“Why a ‘Liar’ Loves to Get Mail,” column for July 22, 2014

For a writer, it’s a gift to know someone reads your writing. For a storyteller, it’s high praise to hear a story in return. Have I mentioned I love getting mail?

In the mountains where I grew up, storytellers were once known as “liars.” This was not an insult. The tales they told were often more fabricated than factual. But they were entirely true of the human condition, intended not to inform, but to entertain, enlighten and inspire. [Read more...]

“A Garden for the Heart,” column for July 15, 2014

My grandmother was a master gardener. She grew dahlias and chrysanthemums, sweet peas and hydrangeas, tomatoes and corn, green beans and squash, sustenance for body and soul.

She could make anything bloom. Even me. [Read more...]

“Friends for Life … or Whatever,” column for July 8, 2014

We were young then, with our whole lives before us, starry-eyed blind to all that lay ahead.

I went running up the steps of the church _ late, yes, to my own wedding _ when I spotted them out of the corner of my eye hurrying along beside me. I’d never seen them before, but knew them well. Brushing back a makeshift veil that kept flopping in my face, I said, “You must be Ginnie and Gary. I’m so glad to finally meet you!” [Read more...]

“Fireworks All Year Round,” column for July 1, 2014

Birthday celebrations are not always sparkling affairs.

The day I turned 6, I raised my hand to announce to my fellow first-graders: “You are all invited to my grandmother’s house today at 4 o’clock to celebrate my birthday. She lives down the road from Smith’s Grocery. You can bring a present if you want, or not.”

Then I ran home after school to tell my grandmother. [Read more...]

“Stories Keep Us Connected,” column for June 24, 2014

They grew up on opposite coasts, have never met and most likely never will. But they share something in common (aside from the fact that they’re both 18, seriously good-looking and recently graduated from high school) that I hope they’ll remember:

It’s simple. They are much loved by an aunt and uncle who weren’t often present in their lives but delighted in watching them grow up from afar. [Read more...]

“Somebody to Lean On,” column for June 17, 2014

When your world spins out of control, what exactly do you do? Me? I usually just try to hold on tight and wait and pray for it to stop. There are gifts that come with waiting and praying. I’ve seen plenty. So have you.

But if you’ve lived as long as I have, you probably know that holding on is a waste of time. It’s letting go, not clinging, that brings order to chaos, finds hope in despair and calms any storm.

Still, there are times when it seems the best you can do is sink your claws in like a cat about to get flea dipped.

This was one of those times. [Read more...]

“Once Upon a Time ….” column for June 10, 2014

What’s the first line of your story? Have you taken the time to write it down?

Stepping off the treadmill after 30 minutes at a slightly brisker pace than my usual, I winced in pain, mumbled something under my breath that sounded like “ackk!” and looked up to meet a pair of empathetic eyes.

An older gentleman dressed in proper gym attire and sensible shoes, sat on a sofa, taking a break from the action or maybe waiting for a ride home. [Read more...]

“The Mystery of my Father,” column for June 3, 2014

My dad was a mystery. I knew things about him, but they were like pieces of a puzzle I could never fit together as a whole. I knew the blue of his eyes, how they shined when he looked at me. The scar on his shoulder, a “souvenir” from the war. The way he smoothed my hair with his big calloused hand. And the blessed fact that he never said anything bad about my mother.

I liked all those things about him. I counted on them to stay the same and they did. I counted on him for other things, too. The stories he told me. The books he read to me. The bait he wasted for fish I never caught. [Read more...]

“Things my Grandmother Said, or Would’ve if She’d Thought of It,” column for May 27, 2014

Every year when graduation time draws near, I hold my breath, hoping to be invited to offer a few words of wisdom at somebody’s _ anybody’s _ commencement ceremony.

Not that I’ve never been asked. I’ve been honored, thank you, to speak at quite a few graduations over the years. But none for my own children or any other blood kin who, for whatever reasons, might not care to sit in the sun in a black cap and gown just to listen to my advice.

Still, one can always hope to be asked. And believe me, I do. [Read more...]

“A Bite of Grace,” column for May 20, 2014

Do you know what it’s like to move freely through time, to see the past, present and future all at once, and sense a connection to all that’s gone before, all that is and is still yet to come? Yes, I do mean without the use of hallucinogenic drugs.

When it happens in a church it’s called a sacrament _ a baptism, communion or other religious ceremony _ an outward symbol of an inner grace to remind us of the mystery that somehow we are all part of the circle of life. It is a sacred and holy thing that isn’t limited to a church pew. It can happen any place, any time.

But when it happens in a kitchen, it’s called a biscuit.

[Read more...]