Here, Kitty, Kitty…


Annie after a hard day

My lovely lady calico kitties escaped the warmth and comfort of the home I have provided for them today. I think the ghost in the house opened the door to make their escape route quick and easy. Time and again I tried to cajole them back in before I had to leave for a couple of hours.

“Here, kitty, kitty,” I called. “Come on, Annie, get in here.” “Bootsie, why the heck are you outside. You know your food and water is not out there; it’s in here!”

All my cries were to no avail. I left to do my errands, putting them in God’s care before I hit the accelerator.

When I came back, only Bootsie was ready to re-enter our home so she could take her place at the head of the bed and sleep off her adventure.

Annie, on the other hand, remained outside. She’d walk up to the door, look at me and then turn on her heel, as if to say, “Listen. You just want me to come in out of the cold. But the problem is that it’s not cold yet. So let me go my own way, and when I’m ready, I’ll join you. Oh, by the way, make sure the cat litter is scooped and there’s fresh water, would ‘ya?”

I closed the door and started thinking about God. I don’t know why, I just did. And here’s what I thought. God calls us to come into the shelter of His arms. When we’re stuck in being stubborn, there’s often a quiet little voice that cajoles us to give our problems over to God. But we’re independent and think we know best, and we often only turn back to God when our plans didn’t work out the way we thought they should.

Sometimes, if we’re lucky, we try to discern God’s will for us, feel that we know it, and follow the directions we’re given to get to our destination. And we do it without a fight. We do it because we know that God is the only one who knows what’s truly best for us.

More likely, though, we’re like my cats. We draw close to God and then turn around so we can go the way we planned. And it isn’t until the end of the day that we come back home, just like my Annie did tonight, knock on the door with our prayers and ask God to let us back in.

No matter what you may be going through at this time in your life, don’t forget that you have the right to God’s love and care. It’s the most important thought you can hold at any time during the day or night.

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One Lovely Blog Award


Imagine my surprise when I opened my gmail account today and found that I was nominated for the One Lovely Blog Award. There are many different blogging awards. What I love about them is that you don’t have to have won a Pulitzer Prize to get one of them. All you have to do is have someone like your blog enough so that the person nominates you. To accept the award, there are certain procedures you must follow. So, here is my compliance with them.

First, I’d like to thank the writer of Barren to Blessed  for nominating me. I love her blog. It’s a story of hope, endings and new beginnings. I hope you’ll like it too.

Next, I have to tell you seven things about myself that you might not know.

1. God is the most important being in my life. Without my Lord, I have no idea where I’d be, but for sure, probably dead. With God, who has traveled with me through many trials, travails and joys, my life has been surely and most truly blessed. My fondest desire is to inspire others to get to know God on a personal level.

2. I adore black licorice. Not Twizzlers’ black licorice, for it is just a sham in my honest opinion. No, I love Red Vines’ black licorice, licorice from Australia, and licorice from several different European countries.

3. I’d like to get married again. When we got married,  I always thought I would be with my daughter’s dad for the rest of my life. It didn’t work out that way. I married again – for a very short time. I would love for God to bring me someone with whom I can spend the rest of my life. I would be grateful for someone with whom I could go on long walks, a man who is moral, honest, humorous and ethical, and who believes in God as I do.

4. I am an avid student of the Holocaust. I took the  survivor interview training at Steven Spielberg’s The Shoah Foundation, completed a one week course about teaching the Holocaust at the Bremen Museum in Atlanta, and wrote 8 out of 12 lessons for a Social Studies Services book about teaching the Holocaust with the Internet. It is one of my dreams to travel to Eastern Europe to see the landmarks of this period in history.

5. I have a passion for helping the homeless. It’s another one of my dreams to turn some of the abandoned textile mills here in South Carolina into housing for the homeless. I really can’t think of anything that would bring a bigger smile to my face!

6. I am an avid fisher-person of rainbow trout. I leave catching bass, crappie, blue gill and the huge fish of the sea to others. Sit me on the bank of a lake, put a pole in my hand, and I guarantee I’ll lose complete track of time. I simply adore fishing for trout!

7. I once danced with Little Anthony of Little Anthony and the Imperials. I still love 50’s and 60’s rock better than anything, though I also adore music in general. My favorite opera is La Boheme.

Finally, I have to nominate 15 other bloggers for this award. My favorite bloggers write about and photograph a number of different subjects.

1. Live simply, travel lightly, love passionately & don’t forget to breathe

2.Travel Photography by Dmitrii Lezine

3. Communicating.Across.Boundaries

4. Have Baggage, Will Travel

5. Chronicles of Illusions

6. My Journal of Praise

7. Let Life In Practices

8. Have A Dream

9. Forever in the Present

10. My Life in Color

11. Soul Feeding

12. Sicadai-Sirlan

13. On the Go with Lynne

14. Jim Fields’ Weblog

15. Serenity Spell

I hope you’ll take a moment or two or three and visit some of my favorite blogs as listed above. I’m sure you’ll be encouraged and inspired. Subjects range from fishing to travel, with a handful of spirituality thrown in for good measure. Kind of like me. 🙂

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Bloom Where You’re Planted


“Whoever would have thought I’d be planted here?”
Photo by Ellie Kuykendall

In a million years, I never thought I would be living in South Carolina. This is NOT where I wanted to spend my “golden years.” But you know, God had other plans for me. And this is where I am.

So, I was thinking the other day that I need to remember the simple phrase, “Bloom Where You’re Planted.” I remembered it while I was putting plants into the above unlikely containers. We’re used to seeing plants in pots of all descriptions: clay and plastic, bright and dull colors, large and small, patterned and plain, and hanging baskets. However, we’re not used to seeing plants in tea tins or ceramic pitchers that were designed for liquids.

And that’s like me in South Carolina. At times I feel like a flower in a pair of kid’s rain boots. Most of the time these days, though, I believe I’m exactly where I belong. Why? Because of the many blessings I’ve been given since I moved here almost four years ago.

I thought I’d be traveling the world, preferably with a husband. Neither of those retirement dreams has materialized. Maybe they still will, and maybe they won’t. How I accept the circumstances in my life is more important than the conditions in which I find myself.

Will I complain about what I don’t have, or will I be grateful for what I do have? Will I seek out new opportunities to help others, or will I isolate and feel sorry for myself? Do I do a check each day to see whether I’ve offended someone and then make amends if I need to do so? Can I look for the gifts I bring to others instead of wondering why I’m not more like so and so?

Each day is a new opportunity for me to grow, listen, change, be still, and add something to someone’s life. If I keep these things in the forefront of my mind, I’ll remember that I have done some traveling to different countries in the world. This is much more than many other people have experienced.

If I remember that I am a child of God, the negativity slips away.

And more than anything, if I continue to have faith, then I realize that God is doing for me what I cannot do for myself.

I hope you have a blessed day!

One more thing…I would love to hear about your blessings, so please feel free to leave a comment.

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Filed under Behavior, Feelings, Helping Others, Spirituality, Uncategorized

Ulsan, South Korea: What If…


Playing games at orphanage in Pusan, South Korea

What if we all sat in a circle and talked about our similarities and our differences? Would it make a difference? I think it might.

Living in another cultures gives you a different perspective on just about everything. It’s impossible to ignore the differences and it’s a joy to discover the similarities.

What if we left products for sale out in the open each night, with just a tarp to cover them up? Would people in the United States steal them all? Or would they get used to having them there?

What would it be like if we all took time a few times a year to rest and reflect on our lives in a peaceful and serene spot? Would we still allow the stress to get to us all the time if we did that? Somehow, I don’t think so.

A mountain retreat near Ulsan, South Korea

If we left our shoes at the door, our floors wouldn’t get dirty as quickly. Would our minds stay cleaner as well? Who knows?

The girls came to my room at English summer camp in Pusan, South Korea.
They left their shoes at the door. So had I.

If we celebrated birthdays simply and elegantly, would it be enough? Or do we have to have more gifts, bigger cakes and larger parties to show our worth? Not only was this cake simple, but it was also scrumptious.

“Tis a joy to be simple, ’tis a joy to be free…” Shaker song

At the end of the day, I think it should be enough to stop, to stretch, to take deep breaths, and simply, to rest, and to enjoy the view. What do you think?

Good night, Sun.

Travel to another land and take in the sights, the sounds, the smells, the tastes. Celebrate a world filled with people who are different, but who are the same. Believe in yourself and your dreams. Hold onto your hopes. Cling tightly to love and family. Forgive freely. Live large. Don’t give up. You will not pass this way again.

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Haeundae Beach Sand Festival, Pusan, South Korea


Gone fishin’ sand sculpture, 2008

I fell in love with the “Land of the Morning Calm,” within hours of arriving there for the first time in 1997. Ten years later I went back, and my love affair continued unabated. Pusan  (or Busan), South Korea is located on the east coast of the South Korea.  As with other large cities in South Korea, a stark  contrast lies between miles of huge concrete apartment buildings and women sitting on the sidewalks hawking their fresh veggies or fish.

One of Pusan’s famous summer events is the Haeundae Beach Sand Festival. Artists, families and individuals come from all over Korea to try their hand to sculpt all manner of things. The boardwalk booths offer tempting food, information about various services and businesses, and giveaways such as pens and bumper stickers — much the same as any American fair.

This particular artist told me he had worked since the sun came up to sculpt this lovely lady.

Here’s a popular Korean cartoon character.

Love this little bug!

Korean women take a great deal of pride in their appearance and always dress to the “nines” when going out…even for a sand festival. This is one of my favorite photos, because I just couldn’t understand why any woman would wear heals to an event like this!

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Kind Strangers I Have Met: #1 Ulsan, South Korea


Korean children, photo by
Ellie Kuykendall

From an early age Korean children are taught to follow directions and respect their elders. However, there are always those who would rather play than wait patiently. I smiled as I walked by these kids that bright spring day in 2008. I was on my way to my new job; it was only my second day, but already I knew I would love it.  Not only was I teaching ESL, but I was also editing students’ papers, so it was a nice mix of my talents.

Two minutes after walking by the children, I was on the ground because I tripped on an uneven pavement. I knew that one ankle was sprained, but when I tried to get up, I couldn’t support weight on either leg. “Now what?” I asked myself.

Thirty seconds later a man came out of nowhere. There were other people walking around, but I hadn’t seen him. He lifted my right foot up and massaged it. One of the things I love about South Korea is that people try natural remedies first. The massage hurt me, so I let him know. He disappeared for a moment and came back with a chair. He lifted me up and helped me sit down. Then he walked out onto the street to hail a cab.

If you’ve ever paid outrageous prices for taxis in the United States, you’d adore the fact that cabs are really cheap in some other parts of the world. The cost of the cab from where I was to my school was about $1.50 for the trip of about 2 miles. I arrived at the school, having called both the director of the school and my minister. My minister was going to pick me up at the school and take me to the doctor.

My director looked at me skeptically, as if I were lying about not being able to walk. I told him I would be fine. He allowed me to go to the doctor with my minister. After we left, we drove down the street where I had hurt myself. We looked for the man who helped me, but we couldn’t find him.

Maybe he wasn’t a man after all. Maybe he was one of my guardian angels. You have them too, you know. They’re everywhere and nowhere.

And the next time you meet a stranger, don’t think of him or her as a stranger. Think, “S/he is just a friend I hadn’t met yet.” That’s what I do. Have a blessed day.

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Filed under Friendship, Helping Others, People Who Have Impressed Me, Travel

Don’t Fence Me In


My neighbor’s poor dog…

This poor dog is fenced in 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. His owners never take him for a walk, pet him or snuggle with him. He just looks so pitiful. He used to bark when I walked by, now he just looks at me as if to say, “Please take me away from here. I’m so unhappy.”

That’s what fencing in does to animals. It also does it to human. Though most of us will never  be fenced in literally, we fence ourselves in and we fence others in behind the fences we build in our hearts, our minds and our souls.

So, you know how it feels to be fenced in. I’m sure everyone has felt that way at some point or another in their lives. Maybe the pit of your stomach gets knots in it. Perhaps you get a massive headache. It could be that you can’t sleep, are eating obsessively or snap at your family every chance you get.

Maybe it’s your boss fencing your in or just your job in general. Marriage can feel like one is behind an iron curtain. Children sometimes think that they just can’t wait to get away from their parents and be on their own. And then again, maybe you’re the one that’s building walls, not bridges.

For a long time I took hostages when I was in a relationship. It didn’t really matter what was going on with others, as long as I got my own needs and wants fulfilled. I’m not saying I treated everyone very poorly, but I am saying that I know I wasn’t happy if I didn’t get what I wanted when I wanted it. On top of that, though I did good deeds and helped others, I made people uncomfortable by what I said, when I said it and how I said it. I’m a work in progress. Though I still have a long way to go, today I work at taking how other people feel into consideration. There are times, of course, when my  needs clash with others’ needs. If I feel my needs are healthy, then I go with them and try to back out as gently as possible. If I think I’m truly just being selfish in a negative way, then I do my best to go along with what others want.

“Life is difficult,” said Scott Peck in the first line of his famous book, “The Road Less Traveled.” And indeed it is. However, I truly believe that if we keep trying to be better people, we will achieve that goal.

For me right now, there are reasons I have to mostly stay put where I am. Travel calls me to all the exotic places I’ve always dreamed of going. So, I feel a little fenced in. On the other hand, though, I’m trying to bloom where I’m planted, to plant flowers to brighten my days, and to leave the fence-building to someone else. Give me the Golden Gate Bridge over the “privacy” fence any day of the week.

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Ahhhh – Comfort Food


Okay, this was our first meal in Costa Rica in 2009. What does this have to do with comfort food? Everything, because eating foreign food in a foreign land is like having comfort food every day. Photo taken by my talented daughter, Molly Jones.

Well, shucks. I’ve gained a bit of weight this week. Why? Because I’ve been eating comfort food. After working so hard to lose weight over the last few months, I thought I was done with obsessive, unhealthy eating. But no, I guess I wasn’t. I know some of you have suffered through these similar bouts yourselves because we’ve talked about it.

Comfort food – what are your favorites? Mine are Walker’s Shortbread cookies, Cheez-its, Anna’s Ginger cookies (available now at Big Lots and Ikea), and well, you get the picture. Things that go crunch in the night, usually.

If I would eat them during the day, I probably wouldn’t have gained any weight. But no, I ate them at night, which is often when we all eat comfort food.

I know why I did this last week (not so much this week, though this blog was actually started last week). It’s because I went away on a wonderful trip (on which I lost weight, by the way – just a couple of pounds, but hey – a couple of pounds is a couple of pounds, right? 🙂

I came back and started eating because I didn’t want to come back. It’s spring. Flowers are blooming all over the country, the weather is balmy and beautiful, and I don’t want to be here. I want to be there, wherever there is.

Recently, I’ve been thinking about moving to a foreign country. To live, not just to visit. Which one? Well, probably Uruguay, Costa Rica or Ecuador. Why? Because I love being an expat. Why not? Because I think maybe if I did that I might decide to move again in a couple of years or more. Seems kind of to be my portion in life (moving every couple of years or so). So, why give everything up here and move there  instead of just staying here and visiting there? I don’t know. Do you?

Back to comfort food. Krispy Kreme donuts fit the bill as well. It’s nice to know others in various parts of the country can now experience these delights. They just melt in your mouth and before you know it — you’ve eaten four or five of them. I didn’t buy any donuts last week. It’s a good thing, or I would have gained more.

I think everyone should go on a comfort food kick for a couple of days each month. And they should do it without the guilt. Guilt is awful. It eats away at your mind, body and spirit. So screw guilt, I say. What do you say? lol

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Restoration, Rainbow Trout and Friends I’ve Never Met


gone fishin'

So there you have it. My hand holding my new fishing rod and enjoying every minute of it. I took off on Wednesday, April 18th, for the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. I wished for restoration like in Psalm 23: “He leads me beside the still waters.He restores my soul.” God gave it to me.

Ever since I can remember, trout fishing has been one of my favorite pastimes. At one point in my life I was lucky enough to live in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains and went fishing every day I possibly could. I had just been through a series of difficult times in my life, and God restored my soul each day I sat with pole in hand, marveling at the wonders of nature. I watched a family of baby ducks grow up, saw the seasons change from fall to winter to spring and felt that I had learned several very important lessons.

These last four days helped me put some things into perspective in my life and get a renewed energy toward finishing my book. I’ve needed that for a long time now. I’m looking forward to getting it done!

Everyone needs restoration time. And we don’t necessarily have to get away to get it. If we set our minds right, we can rest from our busy lives just about anytime we want.  But we have to REALLY want to do that. Otherwise, it’s useless.

Time was when I would have done nothing but fished. My passion would have been my obsession. But I have changed. Now I can exercise my passion and leave myself open to opportunities of the moment at the same time. And as a result, my trip had many facets: fishing, meeting new people, cooking at the condo and eating out, reading, sitting quietly without reading or watching tv or doing anything, praying, meditating and more. I’m glad I didn’t lose those things by spending all my time trying to catch my favorite fish.

As a result, I did catch one fish, which was more than anyone else caught. 🙂

What do you do to restore yourself?

On this trip I stayed in a modern condominium with all the comforts of home, met some friends I hadn’t met yet, ate some tasty treats, and visited an historic general store.

Old post office at Mast General Store, Valle Crucis, NC

500 types of old-fashioned (mostly) candy

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Starting Over…If I Can Do It, So Can You!


Up, up and away! Photo by me 🙂

Writing: my hope, my dream, my nemesis, my muse. I had my first story published when I was eight years old. It was about a water moccasin in the toilet. The local paper published it, and I was a proud writer. And then, it got sidetracked — that dream of mine — to be a full-time writer. It went off course because of getting married at a very young age, moving out of California to the South, supporting my husband’s career instead of my own, and mostly because I didn’t believe enough in myself in order to work at making my dream come true.

Then, in 1997, it happened. I saw a commercial with Magic Johnson. “If you do one thing toward your goal every day, at the end of a year you’ll have done 365 things.” Or something like that. Bingo. Hotter than heck light bulb goes on. Serendipity. Inspiration. And YES – my muse started working overtime for the first time ever. Within a month I was published. Within a year, I was making pretty good money writing. During that year, I went to South Korea to teach English for the first time.

The trip and living in another culture  inspired my muse even more. Plenty of subjects to write about. Lots of time to write. Success comes in the form of published work, both in the United States, on the internet and in Korea itself for the Korea Times, Seoul’s English language newspaper.

Then back to the United States in 1998. I move back to the South to be near my only grandson, who is one and one-half years old  at the time. What a sweetie pie he was (and still is). And writing. Yes, yes, YES! I am a full-time freelance writer and editor, adding credit after credit to my resume.

And then it all falls down, like the proverbial Humpty-Dumpty sliding down the hill. Clients don’t pay, I get depressed and more. I go back to South Korea and that falls apart as well. “What is happening to me,” I scream at my God. “ARE YOU LISTENING? HELPPPPPP.” I go back to South Korea and learn valuable lessons there.

And God does help, but not in the way I thought he would. I come back to the U.S. and do some writing for a content mill and am frustrated the whole time with the complete idiocy of the editors the mill selected. They mangle my work, add more mistakes (my writing is usually pretty much error free, and suppress my style.

More changes. Now I am ill, so ill I can’t work. This lasts for more than two years. In the hospital, out of the hospital, one thing after another, aches and pains all over, and I feel as if I am aging so fast and so prematurely that life hardly seems worth living.

Finally feeling better now. Thank you again, God.

And that, my friends, brings you up to date (without ALL the details) on my life. And HERE I AM.

So now, I’m starting my writing career over, because all my really good credits are a few years old. But it’s okay. Starting over is better than not starting at all.

What do you need to start over? Do you need to quit smoking or drinking so you’ll be healthier? Is there a relationship that you need to work on without blaming the other person for the problems in the relationship? Are you sick and tired of your career and need to start a new one? Do you need to lose weight so you can walk up stairs better or fit into clothes you really want to wear? No matter what it is, you can start over. If I can do it, so can you!

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