About hopesquires

I've left behind the daily grind to write full time and to figure out what my own flourishing tree looks like. I'd love to help you flourish and grow along the way, so that you, too, can cultivate a life that pleases God.

When the (holi)days pile up

Did August zip by in a blur as fast for you as it did for me? Here we are in a new September, a new school year already underway. Soon enough (or maybe not soon enough if you’re living through a heat wave like I am), the days will turn cool and crisp, leaves will fall, and children will dream of costumes for trick-or-treating.

What follows is the headlong tumble through November and December, and before you know it, plastic eggs and marshmallow chickens will decorate store aisles.

Walking by a neighbor’s house earlier today, I had a horrible reminder of how quickly the holidays can pile one on top of another:


Santa and ghosts and the Easter Bunny, oh my!

I am not even making this up. (!)

Other than straightening and cropping the photo and adding a watermark, I did not alter the photo. Do you see the scared Thanksgiving turkey peeking out from behind one of the trees? I felt like hiding, too.

I drove past the house on my way out of the neighborhood so I could take pictures. This is a view from the other side.


There’s even a birthday cake in the shadows for an extra “holiday” into the mix. Happy Merry Thankseastereenmas, everyone!

When I walked by this morning, I thought, “Garage cleaning?” Maybe they were testing all the decorations to make sure none had holes?

As it turns out, someone in the house is celebrating a big milestone birthday today, and I guess her family (and friends, too?) decided this would be the perfect way to announce the occasion.

I’m grateful all of our celebrations don’t happen at the same time and not only because of what the big celebration would mean for our neighborhoods. I like holidays spaced out with time to anticipate, prepare for, and enjoy each one in its own special way.

I’m also grateful that my family celebrates birthdays in a quieter way.

In case this post has stirred a little whisper of panic in your heart or head about the approaching holidays, let me arm you with this Bible verse:

So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will take care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

—Matthew 6:34

Each day has enough trouble and, I would add, enough to celebrate, too, without worrying about the holidays lining up on the calendar ahead.

I have a long line of loved ones’ birthday celebrations coming up, all before I even have to think about buying giant bags of candy, and I hope to celebrate each one without worrying about the next. What’s the next special occasion you’ll celebrate? And do the holidays ever feel like they pile up on you as these pictures suggest?

Uprooting, or the big push, part 2

When you hear the word “uprooting,” what do you think of? Maybe pulling up weeds or transplanting flowers? If people are uprooted, is that a good thing or a bad thing? I guess that all depends on your perspective and your faith.

My uprooting news is that, after a lifetime of living in North Carolina, I’m moving to Northern California for my husband’s job. Yep, I’m leaving home, leaving the South, leaving sweet tea and biscuits (oh, the biscuits), leaving family, leaving friends. (I apologize to any friends who are reading this news for the first time here. I tried to reach you all in person, but I hope you’ll understand that this is a busy/hectic time right now.)

I’m filled with equal parts excitement and dread. While I’m looking forward to this new adventure, I’m not always happily or gracefully packing up a life I love here. So I’m looking for signs of hope and words of reassurance wherever I can find them.

As my husband and I work to declutter our home to get it ready to sell, we’re moving lots of little treasures out of the house. About a year ago (maybe longer given how quickly time flies), he brought home three little gifts for me: solar-powered plastic flowers that wave in the sunlight. He’s adorable that way.


I set them in a sunny window and waited for them to start waving. The blue one started. The red one started. The purple one … well, it didn’t start. Even after I set it out in direct sunlight for a bit, it still didn’t wave. I don’t know why I didn’t throw it away, but it sat next to the other two, never budging all this time.

Two weeks ago, I took all three flowers for a road trip. We’re fortunate to have a place where we can bring boxes and our treasures to wait while our house sells. I set the three flowers up in another sunny window sill and checked them the next morning. I took this video to share what I discovered:

Wow! I’m not one to overuse exclamation points as a general rule, but wow!!!

I never thought plastic solar flowers could amaze and delight me so much. You see, all that little flower needed was a road trip—a bit of shaking up and uprooting—before it could thrive. And maybe if that’s true of a little plastic flower, it can be true of me, too. I can thrive in a new place, uprooted, shaken up, in an unfamiliar sunny spot.

Those little plastic flowers are a comfort to me now in the moments I get panicky about moving away.

Back in March, I wrote a post called The big push. I know Richard Rohr didn’t write the words I quoted in there just for me, but they comfort me even more than the little plastic flowers. God is giving me a big push. I’ll be honest: some days it feels like a bully’s shove. But I have hope and reassurance that God is going with me and dreaming a California dream for me that I never imagined for myself.

A.A. Milne, creator of Winnie the Pooh, wrote, “You can’t stay in your corner of the Forest waiting for others to come to you. You have to go to them sometimes.” I’ll be leaving my little corner of the forest soon, and I’m looking forward to meeting those who needed me to come to them out in California. I’m trusting the uprooting will bring a wonderful change.

How about you? What ways has life surprised and pushed you? I’d love to hear your uprooting stories in the comments below.

Much ado about ice buckets

The ALS ice bucket challenge has taken social media by storm in recent weeks and is generating plenty of talk, pro and con.

For the ALS Association, the bucket challenge has generated awareness and raised millions of dollars in a short time. School children have enjoyed watching their principals get doused with icy water. Friends and families have come together for a moment of joy and hilarity. And for ALS sufferers such as Lorri Carey, the ice bucket challenge has brought hope. These are all great reasons to call the challenge a success.


There has been a backlash to the bucket challenge, though. Clean water advocates are decrying the waste of so much clean water in a country where some regions are suffering devastating drought and in a world where access to clean water is a struggle for more than 700 million people. Even the ALSA site suggests repurposing the water and offers suggestions of water-free ways to help the organization.

While the waste of clean, drinkable water troubles me, I don’t want to diminish the success for ALS research. Besides, even though I haven’t dumped a bucket of ice water on my head, I can understand why August is the perfect time for such a challenge, and I know I’m guilty of a lifetime of wasting water in fun ways.

So for me, the ice bucket challenge has brought up complex issues of balancing the rights and needs of those of us who live in a privileged place, those who live with a terminal illness and hope and pray for a cure, and those who lack basic necessities and dignities of life.

I reached out to several non-profit groups who raise funds and awareness for clean water projects around the world to ask for their take on the ice bucket challenge. Lopez Lomong—a U.S. Olympian I’ve blogged about before—responded with enthusiasm.

Lomong’s foundation has partnered with World Vision in a project called 4 South Sudan. One of the major goals of the project is to help communities in South Sudan gain access to clean water and sanitation facilities.

Here is Lomong’s challenge:

Take the ice bucket “Clean Water” challenge for the women and children of South Sudan who walk miles every day for clean water. Taking the challenge will give thousands in South Sudan the gift of education, safety and life. Just $50 gives clean water for LIFE to one person in South Sudan.  Thank you for being awesome and bravely taking the challenge to save lives in South Sudan!

So will you accept the challenge? If you have already done a bucket challenge for ALS, consider skipping a second bucket and making a donation to fill someone else’s bucket with clean water.

If you feel like you’ve been missing out on the fun and want to cool off with a bucket of water (and would repurpose the water or conserve water in some other way to make up for it), have at it. Two worthy causes—more research funds to find a cure for ALS and better, safer access to clean water in South Sudan—could benefit from your bucket of fun.

Have you taken the bucket challenge and repurposed the water? Maybe filled up a kiddie pool that you were going to fill anyway? Or stood in a garden that you needed to water? I’d love to hear your creative ideas for repurposing the water. And if you accept Lomong’s challenge to give a person water for life, please let me know in the comments below so I can thank you.

The redhead’s red pen: What leads you to write?

I write this blog because I believe life should be flourishing. Life should be about encouraging ourselves and others to excel. Whatever path we follow in life, we should offer hope, give love and grace, and inspire courage.

One of the reasons for my red pen series is to help make writing a little easier for us all with some tips and tricks that, when we use them well in our writing, make our messages clearer for our readers. Today’s post marks the final installment for this round of the series, but I may bring it back in the future.

I can’t jump into today’s red pen lesson, though, without first acknowledging my heavy heart and perhaps your heavy heart in these past few days. A young man’s shooting death has sparked riots just outside of St. Louis. A beloved comic genius exits life too soon, at his own hands. Children are beheaded and whole families trapped on a dry, dusty mountaintop because we live in a broken world where religious extremists sometimes believe they please God by torturing and killing those who don’t believe as they do.

The night of 9/11, I had to go to class. It was my final semester of graduate school, and I had one final class designed to help us students complete our projects to graduate. We sat in the room stunned. And one of us asked, “What’s the point of our projects? What does it even matter if we go on?” Our professor (ever wise and gentle) told us that life for the living goes on, and so we had to complete our class that night and complete the tasks ahead. In that spirit of living on, I offer you this final red pen lesson.

Today brings up homophones, homographs and homonyms and how to tell the difference between two tricky words: lead and led.


Despite not leading most of the race, Lagat led Rupp and Lomong at the finish. I wonder if their legs felt like lead at the end of the race.


Emma Coburn, shown leading the race here in 2012, has led the U.S. women’s steeplechase field for 2014, too. I hope she’ll lead our team to the podium in 2016.

Homophones are words that are pronounced the same but spelled differently: write and right; peak, peek and pique; wait and weight. When the word lead means the noun that is a metal (and a heavy one at that), it is pronounced as a homophone for led, the past tense and past participle form of the verb to lead.

The verb lead (to go at the front, to be ahead) and the noun lead (heavy metal) are homographs of one another, spelled the same but pronounced differently. There’s also a lead that’s an adjective form of the verb lead, pronounced the same way, meaning prime or top: Robin Williams played the lead character in some of my favorite films.

Then there’s the noun lead that means a leash (i.e., I had the dog on a lead, but it still managed to get loose to chase the UPS driver). It is a homonym—same pronunciation and spelling but different meaning—to the verb lead.

The trickiest problem with lead/led is getting the past tense form of to lead written correctly. It’s easy enough to say led correctly, but perhaps subconsciously because the other forms of lead are spelled with an -a, writers sometimes forget how to spell led.

Perhaps this trick will help you:

  • Lead is heavy, and so it needs an extra letter for its weight.
  • Led happened in the past and so has left something behind. So leave its letter -a behind, too.

That’s it for today’s red pen lesson. If this is a tricky set of words for you, I hope this post helped clarify when to write lead and when to write led.

The role that led me to teaching
Dead Poets Society came out the summer before my senior year of high school, a summer I spent weighing options and deciding what my college major would be. After seeing Robin Williams play the role of teacher John Keating, I’m not sure other careers had a chance. There were plenty of influences that led me to teaching, but Williams’ role in that movie tipped the scales in favor of teaching English.

So for today—to honor Robin Williams’ work and life—I’ll leave you with the words of the Walt Whitman poem he made so famous in that movie and again more recently in an Apple ad. Watch the scene from the movie, if you like. Here’s the complete poem:

O ME! O Life!
O ME! O life! of the questions of these recurring,
Of the endless trains of the faithless, of cities fill’d with the foolish,
Of myself forever reproaching myself, (for who more foolish than I, and who more faithless?)
Of eyes that vainly crave the light, of the objects mean, of the struggle ever renew’d,
Of the poor results of all, of the plodding and sordid crowds I see around me,
Of the empty and useless years of the rest, with the rest me intertwined,
The question, O me! so sad, recurring—What good amid these, O me, O life?

That you are here—that life exists and identity,
That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse.

Thanks for stopping by for a visit. I’ll see you here next week with a new verse.

The redhead’s red pen: Complementing your back-to-school knowledge

Today’s post marks the third in our back-to-school readiness series. I hope you’re already feeling well-prepared for the season ahead. If you’ve been playing hookie or just feel left behind, here are the first two lessons again: it’s/its and further/farther.

In this post we’ll learn more about complimentary and complementary. Our trusty Webster’s Third New International Dictionary defines them:

complementary: adj

1: of, relating to, or suggestive of completing or perfecting

2: mutually dependent; supplementing and being supplemented in return

3: being one of a pair of chromatic stimuli that produce an achromatic mixture when combined in suitable proportions (as in complementary colors)


complimentary: adj

1 a: expressing regard or praise; b: given to or using compliments

2: presented or given free esp as a courtesy or favor

Complimentary is the more common of the two, and so I’ll start with it. Most of us correctly spell complimentary when we mean the first definition, because it’s easy to think of paying someone a compliment, making your remark a complimentary one.

The sticky part is the “free” meaning. Here’s a little trick that might help: a compliment is free to give and free to receive. If your friends comment on your fabulous new haircut, their compliments don’t cost anything. So if something is free, then use the word complimentary to describe it. It’s like someone paying you a compliment by giving you something free.

I love eating at Mexican restaurants that serve complimentary chips and salsa.

Aveda offers a complimentary neck and hand massage just for stopping by the store.

I wish the complimentary chocolates on my hotel pillow had ingredients listed on them.

Now, you could argue that the chips and salsa and the chocolates aren’t technically complimentary because you are buying other food at the restaurant and paying for your hotel room, but for the sake of this lesson, let’s agree that they’re free and, therefore, complimentary.


I saw this ad for an upcoming local race and thought it might help you remember: complimentary means free. I love complimentary massages after running a race.

Complementary may seem more difficult to you, but think of it this way: something complementary always has to be part of (at the very least) a couple. More than two items can be complementary to one another, but you cannot have a single thing that is complementary without it having some other thing it completes. Think of it as “couplementary,” and you’ll see that there’s no -i in there.

The waiter suggested complementary wines to go with our entrees.

The wall paint complemented the furniture colors, making for a pleasing, put-together room.

A strength-training program will complement your weekly runs as you prepare for the marathon.

Notice that in each of these examples, you can find a couple: wine + entrees, paint + furniture and strength-training program + weekly runs.

My earliest introduction to the word complementary was in art classes, and here, too, you’ll find pairs. Complementary colors are opposite of each other on the color wheel, and they bring out the best in each other when you see them both in a painting or photograph. They provide a more complete visual experience.


Complementary colors in nature: the dark pink petals complement the light green leaves of Joe-Pye weed, and the orange spots complement the blue on the Pipevine Swallotail’s wing.

Wikipedia’s entry on complementary colors makes for a fun read, and for you gardeners out there, I highly recommend Cornell University’s page on the effect of complementary colors in your garden. I like a riot of color in my own garden, but there are a lot of reds and greens to complement one another, and my purple and yellow irises complement each other when they bloom.

Now that you know how to use complimentary and complementary, you may start getting more compliments about how smart you are.

Do you have a grammar or spelling issue that gives you grief? Or do you have a fun way to remember how to spell certain tricky words? I’d love to hear about it in the comments below.