What I learned whilst in London

School may be out for summer, but there’s plenty of learning to be done, especially when visiting another country.

So I’ve compiled a short, fun, list of things observed on our recent visit to the UK.

While we may speak a language that sounds alike, they would quickly tell you we are not speaking the same language. (You may have gotten a hint to that in the title of this post.)

My nieces were the first to point out some of those differences as we looked for a trash can and they prompted the correct word was “bin”, as in, “where’s the bin to place my rubbish?” and in pointing out the thing we call an elevator should be referred to as “lift”. As if our pesky American accents won’t give us away.

a selfie with the nieces in the ladies room at Harrods

a selfie with the nieces in the ladies room at Harrods

Yes, this trip was enhanced by 3 nieces from 14 years old to 23. We basically toured with translators 😉

There are a few words of theirs I’d like to adopt. Whilst is a good place to start. It just sounds….well, smart. I’d also like their reference to vacation as holiday. It sounds so much more festive, yeah?

Of course it’s more than the words, it’s that accent. That dignified way they have of expressing utter frustration and anger that sounds…sweet!

When we were in Turkey several years back, my expectations on certain things like air conditioning and plumbing were a bit low. Those expectations are much higher when visiting a progressive country like England. And this is where it goes bad.



London was having “killer heat” a day or two of our visit. Meaning the temps were in the 90’s and even hit 100 on the courts at Wimbledon. Yet in the midst of this heat wave, finding cold drinks was more difficult than usual.

Refrigeration units at shops weren’t working because the heat was so great. Uh-huh. You’re talking to someone who lives in South Florida folks. We’ve managed to have refrigeration running full force, enough to keep ice cream frozen (gasp!) through our dog days of summer that last for months on end, not a day or two. And I promise you, the rails in the subway WON’T MELT!


an open window on the tube provides some welcome air and crazy hair!

an open window on the tube provides some welcome air and crazy hair!

Air conditioning isn’t a given here, though our hotel had it, thankfully. You will not find the double-decker buses, or tube (see how I’ve picked up their language, there) even when filled to standing room only, have the slightest bit of cooled air.

I do, however, commend them on hygiene as not once when literally pressed against strangers did I ever have to wish I could reach my nose to hold it.

Speaking of buses and the tube, they are very good at mass transit and the people are well-trained on squeezing more bodies than you ever thought possible and doing it with polite courtesy.

Greenwich Park

Greenwich Park

Borough Market

Borough Market


They are also quite good at manners, preserving history, chocolate, flowers and parks.

It seemed every area we went to had a massive sprawling park with rows of flowers showing their summer color.

London Eye

London Eye

The youngest selecting macaroons from Laduree (these are the BEST macaroons)

The youngest selecting macaroons from Laduree (these are the BEST macaroons)

with my brother and his family, the 'McHudson' clan

with my brother and his family, the ‘McHudson’ clan

And did I say chocolate? This comes from one who can generally take or leave chocolate – theirs is really good. Even the hot chocolate at our hotel was lighter than the murky concoction often served stateside.

I can’t imagine a better education than travel. It leads to understanding and that often leads to peace.

What is your best of you’ve found in other places?


Throwback Thursday {the South-ish}

I walked into the office, said to the first two employees I saw, two men who’ve come through this 6-month program to live a sober life and know my craziness quite well, “Let’s all talk with a Southern accent today”. They smiled and paid me no never mind.

We live almost as far south as one can go in our country, down near the tip of Florida but this is not the South. The accents here are more likely to be from New York and New Jersey or Boston or Haiti or a variety of Latin countries. Nary a ya’ll in ear shot let alone for a poor soul to even know what a yonder is.

Most of my growing up years were lived in Oklahoma and Arkansas, a few years in Louisiana where you really hear some accents. I was raised with words like reckon and ice box (though we never had an ice box) and drawers referred to under garments than to a piece of furniture.

all that's missing is the moon pie

all that’s missing is the moon pie


Some days I miss those words. I miss those times when pop came in bottles and soda was in a box kept in our ice box. I don’t miss the times nearly as much as I miss the people and that is the connection I have to these words.

I was 17 and living with a family from church while I finished my last semester of High School. I was living in this South, Florida, the one that has long become home to me. The woman in this family informed me they didn’t have an ice box but a refrigerator. Yeah, so did we. We still called it an ice box. Your point?

Words like darn and gosh were akin to cuss words in our house. We were more likely to hear mama say sugar foot while daddy favored fiddlesticks.

Summers I spent at Granny’s and being as how she never drove, EVER, the church van would pick her up for services. Every week they’d drop her off and say, see you Sunday or see you Wednesday and she replied, “Lord willing and the creek don’t rise” with a sly grin on her face.

We are in Tennessee this week for a conference and were surrounded by that familiar accent, a bit thicker in these parts than where my kin folk were raised. I’ve heard it start to slip from my tongue a time or two, my first language really.

Sweet tea is in abundance just like biscuits and gravy. The waitress calls everyone honey or sugar and no one is offended.

in granny's backyard

in granny’s backyard

swimming holes, rope swings and grandpa

swimming holes, rope swings and grandpa

It must come with age. This clinging to things that bind us as a people. My kin from the sort of South, because Arkansas isn’t really the south, didn’t have that deep drawl that could make the name Nell into two syllables. But we have the language that seems to sweep through that part of this diverse nation. So I hold to these words as if I’m holding to Granny and mama and I hear Grandpa saying ‘gall durn it’ when talking football, the sport of the south. I pull out “well, bless your heart” which must be said slowly, each single word separated and with a hard R in heart. I reckon I always will, Lord willin’ and the creek don’t rise.

What I Learned {February 2015}

Linking up with Emily Freeman over at Chatting at the Sky for a monthly review of what we’ve learned. If you missed Emily’s post on how she keeps up with her monthly lessons, check it out here. And link up with what you’ve learned this month or just leave your monthly lessons in the comment section here. Let’s learn together.

In no particular order:

My first design when playing with Canva (our son liked it)

My first design when playing with Canva (our son liked it)

Canva I’m a sucker for new apps and this one is not only for mobile devices but can be used on your laptop too. Since I’m also a sucker for free I downloaded this app that is described as “Amazingly Simple Graphic Design Software”. It has a very stylish look to it and isn’t complicated to use but, I haven’t found much of a need for it. After having it for several months, it hasn’t become my go-to. I’ll stick with PicMonkey.

Royal terns are in the foreground with black skimmers in back

Royal terns are in the foreground with black skimmers in back

I learned the to identify Black Skimmers and Royal Terns. This lesson learned thanks to Facebook friends who know their Florida fowl better than I. The black skimmers are the black-winged birds in back in this photo. This was taken on Florida’s gulf coast on Marco Island one of my favorite places period. I’ve not seen the skimmers here on the east coast.

Unsure if this is a Welk or Trumpet Conch

Unsure if this is a Whelk or Trumpet Conch

Another lesson learned from my visit to the Gulf Coast was the different between Conch (pronounced Conk) and Whelks. The difference seems very slight with the main one cited as the Whelk lives in cooler temperate waters and the Conch more tropical. Right. It’s Florida and either side of the coast in the southern areas are fairly tropical. It doesn’t make much difference to me which one is which but maybe I sound a little smarter. Maybe.

cow face
I’m not quite there but I’m learning to say, “I’m an artist” without the following qualifiers: but or I just…

After using the free version of Evernote for several years, I learned I can max out the monthly space allotment. Yep, it’s taken me that long to really put this tool to work for me.

I learned Google+ photography communities is better for getting feedback on your photo’s than posting to Flickr. I especially enjoy the Street Photography photo’s.


Taken from the hotel balcony on our mission trip to Haiti March 2013

I learned that if I accidentally touch (and I mean barely) a dead lizard that poured out of a vase I was emptying I will jump up and down screaming like a child and then place said vase in front of its dead body in the sink and not visit that side of the kitchen until my husband gets home. I’m just saying this would probably be what I would do if it actually happened. And bleach might be involved.

I learned I may be officially too old to watch the Grammy’s anymore.  I don’t even know where to begin on this so I’ll just say,  heaven help us all!

What We Learned January {2015}

Can I just say how distant Christmas feels? Just over a month ago we were celebrating with family and preparing for more to arrive. We were singing Christmas songs and planning menus and organizing parties. And it all seems So. Long. Ago. (Can I get an amen?)

The new year has started with good intentions that are threatening to give way to familiarity.

The fitness I listed as things not going so well, things that need improving…yeah, well, that hasn’t changed.

The whole drink more water notion? Yeah, not so much. And it’s already the end of January!

There has been learning going on. So let’s get that list started.

1. I learned my sister-in-law has never eaten at a Waffle House and it was her intention to live the rest of her days that way.

Dawn Waffle House


I am not a Waffle House novice

I am not a Waffle House novice

2. I learned that even though I pinky swore not to tell when my brother not only took photo’s of her at said Waffle House and posted them on Facebook, well, I learned I was glad he didn’t pinky swear.

3. I learned The Commissary, in Germantown, TN, has the best coconut crème pie. Ever.

4. Memphis has the best consistent sweet tea of any southern towns I’ve visited. These things matter y’all.

5. After a visit with the granddaughter to the new, and expanded, Young at Art children’s museum, I learned it is my favorite museum of any kind to spend with a child. Not sure who had more fun but I’m going to say her since it would have embarrassed all of us had I climbed around in the children’s area.

Young at Art children's museum, Ft. Lauderdale, FL

Young at Art children’s museum, Ft. Lauderdale, FL

daughter and grand enjoying the etch-a-sketch in the Past, Present, Future area

daughter and grand enjoying the etch-a-sketch in the Past, Present, Future area

6. We all learned, especially our son-in-law, that Jaxson’s Ice Cream foot long hot dogs are really a foot long.

chili on one end and slaw on the other

chili on one end and slaw on the other


7. I learned a quiet boat ride on the river is one of the best places for conversation. Even with rain and a cooling light wind, being in nature induces relaxation to sit back, or take shelter in the cabin, and talk to each other. Joy.

boating New River


8. Finally, and perhaps most important, I learned when closing a heavy, warped bathroom door to your hotel bathroom when you husband is out on a hike, good gracious, take your cell phone with you in case you can’t open the heavy, warped door and are stuck in there without a phone to call for help. Just saying 😉

Linking up with Emily Freeman for a monthly summary of what we’ve learned. Share what you’ve learned this month by linking up here.

Five-Minute Friday {share}

Joining a group of word-hungry bloggers for the link-up hosted weekly by Kate. She gives the instructions, the word and GO! Head over to Kate’s to join the five-minute Friday party. 

The air was brisk on this winters night in Memphis. Four Floridians bundled and crowding into the small waiting place, coming for this barbecue we don’t have at home.

Hudson and I lived not far from this spot. Three years we passed this place with the odd name, never venturing inside to investigate. Now, back on a business trip, we had to experience the Commissary for ourselves. We tasted its fare at catered events, but this landmark needed to be seen.

We eyed the menu board while waiting to be seated and then the glass case with the prize: coconut crème pie. My brothers favorite.

Richmond area  lunch spot

Richmond area  lunch spot

Dinner lived up to its hype. The pulled pork tender and their sauce the right blend of flavor, not overwhelming. Even my vegetarian sister-in-law pronounced it good as she enjoyed her tilapia sandwich.

It too a bit long for the waitress to come back, we were anxious to get our dessert order in. Homemade banana pudding, the pie…..the only two that really captured our taste buds.

She had barely arrived at the table when we made our selections known. Hudson went for the banana pudding, I was planning to share whatever the order was.

My sister-in-law pointed across, “we’ll share the coconut crème pie”.

His eyebrows raised in that questioning way, “share?

Without a word we knew. “She and I will share the pie.”, Dawn said.

Ah, just what I wanted.

These photos are not of The Commissary in Memphis but were taken at the Proper Pie in Virginia. Our coconut crème pie, the best ever, was eaten before photo’s could even be considered.

What We Learned {September}

Linking up for the What We Learned monthly posts on Chatting at the Sky is such fun and a great way to learn something new.

In no particular order, here’s a few things I learned in September.

1. After 7 years driving my Avalon and whining the visors don’t extend when moved to the side windows, I discovered THEY DO. Seven years people!

2. After 7 years in said car and in this house, I can now, successfully (key word) back into our curving driveway. I might add a 7-year-old Avalon does not have a rearview camera.

3. I learned about the app IFTT  to upload an image, and not just the link, to Twitter.

4. Hearing is the last of the senses a dying person loses. I learned this from the bell hanging around my friends neck. A little silver bell someone sent her. A bell she wore and told her dying daughter, “when you hear the bell, I’m here.” The bell she says she’ll wear the rest of her life.

LaVerne's bell

5. Born leaders never stop leading. Ever.

6. Smiles and laughter leave lasting impressions.

taken by the granddaughter

taken by the granddaughter…

...and this one

…and this one


7. Diet Dr. Pepper is better than I remembered. This was learned spending a week in “Coke country”.

8. Honey never goes bad. You’re welcome.

Let’s do this!

The tea kettle whistles. I’ve let it go too long. I try to catch it before that point. Now I’ll have to let the tea cool longer. I don’t know how others can drink theirs scalding hot. No, this will take some time to cool.


I’ve fumbled my allergy pills and the vitamin bottle and the thought flashed through my mind, “it’s going to be one of those days.” NO followed just as quickly. No. I won’t let it. Why am I so quick to give over a whole day to fumbling because of this?

Have you done that? Do you do that? You give over to less than because it’s Monday and you know, it’s Monday, it’s not suppose to be good.

Traffic is slowed, you get caught by a train, then it starts to rain slowing things down more and now you’re late. What next? you wonder aloud.

Some days we give in to it. Some days we don’t. Today, let’s don’t. 

Don’t give in to the critics in our head saying we aren’t smart enough, thin enough, young enough.

Don’t give in to the negative voices that threaten to drown your joy. Smile in the face of their gloom.

Don’t let circumstance determine your mood. You get to choose. Choose joy. Choose purpose. Choose determination.



Some days are daring us to give in. And some days we can. Some days we retreat and give our souls time to rest. But not today. Today we do this. Today we do this together because we need each other cheering us on. You can do this. I know it. We’ve got you on this. On this day that wants to win, we’re cheering you on to be victor.

Put on that playlist that makes you dance. 

Smile at strangers.

Let someone go in front of you in traffic. You’ll feel like the winner. Trust me on this.

When the storm clouds gather, and they will down here, dance in the rain. [But respect the lightning ;)]

YAY YOU! You’ve got this I know it.

Five-Minute Friday {writer}


This 5-minute Friday writing has gotten to my head. Or heart. I get them confused. On Thursday I start wondering what the prompt will be this week. I got to bed thinking about it, hoping for once, she’ll give us an early hint. She does not.

After last weeks word, mighty, and this week, I’m convinced Lisa-Jo is plucking these words out of some jar marked “let’s see what they do with this” and then she laughs that crazed way a mom with three little ones often does after answering “why?” for the billionth time in one day.

It’s okay Lisa-Jo, because I’m prepared. I’m ready to go this time because I’ve wrestled with this word. I’ve thought about it a lot and denied being this when kind friends heap the compliment because, well, friends have to say that. Friends and sisters.

I’ve practiced telling my inner critic to SHUT UP (if you say it with a British accent it sounds better, or stupid because I’m not British) and I keep telling that joy thief, comparison, to get out of my head.

I do not write to be like, or sound like, someone else. I am not them.

I write because I need to write. I want to write and I like to write.

Getting the words out of my head and into print help me sort out the jumble they can be in my head. Sometimes, writing has helped me moved on move through. Writing about mama’s dementia has been therapeutic not just for me, but my sister too.

I write to heal, to connect, to understand, to encourage. I write to understand God more and to share him with others. I write to know I’m not alone and you’re not alone. I write for community.

I write because I am a writer. Yes, I am.

Linking up with a host of bloggers for Lisa-Jo Baker’s weekly link up Five-Minute Friday. Each week, at her blog, she gives a word prompt and the guidelines. If you ‘d like to join or read others in this weeks edition, click here.

April, How I love your promise

April on Ft. Lauderdale beach

April on Ft. Lauderdale beach

The granddaughter has an April Fools joke planned for her dad. She is going to tell him, “Daddy, there’s an Easter Egg on your head” and then he will reach up and feel nothing, she will say “APRIL FOOLS!”

Because all good daddy’s reach up, knowing nothing is on their head. And he will feign the ultimate surprise and she will spill over in laughter.

Ah, the innocent whimsy of a six-year old.

Christmas day

And so begins the month that is already teeming with words in my head. Words that want to be typed out in hurried pace before I forget them all. For your sake, I pause. I take a breath. I hit “save draft” because, let’s be honest, all the ideas wrestling for space aren’t good ideas.

But, I do give you this warning: be prepared. It’s autism month and there’s family stuff and this is the Jesus month! It’s Easter and Palm Sunday and Holy Week and it’s so much better than Christmas because the Easter Bunny can’t compete with Santa so Jesus can get first billing this time. Really. It’s a lot so I want you to be ready for me. Be gentle, dear readers, but then, you always are.

One more thing: while I appreciate every one of the “likes” I’m feeling a bit needy just now. Needy to know what you like best and what you’d like less of and what I’m missing. So what’s the 411? (Yeah, this 56-year old can play with the kids;))

I don’t know I’ll change much because, really, it’s the heart that writes the words and my prayer, my heart prayer is always God’s grace will be seen and shared. Because I’m living in graceland.


What the Bio Doesn’t Say

I see new names popping up on the blog here and I wonder if I’ve confused you yet. I know I am random and like to share stories and maybe use words that aren’t part of your daily life if you aren’t in recovery or The Salvation Army as we all have our own language.

A look at the “about” will tell you I’m ministry with my husband and we minister in the recovery community but it won’t tell you this is part of The Salvation Army and that both of us are ordained ministers and this program is called the ARC the acronym for Adult Rehabilitation Center. We are not a treatment program/center and admission is not limited to men with substance abuse issues.

me and my guy looking all official

me and my guy looking all official

with some of our guys

with some of our guys

our beautiful Florida skies

our beautiful Florida skies

with mama last fall

with mama last fall

That little bio won’t tell you I’m mama to most of these men and blood mama to two grown children or that I have the most beautiful (really!) granddaughter or that my mama doesn’t know me anymore as Alzheimer’s has torn us right apart and left us orphaned and mama alone.

The bio was written before I knew there were blogger awards that could be shared and passed around and I’ve had plenty before I decided this should be an award free zone. No offense to the generous people who have wanted to share them with me or those who rightfully accept them but it posed too much of a distraction to me. (Maybe I really do have adult ADD)

I pretty much suck at writing bio’s because I want them to have the right amount of humor while at the same time sounding deep and writerly-like (whatever that is). It also makes me wonder how others do it or do they have someone write them for them? That  could be fun.

on our Saturday morning beach walk

on our Saturday morning beach walk

boating with the princess

boating with the princess

The granddaughter looking into her Papa's eyes.

The granddaughter looking into her Papa’s eyes.

Family time in the ocean

Family time in the ocean

There’s so much that bio doesn’t say and most of it you wouldn’t want to know. Much can be discovered simply by looking at the pictures I post. You can see how we love the ocean and boating and the beach and living in Florida and serving where we serve and our family and you can just see we love our life.

Mostly, I hope you see I love God. And through that love He compels me to love others. Sometimes I don’t want to love them. They are too different and don’t look lovable. Yes, I’ll admit it. I can be terribly superficial. But God is God and he has this sense of humor that gets me every time I think I can’t love someone and instead my heart breaks and aches for them because God loves them so much and I have to. And then there’s grace. Grace for me for being so much less than I should be and grace for all of us misfits who dare call on the name of God. The awesome God. The one who is bigger than the biggest I can imagine and the One without whom I am nothing.

That’s it. That’s the real bio. It could change. Stay tuned.