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Maizey & Book.jpg

She looks peaceful, but really she’s stalking the birds just outside the window.


Carrot Cake, Anyone?

So I’m leading this Acts of Kindness group at my church, and in an effort to find a different kind of act of kindness, I discovered that today is National Carrot Cake Day. Well, who knew such a day existed? As it happens, there are all kinds of weird National Days we are going to have fun with.

Yesterday I started my quest to purchase a carrot cake to give away. Turns out, finding a carrot cake is a tad more difficult than I thought it would be. One place used to have a huge, delicious, reasonably priced carrot cake, but they now have a much smaller, not as beautiful one for $17.98. Um, no. To the side were cupcakes with a couple of carrot cake cupcakes mixed in, but I wanted all carrot cake cupcakes.

Today, I called a local place, but carrot cake has to be special ordered. Hmmm. I’m thinking they should have had some for this National Carrot Cake Day.

I could have baked carrot cake or cupcakes at home like one of my more industrious group members did–way to go!–but that would have required baking. Didn’t happen.

Finally, I went to Publix and got the beauty you see above. To make it even better, when I was checking out, I asked the nice lady ringing it up if she liked carrot cake. She exclaimed, “I LOVE carrot cake, and this is the best!”

“It’s yours,” I said.

Of course she wanted to know why, so I told her it is National Carrot Cake Day, and I wanted her to have it. Her face beamed.

I love it when all the parts of an act of kindness come together so well.

Now go eat some carrot cake.

Thank a Teacher


I have been exhorting people all day to thank a teacher, and as a result I decided I should thank a few of my own. After all, much of what they taught me shaped my teaching in my classroom.

My earliest memory of a teacher is of Mrs. Robinson, my first grade teacher. Granted, I don’t remember a single lesson she taught me, but I vividly remember the paddling I got for fast walking (nigh on to running) in the classroom. I guess you could say she taught me to slow down a bit.

Mrs. Braly was my third grade teacher, and she read aloud to us. I can still see her sitting at the front of the room, lips painted bright red, legs crossed, with her high heeled shoe hanging off the tip of her toes.

Last in elementary school was Mrs. Hadi. Oh, the dread. Nobody wanted her. Nevermind that when you finished sixth grade with her, you were absolutely ready for that scary seventh grade leap. I determined from her coming in on Monday one week with greenish tinted hair, and another Monday with bluish tinted hair, that paying a professional to wash that gray right out of my hair would be wise in my later years.

In junior high, I got to have Mrs. McElheny not one, but five, count ‘em, five times a day. My heart thrilled at the sight of my schedule. As I recall, I had her for homeroom, two study halls, English, and lunch. She, on the other hand, was decidedly not thrilled with this news. I couldn’t understand. I LOVED her! Well, now that I’m a teacher I totally get why she was less than excited to see my smiling face five times a day. We teachers tend to recycle our witty comments and object lessons throughout the day, so if we have the same students multiple times, our brilliance starts to fade after about three retellings. Funny thing, though, I don’t recall ever thinking that she was repeating herself.

In ninth grade, Mrs. Dean taught my classmates and me a lesson I know she never prepared for and never sought to teach. Joy, my friend who sat next to me in Mrs. Dean’s English class, was killed in a car wreck along with her sister and parents. Somehow, Mrs. Dean guided us through that grief and how to deal with Joy’s empty desk sitting next to mine.

On a happier note, she also pointed out how the girls, in our classroom in the days before air conditioning, would perk up like Spring flowers when particularly good looking football player type boys would walk into class.

Mrs. Woodford taught me how to dissect a worm, but more than that, she taught me joy. She always had a smile on her face. Always. What a happy woman. She loved telling us that her name was Birdie Byrd and she was from North, South Carolina. With a bio like that, who wouldn’t be happy?

After I graduated, I took my toddler son to her house to meet her. While there, he whapped his toy truck on her glass-topped coffee table and cracked the glass. My heart cracked a little, too. Her graciousness has always stayed with me because she told me not to worry about it one bit. I’ve always appreciated that.

Miss Reynolds. Oh where to begin. Her sayings are still legendary.

You be Frank, and I’ll be Earnest.

If you go to bed with dogs, you’ll wake up with fleas.

Keep your ducks in a row!

But more than the sayings, of which there are many more, she had our class do a Treasure Chest. This is not what you are thinking. Miss Reynolds’ version was a notebook where we were required to find photos (no Google images or internet then) of items like Ionic, Doric, and Corinthian columns, egg and dart design, finials, pediments, broken pediments, leather fire buckets, Greek key design, Betty lamps, andirons, and much, much more. I learned so much from my Treasure Chest that I assigned it to my American Literature students in my own classes. When I visited Washington, DC, I was so grateful to her that I had names to put to all the marvelous architecture that I saw there.

In Mr. Gooch’s class one day, I pulled the hair out of my hairbrush and dropped it on the floor. Gross, right? He asked me if I did that at home, and being the lying teenager that I was, I told him yes. He said that he knew my parents, and he was pretty sure that I did not throw my hair on the floor at home. That day he taught me more about respecting property that wasn’t mine than he can imagine.

Mrs. Beaver taught me how to lay out pages in a good design for our high school annual. She allowed me freedom to experiment with different layouts while keeping me within the bounds of good taste. For this I am grateful. To this day I shudder when I see layouts with flowers and embellishments plastered about, and photos cut akimbo. She also taught me not to run to the bathroom without telling anyone when I whacked the top of my index finger off with one of those giant paper cutters. I almost passed out when the water hit my wound.

Mrs. Tash supervised my student teaching. One day I had a real problem with a student. The next day I asked Mrs. Tash how I was supposed to treat the student when she came to class. She said, “You treat her like nothing ever happened. Somebody has to be the adult.” Thank you, Mrs. Tash, for the most valuable lesson that I continue to use in my classroom to this day.

In college, Dr. Roth taught me that music is the universal language.

Dr. Absher taught me that marketing class was awesome to the point I changed my major to business. However, when I couldn’t pass economics, I happily returned to my first love—English literature.

Dr. Thompson represented the epitome of the English professor. He had the look, he had the voice, and he had the intellect. In his class I learned that when you are a master teacher, if you start your class on a different work than what your students have prepared for, you can just turn the pages to what they studied and lecture without missing a beat. This was a Milton course, by the way. I was in awe that he could do that.

Dr. Foster taught me how to diagram the life out of a sentence. I hated it, but by the end I could diagram sentences with the best of them. I diagrammed so many sentences that at one point I was in his office crying because I could no longer find dadgum verb in a sentence. Now that’s overload for ya.

The teacher I was told to avoid at all costs was Dr. Wilson. The easy teacher’s class closed, and I was faced with the dilemma of taking Dr. Wilson’s class or going another semester. I’m so glad I took his class. He taught me more about teaching than any other instructor I ever had. I learned to walk with confidence into a classroom, to teach with authority, and to say no directly if a student’s answer was wrong without pussyfooting around. I also learned how to read a student’s face if there was lack of understanding and explain again so the student might comprehend better.

Dr. Neff paced the classroom like the Energizer Bunny and looked like Inspector Gadget. He made Lit Crit interesting, and that’s quite the feat, I can assure you.

Dr. Gaunder was not only my teacher, she was my mentor. It didn’t matter what I asked her, she could explain it to me in a way that made it crystal clear. I also loved her very much. Imagine my surprise at her memorial service when I heard that she made scores, if not hundreds of her students feel like they were so very special to her just like she did with me. Now that’s an amazing teacher.

I learned class material from all of these teachers, but it is pretty clear that what the great teachers teach, maybe even more than coursework, is life lessons. Many of my teachers have passed on and many will never see this. But to all of these, and the ones I had but didn’t mention, I say, “Thank you.”

Last but not least, thank you to my grandfather, my grandmother, my mother, my uncles, and my aunts—all teachers in elementary or high schools. Their example helped shape me into the teacher I am today.

What teacher do you appreciate?

Adventures in Geocaching: HMGT #14 Dils Cemetery aka McCoy Gravesite

Dils Cemetery is our stop in this installment of the Hatfield McCoy GeoTrail Adventure.


McCoy Gravesite Sign


See our white van way down there?

I had read about the uphill, mountainous hikes to the graves; I was a bit concerned.

Rightfully so, as it turns out. Good gracious—turns out all these mountain folks are buried, of all places, on mountains. Imagine that.


Dils/McCoy Gravesite

Honestly, I’ve never seen anything like it. In Alabama, we have nice, flat cemeteries. Drive up. Get out of your car. Stroll to grave. Easy. No fitness required.

Not so in Eastern Kentucky and West Virginia. Dils Cemetery was our first introduction to vertical burials. This uphill climb graveyard visit took us to the graves of Randal and Sarah McCoy, their daughter Roseanna of the Johnse romance fame, and various McCoy and Hatfield graves.


McCoy Headstone


Original Headstones

Also of interest is that Dils Cemetery is the first integrated cemetery in Eastern Kentucky.  Seems Colonel John Dils wasn’t a big fan of slavery, so he employed freed slaves and later provided burial spaces for them and their descendents.

Dils-Cemetery-Markers-HMGTFreed Slaves’ Graves

We walked about the graveyard, found the cache, and steeply descended the stairs to our car.

On a side note, when we arrived and got out of the car, a fireman and his daughter stopped us because we are from Alabama—I guess the Alabama plates and the Back-to-Back Championship magnet on the car tipped them off. His daughter wants to play softball at The University of Alabama, so we told them that would be a great choice. Roll Tide!

He also said that before the documentary came on TV, hardly anybody ever went “to that old man’s grave.” Now he said there are days he sees as many as 70 go see him in a day.

He helped an old woman go up there one day and spent “the most interesting three hours of my life with her.” She told him that Perry Cline could not have been involved as the lawyer because he was only 13 years old at the time. She also told him that Randal McCoy died after getting drunk and falling into a burning fire in the fireplace of a house that then burned down.

We heard various stories, and who knows what is fact or fiction at this point. All I know is that the whole deal is fascinating.


Sarah Syck’s Grave—what an interesting name.

Ready to go yet?

You can find more info here:


Disappearing Skills: Maps

In one of my classes with my international students today, I was telling them about the dream trip DH & I took in 1999 to Yellowstone National Park.

In the course of the conversation, they wanted to know how we got there.

“What do you mean, ‘How did we get there?'”

“How did you get there?”

“Um, by car.”

“No, no–How did you get there?”

“Well, we certainly didn’t have a GPS.”

“So, how did you get there?”

I just looked at them.

“We used a map.”

Triptik Map

“A map?”

“Yes. A map,” I said matter-of-factly.

“Oh, that’s so dangerous!”

“What?!” I couldn’t believe my ears!

A map? Dangerous?


“Haven’t you ever used a map?”

“Oh, no!” That is too dangerous!”

Honestly! They’ve never considered using a map, never heard of a AAA Triptik, and have never pondered the possibility of setting out on a trip with just a map in hand and no GPS.

Truthfully, I still like a paper map to show the big picture. I love my GPS (I have 6 of them, after all, 8 if you count the ones on our iPhones), but there’s something reassuring about a paper map that a GPS just can’t provide.

Teaching continually opens my eyes in many ways, but today takes the cake.

Maps. Dangerous. Who’d a thunk it?


Fake Spring Break

Today is the first day of Spring Break.

It’s been spitting snow all day.

It was 38 degrees.

The wind chill was 28 degrees. In Alabama.

I had to get our taxes done.

We have to get a new AC/Heating unit put in later this week. (The one that’s kaput is only 5 years old.)

If I had thought this through, I would have gotten my sister, and we would have gone to her condo in Florida after I rescheduled the above tasks.

Sea Oats

On the upside, we are getting a tax refund. Nice, since it’s our money anyway.

How has your first day of Spring Break been?

Don’t Miss the Little Very Important Things This Christmas

We celebrated Christmas on December 16th this year due to a variety of reasons. It was wonderful for many different reasons including no pressure for anyone to have to be celebrating with anyone else on that particular day. You know how it is—go here—go there—go everywhere—and have a hard time enjoying any of it. We’ve all been there.

So, this year, no pressure. Just a day, albeit early, to enjoy Christmas.

We did all the usual things—ate too much, bustled about, and then settled down to open the ridiculous number of presents. We start out rather organized with each one opening a gift at a time, and then descend into a kind of anarchy where there ensues a bit of pell-mell opening of gifts. Chaos. Lovely.

After all the presents were opened and the adult children with our grandchildren were heading home, I hear a small voice.

“Aren’t you going to open this present?”

“What, Little Baby?”

“Are you going to open this one?”

She pointed to the one lone remaining gift.

GG#3 Gift

“Is this for me?”


Now, I had thought this gift just had candy that she had confiscated from a stash I had in the kitchen, so I didn’t think it was very important.

Boy, was I wrong.

Grandgirl #3 looked at me with her big brown eyes, and I could see that I had committed a grievous error.

I had overlooked her gift that she had made just for me.

This child had spent hours painstakingly sticking pins through sequins and beads making an Alabama ornament just for me.

GG#3 Ornament

And I had just left it sitting there.

When I opened it, tears sprang to my eyes. I’ve never received such a gift.

This child never ceases to amaze me. She will work hours on end on a project and then hand it to you like it took her two minutes to complete.

This one took the cake, and I almost missed it.

Please don’t miss the little important things coming your way this Christmas.