If I Just Keep Moving

“If I can just keep the car moving,” I said to Laurel, “I think we’ll be okay.”

Earlier last Friday, I had marveled at the way the snow surrounded the house, blowing, swirling, sticking to windows on every side.





Schools had announced their closures the night before. The hospital had called twice to reschedule appointments that family members had for Friday. The pool — actually the whole sports facility where I work — had decided to close pre-snowstorm.

But the swim meet was still on.

Swim meets are never canceled.


Bud shook his head in disbelief, but handed me the keys to the car that has better snow tires.

And off Laurel and I went, driving the 80+ miles to Half Moon, NY.

The roads were bad.

“Take a picture,” I told Laurel, handing her my phone and quickly returning my hands to the steering wheel. 

It was white-knuckle driving time.

I usually take back roads, zipping up and down hills, past farms, through hamlets, to save time. Not Friday, though. I chose my route based on which roads I thought would be clearest.

Route 20

Route 20 wasn’t bad when I finally got on it.

Not bad, but not great either.

The viewable area in my windshield grew smaller and smaller as the wipers got caked with ice.

“I have to stop and clean the wipers,” I told Laurel — but there was nowhere to stop. The plowed lane was narrow and the shoulder non-existent.

We passed a huge Walmart truck leaning at an odd angle in the median and covered with snow. I wondered how long it had been there.

We passed an SUV down an embankment. “Do you think anyone is in that car?” Laurel asked.

“I don’t know, but I can’t stop,” I told her. “It wouldn’t be safe.”

I watch a state trooper in my rearview mirror pull over beside it. He put his flashers on for safety, and I assume he went to check.

Grimly we drove on.

“I’m going to stop at that gas station,” I said to Laurel, “so I can clean the wipers.”

But I couldn’t see the entrance and the brakes didn’t want to cooperate, so I continued driving.

30 mph seemed optimum. If I slowed, the car skidded. If I went faster, I felt like I was flirting with out-of-control.

“If I keep the car moving,” I said to Laurel, “I think we’ll be okay.”

We pressed on.

Past the tree tipped into our lane.

Past more vehicles off to the side.

Past snowmobilers.

Past 4-wheelers with plows attached.

Past bundled-up people with shovels who made me think of people bailing out sinking ships with tea cups.

Once we got to Albany, the roads were fine. The last little jaunt up to Half Moon was easy.

I sighed with relief when we checked into our hotel.

As I lay in bed that night listening to the thumps, hall noises, and plumbing sounds that go with staying in a hotel, I thought about how much of life is like that drive.

Sometimes it’s white-knuckled and demanding of every ounce of my attention.

Sometimes questions of whether I made the right decision overwhelm me.

Sometimes obstacles fall in my path.

Sometimes I can’t enjoy the scenery.

Sometimes I just have to keep moving.

Sometimes that’s all I can do.



Yesterday we had a guest preacher, a woman from a nearby city. When she called the children forward for the children’s sermon, two school-age boys and one toddler girl came forward.

The little girl was delightfully in her own world, jabbering and clapping her hands. At first the pastor tried to quiet her and distract her, but her efforts were fruitless.  The girl had obviously just figured out that she could string words together and adults would stop to listen.

The pastor moved on. With a steady little drone of chattering in the background, much like a cheerfully babbling brook, she launched into her mini-sermon on gratitude.

Then she made the mistake of asking the boys about the best Christmas present they got this year. I knew the answer before they said anything.


Both boys are Lego maniacs and love to talk about it. They began describing the giant Lego sets that they had received.

“I think mine had ten bags of pieces in the box,” one boy said.

“No,” said the other, his brother, “it had twelve!”

They debated the full number of pieces and how long it took to assemble. Meanwhile, the little girl kept up her jabbering. I didn’t think the pastor was going to be able to reel in her children’s sermon, but she did.

“Let’s finish by saying thank-you to God,” the pastor said.

One boy threw his hands in the air and yelled, “Thank you!”

But the pastor said, “No, let’s bow our heads and close our eyes to talk to God.”

The boys complied. The girl twirled around.

“Thank you, God, for all the good things You give us,” preacher prayed. “Amen,” she concluded, emphasizing the “A”.

One boy’s head shot up, then his hand followed. “I have a question,” he said.

I’m sure she was anticipating more Lego talk. I was surprised she didn’t look exasperated.

“Yes?” she asked.

“Why can’t we say ‘A-women’?” he asked. “It doesn’t seem fair.”

I had to stifle my laughter.


You never know.



Some of my swimmers dabbing at practice. I love these kids.

When I walked into the pool area yesterday, one of my swimmers was waiting for me. She looked up at me with doleful eyes. The corners of her mouth were turned down. Way down.

“What’s wrong?” I asked, crouching down to talk with her.

She pressed her lips together and I could see her lower lip quivering.

“Is this because you moved up?” I asked. Technically, she wasn’t my swimmer anymore. She had moved up to the next group.

Almost imperceptibly, she nodded yes.

“Aw, Genna*,” I said, “we talked about this the other day. You are so ready to be part of the Orange group. Plus Coach Katy is super-fun, so much more fun than I am.”

She looked up at me doubtfully.

“Don’t worry about the warm-up. Coach Katy will tell you what to do,” I told Genna. “It’s different from ours, but you can do it.”

I was running out of encouraging/reassuring things to say to this sad little girl who obviously didn’t like change.

“Coach Sally,” she finally said in a tiny voice. I leaned in to hear what she had to say. “Coach Katy doesn’t have lollipops like you do.”

I laughed. At the beginning of the season, Genna had hung back, hesitant to try anything.

“What can I do to motivate her?” I asked her sister one day.

“Candy,” she replied.

I bought a bag of dum-dums. They were magical.

Yesterday I whispered to Genna, “I’ll give some lollipops to Coach Katy. Would that be good?”

Immediately her face brightened and off she went with her new coach. I sighed and headed to my lanes where my swimmers were already warming-up.

I studied the swimmers who were in the water. “Where’s Bern*?” I asked.

Bern had just moved into my group. Katy spotted him and brought him over to me. He stood shivering beside me, chewing on his goggle strap.

“They’re finishing their warm-up,” I told him. “You can get in and do 100 freestyle. We’ll be moving on to something else soon.”

He didn’t respond. His expression was inscrutable as he stared at the water and chewed his goggles.

“Do you know any of the other kids in this group?” I asked.

He took his goggle strap out of his mouth. “I don’t want to warm up,” he said.

“Warm-ups are important,” I said, and was about to launch into a mini-treatise on warming up when his mother came into the pool area and called him over.

Bern went over, stood in front of her, and immediately burst into tears.

I backed away. I had a dozen or so kids in the water who needed attention. Mom could talk to Bern.

I handed out kickboards and explained what we would be doing.  The kids started their kick set. Every so often I looked back at Bern. He and his mother were having quite a têteà-tête. Finally I saw Bern drying his tears.

Soon his newly-dried face wouldn’t matter because he jumped in the water and started swimming. He did fine.

At the end of practice his mother told me, “Bern doesn’t like change.”

“Neither do I,” I told her.

She said, “He told me, ‘I don’t care about swimming fast. I just want to swim with my brothers.'” His two younger brothers were still in the group he had graduated from.

With that, I appreciated Bern so much more.

We all hold onto things that are sweet and dear.

For Genna, it’s candy.

For Bern, it’s his brothers.

For me, it’s a thousand little things I want to freeze in time instead of watching my father age.

But time marches on, and change comes with it.

It will be okay.


*not their real name





Let me be candid. I was shouting in the officials’ room at the swim meet on Saturday.

Not my finest moment, for sure. That ugliness left me bone-weary at the end of the day.

The next morning when I got up early to read, I still felt the stone in my gut, the last vestiges of that conflict.

Several years ago, my friend and fellow-blogger Anna Brown made a reference to pearl-formation. I liked it so much I tried to incorporate it into my daily prayers, specifically in my creed where I state those things I believe. After many iterations, I settled on these words:

I believe that the trials in my life are ultimately God’s good for me; they are like grains of sand in an oyster that God uses to produce pearls.

When I arrived at that part the other morning, I thought of the man who had shouted at me and at whom I had shouted in turn.

“Lord,” I prayed, “I believe that ______ is a like a grain of sand, and that You can use him to produce a pearl in me.”

I sat there picturing the process that happens in an oyster. The presence of the irritant is sometimes a grain of sand, but often in nature is a parasite. The  oyster excretes a fluid that coats the irritant, and then coats it again and again and again. The fluid, called nacre, is otherwise known as mother-of-pearl. Shiny, luminous, iridescent. Beautiful.

The longer the irritant stays in the clam, the more coatings it receives. It’s a slow process that can take up to three years for the pearl to reach its size. “Lower-quality pearls have often been ‘rushed’ out of the oyster too quickly (sometimes a year or less) and have a too-thin coat of nacre.” (from Pearls.com)

As I prayed, I could feel the edges of my irritation softening.

I prayed it again, this time inserting a different name. I’ve been walking the edge of irritability for a while now, more and more often losing balance and falling into frustration with this person or that situation.

As I named specific people or issues and prayed the prayer over and over, I began to picture a string of pearls.

And tears began to roll down my cheeks.

The more irritations, the more pearls. I found myself feeling thankful for each one.

The funny thing is, I know I have three more years of interactions with the shouting man.

Three years. Just the right amount of time to form a good pearl.



The Things I Do For Points

I signed up for Get Fit Right, a program at our local gym.  Each week I get a new punch card to try to fill.

As I got in the water the other day for an aquacize class, the shock of the cold water made me grimace a little.

Why am I doing this? I asked myself, but I knew the answer. I’m doing it for the points and the punches on my card.

The Things I Do for Points

Too many numbers on my punch-card need a punch now
Too many classes I don’t think that I can do
Like zumba-yoga-spin-pilates-pound —
The things I do for points, the things I do for points

Thirty minutes in the Fitness Center done now
Went on the treadmill, then the weight machines were next
I worked my pecs, my lats, and other stuff —
The things I do for points, the things I do for points

(yes, that’s me)

Like getting in the pool when it’s cool
And I feel like a fool
And I’m clumsy, but, you know, I’m really trying
And I’m looking to warm up through exercise
I think I’m s’posed to kick now
’cause I’m sinking like a brick now

ooh — I get a punch though
ooh — so that’s okay
ooh — I could go climbing up the wall

A few more points and I will meet my weekly quota
A little fitter, too – the icing on the cake
I’m getting fit right if it kills me now —
The things I do for points, the things I do for points

The real version of the song:



Seven years ago Bruce sat next to me on a flight out of Nashville. We both changed planes in Detroit and there I frantically wrote down as much of our conversation as I could remember. His heavy southern drawl forced me to listen to him carefully so I could mentally translate what he was saying as he spoke.

I remembered him, but my notes from that day sat unread — until this week when I pulled that notebook off the shelf while shelving last year’s journals. I leafed through and stopped on the page where I had written the heading “Bruce – Flight from Nashville to Detroit”. His story, even his voice, flooded back.

We had done the perfunctory small talk while waiting for take off. He told me he worked in aircraft manufacturing. I told him that I was a mother eight. I stared out the window at the other airplanes on the runway.

“I got me a Cessna,” he said, nodding toward a small plane that was in view. “One time I flew it out of Atlanta. That thang was like a wasp among eagles.”

I liked the imagery and smiled at it. Our plane took off. It’s my favorite moment of every flight — wheels leaving pavement.

“Lemme show you somethin’,” he said, pulling his wallet out of his pocket. He flipped through the pictures and stopped at a well-worn picture of a smiling little boy. “That’s my boy,” he said proudly.

“Very nice,” I said.

He tapped on the photograph. “17 years ago someone ran a red light and hit our car. He was six years old. Died instantly.”

“I’m so sorry,” I murmured, but it felt inadequate.

He flipped to another picture, that of a pretty young woman. “That’s my daughter. She’s a bad ‘un.”

“I’m so sorry,” I said again.  I didn’t ask for details and I couldn’t help thinking that 17 years before, she had been a little girl who lost her brother. Life is hard and sad — and we rarely know the other person’s story.

Bruce chatted with people across the aisle and in front of us. He was traveling with several people from his work.

He turned back to me. “You know, I just got done cancer treatments. Thyroid cancer. If I hadn’t taken this new job, probably wouldn’t have found it for a while. They found it on my pre-employment physical — and they still gave me the job.”

“That’s pretty amazing,” I said.

“My father died of lung cancer, you know. So the cancer — it’s kinda scary.”

Talking about his father led him to talking about him growing up. “We was dumb-ass poor growin’ up. Used to go haying with no driver in the pick-up.”

I used to help with haying here in New York, but it was purely for the fun of helping the neighboring dairy farmer. I loved riding in the hay wagon, but someone was always driving the tractor. I tried to picture haying with no driver.

Taking a few hay bales home. I’m the tough cookie on the right.

“You know what the Mason-Dixon line is?” he asked. I was worried that he was testing my knowledge as a northerner.

“Didn’t it divide the slave states from the free states?” I asked.

“Nah,” he said. “It’s the line that separates y’all and you guys.”

He laughed like he had just told a good joke. I laughed because I hadn’t expected a linguistics lesson from this burly southerner.

“You like sweet tea?” he asked, but he said it “swait tay.”

“I’m not much of a tea drinker,” I confessed.

“Northerners don’t hardly know how to make sweet tea. I once had a waitress tell me that I could just add sugar to my tea, like she didn’t understand that the sugar gits cooked right in with the tea.”

Frankly, I didn’t know that either.

In Detroit, I wrote it all down — about his son and his daughter and his cancer and his poverty and sweet tea. I tried to write the phrases exactly as I had heard him say them. Our flight had been less than two hours but he had shared so much with me.

I once heard Christian singer Jason Gray tell a story about a mentor that he had. Jason respected his mentor and wanted to be like him.  Jason asked him, “How did you become you?” His answer: pain.

The hardships in our life shape us but they don’t define us. Bruce had known deep sorrow and in our brief encounter had shared some of the difficult times he had known, but he also knew how to embrace life.

I’m thankful I got to sit next to him for that flight and listen to his story.



Augur’s Bookstore

Below is a semi-updated post from January 1, 2014:

davidsons_large1New Year’s Day is like the back room at the old Augur’s Bookstore

In Cooperstown, on the corner of Pioneer and Main, is a bookstore.  Well, it used to be a bookstore.  They still sell books there, but now they also sell  jewelry.  And toys.  And children’s clothes. (see update below for its current usage)

In the old days, it used to be a bookstore that also sold office supplies.

In the left-hand back corner of the store was a display case full of fine writing instruments.  Not 99¢ Bic pens, but Cross pens that were gold or silver, and fountain pens with ink cartridges.  I even think there were bottles of black India ink and blotters.

On the top of that glass case was a display Flair pens of every color imaginable.  I loved to try new colors.

To the left of the back left hand corner, tucked away where it was easy to miss, was a door that led to my favorite room in the whole store.  It might have been my favorite room on all of Main Street Cooperstown.  It was quiet and smelled like paper.

Often there was a man working back there at desk.  He sat with ledger books and an adding machine.  A glance at me over the top of his half-eyes told me that he knew I was there;  then, he would set back to work.

And I would begin my perusal.

Poster-board of many shapes and sizes stood in a rack as I entered.  I never cared much about poster-board.

Blank notebooks were neatly stacked and arranged on a shelf along the whole right-hand wall.  Nice paper, onion skin and bonded paper of varying weights, filled boxes and shelves.  Ledger books stood in one stack, and receipt books made up another.

It was a room of possibility.  Everything was blank, just waiting.  Waiting to be filled with all sorts of words or numbers or pictures.

I miss it.  Because Augur’s now has become more.  More stuff.  Less potential. It’s funny how that works.

But New Year’s Day — it’s like that back room.

Today, I can run my hands over the blank pages of the new year.

And imagine.

2018 update — now the store is called The Beverage Exchange. I went in there for the first time a few days before Christmas to buy a bottle of bourbon that one of my children wanted to give as a gift. Two things I never imagined — that Augur’s would one day become a glorified liquor store, and that I would ever be purchasing bourbon.

I asked to peek in the back room when I was there. I could see the open door and couldn’t resist.

“Sure,” said the store clerk. “That’s where things happen.”

It was part storage, part kitchen. In the evenings, The Beverage Exchange is a cocktail lounge — at least, that’s what the clerk said. A utility sink replaced the man at the desk. Boxes of who-knows-what replaced the countertop stacked with empty notebooks.

It was progress, I suppose.

But I felt sad.

Last year Owen had me for our gift exchange.  Funny how that worked — last year he had me, this year I had him.

Part of his gift to me was two unassuming blank journals.

I have a “thing” for blank journals and I think it can be traced back to Augur’s.

Over 2017, I not only filled the journals that Owen gave me, but I stockpiled a small arsenal of new blank journals.

2018 will be the Year of the Journal. I have so many plans for them.

So much possibility lies in those clean pages.

And in 2018.