Thankful Giving. Big and Small.




This is a pic of my phone. My screensaver is a Mother Teresa quote:

There are many people who can do big things, but there are very few people who will do the small things.     Mother Teresa.


That blew me away.

For someone who likes to study human nature, rarely does a thought so captivate me. A thought which encapsulates the 21st Century American culture.

We all want to solve the Syrian refugee crisis. Take away a Christmas morning with no tree or presents for innocent children. Erase a table void of turkey, cornbread dressing and pumpkin pie.

But it’s the small every day giving that truly matters.




The giving of our time.

Interrupting our work, our shopping for the perfect meal, our quick dash into Starbucks for a treat for us because we truly had a hard day.

The message of Mother Teresa’s words is that true giving maybe nothing more than giving myself. My time. My attention.

My time when my brain and my heart are engaged with another, no matter how inconvenient.

When someone stops by my door in the middle of the day. In the middle of my time to write. After I’ve cleaned the house and started dinner. And done laundry. After I’ve checked off all my duties for everyone else. When it’s time to eek out a sliver of time to write 500 words.

A giving that stops and listens and finds some work for someone who needs a few dollars.

Last week, I went out with my son to run. A teen stopped and asked to use my phone. After seeing her try a few numbers, it was obvious she wasn’t getting in touch with the person she needed to.

Rather than just smiling and taking my phone back, I asked if I could help. She was walking to an interview at a restaurant downtown. She wasn’t sure where the restaurant was located.

Looking up at me and gesturing toward her typical teen Saturday dress she asked, “Does this look okay for an interview?”

That broke my heart a bit.

“Would it help if I drove you to the interview?”

She looked a little puzzled before she admitted, “Yes.”

After we figured out what restaurant she was going to I said, “If I was an employer, I’d most want someone I could depend on. Who would be there when they were supposed to. A person with a good attitude and who did good work.”

She wanted this job to help pay for her GED. We talked and I tried to give her positive thoughts. “You are so young, don’t be discouraged.”

She smiled and said that’s what her mother tells her.

She thanked me for driving her downtown and I assured her it was my pleasure.

“We all need encouragement. Even at my age — I need encouragement,” I added with a laugh.

That’s what I wanted to say to you this week of Thanksgiving.

Take time out to do the small things.

For often the little things really aren’t that little after all.



He stole my nose and I’ve been looking in the mirror ever since.

House painters are nice folks. Mostly quiet, though sometimes extroverted like the painter we now have paint our things that need painting.

Back when this event took place, the painter in question must have been a real jokester.

He stole my nose.

You know. Someone grabs at your nose with their hand. They snicker and shout, “Got your nose” and show you their fist as their thumb pokes through the index and middle finger.

Ha. Ha. Sure it’s funny till a painter pulls that trick on a wee two year old in 1965 and she thinks the d@mn idiot has pulled the nose off her face.

Today I had an appointment to have a basal cell carcinoma carved off that same nose.

Yes, one slip of the knife and this doctor could finish off what that painter tried to do all those years ago.

No. It wasn’t that bad. Just a spot. But it involved taking a skin graft and stitches and reclining in a chair looking a virtual reef-like fish tank broadcast on a big screen. I guess to help me forget someone-trying-to-swipe-my-nose flashbacks. 

You know what kept going through my head? (Other than that long ago machiavellian painter.)

This hurts.

I’ve got a hole in the side of my nose and a hole scraped on the inside of my outer ear.

Lying there trying to make sense of the whole thing, I pulled out a scale in my mind.

On one side I put pain, stitches and a scarred nose. On the other side sat all those times at the beach. Lying in the sun. Listening to WAPE AM on tiny transistor radio tucked beside my ear. Trying to get as burned as I could.

Yes. That was my mission in high school. Go to the beach. Not wear sunscreen and be able to go to school on Monday looking as a cherry Tootsie Pop sticking out of a white t-shirt.

Post procedure I’ve got a big paper mache muppet nose bandage. Same feeling as when I had the biopsy and tweeted this a few weeks ago.



I have complete confidence in my doctor. Though I haven’t taken my bandages off yet.

Would I have traded all those years in the sun for perfect skin now?

I’ll plead the 5th.

And get to your dermatologist to check out any odd spots.

Miss chatting with you regularly but still getting those 500 words in.


NaNoWriMo. I’m wearing a string bikini on the nude beach.


National Novel Writing Month.

Writing 50,000 words — or what is the first draft of a novel — in the 30 days of November.

I’ve never participated before. I’ve had fun with NaBloPoMo (National Blog Posting Month) posting on this blog every day in November. But I’ve never felt the gut call to attempt NaNoWriMo.


Well, the daunting task of writing 1,667 words a day. And the bigger challenge of those 50,010 words forming a story. One with twists and turns. An unforseen climax. And a cast of characters the reader cares about and roots for.

To be honest, it’s a mental shift. One from columnist, blogger, 1,500 word article writer to 50,000 to 100,000 word novelist.

And the challenge of those having to be very a entertaining, cohesive 100,000 words.

For me it was time. I have a story in my head and sensing the shrinking amount of time I might be given on this earth — what was I waiting for?

So I’ve been trying. I knew better than to go all in with expectations. I’m on the nude beach surrounded by people in various stages of undress — wearing in a string bikini.

My goal was 500 words a day, not 1,667. My hopes are to build a habit and momentum.

And get a first draft in three to six months. Not three to six years.

Some days I’ve gone over with my count, some days I’m under. We’ll see how I end up at November’s end.

This month, I hope to include posts with interviews of some of my author friends who’ve crossed the finished line. Ones with fabulous novels in print.

And I’ll check back in with posts on some of the things that are working for me.


I do miss the community of blogging. And writing silly 600 word blog posts about silly things that cross my mind. But  . . .



Greens 1/58 Acre is the Place for Me.

Gray days of steady rain used to find me wringing my hands and popping antidepressants like Tic Tacs.

No longer!

Not since I became a farmer.

I love the plentiful water for my plants but more than that I love a vigorous hoeing made so much easier after a few days of rain.

And that’s what I did yesterday.

A month ago, I planted my seeds.


Collard, kale and turnip by seed. I transplanted broccoli and lettuce.


I saw the photo below in the October Southern Living.  Bully’s, a Jackson, Mississippi, restaurant has a greens vegetable plate. Looking at the pic, I correctly identified the cooked greens. Turnips/mustards, collards and cabbage.





Can I do it in the garden? Identify the juvenile, as opposed to the preteen, collards from the turnips from the kale. Can you?

Here’s my collards, turnip greens and kale — and a few radishes — after a good hoe.





Well, I can tell one from the other because I planted the rows. Even armed with that knowledge, a few weeks ago I wasn’t sure what was a turnip and what was a weed. Which was nice because I didn’t worry about hoeing. Us farmers know to wait till the vegetable gets big enough to tell whether it’s a weed. You don’t want to decimate a teensy collard thinking it’s a wee dandelion.

Hopefully a month from now my greens — all types — will be mature and ready to simmer with bacon, drop in soups, make into chips or toss in a salad.

The radishes weren’t ready either. I pulled some up today and inspected their progress. Only the size of a healthy English pea, I stuck my finger in the soil making a hole and tucked the red root back in its dirt womb.

Hope that works. Or I just screwed up two of my radishes.

Will write about my affection for radishes later.


Yep. It’s hard to tell one green from another till they get bigger. That’s what I’m waiting on now. Growth.

Should I thin the plants? Probably. Will I?

Don’t know. If I do, it will be the collards.

All this is second hand to us farmers. Probably seems a little confusing to you.

That’s okay. Greens are one of the only things I’m pretty certain about these days.

How do you like to cook greens?

Like put it in a smoothie or something, I bet.



My visit to Betty Ford. The Betty Ford for turtles that is.

“What is it about you and turtles?” my mom asked.

I really couldn’t give her an answer.

I was pestering my sister to drive 20 minutes to the Georgia Sea Turtle Center on Jekyll Island. I explained that I’d always wanted to go while at St. Simons but the weather was always nice and nothing can drag me off the beach on a pretty day  . . .

not even turtles.

But it was raining buckets so I was heading to Jekyll and the turtles, sister or not.

Sister agreed to step away from her ten-key, or whatever computer program accountants peck away at these days, and head with me to the turtles.

Or my people.



Yes indeed. My kind of place.

Turtles hang from the ceiling.

Q & A programs about turtles. My question, “How many turtles hatched make it to adulthood? Anyone, anyone.

One in 4,000. Even without humankind intervention the odds were 1 in 1,000.


Turtles swimming about to greet their homo sapien guests.


An interactive exhibit to show how many sea turtle years you — you as a turtle — would make it to in the wild.

Guess how many years I’d get to enjoy.





My sister made it 15 years. I figured a moral victory for the Collins clan.

I learned many types of sea turtles don’t reach reproductive maturity till 35 years. For three and a half decades, gal turtles swim down to the Caribbean or up to New England but once they feel the need to lay  . . . they come back to the very beach they were hatched.

How do they know?

There’s a teensy GPS in their brains. A GPS God created way before GM.

There was a turtle O.R.

No medical emergencies today.





That’s what I should have been. A turtle doctor. Or at least I could have handed competent turtle surgeons the necessary sharp objects while wearing my most concerned face.

Then we went out to see the Betty Ford turtle rehab center.  No, no.




Not that kind of rehab center.

It’s a hospital for goodness sakes.

This place takes in injured turtles of all sizes. Injuries resulting from natural predators but most likely, these patients are victims of an unfortunate encounter with marine debris that one of us left behind.







We visited on a Thursday and the next day they were releasing six rehabbed turtles back to the sea. So excited for the turtles but as I looked at them, I couldn’t help but think they have no idea.

This is Drifter the day before he was released.

I love that he broke the surface to breathe — looking in my eyes — so I could tell him you’re going home. He winked at me. Did you see it?

I signed Drifter’s card and knew all would be well the next afternoon.




No we didn’t make it back to Jekyll for the release but we had our own going away party for them.

Sister and I when to the amazing Jekyll Island Club Hotel and toasted to Drifter’s drifting away.

A healthy, hardy drifting away. Not like he was still sickly hardly moving drifting away.




Why do I love turtles?




Good swimmers.

Hard shell, but really a big softy on the inside.

Kind of what I like in peoples.

Have you ever seen a sea turtle in wild? Laying eggs? While you drifted through the water on a kayak?

This goes out to Drifter wherever in the great Atlantic you are today.

Why can’t I write that novel? It’s just that habit thing.

Five hundred words.

Five hundred words a day. You wouldn’t think it is that hard.

It’s a blog post for pity’s sake.

Day after day for over a year, the outline of a novel has wrestled around in my thoughts. Why can’t I designate time to spew out a first draft?

The other week, my eyes happened upon a book at our local library.


Daisy, our kitty, was determined to be in this photo.


Better Than Before, Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives.

I need to master writing each day.

Gretchen Rubin’s book is a fascinating look at personality tendencies and what it takes to form a habit. She hypothesizes that by creating habits we change behavior.

The behavior I want to cultivate is hammering out a first draft.

Rubin stresses what works for one person — to stick with a diet or exercise plan — might not work for 10 others.

It’s important to understand yourself and your unique idiosyncrasies to form a habit or give up something such as a case of wine a day routine.

She designates four personality tendencies toward sticking to habits.







Turns out I am a Rebel which means I only follow habits, external or internal, if I want to.

(After reading the book, I thought I was a Rebel. Then I took the survey at the end of book and said yes to five of six Rebel questions.)

Why is this important?

External habits are those we stick to meet others’ expectations. Internal habits are those we adopt for personal desires.

As a Rebel I follow external pressures or internal pressures only if I want to.

Which kind of stinks and explains so much of my life.

Writing a novel falls squarely in the camp of internal expectations.

I’ve had success with pure internal challenges from small things like reading the bible each day – done that every day since January 1, 2015. To bigger challenges such as training for marathons. To huge internal commitments like completing two successful adoptions which included massive internal regrouping and navigating two failed scenarios.

Writing this novel is something I want to do and I’ve commited to tougher challenges — so what is the problem with my attempts to form a daily habit of writing a first draft?

*  *  *

Update.  Since drafting the above last weekend, I’ve written 500 (well, almost 500) words for four days straight.

What’s the difference?  I’ve made it a priority and I’ve maybe figured out why it’s so hard for me to commit to this.

There’s no quick payoff. There’s no finish line in sight. It came to me that I’m much more into tackling goals than creating habits.

Goals seem to me as doable chunks of time with a payoff.

So I set the goal to write 500 words every day for 30 days.

A beginning, an end and a clearly defined task.


I’ll report back in 30 day to let you know how I did. Well, if I want to report back I will, since I’m a Rebel and all.

Better Than Before was an insightful read.

Well researched. Rubin was a law clerk for Justice Sandra Day O’Conner so she’s got the researching thing down.

And she’s an entertaining writer. Who obviously can finish the first draft of a book.

Any habits you’d like to adopt that you haven’t quite been able to?




The Dirt Under My Fingernails Report.

Summer blew through here like an express train barrels through a small town crossing.

Our days filled with activity but not many moments of reflection. So between now and the official start of fall — Wednesday, September 23 — I’ll reflect on wisdom learned from the bullet train that was Summer 2015.


What I gleaned from my garden this summer.


Gardens need rain to produce. 

Though rain pours in abundance now, our summer broiled hot and dry.  A promising start to my tomatoes dried up. Same with my squash.


You need tomatoes to can tomatoes. Or

Don’t count your canned tomatoes before they grow.

Last summer the tomatoes were prolific. Remembering all my tomatoes, I ordered a canner this year. I determined to “put stuff up” in jars on shelves and not in bags hiding in my freezer like some weak imitation 1940s Home Ec major.

Pooh. My canner remained unopened up in the attic with canner written in black Sharpie on the top because I’ll never remember what is in that cardboard box.


I created a new breed of tomato. The Dr. Seuss Hybrid

Look at this.



I’m house sitting this crazy guy for a friend who couldn’t cram him in her suitcase to Sierra Leone. A wee guy when I first got him, I noticed that after an area produced tomatoes the leaves turned black. Kimmee, my BRF, said of the new plant last April, “Oh just give it some water and fertilizer and it will be okay.” And I guess it’s been okay but odd.

Maybe it just misses it’s mother. Who’s to know?


See, it’s producing.

 Drier weather, hotter pepper.

I had a fellow working around the house and after sampling one straight from the garden he said, “Why didn’t you warn me those peppers were hot?”

I looked at him. “They are jalepenos. What did you think?”

He said that at the restaurant where he works, they aren’t as potent. 

I put three pickled slices on my hot dog the other night and the inside of my lip burned for hours. So there must be something to this dry weather, hotter pepper notion.



5.  Pumpkins

It’s been on my garden to-do list since I’ve had a garden. Grow some pumpkins for our porch in fall.

I took seeds. Put them in containers (with dirt).




And now . . .



No pumpkins yet but closer than I’ve ever been.

So I got that going for me.



And that’s what I learned.

Tomatoes can be mediocre some years even after spending money on a canner.

I can lose half of my okra before realizing it’s a grasshopper and not the drought that is killing them.

Jalapeños’ heat can increase with lots of dry heat.

Bees do sting you. Two stings in five minutes. After years of thinking my garden’s bees were too busy working over the plants to work over me, they got me good one Sunday afternoon.

It’s still worth battling the rabbits to get sunflowers past the sproutling point.




Some years a garden can be relaxed.

Or should I say the gardener can be relaxed.

And things still turn for the good.


Lost in Transition. Or how to work the lock.

Triathlons are won or lost in transition.


Maybe with me not so much. But after competing for a decade, I figured it was a lot easier to shave a minute off my race time in T1 and T2 than a minute off my run.

That’s why this made me so mad yesterday.


that damned shoe

Credit for capturing this amazing moment in sports history goes to Kathryn Cardwell.


I couldn’t get my blasted left bike shoe off. I’m still smiling in this pic. I must have just been discovering the fact the catch was stuck or maybe I was already borderline. 

The blasted thing was stuck. Bent beyond recognition. Super glued shut.

What did a seasoned triathlete like myself do?

Freaked. But then I told myself, calm down. This is happening because you are spastic at present. Breathing deeply, I transported myself to my back steps at home after a ride and slowly tried to “work the lock.”

“Work the lock.” Something my husband has always said when you need to be calm in panicked situations.

Focus on the task. Only many, many years later seeing an episode of Magnum P. I. did his inspiration for that saying make sense.

(Watch this clip if only to see the beauty that was a 30-year-old Tom Selleck.)



I wasn’t looking at any dogs. I wasn’t looking at a 30-year-old Tom Selleck.

Nothing was getting that blasted shoe off.

And if I didn’t get my bike shoe off, I couldn’t put my running shoe on and start to run.

I slammed my left ankle on the cement. Nothing. Nothing was loosening that mother.

Work the lock. Work the lock. 

Hands feverishly picking at the clasp, I sensed someone standing over me. I looked up.

Two young men stared down at me. Like really young compared to me young. Probably my Jake’s age. Shirtless. Both dark hair, dark eyes, dark skinned. Think One Direction with a Latino twist.

“I can’t get this G*d damn thing off.” I said to their young black eyes.

Immediately looking to my frenetic hands I said, “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have said that. I just can’t get this shoe off.”


Maybe they thought they couldn’t interfere with a racer in transition?

Maybe I was the elderly lady in the commercial and I’d fallen and couldn’t get up?

Maybe they were angels sent to help me and I just flagrantly broke one of the Big Ten?

“I don’t care if it’s a penalty, please help me get this thing off?” I said looking into those black eyes.

With that the one closest to me, bent down and unclipped my bike shoe.

I watched as his fingers slipped around the clip, pressed down and released the catch.

“I guess it was tight,” was all he said.

Angels are known to be short on words.

I looked up and said,

“God bless you my child.”


* * *

Why do I do these races and why does it matter so to me in the heat of it? To take the Lord’s name in vain,

for pity’s sake

which I find horribly offensive, unless I’m held captive from a mediocre athletic performance by a bike shoe.

As to why I still do this stuff, I’d like to think for my age, it’s keeping me mentally, physically and emotionally sharp.

Like if my family was on a train and a terrorist stepped out of the bathroom brandishing an AK-47.

At that point in history, all my years of adjusting to spills on the bike, swimming through bass-infested waters wearing fogged-up goggles, leaving transition on the run with my bike helmet still on (did that twice), choking down a Clif bar while running without actually choking  . . .

Yes, all those catlike, ingrained “work the lock” reflexes would take over and I’d kick that terrorist’s behind back to where all the bad people go to make sure they never do bad things again.

Yes. I. Would. Be. Ready. To.


And to ensure the Free World remains safe, I pledge to never again wear bike shoes on trains.

Only low heel, snug-fitting tennies.

Yes. I think that best.



Living with the consequences of distracted packing. Or my two right feet.

Packing in hurry. No, not even in a hurry.

This is the story of a distracted packer.

 *    *    *

The next morning after packing, I woke up in mountains of North Carolina for a family gathering.

I suggested a hike because that was my strategy not to come home 30 pounds heavier. Hike every day. Burn 326 calories to offset 500 calorie piece of pie after 2000 calorie dinner.

Talking my sister and husband into a four mile hike up a mountain, I ran upstairs to dress after my 1500 calorie breakfast. I put on my shirt. I pulled on my shorts. I rooted around in my suitcase for my running shoes.

I found one.

I found the other.

Except  . . .IMG_3847


Maybe this is a better angle.







My two right feet.

I can’t tell you how many times this clip went through my head in three days of hiking staring down at that.




“Am I nuts, or is something wrong with his feet?”


Yes, instead of two left feet, my story line held two right feet.





Determined soul or sole that I was, I hiked everywhere — tripping over roots and granite boulders — for three days.






Yes. Ninety floors in one day with two right feet.

What I learned.

By the second day, a left foot presses, sort of molds the inside of the right shoe so that it’s bearable. Though a right shoe turns to the left, the fabric and your left foot stretches the toe box to the right. Curving the way a left shoe would.

It’s more so the third day.

We are all bent in lots of ways.

If we don’t like the bend of our nature — I’m too loud, too quiet, not blonde enough — we can change our behavior, appearance. The world thinks we are a right foot but deep down we will still be a left foot pressing against instep of a right shoe.

Now this can be bad or good. Bad if we are trying to conform away from our true positive, unique nature.

Good if we are trying to change unhealthy ways we naturally bend.

But no matter how much we look like a right foot on the wrong side of the body, we are a left foot in the wrong shoe.

Only a miracle (or act of God) can change a foot. Or break it till it fits. Which can be considered an act of God I guess.

And that’s what goes through my mind hiking 90 floors with the wrong shoe.

I usually don’t daydream of God breaking bones but I usually don’t hike 90 floors in the wrong shoe either. 






“GREAT RECOVERY” — That’s Nothing to be Proud Of Rusty.

“Great Recovery” a male voice called out.

Already dismounted, I ran to transition pushing my bike along in my right hand. I always do this. But it was hot and humid yesterday — and I was a little tipsy-tired. My bike started slipping. As I tried to grab my bike, my bike shoes slipped on the pavement.

I’m falling. Love when that thought pops into my head.

For some miraculous reason, I fell forward into a somersault, grabbed my bike and ran toward the bike in entrance.

That’s when I heard Great Recovery from the crowd.



After changing shoes and running out of transition to start the 5K — this is what echoed in my thoughts.


“Dad you must have jumped this thing 50 yards!”

“Ah, that’s nothing to be proud of Rusty.”

Fifty yards.



Except in my mind it was  . . .

“Great Recovery!”

“Oh, wiping out going into bike transition is nothing to be proud of sir.”

Nope  . . .

Standing atop the transition rack, I acknowledged to myself.

Great Recovery. 


The sad part about the above photo is that my right knee is the scraped and bloodied one — and you can’t see it from this pic.

Great Recovery.

I really wanted a photo with the 81-year-old racer whom I chatted with on the beach. She started doing triathlons when she was 60.

So see, it’s never too old to try a tri.

Or wipe out going into transition.

Though that’s nothing to be proud of.







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