I keep a list in the front of my Bible. The title is “Nutshell Verses.” If you’re not into wisdom, stop reading here. Just kidding. Have you noticed the newest tactic to get you to sign up for emails you don’t want? They’ll pop up a message which has choices like “YES! I want to receive a zillion emails about products I don’t use.” Or “NO! I do not like saving the earth and baby bunnies.”

Annyyywayyy, most of these nutshell portions of Scripture start with words like “Above all else,” or “This is what the Lord requires of you.” In other words, it’s usually a short list that will greatly enhance our lives. One of my favorites says:  “If you want to enjoy life and see many happy days, keep your tongue from speaking evil and your lips from telling lies. Turn away from evil and do good. Search for peace and work to maintain it.”

This little secret to enjoying life is so valuable that the Lord included it in both the Old and New Testaments. [Psalm 34:12-16 and 1 Peter 3:10-11]

It even comes with a promise. Both passages add, “For the eyes of the Lord watch over those who do right, and His ears are open to their prayers. But the Lord turns His face against those who do evil.”

Are we wise enough to recognize evil when we see it? I think so… at least some of the time.

The following true story comes with a disclaimer. Please don’t think that I am crazy enough to believe that David and I are holy. How ridiculous would THAT be! We don’t even volunteer for Kid’s Club at church. Everybody knows that’s where the holy people are.

Anyway, years ago we bought a house. It was full, in some rooms from floor to ceiling with almost seventy five years of junk.

I know… probably not our wisest move. But it had a great porch and was right beside our church. Every time we’d make a little headway cleaning out the old place, the former owner would stop by, barge in and want stuff that she had not been able to see before we uncovered it. One day, David told her no. He latched the screen door and would not let her in. [We had closed on the house two months earlier.]

Merciful heavens she was hot! I seriously expected fire to leap from the bowls of hell and consume the man. If she’d had her way, David would be a smoking pile of ashes right now.

Later our sweet pastor’s wife innocently commented. “She might be wicked.”

I tipped my head at the understatement. Then I realized. We weren’t just dealing with a disgruntled person. We were actually in the presence of evil. I hadn’t recognized it. Therefore I had no idea how to deal with it.

Has evil ever knocked on your door? Did you recognize her?* Does she speak words of fear, temptation, anger, or lies?

Latch the door. Turn away. Pursue peace.

She may swear at you, stamp her foot, pound on the door and demand her way. But if you truly desire good days, ignore her little tantrum. Maybe have a bowl of ice cream or call your lawyer to draw up a polite letter.

She has no place in your life. You owe her nothing. In a nutshell, turn from evil. Seek peace. God watches over those who do right. His ears are open to your prayers.

photo 2

Home Sweet Salisbury

*Disclaimer #2: This statement is not meant to be gender biased. The female pronoun was used in a metaphorical sense only. All women are not evil. However, this particular one made Cruella DeVille look like the tooth fairy.

Packing Light

The last time I packed to go to the beach I included clothes and provisions for every possible scenario. If it turned chilly I had a jacket. If it was hot I had sundresses… plural.  If the apocalypse broke loose, no problem. We took plenty of water. If they had no grocery stores on Ocean Isle, we certainly would not go hungry. Good gracious at the food we packed! I mean really. One should not go traipsing off to the far reaches of the state all willy-nilly. What if we got a late night hankering for Chex Mix? We made a foot tub of that just in case. After all… we were staying for three whole days.

Why did I do that? I ended up wearing the same thing I wear at home all week: Black capris, white top. David calls it my uniform.

This time we are going with two of our daughters’ families. My goal is to be a fun grandmother. I will play with them until I collapse in my beach chair. It won’t take long. I’m not a spring chicken anymore. It’s hard to admit that. But at least I won’t be worn out from lugging a bunch of stuff I don’t need up the stairs at the beach house. I can’t help but wonder though…

What will I wear if we go out to eat… which we will if I don’t pack food.

What if it turns cold… which it will if I don’t take a jacket.

What if all my hair falls out again because of my new medicine… which it will if I don’t take a hat.

What if my toenail polish gets raggedy in the surf?  Who in their right mind would wear flip flops with unkempt nails?

Oh! And we need a fan for optimal sleeping comfort. Plus our bucket o’ drugs because we can’t let our poor ol’ bodies get any more out of whack. Maybe I should pack our blood pressure cuff to make sure David’s doesn’t bottom out in the heat. And my favorite blanket in case the rest of the crew turns the A/C to subzero; Of course I need my own pillow… and cosmetics. Holy cow it takes a lot to keep me this lovely.

Beach chairs… we can’t forget the beach chairs. And the good frying pan; and ginger-ale in case I get fainty-fied. Of course I will need my insulated cup with the lid…

Toilet paper. Those places never have good toilet paper.

Sunscreen! I almost forgot the SPF one hundred forty seven. And an umbrella or maybe a pop-up tent. One cannot be too careful out in the sun these days.

OH! And chocolate milk! We always take chocolate milk on the trip down. It’s our special tradition signifying the beginning of vacation. No need breaking tradition just yet.

While I list the things we need so as not to forget anything vital, David packs a bag. Singular. It holds two pairs of shorts, underwear, swim trunks, a couple t-shirts, flip-flops. Period.

He zipped his bag shut though there was still plenty of room in it. I do not understand the man.

All I’m saying is that if his hair falls out, he is not getting my hat.3grands

A Jig for That

We filled a row of rockers on the huge porch. For over twenty years while mama was alive we rented a place at the beach for the extended family. I’m sure locals scattered to the four winds the first week in June each summer just to avoid our chaos.

Thanks to mama it was an organized chaos. Each family was responsible for certain things on the master list she kept year after year. Seldom did we have to make a grocery run while vacationing. Ice cream sundae night was the one exception. We looked forward to it all week. Mama taught us the value of organizing our chaos. Daddy however, has wisdom of a different sort.

One night while rocking and sipping coffee on the aforementioned porch, he noticed his rocker was not performing to his satisfaction. Being a man who repairs everything the moment there’s a need, he commented with disdain. “For want of a nail, the house was lost.”

Handing me his coffee, he fetched his tool box and fixed the rocker. “Anybody else settin’ in a wobbly rocker?” he asked while walking down the line of chairs. I know what you’re thinking. What kind of person takes a tool box on vacation? The same kind that packs his weed-eater so he can clear the public walkway. Yep. That’s my dad.

Sure I’m a little partial. But I declare, I think my daddy can fix just about anything. I may have told you this before. But he built and hung the rafters over his lake deck so he could turn it into a screened in porch. I asked him who helped get those heavy things hoisted.

“I built a jig,” he answered like it was nothing. For those of you who still have no idea how he did it, don’t confuse jig with a little dance one does to express joy. No, daddy’s jig was a homemade tool he built to prop one end of a rafter while he climbed a ladder and hung the other end. I wasn’t there so I can’t imagine it either. It’s just another one of those things daddy knows how to do. The old adage “Necessity is the mother of invention,” is very true. The problem is that there’s not a lot of necessity in our culture anymore. My daddy has lived that particular kind of wisdom all his life. When you don’t have exactly what you need, you make do with what you have. Wise indeed.

I heard that during the early years of space exploration the American government spent millions trying to figure out how to make an ink pen write where there was no gravity. Our solution to every problem is to pour money on it. The Russians beat us at that game. They just used a pencil. Though daddy’s no Russian, that’s his kind of common sense. Even now I can still hear his reprimand when I did something less than brilliant.

“Ain’t ya got no common?”

Sometimes I worry that I’ve missed out on that old fashioned practical kind of wisdom. My phone has a calculator so my memory of the multiplication tables is fading fast. It also has folks’ names so I don’t have to memorize anyone’s phone number. BUT! I can still count out change when paying with real money. On days when I’m feeling especially mischievous, I hand the baby-faced cashier a twenty dollar bill plus whatever change it takes to pay so she can hand me back an even ten. Watching her eyes glaze over is weirdly satisfying. However, I try not to gloat too much as I will surely be asking someone her age for technology advice before the day is over. Too bad there’s not a jig for that. I could call my daddy.

Daddy’s Festive Jig

It was supposed to be a washout. Storm clouds rolled across the sky and the forecast was grim. But we went anyway. David roasted a pork shoulder all night until it fell off the bone. Then he made homemade white bbq sauce which added to the yumminess. I baked his favorite oatmeal raisin cookies from the old recipe with TWO sticks of real butter. He portioned out watermelon with an ice cream scoop for ease of serving. Other family members completed the picnic with hot dogs, sandwich fixings, cowboy caviar, fresh tomatoes, slaw, chips and greenbeans. But our favorite part of the meal was made by the kids.

After swimming in the cold lake until their lips turned blue and their teeth rattled, Pawpaw built a fire for them to gather around. Their parents handed out marshmallows to toast which they squished between two fudge stripe cookies; kind of a simplified s’more. They woofed those treats down and headed back to the water. We didn’t even make them wait the obligatory thirty minutes. There was just no sense in wasting the speck of sunshine that suddenly appeared.

On and off the new paddleboard they climbed seeing how many cousins could get on it at once. Up and down the pier ladders they went so they could jump into the deep water showing off their cannonball skills. When we were growing up we learned to dive off that same pier, except now the wood is new. Instead of a paddleboard we climbed onto a huge inner tube and held onto each other to see how many kids we could float before flipping. Then our off-spring did the same. Now my daddy gets to enjoy watching his great-grands play to their hearts’ content. Out back he fashioned a swing on a rope stretched so high in a tree he had to use a ladder in a bucket truck to get it up there. The kids love being launched above the roof tops on that crazy thing. Beside it he built a zipline because obviously we needed more fun.

They say you can’t go home again. But I think last Saturday I did. Ironically we were celebrating Memorial Day in honor of the veterans who did not get to go home. It seems almost insignificant to say “thank a vet.” But it’s a start. My own daddy came home from the Korean conflict and I praise God for that. He proudly flies the flag and enjoys his family every chance he gets. I’m going this week to buy a new American flag to show my love and appreciation for all those who’ve fought to keep us free. And I’ve decided to pray for our country and the leadership every time I see an American flag. I have a feeling prayer will benefit us more than kneeling during the national anthem. As Drew Brees answered when interviewed, “I will be standing with my hand over my heart.” Amen to that!

I know you’ve heard it. But it bears repeating. “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord.” -Psalm 33:12. The Psalm goes on to remind us not to count on our ‘warhorses.’ All the weapons and armies available are useless if we do not trust the Lord. The Psalm ends like this.

“We put our hope in the LORD. He is our help and our shield. In Him our hearts rejoice for we trust in His holy Name. Let Your unfailing love surround us LORD, for our hope is in You alone.”

As the dark clouds threaten to roll across our nation let’s stand strong and honor those who’ve gone before us. Their sacrifice wasn’t for nothing. Most importantly, let’s ask the Almighty to do a work in our country. This place we call home is worth all our prayers.

I have earth shattering news! Well… maybe not earth shattering, but possibly dish rattling like when the garbage truck empties the dumpster at the Quick-Mart.

My new book is ready! I’m so excited! It’s a collection of short stories like I write for the Salisbury Post but all of them have a common thread. It’s called, The Gut-Wrenching All-Consuming Crapstorm from Hell. No… wait. Make that “Just a Little Cancer Journey.” While I was going through chemo, radiation, etc., occasionally the Lord would give me a word to share. Some of it is funny; some not so much. This is a compilation of those stories plus a few others. The cool thing about it is that I was able to get the book published and priced very reasonably [$4.97 for the printed copy]. AND when you purchase a paperback you’ll get the Kindle version for free. That way you can give away the paperback and keep the e-book for yourself.

I’m a little bit proud of it. Not in a sinful “pride goeth before a fall” kind of way. More like, “Praise God it’s finally finished!” There are only forty short stories in about a hundred pages so it won’t be heavy or too difficult to manage. If you’ve ever been too sick to hold a book, you’ll know what I’m talking about. Plus, each story is only a page or two so it can be read a few minutes at a time.

One of the side effects of cancer treatment is depression. It sucked me down into such a deep dark hole I didn’t care if I ever climbed out. Maybe your loved one is experiencing the same. I really believe the Lord gave me these stories to lighten the load. If you know someone going through a rough patch please get this book into their hands. It is written to give hope, encouragement and perhaps even a laugh.

Two years after my diagnosis of stage two breast cancer, I am still struggling. But by God’s grace I have lived to tell about it. Hopefully by sharing my difficult journey this trial will not be wasted.

Just a Little Cancer Journey will be released on Friday, June 1st, 2018 by Amazon.

Did you miss the holiday? No, not Mother’s Day. You can’t miss that if you watch television at all. Every jewelry store on the planet makes sure to remind us. Last Saturday was not only Cinco de Mayo, the day for which we stock up on limes and avocados and don’t know why. It was also Naked Gardening Day… according to our cousin Michael. The event seems to be an important one to him as he always reminds us of it on Facebook. Thankfully we don’t live near the man as we choose not to observe the holiday. Our garden is not that big. We did however get our binoculars out and keep them handy in case our neighbors decided to celebrate.

Though we didn’t observe any tiptoeing through the tulips, we did discover a family of groundhogs. The daddy is huge and looks like a bear when he stands on his hind legs. Not like a Kodiak but more like a miniature brown bear with a long tail. His fur is reddish and fluffy but I was not fooled by his cuteness. A few summers ago either he or one of his cohorts stripped the leaves off my mom-in-law’s tomato plants leaving only a naked stalk. The daddy groundhog’s wife is gray and smaller. She tends to make her way over to our yard when she notices the truck is not in the carport. The ground there is soft and dusty and she seems to enjoy rooting around in it for some reason. I nearly soiled my undies the other morning when I stepped outside unaware of her presence. She stood on hind legs as if questioning my being in her space. So I did what any normal person would do. I barked like a dog until she waddled home on her short chubby legs.

Sorry. I have no right to make fun of anyone’s short chubby legs. [Yet another reason to refrain from observing Naked Gardening Day.] I must add she was surprisingly fast for such a plump creature. She scooted her fluffy body under the neighbor’s shed and peeked out at me. Even with binoculars I couldn’t see through the lattice where she hid. I envisioned her gathering her one pup near her side and warning that if a person acts that strange, especially in broad daylight, they probably have rabies.

Hopefully she will not be back. This is the first time David has tried having a little garden in a long time. All he wants is a good tomato sandwich, a few cucumbers for pickling, and a couple zucchinis to make bread. Is that too much to ask? It only cost us $537 to build a raised bed, haul in good dirt, pay the kid next door to help us unload it, and buy the few plants.

Oh and cages for the tomatoes. It makes me laugh at how tall they are compared to the tiny plants inside. David looked at them the other day and spoke with his dry humor. “Somebody has high hopes.”

Yep. We are determined to eat something from our backyard this season… living off the land and all.  I just hope it’s not groundhog.

Home Sweet Salisbury

This week marks one year since we lost her. On May 3rd, 2017 she stepped into the arms of her Savior. I imagine they both teared up as they recalled what she had been through. Then I imagine she had much to say about that. My sweet feisty mom-in-law always had lots to say. She would have loved the recent weddings of several of her grand and great-grandchildren. I imagine her wearing her pearls like Barbara Bush and looking classy with her thick white hair. I also imagine sitting beside her as she comments a little too loudly on the girl with the bright orange dress and matching hair. But she would have been thrilled at the sight of one of her great-granddaughters who is expecting twins. I can hear her ‘whispering’ now:

“SHE LOOKS FANTASTIC! Thank GOD she’s FINALLY gained some weight, bless her heart!”

I see her son slowly helping her walk up the path from the wedding venue to the beautifully decorated barn. She stops every few feet to catch her breath and comment that growing old is “for the pits.” Though she spent ninety-one and a half years on this earth, she never tired of seeing new things. She loved Salisbury and read the Post from front to back every day. When a new business came to town, she’d want to ride by it to see what progress they were making. When a new road or bridge was built, she’d want us to take before and after pictures so we could remember how it used to look. And she loved keeping us informed. Sometimes she’d call at a crazy hour to give us a piece of news. Then she’d apologize saying, “I have to say things while the train is still on the track. I never know when it’s going to jump off and make me forget.”

She used to send iris tubers with our daughter to plant wherever she and her pastor husband lived. She loved telling that she had irises all over the United States. When she died, several people dug up tubers to plant in her memory. My sister texted me a picture the other day of Nina’s first blooms in Lynchburg, Virginia. Nina would be so proud.

Great nephew Elijah agreed to pose with Nina’s Iris

By now she would have invited me over to pick a bouquet. Though she had several large beds of them, for some reason they didn’t bloom this year. I guess there was just no reason to.

Though Nina isn’t there, she left a legacy. She is remembered for many things like her care for others; great home cooked meals; her tender heart and wonderful sense of humor. She had such strength in the midst of hard circumstances; and a sense of duty to do what’s right no matter what. But her best legacy was all about family. Oh how she loved us! I wish you could have known her. Like her irises, Nina left a splash of color everywhere she went.

What a beautiful southern lady!