Category Archives: Holiday

Regrets, I Have a Few

The 4th of July is a happy holiday. Picnics and fireworks. My life has been such that I haven’t noticed holidays much. It may change soon, it may not.

Anyway, the 4th is one of those days that has many meanings to many people. To me it’s about freedom and that always leads me to thinking of those who make it possible. I was in the Air Force from January 1977 to January 1981. Me and Jimmy Carter were serving together. My one regret in life is that I didn’t stay in for 20 or more years.

I’m not much on the big regrets. Hurting someone with my imprudent tongue is a biggie, but other than that, there aren’t many things to wish were different.

For those of you who served, thank you. For those serving now, my prayers for you and your families. For those who will serve in the future, you will be doing a great and noble thing.

Photo from the Gary Sinise Foundation. Support if you can.




Father Time

photo (2)It’s Father’s Day, and a corner of my living room is filled with boxes. They contain treasures from an unlikely antique collector, my dad. He loved to tinker. We had a sailboat for the weekends, and our crowded garage housed his sometimes-running classic car. When I was a girl he discovered clocks and the excitement of auctions.

I smile to think of my reserved, book-loving dad–by day an aerospace engineer–caught up in the drama of bidding. He had limits: $25 for a table or wall clock, $125 for a grandfather. But for something special he would go higher. A little. He was, after all, an engineer.

Dad’s been gone twenty-five years. Mom recently downsized to an assisted living apartment, so not every clock could come along. Benjamin Bell, one of the prizes of Dad’s collection, came to me.

The brass face is inscribed with the clockmaker's name: Benjamin Bell Uttoxeter, c. 1761

A shot of “Benny Bell’s” brass works in their traveling box

There are benefits to having a son named Benjamin! Then too, my brother has the moon-face grandfather clock (just visible in the top photo). Growing up, I thought every family should have at least three. We did.

The purchase date (1969) was carefully recorded in my dad’s notebook, price $210. How he would smile to see his clock–a Father’s Day gift to me–here in my house.

Is it too tall?

Here he is in my house, without the hood.

The clockmaker’s name is inscribed on the face, as is customary. In 1761 he was listed as being twenty-four years old. Time for more smiling. Could Mr. Bell of Uttoxeter be an almost-contemporary of Jane Austen’s?

Best of all, 250 years later this clock still works. Okay, so sometimes the hands get hung up, but Mom says it keeps perfect time. The strike, however, is anything but elegant. A hammer crisply strikes an iron coil–clang!

So “Benny Bell” now lives in Oregon, and drama is afoot. This afternoon we will remove the works from their box, set them in the case, and place the hood. And the photo shows the problem.

Is our c. 1980 “energy-saver” ceiling tall enough? The tape measure says maybe. By, like, a half-inch. Here’s hoping!

Happy Father’s Day!

UPDATE: It fits!! With not even two inches to spare!
And to think I almost gave up on having this clock because I thought it wouldn’t.

Laura Hile (1)

Thank you to those who sacrificed their loved ones for the rest of us.true love MGD©

Guest Sons

Facebook has added a “Thankful” button to its gallery of Likes.  It’s Mother’s Day, and the timing is perfect. I could click that thing all day long. My mom has overcome a series of serious illnesses and is doing well, and so are my sons.

But I am also thankful for Guest Sons. I have a number of them, boys who came into my life after school and on weekends. Who played video games and swam in the community pool and ate whatever I served (pizza or lasagna or shepherd’s pie). They belched and cracked jokes and laughed. Oh, how they laughed.

From Nathan's era, here are Guest Sons Nathan, Tyler, Luke, and Sean

Here is Nathan with “Guest Sons” Tyler, Luke, and Sean. Their beloved choir director made them form a quartet, and he coached them. They sounded great!

“Mom, you should make shepherd’s pie for Stephen.” I heard this several years ago, when Nathan’s pal Stephen was on leave from the Navy. “He loves your cooking,” Nathan added. Excuse me, my cooking? I am a utility cook, flinging out meals on a skinflint budget. Surely Stephen was mistaken!  But I got busy in the kitchen just the same.

Michael with Will

Michael with “Guest Son” Will (Photo: Sue Blackwell)

It’s not that these Guest Sons were ungrateful–no hungry teen ever is. It’s just that I never realized how much they enjoyed hanging out at our place. Nothing special was offered. The boys’ shared bedroom was cramped at best–especially with all those scrounged TVs in there. Through the closed door I could hear hooting and hollering as they played Super Smash Brothers Melee for hours.

Hospitality, not entertainment, was all I had to offer. An open door. And in they came. Now I miss having them around.

Ben (center, flanked by brothers) and Guest Sons Sam, Tyler, Ryan, and Brent

Ben (center, flanked by brothers Nathan and Michael) and “Guest Sons” Sam, Tyler, Ryan, and Brent (Alexandra Grace Photography)

What I gave to them was Guy Time. Apparently that was what they needed most. This scene, from Susan Elizabeth Phillips‘ Match Me If You Can, captures the feel of those days at our apartment. Yeah, she gets it.

When did my house turn into a hangout for every grossly overpaid, terminally pampered professional football player in northern Illinois?”

“We like it here,” Jason said. “It reminds us of home.”

“Plus, no women around.” Leandro Collins, the Bears’ first-string tight end emerged from the office munching on a bag of chips. “There’s times when you need a rest from the ladies.”

Annabelle shot out her arm and smacked him in the side of the head. “Don’t forget who you’re talking to.”

Leandro had a short fuse, and he’d been known to take out a ref here and there when he didn’t like a call, but the tight end merely rubbed the side of his head and grimaced. “Just like my mama.”

“Mine, too,” Tremaine said with happy nod.

Annabelle spun on Heath. “Their mother! I’m thirty-one years old, and I remind them of their mothers.”

“You act like my mother,” Sean pointed out, unwisely as it transpired, because he got a swat in the head next.

Do you have Guest Sons and Guest Daughters? Know that you are loved by them as well. Happy Mother’s Day!

Laura Hile (1)

Wedding photo: Alexandra Grace Photography

Trading Places

Friday was a day of surprises. A day of trading places.

At 2:00 that afternoon, my son, Nathan, drove me to my pre-op appointment at an office next to the hospital. This is for the second surgery. Tuesday’s was textbook perfect. I am back to normal, as you will see.

But by 5:00, he felt nauseous and decided not to attend Good Friday service. Just before church started, I got a call. Where was the thermometer? In my purse, of course. Sepsis Recovery Girl always carries a thermometer in her purse.

Since we live seven blocks from church, I went right home. His temperature was normal. But his next statement was a stunner.

Photo: KOIN 6

Photo: KOIN 6

“Mom, I think I have appendicitis.” It was very early in the game, but he wanted to check it out. Off we went to Urgent Care before it closed. In turn, we were sent to the Emergency room.

And so six hours later, Nathan and I had traded places. Driving down the same freeway to the hospital, only in my car, with me at the wheel. We have been smiling about that since.

Who knows what a day will bring forth? Nathan intended to spend Saturday (yesterday) doing his taxes. Instead he had surgery. He is doing splendidly, by the way. His older brother, Michael, is on his way now to pick him up.

Easter is all about trading places, isn’t it? Jesus bore our sin. And if we put our faith in Him, He gives to us His righteousness. Our “trading places” for the drive to the hospital was amusing. But Jesus’ offer to trade wickedness for holiness is amazing.

Easter dinner will be a little different at our house this year. So many reasons to give thanks and rejoice. To you and your family, a blessed Easter.

Laura Hile (1)

Those Bennet Valentines

Image: liz west (Creative Commons Flickr) of an illustration by James Montgomery Flagg

Image: liz west (Creative Commons Flickr) of an illustration by James Montgomery Flagg

What better way to spend a winter’s morning than making Valentines? The Bennet girls have been busy. Ah, but will they be bold enough to post them? Let’s take a peek:



Roses are red, violets are blue.
Who is my Valentine?
Is he you, you, or you?
I do love a red coat,
My favorite hue.
When I make up my mind
Then my love will be true.



I read aloud and pour out tea,
And yet you seldom notice me.
I sing and play as well as the others;
My nerves are nothing like my mother’s!
A parsonage is where I’d shine,
Mr. Collins, be my Valentine!



You officers are such good friends
But you haven’t any money.
I dream of someone rich and fine
Who’ll dare to call me “Honey.”



The finest, dearest, kindest man
(in addition to dear Father)
Has come my way; is this God’s plan?
My patient heart’s a-flutter!



Violets are blue, like the penstemon.
I asked for True Love and was given a Lemon.
Yes, you are richer than Tom, John, or Harry.
But you’re still the last man
I ever would marry!

Southern Fried Austen

Y’all Ain’t Right

Lizzy and Jane Bea met Caroline for lunch at the Pig ‘n Vittles the day after Valentine’s Day. Caroline was hankerin’ for a smoked pulled pork barbeque sandwich, but Lizzy wanted smoked grilled chicken, and Jane Bea opted for Brunswick stew on account a her upset stomach the night afore. PignvittlesP & V sign


Caroline: This red slaw is to die for, y’all.

barbecue sandwich

Lizzy: I can’t wait for the homemade banana puddin’ at the end. Oh my goodness gracious Rachel, it’s worth waitin’ every minute for. Pass me that hot sauce.

Jane Bea: Good grief, girls. Y’all got holler legs? It’s all I can do to eat what I got. The pork in this stew is just as good as what Charlie and I ate here last night, and it’s cheaper. I shoulda stuck with a pimiento cheese sandwich.

grilled chicken

Caroline: What’d you guys have? My whole plate is just $5.99.

Jane Bea: Charlie put on the dog and bought us them foreign hot dogs from Korea. Between that and the beans, my stomach was making thunder all the way through that zombie movie. I won’t never eat that rotten stuff they put on that barkin’ dog agin. I just wish it had stayed in Korea. I spent half the night on the commode, tore up from the floor up.

Caroline: Did you and Charlie play smacky-mouth when you weren’t on the pot, or did you watch the zombies eat people?

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies


Jane Bea: Now, you just back that pickup truck up, Caroline. I ain’t about to tell anything I did with Charlie to his sister. And nobody ate anybody at the drive-in, but that was one strange movie. All them girls flyin’ around with swords, whacking the heads off those eat-up people. That Bingley guy was hotter’n all get out, but he was dumb as a sack a hair. Bless his heart. Made the man playin’ Darcy look downright pitiful in the looks department, even if he was a cotton-pickin’ ninja, jumpin’ around all over the place, savin’ that ‘Lizbeth girl’s life. She looked doggone good in that leather suit. I might hafta get me one a those. I think Charlie liked it. He was grinning like a goat eatin’ briars. Bingley

Lizzy: Why, Jane Beatrice! You ain’t right! You all’d wear a leather suit to please a man? Gonna get a Harley, too?

Jane Bea: That’s enough about my Valentine’s date. What happened at the monster truck rally? You gals meet Charlie’s friend?

Lizzy: Shore did. That man was all stuck on hisself. He’s better lookin’ than any man has a right to be, but he was too big for his britches, if you ask me. So rich he buys another boat when his gets wet.

Caroline: ‘Lizbeth Frances, you ain’t got the good sense God gave a goose, and ain’t nobody askin’ you. You just all green-eyed ‘cause he paid me more attention than he did you. If you’d put a clamp on that barbed-wire tongue, he might a jawed a little with you, too. Mama always told me I could catch more flies with honey than with vinegar. He was fearful handsome, Jane. I couldn’t watch the rally for lookin’ at him.

Lizzy: He thinks ‘cause he went to some fancy schmancy school and learned to talk like a Yankee that he’s better’n us dumb Southerners.

Jane Bea: Oh, no, Lizzy. What’d you say to him?

Lizzy: I told him I may talk slow but that don’t mean I’m stupid.

I May Talk Slow

Jane Bea: Good grief! You’d fight with a empty house, girl. Did he like your new outfit, Caroline?

Lizzy: (snorts) He wasn’t impressed as much as the rednecks waitin’ in line at the porta potties. Them guys were drunker than Cooter Brown. Their eyes musta been floatin’.

Caroline: Well, ain’t you just funny as a three-legged dog in a horse race! Them good ole boys wont that drunk. They just knew a good thang when they seen it.

Lizzy: They hollered at you, and you lit up like a Christmas tree. ‘Course you don’t think they was drunk. And they shore seen plenty of you. We all did. That little number you had on was so tight you musta used a whole can of W-D 40 and a shoehorn to get into it.

9dfb3dd2c60726a8be43966c611f4b2cCaroline: Just ‘cause I don’t wear farmer jeans like you don’t make me a loose woman. That dog won’t hunt. I’ve had enough a yore mouth, Lizzy. I’m goin’ home. I feel like I been rode hard and hung up wet. I’m gonna take me a nap. I’ll see you tomorra, Jane. Lizzy, I’ll see you when I see you.

Lizzy: Don’t let the screen door hit you in the rear end on the way out.

Jane Bea: Why you always gotta fuss with Caroline? The way you two carry on, you’d think y’all were kin folk.


Lizzy: She fusses with me, too, and she can just kiss my grits. I don’t know what in tarnation she’s gets so riled up about.

Jane Bea: (shaking her head) Y’all two ain’t right. You just ain’t right.