Savoring Saturday – Coffee and Books

What is missing from many of our days is a true sense that we are enjoying the lives we are living.  It is difficult to experience moments of happiness if we are not aware of what it is we genuinely love.  We must learn to savor small, authentic moments that bring us contentment. – Sarah Ban Breathnach, Simple Abundance: A Daybook of Comfort and Joy

Some Saturdays, we get up and head over to the local coffee shop on our town square. My husband orders coffee, a cinnamon roll, and a slice of breakfast casserole. I take my Optavia breakfast fueling along with me and order black coffee. We sit at a table near the fireplace, where we chat and enjoy the meanderings of those, like us, ambling about town on a Saturday morning.

When he has extra errands to run that will take an hour or so, he’ll drop me off at the back door of the bookstore across the square, where the comfy chairs are circled around an oval coffee table, and I’ll gather a handful of books, grab a Cherry Coke Zero from the store fridge, and throw my feet up and read.

The place is magical from the moment you walk into the store. The smell of books greets you, and the floors creak under your feet as you browse the shelves. On the walls, there are watercolors and photographs by local artists for sale, and on the counters there is also handmade jewelry and other gifts. The new books are up front, along with the book club books that are lined up according to the month they’ll be discussed. The heart of the store is the used books – $3 for paperbacks, and $5 for hardbacks. And the lighting is warm and welcoming, giving the perfect ambiance for comfortable reading. Sometimes they play slow jazz.

I go straight to the travel and adventure books to see if there is anything obscure that grabs me, and I begin my book stack there. I mostly hang out in the nonfiction, perusing the shelves and searching the spines for titles that spark my interest. When I have one armful’s stack, I glance at the fiction and keep moving toward my chair – the one with the matching ottoman. I plop down, throw my feet up, pop my Coke top, and take a long swig as I begin with first glances at the books. What’s in the Table of Contents? When was it written? What does the back cover say? What’s the format, and do I like it? Is the print big enough? What do the pages feel like? Does it smell real?

I’m picky.

Two members of my writing group have recently books – Starting From Scratch, about teaching poetry, and Kitchen Table Wisdom, about womens’ wisdom from ancestors with answers. I order these, and then I chat with two of the owners. Karen leads the writing group, and we share what we’re writing. I meet her daughter and grandson. I speak briefly with another owner, Chris, who is headed out for lunch, but always asks what I’m reading – so I tell her I’m reading around the United States, and I’ve just finished Stephen King’s On Writing for the New England states and am narrowing down my choice for the Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, and Wyoming states. I’m leaning towards Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore.

Today, I narrow it down to two books: The Iditarod Fact Book and The Happiness of Pursuit. And then I wonder: How am I going to meet my goal of getting down to two and a half bookcases if I bring more home? I think there is math involved: if I get rid of more than I take in, will it work? Somebody who can do math, please – tell me that it will. These are small, authentic moments that bring me contentment – – and books are what I genuinely love.

Day 5 Open Write with Barb Edler and Glenda Funk

Yesterday was the last day of five days of January’s Open Write at http://www.ethicalela.com. Each month, this writing group gathers to write and give positive feedback to at least three other writers. I took a break yesterday to pause and give thanks for my daughter Mallory on her birthday.

Yesterday’s prompt was to write a Postcard Poem. Using a postcard or a blank index card, you draw a vertical line to separate the address and the poem on the writing side. Here’s my Haiku poem, prompted by a suspension bridge I crossed in December at Fall Creek Falls in Tennessee:

tracking feet

suspension bridges
crossable risk-taking feat
empowering treks

January 23 Open Write with Barb Edler

Today is the third day of five days of January’s Open Write at http://www.ethicalela.com. Each month, this writing group gathers to write and give positive feedback to at least three other writers. Please join us! Here is the direct link, where you can read about today’s host, Barb Edler of Iowa, and the inspiration she brings in her prompt: https://www.ethicalela.com/connecting-with-your-inner-self/

Today’s poem is about reflecting on our goals. I think this prompt was designed just for me! I’m reflecting on my goals the last day of each month in the areas of creativity, experience, literature, gratitude, reflection, self-improvement, and spirituality that I spent the first days of the year crafting and describing on my blog. Today, a Haiku is a great way to celebrate the journey:

I'm in No Hurry



praying for answers

wondering about outcomes

I'm in no hurry



seeking my weight range

closet-eating M&Ms

I'm in no hurry



Reading Around the

U.S.A - savoring words

I'm in no hurry



counting my blessings

focusing on gratitude

I'm in no hurry



Route 66 plans

dreams in the making: someday

I'm in no hurry



creative touches

camera-ready journeys

I'm in no hurry



family stories

capturing the past in ink

I'm in no hurry



slowing down the pace

seeing more of it ~ not more

I'm in no hurry

January 22 Open Write with Glenda Funk

Today is the second day of five days of January’s Open Write at http://www.ethicalela.com. Each month, this writing group gathers to write and give positive feedback to at least three other writers. Our group currently has two anthologies of our published work, and today there is a third invitation to be part of another collection from the host. Please join us! Here is the direct link, where you can read about one of this month’s hosts, Glenda Funk from Idaho, and the inspiration she brings in her prompt: https://www.ethicalela.com/connecting-with-school-communities-in-the-aftermath-of-shootings-and-lockdowns/

Today’s prompt is to write a poem about the aftermath of school shootings in any form we choose. I chose to blend three chained Haiku poems with an acrostic.

In Despair

In airports, guns banned!
Not in schools - no one searches.
Dear students: we failed! 
Empty nests: hearts grieve
Searching clouds for loved ones’ signs,
Parents pray for peace
As children take flight
Igniting grief eternal
Ripped souls in despair

January 21 Open Write with Barb Edler

Today is the first day of five days of January’s Open Write at http://www.ethicalela.com. Each month, this writing group gathers to write and give positive feedback to at least three other writers. Please join us! Here is the direct link, where you can read about today’s host, Barb Edler, and the inspiration she brings in her prompt: https://www.ethicalela.com/connecting-with-others-or-things-through-a-personal-letter-poem/

We’re invited today to write Personal Letter poems that capture intimate moments. I think often of our old farm dog Archie, who lived under the porch of the Presbyterian Church over on Pedenville Road in Concord, Georgia and must have always been chased off with a broom by the cleaning crew. He had a dreadful fear every time I swept. In a thunderstorm, he chased a colleague’s car all the way home, looking for shelter from the storm and something to eat. Her twin girls, both veterinarians, nursed him back to health as best they could before their mother called me. This is the perfect dog for you, she urged. We’ve named him R.K. for Roadkill, which is what he’s gonna be if someone doesn’t give him a good home.

And so we brought R.K. to the Johnson Funny Farm, my husband holding him down in the bed of a Ford Ranger pickup truck as I drove us home (in a stick shift for the first time in many years), hurky-jerky all the way here, where we softened R.K. to Archie and came to love a dog who was as close to human as they get.

Good Ol’ Archie

whenever I clean the empty 
hardwood floor space
under the antique oak buffet
~your thunderstorm safe zone~
my heart goes thud-thumpy

I exhale
my eyes close
I think of you,
your eyebrows
raising back and forth
left, right, left…..
looking me full
in the face
searching for love
wanting
needing
my embrace
waiting for my concrete to crumble

this was your favorite game

you wanted love 
more than food

when I let your human eyes
pierce the stoic face 
I’d held as long as I could
and my smile cracked, turned to laughter….


your full goofy body wag 
erupted with joy
slathered me with sugary sweet love kisses
paws on my shoulders

loving me as you did
rescuing me as you did

* * *

and then came that morning. 
you hadn’t moved
I knew before your 
three tail thud-thumps
became my heartbeat

I’ve…….loved…….you

It…….is……time

Help…..me…..cross

thump……thump…..thump

your empty space remains, Good Ol’ Archie

For the Love of Mail

“…your life is short and rare and amazing and miraculous, and you want to do really interesting things and make really interesting things while you’re still here.” – Elizabeth Gilbert, Big Magic

Whenever I travel, I carry a Ziploc bag filled with pre-addressed mailing labels and postcard stamps. I want my grandchildren to experience the thrill of excitement I felt when I received mail as a child.

I think my passion was born when in fifth grade I wrote to every capital city’s Chamber of Commerce requesting brochures on the state for a school project on the United States, back in the days long before such a request would be met with a reference to a website. I smiled and skipped back inside from the mailbox with letters most days during the project time, ready to read about the states and cut and paste information from the brochures onto the notebook paper in my presentation book. I’d enjoyed the learning, and out of it was born a love of mail that arrives in envelopes, with stamps in the upper right hand corner and my name on the front. I don’t remember every state’s bird or tree or motto, but I do remember that when I needed resources, there were places to look and people to ask. I learned something about being resourceful – about how letters requesting information glean a response.

And that is why I take every opportunity to send a quick card, whether I’m five hours from home or one hour. My grandchildren may not fully appreciate all of the cards now, but one day I hope they will look back and realize that their Nana always wanted them to see the world and to enjoy the ride!

Happy travels!

Spirituality: Reverend Dr. Felix Haynes, Jr. on the Power of Books

Today’s guest writer is my father, Rev. Dr. Felix Haynes, Jr. , who shares his thoughts on the power of books to shape lives.

THE POWER OF BOOKS


In Little Letters to God, Margaret E. Sangster includes the following letter:


Dear God:
Three books came to me in this morning’s mail. They were messages from friends who wanted to share with me the pleasure of the printed word. One book was a love story, one was sparkling with inspiration, and one was a travel book that would transport me into far, forgotten places of the earth. As I unwrapped these books, I felt a sudden sense of reverence – reverence for you, God, who has given the authors a great expression. Through their eyes—and your wisdom—I shall be permitted to widen my vision.

Reading good books becomes a tool to widen our horizons and expand the depth of human experience. The poet Frances Thompson said books became to him “trumpet sounds from the hidden battlements of eternity.”

Books are forces to deepen our lives through spiritual and human development.
Well-selected books can push us towards a greater grasp of human maturity. Robert Browning wrote, “A man’s reach should exceed his grasp, or what’s a heaven for?”


Christian growth is a process, an alluring quest – exciting and fulfilling. Delving into the spirit of reading and study prevents stagnation. Life is an adventure, when we dare to climb, with compelling vistas that beckon us to new heights of understanding. Books are rungs on the ladder.


I have frequently used the metaphor of Oliver Wendell Holmes’s poem The Chambered Nautilus as an example of an ever-maturing growth pattern. This beautiful seashell is gradually enlarging compartments in which the mollusk lives as it grows larger and larger. The snail-like creature that lives inside grows and moves into the next compartment, where further growth and development occurs. This process continues in ever-increasing sized chambers, until finally, in the largest compartment, it moves out. The shell it leaves is a thing of great beauty – a fascinating analogy of the human spirit, continually growing and expanding, building ever more stately mansions.


In life, we travel various avenues in the quest of expanding our fulfillment on the journey. The power of the printed page is one such avenue, and when you combine this tool with dialogue and discussion about a book, it becomes a significant life-shaping kind of experience.


Dr. E. Glenn Hinson was one of the most probing professors of my seminary experience. His book Seekers After a Mature Faith states in the Preface:

“I have written this book with a firm conviction that private devotion is essential to the life of the {Christian} and that devotional classics have much to contribute to that devotion. The Bible holds many expressions about the power of the printed page. In the oldest of all biblical documents, the Book of Job, Job says:

'Oh, that my words were now written! Oh, that they were printed in a book! That they were
graven with an iron pen and lead in the rock forever. For I know that my redeemer lived, and
He shall stand in the latter day upon the earth.” (Job 19:23-25).'


Job’s passion was to remind those who would suffer of the greatness of God. The best of books that convey life-messages are prompted by a deep desire to help others along their journey.”


Ralph Waldo Emerson commented in one of his essays that reading books molds an individual. Any casual reading of biography will confirm this truth of the value of books on one’s life. For example, Charles Colson in his biography Born Again attributes much of his conversion to Christianity to reading C. S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity.

Samuel Miller of Harvard Divinity School has cited three things that a book may do to nurture faith. First, he says that a book can help “name” an experience. A book can help one see the reality of some experience in a manner that helps in some way to better deal with a situation. The “word is made flesh” and we weave the insight into character. A second benefit in the book’s nurturing of faith is that it can “resurrect certain levels or dimensions of our consciousness from a dormant condition.” In other words, self- understanding ~ in this respect, a book becomes the stimulus to an honest appraisal of one’s life. Authenticity emerges in a healthier manner. We can see ourselves in the pilgrimage of others. Another’s experience can bring about an awareness of some repressed areas which we many have neglected. The book leads to an understanding necessary to the revelation of a new vision. A third benefit is that a well selected book encourages productive reflection. We stretch and improve our spiritual posture.


A book that provides a good reading experience baffles and embraces us, inspires and challenges; and it can startle and unsettle. The values are inestimable intellectually and fuels the imagination causing one to reach for new heights. We should expect occasions in the reading of good books which cause us to rethink opinions and face new truths that change our path on the journey.


Charles Kingsley, a revered English writer says, “Except a living man, there is nothing more wonderful than a book.” I would be quick to add this observation, based on my Doctor of Ministry work: The two things that most affect a person’s life are the people we meet and the books we read. I think Thomas a Kempis said the most appropriate word about the power of Books:


"If he should not lose his reward who gives a cup of cold water to his thirsty
neighbor, what will not be the reward of those who by putting good books into the hands of those neighbors, open to them the fountains of eternal life?"


And Mark Twain, who always has a bold word, appropriately reminds us that “the man who does not read has no advantage over the man who cannot read.“

Literature: What are Your Writing Habits?

A springtime stay at the Grove Park Inn in Asheville, North Carolina convinced me that I needed a writer’s desk like F. Scott Fitzgerald had. I’d slept right across the hall from the two rooms he’d regularly occupied there, positioned strategically over the front doors so he could keep an eye on the comings and goings of folks. Downstairs, where his desk is on display, I’d taken pictures from every angle.

Oh, to have a writer’s desk like that, I thought, admiring the heaviness of the oak and its ample surface space.

I priced desks online. I looked in stores. I came home and made a makeshift writer’s desk from an antique dresser in our guest room, even buying a comfortable chair for my newly-crowned space until I found just the right big oak desk.

Every morning at my same pre-civilization hour, though, I returned to my favorite living room chair and perched up with my lap desk and Chromebook to write. I still do, 8 months after falling in love with Fitzgerald’s desk. I used the makeshift desk only once, and it was not my wave to ride. So instead, I ordered a bigger lap desk with more surface space – and after that fine-tuning step, my chair is my spot!

All this got me thinking: what were the habits of writing among the classical writers? Where do my contemporary writing friends and authors I follow write today? Learning about the writing habits of others is fascinating. I’ve included some links below for exploring. Happy writing!

https://writetodone.com/learn-from-the-greats-7-writing-habits-of-amazing-writers/

https://www.arts.gov/stories/blog/2015/peculiar-habits-7-writers

https://writetodone.com/20-weird-and-wonderful-habits-of-famous-writers/

Literature Goals: Reading Around the USA in 2023

"....no, there is not more beauty here than elsewhere....but there is much beauty here because there is much beauty everywhere."  

"....most people only get to know one corner of their room..." 
                                                             -Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet

Reading: About a month ago, I got a 6 a.m. Facebook Messenger post from a friend and co-worker who shares my love of reading. She wanted me to see the new challenge from a Facebook group called Read with the Book Girls ~ to Read Around the USA in 2023. The January Challenge includes the New England states of Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont (Connecticut, they say, will be included later this year). The site administrators even provide a curated list of book recommendations, along with brief blurbs about the books for those who would like some suggestions. Each month, I’ll read a book from a different area of the United States throughout the year. Here are two links: here and here.

As a predominantly nonfiction reader, I’ve chosen Stephen King’s On Writing to read as my January book. Though I think the focus is more on the landscape and setting of place, I vividly see the King home as I read the words of his books. I see the roots of the thinking that goes into his writing. I have two other New England-setting recommendations if you’re contemplating this challenge and love nonfiction: Following Atticus by Tom Ryan (and the sequel, Will’s Red Coat) and The Soul of an Octopus by Sy Montgomery. Two of my favorite authors!

I’ll be reading around the USA this year for 2023, and my goal is to complete the 12-book trek over 12 months. I love the way the book challenge supports my experience goals – I’m taking a journey around the nation, but relaxing the pace through the power of books – it’s a peaceful endeavor.

I’ve also chosen a book for each category of my goals this year. For example, I’m rereading Sarah Ban Breathnach’s Simple Abundance as my gratitude guide, Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic as my creativity guide, Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project as my self-improvement guide, Rainer Maria Rilke’s Letters to a Young Poet as my literature guide, Bhavana Gesota’s The Art of Slow Travel as my experience guide, Women of Faith Daily Devotional by the Women of Faith as my spiritual/inspirational guide, and a yet-to-be-decided book as my reflection guide. My One Little Word (Pray) guide is The Meaning of Prayer by Harry Emerson Fosdick, a gift from my father.

Writing: Every single day this year, I have written and posted on my blog.  On the last day of February 2023, I will celebrate two full years of daily blogging, and my blog celebrates its 10th birthday TODAY!  Here is a link to my very first post back in 2013. Again, my goal is to blog daily throughout 2023. I'll continue to participate in Open Write and #VerseLove at www.ethicalela.com, and also to share on Slice of Life at www.twowritingteachers.org.  I also hope to present at NCTE this November in Ohio as part of the speaking and listening parts of my Literature goals for the coming year.  A huge thank you to Glenda Funk for her gifts of time and talent in writing proposals! 

In 2023, I will continue to do what I started in the fall of 2022:  I’ll give away at least one book a day with a handwritten note to the recipient.  I’m paring down my collection, and my goal is to get down to two and a half bookcases by the end of the year. My current book hoarding number will remain my secret. If you’re reading this blog and would like to receive a book with a handwritten note from me tucked inside, please send me your name and mailing address on Facebook Messenger at Kim Haynes Johnson, along with some of your hobbies and reading preferences.  I can’t wait to share the gift of a book with you this year!

I'll also continue to send out postcards, as I started doing in 2022.  When I purchased some in the gift shop at Red Top Mountain State Park the last week of December, the clerk said, "I don't think in all my time here I've ever sold a postcard.  It's a dying thing.  I'm glad to see someone is still mailing them."  

Yes, ma'am, I thought to myself. Let me be the change I wish to see in the world. 

In 2022, I mostly wrote poetry.  This year, one of my goals is to vary my writing more.  I am a fan of Gretchen Rubin’s Happiness Project, and I love the structure of her book and all that she does to focus on establishing order to create happiness in her world.  I reread her book (again) and simmered my thinking down to seven blog categories, hoping to adopt a cycle of writing that will broaden my net and inspire me to listen and to share in some different ways.  My dad, Reverend Dr. Felix Haynes, Jr., will share as a guest blogger as he has done in the past, helping me to preserve family stories.  While I have loved working my way through two book studies in 2022, I plan to pull the wider angle lens out and take a broader perspective rather than a deeper one this year.  

I'm ready for writing through 2023!

Happy Epiphany!

My One Little Word for 2023

As we move toward the beginning of a brand new year starting at midnight, on this last day of the year I'm taking time to reflect on 2022 and all the living we’ve done in its 525,600 minutes.  My blessings far outweigh my challenges and setbacks.  

Last December, I chose listen as my One Little Word for 2022, which Ali Edwards has made popular since 2006.  I suppose it’s what daily writers do: we listen to the world around us.  We listen for what inspires us and what we can take from conversations, moments, lessons, experiences - and time we share with others - to make sense of our world.  

What we do with all the listening is what invites me to choose pray as my word for 2023.  It wasn’t my first serious consideration, or even my second.  My initial choice was believe.  During my week of Covid confinement in December, I almost prematurely announced believe and all my reasons for choosing it.  It’s the essence of my Christian faith, the verb of what we do with our faith to trust in God’s plan.  It’s what gets us through tough times.  Long moments of pondering all that I don’t want to be quick to believe led me to think more about the power of sharing.  Share was my second consideration. I share what I experience and what I believe as truth, often on my blog. 

Then I thought of my word listen this year, and all of the listening that happened through prayer.  I wondered:  what if I spent an entire year with the word pray as my guiding light word?  My little Caribbean blue Rav4 has been my twice-daily prayer chamber for years as I make my way to and from work.  I don't turn on the radio ~ I pray.  I believe fully in the power of prayer and the difference it makes.  I see miracles that have happened because of prayer, and I often wonder about the miracles that happen that we never see, also because God answers prayer.  

As we step into 2023, I've chosen an action verb again.  Pray.  What a blessing I feel already!  

If you’re taking a One Little Word as your guiding light this year, please share in the comments below or send me a Facebook message - - I love all the thinking that goes into OLW choices!  Cheers to you in 2023!  

Tomorrow, I will begin daily posts in the areas of my seven goal categories this year.  They are: Reflection, Inspiration/Spirituality, Self-Improvement, Creativity, Literature, Experience, and Gratitude.  I've never succeeded at keeping New Year's Resolutions, but what has worked for me for the past 12 years is establishing goals and adding an accountability measure in my writing through a month-end checkpoint.  More on this beginning tomorrow!