Buses, guns, thoughts and prayers

I wrote this post after the March 27 shooting at a Nashville, Tennessee, school killed three adults and three children. It was an appalling, brutish act of evil. As are all of these incidents. Then I set the copy aside, concerned that it was perhaps too political for this podium where the subject matter is most often books, recipes and home decor.. Then a lone gunman carried a high-powered rifle — a war weapon — into a Monday morning staff meeting at a Louisville, Kentucky, bank. The carnage continues.. 

My kids used to catch the school bus at the corner, three doors away from our house. I often sat on the front step, coffee in hand, and watched them. It was a big group that boarded the bus  there, twelve to fifteen kids from kindergarten thru fifth grade. Somewhere along the line the bus riders had devised a system of lining up backpacks in the order in which they arrived at the corner. (Do kids everywhere do this?) This is the order they lined up in to board the bus, but once their backpack was in place, they were free to kick soccer balls, twirl, dance, whatever their busy, wriggly bodies needed to do. I don’t know if my husband or my kids knew I did this, but it’s one of my sweeter memories of their grade school years.

This was in more innocent days, before individuals began bringing assault rifles to school. 

Then came Columbine, Sandy Hook, Stoneman-Douglas, Uvalde and more. Last summer I wrote here  about a senseless shooting at a July 4th parade in the Chicago suburbs:” A young gunman sat atop a downtown building and used a powerful weapon of war to shoot and kill at least six parade attendees and injure more than two dozen more.”

So we send thoughts and prayers to families who will never watch their children hop on the school bus, run in the playground, or kick a soccer ball again. And we send more thoughts and prayers to other families whose mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers will not be around the table at Sunday dinner again. What does this really do?

Not much. There have been more than 130 mass shootings this year in the United States. Guns are now the single greatest cause of death among children. I’m trying to understand the argument that guns are not the whole story, but we have to start somewhere, and we have to keep working at it.

Ours is a smart, resourceful, creative, well-educated society. How does this country separate our fundamental belief in a militia from this love affair with weapons of war? I’m not interested in anyone’s hunting rifles and I can even let the handguns go (a big step for me), but why on earth are military grade automatic weapons — developed as tools of war— legal?

Last month I read this powerful message from Nasthviille author and mom Mary Laura Philpott.  I cannot stop thinking about her words: “It is time to ask everyone we know: Are you ready to support reasonable gun safety reform? And if not, what are you willing to sacrifice? Whose children? Name them.”

Think about that.

I’ll be stepping off my soapbox now. Thanks for stopping by.

And how was your holiday?

I think of Christmas as part magic and part mayhem, some fun and some frenzy, a bit sentimental and a bit sassy. I have a jumble of thoughts on this holiday season, so I’m just throwing them out there for you — like spaghetti on a wall. It’s entirely possible this sounds like the ying and yang of your holiday too.

First, those pesky holiday cards

I’m not very good at looking back and summing up a year, which probably explains my love/hate relationship with Christmas letters. (Do you really want to know how many species your bird-watching friends have identified in the last year or the win/loss record of your cousin’s pickle ball team? If so, perhaps I should share the complete inventory of our 187 moving boxes, Okay — this is the sassy/snarky part of my holiday vibe.) Of course I want to know my friends and family are well, happy and enjoying life. I love knowing what they’ve been doing and it’s wonderful to learn that they’ve acquired new passions, But sometimes there’s just too much information! 

On the other hand, I am disappointed to open a card from someone I only hear from at this time of year and there is no message.  It can be as simple as “I’m retired and playing tennis again. The kids are good — how are yours?” It’s one of those niceties that we often skip in the holiday rush, but what’s the point if you’re just signing “Marge & Bill” once a year and then moving on? The same goes for the generic family newsletter. In my mind, holiday newsletter etiquette requires at least one handwritten sentence on the bottom. “We missed you at the class reunions” or “Looking forward to seeing you on the beach this summer” go a long way.

Obviously, I’ve puzzled over this card business a lot.

Everyone’s talking about the weather

But nobody did anything about it.

Mother Nature threw some serious curve balls at all of us this season. I hope you weathered the storms well. On December 23rd, instead of lords leaping or maids milking, the holiday storm that was wreaking havoc across the country dropped a few inches of snow on Columbus, complicated by blizzard-force winds and temperatures well below zero. As former Chicagoans, we were tempted to shrug it off, but snow removal was a bit problematic in our 55-plus community. Most of us moved here looking forward to having snow shoveled (and grass mowed). Except it turns out the company that does this closed for Christmas. Really! There was also a glitch in the contract (isn’t there always a glitch in the contract?)

I foolishly made a comment about this on our local FaceBook page – which may or may not have included the word “preposterous” — and was quickly chastised for discussing an inappropriate topic. (As my neighbor observed, only rainbows and butterflies on FB.) We’ll be talking about the snowstorm for years to come, but definitely not on FB.

How was my holiday? I’m so glad you asked. 

For the first time in a handful of years, we had all of our family plus a few special guests around the Christmas table. (Actually, it took two tables to seat us, but that made it more fun.) If you have had big holidays and small holidays, at your house or elsewhere, you know what I mean. They’re all happy, but it is especially nice to have everyone in one place. To have the boys improvise a curling game in the hall, to read off the corny jokes from the Christmas crackers and to retell the same holiday stories. I understand now why my grandmother continued to host holidays into her eighties and why there was always room for one more cousin or neighbor at her table on any occasion. 

Christmas is the season we share ourselves. Steve and I hosted that holiday party for decades until Covid cut us off so we could share the holiday with friends and neighbors. It’s why we joined neighbors here to host a holiday party for our whole community. It’s why all of us eagerly reach out to donate toys and food.

I love the week after Christmas 

When I was a child the week after Christmas was reserved for visits with the friends and more distant family we did not see on the day. When I was older, it was also time for shopping the Christmas sales and spending some Christmas cash. Now I think of it as quiet time, reading a new book, enjoying the tree, maybe cooking something new or going out for a special lunch. For me it’s a long, deep, cleansing breath after the holiday.

And now I need to think about how I’m going to squeeze all the Christmas decor back into its bins. It’s always a mystery to me.

Thanks for stopping by. See you again soon.

Guns & fireworks

This week, on our first July 4th in Ohio, I was feeling a little nostalgic. For most of our 40 years in Wheaton we celebrated the 4th at least in part with the community’s traditional, homegrown parade, which always began with a few dozen firetrucks blasting their sirens and waving to the crowds. Then came the local politicos, the high school band, the boy scouts and girl scouts. The local VFW usually showed up, as did the Shriners in their mini race cars and Uncle Sam on stilts handing out candy.

For several years, beginning when my son was a toddler and my daughter a newborn, we attended the parade with a handful of neighborhood families, always gathering on the same corner. As with all things, time marched on. The kids grew up. Some of us moved away. But these memories remain a part of the fabric of our family.

Yesterday, on our way home from our first July 4th celebration in Ohio, I heard what had happened in one of those other Illinois communities, hosting their Independence Day parade. A young gunman sat atop a downtown building and used a powerful weapon of war to shoot and kill at least six parade attendees and injure more than two dozen more.

Please re-read that last sentence. I can hardly believe it. What have we come to?

This isn’t just about Illinois or the 4th of July. In days, it seems, we have moved from Buffalo, New York, to Uvalde, Texas, to Highland Park, Illinois. How did a mass killing we once would have thought of as a frightening aberration become a weekly occurrence?

If you have followed this blog at all, you know it isn’t political (Okay, sometimes personal bias does seep in.). It’s books and cooking, decorating and some travel. But the reality is too heartbreaking to ignore. Thoughts and prayers are not enough. We must also admit that recent legislation, though well-intentioned, would not have stopped this shooter. (Another heartbreak — finally one step forward and now back again.) How does this country separate our fundamental belief in a militia from this love affair with weapons of war?

What will become of us if we don’t?

I have no answers, but I believe it’s time to put my money where my mouth is (my vote is already there) and now I’m lending my modest financial support to Everytown for Gun Safety. You might want to check them out. And thanks to Julie at Creating This
for suggesting it.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this. And thanks for listening.

The reset part 3: Moving out, moving on 

Are you getting tired of our reset yet? Considering we sold one house, packed it up, and bought another house so quickly, it’s taking a long time to tell the story. But one look at this photo of one of the two pods we needed to hold all our “worldly goods” and you know there’s a tale worth telling. 

This is a terrible photo but it shows how tightly the pods were packed. I’m not sure why we brought the vintage Tonka truck, but it explains the space crunch. Moving is always about the “keep it or ditch it” decision.

When we moved in the past there was a fairly straightforward process — load a truck at house A, drive it to house B, and unload. This move was complicated since we knew we’d have an interim stay at our son’s rental. The plan was to pack and store most of our stuff and move just the basics into the rental. 

It seemed so simple. 

The familiar cross-country moving companies were happy to accommodate this plan, and their cost for the move was what we expected. But storage would cost about $1,000 a month! At the time we didn’t know if storage would last two months or ten. Our realtors urged us to consider pods. They had used pods as had some clients. After more research, we decided to go ahead with this. The plan was to have one pod delivered at a time (that was all we could fit in our driveway), followed by a crew to load. The first pod would get picked up and we’d repeat the process. 

Putting the plan into action

The first of two pods being delivered. We had sold the furniture from two bedrooms and moved dozens of boxes into storage. We thought we’d only need part of the second pod.

By the time we actually moved, we had settled on a new build in the Columbus area that would be ready later this spring. We’d be in the rental for more than a month but hopefully less than two. We also had purged, packed and purged some more to stage the house. You may remember from part 2 that our son made two trips to take boxes and a few pieces of furniture to Columbus to use at the rental. 

We still had a few hiccups:

  • At my daughter’s urging, we created a spread sheet of all the boxes — their contents and the room the contents came from. Each box was numbered. (She’s an excellent planner.) However, as my family loaded the boxes onto the trailers that my son drove to Columbus they did not note the numbers of the boxes. It will be a surprise when we open them! 
  • The crews that loaded the pods were so efficient, they loaded some boxes we wanted to take ourselves. This is how I lost my can opener, and whatever else was packed with it. They also loaded two cartons of furniture pads which — luckily —we were able to retrieve. 
  • My husband’s heavy tools and my oversized patio pots took a lot of pod space. My basket collection and other oversized accessories took more room to pack than I had planned on. Full disclosure: we seriously underestimated just how much of this there was.

The crew that loaded the pods wrapped and taped the wrapping on every piece of furniture, even finding ways to wrap and pack those inevitable pieces you don’t know what to do with. They were working “by the hour” but they hustled the whole time. Although, as these pictures will attest, the back end of the pods looked stuffed, they were careful to pack boxes and furniture tightly so nothing could shift or move. 

The moment of truth

As the packing crew shoehorned the last items on the second pod — and I do mean they shoehorned some things into place — and locked it, we turned around to discover that our porch furniture, my husband’s bike, and a brand new snow blower were still in the garage. My  heart sank to my knees. We had already packed our cars with clothes, leftover groceries, and kitchen essentials. 

My husband had seen this coming and called a local self-storage location and rented a small locker. We stayed with friends that night and the next morning Steve rented a small truck and, with our friend’s help, moved the garage leftovers into that locker. It was a bummer to realize we’d have to deal with those things, but at least were we done.

So, now we had a storage locker in Wheaton, one in Columbus, and two pods in limbo. (Should I worry that all our worldly goods are spread out like this?) But the house was almost clean. It’s amazing. You purge and pack and there’s still a bottle of Tylenol in the bathroom, miscellaneous groceries in the kitchen, a towel in the bathroom (I threw it away!) etc. My advice will forever and always be to pack early and purge more. 

Are you getting tired? Because by now I was exhausted. I hired a cleaning team to come thru the house, and they did a great job (except for the part where they blocked the driveway for the last pod to be picked up!). They even gathered the miscellaneous bar of soap, roll of tape and pens left behind in drawers. Too bad they did not get the KitchenAid mixer left in a kitchen cabinet! 

We were done and done in. We swept out the garage, hauled the garbage to the street and left. And honestly? I did not feel a bit sentimental leaving the house. We had lived with boxes instead of our books, packing instead of our pictures, etc., for so long this house no longer seemed like ours anyway. 

But, of course, the story doesn’t end with driving away. I still have not found my can opener and we never even realized the mixer was gone until three days later when our realtor texted to say the new owners had found it on their walk thru. Steve and I looked at each other and said, “Wow, I wondered where it was…” 

Thank you for taking the time to follow our story. I promise to change the topic to something more interesting the next time. See you then!

Rufrums, poobas snd gloots

The rufrum biggled the pooba.

This is one of my favorite sentences. I discovered it in a grammar text a lifetime ago when I taught freshman composition. We may not know what rufrum, biggled or pooba means, but the sentence makes sense. You know it’s complete if you just  replace the nonsense words with something that makes sense: The cook fried the chicken, The mechanic changed the tire. The teacher gathered the students. It’s a complete thought. Period. 

But, wait. It gets better. How about “The rufrum biggled the pooba while kerpestering the gloots.” This could be “The cook fried the chicken while supervising his assistants.” Going back to the mechanic, it could read “The mechanic changed the tire while I waited.” Or “The teacher gathered the students while heading to the library.”

Life is rarely the simple sentence or the complete thought. It’s often complicated, even messy, and someone always biggles the pooba while you’re kerpestering the gloots.  

This fall has been like that. We have had some difficult losses. My oldest friend ever, the one I’ve known since I was four, lost her husband of 50 years to breakthrough Covid. There are no words. This was followed by two more losses. (My grandmother always said grief happens in three’s. Julia knew her stuff.) The rufrum biggled the pooba while kerpestering the gloots. 

But life goes on and we soldier forward. We visited our kids in Columbus and had a dinner party. We went antiquing, out to dinner, and met friends in the city. We puttered around the house, made chili and soup. We went downtown to Chicago Shakespeare. Right now, I’m recovering from cataract surgery. (One eye done, the other in about 10 days). I was totally unimpressed when the ophthamologist suggested this. But in glass-half-full mode, I may not need anything more than stylish readers in the future. Wouldn’t that be fun? More rufrums and gloots. 

This has been a bittersweet season. A dear friend suffered a massive brain trauma twelve days ago, but this morning he’s opening his eyes. Life changes on a dime. Today my friend-since-I-was-four told me she sold her husband’s car, then excused herself to go inside and have a cry. Then we shared a few good laughs over the FaceTime antics of our grandchildren and reminisced about her sister biting the dentist. 

Most sentences, like most emotions, are pretty complex. There is solace in quiet moments, comfort in family and friends, and sometimes you just have to pull up your big girl pants and keep moving because the rufrums, poobas and gloots are always out there. 

Here’s to a new week and a sweet start to the holiday season around the corner. Thanks for stopping by.

Back on my soapbox

My grandfather was a WWI veteran and a founding member of the William McKinley American Legion Post in Chicago. When he died in 1988, his friends from the post showed up to honor him as pallbearers. When the minister had finished his blessing at the cemetery and was about to send the mourners to lunch, one of the legion members, a little white-haired man (in his nineties I imagine, as Grandpa had been) with his legion cap at a rakish angle, stepped forwarded and admonished the minister to “Hold on sonny.” Then he produced a tape player, pushed a button, and played Taps. (And we all cried a little more. )

Several years later when my father-in-law died, he was buried at Arlington National Cemetery with military pallbearers and a 21-gun salute. It was a small, dignified and extremely moving ceremony. I had been to Arlington before as a tourist and I have been there since to bury my mother-in-law. It has never been possible for me to walk those rows of white markers without being silenced by the sense of duty, honor and loss that this military cemetery represents.

My dad was a WWII veteran and the only decoration on his grave marker, beyond his name and dates, is the insignia of the Army Corps of Engineers he so proudly wore. My uncle was also a WWII veteran and when he died a decade ago, my husband called the William McKinley American Legion Post, where he was also a member, and they showed up with flags and arranged for a sailor from Great Lakes to play Taps at his graveside. (Cue the tissues.)

None of these men were “suckers” or “losers.” Nor was the boy from across the street who played football with my son, went off to college and then joined the army. His job in Iraq was to locate and secure IED’s. He brought everyone on his team home safely.

They were soldiers and sailors who did their job. They were and are proud of the uniform and proud of their service. There are millions more veterans and service men and women, some surely more battle-tested than these.  And we are proud of all of them.

I have tried hard not to be political in this season. Politics don’t necessarily fit with my vision of Ivy & Ironstone. But the allegations from the White House, of “suckers” and “losers,” pale in the face of politics. And I understand that they are “allegations.” But, after the last three and a half years, is there any reason not to believe them?

Please vote.

Stay safe & see you again soon.



Cranky August

I have always had mixed feelings about August. On the one hand, summer’s winding down, the beach is behind us, my husband’s hay fever settles in for a week or two of misery for him. On the other hand, there are all the new pens, pencils and notebooks (I still buy a few for myself) and the prospect of a fresh start. Here are a few August 2020 ups & downs.

One good read

The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek, by Kim Michele Richardson, turned out to be an especially timely choice for my book group to read and discuss last month. The title sounded a little quirky, but the story is based on fact. In the 1930’s the WPA recruited women from tiny Appalachian towns and hamlets to deliver books, magazines and any other available reading materials to isolated homes and schoolhouses. This was a poverty-stricken landscape, and the women had to provide their own mule, horse or donkey to help them travel their forested, mountain routes. Hazards included snakes, bears, weather and individuals who did not want their families to have reading materials. Couple those conditions with the fact that the main character, Cussy Mary Carter, is blue. She suffers from a genetic disorder called methemoglobinemia. Her blue skin tone places her with the “coloreds.” In addition to poverty and illiteracy, Cussy Mary’s story also confronts racism head on.

(Hematologist Madison Cawein III eventually studied this condition and was able to treat some families with methylene blue, alleviating symptoms and reducing their blue skin coloring.)

The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek could have been a difficult read, but most of us found it absolutely mesmerizing. And sadly its themes mirror much of what we have been grappling with the last few months. After 85 or 90 years, we still haven’t figured this out.

I know I’m not the only reader who has found it difficult to concentrate on books during the pandemic. Despite the fact that this book really captured my attention, as have a few others earlier this spring (you can read about them here and here  and here ) I have generally found it difficult to read many that I know I’ll enjoy later. I’ve read my way through Louise Penny’s Inspector Gamache series and moved on to Dona Leone’s Guido Brunetti mysteries (They’re set in Venice!). Right now I’m diving into the fourth Harry Potter. One friend told me she re-read Gone With the Wind, “pure escapism,” she said. Escapism is good. Most of all I think many of us want to reach back to another time — maybe any time — even if its a tough time like WWII, Winston Churchill and The Vile and the Beautiful.

What about you? Have your reading choices changed during the pandemic?

My cranky mood

My husband and I set out on our morning walk recently when he mentioned that I seemed to be in a cranky mood. “Yes, I am,” I said, offering no apology. “So,” he said, “should I be heading in the opposite direction?” “No,” I assured him, because I enjoy this time together and it was one of those brilliant, blue-sky August mornings and not really at all hot. And by the time we got back, 40 minutes later, I did feel better. Fresh air and sunshine are therapeutic.

If we have learned anything at all from the pandemic it is to savor good days and time together.

My cranky mood, however, continues to simmer below the surface. And I don’t think it’s necessarily all related to the pandemic. This has just turned into such an ugly time. A pandemic should not be political; it should be about stemming the virus and saving lives. There is so much anger, most of it justifiable. As a lifelong Chicagoan, waking up on a Monday morning to once again see the windows smashed at Marshall Field’s (Yes, I know it’s Macy’s now, but to many of us the building will always be Field’s), I felt literally sick.

I have tried to counter all this with a little more socially distant socializing with friends, and my husband has even pried me out of the house to eat outside at a local restaurant. (Really, the first time sine March.) Being with friends helps. Being with strangers is hard.

How’s your mood? And if it’s at all cranky, what’s your antidote? I’d love to hear.

See you again soon!


Choosing my words

Dad and I on a summer day decades and decades ago. Read to the end of my post to see why he’s so important to the topic.

Words have always been part of my business, so of course the language of the pandemic has been interesting to me. It’s also over-used.

The terms we’ve been using to describe the pandemic — unprecedented, extraordinary, unparalleled  (and all the other “uns” like unheard of, unforgettable, unbelievable, unimaginable) — need a refresh. We need to come up with something else — historic (it will be), novel, singular, aberrant. The first synonym for aberrant is abnormal. Yes, this is not normal and in fact many of us are talking about the “new normal” — another one for the vocabulary.

I do like unthinkable. (Did you ever think you would part of a pandemic? It never crossed my mind.)

According to dictionary.com, aberrant means “departing from the right, normal or usual course.” That certainly fits. What about endless? In mid-March when Illinois shut down, it seemed “unimaginable” we would do that for more than three or four weeks at most. Here we are months later. Some of us are dipping our toes into “re-entry” (whatever that means, add that term to the pandemic vocabulary) more than others, but that doesn’t seem to matter. Virus cases are apparently rising more than not and so the race to reopen and expand our own comfort zones is stymied. The friends, family and associations around me are beginning to speak in terms of 2021 before we plan any group face-to-face events.

Catastrophic works. The hospitality industry — from restaurants to major airlines — has been brought to its knees. Any number of players, large and small, won’t survive. Even more grievous, individual households face collapse under financial and medical crises. Oops! Don’t get me started. We’re just talking words here. There are any number of reasons to look on this as a catastrophe.

Actually, for whatever reason, when all this started, the word pandemic had an old-fashioned connotation to me, as in “the black death.” According to Merriam-Webster a pandemic “is an outbreak of a disease occurring over a wide geographic area and affecting an exceptionally high proportion of the population.” It was something I thought went out with the Spanish flu. But here we are.

On a personal level we all know the pandemic is alternately scary, worrisome, lonely, boring, and tiring. We don’t sleep well, our eating is indulgent (and I’m being polite here). We’re cranky (at least I am) and frankly depressed. Disjointed is a good word for right now. It’s a good news/bad news kind of time. Two steps forward and then at least one step back.

And why am I on this vocabulary quest? Two words: my Dad. He was an ad man long before I was ever a writer or editor. He loved language and finding new words. His pithiest writing advice to me was to skip the “50-cent word when a 10-center will work.” For years he wrote new words and their definitions down on 3 by 5 index cards. He did this as he read the paper, magazines, books. This drove my mother crazy. The index cards were everywhere — neatly stacked beside his empty coffee cup, falling out of sofa cushions, tucked into books and magazines. I’m sure she threw away more than half of what he wrote down, but still he collected words. Ironically, he suffered a small stroke in his late fifties that temporarily robbed him of language. He could talk but had no vocabulary. It took weeks just to get the basics back.

So, Dad, this one’s for you.

What about you? What’s your word for the pandemic?

Thanks for stopping by. Stay safe & see you again soon.

A little cooking, a little gardening, and the remarkable Hayes girls

I was writing a lighthearted post when the coronavirus death toll passed 100,000. And while l was trying to wrap my head around that number, one man died on the street in Minneapolis. You know the rest. These have been terrible days and weeks. I am so sad about what’s happened, but also hopeful we meet this challenge. It will take a lot of work. I especially hope you are well. Personally, I just felt numb for a while. Here’s what I’ve been doing to get back on track.

Moving along

Our cooking adventures continue. Earlier this week I made steak fajitas from scratch using a recipe from the New York Times (My new favorite recipe source. I encourage you to sign up for their newsletter.).  First, this recipe was much easier than I expected and required standard ingredients from my kitchen. Who knew? The fajitas tasted even better than they look. (I should have tidied that serving board before snapping any photos.)

That is one of my husband’s tart margaritas in the glass. (He’s not fond of the sugar-y taste of other recipes and I think he has a good thing here!)

I have literally been nagging my garden and potted plants to grow and bloom. I could use the boost. And — I think they are starting to listen. Everything is very lush and green. This bed beside the house has been literally overrun with daisies and perennial geraniums. The awkward patch of green in the front are black-eyed Susans which typically burst into bloom when the daisies are done.  There are also some daylilies along the foundation. If anyone has some advice for getting this under control and maybe some order — without sacrificing bloom — I’m all ears.



This garden on the other side of the house is the picture of control, almost. There is that one monster hosta in the back. I should have divided and/or moved it early this spring. However, the astilbe are ready to bloom and about the time they fade, the hostas will be flowering.



Those remarkable Hayes girls

Left to right, my mother-in-law Nelle, Lilian, Sara, Clydene, and Lenny.

My mother-in-law was the middle daughter in a family of five girls in a small, north Georgia town.  Their father (forever known as “Daddy” in true southern speak) was a rural mailman, originally traveling his route by horseback before acquiring a car. In the early thirties, as the second eldest daughter was about to graduate from high school, the principal and a teacher visited “Momma and Daddy” to explain to them that Clydene was really a smart girl and should go to college. They had no objections, but how would they pay for it? The solution was for Daddy to trade his mail route for one in Athens, Georgia, home to the university, so she could live at home and go to school. So the Hayes family rented their house and moved to Athens. Although the eldest daughter had already embarked on her adult life (and eventually ran the local Chevy dealer), the other four girls each graduated from the University of Georgia during the Depression. My mother-in-law actually taught in a one-room school to help cover her tuition on the way to becoming a teacher. Every time I tell this story I think about how devoted “Momma & Daddy” were to uproot the family and give their daughters the opportunity for a college education.

This weekend Sara, the youngest sister and the last survivor, passed away at the age of 98 (four out of five lived well into their 90’s). As the “Aunts” always pointed out, Sara was the tallest and, I think, perhaps the most mischievous. She was funny without trying to be and playful, which, of course, made her a favorite. Our kids loved her, as did our niece and nephew. The last time we were together she convinced my mother-in-law to play a duet with her on the piano in the lobby of the Holiday Inn in DeKalb, Georgia. Quintessential Aunt Sara.

I think of them now, reunited again, recalling pranks, telling stories, arguing over who makes the best Mississippi Mud Cake. I am honored to have been a tiny part of that family and so happy my son and daughter experienced their loving embrace.

There is a joy and strength in this story that makes me feel good, no matter how many times I tell it.

Thanks for stopping by. Take good care of yourself, and I’ll see you next time!




Saving February

I did my part in February to organize and reshuffle shelves and cabinets.

Is February a bore? The holidays are over, but in Illinois, Spring is is still far off. This year the weather has been oddly warm and way too cloudy. Now the sun is out, but it’s bitter cold. (Although honestly, if I can have only one, I’ll take sunny over cloudy whatever the temperature.) The more I thought about February being a bore, the more I realized it wasn’t. I was just sitting in a mental slump. Does this happen to you?  I think I was letting the calendar play mind games, especially on all those cloudy days.

And now, just to prove February’s not a bore, here are three fun things from the month.

A is for Audio

As an avid reader/book lover and participant in more than one book group, I have listened more and more to fellow book readers enumerate the virtues of audio books. They listen while they walk or ride the train or do the laundry. On one hand, it’s a great way to spend otherwise “mindless” time. On the other, the purist in me — the English major — thinks it can’t possibly be the same as actually turning the page, marking a passage, etc. (Yes. I write in my books and even dog-ear the pages. I like to really own them and reread all or parts of favorites.)

Last year my husband and I listened to a book on our drive to the Carolinas. It was a good way to spend the time, though we often got caught up in the drive or a conversation and lost track of the book. Recently, however, my son gave me a really cool pair of wireless earphones for my birthday. (I’m always late to the technology party.) I love them, and I’m becoming a devotee of Audible. I can listen while I walk, “read” in bed without disturbing my husband, and I can’t wait for a plane trip to try them out. I’m certainly not giving up on reading a “real” book, but audio books do help me enjoy more reading experiences. However, I do find that I’m listening to one book while reading another. Do you do that?

Instagram gardening

I was cruising thru some of my Instagram favorites the other day and realized that I’ve been saving garden shots, lots of them. Hmmm. I think I’m getting anxious to get outside, get my hands in the dirt, enjoy the fresh air and sunshine. My garden is not big and, if anything, I aim to simplify the tasks that go into maintaining it. But, my daily morning walk outside to check on plants (and weeds!), deadhead a few spent blooms, snip a few more to bring inside, and consider what more needs to be done nourishes me mentally and physically. But as 
I write this, it’s 12-degrees out, so enjoy a few photos I’ve saved as I plan ahead for spring.

How’s this for lush?I’m a sucker for vines.


I’ve never tried foxgloves, so this may be the year.I love the contrast the upright flowers have with the mounded greenery.


I also really enjoy somewhat monochromatic colors. I think a single-color garden shows off the diversity of the greenery.


This birthday cake

My nine-year-old grandson is currently obsessed with Rubik’s Cube. He has solved not only the original 6-sided puzzle (which leaves me in the dust!) but also the other multi-sided versions. “It’s all about the algorithms,” he explains. I actually looked into its history and the puzzle was designed by a professor who wanted to teach students about solving spacial problems.  For Jack, it’s really all about today’s math. It may not be Grandma’s math, but it sure does look like fun.

Back to the cake. My daughter-in-law always tries to tie cakes into the honoree’s interests. (I should have known what was coming when she ordered a globe-shaped groom’s cake for the rehearsal dinner.) She searched around and found ideas for Rubik’s Cube, then baked a 4-layer cake and carefully decked it with color-coded M&M’s. Is this not awesome engineering? (Okay, one corner is a little wonky, but that’s because the finished masterpiece sat in the fridge for a day!)

What about you? What’s kept you going in February?

Thanks for stopping by. See you next time!