From Mud Pile to Centerpiece

0 comments Posted on February 26, 2020

by Dianne Neal Matthews

“When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” Is there anybody who hasn’t heard that familiar saying? It’s the perfect way to capture the attitude of optimism in the face of adversity, or taking what life throws at you and turning it into something good and useful. A recent conversation with a friend gave me the idea for a variation on this old adage.

After moving to southeast Texas several years ago, I occasionally noticed strange-looking mounds of mud in ditches and other wet, low lying areas, sometimes even on the edges of neighbors’ yards. They resembled miniature volcanoes made out of dirt with an open center. It didn’t take me long to figure out what I was looking at: a crawfish “chimney.” Each pile of mud represented an underground burrow that a crawfish (also called a mudbug) was living in.

Later, we moved over into Louisiana, where those familiar mounds of mud also pop up early in the year. One day I snapped a picture to post on Facebook and invited people to guess what it might be. Any wild guesses were eclipsed by my friend Ellen’s comment. She said that she once helped her mom make table centerpieces out of crawfish mounds for a hospital volunteer luncheon. (Talk about re-purposing an object!) I had to see a photo, because despite a vivid imagination, I was not able to conjure up any visual image at all.

Ellen later explained how her mom used a shovel to scoop up the mounds of mud from a field. Then they dried them in an oven on low heat and coated them with a clear acrylic spray. The centerpieces were decorated with faux greenery and flowers, sometimes rocks and seashells. But each one included a plastic crawfish.

The luncheon attendees enjoyed the centerpieces so much that Ellen later shared the idea with a friend who was planning her son’s wedding rehearsal dinner. Ellen grabbed a shovel and went out hunting for crawfish mounds, which her friend then decorated. They added the perfect touch to the Cajun-themed crawfish boil.

So let people in other parts of the country talk about stirring up lemonade from life’s lemons. Here in southwest Louisiana, I think we should say: “When life hands you a pile of mud, make a nice table centerpiece.”

Dianne Neal Matthews is the author of several daily devotional books including The One Year Women of the Bible. She also writes for websites, blogs, and compilations (including Guideposts’ Mornings with Jesus). She currently lives in southwest Louisiana where she loves pralines but does not eat mudbugs. To learn more, visit or connect with Dianne through Facebook or Twitter.


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