Grandma Marie: Turn a Scar into a Star

Hello there, friends! Hope the summer treated you well and that the cool days of fall will soon be upon us.  It’s stinkin’ HOT in Valencia the past couple weeks– the thermometer’s hovering around 100 degrees, so we’ve been taking refuge in any place that has air conditioning!

The summer’s been pretty good, but something sad did happen.  Last month my Grandma Marie passed away.


She was a vibrant, beautiful, and deeply spiritual woman, and I was honored to give a eulogy at her memorial service. Here’s what I shared:

Marie Wentz Hane Mayes was born on February 26, 1922 in Fort Bend County, Texas.  She grew up in the small town of Rosenburg, Texas, but spent most of her adult years in San Diego, CA.   She was an active volunteer for Survivors of Suicide Loss,  College Avenue Baptist Church, and the Forrest Home Auxiliary.  And to top it off, she worked for the FBI for 17 years!

Grandma Marie had her share of heartache and tragedy in her life.   She lost two children, Donna and Steven, and a grandchild, Matthew, to suicide, but her faith never wavered.   And God blessed her too.  She was married fifty happy years to Grandpa Dick.  She was then blessed with her second marriage to Larry Hane, and after Larry died she married Bill Mayes, her third happy marriage. It was wonderful to see her so happy in her later years, in the company of her husbands.  Marie is survived by three daughters, Susan Claire, Sharon Dickerson, and Mary Horton, and many grandchildren and great grandchildren.

Marie may have experienced tragedy; but she handled life’s challenges with grace and character, a great example to friends and family. When I asked my siblings if they had any memories they wanted me to share today, my brother Christian, a musician, said that Grandma and Bill Mayes impressed him by flying all the way to NYC for the opening night of the Broadway show Passing Strange that Christian was a part of.  Grandma Marie and Bill were Christian’s guests at the after party . It was a red carpet affair.  But Marie and Bill seemed unimpressed with the bigwigs that were there, like the NY Times and Diana Ross . . .  until they found out that dinner was a three course “free ” Buffett; at which they seemed, all of a sudden, very excited to be there.  Christian also remembers a saying Grandma had that meant a lot to him:  it was “Turn a scar into a star.”   Christian is sorry he couldn’t be here today;  he loved Grandma Marie a lot and flew in from Brooklyn, New York to be by her bedside during her last days when she was in hospice.  He was holding her hand at 11:30 pm when she passed away.

My sister Laurie said that Grandma Marie was the kind of person whose candy jar was always full for us.  Laurie and I copied that in our own homes;  Like Laurie said, if the candy bowl is full, then somehow life is good. 

One thing my brother Kenny pointed out was that Grandma would always send us birthday cards with a bible verse on it, and a check for $5 which she said was for ice cream.  Grandma who always had a clear mind, was in step with inflation—when the cost of ice cream cones crept up, the five dollars turned into a ten.   My siblings and I are in our 40s and 50s now, but Grandma never missed a birthday. She took those birthday checks seriously too.   Christian said that when Grandma visited him in New York she dragged him to the bank, where she wrote a check for 3 years worth of birthday and Christmas checks that he had never cashed.

Anyone who knew Marie knew she was a spiritual person.  My brother Trey remembers Grandma telling him “Our body is not our own because Jesus dwells within us.”  She also gave good advice. One time Trey was upset because he had to chop off the head of a chicken.  Don’t ask me why he had to do that, you don’t want to know.  But he called Grandma Marie afterwards and told her how bad he was feeling.  She just said, “Don’t worry about it too much, Trey.  Just keep your head on your shoulders.

Marie had a good sense of humor and she was cool too.  Not only did she have a top secret job at the FBI, she drove a Firebird and made a  point of visiting us;  first with Grandpa Dick, the with Larry Hane, then with Bill Mayes.  I remember one time I gave her a tour of my house.  I was all proud of my decorating skills and wanted to impress her.  But the one thing I recall her saying was “Cheri, I’m glad to see that.”  She was pointing to a certain book in my bookcase:  The Bible. 

Grandma Marie’s example helped me in my spiritual journey.  One of my earliest memories was when I was five or six and she was in charge of Sunday School.  I received a pamphlet that folded open like an accordion and when unfolded was nearly as long as my six year old self.  It came with color illustrations of Jesus and children and bread.   I wish I still had that pamphlet because it was all about my favorite prayer.     My husband Ron and I had it sung at our wedding.  I’m not alone in this particular prayer being a favorite.  I’m sure you know it too:  The Lord’s Prayer. 

I’ve learned that the Lord’s Prayer asks God three key requests:  to give, to forgive, and to deliver.  And in these three requests are the building blocks for any prayers we create ourselves.  I memorized that prayer, and I bet you all have it memorized too.  Will you do me the honor of thinking of Marie Wentz Hanes Mayes and blessing her in Heaven as we say this prayer together?    

“Our father, who art in heaven, hallowed by thy name.  Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.  Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.  And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil, for thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever.  Amen.”

May God bless you, Grandma Marie, we are forever grateful for all you have done to enrich our lives.  You were loved by many and you are missed.   But someday, we will see you again, when we are reunited, in Heaven.


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Waterways Photobook

Hey Happy Tuesday to ‘ya!  I just finished putting together a photo book I’ve titled “Waterways”.  I did it all on Shutterfly.  I took some of my favorite pics of water . . . lakes and ocean and the like, and included some quotes for inspiration.  Check it out, and if you like the book leave me a comment below! 


April 30, 2013 · 1:47 pm

Sponsored a Child in Uganda

Hi ‘Ya!

A few weeks ago at church we had an opportunity to sponsor a child in Uganda.  We took up the chance, and I just finished writing a hand written letter to our boy, Raymond, a 7 year old who lives with his aunt and brother in a mud-block house.  We’re excited to get to know Raymond as we correspond with him.  According to the information sheet about him, he hopes to be a pilot one day, enjoys math and music, and likes to read.  He has a huge big smile and is described as active, friendly, intelligent, respectful, and well-behaved.  Can’t wait to learn more about him in the coming years!  Here’s the photo we enclosed in our letter.  Ron, Cheri, Trevor and Jenna, nice shot

This photo was taken a few months ago, on Thanksgiving, 2012.  Our son Trevor is 22 now, and Jenna will be 20 in a few weeks.

Do you sponsor a child too?  If so, I’d love to hear about your experience.  If you’d like to sponsor a child through Children of the Nations, you can find out more through their website, Children of the Nations.

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Coastal Living Ultimate Beach House: First Place!

Hi All!

It’s been awhile!  Hope you’re enjoying the holiday season, and that you and your family are well.

Wanted to give you some fun news.

A couple of months ago, just for kicks, I participated in a contest called ‘My Coastal Living Ultimate Beach House.’  It involved making a Pinterest Board and pinning 12 of my favorite Coastal Living Magazine beach house images.   I picked one shot for each room of my ‘Dream Beach Cottage’ and gave a description.    I didn’t give the contest another thought until a few days ago, when I got an email from Coastal Living’s Associate Features Editor.  She said that out of nearly 3500 entries, I’d been selected as their FIRST PLACE winner!  I’m totally flabbergasted.   They’ll be announcing the winners this week, and will be promoting it through their magazine, Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter, etc.  I won prizes worth $1400 (cash and flatware and stemware).   I’m thrilled about the prizes of course, but even more excited just to have WON!!

So I had to share with you all.   When I was pinning for the contest I dreamed I had one lovely beach house  and was walking from room to room,  thinking about how the rooms made me feel.   Here are three photos from my ‘winning’ board (love saying that!):

Picturing myself reading a novel in this spot. More relaxed just thinking about it!

Picturing myself reading a novel in this spot. More relaxed just thinking about it!

Ah, to do nothing all day except lie in a hammock and listen to the waves . . .

Ah, to do nothing all day except lie in a hammock and listen to the waves . . .

A claw foot tub, double hung windows, and lots of white. And lavender in a pot of course!

A claw foot tub, double hung windows, and lots of white. And lavender in a pot of course!

If you’re curious to see the other nine photos, here’s the link to my Pinterest Board:  Coastal Living Ultimate Beach House

If you’re not already on Pinterest, take a moment to sign up!  It’s free and a great place to organize websites.  Pinterest means “Pin Your Interests” and I’ve got 44 boards and have pinned sites on everything from interior design to food to books to writing inspiration.  You can name your boards whatever you’d like.  I called four of mine ‘Inspiring Interiors’, ‘Paint It’, ‘Books!’, and ‘Write!’   You can follow one or all of my boards, and comment on my pins. . . go ahead, do it!  I’d love to see you there.

It’s also interesting to see what other Pinners are posting so you can stay up to date on the latest trends.   I love Coastal Living Magazine, and follow their board for just that reason.   Even the ads are interesting, many of which focus on the newest beach communities where Ron and I might retire some day.   My dream, as you may have guessed,  is to one day have a cottage on the beach– and Coastal Living lets me dream to my heart’s content.  I’m so thrilled and thankful to have won their first Pinterest Ultimate Beach House contest!


Filed under Beach, Contests, Decorating, Happiness, Interior Design, Photographs, Uncategorized

A Hummingbird in the House

Last week a hummingbird flew into the house up to the 2nd story ceiling. Remembering a trick I’d read long ago I held up a clear bowl of red water and the bird followed me down the stairs. But just as I neared the patio door my dog Bingo jumped up and snatched the bird in his mouth. I grabbed Bingo and ran outside and tried to pry open his lockjaw– but the dog was stubborn and clenched his jaw closed even tighter. In a last-ditch effort I yelled ‘DROP IT’ and Bingo opened his mouth. The tiny bird fell out, wet and scared, but alive!

I held her in my palm under a warm blanket, and when she was dry I lifted her to the sky. But she was too weak and landed with a silent thud on the patio. Before the dog could pounce again I scooped her up and warmed her a few more minutes. This time, I laid her on the backyard retaining wall. When she flew off I was happy to have given a wild bird a second chance at life. And now, when hummingbirds come to our feeder, it seems they pause mid-flight to look at me a tad more curiously, like they are thanking me for saving their friend.


Filed under Birds, Life, Pets, Uncategorized, Wildbirds

The Easy Trick to Getting Crisp, Eye-Catching Photos

Well hi there!   Hope your week’s going great!

I have a confession to make:   as the family pest historian I shoot a gazillion photos.  I’ve always wanted to take good photographs, but if anyone mentions the words aperture or shutter speed or ISO my mind goes blank.  Not sure why . . . perhaps because the basic rules seem counter-intuitive?  You know:  if a subject is moving fast you need a fast shutter speed, but to let in light you need a wide aperture, and that involves a slower shutter speed, and large apertures (where lots of light gets through) are given f/stop smaller numbers and smaller apertures (where less light gets through) have larger f-stop numbers. So f/2.8 is in fact a much larger aperture than f/22. . . blah blah blah blah . . .

Huh?  If you’re anything like me (translation:  amateur photographer),  you’re trying to wrap your head around these concepts, because you want crisp, clear, stunning photos and you’ve been told these terms are PARAMOUNT to getting a great shot.  Or (and this would be me)  you’re shaking your head back and forth to wake yourself up.

But I am here to tell you, dear readers:  there IS a trick to getting gorgeous, crisp photos that does NOT involve those nasty A and S words!!

Now as the cliché goes, a picture tells a thousand words.  So before I reveal my easy trick, here are Before and After shots of a bee:

Bee Shot, before the Easy Photo Trick

Bee shot, AFTER the Easy Photo Trick

Big difference, right?  Yes, my After shot could be even better if I were to master the A and S words.  But I know my lazy clueless self and it ain’t gonna happen pals!

So you ready to know the Easy (not so) Secret Photo Trick?  Drum roll please!

 . . . It’s a camera app.  Yep, nearly every photo I post publicly gets the app treatment.   Here’s what you can do to get photos like the Bee After shot, above:

1)  Snap a photo with your smart phone  (I used the iPhone 4Gs, and it has an awesome camera, but most of the latest cell phones have good cameras)

2)  Open your camera application and insert your photo.  (I used Camera+ , which I downloaded for 99 cents from iTunes)

3)  Enhance your photo.

Camera+, like most of the photography applications out there, has a lot of filters and options, but I usually keep things simple:  I give the photo Clarity, Crop the photo, and then add Effects, which is usually a filter.  My favorite filter in Camera+ is HDR, located under “Special.”    That’s it!

It takes me less than a minute to enhance a photo.  If you want to, you can add a border and a caption– I usually select simple borders, but sometimes I’ll pick one of the “Styled” selections.  My favorites are Light Grit (used in the Bee After shot, above) and Dark Grit (same look as Light Grit, but in black).

Once finished, save the enhanced photo to your camera roll.  You’ll have the original and enhanced photos right there, on your phone so you can show all your friends!

Cheating?  Maybe.  But photo apps are fun and easy . . . and who doesn’t LOVE fun and easy!

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Filed under iPad, iPhone, Life, Photographs, Photography, Uncategorized

My Hero, The Black Widow Catcher

My Hero, The Black Widow Catcher.

Just before my mom died in 1967 my father came to my first grade class for Career Day.  His mission?  To talk about being a doctor in the Navy.   Unfortunately, a black widow spider upstaged him.  Read on to find out how Dad handled it.

Mrs. Lonzo, my first grade teacher, was standing in front of our class.

“Today we’re going to have a special guest, class. Cheri’s father is coming to talk to us, about what it’s like to be a doctor.”

My classmates turned their heads and looked at me. I was beaming and jumping in my seat.  My dad was stopping by my classroom before going to the Navy Hospital.   When he arrived, I ran to him and wrapped my arms around his thighs, and he hugged me back.  Dad was wearing his black Navy officer’s uniform, and his crew cut accentuated his symmetrical facial features.    His demeanor was professional and serious, but he had an easy smile for the teacher and reached his arm out to shake her hand.  I was so proud.  My dad was handsome, nice and friendly.  He stood in front of the room and faced us, holding his hat.

There was a long pause as my father shifted his weight and looked at us, twenty expectant six-year olds.  He didn’t know what to say!  He cleared his throat and said, “Well children, what would you like to know about being a Navy doctor?”

Dad doesn’t like this.  He’s nervous!

Then someone in the back of the room yelled, “Look! A spider!”

All heads turned around.  A boy was pointing at the floor.  The black spider was crawling up the wall, and we all squealed with fear.

“It’s okay, children,” Mrs. Lonzo said. “We’ll catch it.”

A heavy-set woman of about fifty, Mrs. Lonzo looked at my Dad with a pleading look.  Obviously she wasn’t a spider fan.

“Can you find me a jar?”  my Dad asked her.

“I think so,” she said.  She hurried out of the room.

A moment later, with glass jar in one hand, a lid in the other, my dad headed toward the back of the room.

“Stay in your seats, children,” Mrs. Lonzo said.

We strained our necks as my Dad coaxed the spider into the jar, then screwed the lid on top.

“It’s a Black Widow,” he announced. “Poisonous.  You can tell it’s a Black Widow because it has a red hour-glass shaped mark on its belly. “

“How come it’s called a Black Widow?” one student asked.

My dad hesitated, not sure if he should answer this.  He looked at Mrs. Lonzo, and she nodded.   Dad took a deep breath, then explained, “Because after the female spider mates to make babies, she eats the male spider.”

The children broke into squeals.  Everyone was smiling and saying “Ewwwww!”  Kids were looking at each other, nodding and making grimacing faces.

Dad turned to Mrs. Lonzo.  “Is it alright if I pass the jar so the children can see it up close?”

“Of course,” she replied.

Dad handed the jar to the first child in the right row.   The boy peered inside the jar.  Several students leaned out of their desks to sneak a peek.

For the next fifteen minutes my Dad walked around the room overseeing the passing of the Black Widow.   Then Mrs. Lonzo said, “Well, it’s a good thing Cheri’s Dad was here to save us from the poisonous spider.   Unfortunately Dr. Gibbs cannot stay any longer to tell us about being a Navy Doctor.   He needs to get back to work.  Say thank you to Dr. Gibbs, children.”

Our entire class said, in a chorus of young voices, “Thank you Dr. Gibbs!”

Benjamin F. Gibbs, Jr.
My Dad.

My father never got a chance to talk about being a doctor, but it was okay.    He came over and gave me a hug and a kiss on my head.

“Bye Dad,”   I said.

“Bye Sweetheart.”  Then he walked toward the classroom door.

Just as he was about to leave, he turned and faced the class one last time, brought his right arm to the bill of his hat with his fingers pressed stiffly together, and saluted.  Then he turned on his heels in an about-face, and walked out of the classroom.

I felt my heart would burst because I was so proud of my father, the Black Widow Catcher.


Filed under Family, Father, Parenting, Parents, School, Time, Uncategorized