If you want to get to know someone, get to know what she enjoys and what makes her smile. That will tell you how she spends her time and how she invests her life. Phyllis says these things put a skip in her step.
The Writing Life
There’s nothing about writing that I don’t enjoy—the creative thinking to develop a story, the research that leads me to new places and new ideas, the unexpected ways that characters develop at times, the rewrites, and I even enjoy the edits. I write in solitude, but always with a desire to connect to the reader.
I grew up in the Deep South in a time when family came first in every way. As I have moved through different seasons of my life, my way of thinking about family has never changed. Family still comes first. I’m blessed to have my family of origin back east, and to be surrounded in Texas by my husband, two daughters and their families which include three grandchildren.
Who can grow up in the South without loving food? So many of my best memories are from times around the table with my family and friends. Although I don’t fry as much as Mama and Grandmama did, I still love those comfort foods. Cooking is a lot like writing a story—it’s creative; you throw lots of ingredients together; and who knows what you’re going to get? Being in my kitchen—chopping, prepping, stirring, and looking out at these Texas Hills—is some of my best thinking time. You’d be surprised at what I’ve created in the kitchen in addition to my prize-winning brown-bag apple pie.
After a busy career that required me to travel mostly to cities, I find myself enjoying more serene and beautiful places now—especially if you can get there on a cruise ship. Cruising provides such magnificent scenery, conversations with interesting folks, and I’m only required to unpack once. Gallery and museum visits are stimulating, but these days, just a hike through the mountains or a seaside walk will do. I find travel more about the journey than the destination. Actually, there’s much to be said about traveling companions too! My husband is the best, and we have the blessing of friends who make great shipmates and road-trippers.
As a rather puny child who was small for my age, I turned to books and to the piano. Both my parents were musical, and the piano was easy for me. I spent twelve years in classical training. As a side note—when I was in the sixth grade, I decided to try out for basketball since my mother had played basketball. The coach gave me great advice. He said, “Go, join the band.” I did and learned to play several other instruments. I cannot imagine my life without music. The piano is a sort of home for me. I’m comfortable there.
Nothing feeds my soul quite like God’s creation. I try to spend as much time as I can out on long walks through these hills. My husband is a fabulous photographer, and he has captured some unbelievable photos on our little adventures. I observe, I mean really observe, the changing seasons, the changing light, and the changing colors. Water, running or still soothes my soul, and nothing makes my heart sing like seeing the cardinals on the feeder or the goldfinches on the thistle sock. And, every evening about dusk, I walk out on my deck, let out my familiar whistle, and I’m visited by a herd of axis deer who come running for their dinner. I know God takes care of the deer and the birds, but I really enjoy doing my part.
What experiences I’ve had leading short-term mission teams! There’s no better way to see God at work in the lives of folks he loves, and nothing will expand your worldview like working in another culture. I’ve made life-long friends doing missions. There is a bonding that occurs when you work as a team to bring help to the helpless and hope to the hopeless. Some of those friends I see frequently because we do church together, and some I may not see until I get to heaven, but they are people who have impacted my life in such significant ways. If I ever go missing, you can look for me in Guatemala. After doing mission trips there for about fifteen years, I think a piece of my heart is still there, and I just might return to the Highlands of that beautiful country to retrieve it.