We were headed to the beach for a vacation when the girls were approximately five, seven, and nine. They were in the back seat of a car whose air-conditioner was on its last leg. Our middle daughter, Amanda, began to complain, “I’m hot.” I assured her that she would be fine. Besides, we were only a half hour into a four hour trip. “Think happy thoughts sweetheart. What are we going to do when we get there? We’ll play in the ocean, and look for shells. Won’t we have a great time?!” She would not be comforted.

“I am so hot,” she moaned for about the tenth time. Her daddy, usually a very patient man, pulled the car over to the side of the road. He was also hot. He turned around and looked her in the eye and said, “You may NOT say, I AM HOT for the rest of this trip. We all know you are hot. But those words may not come out of your mouth again. Do you understand me?”

Wow. Very clear instructions hung in the air. He pulled the car back onto the road. It was obvious that he meant business. Playing the good cop, I pulled out little note pads and pencils and passed them to the girls. “Here you go. Draw a picture for me. You are such good artists!” The car was silent as they began their masterpieces.

“Oh how pretty! Look at these, honey! Didn’t they do a good job.” I was determined to lighten the mood, as steam was still coming off David’s head.

Amanda’s was especially well done. Besides the flowers and grass, the sunshine in one corner, and clouds in the sky, there was also a very good drawing of an Indian. He had a headband with a feather and fringe on his clothes, and a frown…and what I assumed to be a giant tear. “Why is he sad?” I asked. With great sympathy she replied, “Because he is SO HOT!”

Sometimes you just have to laugh. Even her daddy thought that was well played.

This beautiful strong-willed middle child and I bumped heads an awfully lot while we were growing up together. There could be only one Queen in the Clark Kingdom and I was determined that it was not her. She was not so sure.

She lost control of her bicycle one day and lay sprawled in the gravel driveway. Through much wailing and gnashing of teeth, she announced for the neighborhood to hear that she had broken her leg. I helped her into the house and explained to her that not only had I seen her fall, but that one does not break a leg simply by sliding sideways off a bike. It was not that hard of a fall! She mourned and whined from Wednesday til Saturday, at which time I proclaimed in my kindest and most nurturing tone, “I WILL TAKE YOU TO THE EMERGENCY ROOM FOR AN EX-RAY. IF YOUR LEG IS NOT BROKEN, WE WILL DEAL WITH THAT WHEN WE GET HOME!”

Notice parents: You never actually state what the punishment is going to be. You just leave it hanging in the air like fire about to rain down from heaven. Anyway, her leg was broken and I felt like the uncaring parent that I was often proclaimed to be. Please don’t report me to DSS. How was I to know that her mourning was valid this time?

This week she turned thirty seven and is currently reaping all the rewards of the mother’s curse. She has a very determined three year old son who pushes her buttons so fast that she lives exhausted. She finds herself saying things like, “Able, don’t write on the window with your banana.” I find it extremely fulfilling watching her do motherhood.

Sometimes I just have to laugh.Able & AmandaAmanda & Able

Hold My Hand

It was spring break and I had to get home. My boyfriend David drove me to North Carolina in his ’67 Camaro. I was in so much pain. When the prescribed dosage of medication didn’t immediately kick in I took a couple more, climbed in the backseat and basically passed out. It was at least a sixteen hour trip home from south Florida. Thankfully his buddy Barry Dyson was riding shotgun and helped him stay awake. My sweetheart would get me out of the car every time he stopped for gas, hold my hand and lead me to the ladies room. Being the perfect gentleman he waited outside then put me back in the car when I wandered out. At least that’s how he tells it.

I don’t remember a thing and didn’t wake up til we hit Charlotte. David, who is now my husband of forty one years, probably wishes more trips were like that. He could just stop for gas, push me into a bathroom and keep on trucking. No yammering from the little woman about the urgency of the situation and the importance of choosing “somewhere clean.” Sorry honey. I’m all out of drugs.

Once we got home my parents took me straight to the doctor. That idiot put me in the hospital… for ten stinkin’ days. I tried to relay to him that I needed to get back to school plus had a wedding to plan. He kept me there doing all kinds of tests, until it was too late to return and finish my freshman year. They found nothing; no slipped disc, no disease, no reason for the pain. David returned to school. The pain continued and I was mad. The cards poured in… so many sappy cards with happy words about all this crap working for my good. It was sickening.

My youth pastor came every day at lunch with a sack of burgers and fries. Now THAT was a spiritual experience. Occasionally a funny card would arrive at just the right time and make me laugh. That was kind of spiritual too for it gave a small measure of relief. One day however a pretty card caught my eye. On the front was a soaring eagle. The verse from Isaiah 40:30-31 which says even young people will grow weary got my attention. It went on to say that those who wait on the Lord would not only run and not get tired, but would walk and not faint.

Apparently God had been reading my bitter soul. If only I could walk and not keel over. If only I could dress myself and stroll down the hall for crying out loud. Who cares about flying and soaring and running? I would gladly take waddling without assistance.

Opening my Bible to the passage I wondered what would be the key to the strength promised there. Stink! If there’s anything I hate worse than being weak it’s waiting.

Apparently strength comes with the waiting. I didn’t much like it. I still don’t. Not many people do.

Chances are you’re waiting too; maybe for a spouse to change, for healing, for a prodigal to come home; maybe for financial deliverance. It is hard to wait. It’s in our framework to fix things. It is our culture to be self-reliant. We take pride in making things happen. God in His great wisdom however, gives us reason to look to Him and say, “I give up. I have no resources or power to make this better. I have only You.” He answers sweetly in Isaiah 41:10.

“Do not be afraid, for I am with you. Do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you. I will help you. I will uphold you with my victorious right hand.”

The pain I experienced as a youth has grown worse through the years. But I believe by God’s grace, that I have grown stronger inside. At least now I don’t feel like cussing when someone tells me how all this is working for my good. Well… at least not as often. Waiting is still hard and I long to be well. But if it’s not time for me to soar just yet, I want to be content just holding His hand.

Even more comforting is the truth that it is He Who is holding mine.DSCI0183

A Little Messed Up

Do you ever get a song stuck in your head? Currently I have a Kenny Chesney tune repeating over and over in a loop. You know the one. We’re “a little messed up but we’re all alright!”

I hope he is correct. Otherwise I just admitted to you that I have voices in my head for no apparent reason.

Thanks to my pastor I also have a word stuck in my head. He used reciprocity during his message a couple times Sunday morning. Of course I know what it means…

Okay. So I looked it up. But only because I tend to write words thinking I’m saying one thing when actually I’m saying another. The wisdom of Inigo Montoya in the movie Princess Bride comes to mind. “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”

The autocorrect on my laptop generally does a wonderful job underlining words with squiggly lines until I get it right. The sad truth is that I will never spell restaurant correctly without help. Green lines point out poor grammar choices while red ones point out misspelled words… I think. Sometimes I get so many colorful lines that it’s hard to tell. I’m writing a fictional book and I used a word for a narcotic but couldn’t get the spelling right. The suggested word looked pretty convincing so I changed it to that. Later I decided to make sure and whoa… never meant to indicate… ewww!

I didn’t know they made a drug for that sort of thing. Kinda glad I checked. As my friend Ann says, “Autocorrect can be your worst enema.”

I think I told you about my beloved son-in-law Shane who texted me that he’d be late for Sunday lunch. It seems church lasted longer than usual because they had several starvations. Apparently it WAS a long service. Yep. Autocorrect is wonderful.

Annyyywayyy… I’m writing a book. The characters keep me awake at night. They want so much to be put on a page that I’m having a hard time sleeping. Daddy says I should start killing some of them off. I feel sure he is correct.

The crazy thing about the storyline is that the stuff that’s most unbelievable has actually happened to us in real life. So if and when it gets published and you find yourself thinking, “That could not happen…” just know this: Truth is always stranger than fiction especially in the Clark house.

You might even see your name. If you’ve been a nice person your name will be attached to a good guy. If however you’ve been a rapscallion, rascal or scallywag [my program also has a Thesaurus] your name could be associated with a troublemaker.

It’s called reciprocity.

Right about now my poor pastor is shaking his head mumbling, “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”

That’s okay. My other spiritual mentor continues to assure me of what I know to be true.

We’re a little messed up but we’re all alright!


Boldly Go

The woman looked awful. A sudden migraine drop kicked her into that terrible place where she thought she might die and wished she’d hurry up. She wobbled to my office window and requested a sub. First grade teachers cannot leave all willy-nilly just because they’re dying. Everyone knows death for a teacher requires at least a two week notice.

“Yes!” I assured her. “I’ll find someone to fill in for you until a substitute can get here.” About that time, my sweet husband happened by to see me. He had walked over from the middle school during his planning period. “Hey Huuuuunnnney… could you please watch her class for a few minutes?”

When the longest forty-five minutes of his life were finally over, again he stopped by my office. “How’d it go?” I asked sympathetically. Like Arnold Schwarzenegger in Kindergarten Cop he responded, “They were HORRIBLE. They pat you with their sticky little hands. Why do they do that?”

It seems my sweetheart was not designed to meet the needs of tiny people. Gladly he’d endure the purgatory called middle school. But never again would he willingly subject himself to the abyss known as elementary.

With another school year starting, I’d like to extend my great appreciation and a backpack full of “Bless your hearts” to the educators. I must say, you remind me of Jesus… except that He didn’t have to do bulletin boards.

People pulled and tugged and confronted and accused and begged of Him continuously. So. Many. Needs. I bet the children even patted him with their fishy little hands. Yet He kept opening His weary arms to accept the least of these.

I find it interesting that while “vast crowds came to hear Him preach and be healed of their diseases,” Luke 5:16 gives us a little insight into Jesus’ strategy for coping. He “often withdrew to the wilderness for prayer.”

Don’t worry. This is not where you’re guilted into adding one more thing to your very long list. Take this as an observation from an old chick who served amongst the good, the bad and the ugly for five years in one school and twenty in another.

Prayer changes everything.

No, you probably won’t have time to withdraw to some hidey hole where thou shalt kneel for a quiet “sweet hour of prayer.” But a mindset of bringing a child or family before the Lord as you’re dealing with them really helps. If your prayer sounds like, “Lord help little Pookie Bear lest I shake him til his teeth rattle.” God knows his need… and yours. I promise. I’ve seen it firsthand. Prayer changes everything. Mostly it changed me. Besides I figure since Jesus Christ, the perfect Son of God prayed often, we might benefit from a cry for help too.

So thank you dear Teachers.

Lord help you dear Assistants.

Bless you dear Office Personnel.


There’s always one that has to be different.

God love you dear Principal.

What a wonderful calling you have! To bring out the best in so many lives! Like Captain Kirk on the Starship Enterprise, may you boldly take others where they have never been before!

And like Jesus, may God give you strength to open weary arms to the very least of these.

It Was Only Pie

I finally shared with my husband a terrible thing that happened nearly thirty years ago. I was traveling home with three little girls in tow when I had a flat tire. I limped it into a service station where a nice young mechanic came out of the garage area wiping the grease from his hands. “What can I do for you ma’am?” he kindly asked.

“I’ve got a flat.” I showed him the back left tire as I got out of the car. “Could you fix it for me?”

“Sure thing ma’am!” he was all over it lickety split. Three little girls watched from inside as he made quick work of something that would’ve taken me all morning to figure out… if I could’ve done it at all. I asked sheepishly if he’d take a check as I had zero cash in my purse.

“No problem! That’ll be five bucks for the use of the wrench,” he kindly replied.

“Are you kidding? Let me pay you more than that…” I protested. When he shook his head no and repeated, “Five bucks.” I asked “Would you like an apple pie?”

I had a yard full of apple trees at the time and had learned to make homemade pies. That would be the least I could do. He suddenly got his back up and replied in a tone I will never forget.

“My WIFE would not be happy! I try to stay away from things like that!”

“Things like what?” I wondered though I never asked. I have no idea what the man thought I was offering, but believe me, it was PIE.

I was so embarrassed.

Look at me man! Of course I’m terribly attractive here in my pleated mom jeans, blinding white tennis shoes and big eighties hair. It’s surely hard to resist a woman with three kids in a hatchback who has to write a check for five dollars. But c’mon man! Pie is not CODE for anything.

I only told one person what happened in case she knew something about offering pie that I did not. She was hip like that. I knew I could trust my friend Ann not to tell anyone. She didn’t. But every once in a while something would come up and she’d ask, “So did you pay with ‘pie’?” …wink wink

Even now as I confess this indiscretion to you, my neck turns red with embarrassment. It took me thirty years to tell my husband who loves me with all his heart. Why?

It’s hard being misunderstood… maybe because we feel the shame of what others assume about us.

But I’m telling you… it was PIE for crying out loud.

Big 80's air with my Man rockin' the stache

Big 80’s air with my Man rockin’ the stache

It might be a Southern thing, parking buggies nose to nose in front of the Prilosec at Walmart sharing deep personal issues.

Guilty as charged.

I try to stay out of Walmart because I don’t function well there. Something about crowds and long walks between the raisins and the hair gel ticks me off. How spoiled am I? Nothing against Sam Walton or the fine folks who work there. Thankfully the company has provided much needed jobs for lots of folks who might otherwise be unemployed.

But could someone please shut off the video ads in the aisles so us old people can think?


I bumped into a dear friend whom I’ve not seen in approximately seven to ten. I know what you’re thinking. Either she just got out of prison or she’s not really that dear if I’ve not seen her in that space of time. You would be incorrect on both accounts. We just got busy living life and forgot how much we like each other. Or I could be incorrect and she’s been avoiding me all these years. Hmmm…

So right there in Walmart with buggies nose to nose we talked about wayward children. Not mine of course, as they are all perfect. Through tears we shared the angst of parenting and how it seems that we raise our children to be strong and independent and above all to think for themselves… until they do. That’s when the defecation hits the oscillation.

How dare they question the belief system we’ve poured into their hearts and souls? What is that about?

I loved the wisdom she shared through her pain.

“I’m asking the Lord to take me out of the way of His plan.” She spoke with tears. “For if I can just stay out of His way, He will work this out.”

Wow.ad in wmt

That has become my own desire as well. If I can own the fact that He has a plan which includes me, but doesn’t depend on me, all manner of crapstorms shall be avoided.

So Lord, take me out of the way. Let Your will be done. Work through me as Your tool of grace. You love drawing all men to Yourself. Help me to never get in the way of that.

And please cure the lady of heartburn who tried her best to get something over the counter without interrupting our visit.

Thankfully that is also a Southern thing.

It was the first day of Spring. We had just received the terrible cancer diagnosis for my beloved mom-in-law Nina. The first surgeon she visited spoke words we were not prepared to hear. “I can’t do surgery because if I were to take all of the cancer out I would not even be able to close you back up.”

I began gathering photos of Nina in preparation for… I cannot even speak the word.

Anyone who knows her also knows that she hates having her picture taken. Therefore the task would not be easy. Oh we had plenty of pictures, but nearly all of them have her wagging a finger in the direction of the photographer with a death threat hanging in mid-air. This woman is not to be trifled with. I joked with her one happy day that if she didn’t stop putting the stink-eye on those trying to capture her pretty image we’d have to resort to using all those ugly photos at her memorial. That would teach her!

Beautiful silver hair frames her lovely face. Her skin is smooth and nearly wrinkle-free. She and her son joke that all the butter they consume keeps the wrinkles pushed out from the inside. She was able to attend the graduation of her granddaughter Desani where someone snapped a gorgeous picture of the two of them. She showed it to me and said, “When I die just Photoshop my head onto all those other bad pictures.” Note to self: Never try to teach Nina a lesson.Nina & Desi

For those of us who live in Salisbury, Dr. Black is a household name. He and Nina go way back. He’s treated many members of her family for cancer starting with her husband. Even now while Dr. Black is in the midst of trying to retire he’s committed to treating Nina’s sister until the end. The only criticism I’ve ever heard her speak of him is that she cannot understand why he doesn’t wear socks. Something about his naked ankles has always been a little disconcerting to her. Nina has baked him and his staff many a pan of brownies. She was saddened to hear of Dr. Black’s retirement, but took right up with his associate Dr. Brinkley. Perhaps the fact that he wears socks gives him cred. She loved him immediately because he joked with her and understood her sense of humor. The three of them have a running disagreement on whether brownies should contain nuts or not. Dr. Black poked his head into her exam room one day and said, “Don’t you let him talk you out of putting nuts in the brownies!”

What will Salisbury do without Dr. Black?

What will we do without our beloved Nina? My heart grieves at the thought.

Last Spring I wrote a story called Daffodils of Hope which ended with a request that you pray for her. Here’s the rest of the story. Dr. Brinkley immediately started breast cancer treatment which has shrunk the tumors so much that everyone is amazed. Nina has had no terrible side effects, has not had to endure chemo or radiation. We had no idea such a hormone therapy existed. At this point it’s looking like she may not even require surgery. God willing, Nina will be celebrating her ninetieth birthday on Christmas day.

Never once did Dr. Brinkley treat her as though she were too old to hope. With each visit he listened intently as she and her children asked questions and relayed symptoms. In fact he listened so well that at times there was actual silence in the room as he processed our concerns. How rare is that? If you know the Clark clan you’ll certainly appreciate that abnormality.

Thank you doctors Black and Brinkley for treating her and many others so well. Thank you to all who prayed for our beloved Nina.

And thank You Lord that I won’t have to be learning how to use Photoshop anytime soon.


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