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Nina

David lost his beloved mother last week to a two year battle with breast cancer. From the first time I met her she treated me as a daughter. I tried to call her Mrs. Clark but she wouldn’t have it. “Honey that makes me feel so old! Please call me Nina!” And our friendship began. Her son would stop by a convenience store on the way home from our dates just to buy her cheese popcorn. At first I thought, “Really?” Then I remembered that old adage, “Watch how a man treats his mother for that is how he will eventually treat his wife.” It’s true. Both of them spoiled me rotten. Nina never resented my relationship with her son. In fact when our kids were little I was often too sick to do everything I needed to do. She’d come by and spend the morning cleaning house. She’d wash dishes, bathe the children then go to her second shift job in the mill. I had never experienced such kindness until this dear woman swooped into my life, loving me with all that was in her. The only thing we disagreed on was television. She believed in having it on 24/7. I am just the opposite. Often she tried to convince me that I could learn a lot from T.V. What I learned was to nod my head and try to change the subject. Now that she’s in Heaven, she finally knows that I was right.

Ironing was top priority in her life. She’s been known to iron dish towels and underwear. Her son is just happy if I iron the front of his dress shirt if he’s wearing a suit. For her funeral I ironed the whole shirt, sleeves and all in honor of his mom.

Nina had the sharpest wit. One of the funniest things she ever did was to suggest we lead the funeral procession for her husband through the Krispy Kreme drive-thru. As we passed it on our way to the cemetery she reasoned that it was a shame to miss out since the Hot Now sign was on.

She loved reading the Salisbury Post. Through it she kept up with all the local events, could speak intelligently about any athlete, and always knew when a new business came to town. When we moved across the street from her she insisted on bringing us the paper every day when she finished reading it. And I made sure to read it too because I knew she’d quiz me later on the local events. One afternoon I looked outside to find a line of cars backed up our busy road while they waited for her to make her way across. I teased her later that she should feel pretty good about being in her eighties and still able to stop traffic.

She loved church and music and preaching of all varieties. One time we took her to a service that ended up being rather loud. On the way home we asked her what she thought of the music. She commented that it made her pacemaker do something weird but other than that she liked it.

I think what I loved most about her was her optimism. Rarely did she speak a negative word. We took her out on my daddy’s pontoon boat not knowing that the transom would give way dropping the motor off somewhere in the middle of Lake Norman. As we sat there rocking back and forth trying to get a cell phone signal she commented brightly, “Oh what a nice breeze!” That was typical of my other mother.

Nina Clark, my “other mother.” I sure am going to miss you. Thank you for raising such a beautiful son for me to love. Thank you for taking me in and treating me like your own. Thank you for opening your arms and your heart to me from the very start, and never letting go. I can only imagine how lovely the gardens are around your heavenly home now that you’re healed and you don’t have to drag around your “bad leg” while you work. Heaven is surely more beautiful since you are there.

Nina with my daddy: A meeting of the minds.

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I love my little town. Salisbury, NC has so much going for it. Sure, that includes some crazy but don’t you think every family has a touch of crazy? It keeps things interesting. Sometimes folks refer to us as “Smallsbury” in a derogatory fashion. That’s okay. I think small is a good thing. In fact, someday when I write my book I might just title it that. Smallsbury, USA.

Many neighborhoods still exist here where we look out for one another. The other day I was standing at the kitchen window when I noticed a cop car slowing down. It proceeded to pull into my mom-in-law’s driveway. My heart just stopped. I alerted David so we both moved to the front window and peered through the curtains like Gladys Kravitz on Bewitched. What is going on across the road?!!

We checked our cell phones to make sure we hadn’t missed a call. As we watched to see what was afoot, David grabbed his shoes so he could run interference between the police and his eighty-nine year old mother. Not that we needed to warn her in case she was smoking pot or something. We just wanted to be there if she was going to be arrested while “Bad Boys, Bad Boys” played in the background.

However, before David could get his shoes on all fear was gone. The policeman turned out to be our nephew. Since he was in town for court, he decided to stop by his grandmother’s house to check on her. Then every cop’s worst nightmare happened. His grandmother sent him across the street to our house with a box of doughnuts. Talk about stereotypes. Bless his heart. Jay w KK

This would not be Nina’s first brush with the law. She was driving home from serving Meals on Wheels one night years ago, when she made a right turn beside a vehicle which was stopped for a light. Since there was no turning lane, the police pulled her over. When asked for her license she realized her purse was locked in the trunk. Exiting the vehicle into a night filled with flashing blue lights, there she was, guilty before God and everybody. As she opened the trunk she was sure that all who passed thought she’d been busted for drugs. Nervously she retrieved her purse. Suddenly matters got even worse. Dropping her pocketbook, as we say in the South, she watched as the contents spilled across the pavement. No telling how many tubes of lipstick rolled into the gutter that night. As she stood there mortified, two nice policemen chased down the contents. Her lifetime motto has always been, “Lipstick makes everything better.” That night might have been the one exception.

As you know, things aren’t always as they seem. The policeman knocking on her door was not there to interrogate. The cop carrying doughnuts across the road was just doing his grandmother a favor. And the lady in the blue light was not being busted for drugs. In Salisbury though, we already knew that. Word travels fast here because we’re all standing at our windows, peering out checking on our neighbors. I especially love that small town living includes policemen who love their grandmothers, deliver doughnuts, and chase lipstick for nervous women.

God bless Smallsbury!

*Special thanks to my beloved nephew Jason who allowed me to take his picture while in uniform holding a box of Krispy Kreme. What a man!

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Stop the presses! I did it! NO WAIT! Don’t stop the presses. Keep rolling because ALL my books are now in print! Check them out on Amazon. Search books by Lynna Clark. I am NOT that other Lynna with the big bosomed women on the covers… obviously. So be sure to look for the Blue Meadow Farm series of five. And if you like them, please spread the word for me. I do not have a marketing guru so I’m counting on you. Thank you my friends!

Who says you can’t teach an old dog new tricks?

To view the series click here. Blue Meadow Farm Series

The series starts and ends with a dogwood tree.

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So what’s the deal with all the humidity? Nobody dreams of a damp Christmas… or a sticky New Year. We actually broke down and turned on the air conditioner lest the heat wafting off the relatives cause tempers to flare. Some of us of a certain age cannot be overheated without dangerous consequences. Men take note: when a woman picks up a magazine or a church bulletin or a dishtowel to fan herself, it’s time to turn on the air. Never mind that it’s winter; there’s nothing jolly and bright about a sweltering woman in room full of guests.

Nobody dared light candles or God forbid build a fire in the fireplace. Ambience was no longer the goal and festive lighting dropped waaayyy down on the list. Keeping mama cool was the number one concern, at least for any man who considers himself wise. Take my husband for instance. Christmas is over and the ceiling fans are still spinning at warp speed. THANK YOU DARLIN’!

Our grown kids made footprints of the three youngest grands at some point in yesteryear. Fashioned from salt dough they are always on display. However lately they’re more like sponges. The indentations of their tiny feet began to drift slightly. So into the oven they went. The peanuts in the fruit bowl became a little wiggly as well and had to be toasted again too. Therefore the oven was set to 200 degrees for an hour. They were still a little chewy when we checked them; [the peanuts, not the footprints.] It was sort of like biting into a raisin when you’re expecting something crunchy. T’was a little disconcerting. So we roasted them another hour while I made our traditional holiday salmon stew.

I called to my beloved from the kitchen.  “Turn the air down another notch honey. I’m still hot.”

“Yes baby you are,” he replied. I fanned with a dishtowel and gave him the look. It wasn’t pretty, but it WAS hot.

The salmon stew was perfect except for the heat of it. We fanned and slurped it down like we had good sense. Why ditch tradition just because El Nino is passing through. Certain things must always be done after the holidays; like washing Christmas socks, and discovering that last snowman on top of the refrigerator, and apparently consuming salmon stew.

“Lord have mercy! I’m dying!” I exclaimed as we finished our late supper. A window was flung open which allowed a warm breeze to enter the kitchen… a very warm breeze. I walked outside in my pajamas no longer caring what the neighbors thought… bless their hearts. Immediately my hair multiplied like fluffy bunnies forming a lovely cotton candy look around my glowing face.

Again, not pretty… but it WAS hot.

Last of the Christmas cheer going down the drain.

Last of the Christmas cheer going down the drain.

My beloved joined me and we took that opportunity to haul Frosty and his miserable companions to the building out back til next year. Water ran through the yard as it had reached its limit. I understood. Mud marred up past the black line on my favorite Converses. But a little breeze stirred the balmy night air delivering a moment of reflection.

“At least our heating bill won’t be as high as last year.” One of us spoke hopefully.

The other one of us wisely observed. “Yeah… but we’ll make up for it by running the air conditioner full blast.”

We walked back to the house through the nature induced sauna. A piney wreath laden with fake snow smiled at me from yet another door. I decided I like it there… at least til spring. That’s probably when we’ll get a record breaking snowfall.

Maybe then I will finally cool off.

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She sang her little heart out holding each note longer than necessary. I wasn’t sure what she was singing but it sounded familiar. Our three year old grands Jesse and Marie came to ‘help’ decorate for Christmas. Large plastic bins were stacked on the porch. I unpacked the treasures there while the kids took each item inside and placed them where they deemed best. When finally I dared to look it took my breath away. Words cannot describe the loveliness they arranged. Much like Marie’s song it was familiar but not quite right.

Apparently there was not enough chaos so the plastic playhouse complete with ringing doorbell and flushing toilet [their dad is a plumber] had been pulled to the middle of the floor. The big toy basket had been emptied as well in case we needed more to step around. My dancing raisins which usually march on a windowsill in the kitchen had made their way to the playhouse. No longer did they sing ‘I heard it through the grapevine.’ A new song was given them by sweetie Marie. She helped them hold out the notes long and loud. I still couldn’t figure it out.

Her brother stacked Christmas blocks as high as they would go instead of lining them up side by side in a message of good will. Every year we get those blocks out and every year we stare at them trying to remember what they spell. It was even harder this time as they teetered vertically thanks to Jesse.

My prior vision of hosting two grandchildren to decorate was shot to pieces. Instead of sipping hot chocolate and baking sugar cookies I lobbed clementines their way. We peeled fruit and tried to make sense of the clutter. “Where should we put the manger scene?”

“Oba heah Grammy!” Jesse grabbed the largest piece and ran.

Smack dab in the middle of the dining room table he placed the shelter. He and Marie climbed onto chairs and arranged all the pieces to face the manger. Marie had a hard time letting go of baby Jesus but finally placed him in the ceramic hay. Jesse had a hard time letting go of the camel as he was fascinated with who could ride such a thing.

“The wise man rode it honey.” I tried to coax him to place it with the others.

“Where’d he sit?” He eyed the two humps and tried to make Mary fit there. She was tired. I understood.

Their other grandmother Karen had hosted them for similar festivities a few weeks earlier. Unlike me she has a better handle on things. I imagined Christmas music playing, a fire in the fireplace, a quiet reading of the Christmas story complete with Scripture. Beautiful treats were surely served from pretty dishes. She probably even made an Advent wreath or something noble.

My house looked like a dadgum bomb went off.

But Marie still sang. Jesse asked for another clementine. I popped popcorn and plunked the kids down in front of Curious George where we learned about siphoning algae water from a swimming pool. Like Mary I was too pooped to party.

Their mom arrived a bit later and I was ashamed of the chaos. She laughed and said, “Nana Karen’s house looked the same way when I picked them up.”

I sighed with relief that I wasn’t the worst grandmother in the world. Marie sang loud and her mom said, “That’s right! Hold those notes out!” I laughed and asked, “WHAT is she singing?”

Hannah smiled. “Peace on earth. She’s practicing for the church program.”

I nodded knowingly as the man in the yellow hat commended George as well. We searched through the clutter for socks and shoes. Bedlam left with their mother who was happy just to have shopped for groceries alone. Jesse yelled through open truck windows. “Bye Grammy. Love you love you!”

Marie sang as they drove out of sight. “Peeeeeeace on Eaaaarrrrffff.”

I picked up the blocks and placed them side by side trying to remember the joyful message they were intended to spell. I studied the letters as I tossed toys into the basket and vacuumed up popcorn.

Consoling myself with the fact that at least Mary was placed safely in the stable instead of balancing precariously on the two humped camel, I laughed when it dawned on me. The message of the blocks was the same one Marie had sung all morning. It’s the one the angels proclaimed as well. While everything around me screamed Christmas chaos the Lord as usual whispered a better way.

Hopefully my beloved husband will appreciate this deep spiritual truth too because right now I can’t locate the remote control.

Peace.

It’s a message worth remembering.

photo (88)

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Always Lost

If you are one of those people who gets into their vehicle and heads out all willy-nilly without first considering very deliberately which route you will be taking, this will make no sense at all to you. Stop reading here.

However if you tend to contemplate the desired destination and with great effort calculate every turn betwixt where you are and where you’re going, then you may understand when I admit the following. You see… I am directionally challenged. In fact my condition is quite severe.

Even around Salisbury where I grew up… I can’t find my way. Very few things look familiar as I travel. In fact it’s all new to me. Like Jake Alexander Boulevard where I have recently discovered that if I pass Life Church and the Goodwill and Harris Teeter and Aldi’s and keep traveling I shall eventually wind up near the mall. Who knew? When I expressed my excitement over this well-kept secret to my beloved David he nodded his head with great joy at my sudden understanding. “Yep,” he said sweetly. “And you could go bowling…”

The man has patiently given me directions to the hospital and the doctor’s office and the drugstore for years… every single time I leave without him.

“Sooo… will I pass the Dairy Queen?” I ask without a clue.

“Yep. It will be on your right. Keep going but slow down so you don’t miss the turn and our drugstore is on the right before Statesville Boulevard in the Ketner Center.”

“No wait wait wait… too much information. Okay I pass the Dairy Queen… will I see Sonic?”

“Yes… just keep going. You’ll pass Krispy Kreme. If the hot light is on you have to stop. It’s the law.”

“So then Innes Street Drug is next?”

“Soon after… but don’t get turned around when you stop for hot doughnuts. Keep Krispy Kreme on your right and keep going til you pass the barbecue joint with the pink pig. Turn on the right side of the median into the Ketner Center where the florist is. You’ll see our drugstore on the left.”

“Pink pig… hot doughnuts… flowers… drugs… good grief… Statesville Boulevard… got it. Have your phone handy. Hey if I keep going will I be at the mall?”

“Nooo….” He looked at me and cocked his head sideways. “Do you need to go to the mall or is this just a happy conversation we’re having for no apparent reason?” His eyes betrayed him as they shifted past my lovely face to the football game before him.

“NO WAY!!! THAT WAS PASS INTERFERENCE REF! HOW DID YOU NOT SEE THAT?!!!”

Once the disputed play was reviewed to our satisfaction I inquired again of my beloved, “Hey honey… is there still a Cato’s in the mall?”

“I don’t think so… but there’s one over by…” He stopped for fear that he was about to undo the drugstore directions thereby missing hot doughnuts as well as his ballgame. But because he’s a patient man who adores the wife of his youth he tried again. My heart did a little happy dance because he muted the commercial. If you thought I was going to say muted the ballgame sorry to disappoint. He’s a saint but he is not Jesus. He did however look at me with love and understanding.

“When you come out of the drugstore parking lot take a left. You will be on Innes Street.”

“Hey! That’s good because it eventually crosses the square, right?”

“Yep. Keep going and you’ll pass Romo’s where we got the pizza that was so good… remember where Uncle Buck’s used to be?”

“Don’t tell me about what used to be somewhere. That doesn’t help. Pizza… with the white sauce? Yes! On the right! Okay so… keep going. Then what?”

“You’ll come to a stoplight just before the interstate. Stay in the right lane and turn like you’re going to Walmart. Get into the left lane past Bojangles and turn left at the light. Go to the end where they’ve made that little circle thing that you always turn in front of the wrong way and go toward Cracker Barrel. Cato’s will be on the left. You’ll see it.”

“Cool! So all that stuff runs together? Awesome! I can do this!” As I headed out the door I was happy to spot a Kohl’s $10 coupon card beside my keys. “This is gonna work out great. While I’m there I’ll just run into Kohl’s too. Now how do I get to Jake Alexander from here?”

Gazing toward the wife of his youth once again with lovingkindness, he rose from his favorite Saturday spot, turned off the television, and walked toward me. “I’ll take you honey.”

“NO no noooo… I can totally do this!” I exclaimed with great bravery.

He kissed me sweetly then added, “Maybe you should bring the doughnuts back here before you try to find Kohl’s.”

“Good plan darlin’! Jake Alexander here I come!”

“Innes Street honey… the one that crosses Main Street but you can’t turn left at the square so…”

We sighed simultaneously. Bless his heart.

So if you happen to see an old chick pausing longer than you prefer at an intersection please don’t honk unless of course you are expressing your love for Jesus. I will as usual be invoking the Almighty for help as I navigate my way home with doughnuts which may be stale by the time I get there.

Well that's just pretty! I wonder when they had that done?

Well that’s just pretty! I wonder when they had that done?

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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

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