If It Feels Wrong

When we were children, many of us heard our parents say, “If it feels wrong, don’t do it.”  That was a way to help us judge right from wrong, that internal compass that kept us on the proper course.  Probably those first deciding points were about how we were treating our siblings– at least it was for me.  If I didn’t want to share my candy bar with one of my sisters, then the assumption was ‘being selfish’ would feel wrong and I would give them a piece of my Baby Ruth.  When I was in elementary school and my circle expanded, it applied to telling my piano teacher the truth.  When she’d ask how much  I’d practiced, then my parents assumed that ‘stretching the truth’ would not feel right. Surely, I’d tell Mrs. Godfrey how little I’d practiced, playing outside instead of sitting at our piano.


Over the years, I’ve found that the feeling of ‘wrong’ is sometimes hard to discern.  What my parents were referring to has gotten mixed in with those uncertain feelings produced by anxiety when I try something new. I’m not talking about something new that would hurt someone, but just behavior to move in a new and challenging direction in my life.  While I can mentally evaluate a new venture and see its components rationally, the emotions and the accompanying physical feelings are harder to navigate, especially when I don’t have the advantage of watching someone else go before me.

Sometimes what is unfamiliar can feel wrong because it makes me uncomfortable, raising my anxiety that something bad could happen– so that it feels like getting in trouble as a child for doing something wrong.

Years ago, I took my summer pilgrimage to the San Juan Islands off the coast of Washington.  I’d decided before that trip to hike Mt. Constitution because at its summit you are at the highest point in Puget Sound.  I wanted to experience the view from there.

While I’d read about the park and understood from their website there would be trail maps, when I arrived, that wasn’t the case.  Nor was there a park ranger station with staff to ask about the 2.2-mile hike to the top.  I had one bottle of water and was not prepared with proper hiking gear.  I was also on a very tight schedule because of having to rely on the island bus and ferry system.  I felt uneasy with no map of the trail, no one knowing where I was, and my cell phone probably useless in those remote woods.

I walked a short distance up the trail and stopped to ponder what to do.  I was flooded with emotions– fear that something could happen like spraining my ankle with no one to help or getting lost because there weren’t many blaze markers to guide my way.  The decision had to be made quickly in order to hike to the summit and back in time for the last ferry.

If I went with that lingering guideline, “If it feels wrong, don’t do it,” then I would have returned to the safety of the hostel at Friday Harbor.  I had no idea how hard the hike would be for me since it was rated as ‘difficult’ given the incline. I knew the chances of me returning were slim, and if I walked away, I would probably never see that sight of Puget Sound.

I decided to go forward in spite of feeling scared and uncertain– two emotions that definitely didn’t feel right.  After almost an hour of hiking through the ginormous Douglas fir trees, and areas that looked like a fairytale forest with fallen trees blanketed in moss, I passed other hikers who reassured me.


Wildflowers along the Mt. Constitution Trail

I made it to the top, climbed up on the overlook tower, and couldn’t believe the expansive scene below with the little islands dotting the sound and snow-capped Mt. Baker.  Thank God I made it to this magnificent place, I thought, and felt rewarded for taking a risk.

Sometimes doing something that’s unfamiliar that creates anxiety, doesn’t pay off like that hike.  But from where I stand now, I’m glad that I’m beginning to distinguish between what feels wrong as gauged by my moral compass versus the discomfort of stepping out into the unknown.  If I’d continued to confuse those feelings, I may never have taken the risks of going on yearly pilgrimages, that unknown that is now familiar.


How about you?

In what ways have you confused a feeling that’s new for you with one that you may have been warned about?

How would pushing beyond that uncertainty benefit your life?

Happy 100th

This is the 100th post since I started my blog with WordPress almost a year ago. When I published the first entry on May 31, 2017, I wasn’t looking ahead at the hours of work involved when I made the commitment to posting twice a week. I had no clue how much effort it would take to create each entry and find the accompanying images– didn’t figure ahead that with 52 weeks in a year that would be 104 posts!  I just jumped in and have learned by doing– the method that’s best for me.

I guess no matter what you do 100 times, you probably get better at it– or at least it’s more familiar.  It helped to make a commitment to regularly producing my posts, the twice-weekly deadlines forcing a new discipline in my writing.  Once I made the announcement that I would publish them on Wednesdays and Sundays, I had to stick with my decision.


That was a real challenge when I took last year’s journey.  In Paris, I had problems with my computer and had to use the hotel’s.  The keyboard was different in France, and I struggled with finding the right key– pecking out a word at the time, barely able to complete that post before we had to leave for the train station.

On Iona, the wifi was difficult to access from the Abbey and I had to walk down the road to a hotel lounge.  Instead of getting to explore the island in our free time, I ordered a pot of tea and hurried to write my post before I had to be back for my evening kitchen duty.  But some of that was a labor of love because I wanted to tell you in real time what I was experiencing so you could be with me on that journey.  There were pictures of the stunning beauty of the island that I couldn’t wait to share.


The shores of Iona in the Inner Hebrides, Scotland

One of the things I’ve had to let go of in blogging is my perfectionism. At first, I was afraid to make a post without having my writing group take a look. I’m not the best at grammar or punctuation, and I often miss spelling errors. But I couldn’t wait for others and I couldn’t afford an editor. I would do my best and hope that what I have to say, and my desire to inspire and encourage would outweigh my errors. You’ve been gracious as readers to overlook those flaws.

Many of my posts have been from portions of my memoir that is the story of my simultaneous struggle with a toxic job and cancer that’s interrupted by a serendipitous trip to Sedona. That journey-turned-pilgrimage was life-changing and became a template for the six that follow in my memoir and the seven that will be covered in the sequel.  Because I’m working on publishing my book, I need more time for that project.

So, now that I’m fully aware of how much time goes into each post, I need to cut back to a weekly production that will be on Saturdays. I appreciate you all for being supportive readers and will let you know when my memoir’s available.

At times posting twice a week has been easy, other times it’s been hard, but always it’s been rewarding when I hear from you that what I’ve said has resonated with your life. It’s brought me joy when I hear that my words have inspired or encouraged you.

Thanks to everyone for your support for my 100 blog posts.  I’ll talk with you again next Saturday.


What about you?

What new challenge do you need to jump into?

If you have done that in the past, what did you learn after a significant amount of time about the process and the product of that challenge?


Saying Goodbye to the Magnolia Tree

The highway department has made the decision they’re going to widen Hwy 42, the road in front of Mama’s house, from a two-lane to a divided four-lane.  For years we’ve wondered when that would happen.  Even when I was a girl and we lived in Daddy’s homeplace that was built in 1880, we knew it wouldn’t pay to renovate that house that was situated too near the road that had once been dirt.

So when I was in eighth grade, that old two-story farmhouse was cut in two sections and moved back on our farm to reveal the new brick ranch that had been constructed behind it.  While our expansive lawn was new, the magnolia tree near the road was old and had most likely been planted by my grandmother.  Now, that tree is in the path of the road widening project and will be destroyed for the sake of progress.


This is a small thing to complain about compared to what some people will give up, including those families with loved ones buried in the Shallow Well Church cemetery.  The road project will require 200 of the 2200 graves to be moved.  Fortunate for us, this will not impact our family’s sites that are just out of the reach of the expansion, but others will experience the sacred ground of a family member’s resting place being disrupted.  We all wonder if this highway project is as necessary as they claim, and some also wonder about the politics of which roads are widened and who are the ones that really benefit.

But for now, my concern is with losing that magnolia that has been part of my life since my earliest memories.  It was the backdrop for family pictures when we were dressed in church clothes and Mama took the photos using her Brownie camera.  At Christmas, we’d gather branches and use the shiny green leaves to decorate our mantle.  For me, the lemony smell of the blossoms will always be June in the South.  The large white blooms were used around the punch bowl for refreshments that were served after my high school graduation.

When my sons were little, they played with their cousins under that huge tree in Grandma Rosser’s yard.  Several of her seven grandchildren would climb up in the tree while the others made a playhouse underneath, mostly hidden from the view of their parents.

The magnolia was more than a tree.  It was a place.


When I heard the highway department had marked our yard with stakes to show the road boundaries, I took my iPhone and made pictures.  I thought about how Daddy’s mother had probably planted that tree and had marked time by how much it had grown; “I remember when we planted that tree back when  . . .” and she would call up an event that happened around that time.  There were some trees that were even larger than the magnolia– like the walnut and pecans.  But they had the practical function of providing nut meats for the family and shade to the house before air conditioning.

The magnolia was the crowning glory of that yard with its purpose to delight with year-round color, intoxicating fragrance, and symbol of Southern beauty and belonging.  I’ll miss that tree and all the years of joy it brought to our family.


Mama’s once expansive lawn with markers for the road boundary

How about you?

What changes have you experienced that were forced on you and altered or took away something you valued?

How did you handle your loss?

Did you have the opportunity to say “Goodbye”?






My Mother, My Teacher

My mother has been a great teacher over the years.  Some of her lessons were intentional, and some were unintentional.

She was always big on safety, long before she went back to school in her mid-fifties to be a licensed practical nurse.  We would hear cautions about waiting at least an hour after eating to swim, being careful when cooking to keep from getting burned, and making sure our fingers were away from the needle when using her Singer sewing machine—to name a few.  Years later when I started taking solo journeys, thinking she’d be proud of my wanderlust, she’d say, “I don’t like you traveling by yourself.  It’s just not safe for a woman.”

What she would see as sharing life lessons were renamed “sermons” by my older sister, who even went to the point of numbering them, mostly out of earshot of Mama, saying “Sermon No. 101” when Mama would start in on one of her themes of being grateful, or thoughtful, or working hard.  Once we picked up on that ‘preachy’ tone of voice I think we must have tuned out Mama’s words, but we couldn’t tune out her actions.


Back in the Day of Mama Sermons

She was tireless in the way she lived all those sermons, never fussy about what she had because it was always plenty, thinking of the welfare of others with little regard for her own, working until late in the night and up early in the morning to do the endless chores of her job and our farm.  Her kindnesses have continued even with her advancing dementia, smiling often and reaching out to touch a fellow resident’s arm in greeting when I push her in her wheelchair down the hallways of Parkview.

But Mama also taught me in ways that she didn’t intend—like the problem with avoiding conflict.  She was raised to never say anything unkind and for her that sometimes meant not acknowledging the problems that were before you.  If there was a situation that was going on in our extended family or community, Mama would never speak about it.  I think it would have helped to know some of that when I was growing up so I would have been prepared for that as an adult.

How surprised I was when I married my husband and found his family didn’t approach life that way.  They’d talk openly about how things in their extended family or with their neighbors weren’t ideal.

Likewise, my mother-in-law, Mary Dell, would say if she was having problems with one of her friends, one of the ‘girls’ that had worked with her at the telephone office.  They’d been operators for many years and were friends outside of work, maintaining their close relationships into retirement.  Mary Dell didn’t hesitate to say if she was mad at her friend for saying or doing something that she didn’t like.  Sometimes they’d part ways for a while then makeup and go back to their usual enjoyment of going out to lunch and then shopping in thrift stores. My mother-in-law taught me that you could acknowledge disagreement and then get beyond it.  You didn’t have to ignore the less-than-perfect truth.


(L to R) Mama, my son, Brooks, my mother-in-law, Mary Dell

I think about how I’ve taught my two sons things I intended and those I didn’t.  I’ve apologized to them for all I couldn’t be as a mother—and like other mothers, I did the best I could at that point in my life.  And what was always true, was how completely I loved them.

Now our family has a new generation with the birth of my grandson eleven days ago.  My daughter-in-law, Emily is finding her way as a new mother, doing the best she can for that little boy she loves more than she knew was possible.

And hopefully, over these generations, we’ll see that mothers love deeply and do the best they can. There is grace provided that makes what we learned, both intentional and unintentional, sufficient to guide us through our lives and honor the mothers that did their best.


My new grandson

How about you?

What are some of the intentional lessons that your mother taught you?

What are some of the unintentional things you learned from her?


3 Things I Learned from Cancer

Now that I’ve been a breast cancer survivor for almost eighteen years, I think back on the three things I learned from going through treatment.  It occurs to me that what I learned from cancer can be applied to other areas of life—even to becoming a parent, like my son and daughter-in-law did just one week ago.  While these are very different in some ways, the things I learned from cancer can be generalized.  I’m not an expert, I’m just sharing my perspective from my personal experience.


Walking with my friend and fellow survivor, Mary

When you hear the oncologist say, “You have cancer,” it’s shocking and you’re paralyzed with fear. The immediate question is, “Am I going to live?”  After you hear about the type of cancer you have (mine was triple negative) the team maps out your options.  For me, it was eight months of treatment including surgery, chemo, and radiation.  While it’s helpful to get the big picture when you’re starting out, I found it overwhelming to look too far ahead.  So the first thing cancer taught me was


 Just focus on the next few steps along the path.  For me, I relied on prayer, asking God to help me with the present moment, giving me the courage for whatever I was going through in that phase of treatment.  When you’re a new parent, it helps to do the same thing.  Sometimes you need strength to get through another night of broken sleep, another fussy evening with colic.  You’d be overwhelmed if you looked ahead and thought about how many nights or evenings you could have like that.


My son, Brooks– a new father.

When I heard I had cancer, my immediate response was to assume the outcome for me would be like one of my high school classmates who’d been diagnosed a few years before.  Even though I’m a nurse, I didn’t work in oncology and I had very little knowledge of breast cancer, so I latched on to the most recent example I had from another woman.  But I didn’t know anything about her subtype of breast cancer, her specific biochemistry, family history, her body’s unique response to treatment.  My outcome was very different from hers.  So, the second thing cancer taught me was


That’s also true for parenting.  Just because your friends had a difficult time during a phase of raising their child, doesn’t mean it’ll be the same for you.  Another phase will challenge you more because of your child’s unique personality, your perspective as a parent, other things going on in your family life at the time.  When we focus on the moment and don’t compare our experience, whether it’s with an illness or the challenges of parenting, we have what we need to make it through.

Sometimes it’s tempting for me to make broad assumptions, probably to make things seem more simple than they are in life.  With cancer treatment, I knew I had six rounds of chemo and to make that process seem more familiar, I assumed each treatment would affect me the same: the level of nausea, discomfort with the transfusion, feeling foggy afterward.  But the days were varied and sometimes there were unexpected blessings dropped into my life that distracted me from whatever I was experiencing and provided beauty and relief.  So the third thing cancer taught me was


As a parent, the same kinds of mercies show up: extra help when you don’t think you have the energy you need, your child moving forward to that next developmental step when you thought you were stuck, that first intentional smile when you’re at a point of exhaustion.  The days change, each with its own up and down pattern that forms a beautiful whole.

Whatever your challenge, I hope you’ll find some encouragement in these words and you’ll discover what your current phase of life has to teach you.


How about You?

What are the lessons you learned going through a big change in your life?

How can you share your experience with others?





Sweet Anticipation

The text came last September when I was staying in a hotel at the Edinburgh Airport.  Since my husband had returned home the week before when I took my pilgrimage to Iona, I was in the room alone.  The text included the picture of the sonogram of our first grandchild, and that was when I learned we were having a boy.  I cheered and clapped my hands, and shouted, “We’re having a grandson!”  Tears streamed down my face as I studied the sonogram and listened to the beat of his heart, over-and-over again, letting the joy of that moment sink in.


I wondered what he would look like, if he’d favor our son, Brooks or look more like my daughter-in-law, Emily.  What would his personality be like—what blend of family characteristics mixed with his own unique traits?  It would be so interesting to watch him unfold.

Months before, I had assigned a ‘Prayin’ Tree’ (see post-Jan. 6, ’18 ) to Brooks and Emily, and I saw it as a Family Tree—knowing they were ready to start their own new branch.  I chose a large river birch with a wide expansive canopy that was in the yard of one of our neighbors.  Every time I walked past it I prayed for our baby.  Once I found out we were having a little boy, I imagined him climbing the tree.  Later, I’d find out the couple in that house where the river birch grew was wanting to have a baby, and now they are pregnant.  Maybe my prayers helped them, too!


Over the months of anticipating our grandson, we’ve had those moments of concern when we waited for test results—for Emily and for the baby.   Now there’s so much information these pregnant couples deal with that weren’t routine 33 years ago when I was pregnant with Brooks.  They researched car seats and strollers and the endless number of products on the market.  They’ve had baby showers and been honored by family, friends, and coworkers.

All these months of build-up to the birth of this little boy and the call finally came this past Tuesday at 5:00 a.m.  They were headed to the hospital.  It seemed real and surreal at the same time, quickly getting ready and heading out for the five-hour drive.  At first, I was anxious that we wouldn’t be there at the time of his birth.  But I shouldn’t have worried, because it was a very long labor.  After being together in the birthing room, trying to encourage Emily along, distract her from her pain, we moved to the waiting room and took breaks to the hospital cafeteria.  Since I’d left my computer and writing paper in the car, I opted for working on a blog for Wednesday on brown paper napkins.  It became evident that I would not get that blog out that day because I just could not focus on anything but our baby.

Finally, at 8:44 on Wednesday morning, May 2cnd, almost twenty-eight hours after the call, our little boy who we’d anxiously anticipated for so many months, arrived.  What joy to hold him in my arms and see the face of the grandson I’d only dreamed about and caught a glimpse of in a sonogram.  And what a deep sense of gratitude to see my son holding his son and looking at him with such love, seeing his son’s sweet face, a moment I’d dreamed of.

All the months of anticipation had led to that sweet moment.  A new chapter of life is opening and I feel the fullness of God’s blessings and thanksgiving that mother and baby are fine and that I’m a grandparent, “Grammy” they’ll call me until he figures out what he chooses to call his grandmother.  And whatever will be fine with me.


How about You?

What is it you’re anticipating in your life?

How has or will life change for you when what you’ve anticipated finally arrives?