Home Is Where The Story Starts

Someone’s Example, Someone’s Hero

Posted by on Nov 18, 2015 in Blog, Double Cousins, Home Is Where The Story Starts | 2 comments

Someone’s Example, Someone’s Hero

  I Timothy 4:12 Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity. Have you ever noticed that no matter your age, someone is always looking up to you? Who do you look up to or admire? I bet if you made a list it would include older siblings, cousins, aunts, uncles, friends, parents, grandparents, sports figures, teachers, and even your Pastor. What do all of these people have in common? For the most part, I would say they are older than you! It is normal for us to admire and look up to those who are older than us. Elementary kids look up to the teenagers in their church and school. They want to be just like them. They hope to attain that status soon. Similarly, the teenagers look up to college students, college students to young parents, and young parents look up to older adults. Where does this leave you? Say you are ten years old.  Does it matter what you do? After all, you’re just a kid. No one would look up to you! But wait, hold your horses! What about those younger kids, you know the ones? The little kindergarten, first, and second graders that hang around and get in your way? The ones that annoy you until you think you will scream!? Why don’t they just go play with their friends and leave you alone? Here’s why. They look up to you. They admire you. They want to be just like you when they are ten. Gulp! That’s right. They are watching you, imitating you, learning how to behave from you. So, when you are tempted to fudge the rules, think! Who (besides God) is watching me? Who am I influencing? Believe it or not, you are someone’s example. Someone’s hero. Be a good...

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The (Music) Doctor is In!

Posted by on Nov 17, 2015 in Blog, Home Is Where The Story Starts |

The (Music) Doctor is In!

  Everyone has their own way of doing therapy. At least everyone should! For some people it is exercise or team sports. Not me. For some people it is shopping! That’s not me either. Some people cook and eat. Yes, I am probably guilty of that, but that is a different blog. Some people read. Check. Some people use music. . . Bingo! That is me.   When I get frustrated or sad, the best (nonfattening) way I can deal with it is to sit at the piano and play. I’ll pull out a classical book and play a few simple pieces. I’ll play through a book one piano teacher insisted I buy if I wanted to take lessons from her. I resisted, but those pieces speak to me. I pound out the hymns in the hymn book that express God’s might and power. Sometimes, I pull out hymn arrangement books and play pieces I learned in the past.   My mom said she could tell what mood I was in by how I played the piano. It is my best therapy. I love playing for church. I am not the most talented or accomplished pianist, but I have developed a unique style over the years. I play a lot by ear, but can read notes. I use a lot of broken cords in my accompaniment and I like to alternate octaves to add variety.  There is probably a technical term for how I play, but I don’t know it.   Before I was married, our church in South Dakota hosted a Singspiration for area churches every few months. Often a young girl would come up and ask me if I could show her how to play like I do. I was always at a loss. It is just how I play. I did eventually figure out the broken chord thing and I would share that with her. Hopefully, it was helpful.   This started me wondering. How did I get this style? Where did it come from?   The other day, I sat down to play. I felt like playing some of the hymn arrangements I have learned over the years so I pulled the first book out of the pile. Wow! It had been years since I first played from that book, nondescript cover, worn by years of use. Then it hit me. This was the first real live hymn arrangement book I ever used.   I remembered how daunting the pieces seemed when I first opened the book. They were way beyond my ability. But, taking on the challenge I learned the pieces measure by measure, line by line, until I knew it. If a section was just too over the top difficult, I made up my own little arrangement using a similar style to the rest of the piece. I improvised. I started playing through it, piece after piece. My fingers stumbled in spots that I once played by heart. It had been too long. But,...

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Recording Stories-From Every Day To Extraordinary

Posted by on Nov 12, 2015 in Blog, Home Is Where The Story Starts | 1 comment

Recording Stories-From Every Day To Extraordinary

Recently I visited a school in Greenville. While I spoke with one class, I saw the principal come in and stand in the back of the room. I was at the point in my presentation where I discuss the concept of “Write What You Know.”   In this section, I share how I decided to write a chapter book about my experiences with my siblings and cousins on Grandpa Jones’ ranch rather than a picture book about Grandpa’s experiences because I learned you are to write what you know. Then I showed them pictures from our days at the ranch in the 1970’s. I saw her lean over and say something to one of the professors. After the session the principal came up and introduced herself. She commented on the presentation. “Your story about the ranch brought back memories to me,” she said. “But not about a ranch. My memories were growing up in a mortuary!” She went on to explain that her grandpa ran a mortuary business, and she grew up on the grounds. Her memories were of funerals, grieving families, her hairdresser aunt doing the hair, and hearing the stories of the lives people lived. She pointed out that a lot of people think it is a sad business, but she said her grandpa always felt honored to hear the stories people tell at funerals. He always heard the best things about people. I encouraged her to write down the stories from her childhood. An unusual childhood, certainly, but so very interesting to this storyteller. A few days later I had the opportunity to swap stories with two good friends. My mouth dropped open several times, I’m sure. These two have some incredible family stories. “You need to write those down,” I said, several times. I think I am becoming a broken record.   You see, as more people share their stories with me, I am convinced more and more of the absolute necessity to record our stories. Our culture is hurting for historic perspective. We are so wrapped in the here and now, we don’t stop to learn from the past. And you know what they say about that, don’t you? Here is the quote:   “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” George Santayana in The Life of Reason, 1905 This is often attributed to Churchill, but it appears it was first said by Mr. Santayana. Whoever said it first, it is true. It also reminds me of this verse in the Bible: Deuteronomy 32:7 Remember the days of old, consider the years of many generations: ask thy father, and he will shew thee; thy elders, and they will tell thee. So, start today! Write down your stories. They don’t have to be incredible. The every day can become extraordinary with the perspective of...

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Hook, Line, and Sinker—What Hooked You?

Posted by on Nov 9, 2015 in Blog, Home Is Where The Story Starts | 4 comments

Hook, Line, and Sinker—What Hooked You?

  My publisher recently posted this meme on Facebook and it started me thinking. What was the first series of books that got me interested in reading? Was it a series? Or, was it an individual book? My husband said he felt it was the Hardy Boy’s Mysteries for him. I guess if I had to pick a series it would be Trixie Belden Mysteries, but that was long after I started reading. The truth is, I don’t remember not reading. Books are such a huge part of my life. But, there are some books that make me draw in a breath when I find them. The other day we were in a bookstore in Columbia, South Carolina. The book that jumped into my hands and wouldn’t let me put it down was The All of a Kind Family by Sydney Taylor. It was paperback and had a great colored picture on the cover, but the way I remember it is as a hardback maroon book with a pebbly feel to the cover. I think there might have been the outline of some girls on the front. The title took me right back to my childhood. This was one of my favorite books, and the truth was there were two more in the series. So, maybe it was this series that piqued my interest. I bought it and I read it again the other night. I didn’t remember much of the story. It is set in New York and the family is Jewish. There are many traditions different from mine. The time period is the early 1900’s, and as I read it I realized that these girls were from Grandma Jones’ era. A connection.   My shelves are like walking down memory lane. Whenever I find books from my childhood I buy them. The Little House On the Prairie were favorites. I loved and still love The Trolley Car Family, Charlotte’s Web, and The Trumpet of the Swan. I read anything I could by Lois Lenski. She had an entire series of books about different children living in different parts of the country. It was social studies in a series.   A Tree Grows in Brooklyn was possibly my favorite book as a child. However, I read it from the Reader’s Digest Condensed books for children that we received as gifts from our grandparents, and I’m telling you that the unabridged book has parts that were NOT in the book I knew and loved. I loved the main character, Francie. Even today, when I want to relax I get some candy or some crackers, a little treat. I put them in a special dish and get an ice-cold drink. I go out to my porch—the closest thing I have to a fire escape—and I read. I read and I watch the neighbors. Just like Francie Nolan.   It struck me the other day, both All of A Kind Family and A Tree Grows in Brooklyn take place in New...

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Grandma McKnight, Mountains, and Memories

Posted by on Nov 1, 2015 in Blog, Home Is Where The Story Starts | 1 comment

Grandma McKnight, Mountains, and Memories

The other day, I glanced out the window of my bedroom in the mountain home I visited and I saw a chipmunk skittering around on the ground. Mountains and chipmunks remind me of Grandma McKnight. Especially chipmunks in mountains! Why? Let me tell you.   When I was a little girl my grandparents lived in Mariposa, California, a charming town worth visiting.  We lived in Nebraska at the time, so going to California was always a long trek. But, each visit involved a drive to Yosemite to see the massive redwood trees and incredible waterfalls, a lesson from Grandma about some little piece of nature, and a Psalm. Grandma was big on the Psalms. She especially liked the Psalm that said, “I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills from whence cometh my help.” (Psalm 121:1) I couldn’t help but think of that Psalm as I looked out the window at Grandfather Mountain. Well, at the clouds where Grandfather Mountain was supposed to be! The second mountain community was Gunnison, Colorado where they moved in 1973, shortly after my mother died. Having them closer was such a comfort. Daddy could drive us the four hours to their house and they would love on us, instruct us, and love on us some more. We explored the mountains with them. Grandma let us make crafts using natural things like rocks, lichen, and pinto beans. (She was creative at keeping the grandchildren occupied in a productive way.) And all of the time we were doing our craft, she had us memorizing verses. Often the Psalms.   One summer, after we moved to California, we returned to Gunnison for a visit. Aunt Rachel, Uncle Paul, and their girls were living in Grandpa and Grandma’s basement while my uncle attended the university. One day we drove through the mountains and enjoyed a picnic along an icy mountain stream. The campground was inhabited by chipmunks, and they were used to being fed! I still remember Grandma, squatting down on the ground to help us feed the chipmunks.   Those memories came flooding back last weekend as I sat in a vacation home at a writer’s retreat surrounded by mountains, trees, and chipmunks. The trees were still vibrantly colored as it was just past peak leaf season, but soon the mountains will be ugly. Sticks on the mountain, I call it.   But last weekend? Wow! The verse Grandma taught me ran through my head, along with another one I found in a journal:   As the mountains are round about Jerusalem, so the LORD is round about his people from henceforth even for ever. Psalm...

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Turning. . . A Simple Gift

Posted by on Oct 28, 2015 in Blog, Home Is Where The Story Starts | 2 comments

Turning. . . A Simple Gift

  Saturday, Bruce and I drove down to Newberry, South Carolina, for Oktoberfest. We hung out at one of our favorite bookstores, Books On Main, visited with friends old and new, and sold books. It was delightful. But, in our minds was the little detail of time. We were on a schedule. At 2:30 we needed to leave since I had another destination that evening. But there were people still buying, so we lingered a bit. After all, if people are buying, you don’t leave. But as soon as we could we packed up, hurried to the car, and Bruce drove back up the mountain.   Then I switched gears. Throwing my already packed bag in the car, I said goodbye to my husband, and off I drove for a writer’s weekend near Boone, North Carolina. Whew.   This is our life. Switching gears. The turn around. The next event, next day at work, next project to get done, next book, next trip. As we drove, the spectacular Autumn foliage popped up around every curve. The season has changed and the trees have “turned”. Bruce commented on the song from The Byrds called Turn, Turn, Turn. (To Everything There Is A Season) by Pete Seeger. As a young adult it was one of his favorite songs. He especially liked the harmonies, and the words come straight from Ecclesiastes 3:1-8, which of course talks about the changing seasons.   Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: 2 A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted; 3 A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; 4 A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; 5 A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; 6 A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; 7 A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; 8 A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.   I didn’t know the song well, but as he described it, the melody and words floated into my memory, as songs often do. Yes, I knew that song.   Then he mentioned a song I didn’t know. Simple Gifts, a Shaker tune. Here are the words to this piece.   Simple Gifts (by Elder Joseph) Tis the gift to be simple, ’tis the gift to be free. ‘Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be, And when we find ourselves in the place just right, ‘Twill be in the valley of love and delight. When true simplicity...

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How Sweet The Sound!

Posted by on Oct 26, 2015 in Blog, Home Is Where The Story Starts | 4 comments

How Sweet The Sound!

It is a well-known fact that I am a hummer. (Not to be confused with a humdinger or the vehicle by that name, please.) The truth is I am almost always humming something. It is a humming habit. I don’t know where it came from; it has been a part of ME as long as I remember.   In addition to humming, I also am known for the ability to think of a song lyric for every situation. For instance, if I am having a difficult day, I might burst into song with “Smile, though your heart is breaking, smile, even if your faking. “ Yes, sometimes I change the lyrics. As I woke up this morning I thought of my trip to this beautiful mountain home in Boone where I am enjoying a writer’s retreat with friends. It was Saturday night. I had already been to Newberry, SC with my husband for Oktoberfest, then back home where I gathered up my things and jumped back in the car.   By the time I arrived in the Boone area it was dark. Pitch dark. My GPS failed me, not even recognizing the name of the road. But, I was confident. After all, we lived near here for a year and I drove this road back and forth to work many times. All I had to do was find the intersection.   Well, let’s just say that after several tries I was inordinately relieved to find an email from one of my friends with a phone number to call if I needed anything. So, I phoned a friend.   Deanna talked me in and when I couldn’t find the keypad to get into the gated community (we decided they made it impossible to find in the dark so those who don’t belong can’t get in—that’s my story and I’m sticking to it) Glenda drove down and let me through the gate. We laughed about “how many writers does it take to get into a gated community”?   But, this morning as I remembered this episode, a single line from a song drifted through my head. “I’ll be on your side forever more. . . That’s what friends are for. “ I smiled. Then, I thought of yesterday at our church in the mountains. When the choir sang an arrangement of “All The Way My Savior Leads Me,” I sat with my eyes shut and let the words wash over me. This is one of my favorite hymns and one particular line has comforted us more than once.   “For I know what e’er befall me, Jesus doeth all things well.”   I thought of my Daddy. Since June he has suffered two strokes. He is still alert, oriented, moves all of his extremities well, able to care for himself, but weak. And, he can’t talk. Oh, he gets a few words out. Sometimes an entire sentence pops out. But it is hard work. And frustrating. But, one of his first...

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Lovingkindness. . . A Gift To Me

Posted by on Oct 17, 2015 in Blog, Home Is Where The Story Starts |

Lovingkindness. . . A Gift To Me

I woke up this morning and snuggled under the covers. I asked God to show me what HE thought of me, and these words came to mind. “Oh love that wilt not let me go.” I smiled. Several years ago when we went home for a visit, my oldest niece, Kari came to me and said, “Aunt Miriam, will you sing a special with me for church?” Of course I said yes. (I say yes to my nieces and nephews as often as I can.) This is the song we chose: O Love that wilt not let me go, I rest my weary soul in thee; I give thee back the life I owe, That in thine ocean depths its flow May richer, fuller be. O light that foll’west all my way, I yield my flick’ring torch to thee; My heart restores its borrowed ray, That in thy sunshine’s blaze its day May brighter, fairer be. O Joy that seekest me through pain, I cannot close my heart to thee; I trace the rainbow through the rain, And feel the promise is not vain, That morn shall tearless be. O Cross that liftest up my head, I dare not ask to fly from thee; I lay in dust life’s glory dead, And from the ground there blossoms red Life that shall endless be. by George Mattheson Today I am attending the last day of a women’s conference. Allume is a conference for Christian bloggers and writers and I am here because my publisher suggested it. (I also like to say yes to my publisher as often as I can.) At Allume I have been challenged, taught, encouraged, brought up short, and thrown to my knees before God. I have been uplifted by sweet friends, old and new. I have been reminded that I am a wonder to God. I have been shown that God delights in me. I have been challenged to see myself as God sees me, all of my messiness . . . but YET. . . he delights in me. He made me this way. And, though—like my daddy reminded me—he may not want me to stay exactly how I came out of the womb, he created me to be who I am today. Then he strategically placed and removed the events, trials, joys, opportunities, and people into and out of my life to make me capable of doing and being what he wants me to do and be.Today. So, my nieces and nephews? Gifts of God. To me. Music?  A gift of God to me. The opportunity to sing this song with my niece a few years ago so that whenever I sing it I think of her, and pray? A gift. And, then the Holy Spirit whispers in my heart, “Miriam, if HE loves you that much. . . If He arranged all of that? WHAT good thing is he arranging for you today?”   Jeremiah 31:3  The LORD hath appeared of old unto...

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A “Someday in Heaven” Week

Posted by on Sep 27, 2015 in Blog, Home Is Where The Story Starts | 4 comments

A “Someday in Heaven” Week

  I don’t often have strong moments of missing my mother. She went to heaven when I was ten, so it has been a lot of years. But, last Sunday as the soloist sang, a thought flashed through my head that led to a sudden sadness. “Mommy would have loved that song (Grace) and she would have sung it.” Then, the pianist hit a really interesting key change and I thought, “That would be fun to play.” That’s when the moment of sadness hit. When my mother died I lost the opportunity to ever accompany her on the piano. But, just as quickly as the sadness arrived, a response which I’m sure was prompted by the Holy Spirit popped into my head. “Ah, Miriam, someday in heaven. It has been a “Someday in Heaven” sort of a week. This week a sweet friend from work held her Papa’s hand as he went to heaven. I wrote about him recently; I wrote of his love for his little great-granddaughters. It was a powerful thing to see. Another day, one of my favorite guys—my best friend’s Dad—graduated to heaven. It is good to know he suffers no more. He fought valiantly and lived with grace and truth. But, oh the hole he leaves. We will miss his humor, wisdom, and love. And then, tragic news of a friend’s son in his first year of college, unexpectedly called home. So much unused potential, we think. But God, He is good all of the time. He is with us through it all. I began to dread looking at emails and facebook, or receiving calls. It was so much sadness and loss. Heaven sure was looking better and better. Then, I was reminded of a letter Grandpa McKnight sent me a couple of years before he went to heaven. In it he started listing all of the people he was anxious to see again in heaven. To be honest it made me nervous. I didn’t want him focusing on that! It seemed too much like a “goodbye, I’m tying up loose ends” kind of letter. It made me sad. But, now I get it. He was reminding himself of the glorious hope we have in Christ. There will be a day. A day of no more tears. No more goodbys. No more parting. No more sin. No more pain. And maybe on THAT day, I’ll accompany my mother as she sings a song for Jesus. Just think. . .   As I wrote this, one line from the song on Sunday came back to me. It is a powerful truth. Your will cannot lead me where your grace cannot keep me. (Grace by Carolyn...

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Learning at Their Feet

Posted by on Sep 7, 2015 in Blog, Home Is Where The Story Starts | 4 comments

Learning at Their Feet

The other day I saw one of those meme’s come across my Facebook page with this quote by Andy Rooney. The best classroom in the world is at the feet of an elderly person. The picture was of an old lady back in the fifties or sixties sitting in a bus or train station with a little boy wiggling beside her while she talked about something undoubtedly  important! At a glance, I could have sworn it was my Grandma McKnight. My breath caught in my throat and it wasn’t just because of the photo. It was the quote. The friend who posted it said this: “I always thought this was true. Do young folks today believe that?” It made me a bit sad that she asked the question. That she had to ask the question. I believe this is a fundamental problem in our culture. The children MUST learn at the feet of the elders. The photo and sentiment brought another photo to mind. I dug around in my computer picture files until I found it. Yep, there it was. A precious picture of Grandma Jones and one of her great-great grandsons. Even as her brain refused to stay awake, she always would wake up for the “new ones.” She lived for the events where they were visiting. And, the grandchildren, greats, and great greats valued her presence, wit, and wisdom. Then my mind flew to another photo I knew I had floating around my house. I’ve intended to scan it in for several years now. It is a picture of Daddy with two of my nieces. The photo is almost twenty years old now, and the nieces are adults finishing up their college degrees this semester. That didn’t keep them from sitting with their grandpa at the hospital when he had his stroke this past Spring. Daddy is much like his mother. He loves all of the visitors, but the ones he gets really excited about are the grandchildren. I called him one evening recently when he was spending a couple of nights in the hospital and he was anxious to share that my oldest nephew stopped by all on his own to see him.   Then, just a week ago I went to work and found I was being “floated” to another unit. I wasn’t particularly thrilled. (That is a colossal understatement.) But, even as I grouched and grumped around I knew in my heart what was going to happen. God was going to make this a day to remember. I was there to receive a blessing. I might even be given the gift of BEING a blessing. Ugh. I wanted to be a grouch. (Yes, I did have that bad attitude, I am sorry to report.) I was right. In the first room I entered sat a grandpa, propped up in the hospital bed. A great-grandpa. His “night shift daughter” was at his side. Soon the “day shift daughter” arrived. He was charming and cheerful even...

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A Time Capsule of Sorts

Posted by on Aug 25, 2015 in Blog, Home Is Where The Story Starts | 2 comments

A Time Capsule of Sorts

Every time I pull out our little red rice cooker my husband says, “There’s a big one somewhere in the basement.” To be honest, I was kind of tired of hearing it. This past week’s house project included cleaning out one area of the basement so that we could make a tool and work area for Bruce. Guess what we found right where he thought it was? Yep, the rice cooker. We pulled it out and set it on the back steps to take upstairs when we were done. Sunday morning we took it out of the box. We wanted rice for dinner and thought there was no time like the present. It was something more than an old rice cooker. It was kind of like a little time capsule. Here are the facts: This rice cooker has never been used. It has been there for years. It is Japanese. It was most likely purchased in Japan and brought to Bruce’s Grandma or mother by his Uncle who lived in Japan. The box still has his last name written on it with marker. It is in perfect shape. The instructions are written in English, but by someone for whom English is a second language. It is much better English than foreign instructions today. There are many more things you can cook in a rice cooker besides just rice! The cloth wrapped cord was still tightly coiled, just like it came from the company. There are Japanese characters on the power plug. It doesn’t appear to be worth a lot of money per my research online. It makes awesome rice. I wondered why my mother-in-law never used the rice cooker. Then, I looked at the tiny kitchen she had and realized that if I was wondering where I was going to keep it in my new, roomier kitchen; she surely wouldn’t have had room for another appliance. One that was taking the place of a simple pot she could use for many tasks. My husband shared more with me about his Uncle and what a wonderful event it was when he came to visit. I listened and learned more about this family I joined ten years ago. I am currently writing a mystery set in Saluda, NC. The kids in my mystery find a time capsule buried in a tater house. They learn things about people who lived long ago. People they will never meet. Just like I did with the rice cooker. Maybe I’ll call it my rice capsule. Or time cooker. Hmm. Maybe I’ll work on that idea some...

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Hospitality – A Gift

Posted by on Aug 20, 2015 in Blog, Home Is Where The Story Starts |

Hospitality – A Gift

We often look at hospitality as a gift. One we give to others. But it can go both ways. The other evening at church the Pastor was talking about the importance of showing hospitality. He spoke of the challenge of not letting our own plans get in the way.   My husband and I both love having company come. We really do. I think hospitality is one of our gifts. But, that night the word made me anxious. You see, we had a friend call and she wanted to come spend the weekend. I was delighted she was coming. But, I was a bit stressed since we were/are in the middle of a major “turn everything upside down organizational push” at our house and you know how we women can be.   As I thought of hospitality, I realized I had seen a good deal of it just this summer. In May we planned to visit Rapid City for a couple of weeks. Our hosts and dear friends were gracious and excited about our visit. We had a busy schedule planned. Then, my daddy suffered a stroke and we left early for South Dakota. Once there, we decided we would stay two weeks and leave. But, then we would miss my nephew and niece’s graduation, the original purpose for our visit. We didn’t want to do that. But, staying two weeks with friends is a big deal. Three weeks? That’s a lot to ask.   But, not for these friends. They were gracious. They said it hadn’t been bad at all having us there. They let us know they didn’t mind. And they meant it, we could tell. What a gift.   When I went to Hayesville for the book event in July a friend of a friend opened her lovely home to me. Because of my two night stay I now have a new friend. One who knows what hospitality truly is.   Two weeks ago we visited a home that has become dear to me. I have visited the Clark’s many times over the past 24 years. Every time I pull into their driveway and enter their house a sense of peace descends. This family has perfected the art of hospitality. They could teach graduate classes on the subject. They could write the book. When we arrived, the Clark’s were still at a VBS event. “Just go on in,” they said. We grabbed our bags out of the trunk and climbed the steps to the back step. When we walked through the door into “The Room That Richard Built” we were welcomed by the huge dining room table. I heard it say, “Let’s play a table game.” I turned and looked at my husband who had never visited this home. The look on his face said it all. It was peace. It was delight. It was comfort. They had him from the get-go.   The next morning Mom Clark took us out and showed us around the yard. She...

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Saluda Dream – A Summer To Remember

Posted by on Jul 24, 2015 in Blog, Home Is Where The Story Starts | 4 comments

Saluda Dream – A Summer To Remember

Have you ever wished you could go back to the past? I have often thought I would love to spend one day on a Wagon Train. Just one. I’m pretty sure the novelty would wear off quickly. Today I believe I might enjoy a return to Saluda, NC in the first part of the last century and I think I could last much longer than one day. Here’s why. Saluda, North Carolina, a small town at the top of the mountain sits just off of I26 as you come up from South Carolina to Hendersonville and Asheville. The interchange consumes what used to be my husband’s grandpa’s corn field. The family refers to the building of the road as, “When the road took the farm. . .” Because, well, it did. Take the farm, that is. If you drive down into Saluda you see a sleepy little town, a tourist destination of sorts with a railroad track running right down Main Street. There are no trains now, mores the pity. (Reason # 1 I want to go back to the former Saluda.) Anyway, you would never guess if you just drove through, the rich history hidden in this tiny town. I’m talking a colorful and varied history. There is the history of the Cherokee Indians who lived in these parts first. Then you have the first settlers who came through on the Indian Trails in the 1700’s and stayed to make a living off the land. There is Revolutionary War history and Civil War history. All of that was before Saluda even got its name. What really made the town come alive was the railroad. In 1878 the track was built up the Saluda Grade and the town’s name was changed from Pace’s Gap to Saluda. When the trains arrived, the people from Florida and South Carolina flocked to this mountain town for the summers. Hotels and boarding houses popped up everywhere. At one time there were over thirty of them. The first third off the 20th century Saluda was a happening place. Besides the tourist industry, there was the baby hospital started by Dr. Lesesne Smith. The homes on his property housed a hospital for the sick babies who were brought to the mountains. A group of benefactors in Spartanburg decided they needed a hospital for those who couldn’t pay too, so the Spartanburg Babies Hospital was born. It sat across Greenville Street from Dr. Smith’s hospital and he saw the babies there too! The doctor also ran a Seminar every summer for pediatricians from all over the country. As incredible as this seems it all happened in Saluda. So, I have been researching all of this for the book I am writing. It is the first in a new series of children’s mysteries set in the South. But, I’m having a problem. The research is so much fun. Driving around town finding all of the old hotels and boarding houses is a bit addictive. Dreaming about how...

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A Real Place, One I Called Home

Posted by on Jul 9, 2015 in Blog, Home Is Where The Story Starts |

A Real Place, One I Called Home

If I ever build a town from scratch, I’ll start with a town square, one with a park in the middle surrounded by brick streets. If you have one of those, the people and stores will come.

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A Growing Legacy!

Posted by on May 5, 2015 in Blog, Home Is Where The Story Starts | 2 comments

The grass shimmered with dew and the air was still cool when I gathered the rake, hoe, and a small bag of seeds and headed out to celebrate my birthday! Yes, you read right. I celebrate my birthday by planting things. It started about thirty years ago when we just happened to be planting our garden on my birthday. I clearly remember helping Daddy mark the rows with sticks and string, then planting corn and bean seeds every few inches. Something about putting those seeds into the ground, knowing that plants would grow, food would be created, and we would be able to eat it spoke to my soul. That may have been the first time I ever really helped plant a garden, I’m not sure. But it wasn’t my last. I was hooked. Of course, if my birthday was in November—like my older sister—it would be harder to keep this tradition. But, May 2nd clearly lends itself to such an activity. The seeds I planted were ones I received from a dear friend. “Mom” Clark has been an inspiration to me for over twenty years now. (See photo above for a view of their yard.) Every time I visit them I am challenged, blessed, and delighted to see the home she has built there with her husband. Not only is their house a haven, but she has a flower and vegetable garden that serves others. She has flowers that are cut and placed “just so” into jars, then taken to the shut-ins that she ministers to, or friends that need a pick-me-up. A couple of years ago she let me harvest some seeds from her cock’s comb and I have been itching to find a place to plant them. So, happy birthday to me. . . this year I did it! Last week we transplanted some daffodils and peonies which Bruce’s aunt gave us. She had thinned some of hers and sent him home with a car load. We planted the daffodils between the hostas we received a couple of years ago from friends at church when they were thinning theirs. The peonies, it turns out, originally came from “Over Home”—the name of Bruce’s great-grandparents place in Polk County. These are legacy plants. In my kitchen I have an African violet that came from one Grandma Jones had. I also have a mother-in-laws tongue that I got from Mom. It keeps growing little babies, so I have several plants I need to give away. We have a plant Bruce saved from his mother’s funeral and another plant his aunt gave us. If you look at all of the plants in and around this house, all but one came from someone. Even the huge Norway spruce tree beside the house was once the little Christmas tree for Bruce’s family. Heritage. Legacy. It doesn’t have to be a big thing. It could be as small as a seed. Which reminds me. I have some Bradley beans which I soaked overnight....

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A Moment of Legacy

Posted by on Mar 11, 2015 in Blog, Home Is Where The Story Starts |

A Moment of Legacy

This morning I sit at my kitchen table, my de facto office. I’ve been sitting here a lot these days as I work on my latest book. I’m approaching final revisions and I’m ready to be done.  A couple of days ago I had one of those moments of recognition. One of those moments which, if you know me at all, you know I revel in. It’s not really déjà vu. It’s more like the quote from Breakfast at Tiffany’s when they ask the man in the store to engrave a Cracker Jack ring. “Do they still really have prizes in Cracker Jack boxes? . . . That’s nice to know. . . It gives one a feeling of solidarity, almost of continuity with the past, that sort of thing.” That’s the kind of moment I had. Let me explain. Our home is a family home. My husband’s parents built it before any of their boys were born. My father-in-law hurried home on weekend leave from boot camp in South Carolina to make sure it was enclosed and safe for his wife when he left for Korea. They raised four boys in this home, and after her husband died, Bruce’s mom stayed here for many years. I never met either of them, but I’ve had the privilege of getting to “know them” through their home. For instance, our kitchen table is the very one that they used in their kitchen. I love it because it is a classic. It is yellow, and I like yellow. I like the fact that I can see the worn spot in the top where his Mama set her coffee cup. A few years ago we added an addition off to the side of the existing home. The addition includes our new, bright kitchen which looks out on the deck and across the back yard. It actually sits pretty much where an old red cedar tree sat. An ice storm took the top out of the tree several years ago, so we didn’t mind so much taking it down, but still it was sad. See, Bruce’s Mama loved to read, especially romances. She always wanted to travel, but by the time she could. . . well, she couldn’t, due to health problems. So, she sat at her kitchen table, read books about exotic places near and far, drank coffee, and watched the birds in the cedar tree out of the kitchen window. She especially loved a pair of doves that nested in the cedar tree. She read romances, after all. That kitchen window is now a doorway into our new kitchen. The table sits very close to where the tree once stood. At the old yellow table I write books about places near and far, drink coffee, and watch the birds come to the cedar birdfeeder on our new deck. I especially like watching the chickadees playfully swoop in and out, taking turns at the feeder. I write children’s stories, after all. So, when...

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