Make a Difference Day

Justin made a difference by working with Postcrossing to send postcards to Reagyn, a fifth grade student from London, Ohio. She has a stage three brain tumor, and she and her family recently had to move to Virginia so that she could receive radiation special treatments. Her teacher wanted to do something to make her feel special, so when Reagyn asked for help in collecting postcards from all over the world, the teacher recruited help from other Postcrossing collectors. (She is still accepting postcards, so check the link at the end of the blog if you would like to help.)


Today is Make a Difference Day, the Nation’s Largest Day of Service.

Thanks to USA WEEKEND, who came up with idea, people all across the United States are working together to help their neighbors in need.

If you’re interested in joining in, please visit the official Make a Difference Day website:

While you are there, be sure to check out the information about reporting the results of your project. Participants are eligible to receive $10,000 for a charitable donation. (Sorry, you don’t get to keep it.) It’s really easy to join in and to be counted among the many others who are making a difference October 23.

The folks at USA Weekend require their participants to actually be involved on October 23. My students, however, have so many activities filling their weekends that they have taken time this week to perform random acts of kindness, such as washing their teachers’ desks, helping their teachers transport items for our recent Homecoming Day activities and volunteering time to help their clubs raise money. Some of this money will be used for the Thanksgiving food drive and various Christmas projects.

Justin (pictured at the top of this blog) chose to send a postcard to a very sick child who requested to collect postcards from the world. He found her story, as told through her teacher, from Postcrossing. Postcrossing: The Postcard Crossing Project is a fun project year around and nationwide. Participants must first create an account and request and address and Postcard ID. They mail the postcard to that address. A postcard will then be mailed to them. Participants register their Postcard ID they received, and follow the same steps to receive more postcards.

Other people who have joined in the fun say it’s almost like Christmas when the postcards begin to arrive. The postcards both encourage and brighten the day of the receiver (and sender). Teachers can get on board and create a project for their students of all ages. An entire class can “travel the world” without stepping outside their classroom.

For more information, please visit this site:

Please consider making a difference in someone else’s life. Be sure to leave a comment so that you might encourage others to do the same.

Congratulations to all of you for making a difference in someone else’s life. You made a difference in mine by just commenting on my blog. Keep up the great work. I hope that someone will surprise you next week with something special that lifts your spirits.

Casey won a copy of the Max Lucado DVD, Christmas Child. Yes, believe it or not, Christmas is just around the corner. Make a Difference Day is a just sneak peek into the season of giving.

I think I’m henpecked!

Today the three of us, Kenny, Michael and I, took a little trip to Franklin, Tennessee, to visit one of our favorite out-of-the way spots, the Henpeck Market. Located at 1268 Lewisburg Pike, the market is an eclectic assortment of happiness.

At first glance, visitors might mistake the two-story Victorian structure for a cozy home. But the gas pumps out front are a dead give-away that there’s more to this quaint little establishment than a family dwelling.

They really do have EVERYTHING!

Actually, family is what this place is all about. At one time Don and Jackie Gregory and their family lived above the store/restaurant, but now the upstairs is home to a gallery of unique gifts called The Loft.

It's not too early to make your Christmas gift list.

If you’re looking for a special gift for baby, one that doesn’t scream Walmart or Target, then this is the spot to shop. There are gifts for every member of the family: artists, sports fans, soccer moms, teens, etc.

Not your run-of-the-mill gifts

I’m always drawn to the jewelry and the tees. I’m all about wearing art. There is so much to choose from with a wide variety of prices that will suit all budgets.

But The Loft is just part of the experience. Downstairs is where most of the action takes place. The moment you walk through the doors, you’ll rub elbows with patrons and employees of all ages. There’s a place for everyone. Everyone fits in. It is the epitome of cozy atmosphere.

Kick back, relax...

Enjoy a cup of coffee...

Far behind the register is a kitchen where the staff prepares gourmet meals to eat in or to take out. We couldn’t decide what to order, but we narrowed our choices to the Bleu Bird (turkey with bacon and bleu cheese) and the homemade pimento cheese with bacon and tomato. We ordered both on artisan bread.

Eat in or take out.

We split them, each taking a half. We couldn’t have been more pleased with our selection had we gone to a New York deli. The sandwiches were amazing.

It’s all yumscious!

The next time I go, I may be tempted to order The Elvis, skillet-fried, thick-sliced bologna topped with Pepper Jack cheese, mayo and tomato. I know I’ll be saying thank you, thank you very much.

It may seem weird, but I don’t go to the Henpeck Market to buy gas or to visit The Loft or even to sample food. I go because of the ambiance. Every time I walk in the market, I feel a surge of creativity and peace sweep over me.

It’s just a happy place. In fact, the motto there is “Simply Living Life.”

Peaceful, easy feeling

Franklin just exudes creativity—and so does the Henpeck Market. When I need to recharge my creative battery, that’s where I want to go.

But what I really like about this little place is that the owners aren’t ashamed of the Gospel. They boldly proclaim Christ’s love through their actions and through the art work scattered throughout the place.

I feel God’s presence and His peace every time I walk through the doors.

I don’t usually plug establishments in my blog, but the Henpeck Market holds a special place in my heart. If you happen to go, please tell them that the short, little blond woman running around with the camera really did feature them in her blog.

Maybe they won’t think I’m that crazy.

Let me know if you make the trip, and please share your go-to places for creativity. We may have to get together and plan a road trip.

For more information, please visit The Henpeck Market website:

Memphis mojo

“The use of traveling is to regulate imagination by reality, and instead of thinking how things may be, to see them as they are.”   Samuel Johnson

Maybe it was three years ago when I took my newspaper staff on a writing adventure, a change of scenery. We took our notepads and writing utensils to an outdoor spot where no other students, staff and faculty were around, and we sat. And we listened. And we wrote.

My goal was for my students to listen to nature and to listen to their own imaginations so that they could find the story that lay dormant within their minds. I never imagined that I would be the one to benefit most from the excursion. Sitting there in the quiet of the outdoors on the bleachers in front of a ball field, I came up with an idea for a story that refused to go away.

As I sat on the bleachers in the silence, I watched my students drift away on their on journeys, and then my own thoughts flooded my mind. What if a couple of teens snuck out to the ball field behind their school to find a quiet place to write? What if they saw a couple of teachers sneaking out too? What if the students caught the teachers doing something that was clearly against school rules? What if what they were doing was so bad that it was a crime?

I didn’t actually write that story, but I did write a story about a couple of student journalists who witnessed their peers and their teachers take part in activities leading up to the deaths of three of their classmates. Actually, when I first made up my mind to seriously pursue my heart’s desire, I had two other stories in mind as well. I even started one of them, but the YA story wouldn’t go away. It latched onto my heart.

When I knew that I could not NOT write my YA story, I decided to learn as much as I could about my characters. The main character, TJ, grew up in Memphis, probably my favorite place to escape, so I went to Memphis and followed TJ’s tracks wherever they led. I’ve been to Memphis quite a few times, but I wanted to see Memphis with fresh eyes, my character’s eyes.

I started with Beale Street and headed straight for the soul food, Blues City Café and then Miss Polly’s. I go to both on a regular basis, but I’ll never forget my first visit to Miss Polly’s. I have sweet memories of greens, catfish and Joe Walsh. No, he wasn’t there.

If he were, I probably would have written a totally different story—from within my cell. I’m sure I would have stalked him the rest of the trip. Joe was playing on some West Coast stage, and I watched him on a little TV as I sat at my table that paid homage to one of the blues greats. But my laid-back experience allowed my mind to wander so that my story could develop.

During my journey I met an old man at Memphis Music, who had the warmest smile I’ve ever seen. I could have talked to him for hours. Then I stepped outside and put a few dollars in the tip bucket after watching the Beale Street Flippers do their thing.

The sun had set, and the moon had risen. I ventured into Tater Red’s, probably the scariest store in all of downtown. I don’t think I would ever buy anything there because I believe you can take the “bad” with you, but I saw what I needed to see.

Picture mojo and voodoo and then mix it with the crossroads and Robert Johnson. You see where I’m going. There’s a lot of other gimmicky, crass items in there as well, but I can’t help but wonder if evil truly lurks behind the voodoo shrine in the back of the store. I may never know, but should I write a sequel, perhaps TJ will return to his roots and tell us all.

I couldn’t miss hanging out at the Pepsi Pavilion to check out the band, and the later it got, the louder the women sang. Not the band, mind you. I’m talking about the older “girls” who had partaken in their own spirits—and I’m not talking about the ones at Tater Red’s. I wouldn’t have minded staying there until the band members packed up their equipment, but it was getting late.

I had to get back to my hotel, but before I left I took a carriage ride with a driver from Austria. He didn’t have a dog. Most of the other drivers do, but he had a cool accent and shared lots of cool stories about his life and about the history of Memphis. I could have ridden in one of the lighted carriages shaped like pumpkins, but I chose to save it for another trip. (Yes, I did go back and try out the pumpkin. How could a romantic like me give up the chance to play Cinderella?)

I haven’t taken my current students on a writing journey this year. But maybe I should do that as soon as possible. I can’t help but think of a quote by St. Augustine:

“The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only one page.”

It’s time for me and my students to set out on another adventure. Even if we only go a few steps beyond our classroom, there is no limit where our imaginations will take us.