Monthly Archives: June 2019


It is with great reluctance that I write this week’s blog.

Why? Because I am a confirmed, card-carrying, scream-for-my-husband arachnophobe.

Then why write about them? I am following current wisdom, which declares we should face our fears head-on.

Hubby protests, “But you’re writing in the family room. The granddaddy longlegs are in the half bath.”

“Like I don’t know that?” I glare at him. “What do you think I am, an idiot?”

Don’t answer that.

He doesn’t, because he knows a rhetorical question when he hears one. Also, he wants to live to see his grandchildren grow up.

My husband refuses to acknowledge my carefully constructed rationale regarding arachnids. He does not comprehend their plan to take over the world. These “harmless,” “helpful” hypocrites, à la Shelob in The Lord of the Rings, aspire to drag the whole human race to their lairs and turn us into mummified entrées for future spider victory dinners.

Perhaps a little background will help you understand my viewpoint. As a five-year-old living in Mexico, I woke up one morning, nose-to-nose with a tarantula.

My screams shriveled. Before it could bite, I airmailed sheets, blankets, and the ginormous spider across the room.

While others (sleeping on the floor!) snored, I conducted my own heart-pounding, stomach-flipping, cold-sweat-pouring search for the tarantula.

Never found it.

Perhaps when I encounter other spiders, no matter how miniscule, I am always afraid I will find it. If I ever do — even if the tarantula’s an old geezer with eight knee replacements — I will show no mercy.

Sadly, some teachers like spiders. When mine introduced Charlotte’s Web, I wondered what I’d done to deserve this. Read 184 pages about a spider?

To my amazement, the author, E.B. White, almost humanized Charlotte.

Not quite. Not even a master storyteller could convince me she was pretty, as Wilbur the pig believed. Even budding feelings of motherly concern about Charlotte’s eggs failed to triumph over the gut-clutching realization that one spider reproduced hundreds of offspring.

Now an adult, I dread family reunions Charlotte’s descendants hold in our pop-up camper each summer.

At least, I’m not as far gone as my niece. She firmly believes Internet wisdom that hundreds of spiders crawl into our mouths and ears while we sleep.

Meanwhile, I bravely continue efforts to face my fears and have granted the granddaddy longlegs a temporary stay of execution. This is (deep breath) a huge step.

However, I’m still writing in the family room while the spiders occupy the half bath.

And, um … duct-taping my mouth and ears shut at night.

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Are you an arachnophobe too? Or has Charlotte converted you?

OMG, It’s Monday! Prayer: What, They’re Not Like Me?

O my God, when I worshipped in this beautiful place, an out-of-tune bullfrog quartet joined in my songs. They sounded like twangy rubber bands. They didn’t know the words. When I complained, You only smiled and said how much You enjoyed us all. OMG, could it be that your idea of worship and mine aren’t necessarily the same?      

Magic Trees

When I was small, trees were magic. Especially the trees outside our church.

As preschoolers, my brother and I discovered friendly low branches that invited a climb. Every pint-sized Sunday school attendee welcomed that magic.

Moms, however, did not appreciate magic trees — especially mulberries. They transformed starched-white-shirt-and-ruffly-dress VBS populations into glorious, purple-tie-dyed messes.

Trees remained magical throughout my childhood, serving as bases, houses, castles and cathedrals. Schoolyard bike races morphed them into traffic cones. On sweltering days, I stayed within Mom’s sight under our backyard’s shady oak, yet traveled thousands of miles as I devoured library books.

Now an adult, I have planted trees that infuse oxygen into our atmosphere, provide shade and enhance property values. But I hadn’t visited magic trees for a long time.

Until our extended family’s campout, when sullen clouds alternately spat on us and poured rain like a waterfall.

Thanks to yummy pancakes and sausage, the group survived the morning. When rain held off, older kids found plenty to do. But as parents of a five-year-old and his three-year-old foster brother tried to fix a group lunch, the little boys seemed destined for war.

Anyone with sense would have run for a bomb shelter. But I am Grandma. Edging them out of range, I blurted, “Let’s visit magic trees!”

Perhaps the skeptical three-year-old had seen too much to believe in magic. But he followed his brother and me to an empty campsite, where the five-year-old beat on a maple with a stick.

He chortled, “Now the tree’s awake!”

I’d wake up, too, if clobbered with a six-foot cudgel. “What’s the tree saying?”

“He says I should visit a different tree.”

Smart maple.

By now, the three-year-old was a believer, too. We awakened all the empty campsite trees. Some also told us to visit different trees. But several told stories about nesting birds and skittery squirrels. Special trees talked only when tapped the perfect number of times. Then they whispered tales understood only by the chlorophyll crowd and preschoolers.

One oak interrupted, “Time to eat. I’ve been calling you for ten minutes.”

Correction: Hubby had entered the land of magic trees.

Instantly, my fellow adventurers dashed for the dining tent.

“Couldn’t you have waited?” I said irritably. “That tree was just about to tell us whether they make a noise when they fall.”

He rolled his eyes, as if barbecued chicken and macaroni salad could compensate for his breaking the sweet spell.

The five-year-old and I could visit magic trees again. However, court dates threatened to keep the three-year-old from adventuring with us.

But for one misty summer morning, he talked with magic trees.

I pray he will do it again.

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Have you visited magic trees lately?

Precious Watermelon Memories

Watermelons. Luscious, refreshing and satisfying, they deserve another blog post.

Last week, I shared four essential ingredients for eating a watermelon the best way. This week, I bring one final ingredient to your attention for truly memorable watermelon-eating experiences.

Last essential ingredient, but not least

Watermelons, bought not from strangers, but grown in one’s own patch — although my father, a lifelong expert, declared the stolen ones the sweetest. As boys, he and his brothers patronized patches owned by Mr. Purvis Williams and Mr. T.C. Higgenbotham.

Of course, when Dad amazed the Louisiana town by becoming a minister, he swore off such pastimes. When he returned to his hometown as a 79-year-old retiree, however, he celebrated his first watermelon season there by investigating local patches. One flourished near his old homesite. He hadn’t seen watermelons that good since boyhood, the fat green-striped orbs almost bursting with juice.

The patch’s owner: his new pastor.

Dad managed to steer his next conversation with the reverend toward gardening and complimented him on his beautiful melons. As he’d hoped, the pastor invited his new parishioner to help himself.

Dad knew he didn’t mean it. A Southerner himself, he understood the man was just being lyin’-polite. However, while the pastor still regarded him as an ignorant Yankee who didn’t know any better, Dad took advantage. He raided the pastor’s patch and returned home in triumph with a prize watermelon. My parents and I chilled it ice-cold, then devoured it on the front porch with my cousin Tara on a sweltering July afternoon. I couldn’t imagine anything more luscious.

Still, this little feast did not compare with those of my childhood, when Grandpa iced down a dozen from his garden in a horse trough. By mid-afternoon, when even bees buzzing around the pink crepe myrtle bushes sounded hot and lazy, the entire family gathered on the back porch for a watermelon feed. Every uncle, aunt and cousin received half a melon to munch.

After we finished, the adults, anticipating the imminent Watermelon Seed War, banished us kids to the yard. There, we discharged our arsenals without harming any grown-ups.

Sometimes, Dad peeled thin green slices from the outside rind with his pocketknife. He fashioned these into Billy Bob buckteeth that put the costume-shop variety to shame. Dad pulled his hat down over his ears and gave us big green-toothed grins. We stuffed the “teeth” into our mouths, yuk-yukking at each other. Occasionally, one of the toddlers stuck seeds up his nose, which was always good for a little excitement when things grew dull.

Thirty-five years later, after we had devoured the last sweet pink chunk of his pastor’s watermelon, Dad saved the seeds and tended a prize patch that resurrected delicious memories of past banquets on the porch.

God help the rascally kid or retired minister who tried to steal his watermelons.

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: What precious watermelon memories come to mind as summer approaches?