Category Archives: Reflection


My grandfather died yesterday.  I tell you this not to solicit condolences but so I can tell you a little about him.  Sometime later I will do a more comprehensive post, but here are some things you  may be interested to know.

He was 92 years old, and lived independently with just a little bit of assistance up until the very end.

He was born in 1919/1920 in Pasco, Washington.  No one who knew him from the time he was 18 forward would ever have guessed that he was born there, since he spent the rest of his life in the small town in Illinois where he met my grandmother, courted her, married her and raised their son, my father.  In the same town, he and Grandma created a paradise during the summer time for their three grandchildren when we came to visit, and spoiled us rotten.

Grandpa took three small girls under the age of 11 (1p, 8 and 6) fishing, and not only lived to tell the tale, but seemed to enjoy it.

At the age of six, Grandpa’s father decided the family had to return to Illinois from Washington to take care of his parents , so around 1925/1926, Great-Granpda, Great-Grandma, Grandpa’s two older sisters and Grandpa traveled by car from Pasco, Washington to Illinois.  Traveling by car those days was very different from today, and I can’t wait to write about it more in detail sometime.

There are a large group of cousins in Illinois who also think of Grandpa (and Grandma) as extra grandparents, too.  For years after Grandma and Grandpa retired, they took care of these cousins when school was out and the cousins’ parents had to work, or when the cousins weren’t feeling well and the parents had to work, and many times just because Grandma and Grandpa wanted the chance to have them over and watch them play.

Grandma and Grandpa were very excited when we adopted Kayla.  They both loved her dearly and did everything they could to let her know that.  Kayla loved them , too.

The computer age began in force when Grandpa was in his 70’s.  He got a computer and dived right in, becoming proficient with Facebook, e-mail, and scanning photographs and sending e-mails about them to all of his family scattered across the country.

With his computer, he did some work on genealogy, too, continuing a work his mother had started, and sharing the results with us, another story I will share with you one day.

He and Grandma had two dogs that I can remember.  They had Clyde, who was originally our dog, but who we had to give away when I was in 1st or 2nd grade to them because of a transfer to a place with base housing that didn’t take dogs.  Clyde was an all black dachsund beagle mix.  Clyde and Granpda were buddies.  Grandpa loved to see Clyde chase rabbits and possums, and anything else Clyde decided to go after.

Grandma and Grandpa got Pepper much later in life, after they retired.  Pepper was a miniature poodle, and although I don’t believe in reincarnation, if I had to come back as a dog, Pepper certainly would qualify as a great dog to have come back as.  Pepper got long walks with Grandpa every day, got to ride in the car whenever they went out of town to go shopping in the nearest city, usually about 45 minutes away at least, and had a special place on the couch, a bed and the armchair where she could sleep during the day as she chose.

I love him, and I will miss him.  Most importantly, I will see him and Grandma again.

Have a great day everyone!


Celebration: It’s Been One Year!

Good morning everyone!

This week marks the one year anniversary of this blog so today is the first day of the New Blogging Year.  From my first post, My Unintended Exercise, through my latest post, A Touch of Spring, it has been an exciting journey, and I just can’t tell you how much I appreciate your taking time out of your day over this past year to share this journey with me.

I will start off this New Blogging Year with a conversation Kayla and I had yesterday.  She was sick, and Mark was staying home with her since he also was sick.  Once we decided that she needed to stay home, both of us reinforced the idea that if you stayed home sick, you needed to rest and be quiet, not play and watch TV.  She willingly went back to bed, and when I was ready to leave I went in to her bedroom to tell her good-bye.  She rolled over, gave me a sleepy hug, then said, “Mom, can I ask you a question?”  I said, creatively, “Yes.”  She then asked “Is food included?”  I smothered a laugh, told her yes, food was included in a stay at home day, and then beat a fast track out to the car where I could laugh in safety.

During this past year, we have shared a lot of laughs, traveled together and even learned a few things.  You have been kind enough to read some of my poetry, read my posts about the history of the Ugg Cave Clan and listen to some of my whining thoughts on contemporary technology and other things.

Some of the posts that both you and I agree were pretty funny include my thoughts on The Perils of Absent-Mindedness, my one post that was Freshly Pressed, Rules I Never Thought I’d Need, Cheese Grits:  The Sequel, Please stop Improving My Life, Part I and Part II, Fibber McGee’s Closet and Drunken Puppies.

Together, we have traveled to many places, including Key West, the Smoky Mountains, Destin Florida, Oak Mountain in Birmingham, Pensacola and Callaway Gardens.  We also got to visit two fantastic restaurants, Lambert’s Cafe in Foley, Alabama and Captain Anderson’s in Panama City.

You shared the recently discovered history of the Ugg Clan with me in A Highly Biased History of Washing Machines, A Highly Biased History of Bowling, and A Highly Biased History of Bowling, Part II.  Research into the Ugg Clan continues, and I suspect that more of it will be revealed as time goes on.

Kayla, my daughter, has featured prominently in posts – the title of the blog is Tales from the Mom-Side.  Some of your favorite Kayla stories include Conversations with my Ten-Year-Old, Inappropriate O’Fences, The Art of Gentle Satire and the Vegetarian Veterinarian Veteran .

I had the chance to talk to you about our three extraordinary dogs, Tyra, Mandy and Darwin, aka Bad Dog and No-No, as well as tell you about our first dog, Shadow.

You and I also got to share some of the sweeter aspects of small town life in The 214th Comes Home and Homecoming Parade.

You have thought along with me in a few reflective posts, such as A Day of Thanks and Books:  Adventure of a Thousand Lives, as well as been kind enough to read some of my poetry in the posts A Poem for Memorial Day, A Poem for the Fourth of July, Praise, With Apologies to Samuel Clemens Moore and Christina Rossetti and in a funny remake of a popular Christmas carol, The Twelve Days Pre-Christmas.

A couple of other interesting posts including the history of the Thanksgiving Holiday (not the Pilgrims and Indians, but after that) and a discussion of one of the underappreciated tasks in the modern world: garbage collection – go without it for three weeks, and you will never take it for granted again!

Do I know where I’m going in this next year?  Absolutely not, but then that’s at least half of the fun!

Thank you for sharing these posts along with me, and here’s to a wonderful second year!

Have a great day!



Good morning everyone!

I may have already had a full Monday type Monday morning (you know, the type where everything is discombobulated around you, none of the material you need for everyone to get out of the house in an orderly fashion such as notes for school, book bags, and other such paraphernalia was in the right place, including the precious doctor’s note explaining that Kayla missed Friday at school because she was running a fever and you end up slamming cupboard and closet doors – at least they’re closed!  See, On Cupboard Doors and Closet Shelves ), but the birds outside are completely oblivious.

In the trees at the edge of the court, there is a symphony of song birds greeting the sun.  (I’d be greeting it, too, if I had to sleep outdoors last night; it got down in the 20’s!)  The volume of sound is really astonishing, and if I had more time and it was about 40 more degrees warmer, I’d love to sit down and just listen for a while.

There even is one brave bird sitting on the fence chirping at intermittent intervals.  I think he or she is part of the brave family of birds that nests in the huge rosebush in the back.  Most of the hatchlings, at least three, didn’t make it three years ago, because Mandy and Darwin found them, thought they were really interesting chew toys that squeaked, and Kayla and I couldn’t get out there in time.  After one more year of growth, though, the rose bush was out of the dogs’ reach and some member of the same family (I assume) comes back every year to build its nest.  I really wonder if the principles of natural selection shouldn’t weed this family out (after all, building your nest in the middle of a yard with three dogs who are very interested in sounds, sights and smells is not the safest place) but I’m glad those principles haven’t done so so far.  I like the idea of the sheer stubbornness it takes to come back to a place to claim it as your own even after someone much bigger and larger has tried to chase you away from it.  Now, of course, with the bigger rose bush with corresponding bigger thorns and better height, I believe the nest will be quite safe.

Is there a moral there somewhere?  Probably, but I’m too busy hunting my shoes and my cell phone so I can get out of the door to think through it more deeply – maybe you can come up with one?

Have a great Monday, everyone, or at least a better one than I am having so far!


With Apologies to both Samuel Clemens Moore and Christina Rossetti

A Poem for Christmas, With Apologies to both Samuel Clemens Moore and Christina Rosetti

Twas the night before Christmas,
When all through the house,
Not a creature was stirring,
Not even a mouse,
Not the three dogs who romp through the house with such glee,
Not the daughter whose growth is a beauty to see,
Nor the father who works so hard for them all,
With his snores gently drifting throughout the halls,
Only the mother who, quiet at last,
Sat on the couch with her holiday wrapped
Up with presents and laughter and love –
yet something was missing, she thought to herself.
A light through the window – a car driving by –
Brought a striking reminder of a star in the sky,
And of shepherds and angels and wise man and Love,
And the Baby whose Birthday gets lost amid stuff.
A Light lit inside her and peace filled her heart,
And her Christmas was perfect –
“My Lord, here’s my heart.”

Have a great day everyone!


A Day of Thanks

Hi Everyone!

Today is one of my family’s private days of thanks.  I think we all have some, days that the rest of the world might not notice, but we treasure in our hearts because of the special things that happened .

Kayla, right after she came to live with us

Six years ago today, Mark, Kayla and I officially became a family.  Unofficially, of course, we had been a family for just over a year when Kayla came to live with us in a foster-but-hopefully-soon-adoptive status.  I don’t know how it works for most people, but the three of us (and the two dogs we had then) bonded in a way that seemed miraculous – it took less than seven days, and really, it would have only been a day had it not taken Mark and I a few days to learn how to speak three year old. 

One of Kayla's first trips to the beach

There are so many people I am grateful to for that day.  The first is God, who miraculously moved all sorts of puzzle pieces into place to bring us together.  The second and third are Mark and Kayla, of course – Mark and I for having the courage to take a risk we had thought we would never take (fostering without having adoption be a certainty) and Kayla for showing that even 3 years olds can express choices and be determined.  I can remember one evening when her case worker came over to see us and to check on her, and she brought out every single toy that she had to show him and made sure that he knew how much she liked being with us.  Then, when he started to leave and she realized that nothing was going to change immediately, she stomped her foot and shouted at him, “My want to be [insert our family name here]! 

The fourth are the wonderful foster parents who kept Kayla for almost a year before she came to live with us.  They still remain our good friends today, and I am always grateful for what they did for Kayla in the 10 months that she was with them.   I don’t know if she could have trusted us as unreservedly as she does had she not first learned to trust adults again through them.

Kayla, this Thanksgiving in the Smoky Mountains

Then, of course, there is my family and Mark’s family, who have loved Kayla from the moment they heard about her, even before they saw her picture or met her. 

I can go on from there, and there are so many, many other people – her case worker, other people at DHR, wonderful day cares, teachers, my office, which managed to come up with a modified maternity leave schedule with less than two weeks notice, and which threw me (and Kayla) an awesome shower before she even arrived at my doorstep, friends, and just so many others, but if I did, this post would be way too long.  Just know, whoever you are, that I am still grateful seven years from when she came to us and six years to the day from when she was adopted and I do send up prayers of thanks for you regularly.

Kayla, during her first Christmas ever with us.

And to my miracle child, and my wonderful husband, I love you!

Have a great day everyone!


And the Answer Is…..

Good morning Everyone! 

I want to thank everyone who played “Guess Which Tree” along with me yesterday.  It was really interesting to read everyone’s answers, and I learned something in reading them, too.  

I’ll give any of you who didn’t participate yesterday one last chance to take your guess – the question was, which one of the two trees shown in the picture is a pine tree?

Trees 1

Trees 2

And the winner is …..the tree on the left!  As several people commented, it is the bark on the tree that gives it away as a pine tree.  It also occurred to me as I studied the pictures after I took them that I don’t recall ever seeing moss grow on a pine tree in the Southeast United States before, but that may just be because I haven’t been looking.  (My more woodsy/hiking friends – does moss usually grow on pine trees?)  Mark says that the tree on the right is an oak tree.  I wouldn’t know; I can recognize and name a pine tree, a ginkgo tree, a dogwood, a Bradford Pear Tree and a magnolia tree, and that’s about it. 

Fortunately, whether you chose the correct tree or not, you still won this challenge.  How?  To even make a choice, you had to really look at both trees; you had to admire the difference between them in terms of bark texture and bark color; you had to discard most of the ideas our mind automatically “sees” when it hears the word “tree,” such as branches and leaves, and recognize a tree. 

In a nutshell, then, the point of the exercise was to remind me (and maybe one or two others out there) that sometimes, it is okay to forget about the forest and admire the trees.  I hope you got a chance to do that yesterday.

And, of course, the view of the forest is worthwhile too…..

Have a great day everyone!


Life with a Geriatric Dog

Good morning everyone!

Tyra on the couch

I watched Tyra last night as she was walking up the stairs from the back yard to the porch and realized, as I have realized other times over the last six months, that we are beginning life yet again with a geriatric dog.  It is an inevitable part of the life cycle of the special friendship that you acquire with a dog.  The last years with a geriatric dog have their own joys as well as their special sorrows but I still wouldn’t trade them for anything.  Part of owning a dog is that eventually the dog will die but the joy I get from being with the dog throughout its life far outweighs the sorrows. 

Shadow asleep on the bed when she was 15.

Tyra will be our third geriatric dog.  Those of you who have followed this blog for a while will probably remember that Shadow and J.P. Wooflesnort (Woof for short) were the other two. 

One of my favorite pictures of Woof as an older dog.

At our house, geriatric dogs get special services.  These include elevator service onto beds, couches and any other surface aged hips and paws can’t quite reach any more, (although when it is Mandy’s turn, there will be a lack of elevator service for counters on which she currently likes to graze!), first dibs on any table scraps or snacks that are handed out and help with maintaining the spot of primary dog in the house.  Tyra gets the special perk, because it is a special joy for her, of being taken for a ride periodically in the car while the other two dogs are left in their crates at the house.  The other two don’t mind so very much, but the look on Tyra’s face as she saunters out is priceless – it is very much an “I get to go and they don’t!” look. 

Tyra basking in the sun in the backyard.

Older dogs, at least the three we have had, mellow out a little bit.  Woof was seven years younger than Shadow.  Once Shadow was 12 and beginning to get quite deaf, Woof would often get quite excited about something that Shadow couldn’t hear, and go get Shadow to check it out; Shadow would investigate the situation and come back and tell Woof everything was okay and just to chill.

Shadow in her prime riding in a boat on the local lake

Older dogs do not lose their intelligence as they get older.  I can remember very close to the bitter end, once we knew that Shadow had kidney trouble, being told to feed her a special kind of dog food.  To break her into it, we were told to start by mixing her regular dog food with this (apparently much blander) wet dog food to encourage her to eat it.  Shadow would have nothing of that; we had about a week of her carefully picking out every dry piece of food she could find while shredding through and leaving all of the wet dog food she didn’t like. 

Woof, a few months before she died.

I would like to say that older dogs get sweeter as they age, but I haven’t really noticed that.  Shadow kept that hint of ginger in her temperament that endeared her to us.  She loved us, but had the gumption to get irritated with us if we broke her “rules” about things, like if we were playing with a dog toy and she felt that we weren’t letting her get it often enough, as well as the facial expressions to let us know it.  Woof stayed as sweet as ever.  In fact, I have to say that Woof was probably the most flexible geriatric dog I know of, since she adjusted well to Shadow’s death, Tyra’s adoption, Kayla’s adoption and Mandy’s adoption all in the space of about three years, although she did nearly have a nervous breakdown the time that Kayla, at age 5, pulled Woof into the bathtub with her in a moment when I wasn’t looking.  She never again let herself be alone in the bathroom with Kayla, that was certain!  Tyra’s temperament appears to be holding steady – sweet and sane. 

Tyra Waiting on the Sofa

For our household, Tyra has just arrived on the leading edge of geriatric status (Shadow died when she was 16 and Woof when she was 14) so hopefully, at age 10, Tyra has several years left to enjoy being queen of the household.  But she reminds me, as Tyra and Woof did each day as they aged, that each of our days together is a gift, and one I need to remember to appreciate. 

But then, isn’t that true of all of our relationships?

Have a great day everyone!


The Blank Page: Analogy and Reflection

Good morning Everyone!

Have you ever thought about the possibilities inherent in a blank page?  Every single book ever written began with one, even the Bible.  A page is anything that is written upon, physically or electronically, which includes all medium from leather hides, cuneiform clay tablets, papyrus, paper, computer screens and napkins and paper towels (for those of us like me who are organizationally challenged and can’t find paper all the time when they need it.)

A blank page can be intimidating, especially when a deadline is looming.  It stares back at you, unblinking, demanding that something be written on it.  At my work, it usually is demanding that something be written on it quickly, with accurate legal citations, and adequate evidence to prove my point.  When I am just writing, as I am now, sometimes it gives me a softer, gentler stare, reminding me that I can write about anything that I want, and sometimes the stare challenges me, telling me I can do better and it’s time to start writing.  

One typewriter Ernest Hemingway used to fill blank pages

A blank page can be comforting.  Each one is a new start, a new opportunity, a chance to write something that no one has every written before.  With each one, the possibility exists that the magic inherent in the written word will strike, and that elusive combination of words that goes straight to the hearts of others and makes them laugh or cry or think, that makes those particular words matter and live on past the immediate moment of their writing will be formed.

Kayla at what can only be called the "heirloom typewriter" for our family.

A blank page is both malleable, and inflexible.  A blank page, once I write on it, will let me erase the words I have previously written and start over again, if I need to, (with the exception of leather hides and cuneiform clay tablets; that’s more complicated) but I always reach a point where I am locked in to what I have written, and the story or brief acquires a life of its own.

Kayla, during her first Christmas ever with us.

I think that’s one reason that children are fascinating.  At the very beginning, they seem to be a blank page as well, but a blank page that, as it grows, like any good story, takes on a life of its own.  I have noticed that with Kayla.  While I see her growing into being her own wonderful person, I can see traits that mirror traits that Mark or I have, both good and bad.   She can be very flexible, at times, and absolutely intransigent (I can’t imagine where that stubbornness comes from!  Family members, no laughing please) at others.  She has been participating in writing her own story from the blank page that she started as, and as both a writer and a watcher of it, I can’t wait to see how it turns out!

Kayla driving the Southern Star, our dolphin cruise boat, this summer

Have a great day everyone!


Praise (A Poem)


What will I do in the fresh light of springtime,
As my soul rejoices in the new life around?

Praise God my Maker, my Savior, my Teacher,
And know that with such praise my joy will resound.

What should I do in the hot days of summer,
When my soul parched and barren seeks to wither, lay down?

Praise God my Maker, my Savior, my Teacher,
And know that through worship Living Water is found.

What will I do when cool winds sweep in autumn,
As my soul ponders questions the way mist covers ground?

Praise God my Maker, my Savior, my Teacher,
And know that in His Word true answers abound.

What must I do in the darkness of winter,
When my soul lies stripped barren, no strength to be found?

Praise God my Maker, my Savior, my Teacher,
And know that through all praise, revival is found.

What shall I do when at last my eyes darken,
When my soul cuts the ties that keeps it earthbound?

Praise God forever through hymns rich with thanksgiving,
With my family in Christ as God gathers them round.

A Butterfly Looks Back

I wrote the short story called “A Butterfly Looks Back” on Yahoo Contributor.  I think many of you will find it has a very encouraging message.  Please read it, and forward it on to others who  might be encouraged also.

Here is the link:  A Butterfly Looks Back.

Thank you very much!