My grandmother, who passed away many years ago, possessed a lovely wooden carved chest, which now resides in our living room. The chest is lined with camphor, found in the wood of camphor laurel.

The benefit of camphor is that it preserves linens, paper and other items for many years.

When Grandmother died, I was fortunate enough to receive the camphor chest. In that chest is an amazing array of items very, very old, and some a bit newer.

My favorite items are two original grass skirts from Hawaii in 1942. My grandfather, whom I never knew, was a captain in the Army, stationed at Pearl Harbor during the bombing. (A side story – my mother Fidella and her sister Jeannette were very young, and when the bombing began, Grandmother rushed to squeeze them under the beds. The dining room cabinet fell over and broke most of the wedge wood china. I have the remaining pieces in my dining room.)

The other story is a bit outlandish, but my Grandmother told me it was true: she was so traumatized by the bombing that she couldn’t speak – so they put her in the secret service since she wouldn’t be able to pass information around. My husband howls at this, saying, “If you can’t speak, you certainly can write something down on paper!”

 Other than dishes, my favorite items include:

  •  A Revolutionary War uniform and sword from my Great Aunt Mary.
  • A mink stole. (I’ve never worn it, but it is soft and might be useful if I dress up for Halloween anytime in the next century!)
  • My mother’s wedding dress. When I married Greg, I wore her dress with some slight alterations.
  • Copies of Newsweek from 1949.
  • A pearl handbag.
  • Small white dress gloves.
  • Life magazines from 1962, 1963, 1969 and, 1970 – the issue featuring the Kent State event.
  • A very old Girl Scout Handbook – which instructed young girls to mind their manners and curtsy.
  • Rusted metal from the Berlin Wall.
  • A small but thick VERY OLD book with daguerreotype photos of my Grandmother’s ancestors. 
  • A marriage certificate for my mother- and father-in-law dated 1949.
  • And from Greg’s family, I’m fortunate to have some lovely china, needlepoint, stained glass and other wonderful and memorable items, which I value greatly.

            So, as you go through life, count your blessings. And, as Bob Hope says, remember to give “Thanks for the Memories!”


I am extremely happy to share the following with you:

  • A number of you have heard the news from my husband, but as of today I have been accepted into a very promising clinical trial that’s designed to help rejuvenate your brain cells. It’s not a full cure, but it appears researchers and scientists are getting much closer to identifying ways to actually help improve brain function. (Right now the medicine on the market is still designed to help people maintain their level of cognition.)
  • Greg and I are ‘Honorary’ Memory Walk chairpeople for the November 13th walk around Symphony Park. We’ve been working hard to put together walk teams, recruit sponsors and ask those who aren’t available, to make donations. (We’ll give you more details as the Walk gets closer!)
  • And, Greg and I recently got back from Chicago, where I had been nominated as a member of the Early-Stage Alzheimer’s Advisory Group. Our job is to provide feedback to the National organization, and, when opportunities come up, we are asked to make speeches, do media interviews, etc.
  • In addition, Greg and I are ‘Honorary’ Chairs of the Charlotte Memory Walk November 13 at Symphony Park in back of SouthPark and close to the Coca-Cola building. Although we’re ‘Honorary Chairs’, we’ve been working hard putting together walk teams, talking to potential sponsors of the walks and more.
  • AND, we are VERY EXCITED to do even more to raise awareness and funds, so this walk holds a lot of promise!


The Family Reunion*

“I can’t think of anything to write about except families. They are a metaphor for every other part of society”             – Anna Quindlen

As you may know, I have three sisters.  Our parents died many years ago, and, because of that, our families made the decision to get together as much as possible. My youngest sister lives in Pittsburgh. My middle sister lives in Northern Virginia, and, of course, Greg and I live in Charlotte. (Our daughter lives in Chapel Hill and our son currently is in Asheville.)

We usually get together for ‘decade’ birthdays (30-40-50, etc.)  This year it was my sister Sharon’s 40th birthday. She and her husband have a vacation house on Lake Anna, VA, and decided we would have the reunion there. Needless to say, we had a terrific time seeing everyone. We enjoyed visiting with all our family members, including our son, daughter & her boyfriend, and our nieces and nephews.

But, back to the lake: We had wonderful weather and the water was just the right temperature. I went on a boat ride with my brother-in-law Marc and floated in the water close to the shore. Marc is a great cook and fed us delicious meals. We also went out one night to an excellent German restaurant – and, I confess, I ate way too much.

The best thing about the trip was not just seeing our family, but also being able to interact with the youngest members of the original Anderson family clan: Gracie, age 7  from Pittsburgh, showed off her silly bands, and Jack, age 9, loved being there as well. So did Bobby, who is in his first year of college, and his sister Mary, who is close to graduating from high school.  They live in Northern Virginia.

I can get pretty wound up from time to time, but it was extremely relaxing to be on the lake, have someone else to cook for me and get to learn more about each other are doing these days.

As for me, I have just one thing to say:


You probably noticed that there is a new photo on this journal page with the Mercer family wearing purple arm bands to support ending Alzheimer’s Disease.

Half Empty or Half Full?

 (Based on a Recent Sermon at Sardis Presbyterian Church*)

 Genesis 45:1-8; 50:15-20/John 1:5

What describes you – half empty or half full?  Do you tend toward pessimism or optimism?  Do you think of yourself as someone who sees problems or possibilities?

The Old Testament story of Joseph seems to lean in the ‘half-full’ category. Joseph practically emerges as the “poster boy” for living life with a half-full perspective. Much of Joseph’s story is anything but sweetness and light, including his dysfunctional family life. He grew up in a household with rivalry and contention. His brothers had no appreciation for him and probably very little for each other. Joseph’s father seemed to fan the flames by giving Joseph special gifts. Joseph himself inflamed the situation by telling his brothers of his dreams suggesting a future of greatness for him. All this worked to fill the brothers with envy and a desire to do away with Joseph as they concocted a devious plot. First, they threw him into a pit and then sold him as a slave to a caravan of Ishmalites traveling into Egypt, telling their father that Joseph was killed by a wild beast. No one was a winner after this deception: the father was overwhelmed with grief and the brothers experienced troubled marriages and other turmoil. Once in Egypt, Joseph was imprisoned after being unjustly accused of adultery.

Almost nothing had gone well with most of Joseph’s relationships, and if anyone had a right to be in a position to expect the worst, it was Joseph. But he didn’t expect the worst. He kept using a present that we come to realize was a God-given gift of dream interpretation – a gift that came to the attention of the Pharaoh. And, after Joseph was able to interpret the Pharaoh’s troubling dreams, he was released from prison and advanced to a position of great power. He predicted and helped plan for the famine which was to afflict the land, and then stood in the place of authority for aiding famine victims. Finally, Joseph has orchestrated events to reveal his identity to his brothers, who have come to Egypt for famine relief. When Joseph revealed his identity to his brothers they were filled with alarm, given their past treatment of this now powerful man.  Joseph responded to their fear with the resounding affirmation: “Do not be distressed…because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life.”  Joseph had to reassure his brothers a second time, after their father has died. They were fearful that with Jacob dead, Joseph would exact revenge. But, he says again says, “Do not be afraid…even though you intended to do harm to me.  God intended it for good, in order to preserve a numerous people, as he is doing today.”

If you are a half-full kind of person, the story of Joseph might be the vindication of your world view. If you are a ‘half-empty’ person this story may seem like a fairy tale for people who don’t seem to be pay attention to what is happening in the world. While the story of Joseph might lean in the ‘half full’ direction, the story is far more than a confirmation that everything will end up as a simplistic interpretation that everything will just “work itself out” in the end.

It would be easy to say this passage means everything that happens is God’s will. Some might say it was God’s will that Joseph was kidnapped and nearly killed — or that it is God’s will that children die, famine plagues the land and people live in poverty.

 But when we look at this passage, Joseph’s story it is the very opposite position.  It tells us that everything that happens is not the will of God.  There are events and deeds that are absolutely counter to God’s will, but this story affirms that despite what happens, God is never defeated. He remains with us and his sovereign purpose will find its way through and beyond any darkness. The word here that pushes the “half full” among us is that Joseph did not sit back with folded hands cheerily piping, “It will all work out, it’s all good…” No, Joseph got to work. Remember his words to his brothers: “Do not be distressed… because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life.”

 *Note: Special thanks to Pastor Jane Fobel, who used a longer version of this story as a recent sermon based on my positive approach to life. If you’re interested in the full sermon, let me know and I will send it to you.

Twenty-eight years ago, Greg and I got married in Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina, at The Little Chapel on the Boardwalk.

I wore my mother’s wedding dress, which still resides in a camphor chest in our living room, along with my sisters’ wedding dresses. The year was 1982, and Knoxville, Tennessee, hosted the World’s Fair. I always wanted to go to a World’s Fair, and Greg said he would take me there for our honeymoon.

Reservations for hotels and motels required just a toll-free number. So, I called and talked with an operator at the Fair office, running down some of the options. We had a very low budget, but wanted something nice and quaint. They recommended was the ‘Town & Country Motor Court,’ advertised as a charming little vacation village with sweet little cottages and affordable rates.

The proprietor was SueAnn, who kept her hair in a old-fashioned bouffant style.  She was so excited about having a honeymoon couple that she gave us a “special upgrade” – the chance to stay in a BRAND NEW DOUBLE-WIDE MOTOR HOME!! (Gee, just what I always wanted!) Unfortunately, the trailer had brand new carpet, which sounds nice, but Greg was allergic to the new carpet fibers.

We did have a nice time at the fair, even if it was burning hot and we spent much of our time sitting on concrete edges of water fountains with our feet in the water. One of the best parts of the honeymoon, however, was driving back over the state line from Tennessee into North Carolina, where we found a wonderful place to stay in Waynesville that far exceeded SueAnn’s offering.

We stayed at the Old Stone Inn in Waynesville — a wonderful, romantic, rustic and memorable get-away which opened in 1946 as a haven for families who needed rest and relaxation after the war.

Greg always likes to give gifts of experiences rather than store-bought items. So, in late May, he treated me to a second honeymoon anniversary at the Old Stone Inn.

The place had been expanded and renovated, but we were glad to see things hadn’t changed much. The rooms were still covered with old wooden planks, surrounding the bed, chairs and country curtains. The central building on the grounds contains a full-service restaurant, with very nice food and wine, as well as free breakfast. One evening we ate dinner on a round iron table on the large grassy area out back, surrounded by quaint gaslights.  And, surely you have guessed that much of the Inn is covered with huge stones – including the fireplace in the dining area.

Our vacation was very peaceful, and we had a chance to get out and explore. We strolled through downtown Waynesville, a charming small-town street with unique restaurants, art galleries and knick-knacks. And, lucky for us, we were downtown the day of the Waynesville Street Festival, where we saw lots of crafts, dancing, interesting galleries and much more. Later we ate a fabulous meal at ‘The Chef’s Table’ and Greg said he had the best chicken marsala on earth.

The next day we took a side trip to the Cherokee Indian Reservation. We sat on a comfortable wooden bench in front of the trout stream, watching the water go by and soaking up some sun. (The area’s always been a bit tacky, but it was a shock to see blocks and blocks of huge Harrah’s Casino buildings. And, no, we didn’t gamble!)

After leaving Waynesville, we drove up to the far western end of North Carolina, to the town of Murphy. When Greg was young, he spent time with his Grandmother in Manteo – about the furthest east you can get in North Carolina. As a native North Carolinian, he always yearned to see the western-most town in the state as well, which is Murphy.  And so we did.

While walking around Murphy, Greg saw a wild daisy and picked it for me. It was a reminder of our first date – a Carolina football game in 1977 – when Greg gave me a pin-on daisy for my shirt.

We’ll never forget our first honeymoon, and we’ll certainly never forget how wonderful it was to revisit the place that meant so much to us.

Every happy couple deserves a second honeymoon. And if you’re interested in learning more about the Old Stone Inn, please go to www.oldstoneinn.com. You WON’T be disappointed!

Some close friends of ours, who have children the same age as ours, used to rent a house at Topsail Beach every summer. We had a fabulous time watching the kids making sandcastles, doing artwork, playing make-believe and decorating each others’ faces with wipe-away paint.  And, I’ll never forget the year we were there on the 4th of July, and we walked outside on the deck to see the fireworks. 

Meanwhile, I joined and later became a partner in a PR firm. The owner – a wonderful gentleman – allowed partners to use his Sunset Beach house from time to time.  We LOVED going to Sunset Beach!  It’s small enough to ride bicycles around the island, and close enough to get over the bridge to find fabulous seafood restaurants.

After several years at Topsail Beach (just north of Wilmington), my grandmother passed away and left all three of the cousins a healthy inheritance. Greg and I talked about how to spend the money, and we made the decision very easily: we bought a share of a beach house at Sunset Beach, which allows us to go to the beach every 10 weeks or so.

The last time I was down there, some friends and I rode around the island, noticing the interesting, enticing and fun names on the beach houses. I started taking notes, and identified the following (by category):

Sports and Hobbies

  • The Coast is Clear
  • Pier Pleasure
  • Ebb Tide Tee & See
  • Golf Stream
  • Sand Trap
  • 18th Hole
  • Caddy Shack
  • 40 Love
  • Brush Stroke
  • Tee & See

Sunset Themes/Beach and Views

  • Sangria Sunset
  • Copper Sunset
  • Sangria Sunrise
  • Point of View
  • Sandbox
  • Sea-Esta
  • St. Somewhere
  • Lands End
  • Sea Breeze
  • Sea Scape
  • Southern Exposure
  • Dune our Thing
  • Seas the Day
  • Shore Thing

Nature, Fish and Fishing

  • Something Fishy
  • Turtles Nest
  • The Crab Trap


  • Lazy Daisy
  • Leave of Absense
  • Linger Longer
  • No Worries
  • Attitude Adjustment
  • Reflections
  • Peace and Plenty
  • Paradise Found
  • Do Drop In
  • Interlude
  • Creature Comfort
  • Carolina Heaven
  • All Decked Out

Having Fun

  • Turtles Nest
  • Family Tides
  • Loony Dunes
  • Laughing Gull
  • Beach Music
  • Fiddler on the Roof

And, finally: Geography and M

  • St. Somewhere
  • El Sol
  • Pure gold
  • No Wake Zone
  • Just Beachy
  • Just Ducky
  • Time in a Bottle
  • A Turtle’s Nest
  • About Time
  • About Heaven
  • Always Summer
  • Anchors Away, and
  • Looney Dunes

Note: If you have a favorite name for a beach house – whether true or made up, please let me know in the ‘comments’ section!

It occurred to me recently that I am the same age – 50 – that my father was when he passed away from esophageal cancer.

My sisters and I continue to miss both our parents (my mother later died of lung cancer), but I have to say we had a special relationship with our Dad because he was fun and full of life. 

In fact, when we lived in Westbury, NY, we had a large, slanting living room filled with family furniture, a grand piano and a balcony overlooking the spacious room. I’ll never forget the time Dad walked upstairs to the balcony, called us together as if we were the Von Trapp Family, and said in his beaming baritone voice from above:


And he did live an incredible, happy life.   He was: 

  • A Pulitzer Prize winner at the St. Petersburg Times.
  • Editor of a start-up newspaper – “The Suffolk Sun” – on Long Island.
  • A Public Relations executive at the NY Telephone Company.
  • A PR executive for Katharine Graham at the Washington Post.
  •  And, Director of the Ohio University School of  Journalism in lovely Athens, Ohio.   (I believe he enjoyed that most of all.)

Because of his wonderful personality and connections to high-ranking people in the world of journalism and communications, he was able to secure an endowment for the school from the E.W. Scripps Company.

One of the benefits of the endowment was a scholarship in my father’s name. To this day, twice a year, I receive two thank-you letters from students at OU who were fortunate enough to secure the scholarship.

Students receiving the scholarships always send me a note of appreciation. More importantly, they always tell me their stories – about how they could not have stayed in school for four years without the funds – and how VERY much they want to go into the field of communications. (Luckily, they no longer are pining as much for scholarship money to become journalists at traditional newspapers since future careers will surely focus on on-line, broadcast and new media outlets.)

Here is a quote from the most recent letter I received: “I would just like to say that I am honored to receive the Cortland Anderson Award. When I read online about his work, I was quickly road-blocked by praises of his good spirit, brightness and how he was such a good man in all respects. I can’t tell you how great it is to be receiving a scholarship, but to get the privilege of putting his name on my resume one day, and be associated with his name, is awesome.”

I would be remiss if I didn’t share with you that once in a while, out of the blue, I still shed tears for him.  My sisters and I also loved our mother, who died of lung cancer at 57, but she was much more reserved when it came to emotional support.

My father did get to see Sarah 25 years ago when she was first born, and several other times until she was 9 months old. He never got to see his grandson – and namesake – Cortland.  But Dad would be extremely proud of both of them.

It’s been a long time since I’ve cried about my Dad (until writing this journal!)  Over time, however, my sisters Sharon and Mary, like myself, have moved on to build our own careers and families. Fortunately, we decided early on that our sisters would get together and stay as close as possible, even though we live in three different states.

In fact, we’re going to have a whole family reunion this summer, and I can’t wait!

So Dad, I want to wish you a Happy Fathers Day.

And, to everyone else, I hope you adopt my father’s motto:

“Today is The First Day of the Rest of My Life.”