SNEAK PREVIEW! SOON TO BE HOT OFF THE PRESSES!


 

My friend Esther Isom told me this story one day as I rested in her salon chair for a pedicure which was always a guarantee for entertainment in addition to spa treatment on my feet. She swore the story was true.

Esther sat one morning in a doctor’s waiting area that was empty except for her and a petite elderly lady who had been in the room when she arrived. They waited and waited together without speaking, occasionally smiling at each other, but Esther decided to break the awkward silence by asking the older woman how she was doing that day.

“Honey, life’s a four ticket ride,” the older woman said with a smile—a reference to the State Fair’s being in town that week. For the uninitiated in State Fair amusement rides, the more dangerous the ride the more tickets required to jump aboard. The four ticket rides were among the most adventurous with a mixture of highs and lows at dizzying speeds designed to take the thrill seeker’s breath away.

The following stories are my version of a few of life’s four ticket rides as seen through the eyes of a woman past 70 who bought and paid for enough  tickets to ride all the rides in life…and some of them more than once. Enjoy

 

 

 

Posted in Humor, Lesbian Literary, Life, Personal, photography, politics, racism, Reflections, Slice of Life, sports, The Way Life Is | Tagged , | 6 Comments

the Jimmy and Rosalyn Carter holiday card collection


Following the shady corruption of power in the Nixon administration, the American people were ready for a newcomer outside the beltway of Washington, D. C. In walked Georgia Governor Jimmy Carter, a peanut farmer from Plains, who was a Sunday School teacher in a Baptist church with a reputation for honesty and integrity. He was just the recipe needed in the 1976 election after the Watergate years.

I had followed and admired Jimmy Carter even before his run for governor in 1970 so I was hopeful for what his administration could accomplish from the White House. Alas, being an outsider must be much more difficult  than I thought, and for Jimmy and Rosalyn Carter it was a mountain too high to climb. The many good measures he accomplished including the Camp David Accords were often lost in the rhetoric surrounding the hostages in Iran that were released on the day Ronald Reagan took office at the end of Carter’s one term.

Jimmy Carter was only 56 years old when he left the Oval Office for his home in Plains, Georgia, but he and his wife Rosalyn have continued to be advocates for the poor and disenfranchised since he returned home. In 2002 he won the Nobel Peace Prize for his open resistance to the War in Iraq in addition to his countless contributions toward creating and preserving democracy around the world. The Carter Center has been a model for presidential libraries, a thriving institution whose motto is “Waging Peace, Fighting Disease, Building Hope.”

During the last years President Carter not only wrote a number of books but also found a passion for painting. Pretty and I are always grateful for the Christmas cards we faithfully receive every year from Rosalyn and Jimmy Carter, and we are particularly happy whenever the cards are works of art by the former president.

Enjoy with us.

2018 message: Blessings, love, and peace to you this Christmas

(Cardinals in Winter, original painting by President Jimmy Carter)

2017 message: May the Joy and Peace of Christmas be with you now

and throughout the new year

(Mountain Laurel, original painting by President Jimmy Carter)

(White Dove, original painting by President Jimmy Carter)

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And finally, just for fun, this one designed by Amy Carter who “created this original painting of her with her father carrying a Christmas tree home from the woods.”

Message: May your home be filled with the warmth of family and friends

this holiday season and throughout the New Year

I couldn’t have said it better myself.

Stay tuned.

Posted in Lesbian Literary, Life, Personal, photography, politics, Reflections, Slice of Life, The Way Life Is | Tagged , , | 8 Comments

the james brown holiday card collection


No, not THAT James Brown – this is my friend of many moons, Jim Brown. I first met Jim in the early 1990s when I was selling life insurance, and he was selling health insurance. He cold called on me in my tiny Jefferson Pilot office one day, and I invited him to come in and tell me about his Golden Rule insurance plans. He folded his tall frame into my one and only office chair designed for very short clients, and we were off and running.

Throughout the years, Jim sent us countless holiday cards that were truly unique and signaled the beginning of the holiday season. Pretty and I loved them all.

2012 – Photo from Sheri Blackshire-Cochrane

2015 – Photo of downtown Greenville, South Carolina

2013 – Photo courtesy of Charlie Register

2014 – Photo taken from downtown Greenville, South Carolina

2016 – Highlands, North Carolina

Each of Jim’s cards carried his best wishes for Pretty and me, and I’ve chosen one of his greetings to send to all our friends in cyberspace:

“May you enjoy a bountiful Thanksgiving Day…

a joyous Holiday Season…

and a prosperous, healthful, Happy New Year.”

From our family to yours, too.

Stay tuned.

Posted in Lesbian Literary, Life, Personal, photography, Reflections, Slice of Life, The Way Life Is | Tagged , , | 5 Comments

’twas two weeks before Christmas…


…and all through the yard only Spike and I were stirring,

Pretty and Charly were inside and warm.

Pretty and I like to keep the pool open in the winter,

but it has a much different look from summer fun

Spike keeps me company whenever I walk around the pool

(I think he likes the cold, and I like his company)

so beautiful, but Pretty battles the leaves until they’re all gone

the bottom of the pool looks like a Rorschach test picture to me sometimes 

even the bottle tree loses its colors in wintertime

Spike is ready to go inside to check on Pretty

While family members in the upstate of South Carolina have been without power this weekend after unusually large amounts of snowfall, we have been covered in grey clouds peppering us with rain, rain and more rain. Almost cold enough for snow, but not quite.

I am reminded of Granny Selma’s motto: Sheila, we have to smile more on rainy days.

Think about it, and stay tuned.

 

Posted in Humor, Lesbian Literary, Life, Personal, photography, Reflections, Slice of Life, The Way Life Is | Tagged , | 14 Comments

shadows of the evening


“The sun was a gigantic circle of intense bright light as I walked on Old Plantersville Road tonight and the colors in the sky surrounding it took my breath away. They were all that – and then some. No camera this evening. Just me and the sunset. It’s as close as I ever come to a spiritual moment and not surprising that the words of a hymn I sang over and over during my Southern Baptist days played in my head while I walked:

‘Now the day is over, night is drawing nigh.

Shadows of the evening steal across the sky.

Jesus, give the weary calm and sweet repose,

With thy tenderest blessing may mine eyelids close.’

—–Sabine Baring-Gould, published 1865

A few raindrops fell on me as I turned toward home from the railroad track  which is my usual turnaround spot. I didn’t even care. The colors changed quickly in the sky as the sun went down behind the trees across the pasture. I slowed my pace to catch as many of them as I could, and the rain stopped for me so I wouldn’t have to hurry.

The day was over, and shadows of the evening stole across the sky right in front of me. Jesus, give the weary calm and sweet repose. My Random House Dictionary defines repose as, among other things, a dignified calmness…composure. Yes, give the weary a sweet repose. Let all who work hard and all who are tired of fighting the same battles or any whose pain leaves them exhausted – give them a sweet repose at the end of this day.

And may our eyelids close.”

——–The Short Side of Time

When I wrote these words in September, 2013, there was no way I could have known that in December, 2018 a special train would roll over those railroad tracks that were my turnaround point in my  Old Plantersville Road walks in Montgomery County, Texas. The special train was carrying the remains of President George H.W. Bush, the 41st. president of the United States, to his final resting place at the Bush Presidential Library in College Station, Texas.

I’ve watched most of the coverage of his death, two funerals, countless images of the Bush family and friends during the past six days. I was reminded of how true patriotism finds a way to express itself in the lives of selfless leaders who may be ambitious but never blind to the responsibilities of public service. In a day of tweeting presidents, I needed that reminder.

Now on this night the special train will come to a stop, and the body of our 41st. president will be laid to rest in a place 22 miles from where I was born in Navasota, Texas. His family and friends will say a final farewell for now. My prayer for them is that they will find a calm and sweet repose at the end of this day.

Stay tuned.

 

Posted in Lesbian Literary, Life, Personal, politics, Reflections, Slice of Life, The Way Life Is | Tagged , , , , | 9 Comments

my mother reads from Deep in the Heart


“I love this book,” my eighty-three-year-old mother says, startling me awake from my nap with her words. I had drifted off while sitting in the dark blue recliner in her room in the memory care unit of the assisted living facility she’d called home for the past two years. She was asleep when I sat down in the recliner.

I open my eyes to see her sitting across from me. She’s in the small wooden chair with the straight back. I can’t believe she’s holding the copy of my book, Deep in the Heart, which I gave her two years ago. I never saw the book since then on any of my visits, and I assumed she either threw it away or lost it. I was also stunned to see how worn it was. The only other book she had that I’d seen in the same condition was The Holy Bible.

“I know all of the people in this book,” she continues. “And so many of the stories, too.”

“Yes, you do,” I agree. “The book is about our family.”

And then with wonder, I hear another reader say my words. My mother reads to me as she rarely did when I was a child. She was always too busy with the tasks of studying when she went to college, preparing for classes when she taught school, cooking, cleaning, ironing, practicing her music for Sunday and choir practice – she couldn’t sit still unless my dad insisted she stop to catch her breath.

But, today, she reads to me. She laughs at the right moments and makes sure to read “with expression” as the teacher in her remembers. Occasionally, she turns a page and already knows what the next words are. I’m amazed and moved. I have to fight the tears that could spoil the moment for us. I think of the costs of dishonesty on my part, and denial on hers. The sense of loss is overwhelming.

The words connect us as she reads. For the first time in a very long while, we’re at ease with each other. Just the two of us in the little room with words that renew a connection severed by a distance not measured by miles. She chooses stories that are not about her and her daughter’s differences. That’s her prerogative, because she’s the reader.

She reads from a place deep within her that has refused to surrender these memories. When she tires, she closes the book and sits back in the chair.

“We’ll read some more another time,” she says.

I lean closer to her.

“Yes, we will. It makes me so happy to know you like the book. It took me two years to write these stories, and I’m glad you enjoy them so much.”

“Two years,” she repeats. “You have a wonderful vocabulary.”

Note this is an excerpt from a chapter called The Dementia Dialogues – Stage 1 from my book:

The mysterious mother – daughter relationship complicated by a thief we call dementia is one of the themes of one of my favorite books. The cover shows a ten-year-old me struggling with gloves I’m sure I didn’t want to wear standing between my hip crew-cut dad and my correctly posed mom, my favorite aunt Lucille standing next to her brother, and my aunt’s daughter Melissa looking somewhat perplexed in an adorable bonnet sure to be the hit of the Easter service at the Richards Baptist Church.

Stay tuned.

 

 

Posted in Humor, Lesbian Literary, Life, Personal, Reflections, Slice of Life, The Way Life Is | Tagged , , , | 6 Comments

thanksgiving is relative


“The oak trees were alive with color in the midst of the evergreens. Bright red and yellow leaves catching the sunlight as Daddy and I walked through the brush. The smell of the pines was fresh and all around us. We didn’t speak, but this was when I felt most connected to my father. Nature was a bond that united us and the gift that he gave me. And not just in those East Texas woods. He envisioned the whole earth as my territory and set me on my path to discovery. In 1958, this was remarkable in a girl’s father…

To this day, Thanksgiving remains my favorite holiday. It seems less commercial than the others and struggles to hold its own before the onslaught of merchandising that we call Christmas. The dinners in the fancy restaurant and hotels and cafeterias never measure up to the feasts my grandmothers served their families.

Perhaps, though, it is the love and closeness of those family ties that leave the sights and sounds that last a lifetime.”


This excerpt from the chapter Thanksgiving in the Piney Wooads is from my first book Deep in the Heart: A Memoir of Love and Longing which is still available on Amazon. I was so thankful when the book received a 2008 GCLS Literary Award – and thrilled, too.

my family on my grandparents’ front steps circa 1956

(I am seated on the bottom row in my flannel shirt and corduroy pants,

unsmiling, at my mother’s request for some strange reason)

Today is a different Thanksgiving in a different home in a different state in a different century, but I still believe in the love and closeness of family ties that bring the sights and sounds that last a lifetime. I know they have in my lifetime.

Pretty and I wish all of you in cyberspace that love and closeness on this special day for thanksgiving.

Stay tuned.

 

Posted in Humor, Lesbian Literary, Life, Personal, photography, Reflections, Slice of Life, The Way Life Is | Tagged , | 14 Comments

when I think of Oscar, I remember…


…a day in January, 2013 when I went with him, his mother Becky, his younger brothers Dwight and George on a personal field trip to the grounds surrounding the Montgomery County public library plus the Fernland Historical site near the library. Oscar, the oldest of the brothers I called the Fabulous Huss Brothers had turned 4 on  November 18, 2012. His brother Dwight would be 2 on the 22nd. of January.

Dwight the leader with his special backpack

am I having fun yet?

now where did they put that longhorn steer?

here it is

Dwight, I told you it’s not real

Hm…I don’t know about that

sigh

I’m not sure what this is

Ok. Been there. Done that.

now what?

let’s go, Bro

Rainbow Bridge garden a special place

hot dogs and horses

I’m thinking about what I saw today

Dwight, where are you going?

the kid’s a genius – he can find water anywhere

I love this bridge

Dwight, you’re harshing my mellow

Happy Birthday, Oscar! Enjoy special times with family and friends – I hope you have as much fun in your tenth year as I had with you during my years on Worsham Street…you’re the best!

Stay tuned.

 

 

Posted in Humor, Lesbian Literary, Life, Personal, photography, Reflections, Slice of Life, The Way Life Is | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

never forget


Veteran’s Day is our day set aside to honor the men and women who serve and have served in defense of our democracy at home and abroad. This past year I did an entire series on my family’s experiences during WWII. (See archives for “a man of letters.”)

The following are a few pictures from that series.

my navy uncle Charlie with my mother

my air corps Dad

.

my air corps uncle Ray

My uncles and my dad survived WWII but are no longer here to “never forget” each other and their comrades, so we must remember for them.

Stay tuned.

 

Posted in Lesbian Literary, Life, Personal, photography, Reflections, Slice of Life, The Way Life Is | Tagged , , | 10 Comments

this girl had it going on…was she calling to Get Out the Vote?


was she making calls to Get Out the Vote?

Actually, not really – this girl (me) was probably calling her office from a pay phone outside the tennis courts at the Family Circle Tennis Tournament in Hilton Head, South Carolina in the late 1980s. She was carrying seat cushions for bleacher seats, wearing enormous glasses and a wonderful hat that she lost somewhere along the way during the next quarter century.

This girl would have voted in every election, though, and would want all  her friends across the country to do the same in the mid-term elections on Tuesday, November 6, 2018.

Be woke! Go Vote!

Stay tuned.

 

 

Posted in Humor, Lesbian Literary, Life, Personal, photography, politics, racism, Slice of Life, sports, The Way Life Is | Tagged , | 7 Comments