Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Waiting for the rain

“I will bless my people and their homes around my holy hill. And in the proper season I will send the showers they need. There will be showers of blessing.” Ez. 34:26 NLT

Remember when you were a small child and the anticipation of Christmas you would begin to feel as the season approached?

For me, it would begin not long after the last bits of trick-or-treat candy had been eaten. I would begin talking about Christmas on a weekly or bi-weekly basis until Thanksgiving. Once that holiday was celebrated and December started, the thought of Christmas would begin to consume me. I could not wait to see what Santa would bring me Christmas Eve and was so excited about spending the holiday with my loved ones there were nights when I could hardly sleep at night.

Christmas was all I thought about.

The other day I filled in for our receptionist at work. While seated at her desk, I noticed a calendar that contains a daily Bible verse. The verse for the particular day was Ez. 34:26. Reading it, I literally wanted to shout in the lobby of the Corinth School District Administrative Office building.

For months I have felt a real stirring of the Holy Spirit within me. It’s as if I knew He was working on my life although I couldn’t cite specific areas that were receiving His touch.

I had prayed months before that God would make my heart more pliable and teachable. As the old adage states, be careful what you pray for cause you just might get it. Well, I have gotten it in large doses. My heart has literally felt like it has been made of modeling clay lately. I have found myself crying at times for no seemingly particular reason. I have felt a longing in my heart for something yet I can’t put into words what exactly that “something” really is. And I’ve felt a literal shift going on within my life.

Is it complete? No. Has all this activity going on within me been frustrating to me? Yes. Do I totally understand what changes I may have to face in the future? No. But can I see God working on my life? Without a doubt!

God has been strategically placing people and situations in my life over the course of the past year or so. Some of them I have literally struggled with understanding their role in this ever changing canvas. A couple of them I have even tried to physically remove from my life. Thankfully they are wiser and a little more mature than I am and have patiently stood firm and refused to move – no matter how hard I have pushed.

Not only has God placed new people in my path to take my hand and guide me along or just to cheer me on, He has reunited me with people who haven’t had an active part in my life for decades. Some haven’t been around for like, well, eons. But they’re here now and filling important roles in my life.

Just llike we used to anticipate Christmas time’s arrival as a small child, we will now together await the proper season when God will send the shower we need.

I know it will truly be a shower of blessings.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Task clears mind, cleans dishes

Washing dishes it therapeutic.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t enjoy sticking my hands into yucky water to scrub food particles and day-old Keurig brewed coffee off my dishes. But it has to be done from time to time.

I don’t think Mama thought it was therapeutic for me. It was just one thing that she found her youngest child could do domestically without messing it up too badly. Nevermind that her youngest child HATED washing dishes. But I hated sweeping and mopping more – and I could REALLY mess that up – so I opted to keep peace at least in this little corner of the world and wash the dishes after most every meal.

Weekday breakfast dishes during the school year bought me a reprieve. I’m glad cause she mighta made me check out and come home to wash dishes like she did that morning she called and made them send me home to make my bed. Talk about shame – yeah, shame on the school secretaries for calling over the intercom and announcing to my class that my mama wanted me to go home for that particular chore.

But I survived that day of high school just as I had survived many other similarly trying ones.

Although I let some chores go around my house, I don’t allow many days to pass by with a sink full of dirty dishes. I can’t stand the bugs they might breed and the stench radiating from the dishes eventually drags me into the kitchen to wash.

After fixing breakfast for dinner tonight, I decided nothing smells worse than a skillet with old sausage grease drying on it so I washed dishes. And contemplated life’s little dilemmas. Like Jon & Kate’s marriage problems. And Mary Winkler being in court again. You know, the things you want to think about when you don’t want to think about your things!

I did contemplate a few serious things. Thought about other topics I’d like to take time sometime in the near future to attempt to give my opinions about. Also thought about all the places I’d like to go – like the beach (OCRACOKE Beach, to be exact) – and things I’d like to do. Thought about things I need to say, things I should have said and a lot of the things I wish I hadn’t said.

Mostly I just thought – something I don’t often take a lot of time to do in my life. And it was honestly a nice period of mental exercise for me.

I didn’t solve any of the world’s problems Monday evening and honestly didn’t solve any of my dilemmas. But I made a concerted effort.

And now I have clean dishes.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Seizing the day

Missed opportunities.

In my life, I’ve had a few.

Some I missed were intentional – things I decided I just didn’t want to do or couldn’t bear to do. Others weren't missed on purpose at all. I either waited too long and the window for the opportunity closed. Or someone else beat me to it.

Whatever the reason, it still kinda stings when reality sets in and you realize what you could’ve done or could’ve had. Or, even worse sometimes, both.

For months I have been talking about taking a certain photo in Corinth. It wasn’t a plan to capture a specific Kodak moment of time or even preserve some landmark that has meant a great deal to me growing up. It could have been, mind you. See, that’s the cool thing about growing up in a small Southern town where things rarely change or often change very slowly. You have personal landmarks – or tabernacles, as I call some of them – that remind you of where you’ve been or where you have evolved from. Hopefully most of them show the positive growth and maturity in your life.

This specific landmark I have talked about for months stood across from the city park for decades. The park plays a very significant role in my life. No, it isn’t a place of a “first” for me as some of my peers could probably claim. But the park marks a place where my family and I enjoyed years of outdoor fun. From playing on the swings to climbing on the old Air Force jet that once sat at the bottom of the playground hill to picnicking under the old oak trees, I have thousands of memories tucked away in my heart of that plot of city land.

My grandfather died when I was a small child and most of my memories of him are focused on the moments we would spend at the park looking at birds and chasing the squirrels. I never pass there that I don’t think about George Harlan Hughes.

I also have memories of summers spent in the dirt of the softball fields at the back of the park. That’s where I made some lifelong friends and learned various life lessons.

It was partly because of these memories that I kept stating I needed to take some photos of the water tank that stood across the street. I never tried to climb it to spray paint my name on it nor did I ever receive (or steal, for that matter) a kiss in the shadow of that metal monster. But the structure has long been a part of the fabric of the canvas of that block. I’ve seen rainbows behind it when I didn’t have a camera in my car. I’ve seen some of the bluest skies and puffiest clouds perched behind that tank that looked as if a large hand had literally painted there.

About three weeks ago, I was heading somewhere else to take some photos and almost stopped to snap a few pictures of the water tank. But there was an 18-wheeler parked in front of it and, being in a lazy mood, I didn’t want to have to Photoshop it out.

This morning I checked the Daily Corinthian website as I sometimes do and saw I’d missed yet another opportunity in my life. A company pulled the old water tank down about noon yesterday. Had I known that was happening, I would’ve gone over there on my lunch break and documented the event for myself instead of eaten a barbecue sandwich alone.

Some folks are probably glad to see the rusted dinosaur pulled down. I will kinda miss it being part of the area’s landscape.

But I’ve learned a lesson from this missed opportunity. From now on, when I have even the slightest urge to take a photo of something I will take the time to do just that.

Carpe diem, most definitely.

I think I need to adopt the philosophy with personal issues as well. Sometimes in life you get “do overs.” But most of the time, like the removal of the old rusted tank, the chance is forever gone.
Note: The photo above belongs to the Daily Corinthian and was posted on their website at It was taken by Jebb Johnston.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Fixing your focus

How’s your focus?

Prior to being diagnosed with diabetes, I first knew something was physically wrong with me when my eyesight – which had been normally good – began to fail. It wasn’t a gradual thing, but literally overnight I went from being able to read fine print on labels and other items to not being able to see the words at all.

I laughed and chalked it up to yet another thing that happens once you turn 40. Nevermind I had been 40 for several months (OK, a couple of years, but what is age, really!?).

One of the first things Dr. Glisson asked me during my initial visit with him was about changes in my vision. I told him my focus had been off and that had really bothered me. Later he explained that one of the side effects of diabetes is blurry vision. Fortunately, I’ve visited Dr. Jennifer and she says that although I don’t have 20/20 vision, the diabetes hasn’t gotten into my eyes yet.

Reading glasses (which tend to stay on my face probably more than they should at work) have helped to rectify the problems I’ve been having with focus lately. But they haven’t totally fixed it. Even with glasses, I’ve found when my blood sugar levels are too low or too high, I have a problem focusing on what it is I am trying to see.

And it’s not just diabetes that causes me to lose focus in my life.

Just this morning as I was driving to work, a black cat crossed my path. There was a time in my life when I might have made a cross on my windshield or done some other activity associated with superstition to negate that cat’s movement. I laughed at myself for not being superstitious as I decided to turn left rather than continue through the intersection where I had been stopped at a stop sign.

Because I was more focused on that silly black cat and stupid superstitions, I almost pulled out in front of an SUV whose driver was turning left in front of me – and, for the record, had the right-of-way.

Taking my focus off the task at hand – driving safely – almost put me into a car crash that I really didn’t want to have on a beautiful Friday morning.

Once upon a time, there was someone who wanted something with all their heart. The entire focus of their being was fixed on this one thing and it was literally almost all that they could think about.

When it finally became part of their life, they were overjoyed. Here was the thing they had waited for, and it was good.

But in a short time, they realized - like a garment that was too small or a square peg trying to drop into a round hole - the thing simply didn’t fit into their life. It wasn’t as magical as they thought it would be and, instead, was a bit superficial.

The person realized their focus had been wrong and they had wasted precious time – time they would never regain – focusing on something they really didn’t need after all.

Instead the person began to set their sites, like Philippians 4:8 encourages, on “whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute.”

And life suddenly seemed to have a bit more clarity when their focus returned to normal.

“Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.” – Phillipians 4:8

Thursday, June 11, 2009

A dream is a wish your heart makes ...

Dreams … we all have ‘em.

According to Erwin McManus, pastor of the Mosaic in Los Angeles, way too many of us dream better lives than we actually live.

There’s a black and white photo of me tucked in a frame in one of my bedrooms. When I worked at The Baldwyn News and later the Daily Corinthian, the photo sat on my desk. Why? Because the photo was one of a three-year-old me sitting in a small, rocking chair (even though the photo is black and white, I know it’s red cause I have the rocking chair in my living room today). My feet were propped up in another child-sized chair and in my tiny hands was a newspaper. Probably a Jackson Sun since we lived in Jackson, Tenn., at that time. It’s hard to decipher much about the newspaper from the photo since I’m holding it upside down. But I’m holding a newspaper as a newspaper should be held. In that photo, I’m looking away from the newspaper.

The pose makes it look as if I’m making some sort of editorial statement. From the look on my face, it was a positive one cause, well, because it was a look of sheer glee.

Of all the childhood photos I possess, that one has to be my favorite. Why? Because it is proof that the dream I carried into adulthood was birthed within me not long after I arrived on this planet. My mama used to tell me that while some children carried around security blankets, I almost always had a newspaper in my hand when I as a toddler. Some nights after I fell asleep, she would have to literally rip it from my grip often having to scrub my palm to get the black ink off the newspaper had imprinted there.

Although I think Daddy would have preferred I follow in his footsteps and become an educator, I never gave up the dream to become a writer. And not just any writer, though. The dream to be a newspaper journalist was always with me. In fact, I possessed that dream for so long that I don’t even know where it originated. It was as if it was instilled in me at conception and grew as I grew.

I wasn’t always totally faithful to my dream. There were times, as most children do, that I would explore other career opportunities in my mind and literally. Because my cousin Clara Lynn was a missionary in Brazil, I seriously thought about doing that. Being the biggest kid in my class (sometimes the biggest of the boys AND the girls), I was often took on the role of defending the underdog. From that experience, I considered becoming a social worker (even changed my major to social work one semester at Northeast until my advisor told me that even though my heart was in the right place, I needed to go back to journalism and right wrongs that way).

At one time in my life I really thought photography might become my profession of choice. I loved looking through the viewfinder of a camera – even if it was a 110 instamatic – and capturing a Kodak moment. Possessing the knack for getting just the right shot seemed inert to me even back then.

And since I spent a lot of time with Daddy at the various schools he was principal of throughout my lifetime, it was only natural for me to consider education as a career from time to time. I tended to play school more than I took it seriously, though.

Granny Hughes got me hooked on her “stories” at an early age and I seriously tossed around the idea of becoming a writer of a different sort when I was in high school. Soap operas were a huge passion of mine – somewhat funny now that I think about it all these decades later – and when I was a junior in high school, I began seriously talking about moving to New York and becoming a soap opera writer. I think my mama would have rather I joined the Sandanistas than move to New York. For some reason the big city scared her and Mama would discourage that plan every time I mentioned it.

Despite considering other career options, I never really totally lost sight of my dream to become a journalist. I’d like to say I worked hard in college to obtain a journalism degree. I did work hard in college but it wasn’t academically. I got by in the classroom, but I worked hard at being a “social butterfly.” Despite that, I graduated with a little over a 3.0 from Mississippi University for Women and hit the world wide open. My plan was to take what I considered a “learning job” in a small newspaper for a few years before hitting the streets of a big metropolitan area to become a paragraph producer.

I spent 3 ½ years in Baldwyn learning the newspaper business inside and out (as well as the business of life, but that’s another blog post I’m certain) before taking a job at the Daily Corinthian. That was literally part of my dream come true, in all honesty. In addition to stating I wanted to be a journalist, I would always add that I wanted to be editor of the DC. Funny that I would state that since I would also state I wanted to graduate from Corinth High School and never live in Corinth again (guess I thought I would live in the metropolitan meccas of Iuka, Kossuth or Walnut while I fulfilled that part of the dream, huh!?!?).

One year became five and five years became 10 while I worked at the DC as news editor. Although we were a small newspaper, I sometimes got to deal with some big city issues from my cubicle at work. I was able to meet a British prince, meet Hollywood celebrities and Washington, DC movers and shakers. I did stories on common people who did uncommon things and took hundreds of thousands of photographs. Eight days short of my 19th anniversary at the DC, I got to work early and sensed something was just not right. Of course, I’d kinda felt that for several months but this day seemed a bit lower on the “not right” spectrum. After I’d been there about 20 minutes, my boss called me into his office. I knew it wasn’t positive when I saw the publisher and the financial officer sitting in there as well.

Long story short, one of them read me a letter that thanked me for my service to the DC but informed me that because my position had been eliminated from the newspaper, my employment there was terminated immediately.

They could have shot me in the heart with a .357 magnum and it wouldn’t have hurt any less.
It was similar to those moments you see on movies, too. I temporarily went deaf – it was as if the world was void of sound for a moment. And a wave of shock coursed through my system. I almost hate to sound so dramatic, but it was that for me at that moment. For almost 19 years, I had lived and breathed the DC. I had often joked that I had BECOME the DC in a lot of ways – I didn’t know where my work life ended and my real life began. I think I had thrown myself into that job so much that it had become my world.

And my world was stripped away from me in those few minutes.

I quickly came to my senses and remembered that I was Betty Jane Hughes Jobe’s child. Where some folks might have caused a scene, I slowly stood up, attempted to smile and told them I would pack my own belongings. I felt they owed me that much respect as a faithful employee who had been a team player and a “company” person.

It took several hours to weed through almost 19 years of clippings and career souvenirs. Coworkers would come by my desk from time to time and attempt words of encouragement and support. Although I appreciated them, they didn’t really work as salve to heal the hurt.
Boxes packed, my best friend – who had left work in Oxford to be there for me at that moment – helped me carry them out to my car.

Although I’d forced back the tears at the DC, I couldn’t hold them in any longer. I felt huge, hot tears slowly drip off my chin as I headed for home.

Losing a job right before the holiday season is tough on many levels. It’s really tough on a person who wants to dive in and find another one. Most employers are trying to finish the year out and are more worried about getting in all the vacation time and personal time off that folks have saved up more than they are filling empty positions. So I spent the holidays with my family – something I’d not gotten to do consistently as a member of the media.

I applied for several positions at newspapers throughout North Mississippi and had some serious “bites” at a few of them. But it literally made me sick to think about walking in another newsroom and attempting to put my byline on a story in another publication. It wasn’t that I was that loyal to the DC. That wasn’t the case. It was as if losing my job was more than losing a paycheck – something during the event killed that dream within me that I’d carried since childhood.

For the longest, I didn’t want to write anything. Even filing out job applications and signing my name became too much of a chore.

Long story shortened, I found out about the project director’s position at the Corinth School District and applied for it. Dr. Childress saw enough potential in me to give me a chance and I began working there on January 16, 2008. A little over a year later, I still love what I’m doing. I’m becoming more confident in the depth of knowledge that I have about education and have learned more about it than I ever knew I could absorb. I have an even heightened respect for the teaching profession and honestly care about every staff member of the CSD.

A lot of people will tell you that you should keep work relationships and personal relationships separate, but that’s almost impossible in education. It’s a team effort to make sure children are learning all they should be at the rate they should be. And you can’t work that hard on something that closely with people and not care about them.

My dream career-wise had changed now. Although I never say never, I don’t envision myself returning to a newsroom anytime soon. I’m not certain that I will retire with the CSD, either, but I’m in no hurry to leave there. I think I’m doing a good job and believe I am making a positive impact on the lives of those who work with and attend our district. And I know they’re making a positive impact on mine.

Oddly enough, when I was news editor of the DC, I was often asked to speak to students about the newspaper business. Almost every time during the question and answer portion, some student would always ask – what would you be if you couldn’t work in the newspaper business? I’d always laugh and utter something about never thinking I wouldn’t be a journalist and then I’d always pause (not for dramatics but to honestly think about my answer) and state I would be a history teacher. Although my answer was always that – even though I wanted to be witty and say a ballerina or something ridiculous like that – and it would almost surprise me every time I said it. Looking back now, I wonder if maybe God wasn’t somewhat asking my heart to stretch a little and consider another possibility for my life.

There are other possibilities He is working on within me. Some are what I call “Oprah-sized” dreams – the kinds I would have to have an Oprah-sized bank account to see happen. And others are small dreams that I see coming true on a daily basis as special people have begun to come into my life.

Erwin McManus also stated, on the video we watched at church Wednesday night, that “you can miss those moments in life never knowing what you missed or you can seize those moments.”

I’ve missed enough moments in my life, it seems, so I’m picking the latter choice.

I don’t have a clue what my future is exactly, but I’ve always known who holds my future. And I’m content with that. Just as I am content to continue to dare to dream.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Simply stated


That’s pretty much me. I don’t mean simple minded, now. I don’t know anything about quantum physics, can’t tell you much about what the old philosophers thought back in the day and can’t even balance my checkbook to save my life, but none of those things are really that important to me.

Even though those who know and love me best sometimes declare that I am very high-maintenance, I don’t think I am at all.

I’m basically … well, simple.

I prefer my cheeseburgers plain although I will sometimes add the pickles, mustard and onion to the meal. I could be content with a whole wardrobe of khaki pants, denim slacks and red, pink or Carolina blue solid colored shirts. I sometimes wear shirts with stuff printed on it, but I truthfully don’t feel comfortable in them.

My shoes aren’t Prada by any means. I may have a few name brands in my closet at home, but that’s only cause Shoe Carnival deeply discounted ‘em. I go more for comfort than designer name.

There’s no polish on my fingernails when I allow them to grow. I’m picky about my hair even if I just really wash it on a daily basis and allow the blow dryer to determine which measure of messy it looks. I wouldn’t get a frequent pedicure even if someone paid for it. I hate for anyone to touch my feet much less look at them.

I’m simple.

I don’t own a diamond. Much of the jewelry I have carries more sentimental value than monetary value. The necklace I never remove was a gift from my best friend shortly after I came to know her. I sometimes wear the ring I bought my mother the first Christmas I had my first job. She returned it to me the last Sunday of her life, uttering how she had always been proud of me and how much she loved me shortly before slipping into a coma from which she never returned.

I have simple dreams, hopes and desires. Some of them – like the fire engine red Mustang GTO, the 70-300mm Canon zoom lens or Tag Heuer watch – could be a little more easily obtained than others. Although I attempt to keep my life simple and worry-free, I sometimes have to think during the loneliest moments that there really has to be more to life than this and believe that eventually my shot at happiness and complete contentment will come my way.

Simple goals, yeah, but honorable ones.

I didn’t become simple on my own, really. My parents had a simple belief system that if you worked hard and remained honest that you would be respected. They also thought that a good name was more important than vast riches and instilled that in me as a child. They believed every person had good within them, that it was up to us to find it sometimes. They truly judged people by the content of their character and not the color of their skin and sought friends from literally all walks of life. True friendship was measured by them not in what people could provide for them but how people could make their lives more enjoyable and, in some instances, simpler.

Growing up, my parents simply insisted that I attend church and went with me. They didn’t indoctrinate me with lots of religion, but wanted to make sure that, instead, I was filled with lots of God. They truly believed the Word and lived the Micah 6:8 principle of life by doing justly, loving kindness and walking humbly with God. Not ignoring the New Testament, my parents loved God with all their heart, soul and mind and truly loved their neighbor as themselves.

I simply want to carry out that legacy above anything else.

For years, I found myself trying to be the complex person I thought the world wanted me to be. And I attempted to do various things to get God’s attention in an effort to become one of His favorites.

Often, I’d find myself frustrated with my attempts. And I felt my simpleness made me so unworthy of His love.

Several years ago, I began to become a bit more comfortable in my own skin. It was at a weekend women’s retreat when I finally figured out that God could – no, DID – love someone as simple as me. And that I truly am one of his favorites, as simple as I am.

I was no longer ashamed to be simple or to possess little when measured against the wealth of this world. Because of my simple faith in Him, that no longer mattered.

Nope, I haven’t “arrived” yet, though. I still struggle with acceptance and worth. I’m still attempting to surround myself with others who can accept someone who is simple – who maybe are even simple themselves.

Simply stated, I am who I am and what I am because of Who created me. Like it or not, simple enough.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Making the best one ever

“I want a peanut butter and jelly sandwich cause you make the best ones ever.”

That was the response from a friend’s six-year-old son when she asked him what he wanted for lunch.

Nevermind that he had just declared to her that he was never,ever leaving home, even after he gets married. In his six-year-old mind, marriage meant just moving his new wife in with his mama.

I asked my friend how she could ever feel too down on herself when she had him around with such compliments. She never really commented, but she didn’t really have to say anything. It was one of those times when the smile on her face literally said it all.

Driving home from that conversation in the church parking lot today, I couldn’t help but think about how much different – and better – our world would be if we adopted that six-year-old’s attitude and were so open with our feelings or compliments about folks. Rather than solving issues by killing each other with a .9 mm, why can’t we simply sidestep the negatives by pointing out the positives about those living in the world around us.

I’m just as guilty. I judge someone harshly by a negative remark they make about me or a short or terse reply they give rather than attempting to figure out what it was that made their day so bad in the first place. Probably 99 percent of the time it wasn’t what I said that set them off yet I happen to have the shrapnel fired toward me anyway.Or I cut people down with a slight, sarcastic remark because I'm too afraid to build them up with a kinder word.

I think it’s truly all about thinking before you speak and weighing your words wisely – two life lessons various people have probably been attempting to instill within us since we were in elementary school or before.

How much nicer would this world be if we adopted the “you make the best peanut butter and jelly sandwiches ever” attitude? If rather than cutting someone to the heart, we opted to pat them on the back. Or if we couldn’t think of anything positive to say to someone we simply chose to, as wiser people than me have often urged, say nothing at all.

Words are often sharp and cutting. But words can also be calming and soothing, literally the best medicine someone can take. Or give.

I don’t make the best peanut butter and jelly sandwich ever, but I’d like to think there is something I can do for someone that makes them believe it’s the best ever. My earnest prayer is that I live my life trying to achieve that on a daily basis. That I learn to make the proverbial best peanut butter and jelly sandwich ever for at least one person in this world.

Call me Pollyanna, I don’t care. It may not lead to world peace, but it certainly won't hurt to be kinder and gentler.

Marbled beauty

“Mississippi had no art except in cemeteries. I like the tombstones showing children asleep in seashells. I love this sleeping child who is cracked from top to bottom. A broken chain and a hand removing one link – I like this kind of rope, a rope of years. And two joined hands, those are of parting, at least that’s how I interpret it. There were lots of baskets that spilled out their flowers. Look at the lambs and their kinky curls. I like this one, the willow tree that snapped off in two. I love the family beneath the willow tree. They’re grieving for their lost father and husband. Poor little things, they’re just knee high. All these little bitty things, weeping at her knee. On the gate at the Port Gibson cemetery the figures are in grief. They’re weeping for all the sadness within. People planted Easter lilies around their relatives. I suppose the choice of plantings was entirely up to the individual. A lot of hardy flowers that could withstand the freezes, and plenty of blubs in the springtime. These look like little roses.” -- Eudora Welty, Country Churchyards

Although I’d hardly say I write a miniscule amount as well as Eudora Welty, I was thrilled to find a book in our local library containing cemetery photos taken by Miss Welty herself. I admire her work greatly and it’s awesome that she and I had something in common other than writing.

My fascination with cemeteries began when I was a small child. I loved Granny Hughes, my mother’s mother, dearly and spent as much time with her as I possibly could short of moving into her house on Franklin Street.

Papaw Hughes died suddenly of a heart attack when I was barely five years old. Although I adored him, my grandmother was devastated at his death. Often when I would go to her house to visit her, she would often want to trek to Henry Cemetery to visit Papaw. I didn’t quite understand the visits, but I would attempt to make the best of the time we spent there. I would often walk around and read the grave markers in the vicinity of Papaw’s grave. Sometimes I would practice my math skills by figuring out how long the people buried nearby had lived before they died. When my neighbor died, I would sometimes sit on his stone and tell him what his widow had done since my last visit to the cemetery. I wasn’t certain if he could hear me, but I thought it was important for me to keep him informed about her.

As a child, I understood the significance of a cemetery, but I never really saw the beauty of it. It was probably my junior year of college at Mississippi University for Women when I discovered the beauty that often lies within the gates of cemeteries. I was encouraged to go to Friendship Cemetery in Columbus to obtain some magnolia leaves for a project I had undertaken. While there, I couldn’t help but notice how beautiful the cemetery grounds were. There were various forms of statuary and each one was quite unique. But it was one marker in particular that got my attention quickly. Sitting at the grave of a minister, the marker is a beautiful marble angel. There is no doubt when you see this angel that you can tell she is very grieved because it looks as if she is weeping.

It was the memory of that grave marker that led me to encourage my best friend, Mandi, to accompany me to the cemetery again to take photos one homecoming weekend at The W. We went for a few hours that Saturday evening and had such a wonderful time taking photos of the various markers that we decided to return the next day. We spent about six hours there.

We didn’t locate the weeping angel marker until the second day we visited Friendship Cemetery. But seeing her again was well worth the length of time it took to find her. The sky could not have been any bluer for the photographs even if we had polarizers on our lenses.

Because of this cemetery, we now spend lots of time haunting various other graveyards in North Mississippi. On a recent trip to the District of Columbia, I spent several evenings researching what cemetery in the area would be a good one to visit. We ended up choosing Congressional Cemetery and spent five hours scouring the grounds there seeking unusual markers as well as the final resting places for various famous Americans. I truly wish I had done a little more research as I found one of the people involved in the conspiracy to kidnap, and later kill, President Abraham Lincoln was buried there. It would have been a challenge to find his grave, as he has no marker, but it is supposedly near his sister’s grave.

Now Mandi and I spend spare time travelling backroads of various areas of North Mississippi in search of unusual cemeteries. Sometimes we have a destination in mind. Other times, we just pick an area and drive until we find a cemetery. One thing I have noticed. You may drive for miles down a rural county road with nothing but scrub trees and weeds along the right of way. But when we finally locate the cemetery, it’s always amazing to me how immaculate the grounds are.

Growing up, my mama always told me that there were two things belonging to people that you never “messed with” – their money and their dead. Viewing the beauty of some of the country cemeteries in this area, I truly know she was right on target with the latter part of her assessment.

Although we will continue to happen upon some of the old country cemeteries in this area, we have some actual trips planned to some larger ones in nearby areas. We want to tour a large cemetery in Memphis and another one in Huntsville, AL. We also plan a trip to Natchez this fall and have already begun planning which ones we will haunt on that trip. I guarantee a side trip to Port Gibson will be on the itinerary.

Some folks may think my cemetery photography hobby is a bit morbid. But I don’t consider it that at all. I find that there is beauty all around us – even in cemeteries – if we simply take the time to look for it.