Thursday, March 20, 2014

Mater Sammiches

I don't know when I've ever been as excited about a change of season. It's been a COLD winter in the deep south, and I'm tired of coats, scarves and having Popsicle toes all the time.

The pear trees have been blooming for over a week now, and beautiful daffodils are spotting the roadside just about everywhere I drive.

Yet just this week, we had a frigid day (by my standards) with highs in the 40's. Today we'll be hitting  70. I'm not complaining, though. I saw footage of some serious snow in Chicago this morning. 

I'm ready to get out in the yard and dig in the dirt. This will be year three of my attempt at organic gardening. I've been really successful with herbs, Japanese eggplants, okra and peppers, but I've yet to reap a good harvest of tomatoes.

I dream of the day this summer when I'll be able to bite into a juicy tomato sandwich. Gluten-free diets be damned! Eating a "mater sammich" is a rite of summer! 

My first job out of college was working as a copywriter at WDAM-TV in Hattiesburg. Every summer we looked forward to "Mater Sammich Day," the day when Dubbie White would bring a mess of his succulent red, ripe, juicy 'maters to the TV station and treat everyone to 'mater sammiches. 

I haven't seen Dubbie in well over 25 years, but as with so many of us, we've reconnected through Facebook. 

He's retired from the TV station now, but he's still gardening. This morning I got a Facebook message asking me to call him. I was worried something was wrong. In addition to not seeing him in over 25 years, I haven't even heard his voice. I called him and he exclaimed "Hey Red! How ya doin'?" He then said he wanted to host the Grand Finale of All Mater Sammich Days this summer, and wanted to know if I'd drive down to have a 'mater sammich. He's inviting all the old anchors and reporters and "a few of you copywriters just for fun." 

Are you kidding me? I'll be there with bells on...and maybe even a 'mater bib. 

The perfect tomato sandwich is made with white bread, a smear of good mayonnaise,slices of perfectly ripened tomatoes and perhaps a sprinkling of pepper. Nothing more.

Dubbie couldn't give me a date for the event. He said the tomatoes decide when that will happen, but it will most likely be sometime in July. I don't care if the Queen of England comes to town. I'll be hitting 49 South to Hattiesburg for a bite of heaven on white bread. 

Blessings to all who read this!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Wrestling Wednesdays

I was asked to do a guest post today for blogger Karissa Knox Sorrell's Lenten series, "Wrestling Wednesdays."

We've all had to wrestle with something, at some point in our lives. Whether it's faith, family, friends, or something else, we are sometimes challenged in ways that can often catch us by surprise.

It happened to me on a sunny Sunday morning at 30,000 feet. I was absolutely blindsided.

If you've ever felt the same way, you will most likely relate to my guest blog post. Enjoy!

Blessings to all who read this!

Monday, March 10, 2014

Ain't Nobody Got Time for That!

I had eight hours of sleep last night. I should be not only well rested, but bright-eyed and bushy-tailed as well. But I'm not. I'm looking at the clock on the stove--the clock that has not yet "sprung ahead" and realized no matter how you try to spin it, it's still 5:30am. I'm sleepy, and I could easily crawl back under the covers.

Ain't nobody got time for that!

I've got things to do! I have a busy week! Plus, I have a book to write! 

Finding the time to write a book is probably one of the biggest challenges for me. I've about decided I need to work on it first thing every day, before anyone else wakes up. Which means I need to get up early and get working. Of course, I decided that about the same time we lose an hour for daylight savings time. 

Even though I had a full eight hours of sleep, I still long for that extra hour. 

Why is it we always seem to want what we can't have? 

And why am I writing a blog instead of my book? I'm easing into it...this has been made a bit harder due to the fact that I'm also on a two-week cleanse that does not allow coffee. 

I know.

Ain't nobody got time for that!

Blessings to all who read this!

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Celebrate Write!

Today is just one of those special days. It's a day to CELEBRATE!

For may of you, today is a day of partying and revelry before the solemn observance of Lent.

It's Mardi Gras, y'all! 

Parades, king cakes, beads and booze...been there, done that, had the t-shirt and gave it to Goodwill. 

In addition to being Fat Tuesday, today is also National Grammar Day. I'm not making this up! National Grammar Day was established in 2008 by Martha Brockenbrough, founder of the Society for the Promotion of Good Grammar. I didn't make that up, either...they have their own little blog. And I'm one to believe there is a need for this in our world today. 

Katherine Dillinger is a copy editor at CNN, and there is a fun interview with her today on the CNN Living website. Her two biggest pet peeves? Writers who use dashes instead of colons, and the use of the word "probe." Hmmm....colons and probe? Maybe she's overdue for a colonoscopy? (Sorry.)

I've had the pleasure of proofreading two books recently, both by good friends, and both excellent writers and grammarians. The first is by Diane Williams, professional storyteller and gifted fiber artist. 

This is a fun, fun read no matter who you are! I strongly suggest you order your copy today! 

The other is a work in progress, soon to be released on Written by Belinda Stevens, it's a spoof of the infamous "Fifty Shades of Grey," but this particular story features the main character "Humphrey B" and his pals at the Doggie Bath. There's a lot of licking, sniffing, panting and growling in the book. More about that when it's released. Here's a photo of Belinda and "Hump."

On National Grammar Day, I feel free to say I'm a spelling, punctuation and overall grammar snob. I was fortunate to have some wonderful teachers in high school who stressed the importance of proper grammar and they taught me well. (I have to admit, however, that I hated every minute of it!)

Last year I had the pleasure of developing a curriculum for business writing with Tom Wagner of Wagner Consulting Group. We launched it in the fall for a group of electricians in Flowood, MS. I taught six men, ranging in age from 30 to 65, how to write more effective letters to clients. The first step was for them to identify their reason for writing the letter. What did they want to accomplish? They learned how to cut out the "fluff" and focus on the message. There was a strong emphasis on grammar. They had to write sample letters as homework between the three classes I taught (in three successive weeks). I watched with great pleasure as their confidence rose along with their writing skills.

There is power in the pen. When you have a bad customer service experience with a company, a carefully worded letter to the company president goes much further than a call to the black hole they call a customer service hotline. When someone does something worth noting, nothing means as much as a hand-written note telling them so. (Please note the use of the word "further" in this paragraph. Should it have been "farther" instead? I feel good about my word choice based on this explanation by Mignon Fogerty of the Grammar Girls.)

I am fortunate to be a member of a newly-formed writers group. We are all working on various forms of Creative Nonfiction, and in the coming months, we will read and critique each other's work. We call ourselves the Easy Writers, and we hijacked a logo from another group that we have adopted (there are only seven of us, so we probably won't print it up on t-shirts or anything...)
Before potentially thousands of readers read the works we've written, six sets of eyes will be scanning the copy for spelling, punctuation and grammar mistakes. Knowing that, I believe, will make my writing better.

So today, in celebration of National Grammar Day, please mind your spelling. Choose carefully when using they're/their/there and consider kindly the use of apostrophes when writing its/it's. The obsessive-compulsive editing freak in me will thank you.

As if Mardi Gras and National Grammar Day don't make for enough celebrating in one day, I have a special treat for you all! Today is also National Pancake Day, and the folks at IHOP are giving away FREE PANCAKES until 10pm tonight! The only thing they ask in return is that you make a donation to the Children's Miracle Network.

Blessings to all who read this!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Clone Me!

There was a time I was fascinated by odd scientific happenings. Like cloning. Remember Dolly the sheep? She was the first ever cloned animal, "created" in the mid-1990's. Dolly was a real media sensation, and she lived a very pampered life for a sheep. 

Lately, I've wished more than once that I could clone myself. If only there were two--or three--of me, I would be able to be more available to my family and friends. I could accomplish more. And I wouldn't have the stressful feeling of being torn much of the time.

The other day, my phone rang. It was Joe, my college kid. I don't have an opportunity to talk to him often, as he is extremely busy with classes, studying, fraternity and football. And in that particular phone call, he didn't want anything...other than to talk. He was telling me about the upcoming game and he was really excited. I was too. 

Then another call beeped in. It was Nicole. She was supposed to be on a train from New Orleans to Jackson, and I felt I had to answer the call in case there was a snafu. 

"Hold on Joe! Don't hang up..."

Nicole was calling from the train. She was fine. Just thought about something and dialed my number. Nothing important. 

OK, back to Joe...but before I could click over, another call beeped in. It was Larry, calling from work. Since he had major surgery less than a month ago, and is back at work on an abbreviated schedule, I was I answered the phone. Larry was fine...just had a quick question. 

Now back to Joe. No!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! He hung up! I punched in his cell phone number and got his voice mail message. Too late. My window of opportunity to have a conversation with my son had closed. 

What are the odds that all three of my immediate family members would call me at the same time?

I sat back, sad and disappointed because even though I had heard all three of their voices, the quality of our conversations was sorely lacking. I felt like they all thought I didn't have time for them. I felt pulled three different ways and it didn't feel good.

I thought that feeling would leave me when my kids got older. I think back to when I worked full time, Larry worked most nights, the kids were in school/dance/soccer/theatre....getting them fed, where they needed to be on time, and trying to be interested and engaged was a constant challenge. Now they are grown, and I still feel pulled...wanting to give each "child" 100% of me when I can. Yet, they still just get a distracted fraction most of the time. 

When Nicole had her accident, the world pretty much stopped. It's like time stood still as I sat in the corner of her room in the Neuro ICU at New York Presbyterian Hospital. There was nothing else vying for my time and attention. Just Nicole. I focused on her 110%. I learned then that it's possible. Back home, Joe had badly broken a finger, and it really needed surgery to re-set it. But I couldn't control that situation by phone from New York. And Nicole was in critical condition. She needed me more. I had to say a prayer that Joe could/would handle his situation on his own and forget about it. And he did. 

But when the situation isn't life-threatening, their "demands" for my attention are just as important to them. I feel like I let them down when I'm not there for them like they want me to be. But I'm realizing, slowly, that I'm not letting them down. They are adults. They understand that I'm pulled several different directions at any given time. I'm realizing that the disappointment is something I'm putting on myself...and it's causing me stress. And stress kills.

So, I'm working daily on doing what I can, when I can, but not beating myself up when I can't. I'm only human. It doesn't mean that I love them any less. It just means it's time to let them figure it out on their own.

Be kind to yourself today. 

Blessings to all who read this!

Friday, September 6, 2013

Attack of the Killer Squirrel

It started innocently enough.

Larry was suffering from a touch of "cabin fever" after being in for so long following his momentous surgery last week. After dinner, I suggested we go up the road to the Livingston Farmers Market to get out of the house and into the fresh air for awhile. The market is from 4pm to 8pm each Thursday, and my neighbor/friend Phyllis Geary had never been, so we picked her up and off we went.

We arrived about 7:20. The sun was sinking behind the trees and there were still plenty of people there. A wonderful little band was playing, children were running around, and folks were gathered in the wine garden under a canopy of trees to visit and sip on the day's selections from Colony Wine Market. Scott Jackson poured us all a glass of La Vieille Ferme and off we went to see all the goodies the merchants had to offer.

Sauntering along the row of tents, it was as much about seeing friends and soaking in the atmosphere as it was looking at the items each merchant had for sale. Phyllis bought some fresh tomatoes. I bought a jar of apple butter. Larry was just happy to be on his feet. Just a nice, relaxing evening...sipping on wine and enjoying the ambiance of the market....

And then, it happened. Out of nowhere (actually from directly above my head), something fell from the tree and square into my face. Something big. Something that hit me with enough force to scratch my chin, bust my lip, and cause me to start bleeding profusely. Something that almost knocked me off my feet. Something that made me Spill. My. Wine.

My first thought was that it was a really big pine cone horse apple or maybe even a branch. (I have been following the facebook posts by the mom of Tripp Halstead, a little boy who was playing on the playground at preschool when a large branch fell on his head, leaving him badly brain damaged.) I'm fully aware that things like that can happen.

Before I could fully process what happened, a crowd of people gathered around me. I could see the horrified look in their eyes as they saw my bloodied face. That's when people started telling me what fell on my head.

Yep. That's right. It was a squirrel. Several folks saw it scamper away on the ground after it dive-bombed my head.

But it was no ordinary squirrel.

It was a killer squirrel. With killer instincts. Out to kill me. I'm convinced.

And just as crazy was the way people wanted to take care of me. Someone handed me a napkin to put on my chin, which was really bleeding badly. Someone else took the napkin from my hand, and poured what little I had left of my wine on it to "disinfect" my chin. Then a wonderful lady told me to come to her booth, because she wanted to put some clay on my chin.

But it wasn't any ol' was Mississippi Miracle Clay. According to their website,

No one is sure of the exact mechanism through which this clay acts but many people contribute the healing qualities of the clay to the fact the clay is formed out of negatively charged molecules. Viruses, inflammation, pollution and bad bacteria in your body are positively charged and the clay acts as a powerful magnet to attract the positively charge molecules and then absorbs and removes them from the body. In addition the clay replenishes the system with minerals such as silicon, magnesium, sulfur and other important trace minerals.

All I know is that the "clay lady" smeared some of the clay on my chin and it stopped bleeding and stopped hurting. I even put some inside my busted lip and the pain went away. And you guessed it, I bought some!

So, let's recap...I'm standing in front of one of the tents at the market when a killer squirrel swooped down and crashed into my face. A woman comes out of no where and smears clay on my chin and I stop hurting. What are the odds?

All I can say is that if a killer squirrel had to crash my head, I'm glad it happened in Mississippi, because what other state has miracle clay???

The rest of the time we were at the market, I had a big glob of clay on my chin and lip...

The funny thing was that everyone at the market told me "that stuff really works," and they proceeded to tell me their own stories of healing by using the miracle clay. I started feeling better. 

I went to bed last night with a bit of a headache (that squirrel hit me HARD!), my face covered in clay. This morning, I have to say, the wicked squirrel scratch was much smaller and the pain is pretty much gone. 

Roxie spends her mornings sitting on the loveseat in the keeping room, staring out the window for movement in the trees. When she sees something, she goes crazy, wanting to go outside and try to capture the offending squirrel. She's never caught one, and I'm not sure what she would do with it if she did. The squirrels seem to take great pleasure in taunting her, running along the top of the fence outside of her reach. I guess I'm going to have to school her on the very real danger that killer squirrels pose in our society. 

The moral of this story is to be aware of your surroundings at all times. And remember...

Blessings to all who read this!


Friday, August 30, 2013


Today feels like a celebration!

Today is a celebration!

Five years ago today, I woke up ready to celebrate. Larry's birthday had passed a few days before, our anniversary a few days before that. He finally had a clear night on his calendar and we were going out for a celebratory dinner. I cleaned the house so that he'd come home to a nice place, and was heading back to the shower when the phone rang. I almost didn't answer it...I had planned on having a long, relaxing bath before getting dolled up for a nice dinner out.

But who can ignore a ringing phone? Especially one that has "NYPD" on the caller ID. That's when our world forever changed. "Your daughter was found on the ground by her apartment building." Confusion. "It appears she fell. Off the roof." Whoa. (That's six stories...but who's counting? And she laid on the ground over eight hours before being found...)

The passing of time took on a whole new meaning. I had to wait until the next day to get a flight to New York--no more planes leaving the afternoon I found out. I had to wait three hours on my layover in Baltimore. I had to wait another three hours at the airport on Long Island when there was a problem with the car service that had been ordered for me. I had to wait 45 minutes to actually see Nicole once I got to the hospital because they were busy putting in a central line, and basically doing all they could to help her stay alive.

Over the next few weeks, it wasn't a day-by-day wait-and-see. It was an hour-by-hour. No one could say WHEN she'd get off the ventilator...WHEN she'd sit up, WHEN she'd get to go home. A very arrogant (but very brilliant) neurosurgeon told me "it will happen when it happens." That's when time took on a new meaning. I realized things happen at the right time. In God's time. The plan, His plan, is perfect.

The one year anniversary of Nicole's accident was a milestone, but not a good one for her. She had set high expectations for herself and her recovery, but her body had different ideas. A damaged spinal cord takes an extremely long time to heal. The pathways from the brain to the body had been damaged or even distroyed. There was much more work to do.

Five years later, her body is catching up. Nicole has learned to celebrate her success and at the same time, accept that her body won't ever be the same. But her body is miraculous, and Nicole has learned to used what she's got to its full advantage. As the fifth anniversary of her accident has been approaching, she's been reflective and she seems to fully realize how much she has accomplished in the past five years. Finally, she's at a place where she feels ready to celebrate.

Methodist Rehab has a campaign called "Now I Can." They've wanted Nicole to be featured in the campaign for a few years. She wouldn't do it, because she never felt that she could do what she wanted to do. Yet. A few weeks ago, she contacted the folks at Methodist Rehab with a message. "Now I Can." She did a photo shoot with Talamieka and Charles Brice in the dance studio at USM, the place where she once felt the happiest. The photos are amazing, and one of them will soon appear on a huge poster in a hallway at Methodist Rehab.

We've all learned so much from Nicole and about Nicole in the past five years. I've learned a lot about myself too, and I've learned so many important life lessons.  Some of our best friends are those we met after the accident, and mostly because of the accident.  While I'd turn back the clock in a heartbeat if I could so that this never happened to Nicole, I don't totally regret it. I had intense time with her, caring for her, that I would not have had if the accident had never happened. We've laughed, cried, cursed and yes, we've celebrated.

So today, I feel as full of joy as I do on either of my children's birthdays. I guess it's because in a way, Nicole was given a second chance at life. Just last night I read author Anne Lamott's facebook post about the birthday of her son. "God is so good; all the time, every day. Thank you God for being such a Show-off and giving me Samuel John Stephen Lamott. Wow." For me, it's "Thank you God for being such a Show-off and giving me Nicole Elizabeth Marquez. Wow."

And in keeping with Lamott's latest book "Help Thanks Wow: The Three Essential Prayers," today is also a day of thanksgiving that Larry is OK following a risky kidney removal surgery earlier this week. I thank God for his thorough doctor, Manisha Sethi, for looking at his blood test results so carefully, and deciding to investigate further when she discovered elevated enzyme levels. The tests she arranged for him to have revealed a mass growing in and on his left kidney. It was fast growing, and as we discovered yesterday, the pathology reports showed it was cancerous. He did great in surgery, and I am hoping he will come home today.

I am thankful that a surprise trip to the emergency room late yesterday afternoon resulted in my dad getting a once-over by Dr. John Brooks, who told my dad that he needed to double up on his diruetics each morning so he could get excess fluid off. His heart was in good shape, lungs were clear, and after having 70cc's of blood drawn off his knee which he had twisted the day before, he felt much better. I'm thankful that Sarah made a last-minute call to fly from Dallas to Jackson on Tuesday instead of going home to Nashville. She thought she was coming to help me with Larry, but God obviously sent her here to take care of Daddy because I was tied up with Larry. Perfecting timing...perfect plan.

In the quietness of my home, as I sit here alone except for Roxie at my side, and I'm able to reflect on and savor the reasons to celebrate today. There may be hiccups along the way, but the reality is that our life is full and we are abundantly blessed.

(Totally shameless plug: Nicole is featured in the September issue of FITNESS magazine...on newstands now! If you know of a group who needs a motivational speaker, that's what she does now...and she does it very, very well! See her website for more information:

Blessings to all who read this!