Posted in Bits & Pieces, Life As I Know It

What Verse Are You Singing?

My new teenager (!?) and I enjoy listening to the radio as we tool around to the various places we go. One of the songs we both like these days is Lukas Graham’s  “7 Years.” Though there is a line or two that we needed to discuss (smoking herb, etc.), we both hear and appreciate the story within Graham’s lyrics.


Continue reading “What Verse Are You Singing?”

Posted in Life As I Know It

How Cracking Open A Time Capsule Reveals True Value

My sister has been kind enough to store some “stuff” for me for many years, and she recently encouraged me to revisit just what the heck was lurking in her crawlspace on my behalf.

Continue reading “How Cracking Open A Time Capsule Reveals True Value”

Posted in Life As I Know It

Only Light Can Do That

Darkness cannot drive out darkness;
only light can do that.
Hate cannot drive out hate;
only love can do that.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
 Strength To Love, 1963


The recent deadly attacks in Paris by terrorists against the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo have much of the world on edge. On this Martin Luther King Jr. Day, I can’t help but wonder what the Rev. Dr. King would have to say about it all. Though we have made strides in fulfilling his “dream,” we have a very long way to go.

When I think of Dr. King, I think of his faith, hope, perseverance, love, wisdom, compassion, grace, and peace–and his work for justice and freedom for all.

I don’t believe we can move forward by staying silent, and as a former English teacher, you can bet your sweet bippy that I am not a fan of book banning. Censorship does not make “bad” go away–it just makes it find other ways to come out. And who exactly has the final word on what “bad” is anyway? To this day, books like To Kill a Mockingbird are banned from many schools.

I absolutely loved teaching Mockingbird in major part because of the fact that it offered opportunities for students to discuss some very important issues–discussions that often led to understanding the world and each other a little better. That’s what brings the light.

So on this day, I want to share a post I wrote around a year ago. (It was back when I posted on “Frabjous Friday,” which I no longer do because of time constraints.) Though my story doesn’t directly deal with civil rights, I believe Dr. King would appreciate it because those students felt what it was like to have a voice. And as he said, our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.

Thank you, Dr. King.





The Day Harper Lee Wrote Back


Originally posted January 3, 2014.


The idea behind my Frabjous Friday posts is to share something joyful–or at least something that will make you smile. Today’s post was a very joyful moment in my life, and I’d like to share it with you. It happened 17 years ago almost to the day. It’s a little longer than my typical Friday post, but I hope you’ll find it worth your time.

Back when I taught high school English, my freshman class read To Kill a Mockingbird as one of our core novels. I loved that book as a student, and I treasured it as a teacher. So many layers to explore and think about all delivered in a wonderfully descriptive and even suspenseful way. There was no greater joy for me as a teacher than to see a student come alive within the pages of a book, and Ms. Lee’s one and only published novel kindled that time and again.

One of the activities that we did after reading it was to send notes to Harper Lee. The first time I did this and told the kids we were really going to send the letters, they were stunned. Really? In junior high they did the activity frequently, and it was just for “pretend,” as they called it. I told them why wouldn’t we send them when she is still around to receive them? This made them take their own words a little more seriously. A real author–one whose work many had grown to care for–would be reading it, after all!

I showed them all how I put their letters into a big manila envelope and addressed it to “Harper Lee, Monroeville, Alabama” with the proper zip code. Since Harper Lee was a recluse, this was the best I could do. I figured the town knew her whereabouts.

The first year’s letter writing experience had been positive enough that I did it again the next year, with much the same response from the students. As a teacher, it was satisfying to know that the kids realized their words were being delivered. It mattered.

I just didn’t know it mattered to Ms. Lee, too.

One day, a few weeks after the second batch of letters had been sent, I went to my teacher’s mailbox. Inside was an envelope the size of a thank you card, and I could see that the return address had “Monroeville, AL” written on it. My hands started to tremble. Was it possible that one of the nation’s great authors had written back to us?

Why, yes. Yes she did.




I couldn’t believe it. How kind she was to let my students (and me!) know that she had read every letter with “great care and enjoyment.” My students were giddy with excitement–and it’s not often you see 14-year-olds giddy about anything. It was a tremendous validation for them–and for me as an educator. Words matter. Thought matters. Kindness matters.

I hope my former students think back on that experience with joy. I know I do. Ms. Lee’s letter still graces my office and makes me smile every time I see it.

17 years ago Harper Lee wished me and my students a Happy New Year. How cool is that?

Happy New Year to all of you, too!

“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view–until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.” ~Atticus Finch


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Posted in Life As I Know It

10 Things I’m Thankful for Every Day

With Thanksgiving this Thursday, I thought it would be a good time to reflect on those very things for which I am thankful…and maybe you are, too. Continue reading “10 Things I’m Thankful for Every Day”

Posted in Life As I Know It

Living By Candlelight

I’ve always been a pyromaniac, albeit a responsible one.

From as far back as the time my sister ratted out my five-year-old self to my parents about playing with matches (and somewhat smugly watched as I got spanked for it, I might add), I have been enchanted with fire.




Like the times my mom used to run into the grocery store for a few things and leave me in the car (remember when that was okay?) and I used to use the car cigarette lighter to relight the butts left in the ashtray (see maybe that’s why it stopped being okay…)

And then there were the numerous times my friend Jen and I dabbled with fire…one of my favorites being how we set a fire in the concrete storm drain outlet (that way, it couldn’t possibly get out of control…See? I told you: responsible) and enjoyed it until it had burned itself out and I was called home to dinner. While outside, I was noseblind to my smoky smell, but when I walked into my house and got a whiff of myself, I panicked and went into the bathroom to come up with a “solution” to my fiery smell…The result? The brilliant choice of spraying myself abundantly with rose-scented Glade. I sat down to dinner in a stink cloud of smoke and canned rose…My mom must have thought that she was better off not knowing because she never asked any questions about that one. Ever.

Yes, I have a few stories that illustrate my love affair with fire. Some, I will never tell. (Jen—remember that one New Year’s Eve with the pizza box?)

So it’s no surprise that the chilly days of this past weekend made me quick to want to light some candles…and it got me to thinking about the simple beauty and power of candlelight.

As soon as I lit a candle in the late afternoon gloom, the room felt different. Warmer. Cozier. Just a single candle cast a glow that made a difference.


candle 1


It brings back thoughts of songs I was raised on, like This Little Light of Mine and Pass It On. Songs that drive home the point of the power of one little light or how a spark can be the beginning of something much bigger. And, of course, with those songs, the emphasis is on sharing the love of Jesus—how our little lights should shine brightly because we have the Light within us.




And while this is absolutely critical to a faith-filled life, I find my thoughts rippling out further. I think about the flash of a camera—how it too is a “little light.” But while the flash is powerful, it is also brief—and it can often be blinding and disorienting to those who are near when it flashes.

But the consistent flicker of a small flame offers comfort and hope. One small light amidst the darkness can be powerful enough to help you find your way home.


candle 2


I don’t want to live by flash, but I must admit that all too often I see myself have a brief burst of “illumination” of some sort…and then it is over all too soon.

Instead…I want to live by candlelight.

I want to burn steady and consistently, and I want my actions to reflect the Light within.

I want the results of what I say and do to glow with warmth and perhaps push away some of the gloom of a melancholy day.


candle 3


A challenge of living by candlelight—to extend the metaphor further (yea!)—is that my light can be all too easily blown out by the winds of the world. Thankfully, though, that’s not the end of it because the Light is there ready to reignite when needed. The Source remains eternal.

The idea of living by candlelight is simply a reminder of the power and beauty that one little light can bring into the darkness…and that if we do choose to shine, we will make a difference, just like that candle did for me in the pall of a gray evening.

The pyromaniac in me smiles at that.


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Posted in Life As I Know It


We used to call them selfers in my family. They were the photos that you took when no one was around to help you out and take one for you. We have selfers of being in Hawaii, at the Grand Canyon—places that you went and wanted to have a photo to remember that you were there.

And because back in the dark ages before digital we used to send our film out to get developed, we would have to wait (?!) to see how well we framed the shot. Often heads would be cut off or the shot would pretty much be one looking up everyone’s nostrils. It definitely was not a precise science but a fun gamble to see what you ended up with.


Being silly in Hawaii with our groovy underwater camera
Being silly in Hawaii with our groovy underwater camera


We’ve gone from having to drive up to a Fotomat (remember those? They were those little house-like kiosks that you’d drop off and pick up your film from?) and wait days to view our photos, to having it immediately available to see. I remember when I used to have to pay attention to how many shots I had left on my roll—now I can click till my heart’s content.


Oh, look! We came up for air!
Oh, look! We came up for air!


As I looked back through my photo albums (also a pre-digital reality for me…) to see what selfers I might have to share for this post, it was interesting to see the evolution. When I went to Europe after I graduated college, there is not a single photo of my friend that I traveled with and me together. Zero. There are a few pics of us alone—at the railing of the Eiffel Tower, on the Piazza San Marco in Venice—but not a single one of us together. As I looked in albums of later years, I found an occasional selfer typically taken on a vacation.


Too bad the kid wasn’t cooperating. At least the dog was.


Hard to imagine in this age of the selfie, isn’t it?

Yes, as we are all well aware, the word evolved into selfie, and when most people—thanks to their cell phones—carried a camera everywhere with them, the prevalence and reasons to take a selfie evolved, too. And then phones started to have front-facing cameras for you to see the framing as you took the pic! Look out, world! The phenomenon blew up.

Coinciding with this easy ability to snap selfies was the evolution of social media. With a couple touches of the screen, you can share a pic in any number of places instantaneously. For many, Facebook is their modern day photo album—a place to house all sorts of photos—including selfies.


ND game
Yep, I shared this on Facebook while I was freezing my hm-hms off at an ND game.


There’s a lot of freedom granted us in the digital world. And with this freedom comes the opportunity to make some, shall we say interesting choices.

We are definitely a culture of instant gratification, but there’s also a shift in mindset, too. Now we have congressmen and NFL stars taking pics of their peeps to send to whomever. We have kids in middle school doing the same. In fact, we have apps like Snapchat where a person can send a photo and have it “disappear” after viewing (unless the recipient takes a screenshot).

I guess that speaks to the quantity and quality of what is actually being sent. If you want a photo to disappear (even though it risks getting captured and saved), then…what is it that you are sending?

I remember when my college roommate took a surprise photo of me in the shower. Let’s just say I was less than thrilled. I made her give me the photo and the negative when she got them developed, but even knowing the guy at the Kodak store could see the photo creeped me out. Now women sext to guys just trying to get them interested in going on a date.

The selfie culture is so ubiquitous that there’s a new TV show coming out this fall with that as its name. (It’s actually supposed to be a remake of My Fair Lady. Wha??)

Don’t get me wrong—I’m not coming down on the concept of selfies—I have taken plenty and still get a kick out of them (as evidenced by the photos here). But I do wonder what the impact of this focus on self means in our society. Our desire to capture ourselves for others to see can be funny or interesting, for sure…but it also can be rather self-involved.

I really do wish that there were a few photos of my friend and me on our European expedition. They would have been nice keepsakes to have. But the photos I do have from that trip show the beauty of what we experienced. A far cry from the recent “news” story about Kim Kardasian being in Thailand and snapping 1200 selfies. I’m thinking that she just may have missed the beauty of Thailand, don’t you?

I do feel a bit sheepish—or selfie-indulgent—in sharing the photos I have in this post, but I wanted to share a few old school selfers. It does feel very “look at me!” though. Hope it doesn’t strike you as Kardasian in any way.

That’s just a tad too selfie-ish for my liking.