Tell the Story!

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My childhood church on St. Simon’s Island, Georgia, where my father has served as pastor twice throughout his career, is the place where I began my life as a Christian and was baptized as a child. Thanks to modern technology, I can virtually attend my childhood church, even though I live five hours away. Kyle Keese, the current interim pastor, in his sermon on January 9 , 2022 (I’ve linked it at the bottom of this post), shared his story of a conversation with two friends who were attending a reunion church service. One of the friends revealed that he had recently been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, and the other friend encouraged him to blog the journey. To share the story as a gift and blessing– to learn something about who he was, but more importantly, to learn more about who God was and how his faith sustained him in the midst of the pain.

I’d been late tuning in to the service, but as I began listening, How Firm a Foundation was the hymn being sung by the congregation. These words sung at my mother’s funeral were a nudge to lift my listening ears and open my mind and heart to hear the message that I needed to hear: share the story of a firm foundation and the difference it makes.

For a couple of years now, my prayer has been to find opportunities to share my family’s journey through a daughter’s addiction. I hadn’t anticipated another daughter on the road to recovery as I prayed, but as a mother who prays for my children’s health and safety daily, I could only rejoice as she came clean with her need for help – with her readiness to do the work she knows it will take. I thought of the conversation between these men, and the way our own family experience could be a gift to bless others with encouragement along the way.

My father, just last week, expressed his own desire to share our story so that others who are traveling through the back-alley-darkness of a family member’s addiction will realize that they are not alone – that there is hope – that it takes tough love and ceaseless prayer and unflappable faith when these shadows fall across our paths.

He shared that he’d once set his planned sermon aside and, led by the Holy Spirit in a different direction that day, spoken candidly to the congregation about our pain and our faith – and our blessings – in the midst of the road that we traveled. He spoke of the people who came alongside us, angelic friends, with resources and guidance to shed light on us even as we didn’t yet know all that we didn’t know. And as people left the service that day, he realized through the many similar stories shared with him that we have a responsibility to share because others have a need to hear how God uses our trials to shine His glory and pours out blessings along the way.

“I’ve never been one to set the sermon aside and tarry off course. But I felt led, so I did, and I understood as I stood at the door when people were leaving that the story needed to be shared – because so many people are struggling and need to hear that they are not alone – that there is hope,” he reflected.

My prayer remains to keep a steadfast faith, to listen and obey, and to allow the lyrics of my mother’s favorite hymn – the last notes of music to ever fall on her ears – to carry forth as a light in a dark, painful world – to share the message that others need to hear:

How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord,
Is laid for your faith in His excellent word!
What more can He say than to you He hath said—
To you who for refuge to Jesus have fled?

“Fear not, I am with thee, oh, be not dismayed,
For I am thy God, and will still give thee aid;
I’ll strengthen thee, help thee, and cause thee to stand,
Upheld by My gracious, omnipotent hand.

“When through the deep waters I call thee to go,
The rivers of sorrow shall not overflow;
For I will be with thee thy trouble to bless,
And sanctify to thee thy deepest distress.

“When through fiery trials thy pathway shall lie,
My grace, all-sufficient, shall be thy supply;
The flame shall not harm thee; I only design
Thy dross to consume and thy gold to refine.

“The soul that on Jesus doth lean for repose,
I will not, I will not, desert to his foes;
That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake,
I’ll never, no never, no never forsake.” (-Author unknown except by letter K-)

Link to the Service Here:

The Ring

One of my parents’ favorite things to do in the years before Mom grew too frail with Parkinson’s Disease was walk. St. Simon’s Island, (Go Dawgs!) Georgia offered adventure on every outing – on their familiar street routes through the Spanish moss oak-draped neighborhoods, in the ballpark where I played softball as a child, on the sidewalks of the village and down the pier where our mother taught my brother and me how to crab, and along the beaches.

They found things – mostly coins and an occasional dollar bill, but sometimes they found tourists’ random belongings, too. Mom had a knack for such fortuitous finds- and Dad still takes morning sweeps of the island to see what it’s offering up for grabs these days, no doubt shadowed by her guiding presence. Just as every islander knows, if you walk the beach on an outgoing tide early in the morning, there’s no telling what you might discover that has washed up on shore.

On my 49th birthday in July 2015, my parents gave me a silver St. Simon’s Island bracelet from the St. Simon’s Jewelry Company. It has two intertwining S letters, and whether you’re a native islander or visit St. Simon’s Island for vacation, these bracelets are all the rage. They also have rings, earrings, and pendants to match, but the bracelets are by far the most popular pieces.

I still remember opening my gift at the kitchen table. It came in a navy blue box with silver lettering – St. Simon’s Jewelry Co. It fit perfectly, even on my bigger-boned wrist – the one I broke right there in the neighborhood back in third grade when I fell off a ladder climbing up to the roof of Candy Pruitt’s house. How could a simple silver bracelet evoke such rich memories of the places of my childhood – the trees, the beaches, Neptune Park, church…..back when the world was a safer, simpler place? I carry the island with me every time I wear it. Oh, how I’ve treasured it from the moment I first slipped it on – even before I knew it would be the last birthday gift in my mother’s lifetime.

Then, sometime in the late summer of 2015 as she and Dad were walking on the beach one morning, Mom found a St. Simon’s ring washed up on the shore.

“We’ll give it to Kim,” she told Dad, excited about her serendipitous find, “to match her bracelet!”

She put the ring in a top chest drawer and asked Dad to help her remember to give it to me the next time I came. Since she suffered from Lewy Body Dementia, she was vigilant about sharing her wishes with Dad when she was fully present in the moment so that she could rest assured that he knew what to do when her tomorrows stopped coming.

But her disease progressed much more quickly in the final stages than any of us had predicted. Though I made the five hour trip home several times in the months before she died, the ring was the last thing on Dad’s mind, and Mom was rarely cognizant of much in her final months. She died in December as we held hands around her bed in the very room where the ring still rested in the drawer.

A few months after her funeral, Dad came for a visit. I could tell he had something on his mind.

“I’m not suggesting anything here,” he began, taking the silver ring out of his pocket and placing it on the kitchen counter. He stopped short of finishing his sentence, wringing his hands, wiping his brow, and pausing for a moment before he continued.

“I don’t know how to explain this, Kim, but your mom put this ring in a drawer and asked me to help her remember to give it to you. I haven’t thought of this ring in months, but as I was walking up her wheelchair ramp in the garage, I looked down – – and there it was, right in the middle of the ramp.”

Chill bumps ran across my shoulders. She’d known he was coming to visit me, and she worked from the other side to help him remember to bring the ring. Our eyes misty with tears, I took the ring and placed it on my finger to find it was a perfect fit. Dad shared the story of their walk on the beach the morning she’d found it, how she was so thrilled that I’d have a ring to match the bracelet.

Even more miraculous, perhaps, is that most of my jewelry was stolen in 2021, and only a few pieces remained – among them, my cherished St. Simon’s bracelet and ring.

I’m not suggesting anything here…..but it wouldn’t surprise me if those pieces had actually been among the stolen items…….and that somehow they’d made yet another mysterious, unexplainable journey home to me.

At least that’s what I choose to believe.

Special thanks to Slice of Life for giving us space as writers!

Georgia Fruitcake Pantoum

I’ve never been much of a shopper.   I’d rather be doing pretty much anything else.

I think new coworkers figure it out quickly – I can see their wheels turning as they look in my direction and wonder whether I’ve got day-of-the-week outfits hanging on a rotation schedule in my closet.

My lackluster shopping habits garner thankful praise from my sweet husband about his “low-maintenance, frugal wife” and her simple ways.

Until it concerns his food. And we were out of yogurt.

When he arrived for Christmas, Dad brought a bag of fruitcake cookies and a Georgia fruitcake for all of us to enjoy here on the Johnson Funny Farm in rural mid-Georgia. My soul was warmed into holiday spirit when I imagined Aunt Sook of Truman Capote’s A Christmas Memory announcing: “Oh my…it’s fruitcake weather!” as her breath smoked the windowpane in the frigid kitchen. I wondered if, true to the story, she had ever really sent one of Haha’s whiskey-laden fruitcakes to President Roosevelt, whose Little White House in Warm Springs Dad and I had just visited two days before Christmas. I sliced away merrily, setting out the sticky colorful cherry and orange candied-fruit and nut pieces on a plate.

Trouble is, most folks don’t like fruitcake. You have to have deep, multi-generational Southern roots and some serious value upbringing to ever acquire a taste for it. That’s why I was so proud that my Oklahoma-born/Georgia-raised husband took a quick liking to fruitcake and savored some of the brick. Even still, we had a lot left over. His affinity for it came in handy in the absence of more suitable breakfast groceries.

With gratitude to Felix, today’s Pantoum celebrates our nut-blended Georgia roots!

Go Dawgs!


Georgia Fruitcake Pantoum 

I hadn’t bought groceries

we’d run slap out of yogurt ~

Georgia fruitcake…for breakfast?!?

Dad’s script: COFFEE TIME  -SANTA

We’d run slap out of yogurt ~

fruit on the bottom vs. fruit throughout

Dad’s script: COFFEE TIME  -SANTA

Ga. Fruitcake : our nut-blended roots 

fruit on the bottom vs. fruit throughout

only 107.5 calories per ounce! 

Ga. Fruitcake : our nut-blended roots

Santa’s January answer

only 107.5 calories per ounce! 

Georgia fruitcake – for breakfast?!?

Santa’s January answer

I hadn’t bought groceries  




On Your Sixty First Birthday Eve

Briar, teaching Boo Radley how to solve a dog treat puzzle – December 2021

Billy Collins, well-loved poet and two-term US Poet Laureate, wrote his poem Fiftieth Birthday Eve, looking at the big 5-0 staring him down from a March midnight years ago.  I’ve linked two of his original poems at the bottom of today’s blog post.  Today, here is a Collins-inspired poem to celebrate Briar’s birthday tomorrow, with an equally enthusiastic nod to pine trees and whales and empty suitcases and dog treat puzzles – and a world of other extraordinary things.

On Your Sixty-First Birthday Eve

61. The figure alone flashes a stick-figure photo of us,

me with the tens-digit rounded bottom,

you standing tall in the thin, skinny ones

I want to daydream here on the Johnson Funny Farm,

of traveling to Europe, to Ireland’s green shores

a place of peaceful solitude, a respite from the world

But I keep picturing 61, seeing us contentedly-rooted

on this rural Georgia pine tree farm, evergreen-forest-moored

our place of peaceful solitude, our respite from the world

I try contemplating the sufferings of our luggage,

longing for more purpose behind the attic door,

lips zipped too tight to yell down their resfeber

But even an adventure to the world’s great places

touted as culture or well-traveled landmarks,

cannot diminish the worlds of wonder here, as

61, standing at the threshold

with a suitcase to home –

our toothbrushes, our worn-soled shoes,

our farm plat a traveler’s vast world map

By evening we’ll rest our feet by our fire

drink coffee, eat leftover brick slices of fruitcake

warmed in a moistened paper towel

in the microwave

thinking nothing particularly notable of the

authentic rural life we live

the most well-traveled journeymen will never know.

And this day, as every day, we set out

with smaller suitcases – daybags, backpacks,

handbags, totes

grocery bags with local foods, souvenirs of home

the most well-traveled journeymen will never see.

It follows tradition – this marked trip around the sun,

the cake and ice cream with candles aflame

the gift with a wrapping, tied with a string

The rest is up to us – to see the wonder in our ordinary –

to celebrate the Whale Days as we do Pine Tree Days and

Empty Suitcase Days and Dog Treat Puzzle Days

ever as ceremoniously as we do birthdays.

Happy Birthday, Briar!

You can read Billy Collins’ Fiftieth Birthday Eve here:

You can read Billy Collins’ Whale Day here (or listen):



Soul Schnoodle

I recently Amazoned my dad a copy of Dog Songs to read and share among his dog park friends. What a cherished volume of poetry, full of heartfelt treasures by the beloved master of nature poetry and Pulitzer prize winner herself – the one and only Mary Oliver! My own dog-eared copy lives on a shelf of my top favorites, next to other volumes of her work.  Today’s chained Haiku was inspired by a poem from Dog Songs entitled Little Dog’s Rhapsody in the Night and my own little soul Schnoodle, Fitz. I’m flooded with warm memories of two years ago, when I led an adventure book club for teachers on Dog Songs, and the art teacher stayed late one afternoon to help us make adorable pottery dog bowls.  We wrote For I Will Consider poems about our own pets and shared them – inspired by Mary Oliver’s poem For I Will Consider My Dog Percy, who was inspired by Christopher Smart’s poem For I will Consider my Cat Jeoffrey. 

Be inspired and write about your pet – I’d love to share your poem here! You can email it to me at, or post it in the comments below. 

Soul Schnoodle

when my Schnoodle comes

   snuggling, nuzzling, and nudging

     oh, how I listen! 

two little front paws 

    knead on my arm; a tiny 

     face peers up at me

his over-browed eyes 

   lock on mine, pleading to know

     that I still love him 

asking if he’s still 

   my soul spirit, reminding 

     me that I am his 

nosing me to scratch 

 proof of soul spirithood on

  his upturned belly 

when my Schnoodle comes

   snuggling, nuzzling, and nudging

     oh, how I listen! 

From 2019: For I Will Consider My Dog Fitz

From 2019: For I Will Consider My Dog Boo Radley

A Faint Hush

Every week, I have the highest privilege of working with a small group of creative writers in middle school.

Since I left the classroom five years ago to serve in Literacy leadership, I seek every opportunity to return to schools and classrooms to write creatively alongside students. It’s the dessert course of my busy week – being able to sit down, share ideas, express ourselves through writing, and guide the process of offering complimentary feedback to each other to empower growth through written expression – with whipped cream, chocolate sprinkles, and a cherry on top. 

Today, we will share our one little word choices for 2022 and begin to construct vision boards using cork squares. We begin with word choice and compose free verse poetry featuring our words. I’ll share today’s poem using my word listen as an example before students begin writing their own poetry as the first one little word vision board project spotlight for 2022. 

Cheers for the journey – for words and thoughts, for pretty papers and fresh journal pages, for glorious pens and pencils and markers, for colorful washi tape and the deep love and pride of a writer’s heart spilled out onto beloved pages of prose and verse. 

A Faint Hush

Listen ~

invisible lips 

murmur a faint hush

of wisdom ~

a barely audible whisper 

lean in 

to the calm stillness 

feel its sheer tranquility 

pure serenity 

be still 

in its ethereal pleasantry 


its message of blessing

Vision Board Resources:

…..and a thousand more on Pinterest! 

Butterfly Flutters

This pair of angel wings in Rockport, MA survived the rocky entrance to a small, peaceful wharf in the heart of Bearskin Neck, where I was searching for sea glass. Delicate as they were, they made it to the shore intact. I knew at once how they got there!  I packaged these fragile wings carefully in my suitcase and brought them all the way home with me, where they now rest in the east-facing windowsill of my reading room here on the Johnson Funny Farm in rural Georgia.  I used a Pantoum verse form today to revisit my original post from October 16, 2021.  

 Butterfly Flutters

my mother appeared, unexpected

on White Wharf’s peaceful shore

 from Heaven, on delicate angel wings ~

     a glimmering butterfly kiss 

on White Wharf’s peaceful shore 

shimmering miracle, hug unfurled –

     a glimmering butterfly kiss 

celestial seraph’s feathery wisps

shimmering miracle, hug unfurled –

       eyelash-flutter cheekbone brusher 

 celestial seraph’s feathery wisps

 tender moment, tickling breeze

       eyelash-flutter cheekbone brusher 

 from Heaven, on delicate angel wings ~

 tender moment, tickling breeze

 my mother appeared, unexpected

Rewritten as verse from original post October 16, 2021

Flutters from Heaven:

I Picked the Spot, You Pick the Plot

A family friend asked where Mom is buried, and I promised to share the story this week. Peace about her final resting place came in a most surprising way.  As answers still do.  

                     *Photo Credit:  Ken Haynes, Christ Church Cemetery, St. Simon’s Island, Georgia

I Picked the Spot, You Pick the Plot 

December 29, 2015, 322 Magnolia Avenue, St. Simon’s Island, Georgia – 

Time was closing in – God’s arms were cradling closer down from Heaven as Mom’s death rattle increased.  Some would say that she’d been up there since slipping out of consciousness in the days before her last breath, collecting all the dogs she’d ever loved from the Rainbow Bridge to take with her to her mansion. One thing we all knew for sure was that her final resting place needed to be closer to us than a family plot under consideration in Glennville, Georgia.  My brother Ken and I were standing in her future spot in Christ Church Cemetery when the call came.  

“Come home.  She’s down to her last moments. You’ll make it if you hurry.”  

I burst into tears as we sprinted toward the car. Speeding down Frederica Road, we knew divine intervention was occurring – we made it home in record time, moments from her last breath, miraculously with no speeding ticket, on a road that was impossibly tourist-jammed on a normal day.  The mother whose voice still reminds us to put on our seat belts and slow down was remarkably silent as we sped home, parallel to the airport runway with none of the symbolism of takeoff lost on either of us, trying to make it in time. We bolted inside and counted fewer than 20 remaining breaths from the time we arrived until 3:40 p.m., when she took no more.  

Throughout her life, Miriam Jones Haynes’ most fulfilling days were spent on St. Simon’s Island during the years that Dad was pastor of St. Simon’s Island First Baptist Church – in the 1970s and again in the 2010s.  She loved fishing, crabbing, sewing, cooking, sunning at the Beach Club while Ken and I swam in the pool, and running.  There was never a worthwhile thing that she couldn’t do well.  And she had a knack for seeing things others couldn’t and communicating them in the quietest, gentlest ways when someone in the dark needed revelation.  

When the idea of historic Christ Church Cemetery in its idyllic setting under the moss-draped oaks emerged as a possibility for her final resting place, Dad, Ken and I discussed it.  Dad was so exhausted that we could hear it in his voice.  

“The two of you can decide.  I’m fine with whatever you think is best,” he told us.

Several plots in the historic section were available.  I particularly liked those better for two reasons:  1) graves of close friends Ann and Earl Swicord would be nearby, she’d have good casket neighbors; and 2) Eugenia Price’s grave and the Dodge family graves are in the historic section, and there is nothing as moving to me as the order of the Dodge graves as explained at the end of The Beloved Invader.  

Ken pointed out that the new section, not as well-treed at the time, was not threatened by oak roots and had been built up on higher ground.  He liked the new section better. 

I told him, in the most loving sibling compromising banter possible, not unlike the days when we fought over Matchbox cars, “Fine.  I picked the spot.  You pick the plot.”  

So I chose Christ Church Cemetery, and Ken picked the new section.  We arranged for Dad to secure two plots – one for Mom in the coming days, and one for himself hopefully still many years away.  

Later that night, I was overcome with a feeling I couldn’t explain, like when you’re over-tired and nothing is right with the world.  I cried, mostly out of grief of pain and loss of my mother, but also because I was terribly unsettled about the plot and could find no peace.  

At the breakfast table the next morning, before Ken arrived, I shared my feelings with Dad.  

“I’m still wondering if we made the right choice.  You know how much Mom loved those oaks and the history and the beauty of Christ Church Cemetery.  I’m just praying that somehow, she sends us a majestic bird as a sign – something that can soar in the absence of a moss-draped oak tree – that will take our breath away and fill us with all-knowing peace that she likes the place.”  

Dad sipped his coffee, barely looking up, and offered an understanding nod.  

We worked through the other arrangements – from the red suit she’d worn to an interview when she got her job as a flight attendant to the fingernail polish color the young funeral home ladies inquired about, and I’d told them, “Paint them candy apple red to match that suit.  She can angel-glide through the pearly gates fully decked out in her favorite color!” 

Dad already had the service planned.  I asked about the music.  Without pause, he replied, “No question about that.  How Firm a Foundation.”  

Years later, watching the Jane Austin movie Emma with my daughter Ansley in a theater in Griffin, Georgia, I would hear the hymn and burst into tears.  

It’s tempting to resist saying Dad rocked the funeral out of expectation for a bit more reverent vibe, but that’s exactly what he did.  He shared touching stories and happy memories – and prayed her straight into the arms of God for good. He’d officiated at his own mother’s and father’s funerals, too.  And Mom’s parents’ funerals. We somehow made it through that service that seems mostly a blur now, even as I realized at the end of the day that I’d used straight concealer as my foundation that morning – which was probably in all actuality a task guided by the hand of my mother, who knew my sleep deprivation required “a little extra.”  She seemed to be make her guiding presence known, still, in the quietest of ways.  

As we moved from the funeral to the family graveside service, I was still struggling.  Hopefully, I prayed,  my face would not do what it always seemed to find a way to do, despite my best efforts – tell the truth.  I prayed it would not be evident to the three other people who knew my mixed feelings about the plot – Dad, Ken, and Briar. 

As soon as we stepped out of the car, we heard the birds before we ever saw them.  The high-pitched screeching overhead was unmistakable, and Dad froze in his tracks.  

“What have you done?” he asked, as if my prayer had been some magical spell gone sideways, like Aunt Clara casting a spell on an episode of Bewitched before disaster struck. 

The four of us looked overhead, and there – circling where no oak tree would have allowed such a magnificent spiraling aerial show – were three large-wingspan birds.  


Offering peace of mind and answers in a way that no hawk or eagle ever could have done. 

Buzzards! I’d been expecting a hawk -which she’d never failed to point out when she spotted one- and holding out hope for an eagle, yet here were three glorious buzzards to calm my troubled heart. 

“She showed up – – and she brought her parents,” Ken chuckled.  We watched as they landed on the branch of a tall tree at the edge of the cemetery, as if taking the back pew for the service, fluffing their wings as they settled in. 

The humor of our mother, who loved all living creatures and whose last coherent words to Dad had been, “You take care of these dogs,” sparked laughter in us even as we grieved.

We still listen for a voice that we only know can only be hers in certain situations – in the silence, in the breeze, in the car when we’ve forgotten our seat belts or need a reminder to slow down.   

We listen for the call of the birds, for the rustling of feathers.  We listen for the humor when we’re taking life too seriously.  

Re-written as prose from verse written May 16, 2020:

Listen Acrostic OLW 2022


Late at night

In early morning

Sunshine or rain, I 

Turn heavenward my

Ears, attentive, ceaselessly

Needing His wisdom

In March 2021, I was so inspired by Fran Haley’s poem “Listen” that I wrote a mirror poem, using her phrase just to listen, and used the repeating word listen throughout my mirror poem.  For National Poetry Month’s #VerseLove celebration in April 2021, I used her poem as the inspiration poem during my day of hosting. The power of a poem, the power of a word, the power of a kinship of writers and readers as we share blesses me tremendously – and that one word listen stayed with me and became my one not so little word for 2022.  Thank you to everyone in my writing groups, and thank you to those who provide opportunities for all of us to share our writing!  I celebrate you all today.  

You can read Fran Haley’s poem Listen here:

My mirror poem Just to Listen is here:

Our poems during #Verselove 2021 are here:

#listen #olw2022 #sol22

 A very special thank you to Slice of Life, and Happy New Year to everyone!

The Blessing of the Fleet

Typical blog posts are not normally this lengthy, but I wanted to share words from so many people I love today, so it’s a bit longer than usual.


The Blessing of the Fleet


Family visits at Christmas in 2021 were filled with movies and discussion.  Dad came up with several titles we should watch – Chocolat, The Reader, Big Eyes.  We gathered in the living room, arranged our comfy chairs strategically to see the screen, and snuggled all the dogs into our laps as we watched by white Christmas tree lights to the snores of snoozing schnoodles. 


“This one is for mature audiences,” Dad warned as we started watching.  He wasn’t kidding.  It wasn’t even Big Eyes we were watching at the time – but that’s what our sleeping dogs would have seen under our raised eyebrows during several scenes. 


Discussions that followed were deep and thought-provoking reasons we perceived the characters’ actions in the various ways we did.  Had the points been polarizing political hills, we may not have spoken as freely, but without divisive party particulars attached, all opinions and viewpoints were considered – even respected. Close to an hour into one movie discussion when no one could figure out why a character removed her shoes at the end, Dad sat back and observed, “maybe it was for this very reason – to get people thinking. Talking. Wondering why.”  


Deep thinking and active listening – both of which can be physically exhausting – have been part of the lineup in my life in a more intentional way lately.  I’ve misread the tea leaves a time or two recently, and I think this may be the most compelling reason that my one not so little word for 2022 – Listen – jumped right off the page and into my arms, leash and all, licking my face like a Great Dane puppy, pleading Pick me! Pick me!  Nothing like one of those more timid breeds that might have taken a little more time to warm up in an elusive way, to slowly reveal itself and its reasons for taking up camp with me this year.  


As I have talked with others about their choices for their 2022 words, I have come to realize that the discussions about what led to our word choices may be as important as the words themselves – just like those movies. To have true value, like a good book, a thing has to stay with you and haunt you for awhile, to keep casting and reeling, demanding attention. That’s the part of listening I’m enjoying most these days – people and the words they picked, words and the people they picked.


Would I have ever felt as tuned in to these stories before Listen ambled up next to me and took out a year’s lease?  I’m beginning to feel the magic already – swirling and mesmerizing, like a cup of strong Earl Grey tea in a fine China cup with a matching saucer in a quiet corner of an Oxford Street tea room in London.  To listen across a steaming cup with two cubes of sugar stirred in is to savor the richness – to ensure that I don’t misread the tea leaves again, to feel a deep connection with another person. Just to listen…..


Dad’s word – telos – led to plans for a monthly blog post from him that we will collaborate on together.  It’s a Greek word that will have us climbing toward the ideal view of a summit that we know we will never fully reach even as we climb – because with telos, there will always be more distance to the tip top. The summit focuses our journey, but our tents are not meant to be pitched there. It’s fitting that he chose a Greek word. I remember an old Polaroid picture of myself as a baby plopped in the middle of his desk wearing only a diaper, books stacked all around me as he taught me the Greek and Hebrew words he studied in seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. The words, unfortunately, didn’t stick- but the love of books and words did! Interestingly, he is choosing a “helper word” each month – much like a diopter adjustment on a pair of binoculars that brings clarity of focus between two lenses working together.


My husband, Briar, didn’t veer from a list I shared with him in his choice of the word balance, even though it wasn’t his first choice.  Resilient was his immediate word, but it sounded too much like perseverance after he thought on it for awhile, so he considered the swarm of emails demanding his attention first thing on New Year’s Eve and settled on the word balance as his one little desire, his one little word for 2022.  His word is born of deep need.


One of our daughters, Mallory, has settled on the word journey with the helper word bloom. She plans a move in 2022, and she wants to bloom where she is planted and continue on the journey of living a healthy life, nurturing self-growth and blooming along the way. Another, Ansley, chose the word dominate as she chooses to continue to win against things that hold her back from the fullest enjoyment of life.   Our son Marshall chose the word commitment as his guiding word – he is committed to being a loving husband and father to his wife, four children, and three dogs. “I’m living my life dedicated to what matters,” he explains. His wife, Selena, a beautiful person inside and out, chose the word adaptability, “to be able to see other perspectives around me and be more open. I’m choosing this word because I want to be better at adjusting to change, open minded to doing things different ways. Sometimes, it’s hard to let go of doing things my own way, but the times I “go with the flow” so often turns out great or better than expected. It’s just hard to be willing too at first. I believe if I can learn to be more adaptable to circumstances and people, I can become someone that is a strong listener, more relatable, and offer better leadership.” Our son Andrew is taking the word power. “I’m set up in life currently at the beginning of the year to really power through the year and the next and the next, exponentially.” As a pilot and airport manager, he is truly taking off in his life, and has an amazing view of all the world’s beauty from the clouds!


My brother, Ken, thoughtfully began choosing words for others before landing on one for himself – order.  In his real estate realm, the need for order is expansive – from the dream to the reality, from the offer to the contract, from the living room to the kitchen drawer.  Order.  It’s a word both wanted and needed in his sphere.


Marci, friend and guidance counselor, chose pause as her word. She explains: “Life finds us in a whirlwind, going and coming, spinning- always in a hurry. There seems to always be something that needs my attention. I need to do this and then that……(even if it’s not really that important- sweep, vacuum, reorganize this cabinet, drawer, organize the grocery list, what to do for this…things at work,etc). I’ve discovered that I have a little trouble just being still. I need to PAUSE and just be still. Really SEE the moment, HEAR another, FEEL a situation, ‘smell the roses’. Take control over the moment rather than the moment taking control over me. Staying on the go may keep me from seeing the blessings that God has for me, even in a moment. I don’t want to miss those. Even in the valleys this year, I may have focused on the hurriedness of the situation and missed things God has for me. He is SO good and continues to bless us through it all. I simply must PAUSE. ‘Be still and know that I am God.’ Psalm 46:10.”

My sister in law, Bethany, chose the word mindful as she strives to be true to her authentic self in all of her decisions. “I began learning to truly be in the moment when my mother’s dementia was getting bad. We would have fleeting moments of time in which she knew who I was, so I would shut all the noise and business of the world out and just be present with her. This made me realize how many small moments in life we miss because we do not know the art of mindfulness. So my word reminds me to be truly present in each moment!”

My good friend Adrienne chose the word freedom. My One Little Word is Freedom. Freedom from physical, psychological and perceived restraints. My vision of Freedom is living a life with a healthy body able to keep up with my plans for the future and living a life free of bad habits.”

Another dear friend, Jayne, chose the words present moment as she reflected on 2020.  “On August 2, 2020, I was feeling very lost about certain things in life. I had read the following Wendell Berry quote: ‘It may be that when we no longer know what to do, we have come to our real work, and when we no longer know which way to go, we have begun our journey,’ when I was reading Tom Ryan’s book Will’s Red Coat about an old dog who chooses to live.  Later in the day, Mary Chapin Carpenter – who I consider to be the pre-eminent singer/songwriter, poet, and philosopher of my generation – sang live her song ‘Late for Your Life’ about not waiting for the ‘perfect’ moment to start living.  How prophetic – and timely – these three messengers were! The realization, at my age, that time is running out, the reality of health concerns, and the message set forth on that August 2020 day have been the catalysts for my shift to more present-living moments.  As a planner, some of these are scheduled into my day (for example, several minutes of focused breathing before bed each night), but, happily, much of this present-moment living is spontaneous in which I go for an unplanned walk with the dogs or watch a gorgeous sunset.  As someone who has always defined her value in being a ‘doer,’ living in the present is not the easiest thing for me to do, but it’s always the right choice because it liberates me from stress and anxiety and allows me to be a human BEING.

My friend Carrie chose the word try.  “I don’t really have a profound or even interesting reason for the word ‘try.’  I’ve always been a goal setter and a hard worker. It’s served me well in some ways, but has been detrimental, too. I retired due to chronic head pain that was threatening my life. I didn’t want to retire; I loved my work. I hoped the pain would be less in retirement, but that has not happened. I can, however, rest when I need to rest. When my husband suffered a massive heart attack, I discovered that I could return to my work persona in order to care for him. So, it’s still there if I need it. I guess with the word try, I am giving myself permission to try and possibly fail without being frustrated and angry with myself if I can’t do something, finish something, be somewhere due to pain. With pain, retirement and Covid, I have become very reclusive. I can’t really commit to things like volunteering because I might not be able to follow through. And on and on. So this year, I will just try. Try and start seem to go together for me. Some days, I will try to take a day trip with my husband or have lunch with a friend. Other days, I will start a load of laundry and hope it makes it to the dryer. As I said, not very interesting, but it allows me to work towards an acceptance of my new normal.”

I asked Debbie, a lifelong friend who has always been such a special person to my family, to share her reasons for choosing kindness.  “I would be happy to. That word came to me immediately because of the divisions in our country, as well as the culture in which people say hurtful and judgmental things simply because they don’t have to speak face to face. Others are quick to judge. Personally, I want to be mindful of making an effort to be kind to others at every opportunity. I don’t think it has to be huge….just small acts of kindness where ever we are, and no matter who God puts in our path. It’s easy to be kind to those we love or think like us, but I think we can all do a better job of being kind to all.”


One little word I can’t wait to watch color the year 2022 with joy comes from a former student – and amazing artist – who attends the University of North Georgia in Dahlonega.  She shared, “my word for the year is pensierino. It’s Italian for ‘a small present/gift.’ Every day, I want to find one small gift God has given me – because as the beloved Ferris Bueller once said, ‘Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.’  I also want to give one small daily gift to someone at random – a small encouragement written on a piece of paper handed to a stranger, a flower given to another.  The smallest acts are sometimes the biggest. The word, also being Italian, is a nod to the previous year and my new dear ‘Italian Grandmother’ Riccarda – it’s quite the story of how we met. I’m studying Italian more in depth, as I may be visiting her in both New York and Italy.”  


In Darien, Georgia each spring, a priest stands atop the Darien River Bridge blessing the fleet of shrimp boats that pass underneath on their way out to sea by sprinkling the bow of each boat with holy water to bless crews with an abundant year and safe journey. It’s called The Blessing of the Fleet. I envision a higher power standing on a bridge that towers over each of us, blessing us all as we set out on our journey with our words. May we all have a safe and enlightening voyage through 2022:


Felix: telos, monthly helper words

Ken: order

Briar: balance

Ginger: pause

Marci: pause

Adrienne: freedom

Marshall: commitment

Selena: adaptability

Andrew: power

Mallory: journey, bloom

Ansley: dominate

Bethany: mindful

Debbie: kindness

Jayne: present moment

Carrie: try

Peyton: pensierino

Me: listen