This Land Was Made for You and Me

“This land is your land, this land is my land, from California to the New York island.” July 4th always gets me in a patriotic mood. This year that mood has led me to ponder all the magnificent topography I’ve seen in my travels right here in the good ol’ US of A .

Oh, there are wonders abroad, too, mountains and rivers and shorelines. But it’s hard to think of any country anywhere that has the diversity of natural landscape that we do. Take the continental US spanning from the Atlantic to the Pacific, add Alaska and Hawaii, and you’ve got a land big and beautiful in so many different ways.

I’ve culled these photos from my travel scrapbooks. For more details, check out my column,


Redwoods in California, 2010




Smoke from Kilauea Volcano, Hawaii, 2008




Monument Valley, Arizona, 2013



Grand Canyon, Arizona, 2013




Glacier Bay, Alaska, 2016



Miami Beach, Florida, 2018


Volcanoes, deserts, glaciers, valleys, beaches–these different landscapes represent different ways of life, even different cultures.  For example, in Hawaii, I ate poi at a luau; in Alaska, salmon at a fishing lodge.  Miami Beach had a Hispanic vibe; Arizona, a Native American influence.

But vive la difference!  We’re all Americans, privileged to live in the most diversely beautiful country in the world.

Told you I was in a patriotic mood.










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Do You Wanna Dance?

Every July the entire family—my daughters, their husbands and children, my husband and I—all go to “The Conference.” For three nights and four days, we kick back at the Holiday Inn in Wrightsville Beach. We’re not usually people who stay in a hotel for a beach holiday, so the grandkids love the novelty of it. I love the maid service and restaurant.

My husband and daughters go to morning meetings related to the family business, and the rest of us hang out at the pool, the beach, the halls of the hotel, wherever the action is.


On the last night, the action is on the dance floor. After the final conference dinner, a DJ spins tunes for a couple of hours. A few grownups shuffle around to the occasional beach music song, but for the most part, it’s all about the kids. They aren’t one bit shy about showing off their moves. Or bugging their grandmas to dance with them.

This year Sammy, my ten-year-old grandson, insisted I be his partner for a slow dance. “Why don’t you ask Maddie?” I suggested, nodding at a bubbly little thing who’d been jumping all around to every song played.

“Geez, Grandma, she’s only nine,” he answered. So I danced with him. When I thought about it, I was glad he wanted me to. After all, before long he won’t have any problem dancing with a girl who’s only a year younger, and I’ll be on the sideline, yesterday’s meatloaf.


Maddie got a partner anyway. Charlie.  He’s Sammy’s six-year-old brother and evidently didn’t mind dancing with a girl who was not only older but taller.


Eventually, I got to sit down while Sammy went all disco, “stayin’ alive,” with the new buddies he’d made at the conference. The boys of summer, possibly the next generation for a family business.







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Progress Report

As many of you know (I hope), I write a column every week for the Sunday Life Section of the Rocky Mount Telegram.  I’ve just submitted Column #300. How do I know this?

I number my columns when I save them on my flash drive. I’m in year six, with Column #1 dating Sunday, October 14, 2012.

Three hundred ideas for 300 columns. Hope I can think of 300 more.

Now for a different kind of progress report. “Mary, Mary, quite contrary, how does your garden grow?”  Well, good and not so good.  My cucumber vines are robust, as usual, but the cucumbers themselves are just a tad bitter this year.  I read up on causes and extremely hot weather can be a reason.  Someone set our state on broil in recent weeks (I got that clever line off Facebook), so I’m guessing that’s why my cukes are a tad off this year.


A less than stellar cucumber crop pales in comparison, though, to what’s happened to my tomatoes this year. Look at these vines.  I know I overcrowded the plants, squeezing four into an area where maybe only two should have gone.  (It’s hard to believe they’ll get this big when they’re seedlings.)  But I don’t understand such wilted, dying vines.  I’m getting a few cherry tomatoes, but I think I can kiss those big Better Boys goodbye.


Now for the good gardening news. My okra plants are thriving.  I’ve never tried growing okra before.  My husband doesn’t like it in any form, stewed or fried, so I haven’t had a real incentive to plant any.  But on a whim this year, I picked up four seedlings.  Glad I did.  I like okra in all its forms.


My squash plants are also coming along, which is a little surprising to me. I planted squash as an afterthought, simply digging an at-the-time wet, muddy hole in the shrub bed and plunking in a couple of hills.

Yesterday, I walked around my backyard and picked several cucumbers, a few cherry tomatoes, and my first okra and squash. Before putting everything in the refrigerator, I arranged a still life of my produce and snapped a picture.



Despite some setbacks, looking at this photo makes me feel like a real backyard gardener.



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A Trip to Minnesota

I’m home from my six-day trip to Minnesota (the reason for no post last week). My husband and I went to Duluth to watch our youngest daughter run in Grandma’s Marathon, and then hung around for a few extra days to check out the sights.

Before I talk about “What I Did on My Vacation in Minnesota,” though, let me brag about my daughter. She signed up for Grandma’s Marathon with the goal of running 26.2 miles in under two hours and 45 minutes.  Doing so would qualify her for the Olympic Marathon Trials in 2020.

She succeeded, clocking in at 2:43:09. Here she is moments after crossing the finish line.

Image may contain: 4 people, including Paula Pridgen, people smiling, people standing and outdoor

Making the team for the Olympics, she tells me, is a really long shot for her since there’s lots of competition.  But she’s happy and proud that she’s now qualified to try out.  I’m happy and proud too.

After she went home on Sunday, my husband and I left Duluth and drove an hour north to our accommodations for the next two nights, the Cove Point Lodge in Beaver Bay, located on the shores of Lake Superior. This was our base for exploring up and down the North Shore, the 148 miles of scenic highway and quaint villages stretching from Duluth to the Canadian border.

It’s hard to describe how HUGE Lake Superior is. I’m not sure my picture below does it justice either.



Here are some interesting facts:

  • It’s the largest of the great lakes: in fact, it’s the largest freshwater lake in the world.
  • There is enough water in Lake Superior to cover all of North and South America with water one foot deep.
  • There have been about 350 shipwrecks on Lake Superior, and over 10,000 lives have been lost in her waters.

Okay, I realize your eyes may be glazing over, but having seen it, I find Lake Superior to be SUPERIOR!

My trip wasn’t all about gazing at the lake, however. Food is a priority when I travel.  I try to eat something I wouldn’t have at home.  At the Cove Point Lodge, I treated myself to the Scandinavian breakfast one morning.  What you’re looking at below is pickled herring, a cold boiled egg on crisp rye bread, pickled cucumbers, sausage, and cheese.   Delicious…and different.


A place called Betty’s Pies came highly recommended. Here I ordered a piece of Great Lakes Crunch Pie, liking the name as much as the ingredients: rhubarb, apples, strawberries, and raspberries, with a topping of oatmeal and brown sugar.  Oh, and a big dollop of vanilla ice cream on the side.  Maybe the pie wasn’t as much of a regional specialty as my Scandinavian breakfast, but I don’t often let myself have this kind of treat at home.IMG_1273

Minnesota, the land of ten thousand lakes (including one HUGE one), Grandma’s Marathon, and delicious food.






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Out of Africa

Lately, I’ve been thinking about Africa. Specifically, American Christian ministry in Africa.  A couple from my church, Mickey and Jackie Bailey, founded an orphanage in Zambia several years ago and now have added a school.  They’re asking for donations for books, used or new, for pre-school through seventh grade students.  In English, the language the children are learning in.

Yesterday’s Rocky Mount Telegram featured a story about their mission.  Click here to read about the difference they’re undoubtedly making in the lives of these Zambian children, and consequently, the future of this impoverished country.  Wow, just wow.

In July, I’ll attend a writer’s retreat led by author Elaine Neil Orr, who grew up in Nigeria. Her parents were medical missionaries, and—get this—the family remained in Nigeria during its civil war.

I’ve just finished reading one of her books titled A Different Sun, which is a fictional account of a Baptist missionary couple, Emma and Henry Bowman, who set off to minister to the Yoruba people of Africa.  It’s 1853, and the wife is the daughter of a prosperous slave owner.  The husband, twenty years older, is a former Texas Ranger who’s lived a wild and ungodly life before hearing his call to the ministry.

Their hardships in Africa are many, and the story reminds me of Barbara Kingsolver’s The Poisonwood Bible.  (If you’ve never read The Poisonwood Bible, get your hands on a copy ASAP.)

Both books explore the culture shock and misunderstandings between the missionaries and those they’ve come to help. And both examine the gradual adaptation of the missionaries as they learn about and adjust to the differences of their new home.

A Different Sun is a totally engrossing read. Elaine Neil Orr has also written Swimming Between Worlds, which I read first and endorsed on my Author Facebook page.


Her third novel, which I plan to order today, is called Gods of Noonday: A White Girl’s African Life.  It’s labeled a memoir, so maybe I’ll find out how the author fared during the Nigerian civil war.


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Grandsons, Traffic Jams, and Cucumbers

I don’t know that anyone noticed, but I missed my self-imposed Monday blog deadline. I’ve been in Charlotte, hanging out with these two cuties.


They’re on vacation between regular school-year preschool and summer preschool. Their mom, my daughter, works from home and needed help keeping busy, busy toddlers safely busy.  My pleasure….

On another note, talk about traffic. Whew!  I came home yesterday, hitting Raleigh around five o’clock.  (I know, bad timing; ever so often I forget to avoid the nightmare of rush hour on the Beltline.)

My usual route, I-540, was shut down to one lane due to a traffic accident, or so the flashing sign on I-40 East said. Rats!  Rush-hour traffic + one less way around Raleigh available = MAJOR TRAFFIC JAM.  We may not have loads of restaurants, theaters, and sports events in Rocky Mount, but we don’t have to contend with ALL THAT TRAFFIC either.

But I’m home now, back East, where my laid-back summer life can resume. I’ve checked on my backyard crops, and the cucumber plants have a few blooms.  The vines haven’t really taken off yet like they do some years, spilling over from the edge of the shrub bed into the adjoining yard. I hope I’m not in for a slim crop this year.  I’ve been looking forward to having cucumbers to share with family and neighbors.


Plus, having a bumper cucumber crop is a point of pride for me. You see, cucumbers and I go way back.  When I was a kid growing up in Edgecombe County, one of my summer jobs was picking cucumbers that were sold for pickling (see last Sunday’s column:

I guess I consider myself something of a cucumber expert since I learned that

  • while growing, cucumbers need a lot of water so as not to turn bitter,
  • when conditions are right, cucumbers grow very quickly and require constant picking,
  • smaller cucumbers fetch more money at the cucumber sorting station than large ones.

Need I go on? I’m sure I can wrack my brain for more cucumber trivia, but let me leave you with a picture of my hill of squash. I’m expanding my shrub bed gardening this year.




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The Mountains in May

I can’t recall ever going to the North Carolina mountains in May. I’ve taken the occasional family summer trip in July or more often, gone in October to check out the stunning fall foliage.

But there have been years when I didn’t get to the mountains at all. It’s a long drive from eastern North Carolina. And I’m more of a beach person.

If you live in Charlotte, though, the mountains are closer than the beach. My middle daughter and her husband, Charlotteans, have bought a vacation home in Beech Mountain, 25 miles on the other side of Boone. She wanted her dad and me to visit Mother’s Day weekend.

It was close to a five-hour drive counting in a rest area stop or two. Well, actually, that was the trip going home.  On the way there, we got as far as Boone and then rewarded ourselves with a big country dinner at the Daniel Boone Inn. We needed fuel for that last 25 miles.  Eating at 5:30 on a Thursday afternoon in May, we just did beat the crowd.  There was a line at the door when we left.  I can’t even imagine how busy the restaurant must be during the peak of tourist season.


Yes, I ate it all.

My daughter’s house sits on a hill—or maybe a small mountain? We had to keep an eye on her boys, ages 4 and 19 months, to be sure they didn’t take a step off the side of the yard and go rolling down.


A steep front yard

It was Mother’s Day weekend and temperatures at home soared into the low 90s. But we enjoyed comfortable upper 70s as we walked along the dirt road in front of the house, stopping to admire gurgling streams. The trees were just beginning to leaf out, being a couple of weeks behind those in the eastern part of the state.


Who doesn’t love a gurgling mountain stream?

There was no air conditioning in the mountain house, but we didn’t miss it. Open windows and ceiling fans kept us cool, even a little chilly at times.

Arriving home on Sunday afternoon, I discovered there was no air conditioning on the second floor of my house in Rocky Mount. Open windows and ceiling fans didn’t work to relieve the stifling upstairs heat.  (Click here to read about my wait for HVAC assistance:

I wasn’t in the mountains anymore.





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