This world has lost a good soul, my papa. He was a loving husband to my granny, a father of 2 boys, a papa to 4 girls, a mentor and a friend to so many.

Hundreds of people came to pay their respects and tell us stories about Papa, “Mr. Dyer” as he was known to most. There were many tales shared that even my dad and uncle hadn’t heard.   All of the wonderful memories people had of Papa made us smile and laugh through our tears of mourning, which is exactly what Papa would have wanted. His strong legacy of kindness, encouragement, genuineness, faithfulness, and respect for others is such a comfort to us all.


Some of the stories were very sweet and powerful testimonies to the man we all knew Papa to be. Others were comical. Evidently Papa was more of a prankster than we realized, which is funny because all my life I had heard Papa chuckle, but I don’t know that I ever heard him really belly laugh. But man could Papa smile. Looking through photos this past week, I don’t think there was a single photo in which Papa didn’t have a big ol’ grin on his face (which could not be said for the rest of us who were not as photogenic or cooperative).

I loved to hear Papa’s tales about growing up on Mud Camp, a rural, farming lifestyle where much of the food you ate, you grew or made. Let me just say that many of these efforts were far less than glamorous. Papa used to love to tell me these stories and see if he could gross me out. He succeeded on several occasions and had a good chuckle over it.

Every time we went anywhere, at least one person, and often times many people, said hello to “Mr. Dyer.”   He taught agriculture for nearly 30 years, taught Sunday school for decades, was a State Farm insurance agent for years, and lived his entire life in the same county. Almost everyone he came across was at some point his student or customer or buddy since childhood.

Papa was a greatly respected man, though he was not arrogant nor did he seek out affirmation or recognition. As so many people told us at his funeral, you just didn’t want to disappoint Mr. Dyer. Growing up, I can remember numerous occasions where my cousin Lauren and I got in trouble with Granny, but I don’t ever remember Papa getting onto us about misbehaving.  We most likely knew to act right around Papa, which was an unspoken understanding.  Likewise, when he was proud of you, you could tell, but he didn’t let you get a big head about it.


Papa was a strong man, but he certainly had a soft spot for his buddies. Papa loved to take us (his 4 granddaughters) to Rite Aid, where we could stretch $20 farther than the pros on Extreme Couponing. There’s no telling what random combination of gum, office supplies, beauty products, sodas, and plastic toys we would come out with, but Papa didn’t care. He was glad to take us with him to town and get us something that would keep us entertained for hours on end.


Papa also loved to drive us around to the family farms, check on the cattle, and see if the hay had been cut or rolled. We also spent many a summer day on the top of the hill behind Granny and Papa’s house “camping” around a small fire. We’d roast marshmallows and cook hot dogs and have a grand old time. Though it’s probably been well over a decade since we last did this, my cousins, sister and I have vowed to carry on this tradition and have a campfire this summer.


Yesterday marked a week since Papa’s passing. Of course the last few days Papa wasn’t sitting in his chair at the house like usual, but I don’t know that I’ve really processed that Papa is gone. I decided to plant some flower pots at my new house yesterday and it started to sink in. All I could do was think about Papa. Having been a farmer and an agriculture teacher, he was an expert in gardening. He taught me so much in the last few years as I experimented with growing flowers and vegetables.


The first summer I lived in Nashville, I helped him with his vegetable garden and I got to learn firsthand many of the nuances of gardening. He taught me not to plant seeds or plants too close, to give them room to grow, setting the expectation that they would become something far greater the small spec from which they started. He taught me to be patient, to give the plants time, not hovering like a helicopter gardener and constantly doctoring. He showed me what the crops look like when they are ripe and ready to harvest, what signs to look for if they are doing well or struggling. He taught me that we are at Mother Nature’s mercy when it comes to sun and rain and critters. There is only so much we can and should do and then the rest is out of our hands. As I felt the soil in my hands yesterday, I felt close to Papa. I know he will watch over me as I continue to implement his lessons in the garden.


I’ll forever cherish being able to spend that time with Papa in the garden. I am so glad that I took pictures and captured our lessons and progress that year in my blog. I went back and read the posts again this week. I’d forgotten some of the funny things that happened even though it was just a few years back.


I am so thankful that Papa was not in great pain his last few days and that he was still himself. Though I didn’t know it would be at the time, the last thing we talked about was his cat, Ally, who is another one of his big buddies and who loved him better than anything. They had their own routine everyday and she would come in the house and sit with him in his chair for a while. I told Papa as he lay there in the hospital bed that I wished I could have brought Ally to sit with him and he joked with me that, “Oh no, she can’t come. She gets carsick.” That made me laugh.

On the way home from the hospital, I saw the most beautiful, full rainbow, which I had hoped would be a sign that Papa would pull through but maybe it was a sign that his life was complete.   As we arrived in Nashville, we drove into the darkest storm I have ever seen. It poured down rain so hard that the windshield wipers couldn’t keep up and we had to slow down to less than half the speed limit. I remembered that Papa had asked me earlier if it had rained yet that day.  We always talked about the weather, nearly every conversation we had.  I am fascinated by it and so is he.  I’ll miss calling our phone calls that always started something like this:

Me: “Hi Papa, it’s Emily.”

Papa: “Hey, little Emily! How ya doin’ buddy? How’s your weather?”

Me: “I’m good.  It’s a beautiful day here.  How about there?”

Though the weather has been stormy for weeks and overcast the days of the visitation and funeral, the sun came out as we left the funeral home and the sky was nearly cloudless at the cemetery. I have no doubt that the bright, warm sun was Papa smiling big and wrapping his arms around us as we all gathered together to celebrate his life.   How lucky I am to have called him Papa.

After Hours Excitement

I was up in the wee hours both Saturday and Sunday this past weekend.  Not because I was out partying and living it up.  Not by choice.  In fact, I’m almost certain I was in bed by 11 PM both evenings.  By choice.  I had been up earlier that preferred several times last week and was looking forward to some much needed restorative sleep.

About 3 AM on Saturday, I was in a deep sleep, dreaming of wonderful things.  Suddenly, I was accosted by a blaring alarm.  At first I thought it was the house alarm, but then remembered I hadn’t set that.  I then realized it was the smoke alarm about 10 feet from my head.  I was familiar with these things chirping if the battery was dying or sounding if I had burnt something in the kitchen, but never had one caused temporary deafness for no apparent reason. 

I tried the reset button and a new battery, but that only resulted in a few minutes of relief until I was again jarred out of my sleep and sure my heart rate would never return to normal.  Thankfully my parents were in town so I went to get my dad to see if he could get the alarm to stop.  I felt bad that I had to wake him up (somehow my parents had slept through the alarm blaring…) but he was able to take down the defective alarm so I could sleep in peace for the next few hours.

Last evening, I went to bed on the early side because I was tired from the previous night’s excitement.  Around 4 AM, I wake up to some sort of ruckus coming from the other room.  I turn on the lights and walk down the hall toward the noise.  It seems to be coming from the family room.  I come into the family room and find Miss Scarlett with her back to me in the far corner.  Upon closer inspection, I see that she has a mouse cornered, on his back, with his arms up in the air as if surrendering and pleading for his life.  No exaggeration. 

He tries to get away a few times and she smacks him back into the corner with her big, furry paws.  I moved to go get a box or some vehicle for escorting the mouse out of the house and must have distracted Scarlett in doing so.  Little mousy made a run for it.  Scarlett and mousy made dozens of laps around the coffee table until Scarlett was able to force him into another corner where I had several bags of fabric samples.  Trying to escape the furry beast, the mouse backed up the side of one of the bags and fell in.  Somehow Scarlett seemed to miss this development and proceeded to nearly hyperventilate as she furiously sniffed all of the other bags and the space between them.  Meanwhile, I crossed the handles of mousy’s bag so he couldn’t jump out as I took the bag downstairs and out to the porch.  I opened the bag and leaned it over.  Mousy scurried out into the darkness.  Back upstairs, Scarlett looked confused as to where the new toy had gone. 

After reenacting the last thirty minute’s sequence of events to each my mom and dad, my head hit the pillow pretty hard.  Scarlett slept off the excitement all day on the sofa. 


Today, I bought some not so cheap restorative moisturizer that has extract of every plant known to man that will hopefully erase my newly acquired wrinkles, age spots and bags under my eyes.

Hopefully I will make it through the night undisturbed. 

Y’all hurry back,


My Sunshine


The world lost a wonderful, furry soul today.


Little Gus was technically a cat, but somehow he was far more. Perhaps part dog and part human, he was his own breed. He always wanted to be with people and always had love to give.

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Gus didn’t have a mean bone in his body. He was so sweet, I swear he was made of pure sugar. Such a friendly and innocent little fellow, he even made converts out of “non-cat people” and “cat haters.”


Call me a crazy cat lady all you want, but Gus and I definitely had conversations.


He would be looking for me, saying what surely sounded to me like “He-lloooo.” It was one short meow and then one long.

He would say, “Meow, meoooow.”

And I would say, “He-lloooo.”

And we would repeat this several times until he found me and came trotting around the corner, his little fur trousers swaying side to side.


I was certainly as much a fool for Gus as he was for me. I would sing to him “Rock-a-bye Gussy” And “You Are My Sunshine.” As I cradled him like a baby with his paws in the air and rocking him side to side, he would look up at me with those big green eyes. I’m sure he was thinking something along the lines of “I have no idea what that sound is coming out of your mouth, but I think it comes from a good place and I love you. But please don’t quit your day job.”


Oh how he loved shoes. He was a bit metro, I suppose. Particularly when I would return from being gone longer than usual, the moment I took off my shoes he was over snuggling up to them.


We almost lost him three years ago to acute kidney failure when he was just four years old. The vet said his numbers were so low, she was amazed he was alive and that we would be lucky to have him through that weekend. He made it through the weekend, and the next week and the week after that, slowly but surely regaining his strength and cheerful attitude.   The past three years, he was on borrowed time, but it still seems far too soon to lose such a special little guy. He was a miracle in so many ways.


I really believe that he stayed with us to make sure that my move south went well, that I was happy and settled. He knew I needed him and he was always there to keep me company.


Thankfully, I took up blogging and got a new camera before I moved. That gave me the excuse to take a million pictures of my cats. I’m sure my blog readers got a little tired of the cat posts. But, hey, they were my willing (and only) subjects in my little apartment and now I have album upon album of Gus pictures. I will forever treasure the countless Gus expressions I was able to capture. He was such a character.


Last night, he was curled up against my legs on the sofa as usual as we watched the news. He tucked me into bed, rubbing up against me and hugging my face with his tail. I pointed out to Eugene how loudly he was purring. He was so content to be there with us.

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We found him this morning laying like he always does on the kitchen floor where it’s nice and cool.   He looked so peaceful. The vet said it was likely a blood clot, sudden and unpreventable. I’m so thankful he didn’t suffer. I just can’t believe he’s gone.



You are my sunshine, my only sunshine,

You make me happy when skies are grey

You never know, dear, how much I love you,

Please don’t take my sunshine away.

Even though you’re not here anymore, I know your light will always be shining down on us.

Love you, little buddy.

The Sugarlump

The Cat That Cried Salmon

It was a gloomy day in middle Tennessee on Monday.   To perk up after my lunch meeting, I decided to make myself a coffee. I usually limit myself to coffee in the morning so this is a departure from my routine. As my coffee machine (the setting up of which I will detail in a future post) was warming up, Gus started having an absolute fit, meowing loudly and constantly, desperately trying to get my attention. At first I thought something was wrong, but both he and Scarlett didn’t seem to be in any life-threatening binds. I went to the fridge to grab the half-and-half for my coffee and Gus continued his tirade, putting his paws up on the freezer drawer and looking up at the half-eaten can of salmon on the top shelf. He had been fed that morning per usual so I couldn’t figure out what all the fuss what about. Then it dawned on me. The term “conditioned response” popped into my not yet caffeinated brain and I realized that Gus heard the coffee machine warming up, which usually signals that I am about to crack open a can of Fancy Feast for his breakfast. As I assume he doesn’t track time very well, it was morning for all he knew and he heard his cue to beg for food like he hadn’t been fed in weeks and his life was falling to pieces.


I shouldn’t have been surprised that he would pull such a stunt. This is how we started the day (after his first round of salmon):

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I heard him crying like he was stuck or hurt and looked around the corner only to see him antagonizing Scarlett.

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He meows pitifully to provoke her and then punches her in face. What a punk.

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Y’all come back,



2 Cinnamon Rolls a Day…

I have a new confectionery addiction: homemade cinnamon rolls.


I’ve made the Pioneer Woman’s cinnamon roll recipe several times now.  It makes 45-50 rolls per batch.  Somehow, my family and I have plowed through dozens of cinnamon rolls since Christmas.  And I think I ate most of them.  How did that happen? They are just so stinking good, especially when I remember all of the ingredients (I was so caught up in the active yeast rising process that I forgot the leavening agents my first go-round, but was able to salvage them).  Most cinnamon rolls don’t have enough icing and develop a hard exterior.  These are swimming in icing.  They’re moist and spongy and perfect.  Every bite is like that coveted bite in the center of your regular old cinnamon roll.

In the last few weeks, my addiction has really taken an alarming turn and I’ve found myself having two cinnamon rolls a day for an unmentionable number of days in a row.  But hey, two cinnamon rolls a day keeps the doctor away, no?


Two cinnamon rolls a day keeps the doctor employed?

Well, I’ve been working out more (successfully) in recent weeks, too, so I’m sure it kind of cancels out.  Kind of.  I am happy to report that I’ve found a new class that’s slightly less lethal than circuit blast called “sculpt.” The only part that made my arms feel like straws was the diamond push-up sequence after 45 sets of arm weight exercises.  Other than that, the group exercise approach has been going well.

Last week, however, I suffered a minor setback in the midst of a cinnamon roll binge.  I pulled my groin putting on my yoga pants to go to sculpt. For real. I’m not sure if this is a reflection of my flexibility, coordination, physical fitness level, or an indication that my pants are too tight.  Maybe all of the above? Maybe a sign from God to lay off the cinnamon rolls?

I just went to hot yoga and feel like I’ve been wrung out like a sponge.  In a really good way.

I think I’ll have a cinnamon roll since I’m already wearing my yoga pants.

Y’all come back,


Circuit Blast is Not a Blast

I joined the local YMCA a few months back and have been lightly salting my schedule with yoga classes.  The classes have ranged in level of difficulty, but none was more than I can handle.

Last evening, I decided to add a “circuit blast” class to my rigorous exercise routine as it promised an hour of cardio, weight-lifting, and “limited to no choreography.”  Perfect.  The last bit of the description really sealed the deal.  To understand why, please visit my “about me” page.   I got to the gym a little bit early so I hopped on the treadmill for 5 minutes at a fairly good clip to get my heart-rate up since all this bone-chilling weather makes me want to do is swaddle myself in blankets on the sofa. I was feeling nice and warm when it was time for the class to start.  I got my mat, my step, and my 3 sets of weights all set up.  I was ready to kill it.  There were people my age and people twice my age in the class so I imagined I would at least fall somewhere in the middle of the pack in terms of fitness.

Well, we started off with a lot of cardio that required more coordination than I could muster.  But that was ok; I flailed my way through it.  After all, I wasn’t trying out for a dance competition.  Clearly.  About 15 minutes in, I had about reached my limit of kicking, punching, jumping, hopping on one foot and balancing at the same time.   Then we started with the weights.

I started to feel faint.  My ears were ringing, my face was hot but my sweat felt cold.

I plowed through 478 squats with weights.  My yoga breathing really helped with this.  I was audibly huffing and puffing.  Too bad my breathing skills don’t help with coordination.

Towards the end of the class, I had to do every other exercise so I didn’t pass out.  It was a serious concern.  Every lunge-jump from the floor to the step while swinging weights over my head was a struggle.  It seemed my two poached eggs on toast that I had for lunch had ditched me hours ago and I was running on fumes and electrolyte and fluoride-infused water that I had purchased just before class.

With 10 minutes left in the class, I was genuinely concerned that I might lose consciousness.  I put away my torture equipment and headed to the locker room to collect myself and splash water on my face.  I looked as white as a ghost.  Time to call it a day.  I walked over to the stairs and as I started down the first step my leg almost gave out.  I clutched the railing to save any dignity that wasn’t left behind in my class.  Each step was a near-death-experience.  I somehow managed to get to the bottom of the stairs using mostly my arms and feeling like Gumby.

As I got to the car, I was fiercely craving salt.  I guess I hadn’t realized how hungry I was.  Continuing my healthy choices for the day, I came home and ate some cheddar and sour cream Ruffles potato chips and felt markedly better.  And my legs were sore already.

This is not good.

I’m afraid to go back.

But I need to face my fears.

I just need a few more handfuls of chips first.

Y’all stay active,


Knock Knock…

During the ice age we experienced recently, there was a woodpecker that kept trying to peck through the exterior wall of my office.  I don’t really blame him except for the fact that he made it very hard for me and Gus and Scarlett to concentrate.  Me on my work and Gus and Scarlett on their naps.

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Barney Fife and Andy Griffith had narrowed in on this situation, springing into action from their deep slumber on the sofa in a matter of seconds.


Scarlett tried to stare a hole through the wall.  Gus got distracted by a woman walking her dog.


Scarlett assumed the position as the suspect’s knocking intensified.


Scarlett decided she needed a better angle.


Although this looks like a tender moment, Gus was not pleased that Scarlett infringed on his personal space.


Gus shared his feelings and Scarlett quickly made him regret it.


“Are you calling me fat???!!”


Tensions subsided as the two were quickly reminded of the task at hand.  Mr. Pecker had resumed his knocking.

All in a day’s work.

Y’all come back,


Apocalypse Averted


I went outside the other day.  It was terrible.  I don’t think I’ll do it again for a while.  Not that I’m having much better luck indoors.  A delightful side effect of these frigid temperatures: reduced amperage to my cable box.  Or something like that.  Translation: my connection freezes every 45 seconds, making it extremely irritating to try to watch TV as I only get about 1/17th of every story on the news.

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So I had nothing left to do except hunker down and make food like the end of the world was imminent.  I made LOTS of tomato soup, which Eugene and I feasted on for several meals, and homemade meat sauce.  I froze most of it so now I have a very full freezer and I’m tomatoed out.

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Tomato soup with grilled cheese…


Tomato soup with garlic bread…


Naturally, I also had to make something sweet. I decided to make those peanut butter chocolate kiss cookies.  My recipe made 20 cookies but I only had 17 kisses (don’t ask me how that happened) so I had to improvise a little.  I adorned the 3 kiss-less cookies with a row of chocolate chips.  Eugene said she actually preferred this set-up because the chocolate was more manageable and evenly distributed.  I can see her point, but the cookies are totally not as cute without the kisses.


Scarlett thought these drastic times called for drastic measures and the relaxation of house rules like the one about her not being allowed on my coats or the table and especially not both at the same time.


She was wrong.  Busted.

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Gus is having a hard time coping.


Things were getting really rough.  It was so cold that the water draining from Eugene’s car was frozen mid-air.

In fact, conditions were so bad that Eugene casually mentioned something about how she thinks ironing is “kind of therapeutic.”  I think she kind of slipped on some ice and hit her head.


Thankfully, when the sun comes up tomorrow it will be over 50 degrees.  Back to some sense of normalcy…or as close to normal as things get around here.

Y’all hurry back,


Little Lunch Date

My four year old cousin Jake tagged along for girls’ lunch at Annie Ruby’s the week before last.  It was me, my sister, Eugene, my cousin Lauren, Grandmother and my mom.  Jake is used to this set-up as my family is overwhelmingly comprised of women.  He certainly kept us entertained.

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As we enjoyed our delicious fare, we asked Jake about what he’s been up to and his Christmas.  Every response started with “well….” and “actually….”  He is very articulate for his age.

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When I asked him what he got for Christmas, he said “one hundred and one hundred presents.”  A couple of other ladies who came up to the table asked him the same question and they got the same response I did.  Jake is a pretty smart cookie so by the end of the afternoon, cousin Lauren had taught him that one hundred plus one hundred is two hundred.

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I asked him if he likes his new baby cousin Vera, which he said he did.  I asked him if she can talk and walk and he said no.  I then asked what she does do and he said “she fusses,” which cracked up the whole table.

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Though the rest of us ordered soup and sandwiches, Jake ordered superman ice cream (which we did not tell his mother…). I was unfamiliar with this flavor of ice cream.  It’s coloring resembles cotton candy, but I tasted it and I’m fairly certain it’s just vanilla ice cream with food coloring.  What a scam!  Jake loved it.

We also got him hooked on orangeades, a drink that has been beloved by my family for generations.  I suppose we should consider it Jake’s initiation.


On the way back to his grandmother’s house, we drove by a pasture of black cows.  Jake has been around the agricultural community since he was born so I asked him if he knew what kind of cows they were.  He very confidently said, “Angus!” Lauren, Eugene and I were very impressed.

When Jake got out of the truck, he insisted on giving us all hugs and kisses  He then invited us to come to his house and play and even offered to take us to the park.  Jake sure is a ball of energy but we had a fun time with him!

Y’all keep it real,


A Tad Bit Chilly


Oh hey….it’s like cold here.  Like, REALLY cold.  I thought I moved to the south for a more moderate climate? I think I accidentally brought the northeastern weather with me.  Actually, you know what? My sister just returned to Nashville from Boston on Friday by some sort of miracle considering every other flight on the planet was canceled.  I think I’ll blame her for bringing the snow and frigid temperatures.  I feel warmer already.


It is so cold, in fact, that I had to use all of my Xena-warrior-princess strength to open Eugene’s car door last evening.


This is my bedroom window.  Hooray for single pane glass! Not.


The driveway is covered in ice, which makes for especially exciting picture-taking/ice-skating in flat boots.


This almost looks fake to me, like when they frost the windows on movie sets in Hollywood.  I wish I were in southern California at the moment.


Time to invest in some firewood.

Off to make gallons of hot chocolate,