Sunday, July 29, 2007


If anyone had ever told me that I could stand in the midst of a herd of deer, some so close to me that I could reach out and pet them, I would not have believed it. But I did just that thing today and the experience was so surreal that I am still in awe of it. I am not normally a naturalist. I love the outdoors in very controlled doses. Wild creatures, dirt, bugs and things that fly about don’t typically give me any warm and fuzzy feelings. But I like looking at most wild animals from safe distances back and I abhor cruelty of any kind if it’s inflicted upon a defenseless creature with wings, fur, or gills.

Today though I met a woman who has taken animal rescue to a whole other level. She lives alone on a two-acre stretch of land. Her back yard has become a sanctuary to some sixty-plus deer of assorted sizes and shapes. She started feeding them back in 1986. Back then there were only three. Their family has grown substantially over the years. They feed twice daily at seven-thirty in the morning and in the evening. I never knew animals had an internal clock but without fail shortly before seven-thirty the deer start gathering in the clearing behind her home to wait for their meal.

They start with corn feed that’s deposited in large metal containers around the yard. They consume some 100 pounds of corn every other day. Then comes some fifty pounds of mineral enriched pet chow. After that they get treats. First, there are three loaves of day old bread that gets tossed across the yard like Frisbees flying through the air. There are three or four does that will actually come right up and eat the bread out of her hands. The males aren’t quite so accommodating. One eight point buck stands with superiority at the edge of the drive waiting for the bread to land at his feet. Once or twice a week they are treated to watermelons, assorted fruits, and cucumbers. I’m told they love themselves some watermelon and cucumbers.

Above your head hummingbirds are flitting from the many feeders that hang off the home’s porch. They consume one and half gallons of sugar water daily. I never knew hummingbirds came in so many extraordinary colors because this was the first time I’d ever seen so many in one place at the same time.

I walked with my new friend today as she fed her deer, listening as she told me the story of how she’d come to do this and all that it involved. Deer walked around us, many skittish by the presence of a stranger, eyes watching my every move. It was eerie to have them inch as close as they came, curious to know if I was friend or foe. They all had names and their keeper told stories of their lineage; who had mothered who, who was mother-less, which were siblings. It was all strangely fascinating and then for a brief moment, just before they began to eat, everything paused. The air was still, quiet dropping around us. I could feel this warming sense of calm wash over me and in that moment I felt as if we were all receiving a blessing of sorts. Then just like that they all began to eat, fussing and playing and wandering that lot of land like nothing at all had just passed between us. The experience was like nothing I’d ever known before.

Monday, July 23, 2007


Life is eternal; and love is immortal;
and death is only a horizon; and a horizon
is nothing save the limit of our sight.
Rossiter Worthington Raymond

The loss of a loved one is an experience so profound that it is sometimes difficult to find words to express just how debilitating it can feel. When you lose someone near and dear to your heart, you are left with a sense of sadness like no other. I remember well the expanse of emotion that left me feeling as though I was riding on a rollercoaster of complete and total heartache. When my son died two years ago from cancer complications I did not believe that I would ever recover from the loss. But I did. There are still moments when I long to hear him call my name, to spin a joke that only he and I shared, and there are even days when I am filled with rage that his young life was stolen from him so early. But I keep going, finally able to dwell in those memories that made our relationship as magnanimous as it was. Finally able to more readily let go of the hurt and suffering that marked the end of his days.

Someone I love dearly lost a family member near and dear to his own heart today. I know his spirit is absolutely broken by the loss because no matter how much we might want to believe we are prepared for that final moment, there truly is no preparation.

It is not an easy task to walk through a time of grief with someone you care about. We imagine that we can be there for our friends and family when they need us—and we want to magically disappear when they need to be alone. But finding appropriate and heartfelt ways to show our support and caring immediately after a painful loss can truly be a difficult thing to do. With my own experience, although I appreciated every gesture and word of kindness, I was too lost in my grief to recognize just how difficult that might have been for some folks to do. As I look back now I would be the first to say that despite the complexity of being supportive and understanding while showing an appropriate amount of reserve and consideration for each individual’s feelings, just the extension of a hand of support and friendship proved to be invaluable.

Minutes after my son died, a family friend hugged me tightly, tears glistening in her eyes. “You can only imagine what a wondrous moment your son has just experienced,” she said. “He has just seen the face of God for the very first time!” It was that simple statement that kept me upright and standing.

My dear friend’s family member was a virtuous woman, a loving wife, mother, and supportive friend. She was a woman who did not hesitate to put the needs of others before her own, giving freely of herself without thought or reservation. She lived and breathed her spirituality, expounding love and goodness in every aspect of her daily life. She was an angel here on earth and now she wears those wings of glory bestowed only on those who have lived and loved well, sacrificing much so that others could have. A force to be reckoned with, I imagine that when she and God finally came face to face for the very first time that it was truly a wondrous moment to behold, God marveling at the woman he had finally called home. Her family will find much solace in the many memories of their mother and the knowledge that there were many lives and hearts she touched over the years. Her love shines brightly on us all. Mrs. Hattie Woody wouldn’t have it any other way.


My very best friend in the whole wide world married the love of her life this weekend and I’m just now getting back from the chapel. I’ve been to one or two incredible weddings before, but this wedding was truly the most spectacular affair that I have ever had the blessing of being a part of.

The ceremony and reception were held on the grounds of Brookgreen Gardens which is located between Myrtle Beach and Pawley’s Island, South Carolina. Brookgreen Gardens is described as the floral jewel of South Carolina’s coastal community, and it’s a magnificent non-profit organization committed to preserving the native flora and fauna. Originally, Brookgreen Gardens was four separate plantations. It’s now a nature preserve of some 10,000 acres of land. It was America’s first public sculpture garden and the collection now contains well over 900 works spanning the entire period of American sculpture -- from the early 1800s to the present. This place is absolutely incredible, so much so that I couldn’t help but think that everything there in Brookgreen Gardens was personally touched by God himself. I was just in awe of it’s splendor.

She was an extraordinarily beautiful bride in a very pretty gown. What was most striking though was the glow that filled her face. As she walked across the perfectly manicured lawn towards her groom, there was this fantastical light that gleaned in her eyes. I saw tears spill over the groom’s face and it was in that moment I felt that there could not have been a more perfect moment for them both.

It was a small gathering of thirty family members and it was the most love-filled event imaginable. The ceremony was held on the Jessamine Pond Overlook. The reception followed in the M. Russell Holliday Cottage where the festivities started in the private garden with a cocktail hour and concluded with the most delectable dinner imaginable.

Amy the wedding planner was heaven sent. There was no detail left untouched. From the flutes of water and lemonade that welcomed the guests into the gardens to the floral designs that graced the cottage interior, this woman created a masterpiece of bridal bliss and wonder. But God added the final touches: a sun-kissed day, the sweet chirping of the birds, the perfect breeze over crystal clear water, friends and family that journeyed from near and far, and an expanse of love like nothing ever experienced that touched us all.

My sincerest wishes for a bright and prosperous future to the newly wedded, Mr. James Gregory Graves and Mrs. Angela Thomas Graves.

Monday, July 16, 2007


WOW! It’s been exactly one year since I started blogging. One whole year of me bellyaching about one thing or another. I said in my first post that I didn’t have a clue where I was going with this and that I imagined it would be one hell of a ride. Well, I’m still riding this roller coaster without a clue where I’m going. I’ve enjoyed the highs and the lows and there have been plenty of both to go around. But I’ve been having fun and for me, right now, that’s all that matters. It wasn’t my intent to impart words of wisdom about writing or life and I truly didn’t give a rat’s behind if folks liked what I had to say or not. I just knew that this would be an opportunity and a medium where I could express myself and enjoy doing it.

There have been many comments recently about just how much of one’s personal self a writer should or shouldn’t put out here in Never-Never Land. I personally know that if I put it out here in writing, I’m also talking about it with the cashier at the grocery store, my neighbor, the postman, and anyone else who’ll take a minute or two to have a conversation with me. If it’s sacred, you’ll never know and I think everyone doing this has to find his or her own personal boundaries to work behind. I know and respect mine.

So, let’s hope the next year is as fruitful as I think the last one has been. I’ll try not to whine as much and I’m sure I could be a little less philosophical. I’d like to work more on my funny too, because there are moments I know that I can really be quite funny. I think it’s a given that I’ll periodically bemoan the nature of my empty nest but what the hell! I’ll be lonely without my baby boy. I may even revive Dear Debby once I’m out of deadline hell. Then again, maybe I won’t. Either way, I’ll work hard to stay true to who I am and I’ll always try to give you a really good read. So, for all of you who've ridden this ride with me, I certainly hope you don't get off any time soon. And, just like this past year, if you're new to me and mine, I hope you enjoy the experience. If not, I certainly understand. But if you do, please come back and do tell a friend.

Sunday, July 15, 2007


Did I ever tell you that I was a child from hell? I’m sure I did. I was every parent’s worse nightmare, the torment I put my folks through beginning shortly after my eighth or ninth birthday. I became disagreeable, argumentative, bratty, annoying and just out and out mean-spirited. Those were the good years. Then I hit my teens and all hell broke loose. I became completely and totally out of control. I would not wish a child like I had been on my worst enemy.

I was seventeen when I began to change things around. Interestingly, it was marrying too young and raising six children that moved me to reassess my wanton ways and walk the path of the straight and narrow. My babies moved me to be a better person. I was desperate to be a shining example for them to emulate and there was a time that my behavior was a far cry from being what I would want any child to model.

My own experiences though gave me much insight into how to raise my kids. I had a keen sense of what to do and more importantly, what not to do. I have incredible relationships with each of my boys, and interestingly the child who has challenged me the most was our only girl. They’re all grown now, four of them married with children of their own. And now my youngest, my baby boy, is spreading his wings and beginning to fly.

This weekend my child has been home for barely a two-hour stretch of time. For almost thirty-six hours straight I had not seen or heard from him. He waved goodbye to me Friday evening, climbed into a friend’s car, and fell off the face of the earth. No calls, no wandering back home, nothing. By hour twenty-seven I was too through. Now, with a fair degree of certainty, I knew where he was. I knew that he was relatively safe and in good hands but he wasn’t home and that alone wrecked the hell out of my nerves. I could fully comprehend what my mother had gone through because most times when I disappeared, she didn’t have a clue if I were safe or not, and truth be told now, most times I wasn’t.

As I admonished him earlier this morning about checking in periodically so that I could hear his voice and know that he was well, he laughed and dismissed my motherly concern. I was reminded that he was eighteen and would soon be off to college and as he subsequently added, “you really don’t think I’m going to call you every day from school to let you know where I am, do you?”

His older brother laughed too and told me to leave it alone. He reminded me that they had all done well and that baby boy would be fine too. Then he said, “It could be worse, Mom. Remember how you had been at that age?” He is so right. I have done a good job and I need to trust that like his siblings, baby boy will be fine as well. I’m just going to leave it alone and keeping moving forward because I do remember and I know that I really don’t have a thing to worry about. My own mother hadn’t been able to say the same thing. I owe that poor woman a big apology. Raising a child from hell says much about the strength of her character and if I do say so myself, she didn’t do too bad a job with what she had to work with.

Thursday, July 12, 2007


I’m still under a tight deadline but I needed to come up for some much needed air. I swear I’ve just completely lost my mind recently. I’ve been acting right crazy and loving every minute of it. I stepped right out of my comfort zone and have been doing things I probably have no business doing. But I’ve been having a great time and interestingly enough I’ve felt very safe and secure stepping out of my box. I have a long list of things I want to do in this lifetime before I’m physically or emotionally unable to do them at all. At this point in my reality I’m thinking what the hell. Why waste time that I’m not necessarily guaranteed. Life is short and no one has promised me tomorrow. Waiting serves no purpose whatsoever so I just need to do what I want to do and get it over with.

Next on my BIG list is moving to Arizona. I want to move to Phoenix or Tucson. I fell in love with Phoenix years ago while traveling there on a business trip. It was a great trip and I have some incredible memories of the experience. I’d wanted to move to Arizona years ago but compromised and came to rural North Carolina instead. Back then it felt like the smarter thing to do. I had family here. I knew the area. And although I longed instead to risk the unknown and give Phoenix a chance, other folks convinced me that NC was a wiser choice. I’ve loved the experience but I still wish I’d gone west instead. I’m not partial to having regrets like that one, most especially when I can still do something about it. So I’m headed to Arizona. Not quite sure when but I’m definitely sure it won’t be but so far in the very near future.

I also plan to get my bike license. I want a motorcycle. A big one. A really, really big one. Okay, maybe not that big. Classes start up again in August. If all goes well, come Christmas, I fully intend to ask Santa to leave me a Harley in my stocking. Get a clue, Santa Baby!

Traveling is at the top of my list as well. I’m desperate to get to Morocco. And, Brazil, the Fiji Islands, and Alaska (on a cruise of course!). Not a whole lot of places that I’m anxious to see but the ones on my short list have great significance for me. I did most of Europe when I worked for that hotel-owning corporation. Spent more time in London, Paris, and the Middle East than I care to remember. I still can’t speak enough French to be considered proficient and although I had much fun in England, France, despite its beauty and grandeur was not as nice. The Middle East was a story unto itself and not one I’d ever care to read again if I don‘t particularly have to.

Hot air ballooning and white water rafting are also on my list. Losing my mind has benefits. I can be as crazy as I care to be and lay the blame wholly on my current level of dysfunction. I plan to be a whole lotta’ crazy!

Monday, July 02, 2007


I’m acquainted with a couple who appear to have an incredibly amazing relationship. Watching them interact is like being at a ballet. They move in perfect sync with each other, balancing themselves nicely and you can almost see this symphony of violins and flutes playing like some gossamer veil around them. Their perfection appears almost too perfect to be believed but that is all anyone ever sees when they are together, or apart. I jokingly asked her what was their secret, curious to know what it was that made them gel so beautifully together. It was clear that she’d never really given it any thought as she stood pondering my question, searching their history to find the answer. And then she said, “timing”.

An interesting discussion followed where she expressed how she thought timing can make or break a relationship. And apparently the duo have been able to keep step with one another more times than not. She felt that saying that right thing at the wrong moment, or being in the wrong place with the right person impacts whether or not a couple can find love or keep love. When balance is off but you can still find and share peace and quiet with each other is also key. She said that it’s knowing when you’re needed without being told, being hugged when you didn’t even know it was touch that you craved or hearing your thoughts voiced when you couldn’t find the words for yourself that cement a journey two people want to share. It was obvious from our talk that she is very much a romantic and I’m inclined to believe that he is as well.

She and he dance beautifully together. Their movement together is classic, the duo moving much like dancers Alvin Ailey and Judith Jamison. They cast a spell of sorts when they are in a room together, touching those of us who watch them. Theirs is a total performance of understanding, knowing when to dip and when to twirl, both leading when it is their turn. Theirs is an enviable relationship, making others wish that our own timing could be as perfect.


I swear people are talking at me and I’m not hearing a darn thing they have to say. It’s just a whole lot of blah, blah, blah going in one ear and out. I’ve also got major attitude and couldn’t tell you why. But everyone and everything has been annoying the hell out of me.

It started with an acquaintance’s idea of constructive criticism about my writing. She’s never written a book but had much to say about how I should be writing mine. When I’m writing I live my characters. I know what moves them and what doesn’t. I understand why they do what they do and why they don’t do what other folks might think they should. I mold and shape them and their story and allow them to control the dynamics of what does and doesn’t happen. So I’m not moved or motivated when someone who hasn’t a clue has the audacity to suggest what should and shouldn’t move the characters I’m writing about. In fact, I tend to get a little abstinent when that happens moving my characters as far from the suggested path as I can get them. I have to bite my tongue not to tell certain folks to go write their own damn book and let me write mine.

In this business publishers and editors like outlines, stories packaged neat and pretty with a bow on it so they know who does what when. These outlines are necessary preludes to a sale, a contract, and a manuscript’s acceptance. I don’t do outlines and when I’m made to do them I don’t do them well. I actually detest trying to do them because I know with a fair degree of certainty that I don’t know how my story is going to progress or end until I’m finished with it. I have yet to actually stick to an outline I’ve ever submitted. In the past I’ve been blessed with editors who understood and accepted my eccentricities, allowing me to just write what I needed and wanted to write. I never disappointed them and never felt as if what I wrote was being manipulated and controlled by someone without a clue. But times are changing and the dynamics of how I do what I do and what I’m allowed to accomplish have begun to shift. The question now becomes whether or not me and my writing can shift with the tide or if we’re going to be left out here floundering on our own.