Category Archives: Just Because

Not Granny’s, But Close

One of my most cherished memories of Christmases past is savoring sweets at Granny’s house. She was famous for her beautiful holiday spice cakes, with pristine white frosting with perfect pecan halves and delicately cut and placed maraschino cherries in red and green to resemble Christmas flowers. I don’t recall liking the spice cake itself; it was too, well, spicy for a kid’s palate. But she also made awesome cookies. She made three kinds of cookies at Christmas: decorated sugar cutouts, black walnut cookies, and these… my personal favorite. I have her recipe. It is a perfect from-scratch recipe. But I tried this hack one year and never looked back. 

Hope you will try it and it’ll make you and your family smile Year after year. Granny would like that. 

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Posted by on January 5, 2017 in Just Because


On Memorial Day

Memorial Day 1917

Today is May 30, 2016—99 years to the day after this postcard was presented. That Memorial Day, we were in the throes of yet another war, The Great War, what we now know as World War I (1914-1918). Imagine the people of our nation setting aside a day to remember those who had given their lives in previous wars while being worried sick about their loved ones overseas fighting what seemed a more horrific war… not being able to get news as quickly as we do today, not knowing the war would carry on another full year and a half. This war was a major turning point in history. Men coming back from this war experienced a change in class division. Shattered were the societal rankings of First, Second, and Third Class. An era had abruptly come to a halt because of the war. This war also saw the advent of taking the battle into the air, an additional battlefront, and the use of chemical warfare.

Yet still, in 1917, Memorial Day was a must. There were, at the time, many living veterans from the American Civil War and the war in the Philippines. Combined, those two conflicts saw a loss of over 2% of the entire U.S. population with roughly 630,000 men dying from wounds and disease, all while fighting for their homeland.

Decoration Day Postcard

Decoration Day was the name given the first memorials for fallen soldiers, both in the north and the south after the Civil War. There is some dispute as to who truly started the ritual, but the fact remains that just three years later, similar activities, started mostly (and indisputably) by ladies and ladies’ organizations like the United Daughters of the Confederacy, were taking place all over the country. On May 5, 1868, a proclamation was called for “Decoration Day” to be observed annually and nationwide. Weeks later, on May 30 of the same year, it was observed for the first time by all on the same day. The story goes the date was chosen because it was not the anniversary of any particular battle. It’s also said May 30 was selected because it was the optimal date for flowers to be in bloom.

Notice nowhere did it say Decoration Day meant going to the beach or having a cookout or party. It was a day to decorate the graves of those who died defending our homeland (be it the American colonies seeking freedom, the American Southland seeking freedom, or the American soldiers in any conflict seeking to preserve the union of states and/or its united freedom.) I have a theory as to why this changed. Why we now feel more comfortable treating this day as a day off from school or work… a day for sales at retailers and a day for crowding local beaches and parks. My theory is simple. We are now too UNCOMFORTABLE talking about death.

Do you agree? Back in the Victorian Era and beyond, death was treated with reverence and a level of intimacy that we simply cannot fathom. People typically died at home and the dead were cared for by loved ones, mourned, and buried locally. The woman of the house bathed and dressed the deceased herself and laid them out in the parlor for the mourning period. Loved ones sat up with the dead for a set period of time in case they “awoke” (hence the term “wake”) just before the funeral. This made sense because of the very real fear of being buried alive (they still had no understanding of consciousness or comas). Everyone in the house would don black mourning attire, the mirrors would be shrouded with black material, clocks stopped at the time of death, wreaths hung on the doors, shutters shut, food served was minimal and bland. There were rituals to follow and people adhered to them. Mourners wore black clothing for extended periods of time out of RESPECT for the deceased and to show the outside world they were hurting. Can you imagine? How many people are there at any given moment at your local grocery store who would appreciate you knowing they were sad? Think you might treat them a little more gently? My guess is plenty and yes, of course.

Back then people embraced death as the natural part of life that it is. They openly prepared for it and respectfully demonstrated their feelings. Interestingly, on the other hand, they NEVER talked about sex. Today, we openly talk about sex, show our belly buttons to strangers, and have no concept of death. I venture to guess very few of us have ever seen a dead body (not that we want to). Being so separated from this natural progression of life has caused us more harm than good. Death is now kind of a mystery… Your friend is here one minute and gone the next. Yes, some still have open caskets and visitations for closure. But there’s no intimacy. No coming to terms with the passing. We quickly move through it, and then pretend it doesn’t bother us. We go right back to work. We jump right back into normal everyday life and try to keep it all together and you can’t. It doesn’t work that way. The Victorians knew this better than most.

The American Civil War ushered in a new problem. So many families lost loved ones away from home… with thousands not even able to be identified, so loved ones could be notified by letter. Imagine. Your son, your brother, your husband, neighbor or friend goes off to battle and is never heard from again. How do you properly mourn him? There’s no closure. And for a culture steeped in religious principles, that was even more painful. These men did not die a “good death”, at home surrounded by loved ones, able to make a dying wish or final statement. They were unable to be blessed by the clergy before being placed into the earth for a final rest before judgment day. This wracked the hearts and minds of many during the American Civil War. It is said that at one period in late 1864, there were an estimated 80,000 women in black in the state of Alabama alone. So much mourning. We can’t wrap our modern heads around that.

Memorial Day COKE ad

So, while we are planning our picnics and slathering on sunscreen for a day on the boat, we need to take a moment to consider the true meaning behind the moniker. It’s Memorial Day. A day to remember those who gave their lives so that we could live the way we do—FREE to take a six pack of Coke to the party. The further we get from a war where there was great loss of life, the softer we get. Just in our era, we had an outpouring of patriotism following the attacks on September 11, 2001. But where is that sentiment today, just 15 years later? We’re getting soft again.

Please, be sure at some point on this day to stop and really take in the day’s meaning. Share it with your spouse and your children. Make sure you at least take a minute to give thanks and honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice. Remember the saying, “All gave some, some gave all.”

That is truly something to think about, at least one day a year.



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Posted by on May 30, 2016 in Just Because


Simon Sinek: Why Leaders Eat Last – YouTube

Want to feel inspired?

Want to understand WHY we feel inspired?

Watch as Simon explains it.

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Posted by on April 19, 2016 in Just Because


The Story of Publishing a Story

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See that book up there? Number 66? The Adventures of Abigail Rose – Ida Patten’s Antebellum Doll. That’s mine! I wrote that. I conceived the idea, came up with the characters, the plot, the story line… I wrote it, then I sat on it for months. I knew I wanted it published, but guess what?

I was scared.

Scared of what? The unknown. I had no idea how to get a book published. Despite the fact that there are millions of articles on the internet about it. Even though there are books published on publishing books (yes, that is as funny as it sounds). There I sat, completely stymied. Frozen in fear.

I thought the best way was to ask local businesses and like-minded people to donate money to cover the cost of printing. But whom should I ask? And how? I HATE ASKING FOR MONEY. Hate it. I suck at the asking for money part of anything, if it’s for my own benefit. I can raise money for a cause or for a friend like a champ, but uh-huh when it comes to me, myself & I. Nope.

So, the project sat.

Then it dawned on me that this book NEEDED to be in print by the Spring Open House event at the property where the story takes place. Why? Because the restoration efforts for the historic home, for which the book proceeds were intended, was about to be underway and this was a great vehicle to draw attention to the cause. Aha! There’s that word. CAUSE. Suddenly, I had the motivation I needed.

So, I jumped onto GoFundMe and created a campaign to help raise awareness and the necessary funds to green-light the project. Guy Kawasaki and Shawn Welch wrote a  book called APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur–How to Publish a Book. What a Godsend. The book literally covers every aspect of self-publishing, in terms that made sense and quelled the flames of fear. In the book, there was even a way to estimate how much money an author would need to raise to cover the cost of editors, proof-readers, printers, etc.

So… I asked. And PEOPLE ANSWERED. I was joyfully astounded by the outpouring of support. Friends from Facebook, strangers from Facebook, and family (who also happen to be on Facebook) generously donated to the project. Suddenly, the pieces were falling into place.

But there was still that little problem of the unknown. The how to get it done bit. A couple of trusted individuals (as well as Mr. Kawasaki) had recommended CreateSpace, a self-publishing arm of Amazon, so I timidly visited the site. It was completely overwhelming. The website had TOO MANY WORDS on it. The process seemed convoluted and scary. But, after consulting a local printer and discovering the up-front costs of going that route, I was determined to make CreateSpace work.

And it did. Obviously. Turns out, it was easier than I thought. Within a few weeks, I had tweaked my manuscript, found and verified the images I wanted to utilize, created the cover and back cover, added some fun bonus material, and had three editors comb the pre-press galley proof for dumb mistakes (somehow three mistakes still made their way into the finished product… more on that later). I was ready.

Deep breath.


When the box arrived with the finished books inside, I nearly fainted. There they were. Multiple copies of MY book staring back at me once the cardboard flaps were parted.


What a remarkable sensation. To say it was surreal sounds trite, but it kinda was surreal. Here I had this project simmering on the back burner for nearly TWO YEARS and now, here she was, looking up at me from a box of 50. For someone like me, who revels in the creation phase and has more unfinished than finished in her repertoire, this was quite an achievement. And on time, too. (Those who know me, expect me to be 15 minutes late, always.)

So, now for the truly hard part. Selling it.

Did I mention I don’t like asking for money when I am the beneficiary? Luckily, I am not the sole beneficiary this time. The majority of the proceeds will go to the restoration of the Patten House—home of the heroine of the story—a lovely Victorian home on the Gamble Mansion property, a short distance from the Manatee River, in beautiful Ellenton, Florida.


My husband insisted that a little bit of the money help us with our own bills. I never realized how much an author pays in TAXES on a book she writes. We pay sales tax on the book when it’s printed and income tax on the book when it’s sold. (I just keep learning new things.) So, yes, I am keeping a small portion. To try and not feel guilty about it, I’m channeling Shark Tank’s Robert Herjavec who stated so eloquently in an interview, “Success is becoming a dirty word. I make no apologies for my money.” (Watch the interview here.) I’m nowhere near needing Herjavec’s level of denial, but it struck me when I heard him say that. I crave to be that at ease with success.



  1. I see now that it is absolutely true that everyone has a book in them and it is an irreplaceable feeling of accomplishment. I think we all need more of that feeling. Scratching an item off your To Do list is invigorating. If writing a book is on your Bucket List, can you imagine how it will feel to scratch that one off?
  2. No one gets rich by simply being an author. If that’s why you want to write a book, don’t waste your time.
  3. Knowing when to quit editing/adding is the most difficult part. Somehow you have to get to a point where you feel comfortable walking away and calling it DONE.
  4. Being OKAY with finding mistakes AFTER the damned thing is printed is sometimes impossible. Especially weird mistakes that SHOULD have been caught by YOU. Ugh.
  5. Self-publishing is AMAZING. I can now help anyone get a book published. No matter how small, how silly, how imperfectly written… If you want to publish something, contact me.
  6. People will surprise you. There will be some that you totally expect to support your project that won’t and some that you never imagined would that do. Life is certainly like a box of chocolates.



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Posted by on March 14, 2016 in Just Because


This Week’s Topics and Guests – The Radio Ear Network Project

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It’s so fun to see a blurb about the book on the internet!

The interview with Dona Lee of Village Voices for her Culture Coast radio show aired on Thursday and will run again Friday night (2–26–16) at 11:00EST.

So exciting.

Tune in…



Radio Ear Network — In Our Communities – There are No Boundaries – No Hidden Agendas – Just Voices for a Better Life

Source: This Week’s Topics and Guests – The Radio Ear Network Project

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Posted by on February 26, 2016 in Just Because


Something so simple…



There’s a back story here that’s kind of convoluted, as most back stories are. But the gist of it is this: A group of parents, retired educators and community leaders have come together to speak up for the rights of teachers and students. We have watched Common Core be thrust upon our country and people take positions of authority in our education system that truly appear to not have children’s best interest at heart, much less any background in education. We see a removal of recess and the addition of more testing as an issue. And we do not like the amount of pressure being placed on our kids with these standardized tests that even many adults could not pass.

Our group came together and volunteered their time and energy to help elect a new school board member. We did so honestly and openly and ran a clean, grassroots campaign. Our candidate won. Our candidate and our group garnered some followers and some dissenters. None of this is surprising. But this happened two months later:

Our group was spied on.

Yes, someone, who remains a mystery, paid a Private Investigator to drive by our meeting place (a private citizen’s home) and copy down all the license plate numbers of those in attendance. Yes, this concerned us, as you can imagine. Why in the world would someone care enough about who we are and what we were doing to PAY an investigator to snoop on us? Sounds like a John Grisham novel to me.

Here is a link to the editorial column written yesterday about this article from last week. Read them both and then read my comment below. (You can actually read them in any order you choose… this isn’t one of those tests!)

Then I would love to read your comments on your take on the status of our nation’s education system. Do you follow it at all? Some do, many don’t. Does it scare you at all? Would it bother you to have a meeting you attended be under surveillance? What would you do?






I see some of you have questions about the group of concerned community members who occasionally meet to discuss our education system. You may have passed judgment on these people because of alliances you may have with a previous school board member.

I do not blame you one iota.

However, every pancake has two sides. Our group is genuinely concerned with the turn our county and our nation are taking in education…

Change is never easy. Change for the better is tolerable. Change for the worse, is a crime against our future.Our children deserve a solid education by teachers who are respected and treated fairly. Teachers who are not bullied into teaching questionable curriculum in an unreasonable timeframe. Teachers who are not stressed that their careers hang in the balance of results from a standardized test which may or may not be prepared purposefully to confuse students or test them on skills they are too young to have acquired.

We worry about our community’s future. We worry about our nation’s future. You should, too. Do you have young children or grandchildren? Don’t you want what’s best for them?

I presume you do because you are most likely an intelligent and caring person if you are reading this. Please, ask me any question you may have about our group. Ask me what we talk about when we meet over coffee. Ask me how we threw our collective volunteer efforts behind Mary Cantrell and why. We have no hidden agendas. No power plays. No mudslinging. We simply want education run by educators, people with the children’s best interest at the TOP of their priority list.

Education was once an institution for learning. Now it’s become an industry for business. That’s unfortunate. And that’s really all this is about. Do we want education to become a cookie-cutter mold to turn out cookie-cutter kids while business people make a buck? Or do we want our brightest and best to learn and grow and make a difference in the world?

What do you want, dear reader? In your heart, what do you hope the future looks like for our children? Remember, these are the people who will be in charge when we are in our Golden Years and beyond.

Feel free to contact me. I would be happy to meet you for coffee. And you can bring your friends who may also think negatively about people trying to keep education for and about educating children in an environment of mutual respect and integrity.

I leave you with this from Simon Sinek, author of Start with Why and Leaders Eat Last:
“There are leaders and there are those who lead. Leaders hold a position of power or influence. Those who lead, inspire us. We follow those who lead not because we have to, but because we want to. We want to because we believe what they believe. We know what they believe because those who lead, always start with why.”
Our group has a powerful why. And we are willing to share it with the world.
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Posted by on March 17, 2015 in Just Because


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FYI (if you’re a teenage girl)

If you haven’t already seen/read this great post floating around on Facebook or elsewhere, take a moment now to read this witty, level-headed mom’s address to her sons’ female friends. Brilliant.

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Posted by on September 4, 2013 in Just Because


Who’s Your Cheerleader?

I often catch myself being my husband’s cheerleader.

I am the one who keeps the positive outlook in our family.

He complains of a bill and I say, “Well, at least it’s only one bill and not three!”

You know, that kind of stuff.

Today I found a great article by a friend of mine, motivational speaker, Linda Larson, that I just had to share with you.

It’s brilliant. Read what she has to say here.

Take her advice, and mine… Try to put a positive spin on the trials in your life and see if it doesn’t help… At least a little.

PS. In searching for a cute photo for this post, I googled “cheerleader” and let me just say… Instead of cheerleader, I thought google had searched sex kitten! Gee-wiz. Apparently cheerleader is not the wholesome word it once was! Goodness!

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Posted by on February 19, 2013 in Just Because


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Finding Time at Christmas Time

And the award for most creative use of a Santa costume goes to...

And the award for most creative use of a Santa costume goes to…

I can’t believe my last post was over two months ago… yet, thinking back on the last two months and ALL that has transpired in our busy lives, it doesn’t come as a big surprise, really.

Time is my greatest adversary. We fight constantly. Every day. I never claimed to be an excellent manager of time. In fact, I can’t recall who said it, but I once heard someone say (and I readily agreed) that one can’t actually manage time. One can, however, manage oneself  Either way, at the end of the day, my to-be-done list still looms large in my brain and keeps me from getting a good start on that thing called sleep. Which, in the time BC (Before Children) was never an issue. Now, though, I often lay there ticking off the things I need to add to the next day’s ever-growing list because I failed to complete them today (or yesterday, or the day before, as the case may be).

Oh well.

I envy people who are singularly focused. You know the types? The people who can focus on one thing and one thing only, with such laser-like focus that the thing gets done beautifully, gracefully and with oodles of style. These people make it look easy. Why? Because they can focus on the one thing.Easy, right? They aren’t trying to do all sorts of things all at once. They don’t have a myriad of interests and find themselves overwhelmed by all of their extracurricular hobbies. I am not singularly focused. I can’t even imagine having one passion. Therefore, I must accept overwhelm as a way of life. Or try to combat it.

Combat it. Hmmmmmm.

Did I tell you that back in September, I started to weed out the things in my life that weren’t serving me? I was completely overwhelmed, under-motivated and just plain worn out. I stopped going to meetings that seemed like time-wasters. I started saying NO to some things (which is hard for me). It was actually quite liberating… at least for a moment.

Just when I took my first clarifying, deep breath of freedom, I took on a Girl Scout troop.

Yes. The story of my life. While trying simplify things, I throw it all into a magnificent tailspin.

I didn’t take on an existing troop. No, that would have been much easier. No, I drummed up a co-leader and spread the word. I went through all the training. Did all the paper work and background screening. I planned a weekly meeting place, a time, activities, an Investiture Ceremony – all with ZERO start-up cash. (Note to self: seek sponsors next time.) I now proudly boast having 18 amazing young ladies in grades K-2 who look adorable in their little uniforms and run up to me in the school halls, excited for the day’s adventure.

I joke that the Girl Scout recruiter told me it was easy to be a Girl Scout Leader while handing me a 3″ binder stuffed with all the Rules & Regs. Yep. It ain’t easy. It’s a time-consuming, red-tape laden, legally absurd set of hoops to jump through. But it is rewarding. Sound like a cliché? Of course, but it’s true. To see the girls’ eyes light up when they see me, to watch them enjoy an activity together, it really is wonderful. I had a mom tell me that her daughter just loves coming to Girl Scouts. She loves it so much so that she is even willing to live with her grandparents while mom moves an hour away for a job. Hearing that made me realize it was all worthwhile. I honestly believe I’m making a difference. My girl even told me she was happy that I was the Girl Scout Leader! Uh-huh. That’ll tug at the ole heart-strings. {I’ll write more on this some other day… Girl Scouting has come through 100 years and although so much of it has changed, the core values are still very much there and so what our girls need now more than ever. It’s truly another topic for another day…}

Aside from school and Girl Scouts, since October we have been on a road trip to “luxury” camp with my parents at the beach, been to a Civil War battle reenactment where we actually dressed the part and stayed in the camp (boy, the smell of a wood campfire sticks to EVERYTHING), we celebrated three birthdays, Thanksgiving, and our 13th Wedding Anniversary! Add to the mix all the school functions, minor illnesses and a fun trip to a dear friend’s farm & art studio and it’s no wonder I hadn’t spent much time in front of the computer tippy-tapping.

So, tonight I just wanted to say hello. To let you know I was still here. Still kicking. Still trying to do it all. Still not finding enough time in the day to complete The List.

To make matters worse (albeit far more festive):

Christmas is upon us. One week away, actually.

This next week is so jam-packed with holiday parties, cookie exchanges, caroling, gift-wrapping, trip-planning, excitement-building, cocoa-sipping, light-gawking… It’s gonna be crazy!

And fun.

I hope you and your family enjoy every minute of it. I know we will. And if time gets away from us… we’ll just add it to tomorrow’s list!

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Posted by on December 16, 2012 in Just Because


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Never Thought I’d…


One week shy of her 8th birthday, my girl had an experience neither of us was prepared for… Her very first invitation to dance by a… boy!

Okay, so first comes the confession. My husband is enthralled by the history of the American Civil War. While doing some genealogy research, he discovered that his great, great uncle was captured at Cedar Creek and taken to a Confederate Prison in North Carolina, where he died just before the war ended. Intrigued, my husband became “eat up with it”, as I call it, devouring tomes of information, spending hours on the Internet and visiting live re-enactments… Something I NEVER in a million years would have thought would interest him. Well, fast forward a year and he’s not only interested, we’re members! Yes. We. Our family is now an active part of the 97th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry.

It’s fascinating and turns out it’s fun for the whole family. To watch my husband get excited about something and share that passion with my children, is truly heart-warming. I admit, it may seem odd to relish a war or want to re-enact a gruesome battle, but I think it’s much more than that. It’s history. It’s learning about the clothes, the food, the letter-writing (a lost art), the way people in the 19th century lived without electricity, TV or fast food. To discover how children worked and learned and what was expected of them from a tender age. To learn how our ancestors entertained themselves. We got a first-hand experience at the Blue & Gray Cotillion, an annual event hosted by the 97th, open to all re-enactors in the area.

The music was genuine. The decor perfectly period and to see all the ladies in their 19th Century hoops and gloves… It was like walking on-set at the filming of Gone with the Wind.

Of course, the kids were ready to go home within 20 minutes of our arrival, in fact my girl had just complained for the 103rd time that she was sleepy and ready to go. That’s when this dashing young man of maybe 12, approached and asked my girl to dance.

To see her accept his invitation and walk hand-in-hand onto the dance floor. Neither making eye contact with the other. Swaying gently, not really dancing per se. My husband and I were nearly tearful, as our hearts swelled watching our baby – our teeny, tiny girl – have this experience. When the music ended, the boy gracefully bowed to her and took his leave. She ran over to me, hands flapping excitedly, “Did you see me? Did you see me, Mama?!” Priceless, I tell you. Priceless.

We enjoyed the refreshments and watching the others perform the Virginia Reel, then it was time for the raffle drawing. My girl WON! She actually won the Children’s Basket (chock full of sugary goodies and games and such). She was thrilled and bravely walked all the way across the floor to the stage to have her ticket number verified. I was so proud.

Before we left, while we were saying our good-byes to some friends, another young man asked my girl to dance. She was like a deer in the headlights, but again, she accepted and off they went. This young Rebel, without warning, even tried to twirl my girl! It was a sight to behold. One I will never forget. (Nor will she.)

Where else, besides church, can a family of four have such a wholesome time for $25?

Sometimes we have to step outside the box and try something new. I’ll share more with you as the Civil War’s sesquicentennial continues… Now, I must go and wash my corset and petticoats.

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Posted by on October 1, 2012 in Just Because


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