"Snippet" -- a small piece or brief extract
Serendipity is one of my favorite words. It means "happy fortune", or "finding something wonderful unexpectedly" or, according to the dictionary "the occurrence and development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way." I love moments of serendipity. The word has taken on new significance as our family is seeking to honor Mama's memory in a productive and meaningful way.
Mama loved a bargain. She loved finding something unusual, really cool, or something that perfectly matched something else. She loved the thrill of the hunt, and she loved any serendipitous find. Before her health made it impossible, she could be found many Saturday mornings scouring the newspaper and the countryside for yard sales, garage sales, estate sales, etc. On the odd occasion when she traveled away from home, her eagle eyes were keen to spot thrift stores or similar establishments.
Consequently, Daddy's house is full of her serendipitous finds. Their sunroom was bursting at the beams with China, glassware, paintings, doo-dads, clocks, mugs, rugs, and anything else you can think of. She often gifted us with her treasures, although we still keep coming upon things that strike our fancy and hauling them to our respective homes. Mama's plan was to sell the items on Ebay for extra money, or perhaps rent a booth at a local antique mall or to sell pieces to replacements.com, etc. Her intentions were good. She spent lots of hours at the computer determining pattern names, values, etc. But before she could fully realize her dream, her health was too tenuous to put in the effort.
In order to help reclaim the sunroom,, my sister, my husband and I have been boxing things and putting the boxes on shelving on their carport for "dealing with later". We still had a ways to go, and Shane (my husband) decided maybe it was time we made her dream a reality. So we started looking at some local antique malls with thoughts and dreams of maybe sometime soon.
But then, Shane sent Nancy a message At Fancy Nancy's Place in Little River, SC. It's about an hour's drive from us (but very close to the beach.). She serendipitously had a spot opening up and put us right in. Well, it was good and unexpected, but boy, has it been a lot of work in a short amount of time! We were really hoping to get it up and running before we start back to school (this Monday :-O) So we have spent every spare moment (and some not-so-spare), going through the sunroom and boxes, and picking up additional things at thrift stores, and planning and cleaning and laundering and prepping and. . . . so much more. The bottom line is this: We are operational! Our family spent a long day together yesterday setting up the booth, pricing and inventorying. When the shop closed at 5:00, we went out for dinner to celebrate a job well done and a new venture. Then we went to play miniature golf. We were tired, but happy, with lots of new memories made and the future shining before us with lots of hope and lots of old memories of Mama and her shopping excursions cheering us on!
Thus, SERENDIPITY was born this week!
The name and the tagline were brought out in living color yesterday as we set up the booth. Shane had worked super hard to build walls to make the most of our tiny space at Nancy's. We were starting to stock stuff in the booth. Shane was on the ladder getting ready to hang up a shelf we had picked up at Goodwill for displaying some things in the booth. A man came by while the shelf was in Shane's hands, getting ready to go on the wall. "Is that for sale?" Yes "How much?" $25.00. "I'll take it. No need to hang it. It's the perfect thing I was looking for." So, we made our first sale before we even got the booth set up! Talk about serendipity! The booth is set up and operational. It is not as full as we want it, so we're heading back over tomorrow to add more fun things so more people can have serendipity stories.
We have a couple of hashtags we're using. We love hearing people's serendipity stories, so you can share them on our FB, Twitter, or here as a comment using the hashtag #serendipitystory . Or, you can share a photo of your #perfectthing using that hashtag as well. It's the thing about thrifting/picking/antiquing. Oftentimes you find the perfect thing you didn't even know you were looking for! If you're local or vacationing anywhere near Little River, SC, do please stop in and see if your #perfectthing is waiting for you to find. If you'd like to follow us on social media, here are the links:
If you have friends or family nearby, we'd love for you to share the info so they can find their #perfectthing and share their #serendipitystory. We are booth 15 at Fancy Nancy's Place 1729 Hwy 17 in Little River, SC -- just inside the SC line. Come shopping with any of the great vendors there! So much fun stuff! Come find a childhood book, a piece to replace a broken plate, saucer, cup, etc., some vintage Tupperware, antique furniture, outdoor items, knick-knacks, doo-dads, and lots more. If booth 15 doesn't have your #perfectthing, someone else at Fancy Nancy's might! Serendipity is waiting for you there!
Circles -- they are well-recognized and prized for their equity, unity, perfection, and completeness. No beginning, no end. No corners, no jagged edges, no surprises. Our recent vacation made me think about circles in some new ways. Firstly, the vacation itself was a circle -- not the travel route -- it was more like a slingshot (East to West and back East again -- pretty much along the same latitude), but if you think of the circle and beginning and ending at the same spot -- like a circular plot of a story, that's most vacations -- you start at home, have an amazing adventure and end up back at home -- hopefully safe and sound and changed only by the broadening mind and enlarging heart that vacations often cause. I'd love to share this circular journey with you. It started here in our hometown where our family loves Elvis Presley like he was a neighbor, friend, or more like a really close cousin. So, we set off on an Elvis vacation.
It's a mighty long way from our hometown to Memphis, TN to visit Graceland, Elvis' mansion -- 749 miles to be exact -- a 10 and a half hour drive. So we took a little layover on our drive -- in Dawsonville, GA (hubby's home town). We spent two nights eating, visiting, relaxing, and hanging out in the pool after the first leg of our journey. Too much sun and a tumble out of the porch swing for my dad (78 years old! :-O) was kind of a rough start to the vacay, but we persisted. My husband planned pretty much this entire trip, and he did such a good job! When he realized that our route from Dawsonville to Memphis could take us right through Tupelo, MS -- where Elvis was born and spent his first impressionable years through junior high -- he planned a stopover there. We ate at Johnnie's, one of Elvis' favorite spots as a kid, eating cheeseburgers and chocolate shakes. We visited Elvis' first family home -- a 2-room shotgun house. It had a bedroom and a kitchen. That was it. Vernon Presley borrowed $180 to build it and when he couldn't make his payments later, the house was repossessed. Elvis' childhood church has been moved a few blocks and restored and we enjoyed a 30-minute reproduction of a church service and my niece and nephew even played a little song on the piano in Elvis' home church. There's a memorial chapel there, a sculpture garden, a fountain, a circular timeline surrounding the childhood home, and a museum (full of artifacts from his early years) and a gift shop. We watched a little movie dramatizing Elvis' early years and sharing facts about the star before he was a star. This wasn't originally a planned stop on our journey, but I was so glad Shane added this little stop off, as it really helped us see the circle of Elvis Presley's life.
WeFrom Tupelo, we headed on to Memphis, TN -- Elvis' hometown where Graceland is.
That evening, we took our entourage to Beale St. This was pretty much a bust. We had my niece and nephew (10 and 12) with us, my dad (78YO) is a teetotaler and teetotally against alcohol period. (What were we even thinking?!?!) Well, in fairness to us, we were thinking live music! Cultural destination! Atmosphere! Walking in Memphis and other Beale St. references that they would understand because they had walked it and been there. . . .Oh well . . . . We went into BBKing's Blues Club, paid cover charge for all of us to enjoy the live music for the night. It was already getting late by now. No one was rowdy or out-of-control, but most everyone was drinking, and Daddy was already uncomfortable. Then they seated us right at the stage. The band started soon after and the music was LOUD! We ordered food, but everyone was so uncomfortable that we asked them to give us our food to go. That took at least 3 forevers. Daddy, my sister and the kids went outside where it wasn't AS LOUD to wait for us. Eventually we made it back to our AirBnB for a very late supper. As we're eating, Daddy's bar-height chair broke and dumped his 78-year-old body right into the floor (2nd fall on the trip. . . .SMH). Bless his heart! His first vacation in 15 years, and he's had a mishap every day so far! :-(. Thankfully Graceland the next day made up for it -- a little bit at least.
We spent an entire day at Graceland -- and could have spent longer! So much amazing stuff to see, hear and experience! Shane (vacation planner extraordinaire) had gotten us VIP passes, so we had our own personal tour guide (Paige) to tell us all the stories, explain all the rooms, and grounds and some of the museums. She answered questions and guided us from place to place with expertise and joy. She gave us our white gloves to even hold the precious keys to Elvis' pink Cadillac! So cool! She guided us through the property, through the cars, through the years, and through the memories. Graceland defies explanation, and needs to be experienced. If you don't know and love Elvis, it will probably mean absolutely nothing to you, but if, like my family, he feels like part of your family, you really should go experience it for yourself. Pictures don't do it justice. The cars were probably our favorite part of the Graceland tour, although there is so much to love and appreciate and they keep adding new attractions, new exhibits, new memorabilia. Shane and I were there 6 years ago, and the whole place has radically changed (not Graceland itself obviously, but all the museums and how everything is arranged and what is available.) If you do go, I highly recommend the VIP pass if you can afford it. It was well worth the added expense. The planes were another highlight -- so cool to see -- and the last thing we saw on that tour.
That night we visited The Pyramid Bass Pro Shop, hoping to ride the elevator to the top and look out over Memphis at night. Unfortunately, bad weather was threatening, so the Lookout was closed. Nonetheless the pyramid is a site to behold. 535,000 square feet of amazing-ness -- from the indoor created cypress swamp to all the mounted deer, elk, moose, etc. to the live animals to the feeding shows to the actual hotel and restaurant inside this facility, bowling alley, archery and shooting range and a little target game for the kids -- which we made good use of. Everyone played except Daddy, but I took the family trophy for the night for best shot. ;-). It was fun. We did go back and enjoy the lookout the next morning via the country's tallest free-standing elevator (300 feet, 28 stories). That was NOT my sister's favorite part -- nor were the alligators hanging out at the bottom of the elevator. LOL. Thankfully, the elevator did its job and no one got bitten by an alligator -- not even Shanda ;-). If you're ever in Memphis, you should totally go to the Pyramid Bass Pro Shop! Don't miss it!
After Memphis, we headed for Nashville, via Chester Co, TN. This was the purely selfish part of the trip for us -- and a full-circle moment for sure. Shane and I met at Freed-Hardeman University and had called Henderson, TN home for several years. We met here, fell in love here, and I graduated from college here. We attended church here and had friends and many adventures here. So, we picnicked at Chickasaw State park, did a driving tour of FHU, drove by where our house stood (which has since been torn down), we drove by White Ave. Church of Christ and Jacks Creek Church of Christ and in the process walked down a plethora of memory lanes! It was sweet to be able to introduce our family to the hill where we used to stretch out our blanket and study, the lake where we used to walk, and the Commons where we had weekend devotionals. None of them had ever seen that part of our world that was such a huge part of our world. Without it, we wouldn't have met. Visiting 32 years and 1 day after our marriage began was such a gift. Who knew, when we met at Bader Gym as part of the same Interface Group that our lives would have merged and melded and still be going strong 33 years later. Full Circle. . .
After the stopover in Henderson, TN, we made our way to Nashville. We had a cute Tudor-style house that my niece declared a "gnome house". It was well-equipped with Alexa (who was tired and waving goodbye enthusiastically after 2 days of questions from a very inquisitive 10-yr-old, and a very inquisitive 78-yr-old who is determined to have his very own Alexa LOL). We went to the Country Music Hall of Fame on Sunday -- it was a whirlwind tour -- we spent 2 hours, but easily could have stayed longer. So many amazing performers memorialized in those walls, including Alan Jackson, who was my mama's personal favorite. As he sang Where Were You When the World Stopped Turning, tears flowed freely as I missed her so much in that moment. She wasn't a traveler and probably never would have gone, but how I would have LOVED to share that moment with her.
I especially enjoyed seeing the videos of old country and song lyrics originally scribbled on napkins and notebook paper that became the songs of a nation. When we stood in the rotunda at the end, it was beautiful and I teared up (not for the first time that day . . .or the last) Hearing Dolly Parton's voice and seeing all the amazing people who had been honored in that room and all the symbolism and significance of every single piece of the planning was awe-inspiring. The inscription in the rotunda "Will the circle be unbroken" The rotunda is, as its name suggests -- round -- no beginning, no end, no corners, no edges, everyone equal and equally honored. Another nod to the circle on this vacation.
Then, it was on to a tour of Studio B. We didn't know much about Studio B before we went, but it ended up being one of our favorite places, and another very unintentional full circle moment from my hubby our vacation planner. This was the studio where Elvis recorded most of his hit songs, along with Dolly Parton, and a host of other amazing great artists through the years. We got to stand on the X on the floor in the very same room where Elvis recorded Are You Lonesome Tonight, and sit at the piano where he sat all those years ago, singing gospel tunes under blue studio lights, and rock n' roll in the hot red ambient lighting. It was humbling and touching to be in the space where so many amazing hit songs were recorded. Thinking about the talent that had passed through those doors, stood on the X, plinked the keys on that piano. . . I have to admit I teared up here a bit too. If you're a musician or a big music fan, I highly recommend this add-on to the Country Music Hall of Fame when you're in Nashville.
After those two tours, Daddy and I had an appointment. For his Father's Day gift, we booked an AirBnB experience with a Nashville songwriter, Brett Taylor. He's toured the country with some amazing artists, written songs that are recorded by Nashville greats, and he hosts songwriting experiences where he shares his process and helps you record a demo of your song. I went along mostly to document Daddy's experience, although I learned a lot and really enjoyed connecting with Brett. He invited us into his studio, shared a bit about who he is, what he's done and why he's doing these experiences. He also gave us a little run-down of how songwriting in Nashville works and a bit about his process and how he goes from idea to full-fledged song. Then he asked Daddy some questions and Daddy bravely sang one of his original songs that he's been working on -- one that he wanted Brett to help him work on. The rest of the time together was spent working on this jointly-written song. While I am used to critique and rewrites and revision in my aspiring author/prepublished author role, it was a new experience for Daddy. Brett took Daddy's partial song, and the story that Daddy shared and wove them into a really powerful song called "Whiskey Ain't No Friend". We are still working out the details and getting vocals back to Brett, but once we get it all put together, I'll share it here or let you know where you can go to listen. Daddy had to stretch and grow once again, but at 78, he's still learning and growing and willing to try new things. It was cool watching him. work through this experience, and I was so proud of him for the bravery of sharing his heart -- a topic that is very difficult and heart-breaking for him. My prayer is that we can find a way to get his song out into the world to change someone's life or to help someone else who's in our shoes not feel so alone. Stay tuned!
All in all, it was a great vacation. It was a lot of travel and a lot of new for my dad, who doesn't travel and doesn't experience too much new. I am thankful he is willing to have some adventures with us, and so thankful he didn't get hurt in his tumbles on the trip. Shane jokes that we're going to nickname him "Tigger" since he bounces when he falls. But hopefully, we won't be experiencing that any more. . . (my fingers are crossed AND my prayers are said -- to that end!)
We ended the week back at Shane's mom's. We ate Mexican together and played a game of Rummikub, enjoying one more evening of hospitality with Sheryl, Kelli, and her children. Then the last leg of travel back to home, sweet, home! Vacations are wonderful, but there's a special satisfaction when the circle is complete, the car is in the drive and you are sleeping in your own bed once again. Until next time, here's to full circle moments, the circle of vacations, and unbroken circles.
This past week, Shane (hubby) and I traveled to the Outer Banks of NC, one of our favorite places -- and where my best-friend-since-fourth-grade-lives. It's about a 5-hour drive, but Shane wanted to stop off in Bath for the first night of our trip. He secured a spot at an Air BnB in Bath, NC. It is our oldest town -- since the early 1700s, so it's a veritable history lesson on its own -- and perfect for any history buff. There are copious historical markers on almost every street. And, it sits right on the water, so it is charming, beautiful and picturesque. The place we stayed is owned and hosted by Deryck and Daniel, and is historic in its own right -- having served as a doctor's home/office/surgery in its early days; later as an outright bed and breakfast as well as a personal residence. It's old, beautiful, and right on the water. If you're a fan of pirates, you should definitely check it out. (There's a link to it at the very end of the post.) Edward Teach, better known as Blackbeard, made this village his home for a while, and that fact is its most macabre claim to fame.
After stopping off in Newbern (another historic NC town) for dinner, we arrived around 10PM. We walked down to the water after a bit and stretched out to enjoy the lights on the water and the brisk breeze.
When we went back inside, we were checking out the inside of the place. It's a small space -- living area/kitchenette, bedroom and bathroom are the extent of the indoor spaces. The decorations are sea-faring and piratical and very cool. They've done a good job on the place -- and are continuing to work on the outdoor spaces to restore them to their glory.
I love and am fascinated by pirate legends and stories. We have watched all the Pirates of the Caribbean movies multiple times. So I was duly impressed to see the LOADED bookshelf full of piratical literature! It was a very eclectic and well-appointed bookshelf as you can see. Everything from romance to historical NF to novels to kid lit! I drug all the picture books off the shelf, stacked them on the coffee table and read until after midnight. (Shane had long since crashed and was happily snoozing.) When I could hardly hold my eyes open, I gave in and went to bed, only halfway through the stack. I finished them the next morning on the back deck. . . .
We had to check out by 11:00, and I needed to write a draft (for First Draft Friday, hosted by Hollie Wolverton on Twitter and via her website.). It was a glorious morning back here -- so beautiful! The ducks were hanging out and the water was gorgeous! What a beautiful space! So Shane read for a while, then went in to shower and load up all of our "stuff". I finished all the picture books, and took them back in. Then I brought my laptop down and began writing my first draft, inspired by this piratical place :-)
I was working on my own piratical story when a storm started moving toward Bath Creek. This was impressive in its own right and I watched in fascination as the water began getting choppier and choppier, soon turning to white froth as the wind picked up, holding the flags taut, then whipping them. You could hear the flags snap in the stormy winds. The breeze cooled and the rain started falling -- sparsely at first. It was a slow warning. I closed up my laptop and took refuge on the wide porch. Derrick had come out to secure things for the summer storm. I watched it from the porch until Shane alerted me that we needed to go. I was loathe to leave and wish we could have stayed longer.
The weather was misty, moist and stormy off and on, so we drove on without exploring more of the history of the town, which was our plan. We decided Pirates Wharf is a perfect writing retreat for us, so we will definitely be going back. Hopefully another visit we can do more exploring. There are so many lovely places to write here. I'm hoping for a fall visit with nice cool temps and checking out that bed on the porch for an afternoon siesta. Below, check out the picture books I read at Pirates Wharf and my impressions in the captions. You can also click on the book for the Amazon link.
This one I didn't read, as it's a mostly I Spy kind of thing with very detailed illustrations with many pictures for kids to look for. A lot of fun for the little pirates in your life. There is a paperback version with stickers as well here: https://www.amazon.com/1001-Pirate-Things-Sticker-Books/dp/0794528708/ref=sr_1_2?dchild=1&keywords=usborne+1001+pirate+things&qid=1625691803&s=books&sr=1-2
I definitely saved one of the best till last. . . I LOVE this book, and I've LOVED it for a long time! To me, this is an absolute classic and no pirate unit, pirate story time, or pirate anything is complete without Jeremy Jacobs' story -- perfection for me -- from beginning to end in both its writing and its illustration! So very good!
I hope you enjoyed either/and/or hearing about my trip, the Pirates' Wharf Air BnB and the review of their amazing pirate kidlit bookshelf. If you have extra pirate stories laying around, I'm sure Deryck and Daniel would love to add them to the shelf. If you're inspired to visit and write on the deck or the porch, tell them Tonnye sent you. Here's their AirBnB link: www.airbnb.com/rooms/49156638?translate_ugc=false&federated_search_id=841fcf24-06c0-4e5a-957d-eab0ec87a10d&source_impression_id=p3_1625609531_G5mtMLjyAJsnafsq
And if you, like me, are inspired to write a new pirate story, check out Mindy's critique train challenge here: mindyalyseweiss.com/pbparty-new-draft-challenge-critique-train-faq/ It's open for passengers on July 20!
Ahoy, Mateys, It's the end of this pirate tale. I'll be seein' ye on the 7 seas! Aaarrrgh!
I've been talking with a CP (critique partner) this week about finding our "niche" -- what kind of author do we want to be? "Author branding" is a big buzz word these days. I'm no expert on either of these things. But as an enneagram 4, knowing myself is important. As a faith writer, knowing my values are paramount. And, having been around the sun 54 times and married for 32, I guess I have some wisdom to offer. Since coming to the writing community, I realize more and more the importance of "knowing ourselves" I believe this is one of the keys to finding our "niche" or our "author brand". Every year when I apply for the PBChat mentorship, one of the questions is: what kind of stories do you want to be known for? What do you want to put on the shelves? What do you want people to remember about you as an author? These type of questions can help us identify who we are as writers -- and who we want to be, what legacy we hope to leave behind. If they are difficult for you to answer, maybe some of these strategies will help.
These suggestions are not a course in creating your brand or even finding your niche. They are simply exercises that may help you to that end.
Recently, I watched a webinar about writing for the educational market, and one of the things they recommended was to make lists of things that really interest you -- things you know about, things you're good at. Think about your job, your hobbies, your trainings, what TV channels you enjoy watching, what sports you participate in, what instruments you play, etc.
Another training I attended early on (I think the speaker was discussing writing about what you know) talked about creating a list of all the things you know, love, are trained in, have experience with, etc. Still another (Joana Pastro during StoryStorm: Here's the link: https://taralazar.com/2021/01/13/storystorm-2021-day-13/) recommended making lists: festivals/celebrations, music, dances, clothing/accessories, food/dishes, places, people, sports/entertainment, aspects of nature, etc. that you have experienced or know about. Someone along the way recommended keeping a running notebook/document of childhood memories AND their feelings to incorporate into your writing. While all of those are brainstorming tools, I think they also give you a window into yourself and your experiences that might help you identify your niche. Now that I have over 40 manuscripts (at least rough draft or further along), I'm definitely starting to see some patterns of those things I love showing up: music, nature, animals, and lots of stories based on my childhood memories.
Reflect on your jobs/trainings/hobbies/experiences/childhood memories/family history/faith and spiritual values, etc. One version of that exercise is to create a page in your journal/notebook called 100 Things I Love. That may help you narrow it down as well. It's always a good exercise. It's great for brainstorming, when you're stuck and need something to write about. It's great for identifying those things that really matter to you. Perhaps 100 seems like a lot. If so, you don't have to do it all at one sitting. Keep it near your workspace, and keep working on it until you're up to 100! I tried to think about these questions as I made mine:
1. What are the most important things to me? (Quickly I filled in friends, family, our cats [fur babies], God, Jesus, Holy Spirit, Church, Bible, music, reading, writing and books.)
2. What would I miss the most if it disappeared from my life? (Here I added things like playing trumpet, singing, prayer, etc.)
3. When I think of having a really good day, what comes to mind? (For me, this meant sleeping in/waking naturally to bird song, pajamas [or other comfy clothes], reading, writing, worship, nature, etc.)
4. What are some hobbies/activities that are important to me? (Music, playing trumpet, singing, cooking, reading, writing, etc.)
5. What are some things that have enriched my life? (Twitter kidlit, picture books, worship, , being included/belonging, etc.)
6. What things do I find fun or relaxing? (sleeping in, singing, looking at the stars, hanging out in a hammock, listening to wind chimes, twinkling lights, playing in the water, camping, walking on the beach, etc., etc.)
7. What are some foods that I particularly enjoy? (cheesecake, food boards, ice cream, pineapple upside down cake, s'mores, etc.)
8. What are some sensory experiences that I love? (warm blankets, cool breezes, moonlight, firelight, wind chimes, snuggling, misty rain, twinkling lights . . .)
9. If I have nothing I HAVE to do, what will I choose to do? (reading, writing, cooking, sleeping late, etc.)
10. What do I MOST enjoy about what I do for a living? (teaching, singing, dancing, music)
Etc., etc., etc.
Where would you travel?
What do you most like to wear?
What are your favorite colors?
By the time you actually get to 100, you'll probably think of quite a few more and be disappointed by what you left off. You could always start another one :-). These are great places to start when you need to brainstorm for a new story or a blog post. It also really helps you identify who you are at the core. What matters most? Your values show up in some way of other. Here's my current one:
If 100 is too much for you to think about, here's a link for a template for 50 Things I Love -- perfect to get you started (or if you're a teacher --a great way to teach your students how to find some things to write about):
If you'd like to find out your personality type using Jungian-style quiz (MBPTS/ Myers-Briggs, etc), you can do that here: https://www.16personalities.com/
This site is full of lots of resources for understanding yourself better. (There are lots of other sites that have free quizzes and resources as well; this is simply one I'm sharing.)
If you're not familiar with the enneagram and would like to see where you fall on that spectrum, you can find out here: https://enneagram.bz/en (Again, there are lots of sites that have free quizzes and resources for the enneagram too; I'm sharing one for simplicity's sake.
Knowing yourself in these ways: your personality, how you process the world, how you function in the workplace, your innermost dreams, goals, etc. can help you become a better writer in many ways. Hopefully one way they are beneficial is to help you begin to identify your niche and/or begin to think about your author brand by knowing the things that are most important to you.
Good luck as you seek to identify yourself and find your place in the writing community! If I can help in any way, please feel free to reach out!
I'm wrapping up this series of blogposts in tribute to Mama. Having said that, I reserve the right to share more about her. She was one of the greatest impacters on my life.
A couple of weeks ago, Shane and I were watching TWO WEEKS NOTICE. (I'm a big rom-com fan . . . ). There was a quote that struck me like a ton of bricks: "But for better or worse, she's the voice in my head pushing me to do better." Lucy was speaking about her mother, who was a "piece of work." This conversation could have been absolutely been mine about Mama. My sister and I sometimes joke still about chopping vegetables. I can rarely peel, chop, slice, dice, mince or any other kitchen task without hearing her voice in my head. "Too much, not enough; too thick, too thin, wrong knife, not even, etc." While those words felt critical as a daughter growing up, they were Mama's way of pushing us to always do better. Looking back, I can see so many of her words in a different light now than I had heard them growing up. But for better or worse, she's the voice in my head, pushing me to do better. I hear you, Lucy. I feel you, and Mama, I hear you, too. I understand what you were trying to do, and I'm sorry for the times I was too much, too little, too uneven, too loud, too lazy, too _____.
ilyWhen we held the service for Mama a few weeks ago, I was a bit surprised when my husband (who did the service) chose to use Proverbs 31 as a scripture reading. But as he began reading, it became clear that it was quite apropos. Oftentimes, it is the scripture held up as a mirror to women of the church to see if you "measure up". And it often seems an arduous task. But here, as Shane read the passage, I realized that most of it fit Mama well. Granted there are a couple of things -- like the whole getting up early to feed/take care of your family and plan your daily business -- yeah, not so much that one ;-) What a blessing to know, in spite of faults and flaws, that the bulk of that description fits.
A wife of noble character who can find?
She is worth far more than rubies.
11 Her husband has full confidence in her
and lacks nothing of value.
12 She brings him good, not harm,
all the days of her life.
13 She selects wool and flax
and works with eager hands.
14 She is like the merchant ships,
bringing her food from afar.
15 She gets up while it is still night;
she provides food for her family
and portions for her female servants.
16 She considers a field and buys it;
out of her earnings she plants a vineyard.
17 She sets about her work vigorously;
her arms are strong for her tasks.
18 She sees that her trading is profitable,
and her lamp does not go out at night.
19 In her hand she holds the distaff
and grasps the spindle with her fingers.
20 She opens her arms to the poor
and extends her hands to the needy.
21 When it snows, she has no fear for her household;
for all of them are clothed in scarlet.
22 She makes coverings for her bed;
she is clothed in fine linen and purple.
23 Her husband is respected at the city gate,
where he takes his seat among the elders of the land.
24 She makes linen garments and sells them,
and supplies the merchants with sashes.
25 She is clothed with strength and dignity;
she can laugh at the days to come.
26 She speaks with wisdom,
and faithful instruction is on her tongue.
27 She watches over the affairs of her household
and does not eat the bread of idleness.
28 Her children arise and call her blessed;
her husband also, and he praises her:
29 “Many women do noble things,
but you surpass them all.”
30 Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting;
but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.
31 Honor her for all that her hands have done,
and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.
Over 50 people came to celebrate her life with us and honor her memory. There are more that would liked to have been here and could not. My dear friend, Janet, spoke of 2 memories of Mama -- Mama came to their house when Janet was a young wife and said, "Janet, what are you doing?" Janet said, "I'm trying to cut up this chicken, Mona." Mama said, "You are massacring that thing. Here, let me show you how to cut up a chicken." And she did. That is quintessential Mama -- the brash, know-it-all, tell-you-the-truth-whether-you-want-to-hear-it-or-not Mama. . . But then she also told the story of Mama's honesty, friendship, and integrity when Janet said some things after surgery while still under the affects of anesthesia, and Mama promised to take those words to the grave and never tell a soul -- and she didn't; not even to Janet :-)
Then, my other best friend (since fourth grade) stood up and told of how Mama's hospitality shone and how she enjoyed spending time at our house and how she cherished some special moments when her family wasn't present and I shared my family with her. Mama accepted her and treated her like family, because she was. Rachel knew she was loved by Mama and that she was truly part of our family.
Mama wasn't perfect -- far from it. But she was a virtuous woman, a hospitable woman, an honorable woman, a loved woman, a woman of faith and integrity. I am so thankful that I learned to appreciate her before it was too late. I'm grateful that she knew I loved her and that I knew she loved me.
There are no words to say how much she is missed. Every day brings some little (or big) conversation that I want to share with her, ask her advice about. The pain of not being able to do that is palpable at times. Grief still hits hard sometimes, but less often. That, in no way makes the love any less.
We will continue to rise and call her blessed, and we all look forward to the day when we can see her again and catch up, and I sure do hope that when I get to Heaven, she'll have a big pot of stew beef ready. We'll have lots of catching up to do!
When we think of Mama, we mostly think of her serious side. She was not to be trifled with. She was a strict disciplinarian. Much like Grandmama before her, she saw things largely in terms of right vs. wrong with no in between. She was more serious than Daddy, and often more serious than we would have liked. But she also loved games and play and having fun, and because that side of her was a bit rarer, we appreciated it all the more when she showed that side.
Growing up, there are a few memories that stand out where Mama was playful and we enjoyed her lighter side.
Jacks, or jack rocks, was one of Mama’s favorite games from her childhood. She taught me how to play, but she also taught lots of my friends to play as well. I remember when I was in late elementary school/early middle school, a new girl had started coming to our church -- Sharon. She came over to our house often and we could usually be found playing jacks/jack rocks -- with Mama on the floor with us -- tossing the ball and scooping jacks. She was better than us always, but oh, how we strove to beat her.
One of my favorite toys growing up was a hula hoop. Part of the reason is because it was one of the things Mama would do with us. She was a pretty good hula hooper! We spent hours and hours hula hooping together or taking turns or having contests. We were amazed (my brother and I) that Mama could throw the hula hoop out on the grass and make it return to her. We spent additional hours practicing until we could do that, too. One of our favorite hula hoop games that Mama played with us was this: she would roll the hula hoop into a grassy area of the yard and Dale and I would wait patiently and try to find just the right timing and just the right angle to jump through the hoop and land in the grass on the other side. We begged her to keep playing this one time and time again!
Mama was also really good at jumping rope. She always made sure we had a jump rope on hand. If Santa didn’t bring one at Christmas, rest assured it would find its way to us somehow during Christmas -- or other times, too. She taught us how to straight jump, skip jump, and jump backwards. She could even criss-cross the rope while jumping! As a child, it was amazing to see your mom be so good at something that everyone knew was of prime importance. And it was. This, at least, was an area I could hold my own with the kids at school because I was a fairly decent jumper -- thanks to Mama.
Over the years, board games became one of our favorite things to do together. Mama was always very competitive! And, often . . she won. I won't even lie. Sometimes, it was because she would cheat (or at least stretch the rules like a rubber band!). But it was also a reminder that Mama was brilliant and so good at so many things! As we grew older, and into adulthood, she especially enjoyed word games like Scrabble and Boggle. Up until the very end, she enjoyed her computer games and board games with the family.
Card games were another place where she excelled. Growing up, she taught me to play Solitaire and Rummy. Mama and Daddy and their dear friends, Don and Joyce (the same ones we visited in Virginia from my Doctor Mama stories) loved playing Canasta together. Oftentimes, we'd go visit them when they were living close and the grown-ups would play cards or talk theology while Donna, Susan, Dale, and I (and later their younger brother Donnie) played. I have rarely played a game of Canasta with Mama that she didn't win. Whatever she did, she did it with gusto and with the intention of being the best she could be. As years went on, Sunday afternoons often found us playing Canasta. We learned how to play with 5 players or 6 to accommodate whomever was available for play. It didn't matter who was on Mama's team -- she almost always ended up on the winning side!
I'll forever be grateful for all the things Mama taught me, and all the gifts her serious nature brought (even when I didn't enjoy it at the time . . .) But this side of Mama was one of my favorites, and I loved getting to play with her, no matter how old I got. It is for sure one of the things I miss the most now that she's not here any longer, and I'm sure if they have games available in Heaven, Mama has already found her way to the table and has won quite a few rounds of whatever they play.
I've tried a few times to learn to sew. I'm sure Mama tried to teach me, and I had a mentor when I was in middle school who did sewing lessons for me and a friend, I actually took a sewing class in college, and Shane's Grandma Nita helped me with a couple sewing projects after we married. Having said that, I still can't sew well at all. I can do very basic things like sewing on a button or repairing a seam that has split, but I missed out on the part of Mama's DNA that made her good at everything she tried. She had a gift for sewing and we all benefited. Read on to find out how:
Mama was an excellent seamstress, and her skills enhanced our lives in so many ways. She was quick to use her skills to save money, to help out, to bless others. She could make pretty much anything -- and often did. . .
One of my favorite ways that Mama used her sewing skills was by making clothes for my Barbie dolls. I loved Barbie and her friends (both name brand and generic). Such teeny tiny clothes for teeny tiny bodies, but Mama would use a few scraps, design and make clothes all the time fit for a Barbie. It was the season of polyester and one outfit I remember particularly was a polyester gold pantsuit for my doll. She enjoyed wearing it, I’m sure -- and I certainly enjoyed dressing my Barbies in all the clothes Mama designed and sewed for me and my dolls!
The year was 1976 and I was in third grade (Ms. Bowen’s class). The whole country was awash in excitement over our Bicentennial Anniversary -- 200 years for this fine country of ours. Celebrations were rampant! At Whiteville Primary School, we were having a big celebration, too! It consisted of square-dancing and patriotic music. We were all (I guess) dressing in period costumes for the event, so Mama made for me a long skirt and a round bonnet, trimmed with fabric matching my skirt. For Dale, it was knee breeches and a jacket with brass buttons and a tri-corn hat, too, I think. Not just for us, but for several classmates, too -- Mama put her sewing machine to work as grade-parent and we were outfitted with Bicentennial excellence -- suitable for singing and square-dancing!
That same third grade year, Mama also made stockings for my whole third grade class (and I think Dale’s whole class, too!) Not only did she sew the stockings, but also, added all my classmates’ names with glue and glitter, along with a glitter Christmas tree with a star on top. These were not just cheap felt stockings cut with pinking shears and barely stitched together either! These were really nice, thick-fabricked stockings with turned-under hems and no raw edges anywhere! Her willingness to use her skills and her gifts made a lot of kids happy that Christmas. We kept those same stockings and used them for years afterward, and I bet lots of other kids did, too!
Dreams of Red
As a child, my favorite color was red and I wanted a red bedroom from the time I was very young. In fact, Mama and Daddy got in “almost-trouble” with our cousin/landlord because someone misunderstood Mama and Daddy when they were telling someone else in the family that I wanted red walls and they thought Mama and Daddy had painted the walls in their house red . . .
So, when we got the new house at Pleasant Hill, and I had my own bedroom as a fifth grader, I wanted a red bedroom. While I wanted red walls, Mama and Daddy compromised with just a hint of red in the white paint (It really looked white -- not even pink. . .) and red carpet and bedroom linens. Mama scoured stores and bargains and found a red velvet bedspread, but to buy matching curtains was very expensive, so Mama bought maybe 3 bedspreads, which were a good price. We used one on the bed, and she used the other two to make curtains for my two windows and cover a chair that we had gotten from someone. The carpet was red and black shag carpet and thanks to Mama and her bargain-hunting and sewing/upholstery skills, I had my dream bedroom!
Daddy had a class reunion coming. I don’t remember what number -- maybe 20? That would have made it 1981, and that seems plausible. Daddy was wearing a mustache at the time. Mama made them matching outfits to wear for Daddy’s reunion. Remember, it was the era of polyester. Mama fashioned herself a long dress (Now they call them maxi-dresses) with long sleeves. Daddy had a matching short-sleeve shirt. The fabric was black polyester covered with pink roses. It was striking fabric, and they made a striking couple in such beautiful outfits. While that memory has NOTHING to do with me, it is one of my favorites.
Jr. Prom with my date (a friend), Wayland Nobles in the antebellum-style dress Mama and I found at the yard sale. The neckline was lower when we bought it. Mama added layers of lace, and also removed the bottom of the sleeves (big puffy bottoms) and poof! a prom dress for $3.00 plus labor and the cost of the lace :-) I actually loved this dress!!!
Mama was quick to make something from scratch or to modify something with what she had on hand.
Once, we were at a yard sale and found a beautiful powder blue antebellum dress with ruffles and lace and big balloon sleeves. It also showed a lot of cleavage. I loved the dress and wore it just for fun around the house as an upper middle-school/early high school student. It well- suited my romanticism. Mama reworked that same dress so that I could wear it for my junior prom. She removed the balloon sleeves, and added extra lace at the neckline so not-so-much cleavage was revealed. I loved the dress and I loved that I got to wear it to prom. Mama was a master at using what we had to make things special. I didn’t always appreciate that, but other times it was perfect -- like this time.
Next year’s prom wasn’t so smooth. Mama insisted on making my dress. It wasn’t what I wanted. It wasn’t the greatest time -- lots of arguing and hard times. In retrospect, I understand that the money just wasn’t there to buy a dress, and it really didn’t matter anyway. I respect all the effort that she put into the dress, and it turned out pretty. While it wouldn’t have been my first choice, I wish I had handled it differently, and I am so thankful for all the gifts and skills and resources that she used to try to make life good for all of us.
I wish I had pictures of the Barbies and the stockings and all the amazing work Mama did as seamstress for our family, but hopefully you can see her talent and hard work in these photos. I sure do appreciate how she wielded a needle and thread and wish I had learned more when I had the opportunity. My life was certainly richer for all her capabilities -- especially, this one.
This post is not about Mama -- exactly. Thoughts of her occupy my mind often, and all the more with her "Celebration of Life" service this Sunday. Yesterday was a hard day. Maybe because of that, maybe hormones, maybe my thyroid medicine change -- probably a combination of all that (and more). Losing is hard. Losing pets, losing people, losing at contests, losing anything is really difficult. But, it is part of life. We have to learn to lose well so we can win well. Losing keeps us humble, makes us appreciate the wins when they come, reminds us what NO or GRIEF or LAST PLACE feels like so that we can live in gratitude for all we have, fully enjoying YES or FIRST PLACE when it comes. Sometimes we get lucky straight out of the gate. Sometimes it takes long hours and lots of practice.
I've been reflecting on this quite a lot lately -- not just for me, as you can see from the photos. My niece and nephew have been experiencing this a lot recently. They were both local and state winners in our NCRA Young Authors Project. It was my nephew's first time winning, although he has written for 3 years now. My niece has won every single time -- it's been hard for him, but he's been such a trouper and has celebrated every win for her and with her, even though he didn't win. He wasn't going to write this year. It took lots of talking to convince him. I was so thrilled when he was finally a winner, and I love his poem, Magnified Light. Perhaps I'll feature it soon on my blog.
They both entered poems in the local AR Ammons poetry contest. Once again, niece won 2 honorable mentions and nephew -- nothing.
This weekend, they both participated in their first karate tournament. (Please forgive my ignorance of vocabulary if I use something improperly -- this is all new to me. . .) When they went into the ring, the first thing they had to do was demonstrate their bow skills. Nephew was reticent, but tried his best. He took last place in that event. Niece totally drew a blank in the ring, and even when the judges encouraged her and walked her through step by step, she still couldn't perform well. She took last place. There were tears of failure and disappointment on her part, but she still had two events to go. She brought me her bronze medal, wiped her tears, took a deep breath and stepped right back into the ring, taking 2nd place in Form, while her brother took FIRST place in that event! She brought me her silver medal and suited up for sparring, in which she took FIRST place. I've been proud of young people so many times in my teaching career, but never any prouder than I was of her (and her brother) on Saturday! One of the judges sought her out after their division and commented how proud he was of her for sticking with it and he reminded her that she went from last place to first place because she stuck with it! Perseverance and resilience emanated from her and when I asked her afterward if she was glad it was over, she said, "NO! I'm ready to go again!" Losing builds resilience and resilience brings courage and eventually perseverance brings WINS, and the confidence to try again.
It happened again on Sunday. She was to read her entry aloud at our small celebration gathering, honoring the NCRA Young Author winners for our local association. When she stood up to read, she got in her feelings and got teary. It took her a few tries, but she read her entire piece, to lots of cheers from the small audience! Resilience! Perseverance!
It applies to me, too, in my writing -- I've been writing and entering every contest I could for over a year now, with nothing but no's and no mentions and losses. Then, just a few weeks ago, I had a win in 50 Precious Words. Then I entered a birthday writing contest -- no luck, another loss. Most recently, I am thrilled to say I was named an Honorable Mention in the SpringFling KidLit writing contest, but many of my friends were not named this time. While my heart hurts for them, I know they are building resilience -- we are ALL building resilience. A yes today can be a no tomorrow, and a no today can lead to a yes! We must persevere and build our resilience so when the big YES comes, we'll be ready, and we'll be humble, and we'll be grateful.
And while it's not about Mama, I told my niece Sunday, "Your grandma would be so very proud of you. I know she's about to bust!" And it's true. I wish she were here to experience all the wins and to "encourage" us when we lose with her pragmatic response, "Oh well, that's life." But I know she is proud and as she said in her letter to us, "whatever you endeavor to do in the future go for the mountain tops, stars, space, etc. and I'll be there in spirit supporting you every step of the way." Thanks for the support, Mama!
And to all my writing friends that feel the sting of disappointment today, tomorrow is a new day (and Write Mentor mentorships will be announced and PBChat apps are due) and there are more and more and more opportunities for wins, losses, resilience, and perseverance! Good luck, and don't give up!
As a teacher for many years, I know that parents make the difference in the quality of learning and also make a difference in their involvement that doesn't just affect the kid, but also affects the teacher and the school. While there are school memories scattered throughout these other stories, these are simply specific to school. I am thankful that I had a mom who made a positive difference for me, my friends, my teachers, and my schools.
I didn't attend kindergarten (it wasn't required; yes, I'm THAT old. . . and plus which Mama said there wasn't any point in sending me to kindergarten since I already knew everything I would have learned there. [As a teacher, I might argue that point today in favor of socialization and herd immunity, but I certainly didn't suffer academically from her decision.]) From my earliest school memories as a first grader in Ms. Meachem’s class, Mama made sure I was prepared. I had a sweet little red and blue school satchel, and I remember taking oatmeal creme pies for snack. Perhaps she sent other things, too, but it is the creme pies I remember. I was already reading and probably writing, too, when I arrived as a first grader at Whiteville Primary School thanks to Mama and her reading to me at home and making sure I had plenty of books available to me. Mama became a grade parent right away and helped out at school whenever there were parties or special activities. I remember specifically her being there for the Easter egg hunt we had, but I know she was there for other events as well.
Also, that first grade year brought my first trauma -- Leon Brown. Leon was a black boy on my bus -- #161 -- who decided it would be cute and fun to tease and attack me, culminating at some point in ripping my red plaid dress. That’s the only detail I remember about the actual attack -- I know I came off the bus with a ripped dress courtesy of Leon Brown. Mama was livid. She made some phone calls -- or maybe she went in person -- I’m not sure. Coleman Barbour was in charge of buses, and he pulled a few boys together (I’m assuming they all rode my bus, but I don’t remember) and we did an old-fashioned “Line-up” with me identifying Leon as the perpetrator. I don’t know what punishment Leon received. What I do remember is that Mama had my back and she wasn’t going to sit idly by while someone hurt her little girl.
Mama also fostered friendships. She allowed me to go over to Terri Nobles’ house to play (and maybe spend the night? I have a vague recollection. . .). She knew Terri’s family and felt safe. However if she didn’t know the family, she would not allow me over to their house but she was always gracious and hospitable to my friends and allowed them to come to my house. In first grade, it was Cheryl Graham. She was my friend from the bus and my first school sleepover buddy. She and I sat on the bus singing “On Top of the World” by the Carpenters daily. When she came to visit, she did fine with Mama, but hid under the bed when Daddy came home. Mama always welcomed my friends and made them feel at home.
Mama continued to serve as grade parent until grade parents were not “a thing” anymore -- I know she was very active through 3rd grade. In the upcoming sewing segment of my tribute to Mama, you'll discover some other ways she positively poured into my schooling. Of course, even after grade parents were so "last year", she was still active in my school career. In middle school, I was involved in Gifted and Talented, and Mama was in PAGE (Parents of Academically Gifted . . . ). She was very active in that organization and was always quick to make sure I was allowed to participate in things that would help me grow and use my abilities.
In eighth grade, through PAGE and GT, we were allowed to take a psychology class in the evenings. It was a parent-child class, and it was Mama who went with me. I don’t remember how many sessions, but it was wonderful. Dr. Jerry Paschal taught the class and that was special, because he had been Mama’s teacher/principal during her schooling. He was serving as Superintendent of Whiteville City Schools. I don’t remember all the topics we covered. I do remember taking an IQ test -- and Mama and I having the same IQ -- 132! Those were special times at a difficult time for me -- middle school girls are an animal unto themselves. Our relationship wasn’t stellar during those years, but this is a pleasant memory amidst a lot of pubescent unrest in my world. I treasure those times we sat as equals and learners together.
Music made its first big appearance in my life in middle school. I joined band in sixth grade, which radically changed my life. As I began to play trumpet, new worlds opened up for me and Mama made sure I had what I needed and got where I needed to go to be able to participate, even though sometimes it was costly. She and Daddy allowed me to audition for All-County band starting in 7th grade, and it became an annual event through my high school years. Not only did she provide transportation and motivation, she also was the one at home who had to endure those first couple of years of practicing “Mary Had a Little Lamb”, “This Old Man” “The Old Grey Goose” and so much more as I honed my craft -- loudly. I know she was at least thankful that my bedroom was upstairs and that we had a big yard. I joined the chorus during my eighth grade year, and I remember my family sitting in the bleachers to hear us sing “Sentimental Journey” “Chattanooga Choo Choo” and other standards from the 40’s
Mama’s care and nurturing extended into high school, as I continued to pursue my course in music and drama. Twice, Mama took me to auditions for Governor’s School -- once for trumpet and once for drama. That meant traveling to Winston-Salem for auditions -- way out of her comfort zone, but she did it, for me.
Also, in high school, Mama was a devoted member of the WHS Band Boosters. She helped out in traditional and non-traditional ways; attending meetings, participating in fundraisers, and even creating a fund-raiser (much to my mortification as a teenager) where she paid Band Boosters for their “trash” -- labels and UPCs, etc. -- that Mama used vigilantly in her couponing and rebating/refunding endeavors to stretch our family dollars. While it might have been a hard pill to swallow, it came from her desire to help the band -- and help our family, which in her mind was a win-win situation!
Mama and Daddy also made the decision in my senior year to allow me to go to New York City for a drama club trip over Spring Break, which was QUITE a trek for this Southern country girl! I had only been to NC, VA, and SC at that point, and it was amazing and life-changing in my perspectives. We saw shows on Broadway and off Broadway. We went to NBC studios and saw Liberace at Radio City Music Hall. We ate Chinese food in Chinatown, shopped 5th Avenue, including FAO Schwartz. We rode the subway, walked for miles, and ate at Mama Leone's, where the waiters and waitresses were fascinated with our Southern accent (which we MIGHT have accentuated just a bit for effect ;-) I'm quite sure we didn't have the money for that trip, but they knew it was something they couldn't and wouldn't give me and they sacrificed in order for me to go. I didn't fully appreciate that then, but I am so thankful for that opportunity.
Throughout my school career, Mama pushed, supported, and nurtured my academic successes and my extracurricular endeavors. Without her support my life would have been much different in this area that has come to impact my life in more positive ways than I can begin to count. The friends and the teachers with whom I built relationships during these years and the musical/dramatic experiences that I participated in have shaped who I have become as an adult in myriad ways, and that wouldn’t have been possible without Mama’s support throughout my schooling.
**Sadly, I don't have any pictures of Mama serving as grade parent, helping at parties, chaperoning field trips, or selling concessions for Band Boosters. Moms, make sure you get pictures of you doing these things. Your children will want them one day. I know I do.
My brother, Dale has had MORE than his fair share of misadventures. From breaking his collarbone in kindergarten to shoving his hand through the storm door and running through hot ashes, his life seemed to be filled with medical emergencies! While I haven’t been quite as misadventurous as Dale, there have certainly been moments in my life where it was helpful to have a Mama that was also a doctor. Don’t misunderstand, Mama never attended medical school. Her knowledge is gleaned from experience and common sense -- and innate wisdom, but for all of her kids and now grandkids it has come in handy and it is often Mama that we seek when we have health questions, and now that she is gone, it is Mama that we miss calling on to solve medical mysteries large and small.
It is no wonder that she loved medical shows on TV -- from Marcus Welby to Quincy, ME back in the day to HOUSE, Diagnosis Murder, and NCIS episodes more recently, she would find herself fascinated by the medical knowledge. Mama was smart about many things. This is just one, but there were certainly times when her practical knowledge came in very handy. Here are a few of mine:
The Bicycle Accident
We were visiting friends Don and Joyce Meredith for vacation. As I remember it, it was our last morning there and Joyce was going to make toast for breakfast, but was out of bread. She sent her daughters, Donna and Susan to the local store to grab a loaf of bread. I was younger than either of them, idolized them both, and did NOT want to be left behind. Susan graciously allowed me to ride on her handlebars. Not the greatest decision. As we were riding down a gravel road, Susan hit a bigger rock, which cause the bicycle to careen off course. We toppled, wobbled and SPLAT! It was a tough and very painful tumble. For me, an apparently very dramatic 6-7 year-old it was quite traumatic. In fact, I remember running down the road screaming, "Help me, help me, I'm going to die!" Bless the woman's heart who came to our rescue. I guess Donna or Susan must have given her their phone number (pre-cell phone days). Our parents came and rescued us and had to take us to the hospital. We required bandages, tetanus shots and concussion watch. I remember Mama was proud of me because Susan cried for her shot and I didn't. I came home from vacation with bandages on my right wrist, elbow, and shoulder, along with my left knee and left ankle. It was quite an ordeal!
What we DIDN'T know was that I had brought back something else, too. Over time, as the wounds began to heal, Mama noticed the one on my right wrist didn’t seem right. There was a darkness in the wound that didn’t look good -- and it sounded/felt like bone scraping on bone. So she took me back to the doctor and he said it was just dirt in the wound and that my body would process it and deal with it -- nothing to worry about. I don't remember, but there may have been another doctor’s visit -- maybe a couple more. Nonetheless, Doctor Mama didn’t believe that doctor. She kept watching my wrist and began applying some home remedies. I was 6 or 7, so I don’t remember all the details. . . .I do remember an Irish potato poultice to draw out whatever was in there. I think there were some other steps, too. Over time, it became clear that there was something in my wrist. The potato poultice drew it up enough that Mama could tell it was pieces of gravel. Eventually she did "surgery" with tweezers and peroxide and ended up removing 3 small pieces of gravel from my wrist. We taped them to a piece of notebook paper and kept them for years.
While no part of that experience was enjoyable, I was thankful then and for all the years after to have had a mom with such great instincts, wisdom, and steady hands ;-)
I also had a couple of additional misdiagnoses --
In 7th grade my doctors missed a mononucleosis diagnosis and sent me home with a wrong answer. I was so sick. Fever spiking to 104 and higher. I almost passed out and felt so bad I thought I seriously might die. Mama's tenacity and knowledge ended up paying off again, as they put me in the hospital for 11 days and a diagnosis of mono after all. My sister was about 6-7 months old, so Mama couldn't stay at the hospital very much, and Daddy was working so I stayed in the hospital by myself, and eventually healed up good as new. I think that was at the very end of the school year. I know my 7th grade teachers, Mrs. Hooks and Mrs. Shearin sent me flowers in the hospital.
My sophomore year in college at SCC, the doctor had said to my mom that I had cancer and it had already spread to the lymph nodes. As it turned out, it was merely cat scratch fever, and I lived to tell the tale. But for the 3 weeks - 1 month that things were uncertain, every time Mama looked at me she would cry, thinking I WAS dying. . .
Even as adults, we have all called on Mama to identify rashes, look down our throats, make medicine or folk remedy recommendations -- for us, our spouses, our pets. . . .
All of us in the family have had circumstances where Mama was a better doctor than our doctors, and we have been incredibly blessed to have her as medical caregiver and as Mama.
I've been a teacher of K-3 students for over 20 years; I'm also a writer of poems, short stories, devotionals and picture books. I'm wife to an amazing husband and mom to Sparkles, Mocha, and Rusty -- our feline fur babies . I love reading, writing, singing and listening to music. I enjoy nature, Bible study and spending time with friends and family!