What Would You Change?

We all have a timeline and it seems like such a shame to waste it on procrastinating, holding grudges or letting insecurities get in the way.

I think the worst mistake we can make is thinking that we still have time. Our lives can change so quickly and unexpectedly ~ and the time we think we have is ticking away.

A few weeks ago, I was driving home from work and decided to stop at a favorite “specialty” grocery store and pick up a few items I don’t find at my “usual” grocery store. New next-door neighbors have recently moved in and I wanted to buy a “welcome to the neighborhood” treat to give them when my husband and I go over to introduce ourselves.

After purchasing something I hoped they would enjoy, I began my drive home. Since it was a gorgeous day I decided to drive a more scenic and relaxing route that runs parallel to the lake, so I could enjoy the beautiful views. I felt happy, relaxed and looking forward to getting home.


All of a sudden, I experienced very rapid heartbeats with one strong beat in particular that felt like a definite misfire.  I immediately realized I had shortness of breath (which I had never experienced before) and I felt like I was going to pass out  – the episode continued for several minutes.  During this time, I gripped the steering wheel and prayed that I would not hurt anyone by losing control of my car as I tried in vain to find a place I could pull off.  I kept telling myself “it’s okay, you’re fine, it’s okay, you’re fine” over and over all while fighting the urge to give into the light-headed feeling.  After a little while the palpitations returned to normal and my breathing became more regular. This has happened to me off and on all of my adult life with no identifiable triggers, but never ever, not ever with this intensity. All I could think of was I just wanted to get home!

Update: I went to my doctor who referred me to a cardiologist. Long story short the EKG as well as the more advanced echocardiogram plus the treadmill stress test indicated nothing was abnormal nor any indication of heart disease. I am so thankful!

This experience (although blessedly minor) has been a real eye opener for me and as fate would have it I ran across If I Had My Life to Live Over written by one of my favorite authors, Erma Bombeck.  She wrote it after she found out she had a fatal disease.  If you have not read it, please take a minute to skim it.

Erma’s heartfelt words remind us that life is short as she expresses what was or should have been important in her life.  For some of us the wake-up call comes when an illness hits, a relationship ends, or when you begin to realize your immortality.  These events can force us to slow down and stop to really feel the warmth of the sunshine, deeply inhale the sweet smell of fresh cut grass, gaze at the beauty of the wind as it slowly dances among the leaves or really listen to the sound of your children’s laughter. It is not often we allow ourselves the luxury of being fully present for our precious moments.

This is it.  This day.  This moment is really all you have for certain ~ your one precious life.

I have spent way too much time and energy worrying about things that did not turn out nearly as badly as I thought they would.  If you had your life to live over, what would you change?

“If I had my life to live over again, I’d dare to make more mistakes next time. I’d relax. I’d limber up. I’d be sillier than I’ve been this trip. I would take fewer things seriously. I would take more chances, I would eat more ice cream and less beans. If I had to live my life over, I would start barefoot earlier in the spring and stay that way later in the fall. I would go to more dances, I would ride more merry-go-rounds, I would pick more daisies.”  Nadine Stair

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Sunday Morning

St. Patrick’s Day was such a crisp, beautiful morning M. and I decided to visit nearby Gibbs Gardens.  (Take a look!)  fullsizeoutput_245bThese gorgeous gardens are located on a privately owned 300-acre estate and the Gibbs family has developed more than 220 acres of gardens.  On this property there are 24 ponds, 32 bridge crossings and 19 waterfalls. IMG_7962The grounds include Japanese Gardens (one of the largest in the nation~ over 40 acres), Water Lily Gardens (140 varieties), and 20+ million daffodils.  These flowers are the season opening spectacle dedicated to his mother, Margaret Anderson Gibbs ~ fifty acres of hillsides carpeted by millions of daffodils.


The serenity of nature and strolling along the paths are so peaceful and calming. 


According to Explore Georgia, “Jim Gibbs traveled for 15 years covering the nation and the world viewing gardens of every style and decided that he wanted to design and build a world class garden. He spent six years looking for a suitable site with a strong source of water and beautiful mature trees covering a rolling topography.”

IMG_7791IMG_7796Jim and his family have lived on and have been developing the estate since 1987. IMG_7778M. could not resist having a little fun with the many sculptures you see around the gardens.fullsizeoutput_246bThe gardens are just now starting to come to life and I cannot wait to see all the surprises of nature throughout the seasons this year!

Also posted on Esmesalon.  Please check out other blogger friends on this site.


Portaging: What do you put in your canoe?

Portaging is the act of carrying a water vessel over land either between two bodies of water or around an obstacle such as rapids in a river.

I had never heard this word until my book club read “Orphan Train” by Christina Baker Kline. In the story, one of the main characters, Molly, is learning about the Wabanaki Indians.  This tribe often had to migrate across water in canoes, so they had to determine what was important to keep in the canoe and what they needed to leave behind. Molly’s teacher assigns a project on “portaging” for which they need to interview an older relative or neighbor about their “literal and metaphorical” journeys and what they chose to carry and “leave behind.”

Prior to our meeting date the hostess asked if anyone would be willing to share a moment in our life where we had to decide what to bring, what to leave behind, and what insight we gained.

I have had several significant times in my life, where portaging has been necessary ~ although I did not realize this is what I was doing. Through much trial and error I began to realize that I had to weed out the emotions and/or circumstance that could weigh me down making it difficult to move forward or…. from completely sinking. Determining what to put in the canoe differed with each journey/transition, and I wound up discovering there are three common things I always carry in my canoe.

  1. Support  In order for me to progress I needed to put my ego aside and ask for help. I thankfully received a lot of love and support from my family and my circle of friends during these times. The various moves from one state to another, the new babies that grew into the challenging teenager years, the ups and downs of marriage, divorce, and death of loved ones became a lighter load when I asked for help.
  2. I had to decide if these transitions were going to make or break me  When I was a 19½ year old newlywed my husband and I moved 800 miles away to southeast Texas.  Leaving behind the only home I had ever known, as well as all my friends and close family ties, I was headed for a place I knew nothing about. I could have given into my feelings of loneliness and the almost eleven years we spent in Texas (with intermittent transfers to Baton Rouge, LA and Niantic, CT during this same period of time) could have been absolutely miserable. I am shy by nature so forcing myself to step out of my comfort zone was a huge and difficult step for me. I chose to make the best of it by attaining an undergraduate degree in education at the nearby university and got involved with a women’s club where I met and made some really great friends. We wound up moving back to my home state, and I returned a better person than when I left.  I did some much-needed growing up, made life-long friends, and created some incredible memories.
  3. Faith  I relied on my faith and the power of prayer to guide and help me through.  I will share that there was a time during one of these transitions when I was extremely frustrated, worried, and felt so helpless that I had to step away from my prayer life because I felt my prayers were not being heard. Understand, I never lost my faith; I just had to step away for a while until I could make sense of it all. I never  have made sense of it and I never fully understood the how and why of that transition; but I eventually came to realize ~ through the grace of God ~ how much that particular transition provided a positive influence in my tolerance of others, empathy for those struggling, and a deeper faith.  In times of joy and sorrow I still rely heavily on my faith and although it is number three in this post, it is always the number one thing I put in my canoe.

As the new chapters of my life unfold there will be more canoes to carry.  I am grateful that I have, so far, arrived at each destination with more courage, resilience, and compassion than I ever thought I could.

As I look toward the unknowns of the future, asking for help, deciding on whether I will allow this transition to make or break me, and relying on my faith will always go into my canoe.

What do you include in your canoe?

Also shared on Esme Salon

Book Club Night

Bursts of laughter and lively conversation…. Book Club is something I look forward to every third Thursday of each month.  We named ourselves REaD Threads and the story of how we decided this name is here.



Simple, relaxed and informal we gather together to enjoy some delicious food and discuss the book of the month.  Preparations usually include a list of discussion questions pertaining to the book, maybe some visual props, or plan an easy game.

A few of our more creative members host unique gatherings. For example, one of the books we read was “Devil in the White City” by, Erik Larsen so the hostess shared memorabilia from the World’s Colombian Exposition held in Chicago in 1893.  As we discussed the book we dined on some delicious Chicago style pizza and enjoyed a few treats first introduced at the fair such as Cracker Jacks and Wrigley’s Juicy Fruit gum.  Another time we had a movie night where we arrived early and talked about “The Book Thief” by, Markus Zusak.  Afterward we relaxed in comfortable chairs or stretched out on the floor with a pillow and a warm blanket in the hostess’ home theater room to watch the movie version while we munched on movie type snacks. One of our members was a brand new mom of two newborns and she was soon lulled to (much-needed) sleep by the soothing darkness and gentle musical soundtrack. Another time, one of the members invited the author of one of the books we read to our meeting and she accepted!  That meeting was hilarious and is a whole other story in itself!

Every year we select a different month or season of the year to host and February is my month. For the past two weeks, I busied myself gathering discussion questions, planned a quick word game and prepared a menu of appetizers.

On the menu was a delicious Marinated Cheese Tray, artichoke spinach dip, stuffed mushrooms, assorted crackers, bread, nuts and homemade cookies.  These are some of my “go to” recipes when I want to prepare something I know will get eaten up.

Even though the weather outside was cold and rainy, it was warm and cozy inside.  My book buddies (we have been together for nine years) did not disappoint with their thoughtful insights and unique perspectives.  We, however, did our fair share of getting off topic and laughing so much our faces hurt!

By the way, this month’s book is “Before We Were Yours” by Lisa Wingate.  A historical fiction based on real events.  It was an emotional and riveting read.

Book club cartoon taken from this site. No copyright infringement intended.

Lesson from Sea Otters

Sea otters hold hands so they don’t float away from each other while they sleep.  Not only does that look adorable, it is also very good advice.  Holding hands can be incredibly bonding and has affected my life in so many different ways.

My husband spontaneously slipped his hand into mine and gave it a little squeeze. I squeezed back while we enjoyed a mid afternoon stroll with our dog. As we walked I enjoyed how secure and safe it felt. This simple gesture symbolized a connection between us and it felt good.

Holding hands brings joy.  In grade school I happily held hands with my best friend as we ran toward the swings on the playground. The first time I held hands with a boy it felt intimate and awkwardly thrilling at the same time. I remember when my children were learning to take their first steps. Their tiny hands grasped so tightly around my fingers totally trusting me to provide support as they toddled on wobbly legs toward this exciting new milestone.

Holding hands make words unnecessary.  My sister stood bravely beside her son’s body as I calmly took her hand in mine. It signified a moment of support and an attempt to comfort as I tried so hard to let her know, without saying a word, she wasn’t alone. (John had passed away very unexpectedly from a blood clot. He was a young father so full of humor and quick wit which made it extra hard to say goodbye.) I remember how she tightly grasped my hand as she struggled to comprehend that terribly sad moment.  A few years ago I held my mom’s hand as she breathed her final breaths of life. Mom was unconscious, but just in case she was somehow aware, I wanted her to know we were all there to support her through to the end as she always did for us. I also remember sitting by my dad’s body the morning he died. I placed his hand in mine, held it to my cheek, kissed it one last time and gently held onto it as my siblings and I said our private goodbyes.


Holding hands breeds intimacy.  My husband and I often drift off to sleep at night as we hold hands. We eventually let go and roll away, but what a sweet way to end our day.  Holding our grandchildren’s hands as we walk together are some of my most cherished moments.  I treasure looking down at their faces as they glance up at me while we share silly jokes or serious talks about Legos or princesses. Saying grace together as a couple or when the family gathers is a truly special time.

Holding hands with a stranger can give you courage. There was a moment in my life when I received difficult news and a stranger took hold of my hand and held it firmly as if they were trying to transmit their strength as well as comfort.  They will never know what that meant to me.

In good times, in bad times, in times of comfort, in times of support, in times of closeness, nothing quite compares (except maybe a warm hug) to reaching out and wrapping your fingers around another’s.

Holding hands is such a powerful gift and I can’t believe how often it has been underappreciated or gone unnoticed in my life. I am taking a lesson from the sea otter and will extend my hand to others more often in an effort to keep the important people in my life from drifting away from me!  What memories do you have while holding someone’s hand?


Savoring Charleston

We visited the lovely city of Charleston, South Carolina about three years ago as part of a summer trip.  Neither of us had ever been to Charleston before and it sounded like a good idea.  We stayed in the historic district at an Embassy Suites Hotel which was the former Citadel, The Military College of South Carolina.  It was very conveniently located within walking distance of many things we wanted to see.

After a hearty breakfast we started our day feeling refreshed and walked toward the historic district.  We enjoyed meandoring along the quaint streets and saw the Old Exchange, Waterfront Park and Rainbow Row. (A series of row houses painted bright pastel colors.)

Unfortunately, we picked a very hot and humid time of year to visit.  As the day wore on, we could not help but laugh at how hot and very sweaty we were both getting.  What had we been thinking to plan a trip like this at the end of June?!? If you look closely at the photo below, you will see some “moisture” on M’s shirt as we claimed a shady spot to enjoy some ice cold water before walking back to the hotel.  (Truth be told, I also had some on my shirt but it just wasn’t as obvious!  Also, seeing M without his mustache in these photos kind of freaks me out a little.  He grew it back not long after this trip and I am glad he did.)


After a refreshing shower we headed down to the lobby for some complimentary cocktails and (surprisingly) heavy appetizers. The hotel had a very nice shaded outdoor area to enjoy these goodies and we took advantage of this perk each afternoon of our visit.


The next day we took a guided bus/walking tour through the French Quarter and South of Broad neighborhoods where we enjoyed looking at all of the beautiful and elegant homes. I was especially charmed by some of the unique gates surrounding these homes.

After lunch we ventured to the City Market and enjoyed browsing around the different vendors.


While we were there we met an artist who made necklaces and bracelets featuring some of the designs you would see on the gates of those lovely homes we saw earlier.  I could not resist and wound up purchasing this lovely bracelet.   I was delighted to see one of the charms pretty well matched one of the gates I took a photo of just that morning.

The next day, in spite of scorching hot temperatures, we took a boat ride out to Fort Sumter where the American Civil War began.  We also drove over to Sullivan’s Island and over to Isle of Palms to see what it was like.

Eating was also part of our experience and there are so many restaurants and deciding where to go was difficult.  The majority of our meals were very simple and casual and (in spite of the hot temperatures) one of our very favorite dishes was a bowl of She Crab soup at a local type restaurant which was off anyone’s radar recommended by a member of the hotel staff.

Our favorite restaurant was Hall’s Chophouse where we enjoyed a fun filled evening of laughter and delicious steaks. We had so much fun I forgot to take pictures!

Our visit to Charleston was one we will always remember.  If you have never visited this charming city in the south, I do recommend it.  However, I would reconsider planning a summer trip!!

Small Answers

Sometimes it is not easy to understand the reason for suffering.

We all have someone in our lives who is in need of healing whether it is physical, emotional or spiritual.  It’s hard to watch someone we love suffer with an addiction, a disease, or the consequences of a poor choice.

I have been praying about some very tough circumstance for several years and it is exhausting to continually ask, seek, and knock when I am not seeing the results for which I am praying. I am ashamed to admit this, but I have been questioning whether or not God has been hearing my prayers.


The other day I as brought forth my prayer requests I realized the words I chose to pray were telling God that I did not want to get my hopes up.  (Was I insinuating He might not be able to answer my petitions?) To complicate it more, I realized the words I chose were also telling God, the creator of the universe, how to answer my prayers.  Pretty bold move on my part! I was startled at this realization because this is how I have been praying for years.

I randomly opened my Bible to a page and found this verse from Jeremiah: “I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.  Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.” This was exactly what I needed to read. It gave me peace and encouragement not only for myself, but for the people I am praying so hard for.

As I meditated on that verse reading it over and over, it became clear that I was so focused on wanting the answer to the “big prayer” that I have been missing His “smaller answers” along the way.  For example, one of the people I am praying for has an addiction and is currently getting intensive help and is gradually finding the answers he/she needs. Friends, family members and even distance acquaintances have given generous acts of service to keep his/her family going while he/she is away.  Another person is finding random financial resources to get through a very tough financial time where they are truly living paycheck to paycheck with little to no savings as a safety net.  The beginning stages of dementia are challenging for another person and the unexpected patience of their spouse is a beautiful thing to see.

These examples are not the specific answers I am praying for, but I am so very, very thankful I have come to recognize these “smaller answers”.

I know His ways are not our ways and His thoughts are not our thoughts. These sufferings are not easy and I admit I am afraid I will not receive the answers I so deeply desire; but I know in my heart that God’s plan is always the best plan.  I am trying hard to develop patience and understanding that He will help us through every seemingly impossibility we face.  I desire to pray with more thanks, seek His guidance and develop an acceptance to His response.  I desire to pray boldly, specifically, and without ceasing.

I also want to look for, expect, and appreciate the “smaller answers” to my prayers that God sends.

I sincerely want to see these sufferings as a privilege and an opportunity to watch what God does best ~ making the seemingly impossible possible as He draws us closer to Him through His goodness.

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