Family, Memories of Home, Traditions


My mother, Winnie Latimer

For most of us, the holidays are enriched by family traditions sometimes established by someone who’s no longer with us. But a custom doesn’t magically pass from one generation to another. Instead, it endures when someone younger embraces it and shares it with those they love.

For my daughter and me, one such tradition is preparing my mother’s cornbread dressing during the holidays. No turkey is complete without Grandma’s dressing.

Terry, Maria and me with Mom and Dad, back when
we were getting our first lessons in dressing making.

The last time Maria and I made this holiday staple, I realized the conversation surrounding its preparation had become a tradition in itself. Each year, if you joined us in the kitchen, you’d hear a variation of the following:

             “Why are you making biscuits in the middle of morning?” Maria asks, as she sautés onions and celery in butter.

            “For the dressing. Grandma always added a couple of biscuits and rolls to the cornbread.”

            Later, I crumble the rolls, biscuits and cornbread into my biggest bowl and ask, “Did Grandma put eggs in her dressing?”

            “You always ask that, but I don’t think she did.”

            “I’ll leave them out.”

            In obedience to Mother’s voice in my head, I pour a generous amount of broth into the bread mixture and say aloud, “Make it sloppy so it won’t dry out.”

Then I cautiously add salt, pepper, poultry seasoning and sage, frequently stopping to taste. It’s easier to add more than to deal with too much.

            “Needs more poultry seasoning.” I sprinkle and sample again. “Is this about right?”

            “I’m leaving that up to you,” Maria says.

In this manner, I season and taste my way to a dish as closely resembling Mother’s dressing as possible. And in the process, she is with us in the kitchen, encouraging us as always with the thought that whatever the outcome, it will be just right.

Somewhere in what I hope will be the distant future, I hear a similar conversation going on between Maria and her girls. After all, it wouldn’t be Thanksgiving and Christmas without Grandma’s Cornbread Dressing.

Maria and her girls, Caroline and Emily
children's books, courage, dragons, Family, Ogden Nash, poetry


I can’t remember a time when someone didn’t read to me or encourage me to do so on my own. My brother and I spent our early years in the company of Uncle Wiggily, Christopher Robin, Winnie the Pooh & friends, Alice, Dorothy and a host of characters in The Golden Book of Poetry.
The poetry book was filled with colorful illustrations and poems that danced across the pages in a rhythm and rhyme that tickled us. We each had our favorites that we went back to over and over. By the time my children came along, that beloved volume was in tatters, so I invested in a new edition and shared the familiar poems with them. Although it’s now held together by packing tape, I still  occasionally bring out The Golden Book of Poetry to read “The Tale of Custard, the Cowardly Dragon” by Ogden Nash.

The poem tells the story of Custard, a cowardly dragon, who lives in a little white house with Belinda and her little black cat, Ink; a little gray mouse, Blink; and a little yellow dog, Mustard. Belinda and crew fancy themselves as brave as a barrel full of bears, tigers in a rage, and believe they can chase lions down the stairs. Their favorite pastime is to sit in her little red wagon and tease Custard because he cries for a nice safe cage. But when a nasty pirate invades that little white house, guess which characters hide and which one rises to the challenge? It’s a great story about overcoming your fears to save the people you love.

There was a time when I could quote “The Tale of Custard the Cowardly Dragon” by heart, but it’s under copyright, so I won’t do that here. And truth be told, now I could only regale you in part. But if you Google “The Tale of the Cowardly Dragon,” you can read the entire poem on Keith’s Poetry Archive page.

Amazon offers The Tale of Custard the Dragon as a single volume featuring illustrations by Lynn Munsinger. If you have small children or grandchildren, buy it for them. It will make you laugh. It will make them giggle. You’ll find yourselves going to it again and again for the sheer joy of Ogden’s poetry and whimsical tale!

 What was your favorite children’s book or poem?


God is the perfect poet. Robert Browning


courage, Faith, Family


John Lennon said, “Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans.” The longer I live, the more I know it to be true. Sometimes “what happens” is exciting and even better than our youthful dreams, but more often, life brings unexpected disappointments and even loss.

I recently spent the weekend with a childhood friend whose family has faced more personal tragedy than anyone should have to bear. Sherry’s son passed away at age 25 after suffering more than ten years with a rare genetic disorder that slowly robbed him of the ability to move and speak. Shortly afterwards, her husband began a prolonged physical battle, which he lost. Then her parents’ health began to decline, and her father died. Now her mother is disappearing into Alzheimer’s.

Sherry and her three grandchildren,
Emma, Reilly & Halle

Although we live five hours apart, we’ve stayed in touch. Over the years, I’ve been amazed by Sherry’s courage and the grace with which she has handled each ordeal. She has always been matter of fact about their circumstances but never dwelt on their sorrow. Instead, Sherry usually found something funny or positive to share and expressed sincere interest in what was going on with the rest of us.

During this visit, we talked about her losses and how she is learning to live alone for the first time in her life. Sherry said there had been times when she thought she couldn’t bear what was happening, but she made it through because of her faith and the support of family and friends. In visiting with her daughter, son-in-law, grandchildren and some of the friends who’ve walked through these things with Sherry, I caught a glimpse of the love, joy and strength that sustained them all through those difficult times.

This courageous company reminds me of a little clump of flowers I once saw growing out of rocky ground. The surroundings looked too dry and rough to sustain life, yet the blossoms stretched upward with their faces toward the sun. That’s how I see my friend, always abloom, even in the harshest conditions. Someday soon, I hope Sherry and crew will be transplanted to a lush garden. But in the meantime, her beautiful spirit will bless others, wherever she may be!

The Lord is my strength and song … Ex. 15:2
(This post also appeared on Arkansas Women Bloggers