“What Do You Want to Be?” column for Sept. 27, 2016

On the first day of fall, I sat by a window in Redding, Calif., looking out on a pond that mirrored a blue sky, watching squirrels and geese and clouds and trees do what they do best.

I wish you could’ve seen them.

I believe all God’s creations are put on Earth for a purpose. If their purpose that day was simply to delight me, they knocked it out of the park. [Read more…]

“Plans Change,” column for Sept. 20, 2016

If you want to hear God laugh, tell him your plans. Old people used to say that when I was a child. I never knew what it meant, but I do now. I said it myself this morning.

I’ve been making plans _ both good and bad _ for most of my life, only to see them fall apart. It has happened so often you might think I’d have learned not to bother planning at all.

If you think that, think again. [Read more…]

“Saying Goodbye,” column for Sept. 13, 2016

Some things get easier with practice. But saying goodbye just keeps getting harder.

I’ve been saying goodbye all my life. I’m pretty good at it. And fast, too. Sometimes I’m out the door and gone before anybody knows I’m leaving.

But I’ve never liked doing it. Unless I couldn’t wait to leave. If you’re eager to leave, it’s not a goodbye; it’s a “good riddance.” A real goodbye is one you say to someone you love, or a place you want to stay, or to a time in your life when you are happy.

I’ve said my share of those kinds of goodbyes. I suspect you have said your share, too. Why do they keep getting harder? [Read more…]

“Big Questions” column for Sept. 6, 2016

Little people like to ask big questions. Once, we were having lunch with my grandson, Henry, who was 4, at a restaurant that offered as a special “bison stew.” Henry knows more about animals than Dr. Doolittle and Noah combined. At the time, he was especially taken with bison.

“Oh!” he said. “I love bison! Is it very spicy?”

The server smiled. “A little spicy,” she said. “Not much.”

“I’ll have that, please,” Henry said, happy with his choice. His mother and my husband and I exchanged a look, but said nothing. When the stew arrived, Henry dug in and ate it all. The server was delighted.

“I’m glad it wasn’t spicy,” she said.

“It was a little spicy,” Henry said, “but not too much.” Then he furrowed his brow and asked the big question: “How did they get the bison into the stew?” [Read more…]

“Giving Thanks for Good Medicine,” column for Aug. 30, 2016

For almost two months, I have been, as some might say, laid up and feeling low. The “laid up” part was due to an accident in which I turned my ankle, broke my foot and ended up in a giant boot, rolling around in a wheelchair.

“Feeling low” was an embarrassing condition some people call a “pity party.” I don’t know why they call it that. It was more like a wake. It came and went, based on how much pain I felt or how much pity I was willing to wallow in. Most days, it was only a little. Somedays it was a lot. [Read more…]

“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…]