Little Things

Mom wasn’t a spouter of aphorisms. She was a talented conversationalist, but she didn’t sprinkle her speech with instructional ‘words of wisdom.’ So I was surprised to find a wealth of notes she wrote to herself on scraps of paper, storing them in books and diaries. Each scrap contained a phrase, a quote or a stand-alone word that she wanted to keep close. She also saved magazine and newspaper articles. These were her literary bling, her bits to live by. 


(12-18-14) Here’s something from a day planner that Mom never used. I think she just liked the artwork and quotes in it. The verse is from 18th century British poet James Thomson.

Tidbits - Donkey & Swan in Snow

See, winter comes to rule the varied year.


(12-13-14) Mom was 75 when she cut out a 1998 Glamour Magazine article about the importance of learning new things. It ended by stating that “life is a series of refresher courses” … you find yourself revisiting areas you need to master. That is, you get to re-try what you tank at.

Tidbits - 'Watch the Gap' (Sm)

Certain life lessons must be internalized over and over.

And over.

Stuff like:

Trust your gut.

Lying usually backfires.

Risk-taking can be good.

You can do it if you try.

Don’t jump to conclusions.

Avoid guys who play air guitar.


(12-11-14) Here’s the last line of John Masefield’s poem “Biography.” I found it in “Words of Inspiration,” a book given to Mom by a friend in 1968. Pictured is my husband Dave on Christmas morning three years ago. Our daughter Hayley gave him the hat.

Tidbits - Dave in Hat

The days that make us happy

make us wise.


(12-06-14) I’ll bet someone gave this quilted potholder to Mom as a gift. She didn’t add it to her drawer of frayed, workhorse potholders – for good reason. Who wants to get pizza sauce on something like this? The quote is from American psychologist and philosopher William James.

Tidbits - Wm James Potholder

I will act as if what I do

makes a difference.


(12-04-14) Mom had a 1964 day planner that featured an illustration and a quote for each week. Here’s one of the quotes (author unknown, says the Internet).

Tidbits (Stock) - Tin Sun (Naples FL)

Count the day lost whose low descending sun

Views from thy land no worthy action done.


(11-29-14) Mom jotted down this sentence, which paraphrases a sentiment variously attributed to Gautama Buddha, Mahatma Gandhi or Ralph Waldo Emerson. She probably heard it while listening to a radio interview or a Unitarian sermon.

Tidbits - Sunset

You become what you think about.


(11-27-14) It’s Thanksgiving Day, and Dave and I, along with our kids Will and Hayley, are grateful to those who have let us know in person or by text, email, Facebook or comments here on ‘Throwing Mom Away’ that they’re sorry for our loss of Tam the cat last Monday. Your messages have been comforting. We sure appreciate them.

Tidbits - Family Selfie with Tam (Sm)

Happy Thanksgiving to All. 🙂


(11-22-14) Mom had a copy of the memorial edition of “What the President Does All Day,” published a few weeks after JFK’s assassination. The book includes this UPI photo of JFK and Jackie returning from a parade. It’s poignant to see them close to the positions they were in on their last moments together 51 years ago today. JFK brushes back Jackie’s hair. The last half-century has revealed aspects of their complicated marriage. But having come of age in the Kennedy Camelot era, I like that this type of moment occurred for them, too.

Tidbits - JFK & Jackie


(11-20-14) Mom had a lot of bookmarks. One from the Unitarian Universalist Association Bookstore in Boston had this excerpt from “Instructions in Joy,” a book of meditations by Unitarian minister Nancy Shaffer.  

Tidbits - 'Watch Out' and Will - Enhanced (Sm)

How shall we mend you,

sweet Soul?

What shall we use, and

how is it

in the first place you’ve

come to be torn?

Come sit. Come tell me.

We will find a way to

 mend you.


(11-15-14) A long time ago (judging from the typed, not word-processed, handout), Mom attended a talk called “Winning.” The handout doesn’t say who gave the talk. It just lists 21 commonsense actions to take to move ahead. The top of the list declares that if you win, you’re eligible to have this rather generic-sounding sentence engraved on your tombstone: “He or She Knew How to Live Life.” Here’s one step toward earning that epitaph.

Tidbits - Goat Head (Sm)


Doers do and tryers try. If you are going somewhere, go there, don’t try.


(11-13-14) A notepad from Mom’s last year (she was 83) shows she was still recording ideas and quotations. She filled one page with the list below. My guess is they’re notes from a sermon at church (First Unitarian Church of Dallas). I capitalized the words she capitalized.

Tidbits - Autumn Birdbath (Sm)

Participate in acts, not words.

Religion is a metaphor.

Virtues of the past are vices of today.

She doesn’t wear a nightie but she’s good enough for me.

Open up – don’t judge.


Each religion is a set of software.

LIFE lives on lives.


(11-08-14) Mom had an 8×10 copy of this famous 1941 portrait of Winston Churchill by photographer Yousuf Karsh. It was mailed to her from the American Studies Center’s World War II Veterans Committee in Washington DC. It makes sense that she’d have this because as she got older, she became prouder of her generation’s accomplishments. Researching the photo, I found out that Churchill, smoking a cigar and not in a good mood, gave Karsh two minutes to take his picture. Just before clicking the shutter, Karsh respectfully stepped forward and removed the cigar. That did not make Churchill happy, but it produced a portrait that became a symbol of England’s resolve in the war. Apparently in 2016, the portrait will be featured on the new five-pound note. 

Tidbits - Winston Churchill


(11-06-14) Mom took notes on “Are You Anybody? Conversations with Wives of Celebrities,” a 1979 book by Marilyn Funt, then married to “Candid Camera” star Alan Funt. (Soon after the book was published, they divorced.) Mom wrote that one interviewed wife, Joyce Susskind, then married to TV talk-show host David Susskind, “feels a sense of humor is vital.” (Apparently it wasn’t sufficient though; a few years later, the Susskinds divorced.) Susskind listed two things you should learn to do well. They would take the fear out of being alone and help you “gain strength to cope with anything.” They are below.

Tidbits - Floyd and Cowboy (Sm)

Handle money.

Bring up children.


(11-01-14) It’s Dia de los Muertos, the Mexican Day of the Dead. I’ve included a few words (from today’s ‘Daily Beast’) about how people observe the holiday. And I’ve included a photo of my grandmother, Bertha Poisel Otto, circa 1925. She was in her mid-20s. Under her photo (and under the flowers), in Mom’s handwriting are directions to Grandma’s final address in a cemetery near Detroit. Grandma was German, not Mexican, but she’s among my beloved dead. So today, far from Detroit, I’m borrowing the holiday.

Tidbits - Grandma's Final Address (Flowers)

From today’s ‘Daily Beast’:

“[The] custom of decorating home altars with blossoms, candles, fruit, and photographs, like the visits of the faithful to cemeteries, scattering flowers and sharing meals among the graves, bespeak a human welcome to the beloved dead residing in the world of the spirits.”


(10-30-14) This painting – ‘Skeletons Warming Themselves’ – by Belgian artist James Sidney Ensor (1860-1949) was used on the cover of the October 1989 Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). Mom saved the cover and its description, which mentions that Ensor painted ‘Skeletons’ at age 29, around the time that fellow members of Les XX, an avant-garde group he’d helped found, tried to vote him out. The painting depicts skeletons that represent art, music and literature. ‘Art’ can’t even stand up. They’re trying to warm themselves at a cold stove on whose base are the words below. (By coincidence, this painting is in the collection of the Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth, where Mom was a frequent flyer.)

Tidbits - Ensor Skeletons

Pas de feu

en trouverez vous demain?

(The fire is out.

Will you find any tomorrow?)


(10-25-14) On a piece of cardboard that for some reason had five straight pins stuck through it, Mom scribbled this list. Various versions are rampant on the Internet. Sorry for the overuse of the one crude word, but that’s how it reads. Although Mom, a lapsed Lutheran turned avid Unitarian, actively worked to find an ideology to lean on, she certainly never took religion too seriously. I’m sure she enjoyed this list.

Tidbits -'It Will Be OK' (Sm)
Religions of the World

Taoism – Shit happens.

Hinduism – This shit happened before.

Buddhism – If shit happens, it isn’t really shit.

Zen – What is the sound of shit happening?

Islam – If shit happens, it is the Will of Allah.

Atheism – There is no shit.

Agnosticism – I don’t know whether shit happens.

Protestantism – Shit won’t happen if I work harder.

Catholicism – If shit happens, I deserve it.

Judaism – Why does shit always happen to us?


(10-23-14) On a visit to my sister Christie’s in Connecticut, Mom clipped a notice about an upcoming event in Stamford. Author Laura Day would present “Intuition Skills for Success.” Mom was probably attracted to the idea (presented in the event announcement below) that intuition was free; everybody had it and you didn’t have to pay for it. Mom probably also picked up on the irony of Day making money from it.

Tidbits-Chihuly Blurry Swirls
Day decided to write her first book while watching psychic hot-line commercials on late-night television.

Appalled at the thought that people would pay for something they already possessed, she wrote the New York Times best seller, “Practical Intuition,” based on the theory that intuition enables people to make choices and create changes in their lives.

The cost is $20 at the door.


(10-18-14) Mom cut out a short paragraph from a newspaper article. There was no title or author. It started right in: “We were. We all chose the same 10 values. Although not exactly in the same order of priority, the ideas were the same.” Then the values were listed. After them was a closing sentence. “Only Souheil, from Lebanon, added an 11th that he could not do without: a strong sense of nationalism.” Here are the 10.

Tidbits - September Feet


Strong family ties.

Meaningful work.

A romantic relationship with one partner.

Good health.

The ability to use our senses.



Psychological balance.



(10-16-14) After a year of finding them, the scraps of inspirational text that fall out of Mom’s possessions aren’t as much of a surprise to me anymore. This one was in a bag of insurance records and stationery I brought over from the storage unit. Mom cut it out of a Sunday-service program from her church (First Unitarian Church of Dallas).  

Tidbits - Rainbow (Original)

May you grow to love only that which is good.

May you seek and attain that good.

May you learn to be gentle and respect all persons.

May you be filled with courage to challenge evil.

May you endow those whom you know with faith and hope.

May you come to know that which is Eternal.

May it abide with you always.      Amen.


(10-11-14) Next Tuesday would have been Dad’s 97th birthday. (He died at 79.) To sleep, he often used light- and sound-blocking aids such as a headband stretched across his eyes and headphones clamped over his ears. (Mom framed this photo.) Happy 97th, Dad! Have a nice quiet one.

Tidbits - Dad Asleep

(10-09-14) Mom liked a newspaper quote attributed to stage actress Katherine Cornell. She cut it out and slipped it into a plastic sleeve, taping down the edges. She probably carried it in her purse, but I found it in a bag of her papers. Here is part of it.

Tidbits - Boy in Piazza

I have always felt it was a pity we have to keep track of our age … There are so many ages … physical, mental and emotional.


photo: Mom snapped this boy in a piazza during her last foreign trip (in 1999; she was 76).


(10-04-14) In November 2005 (her last autumn), Mom attended a memorial service for a 93 year-old friend. It was held at her church (First Unitarian Church of Dallas). The service program included this reading.

Tidbits (Stock) - Licorice Mint (Sm)

I am a seeker of truth on a spiritual journey.

I have important things to learn; may I learn them honorably.

I have good things to offer; may I offer them generously.

I am where I need to be; I am doing what I need to be doing.

May I be a simple, humble, kind presence on Earth today.

May I be grateful to those who came before me,

And may I make the roads smoother for those who travel after me.


(10-02-14) In her last autumn, on an envelope, Mom wrote out this Pearl Buck quote. 

Tidbits - Mom Princess

I love people. I love my family, my children … but inside myself is a place where I live all alone and that’s where you renew your springs that never dry up.


photo: Mom on her last foreign trip. She was a widow. She went with a girlfriend who was attending a family wedding onboard a Mediterranean cruise ship.


(09-27-14) Mom saved a 1980 Ellen Goodman newspaper column whose subject was whether it’s possible to lead a balanced life. The column included the sentence below.

Tidbits (Stock) - Sunflowers

There is a difference between a full schedule and a rich life.


(09-25-14) In a collection of notes Mom wrote to herself in her late 60s, she printed this message in block capitals.

Tidbits - Tam in Bag (Small)




(09-20-14) In the late eighties, when she was about 65, Mom carried around a spiral-bound pack of 3 x 5 notecards onto which she wrote anything of interest. On the card directly after the one featuring the Hawaiian Turkey Salad recipe were the suggestions below for rationally settling disagreements with a spouse. Mom would have been 100% unsuccessful at getting 70 year-old Dad to try any of these, especially the cathartic pillow fight. Either she never lost hope that Dad would join her in some do-it-yourself couples therapy or she planned to pass along these tips to some of her six kids. By then, we were all in long-term relationships. But like Mom and Dad, we never pummeled anyone with anger-pillows. As far as I know.

Tidbits - Marionettes (Sm)

How to undo the pattern

1. Make list of partner’s faults – discuss problems when in friendly mood. Find solutions together.

2. Have pillow fight. Let everything out. Verbalize: “That’s for the time you were late.”

3. Talk out anger into a tape recorder. Record the issue/behavior that makes you angry. Listen to tape. Have partner listen when he’s alone.


(09-18-14) Mom bought the 1995 self-help book “How To Want What You Have” by Timothy Miller, Ph.D. The Chapter 10 opening quote (below) is from British novelist Susan Ertz.

Tidbits Stock - Tess with Bone on Nose (Sm)

Millions long for immortality who do not know what to do with themselves

on a rainy Sunday afternoon.


(09-13-14) In Mom’s greeting-card file, I found these gift bags. They were obviously meant for two of her best friends, her brother George and sister-in-law Betty in Michigan. I liked running across the bags and reflecting on George and Betty. Sometimes it’s still hard for me to think of these loving and generous people as gone – Betty in May 2006, and George exactly three years later.

Tidbits - Goodies
Goodies for George
Goodies for Betty


(09-11-14) At a lecture by legendary Unitarian minister Jacob Trapp (1899-1992), Mom took pages of notes. The notes include the sentence below. It’s probably a quote from Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (Trapp’s lecture subject), but I couldn’t confirm that on the Internet.

Tidbits - Splattered Bear (Sm)
I’m being judged by dolts and ignoramuses.


(09-06-14) To cheer up Mom after a surgery in 2002 (she was 79), my brother Barry, a physician, sent her a Dave Barry column. The column was written after Dave Barry saw the Rolling Stones in concert that fall. The Stones were in their 40th year of touring. “Mom,” wrote Barry in the margin of the column, “Laughter is great medicine!” Here are excerpts.

Tidbits - Keith Richards (Sm)
Keith [Richards] is not a health nut. His idea of taking care of his body is to occasionally play an entire song without smoking a cigarette. He has very deep facial creases: You expect at any moment to see a prairie dog poke its head out of his face, blink at the lights, then duck down again …

This is not a pretty-boy band. If they’ve had any plastic surgery, it was apparently done at Home Depot.

But their looks don’t matter … What matters is that, in clear violation of the laws of biology, the Stones are still performing, and they’re really good. They do a butt-kicking show that does not rely on special effects, aside from Mick Jagger’s pants, which are the smallest pants I have ever seen on a grown man. They look like he got them in the Toys ‘R Us Barbie section, from a box labeled “Rock Star Ken.”


photo: Wikimedia Commons (by Machocarioca)


Tidbits - Improvise Adapt Overcome (Sm)


(08-30-14) In 1967 while at Oberlin College, my sister Christie sent this note home to 44 year-old Mom, along with a gift.

Tidbits - CKSF Happy Dress (Sm)
Dear Mama –

Here is a happy dress – wear it and be happy. Seltzers should not be unhappy or old before their time. Write me some good news.

Love, Christie

P.S.: It zips up the back.


(08-28-30) On a piece of scrap paper that ended up in a box of her travel journals and diaries, Mom wrote this quote that’s attributed to Colette. 

Tidbits - Stone Bear (Sm)

Look for a long time at what pleases you,

and longer still at what pains you.


(08-23-14) When she was in her late thirties, Mom stashed this list in a diary. A slightly different version of it is attributed to department store founder Marshall Field. Pictured is my sister Terrel (who embodies items on the list) with a load of flowers after her daughter’s wedding in July 2013.

Tidbits - Terrel

Twelve things to remember:

The value of time

The success in perseverance

The pleasure of working

The dignity of simplicity

The worth of character

The power of kindness

The influence of example

The obligation of duty

The wisdom of economy

The virtue of patience

The importance of talent

The joy of originating


(08-21-14) In her 1960 diary, Mom saved a review of Akira Kurosawa’s movie “Ikiru” (“To Live”). Mom and Dad had gone to see “Ikiru,” although Mom had been reluctant. “He talked me into it,” she wrote. “Imagine what I would have missed.” The movie, about a man who learns he has only months to live, follows him during his remaining days. The reviewer wrote that the dying become more conscious of the ideas below. These ideas cross my mind as I consider Mom and Dad’s effects on the world, in all their variety.

Tidbits - C Fromme Grasses (Sm)

Only dying is death. Once a person dies, death is finished.

And all that remains is the life as it was, now unalterable and complete.


(08-16-14) Mom saved this in her 1967 diary. That year, she was 44 and Dad was 50. They were in their 22nd year of marriage and were sailing into stormy weather. There had been a fight. Dad wrote this note using one of his many pet names for Mom. He was ready to move past it, whatever “it” was, but he was still smoldering … judging from that “I think -”. They moved past it again and again and stayed married until Dad’s death 30 years later.

Tidbits - Momma
Momma –

I love you, anyway –

I think –


(08-14-14) Here’s a note from Mom to Mom.

Tidbits - Keep It Up
I’m going to keep it up ’til I get it right.


(08-09-14) One Sunday when she was 80, Mom attended a discussion on paradoxes at her church (First Unitarian Church of Dallas). She kept a discussion list featuring ten Paradoxical Commandments from a book called “Anyway” by Kent M. Keith.
Tidbits - 'Watch Out' (Small)

People are illogical, unreasonable, and self-centered.

Love them anyway.

If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish ulterior motives.

Do good anyway.

If you are successful, you will win false friends and true enemies.

Succeed anyway.

The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow.

Do good anyway.

Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable.

Be honest and frank anyway.

The biggest men and women with the biggest ideas can be shot down by the smallest men and women with the smallest ideas.

Think big anyway.

People favor underdogs but follow only top dogs.

Fight for a few underdogs anyway.

What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight.

Build anyway.

People really need help but may attack you if you do help them.

Help people anyway.

Give the world the best you have and you’ll get kicked in the teeth.

Give the world the best you have anyway.


(08-07-14) “It’s not the load that breaks you down but the way you carry it.” Mom wrote that on a notecard, along with the quote below.

Tidbits - Indywood Crew (Small)
You can never get anything unless you go ahead and do it

before you’re ready.


photo: Four energetic young people set up an independent movie theater in New Orleans (June 2014).


(08-02-14) From college on, Mom was always on committees, often serving in a leadership role. Here, she wrote out three questions meant to boost group discussion.

Tidbits - Go a Little Further

Can you go a little further with that?

Did I understand you to say?

Let’s divide into 2 groups – in 5 minutes we’ll stop discussion and find out what you’ve been thinking.


(07-31-14) Three staples. Mom used three staples to nail this definition onto a notecard. Apparently it was something she wanted to keep in mind.

Tidbits - Serendipity

According to “The American College Dictionary,” serendipity is the faculty of making desirable but unsought-for discoveries by accident.


(07-26-14) Into her last diary (2006), Mom slipped a handwritten list of personal directives. Possibly she jotted them down while listening to a radio or TV program. Here is the list’s final item.

Tidbits - Wedding Dolls  Everything you do matters to all of us – forever.


photo – wedding dolls (Matt and Scarlet, July 2013)


(07-24-14) This fell out of one of Mom’s diaries. It’s attributed to writer Sholem Asch (1880-1957). He’s also credited with this reflection, which sums it all up: “Writing comes more easily if you have something to say.”

Tidbits - To Dream of the Person ...

To dream of the person you would like to be

is to waste the person you ARE.


(07-19-14) On whatever was handy, Mom would jot down a quote, part of a conversation or a short written piece worth saving. Here, she wrote out “Take Time” on a store bag. The various versions of “Take Time” are usually attributed to “Anonymous.” Mom recorded one of the more secular versions.

Tidbits - 'Take Time'

Take time to

  • be friendly, it is the road to happiness

  • read, it is the foundation of wisdom

  • play, it is the secret of youth

  • work, it is the price of success

  • think, it is the source of power

  • dream, for it is reality

  • observe, it is too short a day

  • laugh, it is music from the soul

  • love and be loved, it is the privilege of gods.


(07-17-14) In her last August (2006), Mom said, “I can’t spend another summer in Dallas.” Most summers, she headed to Lake Nepessing in Michigan for a few weeks. That’s where our extended family congregated to enjoy the water. The plan was to spend more time there – or anywhere not as hot and humid as Dallas. In Mom’s papers, I found this (from the syndicated comic “Real Life Adventures” by Wise and Aldrich).

Tidbits - Stick to You

In summer, you don’t have to bother picking things up.

They just stick right to you.


(07-12-14) When I found this in a box of Mom’s diaries, I stared at it a while. I knew I’d seen it before. Then I remembered … on Day One of our family reunion in Silverthorne Colorado in the early nineties, Mom taped this Emerson quote to each bedroom door, including hers and Dad’s (“Millie and Hoe”). Packed into a bed and breakfast were Mom and Dad’s six kids with their spouses, along with about 10 of the grandkids, several at a rambunctious toddler age. The door notes were a subtle reminder to enjoy these days together and take the high road in word and deed.

Tidbits - Cure All Ills Quote

The music that can deepest reach and cure all ill is cordial speech.


(07-10-14) Mom liked Steve Blow’s column in the Dallas Morning News. In her ’99 diary were two Blow columns extolling what he called “pet delights” – “the little things that rub us right” (the opposite of pet peeves). Two of Blow’s were a frosted mug of root beer from Prince of Hamburgers on Lemmon Avenue and the fern dell in the Dallas Arboretum. (“Do you know the spot? … [A] little stream gurgles along through lush ferns and Japanese maples. I just love to sit on a bench along that stream and forget I’m in Dallas.”) Blow asked readers to send him their pet delights. Here are some.

Tidbits - Tam Asleep (Small)

The moment when everyone in the family is home for the night.

An official snow day in Dallas.

Crisp, clean sheets.

The sound of a high school marching band practicing.

A weekend without obligations.


(07-05-14) In 1992, Mom saved a “28 Secrets to Happiness” list she found in a wellness newsletter. Here are 10 of the secrets.

Tidbits - Confederacy of Dunces (Original Size)

(Reread a favorite book.)


Be on time.

Get organized.

Take time to be alone.

Cultivate good manners.

Reread a favorite book.

Stop blaming other people.

Return everything you borrow.

Know when to say something.

Know when to keep your mouth shut.

Live beneath your means and within your seams.


(06-28-14) This was on a list of bumpersticker sayings that was in one of Mom’s diaries. 

Tidbit - Psychokinesis (Small)

All those who believe in psychokinesis raise my hand.


(06-26-14) Here’s another entry from the Christmas ’97 email Mom got from a friend to cheer her up during her first holiday season after Dad died. It contained quips from “Don’t Squat with Yer Spurs On – A Cowboy’s Guide to Life” by Texas Bix Bender.

Tidbits - Italian Sandwich

Always take a good look at what you’re about to eat.

It’s not so important to know what it is,

but it’s critical to know what it was.


Read more about the pictured food item here.


(06-21-14) A recent widow in 1998 (age 75), Mom tore out a Glamour magazine article about the value of learning new things. This excerpt focused on learning as a way to “banish the blues.”

Tidbits - Beau and Me (small)

Take it from Merlyn the magician, who passes on this tip to the young, pre-Round Table Arthur in The Once and Future King, by T.H. White.

“The best thing for being sad is to learn something. That is the only thing that never fails, the only thing which the mind can never exhaust, never alienate, never be tortured by, never fear or distrust and never dream of regretting.”


photo – My nephew Beau and I bake bread at Mom’s house in Dallas (circa 1982).


(06-19-14) Mom wrote this out longhand and stuffed it into the front of her last diary (2006).

Tidbits - Parker House Roll (small)

A corpulent maiden named Kroll

Had a notion exceedingly droll.

At a masquerade ball

Dressed in nothing at all

She backed in as a Parker House roll.



photo credit – Melanie Acevedo on epicurious.com


(06-14-14) This fell out of one of Mom’s diaries. It’s a note from my sister Christie written on September 1, 1965. 

Tidbits - CKSF No IOU

“My mother has paid all her debts to me

and owes me no more money.”


Christie is the oldest of the six of us and was the first to leave for college. When I asked permission to post this, she replied:
“This is  very funny. Yes, use it. That must have been when I was leaving for Oberlin. I can’t remember what we did on my last birthday (two days before this note) at home before leaving for college. I can’t remember the exact date when our family went to see “A Hard Day’s Night” in downtown Dallas as my send off, then took me to the Greyhound bus station, only to learn they didn’t accept checks as payment for my ticket. We had to return home and go back the next night. You guys ran along the bus as it drove down the street, and I sat at the window watching you disappear. Love, Christie” 


(06-12-14) Christmas ’97 was Mom’s first as a widow. A friend tried to cheer her up by emailing quips from “Don’t Squat with Yer Spurs On – A Cowboy’s Guide to Life” by Texas Bix Bender. Mom printed them out. Here’s one.

Tidbits - $20 Bill (small)

The quickest way to double your money

is to fold it over

and put it back in your pocket.


(06-07-14) Somewhere, Mom photographed a display of eight panels, each with 30 declarative sentences on it. Here’s one of the sentences.

Tidbit - Fears (Small)

Your oldest fears are the worst ones.


(06-05-14) This was on a list of bumpersticker sayings that was stuffed into one of Mom’s diaries. 

Tidbit - Fred (Small)

Why do psychics have to ask you for your name?


 (05-31-14) On a used envelope in 1979, Mom (age 56) jotted down this folklore proverb …  

Tidbits - Tam in a Ball

He who allows his day to pass without practicing generosity

and enjoying life’s pleasures

is like a blacksmith’s bellows – he breathes but does not live.


(05-29-14) This Oprah quote fell out of one of Mom’s diaries circa 2000 (she was in her mid-70s) …  

Tidbit - Oprah Quote

We don’t become what we need to be by remaining what we are.


 (05-24-14) From a 1984 New York Times clipping in Mom’s diary of that year (the end of an interview with poet Stephen Spender) …  

Sculpture - 'Maintain Myself'

Even when I’m writing in private, I’m inclined to censor myself

in what I say about other people.

I’m not sure I really admire the lack of inhibition someone like Virginia Woolf

shows in her journals, the cruel remarks she makes about people she knew.

It’s because I regard other people as being so very vulnerable –

and the older you grow, the more vulnerable you learn they are.

pictured –  Roxanne Swentzell’s The Things I Have To Do To Maintain Myself, 1994, Denver Art Museum


 (05-22-14) From an obituary Mom tore out of a New Orleans newspaper (January, 1965) …

Papa John Joseph

Papa John Joseph, 90, one of New Orleans’s most respected traditional jazzmen, died at midnight last night while appearing at Preservation Hall, 726 St. Peter.

Death came to the bassist seconds after he and the Punch Miller band finished an extended version of “When the Saints Come Marching In.”

Pianist Dolly Adams said Joseph turned to her as the number ended, said, “That piece just about did me in,” and collapsed.


(05-17-14) A sentence from “Jitterbug Perfume” (the Tom Robbins novel) that Mom scribbled on a notepad …

Now he discovered children, and the discovery

blew blasts of sugar

into every chamber of his heart.

Hayley in Headdress (small)


 (05-14-14) From a 1997 Richard Reeves newspaper column stashed in Mom’s diary from that year …

Be suspicious of people who tell you how hard they work …

Hard work is no end in itself. Results are.

Who knows or cares whether William Shakespeare

or Albert Einstein

worked hard?

Tidbits - Einstein and Violin 2


(05-10-14) From a newspaper clipping found in Mom’s 1988 diary …

To attract birds to birdbaths in your yard

(or anybody else’s, for that matter),

drop a few colored marbles into the water.

Ticbit - Marbles (Small)



Tidbits — 7 Comments

  1. Tracy, I love-love-loved seeing you last night and talking to you about moms and stuff and life–and then smelling spring in Allenspark. It definitely blew sugar into my heart.

  2. I’ve just read a few of your entries, but already feel they are good enough to form the basis for a book. It’s a timely subject and you do such a good job of presenting it. Hmm . . .

  3. I appreciate mom’s philosophical leanings. They show her commitment to stay positive and curious. They show her strong belief in the human spirit.

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