Naming the Grandparents


I thought for sure that I had written a post about this but I couldn’t find it. I wanted to check to see what I had said before the grandboys were born to see if I still felt the same.

Because, you know, we’re just making this up as we go along! “This” meaning, life.

So, I was talking to someone today about a mutual friend who is about to be a grandparent and we were talking about the naming of the grandparents and how that happens.

So, in the way I always try to be honest with you, dear reader, I’m going to tell you how it is happening with me and the more I talk to people it seems I’m having a pretty common experience.

So, when you find out you’re going to be a grandparent there’s shock, disbelief and then denial. You won’t be able to believe that you’re old enough to be a grandparent. Then you don’t want to believe you’re going to be a grandparent, not because you’re not thrilled, but you know, being a grandparent comes with all that baggage about being ancient and knowing Moses when he was a youngster in short pants.

When you just begin to warm to the idea then the name bartering begins. I say bartering because you are going to grandparent this child with 3 or more people and everyone wants their own unique name. Names get snapped up pretty quick.

So, you begin trying on names, privately, or maybe people at work start putting them on you. “Hey Granny!” “Nana’s in the house!” “Meemaw, want to go to lunch?” Stuff like that.

Your first reaction will be that it just feels weird but you mentally know that one of the names is going to have to fit. So, you begin to see which ones just make your skin crawl and which ones are tolerable. If you’re lucky enough to still have your parents and grandparents some of the names are already taken, so you got slim pickins’.

Some of the names will remind you of somebody’s grandmother who was a crunchy old mean lady, and you don’t want to be associated with her. Still other names give you mental pictures of old Russian nesting dolls or Granny on the “Beverly Hillbillies.” Still others make you think of body functions or body parts like “Peepaw” or “Mammy” or “Mammaw.”

Then The Pressure Comes

Up until now deciding on a name was purely a mental exercise. But pretty quick the kids start holding up the grandchild and saying, “Here’s your _____________.” Or “Say bye-bye to ________________________.” And not long after you have to sign a card or a gift tag and the pressure’s on to choose a name. What will it be?

I really wanted a good name. I wanted something unique. I remember I had a young student once who told me all day that his Honey was coming to lunch. I asked him who it was and he would shrug like he didn’t understand the question and say, “My Honey.” His grandmother came to lunch and I thought that was the sweetest thing. Not to mention that they were really precious together.

My kids kept asking me what I wanted to be called because as good parents they wanted to teach their child to associate me with a name. I just couldn’t think of anything. So, I told my kids that I wanted to be called Stella so when the boys got older and they wanted me for something they could yell, “Stella” just like Marlon Brando in “A Streetcar Named Desire” and I could have a good laugh.


Being the cool kids that they are, they thought it was funny, too, so as of now, for the moment, I’m Stella.

The Downside of Cute Names

When I first found out I was going to be a grandmother and I was getting teased relentlessly at work a wise, sage of a co-worker pulled me aside as if to give me top secret information. I listened carefully as she whispered in my ear, “You’re going to be grandmother to two boys, let me give you some advice. Forget the cute names. If you tell them to call you some cute name, they will in private. BUT they will NEVER call you the cute name in front of their friends or in public. They will refer to you as their grandmother.” That is wisdom from the trenches right there.

The Real Truth

The honest truth though, dear reader, is that I could barter and scrap and demand but I will be called whatever those little boys call me.

Whatever rolls out of their mouths will be fine with me.

I am so in love with them that if they called me “Poopy-head” or “Ancient of Days” I will think it is the greatest name in the world!

Right now, it seems that Gideon gets my attention on FaceTime by saying, “Huh.” I’m good with “Huh.” Manny says “Dada” and if he wants to call me that and call his Dad something else, I’m good. I can’t speak for my son, though.

The Bottom Line

So, the bottom line, right now, dear reader, is that you might be very adamant about not being called a certain grandparent name, but when that grandchild comes, you won’t care anymore. You will only care that they call you.

And that baby will quickly turn 3, 6, 9 and 12 months old before you know it. And just like your own kids seemed to go from “Mommy” to “Mother” (with attitude) overnight, so will the grandchildren. So, our grandparent name will probably evolve as well.

So, to quote The Bard, “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” So, instead of stressing about a name, focus on “lovin’ the fillin'” outta those grandkids and whatever they call you will become a term of endearment!






Motherhood: The Art of Triage & Planning The Garbage Event


I was talking to my daughter this week and we had one of those conversations that I love. She was telling me about a struggle and immediately the memories of being a young mom came flooding back and we had a good commiserating laugh.

All my dear mothers will understand.

Being a mother prepares you for a 2nd career as a triage nurse or an event planner and here’s how.

Taking out the trash at dinnertime. 

To take out the garbage you must first evaluate the entire situation as a triage nurse would.

Ok, it’s 5pm. You have peeled the potatoes and are holding the skins when you realize there’s no room in the trashcan! Crapola! Emergency!!

Assess the situation:

  1. Can I possibly smash the garbage down anymore? No.
  2. If I lay them on the top will they fall off alerting the baby and dog to investigate? Probably. Then dog will eat them and vomit later causing clean up. Baby will play with them and cry when I take them away requiring a halt in dinner making and requiring me to change directions and plan and delay dinner for an hour or more. What are plans for the evening? Can dinner be delayed? No!
  3. Can I just lay them on the counter or table? No. The ants might come back which will require another Pest Control bill and we have that trip coming up. So, the peels have to go now.
  4. Think back to what was thrown away in the can. Will it leak? Will it be too heavy to pull out of the can? I can’t remember.
  5. Is it worth the risk of dripping garbage juice across the floor which will attract said baby and dog? (Doing probability and percentage equations in my head.) The odds are borderline.
  6. The toddler (who is normally fussy at 5pm) seems to be playing peacefully and facing away from the path of the exiting garbage so he might not even notice I’m gone (laughing in my head because that’s just wishful thinking).
  7. Do I give him his favorite toy to perhaps get more time or will that just make him realize that he’s hungry and then demand to be held and fed? No, leave him alone.
  8. Does he have a dirty diaper? No.
  9. Any small objects, technology, outlets or other dangers around said child? Oh yes, the wire bundle behind the entertainment center. But the child will have to overcome an American Ninja Warrior course to get to it. Evaluating distance and rate of speed of said child to wire bundle gives me a small window of opportunity given that the bag doesn’t break, the husband returned can to it’s place, I don’t have to cram the existing garbage down in the outside can and no neighbors stop me to talk. Risky. But I’m willing to take that risk.
  10. Will he demand to eat in the 3 minutes it will take me to take the trash out? (Quickly assess schedule for eating, napping, bathtime and bedtime.) 3 minutes is fine.
  11. Will I run into any neighbors who will want to talk to me and delay the process? (Quickly assess arrival and departure tables of neighbors.) I think we’re good.
  12. The pot of potatoes is not quite to boiling. I can turn it down for safety but it will delay dinner. Got to prioritize! Safety first!
  13. The dog who will run to the door and try to escape and alert said child to my absence is distracted by licking himself on my throw pillow (which is another crisis that will have to wait. Mental note: wash the throw pillow.) Do I put the dog in another room to keep him from escaping? No, that will just alert child to a change in events setting off another chain of events. I think I can beat the dog to the door.

Even with the risks and chances of success being low, I need to get these potato skins out of my hands. Taking the garbage out is a go people!

Now comes the event planning. 

You have to strategically organize, coordinate and execute the plan.

Coordinate steps in the plan:

  1. Pull bag out of can.
  2. Bolt toward door as fast as possible.
  3. Throw bag in can.
  4. Return

Double check for safety:

  1. Distracted child? Check.
  2. Licking dog? Check.
  3. Boiling potatoes? Not quite. Turn them down to be safe. (Delays dinner, dang I’m hungry!)
  4. Doors unlocked? Check.
  5. Hear any neighbors outside? No, think we’re good. Check.
  6. Is outside can by the house? Yes.
  7. Sniff. Dirty diaper? Still no.

Execute plan now! Go! Go! Go!

Pulling the bag out of the can and bolting toward the door alerts the dog who almost knocks me off my feet as it squeezes between my ankles and the door frame. No matter how much I try to trap it in the doorway with my calves it manages to slither by like a greased snake. My yelling it’s name as I toddle to the can with the overflowing bag holding it out so as not to get the garbage juice on me seems to only propel the dog further down the street. It’s frantic barking and running at being freed scares small children and brings thoughts of rabies into the minds of their parents. Is it up to date on it’s shots? How much will that cost?

At the can, I set the bag down on my foot getting juice on my shoe – can it go in the laundry that is in process now? No! Gross! It needs serious sterilization! I cringe as I feel the juice seeping onto my toes. I open the lid and the lack of weight in the empty can causes the can to topple back. I have to set the bag on the ground and it falls over dumping eggs shells and potato peels on the ground. I set the can back up and pick up the debris all the while my neighbor is yelling, “Your dog is out!” Like I don’t know that.

Leaving the dog to his fate I hurriedly limp back in (because of the garbage juice on my foot) and find the child has crawled through the juice that was trailed along the living room floor directly for the wire bundle but was halted as his body has been wedged between the chair leg and the wall and is crying as he is straining for the wire bundle. Is the child in pain or just angry at having his plan thwarted? Just angry. I must quickly determine if the chair will hold the straining child from electrocution long enough for me to wash the salmonella, botulism, and Lord knows what else off my hands and my right foot.

Seeing the chair give way to my child’s determination and stubbornness that he must get from his father and since the child already has garbage juice on him I kick off my contaminated shoe toward the bedroom door and pick him up and take him directly to the bathtub but not before I stop by the kitchen to turn off the potatoes that are now boiling over onto the stove top which will require sandblasting to get the potato foam off. In the effort to keep the child from the boiling pot as he strains with every ounce of energy in his minute body toward it,  the garbage juice gets smeared all over both of us now. Pulling him away from the scalding steam inflames his stubborn streak and that combined with hunger sets off wailing that wakes the dead.

In the bathtub the running water thankfully distracts the sobbing child. I take off my slime covered shirt and with a disintegrating dab of toilet paper clean my right foot. I only sit on the toilet for a split second before there’s a knock on the door. In only my bra and my child in the tub, I decide to just let them knock. They continue undeterred. They hammer! They’re tearing down my door! I grab a towel and wrap up the baby who begins to cry again from being taken away from the water that distracted it. With the banging on the door echoing through the house, I run like a kidnapper clutching her screaming victim, avoiding windows and doors so as not to be seen half dressed and fling myself into my bedroom. I toss the naked child on the bed and grab a tshirt from the dirty clothes pile, scoop the naked child back up and go to the door. My neighbor thinking he has done me a favor, with a smile, holds my dog out to me and says, “I think your dog rolled in something, he smells.”

With the naked baby dangling from my arms I reach down, grab the dog’s collar and choke out a “thank you” to the neighbor. I close the door with my shoeless foot as he is telling me about how I need to better keep control of my dog and other helpful pet owner tips.

Limping and struggling like the Hunchback of Notre Dame I keep hold of the dog’s collar and with dangling child walk the dog to the back door so that it doesn’t touch any furniture or rugs or anything that will require a cleaning episode later and shove it in the back yard.

Back in the bathroom, child playing happily in the water, I sit on the toilet to catch my breath. I hear the husband come in. “I’m in the bathroom” I wheeze. The husband looks at my frazzled appearance. “Are you ok?” I can’t speak. The child coos and laughs at the father as if the last 15 minutes of hell never happened.

Husband says, “When will dinner be ready? We have that thing tonight, remember?”

Don’t even.

Happy Mother’s Day. Just know there is someone out here who understands!

Love and Peace,





A Superpower You Can Give Your Kids

Child superhero portrait

Last night, or early this morning, whatever time you call 3am I read an article.

You can read it here:  “According to Harvard Psychologists: Parents Who Raise Good Kids Do These 5 Things.”  It was in Curious Mind Magazine online.

You should read the whole article. It goes into detail about each of the 5 Things and gives practical application tips. It’s very good.

I was already thinking about some of the things mentioned because my son just turned 30 yesterday and Mother’s Day is tomorrow and I was wondering if I had been successful in my attempt at being his mother.

Not only that but recently I had interaction with an older adult and her behavior was very curious to me. I think I’m a pretty good communicator and listener but we were hitting a brick wall. We could just not understand each other. After some reflection, and serious self-examination to determine if I was the problem, I contacted a mutual friend to help. She said to me something very poignant, “She does not have the ability to put herself in someone else’s shoes so therefore she can’t be empathetic.”

In my experience as a person, a mother and a teacher of 17 years, being empathetic is a superpower everyone can have.

Empathy is the ability to “understand and share the feelings of others.” It’s different from sympathy. Sympathy is “having pity for someone, feeling compassion for their hardships. Empathy is putting yourself in someone else’s shoes.

This superpower has world-rocking implications.

To be able to put yourself in someone else’s shoes means that you have to take the time to get to know the person. You have to listen and hear them. You have to try to understand their world and experience.

When you try to understand from another point of view you have to acknowledge that you are not the center of the universe and people have different experiences. Just because you experience and interpret something one way doesn’t mean that everyone has the same experience.

I’ll give you a quick example from my life: My husband will sometimes send me to Home Depot for something. Before I go, I have him explain to me what he is doing and why he has to have that particular thing. Sometimes he gets frustrated and says, “Just go get the thing, it’s not a big deal.” However, I try to make him understand that when I – as a woman – go into Home Depot I very often (not always) get treated as if I’m stupid and ignorant of the world of hardware and tools. I often get approached by a gentleman with an annoyed attitude as if he is forced to allow the woman into the all-boys club. I can usually brush him off and get on with my shopping but sometimes I literally get chased down by an employee who can’t possibly believe that a woman knows what she needs and where to find it. When he catches up to me I inevitably get the barrage of questions. “What are you doing?” “Are you sure you want THAT part?” I can either take on the persona of the dumb wife and tell him that my husband sent me which opens up the world of “your husband doesn’t know what he needs, let me tell you what he needs” which makes me defensive. Or I take on the persona of ignorant woman which opens up the world of “let me help you little darlin'” and I really hate the condescension. Or I can just be rude and tell him to get off my back. It’s really too much to go through just to get a bolt.

My point, through my Home Depot rant, is that my husband and I have very different Home Depot experiences. And sometimes he forgets that. Going to Home Depot is a bigger deal for me than him.

Sometimes we forget that our husbands, wives, children and friends are having very different experiences than we are. When we feel impatient or irritated we might need to take a minute listen and hear and try to put ourselves in their shoes.

To put yourself in someone else’s shoes means that you have to get out of your own self for a moment. You have to be self-less for a while.

That is hard for everyone. But incredibly important.

During my teaching career I saw that this superpower was lacking in so many children. It really was the very rare student who could be empathetic. Most kids want it now and their way! And when that can’t happen it causes conflict.

When a child can put themselves in another person’s shoes and understand how it could be best, more loving, or more important to give up their way and allow another person to have it their way – Wow! So powerful! Conflict resolved! Love shown! The world is a better place!

Teaching your child to be okay with waiting, sharing and taking turns is the first step in teaching them to be empathetic. We all have to learn that the world doesn’t revolve around us and our desires and needs. Sometimes others have to be put before us. Sometimes we have to wait.

Unfortunately we also have to learn to do without. That’s life. I can’t tell you how kind and loving you will be to your child if you allow them to learn this lesson early. Better to learn early that they can’t always get what they want than later in life when they’re angry and hurt and arguing with their spouse because they want a new car and house but they just can’t afford it. And instead of “getting it” they blame the spouse for not loving them. (True story.)

However, you have to be patient with your child’s development. Younger kids are naturally selfish and when they are denied they will be upset. They will cry. They will pitch a fit. Stand your ground. Don’t give in. Even though they might be too young to understand why they can’t get what they want, they are learning that they can survive not getting what they want.

And as your child gets older and can understand you can then begin to explain WHY they have to wait or share or do without. This helps them put themselves into another person’s shoes.

They can begin by putting themselves in your shoes, their sibling’s shoes, their classmate’s shoes. But you have to take the time to talk to them about it. You have to explain and during this time you’re impressing upon them your values. You are impressing upon them the importance of love, compassion, kindness and all those values you hold important. (I hate to tell you but as a teacher, it’s very clear what values are important to the parents by watching a student interact with others. Kids learn first and mimic first what they see their parents do. “Do as I say, not as I do” does NOT work.)

But when your child develops empathy it gives them the power to be successful in school, at home, in all of their relationships.

When a child can think about his teacher might feel when he interrupts the class during instruction – powerful! Conflict solved! Relationship strengthened! Love shown!

When a child can share her lunch with a classmate who has none – Boom! Relationship strengthened! Love shown! The world’s a better place!

As an adult when a person can listen and try to understand and be giving to those different than they are – they make better managers, business owners, doctors, teachers, ministers and just all around better people.

It also helps them get through the difficult times in life. It’s not so shocking to them when as adults they have to scrimp, save, do without. Or when accident or injury happens they can rise to the challenge. They have seen and can perhaps understand the difficulty of others and learn from other’s victories and defeats. They learn resilience – a vital thing to learn! They learn that difficulty is not the end of the world – challenge accepted – this too shall pass and better times are coming.

Empathy – a superpower to give your kids.





An Idea: Giving What You Never Had


As Minimalist Grandma, I have stripped a lot of things away. Slimmed down and I am streamlining my life. But you know that, dear reader.

However, I’m sorting out more than just my stuff.

I am now making decisions about my time and talents. What do I keep? What do I discard?

I have to determine what is important to me because (not trying to be morbid, but) I have an estimated 30 (+,-) years left and I want to make them count. I don’t want to squander them.

I have had the luxury of being able to “retire” from a job that was very stressful and affecting my health. I loved it, I was passionate about it, but I just couldn’t do it anymore. So, now I have to decide how I will use my time and talents. Do I go back to work? Do I start a new career? Do I volunteer? Then….doing what?

So, how do you sort out yourself?

I’ve taken personality tests, been to counseling, read tons of books on the subject of finding your passion, finding your genius, discovering your second career, answered a hundred questions and I’m not really any closer to knowing, to be honest.

I’ve used the divining rod method (is what I call it), you know where they say, “just follow your heart.” If I did that then I’ll be a professional cookie eater and movie watcher.

I’ve been told, “be patient, it will come to you.” Well, I’m not patient and I feel the clock ticking. And I’ve never been the sort to just wait around for something to happen.

However, I have a theory that seems to ring true with me.

My theory is people often are passionate about giving to others what they never had and desperately wanted.

Now it doesn’t always prove true but you’ve heard of the guy who became a doctor because his mother was misdiagnosed and died. The mother who, as a kid, was always hungry and as a mother herself makes sure that her cabinets are full to the brim and a guy who wanted to become a grocer because of that (both true stories).  You see what I’m talking about?

I came to this theory late in life. When I looked back over my work history and activities that I have been involved in I realized a few common threads. And I found those common threads had a common thread.

Let me explain. The common threads that I found were that I get really passionate and emotional about: telling people about the greatness I see in them, letting people know that just because they’re not very good at one thing doesn’t mean they’re bad at all things, listening to people – really listening, acknowledging those who feel invisible and cheering people on in what they’re passionate about.

And I also get really emotional about people finding out about their family history.

And I also ask pretty personal questions because I want to know and people need other people to know about them.

In my life, the jobs that I’ve held included all of these things. I made a great assistant because I love to encourage people in their passion. I made a great Vet Tech because I paid attention to the animals who couldn’t speak about their pain. And teaching, well, it includes ALL of those things. I don’t know that I was a great teacher, per se, but I really encouraged kids and made them feel good about themselves which gave them the best environment in which to learn.

The common thread among those common threads was that those were the very things I felt that I didn’t get growing up.

I’m not trying to be a whiner, but I’m just saying that perhaps a way to identify our passions, our genius, is to identify what we are longing for in ourselves and then find a creative way to give it to others. And in the giving we receive.

It’s seems sort of a backwards idea. It seems like we should be giving out of our abundance, but I find that I give best and most from my lack.

It sounds quite selfish now that I read it on the screen. But life’s a journey, isn’t it? Maybe the first step towards healing and being a better person is to identify my weaknesses.

Hi, my name is Jill and I am selfish. (and a chocolate chip cookie addict)





Meeting With The Grim Reaper’s Secretary


It’s Not Just Me

The more I talk to people my age I realize we’re going through the very same thing. We’re dealing with sick and aging parents. We’re becoming grandparents. We’re going through menopause. And we’re getting our $%&* in order. I was laughing with a friend about someone “trying out their grave plot” by laying on it to see if it fits!

If you’ve read About Me and why I started this minimalism stuff and this blog, you’ll know that one of my goals was to “get my affairs in order.” That’s a fancy, old movie way of saying I needed to meet with the Grim Reaper’s secretary.

I’ve had 6 people in my life die in the span of a year. These were pretty close people, too. So close that I was involved in knowing whether their “affairs” were in order or not.

And I can tell you this: If you love the people who will be walking with you through an illness and perhaps your death, do them a favor and make as many decisions as you can beforehand and pay for it beforehand otherwise it’s ALL going to fall on them. It’s hard on them. They are grieving and it’s difficult to guess what you want during that time. So help them out by getting your affairs in order beforehand. 

It is not selfish to plan your funeral, in fact, it a gift you’re giving to the ones left behind! I know because I have been the one left behind and it’s miserable to try to guess at what you want. We’re worried about upsetting people and it’s so great to say to those who want to argue, “sorry, this is what they wanted.”

I put off this part of my minimalist journey for as long as I could. I decluttered, discarded, organized and blogged about everything I could before getting to this. But after I got back from my father’s funeral a few months ago, I decided to get on with it.

I’m going to tell you about what I did and if it will depress you, just move on to something else. I understand, there are days I just don’t want to talk about his stuff.

Have Conversations

The first thing I did was to try to have conversations with my husband about what he thought we should do. We had many conversations because it’s a pretty depressing topic and it would just get too heavy and so we’d go do something fun to get our minds off of it. I had this notion that we had to do the same thing. And we were not in agreement at first. He wanted to be cremated and that was not a common practice in my family. So, there was a lot of back and forth, give and take.

Since my kids are more than likely going to be the ones who handle all the arrangements, I tried to have conversations with them about how they felt about different funerals and ways families dealt with the passing of a loved one. These conversations were even more brief. They did not want to talk about my husband or me dying at all. But I kept pressing them, in small doses, until I felt like I had a pretty good idea of how they felt.

Once my husband and I came to an agreement and I had my kid’s input, which was very important to me, I moved on to research.


The Grim Reaper’s Secretary Is a Pretty Funny Guy

After all the hard conversations my husband and I came to a compromise: we are going to be cremated, our ashes scattered in the ocean but we will have a memorial marker, here where we’ve lived most of our lives, to mark a spot on the earth where we were. I also wanted it for those who might want to do family research in the future.

So, I went to the cemetery where I already have some family members and friends, a place we live near and met with the guys in the office. Once I told them what I was doing, they were relieved. They usually have to deal with people who have to have their services immediately, who are grieving and it’s just a tough job. However, since I was in good health, no big hurry and they saw I was willing to laugh about joke about such a grim subject, they seemed to enjoy themselves. We shared about our lives and told stories. I actually enjoyed hanging with those guys.

I realized that to do their job, they have to really love people and want to sincerely help them at one of the most difficult times in a person’s life. I have come to really admire people in the death business.

The guys walked me through the process. They gave me a workbook where I answered questions to help me make decisions. It’s also a book that I can keep so my kids can have the details of what we want all spelled out. It also has a step-by-step guide for them to know what to do. It also includes contact information they will need. I’m really glad to be able to leave so much help for them.

The cemetery guys helped me arrange all the details from death to burial. From how my body will be shipped to the place it will be cremated to getting the ashes to my kids to throw in the ocean.

Beach Trip! 

My husband and I were in complete agreement that we wanted to give our kids a trip to the beach when we died. As a family, we find comfort and peace at the ocean. So, we built in a trip to the beach to scatter our ashes. I researched and found out legally how it has to be done. I wrote it all out for the kids and I’m actually in the process of making sure they have access to the money to do it.

Since I’m still “young” and I don’t know where I will be or who will be involved in my life when I die, I decided I would leave planning a memorial service up to them. Since I’ve been to a lot of memorial services lately, I felt like I could offer them suggestions so I wrote down a few ideas.

*Money, money money! I thought I’d throw in this fact that the life insurance money that we’re all depending on to pay for our funerals doesn’t kick in for like 3 weeks or more after they get the death certificates. Most of the funeral arrangements have to be paid for on the spot. Who’s going to cover for it all until the insurance money comes in? Who’s credit card will it go on? Just asking. 

Where There’s A Will, There’s A Way

Now that I’ve decided what to do with my mortal remains, it’s time to think about my stuff.

I haven’t actually written a will yet. I’m still researching and thinking about it. All I know is that one needs to be in place.

I have heard many people say, “I don’t have much of anything to leave behind, so I don’t need a will. My kids and grandkids can have whatever they want. It will be fine.” Can I just say that is foolishness and you are setting your family up for conflict.

You can not know how you’re going to feel about a loved one’s possessions until after they’ve died. Stuff you thought you didn’t care about take on enormous importance after death. 

Even the smallest thing can come to mean a great deal. So, if you own anything, a house, a car, have a bank account and furniture, you need to detail what you want done with the stuff!

Let me give you a couple of examples of how conflicts can arise over stuff:

Let’s say that I die and I own a car. It might not be worth more than a couple thousand dollars. What happens to the car? You might say, “your kids get it.” Ok, which kid? I have two. You might say, “the one who needs it.” What if both need it? What if one needs it, then the other one gets nothing from the car? How will the kid who gets nothing feel? Ok, you say, “then sell it and have them split the money.” Who will take on the chore of selling it?

Do you see what I’m saying? Think about your jewelry, family photographs or a tool collection. How are the kids going to sort that out? You can help them by spelling out who gets what. You’ll save them the conflict and stress of having to sort it all out. Or better yet, go ahead and declutter and give them the stuff now!

Here’s another one. True story. I saw this happen in a family.

So the mother dies. The father moves into a different house. He decides to get rid of the family furniture because it can’t fit in his new place but doesn’t offer it to the children because it’s his furniture now and he just doesn’t think about the sentimental value. A daughter-in-law ends up with a table from the family furniture. She saves it from being sent to a thrift shop and since she thinks it’s just thrift store junk so she has no respect for it and allows her children to draw on it and tear it up. One of the deceased mother’s children come for a visit to the daughter-in-law’s house. She sees the table and breaks down in tears. She knew how much the mother loved the table. She has memories of sitting at the table as a child and enjoying times with her mother around that table. She doesn’t feel like she can say anything and she doesn’t want to start an argument, but she is so crushed with the father for not allowing her to have the table and hurt with the daughter-in-law for having no respect for the family heirlooms she never goes back to the daughter-in-law’s house again. There was a big breach in the family over a little table.

So, you just never know how you will feel when a loved one dies and you’ll never know how people will feel about your stuff when you die. My plan is to go ahead and decide.

Let me encourage you to go ahead and meet with the Grim Reaper’s secretary. Make the plans for your mortal remains. Then get on with deciding what will happen with your stuff. I’m telling you, after going through this many, many times you will be giving the best gift you can imagine to your family and friends!

Ok, I’m off to working on my will. I’ll let you know how that goes.








Blackberry Winter


I know these are not blackberry flowers. They’re pea blossoms in the husband’s garden. But it’s freezing cold outside and I heard a local person call it “Blackberry Winter.”

Even though I’m a Southerner, I had to look it up. It refers to a cold snap right at the time that the blackberries are in bloom. Well, the blackberries are not in bloom, but I think it can mean an unusual cold snap when it’s supposed to be warm.

That much is true!

Husband is out in his vegetable garden in a hoodie. So, I know it’s cold!

I grew up in North Carolina and I never thought of myself as a Southerner. Southerners were from the Deep South, the Delta, out in the boondocks, never wearing shoes, wearing overalls that are cut off below the knee, eating weird animals like possums and speaking with such a drawl that you can barely understand them.

But anywhere below the Mason-Dixon line (which is a line that runs between Pennsylvania and Maryland at 39°43′19.92216″ N) is considered the South. It was a line dividing the states that supported slavery and those that did not.

Given where I grew up, where I have lived and my family heritage. I am a Southerner. It’s hard to be completely proud. I mean Southerners were slave holders, considered ignorant and are known to give you that Southern hospitality all the while stabbing you in the back. And we lost and were humbled by the War for goodness sake. Can we hold our heads up at all?

But there is beauty, humor, grace and a restrained politeness that belies a stubborn strength here in the South.

I live near Atlanta and there are very few born and bred Atlantans anymore so my ears perk up when I hear that native tongue. My Aunt Mary (pronounced “may-ree”) had the real accent. It’s a beautiful, lyrical sound. Vivian Leigh in “Gone With the Wind” almost had it, but not quite. It truly is a beautiful accent, not strained or clumsy at all. It’s like hearing nails on a chalkboard when I hear someone in a movie trying to do it and miss it.

I can hear a few true Atlanta (pronounced, “ayut-layn-tuh”) accents around but you have to get way out from the city to hear the really wonderful Southern sayings like:

“I’m wore slap out!”

“It don’t make a hill of beans to me.”

“I’m fixin’ to go over yonder.”

“That’s slap my mama good!”

“The pot liquor is the best part of the greens.”

“Bless your heart, honey, but you’re a dumb as a stump.”

“I declare he is funny as all get out.”

“Heavens to Betsy I’m as full as a tick!”

“She’s got gumption but she’s too big for her britches.”

“Well, I s’wanee he did eat the whole plate of biscuits.”

I grew up hearing these phrases and it just makes my heart warm up when I hear them being used.

Where they came from I’m not totally sure but I do know that some words and pronunciations and sounds in music came from the Scots-Irish that settled this part of the country. The slaves from Africa totally influenced Southern food and music.  There is also a sprinkling of Dutch and German. There is also an echo of the Native American presence especially in the names of places.

The South is a beautifully unique blend of cultures.

I cringe when I hear people insult the South and Southerners. I mean, it’s like anything or anyone, you can’t really judge it until you know it.

To me, it’s familiar, it’s home.

I know I have a lot of readers from other countries. What is unique to you? What phrases? What food? I’d love to know!




Rainy Day & Dead Relatives


The Spanish Jasmine is getting a good soaking today. It smells so amazing and it always reminds me of my Grandfather-in-law, Manuel, who told me how he loved to sit on the porch at Tita Violeta’s house and smell the Jasmine.


The Japanese Maple looks so deep and rich it makes me thirsty. Is that weird?

Sorry I haven’t posted in a while, dear readers. I’ve been working on a few things. I’ve been acquiring and testing equipment so that I can volunteer for Virtual Photo Walks which I mentioned in my last post.

I’ve also been working on my family tree some more. I got to spend the day with my newly found cousin and cousin-in-law (I just made that up) doing internet research. It was so fun!

Andrew Jackson Hipp

I’ve been digging around in the life of Andrew Jackson Hipps. Go ahead, laugh. Hipps. It’s a German name that may have come from Hepp or Hyp. It is spelled Hipp when the family came to America. When the family moved to Georgia they added an “S.” I’m not sure why unless it’s that southern thing to add an “S” to words like “Walmarts.”

As part of my research I went to Chickamauga State Park where Andy fought in a battle during the Civil War. (Can I call him Andy?)

It was a great park! A million monuments! (maybe not a million but a LOT!) The rangers at the park were SO knowledgeable and were able to show me EXACTLY where Grandpa Andy (is that better to add Grandpa?) would have been!

We had to walk a ways (there’s that added “s” thing again)  in the woods to get to the monument but here’s where his cavalry unit was when the battle began…


It’s amazing to me that they have the time, 7:30 am!

And here’s the field where they fought…it was raining and yucky, so please excuse my appearance. But it was SO great to be in the spot!


Doing genealogy is like getting caught in an eddy. You kind of spin around and around, seeing the same things over and over again but occasionally finding a new bit of information which keeps you addicted. 30 minutes can easily turn into 5 hours! Crazy!

So, don’t start working on your family tree! Start working on your family tree! No, don’t!

Swim at your own risk!