There’s No Place Like Home

With special thanks to Slice of Life for giving writers inspiration, space, and voice – and a raised glass to L. Frank Baum for today’s title

Slice of Life Day 11 of 31: Journeys (My theme for March)

A poet once wrote:

Be it Ever So Humble, There’s No Place Like Home

I fly home today 

back to where I’m known and loved 

~there’s no place like home! 

our hearts full of smiles

on the Johnson Funny Farm’s

thick pine tree forest 

uncurtained windows 

so we can see our wildlife ~

deer, squirrels, and birds 

travel is focused 

-heightened awareness of place 

of people, of food

of plans to have fun 

to learn, to experience 

culture, history 

to pack the mindset

take it home in my suitcase 

-adventure each day

I fly home today 

back to where I’m known and loved 

~there’s no place like home! 

That poet was me. I wrote it on the last morning of my solo adventure trip to San Antonio, Texas (2/25/2022), on the heels of a week spent sightseeing, exploring, reflecting, reading, and writing. A trip that I almost didn’t take – but I did. I learned some history, forged new paths, tasted new foods, and discovered that solo travel has its perks!

I talked to my dad for thirty seconds short of a full hour on the morning of my departure. I’d texted him the day before: Can you send me by text a brief paragraph of your mother’s last words? He’d called to tell me the story – I’d heard it before, but I needed to hear it again.

My grandmother, Georgia Lee Harris Haynes, was born in Folkston, Georgia on April 7, 1920 but lived most of her life in Waycross, Georgia. She lived at Baptist Village in Waycross during the latter stages of Alzheimer’s Disease and died on Friday, March 21, 2003 at the age of 82. My parents went to visit her there one afternoon shortly before she died, where she spoke her last coherent words to them.

Any time her children visited, the nurses were blessed to see “the most wonderful children, the best children ever,” according to Georgia Lee. The nurses said she was always speaking the language of bragging on her children and how proud she was of them – and rightfully so. She’d raised three – a teacher, a preacher, and an attorney who combines his legal knowledge with selling commercial real estate .

When my parents arrived that day, they found her as lucid and as knowing as ever, with a clear memory. She’d had favorite sayings throughout her parenting days – “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” As a pastor’s wife, her favorite saying was, “The best thing to do is to preach about God and about twenty minutes.” But her favorite saying of all was, “You never can be too careful.”

As my parents listened to her during that visit, they’d expected to hear some of those favorite quotes that she used frequently with her children. Instead, on that day, her words seemed steeped in deep reflection. “You know, I always worried about y’all…..I’ve always worried too much,” she confessed.

Dad, in his pastorly and good son way, reassured her. “It’s okay, Mom, you’re a mama. That’s just what mamas do,” before the haze returned and the clear memories escaped her. Weeks later, he would preside at her funeral.

No photo description available.
Wilson Felix Haynes, Sr. and Georgia Lee Harris Haynes with their grandchildren and great grandchildren, Thanksgiving 1990 in Atlanta, GA

I thought of her words throughout my week, particularly as I wrestled with whether or not I should take a solo trip four states west of my home, on a plane, with just my carry-on and personal bag filled mostly with my new camera buddy – the Canon Rebel. If there was ever a person in the history of the world who never needed a camera with a name like rebel, it’s a preacher’s kid. Namely, me. But we behaved.

I told Dad I’d wanted to hear the story again because it had kept me midway between not being too careful to enjoy life, but being cautious – preventing with an ounce of sense whatever problems I could, to avoid baking a pound of cure. Throughout the week, for example, I’d waved goodbye to an invisible person in front of Uber drivers and others and made fake phone calls to say, “Hey, just letting you know I’m in a gray Mercedes SUV, arriving in 14 minutes. I sent you a screenshot of the license plate on the Uber screen so you can be on the lookout for me.” I’d exited Ubers by greeting walls of buildings and window ghosts with an excited smile and enthusiastic “hello!” I’d watched for families and groups and blended in on the fringes to appear to be one of them as I’d walked the streets of San Antonio all by myself. Somehow, I believed my grandmother would be proud of me for not having been too careful – for straddling the line in the middle of the road, with one foot in the lane of living life to the fullest and one foot in the lane of careful cautiousness.

Dad confessed that he’d worried about me ( it’s in his DNA). “You know, I know you’re smart, but I hoped you wouldn’t do anything dumb being out there so far away, traveling all alone.” I told him how I’d avoided doing something dumb when the opportunity had presented itself. I’d encountered a suspicious Uber driver who had tried to convince me that I should get in his car and let him take me home from the rodeo. He’d pulled up his Uber app attempting to prove he was really an Uber driver and not some phony. I’d prayed up a lot of prayers in anticipation of this trip for safe drivers- especially for a safe one on this late weeknight following a concert on the outskirts of downtown. I didn’t give the obvious phony the time of day, but emphasized my confirmation of an Uber on its way as I kept walking to the Letter C sign in the RideShare zone. A few minutes later as I waited in the wind-whipping cold, a delightful Richard pulled up alongside me. I’d been so relieved to step into his car! I have no doubt that my grandmother and my mother were working as guardian angels to see me safely home – – guiding Richard’s finger as he tapped the screen to accept the job of picking me up and delivering me safely to 423 Blue Star.

And I’d prayed that they’d see me safely from 423 Blue Star to the Johnson Funny Farm as I made my way home to where I belong. One can never be too careful. Travel is an adventure, but at the end of the trip, there’s no place like home!

I arrived at Hartsfield in Atlanta to find that the ground transportation tunnels were lit up with yellow and blue, the colors of the Ukraine Flag. I stood where the yellow met the blue, waiting on my electric blue RAV 4 driven by my husband, to pick me up, thankful to be getting in my own car and not another Uber, thankful to live in the United States of America. Thankful to be back home.

Philippians 4: 6-7

do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

El Mercado

With special thanks to Slice of Life for giving writers inspiration, space, and voice

Slice of Life Day 10 of 31: Journeys (my theme for March)

After a bowl of chili for lunch at the Buckhorn Saloon in downtown San Antonio, I ventured over to the Market Square (El Mercado) to continue my hunt for a Texas Bluebonnet bracelet to remember my trip.  Shops were lined up clear down the brick-laden path, but they all seemed to have the exact same items:  blanket shawls, boots, vests, cowhide leather items, and touristy souvenirs like shot glasses and magnets – not exactly what I was in the market for.

El Mercado

Finally, I saw the sign I’d been hoping to see:  Silver Jewelry.  I hastened my pace to escape the brisk wind and opened the door to go in, but a police officer stopped me.  They were recording something that looked like a commercial or news clip inside, and I could see through the large glass windows a woman with a microphone in front of a big camera, interviewing a man with a giant lizard on his left arm as he stroked the scaly creature from head to tail with his right hand as if it were a napping lab puppy. 

In my heart, I heard the good Lord saying, “Not here, not today.”  I listened – something I’ve been doing a lot more lately since adopting listen as my one not-so-little word for 2022. The bracelet is still out there, safe and sound, somewhere, until I find it and know this is the one.  

Coffee from Mi Tierra

There was a perfect cup of coffee for me, though.  I’d heard Mi Tierra was “the best place in San Antonio” to eat authentic Mexican food.  Though I’m not a top fan of Mexican cuisine and I had no desire to wait in line for a table, I did brave the long bakery line for a few sweet treats and a cup of coffee to go.  I held the cup of coffee in both hands, letting its warmth radiate through me as I made my way back down the wind tunnel alleyway to wait on the bus.  In warmer temperatures, I might have visited the Botanical Gardens or the San Antonio Zoo, but these cold and windy conditions prevented any enjoyment of being outdoors.  I went back to the room to write for the rest of the day.

Sometimes a discovery comes later, even after the trip is over, as it did when I found a whale’s tail bracelet in Savannah, Georgia to help me remember my trip to Gloucester, Massachusetts. I am holding out hope for a bracelet with a Texas bluebonnet on it, but what I love most is the quest – – having an idea and watching it take twists and turns, requiring my patience, sharpening my observations, heightening my awareness, and then often ending up with something completely different from my initial vision. I usually discover something better. A quest for a bracelet is mostly just an inexpensive, fun travel scavenger hunt that doesn’t require a win, yet it reminds me of all those prayers I’ve ever prayed that took asking and asking and asking and being patient and being patient and being patient and then God revealed a better plan – a gentle redirection that what I’m in the market for is not always what He has for me.

Today, I give thanks that I can enjoy the sights and feel the warmth that can only be appreciated along with the bite of frigid temperatures.

The bakery case at Mi Tierra Restaurant in El Mercado
Brownie with nuts from Mi Tierra
Mi Tierra’s festive atmosphere

Job 37:9
“Out of the south comes the storm,
And out of the north the cold.

His Eye is On The Sparrow

With special thanks to Slice of Life for giving writers inspiration, space, and voice

Slice of Life Day 9 of 31: Journeys (my theme for March)

I’d seen that the weather was supposed to take a drastic turn to cold from the 88 degree highs we’d had Monday and Tuesday in San Antonio, Texas, but I wasn’t prepared for 39 degrees with whipping winds on Wednesday morning (areas just north of me, I later learned, were getting snow). Two days before, I’d had to purchase a t-shirt in the Alamo gift shop to shed my sleeves, and now no amount of layering was warm enough even with every single one of the layers I’d packed.  I rolled up tiny bits of Kleenex to stuff in my ears to keep the cold wind out as I waited on the Hop On, Hop Off Bus in what felt like an arctic wind tunnel.

Chili at the Buckhorn Saloon

I set out to have a bowl of hot chili and a longneck (in the name of tradition) at the Buckhorn Saloon, said to be the oldest saloon in Texas, established in 1881 by 17-year-old Albert Freidrich.  Teddy Roosevelt recruited the Rough Riders here, and it is also rumored to be the place where Pancho Villa planned the Mexican Revolution.  As the chili began thawing me out, I caught a glimpse of movement down by my feet in my peripheral vision. My first thought: Oh no, this place is infested with rats! I took a closer look and discovered there were little birds hopping around on the tiled floor, seeking refuge from the cold, looking for crumbs of food. I threw down some crushed crackers for them, silently humming His Eye is on the Sparrow….and I know He watches me….

Little sparrows seeking refuge from the wind and cold

The bar in the Buckhorn Saloon

When you enter the Buckhorn saloon, you see taxidermied animal heads and antlers hanging all over the walls and ceiling.  Since most travelers of that day didn’t have much money, the young founder started giving beer or whiskey in exchange for antlers or horns or jars of rattlesnake rattles.  You can even see that some of the art is designed from rattlesnake rattles if you visit the Buckhorn Saloon museum upstairs.  Also, the Texas Ranger Museum is connected, and Texas Bob himself, decked out in full Davy Crockett attire complete with a coonskin cap, will assist you in your ticket purchases at the door. 

It’s a sobering experience to stand inches away from museum guns with little placards that tell the history of who owned it and who they killed with that particular firearm – and why, and who killed them in turn shortly thereafter – and why.  The west was wild, and the rangers appointed themselves the protectors of the borders back before there was any established law enforcement.  

Today, I give thanks for warmth of heat and safety of travel. And the good Lord knows I’m thankful that I didn’t have to kill a bunch of rattlesnakes to sip hops at the Buckhorn.

Antlers hang from the ceiling of the Buckhorn Saloon.
Zoom in on the deer – it is created from rattlesnake tails.
The Buckhorn Saloon Bar

Matthew 10:29-31 

Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.

Let’s Rodeo!

With special thanks to Slice of Life for giving writers inspiration, space, and voice

Slice of Life Day 8 of 31: Journeys (my theme for March)

On February 22, 2022 when I returned from Texas Hill Country, I set out for the San Antonio Rodeo. This event held a wonderful new adventure – one that brought back rich memories of my children’s childhood horses and our experiences going on camping trail rides with their grandparents.

The opening dance at the San Antonio Rodeo on Palindromic 2/22/22

Growing up, my children loved camping along the Buffalo River in Tennessee, where the campground offered daily trail rides. Before our third child, Ansley, was born, our son Marshall and daughter Mallory would go out on long, hot days of trail riding with their grandparents – Mallory on her horse Sugarfoot and Marshall on Slick, and come back for kids’ barrel racing and pole racing in the evenings after taking a cooling afternoon dip in the river.  One afternoon, their grandfather killed a huge rattlesnake and a fellow camper grilled it and offered rattlesnake tasting. We politely declined. Those days, so long ago, came rushing back as I watched the Xtreme Bullriding events at the AT&T Center Stadium. 

Let’s Rodeo, San Antonio!

These young adult men were mostly second and third generation cowboys well-trained in the ways of overtly flirting with belligerent bulls and then managing somehow to avoid the consequences of that kind of danger.  Just watching them get their hands roped down tightly to an angry bull and then slung around like a rag doll brought my recent Epsom salt bath to mind to numb the phantom pain I felt for the riders. And the longer I watched, I concluded they’d need some straight shots of whiskey for what they’d be dealing with the next day.

Josh Frost, the winner of Xtreme Bull Riding at the San Antonio Rodeo 2022

I thought of my son, particularly, when the Mullet cam started panning the stadium and Achy, Breaky Heart began to play. I thought he’d been joking when we were visiting in January and he’d told us that mullets were coming back in style and that he was growing one. But he was serious, and I wished he had been sitting with me to stand to the crowd’s wild applause for all the guys all sporting mullets underneath their cowboy hats. These guys are serious about their hair!

San Antonio Rodeo Mullet Cam

Since the event center did not allow cameras with detachable lenses, I managed to fully recharge my cell phone between Hill Country and the rodeo and concert and to conserve just enough power to get an Uber back to the VRBO in Blue Star at the end of the evening, following the rodeo and the Three Doors Down concert.  I prayed so hard that I would feel safe as a solo female traveler alone at night, and the good Lord answered by sending Richard, who’d graduated high school in 1978 and who talked music from the good old days all the way back – from Pat Benatar to Earth, Wind, and Fire, Styx, Boston, Kansas, the Commodores, and the Atlanta Rhythm Section.  I can’t explain it, but I felt less likely to be murdered with an ax and dismembered by someone who had just sheepishly confessed he’d taken his wife to a Barry Manilow concert the previous decade.

I said a prayer of gratitude when I locked my deadbolt and headed to bed – happy to be back in my VRBO home safely. I counted my blessings for another day of travel and fun as I made new memories.

Three Doors Down in concert at AT&T Center in San Antonio, Texas, February 22, 2022

Job 39: 19-25

Are you the one who gave the his prowess and adorned him with a shimmering mane? Did you create him to prance proudly and strike terror with his royal snorts? He paws the ground fiercely, eager and spirited, then charges into the fray. He laughs at danger, fearless, doesn’t shy away…He quivers with excitement, and at the trumpet blast races off at a gallop.” 

From Fredericksburg, Texas to Potsdam, Germany: Dog Grief is Universal

With special thanks to Slice of Life for giving writers inspiration, space, and voice

Slice of Life Day 7 of 31: Journeys (my theme for March)

After Luckenbach (a town named for a German nobleman), the next stop on the tour of Texas Hill Country was Fredericksburg, Texas, a town founded in 1846 and named after Prince Frederick of Prussia.  Fredericksburg has a distinct German culture and offers authentic German food and beer in its Bavarian restaurants.  Although German was spoken for a full century after its founding, descendants eventually took on an American dialect and today speak a blended language that is known as “Texas German.”  For lunch, I chose a German restaurant and had a Hahnchen (chicken) salad with a side of spaetzle before making my way to the Fredericksburg Brewing Company for an El Hefe, a local craft Hefeweizen. 

El Hefe

My hot flash medication says I should not be consuming too much alcohol – okay, okay…any alcohol- but I felt a deep inner need to secretly toast my little nephew Feivel’s own blended German roots and fully immerse myself in the culture of this charming place in Texas Hill Country. I also took time to honor his French heritage by tasting four different wines at Becker Vineyards. 

Satisfied that I had fully toasted him over the Rainbow Bridge and that he was now in the very capable and loving arms of my mother and meeting Jesus in these first moments of his final destination, I resumed my search for a souvenir to remember my trip.  Bracelets are my preferred choice – they take zero suitcase space when they are worn home, they always fit, and they keep trip memories…..well, handy. I was seeking a bracelet with Texas Bluebonnets on it. But the search would continue; I did not find it in Fredericksburg.

Sanssouci at Potsdam, Germany, May 26, 2019

There is a gold strand mingled in among the common threads of this day. In Berlin, Germany in 2019, we took an excursion to Potsdam, where the Potsdam Conference – the last of the Big Three meetings between Churchill, Stalin, and Truman – was held in July 1945 to discuss the balance of power following the defeat of Nazi Germany in World War II, leading to the signing of the Potsdam Agreement. During that trip, we visited the home of Frederick the Great (a distant ancestor of the Frederick for whom Fredericksburg, Germany was named), who’d shared a close family bond with his sister. They actually wrote letters to each other from the perspective of their dogs (and, very likely, had special voices and perhaps even nicknames for them). Frederick absolutely loved his Greyhounds and Whippets – so much, in fact, that he wished to be buried with all of them upon his death – and eventually was after a bit of rearranging.

“His beloved whippet Superb was in his room when he died at Sanssouci on 17 August 1786. He would eventually share his actual burial vault on the terrace with the greyhound Alcmene, an extraordinary honour not shared by the other ten whippets, who were instead interred alongside their celebrated, royal master.” (Retrieved February 23, 2022 from

Frederick the Great was also known for bringing new crops to Germany – including the potato, earning him the nickname “The Potato King.” If you visit his grave at Sanssouci on any given day, you will see where visitors have lined his headstone with potatoes.

Grave of Frederick the Great – the Potato King – Sanssouci, Potsdam, Germany May 26, 2019

Considering the significance of historical figures and their influence on places, pondering that on a palindromic day in history, 2/2/22 on a 2sday where GOD and DOG are not palindromes but sure do share the same set of letters and offer more unconditional love than we can ever fathom, I can only wonder about the coincidence of my being in Fredericksburg on this day, eating a German chicken salad, spaetzle (a German noodle), speaking one last time to Feivel by speakerphone in my special “aunt voice,” and toasting the life of my nephew dog, I hear a bit of Twilight Zone music. Oh – and did I mention that my brother, Ken – a kid who grew up on the southeast coast of the United States playing Matchbox cars and building forts in his Davy Crockett coonskin cap and having no known ties to Germany – minored in German at Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama?

It would not surprise me if my brother decides someday to have his own remains interred alongside Feivel’s. They shared a remarkable bond – one that transcends death, with “Feivel footprints” that are indelibly imprinted on moments of the past that that reach far into the future.

Genesis 1:29 

And God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food.

Let’s Go to Luckenbach, Texas….Aint’ Nobody Feelin’ No Pain

With special thanks to Slice of Life for giving writers inspiration, space, and voice

Slice of Life Day 6 of 31: Journeys (my March theme)

Luckenbach, Texas appears to be the size of an outdoor wedding venue with signage declaring a population of 3. There is a small post office and gift shop, a dance hall, a kissing booth where maybe it’s time to get back to the basics of love, a bar where there ain’t nobody feeling no pain, and an outdoor stage with seating to hear Waylon and Willie and the boys.  Our driver on our tour to Texas Hill Country played the song as we arrived. I was already feeling emotional about the loss of my nephew dog, Feivel, who had just been put to sleep from complications of cancer in south Georgia as I traveled between San Antonio and Luckenbach.

Let’s Go to Luckenbach, Texas

I bought postcards (pre-postmarked Luckenbach), affixed the pre-addressed labels and stamps from the supply I carry in my Ziploc bag whenever I travel, and mailed them to family members- a travel tradition that may take me longer to turn loose than the CDs that I finally quit burning two years ago.  Let’s face it – – who needs a Postcard when there’s Facebook to tell everyone for free, and instantly, that you wish they could be there having all the fun with you?

Post Office in Luckenbach, Texas

But this is where I struggle – – how else will my grandchildren know the joy of getting mail if I don’t send them postcards?

The thrill of mail and my emerging concept of all the different cultures of the United States officially started for me when I was a fifth grader at St. Simon’s Island Elementary School in Georgia in the 1970s. In Mrs. Ploeger’s class, I vividly remember completing a worksheet with the words, “Melting Pot or Salad Bowl?” in bold print across the top. We had to do a project on one of the 50 states other than our own, and I eagerly dove right in. Mom bought me a supply of stamps and envelopes, and I wrote letters to the Chambers of Commerce in all 50 states’ capital cities requesting information for my project. I carefully cut out important pieces of the brochures I received in response, gluing them onto pages and creating a thick notebook of information about each state – its state bird, its flower, its nickname, its capital, its population and government. I was so proud of my work that I put it in a blue notebook I had creatively decorated especially for handing in my project. For the first time, I took an active interest in seeing places other than where I lived and learned the value of writing in my learning experience. I was on a vicarious nationwide journey that arrived in our mailbox with stacks of envelopes with my very own name on them! I’m grateful that I grew up in the age of snail mail; webpages could never have held that degree of exhilaration for me.

When the day came to turn in our projects on the back table that had been cleared off for the occasion, most students had put information on posterboards or written a few pages of information on looseleaf paper. My classmates gawked in disbelief at my fifth grade dissertation on all fifty states. I go back to that moment again and again in my mind still today, ever assured that this was the first time I identified as a writer – and more specifically, a writer who wanted to see the world.

That’s why I like to send postcards to my grandchildren – – to spark an interest that may result in a bite from the proverbial travel bug! From pressing flowers to traveling, I want to inspire them to know their world and take the time to enjoy the beauty of it – to sing the songs of places!

Esther 8:10

10  And he wrote in the king Ahasuerus’ name, and sealed it with the king’s ring, and sent letters by posts on horseback, and riders on mules, camels, and young dromedaries:

Dog Love is Universal

With special thanks to Slice of Life for giving writers inspiration, space, and voice

Slice of Life Day 5 of 31: Journeys (my March theme)

On Tuesday morning during my solo trip to San Antonio, I arose early to do my daily writing (Palindromic Poems for  2-22-2022 with my Open Write group at before Ubering over to La Villita, the meeting point for my tour into Texas Hill Country.  I noted in the ticketing purchase that the tour had been cut back from a maximum of 14 people to 8 people, so I was even more pleasantly surprised when I arrived to see that there were only 3 of us signed up to go.  I met Suzanne and Laura from Denver, Colorado at the designated spot and then our tour director arrived to take us to our first stop:  Luckenbach, Texas, about 30 minutes outside of the city.  We pulled out onto the freeway, and those awkward silences after introductions began a few minutes into the drive, where each of us was finished asking what we’d done on our trip so far and thinking of the next thing to say. 

That’s when my phone rang. 

I saw it was Dad.  I almost didn’t answer, but thought the better of it – in case there was an emergency.  We weren’t too far into the tour for me to be dropped off and catch an Uber back if necessary.  So I answered with, “Hey, I’m on a tour, can I call you back?”  

“NO! No, you can’t,” Dad said.  There was a pause.  “You need to talk to your brother.  We’re at the vet. I’ve got you on speaker.”  

My heart dropped.  It was the call I’d been dreading, only I hadn’t expected it to come from Dad.  And I sure hadn’t expected it to come in a van filled with awkward silences with two fellow tourists and our tour guide.

I felt their eyes on me as I tried to remain nonchalant and unemotional, trying to fight off the tears that welled. “I’m so, so sorry,” I said to those in the room at the vet on speaker, “he’s lived such a good life. It’s so hard to say goodbye. What a good boy he has been – – so blessed, and oh, how he has blessed us.”

I heard sniffles, and I cut the conversation short, feeling bad about the awful timing for the people in the van with me on a tour to enjoy the scenery and create beautiful memories and feeling bad about the awful timing for my family gathered at the vet to be with my brother as they put Feivel to sleep.

My new Colorado friends were looking at me for answers when I hung up, in that curious way that even complete strangers need to know what crisis is happening. “I’m sorry, y’all, that was my dad calling because my brother is having to put his dog down right now, and we are all very close – – I spared you the special voice, but I needed to say goodbye one last time.”

The driver shook his finger toward the backseat passenger side of the van where I was seated and ordered in his thick Spanish accent, “No. You call him back and do the special voice!” in the same way a mother scolds a misbehaving child. The ladies from Colorado were nodding in agreement, sniffling, insisting I do the special voice. I called Dad back, grateful to be among people who understood the sacredness of these moments.

Dad put me back on speaker again. In my special voice, I said, “Hey there, Farfel (my nickname for him) , it’s Nanta” (Ken’s name for me, a blend of Aunt, Nana, and Santa, since I’m more generous at Christmas than any other time of the year).

Ken said Feivel lifted his head in recognition of my voice. I continued. “You’ve been such a good boy, and when you get across the Rainbow Bridge, you come on back to the Funny Farm, where Poppy and I will be waiting for you to roam around and be with us there. We’re going to miss you, buddy. We love you. Sleep tight.”

The ladies were both teary-eyed, one fanning her face and chest with her hand, and so was the driver – a very large man with a teddy bear heart.

Ken somberly agreed, holding it together as well as he could, his voice breaking, “He will definitely be a spirit on the Funny Farm.”

And that was that. All the pain of what the vet believed to be a cancerous mass that had become a blockage was numbed with a relaxation shot before he administered the shot that opened the pool for the merciful angel taking a night swim in the vial of sodium pentothal to bring our sweet boy painless, endless sleep. I have absolutely no doubt in my mind that my mother was waiting for him to jump straight into her arms and carry him over to the other side. She and my father, both devoted animal lovers, are the reason my brother and I got a double DNA dose of dog-loving chromosomes. In fact, once we’d grown up and moved out, we were not surprised to find that our portraits on the bookshelf had been replaced by their two dogs, Georgia and Mullie.

Georgia and Mullie’s portraits replaced my brother’s and mine on the bookshelf.

13 1/2 year old Feivel had been born on Ken’s front porch on 18 acres in rural Concord, Georgia, named for the little mouse in An American Tail: Feivel Goes West because he bore strong resemblance to the character. The name Feivel, of English origin, means “God assists.” He was a good Christian dog – a devout Baptist as best we could tell, the way he loved a homemade casserole.

He was the epitome of diversity in all of dogdom.  “Weimarauzer was my term for his breed,” Ken explained. “His dad was a Weimy, and mom was a Schnauzer with a touch of Yorkipoo.  His German heritage was always at odds with the French and English influence.  Kind of like history.  Even his French and English were in conflict.”  

Feivel, December 2021, visiting Nanta’s house for Christmas

The French and English cities of Charles Dickens’ most famous first line were ringing out in Weimarauzerese translation- dogs bring the best of times, dogs bring the worst of times. And oh, the pain of goodbye at the end is among the worst of all the times we ever live.

A few miles later, the driver played the song for our first stop on the tour as we rode, and I let the lyrics soothe my aching heart……”Out in Luckenbach, Texas, ain’t nobody feelin’ no pain.”

My brother, Ken, with Feivel – the most devoted dog ever in the history of the whole wide world, Christmas 2021

Ecclesiastes 3: 1-8

There is a time for everything,
    and a season for every activity under the heavens:

    a time to be born and a time to die,
    a time to plant and a time to uproot,
    a time to kill and a time to heal,
    a time to tear down and a time to build,
    a time to weep and a time to laugh,
    a time to mourn and a time to dance,
    a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
    a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
    a time to search and a time to give up,
    a time to keep and a time to throw away,
    a time to tear and a time to mend,
    a time to be silent and a time to speak,
    a time to love and a time to hate,
    a time for war and a time for peace.

Texas Bluebonnet Postcard Legacy

With special thanks to Slice of Life for giving writers inspiration, space, and voice

Slice of Life Day 4 of 31: Journeys (my March theme)

On Monday, February 21, the first full day of my solo travel adventure to Texas, I began the day writing and then ventured into downtown San Antonio via the Riverwalk from Blue Star.  Instinct and experience has taught me to make myself look like part of a group by sticking close to others like I belong in their family, so that’s what I did from the downtown area over to the Alamo.  Tickets into the church part of the Alamo are free, but a timed ticket is required, so I stood in line to get a ticket for the 11:00 tour. 

The Alamo, San Antonio, Texas

While I waited for the tour to begin, I read the historical markers and checked out the areas around the Alamo, including a statue of Susannah Dickinson and her young daughter Angelina, who had taken shelter in the sacristy of the Alamo and were freed after the battle where their husband and father died. They spread the word of what had happened there.

Statue of Susannah Dickinson and her daughter Angelina

I walked over to the Alamo shops across the street to purchase postcards for family and two bottles of ice cold water.  I wasn’t prepared for the brutal heat of San Antonio in February, even though I have lived on islands along the coasts of Georgia and South Carolina most of my life.  It was so hot that on the walk over, my eyelids were sweating! I purchased a t-shirt at the Alamo gift shop to change into something cooler.  The Hop On – Hop Off bus tour was air conditioned, so I got a ticket and enjoyed a reprieve from the oppressive heat.  

Hop On/ Hop Off Bus Ticket – it proved to be a better value than Ubering for learning the history and the layout of the city and it was nice and cool!

The first stop on the bus tour after The Alamo was The Pearl District, so I went there to have lunch.  The Pearl is known for its culinary delights (The Culinary Institute of America is there), and I wasn’t disappointed with the stuffed pizza and lemon ricotta cookie – and my favorite Blood Orange San Pellegrino!  

As I ate, I wrote messages on the postcards I’d purchased.  I travel with pre-addressed mailing labels and postcard stamps in a Ziploc bag so that all I have to do is stick on a label and stamp and write a sentence or two before dropping the cards in the mail.  My grandchildren love getting picture postcards, and I send several anytime I travel. Of all the postcards I sent, my favorite was the one with the field of Texas Bluebonnets for my granddaughter. It brought back memories of my childhood ~ I loved to press flowers and greenery in weighted books (I still do)! I made a note to myself: look into flower presses for Saylor for her birthday in June, when the flowers will be blooming beautifully – and I mentioned my plan for us to press flowers in the postcard message to carry my love of nature forward into the next generation.

Postcards are quick and easy with pre-addressed mailing labels.

I ambled through the shops in The Pearl, grateful that I had come with only a carry-on and a personal bag.  That’s one travel strategy that keeps purchases to a bare minimum – if I don’t have room to take it home, I can’t buy it.  Already, I was up by one T-shirt and a pair of Alamo socks for my husband, so I was able to resist the many temptations in the bookstore and the 1000 Villages store with all of the handmade artisan items that seem to call my name. 

The famous Emma Hotel in the Pearl District, named for the woman who ran the brewery during prohibition

Although I wanted to explore more, I resisted the urge to become overheated and overtired and headed back to Blue Star to rest before dinner.  A fancy little burger joint just two tenths of a mile down the Riverwalk from where I was staying, Burgerteca, offered a $12 burger for $5 during Happy Hour. I added some fries and a Sierra Mist and walked back with a my takeout to eat dinner while I wrote.  I rarely eat red meat, but I made a special exception to have beef while in Texas.

Earlier, I had passed a mercantile called Provisions, where I’d purchased a bag of Epsom Salts – – two cups of bath salts in a hot bath with my book did my muscles a favor, and I was able to wind down and rest up for all of the activities ahead on Tuesday, when I planned to visit Texas Hill Country, go to the Xtreme Bull Riding Rodeo, and attend and a Three Doors Down concert – all in the same day!  I thanked the Lord for the safety and the blessings of the day and went to bed.

Epsom salt in a hot bath while reading – my ticket to peaceful slumber.

Joel 1:3

Tell your sons about it,
And let your sons tell their sons,
And their sons the next generation.

Carpe Diem!

With special thanks to Slice of Life for inspiring writers, and for giving us space and voice

Slice of Life Day 3 of 31: Journeys (my theme for March)

My flight was slightly delayed, but my husband dropped me off with two hours to get through security at the world’s busiest airport, where I managed to get out of Atlanta and arrive in San Antonio as a solo female traveler and get an Uber to Blue Star in time to check into the rental at 3:02 p.m. on Sunday, February 20. 

423 Blue Star, San Antonio, Texas – this is the same style of housing I saw in The Pearl District and in other areas of San Antonio. It’s comfortable and has all the amenities – pools, dog parks, restaurants, bike paths, electric bikes, provision stores, and gyms.

I came in, freshened up, and had no sooner brushed my hair and teeth before I headed downtown to ride one of those colorful bumper-car-looking boats I’d seen in all the pictures online.  Another Uber back downtown and a long line of people later, I had purchased a ticket and was ready to float. I wouldn’t miss the opportunity to ride in a gondola in Venice, so I could never miss the boat ride on the San Antonio Riverwalk! I didn’t wait to let Day 2 be Day 1 for having fun. When it comes to travel, I’m a firm believer that every minute of great weather is an opportunity to make the most of the trip!

A ticket to ride a Go Rio tour boat
Boat on the San Antonio Riverwalk, February 2022

I took pictures all during the cruise and learned about Heart Island, the little tiny patch of land in the San Antonio River where a couple gets married on average every day in San Antonio.  I saw the ones that day tying the knot.  I imagined that if my husband had been there, he’d have threatened to yell at the couple, “Run! Run! It’s a trap! Get out while you still can!” and then grabbed me and hugged me for forgiveness in his sort-of-truthful-playfulness.

Couple getting married on Heart Island

I also saw the stage from the movie Miss Congeniality, where the swimsuit contest took place.  No swimsuits today, although it was certainly warm enough.  Nothing compares to the voices of tour guides who know the history and stories of a place – even if they are full of corny jokes. The guide also pointed out the statue of St. Anthony, the finder of lost things, which sits along the banks of the river.

Statue of Saint Anthony, finder of lost things, along the Riverwalk

I finished the day with dinner along the river at La Villita, watching the boats pass and eating a wedge salad with a vinaigrette dressing that was delicious – and counting my blessings that I could seize the day and find the time to enjoy the boat tour on this pleasant Sunday evening of my life!

And this very morning at 5:37 on a post about seizing the day, I put tomorrow’s SOL teaser for today’s post. Tomorrow will be my Bluebonnet postcard post…..

Me at 5:38
Go Rio Tour Boats touring the San Antonio Riverwalk

Ephesians 5: 15-16

15 So then, be careful how you walk, not as unwise people but as wise, 16 making the most of your time, because the days are evil. 

Getting the Picture

With special thanks to Slice of Life for inspiring writers, and for giving us space and voice

Slice of Life Day 2 of 31: Journeys (my theme for the month)

I put off packing for my flying solo trip to San Antonio, Texas until the evening before the trip and gave it little to no thought – perhaps because I was afraid that if I had, I may have chosen to back out of this non-refundable excursion and take the loss. My fiercely independent spirit was afraid to admit that maybe – just maybe – I had a weaker side that might crack and stay home if I gave it any place to sit down and bend my ear with its persuasive wisdom of safety and caution about women traveling alone. My woman power free-spirit hippie voice was goading me You can do this! You can do this! on one shoulder, and on the opposite, sitting angel-and-devil-Fred-Flintstone-style, my grandmother gently whispered, “You can never be too careful.”

And so I’d put it off as long as I could. The time came to prepare. Five pairs of black underwear (I have a paranoid fear that my luggage will be searched in security and that they will hold up my big underwear for everyone from all over the world in the crowded TSA checkpoint to see, so that is why I always travel with brand new black underwear), a single pair of shoes: non-tie tidewater blue On Clouds, jeans and black slacks, three shirts, a lightweight jacket, the necessary mini umbrella and paper-thin rain parka, and a sealed bag of 2-ounce liquids and basic toiletries. Done. I zipped my suitcase shut. But something was gnawing at me. I felt like I was forgetting something – – not more underwear, but something that was signature black and equally flashy: a camera.

On our trip to Gloucester to watch whales last fall, a single phone charge hadn’t lasted long enough, and even with a power pack it didn’t buy much more video time.  Plus, the pictures just weren’t all that great.  My camera from my digital photography class at the University of West Georgia several years prior was not working any longer, and I missed having spectacular photos with dazzling colors and clean, sharp focus.  

Whale’s tail off the coast of Gloucester, Massachusetts, taken with an Iphone, October 2021

So the evening before I was to leave, I went camera shopping for a new DSLR camera that would be my substitute travel companion to help share my trip and preserve my memories. The first store was wiped out of all cameras except pastel-colored Polaroids that looked like Easter eggs lined up for some five year olds to find, but the second store had a Canon Rebel T-100 that I snapped right up. I put it on the charger overnight and realized the next morning that I would have to make a few sacrifices from my personal bag to avoid checking my luggage – something I avoid at all costs, whether I’m spending two weeks in Europe or five days in Texas. I reluctantly pulled out a couple of books and my extra journal and packed the camera where they had been. There. Done.

Canon Rebel T 100

The one book I kept packed was 100 Things to Do in San Antonio Before You Die by Denise Richter. I planned to make careful notes in the book and then pass it along to a friend who will be traveling to San Antonio this summer. I was packed and ready – new black underwear neatly tucked into a semi-secret suitcase pocket, new camera fully charged – my eyes and camera lens wide open, my ears ready to listen for lessons awaiting me on this journey.

Annotating a travel book to pass along to a friend planning to visit San Antonio is my attempt to keep my footprints helpful and handy!

Deuteronomy 31:8 The LORD is the one who is going ahead of you. He will be with you. He won’t abandon you or leave you. So don’t be afraid or terrified.