Sunday, December 22, 2013


The small Southern Baptist Church of my childhood worshiped with a quieter, simpler Christmas celebration than our current large Presbyterian Church in Marietta. There was no advent wreath and lighting of the advent candles. There was no candlelight Christmas Eve Service; no living nativity such as the one we enjoyed in our South Georgia church. But there were simple decorations of greenery; we sang Christmas Carols with gusto and listened prayerfully to the Christmas story and cherished the true meaning of Christmas.
First Presbyterian Church, St. Marys, Georgia

After I married a Presbyterian, the Christmas Eve service became a part of our own family tradition. Before children and when they were very young, we were members of the First Presbyterian Church in St. Marys, Georgia, a small historic church near the intercoastal waterway. The first Christmas after our daughter Katie was born, we set out for the church in freezing cold weather. Looking back, I am amazed that, being the overprotective mother I was, that I agreed to take our little baby and toddler son out in record setting cold – minus three or so. But it was a beautiful service and the tradition has continued no matter what the weather.

Two years ago, we celebrated the Christmas Eve service with our two grown children, their spouses, and our then baby granddaughters. Allan was singing with the other choir members and I sat, with a broken elbow, holding one of the babies.  When we stood for a hymn, Katie took her daughter, Addie, from me; probably a good idea with only one good arm. Traditions are special; and they can be modified as our family grows in love and numbers.

Several years ago, one of my Face Book friends asked folks to tell her about their Christmas traditions that they shared with their children. Along with several others, I began by talking about our tradition of going to the Christmas Eve service at our church. Christmas, more than most holidays, seems to be one in which the traditions of our childhoods play a major role in how we celebrate as adults. The beautiful decorations and Christmon Tree at our current Presbyterian Church fill me with the Christmas spirit. Throughout December we sing Advent songs and await the celebration of the birth of the Christ Child. Church, whether decorated elaborately or simply, draws us to the Christmas message.

Do we carry our Christmas decorating and celebrating from our homes into the church or do we carry the Church celebration and decorating into our homes? Does it really matter? The truth is the spirit of Christmas is alive wherever we are; in church; in our homes; with other people; or alone. The secular traditions of the holiday, the frazzled days of shopping and decorating, are secondary to those of the religious celebration. Trees; wreaths; stockings; lights; ornaments; Santa; gifts; cards; divinity; cookies; and fruit cake: all are the trappings of the season. These symbols of the season are meaningless, however, without putting the Christ in Christmas. And the best part of the Christmas spirit is that it doesn’t need to be December for us to hold the message of Christmas in our hearts and in our minds and in our lives.

Friday, July 26, 2013


Cousins together at the beach:
Addie and Lilly Bell
The two little girls, just approaching two-years-old, weren't sure they wanted to be on the beach this summer. They were hesitant; a little afraid. But by the end of the July 4th week, our two granddaughters were laughing and playing and having a grand time. 
Lilly Bell and her baby doll enjoy morning
on the deck with her mommy, Ann Bailey
           We had a special treat for this year’s Fourth of July. Our grown children booked a house on North Carolina’s Oak Island and invited Allan and me to join them. We hadn't been all together since just after Christmas and it was such a delightful week.
          Lilly-Bell, the daughter of our son Peter and his wife Ann-Bailey, had been to the beach last summer, but still had to re-build her courage. She doesn't like touching the sand or standing in the water, but enjoyed being in the water with one of us holding her. She giggled as the waves approached her, safe in her mother’s arms.
 Lilly Bell with her mom and dad,
Peter and Ann Bailey Lipsett
Addie with her mommy and
daddy in the Atlantic
          It was a first beach visit for Addie, daughter of Katie, our daughter, and her husband Drew Long. She was hesitant of the water, not wanting to get too close. But she too was giggling in the arms of her mother as they stood in the warm Atlantic. Addie didn't mind the sand and was soon walking boldly down the beach, enjoying the wide-open expanse..
Addie with her mom and dad,
Katie and Drew Long
This Fourth of July was probably our best ever. We saw incredible fire-works displays up and down the beach; some a little too close for me, but beautiful nonetheless. The American flag on the deck blew elegantly in the brisk sea breeze. There were no political speeches; not even any barbecue; we ate seafood and walked along the pier and watched the sea gulls dance in the air.
     Cobb County, we had blue skies and sunshine from Tuesday through Saturday on Oak Island. I had intense exercise lifting little ones, walking with them along the beach, and playing in the water. It was the best fitness program ever.
   Despite the rain and storms back in
        Now we are home and I keep hearing their sweet little voices, talking, laughing and singing. It’s always nice to return home after a vacation, but our house seems to be just a little too quiet; a little too neat, with no toys scattered for play. But the memories of this incredible time with our grown children, in-law children and granddaughters will last forever.

Friday, June 14, 2013


What can you give to the father who has everything? It’s the same thing the father can give to the children who have everything. It’s the one gift that everyone should have. TIME! It’s a gift in limited commodity; a short shelf-life; fits everyone; and need never be returned. 
Our son, Peter, with three-month-old 
Lilly Bell  at  the High Museum
 of Art, Atlanta, 2011
            In our rush and tumble, busy, busy lives, there never seems to be enough time for all of the things we want to do. But time is the one thing that we all need from those we love. Time: you can’t wrap it in pretty paper and tie with a ribbon; it’s fleeting; and ephemeral; but it’s the best gift of all.
            Our son, Peter, has just completed his MBA with an emphasis on economics. A rigorous and demanding endeavor while working full time, he graduated with a high GPA. This was a great accomplishment; but it cost him in lost family time. But I’m proud of him for still reserving as much time as possible for wife, Ann-Bailey, and toddler, daughter, Lilly Bell. Leaving early and returning after Lilly Bell was sleeping on class days meant finding creative ways to preserve quality time. Sometimes it was dressing Lilly Bell while her mom was dressing for work; or preparing her breakfast and eating with her. Week-ends meant finding as much time as possible to be together as well as study.
My Daddy,  David Collier Shattles, wearing
his Eastern Air Lines uniform and 
holding my sister, Laura, I am 
holding my baby doll.
            My father was a golfer. No, not professionally; but that was his passion; his hobby. His work, which he enjoyed, was with Eastern Air Lines. You would think that between work and golfing, he would have little time for his family. But his family was very important to him. When my sister and I were in elementary school,   he found time to be with us by taking us to the golf course with him. Neither of us turned into golfers, but we enjoyed being with him, walking the course, watching him play.
Allan with our daughter, Katie, at
Hilton Head  August 2004
            When I was on the Marietta School Board with a night meeting twice a month, Allan would take Peter and Katie out to McDonald’s for dinner. Although Allan is a great cook, they enjoyed this special daddy-child night out together. When I announced that I wasn't going to run again for the Board, both children asked if that meant giving up their special McDonald’s night. By then, they were both in high school and eating at McDonald’s wasn't that special, but the time with their dad certainly was.
           Not only is it often difficult for busy fathers to find that special time for their children, it is often difficult for children to find time for their fathers. The modern family has created such hectic schedules that from a young age children are often too busy for fun family time. When roles are reversed and the child is an adult, with their own family, it is even harder for them to find quality time with their father. A phone call or a visit is a special gift, much better than anything store bought.
            The best gifts of time are given in love; non-judgmental; non-threatening; time just being together. It doesn't have to involve anything complicated; not necessarily a lot of conversation; not even large amounts all at once. Just enough time to say “I love you; I care about your life; I value you as a person.”
            My own dad left this world much too soon. Our time together passed much too quickly and I wish there could have been time for one more walk around the golf course or one more conversation with him. The best gift I have given my children is the same one my mother gave to me: a loving father who treasures time with his children even when they are all grown up.

Saturday, May 11, 2013


The little child who gives you a hug for no reason; who believes you can make her hurts go away; and who knows you can personally protect her from the monsters under the bed; suddenly turns into a stranger who marches into the world on her own without a backward glance and personally holds you responsible for ruining her life by speaking to her friends. Motherhood! It’s a wild and crazy journey that at times seems totally out of our control.
Me with daughter Katie at her
Bridesmaid's luncheon 2006.

        I would like to say that my two children always thought I was the perfect mom. Yes, I would like to say that; but, of course, it wouldn't be true. But as I watch them become parents and self-sufficient adults, I know that I did many things right. As I watch our daughter keeping up with her super-energetic toddler, I am amazed at her stamina and patience, even when her head hurts and she is tired. It is so satisfying to watch my little girl transform into such a caring wife and mother; and my little boy grow to be a loving husband and father.
Me with son Peter before his wedding in 2007.
       For all of the books on raising a child, there is no simple guide that fits all families. The truth is that being a mother is
hard work. And there is no such thing as a non-working mother. Whether a mother works outside the home like our daughter-in-law who is a teacher or stays home full-time like our daughter, every mother is a full-time working mom. Even when apart, a mother is always mentally with her child, thinking about the cute things they do and concerned about how they are getting along without her.
My mother, Kathryn Turner Shattles, with
my children, Katie and Peter, in 1983.
      There is also no such thing as a perfect mother. We get tired; we get angry; we run out of patience; we go out to dinner or a meeting and leave our child with a baby-sitter; we say embarrassing things and serve meals that aren't their favorite foods. But we also share our children’s snugly hugs and wipe runny noses and kiss their bruises. We give up a new dress so they can have new shoes. We go to theme parks rather than resorts and piano recitals rather than symphonies.
           Perfection is over-rated. A good mother is not perfect, yet, with her imperfections, she teaches her children life-lessons. The main criterion for a good mom is to continue to love her children, including their imperfections. A mother knows that the love she gives and receives will outweigh any flaws and imperfections.
     The best mothers are real people. They don’t usually wear pearls and a fancy dress for cooking and cleaning like on a 50’s sitcom. Sometimes they laugh and sometimes they cry. Most times they’re happy but sometimes they’re sad. Most times they speak calmly but sometimes they raise their voice. Yes, the best mothers are real people, slightly flawed, but always, always loving their children, ready with a hug and smile and a word of encouragement – no matter how old the child may be.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013


      Somewhere between being really sick and being on the way to recovery, I received a spirit-lifting package in the mail. My cousin Robert had been clearing out his late mother’s accumulation of memorabilia and he generously shared photos and newspaper clippings with his cousins.
            As I sat with the pictures and clippings spread out around me, I was transported back through the years, to a time before my birth. One clipping in particular was extra special. The article, from the Atlanta Journal on March 25, 1944, was all about my paternal grandmother, Mary Dorothy Shattles. The headline read: “Atlanta Service Mother Woman-of-All Work”.
            The article began: “Superwoman, War Mother of the Year or Woman Who Lived in the Shoe – pick your title and Mrs. James Thomas Shattles of 393 Park Avenue will fit it. Mrs. Shattles has five sons in the service, each in a different branch of the armed forces, and she has two sons-in-law who are servicemen. With five of her boys gone, Mrs. Shattles still runs a busy household of 12, for in addition to herself and her husband, there are three single daughters and a son,  two children and two of her sons’ wives, one of whom has a year-and-a half-old son, who make their home with her.
            It continues: “Mrs. Shattles is a war worker who puts in a full week at the Atlanta Paper Company, making eyeshields that protect our soldiers from cutting sandstorms or burning gas. And she’s the cheering section for Mr. Shattles, a Civilian Defense block warden when he is trying to put over a current drive.”
            The article goes on to mention each of her sons and their branch of the service, including my dad, Sergeant David Shattles, “a turret gunner and flight engineer on a bomber, who has been awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, and the Air Medal with three Oak Leaf clusters.”
            The article ended with: “It keeps a woman busy, keeping up with a family like that. But Mrs. Shattles has some leisure on Sunday, so she teaches a Sunday school class and catches up with her duties a president of the Woman’s Society of Christian Service.”
            My sister, my cousins and I have been blessed with a family legacy of Christian values and of service to country. What a cherished memento to have a sample of this legacy preserved in a newspaper article from the past.