Tag Archives: family

On my Remarkable Aunts

When I think about my aunts—and how much of an impact they had on my life—I realize how lucky I am to have grown up in the world of my childhood, where my southern mother’s sisters—all 4 of them—loomed large.  They weren’t always physically present—as we sometimes went for years without seeing them (we were, after all, an Army family), but it didn’t matter.  My aunts had presence, no matter where they were, and, in one way or another, they each shaped my thinking about what kind of person I wanted to be.

My mother, Jane, grew up as the youngest in her family, and her four remarkable sisters, Isabel (called “Sister” by my mother), Mary Shepard (“Mamie”), Elizabeth (“Yittie”), and Margaret (“Peggy”) had very strong and distinct personalities.  Here they all are, in order of age, from left to right:  Sister, Mamie, Yittie, Peggy and Jane.

Sister, who was actually my mother’s half-sister (her mother was my grandfather’s first wife, who died when Sister was very young) was someone both fascinating and intimidating to me.  She was a straight-talking, funny woman who often took delight in shocking her audience.  I loved to listen to her dry sense of humor just as much as I dreaded having that humor directed at me.  I remember once when we were visiting her in Newport News, Va, and I had a bad pain in my stomach, Sister, the former Johns Hopkins nurse, looked right at me and said, “It’s probably your appendix, which could rupture at any minute and kill you.”  Then she half-smiled, enough for me to at least hope that she was teasing me.  To the great delight of my three sisters and me, Sister and  her husband, “Brother” (yes, this is a southern family we’re talking about), had dozens of cats and kittens always running around the yard of their house on the waterfront —with names (given by Sister) like “Cat” and “Kitten” and “Mama Cat.”  Sister didn’t spend a lot of time talking to me back then–I was too young–but somehow I always felt that she liked having all of us around—and that’s saying a lot, since there were six of us in my family.  What Sister gave me, along with an early exposure to intelligent wit and humor, was the important knowledge that I should never take myself too seriously.  Continue reading On my Remarkable Aunts

My African Adventure: Part III

I’m back home, safe and sound, so I thought I would just give the highlights of the trip.  I’m still a little jet lagged, so bear with me if I repeat myself.  The pictures, by the way, come courtesy of my photographer daughter, Josie!

1) Seeing a mother warthog with her 3 babies:

2) Seeing a herd of elephants rolling in the mud under a hot, hot sun at Madikwe Game Reserve:

3) Watching the sun set at Tuli Game Reserve while elephant shrews and lizards ran around the rocks at our feet:


4) Visiting the little town of Serowe, with its fabulous museum that features a room dedicated to the life of novelist Bessie Head, as well as great exhibits about the Khama family (rulers of Botswana over the years):

5) Seeing a leopard—a very rare sighting—out for an evening stroll and watching lions drinking at a watering hole:


6) Catching a mother and baby rhino in our spotlight on our night drive through Khama Rhino Sanctuary

7) Playing “Categories” with my girls while waiting for our afternoon safari drive at Tuli, while a monkey stole our opened can of tuna fish!

8) Realizing that we probably weren’t going to die out in the wilderness, even though our 2-wheel drive rented car was having considerable difficulty navigating the sandy roads at Khama and the rocky, potholed roads at Tuli

Continue reading My African Adventure: Part III

What I am Thankful for this Thanksgiving

 Here are 10 things I’m thankful for this year:

1)  We have wonderful friends who make us feel thankful to be alive and sharing this planet with them.

2)  Our daughter Becky in Africa is feeling better, so maybe she doesn’t actually have dengue fever or some other horrible tropical disease (what I immediately assumed upon hearing that she had a fever and muscle pains). And our daughter Josie does not have a stress fracture on her leg—just shin splints!  Yaay!  And she’s going with me to see Becky soon.

3)  Our daughter Lizzie has Janson in her life—a thoughtful, loving guy—and Janson may even have a job soon, thanks to some great folks who read about him in the paper and decided they wanted to go out of their way to help a Marine veteran!

4)  Our son, Parker, is very happy at Bard College—and, even though he won’t be home for Thanksgiving, he gets to have turkey dinner with Janet and Jerry, our wonderful friends in New York.


5)  I have three powerful and loving sisters (and a host of wonderful blood kin) and terrific, loving in-laws (how lucky is that?).

6)  Tom can still, after 28 years (is that possible?), make me laugh so hard that I risk embarrassing him in public (but I never really do).

7)  Obama is still in the White House.

8)  Even though I’ve gained some pounds and need to get rid of them, I’ve managed to keep off most of my weight loss.

9)  Our dog Tater loves to chase a laser around our floor—over and over again—without ever getting bored or tired.

10)  Ultimate Ice Cream (in Asheville, NC), especially the Coffee Heath Bar (perhaps this last one should be avoided). 

On Sending my Daughter off to Africa


My baby girl (Becky, who is 19) is now southern Africa.  And she’s there for the next 10 months.  I’m still trying to take in that information, so I thought it would help to write about it!

We took her to the plane last Sunday morning (6 a.m.!), and I swore I was going to be brave just long enough to get her on the plane.  I almost made it.  My eyes started tearing up when I saw her being friendly and cute with the other passengers in line to go through security with her.  She was starting conversations with at least three different people.  That’s just how she is.

After putting her on the plane at the Charlotte airport, our sadly diminished family group went to the local IHOP for breakfast and cried into our pancakes.  It was a bleak morning.  My spirits rose when I got a text message: “I’ll call you when I get to Africa.”  How ridiculous is that? Continue reading On Sending my Daughter off to Africa