"Snippet" -- a small piece or brief extract
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.
These blog posts were first written as part of a book for Mama to say thanks and to let her know that I loved her and treasured so many amazing memories that we had made together, in spite of some rough patches along the way in our relationship. Faith was strong in my family. It shaped us, created us and measured us. It grounded us, connected us, and was a keystone in our times together. That doesn't mean our faith was without struggles. Mama struggled with her faith during the time that my grandmama was so sick and bedridden -- and for the rest of her life. We all struggled with our faith -- and our attitudes toward church (Not equivalent things in my way of thinking.) during a particularly challenging time as we were breaking away from a congregation we had been part of for a long time. We've each faced faith challenges in different seasons and for different reasons. The last 20 years have brought lots of change to the beliefs and practices of the faith of my family, but our love for Jesus has never wavered. Our sincere desire to do what Jesus would want us to do -- the concept of the golden rule (Treat others the way you would like to be treated.) has provided a benchmark our whole entire lives. While currently on Sundays, you may find us worshiping at home around our fire pit as opposed to fellowshipping with a structured church, the foundation is strong, the faith is strong, and the desire to live right, be who God created us to be and the hope for Heaven are hallmarks of my family and my growing up.
From my earliest memories we were heavily involved in church and regular in our attendance. For the first several years, I had to sit with Mama and Daddy during services. Folks who attended church with us tell stories of my sitting attentively at 6 months- 1 year old, and how Mama would tolerate nothing less. Some thought she was too harsh, but I appreciate the fact that I was one of those weird kids actually listening to sermons and taking notes as a young girl.
As I got older and began branching out, Mama would let me sit in front of her. If I became inattentive or otherwise was not doing a good job, she would reach up and thump me on the ear. Sometimes today when I’m sitting in a church service (or a teacher meeting or. . .), there are some people I wish were close enough that I could thump their ear. . . .
We were expected to be at every church service unless we were sick. Normally we didn’t mind, but Sunday nights were hard, because Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom and The Wonderful World of Disney both came on and we always missed them. It was actually a special treat to be sick and be able to stay home and watch our favorite shows. We enjoyed church, but as a young child (and considering the small, conservative church we attended) it didn’t hold a candle to Wild Kingdom and Disney . . .
One of the books in our house was a Bible story book. It was part of a larger set that contained a Bible Encyclopedia and another big Bible-based book. They all had these burgundy-brown covers. Usually it was Mama tucking us in, and oftentimes it would involve a story from the Bible story book. Most of the stories had illustrations, and had comprehension questions at the end that were usually part of our bedtime routines, along with saying our prayers.
When it was appropriate, Mama would let me join in with the church ladies in their activities and events. When we were attending the 74-76 Church of Christ, we would meet up at Vi Thick’s house and make cards to go on the meal trays for the hospital and nursing homes. We would cut construction paper into rectangles and fold them, putting a sticker on the front with a scripture. Inside we would write the name of our church. Later when we attended the Whiteville congregation, I think we did something similar. I enjoyed being part of the group and learned a lot about serving from those ladies. I appreciate Mama so much for including me in those times.
Mama also allowed me to visit the Nursing Home with a mentor who had moved into the area. She took a couple of us young teenage girls under her wing and taught us a bit about sewing, took us to visit the folks at the Nursing Home. We would visit and read the Bible to the residents. I spent a lot of time in this mentor’s home and she and her husband always held hands when they prayed. I thought that was so beautiful and wanted to do that with my husband one day. Now I do. And my whole family does, but it all started with the time Mama allowed me to spend with godly mentors.
One of the values Mama instilled in me early was hospitality. It played out in a number of ways in our household. Here are a few:
Hosting the guest preacher -- I remember a number of times when our church was having a gospel meeting (revival) and the preacher would stay with us in our house for the week. I always treasured those weeks and enjoyed sitting at the feet of the guest preachers. Sometimes I had the special privilege of accompanying them to other members’ houses for dinner as their GPS. Sometimes they would teach me magic tricks or card tricks. Those are some of my favorite memories. One of the preachers who came and stayed with us brought his family for part of the time, and his daughter became one of my good friends. We counseled together at church camp and roomed together at Christian college.
Church Parties -- We hosted lots of church parties at our house -- baby showers, wedding showers, party parties, and New Year’s Eve parties. Mama would always get a little stressed when the time drew near as there was always so much to do, but I always enjoyed the special snacks and the extra fellowship time. Also, it often involved singing, which was always my favorite part. I remember lots of New Year's Eves, singing in the new year with my church family.
There were lots of other examples of my mama showing hospitality, but it is a value that I treasure and strive to emulate in my own life now. I am so thankful for her modeling in this important area of Christian living.
Mama always took our spiritual homework seriously. I got my 10 commandments bracelet for memorizing the 10 Commandments and a mini treasure chest for learning all the books of the Bible. Mama worked with us on memory verses and other memory work. At some points during our growing up time, Mama was also our Bible class teacher. Even when she was not, she made sure we were following up like we needed to.
The scriptures were always a regular part of discussions at our house. Whether it was around the supper table or while we were gardening, fishing, or whatever was going on, there was likely to be scripture involved in our conversations. I’m reminded of the passage in Deuteronomy 6 that says, “Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up.” Mama modeled that very well. Scriptures were lived out in our home and there was no hypocrisy. What you saw was what you got -- wherever we were.
When we had trouble wrapping our heads around something at school or something someone said that conflicted with our church teaching, I really appreciate that Mama and Daddy didn't just quote doctrine. We went back to the source. We sat at the dining table, pulled out the Bibles and concordances, looked up scriptures and sorted things out the best we could based on what we read in the scriptures. It's still a practice in my house now, because it was instilled so fully then.
Commitment and Service
Our whole entire lives, these concepts were modeled and taught. My family was whole-heartedly committed to the Lord and to His church as we understood it. There was an understanding that if something was happening at church, we were to be there unless there was a very good reason we couldn’t be. Pretty much the only reasons we didn’t attend something was sickness or if we were out of town. Even if we were out of town, we usually attended the local congregation. We tried to schedule our work schedule around church times, but missing an occasional service due to work was acceptable as long as it wasn’t habitual.
For most of my life, Daddy was ministering from the pulpit and Mama was ministering from the pew and in the home. They both made sure that we understood that our church life was serious and we needed to take it seriously. Our church responsibilities came first. I remember one time -- elementary or middle school -- and I was supposed to get an award, but it required missing church. Mama allowed me to make the decision, but I chose to not attend the awards ceremony, but rather to attend church services.
While some of my specific beliefs and opinions have changed as I’ve grown and studied on my own and as I’ve had many more experiences, these hallmarks of my faith and precepts of commitment and service still serve me well as I make decisions about my priorities. I am thankful not to have to “decide to go to church on Sunday”. It is as ingrained as brushing my teeth every day.
(Full transparency note: Our church shut its doors in October 2019 before the Pandemic in March 2020. We were meeting with a small group at our house, but stopped meetings during the Pandemic. For most of the time since last March, Shane and I have worshipped alone -- at our dining room table or around our fire pit, studying Priscilla and Aquila, reading scripture, or sometimes enjoying an online church service. Even though we are not committed or regularly attending a specific church right now, our values and faith are strong and our desire to serve and grow in our Christian walk is also strong.)
I am thankful for the moral, spiritual, and ethical compass that these concepts provide. These ideals helped shape me as a person and as a Christian and I am so incredibly thankful to have grown up in a home that valued commitment to the cause of Christ.
While these ideals provide a stability that I value, my strong knowledge of the scriptures, coupled with a strong belief in thinking and studying for myself and not merely taking someone’s words as gospel have allowed me to stretch and grow and become a woman of impact -- a leader who stands firmly on her own two feet, but constantly leaning on the arms of Jesus for guidance, strength, and support. That would ONLY be possible with the strength, determination and spiritual guidance of my mother -- a woman of impact herself.
As a leader in my current church (refer back to full transparency note), these foundational scriptural truths and these critical views about commitment and service have given me solid footing from which to lead and have allowed me to be a leader who is willing to go the extra mile and brings a strong scriptural focus to our church.
I absolutely value all the conversations around the dinner table, and as we were driving, gardening, fishing, and living that helped make me the woman I am today. While I am still a work in progress, and I fail every single day, I have a growing understanding of His grace and mercy because of the foundations laid by my mama and daddy.
Sundays were church days and family days. Grandmama would often come home with us after church for Sunday dinner, which was always a Southern fried family affair -- fried chicken, rice and gravy, green beans and slaw or stew beef with rice and green beans and slaw, etc. Pictured from L-R are me (Tonnye Williams Fletcher), Cora Le White Smith, Mona Faye Smith Williams, and bottom -- Shanda Kay Williams (White)
One year ago (+a few weeks), I became active on Twitter. Originally, I wasn't excited about it. It was one of those things "they" say you need to do to become a successful author. So on Leap weekend, 2020, I leapt onto Twitter. As I explored and oriented myself to Twitter, I discovered the kidlit community. The first people to show me kindness and welcome were Kailei Pew and Kaitlyn Sanchez. Through them, I learned about this #SpringFlingKidLit contest, sponsored by Kaitlyn and Ciara O'Neal . Choose a gif. Write a Spring story in 150 words -- or less. Everyone who knows me knows I don't do much of anything in 150 words or less :-D But I threw my fairy story into the competition and did not place as a winner. However, I was a winner, because I was introduced to this amazing kidlit community that has provided help and encouragement to a new writer. And I have won every day since then -- sometimes I literally won (but mostly chance things -- critiques, (to help my writing improve), free books (to use as mentor texts), book bling (because . . .book bling! ;-), KidLit Zombie week came later and I got the "Miss Congeniality-ish" award from Jolene Gutierrez, who has become another dear friend in this community. With every critique, my writing and my knowledge improved. I took classes, webinars, read books, joined Twitter chats and mini-communities like #PBChat with Justin Colon, and #PBParty with Mindy Alysse Weiss, #KidLitSelfCare with Brittany Pomales. This year, I joined Julie Hedlund's 12x12 Challenge, and First Draft Friday with Hollie Wolverton. In this year, I have learned so much and grown as an author and as a person. I have won in so many ways. Most recently, I experienced my first big "win" as a writer, when I entered Vivian Kirkfield's #50PreciousWords contest. Yes, that's right -- a full story in 50 words. The top 51 were chosen out of 772 entries, and I was number 47! That's a ways down the list, but it put me in the top 16%, and it was the first time that my writing has won in a big international event. It has been a year of wins and losses, learning and growing, challenges and successes. I'm thrilled to be part of it all, and win or lose, I'm here for the duration, because that's the only way you'll ever be a winner!
I hope you enjoy my story about Venus. Feel free to leave me a comment here or on my Twitter or my Facebook. I've linked all the amazing people who have influenced my writing journey on Twitter. If you're missing any of them, go follow them now if you're an author hoping to win. If you're a reader, many of them have books out now, or will have soon, so check out their books.
Oh, and if you're an insect or very small animal, watch out for Venus.
VENUS' SPRING TRAP
72 words (not including back matter)
Venus awoke after a long winter,
stretched her leaves toward the sun, and set her traps.
She was hungry!
She unfurled her lobes,
Open wide. . .
What shall I eat first?
A row of ants ambled around. . .
A bunny bounced by. . .
A ladybug leaned in. . .
Finally. . .
a fly fluttered in for nectar,
touched the trigger hairs, and. . .
Fly made a delicious snack!
Interesting facts about Venus Fly Traps:
(This back matter is not part of the contest entry -- just here for your curiosity)
Venus fly traps are carnivorous plants with hinged traps that secrete nectar to lure insects. When insects touch trigger hairs, the hinge closes and the plant digests the insect with enzymes.
It takes Venus Fly Traps a while to reopen a trap once it closes, so they often don't waste their energy on tiny insects like ants. Most plants have several traps available so while one is closed, they can still catch food in the other traps.
Venus fly traps only grow naturally in boggy areas in the sandhills of North and South Carolina. They are a vulnerable species, and removing them from wild spaces is a felony and can result in jail time.
My family loves the outdoors. I could probably write a whole book for this section. Mama grew up on a farm and enjoys gardening and flowers and lots of outdoor activities. She tried to pass this along as well -- and has -- though probably more selectively than she would have liked.
I’ll start with the most enjoyable -- to me, at least. One of the greatest rewards (and most frequent) as we were growing up was to get to go fishing. It was sometimes bribe, sometimes reward, sometimes stress relief, sometimes recreation that we could afford.
I remember when we lived in the old white house there was a pond across the road. I was young and the memories aren’t very specific, but I do remember fishing across the road and conversations about a Grandaddy catfish.
During the years at New Hope, living at Cousin O’Dell’s house, I don’t have very many memories of fishing, but the times at Pleasant Hill are replete with fishing memories. Sometimes we would traipse through the small section of woods that led to the creek and fish there. Often, we would fish from the roadside as the creek fed into Hilton Cox’s pond. Hilton gave us permission to fish at the pond, too, so those are my very favorite fishing memories!
At the end of a day, when work was done, we would go digging for worms. Sometimes Daddy was home, too. Sometimes, Grandmama came over. (As I remember it, she was often the impetus for our fishing trips. . .) We would find rich soil -- oftentimes areas that Mama or Daddy had created for the purpose of drawing/breeding earthworms for fishing. Digging worms was often part of the adventure itself, although we often got whiny if they weren’t abundant and easy. Sometimes it took several tries to find the right spot for lots of worms.
Once the worms were collected into a can or a bucket and all the fishing gear was gathered, we would walk down to the creek, roadside, or pond and settle in. We knew we needed to be quiet or the fish wouldn’t bite -- or at least that’s what the adults told us. In retrospect, perhaps just for a little peace and quiet. It was probably a moot point anyway, but we did try. Quiet moments by the pond are some of my favorite childhood memories -- catching fish, turtles, and even eels. Oftentimes, just drowning worms, but we were doing it together.
Somewhere along the way, someone has gotten the idea that I don’t enjoy fishing anymore. That is absolutely not true. While it is difficult for me to carve out time from my other responsibilities at a time that is appropriate for fishing, and I don’t enjoy the heat of the summer always, and I really, really hate mosquitoes and gnats that sometimes come with fishing, I LOVE fishing! I love the peace of it, the quiet anticipation, the shared experience, the sometimes-excitement of the catch. It’s a legacy that lives on . . .
I had a love-hate relationship with the clothesline. Mama taught me to hang clothes out from the time I could reach. Even before that, I would hand her clothespins or hang out while she was hanging out the clothes. I loved the smell of sheets after they had dried in the sun. I’ve never smelled sheets that smelled like Mama’s sheets off the line. It’s a beautiful sensory memory from the New Hope days that I treasure -- so soft -- and THAT smell.
Some days I didn’t mind hanging out clothes -- or taking them in. There’s a comfort to it. I love the smell and the stiff-yet-soft feel as you’re gathering them up. The orderliness of shaking them out before hanging them up. The cool dampness of the fresh-from-the-washer clothes on a hot summer day. Even sometimes, the quick adrenaline rush of a quick unexpected shower and the mad dash to get the dry clothes in before they get wet again.
Some days, not so much . . .I don’t know why. I don’t know if there was a reason beyond my fickle childhood moods. Often it was my job. Sometimes I despised it, sometimes I tolerated it out of obligation, but sometimes I relished it and reveled in it.
As an adult, I’ve had times where I’ve hung out clothes, and where I’ve strictly used the dryer. Both have their positives and negatives. Sometimes I long for the feel and smell of air-dryed laundry. Sometimes I beg Shane to put up another clothesline. Then he reminds me that I work full-time and we are rarely here in the daylight and it would be a moot point. He’s right, but the memory is strong, and sometimes I sure do miss it.
I remember at times having probably 30 or more African violets in our house. Mama loves plants and she has always been great at nurturing them and nursing them back to health even from “almost-death”. She would grab an African violet for 25 cents that looked like death and pretty soon it would be vibrant and thriving again.
For a while, Mama really got into Gloxinias and we had them everywhere. They had beautiful showy trumpet-shaped flowers, and we enjoyed them for quite some time.
She loves anything green, and especially anything that flowers, but outside ones are her favorites. She loves planting them and watching them grow and bloom.
Mama always prefers living flowers over cut ones and often Daddy would get her a new rosebush for birthday or Mother’s Day or some celebration. She had quite a collection of Roses at Pleasant Hill -- Mr. Lincoln and Peace were the two I remember most vividly. Mr. Lincoln with its deep dark scarlet hues and Peace, looking like a swirl of orange sherbet, vanilla, and lemon sorbet, with pink lemonade accents. I loved the variety of Peace’s blossoms.
Long after I married, and once Mama and Daddy tried to get the nursery business established, they really got into Daylilies and we would take family trips to the daylily farm to peruse all the newest, showiest varieties and add a few new ones to their collection.
I remember once at Pleasant Hill, I wanted to establish a little bed of the tiny little wild violas. I loved them! Mama helped me carve out a spot in the yard and plant a few to try to get them established. I have no idea how well they did, but I always appreciated her taking the time to help me with something I enjoyed.
Our tastes in flowers tends to be very different, along with a lot of other things in life, but just like everywhere, variety keeps things interesting and makes life better!
We’ve had a garden as long as I can remember, and growing up, it was definitely a family affair.
Even though I’m probably the least farm-oriented member of the family, I still enjoy the feel and the smell of fresh-turned dirt, watching things grow, and eating things fresh from the garden. That appreciation comes from Mama and Daddy both.
Growing up in a gardening family was such a blessing, and it has spoiled me in many ways. There is NOTHING like a big slice of fresh garden tomato whether you’re eating them with pork chops or on a sandwich (with Miracle Whip of course). Grocery store tomatoes do NOT compare!
It was Mama who taught me to pick the worms off cabbages, how to pick butterbeans and string beans. She showed me when cucumbers and squash are ready and when you need to toss them, save them for seed or feed them to “the animals” (depending on which ones they had at the time) Because it’s always been something we do together, in this area, it’s hard to tell where Mama ends and Daddy starts and vice versa. Together, they taught me a lot about gardening. We’ve spent more hours than I can count shelling beans, snapping beans, shelling peas, “looking” collards, picking cucumbers and squash, shucking corn, silking corn, “squishing” strawberries, and lots more.
One area where I know it was Mama is the cooking of garden-fresh fruits and veggies -- prepping and cooking, freezing, canning were always Mama’s domain. Because of her, I know how to easily peel a bunch of tomatoes or peaches using boiling water. I know how to make strawberry punch bowl cake (a family favorite during the strawberry-growing years). I know how to blanch vegetables to put them in the freezer. I can peel potatoes using a knife (even though she still would complain that I leave too much potato on the peelings. . .) . I can peel and slice cucumbers and tomatoes, though never as evenly as she can. I can cook new potatoes and green beans. I can boil peanuts.
Because of her teaching, I don’t throw out a whole fruit or veggie just because it has a “bad place”. I know how to work around that, saving the good.
Because of her encouragement, I am willing to try lots of different foods, and I will eat almost anything, although turnips are at the BOTTOM of that list!!!!!!!!
Even though I’ve chosen a professional life and my continued “extracurricular” activities don’t allow much time for gardening, I so appreciate all the lessons that came from the time spent in the garden, and using things from the garden, and I appreciate all the effort that went into helping us eat well and eat healthy from the garden that continues even now! What a blessing!
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!
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