Off to see the wizard

I love my sister Nan's Wizard of Oz clock. "There's no sister like Holm!"

I love my sister Nan’s Wizard of Oz clock. “There’s no sister like Holm!”

My sister Nan was a huge Wizard of Oz fan. In fact, she had a whole Wizard of Oz themed room–one of her and her husband Gary’s guest bedrooms when they lived in Yreka, California, just a few miles south of the Oregon border.

I’ll never forget the time we were treasure hunting at an antique mall when she found life-size cardboard Oz figures. She was in heaven . . . or maybe I should say Emerald City.

Then she had to explain it to Gary.

“How are we going to get those in the car?” he said.

Well, where there’s a wiz, there’s a way.

After Nan passed away last year, I ended up with several boxes of Oz. I thought about using the things to decorate one of our empty nest bedrooms, but, frankly, The Wizard of Oz always scared the begeebies out of me! My idea of thematic bedroom decorating is BEACH. No flying monkeys in my house!

But I was drawn to this cute ruby red slippers clock. It reminds me that “There’s no place like home” . . . and my sister’s smiling face when she was finally able to create her own home with her Southwest personal touches in Phoenix.

Pics from Rachel's visit to the Wizard of Oz Museum.

Pics from Rachel’s visit to the Wizard of Oz Museum.

It tickled me this last week to see that my niece, her daughter, visited the Wizard of Oz Museum in Kansas. Nan would have loved visiting that museum . . . and while it saddens me that she didn’t see all her bucket list places, she is now truly experiencing the Oz theme: “There’s no place like home.”


Just wondering: Are there special movies you associate with folks you love?

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Keeping score

At my Loyalton High scorekeeping table!

At my Loyalton High scorekeeping table!

Some of you know — especially if you live locally — that I have been the official basketball scorekeeper at Loyalton High for many years. I started keeping score many years ago when Craig was coaching our kids.

And . . . some of you know that the Loyalton High Grizzly girls are having a great post-season ride as the California Interscholastic Federation’s North Section Division 6 champions, with an overall record of 27-2. Their next challenge is now the semi-final round of Norcal State Playoffs — with a home game this weekend.

Years ago NBA great Michael Jordan said, “I can accept failure; everyone fails at something, but what I cannot accept is NOT TRYING.” He learned from his failure–even not making his high school team one year–only allowing it to spur him on in intensity.

Our girls have learned from their two losses–both from high division teams:

  • “I learned that winning isn’t everything and that . . . loss does not define your character.”
  • “In life you will lose, but you get back up and strive for more so that you come back the victor.”
  • “I learned not to let the attitudes and actions of others dictate how you play as an individual. If you stay positive, the rest of your team will see that and hopefully start being positive.”
  • “Life is going through obstacles. . . . Sometimes you have to fail first in order to succeed later.”

Wise young women for their age, right? They sound like Paul: “I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:14). In fact, their maturity has probably kept them cool and focused.

In my writing life I’ve had WAY more rejection than acceptance. Thirteen magazine editors rejected one story I submitted to them. At that point I finally thought, Hmmm, maybe I need to change something. 

Duh. As I reread the piece, I found a bitter scene and took it out. It sold on the fourteenth try.

That was a record of 1-13 for that story. Seemingly a loss record except for the thousands who read it and were encouraged to keep trying in their marriages.

How do you keep score in your life? Do you focus on what others have done to you? Do you measure your failures and successes? Be a Michael Jordan or a Bailie or a Hayden — and allow your failures to propel you toward a better you.



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Daddy-daughter dates

My husband Craig just took our daughter Rebekah to our church’s Father-Daughter Dance for the second year in a row. Seeing them all dressed up reminded me of a couple memorable moments with my dad.

I wish I still had my wooden tennis racket.

I wish I still had my wooden tennis racket.

It was just he and I on the high school tennis courts in our hometown of Hudson, New York. It is the one sport I have continued to play into adulthood — and usually think of Dad when I do.

From his instruction I learned to face life head-on in readiness — just as he did when he learned he had amyotropic lateral sclerosis (ALS–Lou Gehrig’s Disease) — and to give the task at hand your best whack with great follow through.

I've got the travel bug now!

I’ve got the travel bug now!

One date I remember was also at the high school, where he took me to a travelogue lecture. I have no idea who the speaker was or what country the lecture was about. I was mostly impressed that my dad would think me smart enough to take it all in and learn something from the experience.

That particulate evening, I think, planted a seed of confidence that lay dormant for many, many years but later — sometime around my junior year of college — began to grow so that I finally understood that if I apply myself, I can persevere through confusion so as to understand challenging material.

Because I was the oldest of five children, there wasn’t always time for a lot of one-on-one time with my dad. He was a department store manager and lived there a lot during our waking hours. But I was always treated like royalty when I swished through the revolving doors of Marsh’s Department Store.

So, seeing my daughter treated like royalty — complete with flowers and fine dining at Steak ‘n’ Shake — makes me glad the tradition is alive.

What is your favorite childhood memory?


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Pennies for . . . pizza?

Have you got a jar that looks like this?

Have you got a jar that looks like this?

I learn something every day from my high school students. Today their lesson was about motivation.

Our school is again participating in the Pennies for Patients campaign for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, which raises money through the generous donations from elementary, middle and high school students over a several week period.

Kids bring in their and their parents’ spare pennies and other change that often just collects in a jar on the counter or dresser — and that spare change amounts to millions to help kids fighting cancer.

At my school it’s a class competition, and I’ve been really impressed that the senior boys, in particular, have been dumping sandwich bags, socks, heart boxes and other virtual depositories of coins into the cardboard box on my desk.

Today I said, “Guys, I am just so impressed with the way you are giving so generously!”

One boy responded, “Hey, we just want the pizza party!”

“But don’t you realize,” I said, “that you could buy a heck of lot more pizza with what you’re donating?”

And then the truth came out. “Mrs. McHenry,” another boy said, “basically, it comes down to winning. We’re competitive. We just want to win.”


So, I figure there will be winning involved this year. My seniors will win pizza. And even more money will be raised for cancer research–particularly for earlier diagnosis of the disease, safer treatment options and a cure. In other words, lives could be won.

That’s a competition worth entering. Let me know if you’d like to give, too. And we’ll invite you for pizza.


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A clutter-free existence

The enemy: clutter

The enemy: clutter

I hate clutter.

I like a thing in its place, so I have a bright, shining face.

Therefore, when I see Craig’s things, like these shoes, nilly willy here and there, I get a grrrr in my gut. Why can’t he…?



However, on this particular day just a few feet away were my boots standing there in my bedroom corner willy nilly and not in their appointed spot behind doors.

And as I continued to survey the house on my cleaning rampage, I realized that most of the clutter was mine. Like 90 percent of the clutter.

At the end of my houseworkout, it occurred to me that life’s external messes are a lot like its internal ones. It’s so easy to see the clutter in someone else–when I’ve got just as much. I can get SO offended by someone else’s sarcastic comment or bad attitude or refusal to take responsibility, while I tolerate that same clutter in myself.

Jesus noticed clutter, too. “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?” (Matthew 7:3).

He used the H word, too. No, not housework. Hypocrite. 

The faith walk requires a lot of housework. Scrubbing away grime. Vacuuming up grit. And eliminating clutter. And like everyday life in the house trenches, it’s a never-ending job. Just when you’ve got your spiritual laundry folded and put away . . . in march muddy boots.

And they just might be your own.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – — – – – – – – – – – – –

Just for fun . . . what’s your best tip on eliminating that literal clutter in your life?



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Take a walk in their shoes

The Walk a Mile in My Shoes helps the homeless in Reno. See you there?

The Walk a Mile in My Shoes helps the homeless in Reno. See you there?

I love walking, but in the winter in the Sierra Valley it’s challenging. Sub-freezing temperatures. Snow. Ice. Shorter daylight hours. You just have to have the proper gear and, just as important, a determined mindset. It’s good to get outdoors and alleviate that S.A.D. (Seasonal Affective Disorder) stuff.

However, if you walk in the Reno area, especially near the downtown, you see folks who’d probably rather not be out in the cold–folks who not only have to walk in the cold but also have to eat, pass the time, and sleep there as well.

One of the area’s most successful programs in the Reno area that not only feeds and shelters the homeless but also guides them through a life-changing program that makes them productive citizens again is the Reno-Sparks Gospel Mission.

And one way you can directly help the mission of the Mission is through the annual Walk a Mile in My Shoes. The cost is just $30 ($25/each for groups of four or more). It starts at 9 a.m. at Wingfield Park in downtown Reno and proceeds one mile to the Mission; you can choose to walk back or get a shuttle provided by the Mission. At the end of this blog is a registration form with more info or you could call the Mission at 775-323-0386 to register via PayPal. You can even just show up that morning.

Hope to see you there! Even if it’s cold, the walk will warm your heart.

P.S. If you’re not near Reno, maybe there’s a similar kind of fundraiser that you could support in your own community.


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Outgrowing your shell

This ornament gift will stay up year-long.

This ornament gift will stay up year-long.

A thoughtful, loving friend gave me this dear ornament for Christmas as a remembrance of my sister Nan, who had died earlier that month. Hallmark put this inscription on it: “The ones we’ve lost are found in our memories.”

True, but the greater meaning of the ornament is in its design. It must have been modeled after Oliver Wendell Holmes poem, “The Chambered Nautilus,” which reminds us that just as the ocean animal eventually grows out of its expanding shell, so we, too, outgrow our earthly shell.

My own real chambered nautilus, on the right.

My own real chambered nautilus, on the right.

I’ve always loved that poem, which I teach each year to my American lit 11th graders. I even bought a nautilus shell to add to my shell collection and use as an object when we study the poem.

While I would never try to pat-pat someone grieving with trite expressions, the beauty of this little ornament just struck me deeply in my soul — and I knew it to be true. So, given all my backstory with that poem, I also knew God had nudged my friend Jane to buy that ornament for me — and it will be something that hangs on my little wooden cross, always.

Here’s Holmes’ poem, which may be a gift for you today — or someone you know who may be grieving.

The Chambered Nautilus

By Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. (via

This is the ship of pearl, which, poets feign,
   Sails the unshadowed main,—
   The venturous bark that flings
On the sweet summer wind its purpled wings
In gulfs enchanted, where the Siren sings,
   And coral reefs lie bare,
Where the cold sea-maids rise to sun their streaming hair.
Its webs of living gauze no more unfurl;
   Wrecked is the ship of pearl!
   And every chambered cell,
Where its dim dreaming life was wont to dwell,
As the frail tenant shaped his growing shell,
   Before thee lies revealed,—
Its irised ceiling rent, its sunless crypt unsealed!
Year after year beheld the silent toil
   That spread his lustrous coil;
   Still, as the spiral grew,
He left the past year’s dwelling for the new,
Stole with soft step its shining archway through,
   Built up its idle door,
Stretched in his last-found home, and knew the old no more.
Thanks for the heavenly message brought by thee,
   Child of the wandering sea,
   Cast from her lap, forlorn!
From thy dead lips a clearer note is born
Than ever Triton blew from wreathèd horn!
   While on mine ear it rings,
Through the deep caves of thought I hear a voice that sings:—
Build thee more stately mansions, O my soul,
   As the swift seasons roll!
   Leave thy low-vaulted past!
Let each new temple, nobler than the last,
Shut thee from heaven with a dome more vast,
   Till thou at length art free,
Leaving thine outgrown shell by life’s unresting sea!
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