Family on Friday: The Long and Winding Road

Unlike today, it wasn’t Friday the 13th. In 1970, June 13 fell on a Saturday.





“The Long and Winding Road” became the Beatles’ last number one hit, and it remained number one for two weeks. Their “Let It Be” album also hit the top of the charts that day, and held the post for four weeks.

Why do I mention this today?  My husband is a HUGE Beatles fan. We went to hear Sir Paul in Memphis last year.

And of course we WERE Paul and Linda at this party back in the ’80s.


The World Cup was being played in Mexico.


Ike and Tina TurnerIke and Tina Turner were playing in Hawaii.









And Bill Cushman and Susan Johnson were married at Covenant Presbyterian Church in Jackson, Mississippi. Bill was 21. I was 19.



cutting cake croppedMy bridesmaids were ages 15-19. It felt somewhat like we were playing dress-up. I wore a hat (a nod to the garden wedding I wanted) and my bridesmaids wore dotted Swiss bell-bottom pants suits and carried little white baskets of daisies—my favorite flower at the time.


flowers2So, we’re celebrating our 44th anniversary today.

My sweet husband always brings me flowers.

And tonight we’ll enjoy our favorite meal at Ruth’s Chris. And talk about anniversaries past:





SusanBillKeatoncartoon1975—Fifth—Grand Hotel, Point Clear, Alabama

1980—Tenth—Amelia Island, Florida

1995—Twenty-fifth—Estes Park, Colorado

2005—Thirty-fifth—San Francisco (where this cartoon was done)



It’s definitely been a long and winding road, but one I’m so glad we’re still on together. Next year? I’m thinking Paris for our 45th.

I couldn't resist this card....

I couldn’t resist this card….



 And for Bill: Grow old along with me. God bless our love. (words by John Lennon. Sung by Mary Chapin Carpenter. perfect.)

Mental Health Monday: Dancing With Goats, Carole King & Sara Bareilles

MuttsCoffeeI woke up foggy-brained, feeling as though I was treading water in mud. Complex dreams faded, just out of reach, before I could remember them and write them down. As light rays filtered through the blinds in our bedroom, the realities of my life filtered in with them. We have to find a place to live in the immediate future. My husband is having surgery on February 13. Other pressing issues fought for purchase in my awakening mind. It is Monday morning, and I don’t have a clue what I’m going to write for my Mental Health Monday blog post. And then it hit me: I need coffee.

It’s not a caffeine addiction—I drink decaf—it’s the aroma, the taste, the feel of the hot beverage on a scratchy morning throat. And yes, decaf does have some caffeine. And I get my caffeine boost in my Coke habit (the soft drink). So where is this going? To the kitchen where I sat down at the table with my first cup of coffee and read the comics. My husband loves the comics, and he often shares one with me that he thinks will make me smile. Especially Arlo and Janis, who are, of course, mirror images of all of us.



By the time I made my second cup, the fog had lifted and I was ready to face the day. But I’ll never know if it was the coffee or the comics that did it. I sit down at my computer (it’s COLD today and I’m wanting a third cup of coffee) but then I get up and get a cup of Cafe Caramel (we have a Keurig) but then I remember it has caffeine. Hmmm, I’ll have to cut down on Coke today if I drink this. I begin to do a bit of research on coffee and mental health. I can’t find anything new or exciting on the web… just a few old articles that deal mostly with caffeine and mental health.



And then I find this delightful blog post about the origin of coffee. Did you know coffee was discovered by goats in Ethiopia? I love this picture of the goats and the shepherd dancing after eating coffee beans. And now my brain is clear and I’m ready to face the day… to deal with insurance and medical bills and the house search and exercises for my neck and hip … and maybe, just maybe, get some more work done on novel revisions. If I can restrain myself from dancing.

Dancing Goats by Jennifer Mac

Dancing Goats by Jennifer Mac

P.S. On a related note, did anyone else love the duet that Sara Bareilles and Carole King did on the Grammys last night? It was an amazing medley of their hit songs, “Brave” and “Beautiful.” I actually got up off the couch and started singing with them and dancing around the room. Yes. By the time the song was over my eyes were filled with tears. And I wasn’t even drinking coffee. Or alcohol, for that matter.

Need a lift? WATCH THIS VIDEO!


You’ve got to get up every morning with a smile on your face and show the world all the love in your heart!

Maybe there’s a way out of the cage where you live. Maybe one day you can let the light in…. I just wanna see you be brave.

Happy Mental Health Monday, everyone!

Fiction (and Nonfiction) on Friday: In the Reading Queue for 2014

StonerCoverIt’s only twelve days until the beginning of the new year, and I’ve already got 8 books in my reading queue. I purchased some of these (mostly physical books and one for my Kindle) and *one was given to me by the author’s publicist.

**Another was given to me by our oldest son, Jonathan, last night, when we did an early Christmas gift exchange with him, since we won’t be together on Christmas. Jon researched the book and thought it would be something I would like. I’m already fascinated by it, after reading this article in The Guardian this morning: “Stoner: the must-read novel of 2013.” And this article in The New Yorker: “The Greatest American Novel You’e Never Heard Of.”

51GzPjogLJL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_***The last three are still on my “to purchase” list. The last two  were both just recommended to me on Wednesday. I read excerpts from each of them while visiting a friend in Mississippi, and I was intrigued.

We’re off to Denver tomorrow to spend Christmas with two of our kids and all three granddaughters. I’ll be reading Joshilyn Jackson’s book, Someone Else’s Lovestory, on my Kindle during our flights.

So here’s the list:

The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd




Moonrise by Cassandra King Conroy

sels_coverSomeone Else’s Love Story by Joshilyn Jackson


*Just Out of Reach by Belinda Stevens

**Stoner by John Williams


index***The Death of Santini by Pat Conroy

***Changing Shoes: Staying in the Game With Style, Humor & Grace by Tina Sloan (star of the television show, “Guiding Light”)

51QoFp5C6XL._SY344_PJlook-inside-v2,TopRight,1,0_SH20_BO1,204,203,200_***Writing is My Drink: A Writer’s Story of Finding Her Voice and How and a Guide to How You Can Too) by Theo Pauline Nester

What’s on your to read list for 2014? I’d love to know!

P. S. This list was assembled to the music of Sting, Norah Jones and Billie Joe Armstrong, thanks to two more gifts from Jonathan last night—the CDs, “Billie Joe + Norah, Foreverly” and Sting’s “The Last Ship.” Good stuff.


Last Ship

Cyber Monday: FREE SHIPPING for The Shoe Burnin’: Stories of Southern Soul

rem_403x403_cyber_mondaySo, we’ve survived Black Friday, enjoyed Small Business Saturday, and hopefully did some almsgiving on #givingSunday. Now it’s time for Cyber Monday! There are lots of great deals out there, but I’m just going to tell you about one of them:

FREE SHIPPING on The Shoe Burnin’: Stories of Southern Soul! Coupon Code: cybermonday

This terrific collection of stories and music (a CD comes with the beautiful hardback anthology) will entertain you, feed your soul, move you to tears at times and laughter at other times, and introduce you to some amazing writers and musicians. (And yes, I’ve got an essay in there: “Eat, Drink, Repeat: One Woman’s Three-Day Search for Everything.”)

All you do is CLICK HERE to order and the SHIPPING IS FREE. (Did I already say that?) Coupon Code: cybermonday

Want to know more about the book first?

Here’s The Shoe Burnin’s Facebook Page. (We’ve got over 1,000 LIKES. Please LIKE us today!)

You can READ about how The Shoe Burnin’ came about, MEET some of the authors, and WATCH some great videos here, at the River’s Edge Media site.

Deep South Magazine has a nice piece about the book’s premiere at the Louisiana Book Festival HERE.

The poet, Scott Owens, gives a nice review here: “21 Writers, A Pile of Shoes, and A fire.”
About 16 minutes into this You Tube video about the Louisiana Book Festival there are some great interviews with some of the writers and artists featured in The Shoe Burnin’.

So, what are you waiting for? Check that Christmas list and see how many folks would love a copy of The Shoe Burnin’ and CLICK HERE TO ORDER THE BOOK AND CD WITH FREE SHIPPING… today only! Coupon Code: cybermonday

Oh, and here’s a FREEBIE: Lari White singing my favorite song from the CD: “Eden Before the Fall.”

Check out all the other great stuff on the CD:

SB CD back

Happy clicking, folks!

Writing on Wednesday: Pre-Order The Shoe Burnin’ Anthology NOW!

sb_-book_coverBreaking News! The Shoe Burnin’ Anthology: Stories of Southern Soul is available for pre-order NOW!

This terrific collection of stories, essays and music from over twenty Southern authors and musicians will debut in NINE DAYS at the Louisiana Book Festival! It comes with a CD, making it a perfect Christmas gift for your friends who love good music and literature.

My essay, “Eat, Drink, Repeat: One Woman’s Three-Day Search for Everything,” is included in the anthology.

Shoe Burnin' Editor, Joe Formichella

Shoe Burnin’ Editor, Joe Formichella


It’s edited by Joe Formichella and published by a brand spanking new independent press, River’s Edge Media in Little Rock, Arkansas.
Two of the singer-songwriters featured in the anthology are Gramy-winning husband and wife, Chuck Cannon and Lari White. Watch this video of them singing Chuck’s ACM song-of-the year winner, “I Love the Way You Love Me.”

Story-teller and singer-songwriter, Michael Reno Harrell is another contributor. Enjoy a taste of Michael’s talents here as he sings “Southern Suggestions”.

Grammy Award-winner, Rodney Crowell, has these fancy words to say about The Shoe Burnin’ Anthology:

Homicidal librarians, French twisted, stilletto’d and on the lam, flip flop shod Bessie Smith wannabe’s and cowboy booted, beauties out to prove that to get gone a woman doesn’t need fast footwear; good-ole-boys sporting Red Wing lace-up’s and an emergency medical trained aversion to Converse wearing co-ed’s pulling volunteer duty on a cat-4 tornado cleanup crew; guilt ridden bird-dog lover’s and holders onto of life’s half-forgotten keepsakes: all this and more from a coalition of wordsmiths, story-tellers and song-swappers whose whiskey whetted forebears first stumbled onto the notion that on a cold winter’s night in the deep south, it’s better to burn shoe leather than brave a trip to the woodpile.

Chuck Cannon, Shari Smith and Michael Reno Harrell on the porch at Waterhole Branch

Chuck Cannon, Shari Smith and Michael Reno Harrell on the porch at Waterhole Branch

So, what are you waiting for? Enjoy the video, meet the authors, ‘LIKE” our Facebook page, and PRE-ORDER the book now! Many thanks!

Family on Friday: Anniversaries, Music, Sunsets, Champagne and Brandy Alexanders



43 years ago (yesterday) I married Bill Cushman at Covenant Presbyterian Church in Jackson, Mississippi.



We had 17 attendants, 2 pastors, and 2 soloists.

Tea Girls


We also had 11 “tea girls” who served at our reception (5 sorority sisters from Ole Miss and 6 high school friends). We invited 400 people to the wedding. I addressed the invitations during final exams, in May of my freshman—and only—year at Ole Miss. Which seemed fitting, since the only degree I would earn from the University of Mississippi would be my Mrs. Degree. And here’s a story worth repeating: My mother handed me the Jackson phone book, with all the people she wanted me to invite underlined and marked with an * in the margin. Yes. 

Paul and LindaSo, Bill (aka Father Basil or Dr. Cushman) and I started celebrating our 43rd wedding anniversary on May 26, when we went to hear Sir Paul (McCartney) sing for three hours at the Fed Ex Forum. It was amazing. Bill has always been a huge McCartney fan, and hearing him in person was a life-long wish. Back in the ’80s, we hosted lots of costume parties in Jackson (Mississippi) including one where Bill dressed as Paul and I was Linda, and we did a duet, “Baby, You Can Drive My Car.”


We followed the McCartney concert with a small, intimate front porch concert on June 1 in midtown, where we enjoyed “words and music” from my friend from Nashville, the musician and writer, Marshall Chapman. Marshall read from her book, They Came to Nashville, and sang a number of songs from her new CD, “Blaze of Glory.” We sat in lawn chairs outside on a beautiful starry night with our friends, David Twombly, Cindy Fong, and Mitch and Sandy Childress, and were sad when the music was over.



A few days later we enjoyed sunset drinks and small plates on the rooftop bar at the Madison (downtown) where we discovered the best sunset view in Memphis, hands down. (Thanks for the tip, Mary Elizabeth Phillips!)

champagne_glassesThe next week, we headed to Paulette’s for a lovely dinner in the bar, near the piano where requests are taken. At one point, I asked Bill to request “This Guy’s In Love” by Herb Alpert, because he sang that to me on our first date back in 1968… on a sailboat on the Ross Barnett Reservoir. (Incredibly romantic first date, right? We sailed all afternoon and into the starlit evening. We were 17 and 19.) After that we requested “The Nearness of You,” an old classic that Marshall covered on her new CD. So, while we were listening to the piano and enjoying our meal, the bartender brought us two more glasses of champagne, and indicated they were gifts from someone in the bar. We looked at the couple sitting at the next table, who immediately raised their glasses and said, “Salute!” Michele D’Oto and Laura Derrick are Italian. They own Pasta Italia, out in Cordova, and were dining at Paulette’s on the one night their restaurant is closed (Mondays). As we chatted with our new friends, we discovered that their son just graduated from medical school here and had studied with Bill. Such a small world. We’ll definitely be driving out to Cordova the next time we’re hungry for Italian food. (What they didn’t tell us is that their original restaurant was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina, in Biloxi. I just read about it on their web site.)

Finally, we indulged in homemade frozen Brandy

3107_021108_brandyalexander_l Alexanders—a guilty pleasure that we blame on our friends, Tim and Deb Mashburn, who introduced us to this best of all possible concoctions a few years ago.

rosesSo, I’m missing my sweetheart today, but with all the celebrating we’ve been doing, I’ve been needing some alone time to work on the novel. Gonna be buried in it for a while. Champagne and Brandy Alexanders are optional.

Faith on Friday: “God, I love you. You are a trip!”

MarshallSigningCFWhen Circling Faith: Southern Women on Spirituality came out last April, I was thrilled to find my essay, “Chiaroscuro: Shimmer and Shadow,” between the covers of the same anthology as such authors as Beth Ann Fennelly, Mary Karr, Connie May Fowler and Alice Walker. And then I went on a wonderful book tour that included churches and bookstores in four states, where I met a few more contributors, like Marilou Awiakta, Barbara Brown Taylor and Marshall Chapman. I became Facebook friends with Debra Moffitt, and one day I’d really love to meet the rest of these amazing Southern writers, who bring their diverse journeys and voices to the book.

Marshall and me at the Bluebird Cafe in Nashville

Marshall and me at the Bluebird Cafe in Nashville, October, 2012

But I must say that the most delightful surprise of this serendipitous gathering of spiritual essays was meeting Marshall Chapman at the Southern Festival of Books in Nashville last October. (Read my post from October 15, “Better Than Bourbon and Key Lime Pie,” for more details about the weekend.) I had already fallen in love with Marshall when I read her essay, “Going to Church: A Sartorial Odyssey,” in Circling Faith. A sartorial odyssey! (That means it’s about clothing—like my unpublished memoir, Dressing the Part: What I Wore For Love.) She wrote about what she wore to church on her return to the house of God after twenty years of absence. Where had she been?

Earlier that week, I’d been discharged from a treatment center in Arizona where I was bombarded with all sorts of new information on how to live my life, you know, one day at a time. Forty days before, I’d checked myself in for depression. Twenty years of living the high-octane lifestyle of rock and roll was beginning to take its toll. After three days of DOE (detox, observation, and evaluation), the report on my “Suggestions for Treatment” form read: “facilitate grief of father’s death,” “break down denial of multi-substance abuse,” and . . . something else about sex that I can’t seem to remember right now.

(I think that last line is my favorite in the whole book.)



Imagine my joy when I discovered that Marshall will be in midtown Memphis tomorrow night at a house concert! She’ll be singing songs from her new CD, Blaze of Glory. I’ve got most of the songs memorized already, but I can’t wait to hear her sing them in person. Here’s a nice review from American Songwriter. (For more information, check out the Facebook Event Page. Or just show up at 1858 Harbert Avenue at 6:30 Saturday night.) I love “Blaze of Glory.” And “Waiting for the Music,” about which she says:

Some songs I call my “lifesavers.” It’s like, if I hadn’t written them at the time I wrote them, I would have died some sort of spiritual death. “Waiting for the Music” saved my life. And my marriage.

That’s how I feel about much of my writing. Books and essays, not music. (Although I wish I had written music when I was young, but I wasn’t brave enough. I lived in my older brother’s shadow, creatively. He played lead guitar in a band in the ‘60s. And we played duets in piano recitals, but his talent overpowered me.)
Listen to a great interview with Marshall on NPR here.

But back to the book… when Marshall decided, on her second visit back to church, to wear comfortable clothes instead of a dress and heels:

When finally I sat down, I closed my eyes to get my mind focused on God. This was my first time wearing sweatpants to church and I was a little self-conscious, taking care to keep my coat closed over my knees. “Just give me some kind of sign.” … The first thing I saw when I opened my eyes was an embroidered message on the front of a backwards-worn baseball cap on the head of an African American teen-aged boy sitting directly in front of me. The words—less than a foot and a half from my face—said “Fuck Off Or Die!”… Then I closed my eyes. “God,” I said to myself. “I love you. you are a trip! Thanks!”

Mental Health Monday: Believe, Memphis and Sir Paul

Forgive my absence… I took a week off from the blog while on vacation with my family… first time in two years with all the children and grandchildren! (May do a post on that on Friday, we’ll see.)

So, a couple of months ago I did a post about my experience at my church on the Sunday of the Prodigal Son. And I can’t find it right now, but I think I did another post about my strong reaction to what felt like negativism and fundamentalism on a previous Sunday. I haven’t participated in the Sacrament of the Eucharist in several months. Until yesterday morning.

BelieveSkylineMaybe it was Memphis. Maybe it was moonlit summer nights (at the beach)….. but it sure felt right. You see, the priest who gave the homily (sermon) yesterday talked about Memphis. He talked about the signs you see all over town that say, “Believe Memphis.” He talked about how every city—like Memphis—has its problems. We’ve got poverty and crime and other negative things. But campaigns like “Believe Memphis” help our city in so many ways. It inspires hope. (The thing with feathers that perches on the soul.)

BelieveMemphisAnd it’s not just about the Grizzlies, although that’s specifically what the slogan refers to. Whether or not the Grizzlies beat the Spurs tonight and continue in the NBA playoffs, the atmosphere in the city is already improved just by having so many folks rally around a common, upbeat cause. Win or lose, we are all better for having hope, and for finding things to be positive about in our city.

The homily struck a loud note for me yesterday morning. I’ve been wanting to leave Memphis for several years. But we’ll probably be staying around for a while, so I need to find positive things to focus on rather than negative. The example from the Church fathers that Father Nikolai gave in his homily is the bee vs. the fly.

You know how flies always look for stinky things? They seek out the garbage, even when there’s beauty all around. Well, the bee does just the opposite. Even if there’s garbage all around, the bee will seek out the honey—the sweet nectar of beautiful flowers. My friend, David Twombly, was also impressed with these words Sunday morning, and he posted a link to this short article on Facebook after church on Sunday:

Flies and Bees—Advice from Elder Paisios.

I know this isn’t very earth-shaking, but somehow Father Nikolai’s words broke through some yucky layers in my soul and softened the plaques that were forming there. I found myself experiencing joy and hope, rather than depression and despair. I realized that I was letting go of some negative things that I tend to focus on too much. And when it was time to go forward to receive communion—the Body and Blood of Jesus—I found myself drawn to the cup for the first time in a couple of months.  There was light shining into some of the dark crevices and it felt like grace. And the Holy Mysteries tasted like honey.



After Sunday morning’s feast of grace, last night’s epic Paul McCartney concert took me right back to church. And one of the things Sir Paul reminded us of was the specialness of Memphis—in this case he was referring to the music:

“The memories from when we kids, hearing the music coming out of here… it was so influential,” he said. “Don’t think we would’ve done it without Memphis — that’s the truth.”

So for three hours, we stood (again, like being in church) and danced and sang and clapped and cheered and our hearts soared. And I found myself going from song to song—like the honeybee—finding healing nectar in the lyrics:

Life is very short, and there’s no time
For fussing and fighting, my friend… we can work it out….

All the lonely people… where do they all come from?

Baby, I’m amazed at the way you love me all the time….


Hey, Jude, don’t make it bad

Take a sad song and make it better….

And finally:

When I find myself in times of trouble,

Mother Mary comes to me

Speaking words of wisdom

Let it be.

And in my hour of darkness

She is standing right in front of me

Speaking words of wisdom

Let it be.



As we exited the Fed Ex Forum with the sold-out crowd of over 18,000 people last night, I pictured the event that would take place in that same arena less than 24 hours later—tonight’s play-off game between the Grizzlies and the Spurs. The same seats that occupied fans of Sir Paul last night will be packed with fans cheering on our home team tonight, waving their growl towels proudly in the air. Another opportunity to believe, Memphis.

Mental Health Monday: Surviving the Arena


Setting for the Shoe Burnin' in Waterhole Branch, Alabama

Setting for the Shoe Burnin’ in Waterhole Branch, Alabama

Last Monday I reflected a bit on Brene Brown’s wonderful book, Daring Greatly. And then I strapped my courage on and did what she recommends—I entered the arena. We all choose whether or not to enter the arena every day. And sometimes many times each day. That arena can be interactions with family members, friends, or co-workers. It can be new, or continued, struggles with addictions, depression, or other mental or emotional challenges. It can be the battle for our souls as we wrestle with God or His angels, or chase down demons. It can even be the arena of our own minds as we battle shame and self-doubt.


Nashville musicians Chuck Jones and Lari White (left) singing at The Shoe Burnin'.

Nashville musicians Chuck Jones and Lari White (left) singing at The Shoe Burnin’.

As I prepared to read part of my essay for The Shoe Burnin’ Anthology at the event on Saturday night, an opportunity presented itself that thrust me into the arena. I was asked to read the essay for an audio recording on Saturday afternoon. The plan is to produce a CD of our stories, songs, and interviews that will be included with the book when it’s published. So I sat down in a quiet little guest house in front of a microphone and began to read. No one else was in the room except for Nashville singer-songwriter, Lari White, who was doing the recording. Lari is a lovely woman. Beautiful, lively, and engaging. She sat on the floor—literally at my feet—and listened intently, only moving slightly to make adjustments on her laptop. I had read the essay aloud at home, but not to another person.

Me reading from "Dressing the Part"

Me reading from “Dressing the Part”

“Dressing the Part” will be the first time my stories of sexual abuse will be published. I wasn’t prepared for how powerful the words sounded coming from my voice. After the recording, Joe Formichella—Fairhope writer who is editing the anthology—joined us for an informal chat about my essay and his thoughts on continued revisions. Lari also recorded our talk, which struck me as strangely intimate. Joe kept calling it “our project” which was comforting, and yet also scary. His name was on the line, as well as mine.

After the recording was done, Joe encouraged me to basically give an impromptu reflection on the essay during the Shoe Burnin’ which would be commencing in a couple of hours. I had brought three pairs of shoes to toss into the fire: a pair of Mary Janes for my 5-year-old self; a pair of hippie sandals for my 20-year-old self; and a pair of black high heels for my mid-20-year-old self. The memories I would be burning went back to the 1950s and then up through the 1970s.

Susan W ShoesI’m not good at impromptu speaking. But somehow I stepped into that arena—where about 30-40 people were gathered in lawn chairs around the huge bonfire—and shared a short summary of my story. Then I read the final page of the essay aloud. Most of the stories and songs people were sharing that night were humorous. Or at least upbeat. I was worried that mine would be a downer, although Joe had assured me it was good. After reading the final paragraph, I picked up the shoes—one pair at a time—and threw them into the fire. And with each toss I metaphorically flipped off the person who had stolen my innocence, beginning with my grandfather when I was four. I had told Joe I didn’t want to be emotional at the burning. That it was about the art. But at that moment, under those beautiful, ancient, moss-laden oak trees and the starry sky above them, I found my voice in a way I had never experienced. “Fuck you!” I yelled, as I tossed each pair of shoes into the fire. The crowd was silent, and then someone on the other side of the fire said, “Yes!” And my self-doubt and shame was greeted with applause. And then several people came over to hug me. One woman just held me in her arms for a long time.

Chuck Jones (standing), Chuck Cannon and Chris Clifton jamming

Chuck Jones (standing), Chuck Cannon and Chris Clifton jamming

I’m not sure that seeing my story in print is going to be any more cathartic than that reading at the Shoe Burnin’ in Waterhole Branch, Alabama. But I hope that it will give courage to others who have similar stories to tell. And similar shame to get over.

This morning, as I continued my reading in Ann Lamott’s book, Help, Thanks, Wow, I found this passage, which helped me bring my Shoe Burnin’ experience into the realm of thankfulness:

“… God will restore what the locusts have taken away…. We are hurt beyond any reasonable chance of healing. We are haunted by our failures and mortality. And yet the world keeps on spinning, and in our grief, rage and fear a few people keep on loving us and showing up…. In the face of everything, we slowly come through…. We come to know—or reconnect with—something rich and okay about ourselves. And at some point, we cast our eyes to the beautiful skies, above all the crap we’re wallowing in, and we whisper, ‘Thank you.’”

Occupying the couch with Jennifer Horne (center) and Jennifer Paddock (right)

Occupying the couch with Jennifer Horne (center) and Jennifer Paddock (right)

Thank you, Shari Smith, for inviting me to participate in the Shoe Burnin’.

Thank you, Joe Formichella, for your wise and compassionate editing.

Thank you, Lari White, for your sensitive and tender presence as you recorded my story.

Thank you, Suzanne Hudson (and Joe) for your boundless hospitality, as you opened your home to this group of musicians and writers and our friends who came to share this experience.

Thank you to the other writers and musicians who shared their stories on Saturday night, and to the friends who gathered around the fire with us, including my friend, Circling Faith editor, Jennifer Horne (whose story was my favorite one of the night!) and another friend, Jennifer Paddock, Fairhope author who came out to listen and cheer us on. (I’m sorry I don’t have pictures of the other shoe burners… it was dark and kind of hard to capture the images. I loved Michael Reno Harrell‘s story, and enjoyed his music all weekend, especially “The Too Late Lounge,” from his Cd, “Then There’s Me.”) And I loved the music (and friendships offered) by Chuck Cannon, Chuck Jones, and Chris Clifton.

Ren Hinote and me at brunch at the Grand Hotel

Ren Hinote and me at brunch at the Grand Hotel

Thank you, Ren Hinote, my Fairhope writing buddy who opened her home to me for the weekend, came to The Shoe Burnin’, and treated me to a fabulous brunch at the Grand Hotel in Point Clear on Sunday. I hadn’t been to the Grand since 1975, when my husband and I spent our 5th wedding anniversary there. Lots has changed, but the ambiance and the view are still fabulous.

Thank you, NancyKay Wessman, and Susan Marquez, my dear writing buddies from Jackson who came down to support me. And to my new friend (also from Jackson) Phyllis Geary, who was in Fairhope on business for her art gallery in Jackson. Phyllis offered a compassionate ear during our late night talks and morning coffee times in Ren’s kitchen.

Thank you, God, for safe travels alone on country roads at night, for a weekend free of illness and full of clear-eyed sobriety. It’s not that I didn’t enjoy a little whiskey and wine, but somehow God gave me grace to enter the arena without numbing my fear and insecurity with too much alcohol. I think I’m finally getting the “thanks” part of Lamott’s book. Maybe I’m ready to move on to her final section—“Wow.”

NancyKayWessman, Robert O'Daniel, me at lunch in Fairhope

NancyKayWessman, Robert O’Daniel, me at lunch in Fairhope

Suzanne Hudson burnin' shoes

Suzanne Hudson burnin’ shoes

Joe Formichella telilng his Shoe Burnin' story

Joe Formichella telilng his Shoe Burnin’ story

Ren Hinote, Phyllis Geary, Susan Marquez at lunch in Fairhope

Ren Hinote, Phyllis Geary, Susan Marquez at lunch in Fairhope

Fairhope on a Foggy Friday

Foggy Morning


(Woke to this beautiful morning on the beach.)

I’m taking liberties, just a bit, with my Friday theme of “faith” or “family.” This morning I’m leaving Seagrove Beach for a weekend of stories, music, campfires and fellowship with a group of writers and musicians gathering for the Shoe Burnin’, just outside Fairhope at Waterhole Branch, Alabama. (Check out this video of Grayson Capps, singing the song he wrote about the shoe burnin’, “Waterhole Branch.” He’s performing in Italy.)

First time I visited Fairhope was in 2008. Before heading down for that trip, I did a little reading about the town:

100 years ago, in 1908, 500 “free thinking people” seeking “their own special utopia” established the town of Fairhope, Alabama on a bluff overlooking the Mobile Bay. I love this part of the history of Fairhope:

Over the years artists, writers, and craftsmen have found Fairhope to be an inspiring haven for their work and have helped to make the community what it is today.

hanging mossI took this picture of the hanging moss out at Waterhole Branch on that trip back in 2008.

I’ve been back a few times since then, and each time is magical. Check back next week for a recap and some pictures. Have a great weekend, y’all.

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