A Magnet

This is the sentence that starts the second paragraph on scientific information about magnets. Quote “Creating a magnet involves aligning magnetic domains in a piece of metal.” Besides being useful, collecting pins when a box spills on the floor, magnets are also entertaining. Correctly aligned they connect. Reversed they push apart. They carry messages to the world along with cute slogans, phone numbers of essential repair men, and the ability to anchor pictures on refrigerator doors. Or they did until some wise guy decided metal wasn’t needed in the doors and it was back to Scotch Tape. However, bumper stickers are still alive and well: “Honk if You’re Just Trying to Do Your Best!”

The tricky part of magnets is the underlying element of magic. Items exist that have a sneaky trick of attraction without having any metal involved. In your house somewhere is an example. There is the washing machine or dryer that can pull a sock into a back corner. Everyone has a space in a closet where the last year’s favorite shirt has slipped off the hanger and disappeared out of sight to the back of the wall for a whole season. Don’t take lightly the drawer that should hold only night clothes, yet has a stockpile of ski pants under a pair of blue bottoms.

For me the master magnet of junk attracting is/was the garage. A visiting son owed me a day to help demagnetize. We moved from Rice Blvd in 2017 and what didn’t have a place in the house was sucked into the garage bit by bit until there was barely room for the car on the far side and getting to the box that controlled the sprinkler involved climbing over two washtubs and a lawn chair. First to trash was the pile of freeze coverings had been reutilized until all shape was gone. Why was there a stack of three green wooden Adirondack chairs? Half-empty paint cans I understood, except the contents were probably thick beyond use. A blessed son- in-law moved some tools to his garage and the lawn man piled chairs in his truck. I did the necessary web search and found the city does a June 29 curbside pickup of what is left. Now I do have a clear place to stand while deciding what is next and that space serves as a quiet reminder that I also need to shake the rooms of my body at times to move with more ease and a clearer vision.

A huge cloud of witnesses is all around us. So let us throw out everything that stands in our way….and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.

Hebrews 12:1

Renew, Replace

My attention was captured by a South Louisiana joke. “How long have they been married?” “I’m not sure. They are on their 2nd bottle of Tabasco.” I do have a friend who says he uses at least one a month. Most people wear it down a drop at a time. For a good part of our lives, adding to or replacing seems normal from light bulbs to new shoes. I realized that eight decades polishes the thought that “this,” whatever “this” is, may be the last I have to look for, choose, or pay for.

I moved into almost the last with a purchase of a set of cookware the fifth year of marriage. Two iron skillets, an iron Dutch oven, two light weight sauce pots, cookie sheets from Green Stamps and a 8″X12″ for one layer cakes served my purposes. However, I longed for beauty, so I bought a set of green Club Aluminum cookware. Since I never had a flat surface electric stove, those were sufficient until about five years ago. I burned rice in the bottom of one beyond redemption and another had gas flames lick around the corner to ruin a handle. I bought two non-stick offerings from Kroger and think they will lead me on, even if I live to Biden’s demanding I get a new electric stove.

This is my last house, and I don’t have to redecorate space or replace furniture – well, maybe a mattress – so sofas and a dining room table are not on my look for list. Also, the stack of towels and sheets may lack the crispness of new, yet they are still usable and the good side of presentable. Which brings me to a car and a crossed finger it will last washing machine. The second may require a necessary decision. The first will arrive at a moment of not its wearing out but my outliving the Tiguan as my means of transportation. Here I am. I’ve lived through the need to replace or renew with impunity. I’ve had enough to share with others, to offer hospitality, to welcome a stranger. What is left is irreplaceable because it is what matters the most to me. I had to come to this moment a year at a time. The final statement is, “It was all good.” Whatever your decade, rest in these verses.

Therefore I tell you do not worry about your life…….your heavenly Father knows that you need them

Matthew 6:25….32b (sorta)

A Soft Weekend

I didn’t know how else to say it, though various words kept floating up to call emotions to the surface of all my happenings. The commercial name was Mother’s Day, and that was one part, yet not all. I hope for you there was some group from two to a multiple of that number that affirmed, “This is where I belong.”

My first descriptive is Car Pool. Yes, you read it correctly. To get to our first family gathering, middle son and I had to make a day trip to Austin. Nothing brings forth closeness like nowhere to go except to be in the car. At times, squabbles, yes, but also questions are asked that need time for an answer. Discussions are not cut short because another place is calling. Maybe most importantly, sites can be noted at the same time and lead to comments like, “That reminds me of …..”

The Austin gathering started at a courthouse with a nuclear family coming together for an adoption. The group unfolded across generations and various related terms from great-great aunt (my designation) to cousins and in-laws. Three screens of Zoom reached out into scattered ties that bound all together. The first half required Kleenex to be passed down a row and either hands squeezed or arms around a shoulder to draw the next person a little closer. After the judge said with a smile, “This child shall be known as a Graves!” approval erupted. Whoops and clapping in the court was made stronger by technically transmitted sounds of joy.

South Louisiana puts new acquaintances in place with the question, “Now who are your people?” We checked on that circle over the next two days. On the way home, we stopped to visit a nephew’s wife, their daughter and husband and two young boys of an age that I gift in return for crayon scribbled thank you notes. They were just coming out of naps enough to want their mother’s lap, but I could read the latest book and they turned pages. Saturday night we ate with an expansion of local cousins at supper in their new house. Togetherness calls forth various memories of growing up. Versions from different participants led to arguable slants of which was correct . A solution was reached only by a loud affirmation of one’s opinion shouted over raucous laughter. Chocolate Caramel Cake helped us wind down with harmonious feelings.

So Sunday came as a titled day. My term mother released me from having to cook. Our family in town ate at our daughter’s house along with a son-in-law _ after all it was his house, too- and his brother – not sure of his specific designation for the relative of an in-law. We shared grace for the meal and love for the gathering. The approved designation for a supportive group in 2023 is Tribe. Much better is Family, that inclusive word given for all mentioned and to those beyond.

But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God,
John 1:12


The way to get there from here is not always predictable. In 1988 (there was such a year), I was called to give a start of the year talk for a former school where I had taught. Driving up, a song came on the radio: John Anderson I’m Just An Old Chunk of Coal, But I’m Gonna Be a Diamond Some Day. It was catchy – you look it up- and fit as a good lead in. I used it, moved on, and forgot all about it. 2023 has been a year with vicissitudes: health, aging, and unsolved life problems. Doug had given me a book of stickers for Christmas, and I had been pulling out ones of crystals to put in my journal. They led to a memory of the song, and the affirming thought that what I am now is not the final word.

Knowledge of crystals was smattering and very unfocused, so this paragraph is a drawing together of sparce research. Crystals are an orderly geometric pattern formed from dissolved minerals by pressure or liquids or steam. Salt crystals are like a cube while snowflakes are six sided. Repeat after me: “No two snowflakes are alike.” That speaks to me. I have an individuality even if I have a geometric unity with you.

Next step. Gems are specialized crystals, usually taking longer to form, are a rarity, and can be cut to give a shine. They can move from a simple beginning to something of worth, Quartz is not a gem, yet can progress to a deep purple color and are harvested as amethyst. In fact, crystal comes from the Greek word, krystollos meaning from ice, that cube that never melts.

All of this, scattered as it sounds, gave me a resting place. I do not have to be torn apart by what I think are laborious problems. Those actions could actually be formation changers. This offering may have started with me, yet I can bet whoever you are has had a time when shape changing forces seem too much. Sometimes we just need reminding that we are not sent into the wilderness alone. We may not all end up diamonds. To be the best I can be may call me to work toward an emerald. That would be worth enough for me.

Rather, it should be that your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.

1 Peter 3:4


I hope that got your attention even if just to shake your head in dismay. When our oldest was in second grade, he came home to announce they were learning to write “cursing” In the years that have passed I have heard that word applied very freely by those who came through the process. At some point educators have thrown up hands in despair and thrown out the cursive for only teaching a manuscript alphabet. These comments, keyboarded in a readable manner, are a little disjointed. Pick what applies to you.

Hand eye coordination and small motor skills are still not my strength. I remember being frustrated but not stressed. The first hurdle to cross was holding the pencil, a challenge for all. (Think of toddlers with a folk.) Some want to do a whole hand fist grab and push and pull with upper arm strength. Then the sequence moves through thumb and first, second, or third fingers. Once a decision is made about holding, that is the choice forever. Look at adults. My means through college was to push the pencil against the third finger, creating a bump that has just now lessened.

I liked learning the letters because my blessed second grade teacher had stories to go with each one. A capital I was an airplane starting on the right, taking off, almost making a nose dive, and curving up before straightening out. A lower case m was a rabbit taking three jumps and two with an n, My biggest problem was I spelled more quickly than I could write. I remember misspelling papa three weeks in a row because I had already said the a before I finished the p so ended up with ppa without being able to figure out why. Through college I was a lean to the left writer to the point of being asked if I were left handed.

Since I was a cursive child and didn’t teach lower school to refine my printing posters, the time came when students would question what I wrote on the board. “”Consider it a life skill,” was my answer. Yes, books are in manuscript. The biggest requirement of writing maybe is legibility. I would allow speed and ease of correcting as an excuse for keyboarding.

However, that all important justification RESEARCH is now finding that the multisensory motion of hand to brain provides more hooks in learning. One sees the letter being formed, creating a strong visual image with what is appearing on the page. Bit by bit, writing becomes an art form, creating a beauty that identifies those strokes as mine. I knew the letter came from my mother and not an unidentified architect. Perfect “cursing” is not required, yet try recreating you on the page. Vary size and shape of letters, add doodles and art. Sometimes the paper is the visit that can’t happen. Remember most messages except a business letter can be signed with Love.

I have much to write to you, but I do not want to use paper and ink. Instead I hope to visit you and talk with you face to face, so that our joy may be complete.

2 John 1:8

Going, Going, Gone

Improvement, progress, obsolescence. Maybe some violence in annihilation and a little choice if the cause is disuse or elimination. The end result is the same. Whatever isn’t there or in active use any more. The change I’ve noticed has occurred one at a time for various reasons and now it needs to be noted, so you of a certain age can tell your progeny what we used to have. Tours can still take you to see drawings on cave walls to commemorate the buffalo hunts while Indian smoke signals disappeared about as soon as they were issued. The invention of paper stopped stone carving and enabled us to know information from Dead Sea Scrolls. We’ve moved into an electronic age of a paperless society – unless you print out for yourself. No more twice a day to your door mail service . I looked around and mail boxes I depended on to keep me from parking and going in a post office or to claim an earlier time for pickup are dwindling and in, some cases, gone to never return.

Just so you know, post boxes appeared in the 1850’s as small boxes attached to a lamppost. Mail at that time was just left on a doorstep, so this counted as an improvement. By 1890, the larger boxes were beginning to appear on various street corners. I had a memory surge when I saw one of these in front of an historical house in Portland, Maine. It was larger and more bulky and an army green color. I even had my picture taken as a childhood moment. In 1930, location was determined by the up and coming automobile. Placement supposedly made drop offs from a car possible, though you did at times need to cut the engine to lean over to roll down the car window. By 1971 our current ubiquitous blue boxes were in place with a pull down door instead of an open slot. A rite of passage in our family was for the able child to have the privilege of rolling down the window and carefully inserting the letter. A bad day had a look of dismay and the confession, “I dropped it. It was an accident.”

I haven’t done exhaustive research but of the seven boxes I used with regularity, five have disappeared. The first to go was with the movement of our Village Post office to a new location a mile away. Even though the box was on a concrete base, heavy rains came over the bottom half. I assume the weld didn’t hold and there were too many soggy notes. The box was wrapped in shrink wrap and eventually hauled off. Two others were moved to a closer location to the main doors of their post office. I heard that the problem that led to their vanishing was that the children of the night contaminated contents with everything from water to less mentionable choices. Two others boxes were across a parking lot where one could not really drive up to use. I am watching my remaining two with bated breath.

I had thought of taking a poll about your routine of communicating. Do you use snail mail at all? Do you have a box attached to your house or a series with locks and keys for an apartment? How often do you check and, next, how often do you respond? Are e-mails and texts as personal as you get? Have you lost the excitement a child has of a letter with your name on the front? Til the cataclysmic change comes, something will arrive from me following the Victorian saying of intense purpose: to share a story, to ask a favor, to affirm an action, to declare love, “I take pen in hand.” You are worth $.63 to me and even more.

See what large letters I use as I write to you with my own hand!

Galatians 6:11

Count Me In

An astronomical number of animals, insects, and sea creatures have vanished from the earth over various eons. Some disappeared because of human actions and I grieve their loss. Martha, the last of passenger pigeons whose flocks darkened the skies as they flew over died alone in the Cincinnati Zoo in 1914. Then it is presumed that an asteroid hit the earth, changed the climate and wiped out dinosaurs. Do you lie awake a night wishing for a mastadon in your back yard? Seeing a dodo would be interesting, but I may have had trouble finding a golden toad even if one still inhabited its special environment.

Yet, I am doing my part in preserving butterflies, mostly monarchs. Two days this week, hope of spring came to my front yard as the dipping orange and black hillexes moved from one early cone flower to another. They are at the moving north stage and just seeking nourishment. An article in the paper says that their number is 22% less than last year. The cycle has always included wintering on seven acres of trees in Mexico. The number of acres this year was 5.5. Not only have I seen pictures of the laden orange trees with row after row of folded wings lining a branch, we had one group choose to overnight on a bush in our neighbor’s yard at another Swift address. Three children and I sat is silence as one by one they settled in for the night.

About thirty years ago, hatch and release became my passion. I learned to plant milkweed, their plant of choice to sip some nectar and later deposit their eggs. I would lift leaves carefully to find one small milky dot that would evolve into a tiny black/white/yellow striped larva or caterpillar that grew as the leaves that housed it diminished in its small arc-shaped nibbles. I gathered and kept in a pet box and could watch them grow dark and change into a pupa to finish the transformation. When I could almost see through the transparent shell the time was neigh for a new butterfly. Some of you adults were at the ranch for Thanksgiving when I brought a box to watch them emerge, dry, and then walk onto your outstretched finger to be released outside. The facial response of the releasers is breathtaking from kindergartens who whisper, “I won’t hurt you,” to jaded sixth graders who want it to be their turn next to adults who have never thought of the life process.

In my church’s welcome center is a large banner various women needle pointed with noted Christian symbols. I did the butterfly, a symbol of resurrection. “Just when the caterpillar thought life was over, it became a butterfly.” Many changes come along the way and one final awaits.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here.

2 Corinthians 5:17

News at Hand

Even acknowledging the fact that the information may be fake, false, or not the most up to date, part of my budget goes to two newspapers to hold and scan. The ink covers my fingers imperceptibly until it leaves a smear on the side of my coffee cup. I went to Barcelona for a week and left the world to turn on its own, yet the morning of re-entry I settled into my rocking chair and ran my eyes over headlines and noted local dates that I might need to add to a paper calendar I keep, another anachronism of time that is part of the soul I call myself.

Blame this need on my childhood. Besides gossip, various newspapers were the source of what was happening where. My first newspaper was The Hammond Vindicator, founded in the early 1900’s by the Campbell family who lived catty cornered from us on Church Street. It’s pages were reports of interest to Tangipahoa Parish from the Police Blotter to actions by the Town Council. Local tidbits were written by the older Mr. Campbell in a column called “The Stoller.” These were two sentences ranging from who was replacing their front door to what family was seen catching the train to New Orleans for a day in ‘the city.’ My high school English teacher wrote features of interest and did social reporting. My wedding had a picture and a two column report. I have no idea how the issue arrived, except the Tuesday/Thursday question was “Have you seen The Vindicator?”

Two bedrocks of our day were the plunks of more substantial papers landing on the sidewalk. We never had a paper boy, just a man who drove his car around town in the early morning and afternoon. The Times Picayune was, and as far as I can tell, still is the print copy of New Orleans. The first copies came out in 1837 when a silver Spanish coin worth 6 1/2 cents called the picayune was in circulation. Some major national stories might make the front pages. Mostly people who could pronounce them read about the Robichauxs in Plaquemines parish and problems with drainage ditches and week-end car wrecks. All that was enough to satisfy subscribers until the Baton Rouge edition of The Advocate arrived about 4:00 with comments from the capital: be it corruption or chosen political action. My memory is that its other focus was updates on sports, especially what was coming up at LSU.

Now. Houston used to have two papers, plus the Press, which served its own dubious group. In 1995 the Post merged with the Houston Chronicle. This left me very sad, mainly because I respected Lynn Ashby, senior editor, and a columnist Leon Hale. So, these mornings I check The Chronicle and the Wall Street Journal. Before you judge, remember we didn’t have a television until I went to college. Nor did we have one in our marriage until my father-in-law decided that our four and three year olds were abused children. I like to read and reread and see literally if I really understand. Some days I have to chase rabbits to get the story straight. My children, and maybe you, read digital subscriptions to East Coast papers on i-pads while feeding the dogs. A picture and sound bites may be worth the thousand words. Instead of remembering the rapid clipped comments after some recent 5:00 report, I’m offering the last paragraph of an op-ed piece to rest my case.

God have mercy, we ask. Lord have mercy, we plead. But then we must learn to act — to heal wounded hearts, to bear one another’s burdens, and to address the terrible scourge of violence that scars our land.


Hum, not the best title. It was the most difficult literary term I taught eighth graders. On their level, it is the word or phrase or happening that most people recognize and it has nothing to do with illustration though even in May some still tried to answer an essay question with a drawing. In recognizing moments of spiritual import to various religions I can nod my head to Ramadan, Diwali, Passover, and for me more personally, Christmas, Lent, and Easter. The word becomes a trunk to support branches and leaves as a deeper expansion of knowledge is added. My Easter base was a formula to know: The first Sunday after the first full moon after the Spring Equinox. That sentence ties the celebration to a day of the week, the historical connection to Judaism, and a season of the year. Wednesday, April 5, a full moon lighted the sky pinpointing April 9 as the designated day for 2023.

As always, symbols can add or distract depending on how they are offered or, in some cases, how much money is generated. In a far off time, Easter eggs were dyed only red to represent blood. Not in my day. Dying was a mixture of home made dye and then buying packets. My favorite memory is clipping comic strips and transferring to the egg. Hunting was a lot of running around, someone getting a prize, and eventually an egg throwing contest until some grown-up stepped in to stop it. Easter lilies and butterflies can tie to new life. Rabbits and chicks are just cute and sound like a good gift idea temporarily. New clothes are supposed to bring luck. Truthfully, the time had come to prepare for another season and Easter is an acceptable time.

All that aside, Palm Sunday to Easter is my most meaningful week of a year. I don’t have to decorate the house and a meal together is a pleasure – and may vary from picnics to linen napkins. Activities involve children, music, gatherings for worship at times that are part of predefined schedule. The darkness when the symbolic Christ Candle is blown out at a Service of Shadows opens the way to real rejoicing when light leads the way down the aisle to a full voice congregation singing, “Christ the Lord is Risen Today!” Soon after creation, the allusion began to be noted and it moved to a glorious celebration when Jesus on earth said, “It’s time!”

As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem.

Luke 19:51

See and Sense

The answer is , “Yes, I did see the Sagrada Familia!” I didn’t realize how many people I know who have been to Barcelona and the imperative was ,”You have to see….” How can you miss it? Even at a distance of 2.6 miles from our hotel, the 15 towers cut into the sky. You can find all information you need from a rabbit chasing search and a capable tour guide to navigate the crowds gawking (no other verb will do) at the towers at the Sagradra Familia. I was properly awe stuck by the building, though I still have questions about construction even after seeing the match-stick sized man doing work midway up a current tower. And then there is the man Antoni Gaudi, the visionary architect who left his mark all over the city until 1926. Our tour guide had a sentence that bought the vastness of his primere work to a live with size for me.”The outside is all sculptures of the story for those who don’t read, and the inside is the glorious light of God for all people.”

Two more Gaudi constructions. One was to look at houses of the :”rich folk” in the Gothic part of the city.The tops were eye-caching. Each building is eight stories. The living in part starts on what we would call the second floor and fhe windows are large so you can view what is special inside. The other floors are rented with each layer of windows becoming smaller. Gaudi’s private home had seaweed iron work decorating each window balcony and the view from the roof was breathtaking with one set of roof ornaments maybe being the inspiration for Star Wars soldiers.My most favorite creation was the Parc Gaudi – a real estate failure. A man wanted to sell forty lots to make an exclusive subdivision. The project was too far out of town and finally Gaudi was told, ‘Make a park.” It is quiet and shady and had a plaza or soccer field where I could sit while others walked in the woody areas. It had lovely undulating benches decorated with tiles he got for free from broken bits at a tile company.

Then these are the tidbits that defined the city for me. All corners have been cut off so one could see carriages approaching. and turn without having to cut too short. That means in 2023 with a little adapting by drivers, a stop light is not necessary at every corner. The marina with sailboats was right across from the hotel at the edge of the Mediterranean Sea. I am used to a ferry ride in Galveston with the other side visible the whole trip. A ferry ride from Barcelona to Mallorca is 7.5 hours. You can do it overnight if you wish and the advantage is you have your car when you get there. Oh, yes, the unloading lane at the hotel is decorated with maybe 100 plus large terracotta pots stacked four high and planted with succulents. I may have a few comments left for another time. While you are waiting, you can choose from 20 flavors of ice cream by just crossing the streets to the La Gelateria de Leonardo operating since 1957. Blessings of sights, tastes, sounds, feelings, and smell are given to us at every turn. Welcome them!

Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I rise on the wings of the dawn, If I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.

Psalm 136: various