“A Back-to-School Rule,” column for Aug. 23, 2016


Few experiences in a child’s life are as daunting as the first day of a new school year.  The summer I was 6, my mother and her new husband decided, against my advice, to move to a town 10 miles away.

At the time, we were living just up the hill from the best place on Earth, my grandparents’ house; a stone’s throw from the market where I bought treats; and a shortcut through the woods to the school where I finished first grade at the top of my class.

I had all I needed within walking distance. I saw no need to change it. But my mother said children should be seen, not heard. So we moved to a place surrounded by a cow pasture and a whole lot of lonely. [Read more…]

“Joe’s Story,” column for Aug. 16, 2016

I got in big trouble with my brother last week. Never mind why. OK, I’ll tell you. He says I messed in his business without permission. If I’d asked him for permission, he’d have said no.

Joe is 64 years old, totally blind, severely crippled from cerebral palsy. He’s lived all his adult life on his own, with only occasional help from his family or good people in his church.

His wife, Tommie Jean, was also blind. For 10 years, they were inseparable. He’d lead the way, tapping with his cane, and she’d follow holding his hand. [Read more…]

“The Kindness of Strangers and Others,” Aug. 9, 2016

Nothing fills me with hope or affirms my belief in God more than the boundless human capacity to care for one another.

It’s almost noon. I’m lying in bed eating a fried-egg sandwich and writing a column. Actually, I’m writing the column in my head. I’ll type it on a computer after I finish eating and lick the mayo off my hands. [Read more…]

“Remembering my Brother,” column for Aug. 2, 2016

A phone call at 5 a.m. rarely brings good news. I held my breath, afraid to answer. On the last ring, when I saw my sister’s name on the caller ID, I said a prayer and dialed her number. That’s how I learned what I never dreamed possible: My younger brother had died unexpectedly in his sleep.

His name was Denton. I called him “Bubba.” That’s Southern for “brother.” I also called him “Monkey Boy.” That’s Southern for a squirrely kid with a mile-wide grin that lights you up like Christmas and looks, yes, like a monkey. A cute one.

I wish you could’ve known him. Maybe you did. He never met a stranger. [Read more…]

“A Book with a Message for All Ages,” column for July 26, 2016

The package was addressed to “Papa Mark.” That’s what our grandkids call him. I wanted to open it, but forced myself to wait until he gets home. It’s the least I can do. He deserves the credit for the contents of that package. My only credit is being smart enough to marry him.

It was a second marriage for us both. I was a widow. He was divorced. We share five children, three who are married, and five grandchildren. Some people go to Paris. We go to kids’ birthday parties. Who needs Paris when you can be a bouncer at a bounce house? [Read more…]

“The Good, the Bad and the Painful,” column for Tues., July 19, 2016

Recently I wrote a column in which I addressed the question, “What’s this world coming to?”

Basically, I said, despite the horrors we hear about daily, the world remains a “mostly good” place. Bad things happen, but good things happen, too, far more good than bad. It’s a matter of perspective, how we choose to look at it.

As I finished that column, I could almost hear my mother say, ‘You forgot to add ‘Lord willing and knock on wood!’ ” [Read more…]

“A Mostly Good World,” column for July 12, 2016

What’s this world coming to?

My mother mumbled that while reading the paper. My grandmother whispered it at too-short skirts. My granddad spit it like tobacco juice at any kind of cruelty or injustice.

It wasn’t a question so much as a comment: The world, as they saw it, was going to a place where good people and their children did not want to go.

I kept waiting for the world to get to that place. Somehow it never did. It came close at times, more often than I can tell you. But in the darkest moments _ in heartache and fear and absolute despair _ the world remained for me a mostly good place.

Bad things happened for me and my loved ones just as they do for you and yours. But good things happened, too, in far greater measure than bad.

At least, that’s how I saw it. [Read more…]

“A Sister’s Forgiveness,” column for July 5, 2016

Nobody likes to say, “I’m sorry.” But most of us like to hear it on occasion.

This morning I called my sister to apologize for things I said last night. Never mind what. Just a few helpful hints for her health and well being. Simple suggestions like, try an ice pack on your knees. Take a warm bath before bed. Talk to your doctor about those nerve pills that Mama used to take.

My sister is a retired nurse, smarter than I’ll ever be. She doesn’t need me to tell her stuff she already knows. But I do it all the time. And I likely will again. [Read more…]

“What’s Your Story?”, column for June 28, 2016

How do you get people to tell you their stories?

Readers of my column often write to ask me that. It’s a great question.

My children might tell you it’s because I wear a sign on my back that reads: “Confess. Do it now before I beat it out of you.”

Don’t believe them. I’ve never worn a sign like that. If I did, they certainly never heeded it. [Read more…]

“A Dog Story,” column for June 21, 2016

Sometimes the best gift is something you never wanted.

When my oldest child was 12, he came home from school one day with a “proposal.” The boy was sharp, but “proposal” was a big word. It got my attention.

“What’s up?” I said. [Read more…]