Terror in the Music Hall


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Many years ago, still in my 20’s, I went with a school group  to hear a symphony. It was in Philadelphia, but I can’t remember the name of the building.  Our pastor and his wife were there, along with Terry and a couple of other friends, all acting as chaperones.

I was just fine until we reached the nosebleed section where our seats were located.  I have a terrible fear of heights, and if I’d realized where we would be sitting, I may have chosen to stay home!

I did all right, though, on the climb up the steps to our seats. It wasn’t until I turned around to sit down that I  saw that our seats were almost straight up from the floor of the auditorium, a very long way down. I sat quickly, focused on the stage, and managed to get through the performance with a modicum of enjoyment.  In the back of my mind, though, I was thinking, “How am I ever going to get down?”

This is a picture of the Philadelphia Orchestra at the Kimmel Center.

See what I mean?  Makes me dizzy just to look at the picture!

I’m sure it was a wonderful performance, and I wish I could have enjoyed it more.

It was time to go. Terry had already left to get the bus and bring it around  from the designated parking area.  I was on my own, sweaty hands, spinning head, and furiously pumping heart all in action. I couldn’t move. Really.

Pastor Harris was standing behind me. He waited a few heartbeats, and then he came around and looked at me. I can’t imagine that he didn’t see the terror in my face.  In fact, I KNOW he saw it, because he turned his back to me, told me to put my hands on his shoulders, and said he would take me down. “Don’t look at the bottom, Linda.  Just watch the steps.  I’ll take you down, and you’ll be fine.”

And I was.  Shaking, but fine.

I wonder if he remembers. He’s in his eighties now, and a lot more important things have happened during all of those years. I, however, will not forget the kindness and understanding he showed me that day.




PHOTO PROMPT © Dale Rogerson

Moving. Such a hassle.  Even worse when it wasn’t your own house you were packing up.

Mother and Dad had been lifelong packrats.  Three dumpsters full just from the basement.  Junk that “might come in handy someday.” There would be an  estate sale  for the farm machinery  and most of Mother’s treasures.

People were still bringing flowers and casseroles in memory of Mother and Dad. They also brought stories, often new ones that Sarah had never heard before. Wonderful memories. Thoughtfully, Sarah fingered an old, empty journal.

A good place, she thought, for recording memories.







Driving Home


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It was so foggy, Reba though she could eat it by the spoonful. She hated driving in this stuff. The light from her low beams just turned everything yellow, and gave her very little help in seeing the road. She paid close attention to headlights coming her way. Everything seemed distorted by the fog, and she didn’t like the idea of a head-on collision with some idiot who was driving too fast in this soup.

Image result for driving in heavy fog

She knew this road so well. She used it every day going to work and then back home. For years, she had driven the curves and hills until she felt as if it all belonged to her. She’d driven it in the miserable icy winters that gave her “black ice.”  There would be no warning because she couldn’t see the ice. It could turn you around and point you the wrong way in a split second.

She’d driven it in snow, rain, even hail every now and then. She was tired of it. Tired of working, tired of driving, just tired.  She was 75, but she couldn’t see any hope of being able to quit her job. Bill’s slow, painful death had drained their resources, so if she wanted to eat, she had to work.

She hated going home to a dark, empty house. She didn’t even have a dog any more, because she was seldom home and felt that a dog needs its people.

Reba relaxed her grip on the steering wheel just a bit, realizing that her hands were aching.  “Just relax, Reba,”  she thought. “Only two more miles and you’ll be home. You can do this.  You’ve done it for years and years, and tonight is no different than all the rest.”

At that moment, she saw the yellowed headlights of the huge vehicle heading toward her. She couldn’t tell if it was a truck, a maintenance vehicle or some such thing. Too big to be a minivan. Maybe one of those Humvee things.

Then, her heart quickening, she realized that it was indeed coming straight toward her! Not in the opposite lane, but in her own lane. She laid on her horn like a crazy woman, giving blast after blast, but the vehicle never wavered, never slowed. It was almost as if it knew exactly where she was.

She tried moving to the shoulder of her lane, but quickly realized that there was no usable shoulder. The slope of the hill along the side of the road was steep. Dangerous.

Use the other lane?  She didn’t see headlights, and thought she’d be okay. But when she steered to her left, the oncoming vehicle matched her. Thinking the driver realized he was in the wrong lane, she steered right–and so did the other driver.

Now she was shaking all over.  What was this?  Some demented person looking to create an accident?  Who would do that?

As the other vehicle came closer and closer, Reba understood that it was going to plow into her, no matter what.  It’s amazing all the thoughts that flood one’s mind the moment before a catastrophe strikes; a moment before she realized she didn’t truly want to die just yet.

Not yet.



The Versatile Toothbrush


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A toothbrush is an amazingly versatile tool.  Terry has several in his many tool boxes. They come in handy for all sorts of jobs that have nothing to do with teeth. Here’s just one of dozens of internet articles on the uses for your old toothbrushes:


It even has pictures to show you exactly what to do  🙂

See those toothbrushes in this guy’s tool kit?  Yup.  That’s probably Terry.


One of my sons, who shall remain nameless, must have been paying close attention to his daddy talking about using a toothbrush to clean up something disgusting.  I walked in on him one day, industriously scrubbing at the bottom of his shoes  with MY toothbrush!  Using the water in the toilet.  I guess I should be thankful he didn’t immerse the shoes.

So what did people use before someone invented the toothbrush?  A quick search tells me that often, they just scrubbed a cloth across their teeth.  Other implement included a twig used as a brush, or sometimes plants and twigs were chewed for flavor and a fresh, minty breath   🙂

Things like salt, chalk, and baking soda have been used to clean the teeth.

People also used forms of toothpaste that they made out of ingredients you probably wouldn’t want to put in your mouth.

Sometimes a powder was made of the ashes of ox hooves and burned eggshells. The ancient Greeks and Romans used materials such as crushed oyster shells and bones.

Now, aren’t you glad you live in the present and not in the good old days?



Not Up to Snuff


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To be substandard is to be below the acceptable state.  A rotten tomato is substandard.  So is a rotten politician, but I won’t go there today.  What intrigues me is a saying I’ve heard for years:  “It’s just not up to snuff.”

Really?  Snuff?  I know what that is, but the connection  eludes me, so off I go to word etymology and the origin of such phrases.

There are two meaning for this rather funny word. The original snuff has a hidden origin, and during the 14th century is referred to the burnt part of a candlewick.  Used as a verb, then, to snuff a candle was to extinguish the flame.

Image result for snuff a candle


Then there is the powdered tobacco that was inhaled through the nostrils, beginning later, in the 1680’s. A rather nasty habit, in my opinion, but then we have plenty of our own nasty habits–like spitting tobacco juice from a chaw.  Blech.

Image result for Elegant man inhaling snuff

The meaning of snuff, then, was to draw up through the nose.  The word soon became a noun, and snuff was carried in elegant and often quite expensive and elaborate snuff boxes.

The verb form has also come to be applied to having a head cold, or, as we would say, a case of the sniffles–a word derived from snuffle, which isn’t used as often these days.

Interestingly, snuffing tobacco is likely to have come from the Dutch word snuiftabak, whose meaning is pretty obvious.  Because the habit of snuffing tobacco was  popular in Europe for a very long time, it became quite refined as better-quality varieties were created.  So being up to snuff  was to be of excellent quality rather than just satisfactory or usual.  Bad snuff was substandard, to be sure.

In my browsing of this word, I also read an unsubstantiated idea that, since the sense of smell is the first to go when a person is dying, that poor soul was said to be “not up to snuff.”

I think that’s a stretch.  My sense of smell started dying several years ago, and I don’t think I’m quite ready to turn up my toes just yet.

Turn up my toes.  There’s another interesting little phrase. . . .


Top Secret



We all have them, those hidden places in the heart, or in the mind.  Our own secret fantasies of being the most popular kid in school, the homecoming queen, the Valentine Princess. For the guys, who doesn’t want to be the star quarterback, the hottest guy in school, the one who always has the prettiest girl on his arm?

These are relatively harmless dreams, mostly unfulfilled but it’s nice to dream, right?

I had a fantasy about being able to sit down at the piano and be a famous concert pianist.  Or maybe a #1 bestseller novelist. And of course, I wanted to be married and have  the ideal Father-Knows-Best kind of family 🙂

I still have some hidden secrets, things that even Terry doesn’t know.  And I’m not telling anyone what they are–no, not even you!

Are you as surprised as I have been at how easy it is to spill private things into blog posts?  I mean, I’ve never told you anything that would embarrass my family or make you–or me–blush; I have, however, shared some  things over the four years I’ve been doing this that I don’t usually discuss. Is it the anonymity we find behind our computer screens?  I don’t know.

Did you ever have a crush that you kept hidden?  Like, for an entire school year?  And every time your crush said “Hi!”  you thought, “Oh, maybe this is it! Maybe now he/she will notice me.”  And every day, you make up scenes  of accidentally bumping into your crush, spilling your books all over, just like they do in the romance movies.  Your crush may always be friendly, but the day you see that person walking off with someone else and you know all hope is gone, you just want to go somewhere and cry and eat chocolate.

These secrets are normal and harmless, most of the time. Sometimes, though, the hidden things reveal themselves in horror and tragedy. I’m thinking of Columbine, and many other situations in which the shooters have felt they were bullied, ignored, disliked.  I don’t believe there is ever an excuse to terrorize a school full of children, or to take lives because you’re hurt and angry.  There have been plenty of times in the course of my life when I’ve been bullied, teased beyond endurance, misunderstood, misquoted, misrepresented.  I had terrible acne starting when I was only 10, and I believed for a long time that the only thing other people saw was my collection of zits.  Good grief, I even had a big old volcano erupt on my chin on my wedding day!  But notice–it was my wedding day 🙂  I have certainly lived happily ever after, for the most part. And still, there are secrets, hidden thoughts, desires, dreams.

I recently turned 70, and I’m here to tell you that age may change the direction of your hidden secrets, but you’ll still have them. Wisdom is knowing when not to share them. Lots of people tell me things in my counseling office that they say they’ve never told anyone else, ever.  I’m glad they feel safe with me, and I promise you I’ve never revealed any of those secrets, ever.

So relax, if you’re worried about your hidden dreams.  You’re normal. No, really! Everyone has them. Not everyone achieves all of their dreams, but most of us get to realize one or two over the course of our lives. It’s enough.



PHOTO PROMPT © J Hardy Carroll

When the phone finally rang, her muscles turned to jelly. Waiting for the designated fifth ring, she slid down the wall until she was sitting, trembling, on the floor.

“Agent 47.”

“You have failed. Miserably. We had such high hopes for you.  Have you any explanation?”

“Nothing was where you said it would be,” she gasped, strangling on her own breath. “I tried. Really, I gave it everything I have.”

“Not quite. You will, though. Wait where you are. There is no place to run, no place to hide.”

And there wasn’t.

One of My Favorite Things


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Tea!  How delightful to have a prompt-word that brings up pictures of lovely tea services, ladies in tea gowns and big hats, and the delectable little treats that accompany an English tea.  But since I’ve written about tea more than once, I think I’ll go in a little different direction today.

Most of us give very little thought to the growing , harvesting, and processing of tea.Tea belongs to the camellia family of plants.  It was so precious that, in many English manors of the wealthy, it was kept under lock and key so “the help” couldn’t help themselves to more than their allotted share. Part of its value lay in the distance it traveled on merchant ships.  And of course, when there is a high demand for any commodity,  the supply diminishes and the price goes up.

Image result for harvesting tea

Even today, tea requires a lot of time and attention. It is picked mostly by hand. Tea is grown in Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Kenya, South India, and China, where summer lasts all year round. In cooler climates, tea can’t be harvested year round but is still grown, for instance, in Japan and other countries that offer more than one season of growth.

Tea is harvested  by hand, and the pickers take only a few top young and juicy leaves with a portion of the stem on which they have grown and the so-called bud (or tip) – an unexpanded leaf at the end of the shoot.

In tropical areas, tea is harvested year ’round. In cooler climates, it may be harvested up to four times a year.

There are so many different teas that there isn’t time to describe them all. Many of them gain their unique flavor and aroma through the processing of the leaves, and sometimes the soil in which the plants grow contributes a distinctive flavor as well.

So the next time  you enjoy a fragrant cup of your favorite brew, picture in your mind the hands that picked the leaves, the work required to harvest, process, package and promote your favorite brew.  Maybe it will give you a whole new appreciation as you drink it.


The Ties that Bind


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Any time someone says the word tradition in our family, someone else will always break into that song from The Fiddler on the Roof.
It’s a tradition.
All  of us have a few traditions.  It’s traditional, for instance, to have turkey for Thanksgiving Day; maybe again for Christmas; and ham for Easter. Why? Well, we know the settlers had turkey on that first Thanksgiving celebration. Not sure why we have it for Christmas, except that it goes a long way, and there are often many mouths to feed on Christmas day.  Ham for Easter?  No idea.  It’s tradition.

I learned a new tradition two years ago in Slovakia. It is the greeting of the double-cheek kiss.  I was uncomfortable at first, because in America the traditional greeting is a handshake. I grew comfortable with it pretty quickly, though, and I actually kind of miss it.


Another Slovakian tradition is a bowl of some king of clear soup before the main course of the  biggest meal of the day.  I loved it. They’re amazing cooks over there. Lots of different soups, all delicious.


In our family, we hold hands around table when we say grace.  And it’s also a tradition that no one starts eating dessert until Mom has finished serving it and is able to sit down. This habit has made some guests a bit uncomfortable when they realized no one else was eating the dessert. Obviously, that wasn’t a tradition in their homes.
Many years ago, when I was about 14, we were invited to Sunday dinner by a wonderful couple and their two sons.  The lady of the house served while we ate, replenishing serving bowls and refilling water glasses. She never sat down until the rest of us were finished. I’ll never forget how uncomfortable my dad was with that.  He asked her once to sit and join us, but the reaction  made it clear that this was their tradition. She ate when all the guests were satisfied. If there had been any daughters, they would have been helping her. My mom offered to help, but was told firmly that she was a guest. It’s the way that family was comfortable.  I was more appreciative than ever, after that, for the way my dad insisted Mom be at the table with us before the meal started.
There was nothing subservient or forced about their behavior. It was their tradition, and they were comfortable with it.
For a long time, it was traditional for my sister and me to get a goodnight kiss and hug from Mom first, and then from Dad.  I don’t remember when we stopped doing that. It just kind of disappeared at some point.
I’m sure most of you have similar memories of some sort. If you didn’t grow up in a home that encouraged family traditions, then I hope you will develop some of your own. They are often the ties that help hold a family together.

Stinky Socks, but not Roses


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It is true that we often don’t value something until we lose it.  I’ve lost quite a bit of my sense of smell over the years, due to many sinus infections and medications.  I really miss it.

I’ve always loved the smell of bread baking.  Smells funny to me now.  Bacon frying used to beckon me like a magnet.  Now it smells off, like maybe it’s rancid.

I’ve always loved the smell of the earth after a good, soaking rain. Can’t smell it any more. To smell flowers, I have to get my nose right up into the blossom. So sad.

Image result for lady with her nose in a rose

Fragrance is a positive smell; odor, not so much.  I have a perfume that I’ve enjoyed for years. Terry tells me it smells just the same as always (he likes it, too), but to me there’s not much smell to it at all.

There are some things I can still smell.  A moldy, mildewed basement; skunk;  something burning.   Body odor.

Isn’t that strange?  I’ve lost so many of the wonderful aromas of life, but I can still smell stinky socks.  Or bathrooms.  I’m pretty sure there’s some kind of moral to be applied, but I can’t figure out what it is.

I’m just sad that my sniffer doesn’t sniff as well as it used to.