Monday, February 05, 2024


                  A Love Letter to My Family

                                                                           Sandy Young

I dedicate this “letter” to all of the people and furry friends in the photos below
(with special thanks to Todd for the covers)!

for my family...

Before you begin to read this book, I offer an apology. It took me more than two years to write this love letter, so here at the end, I’m eager (maybe even anxious because of some of the things I’ve said) to get it printed and bound. I had hoped to have it for you as a “giff” for Christmas 2020, then Christmas 2021, and now Christmas 2022. I’m writing this message on October 5, 2022, and you never can tell what might happen before I give your love letter to you. The publication date and gifting to you will be a surprise to all of us. I’m tired of prognosticating! Ready to get this book in your hands and hopefully in your hearts.

CONTENTS Introduction


My God Beliefs

My Political Beliefs

Ever the English Teacher

Thoughts on Writing

My Reading Life

Letter Writing and Journaling

Traveling with the Youngs

Christmases I Have Known and Loved

Social Media — A Love-Hate Relationship

(Both the pros and the cons)

The Old Folks at Home

Psalm 30:5
“For His anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime; weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.”

A Little Bit of Bible
A Potpourri of Last Thoughts Just Two More Things . . . Afterthoughts



How does one know when a “thing” is exactly the “thing” that you think it is? Sometimes we make a purchase only to ;ind that it is not as it was represented, doesn’t ;it as it should, doesn’t perform as it should, doesn’t last as long as it should.

We live in a society that enables us, allows us, a quick ;ix when the “thing” doesn’t seem to be just right. We send it back, exchange it for another.

Can’t do that when the “thing” happens to be a person. Can’t do that when the “thing” is what a person feels. Can’t do that when the “thing” is who the person is. Can’t do that when the words written are but an expression of a truth lived out in a person’s life.

As you read A Love Letter to My Family, written for you, recognize that it is written by a daughter, a wife, a mother, a mother-in-law, a grandmother, and, yes, a surrogate mother, not a legal mother but a mother by selection. Recognize that it is a “thing” written out of love for each of you, and if you ;ind words that don’t exactly ;it your life, who you are, or think you are, don’t send it back, but like the old-timer railroad sign said, “STOP,” “LOOK,” and “LISTEN.”

STOP living a life on a boat without a rudder, being tossed and turned by every wind and wave that buffers your boat. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” (John 1:1) Anchor your boat of life to the Word, and you can’t do that without reading the Word, practicing the Word, and sharing the Word with others.

LOOK for others whose life is centered in the Word, and associate with them, pattern your life after them, share your life with them. As completely as life occupies our time, it is very wasteful to spend time with those who tear us down instead of building us up.

LISTEN attentively to that which builds you up, which adds positively to who you are, and who you want to become. We don’t have time to waste on the negativity that is so readily available and is so harmful to health of our bodies, our minds, and our value to others.

As you read this book, you will discover why I chose the writer to be my beloved wife, your mother, your grandmother, your mother-in-law. In keeping with my admonition to STOP, LOOK, and LISTEN, in particular here is what I suggest you pay heed to. Our son, Jay, your brother, brother-in-law, uncle, found himself in a conversation one night at a bar after a performance. The discussion at the conclusion of the evening came around to whether or not it matters if you believe in God, Heaven, and Hell. As I recall, his answer was as follows: If you believe in Heaven and Hell and believe in Jesus as your substitute for forgiveness of your sins, and you die and find out you were wrong, there will be no penalty. You have lost nothing. If, however, you do not believe and accept His gift of salvation, die, and find out you are wrong, you have lost everything. Logic demands that you believe.

Frank Young


Right about now, you’re probably thinking, Oh, no! She’s writing another book. I haven’t even started the ones that she gave me for Christmas in 2019, and now here’s another one. How in the world can she even think of what to write about after all those other words? I must admit that after I ;inished all the books that I gave you, I had to search my brain to think of the topic for another book. I started to write a history of Cerrillos Community Church, but it just didn’t seem right for now. I may write that at another time. One of my favorite “books” that I did when I was still teaching was the Alphabet Journal. I included it in Grammy . . . Then and Now. I thought about doing another of those journals concentrating on blessings that I have received “then and now.” I considered writing about my years in the classroom or about the years that I traveled thousands of miles as a sales rep/consultant. None of those topics grabbed me. Back in the fall, a writer friend read My Mom’s Always Hot! and said very forcefully that I needed to write a book for grieving parents. Maybe later, but not right now.

As I was pondering the topic for another book, I decided to re-read a book that my high school best friend, Sharon Downing Jarvis, wrote for her grandchildren. I believe that God pointed me to the book, not because I would even agree with everything that she wrote. You see, Sharon and her family are devout Mormons, and many of their beliefs are different from mine. Sharon has always been a talented writer, and I thought I could learn a bit about writing from getting into her book again. In These Things I Believe, she talks to her grandchildren about their Mormon beliefs so that they would understand them better. She also includes experiences that she had had in connection with their church and experiences that her parents had after becoming members of their denomination.

I have been praying for months that God would let me know if I should write another book and, if so, what the topic should be. As I read Sharon’s words, I felt that God wanted me to write a book about my beliefs, not necessarily the way Sharon wrote, but my beliefs about a lot of things. The writing that I’ve done in the past had some of my beliefs at least alluded to, but I felt led to write about some very speci;ic beliefs. You’ll see them on the CONTENTS page. I haven’t decided on the order of my chapters, but I hope you’ll read the ones titled “My God Beliefs” and “My Political Beliefs” first because I’m not sure that all of you really understand those areas of my life. I’m not including them in this book because I want to argue about my beliefs. You all know that I really dislike arguments! I just want you to know my heart in these two respects.

Some of the topics that I’ll write about aren’t necessarily beliefs. They’re more opinions or feelings or attitudes . . . or maybe something akin to memoir – memories. I’m not planning to be repetitious of what’s in the other books, but a little something reminiscent of those books may creep in.

I didn’t start this book until February 24, 2020, so it won’t be finished at the time that I wanted it to be – our reunion in Pagosa Springs. I’m far too wordy to finish by then. Maybe it’ll be my birthday “giff” to me but given to you. We’ll see. Or maybe you’ll get it for Christmas 2020. (As you know, that didn’t happen!)

I’ve titled my book A Love Letter to My Family, not because I’ll be writing it in the form of a real letter but because it’s written with love to each one of you. I hope you know how much I love you even though these days some of us have differences of opinion in certain areas. There is absolutely nothing that could make me not love you! And I hope you feel the same about me. By the way, the title just popped into my mind while I was writing, so I think maybe the Lord gave it to me.

I’ll warn you ahead of time that I’ll be including quotations from famous writers in the book. There are some (lots of!) things that others have said much better than I could ever say them, so bear with me on the quotations.

And, as Columbo would say, Just one more thing, ma’am. As of the writing of this Preface, no one knows that I’m writing this book. Who knows? I may be able to tell you, when I give it to all of you, that I wrote it right under your noses! (Actually, Todd knew about it. He made the covers!)

My God Beliefs

I didn’t title this chapter “My Religious Beliefs” because I think the word religious sounds pious, and I don’t want to sound that way. It sounds almost negative to me; however, when I checked the meaning of pious I found that it is a synonym of religious and refers to a person who goes to church every Sunday and studies the Bible during the week. So maybe I am religious and pious. I still don’t want to claim those words!

In this chapter, I want to do two things: to share what is called my personal testimony (my path to becoming a Christian) and what the Bible says about salvation. I’m writing about these because I love all of you, want you to know what Christianity is in my life, and want to be sure that all of us will be in Heaven when our lives on earth have ended. I have no intention of preaching, just sharing. If I find myself sounding preachy, I’ll do some editing before passing this book on to you. You can feel free to tell me if I haven’t edited enough.

Here’s my Mouth-of-the-South-length personal testimony, written several years ago when Chad asked us to be prepared to give our testimonies in church. He never asked, but I have it now to share with you.

Mine is a simple story. One of my very first memories is of walking hand in hand with my mother down Government St. in Mobile, AL, to West End Baptist Church. There I heard Bible stories and went home every Sunday morning with one of those beautiful little leaflets with a picture of Jesus and a Bible verse on the front and a wonderful story inside.

We moved to New Orleans when I was five, and I have the same memories of walking to church, only this time Mother and I walked down Carrollton Avenue to Carrollton Avenue Baptist Church. I have the same Sunday School memories, only this time I can see lovely Christian ladies sitting with us children at those little tables that were far too low for adults but just right for us kiddies. Again, I learned about Jesus and how much God loved us. He loved us so much that He sent Jesus to die on the cross for our sins. At a very early age, maybe seven or eight, I knew that I wanted Jesus to be my Savior, to live in my heart always. So I told my world . . . members of Carrollton Avenue Baptist Church . . . that I believed that Jesus was the Son of God, that He died for my sins, and that I accepted Him. In other words, I wanted to be a Christian. I followed Him in baptism, and so began my Christian life.

Fast forward through teenage years in Pensacola, where I truly began to grow as a Christian, to 1961, Mississippi College, Clinton, MS. Frank and I met in February, had our ;irst date on March 10, and married on December 17. After we married, we lived in ministerial housing, and we met one of the ;inest Christian couples that we’ve ever known. They were a bit older than we were and were role models for us. The woman helped me, a young wife, in many ways; however, unintentionally, she really caused problems for me and ultimately for Frank.

She had become a Christian in her adult life and had had a truly life-changing experience with the Lord. Therefore, she was very adamant in telling me and everyone else that a real acceptance of the Lord had to involve an almost “Saul on the road to Damascus” experience. I hadn’t had that kind of experience, so I began to doubt that I was a Christian. You know, Satan can take a little seed of doubt in a Lord-loving person who is prone to worry and nurture that seed into a big plant that just takes over. And so he did with me.

For two or three years, I agonized over whether or not I was a Christian. I would wake Frank in the middle of the night, crying and worrying about my salvation. Many times I talked to God and renewed my Christian vows, but I still worried. Poor Frank. He was so patient, always trying to assure me, but to no avail.

Finally, when we moved to Pascagoula, MS, he asked our pastor to come to our house to talk to me. Brother Mac did just that, and after hearing me pour out my heart to him, he asked me a couple of simple questions in an effort to help me put away my worries forever. He said, “Sandy, do you love the Lord? Do you believe that Jesus is God’s Son and that he came to save you from your sins? Have you told God that you believe that?” All of my answers were in the affirmative. “But,” I said, “I don’t know exactly when I became a Christian, and even worse that that, I didn’t have a big experience.”

“Listen,” said Brother Mac, “suppose you and Frank are driving from Pascagoula to Pensacola to visit your parents. Frank’s driving on Highway 90, and you’re talking away. (Surprise! Surprise!) You cross the border between Mississippi and Alabama, but you don’t realize that you’ve crossed over until you get to Bayou LaBatre. Just because you didn’t know when you crossed the state line, does that mean you didn’t go into Alabama?”

Maybe that little example wouldn’t be the answer needed for assurance of Christianity, of eternal life with God for others, but for me, it clicked. I didn’t need to know an exact date of conversion or have an explosive experience for me to be a Christian. All along I’d had what I needed. Those many years ago at Carrollton Avenue Baptist Church, I had accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior in a very simple way. No bells and whistles . . . just a simple crossing from non-belief to belief. I was a Christian.

Now fast forward again, this time to Santa Fe, NM, January 2010. For the past four or five months, I had been going to Rodeo Road Baptist Church on Thursday to “build” the Sunday bulletin. Because of budget problems, we had decided to change our church secretary’s job from full time to part time; therefore, several of us were taking on volunteer positions to fill in the gaps, mine being the builder of the bulletin. After I got the hang of using Publisher, I enjoyed my new job and loved trying to put together a bulletin that gave honor to the Lord.

One Thursday not long before Christmas, Pastor Bill Achilles met me with a smile and told me that I’d love one of the new inserts for that week. I knew what he was talking about even before he told me—the church had hired an Administrative Assistant and Media Specialist (the new name for secretary). My services were soon to come to an end. I had loved working at the church one day a week, getting to know Pastor Bill better, and doing my part to honor Jesus; however, it was time for a professional to take over, and I was happy to relinquish the computer to someone who would really know how to build the bulletin.

When Nena Roberts reported for work, I took the keys to her. I knew the minute that I met her that she and I would be friends. Even though I felt and looked like a giant next to her, we clicked immediately . . . began comparing ideas, likes and dislikes, and chatting about writing. I found out that she was having a book signing the next Saturday at Hastings, and I told her that I’d be there. And I was.

She and her son were sitting right inside the door, and there on the table were copies of her book am i a Christian? It was a tiny book, but I would ;ind later that evening a powerhouse inside. Nena and I visited for a while before my friend Mary McFadin arrived. During our conversation, I told Nena about Jay and gave her my blog address so that she could read about him. I left shortly after Mary arrived, planning to read the little volume later that evening.

I think I began reading around 8:00 p.m. and couldn’t put it down until I finished it in a cold sweat. Why a cold sweat? Because it spoke to me and told me that I needed to do something. The book is a collection of stories from people, including Nena and her husband, who discovered later in life that they hadn’t really accepted the Lord and let Him be King of their lives. I have never in my life doubted that God through Jesus is my Lord and Savior; however, as you can tell from reading about my early life, I have doubted my salvation. Doubted whether or not I had made it clear to God that I accepted Jesus. That sounds silly, doesn’t it? Yes, I began to doubt again.

During the next three weeks, I went through bouts of questioning, sometimes the Lord waking me in the middle of the night to question more . . . to talk to Him . . . to tell him over and over that I love Him, that I know for sure that He sent Jesus to save me from my sins, that I repent of my sins, that I accept that divine love, that I want Jesus to be the center of my life, and that I want the Holy Spirit to control everything that I do. I called one of the middle-of-the-night bouts “wrestling with angels” and even credited Satan with one night’s agony, telling him to get out of my head, heart, and life, hoping that that action would give me peace. It didn’t.

I’m not exactly sure when the Lord made it plain to me that sometime I would need to go to the front of the church, talk to the pastor, and pray for myself the prayer that would seal my salvation for me. One day soon after I read Nena’s book, Pastor Bill, in his sermon, mentioned over and over again letting the Holy Spirit be in control and having the courage to submit. I felt that that day was the day when I would leave my seat on the ;irst stanza of the hymn of invitation (“Only Trust Him” was the song on January 31, 2010). Even though I had talked to the pastor earlier about my feelings of doubt, he looked a bit surprised as I walked the few steps to him. I told him that I wanted to make my salvation sure, that I needed a specific time that I could point to as my day of salvation, that I wanted to know for sure that I am a Christian. I prayed for salvation; Bill prayed for my assurance from God.

Everything in our lives happens for a purpose. God brought Nena Roberts into my life that day in the church office, made me aware that she was a sister not only in Jesus but in writing, told me to go to her book signing, gave me the awareness that I needed to read her book, made me very much uncomfortable as I read, and led me to a true acceptance of Jesus as Lord and Savior of my life. And so I thank Nena for writing am I a Christian?; I thank Bill Achilles for being a pastor with a heart for the Lord and for his ;lock; I thank God, for convicting me and for seeing me through to true acceptance.

I cannot close this written testimony without saying how thankful I am for Frank, who has been my sounding board, my example, my hero in Christ through fifty-eight years. Through all of my doubts, he has always been my strong supporter. Needless to say, he’s happy that I’ve found the peace that I need.

In retrospect, I truly believe that I accepted Jesus as my Savior back at Carrolton Avenue Baptist Church. And I also believe that Satan made me doubt every time I began to question my salvation. Recently, I talked to Eric during refreshment time at church. Since he, too, had become a Christian when he was just a child, I asked him how he gives his testimony to people. Many people who become Christians have really sordid pasts that they need to repent of. Eric and I were children with the most egregious sins being telling lies or walking out of a store with un-paid-for candy in our pockets. He said that he just says that he was blessed to hear the Gospel message early in life and goes on to tell about what the Lord has done in his life from childhood to adulthood. And that’s essentially what I’ve done in my personal testimony.

Even though all of you reading this book are my family, I don’t know your exact relationship to the Lord. We have no assurance of how long we’ll be here on this earth, and I want to be sure that you accept Jesus as your Lord and personal Savior just as soon as possible. I’ve told you in my testimony what has to happen in a person’s life in order to become a believer, a Christian. However, I’m giving you here a website that I’d love for you to check out. If you’re not a Christian, it will tell you how to join the fellowship of believers; if you are a Christian, it’ll just be a “refresher course.” It’s a website that I give to many of the people to whom I write on Search for Jesus: I’m always willing and eager to talk to you about salvation! I hope I haven’t been too preachy.

In closing this chapter of A Love Letter to My Family, I must tell you that there are only two things that I fear in life: that Pop/Dad will die before I do and that I will die before everyone in my family is a Christian. That’s it. Just those two things. I love all of you so much!

My Political Beliefs

This is a difficult chapter to write because there are so many differences of opinion about politics in our family right now. In fact, it’s such a difficult chapter to write that I’m just going to say a very few things and get on to the next chapter, one in which I’ll be able to talk more freely and intelligently. I hope all of you know that I’m conservative (I’d hate to be labeled liberal because, to me, that sounds wishy washy or changing with the wind . . . just not very stable) and happy to be so, that I’m registered Republican but that I don’t necessarily go along with all the things that staunch Republicans believe.

Since I have a dif;icult time enumerating exactly what I believe about politics, I went to the Internet to see if I could find a good article about what Republicans believe. I found all sorts of articles that listed a gazillion beliefs, but I didn’t agree with all of them. I found two that I liked, though; however, rather than try to summarize them or to copy them here, I’ll give you links to the articles. If you really want to know what I believe, please go to the articles to find out. I had Pop read the articles, and he thinks that they’re good. You know Pop, though, he had some additional comments; however, I couldn’t figure out how to include them. conservatives-and-liberals-n1372988

And now for a very few comments about the president (Donald J. Trump). I like him, and I approve of lots of the things that he has done for our country. Unlike many in the USA, I think he has the best interest of Americans at heart. He’s a patriot. But . . . would I want to live next door to him and be his best friend? Probably not. I always watch his press conferences and other speeches on TV and like what he stands for, but I get exasperated at his delivery. I know he’s not a good public speaker. In some of his speeches, he’s so funny (like the one at CPAC that I’m watching right now in February 2020). He’s an entertainer. He exaggerates. But he knows the proper use of who and whom, something that very few people know. I wish he had another hair-do, but he’ll probably always have it, and besides, it’s his hair, and he can wear it any way he wants to. Also, I think he looks like a chicken in profile. Just a few comments. I know they’re not very political, but neither am I.

You know that Pop is the political one in our home. You know that my respect for him is as big as the world and that there’s nothing anyone can do to change that. Maybe you think I’m a wimp, and maybe I am, but I trust and respect Frank Young, Builder! We watch Fox News, and I’m not apologizing for that; however, Pop gets almost all of his ideas from reading what respected people write. Yes, they’re mostly conservative, but he also reads what liberals write. He believes conservatives the most. I don’t enjoy reading all of those articles and books that he reads (no plot!), but he does a great job of summarizing . . . and of reading articles aloud to me. Maybe I am a bit wimpish as far as politics are concerned, but I usually understand when my sweetheart explains to me, and I usually agree with him.

I’m glad I’m not a Democrat because there’s not one person running that I would vote for. I guess I’d have to say that I like Tulsi Gabbard somewhat, but she doesn’t have a chance. I really can’t understand why she’s a Dem. As far as I’m concerned, she’s far too reasonable for that Party.

I’ll be voting for President Donald J. Trump on November 8, 2020, but you already knew that. I pretty much know what to expect from him, and I pretty much like what I know he’ll do for our country. I know that he has things in his past that people criticize him for, and I know that he’s done things during his presidency that many don’t like. My feeling about those things is that I don’t have to be the judge of him. God is the ultimate Judge, and if President Trump has done sinful things that he should be judged for, the Judge will do the judging. That’s not my responsibility. I’ve heard Democrats and others criticize the president for saying things that sound religious. They say he shouldn’t say them because he can’t possibly be a Christian. And he has said things that make me wonder. But again, that’s not for me to judge.

On the evening of November 4, 2008, we, along with the Christensens, attended an Election Night Party at the home of Margaret and Jim Janis. We two couples were the only Republicans who were there, the only ones who had voted for John McCain and Sarah Palin. The TV was on the whole evening, and every time McCain won a state, I cheered and was laughed at. When Obama was announced president (and I knew he’d win), the rest of the crowd cheered. I didn’t boo! We left, and as soon as I got home, I wrote a group email to everyone who had been at the party. In it, I said something like this: “Congratulations to all of you for having your candidate win. Barack Obama is now our president. He wasn’t my candidate, as you all know, but now I must support him. You will never hear me bad-mouth him the way you Democrats have bad-mouthed President Bush for eight years. Congratulations on the win!” And, you know what? I never did say bad things about President Obama. Well, Frank and I talked at home, but I never criticized him in public, especially around my friends who loved President Obama with all their hearts. (I must admit that John McCain would not have been a good president, and I really am glad he didn’t win the election. Sarah Palin might have been OK. HaHa!) Although I don’t believe that President Obama was a good leader for us, he was much better, in my opinion, than any of the ones running right now would be. But I hope, if one of them is elected, that I would treat him or her the same way that I treated #44.

I know that we have lots of disagreement about politics in our family right now, and I feel the disagreement. I’m going to tell you something that really hurts my heart. I feel a real animosity toward Pop and me in the political aspect. We wish that you understood us better or that you could just put political feelings out of the picture. I don’t have negative feelings about any of you who disagree with us, and I don’t believe Pop does either. I wish that we could talk civilly about our differences, but I doubt that we will ever be able to, and that breaks my heart. It’s so difficult to have to tiptoe around when we’re together as a family. I’d even be willing to have a Democrat as president if it would heal wounds in our family.

But . . . for right now, we’ll be voting for President Trump on November 8, and you’ll be voting for either Bernie Sanders or Joe Biden. If either of them wins, I’ll pray every day for him just as I pray for President Trump now. I pray for our country every day now, and I’ll be praying doubly hard if we become that Socialist country that Democrats are promising.

I love the quotation from Thomas Jefferson that I’ve posted. I hope you do, too.

Here are additional articles about differing opinions in politics:

This one addresses friends who disagree, but I think everything in it pertains to families, too:

This one, too, addresses friends, but I think it’s good advice for families: social-media

Definitely about families: when-politics-and-family-collide

Families with different political beliefs: disagree-on-politics/

And more about families:

The title of this new book is A Love Letter to My Family. I hope you see L.O.V.E. in this chapter. I wrote it in hopes of showing love. Did I succeed?

Ever the English Teacher

Sometime during the summer of 1956, we had a youth-let revival at Brownsville Baptist Church. Bob Troutman was the youth pastor, and every evening he talked about young people being called to full-time Christian service. As I listened, I began to feel that I was being called . . . maybe to be an educational director or youth director in a Baptist church.

My mother went with me to those services and watched me in the choir, struggling with whether or not I should respond to the call. On the last night, I walked down to the youth pastor and surrendered to the definite call that I felt at the time. Mother told me after the service that if I hadn’t gone down, she was going to walk up to the choir and drag me down. She always knew me better than anyone else and knew that the Lord was dealing with me and that I needed to make that commitment.

My best friend, Sharon Downing, and I had been making plans for about a year to go to Florida State University together; however, in October 1957, I went to Mississippi College, a Baptist college in Clinton, Mississippi, for Homecoming. I knew as soon as we turned in to the college, when I saw all those young people having so much fun, when I heard the tom-tom beating for all the MC Choctaws to hear, that I wouldn’t be going to FSU. I’d be a freshman at MC during Homecoming in 1958!

I stayed in the dorm with Yvonne Chewning, the daughter of the folks who drove Nancy Chewning and me to MC, that weekend and fell in love with everything that smacked of Mississippi College. And so . . . I broke the news to Sharon and started planning to go to MC. I don’t recall that she was very much disappointed, and she continued to make her plans for going to Tallahassee. My parents were elated that I would be going to a much smaller school (and I imagine much less expensive, though money was never mentioned in our family).

Fast forward to a Sunday afternoon in September 1958, and you’ll see my parents and me arriving at Jennings Hall, an ancient dorm just for freshman women. We went in two cars, probably because my dad had to hit the road for work as a supervisor of Auto-Lec Stores on Monday morning. In those days, just about the only thing that students took to college was clothes, so both cars weren’t full of stuff. My roommate, Alice Dillon, was in our room (Room 202) and started weeping and wailing when we walked in. She had been there for almost a week all by herself in our room and was horribly homesick, crying that if she had anyone to marry back in Tylertown, she’d go home right then to get married. Her sister, Dawn, was in charge of welcoming freshman girls to MC in hopes that they’d join Kissimmee social tribe and had all sorts of things to do before we freshmen arrived. Alice had had to go to MC early in order to have a ride. To make a long story short, Alice got over her homesickness when I arrived (I was the one who was homesick after my parents left), and we became best friends.

I’ve said all that to say this: By the end of first semester, I had decided that the Lord was probably just calling me to MC, not to full-time Christian service. I firmly felt that He wanted me to be an English teacher, and I began making plans for a major in English instead of Christian Education. I could be a Christian in the classroom.

As all of you know, I taught English mainly to seniors in high school for thirty-two years. During those years, I taught tenth grade for four or five years, but the vast majority of my years were with seventeen- and eighteen-year-olds, those know-it-all kids whom no one else wanted to teach. I loved them . . . until after Spring Break. They were so ready to graduate that they wanted to do nothing but chat about the future and sign yearbooks until the end of the year. Not in Miz Young’s class, though! I kept them working till the bitter end. I fibbed a bit. I still loved them, but they exasperated me big time!

These days I don’t have a class (note that I didn’t say “any class,” though you may think sometimes that I don’t have that either), so I “teach” on Facebook and holler at the TV when I hear grammatical errors from reporters and commentators and when the scrolling info at the bottom of the TV screen has errors. I know my teaching and hollering are silly, but this old English teacher can’t help it.

Almost every year on March 4, I post a reminder that it’s National Grammar Day. I wish I had known that when I was in the classroom. We’d have had a wonderful time with grammar for the whole week ahead of the date. I know. I know. How can anyone have a wonderful time with grammar? We could do it in Room 107 at Woodham High School! There are great activities online, and I’d have copied the talented English teachers who thought them up. Here’s the poster that I posted this year (2020) . . .

Funny, but no one really wanted to do either of the activities.
I sometimes post about specific grammar rules. In 2010, I posted about the extreme 
negligence of the difference between bring and take. Here’s the post and all the comments:

An old English teacher's pet peeve . . . one of them, at least

I hope the misuse of bring and take is one of your pet peeves, too! I'm probably just "whistlin' in the wind" to even mention this, though. Lately, I never hear the two words used correctly, and that hurts my teacher heart! The word take has practically disappeared from the English language.

“Use bring to indicate movement toward the person who is speaking or is being spoken to; use take to indicate movement away from the person who is speaking or is being spoken to.” The Dictionary of Disagreeable English by Robert Hartwell Fiske

Susan Hughes Definitely one of my pet peeves
Michael White See that's always been my issue with English. There are always exceptions and exceptions to the exceptions. Latin has always made more sense. Ghoti.

Julie King Evans Sandy, thank you. My son, Sam, and I read it together. It reinforced the importance of proper use of the English language. It always helps when he hears, or reads, it from a source other than his Mom.

Sally Van Kirk Isn't that "bring" and "take" thing a regional speech pattern? Seems to
me that I hear it more often with folks from certain parts of the country - not sure now where it is.

Sandy Young I don't think so. I hear the mistakes all over. People just don't adhere to the rule.

Hetty Krucke Ok, remind us of the rule...
I think it is: I take the book with me on vacation and bring the book to the library. Is that correct and why is it correct?

Peggy Schnupp Amen!

Sally Van Kirk I like the explanation you posted and I think that's probably what we were told "back in the day" Don't know why schools (and parents) have gotten so far from teaching grammar to their kids. But then the current crop of parents didn't get that teaching either.

Sandy Young And you know what, Sis? Many English teachers, I hate to say, don't like to teach grammar and practically skip it. So . . . as Grandma would say, "There you have it!"

Sandy Young Hette . . . yes you take the book with you on vacation, but you also take it to the library. If the direction is away from the speaker, use take; if it's toward the speaker, use bring. So . . . I say to you, "Hette, bring your book with you when you come to my house." Make sense? How it thrills my heart for someone to want to know how to use those two words correctly!!

Johanna Kanen You should also have a discussion about bought and brought.

Sally Van Kirk Sandy; I am not on Facebook, at least not yet but saw your post and ... I really struggle with TV programs like the local and national news. The errors in grammar and pronunciation just grate on my nerves and Sally get English. And then there is the repetition-gag me with a spoon- how many so irritated with my snide remarks about the pathetic level of spoken times do I have to hear the same poorly spoken, mindless/content less story about idiotic behavior. Phew, wonder what set me off this morning, could it be because the rain started here in the Pacific NW ?(from my brother-in-law Larry Van Kirk)

Candy L. Carter Thanks, Sandy! As a whole we have become very lazy in our speech and it is even worse now with "text speak." I refuse to use it-ever!!

I can only imagine how frustrating it must be as an English professional listening to and reading all the mistakes made each day. It drives me nuts when people use "to, too, two" or "there, their, they're"wrong, and what happened to the thesaurus anyway?.

Sally Van Kirk Quite a can of worms you opened here, sis. Wish it were limited to bring and take. Very few people speak good English anymore and it's really irritating when it's the people on radio and tv who are some of the worst offenders......

Sandy Young Oh, Candy and Sally, you are ever so right! I'm probably the last person in the world to begin texting, and would you believe that I spell out everything and even put in commas? As you can imagine, I don't text very much, but I feel as though I should do it occasionally because I'm paying a whopping $5 a month for the privilege!

Sandy Young Larry, you are right on target! Radio and TV reporters/commentators are the worst! Let's get you set up on FB. Then I'll know for sure when you're writing to me, dear brother-in-law!!

Sandy Young Hey, Johanna! Good idea . . . and there are lots more!

Sandy Young Wonder if anyone noticed the title of the book from which I copied the page . . . The Dictionary of Disagreeable English. Cost me only $5, and it's a treasure trove of things that bother me. And why, you ask, would anyone in her right mind spend so much money on a book like that? Beats me . . . guess she's still partly in the classroom. Besides, the book was on sale, and I can't pass up a good grammar deal.

Candy L. Carter Sandy, I text all the time, but I text like I email or write here on FB. In complete sentences and with punctuation. I'm proud to say that for the most part both of my boys do as well, at least when they are texting me! But, it drives me nuts when others text me in text speak--and then they branch out to FB and such with it.

Sandy Young I'm with you, Candy! And I'm proud of you AND your boys! I'm sure you're NOT proud of your old English teacher, though. Did you notice my error? It's the Dictionary of Disagreeable English, not Dictionary English. I should proofread my FB comments, huh? Oh, well . . . I'm taking an online course in proofreading later this month, so maybe I'll do better then. HaHa!

Candy L. Carter Ha, you were writing that comment while I was writing mine! But we all make those mistakes and that you can make them as well makes the rest of us feel better! So, thanks.

Sandy Young Whew! That makes me feel better!!

(Just a little sad note. Candy’s husband, Arthur, was killed while riding his bike on Sunday, March 8, 2020. They were such a team! My heart is broken for Candy, one of my favorite former students. I believe I went to her wedding. I know I gave her a gift because she mentioned it recently. I wish I lived close to her so that I could give her a great big hug right now!)

I can’t get too much upset at grammar, usage, and mechanics errors on Facebook because all of us write quickly there, and I certainly do make mistakes. I love getting messages and comments from friends and family on Facebook, so mistakes are not important. What’s important is that they cared enough to write to me.

There’s one punctuation error that bothers me, especially on email. I do believe that most people were absent the day that their teacher taught them to use a comma before and after a noun in direct address. So what is a noun in direct address?, you may be saying to yourself. Here’s a definition with punctuation:

“Always use a comma when directly addressing someone/something, regardless of whether the direct address is at the beginning or end of the sentence. If the direct address is in the middle of a sentence, use a pair of commas to set off the direct address.” (

So in a letter or an email, you should write Hi, Sandy, not Hi Sandy. Or you might have the direct address in the middle of a sentence: You know, Sandy, I think this is a silly rule. Or Surely, you don’t expect me to follow this rule, Sandy. I like this rule! And I’ll continue to set off nouns in direct address with commas.

Getting on with grammatical errors that really bother me . . . do you know what the positive, comparative, and superlative degrees of adjectives are? Well, I do, but it’s so difficult to explain. I’ll tell you a little bit; then I want you to check out the definition and examples on I’ll use examples to explain: John is smart (positive). John is smarter than Jim (comparative). John is the smartest person I know (superlative).She is pretty (positive). She is prettier than her sister (comparative). She is the prettiest girl in the class (comparative). You get the picture. One- and two-syllable adjectives have er added for comparing two people, items, places, etc. and est added for comparing groups of people, items, places, etc. If the adjective has three or more syllables, use more for comparative and most for superlative degrees: She is more beautiful than her sister. She is the most beautiful girl in her class. It’s not unusual today to hear a person say something like John is more smart than Jim or something like that (can’t think of any really good examples). Check out that website to see charts of comparisons. Errors in comparisons really “get my goat.”

Have you ever noticed all of the misspelled words in that news stream at the bottom of news programs on TV? Pop says that either the person entering the words has to work so fast that he or she makes mistakes or that the person speaks the words into a machine, and the machine makes the mistakes. I don’t know . . . I’m not sure that I buy either of those explanations. Those errors just annoy me.

Have you seen the Liberty Mutual commercial? I love Doug and Limu Emu, but I don’t love the way they advertise. Doug (and others, but I like Doug and Limu best) says Only pay for what you need. Nothing wrong with the message, but only is in the wrong place. It should be Pay only for what you need. Only shouldn’t modify pay!!

And the errors that annoy me the most are in usage. I’ll give you the words that are used incorrectly and their definitions. All of the definitions in quotation marks come from The Dictionary of Disagreeable English, one of my favorite grammar and usage books. Did you know that I have a collection of those kinds of books, mainly ones with strange titles? I’m leaving all of those to my firstborn grandchild, Corey Elizabeth Mansfield. I’m sure she’ll be elated to learn of my bequeathal! (Do you like that word? I looked it up!) Most of the errors in the following words are found in writing; a few are found many times in speaking.

a lot/alot – Sandy’s definition – A lot means a bunch! Alot is just plain wrong. It’s never correct.
alright/all right – As with
alot, alright is never correct! Examples: Your answers on the test are all right. It is all right for you to go to the mall.

amount/number – “The word number is used with that which can be easily counted; the word amount with that which can be measured.” The number of people who came was astounding. After a fair amount of fumbling with the lock, I was in.

anxious/eager – “Anxious is best reserved for feelings of dread, apprehension, or uneasiness; let’s not use it for a synonym of eager.” He was very anxious that they would discover his secret. He was eager to start his new job.

bring/take – “Use bring to indicate movement toward the person who is speaking ; use take to indicate movement away from the person who is speaking.” Please bring your laptop when you come to my house. I will take my laptop when I go to your house. (Take has practically disappeared from the English language, and that makes me very sad!)

come/go – Use come to indicate movement toward the person who is speaking; use go to indicate movement away from the person who is speaking. See sentences in bring/take!

I think I’ve done enough teaching for now, so I’ll close with just a listing of a few more pairs of words that are misused frequently. If you don’t know the difference between them, you can look them up: enormity/enormousness, every day/ everyday, feel bad/feel badly, fewer/less, its/it’s, nauseous/nauseated, and who/whom.

As I said in the title of this little piece, I’m “ever the English teacher”!

A Few of My Thoughts on Writing
and Many Thoughts of Professional Writers on Writing

I’ve read about writers who began writing in childhood. Envy is not a Christian virtue, but I envy them. I wish that writing had grabbed me in childhood or even in earlier adulthood, but it didn’t. It took a workshop one summer in the late ‘80s to convince me that I could both teach writing that my students wouldn’t rebel against and write along with my students, even sharing my writing with them.

As you know, I have written several books both to all of you and to friends with whom we’ve traveled or whom we’ve visited. They are treasures to me, especially now when my memory slips more and more every day. No, I’m not thinking that I’m “coming down” with dementia or Alzheimer’s. I just have so much stored in my little pea brain (as my little brother Bob would say about his noggin) that I can’t move those things around enough to call up everything. Every once in a while, stuff stored shifts around, and I remember something else. When you get to be 82, you may understand. Anyway, I’m happy that I’ve written down lots of things that may get lost in the shuffle of my brain. I hope someday all of you (even Danil and Dasha) will read what I’ve written. I’d feel really good if, after reading this, one or two of you would tell me that you HAVE read some of my writing. I guess you can tell that this is a sore spot with me. I almost subtitled my newest book: A Confession of Sorts. I decided against that. Much too negative.

I doubt that any of you really understand my need to write. I’m not very good at telling people what I believe or think, the main reason being that so often they immediately want to correct me . . . to tell me that I’m wrong. If I write what I believe or think, it doesn’t matter if they don’t agree with me because I can’t hear what they’re saying. Every day, when I’m having a conversation with Jesus first thing in the morning, I pray that I’ll write more, not because what I have to say is earth-shattering, but because I want all of you to know my thoughts, my beliefs, even if you don’t agree with them.

I’m pretty much rambling in this piece. Sorry! What I had in mind when I started was to give you some great quotations from famous writers, writers who think the way I do, or rather, whose ideas I agree with. Here are a few:

  • Epictetus — “If you wish to be a writer, write.”

  • John Fowles — “But all this advice from senior writers to establish a discipline always, to get down a thousand words a day whatever one’s mood , I ;ind an absurdly puritanical and impractical approach. Writing is like eating or making love; s natural process, not an artificial one. Write, if you must, because you feel like writing; never because you feel you ought to write.”

  • William Goldman — “Writing is essentially about going into a room by yourself and doing it.”

  • Guy de Maupassant — “Get black on white.”

  • Caryl Rivers — “I enjoy the process of writing. The torment comes in getting my bottom on the chair and in front of the typewriter.”

  • Richard Seltzer — “Writing in longhand has a special kind of magic to it for me. You are so engaged in the manual work of fashioning the word which ;lows out of the end of your hand as though it were a secretion from your own body, and you watch it being spilled on the page in a certain calligraphy, and it has an energy of its own that carries you along.” (This is the way I wish I felt! I hate writing in longhand. Sandy Young)

  • E. B. White — “A writer who waits for ideal conditions under which to work will die without putting a word on paper.”

  • Roger Simon — “There is no such thing as writer’s block. My father drove a truck for 40 years. And never once did he wake up in the morning and say: “I have truck driver’s block today. I am not going to work.”

  • William Kennedy — “Inch by inch, the words surprised me.”

  • John Hersey — “The voice is the element over which you have no control: it’s the sound of the person behind the work.”

  • Somerset Maugham — “I do not write as I want to; I write as I can.”

  • Alexander Pope — “True ease in writing comes from art, not chance,/As those move easiest who have learned to dance./’Tis not enough no harshness give offense,/The sound must seem an echo to the sense.”

  • F. Scott Fitzgerald — “All good writing is swimming under water and holding your breath.”

  • Mark Twain — “The difference between the right word and the almost-right word is the difference between lightning and the lightning-bug.”

  • Geoffrey Chaucer — “The lyf so short, the craft so long to lerne.” (No typos . . . Middle English!)

  • John Hollander — “A long project is like a secret houseguest, hidden in your study, waiting to be fed and visited.”

  • Job — “Oh, that my words were now written. Oh, that they were printed in a book.”

  • Thomas Mann — “A writer is a person for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.”

  • Red Smith — “There’s nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at the typewriter and open a vein.”

  • Henry David Thoreau — “Time never passes so quickly and unaccountably as when I am engaged in composition, i.e. in writing down my thoughts. Clocks seem to have been put forward.”

    As Grandma Young would say at the end of a phone conversation, “So there you have it.” Then she’d hang up. Just hang up without another word. I’m at the end of my piece on writing, but I won’t just “hang up.”

    But I will make my closing short. I love those quotations about writing, some because they reflect what I do now, some because they are what I aspire to. In conclusion, I love writing, but you already knew that. And before I leave, I must tell you that I didn’t research all of those quotations, nor did I know them from memory: All of them came from Shoptalk: Learning to Write with Writers by one of the teachers whom I most admire, Donald M. Murray. I haven’t ever met him, but I did attend a workshop that he conducted at a National Council of Teachers of English Fall Conference. Pure pleasure!

My Reading Life

I don’t think I need to tell any of you that I love books and that I love to read. The two don’t necessarily go hand in hand: I collect books, but the truth is that I haven’t read all of them in our “library.” And some of them I’ve read more than once. But I digress. What I want to do in this chapter is write abut reading in my life.

Many years ago, back in Florida, I was asked to evaluate essays written by students all over the state in an attempt to determine the students who would receive recognition of some sort from the Florida Council of Teachers of English. I don’t recall how many essays I read or the level of evaluation that I gave to any of them . . . except for one. I can’t say that I remember the “grade” that I gave any of them, but the topic of one of the essays has stayed with me through the years. In fact, I liked the content of the essay so much that I developed it into an assignment for my students . . . and I completed the assignment myself. The student who wrote the essay for the contest wrote about the reading that he had done in his short life. The topic that I gave my students was “My Reading Autobiography.” I’m sure that they used the topic as their title. I know that I did. Here’s my heartache: I wrote pages and pages about my reading, but I have no copy of it. I think that I wrote it on my computer, but back then, we saved on ;loppy discs . . . and I have none of these. Even if I did, I wouldn’t have a way to read them. And so I’ll try to reconstruct some of what was in my very long essay. Don’t worry . . . I can’t remember my reading life in nearly so much detail as I did probably twenty-;ive years ago. So relax, dear family!

This may surprise you, but I have absolutely no recollection of my mother and/or daddy reading to me when I was a child. Not one memory! I hope they did, but if they did, it didn’t impress me very much. Also, I have no memory of learning to read or at least of the process that Miss Kytle (my first grade teacher) used with us. I do remember that we were divided into reading groups and that I was in the top group: the Bunnies. I guess we had that group name because we hopped ahead of everyone else. I hope the slowest group wasn’t called the Turtles . . . but that memory hasn’t stayed with me. I also don’t remember whether or not our first readers had Dick and Jane as the main characters, but they probably did. I doubt that there were lots of publishing companies competing with each other and thus presenting lots of different readers for teachers to choose from in 1946.

In those early days of reading, I remember my teacher taking the class to the library to check out books, and I’m sure that I did just that. All of my elementary teachers (Miss Kytle, Miss Gillane, Mrs. Slokovich . . . and others, whose names won’t come to me right now) took us to the library. The specific kinds of books that I remember were the orange biographies. I probably read all of them in our little library at Judah P. Benjamin Grammar School. Surely do wish that the content had stuck with me!

We lived in New Orleans from 1945 - 1953, and in approximately 1950, when I was ten years old, I began weekly trips to the Nix Public Library. I had to walk three blocks to Carrollton Avenue to get on the streetcar. I would pay my seven cents as I got on the streetcar and pull the cord when we got near the library, signaling that I needed the driver to stop. I loved going to the library, walking up and down the aisles, taking books off the shelves and examining them before putting them back if they didn’t interest me. I always found several books that I wanted to read, took them home, read every one of them, then returned them the next week. If you’d like to see a photo of the old library that I visited, go to 360#&gid=1&pid=1. The building has been renovated to the tune of $320,000, but I couldn’t find a photo.

I think I read the Bobbsey Twins books, but I have no memories connected to them.

In my late childhood days and early teens, I read Nancy Drew mysteries and Sue Barton and Cherry Ames nurse novels. I loved the Nancy Drew books for the mystery, but the nurse novels interested me because my daddy was sure that I’d become a doctor or a nurse, and I wanted to see what my life might be like in the future. I wish I could remember the stories themselves.

I don’t think I read much in high school. I’m sure I did, but titles and authors have escaped me. I do remember reading A Tale of Two Cities, and I know that the opening lines are some of the most famous in all of English literature:

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way...

This memory is a bit fuzzy concerning other reading in high school.. I think we had to read one novel each six weeks in our English classes from tenth to twelfth grades. Did we discuss them? No. We just read them and then took a multiple-choice quiz on them. I guess the teachers bought the quizzes and used them to determine whether or not we had really read the novels. I’m trying to remember sixty-three years ago, and now I’m thinking that this kind of book reporting was something that I did with my students. Your old mom/ grammy can’t remember doodley squat these days. I don’t remember a time when I just checked out books from the library to read in high school. Sad, huh?

In college, I don’t remember doing any personal reading. I guess I was too busy studying, or at least I thought I was. I know I read The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Moby Dick (Actually I cheated in this reading, I’m embarrassed to say. Dr. Walker, an almost demented professor required us to read so many pages for each class and to write something on cards to turn in at each class meeting.. He never read what we wrote. He merely had his student assistant check off that we had turned cards in. The assistant cooperated with us as we turned in the same cards every week. Shame on me? I think not. Teachers shouldn’t be so lazy!!), The House of the Seven Gables (I liked this so much when I read it probably in 1962 that I just ordered it on Kindle in hopes that I’ll read it again someday), The Scarlet Letter, and other classics. Add to the novels The Odyssey, The Iliad, Paradise Lost, The Canterbury Tales (some in Middle English), The Inferno, and others that I can’t remember. Many of the works that I read in college I also taught to my students.

I still didn’t do any or much reading just for pleasure when I began my teaching career in Pascagoula and continued not reading just because I wanted to in Pensacola. I was always so busy making lesson plans, grading papers, and taking care of children that I THOUGHT I didn’t have time to read. Does this sound familiar? All of you are so busy, but I hope you find time to read just for yourself. You can find time to do whatever you want to if you just make yourself do that. I do remember one time when I did some just-for-me reading — when I was up in the middle of the night nursing Jay. He didn’t sleep more than two or three hours during the night in his very early days, so I was up with him for an hour or so each time. I read Christy by Catherine Marshall. It was a beautiful book, and someday I want to reread it. I loved those hours of being with my baby boy and reading!

During my thirty-two years of teaching, I assigned to my students books that I hadn’t read, either because they were on a syllabus that I was given and was required to teach or because they were recommended to me by other English teachers or because I knew that they would be good for my students to read before leaving high school. Some that I remember are: Silas Marner, A Portrait of Jenny, Julius Caesar, The Return of the Native, The Metamorphosis, Alas, Babylon, The Power and the Glory, The Chosen, Macbeth (I read this my senior year in high school, but I really had to study it when I taught it), Hamlet, and so many others. Just can’t think of them right now. Maybe I’ll come back to this later . . . before I print . . . to add others.

My official retirement began on May 4, 2017, and since then, I have read lots of books . . . maybe hundreds. Frank and I read lots of the same books. Here are some authors that we really love and have read most, if not all, of their books: Lee Child, Harlan Coben, William Kent Krueger, Jojo Moyes, Vince Flynn (he died a few years ago, and someone else is writing his books . . . not nearly so good an author). To list all of the books that I’ve read in the last four years would take pages. These days, I’m reading The New Testament in a Year, Jesus: the God Who Knows Your Name (Max Lucado), The Jesus You May Not Know (Dr. David Jeremiah) , and Live Wire (Harlen Coben). If you really want to know what I’ve read in the last four years, go to and use my information: Login: Password: Jackson13. You’ll probably think that all I do is read!

In addition to all of these books, I have read The MacArthur Daily Bible (read the Bible through in one year) three times and The Daily Bible in Chronological Order one time. I hate to admit that in my adult years I have thought that I didn’t have time to read the Bible daily. That idea changed for me when I discovered The MacArthur Daily Bible while visiting my cousin Nancy Posey in June 2016. I ordered the book and have been hooked on reading the Bible every day for five years. I begin every day, while Pop is still sleeping, in reading the Bible and praying. Praying every day at a speci;fc time when I can be by myself is something else that I didn’t do consistently until I retired. Don’t get me wrong. I have always prayed almost every day, but it was usually while lying in bed before going to sleep (and many times falling asleep before I finished) or on the way to work or while I was traveling the highways and byways of Florida and New Mexico when I was a sales rep/consultant for McDougal Littell/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Not very consistent. Today, I can’t imagine not having a specific time for Bible reading and prayer. My dear family, I strongly suggest that you find time just for you and God.

I hope you can tell by reading this chapter that reading is an important, integral part of my life. I honestly can’t even imagine a day not reading. You have probably also noticed that these days I read mostly novels, with the exception of books by Max Lucado, Robert Jeffress, and David Jeremiah, Christian authors. I don’t read nonfiction that taxes my brain. Life is too short to force me to read something that I can’t understand. I’m not all that smart, I’m afraid. If I start reading something and find that it doesn’t interest me (either because it’s over my head or it uses too much foul language or has too many explicit sex scenes . . . I don’t mind if you call me a prude), I abandon it. As I said, life’s too short. I like thrillers but not horror, books about love between people but not what is called romance, historical novels but not ones that have lots of military stuff that I don’t understand. I love to read poetry that I understand (Chaucer, Shakespeare, Milton, the Romantics, Victorian . . . and poetry by my cousin Nancy and my writing mentor Melanie Faith). I used to love reading and teaching the classics, but I’m not much into them nowadays. I guess my taste in some books has changed. I apologize for this paragraph. I’ve just rambled, and I wouldn’t give a very good grade to a student who wrote such a paragraph. Oh, well . . . that’s the elderly for you. We can do what we want!

I do hope that you read this chapter someday. I couldn’t leave it out of my love letter to you. I know absolutely nothing about reading in my parents’ or grandparents’ lives. And I surely do wish I did. Well, I do know that after my dad became a Christian, he tried to read the Bible from cover to cover. He got as far as the rather racy part about Noah and his sons and decided that the Old Bible, as he called it, was nasty and he’d read only the New Bible. I also know that my mother read a novel while she was pregnant with me, saw the name Sandra Kay, and named me that. I wish she had read another book; however, she might have come across a character named Gertrude and named me that. I surely wouldn’t have liked that!

So much for reading and books. I think you get the picture!

Letter Writing and Journaling

I want you to know about my feelings/beliefs (almost) about letter writing and journaling, but this is a difficult chapter to write. Why? Because I’m not very faithful in doing either. So what I’ll do is share some experiences that I’ve had with these, what I’ve done personally in both, what I’d love for you to do, and what I want to do. I put this little picture in because I think it’s pretty. I don’t really know the art of letter writing. I just know that I love to get letters and that I ought to write letters!f 

The first letters that I remember writing were to JoAnn. She and I wrote back and forth regularly. They always began, “Dear JoAnn . . . How are you? I am fine.” I don’t remember anything else about the letters. I do wish I had been a saver back in my childhood. I think Mother regularly threw everything away that we weren’t using.

The next letters that I remember were to Alice Dillon, my roommate at MC. When we were assigned to room together in 1958, we immediately started corresponding. Long distance phone calls were very expensive back then, so we resorted to writing . . . not many times, I’m sure, but I know that we decided, in letters, who would supply curtains and who would buy bedspreads. Alice made our curtains, and I bought bedspreads. Of course, we coordinated colors. I know that the spreads were dark green. I’m sure the curtains were a pattern with dark green in them. We did a good job even though Pensacola and Tylertown, MS, were 200 miles from each other. The Registrar’s Office did a good job of putting girls together. Alice and I were roommates from September 1958 to December 2061, when Frank and I married.

While we were newlyweds in Clinton, my mother begged me to write letters to her. I’m sorry to say that I thought I was too busy to write a few lines. So she made postcards on her typewriter. She mailed them to me so that I could just check off some things that she was interested in. If I remember correctly, they looked something like this:

Please check off items that pertain to you: 

We are well.

We are sick.

We are studying.

We have money.
We need money.
We will be home soon.
We don’t know when we will be home.

I’m sure her items were much more creative than mine. I just remember that years after she sent the postcards, I found them bundled up neatly, never checked off, never sent. Shame on me!

When I graduated from high school, I was given a little wooden box to keep precious things in. A jewelry store in Pensacola gave one of these to every “sweet girl graduate.” I don’t know whether or not they gave the boys anything. Probably not. Poor boys! I wish I knew where mine is now because it contains all of the letters that my sweetheart wrote. We were separated for only a few weeks during the summer of 1961. We were engaged and really wanted to be together. Frank had to be in Clinton to work (maybe he took some classes, too), and I went home to take some classes at Pensacola Junior College. We both spent a lot of time writing letters, telling each other what we were doing but also getting in some words about how much we loved each other. He wrote his letter on cute MC stationery that had a little Choctaw in the upper corner. I wrote mine on baby blue very thin stationery . . . almost like onion skin paper. I always put a drop of whatever perfume or cologne I was using at the time, and we both signed our letters “Much love.” I’m pretty sure that I wrote SWAK on the back of the envelope. We wrote and received three or four letters a week. Since then, I’m afraid I haven’t written many letters in longhand and mailed through USPS . . . I call it Snail Mail or Pony Express. Until I started working for McDougal Littell in September 1996, the summer of 1961 was the only time that we were away from each other since we met in February 1961. We still don’t like to be away from each other!

I’m sure that I wrote letters sometime between the love letters that I wrote to Frank and an assignment that I gave my students in 1987, but I can’t remember that I did. Anyway, in December of 1987 (it may have been 1998 . . . can’t keep the years straight anymore), my mother was living with us. She was very ill at that time, and I was having a dif;icult time even thinking about lesson plans. My friend Shirley Clark told me about something that she was doing. She made the assignment to her students to think of an adult who had influenced them. She wouldn’t let them choose a teen-aged friend . . . it had to be an adult. A kid wouldn’t appreciate the letter the way an adult would. They were to thank the person for the influence they had had on them. Details! Details! Details! I gave the assignment in all of my classes. Are you hearing groans? I did. Their complaints were that the people would think they were silly for writing. I assured them that the person would love the letter. They wanted to know if they really had to mail them. I assured them that they did because they would bring the letters to me, addressed properly (we had to do a review of how to address letters), and stamped. I would mail the letters! I think I had them turn in rough drafts to me so that I could help them with grammar, spelling, and punctuation. The final copies in unsealed envelopes (I wanted to be sure that they had the letters in the envelopes) were due at least by the last day before Christmas break. I wanted the letters to arrive before Christmas. Sort of a special Christmas gift for those influential people. Some students put their letters inside Christmas cards. Beautiful gifts! Many wrote to parents, grandparents, or older brothers and sisters; some wrote to neighbors; one very sweet black student wrote to Sue Straughn, a news anchor at WEAR TV. When the students returned to school, I asked them what the reactions were. Several said that they found their mother crying at the kitchen table. The student who wrote to Sue Straughn received a sweet note from Sue along with a signed photo. What a wonderful assignment! I thanked Shirley over and over. She not only helped me get through a very trying time with my mother, but she also gave me one of the best assignments I ever gave to a group of teens!

I just remembered another kind of letter that I wrote while I was teaching at Woodham: the letter of recommendation. After I had written many for students who were applying to colleges and after I had tried to think of positive things that I could say about them (I really didn’t know some of them very well outside the classroom), I hit upon a great idea. Before I would write the letter, they had to fill out a form that I devised, one on which they had to brag about themselves. They had to tell me what they wanted the college folks to know about them! That was one of the best ideas I ever had. I kept a stack of the forms in my classroom (probably on my messy cart that went everywhere with me) so that I could give the “cheat sheet” to them as soon as they asked me for the favor. After I came up with that idea, I didn’t mind writing the letters . . . and I knew that I would say the right thing. I’ll have to admit that the letters that I took the most time with were the ones going to Annapolis, West Point, and the Air Force Academy. I knew that all of the letters were important, but I felt that the ones to the military academies were ones that would really count!

The letters that I write today are mostly emails. I don’t know whether or not I should call text messages letters, but some of them are long. I know that electronic letters aren’t nearly so dear as ones written in longhand or even typed and mailed. I do like to have little note cards on hand so that I can write a note every once in a while. I sometimes buy them while we’re traveling so that they will be special. I send birthday, sympathy, and get-well cards frequently and always include a note . . . sometimes letter length. I’ve heard it said that it’s a good thing to write letters to people when you’re upset with them and then to destroy them, not to mail. Here’s one that I wrote recently. It’s to Cynthia Rowe’s sister.

August 10, 2021
This is the letter that I would not send! Dear Jamie,

Thank you for your note. You, my dear, are Monday-morning quarterbacking. You haven’t seen Cynthia in a long time. I really don’t know when you saw her last, but I can assure you it hasn’t been in the last six months, so you don’t really know her condition. It is getting worse all the time, and it’s not because she’s at Legacy, where she is getting the best care possible at an assisted living facility.

She can’t remember things that she said five minutes ago. For example, when we are driving to Santa Fe from Cerrillos, she will ask us five or six times where we’re going and what we’re doing there. Every time, we gently answer. We have never lost patience with her. The next day after she threatened suicide, she couldn’t believe that she had said those things.

Did you really look at the photos of her house? They don’t really do it justice in that you cannot smell what we smell every time we go there. I don’t know whether or not you have ever smelled a house that is full of cat pee and poop, but it is nauseating, to say the least. After her house is cleaned professionally, she will be safe from cat ammonia; however, if she lets it get in the condition again that it’s in now, for sure the state will put her in a state home (not anything like the beautiful Legacy), sell the house, and keep the money. And you are in dreamland if you think you could clean that house!

Your note indicates that you want Cynthia to live with you, meaning to us that you will take full responsibility for her. We know that you told Monica, at APS, that you definitely don’t want Power of Attorney, but if she lives with you, that means that we’ll have to turn the POA over to you. This means that you will have to pay all of her bills and see to her health, which are the two things that we do for her. That, my dear, is what a person does if he has POA! Are you willing to do that? We will have to either rent her house or sell it AFTER it is cleaned professionally . . . and, yes, she has money to pay for the cleaning. She’s not a wealthy woman, but she has money.

You mentioned that you’re happy that we go to see her. Wait a minute! Is that what you think we do? We do everything for her . . . research everything about what she owes, pay her bills, take her out to eat and pay out of our pockets, take her shopping for the few groceries that she wants (Diet Coke, cookies, frozen dinners, cat food), and take her trash can out to the road every Thursday afternoon so that it can be picked up on Friday. Frank is still trying to find out what she owes Uncle Sam in back taxes. She probably hasn’t paid in three years. And, BTW, all the Diet Coke that she has drunk (Frank has found and thrown away a gazillion plastic bottles since January, when you called us) has contributed considerably to her dementia. If someone in her family had been checking on her these past two or three years, they might have known that all those Diet Cokes weren’t good for her. Have you ever read about the dangers of aspartame to the brain?

As far as keeping her house clean, she won’t do that. We’ve been told that the state will provide a housekeeper once a week. Because of the location of Cerrillos, I seriously doubt that that will happen. If it doesn’t, we will hire someone to clean either once a week or every two weeks. Cynthia has money to pay for this service. She will NOT be able to have feral cats in her house. We may take her to the animal shelter to get a cat that has had shots, knows how to use a litter box, and can stay inside. Right now, all of her cats have disappeared even though our daughter left food out for them while she and we were gone. No, we haven’t told her that, and I hope you won’t either.

I feel sure that every time Cynthia has mentioned going home, you have encouraged her; therefore, I blame you somewhat for her leaving Legacy when she has. If you had told her to have patience and had assured her that she’d go home after her house is cleaned, she wouldn’t have been so unhappy. I hold you partly responsible for her unhappiness at Legacy, where she could have been at least a bit happy. Why didn’t you leave us with Cynthia’s responsibility? You have said awful things about us and what we were doing TO Cynthia, and you don’t even know us. You have chosen not to trust us, and that’s a shame. We certainly don’t trust you anymore because of the way you’ve talked behind our backs.

And now, because you shared with Lynda and Celli Cynthia’s being at Legacy, Celli has taken it on herself to say ugly things about us to Tohnia, and she doesn’t know us at all . . . not even as much as you do. All of you in her family have done us disservices when you don’t even know us.

That’s all for now. Probably more to come! ....................................................................................

That’s sort of a nice-nasty letter, don’t you think?

You know how much I love quotations . . . especially ones about writing. I think I’m always hoping that they’ll inspire me to write more. You probably don’t think I should write more but maybe less. Be that as it may, I want inspiration for writing, and sometimes quotations help me. Here are a few that I found about writing letters:

  • “To send a letter is a good way to go somewhere, without moving anything but your

    heart.” Phyllis Grissim-Theroux

  • “A letter is never ill-timed; it never interrupts. Instead it waits for us to find the opportune

    minute, the quiet moment to savor the message. There is an element of timelessness

    about letter writing.” Lois Wyse

  • “In an age like ours, which is not even into letter writing, we forget what an important

    part it used to play in people’s lives.” Anatole Broyard

  • “Letters are among the most significant memorials a person can leave behind them.”

    Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

  • “I have made this letter longer than usual, only because I have not had the time to make it

    shorter.” Blaise Pascal

  • “Letter-writing on the part of a busy man or woman is the quintessence of generosity.”

    Agnes Repplier
    Willa Cather was a faithful letter writer. Here’s a beautiful image to prove it:

And now to the second part of this chapter . . . journaling. A couple of hours ago today (October 14, 2021), I decided to check my Penzu, an app where I used to do a lot of writing. Maybe you could call it journaling, but I don’t think that’s the way it turned out. Originally, I think I meant it to be a journal of sorts. In noodling around in my writing, I found something that I wrote in 2015 in a class titled Writing Our Hearts Out June - July, 2015. I think that’s the class that Melanie Faith taught to my cousin Nancy Posey and me. Anyway, I liked what I wrote about journaling. I’m copying it here:

I surely do wish a teacher in school had taught me about the importance of keeping a journal. I have friends who have kept journals for decades, but I can’t even say that I’ve kept a journal for a year. I’ve wanted to, but I just haven’t had the stamina and dedication. I let lots of things get in the way of writing and especially of journal writing.

I used to get those cute little diaries with locks and tiny keys, thinking (on my own way back when) that there was much of was prone to lose the thoughts. 

Why, oh why, didn’t I think it important to write about college life, such a memorable time! I could have written about classes and teachers and friends and my roommate (who is still one of my best friends) and boyfriends, one of whom turned out to be gay (though that word didn’t even exist with the present-day meaning), one of whom dumped me because his mother told him that I wasn’t a nice girl (there’s a great story!), and the love of my life, Frank. What interesting reading those entries would make today!

I’ve done all sorts of things to make myself journal. Books by the gazillion. Online classes with Sam Lytle and Nathan Ohren. Even a journal of sorts called A Photo a Day. I lasted through February with a photo and at least a comment. Actually, I just looked back at it, and I have a lot written about each photo. I might just continue that one, not trying to be faithful EVERY day, but occasionally writing and attaching a photo would be good. It seems like forty forevers ago when I did this journal, but it was just back in 2014!

When I was in Nathan’s class, one in which we all met online once a week, he encouraged us to write in a physical journal. He even told us the kind of pen that he liked to write with, and I bought his favorite. I wrote diligently in my notebook for a month or so, but my hand almost fell off, and that was one of the reasons that I quit the class. In addition, it seemed to me that Nathan and the other members were getting to be a little . . . what I call . . . woowoo. They were wanting to interpret dreams and such, and I wasn’t interested. I like writing on my trusty Mac so much that I copied all of my handwritten entries into my computer and threw away the notebook.

I even tried for a VERY short time The Artist’s Way, thinking that writing a certain number of pages every day would help me. Nope! I didn’t last. I tried it years ago in Pensacola, then threw the book away. Actually, I probably put it in our garage sale. Then later, after we had moved to NM, I ordered a used copy, thinking surely I had changed. Nope! I never even started.

I tell myself that I really have tried journaling; however, the quotation from last week fits here . . . “Thinking about writing isn’t the same thing as writing” . . . or something like that. And if I say that I really have tried to journal, you could say in all truthfulness, “Liar, liar! Pants on fire!”

I’m going to try again during June and July, and I hope I’m successful.

(I wrote this in Penzu. If you’re interested in seeing everything that I wrote, just go to and use the User ID and the Password Jackson16!!. I don’t think I’ve posted anything that you shouldn’t read, but if I have, that doesn’t matter. I probably won’t be around for you to fuss at anyway!)

On the other hand, I have had some great experiences with journaling. After I went to a writing workshop in my home county one summer, I began putting a journal topic on the board every day for my students to react to. They were supposed to write at the beginning of the class while I was doing “housekeeping chores.” Some wrote then; some wrote at home; and many wrote everything the night before I was going to take up notebooks. Reading their responses was pure pleasure! Their grade was based on whether or not they wrote at least half a page on each journal topic. At the beginning of the school year, I heard groans about having to write. By the end of the ;irst six weeks, if I forgot to put a topic on the board, they complained and asked, “Where’s our journal topic, Miz Young?”

One morning I couldn’t find the little book that I was using for journal topics (Oh, how I wish we had had the Internet back then . . . wouldn’t have needed a little book. I can find thousands of topics today.), and I couldn’t think of one. I thought for a minute and came up with one of the best assignments I ever made. When someone asked where the journal topic was, I told them that they were going to do a different kind of journal. They’d be writing a journal entry of their choice for the next twenty-six days. I asked if they could think of anything that I’d want them to write about for twenty-six days. I wish I could remember all of their answers before someone finally said, “The alphabet!” Right! They would think of a word for each letter of the alphabet and write at least half a page on it. Of course, I envisioned my dear students writing conscientiously while I did my “housekeeping chores.” Wrong! Again, most of them wrote at home . . . and many wrote the night before journals were due. After the ;irst year of reading their scratch, I required that the journals be typed. Again, they groaned, but they did what Miz Young required. I have written Alphabet Journals several times myself. Lots of fun!

As you know, Frank and I traveled in Europe with students for many years. Since the students received college credit for the trip if they completed the requirements, one of which was to write in their journals every day. I was the administrator of the trips and as such was responsible for reading the journals. I took them up periodically and read every word. And I loved that part of my job! Since the students were required to keep journals, I kept one, too. I didn’t share my journals with our travelers, but in several years I made a book for each student. I know I did this several times, but I can ;ind only one, the one that I wrote for the students who went with us in 1993. The title of the book is European Adventure 1993. In addition to keeping a journal, the students had to write an essay in which they gave their opinions of the trip, their favorite places, and suggestions for future trips. I read these carefully and picked out parts of the essays to share with all of the students. I also asked the advisors — Beverly Pritchett, Steve Long, and Frank to write a paragraph or two giving their opinions of the trip. The last thing in the book is my evaluation of the trip. This is what I said in the first paragraph: “I could write pages and pages about what I feel about this summer’s trip, but I know that you’re just about all read out if you’ve made it this far. Therefore, I’ll try to curb my desires and write only a little of what I felt after we returned to our homeland . . . that place that we were all so eager to leave but to which we could hardly wait to return after being gone for only a few days.” Well, my evaluation was four pages long. So you can once again say to me, “Liar, liar! Pants on ;ire!”

Again . . . a few quotations:

  • “Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart.” William Wordsworth

  • “A journal is your completely unaltered voice.” Lucy Dacus

  • “Journaling helps you to remember how strong you truly are within yourself.” Assad Meah

  • “Journaling is like whispering to one’s self and listening at the same time.” Mina Murray,


  • “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” Maya Angelou

  • “Preserve your memories, keep them well; what you forget you can never retell.” Louisa May Alcott

    I can’t close this chapter without mentioning two of my friends who still write letters. Mary Arrowsmith always writes a long note . . . I call it a letter . . . inside my birthday card. She never forgets my birthday! And just recently I received a card with a long note in it from Nana Hilsenbeck. We usually correspond via email, but when I told her a little bit about my life with Cynthia, she said she’d like to read a few of my last journals about my friend. Her card was in response to my journals and made my heart sing. My best friend in high school, and still a precious friend, still writes letters in longhand. Her penmanship has always been beautiful, and it still is. I love to see an envelope with a letter from her. I don’t have to look at the return address to know that it’s from Sharon Downing Jarvis!

Maybe someday I’ll become a true letter writer and journaler. I’d better hurry because I probably don’t have too long!