Reading Out Loud Gives Us Pause

OF THESE EIGHT BOOKS, Sheila Kay Adams’s My Old True Love (upper left) was the most fun to read aloud.


It all started when we both wanted to read the same book but didn’t want to wait our turn. So to keep the peace, I read it out loud. What we learned was that we enjoyed doing that.

Through the years I’ve always read portions of books aloud to Timberley, particularly back when we were working on our young-adult novel Night Lights and the other unpublished manuscripts in that series. Back then it was a regular practice for me to rise early, write several pages or maybe a chapter, and then read it to Timberley later in the morning for her feedback. That’s how we co-wrote all those Kindred Spirits Adventure books.

Before the first Hunger Games movie came out in 2012, we started reading all the novels in Suzanne Collins’s series about Katniss Everdeen and her dystopian world. After the first book, we were hooked and couldn’t wait to read the next one. Around the same time, we also read Kaui Hart Hemmings’s The Descendants out loud before seeing its film version starring George Clooney. That book, in particular, is much better than the movie, though Timberley would rather look at George than listen to me.

Continue reading Reading Out Loud Gives Us Pause

To Everything There Is a Season

THE OLDEST METHODIST CHURCH in Burke County, N.C., is Gilboa Church, built on the site of a meeting place visited by Methodist Bishop Francis Asbury in 1793. This building was constructed in 1879. Some of my maternal ancestors are buried there.


I’m starting this column on March 28, 2019, so who knows what will happen between now and when it’s posted—or if it’s ever posted? No one, right? Life can be good, bad or indifferent.

But it’s Opening Day in Major League baseball, when hope, if not optimism, springs eternal, and when grass, except here in Boone, is green again. So here’s what I’m thinking about right now.

It has been that kind of retirement so far for Timberley and me. We retired from public school teaching in August 2016 because the demands of working full-time and helping care for two elderly, seriously-ill parents had become too great. Then, after saying good-bye to the daily grind of teaching—and three-quarters of our annual income—both of us encountered health problems of our own that far overshadowed mere worries about financial security.

Fortunately, as of this writing, we both have realized “new normals” in response to our medical challenges. Timberley has been able to continue teaching part-time at Appalachian State University during three of the past four semesters since her cancer surgery, and last fall I started working there, too, as a part-time consultant in the University Writing Center, my first real job since my back surgery one year ago this week. For those opportunities, we’re grateful.

Continue reading To Everything There Is a Season

Life’s Simple Pleasures Are The Best


Way back in the 1970s, my favorite TV commercial was one featuring the jingle that began, “Simple pleasures are the best….”

Do you remember the product being sold? Nah, me neither.

That was ages ago when everything was so much different from now. Back then, we had Nixon, Watergate and the war in Vietnam. The Soviet Union was our enemy. And we lived under the threat of nuclear war. Sounds like the Dark Ages, huh?

So in the spirit of modern times, I’m typing this column with my thumbs, one eye on my phone’s battery level. Why so careful? Because I intend to type more than 280 characters, and I don’t want my phone to launch or flush my thoughts unilaterally. It has an evil mind of its own sometimes. Continue reading Life’s Simple Pleasures Are The Best

Update: Thursday, June 22, 2017


Timberley sports her new hospital band she now must wear until surgery next week.
Timberley sports her new hospital band that she now must wear until surgery next week.

As I write this column, we’re getting ready for the start—the real start—of a challenging summer, one that will require courage, patience and, above all, love.

Yesterday, the first day of summer, we touched all the bases—Boone, Morganton and Charlotte—on our own personal Field of Dreams in hopes of finally being safe at home when this is over. Yesterday it was mainly prep work looking toward Timberley’s surgery next week, not just medical stuff like having blood typed and matched, but also getting various things in order in Boone and Morganton. Continue reading Update: Thursday, June 22, 2017

Update: Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Timberley (pre-haircut) poses with our van, Nola the Gray Goose.
Timberley, before her haircut, poses with our new van, Nola, also known as the Gray Goose.


This morning after arriving at Carolinas Medical Center
Early this morning at Carolinas Medical Center

As Timberley posted earlier today on Facebook, the past week has been difficult for her family. Her uncle Larry Brittian and her stepfather Vernon McKee both passed away after long bouts with cancer.

We extend our condolences to Larry’s and Vernon’s families; and our love especially to Timberley’s aunt Brenda and cousins Chris and Leslie, and, above all, to Timberley’s mother, Ruth. Continue reading Update: Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Weekend Update: Sunday, May 20, 2017


Timberley before her appointment last week in Charlotte
Timberley before our appointment last week in Charlotte

What you’re about to read certainly wasn’t what Timberley and I had envisioned for this column last September when I started writing it. We wanted it to be about the ordinary lives of two recent retirees from public education—our own attempt at “half-fast living” after years of watching our working lives fly by largely out of our control.

That was our intent. Instead, there is nothing half-fast about what’s been happening to us for the past eight weeks. For the foreseeable future, this space will be used hopefully—and I use that adverb there deliberately—to keep our friends and extended family members as informed as they wish to be about a serious situation involving Timberley’s health. Continue reading Weekend Update: Sunday, May 20, 2017

Observe Earth Day with an Exclamation Point!

Another return letter from Sen. Tillis -- more proof that either he or his staff can't read
Another return letter from Sen. Tillis — ironically, more proof that he isn’t responsive to his constituents


Maybe you’ve noticed, maybe you haven’t, that I’ve been quiet for the past few weeks. Timberley and I have been busy with some other pursuits and, frankly, I’m also reassessing my own personal use of the Internet in general and social media in particular.

Maybe a better way of expressing my dilemma is, just how much information of any kind do we really need, whether we’re consuming it or producing it? And if we can live happily and safely without all that is the Internet, good and bad, then why do we as a society continue to use and abuse it?

Before out-patient surgery and after two failed attempts to start her IV
Before out-patient surgery and after two failed attempts to start her IV

I’m certainly not a Luddite opposed to all technology. Thanks to technological advances in medicine, for example, Timberley’s recent out-patient surgery to remove a large kidney stone from her bladder was successful, safer and much less complicated than it might have been even 10 years ago. For that, we are thankful.

Continue reading Observe Earth Day with an Exclamation Point!

Half Fast Shorts

Even a pansy can look scary.
Even a pansy can be scary depending upon how one looks at it.


Life has been anything but “half fast” over the past couple of weeks. Since it hasn’t slowed down yet, I’ll try to catch you up in short order on what’s happening with us these days.

In addition to helping extended family members with their medical situations, we’ve been dealing with one of our own. Last week we were less than thrilled to view the ultrasound image of the Baby Huey of kidney stones. He wasn’t bouncing, either, which could make his birth somewhat difficult. Please keep Timberley in mind this week as she undergoes whatever procedure is necessary to remove the stone and relieve the pain she has been experiencing.

My two-page response from Rep. Foxx
My two-page response from Rep. Foxx

I finally received U.S. Representative Virginia Foxx’s response to the letter I mailed to her on January 23rd, the Monday after President Donald J. Trump’s inauguration. Though her letter was dated March 8th, I didn’t receive it until the last week of the month. I had expressed concern over growing support for charter schools at the expense of public schools since Mrs. Foxx is, in fact, chairwoman of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce. I had also stated my concern about Mr. Trump’s ill treatment of the news media and about his dishonesty, as I encouraged Mrs. Foxx to support our First Amendment freedom of the press, and “to hold Mr. Trump and his staff to the truth, and to demand that he stop lying to the American people.”

Continue reading Half Fast Shorts

Faith or Good Works?

IMG_20170318_234705Read James 2:14-26

“For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works also is dead.”

—James 2:26 (KJV)

As part of our Lenten observance, my wife and I decided to bolster our faith by studying devotionals from The Upper Room each day. I’m used to daily devotions because I grew up as the son of a Southern Baptist minister, and my family used Our Daily Bread religiously between breakfast and whatever else we did every day of the week. Timberley and her parents were United Methodists but infrequently sat down together at home to read the Bible and a brief devotional. At my house, the readings were followed by a familiar hymn and then a closing prayer, with each family member taking his or her turn praying out loud. In Timberley’s family, talks with God were private, as they should be.

Continue reading Faith or Good Works?

Weekend Update: Tales of Life in Two Cities


With a nod to Charles Dickens, the past week held the best of times and came close to including the worst of times for Timberley and me as we managed to keep living in two western North Carolina towns at once—one, our hometown; the other, the college town where we worked for two decades before retiring as public school teachers last summer.

Blowing Rock VFD at the Green Mountain Overlook on Friday
Blowing Rock VFD at the Green Mountain Overlook on Friday

This arrangement makes our answers to the questions “Where do you live?” and “What’s your home address?” difficult to answer, especially when they’re being asked by 9-1-1 operators, firemen, tow-truck drivers and auto dealership service managers. Thank goodness for cell phones and one number that fits all situations (I mean that in a couple of respects)—unless you’re on a mountain in one county and the nearest cell tower that your emergency call can hit is off the mountain in the next county.

Yes, it was an eventful week—so much to share, so little time to share it. So, with another nod, this time to Saturday Night Live’s team of crack newscasters, here’s our Weekend Update:

RAHN – Good evening, everyone. This is Weekend Update for Saturday, March 11, 2017, the end of yet another week in the Post-Truth Era of modern American life. Here’s Timberley with our lead story.

TIMBERLEY – Thanks, Rahn. A carefree drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway almost ended in disaster Friday afternoon for two, uh, Burke, no, two Watauga—yeah, we’ll go with that—two, Watauga County residents, as the gas tank of their 2004 Jeep Liberty broke loose and spilled its contents at an overlook halfway up the Grandfather Mountain escarpment. No one was injured, and no fire resulted. Blowing Rock volunteer firemen answered the call to spread oil-drying compound on the spill. Back to you, Rahn.

Continue reading Weekend Update: Tales of Life in Two Cities