at church on Sunday morning:
George, who graduated from Crowder High School,
made the drive from Pauls Valley to join me and Carol.
On Monday morning, Jan and I drove by the empty lot on Carl Albert Parkway
where the old library used to be. I loved the stairs leading up to it. 
Dortha and I used to walk there several times a week during the summer 
with a stop by Rexall Drugstore for ice cream cones on the way home.

I insisted on a pic with the buffaloes scattered about town.
 Jan, my BFF, always ready 
for the goofy moment (even after 50 years)!

 Sunset captured from the plane in Charlotte
on my way home to Greensboro, NC on Tuesday.