59 of My Closest Friends, Many of Whom I Barely Remember

Party Day: Many hands make light work.
Photo courtesy of Gina Barnes

Our high school graduating class hadn’t held a reunion in ages, so a few of us came up with the idea for a classwide birthday party.

If you knew me as a teenager, you realize I’m the very least-likely person to suggest and plan a huge party. We’re talking The Ultimate Wallflower. Aside from an occasional sleepover, I don’t think I even attended any parties while in high school.

That introversion is also why I barely remember many of my classmates. I spent most of those four self-conscious years wondering what everyone else thought of me instead of paying attention to them.

Anyway, back to the party… My friend Gina and I started the ball rolling, asking locals to find a venue and a caterer. We created a Facebook group to get the word out. Friends added friends, people who aren’t on Facebook heard from others who have their contact info, and the guest list began to grow.

We booked the perfect party room, just big enough and plenty warm on a chilly night. Just one little shortcoming: no sound system. Only the four people closest to the cake-table boom box could hear the Doobie Brothers and Lynrd Skynrd tunes. And all those brilliant welcoming remarks I was gonna make?

They went unsaid.

So, yeah, pretty much like my entire time in high school.

Be that as it may, I learned a few things and found some fabulous blessings in the evening…

1) Facebook is a marvelous invention. In fact, we couldn’t have gathered nearly as many classmates without the ripple effect of those connections. But being together in person–seeing and hearing each other, the warm hugs, catching up on each other’s lives–technology offers no substitute. Not even close.

“Reunited and it feels so goooood…..”

2) Don’t wait too long to get together. A shocking number of our class members have died since graduation.

3) A good reunion takes a village: the planners, the local connections, the inviters, the setter-uppers, and the guests who take their weekend to travel for the event.

4) It doesn’t have to run flawlessly to be fun and meaningful to everyone.

5) Some classmates I barely knew in school, or didn’t think I had much in common with, have turned out to be fascinating people.

6) Best of all… None of us are teenagers anymore!

Your turn: Have you ever been to a reunion? Been pleasantly surprised at anything about your now-grown-up classmates? Bonus points if you tell an embarrassing story on yourself.

Thanks for reading,

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Baby Shoes, by Lynne Gentry

From Amazon:

Image credit: Amazon.com

When the life you save is your own…
Madison Harper is an uptight doctor on her way to international recognition. Parker Kemp is no longer the fun-loving cowboy Madison tried to ignore in high school. He’s a humanitarian who came home from a third-world country with a life-threatening illness and an adorable daughter. Maddie and Parker can’t fall in love and continue to save the world…or can they? Opposites attract and bridges are mended in the heartwarming conclusion to the Harper family saga.
Humor. Heart. Hope.
Come home to Mt. Hope and laugh until you cry.

Why I recommend it:

In Mt. Hope, Texas, Lynne Gentry has created a town full of hugely endearing characters. This fourth book in the Mt. Hope series sets its sights on Maddie, the daughter of former pastor and his widow, Leona. The mother-daughter friction makes for an uneasy framework, but also gives the story a lot of heart.

Not to mention her off-again, off-again “relationship” with Parker Kemp, formerly the agriculture agent for Mt. Hope and the county. He’s fled to Guatemala to help provide safe water and try to bury his feelings for Maddie.

I enjoyed watching Maddie’s conflicting priorities careen around, wobble, and finally settle into place. I hope you like this Great Weekend Read as much as I did.

Thanks for reading,

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Things I Learned About Holidays with Grandkids

Having our son and his family visit from halfway across the country made this past Christmas extra special. I need to see our grandchildren more often, though… it seems I’ve forgotten a lot about living with preschoolers. Here for your enlightenment / review are some things I learned–or re-learned–during their visit.

Having a booster seat for the little man is great, but it needs to actually be at the airport when the kids arrive. Fortunately, we thought of this and Brent drove up to meet them, hand over the booster, and ferry their luggage to our house.

The playground is your friend.

Ceramic soap dispensers in the children’s bathroom: no. Go with the plastic bottle.

Sleep is golden, especially when the children are experiencing it.

Sometimes the littlest visitor can be the boldest feeder of goats.

Mommy knows best. Follow her lead.

Tearing the paper off gifts is 90% of the fun.

If a 2- or 4-year-old asks for a particular food, that’s no guarantee he will eat it. As near as I can figure, the likelihood of the food being eaten is inversely proportional to the amount of trouble involved in preparing it.

Model trains are fun for children of all ages.

I hope your Christmas was as fun and wonderful as ours was!
Thanks for reading,

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New Year’s Luck: A Guest Post

I wanted to share this post with you because it gives a northerner’s charming take on our treasured Southern tradition of eating blackeye peas on New Year’s Day. The post first appeared December 31, 2017 on Carolee’s blog “Herbal Blessings.” Carolee is my online gardening friend– At least, I drool over the pictures of her robust kitchen garden, and enjoy her stories. You can visit her here.

Take it away, Carolee!

New Year’s Luck

Posted on December 31, 2017 by carolee
I grew up on a farm, two miles from a town that we rarely visited except to go to school and church, and on Friday nights during basketball season. (This is Indiana, after all, and high school basketball was almost a religious experience.) Holidays were not given a lot of attention, other than Christmas. New Year’s Day was just another day of doing chores, at least until we got a television, and then watching the Rose Parade became a welcome tradition.

So as an adult when I moved to a city and met Cherie, a true southern lady who was aghast that I didn’t eat blackeye peas on New Year’s Day to ensure good luck in the coming year, it was a revelation. She was so adamant that I was instantly converted to believer. Decades and decades later, that tradition is still followed in my home.

Cherie grew up with a traditional blackeye pea dish in which the peas are simmered all day with ham hocks or pork belly until tender. Collard greens were also part of the mix. To me, blackeye peas are confusing, because they actually resemble beans much, much more than they resemble peas. Cherie’s dish was not especially to my northern taste bud’s liking, so early on I developed this blackeye pea salsa that is our New Year’s tradition, and many years later published it in my first book, “Herbal Beginnings.” If you have the book, it’s listed as “New Year’s Day Salsa.”

To Cherie’s horror, I use canned peas.

Here’s the recipe: Drain 1 can blackeye peas and place in a mixing bowl with 4 Roma tomatoes, diced; 1/2 c. chopped red onion; 1/2 a large green pepper, diced; 1/4-1/2 c. chopped fresh cilantro; 1 (or more to your liking) fresh jalapeno pepper, finely diced; juice of a lime, salt and pepper to taste. Allow salsa to rest a few minutes for flavors to develop.

I generally serve it with grilled tilapia, a healthier choice than chips. Nothing flashy, but it seems to work. I feel I’ve had very good luck in the years since I’ve eaten them on New Year’s Day.

As I surveyed the seed catalogs this week, I found that a Hoosier seed store actually carries blackeye peas. The varieties they offer are “California Blackeye #46,” “Pink Eye Purple Hull,” and “Queen Anne Blackeye.” I’ll have to do some research to see which type I’ll grow, because I suspect if an anonymous can of blackeye peas can bring good luck, then blackeye peas that have been lovingly planted, carefully tended in my organic potager, harvested and stored at precisely the right time should be even luckier. Don’t you agree? Besides, it’s always fun to try something new, and I’ve never grown them before. I wonder if the flavor difference between homegrown and canned will be as pronounced as it is for green beans. It will be fun to find out!

On this final post of 2017, I wish you all the best of good luck in the coming New Year, and hope 2018 will be filled with Herbal Blessings and fun galore! Carolee

It’s me, Jan, again. Carolee’s New Year’s Day Salsa, which resembles a dish I’ve heard called “Texas Caviar,” looks pretty yummy, don’t you think? I might just cook that jalapeño first, though. I’m a transplanted northerner, myself…

Your turn:

What New Year traditions do you keep? Tell me about it in the “Leave a Reply” box below the post.

Thanks for reading,

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2017 In Review

Now retired, my planner looked much better in January, when this photo was originally posted.

Another blogger gave me the idea of posting a “Year in Review,” listing the title and opening sentence of the first post from each month. I’ve had fun pulling these together for you. Each title links back to the original post, in case you want to go back and read any of them…

January: “How to Fix Broken Resolutions
New Year’s Day is a perfectly fine and logical occasion for taking a self-inventory and setting some goals—if you have time between shopping the sales. …

February: “Happy Black History Month!
My family is white, and during my early childhood, we lived in small towns in Illinois and Missouri where nearly everyone around us was also white. …

March: “Protein Shaken—Part 2
When last we left Jan, she was wiping splashed protein shake off her face and was about to clean up the (major) portion that had dripped behind the refrigerator. …

April: “Fiction Jail
Last time, I talked about the dogwoods inspiring my current fiction series… well… I need to let you know that I’m going to spend April in jail. …

May: “Geriatric Puppy Training
Hello, friends! It’s good to be back at my blog after a month in Fiction Jail. …

June: “Breathtaking Customer Service
Last week I published a post about the goofy setbacks to my efforts at celebrating Brent’s birthday. …

July: “How to Score ‘King of the Mountain’ Status Without Riding a Bicycle
Chronically knotted muscles are no fun. …

August: “39 And Counting
Ha, you thought 39 was my age, didn’t you? …

September: “Mother of Pearl, by Kellie Coates Gilbert
Barrie Graeber is called out of a high school faculty meeting and given the horrible news: her teenage daughter, Pearl, has been killed in a one-car accident. …

October: “Warning: Interplanetary Appliance Conspiracy
Construction detours, rain, no cell service, verrrrrry spotty map info, snacks but no real lunch… Relief flooded us when, at about 1:00 PM, we finally came to Packwood–an actual town. …

November: “Happy Birthday to Me
My birthday is this week, so I’m pampering myself a little… Instead of crafting a thoughtful post for today, here is an oldie-but-goodie that I wrote more than six years ago. …

December: “We Have Lost the Chihuahuas, by Paul Mathews
Howie Pond is at it again… whether he likes it or not. …

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A Redbird Christmas, by Fannie Flagg (Plus a Milestone)

While planning my December blog posts, I counted up and realized the next one after Christmas would be my 400th post. (I started in July 2010.) Today does, indeed, mark that milestone. In addition, this is my last post of 2017. That’s kind of a win; I like round numbers.

That being said, I’m happy to close 2017 with a Great Weekend Read for you.

A Redbird Christmas is one of the most charming books I’ve read in years. Reminiscent of Jan Karon’s Mitford series, it takes place in Lost River, a tiny Alabama town populated with quirky-yet-endearing characters.

Oswald T. Campbell is a world-weary man who flees Chicago for the south when he learns that another northern winter will kill him. Even so, he’s probably about to experience his last Christmas. Having no connections in the south and nothing to do but wait to die, he takes his doctor’s recommendation and goes to Lost River.

To his surprise, Oswald finds the townspeople growing on him and, even more surprisingly, he is growing on them. I’ll stop here to avoid spoilers, but take it from me–you’ll love this Great Weekend Read.

Thanks for reading,

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I Hear Him

Here’s a poem I wrote several years ago. I hope it blesses you.


I Hear Him

I hear Him. . .

In the awesome, roaring grandeur

of the thunder

the waterfall

the pounding surf


And I hear Him. . .

In a still, small voice

the whispering pines

and the welcome cry of a newborn Babe,

still thrilling the earth

two thousand years after being soothed

in the tender arms of His mother.

(c) Jan Johnson


Wishing you all the joy of the Savior: Immanuel, God with us.

Merry Christmas
and thanks for reading,

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