Jesus Light of the WorldThe thing about traveling as much as I do is that it is very easy to get lost. I’ve been lost in about every city in every state I’ve ever been in. How many of you can say that?

I got turned around coming out of the Atlanta airport the other night and even though the road signs pointed in one direction, I just knew in my bones that wasn’t the right way to go. So I made a U-turn and went the way my gut told me to go and turns out I was right.

“Bad signage,” I said to my sister-in-law. It’s a terminology I use alot. I stole it from Shelby who stole it from an essay that author Bob Welch wrote.

Life can be like that. Full of bad signage.You think you are headed down the right path and then you find out, ohmygosh, where was it I was headed? Andy Stanley, pastor of North Point in Atlanta, says that it’s our direction, not our intention, that determines our destination.

If one of your destinations, however, is this blog, please take note. My website has undergone a change. One for the better, I hope. I hate to do this to you, but please make note of the new website: karenzach.com.

This blog will be appearing at the new site from here on out. For those of  you who have this bookmarked, all you have to do is to shorten it by taking out the “wordpress.”  So please join the discussions at karenzach.com

Hopefully, you’ll like the new direction I’ve taken.

Monday laughter

I can always count on my boy Stephan for a laugh. He’s the one who told me about Tim Hawkins. Hope you enjoy this spoof on Carrie Underwood’s Jesus Take the Wheel as much as I did.


I am in love with a married man, and I’m not talking about the man I’ve been married to for the past 30 some odd years. I’m talking about another man.

I don’t know his wife so I’m not too sure what she’d think of me being in love with her man. I suspect that’s she’s kind of grown accustomed to all that adulation heaped on her man.

I don’t know what his daughters think either, but surely they understand. They must love him near about as much as they love God. I bet they come to love him even more as they grow older and realize what a truly remarkable father they’ve been fortunate to have.

He don’t know I’m in love with him. Well, if he’s reading this piece, he’ll know now. But I’m just saying there’s nothing illicit about this love I have for this married man.

I’m not attracted to him in any physical way, not that there isn’t good reason to be, he’s a fine looking fella, easy on the eyes. It’s just that’s not the source of this wellspring of emotion I have towards him.

I fell in love with him at a hotel room in Portland, Oregon. I’d picked up a copy of his book Clay’s Quilt at Powell’s Bookstore earlier that evening and while all the other journalists attending a conference went out the bar, I curled up in the middle of that big ol’ bed and began reading that mountain story.

It is such a fine story you need to read it yourself. I thought his name — Silas House — was all made up, just like the story itself, but it’s not. That’s really his name.

Silas is from Kentucky, not too far from where my own daddy grew up. He is a truly gifted writer and more important than that, Silas is just a very fine man, from the inside out. 

To help you understand why it is I’ve fallen in love with a married man, I want  you to read Silas’s thoughtful post about his faith. Read Part One first. Then Part Two.

Tell me what you think. I have a hunch you’re going to fall in love with this man too.

Making converts

Follow Me

Pvt.2 Zachary Steele of the 1/330th National Guard Unit graduated Friday.

The Band kicked off the ceremony at the National Infantry Museum’s Parade Grounds.

Band Leader

There was a lot of marching by everyone.



And the Rifle Team put on quite the production.


You don’t suppose it was just a quinky-dink that there was a church dead-center in the middle of this dramatic production, do you?


It was very surreal.


But the graduation was a hit. I was moved to tears when they told us that the parade field was made up from the soil of historical battlefields of Antietam, Normandy, Ia Drang, and many others, signifying that sacrifices made by generations. 

But we all got a laugh when Zachary’s platoon dropped to the ground in move that was more performance than punishment.

More pushups

Push up

Everyone got in on the action.

Afterward, I took Zachary and Gloria on a sightseeing tour of Georgia. Zachary thanked me, saying up until then his only impression of my home state hadn’t been a very good one. He thought all of Georgia looked like Sand Hill, Fort Benning.

Gloria & Zach. PnMtn

I showed him the breathtaking views of our Georgia mountains. We ate at the Whistling Pig in Pine Mountain and I was moved to tears when the owner made a point to come over and thank him before God and everyone for his service. “Around here we know our freedom isn’t free,” she said. In fact there wasn’t a person that Zachary met today who didn’t stop and thank him. Over and over and over again. What a change from the Georgia I grew up in. The Georgia of Lt. Calley and the My Lai trials. Zachary has no knowledge or understanding of that. He does not know, thankfully, what is it to live in a time when you had to discard your uniform and not wear it in public for fear of the anger it would invoke. He only knows gratitude — and this for a fellow who has just finished basic training. “I don’t feel like I’ve done anything to earn their thanks,” he said.


I gave him a lesson in all things Kudzu.

Mr. Soldier 1

And took him to FDR’s Little White house where all the visiting camp kids wanted to get their photo with the man they called Mr. Soldier.

Mr. Soldier2

FDR leg brace

We talked about the polio that struck FDR and Grandpa Gene.

Iron Lung

And made a trip out to the museum at the rehab pool that FDR had built.

Pool rehab

The waters have been drained since the 70s but the tools of rehab remain.

Zach and me. Warm Springs

We stopped at Starr’s Mill where we ran into Dave fishing.

Historical marker

He’d caught a blue gill moments before we arrived but he was fishing for crappie. Dave said he’s been out west. “Been as far west as New Orleans and as far north as South Carolina,” he said. Dave grew up in Columbus & Phenix City. He told me all about a girl he’d met when he was a young boy about Zachary’s age. The girl was from Atlanta and kept insisting that he get his uncle’s cow in out of the rain. She was worried about it. So Dave and his cousin put the cow in the barn but the cow kept getting out.

“You don’t think that girl was one of those animal rights activists, do you?” I asked.

“I don’t know about that,” Dave mused. “But I think she was about half-ignorant.”

I told him David was my father’s name. The pramatic Dave replied, “Walk into any place and call out Dave and about half the men will turn and answer.”

I could have spent the entire day chewing the fat with Dave. 

Dave fishing

But he had worms to go.


Starr Mill

And we had miles yet to get to Atlanta. Zachary had a flight out to Oregon.


Another stop or two, to check out the neighborhood and the local anti-terrorism techniques and entertainment systems (note: satellite dish on the house post to the right).  

Satellite Dish

We got to the airport in plenty of time. I think I made a convert out of Zachary. “I love this kind of thing, Aunt Karen,” he said.

Maybe I ought to quit this writing gig and become a tour guide, heh?



march4 (2)

My nephew Zach made it through basic training. He graduates on Friday but today his mom, Gloria, and I attended the Turning Blue Ceremony.


Commander Beachman opened the shindig with a slide presentation. I'd call it a briefing but when it comes to the military, briefings are a misnomer. Still, there was standing room only at the family orientation.


I met a man from Pennsylvania who had two sons graduating. One was 27 and the other 29. He said he wouldn’t have been so surprised if they had done this out of high school, but it’s different when they are older. The economy is lending to the upsurge in recruitment.
It isn’t affecting the number of hats people are buying, however. I saw several women wearing hats today.



nude dress

But take my word for it, this last gal? It wasn’t her hat that everyone was staring at. Especially those troops who hadn’t seen a girl for 10 weeks. At Sand Hill, there isn’t a girl in sight, except the cashiers at the PX.

The Cmdr. said the Turning Blue Ceremony signified the move from recruit to the Infantry. He said the training of previous generations was inadequate, but now the military has seen the errors of their ways and are now acting as “coaches, teachers and mentors” and turning out “products” “Mules” “House” & a “weapon system” that knows how to “destroy the target.”

The Cmdr. noted that there had been “a lot of injuries to lower extremeties” due to the intense training. I translated that for Gloria: “That means he busted their balls.”

As the Cmdr. continued to give a detailed explanation of all the ways these boys had become men in the past 14 weeks, men capable of taking the lead in battle, I walked outside and noticed this sign which tickled me. So, let me get this straight. These men, the ones who are going to fight the war on terror, have to have a sign to remind them not to hurl lugis in public? Shouldn’t they have learned that in first-grade? I’m just saying…


Other than all that it was a very moving ceremony. Gloria began to weep soon as she saw her boys. I made friends with a couple of little girls, one knick-named Tater Head who stood up during the ceremony and yelled out in her loudest 3-year old voice, “HEY CHRISTOPHER.” And another, Abgail, who came dressed to the hilt with matching purse and all for her brother’s ceremony.

It was very sweet. All of it. We are all proud of Zachary for making it through Basic Training.




Is that the best spit-shine you could manage, Son?



Gloria got to put the blue cord on her boy.




Abigail brought along her beautiful purse to her brother’s ceremony.

Lemme Help

And what kind of Infantryman would let a woman walk in heels across a muddy field? Here, Miss, lemme give you a hand with that.

I don’t know the man personally but I like the man from afar.  The man I’m speaking of is Donald Miller. Miller is the author of Blue Like Jazz,which earned him a cult following among Christians. If you haven’t read BLJ yet, get it now. It’s a terrific book. Donald’s a fine writer. And he’s a decent person, or seems to be, who really knows how decent any of us are in any given moment?

Donald is a Texas native and Oregon transplant. He tells you all that in his book. And although we are both writers and Christians who grew up in the south and now live in the great Northwest, we aren’t like pals or anything. I suppose we could be but it’s not likely to happen given our schedules and age gap and well, Donald is closer to my kids’ age. Not that that makes any difference. Jenny Lynn is younger than some of my kids and she’s still a good friend of mine. But Jenny Lynn worked for Laura Bush, too. She’s unconventional in all sorts of ways.

Ever since we met, back when she was 14, Jenny Lynn  and I have had these spirited conversations. We can talk about anything, frankly. She calls me for advice. I call her for advice. Yes. A mature (by that I mean menopausal) woman can take advice from a younger woman, and probably should do so more often.

There are times when we know to back off the conversation and return to our core values — like during this last election. As you can imagine Jenny Lynn is a huge Bush fan. She was respectful about Obama but we simply could not have a discussion about politics. Every now and then we’d wade into those waters, but not often.

Whenever we did, we’d remind each other how much we love each other and that it’s okay for good friends to disagree. I don’t want friends who only agree with me. (When it comes to MY kids, I feel differently. Then the mom in me comes out.) I love that Jenny Lynn disagrees with me and can articulate why she does and I don’t ever feel like I have all the right answers and she doesn’t know anything because she’s young.

I don’t feel that way about Donald Miller, either, even though he is young. The Vietnam War probably feels like ancient history to him. I’m married to a high school history teacher so I figure if Donald grew up in Texas he spent more time studying the Alamo and the Civil War than he did the Vietnam War. 

I might be wrong. He might have read dozens of books by Stanley Karnow or Joe Galloway or David Halberstam or any number of writers who’ve dedicated their careers or at least a few years of it to dissecting the Vietnam War. Myself included.

But I was surprised by a recent post on Donald Miller’s blog in which he refers to Robert McNamara as doing something noble. That is just not a word that I would ever apply to McNamara. I said as much in the comment section of Miller’s blog. I said plenty, in fact. Maybe too much, given that Miller and I don’t have the luxury of being friends first.

I mean no disrespect but I am still conflicted over Miller’s post and several of the responses to it.

I don’t think that person can go through their life abusing the hell out of others and then, when they are old and lonely, just up and decide, hey maybe I ought to have behaved better and just because they say that, everything is hunky-dorey.

I’m not sure that’s what Miller means either. But he did say that he thought McNamara had done a noble thing because he admitted he was wrong. And even cried over it, apparently, in that Fog of War flick of his that I refused to see.  

My buddy Joe Galloway would likely call those tears of McNamara’s crocodile tears and I’m prone to side with Joe on this one. One of Miller’s blog readers referred to McNamara’s confession as “radical honesty.”  That makes my heart hurt. Physically hurt.

I don’t think Bob McNamara was noble. I don’t know whether he was truly repentant or not. That’s between Bob and his Maker. I don’t hate the man. I don’t feel anything toward him one way or another, except sad.

Sad that so many thousands of lives were destroyed because of Bob McNamara and his deceitful ways.

If I had to choose a word to sum up McNamara it wouldn’t be a nice word and Mama always said if you can’t say something nice, just don’t say anything at all.

I still like Donald Miller. I just think his characterization of Robert McNamara is more fiction than truth. But then that was always the case for Robert McNamara, wasn’t it?


Robert McNamara

Pray for Poe

Poe and I may need counseling. I’ll have to check with Susan Isaacs to see how this therapy stuff works out. But we are having some serious issues. If there was a home to send errant dogs to, the way you can with teens, I’d have his bags packed tonight. Instead, he’s going to spend four days in the kennel while I head off to Fort Benning later this week.

Without my phone.

Tim took me on a date tonight. We went to see The Proposal with Sandra Bullock. It’s a great flick. I loved it. Loved it. The dance scene alone is worth the price of the ticket.

But not the price of a replacement phone.

I didn’t take my phone with me. No need for it in a movie theatre, right?

I left it at home.

On the table. Or in my purse. Or on the counter somewhere. I can’t recall. I had spoken to Shelby. Then Konnie and that’s the last call that phone will ever get because Poe ate the phone.

Chewed it up.

Demolished it.

There is nothing this dog won’t put in his slimy mouth. Not a thing.

I love Poe. Love him like a son. Just like a son, come to think of it.

But I be dadgum if I can afford him. He’s eating me out of house and phone.

There are some things a writer just can’t live without. The Love of God, family and the reliability of a computer and cell phone. I mean how will I find my way around Fort Benning without a cell phone in my pocket.

I don’t even know my own kids’ phone numbers. They are all plugged into my phone.

The one Poe ate.

He knew he did a bad thing, too. He knew it. Tim had been calling my phone, trying to help me find it when Poe started for the back yard, but remembering that’s where he had trashed my phone, he turned and ran back to the living room. Acting all the while like “Gosh, who did that? Wasn’t me. Must’ve been that Jack Russell that was hanging in the hood earlier.”

“BAD DOG!” Tim yelled. Then, “I think we solved your phone problem. BAD DOG!”

Pray for Poe. He is in serious need of repentance and forgiveness.

Four days in the kennel will do him some good. Give him time to think about his errant ways.

Joe Galloway and I have had several discussions about Robert McNamara and his role in Vietnam. Joe has long said that there is a special place reserved in hell for Robert McNamara. As a Christian, I don’t wish any man or woman that but I do share most of Joe’s sentiments about McNamara.

By Joe Galloway

“I have never killed a man, but I have read many obituaries with great pleasure.” —Clarence Darrow (1857–1938)

Well, the aptly named Robert Strange McNamara has finally shuffled off to join LBJ and Dick Nixon in the 7th level of Hell.

McNamara was the original bean-counter — a man who knew the cost of everything but the worth of nothing.

Back in 1990 I had a series of strange phone conversations with McMamara while doing research for my book We Were Soldiers Once And Young. McNamara prefaced every conversation with this: “I do not want to comment on the record for fear that I might distort history in the process.” Then he would proceed to talk for an hour, doing precisely that with answers that were disingenuous in the extreme — when they were not bald-faced lies.

Upon hanging up I would call Neil Sheehan and David Halberstam and run McNamara’s comments past them for deconstruction and the addition of the truth.

The only disagreement i ever had with Dave Halberstam was over the question of which of us hated him the most. In retrospect, it was Halberstam.

When McNamara published his first book — filled with those distortions of history — Halberstam, at his own expense, set out on a journey following McNamara on his book tour around America as a one-man truth squad.

McNamara abandoned the tour.

The most bizarre incident involving McNamara occurred when he was president of the World Bank and, off on his summer holiday, he caught the Martha’s Vineyard ferry. It was a night crossing in bad weather. McNamara was in the salon, drink in hand, schmoozing with fellow passengers. On the deck outside a vineyard local, a hippie artist, glanced through the window and did a double-take. The artist was outraged to see McNamara, whom he viewed as a war criminal, so enjoying himself.

He immediately opened the door and told McNamara there was a radiophone call for him on the bridge. McNamara set down his drink and stepped outside. The artist immediately grabbed him, wrestled him to the railing and pushed him over the side. McNamara managed to get his fingers through the holes in the metal plate that ran from the top of the railing to the scuppers.

McNamara was screaming bloody murder; the artist was prying his fingers loose one at a time. Someone heard the racket and raced out and pulled the artist off.

By the time the ferry docked in the vineyard McNamara had decided against filing charges against the artist, and he was freed and walked away.

Americana car

We went down to Westport for the “Fourth of July Festivus” as Uncle Buck called it.

Barnes fam

Uncle Buck & Sister Tater and their family were there. Tay didn’t get to go because she had to work.

The Four of us.2

And, of course, Tim and I were there minus any of our four kids. Konnie and Jon really wanted to go because as Jon said, “Uncle Buck knows how to throw a righteous party.”  Can you tell Jon graduated in a different era than Konnie did? But it’s true, Uncle Buck is city foreman and he knows how to throw a righteous party, whether it’s a birthday event or just a Fourth of July celebration

The Flag

There was a Giant Flag.

Honor Guard

And a customary honor guard


Jams of every sort

Hot Dog 2 tickets

Hot Dog

The usual but with sauerkraut, too, if that’s your choice.


And even a little desert to top it all off, though, we waited until we were back at Sister Tater’s place before we got our desert. What would a 4th of July be, afterall, without the Ice Cream man who came through the neighborhood playing Christmas songs. I have no idea why. Maybe he’d been nipping the Root Beer Float flavors a little too much.

ice cream man

I settled on the Taco version. Ice cream folded into a waffle cone. What’s your favorite flavor from the Ice Cream Man?

We are packing up to leave now but as you can see a good time was had by all. Hope your 4th was equally as jubuliant.

Now that we have all this Freedom that God and others has blessed us with, what are we going to do with it to bless others, huh?

Gabe & me


Uncle Buck and Tay just got back from Alaska but before they left they planned a surprise 50th birthday party for Sister Tater. Tay made a wonderful Smurf cake. When Uncle Buck and Sister Tater were first dating they collected Smurfs and gave them to each other as gifts. Tay remembered her mom telling that story so she made a Smurf cake.


Uncle Buck, a former cook with the Coast Guard, planned all the food.

Linda. Surprise

Mannie brought his mama. Tater was completely surprised. Her first words were,”I’m not even fixed up.” That Southern speak for I don’t have my face on.

Gabe & me

I found a fella to hang with. This little guy is Gabe. He was named for my nephew Gabe.

Brothers and Baby

That’s Gabe on the left and Mannie on the right. This is with their baby cousin once removed. Sister Tater runs a daycare/preschool for the church so her kids love babies.

Pastor Myron praying

Pastor Myron led the prayer and asked God to give Sister Tater another 50.

Linda, me, Gabe

Yes. She really is my sister. And yes, we really have the same father and mother.

Linda. Pinata

Sister Tater is dangerous with a baseball bat.

Linda with cake

But give her a cake and she’s all smiles.

So what is former Gov. Palin up to? Has she stepped down because she’s prepping to step up?

NPR reported that Palin said her family weighed heavily in her decision.

“I polled the most important people in my life, my kids, where the count was unanimous,” she said. “Well, in response to asking, ‘Hey, you want me to make a positive difference and fight for all our children’s future from outside the governor’s office?’ It was four yeses and one ‘Hell, yeah!” And the ‘Hell, yeah’ sealed it.”

But just for some more insight, I offer this up. Uncle Buck, the family fisherman, LOVES Sarah Palin. “Anybody who looks that good in a string bikini gets my vote,” Uncle Buck says. “Besides I think she’s a nice lady.”

Family rumor has it that perhaps the reason Palin has stepped down is because of Uncle Buck.


The Cook

He’s just returned from a week in Alaska, where he claims to have been fishing. But we find it compelling that Buck had only been home two days and Palin stepped down. “Do you think maybe she’s pregnant again and Todd isn’t the father?” one family member asked.

Sister Tater doesn’t seem riled by either the possiblity of an affair between her husband and Sarah Palin, or the thought that Sarah may have set her sights on bigger fish.

“I don’t think she’s going to make a run for President,” she said.

What do you think?


This is a story from my buddy Joe Galloway. I thought it fitting to share as a reminder that war and this freedom we banter about comes at a great cost, then and now.

Sam and Esther

It’s the juxtapositions of life that get you — the rich, the poor, the black, the white.

It’s like the Gospel right there — putting others first.

Care to help?

And all that time you spent in your teens worrying that you would never make it into the double-digits.

Or was that bra size you were talking about?

They say as a girl ages you begin to look more and more like your mother. That certainly seems to be the case for Ashley and Shelby. Happy 27th Birthday girls. Either I don’t look my age, or you don’t look yours…

Karen's pictures 268

Oh. I guess that’s Konnie. Not me. Sorry about the confusion.  That’s part of the aging process too.

But remember what your mama always said, Don’t make faces like that or it might freeze up on you.

Here’s your cake. Hope you enjoy it. Love, Mama

On in Carol Lugo from Jersey City. Did you catch this? OMYGosh. How can this 62-year-old can dance like this without fracturing something?

Says Carol, “I put my dancing shoes on every morning.”

Do you?