Tag Archives: Family Life

My Thanksgiving Letter

24 Nov

On the Porch

Onisha Ellis

 I am writing this as a letter because, I think of our readers as friends. You come and let us share our lives with you and share yours in return. That is what friends do. I am beyond thankful for the friends who faithfully blog here each week, DiVoran, Bill, Louise, Judy, Melody and Janet. They inspire me with their commitment and wisdom. I love you guys!

Dear friends,

It is funny how circumstances change our thankful list. Usually on Thanksgiving our  list is for family, health ,friends, and of course, our Savior.  This year, we woke up to wet grass and the wonderful rain is at the top of our list.

Our beautiful North Carolina, Georgia and Tennessee mountains that are part of the forest service lands, have been viciously attacked by arsonist and thousands of acres  are affected.  I pray it was enough to give our firefighters and those from across the country who came to help, a rest this Thanksgiving day.

This morning, I pulled out old favorites as well as new cookbooks to get our meal started. One of my “must have” books is an old one from Ebenezer United Methodist Church in Raleigh, NC. It has been a part of our Thanksgiving meal for years. They have put out newer ones, but I love the old version. This year, I have added a new favorite, Janet’s Appalachian Cookbooks. Rebekah mixed up the School House Rolls recipe and I can’t wait to sink my teeth in their yeasty goodness. Of course, I had to go to the internet to find a recipe so we have a beautiful blending of old with new. Our turkey is in the roaster and the oven is almost ready for the side dishes. It has been a joy working side by side in the kitchen with my daughter. We each have our quirks when it comes to cooking and how we do things, but we can laugh about them and it adds to the fun.

I won’t pretend that my heart does not have a tender spot, missing the large family meals with my parents, brothers and their families. We don’t have any children’s voices laughing and arguing or the camaraderie of a bunch of women in the kitchen. I miss it but I am so blessed to have had that time. I hope wherever you gathered today, that you treasured the moments and you loved richly.

Talk to you later, the oven is ready!




UPDATE: One of our favorite places in Macon county is Wayah Bald, with it’s rustic fire tower and breathtaking views. It is also a favorite rest stop for hikers on the   Appalachian Trail. I read on Facebook tonight that one of the forest fires burned the tower. I can’t conceive of the anger a heart must hold to destroy so much beauty. I fear the damage to the stone structure might be too damaged to repair. I am thankful for the memories we made there and hopeful it will be restored.

God Has Been Watching Over Me~Part 3

23 Nov

From the Heart

Bill Lites


Sometime during my last year in high school, my friend Leon invited me and two other guys to make a weekend trip to El Paso, Texas to visit another of his friends and check out Juarez, Mexico just across the border. Leon had a job, so we left late Friday after he got off work (poor planning on our part). We were having a great time on the road south until it got dark, and we discovered it had rained heavily somewhere north of our route and now we had to cross a water-filled arroyo.




It didn’t look too deep and didn’t seem to be running too fast (bad assumption anytime, but especially at night). As you have probably guessed, we got about halfway across that arroyo, but Leon didn’t keep the engine revving and the water went up the tailpipe and stalled the engine. Of course, the water was deeper than it had looked. There we were, stalled, with water piling up to the bottom of the window on my side of the car, and water starting to leak into the car. Leon was trying to start the car but it wouldn’t re-start. Then this guy tried coming across the arroyo from the other direction. Just as he got to us, the water his car was pushing moved Leon’s car sideways just enough for him to side-swipe Leon’s car as he passed (not bad with the water cushion between the cars). The guy kept on going in order to keep from getting stalled like we were.




Then a semi-truck started across from the other side toward us. His truck was high enough and heavy enough to get through, but his huge bumper was pushing a wall of water in front of him. That wave of water rolled right over Leon’s car as the truck passed us. If we hadn’t had the windows rolled up, the water would have filled the car. All this time Leon was trying to re-start the engine. He finally got it started (a real miracle) and I hollered at him to keep it in first gear until we were clear of the water. We made it! (I think God must have His hands full when it comes to teenagers). We had fun in El Paso and in Juarez and by the time we headed back to Albuquerque there was no water to be seen anywhere for that 265 mile stretch of New Mexico desert.




The summer after I graduated from high school, I was ready to go out and meet the world head-on and make my fortune in life. I had heard from friends that the pay was really good for “Roughnecks” at the oil fields in northern New Mexico (Can you just imagine a smooth faced 18-year old skinny kid, 120 lbs. soaking wet, trying to keep up with experienced workers on a job like this.




After much begging, pleading and promising to be careful, I somehow I talked my parents into letting me go try my luck at that kind of work there for the summer.   I packed a suitcase full of clothes, strapped it to my trusty Harley Davidson and headed for Farmington, New Mexico, some 185 miles north of Albuquerque on US-580.* One day during my adventure there in Farmington (You’ll have to read the blog for the gory details of that summer adventure) I was riding down the road and came to a curve that wasn’t really sharp enough to slow down for, so I just leaned into the curve like any other. What I didn’t see was the light film of sand right across the middle of my lane.   Halfway through the turn, the rear wheel lost traction and I went down. My Harley and I went sliding down the road for several yards, and across the double line into the oncoming lane.   This was another case of no cars anywhere on the road at the time of the incident. Thank you Lord!

*See Bill’s blog “On My Own”- 8/15/2012.


—–To Be Continued—–


Man-Angels Part 1

31 Oct

My Take

DiVoran Lites



I would like to present a new word, unless somebody already has come up with it. The word is man-angels. It means earthly angels who happen to be men of the human race. Now, I imagine there could be all kinds of theological discussions over this. I wonder if God’s angels from Heaven have any similarity to us, but let’s imagine they do.

The name came to me during the recent hurricane which, strangely, had the same name as a book in the Bible: Matthew. The media announced that a terrible storm was on its way. Everyone took it seriously. In the fifty years we’ve lived in Brevard County, we have never known such destruction as was predicted for the night of October 6, 2016. We were given a mental picture of a blitzed and destroyed land.

Because my husband was away at the time, I became a woman alone. Might I say elderly woman alone. Bill knew he had made our house safe enough for 150 mile an hour winds, and frankly neither of us was worried about it except for one thing: I knew I would be scared in the house alone when the big one struck in the middle of the night. Our daughter hoped I wouldn’t be so frightened that I would get sick. Our son reckoned I could get hurt, especially if rain got under the shingles and the roof lifted off, a very real danger with hurricanes.

Our daughter was at home with her husband, looking after a family member who has dementia. She called her brother and asked if he could drive to Titusville from Orange City and put up the shutters. He asked his grown son to meet him here. They came at night because the next day, they were both expected to work, at least from home. The put up the shutters in the dark Wednesday night. They were soaking wet from the humidity even though it wasn’t raining yet. Fortunately we had repellant for the hungry mosquitoes and flashlights to see by. We also had light-weight, clear, shutters. They left here close to midnight for their respective homes an hour away. Man-angels.

I really did plan to stay. I’d be with my two cats and we’d get through it. Besides, I most definitely did not want to pack a suitcase. On Wednesday our daughter texted that she thought it would be good for me to go ahead to Orange City because the threats were dire. Then our son called and asked me again to come.

Then he set up a group text. Dad, Mom daughter, son, and son’s wife. We started texting like crazy. My husband who was in Ohio, was needed for lots of advice about where things were and what actions he had set up in case of such a storm. It was family communication par excellence! We even laughed a bit. Our daughter came to the house and helped me prepare for the storm.

After the warnings became even more threatening, our daughter and son each called me and insisted it would be better to go to Orange City for the duration of the storm. They answered all my objections calmly and reasonably. No one became impatient. They are negotiators and diplomats. I heard their concerns and decided to go. Our daughter offered to drive me and our daughter-in-law offered to come and get me, an hour each way for either of them. A mom loves to be so looked after and I was no exception.

To Be Continued




Dad:Worst Enemy, Best Friend~Part 4

27 Jun

My Take 

DiVoran Lites

Author, Poet and ArtistFunny how many times I could have lost my dad, but didn’t. He was always there for me, and I had the deep security of knowing he always would be. I took him so much for granted, though, that I didn’t realize until much later that his caring for me in the ways that he did were the foundation for my trusting God.

Dad and I went more rounds over the years. We moved to Los Alamos where he became a courier for the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC).

Then we moved to Albuquerque so he and Mom could continue to work for the government. Dad still traveled.



I ran away to get married, but Dad called the florist in faraway CA, to order an orchid for my bridal bouquet. He wasn’t able to attend because of the job.

We moved to Florida for Bill’s job at Kennedy Space Center. Mom and Dad never failed to visit us once a year, and we also joined them on their fishing vacations at Salton Sea (now defunct).* After Salton Sea came Marrowstone Island in Puget sound, then Sapinero-Blue Mesa Reservoir in Colorado. The vacations were memorable, but I’m afraid I didn’t appreciate them as much then as I do in retrospect. The living was rough, fishing was all, but Mom the kids and I could always go to town (except at Salton Sea which was out in the desert by itself.) And once we did some old-fashioned clamming. That was great fun!

All those vacations were good for getting to know each other, especially the children. I’ll always be grateful that Mom and Dad went to that much effort to stay in touch.

When we first arrived in Florida, the woods that border our home seemed scary and exotic. I’d heard so much about snakes and insects I didn’t want to go out there.


When Dad came, though, he wasn’t daunted. He started walking every day. Our dog and I soon joined him and we learned the way. We’ve been walking the trails in those woods ever since, first with our kids and dogs then with our grandkids. It is a chief enjoyment in life.

Mother always told me to have plenty of things for Dad to repair when they came so he wouldn’t get bored. The year we had no TV he threatened never to come back again, but we got one and he did. One job dad did was to put up a jar opener under a cupboard for us. He was having a lot of trouble with carpal-tunnel syndrome by then. I use that gripper now because I need it sometimes. I wonder, if he realized what a favor he had done for us by installing it.

With maturity, my grievances have melted away. I’ve realized that I deeply loved my Dad in spite of our lifelong battles. The first time I went to visit when he was in the nursing home unable to do anything for himself we both broke into tears. Dad was aware enough to ask, “Is this who I think it is?” Later, I sat alone with him and held his wrist in my hand so I could feel his pulse because I didn’t know how to talk to him as others seemed to do.

This year, on Memorial Day Sunday our pastor asked people to call out the names of their kin who had died in wars. At first there were only a few and then it became a chorus of jumbled names. I felt sad knowing how difficult it is to lose any member of your family. But I also had a halleluiah feeling that I did get to know my Dad for the rest of his life after he came home from WW2. He carried signs of what we now call PTSD. I believe that most families whose parents have been in the military during wartime do. Thanks Dad, for coming back and living a long life in which I got to know you and your true value.

DiVoran and Dad with coats


Read more about Salton Sea by clicking HERE





Family Treasures~Part 2

12 Jun


Judy Wills



As I mentioned last week, sometimes, the things you grow up with, just don’t seem like anything special.   They are just “there”….part of the woodwork. I’ve found that, not until I got older – and left my girlhood home – did those “things” become important to me.

My mother and father lived in the house I grew up in for many years following my marriage. Fred and I moved to Fort Worth, Texas, for him to attend Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Following that, we went to San Jose, California for one year for Fred to study meteorology at San Jose State College, to prepare him for his meteorologist career in the U.S. Air Force. During that year, my father died.

Mother continued to live in my growing-up house. About five years after my father’s death, mother remarried. We saw them only one time in that house before they sold it and moved into an apartment. Many of the things I grew up around, were put in storage in my step-father’s sister’s garage. While on a visit one time, mother asked if we had the chalk pictures – which I didn’t. Apparently they were put in that storage. I would love to have them now, but they are gone – no one knows where.

Again, they were just part of the “decoration” of the house where I grew up. I always thought they were neat and cute, but they didn’t have any “hold” on me at that time. I don’t remember who did the chalk drawings, but one was of my brother at about two years of age, and the one of me was at about two years of age, also. They were in colored chalk, and really cute.

Here are a couple of pictures of Bill and myself beside our respective chalk pictures. Unfortunately, these pictures were in black-and-white, so you can’t really see the colors.

However, here is another one that had the pictures in color. Mother and dad had purchased a new couch, and mother had made a new picture arrangement above it.



And here’s another one, taken in 1966, Christmas, that shows those pictures a bit closer, and in color.


These are a family treasure to me, even if they aren’t in our possession. Something to remember and enjoy the memory.





Family Treasures~Part 1

5 Jun



Judy Wills



 Sometimes, the things you grow up with, just don’t seem like anything special.   They are just “there”….part of the woodwork. I’ve found that, not until I got older – and left my girlhood home – did those “things” become important to me. When my Aunt Jessie died, we had an estate auction – at her house. The auctioneer said that, with all the antiques she had, her house was the perfect setting for the auction. They sold everything “down to the carpet.”

Of course, there were some things that each of us wanted that was hers. I took some things that were special to me, as did my brother and my mother.

But when my mother died, my brother and I took things of mothers that she had taken to the apartment where she and my step-father lived. Not a whole lot was left of my girlhood home, but we did get a few things. Some things have ended up in our daughters houses, as well as with our niece and nephew.

There were a couple of mirrors that I especially wanted to keepsake, and I’m glad I did. Growing up, there was a gilt-edged mirror over the mantel of our living room fireplace. Of course, to a child, it seemed huge! Here are a couple of pictures of that particular mirror.


Since Fred and I didn’t really need a mirror that size, our oldest daughter said she would like to have it. That was a joy to me, that she would want something that was a part of my family history – a family treasure. I am reminded of my childhood home every time I see that mirror.

And so, Karen and her husband acquired that mirror and it now hangs above the mantel over their living room fireplace. Here is a picture of that mirror in its new home.



Brian (son-in-law) had always enjoyed the mirror, but had no idea of its significance to our family. As we were discussing it with him one day, I mentioned that it had been in my girlhood home until mother and my step-father sold the house and moved into an apartment. His reaction was priceless! “It wasn’t just some mirror you found to give to us?” No, it was in my family from the time I could remember until you acquired it. He said that it meant a great deal more to him, now that he knew that particular mirror had family history to it. I think he enjoys it more now, because of that family treasure.

There is another mirror that is a treasure of mine. This is a mirror that was in my bedroom as I was growing up. I always enjoyed the fact that the outer “rim” was small pieces of mirror – mirror tiles. It was so pretty. Unfortunately, by the time that mirror made its way with us around the country and world, a lot of those little mirror tiles had broken off and were lost. So I had more mirrors replaced, but just a solid piece of glass instead. It’s still pretty – and it still hangs in our guest room – but I miss the uniqueness of those little mirror tiles. However, it’s still a great reminder to me of my childhood – and it’s still a part of my current life. I like that.






The Cruise of a Lifetime~Coming Home

29 May


Judy Wills



 Because our flight from Budapest was at 6:30 a.m., we had to get up about 2:15 a.m. to get ready, pack, and get on the shuttle bus by 3:30 a.m. We had showered the night before, so all we had to do was shave (Fred), put on makeup (Judy), finish packing, and off we went. There were 14 of us from the ship that were going to make that flight.

It was a 30-minute drive from the ship to the airport. And when we got there, it was a “hurry up and wait” situation. We waited 30 minutes for the counter personnel to arrive and begin taking customers. We were first in line, thank goodness. Even though we had our bags with us, she convinced us to check the larger bags, as the plane from Budapest to Amsterdam was “small.” The flight took off pretty much on time, and it was a two hour flight to Amsterdam. They did feed us breakfast, but it was nothing like we had before – a sandwich with either deli-thin slices of chicken, or cheese, with mayonnaise on it. Well, Fred doesn’t eat mayo in ANY form! But we were able to get him some slices of cheese and chicken that wasn’t too “polluted” from the mayo.

We had a fairly long layover in Amsterdam, which was good. Schiphol Airport is really big, and we had to go quite a ways to find our gate. Fred said it looked like the lady in Budapest had checked our bags all the way to Orlando, but he wasn’t sure. So when we had the attendant in Amsterdam check, sure enough, they were checked through. However, she said we had to pick them up in Atlanta and go through Customs there.

The flight from Amsterdam to Atlanta was nearly nine hours long. The fortunate thing about it was that we were on an Airbus, and were in the two-seat side, rather than the four-seat middle. I always enjoy flying with just Fred, rather than three of us across. They fed us lunch – we both had tortellini, salad, cheese and crackers. A few hours later they had wrap sandwiches for us – Fred had a “meatball” and I had a veggie wrap. Surprisingly tasty. And of course, there was always the pretzels and peanuts.

We finally arrived in Atlanta – really nice to realize we were back on US soil! We picked up our bags and headed through Customs and Immigration. Not a bad thing, and we got through fairly easily. We were glad to have that done in Atlanta, rather than having to do it in Orlando, when we were super tired.

The flight to Orlando was just barely over one hour. As we like to say, they hardly got up when they had to start down again! They did have time to hand out pretzels and soft drinks, but they were hurrying through it.

Richard Lynch picked us up and headed toward home. When we discovered they had not had dinner yet – and our tummys were growling – we agreed to meet at Panera for a light supper. Pam and Piper were waiting for us. We were able to tell them a little bit about our trip, but were so very ready to get home.

We unloaded our suitcases quickly, as I HAD to do a load of undies, since all we had needed to be washed before the next day. So with all that done, we were able to get to bed by about 10:00 p.m. We figured that we had been in the air about 13 hours, and had been awake about 25 hours – with only cat-naps on the airplane! We were truly and fully exhausted!   We didn’t even set the clock to wake us up on Saturday – just decided to sleep our fill.

It was wonderful to be home and sleeping in our own bed.

But we are grateful and thankful that we had the wonderful experience of the Viking River Cruise Grand Tour. A cruise of a lifetime!


~~~~~~~~~~The End~~~~~~~~~~



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