About once or twice a year, I become a rebel. Many already know my great acts of rebellion. I have parked in someone else's undesignated parking spot, creating chaos at City Hall as everyone tries to realign their routines and adjust to my interruption.

I have moved the lamp on my desk to the left of my computer instead of the right - it's in the view of others this way, disrupting their ability to see me and out the window behind me. Once, I drove without my seatbelt! Sometimes, just to assert myself, I sit in my husband's recliner. This alway erupts turmoil in the household as he tries to re-establish his dominance knowing that my act has fully challenged him.

I am feeling a rebel spirit arising again. As I was driving to work, at the same time, parking in the same place I have parked since I worked here, I began to feel it. I am not a robot! I am not a sheep! I am an independent, strong willed southern woman and I want the world to know it!

So, I am sitting behind my desk barefoot! That'll teach them! And at lunch, I am going to order a hamburger instead of pasta! I may get the REAL rebellious and go home five minutes early. Then, I may park my car where my husband usually parks his truck. I may even let HIM fold the laundry tonight!

The possibilities are endless. It's Friday and I have an entire weekend of rebellion I can plan out. I will have to be creative since my last rebellions are now anticipated. Oh the fun this could be.


Teach Me about Life

In my life there have been many teachers of many different subjects. I was talking to my mom a few weeks ago and I told her I wanted to visit Mr. Askins, my favorite high school teacher, when I visited her later this year. I could imagine the heroe's welcome as I walked through the front doors of the high school. I am sure that life there has been dismal and bland without me being there. There would be confetti, bands playing, dancers dancing...

"Robbi, Mr. Askins retired over ten years ago. I am not sure how you will track him down!" interrupted my imaginary fanfare. "What! Teachers don't ever leave the schools, they don't age, we don't age in their eyes - they wait for us to come back and tell them how great we are and how much they had to do with it!" was my initial response. The thought had never crossed my mind. I have aged - it's been over 20 years since I walked the halls of my old high school...o.k.! It's been over 25 years. That would make Mr. Askins....I suppose....rather aged.

I have spent a lot of time since talking to my Mom, a retired teacher herself, thinking about the reality of life. As a child, we look at our teachers as super-heroes. They can never fail. They can never grow old. They are placed in those schools to teach and teach forever and ever. It's their lifes mission to instill skills, knowledge and morals in us that will get us through our lives. A few stand out in my mind.

Mrs. Howard was my first grade teacher. She was psychic! She knew if Little Tommy Powers and I were ABOUT to begin one of our extreme giggling sessions and was very good at placing one or both of us in the hallway before we disrupted the entire class. She was a large woman, redheaded which could have attributed to her affection for me, and she was so full of love and warmth, a child could never get enough of her attention.

Mrs. Coble was my sixth grade teacher. It took two 18 hour bras to support her and after a few days, they qualified for disability. She wore these huge necklaces - owls, flowers, any kind of ornament - across her chest. Her black hair and charcoal eyes made her expression terrifying. Those not in her class cowered in her presence. Those in her class were her babies. Fortunately, for me, I was in her class and got the full Mrs. Coble treatment. I loved her demanding demeanor combined with her tearful response when someone showed up without their winter jacket because they didn't have one. She was the perfect balance. To this day, in my opinion, she was the perfect teacher. She died several years ago.

Fast forward to Mr. Askins. In the 11th grade I got my first class with Mr. Askins. He was my typing teacher. He was a large black man who could laugh so loud the walls would shake. Many were fearful of him, but I took great delight in tormenting him. For the first time in my life, a teacher's accent was worse than mine. As he would call out the letters, I would type "R-a R-a R -a" and he would say "I only called out one letter...R-a" when he reviewed my paper. I would say "oh...you meant R, the letter R, here I was typing R-a as fast as I could and that dash really took some getting used to!" He knew me, I knew him. I was the fastest typest in his class and he tested my speed daily. I never intended to sound disrespectful but the gauntlet was down. Ever day we found a reason to nit pik each other's accents as he pushed me to excel further with my typing skills, he KNEW my joking was based on my natural affection for him and he would put his head back and laugh. I did not disrespect this teacher, I loved him! He would usually respond to my accent with "Waaaaaat!" when I would say "Mr. Askins" (he said it sounded like Mister ASSSSKeeens" to him) It was a great battle we had challenging one anothers uniqueness.

My favorite was the number 4. FO FO FO FO FO FO FO was what I would type on days I was feeling a little rebellious - he KNEW I was going to and he would say - "The NUMBER 4 (FO)!" I would feign frustration and begin typing "The number fo" over and over again still beating out my classmates. He could call out to me "Robbi, why are you typing so much" and I would say "gee Mr. Askins, that's alot to type and I don't think I am spelling FO right!" He would walk over to see what it was this time, look at my paper and begin to chuckle "it begins with an "F" sort of like the one your parents will be seeing on your report card!" This would force my defeat. I would smile and say "oh, you meant the real number F O U R". He would bust into a laugh - "yes, I think you finally figured it out - I thought you might!"

The next year I took Typing II AND shorthand JUST SO I would get Mr. Askins again. Everyday, I would walk into class and say "Mrs. Askins do we really have to do shorthand today?" and he would laugh and respond with something like "well, I am sure when you get to the real world you can pick what you do with your days!" and off we would go with dictation. It was harder to torment him about his accent with shorthand so I decided to be more serious and just try to be the fasted one in the class. I was always competitive but only after I would try to divert the class plan from working.

I truly loved this man. He helped me write my first resume. He helped me write my first letter of thanks for an interview. He literally yelled congratulations over the phone when I called him and told him I got my first job. He always made me feel like the most successful student he ever had when in truth I was not. I wanted him to feel like the most successful teacher I ever had because in truth, to me, he was.

Fast forward back to my conversation with my Mom. How did time pass by so quickly that a school would lose a glorious teacher like Mr. Askins to age? I am so doubtful that he could possibly be replaced. In my life he can not. The last thing Mr. Askins was for me was a great witness. He prayed in class. He told us about his faith. On those days that I did manage to divert him, the stories he told were of faith, testimony, great adventures overcoming racism and life when rights were not so equal - those were stories! He challenged us morally and explained in great detail the rules of ethics to us. It wasn't a duty, it was a passion to him. He demonstrated contentment with his role in life. He was a teacher in a small town high school. He taught students who wondered how he could be happy with that. They wanted more. They wanted to see the world. They wanted to experience the world.

It's taken over 25 years for me to realize that Mr. Askins was experiencing the world. He was witnessing to the next generation - us. He was one of many people I knew who grew up being told they were not equal yet knowing they were. He was one of many people who never once expected me to compensate or apologize to him for the shortfalls of my forefathers. HE was a hero! Last but not least, he was a man who understood the value of teasing and ribbing one another without believing it to be personal or judgemental, just like I never believed for one minute his teasing me was personal. He taught me to laugh with one and all. He taught me humility. He's gone now - retired. We are here and now. He set the example. Now, I suppose, it's our turn to follow him and make sure the next generation sees the same in us that my generation saw in him. I still haven't perfected my accent and I get the occasional "what are you saying" from someone and I love it! It always reminds me of that glorious laugh Mr. Askins would share when we tested his patience. One of the most important things he ever taught me was to laugh and not take life to seriously. Sometimes it's our unique differences that bring on the occasion to appreciate one another. I am so glad Mr. Askins had that accent, it gave me so much opportunity to goad that laugh out of him. I can hear it now just like those days in my past.



I haven't felt "inspired" lately. That's a complaint I have exercised for the last several days. There have been no life changing events that impacted me or anyone I knew. There have been no wonderfully positive experiences. I have seen no miracles!

So, I look at the blank screen and I begin to read my own words and analyze my own statements. What inspires me? Who inspires me? Why do I seek "inspiration" before I can begin a journal entry?

Let's see - so far since my last entry tornadoes have devastated the mid-section of our country. One area much larger than the size of this town I love is completely gone! The Chinese are still hovering in terror over aftershocks that decimated entire communities. Our soldiers are still dealing with the terrorism in the middle east that will not allow them to come home.

Closer to home - We are entering into another drought in our area. The young boys down the road who lost their father at Christmas are becoming more and more rebellious-things are disappearing off of farms. Their landlord is trying to be a generous and kind man and working with them. So far he has refused to kick them out despite the complaints of his friends and neighbors. We are fearful that our "stuff" may disappear and these boys are to blame. Now their landlord is to blame. Forget forgiveness, let's convict them right now!

Maybe what I am seeking is an escape from the real world around me. I review the events, the media, the conversations with friends and family and the "inspiration" is everywhere. I have been spared on all accounts - my house is intact and no tornadoes are baring down on me. No earthquakes have rattled my world. No one has bothered my stuff - my dogs just seem too fierce. I'm glad they don't know the dogs are really wimps.

I did find my inspiration though. It's the neighbor who refuses to condemn young boys who are becoming young men without the guidance of a father figure in their life. He's exercising and demonstrating forgiveness and he's giving these boys a chance at redemption. He's demonstrating to them that God can and will lead a good man through his trials and tribulations. He's demonstrating to the rest of us that grace far outweighs revenge in the grand scheme of things. Living in fear of losing "stuff" can only come to a negative conclusion.

Would it be better for me, a "professed" Christian to condemn these young men and drive them away from our community, making it a better place to live, or would it be better for me to try to help them find a better way, lead them into the church, through the scripture and my own example and into eternal salvation? I'm not sure if I can succeed - no - I know I can not succeed. However, WE as a community of sisters and brothers, through prayer and continued grace demonstrated can succeed. Independently, we are victims or potential victims. Together we are a community, neighbors, a family. This family includes the rebellious boys or it should. You can't pick who God places in your path, you can only choose to either walk past them or stop and share the world with them.

I've said this repeatedly in my life - "if not for the grace of God", but I've failed so many times to realize that I too can demonstrate grace. Hopefully, one day I will get it right. Hopefully, one day, I will truly realize that grace is a gift from God to me. I can't give it as a "gift" to anyone else because it's my duty to reflect what I have already been given to others.

What "inspires" me? Everything in this world!


Blessings of Service

On certain spring mornings, the cool air gently embraces my senses. There is a damp stillness that greets me as I walk out the door. I know this day will present much less inviting atmosphere as it progresses and I enjoy the beauty of the moment.

The day begins to evolve into mid-morning and then afternoon and the cool air is replaced by sun driven heat. My skin feels it, my senses tell me to seek cool shelter and retreat from the harsh heat that begins to invade. I am on the ground so I can't experience the events that God puts into motion when the temperatures begin to change.

Just after lunch most days, I can look out and see them - the buzzards - nature's little groundskeepers. Most people look at them and are repulsed by their ugly heads, their awkward bodies and yes, their pungeant odor they develop from a most disgusting job they have been assigned. God gives each of us an assignment. He gave the birds and beasts assignments way before our time. Unlike us, they do not have to seek their duties in life. They have the driving instinct to fulfill their mission as fulfillment of their mission is the only thing that guarantees their survival. Our free will gives us choice, their servitude gives them the will to serve.

I see the buzzards high in the air. Sometimes they are so high they look like tiny little dots. They move so gracefully and artfully, I wonder how anyone can find them repulsive. They spread their wings and they ride the currents that are created from the progress of the day. Seldom do they make the effort to flap, they simply move from one current to another as the air rises to meet them. They swirl, twist, dance to a melody created by God just for them.

The greatest part is, I get to witness this activity. I watch the skillful movements, I envy the sense of freedom they must experience and I wonder how they can ever want to come down from those skies. If there is a storm on the horizon, they can ride for hours, effortlessly. It's more beautiful than any ballet I have ever witnessed. If on their way they catch the scent of death - that stink we try to avoid - they will go to it and remove it from our world - taking it from our sight - cleaning our planet.

That's how it works really in my opinion. We have a mission given to us from God. Some of us spend our lives trying to find that mission but it's really simple - service! We simply are here to serve our higher power and one another. Our service alone is the ballet that highlights the orchestra of our intertwined lives. We are blessed along the way with skills, gifts and just daily events the give us pleasure from the service.

Those buzzards have to have been assigned the worst job on earth! They take it willingly because they are also designed to not realize it's disgusting to the human species and they really do not care how we feel about it. In exchange, the blessing of flight - a most free flight - is the gift returned to them for their service! They use that gift to more further glorify our creator in that witnessing it reminds us just how magnificent the world around us - our gift from God - truly is.

Many days when I come upon an assignment in the service of my job or in dealing with my family and neighbors, I think about those birds. They are really ugly creatures on the ground and they stink! I can be pretty ugly when I'm in rebellion or self-serving mode. But, when they fly - oh to be them! I want to fly like them. I want to know my blessings and I want to take those blessings to further glorify God. They do it effortlessly. It's my desire for reward that causes me to often do it selfishly.

I thank God for the day, the ugly birds, and my life! I thank Him for those who need me and for the skills He gave me to serve. I pray that my service to Him is as rewarding in his realm as those bird's service to me is.


The Journeys of Life

It's an amazing foggy morning here in Brundidge. The fog is so thick it's difficult to see much further than the front of the car. The spider webs in the fields and ditches are glistening with droplets of dew that make them look like lacy canvas fringing the weeds. The fog always presents the world in a different and mysterious manner. It shows me that the world is not the same. Everyday is new, every little aspect of my world is a mystery to explore further.

As I was driving the five mile drive to work today, the fog left me reflective. Ten years ago, I would have been more than likely heading to an airport on a foggy morning to audit some company hither yon. I spent a lot of time seeing the country from the air. I passed over some of the most awesome scenery, leaving it behind to explore another day. My guess is there are those passing over me today, looking down and wondering what we are doing in our boring one horse town. The fast pace of the corporate life doesn't give much time to stop and enjoy a foggy day. But, when one is living that life, they are convinced it's the only way to live.

I have been on planes that have flown through such fierce thunderstorms that the overhead compartments were knocked open. I have seen stewardesses skillfully hold a drink in a glass against the ceiling as the plane dipped to prevent it from spilling over. I have seen snow in the air and landed to see that it has turned to rain. I have sat on runways as machines and people spray de-icer on the plane. I have prayed as a pilot announced that "we've got a bit of trouble, this landing is going to be a little rough." All of these adventures were in the quest of career goals and a secure life yet each one of them reminded me that country living, the life I had left behind, was much more important. As time advanced, my goals changed and serenity and peace became my new ambition.

We sacrifice in the name of "future security". We sacrifice our children's time, our own time, relationships, even worship. We justify it by telling ourselves that when we "get there" it will all have been worth it. I am reminded of a story in the Bible. A gentleman "got there" and had all his material world stored up for his future. God explained to him that it was unfortunate he had worked so hard to secure his future because his future was now and he was going to call him home.

We have to sacrifice at times. We have to work ever diligently to keep our lives from drifting into complete failure. But - is the sacrifice spiritual growth or material gain? It took me my entire 45 years to understand my answer to that question. I need a roof over my head, food on the table, clothes. I don't need the best of the best and I find that God always makes sure I am fed, clothed and sheltered. I work towards providing for myself and my family but these days, I work harder at providing spiritual nourishment. I have a daughter who needs to understand that depending on God and working through His spirit is much more powerful than depending on self and working through the spirit of this world.

I never did get rich from serving corporate America. I won't get rich from serving God! Rich isn't my goal anymore - peace and serenity is. Rich from serving corporate America could leave me like that man in the Bible - with a warehouse full of stuff and no time to use it. Rich from serving God will leave me an eternity in my father's house. So, I AM getting richer by the day. It's just not the stuff anyone would see me wearing, driving or carrying out my front door. If I get it right though, they will see it - in my smile, in my peace, in my contentment for what I already have. I don't begrudge those with material possessions. Some of them are the greatest servants God could ever ask for and they are wonderful stewards of His money. But, I appreciate that God reminds me daily what is important in my life. I am even more appreciative that eternity is mine - an eternity where we will all appreciate one another and our Lord and Savior.


What Held You There?

Last year my daughter rescued some tiny kittens from the barn. They were newborns and their mother had, for some reason, left them. It didn't take us long to figure out that they were sickly and it was a struggle to keep the two that survived alive - a very big struggle. They are now a year old and thriving in our household. They are "The J's" - A & B J are their names. What started out for one as Black Jack soon became Black Jackee and then B J. The other was bigger so we figured he was first born - so he became A.

The J's have the run of our house. They don't like the puppies and they don't like anyone but us. It's obvious they were born to wild cats and their nature is to behave in a wild and anti-social manner. Unfortunately, they did not inherit the instinct and uncanny knack for survival that most wild cats have. They are quite mentally challenged. I was reminded of that this morning as A-J hovered on the roof over the same ladder we use routinely to rescue him. He climbs the big oak tree and jumps down to the roof. It must SEEM LIKE fun and he must not remember that last three of four 24 hour sessions he spent up there. This time, however, he DID remember where we normally put the ladder to rescue him. He was there waiting.

I set up the ladder and Tigger immediately ran up it and onto the roof then back down it. I could almost hear him screaming - "Look dummy, it's just this easy" but A-J would not jump onto the ladder. When I climbed the ladder to try to grab him, he stayed just out of arm's reach. So, I left for work. After a day, he'll be ready to be grabbed. I wonder how he can't figure out that the tree is as easy to climb down as it is to climb up - Tigger does!

Driving to work, I heard a song. I never remember the names of songs, but the message was profound. As I reflected on the nature of my cat to always challenge my patience, the song reminded me that I too am a trying creature constantly challenging my heavenly guide. This song gave me a new perspective on an old story - the story of the cross.

We've all read the Biblical accounts of the four Apostles who describe the scene at Calvary. We have seen the movie. The violent false accusations, the violent abuse, the torture, the journey to the hill, the nails, the hours of darkness followed by the death of our Lord and Savior. How horrific this image is to me even as I reflect today. Jesus was an innocent man. He was a perfect man. He was God.

That's it! That's the new perspective on the old story for me. Jesus was God born of man. He performed miracles, fed thousands on crumbs, walked on water and then....hung there on a cross after being beaten and tortured. Why did he do that? He was and is God! So why did he take that sort of punishment ESPECIALLY given the fact that he was perfectly innocent?

There is the prophecy that Jesus knew He had to fulfill. He already knew the ressurrection. He already knew he would ascend back to His father. He knew what He would be doing those three days before his earthly body was revived. That's how I have always looked at this story - he HAD to fulfill the prophecy. But, that's a really tiny way to look at a really big event.

Jesus hung on that cross for me! He did it for me and you and everyone else in this world! He hung there, in pain, nails ripping his body, soldiers tormenting him, each breath coming a little more slowly simply and purely because He loved us! He loved a perfect love that gave him the perfect patience to take that pain and suffering just because he loved. How hard is that for me, an imperfect person to imagine and then accept? How much grace can a God have that He would endure that sort of tribulation just to save me?

Jesus was and is God. He could have - at ANY time - stopped the entire scene. He could have turned his accusers into dust. He could have easily come down from the cross and condemned us all to certain death! If I were hanging there and those options were available to me, I would probably have said "these fools are not worth it!" I can't even be patient with a stupid cat!

I am so grateful that God gave the gift of song and inspiration to certain followers. I am so grateful for the gift of a radio in my car and people committed enough to evangelism that they continue to present these revelations to me. I am so grateful, and unworthy, of the fact that instead of using his Godly powers, Jesus took the hard road and stayed the course. He never abandoned the mission and that mission's purpose was the guarantee of salvation regardless of my unworthiness.

Today began with a stupid cat doing stupid stuff. It will probably continue with stupid people, including myself doing stupid stuff. But when it's all said and done. All has been paid for by one man. Oh Thank you God for that mission and for seeing a worthiness in me that I can not see myself!


Mending Fences

A couple of weeks ago, two of my horses found a breach in the fencing and took full advantage of it. This breach was the result of a tornado two years ago. It had ripped across the back corner of our property which borders our neighbor's property and severely damaged some trees. But, several of the trees were left with their tops dangling.

We've been busy over the last couple of years and only occasionally survey the area. The high winds this spring have finally either toppled the dying trees or blown the damaged and dead tops out of them. In this particular instance, the top landed on the fence. It wasn't much of a challenge for the guys to walk right across. What was interesting is that only the two "handicapped" horses made the walk.

Minnie was given to me last fall by a young man who simply could not afford the increase in hay and feed prices. She was underweight, completely blind in one eye and only slightly better sighted in the other eye. Throughout the winter, we have fed, loved and cared for her and her weight is beginning to increase. She's learned the boundaries and she's bonded with the others.

Radar was 8 years old when he won the 1986 Spotted Trail Horse Competition with his owner, Mr. David. In 1997, Mr. David callled me to ask would I be interested in a "trade". I had a stud-horse who had become quite the challenge and he had Radar. In reality, the stud-horse was a dud-horse. I spent more time trying to avoid his feet than riding him. In contrast, Radar was a champion. He is red spotted with the bluest eyes of any creature I have ever seen. It's like looking at the bright blue sky.

My husband and I met with Mr. David. I rode Radar and did not even want to dismount. It was like riding a dream- a perfect combination of spirit and wisdom that made me most assured I could trust this horse on any trail. When I rode him back to Mr. David he shocked me with his statement. "I've heard about you young lady. You have that old horse Trusty and you have refused to sell him to anyone. You know he's gonna get old and die, but you have told so many people that you will bury him before you sell him some of these fellas have decided you are half-witted."

I couldn't disagree. Trusty was a retired "Therapy" horse and he taught Leiren and any other person terrified of horses what it was like to really ride a horse. He didn't love anyone but he devoted his life to teaching people to love him. That was enough for me.

I was offended, however, that people would talk such talk about me being "half-witted" and in my half-witted way, I tried to respond. "Look Mr. David, I don't appreciate how people think I have to sell a horse because it's a good horse and let it go to the next person simply to eventually send it to glue factory when it can no longer be ridden. That's just wrong. If you don't like that, that's just too bad! I won't trade Trusty for Radar even though Radar has another five years on him. So, I'm sorry we wasted your time."

As Dave and I were heading back to the truck, Mr. David followed closely and said. "You know what? You have this and me all wrong. I don't want your Trusty, I want Radar in the pasture next to him! My plan was to take that rogue stallion off your hands in exchange because I know you won't just take him but he's yours. I have two sons who want him so badly they can't stand it but they will sell him next year after I die! I don't even need a promise from you, I already know that you will never let me or Radar down! What little time I have left, I can spend whooping that stallion into shape, it will distract me from the pain."

Have you ever had a moment when you stop and try to rewind the last scene of your life in your mind? I think Dave and I both had that moment right then and there. There, before us, was a man, a well-known man in our community, outlining to us his destiny but working to preserve the destiny of his beloved horse. This was a man I could connect with. This was a man I instantly loved.

He delivered Radar the next day with one condition. He did not want to see us or Radar again. He simply could not bear it. He would be gone, Radar would go on but he wanted to be in control of his goodbyes and he wanted Radar to know that he got the best goodbye the man could give him.

It was not until many months later, when his son came by that we realized Mr. David had passed away. First, his son tried to purchase Radar. That was the hardest "no" I have ever held my ground to. But, I made a promise to a dying man. However, Radar was not my possession, he was a gift to me. And I offered to the son unlimited riding and unlimited visitation to Radar. The son outlined for us the stories of Radar and his Dad - in the shows, on the trails. Radar hated the son and would toss him straight off. So, he assumed the Dad believed the son would hurt or eventually sell the horse.

For nearly two years, the son would visit. He never got the saddle out, just some goodies for Radar. He would sit on the fence or stand there with his head buried in Radar's neck, Radar hanging his head as if to completely understand the grief and pain.

You can do the math - Radar was 8 in 1986 - he's 30 this year! That's a long time for horse. I don't ride him anymore. We just talk and walk around the field. That neck of his is the best tear catcher in the universe. The warm skin and soft fur are just the right texture for one who is hurting or grieving. And those ears will lean back so they can catch every word. He's healed many the wounded spirit - both human and horse. I have even seen Brutus sitting underneath him on occasion.

As my neighbor was screaming at me to get rid of my horses, I looked at her first with contempt but soon realized that Radar was nuzzling her shoulder ever so slightly. Her husband died last year in a bizarre accident. Radar seemed to believe her rage was more grief and he simply stood there, in her personal space, head down, blue eyes staring. Oh yes, he had destroyed her precious son's feed plot and he had oh so enjoyed the fresh foliage. He was in deep you know what! But as she turned around, fully angry with the situation, he caught her attention. It was then that I explained to her who he was - just a 30 year old horse - a promise to a dying man - a source of strength when nothing else in the world made sense - a neighbor! She wasn't quite sold on it- she's a tiny woman and he looked like a giant next to her. However, her rage eased into compassion as she tearfully said "just please, mend that fence".

We mended the fence that very afternoon - after walking the old horse and the blind horse back up the hill. I am sure we will have to work harder to mend the fence of hurt feelings and neighborly love between us and the lady down the hill, but it's the learning to love - something taught to me by a few old horses - that makes the journey so enjoyable. I have already started mending the fence she has put up. Hopefully, I can get through it and install a gate instead of barbed wire.


Full Moon

Last night was a full moon. I love how the moon sheds a different bright light on the world, revealing images and little treasures you never see by the light of day. The shadows become lifelike during a full moon. It's an awesome thing to witness.

My puppies/kids are now 12 weeks old. They have gone from fitting two at a time in one hand to so large and heavy I can barely lift one of them. Yet they still love to be held and cuddled as if they were newborns. I am their mother, their safe ground, and the source of nourishment. They simply want to be near me though they are choosing my daughter and husband as their buddies and playmates. They still come to me when they are hungry or afraid or in need of a bit of reassurance.

The other aspect of a full moon - it scares little puppies - even gigantic puppies are afraid of the shadows. So, at 3:00 this morning, they let me know they were afraid. First they pawed at the back door - managing to wake us up. When that didn't work, they more intently clawed at the back door. Finally, after nearly breaking the glass, my husband gave them each a shot from the dreaded skirt bottle! This was horrific! They were faced with either braving the shots of the water/vinegar mixture or with braving the world of shadows beyond the back porch! Apparently, the shadows had invaded their sleeping quarters as well.

It took a few more squirts from that bottle but they finally retreated to their bed. Husband and I settled back in to grab what little sleep time we had left and just as we layed down....ahh...sll....WHAT - they learned to howl. This wasn't just a "I wish I had someone to play with howl" this was the end all of all sounds. It began as a whine - almost at a level un-noticeable to the human ear but it ended with a howl that made the skin on your back jump back and forth- sort of like hearing me sing in church - that unbelievable off pitch sound that I intend to be music. Only in their case, it wasn't intended as music. They were miserable and they wanted everyone to know it.

Our new plan was to IGNORE them. Yes - IGNORE the most disturbing noise ever to leave a dogs mouth and pretend they don't exist. Oh- that was easy - sure it was! It was soon 3:30 and they began to lose their voices. By 4:00, they turned from howling to blundering into stuff under the house - water lines, cables, floors - anything that they could find to blunder against. Those shadows must have still been chasing them.

At 5:00 I caved. I opened the back door and they literally fell onto the rug. They ate a bit, shook the bed a bit. Tormented the cat a bit, ate a bit more and then laid down to play with the toys the cat hates for them to have. They were happy/safe. I think we were all exhausted.

These kids of mine have been quite the adventure since rescueing them from a dying parent. They are now almost dogs and I forget that they have yet to transition to the role of defender that their parents played in our lives. In those big ole bodies, they are still tiny little puppies who need to be reassured that a shadow is safe and that they are still welcome. I love how they still need me. But, my husband-their father - is not quite so thrilled.


What Happened?

This morning as I was leaving the little store down the road, a nice young gentleman held open the door for me. My guess is he was no older than 15 or 16 and he ever so willingly held the door open responded to my thank you with a "no problem ma'am" as I passed on by. Aside from my husband, I can not recall the last time this has happened.

This week has been a series of reflections on me of different times, different lives and different lifestyles. One thing I think we miss the most with our children are the lessons in etiquette and manners. It doesn't hurt a young man to hold a door open for a lady nor does it hurt a young lady to stand and wait for him to do that.

How many teen ladies simply run you over going through the door and how many times does anyone make them accountable for that? How many young men offer to hold the door open or when do we stand and wait for that either?

We are in such a hurry for destination or to beat the other guy to whatever deal we are seeking that we fail to realize each one of us can work towards discipline and mannerisms that makes this world a better place. I have noticed that many young men will open the door if I stop and wait in anticipation. Sometimes they seem surprised but often I see their expressions soften and their hurry turn into grace.

This leads me to wonder whether I personally contribute to the lack of manners. How many times do I hustle through a doorway, grabbing it and opening it hoping to not have to deal with anyone else? Instead, I could pause and wait for the gentleman to be a gentleman and I could demonstrate my lady mannerisms through acceptance and thankfulness.

Our world is becoming increasingly confusing and hurried. We all want to prove our independence and capabilities in surviving the changes. But, I don't think accepting or better yet, demanding manners from ladies and gentlemen will weaken those capabilities or negatively effect our survival.

My weekend project - stop at the door - see who opens it. When they do, thank them profusely and mean it!



Today I was thinking about my life- past loves, accomplishments, failures - all those things that one occasionally wonders about. You know, the what if's and because of's that we all carry with us into the next day. I believe I carry wisdom and I add to that wisdom every day. I also make new mistakes.

We have a neighbor who is 86 years old. He was in World War II, he fought at Normandy. He knew our town and our neighborhood before either one had much to talk about. And these days he is still seen driving his old green truck back and forth to the store, shaking hands with everyone he meets and just talking about wonderful things past and present.

A few weekends ago, I was able to be in front of him at the Piggly Wiggly and conversation turned to the universal subject - weather. Oh how we have had the rain this year but now the drought seems to be taking hold of our little area. However, we have had enough rain that the new bridge at the end of our dirt road has proven itself a worthy addition to our lives. That old wooden bridge must have been what - 50 or more years old? It had flooded a time or two. But the bridge before it- THAT was the story.

I tuned out the beeping of the cash register, the paging of people to price check and every other thing we were talking about. In 1934, our little road, the rickety dirt road with an even more rickety bridge across the creek leading to the Pea River, was the main transit way back and forth to church and several surrounding communities. Back in those days, there weren't vehicles but buggies and wagons. Only the wealthy elite had the nicer buggies pulled by horses. The majority of the families still had the old fashioned wagons pulled by a team of mules.

On one particular Sunday in 1934, the rains had not ceased. As the old bridge was prone to do, this day it was not sufficient to keep the travellers safe from the water. The water must have been about a foot or more over the bridge. But, everyone knew this bridge and those old mules and horses were familiar with the footing and rails. So crossing it under water was a rather routine experience. Just the thought of this caused me to have to think! These days, my car can't cross anything if the water is above the hubcaps, but those living creatures - horses and mules - were willing to pull vehicles and families through even more challenging circumstances.

Church had let out and the people were returning to their homes, using our dirt road - a road now seldom travelled, as a main pass to get over the creek. They were crossing over the bridge one by one, each waiting their turn as the previous pair of equine pulled their cargo to safety. There was a small wagon with a family and their most trusty pair of mules. These mules were worth their weight in gold. They not only provided the means to get back and forth to church and town, but they plowed the fields, pulled the timber, hoisted the walls and did whatever else their human co-workers asked of them. On this particular Sunday the request was to get across the bridge and back to the house for Sunday Lunch.

Just as the two mules cleared the bridge, an unfamiliar snap was overheard by the crowd either waiting to cross or checking their gear after they crossed. As they looked up, they realized the bridge had finally given in to the pressure of the water and weight. But, the wagon had not cleared the bridge! The mules dug in and heaved with all their strength to pull that wagon over the sides of the now broken bridge all the while the water rushed over the wagon and began pulling it downstream. As the mules pulled, others got down from their vehicles and began grabbing the family out of the swollen creek while others tried to unhitch the mules and simply let the wagon go. Despite the fact that the loss of this wagon would have been a tremendous financial loss for the family, the decision to free the mules was the only option.

Unfortunately, the mules would not cease their pulling, knowing their duties were to rescue that wagon. The men could not get enough slack in the hitch to release it and they all watched in horror as the water began to ever so slowly win the battle of wills. Those mules were the most serious loss to that family that is ever remembered to this day! As they drowned trying to rescue the wagon, everyone grieved. If that bridge would have just held a few more seconds! If those men could have just convinced the mules that it was o.k. to not serve - just this once!

As I stood there in the store, the echo of the register once again beginning to get my attention, I looked at Mr. Max and realized that my times and "his times" were so vastly different I could only imagine through dreaming what he was describing to me. I have a car, to lose it would be horrific but insurance would replace it! If the bridge caved on me and the car, the county would probably help me replace it. Oh how times have changed!

He described to me the main difference in our times and now I am left knowing that I have truly missed out on "good times". Everyone got together. They helped this family retrieve what was left of their wagon after the water subsided. They helped to bury the beloved pair of mules and they helped to fill in with transportation, farming duties and whatever other void was left by the loss of these mules until the family could afford another pair. He seemed to recall that someone may have even donated a mule! That's like a car in today's times only better.

I now know why Max waves to everyone, shakes all hands and speaks to anyone he may have seen in the area. He's a byproduct of times when neighbors were neighbors! He's a byproduct of wars fought and won against horrendous evil rulers! He's a byproduct of a lifestyle where faith and family came first and fame and fortune came sometimes never and that did not even matter. And Thank You Lord - I am a byproduct of his willingness to stand in line at a grocery store and tell me a story, still tearfully, of the loss of a couple of mules on a rainy day.


Not To Be Outdone

Look at the top of this blog. See that scene from paradise. That's the top of the hill on the way to my house. Isn't it lovely?

This morning, as I was getting ready for my most rewarding job, I realized that my iron had decided to quit working. Not to be outdone, I tossed the khakis into the dryer, retrieved them and a pullover and I was good to go.

Next, I let the kids in to eat their breakfast. Not to be outdone, they stepped on the edge of their food pan flinging pea sized pellets all over the entire kitchen and joyously chasing them all the while shoving them underneath every shelf and appliance they could find. Then they proceeded to go "to bed" and would not budge when I sounded the "kids - it's time to go out". These little guys used to fit in one hand. Now, I can barely lift them with both hands. But, I was not outdone- I carried them - one by one - out the front door.

As I was heading to the car, I found the missing kitten. Not to be outdone, their mother ran into the house and managed to place "fear pellets/poop" underneath every piece of furniture I own. Oh what join to re-unite mother and child! Mother's life may be cut short if this incident repeats itself!

Car starts, I turn around and begin heading down that beautiful hill towards destination job. Not to be outdone, as we pull on to the highway, car blows the right rear tire! But that's what cell phones are for. Not to be outdone, my husband has plugged his into the charger and left it turned off making sure to have it fully charged for his work day ahead.

Well, it's only a three mile walk to the house. Not to be outdone, I begin heading that direction. At this point, I am most certain that he will get one of the five or so messages I have left and realizing the seriousness of the latter threats, race towards destination breakdown panic stricken with fear of what could happen if he does not make it. Not to be outdone, he never checks his phone.

I only had to cover a mile or so of highway and fortunately, it's a little early for truckers to be on the road, so I safely make it to the dirt road, the mile towards that hill and then began progressing towards destination home/must kill husband! Not to be outdone, he sits calmly watching the news and planning his day ahead.

As I topped the hill I realized with great joy overcoming exhaustion that the contractors HAVE shown up today! Joy oh joy- contractors are not ones to be dependable when you have everything on schedule. Not to be outdone, my husband has decided to join them and offer them what few vittles remain in the kitchen sans cell phone (I am still calling leaving hostile and threatening messages through gasps for air after traversing the hill!)

As I approach the unsuspecting crew, inhaling the food they have salvaged from the kitchen, not even a dog notices me. So, not to be outdone, I continue my quiet approach and seize the opportunity to scare the living daylights out of them when I announce my car has left me stranded! Not to be outdone, the look of terror in their faces is only slightly bested by the sound of fear in their voices as they try to politely say "and how did you get here!" Oh - not to be outdone- I announce to one and all EXACTLY how I got there - with two feet - all fourteen miles, uphill, life in danger, late for work and WITHOUT the assistance of ANY MALE PERSON on the entire planet!

Sometimes patience and quiet are a virtue. But when you have been left stranded and your better half fails to keep his cell phone on, loud ranting trantrums are THE single most effective means of motivating a crew of three into speeding to the wayward vehicle and without hesitation replacing the destroyed tire with the little tiny bicycle tire they call a donut! And, not to be outdone, they offered me a vehicle and proceeded to get the tire replaced, the car gassed completely up and clean before swapping with me at lunch.

You see those little sweet deer in the photo? They had to have seen it all. Not to be outdone, they never let anyone see them watching. My guess is that they are having quite the laugh over all of it this afternoon.


Ahh Monday!

It's Monday! I say yaaaay as I try to find my routine again. I love weekends - those days when I do what ever it is I want or need to get done but I also love weekdays when I come to work and do something productive for someone else!

Yesterday, after the storms passed, we braved the warm winds and planted our garden. We are "late" this year by comparison to past years and it felt oh so great to be in the sun and wind with dirt up to our knees and elbows. My husband and I work quite well, he tills and marks the rows, I put the plants and seeds into the ground. It's a wonderful quiet that we experience knowing what needs to be done by whom next. It's a wonderful time to reflect on a union that God gave us that continues to bless my life nearly 20 years later.

When I plant my garden, I get to witness the growth of new life. That new life produces nourishment and joy for me as it matures. I then realize that the seed of the Holy Spirit has been planted in my life and I hope as that growth matures, God gets the same pleasure from me as I get from my garden.

I have to work daily to keep the weeds and bugs and vermin out of the garden. I have to make the same effort in my spiritual life. God gave me His Word as fertilizer and His Son as the water that washes over me. Fortunately, He also gave me a soul so I am more than nourishment and entertainment for God. I am an integral part of his kingdom, an everlasting spirit, and a blessed inheriter of all His promises. I only hope when I mature that I am as productive in His garden as those vegetables are in mine!


Mother's Day

I think Sunday is Mother's Day. It's a great time to stop and thank our mothers for bringing us into this world and not subsequently taking us back out when they realized we are just rebellious sons and daughters!

To me, it's an even better time to thank God once again for the world we have. He gave me a mother that I cherish and a grandmother who was my mother's mother I adored. They have handed down to me tradition, wisdom and skills that make me part of who I am today. I am attempting to pass that down to my daughter.

The most important thing they gave me was faith. Despite my rebellion and insistence that life was too hard, they embedded in my very being the knowledge and understanding that there is but one God and there is but one way to get into His Kingdom. This wisdom brings an even greater understanding and appreciation to me for a mother who never saw a Mother's day but witnessed her son - God's very own Son- die a most horrific death. That Son paid the penalty for me and everyone else ever considered a part of God's creation.

So, Sunday, as my daughter honors me (her very existence is the honor) and I honor my own Mother, I pray that Mothers across the universe remember to honor the faith and conviction of a mother thousands of years ago - a child - who gave birth to a child who gave life to me!


For Better or Worse

Nearly 20 years ago, I vowed to love and cherish my husband. The words "for better or for worse" were part of those vows. He made identical vows to me. Oh glory days!

We have been through some really good times - our first house, my first horse - a gift from him, the birth of our daughter - and these times have made my life so much richer. We have also been through some not so good times - the whole "for worse" part which I won't go into. What I am learning is that it's the "for worse" part that makes the "for better" part so much richer.

Last night, we had to once again rescue our renegade crew - Radar and Minnie. Radar is approaching 30 years old. He can always find his way out of the fence but not back home. Minnie is young but blind in one eye and stupid. She COULD find her way back home but she prefers not to as long as Radar will follow. Unfortunately, neighbors and passers by don't get the humor in this pair's comradre but normally are a bit offended that they find them. Actually, this is only the second escape in many, many years, but it occurred within two days of the first escape. The drama of the chase was unimaginable. As we located the missing pair, we set about in hot pursuit of them ropes overhead, driving along behind them, capturing them just as they were beginning to descend into another hidden spot - NOT. They saw the feed bucket, cried and ran to me, following me back up the ten mile hill to the house. Poor Radar, two trips up this hill in one week were almost more than he could handle. He cried a huge winnie of relief when he saw his beloved Oops waiting in the barn lot. Minnie didn't care, she never cares. She went into the lot not worried in the least what she may or may not have done. She's blind after all, she's excused!

My husband's passion for horses begins with excitement to see me living a dream and ends with the reality of angry victims of the escapes. Therefore, our next task after the ten mile walk up hill was to find the breach in the fence as the destroyed gate must have only been part of the scam these two had going. This being MY dream, I set out to find the breach so I could report back to my husband who would then fix the broken fencing. I quickly found it as well. Right in the middle of the woods - a wooded area covered in poison ivy and muskedine vines. Oh thrills!

If you mention poison ivy my husband will break out into a rash. If he ever touches it, he will end up in the emergency room. This breach was actually a place where a fallen tree had laid the fence on the ground - a tree covered in poison ivy. So, prior to telling him it was found, I removed the tree top and the vines. I then called for his attention and he set about with easy and quick repairs-oh how the neighbor will be happy! Not really because she hates horses - they are animals and animals are evil - but at least she can't complain anymore - at least not about them being in her yard.

For all of you who are allergic, Palmolive Dishwashing Liquid is the lifesaving fluid that will wash the oil of the ivy off skin and clothes. I immediately sent Dave to the showers with a bottle of the glistening orange miracle cure. I also instructed him to leave the clothes in a spot and took them to the washing machine to wash in Palmolive as well. I am so smart! I am just a little genuis in a body! He is SO lucky I can think to do these things! My insurance company can thank me later.

All washing and drying accomplished, I went to bed, ever so grateful for my gift of foresight and intelligence. This morning, I advised him to retrieve his "workpants" from the dryer when he got ready. He did find them in the dryer along with his business cards, his driver's license, his social security card, all his paper money and whatever other paper secrets he keeps in the massive hunk of leather he used to call a wallet! Who knew! It's the wife's job to clean, it's the husband's job to clean the pockets right?

Today may be another one of those "for worst" moments in our marriage. But, he loves me and I love him and the "for better" is the reality of that love and the bond we made before God. Every "for worst" moment with him far outweighs a "for better" moment without him. I think that's how God intended it. If we could remember the promise we made - the three of us - Him, Me and God - perhaps we could always withstand those moments that are not so great and then experience those moments that make it oh so worth it!


To build a house

My family is in the process of building a house. We have taken a most "unconventional" approach much to the dismay of contractors and specialists. We designed this house ourselves combining things we liked and disliked about other homes we have owned. We are literally building this house from the ground up. Of course, my husband is a licensed home builder, so we are able to manage the project and fix what errors are arising. As the project progresses, however, it seems to be a never ending effort to keep up with subcontractors and tradesmen. And, to make matters worse, the materials market is ever changing and it seems everytime we finish a design for a component, some newer and better trinket comes along that I wished we had incorporated.

I hear people all the time complaining about the stress of building but I am finding that the stress is a welcome addition to my life. We DO tend to argue about minor things but we agreed on the major things prior to ever beginning the project. The process has now become a constant negotiation between my husband, daughter and myself regarding those things we want to "tweek" within our own living space to make our lives SEEM better. In all honesty, this house, while giving me additional living space and comfort, will not at all improve my life. It will simply improve how people perceive my life. Or will it?

Our house is going to be a simple one. There are no fancy windows, no flashy features, no million dollar entranceways. It's a two bedroom, two bath abode with simplicity as the key. Yes, we have included a few luxuries our parents would never have dreamed of, but they are not overwhelming and we are not attempting to make any statements to the world about who or what we are. We are building our dream home, not our dream representation to the universe! I don't expect people will look at my house and think "oh, I want that life!" I honestly hope they do not.

What I do hope in my life is that they will look at my daily walk and think "oh I want that peace. I want that joy, I want that calm". I hope that they see me smile and find a desire to smile as well. I hope they know that my smile is not the result of any material blessing in my world but an inner knowledge that I am blessed simply to be alive and walking. I am blessed to be included in the future Kingdom. I am blessed to experience other people who restore me on a daily basis. More than anything else, I am blessed because my savior died for me so many years ago and I never have to walk the path he took for me!

I am not special. My house will not make me special. I am, however, a most fortunate person because I am granted another day on this earth. Sometimes I find myself in conflict with my quest for physical comfort because I know my savior never had that comfort or even requested it. I have to remind myself that were I to lose it all tomorrow - you know - leave this place, the comfort I will find in the next life will far surpass anything I could achieve here. That being said, I want people to look at me for who I am - a flawed person who is forgiven despite my efforts to constantly challenge grace. I want people to see that grace working throughout my life and know that it's there for them as well. In the event they don't see it, I hope they know that they too are forgiven just like me.

So, building a house reminds me that I am building my life. Daily I deal with challenges to my faith. Daily I have to resolve those challenges not on my own but through prayer and communication with God. Each challenge renders a more suitable foundation and construction of the person I am wanting to become. If it doesn't, then I have to take it down and start all over.


I am getting old?

How do you know for certain you are "getting old"? What is "getting old" anyways? And when is "getting old" something you constantly use as an excuse for every slip in life? These are questions I have been drawn to ponder recently.

Friday night as I was wandering across our yard, a place littered with never ending construction equipment, tools and materials, I failed to notice a wayward fencepost waiting to be placed in it's assigned spot and I tripped over it! I am getting old! I didn't just trip one of those toe tapping trips where you shuffle around and finally regain your poise. I tripped one of those sprawling trips where you hit the ground so hard, you can't breathe for a few minutes. It was one of those trips where you wonder if you should wait for someone to call an ambulance or try to haul yourself up before anyone finds you. It was one of those trips where you forget to check what you may have landed in because you are concentrating on whether or not you still have all your body parts. It was one of those trips where even the cats and puppies pause and pretend they didn't see you, hesitating before crawling all over you to lick and purr and rub the pain away.

So, Friday night I realized that yes - I AM getting old! When I was 10, if I fell like that, I would have gotten up, cried a lot so my mother would have held me and then gone about my merry way. When I was 20, I would have never even acknowledged that the event occurred. At 30, it would have hurt, but I could have made myself out to be the victim of some evil plot to destroy me or some curse from my boyfriend's ex! Even at 40, I would have recovered more quickly. I think at 40, you fluctuate between escaping the embarrassment and dealing with the pain but still, at 40, you work towards recovery.

At 46, however, you expect to never bounce back from a fall. You don't want sympathy but you want and feel you have earned respect. If you fall and fall hard, your entire family should view you in awe of your ability to get back up. They should honor your capabilities to keep all bones intact. They should revere your stealth ability to keep them from hearing you hit the ground. Yes, you are getting old and it hurts more, it may even cause you trouble in walking, but you made it! Another thing I am learning is that old age gives me the right to divert responsibility. As I walked into the house, covered in muddy puppy tracks, slobber, ground mud and all in disarray, I had every right to declare quite loudly "all right-what moron did not put the fence post up - you just nearly killed me!" This could have been handled yet another way. Had I not been so challenged at staying upright after this traumatic event, I COULD have picked up the post, carried it in with me and gone about beating the guilty hus...party senseless with it for his inability to realize he had left a hazardous trap for me later on or perhaps used it to carve a nice groove into his truck as a reminder that all fence posts should be kept in place. But, those last two options are evil and I am not an evil person, just an old person. SO, I opted with the moron statement.

Sadly, the rest of the family refused to acknowledge that I am getting old and instead of acting with reverence towards the situation, they found comedy in pointing out the many track marks and muddy marks about my clothing that clearly evidenced the violence with which I hit the ground. Fortunately for them, I do love them and I truly was able to see the comedy myself. Of course, it was a good 20 minutes after the fall that I even entered the premises. Where did they think I was? I'm getting old so they probably thought I forgot which way the house was.


What is this stuff?

I have been reading this week about the price of wheat, corn and other staples that I personally have always taken for granted. The news is gloom and doom. The world is quickly becoming a dismal place. So, I began to wonder....

Kentucky Fried Chicken now has "snackers" for $.99. McDonald's has their version as does Wendy's and many other fast food chains. Yet, those foods that are "staples" are skyrocketing in pricing. I keep Wheatthins and/or Triscuits at my desk all the time. I have chronic munchers disease and I figure as long as I try to keep "healthy" munchables at my desk, I won't kill myself or have to continually replace my wardrobe. At the rate the price of wheat is increasing, I may just start eating gold jewelry.

My sister donated her kidney to her husband a few years back and went through an intensive course of nutrition goods and bads. Yeah ....blah blah blah...she's a hero and all that blah blah blah (inject selfish "make this about me" stuff here). Included in that training was information regarding the evil twin to healthy snacks - sodium. Sodium for those of you who grew up like me is simply salt. Back in my younger days, you used salt on everything. You tossed a big ole hunk of salt pork into a pot of beans or stew to "add flavoring". You salted your dumplings. You used salt along with lard in your biscuits. The world without salt was the world without flavor.

Time moved forward, many people from my day died of heart attacks or strokes and we began to analyze what may be leading to this situation. Surely, bad health was not just bad health. Thus, the conclusion that the one thing that has been utilized since the beginning of time - salt - was an evil evil thing. The only thing that would make us willing to give up salt was the fear of death - that inevitable ending that we all must face yet we would all prefer to face when we are unable to even know how to chew our food. So, to make this short, sister was informed to examine the sodium content to the minute level of any packaged and processed food in the universe!

Guess what? These wonderful wheat snacks are only wonderful because they have sod...er...salt in them. I guess without the salt, it's like eating hay but with the salt, I would be willing to pay the excessive market price to convince myself I am eating healthy food. Add to the price of wheat and corn, the price of fruits and vegetables and ANYONE should be able to figure out that this is all a conspiracy by the fast food chains to kill us with their oh so good and oh so cheap alternatives. Thanks to a bunch of scientists, they've had to compete with the knowledge that what they sell and serve may not be so healthy, triggerring our fear of death.

So, they have devised an evil plan. While the entire nation is struggling to blame someone for our oil prices, they secretly worked to drive up the prices of all those things scientist keep telling us may not be so great for us. Then, they are offering these wonderful $.99 deals to convince us they are our friend. I for one believe it! They are my friend! Why eat salted hay when I can get a delicious sandwich or dippable product fresh out of the kitchen? And...I can get this product for a fraction of the cost.

In all honesty, I love Wheatthins and won't be giving them up anytime soon but I also love my fast food. I suppose there is a happy medium in there and I intend to work like crazy to find it! I am going to combine, mix and purchase all sorts of different types of fast foods and healthy snacks until I find the right mix for me! If it kills me, it beat something else to the punch! We just can't live our lives in constant fear. Yes, we have to protect ourselves but life worrying about death isn't much of a life at all. I am going to print that last sentence out and keep it in my wallet. I love being able to justify myself.


A Pony and a Bike

Where I grew up, we were surrounded by "sharecropper shacks" and poverty stricken families. However, none of us kids ever knew what poverty was. For some reason, in these times, you didn't look at what someone else had and want it, you just figured out a way to share assets with one another. For a bunch of 10 year olds, that became a great way to get to know one another.

Five miles from my childhood home was an old country store. On a good day, one could strike out and pick up enough coke bottles from the ditches to pay for a cold drink and a candy bar. It was worth the trip and time it took to get there. In between my house and the store was Sybil Norris' house. Sybil, Donna and Pam were my best friends. Sybil's house still had an "outhouse" which was the greatest adventure in the world. Indoor plumbing was such an easy route to take. A real farmer had an outhouse!

Sybil also had a pony - a REAL LIVE Pony! This tiny pony was a most disagreeable creature but he was a pony just the same. My Daddy hated horses and mules and would not let them on the farm, ascerting that tractors were a great replacement feature for modern day farmers. I loved horses and dreamed to one day have my own herd. Daddy forbid me to even get near the wretched creatures certain that any moment in their presence would result in my sudden death or insanity. How can a young girl get any more insane than spending every waking moment drawing horses, writing about them and dreaming about them? Dads always mean well.

I had a Schwin Bicycle. It was a gift from Santa when I was 9 years old. It was a blue beauty with a basket on front which was quite useful for holding the coke bottles we could find on our way to the store. Sybil didn't have a bicycle. What a deal! This was not even a barter. I would head out towards the store on the bicycle and stop at Sybil's house. She couldn't wait to get on the bike and I couldn't wait to get on that pony! I would ride "Trigger", my feet nearly touching the ground, both of us fighting to keep him from running back to the house and she would ride Old Blue and we would happily strike out towards the old country store.

We would often stop at the creek and play a bit, making sure to tie Trigger up or one of us - me because the deal was for Sybil to ride the bike - would end up walking. We would pick up bottles, talk about boys, the snobby girls at school and what our dreams were. Of course, every young girl's dream is to buy a ranch and own a gazillion horses! When we got to the store, we would use the bottles to barter for treats, talk to the owner, pretend to NOT BE interested in the boys who may have shown up and then we would head for home.

The trip home was faster. Trigger always stepped up the pace and sometimes Sybil had a hard time keeping up on that bike. We would then laugh at ourselves and at Trigger, but Sybil mostly laughed at the fact that Trigger was a good two sizes too small for my long legs. Fortunately for Trigger I was a very skinny kid! Of course there was the occasion that Trigger simply ran out from under me since we didn't have a saddle, or managed to scrape me off or toss me into the ditch. When this happened, it wasn't upsetting, we would laugh so hard we would have to sit down.

By the time we got to Sybil's house, any bounty we scored at the store was finished and I would take the bike on back to my house. I am sure Daddy knew my secret adventure, people talk in small communities and probably were as amused at seeing my feet dangling off that glorious creature as Sybil was. But, he never let on. I guess he figured a tiny pony couldn't actually kill me though he would occasionally interrogate me regarding new scrapes and bruises.

Oh how times have changed. I now have my own herd of horses and my little tiny piece of ranch. Life for me has been a rather rewarding experience. But there are many times I wish I still had a friend with a pony and my own bike. We could just meet up at the crossroads and spend the day on a trip to the store.