Archive for March, 2009

Despite the difficulties confronted in getting there, we finally arrived at Miz Hazel’s about two hours late. She’d cancelled her physical therapy appointment to wait on us and held lunch. The table was set beautifully, with china and flowers. She’d hobbled around from her walker to her wheelchair, still putting on the dawg for company, because as Miz Hazel said, “I didn’t do this for you, honey. I did it because I love beautiful things.”

Miz Hazel had a birthday last week. She turned 89.

She entertained us with stories of leading Girl Scouts, of mentoring girls in trouble.

“I wish I could have gotten my hands on you when you were younger,” she said to me.

“I wish you could have too,” Sister Tater said.

Funny girls these too.

Miz Hazel sets a beautiful table and typically cooks a wonderful meal but ever since she fell in Jan. and shattered her hip, she’s having to rely on others in ways she never would normally. The casserole and rolls were brought in by neighbors. Miz Hazel made the salad with red peppers and avocados and feta cheese. It was wonderful.

She told us how she had her life alert on and how she kept calling for help while she was sprawled out in the rain that day in Jan. when she slipped while picking the Camillas and broke that hip. The alert sent a neighbor over but it took 45 minutes for anyone to find her. She wasn’t in the house. Or the big backyard. No one had bothered to look in the front yard. Why would she be there?

She was cold. Oh. So. Cold.

She asked the ambulance folks for a head covering, for socks, for more blankets.

But they only had two.

That kind of pain changes a person, Miz Hazel said.

“I didn’t know how much longer I could have endured it.”

But she is one determined woman.

Not one to complain.

She refused to talk more about her health. “It bores me when people talk about that.”

Miz Hazel prefers to be with people who are “wonderful conversationalists.”

She is one of the best herself.

Speaking of someone, she described her thus: “She has a very strong sense of possession.”

We laughed.

Then we oohhed and ahhed when Miz Hazel showed us the first of a seires of  Liturgical banners she has designed and is weaving for her church.

Her fibers are as vivid as her talk. Wonderful beautiful textiles and patterns.

Describing the Lent Banner Miz Hazel said the red fibers were for the Blood of Salvation. The green represented everlasting life. The golden fibers were for love which leaves one golden and sunny, Miz Hazel said.

“And I put plenty of blue in it because blue stands for grace and I need a lot of that,” she said.




And from the road…


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School Discipline?

Good discussion going on about whether or not tasers should be an alternative when dealing with unruly students. What do you think?

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It’s about more than just peanuts, though hot boiled peanuts is reason plenty enough to steer a car off a freeway on a early Sunday morning. Like most southern girls, we were weaned on green peanuts stewed in a salt brine.


You won’t find these north of the Mason Dixon line. Most Yankees never develop a taste for them. “Taste like dirt,” one of my Oregon friends said. She said the same thing about black-eyed peas. We ain’t spoke in several years. But if you want to give them a try, head south through Eufala, Alabama and you are sure to find more than one fella scooping them up into stryfoam cups or plastic baggies, the same kind that your brother used to keep his stash of marijuana in. If you happen across Buck’s place, just south of somewhere, they’ll cost you $2 and the brine ain’t so salty it’ll pucker the insides of your lips like a soak in a hot tub will do to your fingers.

buck2You can get peanuts at any hour of the day or night at Buck’s place. It’s the only one open 24 hours a day, he said. That’s because Buck runs on a honor system. If he’s got someplace to go, say the VA hospital or a fishing trip, he leaves the plastic baggies out and the pan of hot p’nuts and asks people to he’p themselves. And they do. Once after a four day trip away he arrived back to find over $900 in his tin can. One fellow had even made change. Trade his $100 for five $20s and left Buck a note telling him so.

No need to worry if you don’t have the cash on the way to Florida. Buck will trust you for it. “People drop back by coming home and pay me what they owe me,” he says.

Somebody ought to put Buck in charge of the SEC.

“The problem with this nation is the media,” he says, unaware that he’s talking to a journalist, now muted. “If they would just do what they are supposed to do — report the news — rather than giving their opinions and all this gloom and doom all the time we’d be better off. I don’t listen to them anymore.”

He turned the TV completely off. Shut ‘er down.

“I ain’t saying things ain’t bad. They is. But they ain’t as bad as those news people make them out to be all the time.”

Not in his neck of the woods anyway. Buck has never been robbed. Never had anyone steal a nickel from him. He trusts people and they honor that trust by doing the right thing.

Paying up their $2 and not taking what ain’t theirs.

Still, Buck keeps a friend nearby to he’p him out should he need some backup. He is, after all, a southener born and bred. It’s a man’s duty to carry a gun.

Comes in handy for shooting squirrels and snakes.

Buck lives at the p’nut shop. Makes his own bar-b-que right out back.

“We don’t eat it out there though. I don’t like flies. I won’t eat anything a fly has lit upon ’cause you don’t know where’s the last place that fly lit upon. Could be a dead cow. Dead cat. Or a pile of poop. Whatever it was, you know it wasn’t good,” he said, shaking his head. “If a fly lit upon my food that plate is going in the trash.”

“People’s got their standards,” Sister Tater said.

He did a tour in Korea but didn’t go to ‘Nam. “I had three kids and they wasn’t taking anyone with more than two so I didn’t have to go,” he said.

He was a jump master at Benning for 20 years and worked the p’nut stand even then.

“These ain’t hot enough, yet,” he said. “I tripped the wire without knowing it and didn’t get it plugged back in till a bit ago.”

“Hot enough for me,” Sister Tater said, taking her baggies and thanking Buck.

Honest people travel up and down the roadways of this country.

You just won’t hear about them on the nightly news, so much.


Glimpses from the road


columbus2009march-013Oddly enough given the conversation with Buck this eatery is named “Fly Creek.”

fly-creekIf you go, I recommend the music and the wilted spinach salad with cranberries and tangerines.

staceys-paintingAnd remember, take time to appreciate the beautiful things in life. Smell the roses or at least admire them as you travel past.

flycreek3And never be in such a rush you fail to make time for good friends.

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I didn’t even notice the Rolls. It was Linda who spotted it parked outside the Starbucks in pouring down rain. “Stop,” she said. “I want a picture of THAT.”

So I stopped.

I’d wanted to go inside but the rain was coming down so hard Linda hadn’t wanted to get out of the car.

“It’ll ruin my hair for sure.”

A girl has her priorities.

So I’d been the one to hop out of my car and mash on the window on the driver’s side, the one that’s been falling down since I left Fairhope in August. I wedge it with a Starbucks cup holder and every now & then have to mash it back into place.

Then I’d backed up and that’s when Linda saw the brand new Rolls sitting in the rain.

The bad thing about having a broken window on the driver’s side is that you have to open the door to order anything, so I was going to get wet either way, which is why I would have been glad to just go inside and order.

Now Linda was worried she might miss some opportunity to meet what might have been the encounter of a lifetime — the owner of the Rolls.

Obviously this was somebody we needed to meet.

So Linda began to pray as I drove up to order our Starbucks.

She prayed something about missed opportunities.

I wasn’t really listening too closely. I was more worried that the gal on the other end hear my order:  “Venti Green Tea Lemonade. Sweetened.”

Sometimes we treat God like that.

Like we are ordering Starbucks at the drive up.

“Grande?” the voice came back.

“No,” I said. “Venti.”

“Okay. Anything else?”

“Yeah,” I said. “Who owns the Rolls?”

“Oh, that’s Mark,” she said.”Why you looking for a Sugar Daddy?”

“No,” I said, laughing.

“Good. ‘Cause I think he’s already got someone.”

“So do I,” I replied. “Happily married 31 years. I just wanted to know who owned it.”

“He’s a writer,” she said.

By this time Linda is digging through the piles of stuff in the backseat, searching for one of my books. Obviously this was an encounter for swapping books.

I pulled up to the window.

“What kind of books?” I asked.

“I dunno. Hey Mark,” she called out, “What do you write?”

He answered from where he sat. Real Estate books. He’s a self-made millionaire. Started when he was 18. He’s 30ish now, the gal related.

“Great,” I said. “He’s writing about land and I’m writing about Jesus.”

He’s driving the Rolls. I’m driving the BMW with the window wedged with a Starbucks holder. I’m still richer than most — 92 percent of the world’s population don’t own cars at all.

“Here give this to him,” I said, passing a copy of WYJN through the rain.

“Where you headed?” the lady asked.

“To a book signing, actually.”

“Drive safe,” she said.

He watched me as I pulled away, smiled and waved and gave a nod of thanks.

“Do you think he’ll actually read the book?” I asked Linda six hours later as we hit another drive up window in another town.

“That is so weird. I was just thinking the very same thing,” she said.

“Creepy,” I said.

Guess you don’t have to be identical twins to think the same thoughts. Just sisters.


More scenes from the Day. True friends brave enough to weather storms togetherjane-beth

Jane Wilson, Beth Kissel.


Larry & Rhonda Kees.


Allison Kennedy, religion reporter at the Ledger and her father Hugh. Allison and I worked together umpteen years ago.


Linda’s reward for the day — a plate of catfish and a gallon of sweet tea.

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Y’all Come!

Barnes & Noble Signing

Saturday, March 28th 1 p.m. Columbus Park North 5555 Whittlesey Blvd. Suite 1800 Columbus, GA

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“You don’t shoot a 12-year old child in the face and then find Jesus,” said the sister of a murder victim killed by 60-year old Raymond Guay. She’s upset because Pastor David Pinckney has invited the ex-con to live in the basement of his home. Pinckney’s own five children live in the same house.

“People change. If they don’t change, then the Gospel of Jesus has no merit,” the pastor says.

Authorities say that Guay will have more accountability in Pinckney’s home than he would if he was released to live whereever.

What about it?

Is Pinckney right?

Can finding Jesus change a man so dramatically?

And if you believe that, would you invite a convicted child killer into your home after he has served his time?

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Would you?

Maria Shriver provided testimony about her father’s Alzheimer’s. New reports state that one in seven of us will get it by the time we are 65. Good Morning America interviewed one of its own to talk about his decision to take the test to show whether he was predisposed to the ravages of this disease. I had an aunt who suffered for years from this and cousins who swore that if they ever got the disease they would take their own lives.

What about you? Would you take a test to determine whether you are going to get the disease or not? Do you think the “knowing of it” would make you less fearful? Or would it ruin what good days you have left? Is knowledge power in this case?

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Farewell 2 Friends


Tim &  I made a trip into Fayetteville yesterday where we had a jabber-lunch with Tim White. The new design of the editorial page is working well and Tim @ Gene Smith are able to crank out those editorials without too much duress. We missed Rachel though. Afterwards we ran up the hill for a visit with Rebekah Sanderlin and daughter Rudi. We missed seeing the boys as they were away for the afternoon but there was plenty of laughter as there always is whenever Rebekah is telling the stories. Life looked a lot more serene for Rebekah now that Rudi has gotten over her colic and her husband has returned from his deployment. Rebekah is amazing in that with all that she has going on she still finds time to write. You might have caught her latest piece on NPR’s Weekend Edition last week. Last night Ray & Bev Martin had us over for dinner — which entails a walk down the stairs and across the driveway. Ray and Bev own the Pinehurst apartment. The thing I’ve noticed most about Pinehurst is that no one here is from the south. They are all Yankee transplants. The Martins moved here from Michigan back before this was the bustling community it is now.  The boys talked basketball — what else? The coach at Ray’s high school retired from the varisity position in his 70s to take a job as head Freshman coach which he kept till he was 90. I see my future in that story…

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So I came across a column that has me wondering. The writer was drawing parallels between a banking business executive’s talk and the philosophy touted by thinker Ayn Rand. He wrote:

  • “Believe you can be good and have a moral right to be happy.”
  • “Everything that’s alive must act out of self-interest or die.”
  • “Failing to deal with nonperformance is a form of injustice.”
  • “Be responsible.”
  • “Reality is independent of popularity. Polls have nothing to do with the truth.”

Now I’m all for personal accountability and I don’t have much argument with the suggestion that polls have nothing to do with truth. Did anyone suggest otherwise?

I’m not as sure that “failing to deal with nonperformance is a form of injustice.” That would presuppose that only those who perform some service for the common good have any worth or value in society. Maybe there are lessons to be learned from those who for whatever reason can’t or don’t.

HELLLOO?? Capitalism is not the end-all, be-all of mankind, much as we like to tout it.

I was in the Jesse Helms museum yesterday in Monroe, listening to the whitewashed bios of men like T. Boone Pickens and Mr. Belk.I am always slightly amused by the way in which men rewrite history to show their finer selves.No mention in that entire museum of the controversial racist Jessie Helms.

Only praise for his entrepreneurial spirit.

Which leads me to another point, perhaps the point that makes me bristle the most. Do people really believe we have a moral right to happiness?

What is that?

A moral right to happiness?

What does that mean?

What happens if my moral right to happiness infringes upon your moral right to happiness? Say when I covet your husband and convince him to sleep with me, because, hey, I’ve got a moral right to my own happiness, right and your man makes me happy. (I hope my man doesn’t read this.)

What happens if my moral right to happiness includes knocking your daughter off the cheer team so that my daughter has a better chance at landing a spot?

Or if my moral right to happiness includes taking all your money so that I can live in a multi-million penthouse overlooking all your other sorry people who don’t understand you have a moral right to happiness and that you ought to do as I do and act out of self-interest, or just curl up in some hole somewhere and die.

Good grief.

The last thing I think this nation needs is people touting the philosophy of Ayn Rand.




Isn’t it about time we shut our mouths?

Who the hell are we to be preaching to anyone about “moral rights?”

Climb down off that self-righteous ladder.

Before we fall off it and break our flippin necks.

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horsesTim, Lois and I went out to the track this morning for breakfast. The trainers were running the horse in anticipation of the upcoming race in April. It was mesmerizing, watching the gait of those horses.  I wanted to sit in the trainer’s chair.

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A praying church

I sit in the balcony at church. It’s like being in a bird’s nest. You can see everything from above. Like when the fellow in the ninth row from the front collapses the way one fellow did yesterday. One minute he was there, standing Marine proud. The next he was splayed out on the pew as the doctor in the choir robe hastened to make his way past the gathering crowd.

Pastor led us in prayer as someone else called paramedics.

That alone impressed me.

I thought back to 9-11 and how so many of us failed to issue that call in that moment — personally and politically. We could have, should have stepped up and said, “Let’s bow our heads in this moment & pray for our fellow man.”

The man down below was out for quite awhile. Maybe five minutes. He sat back up before the paramedics arrived. His coloring was awful. That yellowish-gray common among the sickly.  His family followed the paramedics out. The doctor returned to his place among his choir members.

Our service continued.

“Protect us from the dangers we bring upon ourselves,” Pastor prayed later.

A good prayer, I thought.

He preached on John 3:16.

“For,” he said, “means because.”

And “So means in the same way.”

Because God in the same way loved the world, he gave his only son that whosoever believeth in him should not perish but have everlasting life.

Which got me to thinking about death. Again. There is a difference between what Christ experienced in death and what we will experience.

He rose on the third day.

Body and all.

Shook off those grave clothes.

Combed his fingers through his hair and went to pay his friends a visit.

I’d feel better about death I think if I knew that on the third day I would be able to rise up out of that casket and laugh with my friends again.

It might scare them.

But I’d enjoy it more.

I understand that we have the promise of that. But a body that’s been resurrected after only a few days in the grave has a better chance of regeneration than one that’s been there throughout the ages. That’s the disconncerting part for me.

I want people to know they don’t have to be in that grave any longer than three days.

“It’s the decaying process,” I said to Tim last night. “That bugs me. Jesus never went through that.”

“He goes through it everyday in other ways,” Tim replied. “He watches the living decay.”

Before the service was over, I could see the woman nodding in the pew on the right side of the church. Men on either side of her were fanning her.

Still, she went out.

Like a burnt bulb.

Slumped over in that pew.

The doctor in the choir robe was walking in the recessional when they grabbed him this time. Somebody pulled out their cell phones and called the paramedics.

Pastor led us in another prayer. This one for our fainting sister.

“Happens a lot in this church,” said the gal sitting next to  me.  “We have an elderly population here. It unnerved me at first but now I’m used to it.”

I fell out in church once. In Seattle.

But I didn’t faint.

I was slain in the Spirit.

That’s a story for another day.

Until then, think upon these things.

And pray.

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Trade show

My agent, Chip, has  a telling post about the Christian Book Expo held recently in Dallas. I’ve attended numerous book conferences. Long before I ever published any book I started attending this conferences, in an effort to educate myself about this business. You should ask around before rushing off to just any conference. Talk to other book lovers. Or your favorite bookseller. They are sure to have ideas on which ones are the best.

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Speaking of actors

Even a dog can act…

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He gets the girl

Stephan played a new role — that of Sir Edmund Randolph — on Saturday. A role in which he gets the girl, shortly before he heads off to fight in the Revolution. And that girl?Amaree is playing Betsy Nicholas, daughter to Virginia Treasure Robert Carter Nicholas, the most pious man in all in Virgina.

I didn’t get to meet her, but as you can see from the photos, Amaree was terrific.

The crowd thought so too. There were smiles and applause all around when the two got engaged. Even in these hard times, maybe especially in hard times, people enjoy a good love story.






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