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True story, a frightening one. The event happened last summer and continues to haunt me. This afternoon, I came across what I wrote about it at the time. I had no answers then, and I don’t have any now—just a conviction that I (we?) need to consider social injustice of all kinds.

“Last week I dined with two old and dear friends, one of whom had been robbed at gunpoint the night before. She and her family were watching television when she heard the unmistakable click of the back door. Was it the wind? Curious but not alarmed, she turned to look, and four masked men bounded into the room.

“All had guns, and each intruder leveled a gun at the head of one of the four family members. Four people who’d been enjoying their time together at day’s end moments before were now held captive by the invaders. Pleasure turned to terror.

“As my friend said, ‘It was surreal. I felt like I was in a dream.’

“The young men wanted money, not silver or jewelry or electronic devices. Sadly for them, the family had less than $50 in cash between them. After dumping the contents of the two women’s purses, the armed robbers (is there a better term?) retrieved at least one debit card and asked for the PIN. No fool, my friend readily gave it to him, and two of men left for an ATM machine with this promise/threat: ‘If this doesn’t work, we’re coming back to shoot all of you in the head.’

“Held hostage in what had been presumed to be a safe haven, the family felt powerless. Cell phones had been confiscated and doused with water by this time, making contact with the outside world impossible. Although they were confident that the PIN would work, the family still felt frightened, especially as they thought of the innocent two-year-old sleeping in a nearby bedroom.

“Quick thinking on the part of the young adults, the couple’s daughter and her husband, prevailed as the two began distracting the men with questions. My friend’s husband gave an award-worthy performance of faking a heart attack that must have unsettled the two remaining intruders because they fled before their partners returned, taking house keys and the home owner’s car.

“At least one phone still worked, and someone called 911. Police officers arrived in a matter of minutes. Three of the four men, all under twenty-one, had been apprehended by the time of our luncheon the next day. By that afternoon, the fourth was also in custody.

“How could something like this happen in such a seemingly safe neighborhood with pretty lawns and tree-lined streets?

“Another friend, Maria, and I absorbed this story as we dined on salmon atop spinach lunches and a special sauce. Maria began talking about a recent anniversary trip and delighted us with stories about her adventures, including a ride in hot air balloon. We chatted briefly about two other friends, one in Alaska and one who just returned from a trip to England and Scotland.

“Life was good for them—and for us too. Didn’t we deserve things? Trips and opportunities and salmon atop spinach? Doesn’t everyone? The conversation reminded me of stories I’ve read about people in the most adverse of situations who somehow do more than merely soldier on. They laugh, joke, eat, make love, and sing even as bombs explode around them.

“My friends and I discussed local politics, the juicy sweetness of peaches, and travel adventures including hikes, sailboat rides, and plantation tours. Admitting she had been a tad nervous about riding in a hot air balloon, Maria said, “There was that one that bumped into a barn, you know. It can be dangerous.”

“No matter what exciting, trivial, or funny story came up in conversation, the previous night’s incident was there, hovering over and around and above us. Our dialogue always came back to it.

“When asked if the thieves were black, my friend hesitated a moment before nodding yes. There was sadness in that nod, and knowing. Knowing developed from decades of working with college students and from reading and observing life with a clear eye. A woman of deep faith, she was likely thinking, ‘All are precious in His sight’ even as she relived the terror of the night before.

“Horrific things have always gone on, just not this close to home. I saw The Independent State of Jones last week and was sickened by the work of the Klan. I can still feel my involuntarily uptake in breath when Mr. Moses realized that three white men were following him with taunts and name-calling. His murder was cruel and merciless.

“I recently reread Elie Wiesel’s Night and wondered how the world could stand by and watch. Roosevelt knew about the Holocaust, and I’ve often wondered about his silence. Not a political scientist by any stretch of the imagination, there are many things I don’t understand. We were less of a global community then. Now we send troops to places in the world I’d never heard of until now, but then, six and a half million Jews and other “undesirables” were killed while the world turned a blind eye.”

Nearly a year has passed since the summer night intrusion and the next day’s luncheon. I still have no answers, just a conviction that all lives matter.

 

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Brrrr. Sunday morning was cold. I woke up first and quickly showered and went down for breakfast before anyone else was stirring about. Say what you will about the Comfort Inn. Their waffles, especially the chocolate ones, are yummy. In this particular establishment, there was a gentleman standing ready to pour, cook, and put them on a plate for you. Nice. I got my waffle and perched on a stool overlooking the other diners and providing a nice view of  44th Street.

Before long, the other members of our little troupe were up and ready to hit the streets and avenues. We took a few pictures and then parted company for a few hours. The younger set went to Rockefeller Center and Little Italy, and the rest of us went to Liberty Island and Ellis Islands. While part of me would have liked to see THE TREE and then look for bargains in Little Italy and China Town, I wanted to immerse myself in the spirit that surrounds that Lady in the Harbor more.

The four of us got directions to the nearest subway stop two blocks away and rode the subway all the way to the Rector Street stop. Regardless of what you’ve heard, New Yorkers are helpful. I’m not saying they’re as warm and open as some people in the South. I’m just saying “Ditch that stereotype.” Ask questions and they will help you. Manhattan is in the tourist business.

Along the way to the subway stop, we saw Mickey Mouse and some other interesting things you don’t see in Camden, Elgin, Conway, or Pawleys Island, the places where we’re from. We got on the right subway but began walking in the wrong direction. Observing our perplexed and anxious looks, a woman came up and asked if she could help, and after hearing us, she said to get on the #1 train, the one with the red circle. At least that’s what I heard, and every time I saw a red circle, I said, “Let’s go this way,” and it worked.

I can still feel the excitement as we took a left turn with an incline and got caught up in the midst of hundreds of people. Seriously, if we hadn’t made note of each other’s clothing and hats so that we could keep up with each other, our day might have turned into a disaster instead of a success. Sure, we had our phones, but for some reason, our batteries kept losing their charge.

One of the things I love about the city is its diversity. Rich, poor, old, young, black, yellow, white, Hindu, Buddhist, Jewish, beautiful, and homely—all are there, and no one looks askance at those who are “different.” That said, we sat near an Asian couple with one of the sweetest, most adorable babies I have ever seen. Dressed for warmth and lying in his stroller, he stared at his pretty mother and made a lot of “ba” sounds. Clearly smitten with her chubby cheeked little cherub, she communicated joy at his efforts.

We made it to the Rector Street exit and got a little turned around once we climbed up the stairs to the street. It was cold and overcast, and although we could see the water, we weren’t sure how to get there. Finally, with the help of our iPhone maps we made it the whole two blocks to Battery Park. Told you we were small town girls.

Although it might sound clichéd, the four of us fell in love with the setting, including the huge squirrels, the barren trees, and the Urban Garden. We joined the rush of people streaming towards Castle Clinton to buy their tickets, and after going through security, we boarded the ferry headed for Liberty Island.

Despite the cold, I stood on the upper deck so that I could get a good view of the statue as we approached. No matter how many times I see her, the Lady always gives me a little thrill and a sense of wonder. How many immigrants to this great country have seen her? Did they feel awe, relief, fear, dread, excitement, or what?

I recall a story in which a son asked his quiet, somewhat morose immigrant father to tell him about the most beautiful woman he had ever seen. Thinking his dad would tell him about some gorgeous but unattainable “real life” woman, the man was taken aback somewhat when his father stopped fishing, looked at him with moist eyes, and said, “The lady in the harbor.” A pivotal moment, that’s when the son, a teenager at the time, began feeling awe and a deeper love for his parents instead of embarrassment for their “old world” ways, language, and clothing.

Back to December 14, 2014, we got off the ferry at Liberty Island and walked on the grounds oohing and ahing with the appearance and “feel” of the place. We asked someone to take this picture, probably my favorite of the weekend. With the New York skyline behind us and Lady Liberty in front of us, we were a happy foursome. We took some other pics and then went into the gift shop/restaurant area for some hot chocolate.

After about an hour on Liberty Island, we boarded the ferry for the trip to Ellis Island. Next time………

Nothing big or major here. Just a few observations on life.

I’m at the beach for a few days and have relished every moment of my time here thus far. Despite being overly fatigued, my daughters and grandchildren have added much joy to my life. Here are some thoughts, not too deep but worth considering.

On the way to the coast, I stopped in Conway to visit with an old and dear friend. One of the many things I’ve always loved about her is her ability to hear about a situation and assess it “spot on” without all of the emotional fringe stuff.  Then too there’s the fact that she’s wise, spiritual, philosophical, and practical. If that sounds like an interesting combination, well yes, that’s what makes her so special.

Before we had our conversation, I turned the corner (more like a soft curve) and spotted two women walking down the middle of the tree-lined street, and I recognized them as my friend and her expectant daughter. Immediately I recalled a moment that happened 35 (?) years ago when I saw her cross Main Street from Ninth Avenue cradling this same daughter in her arms. Catherine was a baby, and her mom was taking her to daycare before work. Those were the days—the crazy days of childcare and working that somehow we managed to get through.

Decades later there were two blond, beautiful women ambling down a Conway street, one expecting a baby in less than two weeks. So in a sense, I was walking behind three generations although I couldn’t see the tiny one’s face or form – yet. Plus, they were in Conway. Conway. A city with a lot of history for these two and many, many others. You could almost sense the spirits of their ancestors hovering about.

Early the next morning my daughters and grandchildren were up and about making preparations for a couple of hours on the strand. I was in beach attire, and Colton, the little five-year-old kept playing (best word here) with my upper arms. “Why does your skin shake like this, Grandmama?” he asked as he flicked it back and forth.

“Leave Grandmama’s arms alone,” his mother instructed. “Do you think she’s enjoying that?”

Ah, the challenges of getting older. It’s neither fun nor attractive to have flabby arms, but what are my choices? Some people have surgery, but then there are scars to deal with. Plus, there may be more limited use of movement and strength. My intention right now is to keep them covered and focus on the wonderful things my arms have allowed (still allow). For starters, hugging people. I love that. Also driving my car, picking up things, and chalk painting furniture. I started to say “typing,” but I know there are people out there who might remind me of stronger souls than I who have learned to type holding a pencil in their mouths.

That same day I went for a walk on the beach, and four older ladies (75?) stopped me and asked me to take their picture. Happily, I complied. I snapped about four pictures, and hopefully one will be flattering of all four. When I handed the camera back, one of the foursome asked, “Can you even see her face?” She was referring to one of the group who did not want to have her picture made.

“Yes, she’s trying to hide, but she’s there.”

“Hey, it’s a memory,” I said. “Y’all are gonna love looking at it later and remembering this beautiful day when you were together and happy,”

“Yeah, listen to her. She understands,” one of the women said as I turned away to continue my walk.

That little five-year-old is now on the patio with me—no more writing for hours—maybe days. But life is good. I have great friends, arms to embrace this little fellow, and some good beach memories.

Doing my best to “seize the shining moments.” What about you?

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I really relish the time I get to spend with these three gals, and I’ve just figured out why. They’re all so “outer-directed.” Sure, they care about themselves and their own growth, development, well-being, health, appearance, and finances, but they care about others too. In fact, now that I think about it, all of my friends are that way. That’s why they’re my friends: I need them to “rub off on me.” Attitude, good or bad, is contagious.

Just think about your circle of friends, acquaintances, and family members. Would you rather spend an hour with a down-in-the-mouth, complaining, grumpy person or with one with an upbeat attitude? Had you rather be around someone who has a positive yet realistic attitude nor who feels like the sky is going to fall in tomorrow? Do you prefer the company of someone who feels that things will work out or with someone who just knows that the worst possible of scenarios is going to befall her/him/us.

The women in the picture above, including me, have all had her share of woe, heartbreak, and anxiety. There are actually several other nouns I could add to the list, but why do that? Why add to the negativity??? We all focus on what we have and not what we don’t have. We know enough about relative deprivation to know that we are indeed fortunate, especially when compared to the deprived and downright horrid conditions in which many of the world’s people have to live.

None of us are wealthy, at least not in the ways of the world. We all, however, understand that there’s a relatedness between all life on Earth and that we have an obligation to make life better for others…including ourselves. I added that last phrase so you’ll know that we aren’t completely selfless. Ha ha. That’s a laugh. If we were totally selfless, we’d be at home cooking up a savory meal, scrubbing the bathtub, or volunteering at our local soup kitchens.

We do our share of cooking, scrubbing, and volunteering, but we also take time to feed the inner vessel. In fact, that’s what we were doing that day. We were sightseeing at beautiful Botany Bay, a feast for the eyes and soul that was introduced to me by another “sister” who understands the power of ocean, land, and sky.  Doing it together enhanced our experience and deepened our bonds as sisters.

On Friday, my sister and I spent an entire day together sans cares and responsibilities. Whenever I’m with her, we talk about so many topics that it’s just about dizzying. From husbands and children to money and God and wrinkles, we covered a lot of ground on Friday. She’s a great sister AND a great friend, and I mention that because she wasn’t included in the my recent blog about friends. Neither were a few other people, not because they aren’t important but because, well, read on.

Ann belongs to a separate and unique category; one entitled “Family Friends.” Sometimes family folks who are not  friends, but in my case, I’m fortunate to have several family members who are, and Ann heads the list. My five sisters-in-law are on that list too. And although I don’t really want to include men in my friend countdown, I’m make an exception. My husband is truly a grand friend.

He’s supportive, nonjudgmental, encouraging, and patient. Patient to a point, that is. Last week as he halfway listened (kept reading his Kindle) to me prattle on and on and on about a situation that’s been breaking my heart, he put the Kindle aside for a moment and asked, “Don’t you think it’s about time for you to leave that horse alone?”

“What? Huh? What are you talking about?” I asked.

“That dead horse,” he said. “Why do you keep on beating it?”

And he was right, of course. It’s time for me to move beyond this particular heartache/issue, and he’s the only with the guts to tell me that.

Another group of old friends who continue to impact my life today are some church friends from Myrtle Beach. As soon as I got on facebook after posting Thursday’s “piece,” I saw posts from a few of them. Rather than chance leaving anyone from that era of my life out, I’ll just mention the ones I saw the other evening: Dorothea, Beth, Gail, and Mary. There are at least a dozen more, and all aided in my personal and spiritual development. In fact, it’s scary to imagine my life at the coast without them.

Are you wondering about the photo accompanying this blog? It’s one of some of my friends and me in the bell tower of the Old Post Office Pavilion in Washington this past January. Four of us made the road trip to and from South Carolina. The fifth person in the photograph, the young pretty one, is someone we met earlier that day. As we stood poring over our maps and city guides, Alyssa turned to us with a beautiful smile and asked if we needed some help.  We adopted her as daughter, guide, and friend, and all it took was her charm and a simple question.

I don’t want any readers out there to think this is all about me or that I’m boasting about my friends. Here’s what I’m saying:  We all need friends, every single one of us. Somewhere, possibly right next door or in that book club you’re thinking of joining, there’s a new friend waiting for someone like you. What are you waiting for?

Events of the past couple of weeks have reinforced my belief that people who have friends are the most fortunate folks who walk the earth. As I posted on facebook last night, “I’m wondering how people make it through life without friends. Seriously, in the last few days, they have listened, advised, entertained, shared, inspired, encouraged, and helped me in ways too many to mention.”

Before moving back to Camden a little over ten years ago, I felt edgy, uneasy, and well, downright reluctant to leave the coastal area. I had raised my children there, established a career, and made some great friends. Generally speaking, I had done all of the things most young people do when they leave the nest. How could I go back “home” and leave June, Millie, Murph, Marsha, Judy, Ella, and Elaine?

As it turns out, I didn’t have to leave anyone because they all still live in my memory. On occasion, I actually get to see some of them. This past week, I met with June for a few hours as we went over a manuscript that she had volunteered to proofread for me (yes, she volunteered). We also dined on a healthy lunch before sauntering over to check out the renovations to her daughter’s house. A true friend, June has always been forthright and honest with me, even at times when I didn’t want to hear it (the unvarnished truth).

Thinking my husband would allay my anxiety about moving to Camden, I asked, “Who will I hang out with? Are there people there like me, people with my interests? Do you think there’s a book club I could join??”

“There’s no one like you,” he replied, and if it hadn’t been for the snickering, I would have taken it as a compliment. Nevertheless, I took a leap of faith and left the coast. Within a short period of time, I had met dozens of people, many of whom would become close friends over the next several years. There’s Carol, my department chair, who taught me a lesson right away. I was at Central Carolina, not Horry Georgetown, and my parking ticket wasn’t going to go away by itself. Ouch. Talented and creative, Carol hosted the best Christmas parties I’ve ever attended.

Martha, Lisa, Melissa, and Nancy soon became great friends. So did Jim and Mark and Myles, but this post is about gal pals. I’ve gone on trips with the aforementioned ladies, and one of them is responsible for my foray into facebook. After a New York trip, Lisa kept telling me about a picture of me that she had snapped after she and Linda “dropped me off” of the tour bus at the southern tip of Manhattan. “Email it to me,” I asked several times, and each time her reply was, “No. It’s on facebook, and you need to join.”

Martha and Lisa and I like going to movies and dissecting them later. The two of them are movie aficionados and know far more than I about casting, nuances, actors, hidden meanings, and cinematography than I ever will. So does Melissa. We just don’t get to see her too much because she’s busy busy busy working on her dissertation. And did I mention that we share a love of books? We do. In fact, Martha and Melissa coaxed me to join Goodreads. And Martha, like me, is into all things celestial.

If I continue on with work friends, I’ll never get to my church friends, all of whom I love. Really, I do. One afternoon after working in Sumter all day, I walked into the downtown campus of CCTC (Camden), and there was someone I knew I’d seen but couldn’t place right away. “Do I know you? You look so familiar.” I said to the pretty blond woman waiting to see a counselor about her daughter.

“From church,” she said. “You know me from church. I’m Connie Fogle.” Connie was the first of many “sisters” that I met. I hesitate to list them because I know I’ll forget someone so I’ll just say that just since Sunday, Connie, Tilara, Lisa, Cyndy, Valerie, Sue, Carol, and Donna have influenced me in a positive way.

While I love my new friends, the “old” ones have a special place in my heart. Jeanita lives in Pawleys Island now, and when I’m in Myrtle Beach, I often call or text to ask, “Want to meet at Salt Water Creek for lunch?”  Something especially nice about getting together with her is that we have a history that began when we were youngsters, and there’s something comforting about knowing each other’s parents and “beginnings.” I used to think she looked more like Jimmy than Betty, but now I’m not so sure.

Moving on, there are Linda and Shirley, college friends. Linda stopped by to see me on her way home from a conference the other day, and she truly put some things into perspective for me. Since our marriages, children’s births, divorces, and careers followed parallel paths, we’ve bolstered each other up on many an occasion. Shirley lives in Montana so we don’t see her too often. Just gotta say, though, that she was always the brains of the operation, and her oldest child is literally a rocket scientist who helped put Curiosity on Mars this summer.

And that brings me to today…or yesterday actually. I had lunch with Nancy, someone who attended school with me for 12 years. Having different interests and friends during those years, we didn’t see each other too often. It wasn’t until I moved back to Camden that we became reacquainted. Now we have lunch together at least once a month, and it’s been a great experience for both of us. Because of our conversation yesterday, I’m committed to becoming involved in volunteer work.

One of the things Nancy and I discussed yesterday at the Carolina Café is the power of the internet in bringing people together. While there are pros and cons of facebook, we both agreed that because of it, we’re able to reconnect with long lost friends and acquaintances from our youth. Polly, Vicki, Debbie, Harriet, Joan Ella, Cheryl, and dozens more are more “real” to us now, and we often find ourselves thinking of these friends and their lives.

For those of you who managed to read to the end of this, congratulations! Although it was a long post, writing it put things into perspective for me and increased my gratitude for my friends, old and new. And just think, I haven’t even gotten to my book club and writing group chums yet.

All week I’ve been thinking of a few shining moments last weekend when 18 people were in my little bungalow at the beach. It was crowded, yes. And it was fun, yes again. Not everyone stayed for dinner, but everyone stayed long enough to choose a specialty cupcake that Elizabeth and I had bought the day before. Yummy! My favorite was called “Day at the Beach,” and it had a tiny umbrella perched atop the icing.

Since my daughter Carrie and I hadn’t had the opportunity to celebrate our August birthdays together, we chose last weekend, and I’m smiling as I remember the lively singing that went on in the kitchen as my brother Mike’s family and I sang Happy Birthday to me. Yes, you read that right; I sang to myself too. As a matter of fact, Sarah Beth claims that I’m the one who started us off. We sang to Carrie later that evening when she returned from the duck pond where she and her kids had sneaked off  to feed the ducks.

Within three short hours, just about everyone had gone home, and by the next afternoon, I was completely alone. And yet, I keep thinking of how although everyone had scattered and gone back into their separate lives by Monday, we had come together for a few magical hours. I can’t speak for my visitors, but as for me, those moments together have buoyed me up several times during the past week. If I need to chuckle, I just have to remember little Colton propped up on my bed watching television, my Kindle Fire clutched  to his chest as if he planned to read.  That was right before, grinning, he called me an egghead.

It’s nice to be part of a network of family and friends who genuinely care about one another. This past week marked the anniversary of the passing of a friend’s child. Much beloved by his family, this young man is sorely missed. As I told his mother, he’s still her son, and she’s still connected to him. Just because she can’t see him, that doesn’t mean that he’s not living his life somewhere else.

Later in the week, another friend told of watching an old family movie in which her mother-in-law was a young woman. Although her MIL (abbreviation I picked up from my DIL) left this life decades ago, she was there in the movie, young and vibrant as she laughingly walked towards the camera. The recipient of her DNA, one of her grandsons, also watched the film.

Living or dead, nearby or distant, there are people with whom we are connected. We’re all a part of a marvelous web of family and friends, and although we don’t get to see these folks on a daily basis, the threads of connection are there. My son sent me a picture of his infant son all dressed up for church this morning. “Who does he look like?” I asked myself as I thought of the web of which this precious child is a part.

I was a little tired after Wednesday’s 180 mile drive to Rincon, GA to see Braden on his 9th birthday. His great grandmother and I went down for the day so that we could share a Dairy Queen lunch (Braden loves that place) and some birthday ice cream.  After a few hours, we hopped in the car for the return trip.

Then on Thursday, the weekend got off to a great start with a movie at the Nick with Melissa, Martha, and Brenda. We went to see Kid with a Bike at the Nickelodeon and then walked down Main Street to Hunters and Gatherers for a bite to eat. When Brenda asked if anyone wanted to do some hunting and gathering, I thought she was asking if anyone wanted to go shopping! I didn’t know about this cool restaurant on the corner of College and Main, a superb location to soak up the ambience of downtown Columbia. That night there was some mellow music wafting outside to our table on the sidewalk, and we loved it. Loved the huge orange sun setting in the west too.

Then it (the weekend) got even better on Friday with Whitney’s pool party followed by a dinner date with Connie and Tilara. Whitney is turning 7 tomorrow, and her parents hosted her party a few days early. Although I couldn’t stay at the celebration very long, I can still hear the kids squealing and splashing in the pool. I joined my buddies at Salud for a great meal as we commemorated yet another birthday, Tilara’s. To our delight, there was a band playing that night, and I recognized the keyboard player from the night before.  Mellow and relaxing, the music set the tone for some good conversation and unwinding.

On Saturday, there was the book signing at Nephi’s Books, and afterwards, I scurried off to Wal-mart to get some last minute provisions for a honeymoon shower that we were hosting for Chris and Angie that evening. It turned out to be a fun event with lots of good food, especially Cindy’s and Judy’s yummy desserts. Mrs. Bowers’ slaw and Karen’s baked beans were a big hit too. And just in case you’re wondering, my fruit tray from Wally World also got some praise.

Sunday morning’s services were especially enjoyable. The speakers were awesome, and today I’m thinking of Brenda’s humorous opening sentences and Zach’s well-organized and confidently delivered talk. His parents have every reason to be so proud of him. And Primary was enjoyable too. The little children are funny, sweet, entertaining, and “fresh.” Their leaders are caring and concerned, and it makes me even more convinced that Primary leaders just like the ones in our ward were instrumental in helping to teach, guide, and love my children into the people they are today.

Church behind me, we scooted over to Irmo for another birthday celebration, this one for Olivia Jayne who turns 2 on Tuesday. She danced, talked, put on jewelry, ran around with boundless energy, devoured a chocolate cupcake, squealed with delight when her Uncle Matt threw her up in the air, and in general, just held her grandmother in awe as she (I) considered how much she had grown and changed in two short years. Olivia’s parents had come to Atlanta with their two little ones to spend Memorial Day with Amanda’s brother and his family, so I got to see the whole gang. Loved it! It was especially gratifying to see Ethan, my youngest grandson, being held by his paternal great grandmother.

Back in town, I scooted up to the hospital to see my aunt who’s recuperating from pneumonia. As an added bonus, I got to talk to one of my cousins, Sue, and to look at some beautiful family pictures.

What am I saying? Connections are important.  Things like parties and signings and dinner dates with friends take time, but they’re important. Take the time for them!

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