Wednesday, December 31, 2014


Better than a thousand Hollow words Is one word that brings peace.
Better than a thousand Hollow verses Is one verse that brings peace.
Better than a hundred Hollow lines Is one line of the law, Bringing peace.
It is better to conquer yourself than to win a thousand battles; 
 Then the victory is yours.

Delicious Autumn

Delicious autumn! My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumns.
George Eliot

Monday, December 29, 2014

She Did it Her Way

Sunday Gazette-Mail, December 28, 2014

More than this, she did it her way

By Peggy Toney Horton

Special to the Sunday Gazette-Mail  

 My mother smoked cigarettes.
She started experimenting when she was about ten years old and was still pursuing the habit when she died at 85.
 Like many elderly people, the older she got, the more crotchety she became. Sometimes it was amusing.
 After her health began to fail, I, her only child, had to take her for every doctor appointment. I once took her to her ophthalmologist for an exam. She had terrible eyesight; already having dealt with cataract surgery in both eyes and still struggling with poor vision due to age-related macular degeneration.
     The doctor became a little short of patience with her when he asked, “Have you quit smoking?” and she replied, “No, I haven’t.”

     His speech went something like this: “I’ve told you over and over again, Mrs. Toney, you may be able to slow the progression of your macular degeneration if you stop smoking, but if you continue, you’re going to be blind!”
     Trying to look innocent, she said, “I think they gave me some pills the last time I was in the hospital that made it worse.”
     “Oh no, they didn’t!” the doctor shouted emphatically.
     “It’s your smoking. You didn’t listen to me and now, there is nothing more I can do for you!”
     With that, he turned and stomped out of the room, leaving us both with gaping mouths. I felt sorry for her and wanted to run after him and tell him he shouldn’t talk to an elderly lady like that, especially my mother!
     But part of me knew he was right. She needed someone to bring her to her senses so she’d dismount the self-destructive merry-go-round she was on.
     She cried pitifully all the way home in the car.
     She said, “If I told a doctor my big toe was hurting, he’d say it’s because I smoke. They blame everything on smoking!”
     I stifled a giggle.
It must have seemed so to her. Every doctor wanted her to stop, but she refused.
    When we reached her house, I helped her out of the car and into the house. She flung her coat off and plopped down in her favorite chair. Pulling a tissue out of the box on the table, she dried her tears and quickly lit a cigarette.
 What can I say? This woman who raised me from a baby had never done anything she didn’t want to do and she wasn’t about to start now.
 She was never health-conscious, as people are today. She ate what she wanted. Drank what she wanted. And never bothered to exercise except for the work she did. That was plenty.
 I’ve seen her work like a man and get mad at my father because he didn’t do as much as she thought he should, even after he’d had a heart attack.
 But working served her well until she was past eighty. It was only then her health began to fail and she had a heart attack.
 She fought it all the way, refusing to obey doctor’s orders. She was sure she knew best. Perhaps she did.
 Just before she died, she was on the verge of a second heart attack and needing another stent, but, according to doctors, she was too weak for the operation.
    She had a broken hip, a broken vertebra, COPD, which is a serious lung disease; she was deaf and legally blind. On top of all that, she contracted pneumonia, and it was over.
 If ever there was a woman who lived life to suit herself, it was my mother. She did it “her way” throughout her life.
 And why not? She lived to be 85 years of age without giving up anything she enjoyed.
 As I think of her tonight, I can’t help but wonder how many years she would have lived if she had made even the slightest effort to take care of herself?
 I wish she had.

Peggy Toney Horton lives in Nitro and is a frequent contributor to the Sunday Gazette-Mail “Write Your Own Column.” She can be contacted via email at

This story was also published in "Bewildering Stories" in 2012.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Remembering Them at Christmastime


A beautiful time of year, December!

Today, the sun shines brightly, the temperature is 43 degrees where I live and the sky is clear and blue. If it weren’t so chilly, one could mistake it for a spring day.

And it’s almost Christmas!

In fact, two weeks from today will be the day after the most special holiday of the year.

“Ah, sweet relief!” some will say.

With all the build-up: shopping, decorating, cooking, and get togethers, a lot of people will welcome getting back to normal. Or whatever they perceive as normal. My grandmother used to say, “Normal is whatever you want it to be.”

I’m still pondering that one.

But I do know this: we still have two weeks to go at this hectic pace so we may as well put on a smile and try to enjoy it. For many, that’s more difficult than for others. Those who lost loved ones during the year are feeling their loss intensely and having trouble facing what is supposed to be a joyous celebration without that person or persons by their side.

Try to remember, your loved ones wouldn’t want your life to stop because theirs did. Life must go on. And while we wait for that wonderful day when we’ll see the people we love again, we never – not for one moment – forget them!

We Remember Them
In the rising of the sun and in its going down,
We remember them.
In the blowing of the winds and in the chill of winter,
We remember them.
In the warmth of the sun and the peace of summer,
We remember them.
In the rustling of leaves and the beauty of autumn,
We remember them.
In the beginning of the year and when it ends,
We remember them.
When we are weary and in need of strength,
We remember them.
When we are lost and sick at heart,
We remember them.
When we have joys we yearn to share,
We remember them.
So long as we live, they, too, shall live,
For they are now a part of us.
As we remember them.
                  ~Simcha Kling


Sunday, November 30, 2014

Does it Hurt to Care too Much?

I was talking to a friend on the phone this morning when she said, “Well, I finally got rid of those kittens I didn’t want.”
“What did you do,” I asked, ”take them to the shelter?”
“No,” she answered, seeming quite pleased with herself. “I put them in a box and dropped them off at that new subdivision down the road.”
“Oh, my!” I said... “and the mother?”
“I took her, too,” she said.
I was stunned!  “How could you do that?” I asked her.
“Oh, it was easy. They’ll be fine now; people will find them and take them in and they’ll have good homes and be happy.”
“You can’t be sure of that,” I said. “What if they freeze to death or get hit by a car or killed by a larger animal before that happens?”
“I can’t worry about that,” my friend said. “I did what I could.”
She really believed that!
I hung up, not feeling quite the same about this friend. It’s odd how you can know someone all your life and yet – not know them at all!
I could never do what she did! How could you set a box of kittens and their mother out of your car and, looking into their big, innocent, questioning eyes – drive away?
It is beyond me, especially when it would have been so easy to take them to a shelter where they’d be warm, fed and possibly adopted by people who really want a pet and would take good care of it.
The Bible commands us to take care of the animals under our care. One of the signs of a righteous man, the Bible says, is that he takes care of his animals (see Proverbs 12:10).
I can’t stop thinking about these little kittens... huddled together in that box, shivering... their mother trying to shield them from the cold.
Hungry. Scared. Lonely.
I pray that my friend was right and someone finds them and takes them in. But, even so, in all probability, it would be easy to find homes for the cute little kittens – especially at this time of year, but what if nobody wants the full-grown mother? What will happen to her? I worry about these things.
Sometimes I wish I didn’t care so much!

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Like a Stone in Deep Water


November 8th ...
As unbelievable as it seems, we’re in the eleventh month of the year! I have no idea where the time went. Seems it was only yesterday we were saying, “Happy New Year” and two months from now, we’ll be saying it again.
Really! Time disappears like a stone in deep water!
Halloween is over and now we move on to one of the most important holidays of the year – Thanksgiving. Seems we measure time by special occasions.
November 1st  was Mr. H’s birthday. That’s a special occasion in our family. Our children visit, cards and presents in-hand, and we have cake and ice cream together and enjoy a little family time. Lots of laughs. It’s sort of a warm-up for Thanksgiving and Christmas.
We’ve always been big on family get-togethers for every occasion, but sadly, it gets a little more difficult with each passing year. Some have moved away and it saddens me that they no longer get to join us for every occasion.
Life gets in the way, you know.
Others have had some health problems, making it difficult for them to enjoy things as they once did. And we lost one of our dear ones this year. Her absence is more obvious at each gathering!
We miss her terribly!
I like family tradition. One can tell because I do things the same every year. Even before they see it, our children know what the Christmas tree will look like. We’ve used the same ornaments for many years, adding one or two each year. Some are a pleasure to add, like the “alien” ornament that mysteriously appears on our tree every year. We’re not sure who contributes it, but each year, when we decorate the tree, there is one more ornament to hang than we had last year. It’s fun to hold it in my hand and say, “This is the alien ornament from last year,” and then hang it in a prominent place.
A number of years ago, when Mr. H. and I started losing our parents... one at a time over several years... we began hanging a white bird for each departed one. Actually, they don’t hang; they perch regally on the branches. Even with my fear of birds, I like these birds because I know they’re not going to fly toward me suddenly – and because they’re symbols of people I love – and good memories. I’ve even come to know which bird represents which missing loved one. Almost feels like they’re with us.
But white birds are beginning to take over the tree. And we must add yet another one this year!
What to do?
I’m thinkin’ perhaps another tree. Smaller. We remove the birds from the main tree and decorate another with nothing but white lights and birds. In another room, of course.
Whaddaya’ think?
Mr. H. says, “One tree is enough to decorate!”
Ah, but wouldn’t it be sweet to have a whole tree dedicated to our departed loved ones?
I think so.
Now to convince Mr.H. (a little bird told me a coconut crème pie might do the trick!)