6/30/08

A story to be told

Ninety Eight years ago, a couple left Kansas heading for southeast Alabama. He was an Iowan Indian, she was a young french girl. They had married and become the beginnings of a new American family. They had 8 children. He had served for the Union Army as a cook and was a part of the "occupation troops" that stayed in the northern Alabama region. He fell in love with the south and determined that it was a far better opportunity than the Kansas Territory his ancestors and her family had believed the west to be.

He returned home from the war (Civil War - in the south it is "The War") a disappointed man. He had seen things that made him feel his patriotism was somewhat misplaced. As much as he felt the cause was worthy, his feeling was more that it was worthy to keep a country intact, not to keep a region under some control. He had joined the Union Army to establish himself as a "citizen" of this country where his own heritage established he was a savage. His experience left him changed forever.

As Popman Linton and Granny Linton traveled back to the south with their wagon, few possessions, eight children, mule and ox, they knew the world was changing. They also knew they were changing with it. Little did they know how quickly and unbelievably fast the world would consume their offspring.

They settled in Athens, Alabama. Popman opened a small country store and began farming a bit. He and Granny (a redhead of french ancestry) ran the store and became full fledged members of a budding community. Popman worked hard to hide his native heritage taking on the look of regal gentlemen he saw in the larger cities. He grew a debbonaire mustach and kept his hair closely cropped. Granny simply adored him as did his children.

They worked with "sharecroppers", farmers and small businessmen in the area. They were quickly accepted and they quickly began their role as citizens. There are many stories about Popman- including the one about how he designed a burglar alarm from an alarm clock and walked two thieves barefoot to the Sheriff's office after catching them trying to steal gasoline in the middle of the night. Much of the land he bought eventually ended up deeded in the names of those who "sharecropped" with him as he was man of his word. He believed in building a community and he believed in keeping honest men as friends.

Their youngest daughter, Georgia Pearl, was just a baby when they made the great crossing. Her name alone indicated the southern heritage Popman intended to instill into her life. Georgia Pearl, however, was a pampered baby and a beneficiary of his flawless skin and dark eyes. She had her mother's penchant for adventure. She quickly became the light of all eyes both within the family and within the community. Until her dying day at age 100, she was always the spotlight in the room. Her beauty and charm never betrayed her.

In the same community at the time was the Pylant family. Archie was a budding railroad engineer. His son Pedro was the same age as Georgia Pearl. There are many stories I heard in my distant past from my great aunts and uncles about the love that blossomed between Georgie (the name my Grandmother soon was tagged with) and Pedro. The story of their marriage is the one I find the most entertaining.

Georgie was the baby of the family. Both her sisters married and moved away at early ages leaving Georgie as the sole female child in the household. She was truly the apple of Popman's eye and the eye of many a young suitor. Pedro was a handsome fella. He was tall, athletic and his curly red hair made him uniquely interesting especially to a young girl with a redheaded mother and dark haired siblings. She often said he was the "prettiest thing I ever saw". She was Homecoming Queen - I have her dress. He was Homecoming King and the star football player of their little country school. THEY were in love.

Georgie didn't have the courage to tell her parents she was in love and engaged. She was, after all, their baby and they had big dreams for her. She conspired with her sisters to keep the secret and they conspired to get the wedding plans in order. The wedding was a simple eloping in the middle of the night. Georgie always did things in a rebellious manner. The twinkle in her black eyes meant more than just a healthy girl, rebellion was her forte.

It was in the middle of the night that Effie and Birdie came to the window, crawled in, dressed her in her new wedding dress they had made for her and helped her climb out. In the middle of the night she and Pedro eloped and got married. In the middle of the night, Pedro shoved her back into that window, she took off the dress and hid it! It was several days before the family knew of the nuptuals. I have always assumed that Pedro finally insisted on having his wife to himself. I can only imagine her presentation to Popman and Granny when the truth came out. No one ever shared those details with me. Grandmother only once shared with me this much of the story. It was a rare moment when she truly wanted her then rebellious granddaughter to know that she didn't write the book on secrets and rebellion that she told me this much.

I never met Popman and Granny. I only briefly met Pedro. He was "estranged" from my Grandmother and her family due to his addiction to alcohol. I feel like I knew them all completely however. My Grandmother, Great Aunts and Uncles and Mother spent a large part of my lifetime sharing the stories with me. My mother has even written two large notebooks of short stories outlining her life adventures and the stories of the past that were shared with her. She wants us to never forget the family from which we came.

Those stories have made me into the person I am today. They made me appreciate the times I have now when others say "oh those were the days". I caught myself saying those very words the other day as we passed an old shut down gas station with a rusted out truck abandoned in front of it - more than likely a 40 or 50 model something. Oh how simple those times seemed to have been.

I am grateful for things like air conditioning, cars and electricity. Those simple days were only simple in what they had not. They were not simple in the effort it took to make up for that. The great part of that simplicity that I think I miss today is the fact that instead of opening a website or a book from the library, stories and information were shared face to face. You had to be a neighbor because your contribution to the community meant your survival as well. You had to get along and resolve your disputes with other ways instead of lawsuits that put a dollar value to every wrong you felt had been done to you. Most of all, you had to share your history with your children and their friends because it was the only way to get them to grow past your failures and into their success.

I still have neighbors - those down the hill and those across the country. Technology has allowed me to expand the list of people I call friend. However, it has also allowed me to become more secluded and withdrawn in my life and less willing to share openly with others. Technology has allowed me to experience new horrors and fears further causing me to want to withdraw. I have to remember that my parents, their parents and the parents before that depended on ONE ANOTHER for everything. I have to remember that it's people who make the difference, not technology. I have to remember that being a good neighbor far surpasses the need to protect myself from every new fear someone tells me I should have.

Yes, simple times were easier in many ways. But, when I am laying awake at night and the sensation of the ceiling fan as it slowly circulates the cool air created by my air conditioner around me, I am ever so glad that those simple times have evolved. I don't particular like sweating 24 hours a day. I do, however, plan to go visit a favored neighbor this week and listen to his stories once again as he describes his lamentations for days gone by.

Nature's Music

How often do we pause to really listen to the world around us. This weekend, I had the wonderful opportunity to just pause and listen. The sounds I experienced brought back wonderful memories and restored hope to my spirit.

I can remember my childhood past the age of about 8 fairly clearly. There are some memories locked inside that take a "trigger" to restore. Those are normally the less enjoyable memories or sometimes the purely simple memories. In my early years, summers were a time of relaxation, and personal adventures. There were five of us and, even though the old country/western store converted to a farmhouse had adequate room, we were often sent outside to enjoy/experience the outdoors. I think those were the times Mother actually got some cleaning done, cooking, sewing or maybe just sat to read one of those massive mystery novels she was always checking out of the library.

Many mornings, I got up, went and stole a couple of eggs from the henhouse and enjoyed a nice egg and toast breakfast with Mother. I was always a talker, so we never ran short of conversation. I think in the summers, the kitchen was a never ending short order service. Mother never really complained and as we grew older, she taught us how to handle our own in that particular room. Even my brothers were taught to cook and clean and it's benefitted them well through their years. There is nothing more divine than eggs fried in a cast iron skillet with slightly burned toast and home made bacon or sausage...oh for the days that I could eat like that and still zip my jeans!

After breakfast, Friskey, my beloved poodle/sidekick and I would head for the little woods and wonderful creek. We would pack our lunch. That hundred yard dash back to the house was reserved for real emergencies or for displaying our latest catch, not for lunches. I discovered the bread from the sandwiches made great "bait". I didn't have a real fishing pole. I would cut me a branch off a strong tree, we would tie some thick thread to it and make a hook out of a sewing needle. It was safer that way when I occasionally caught myself or Friskey. We never expected or accomplished catching anything big enough to challenge the homemade rigging.

I sat outside this past Saturday and realized the traffic from the distant highway was quiet. As far "out" as we live, we can still not escape the sounds of distant cars, trains, or airplanes. I have become accustomed to these sounds and tend to tune them out, but Saturday, they were quiet. Perhaps everyone else was doing what I was and taking a break or perhaps the oncoming storms were enough to cause people not to want to "get out". Whatever the reason, I heard things I had long forgotten.

Wind blows through trees and provides a melody all it's own. The sound of wind through piney groves is quite different from the sound through the oaks and sweet gum trees. The sound of wind through the decking adds a quick whistle to the tune. I remember that sound...being in the woods, stomping around in the creek and knowing by the sound of the wind whether or not it was safe to stay in the creek. A heavy wind left a sense of caution and would always cause me to look at the horizon for distant storm clouds. Distant storm clouds would often quickly become immediate storms complete with lightning and thunder...my greatest childhood fear. Friskey and I could make it to the house normally just in time.

Locusts voices ebb and flow with the wind to add to the orchestra. As rain clouds approach, they normally sing more loudly as if calling to the skies to quench their thirst. A locust song to me means summer, days of never-ending exploration and draws back clear memories of laying in the middle of a field of clover, just listening and feeling the sun warming my skin. The locusts always signaled the real beginning of summer - the heat, the humidity and the thrill of the occasional dunking in the creek.

A grasshopper when startled, will take off in full flight. They have beautiful wings. The sound from their wings can reveal the urgency of their flight. A whistling or sqeeking sound usually means something has startled them. Listen closer...perhaps horses hooves, dog steps or some other sound will indicate that something is trying to investigate what is laying in their path. You may want to move a bit so they know you are alive. A more fluttery sound tells you that the grasshoppers are simply doing what nature intended and working to either impress one another or just enjoying their temporary ability to fly.

Bees of all sizes leave their own signature in the wind. A honeybee or small bumble bee has a very soft buzz. A bumble bee is louder. Then there are the wasps. They travel short distances and land where a bee normally keeps buzzing, never resting while gathering the day's take. As a child, I more than once bore the stingers of these creatures when I got too close to their bounty or when I got too curious regarding what they were doing.

I spent only a brief time Saturday lavishing the sounds and memories upon myself. Then life called me back and I had to carry on with my chores. It was long enough to cause me to seek to remind my husband about the need for a hammock. I think there is a real need in our lives to stop and just hear. I tend to let my own voice or the urgency of my life these days hinder my exploration into the simplicity of the orchestra nature is always willing to present. I hope to have another break this weekend. I want to hear that music again.

6/26/08

And the day goes on...

"If you don't come git yer horses, I'm gonna call the law!" That's the statement I heard about an hour ago. I JUST wrote this morning about my horses being in my way, How could they possibly get in the way of anyone else between this morning and one hour ago? Ugh- those horses are going to be the death of me.

I drove home. It is only 200 degrees outside. I pull into the driveway and set out walking. My neighbor has had issues with them before. She's an elderly woman with a litter of sons who are intent of creating enough deer feed plots to attract the deer from a five county area. Unfortunately, my horses and Pete's cows truly LOVE all the sweet items they plant. Even knowing this, I could not imagine my horses traversing the new fencing between our places.

I walked the back 30 inch by inch, sweat dripping off me, my clothes now clinging to my body, my hair looking as if I just stepped out of the shower -I am quite sure the smell revealed the shower was not the source. She must have been right, there were no horses in the back 30. I was going to have to get in the car and drive down to the corner and find them.

As I was heading back to the car, I passed the old covered deck that once belonged to the now removed house trailer (oh the joys of building). That deck was built with 4 x 4's set in two feet of concrete. It's been put together with three inch screws because we all know that three inch screws and two feet of concrete will not budge. And you know what? When we sold that trailer and they moved it, that deck didn't move. But, that's another piece of drama for a later date.

As I was passing that deck, I noticed a strange movement out of the corner of my eye. I normally try not to look at it because it brings a few ill feelings towards the contractor who built it so soundly (husband) and the fact that it will now sit there until the end of time, as if it fell off a house and landed in the middle of the field. But, that's another piece of drama for a later date.

That movement on that deck was four tails moving in unison from four horses standing head to tail so to keep the flies off one another. Not only had they not escaped, they had managed to go up the steps onto the deck which is four feet above ground because it was best to build it high to prevent rotting from underneath so it will last forever in the middle of field looking like someone forgot to finish whatever the project was (but, that's another piece of drama for a later date) They seemed quite content and I didn't really want to stare at the monstrosity too long or I would have keyed the contractor (husband's) car on my way out the driveway, but I am still trying to figure out how many mid day breaks they may be taking there. Perhaps there is a use for it after all. I will add that ONE use to the list of a million reasons it was stupid to build it beyond the state's code so that it would last forever when what it was there for was never intended to stay for long. (the whole other drama for other day argument once again presents itself).

The good news is a person WILL eventually cool off after being in 200 degree heat. The other good news is my horses are not to blame for today's raid of the beloved deer buffet next door. (Funny how they prefer my salt licks to all the delicious items on that buffet). The best news is that I now get to defer the hostility to my ex-bootlegging neighbor and he gets to deal with the aftermath of his cows destroying another portion of the buffet. At least we can stick together. Perhaps his cows need to come to my house and get on the deck. It would hold them. It was built....but, that's another drama for another day.

What's the Use?

I was reflecting this morning on my neighbor's comment regarding owning horses. "A horse is for plowing or getting to town" is what he always tells me. He follows that up with "they are useless animals for a farm, I don't get why you have horses when you could have cows". I usually respond with a playful " and....liquor is to be purchased at the liquor store, not from a u-haul trailer". That always gets him. My neighbor is a "retired bootlegger". He even spent a bit of time in prison - three times to be exact - for his little business venture. He was actually a small part of an integral network of individuals in our county who made a living hauling the evil potion all over the southern states. He once showed me pictures of himself and two other fellas in handcuffs behind a u-haul full of moonshine with two sheriff's deputies proudly standing next them guns loaded.

My neighbor is also the ONE person we can call morning noon or night if we need something We try to be the same neighbor to him. He made his mistakes, he paid his prices. There are rumors he still indulges in the crystal liquid as opposed to buying the "watered down stuff" at the liquor store. Then again, two years ago, a large moonshine still was discovered and destroyed somewhere around the county line. That's really all I want to know about it!

This morning, however, his words echoed in my head. My horses are pets - children actually. Since they have decided electricity is invigorating, I am having major difficulties keeping them in the back 30. So, many days, I find them at the front porch profoundly announcing that - yes, that string of electric fence from the post to the door is the result of their newest escape attempt. We know the little blind mare is the culprit. It's her crowning glory to lead the other horses through the fence and then she gets the honor of leading them all day long. She's only blind in one eye, she's just stupid in the other one.

Their escape has become a routine of late. It's just been too hot to put in large posts and barbed wire - at least that's our excuse. But, the requirements of "managing" this situation are frustrating. For instance, this morning, I had to scoop out the cat and dog food and crawl under the shed to distribute it. The cats think I'm crazy! The dogs are furiuos that they have to go with me if they are to eat and the spiders...well....I usually make it out without fainting! When I crawl back out, there the horses are trying to get the door back open to the shed so they can help themselves. Many a dent is in that shed door thanks to their insatiable appetite for anything that's unhealthy. Oops and Radar are usually blocking my path to the house at this point. They are the most uniquely spoiled and they know if they push long enough, lavish "kisses" on my good clothes, etc., I will relinquish and bring them a piece of bread.

This morning I was running late and I was angry with them. Instead of going for the bread, I turned on the hose. Oops ran. Radar recalled those days when he was being shown and stood there with arched neck waiting for me to show up with the shampoo. I can't win! I went in and changed into my better clothes since my good clothes were trashed for this day (it's casual day at work so better isn't best). When I got back out Oops was back. That was no big deal, I explained to her that I was now heading to work and headed to the car.

Oops is a big horse. And she's a spoiled horse. My husband makes her mind. I make her love. That's my story and I'm sticking to it. As I opened the car door I realized the pack of crackers I had sticking out of my purse. I realized it at the same time Oops realized it. She's been around long enough to know my hiding places - what was I thinking? Yes, she grabbed those crackers, immediately tearing the bag open and tossing them all over the yard. The barn cats descended on them like birds in a grain field. There we were - one massive horse, a thousand nasty barn cats, me and my car. I couldn't move the car without running over someone and Oops knew it.

It was during the cat, horse, car, me standoff that the puppies realized something was up and they showed up. No volume of screaming, no horn, no revving of engine could budge these stupid animals. Oops began scratching her...backside...on my rear view mirror as I was screaming at her to move and now swatting her through my window. I'm not sure if I let off the break or if Oops was particularly dominant this morning but there's a rear view mirror dangling from my driver side door. That's o.k., it now goes with the other mirror that was busted during the great hail storm of 2005. It will be o.k. at least until my husband sees it.

There will be words I don't appreciate. There will be ultimatims about the horses. He will probably stop by Pete's old barn and talk to Pete regarding how right he is about my horses, possibly attempt to make arrangements for a trade of cows for horses. There may even be talk about a rifle and the cats and dogs. And then, tonight, I will make sure to gather the horses around me as he is watching and I will watch as his heart once again softens when he realizes that these truly are creatures I will not surrender. My guess is that by tomorrow evening, there will be a new barbed wire fence.

6/25/08

My Mother's Daughter

"When I was a kid..."

"Please Mom, don't, we know all about your tortured childhood".

This conversation is the running joke in my household. A few years back, my daughter would sit and listen intently to every detail of every childhood story I could remember. These days, she sits in dread when the subject is broached.

I think back on my own teen years and my relationship with my mother. I can remember weekends on end where she and I would sit with a bowl of homemade popcorn (Yes, the kind where you have to shake the pan until your arms feel like coming off) and lemonade and watch old movies. By OLD movies, I mean the musicals and mysteries of the 1940's and 1950's. One can still occasionally catch one of these on AMC or some other "oldie" channel, but the horrific news is that these days, most of the "old" movies on AMC are from my era. Whoever thought "Dirty Dancing" was a golden classic. Come on people, it's still a great modern lesson in life.

I watched "Dirty Dancing" with my daughter not so long ago and she had never heard of vacations in the Ozarks. If you don't understand the glamour and exclusivity of those vacations, you don't get the rich girl, poor boy connection between the characters. So, it was a waste of time except she said perhaps SOME of the dancing and drama were entertaining. But she really got tired of my having to explain to her the concept behind the drama. I don't remember those 40's and 50's movies being that hard for the different generations to relate to together. Then again, the teens are sleeping with one another in "Dirty Dancing", so I at least got to explain to her the never ending, never aging crisis that teens from generation to generation face. That's at least one thing that keeps us talking - the commonalities of her teen years to mine - few but still... According to her my teen years were the dorkiest times on the planet.

The most traumatizing part of my being a mother is the fact that I catch myself doing and saying the same things my mother used to say to me. And they aren't the things that made me smile. They are the comments where I would ALWAYS roll my eyes and wish she would disappear at that particular moment. For instance, a few weeks ago, I caught myself giving the "milk and cow" story. For crying out loud, can we not come up with a more modern analogy!?

How many times have I said to her in her fifiteen years "Can't never could!". Oh, and then there's the "if your friends told you to jump off a bridge would you!?" The fortunate part of my life is that I have a certain disability that causes me to never remember to exact detail the comments and stories, so I get them a little confused and I can then claim at least a portion of originality in their telling.

Fifteen, nearly sixteen years ago, I gave birth (o.k. didn't even get that right, there was an emergency c-section) to an incredibly beautiful daughter. Her beauty in her growth has far surpassed the beauty I remember in myself growing up. Unfortunately, I wish now I could take back all those eye rolls and sighs that I rewarded my own poor mother with in my early years. It's an incredible revelation to realize that my own mother may have actually known a thing or two. I won't tell her that even though she's now still quite sharp in her elder years. That would only result in yet another "I told you so" and there are only so many of those a daughter can take in one lifetime. I am thinking I have about another gazillion to go before my daughter actually DOES jump off a bridge.

6/24/08

Trails of Life

If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell. - Matthew 5:29-30

I am a person who seeks to prove to myself and everyone else I can overcome. I take a challenge on like a bull by the horns and I don't ever let go until I have proven to that bull that I can put him to his knees. However, there are challenges out there that repeat themselves. Unlike most bulls who, once conquered will never come at you again, they just keep coming back at us. That's how the enemy works in our lives. That's how the enemy works in my life.

Jesus never meant for us to cut off our limbs or gouge out our eyes. He wanted us to understand that it's best to leave those things in our past. He wanted us to exercise our own will in situations that continue to tempt us or draw our reaction, and to remove them from our lives physically and mentally. Sometimes that's the most difficult thing to do.

This was a profound thought passed to me today as I have spent a bit of time reflecting on reasons I return to temptation or to places that are full of people unworthy of my notice. We are all worthy of love and attention, not all are worthy of my attention and respect. I think God sorts that all out in His time and I can't step in His place and try to force things. I have to trust that He is in control and I am not. I have to understand that returning to those places is perhaps against His will. He may not need to use me to fix it. He more than likely can do that on his own - of course he can!

So, this morning a great friend showed me a great piece of scripture which has taken my mind walking down a different trail from where it began. Instead of walking through the damp woods where the insects and reptiles are hanging out, I think He is going to lead me into the sunlight for a while. Who knows - maybe I will get a nice tan. Either way, I am pretty sure there will be a nice glow about me for a bit.

6/23/08

I would like to thank...

This was one of those "I would like to thank the academy" weekends. I think we've all had them. Have you had those mornings where you wake up and you can hear the thunder. You can even smell the rain. The dogs shiver in dread. The horses head for the barn but then, as quickly as it seemed to be coming, it vanishes! That's a wonderful experience. I was all ready for the rain, the thunder and the lightening. We had work to do but it was indoors, so we really were not too concerned.

First, though, instead of heading to the jobsite, we hit the local Waffle House. I do not mind one bit being a living advertisement for that establishment. It's the one place left in the world where you can sit, have coffee and tea served to you, eat delicious breakfast entrees or dinner entrees and then just chat for a while without the stress and pressure of turning the table for the next customer. Wait, it's one of two places - our local dinery "Sit n Sip" can match them in quality of service and food any day. But Saturday it was that Fiesta Omelette that was calling my name!

Our waitress this Saturday was an "old timer". She was a tried and true establishment in this facility and her daughter was quickly training to be her sidekick. They made a great team and a most entertaining demonstration of teamwork. My husband and I enjoyed sitting, watching and chatting with them. Even the horrid children sitting behind us and their parents who were quite loudly arguing over the theories of child rearing while the two demonic offspring screamed at one another and eveyone else were minimized by our wonderful waitress.

Where does one get that sort of energy? It's an energy I envy. Our waitress could wait tables, call out an order, smile at hateful parents, joke with other patrons who complained about the distrubance of the unruly children and STILL get us our food faster than any waitress we've had. She even offered to "be looking elsewhere" as the jar of picante sauce that you can't get anywhere else disappeared since they won't sell it into ...well...it was gone when we left the premises. What a gal!

So many times, we fail to notice the people who serve us. Yes, they are compensated and yes, hopefully, we tip them. But do we really NOTICE them. DO we really understand that they have a servants heart and attitude to be able to deal with us day in and day out. It's a gift and it's a gift I rarely demonstrate in myself towards those I am to serve.

So, today I started my work with the memory of a most delightful weekend and a server who made me smile. I hope in the service of my duties, and in the service to my God, I am half as willing to make it all a good day no matter what is there to cause me to trip.

6/20/08

Walk Away

Good and upright is the Lord;
Therefore He teaches sinners in the way.
The humble He guides in justice,
And the humble He teaches His way. . . .
For Your name's sake, O Lord,
Pardon my iniquity, for it is great (Psalm 25:8-9, 11).

What a great thought to begin my Friday! We had a full moon this morning The sun on one horizon, the moon on the other. The longest day of the year and what a blessing to wake up and experience the first part of it! I just love how God shines in my world!

This week has been a trying week on the farm. My husband has suffered symptoms of heat stroke, one of the kids has been a little sick, and we lost a frog - yes - the albino pacman just would not adapt to his new environment. That sounds like trivia to the rest of the world but to my little girl who is now not so little, it is a complete tragedy. I have struggled with the idea of either replacing him unbeknownst to her since she is at grandmas or being honest and telling her that "yes, it's true - I am a failure as a frog mother". Of course, I am a horrific liar, so the truth will be told, she will cry, I will feel guilty and her Dad will buy her something because we all know that in a teenagers life - money heals!

All in all, however, it's been another week of amazing lessons and experiences. Perhaps it's "middle age" or perhaps it's just the fact that I have looked death in the eye before, but I find that seldom do I have an experience that I don't eventually see the reward in. More than likely, however, it's Christ's existence in my life. Because that gives me the guarantee that no matter what, He took the cross. I am so guilty of putting him back on the cross over and over again, but He's ever so willing to go there for me! He'll do it for anyone actually but I selfishly assume it's for me.

There was a time in my life not so long ago that I kept everything hidden and locked away. I kept my suffering to myself. I kept my shame to myself. I kept life events that have actually built my testimony and made me the person I am to myself. God has a way of revealing to us when we are making mistakes and He uses everything to His greater glory. We can not control that any more than we can control the tongues of those we have either trusted or those who would love to see us fall or our own tongues for that matter. God is the only being in complete control of this world and I am forever experiencing situations that provide me the reminders I need to know that.

The most amazing thing God has revealed to me is the cleansing value of confession. When we confess our mistakes, sins, regrets, hidden secrets that hinder our progress, we can then move forward towards repenting and restitution. In the last year, I have opened my life up. Those who want to know ask, some who don't want to know are told, but there are no white lies, no cover ups and there are no excuses for the mistakes I have made in my past. It's amazing how I once let my past control me and how I have been embraced by the honesty and my efforts to be better. There is only me moving forward, using all those things to make me a person more willing to work towards being better now.

There is a twinge of regret but there is this amazing sense for celebration and praise. I know that I am cleansed and renewed. I know that I am loved and I know that no matter how judged I am in this world, the judgment never existed in the next world because I know that Christ alone is worthy and He paid that price for me.

I am also learning to stop and think before I act, react or let my tongue run wild. That's a struggle I will face the remainder of my life ever how long that will be. Sometimes I do and say things that are unfortunate events later down the road. The only power I have over those events are for me to ask for forgiveness and to forgive. Past that point, testimony grows, my quest for answers through God's Word becomes more determined and God uses the situation to His own glory whether I see that or not.

I had the glorious opportunity this week to experience the growth in my spiritual life. I found myself in a situation that was less than glorifying. I found myself reacting to people who I should not have even entertained, people who seek to judge and hurt. I actually thought at one time I could change these people or be a positive difference somehow to them. I trusted them. I never realized how some will use information you share to control and manipulate. I never realized my own tendency to behave in that manner.

I have realized that not everyone wants trust, love, forgiveness, retribution and that some are insulted if they perceive you believe you may have something to offer them. I also know that those who make me feel badly about myself are just as deserving and perhaps better people on the outside than I am. Everyone loves and is loved - that's how life works. So for me to react negatively or at all is not always my right. That being said, the moment I reacted, I did something I have never been able to do. I walked away from it. Yes, I reacted but instead of lingering to see the reaction, or to see if I made any points, I simply walked away.

There's a lot to be said for walking away. As I went outside to clean up the mess of destruction the puppies always leave in their wake right now, to feed, to gather fresh eggs, water the animals, hug my Oops, walk, sit and watch the sunset with my husband, I realized that I don't have to react at all. I do not have to be in places or around people who draw my reaction. I do not have to defend every sense of insult tossed my way. As a matter of fact, if I don't see it, I don't feel it. If someone hurts me, it's up to me how I let that hurt effect my life. Do I live in bitterness and anger or do I simply move on with God's hand over mine?

A lot of the hurt and suffering in my life is directly or indirectly the result of my own doing. Regret can either make you old or it can make you grow. Yes, I'm middle aged, but I can tell you one thing- I am not quite grown yet.

So, while I was walking and experiencing, perhaps someone else was still reacting. That's the lesson to me. Walk away, "turn the other cheek" as Christ professes and then simply walk away because you may discover you are walking towards something much greater than what you just left behind. So, Friday is once again a great end to the week for me. I had quite a few failures for which I am ever so grateful.

6/19/08

Who am I?

My last entry was in regards to my people watching passion (hereinafter referred to as PWP syndrome). Yesterday I saw a History Channel special on "Hillbillies". It was actually the history of hillbillies and, just as I had always assumed, hillbillies were scots irish descendents. It was a fascinating special with the most interesting trivia regarding my ancestors on my father's side I had ever seen.

The term "redneck" was actually coined during a rebellion of coal miners who banned together and waged their own war against the mine barons of the time. There were nearly 3,000 of them and there is a historical site where a war was waged between the "rednecks - the miners wearing red scarves around their necks so they could identify one another" and the corrupt sherrif's personnel and mine barons. It took several days before the federal government sent troops in and the leader of the miners was arrested and tried. It was not until a family produced a bomb- yes a real bomb- that was dropped into their yard by the sheriff's personnel from a plane (it had not exploded) - that the audacity of the entire fight was revealed. The miner was acquited and the situation with the unfairness began resolving itself as union representatives were allowed in. To be called a redneck left a man feeling a sense of pride. He was a hard working, fairfighter unwilling to compromise or be compromised. That's far from the definition of the term applied to today's rednecks.

I am not sure my father's scots irish ancestors were "rednecks" by the real definition but they were definitely hillbillies by any definition. Does that leave me half hillbilly or hill or do I invoke the American Indian status of my Grandmother's Father and say I am Native American. Then again, his wife was french. My Mother's Dad was of British descent. So what am I? I like to say I am the purest form of "American" a person can be. I am the Heinz 57 of the human race. I am the mix of many traditions, races and cultures. I am Native hillfrenchbrit Scotsirish as pure as that race can get!

Maybe I'm a redneck. Many of the new definitions would definitely apply to me. Maybe I'm a hillbilly. Those are both terms I would feel a sense of pride were they applied. I have decided I am the one person that could leave a person with PWP Syndrome completely in a quandry. That's what I like the best about who I am - I want to keep them guessing.

6/17/08

What's in a Name?

I have a never ending interest in people. I am a certifiable "people watcher" much to the demise of my husband and daughter. I could sit in a restaurant for hours and watch everyone. Then, I like to guess in my mind where they came from, who their ancestors are, what their role in the world is. Sometimes, when someone introduces themselves, I find myself trying to figure out the origins of their last name.

I'm pretty good with American Indian last names. How hard is it to know that a man named Barefoot or RunningCrow is of Native American origins. Scandinavian names are pretty easy and I find myself guessing on a lot of jewish names. Of course, the scottish and Irish clan names are dead giveaways. (I deliberately left scottish lower case to annoy my husband and his lowland ancestors)

Sometimes, when I go to Walmart or the Mall, I find myself just reflecting on a face, an expression and wondering what the story is behind it. If someone is smiling, it's pretty easy. A smile is always contagious but sometimes I wonder why they have the right to smile when my day may not be going so well - I am a pessimist. I see anger and I wonder what someone did to someone else. I see sadness and I wonder why the sense of loss. I am forever speculating about names and the stories behind them.

Have you ever asked someone about their name? I do that a lot - again -much to the annoyance of my immediate family members. But I ALWAYS find it to be an interesting story. From names that can be traced back to slave days and assigned names to names that can be traced back to people who changed them as soon as they got off the boat here two hundred or so years ago so they could not be convicted in this new country, the stories are fascinating. It's a great way to begin to get to know someone. This isn't just last names. First names normally carry a significance. For instance, I was to be named after a famous Confederate (note the capitalization!) General if I were to be born a boy. And the middle name would then match my dads. Unfortunately for me, I was born a girl, so they shortened the name and STILL assigned it to me. I love the mail I still get addressed to "Mr."

One thing I see in every face, every name and every story is a blessing. It's a blessing to my life that I even have the ability to ask or to watch. In a time when we are reluctant to speak or smile to one another, I am blessed that my questions can often soften a heart and result in some great storytelling.

6/16/08

Lessons from Red

A few years back, we decided to submit our filly - Oops - to "professional" training as opposed to the "domestic" training she had received from me at home. My training was successful, I could ride her, I could wash her, I could pretty much get her to do anything I willed. I loved her and rewarded her with kisses and hugs just as I had since she was small enough to curl up and sleep in my lap.

I have had this filly since she was barely three weeks old. I have raised her much like I raise every other being in my life - with love and adoration and....very little discipline! Oops does not need a lot of discipline but husband convinced me that she DID need some training and experience with other riders and trainers since her bloodlines and her temperament commanded her to be the best of her breed.I relented and we found Red.

Red was a tall black man in his early 70s who appeared to be much younger. When Red walked into his barn, horses took notice. They didn't notice him out of fear or concern but respect and reverence for the great man and horse trainer he was! Red could make a horse dance just by clicking his tongue. He could tell a horse to stand still and it would wait until he told it to move again, ever how long that might be.

I never witnessed Red "manhandle" or "strongarm" a horse, he simply talked to it, and it responded. Even more amazingly, my Oops responded to Red as if he had been in her life as long as I had. As far as horses are capable, Oops loved him equally to me. The conclusion of all of this observation was a profound love and respect for a man to whom I entrusted my horse.Oops stayed with Red for over three months. They bonded, she was his chosen "trail ride" when he just wanted to get out of the barn. She could be trusted and she trusted him - they had a harmony that I actually envied while he voiced an envy for her attachment to me.

She and I connect on a loving level - her the child - me the parent intent upon spoiling her. Her connection to Red was on a more mature level. She and I still have not quite reached that though he convinced me I could - "you got it in ye gal- ye jes gotta quit treatin a horse like a kid!"...yeah right.I never knew Red's full name - he didn't share it with many but my daughter and I learned some profound lessons as we spent time with him in the barn talking to him.

He had been training horses since he was 12 years old and a local horse trainer discovered he could ride. He grew up in rural Mississippi in a time when education and encouragement were not commonly afforded a black youth and the opportunity to train horses was a blessing to him. Even the hours spent cleaning barns and stalls was more than the rest of the world tended to offer him in his early years. All he ever knew was horses, barns and judgment. He wasn't judged due to faith, due to a darkened past or bad attitude, he was simply judged because he was born with a different skin tone.

Red's attitude was not one of bitterness or regret which surprised my daughter who was 10 years old at the time. His attitude always reflected a love of God and appreciation for every little benefit he EVER received. He gave unconditionally - just like my Oops and he asked for nothing short of a fee and handshake in return. He was never ashamed that he could not read or write but it took him a while to entrust that new friends would not judge him. SO, he kept his secret quite effectively.

A young friend of his - a boy stricken with cerebral palsy - spent a lot of time in the barn too with the horses his parents had given him. These parents entrusted Red to keep the boy safe and Red entrusted the boy to do his part in maintaining these horses. Many days we would pull up to see the boy reading the latest issue of the "Walking Horse Report" to Red but did not even realize he was reading the words because Red could not. Red memorized those names of horses and breeders and could quote bloodlines, statistics and show schedules quite efficiently.

A new acquaintance would never know that Red was "disabled' educationally. Sadly, society would never claim their role in that disability to any level that could compensate Red. Red had enough humility to ask my husband to fill out the sale papers on a new truck he purchased without ever looking or giving the sense that this left him feeling inferior. Of course, husband understood Red's superior ability with horses and his unlimited knowledge of the breed characteristics and expectations we should have of any particular horse we wanted to purchase.

Whenever something was given to Red, he fully gave something back.Eventually, my Oops came back home - better trained and more confident with new riders. This meant an end to my professional relationship with Red. I don't know who grieved the most - Oops or me. We always managed to come up with an excuse to visit his barn - a new horse to see - questions about new tack - maybe just to recite a new article we had read - knowing fully well, he could recite it right back.

Amazingly, for a man in his 70s who could not read or write - he could remember as if he were in his teens! He taught my daughter not to feel sorry, remorse, regret or anger about past times but to embrace the here and now and the people that are present. He taught her about birthrights, acceptance, and never letting go of a dream. In a place that still seemed to want to embrace past traditions, Red taught us that past traditions sometimes made for a better man now.

He inspired my daughter to listen to stories, read her history and try to make the world a better place. He discussed openly the times of the past and their impact on his life. She never witnessed anger or judgment, only fact and compassion as she would cry at the thought of a child being denied their right to learn to read.

Red inspired me to acknowledge the value in every human life regardless of what the world around me told me of their value. We don't spend enough time with our elders and we don't seem to encourage our children to either. We are so consumed with what they WILL BE, we forget the part of the lesson that tells them what others were denied in the past. We look upon those times in shameful silence failing to respect the truth of the times and respectfully present that truth to our sons and daughters. The worst part is we fail to recognize the priority of God in our lives and God's role in our futures.

We moved a few years ago and I have lost touch with Red. There is not doubt however, that Red has never lost touch with the man he is. On the off chance that his life has transitioned to the higher ground, I am sure he is now teaching a few saints how to ride their spoiled horses.

6/13/08

OUCH!

There is only ONE thing in this entire world that truly terrifies me. It's a spider! Those eight legged, thousand eyed, fanged, hairy bodied freaks of nature truly make my skin crawl. When I was a child my Dad would have to kill them if I saw them within 100 yards or I would not budge.

Once, I was outside playing and I saw a spider. I jumped on the porch, onto the metal porch rocker and was screaming for my mother to save me as the spider was quickly crawling up the side of the porch intent on having me for lunch. I was leaning over the rail of the rocker to keep an eye on the evil creature when suddenly the rocker tilted and tossed me off the porch right onto the horrid creature. I think I lost my voice from screaming - neighbors were running to my aide - my mom was trying to shut me up - my brother was laughing and suddenly I realized that blood was gushing from my forehead! The spider had sliced my head open-it figures. Actually, I apparently bounced off the edge of the porch on my way down. Those were the first of many stitches in my poor head - no wonder I think backwards.

Another time, I was going to the barn to feed the pee wee calves early in the morning. Nurturing young farm creatures was and still is one of the most joyful experiences of my days when they are offered to me. It was dark and I was just a 'skipping to the barn with four full bottles in my hand. I opened the stall door which was one of those half doors and greeted the four tiny calves who were already butting me and one another to be first in line. I took a few steps through the doorway and walked through what must have been the most horrificially designed web by the most gigantic spider in the universe. She was one of the gray and yellow monsters - evil in her eyes - redhead in her breakfast request. The sensation of the web choking me and covering my entire face was horrifying enough. As I tried to keep from dropping the bottles, I felt her crawling in my hair. I fainted! That's all I could do. When I woke up the calves had managed to get the lids off the bottles or I had dropped them or something and there was milk and calve slobber all over me as they were attempting to lick it. I ran back to the house, calves in hot pursuit screaming for my Daddy. Of course, he already knew it was a spider - my spider scream had become pretty unique by then. His concern were those loose calves and he proceeded to make me GO BACK to the barn- calves still in hot pursuit, retrieve the bottles and remix them and feed those babies! I was convinced at that point that yes - Daddy was evil! He saw nothing but humor in that experience.

Fast forward another 30 or so years to today! My rogue horse has once again torn down the electric fencing. This means we have to shut the front gate while she eats everything in our yard until I can get a new charger that will electrocute her if she tests it! So, this morning as I am opening the gate, I see this little tiny web. Awww - it's actually cute. That little guy was quite ambitious. I remove the chain and BAM! that little guy nails me on the thumb. It hurt like the dickens and he suddenly looked three times my size!

I managed to get the gait shut - working through the pain - and get back into the car. I had two options: I could drive back to the house to say my final farewells to my husband requiring me to brave the gate once again, or I could attempt to make it to town before the poison overcame me. I opted for the latter. I began reciting my last will and testament in my head in between playing back memories of the better days in life (that didn't take long). I hoped, oh how I hoped, I could make it until I could find help. I made it! I got to the gas station. This left me facing another decision. Do I scream my "spider scream" introducing Brundidge to the most ear piercing fear inspiring sound to ever be heard or do I simply go into the local store before I am spent? Again, I opted for the latter. I entered into the store waiting for people to notice how pale and sickly I appeared. No one did. Could it be that I am always pale and weak looking? So, I selected a Diet Dew and some Cheezits to sooth my wounded spirit and I handed them to the cashier with my wounded ha....wait...N O T H I N G. Not even a freaking mark! No swelling, no awe inspiring inflamation, nothing...I will NEVER get credit for the trauma that I have endured this morning! No one will even KNOW I have been attacked. I am now tucking the will away for another day.

The good news is I have lived! The world will continue to be a better place for a while longer.

6/12/08

Jalapenos

My husband is a hot pepper expert. He can take a pepper with virtual flames coming from it and eat along with a plate of beans or other vegetables. He contributes heavily to the profit margins of the paper towel industry due to the fact that he uses a half a roll wiping his forehead and nose while he's eating a meal.

I have made it my mission to find a pepper that he can not take. A few years ago, I bought some plants that said they were Jalepenos. They grew and offered these beautiful red peppers coming from the top of the plant. I KNEW they were mislabeled but could not figure out what they were. Finally, a friend from China identified them as a special variety she used to grow in China. Problem solved, she challenged my husband to try one. He did. First, he began to sweat and then he began choking. Viola! I found a pepper he can't eat. No one can eat them short of my friend from China who consumes them like candy with her meals.

In the past few years, I have also noticed that many products are offering different pepper flavorings - cayenne, tobasco, jalepeno, habenero. I have tried them all or WE have tried them and I have discovered that I enjoy anything with jalepeno flavoring on it.

There are chips now that are specifically "jalapeno" chips. Then there are others that offer the zesty flavoring along with their normal product. As I type this, I have a bag of Jalapeno Cheetos on my desk and am eating them as fast as I can. I have had to take a few breaks to refill my glass of water, but these things are awesome. The doritoes are equally awesome.

A friend of mine has given me several recipes for cooking these wonderful peppers.- you can fry them with cheese, you can put cream cheese on them, wrap them in bacon and cook them in the oven. You can cook them with vinegar and make an amazing "hot sauce" for pinto beans (an all time southern favorite). You can add them to the favorite household recipes and get leftovers when the kids realized you over seasoned your dinner. They don't like them- they can't take the heat I suppose.

You can put them around your garden and the deer will slow in their attacks of your beans and corn. Two yeas ago, I planted a jalapeno plant in a pot under a window and had fresh peppers all year long. It grew like a vine through my mini blinds and became the topic of conversation when company arrived. But finally, the blinds caved in, the plant died and had to be buried and I have never been able to bring myself to planting another one. I just don't want to get that hurt again!

Since the world can no longer safely eat tomotoes, I thought I would make a pro-jalapeno posting. Perhaps having a few peppers will ease the suffering from the loss of tomatoes...except....my favorite is stewed tomatoes with jalapenos.. OH NO...waaaaaaa.

6/11/08

Wonderful Rain

We have been praying for rain for nearly a month. So...last night we got our rain and got it good! It was that wonderful rain with drops the size of saucers and a gentle mix of thunder and lightening. It was just....I want to say wonderful here, but I am going to say be careful what you pray for.

When the rain began, we were thrilled. The ground was so dry, it wouldn't soak it up fast enough. Being the idiot I usually am, I simply said "oh, if this will keep up an hour or two, we will be fine!" It did! God heard me and he gave me what I asked for!

The puppies have not experienced thunder and lightening before. So, they spent the better part of an hour clawing and screaming at the back door. They were muddy messes and I was intent on teaching them that yes, they are dogs and that's what the new doghouse is for. Then, my husband, the genuis I dedicated my past present and future to, decided to open the front door and let the "fresh air in". What a mistake! The puppies father, Brutus, weighs probably close to 80 pounds. Brutus is the most protective male bulldog to ever hit the earth. But thunder is thunder and it turns Brutus into mush.

Brutus immediately headed in the front door. My husband (remember - the genuis) tried to stop him. Do you know what happens when an 80 pound wet, stinky dog goes completely limp? He becomes like this huge, smelly, nasty, muddy hunk of jello. You can pick up one end and the other slips out of your hand. You can pick up the other and the first slips out of your grasp. Brutus managed to exhaust both my husband and I to the point we were not only screaming at him to get out of the doorway so we could close it, but we were beginning to turn on one another.

"Why do you have to get all these stupid dogs?" he barked at me. "Because my stupid husband doesn't protect me like they do!" I responded. "Let him in, he's terrified" I barked back. "I'm not letting him in, he has a doghouse and plenty of places to go" was his response. This could have gone on until I eventually hurt my husband but just as we were warming up we noticed Brutus laying on his back, now blocking the door and something like two dozen cats crawling over him and running into the kitchen. It was a shame too because I had an entire catalog of arguments and mistakes he's made in the past stored up just for this occasion.

Our attention now turned to the cats. Brutus was still limp on his back but he was grinning his big ole "I gotcha" grin and wagging his tail. It was no longer thundering but it was still pouring down rain. Knowing that we were exhausted and still had not managed to move the limp hunk of mass from the front doorway, I decided to open the back door and begin evacuating the cats I could catch out the back. What a joke! The puppies quickly realized the door was open and began tracking red mud all over the house. The situation quickly evolved to circus status as we began chasing cats and puppies around the table, under the bed and out of the cabinets. I even had to take a basket and turn it upside down over one of my blind cats who had, for some reason, managed to find it's way into the house only to realize it was lost and panic by climbing up everything including walls, shower curtains and refrigerator. I tried to grab but it bit me! Blind cats don't understand human touch very well. They have big teeth too and claws! With the basket, I managed to walk her out the door. Yeah, so she hates me now!

Frustration overcame me! I said words that I have heard in shows that I have turned off because of the very words I was saying. Husband said words. He used names that could have resulted in his death had the situation been such that we were not now required to work as a team to rid our house of the uninvited guests. Still...Brutus is limply laying across the front threshold, laughing - we could tell. Fortunately, the chickens were still penned up or the circus would have been complete.

It took a while to figure out the new plan but then I realized that I had porkchops on the stove. ALL my animals, including husband, love porkchops. So, I grabbed a chop and tossed it out the front door. Suddenly, Brutus was not laughing. He couldn't get up fast enough because all the cats were running him over going after the chop. Then, I grabbed a loaf of bread and began tossing pieces outside. They didn't know! They were so consumed by the knowledge of the chop they just kept going out the door! Poor Brutus, his entire scheme backfired. Poor Husband. It cost him a chop- that fresh air he wanted - and he doesn't like sharing his chops.

It became a brawl out in that rain. Sort of like a scene from a mud wrestler video only with cats and dogs. They were all fighting over the chop and I have no idea who won. We closed the door and began rebuilding our inside lives. The mud, sand and odor of wet animals was everywhere but we somehow managed to recover and get things back into the disorder they started out in. (Some day I will write a blog on housekeeping but I have to learn how to do it first!)

Yes, World, we got our rain and plenty of it! Next time we will know to keep the doors shut.

6/10/08

The Evil of Tomatoes

I heard on the news yesterday that tomatoes are evil! Yes, terrorists have figured out a way to systematically destroy our citizens by our never ending desire for tomatoes. I am convinced this is a work of terrorists since they know that Americans thrive on these wonderfully delicious fruits.

Of all the foods we consume, I wonder how universal the tomato is. If you want really rich italian food, it usually contains tomatoes. If you want a really good diet dish, there's usually some tomato in it. There's tomato soup which is the only companion for a grilled cheese sandwich. Then of course, the all time perfect pasta mate is tomato. This leads me to more self-reflection.

I am a certifiable pasta addict! My body craves the pasta like an alcholic craves...well...alcohol. And my favorite "dressing" for pasta would be - yes tomato...tomato sauce, stewed tomatoes, fresh tomatoes, sun dried tomatoes in white sauce, and just about any other way you can come up with pasta and tomatoes. The only better thing than that would be alfredo sauce. That's an evil sauce too - it's like 100% fat/cream with another 1000% caloric base! It's undeniably heaven on earth. The only bad thing about pasta with alfredo is you eventually run out.

My husband recently made the mistake of suggesting I was gaining weight. After he got back to his feet, he tried to recant and explain how good I look with a few extra pounds. So, I was contemplating diet recipes that I could incorporate pasta into and there are a few. But guess what? They usually have tomato in them and apparently tomatoes can now either kill you or make you wish you were dead. HOWEVER, and this could be bonus - if you get sick enough what happens? You lose weight and lots of it! But if you are sick and can't have tomato soup, how can you ever survive?

Then I wonder - will anti-bacterial soap not KILL the bacteria that is living on the tomatoes thus keeping it from killing us? Is that little piece of trivia being withheld because the terrorists control our media outlets and don't want us knowing we could possibly save ourselves. I'm not a scientist. I'm just a countrygirl.

I am in denial about needing to lose weight, I have always been a bit on the underweight side but I am old now so I deserve a few pounds. I am going to the store nevertheless to buy all the tomatoes I can find. If they don't assist with my diet, they may just kill my husband! Either way, I win!

(this blog entry is purely fictional material. Blogger in no way intends to kill, destroy or mame her husband even when he suggests weight gain! I love my husband - yes I do - fat ole me just loves the guy to death!)

6/9/08

The Economics of Shoes

I have discovered one item that should be included on everyone's list of priorities - shoes! Yes people - shoes. I'm not talking about the fashionable-$200.00 a pair jobbees but just a plain and ordinary pair of shoes. Of course, we all have shoes, but they are worth FAR MORE than we previously suspected.

For instance. Just the other day my husband asked me to research the cost of a can crusher. Apparently, the price of returned cans is so much now that we simply can not afford to not recycle. I bought him a pair of big shoes. Now, he can stomp those cans and have his feet protected all at the same time - a double bonus.

Let's look at it a bit more. My daughter stepped on a bee. It was expensive to get the antihistamines and bandages. So, I bought her a pair of shoes. Now, she can not only control the population of pesty insects all in one and without chemicals, but she has the double benefit of no thorns or splinters in her foot.

Even further. Husband wanted to buy a golf cart to go back and forth the 1oth of a mile to the mailbox at the gate. What's the savings of $3000.00 vs $39.95? It's really simple math. Add to that bonus the fact that I won't have to invest in a gym membership for him or any expensive diet or exercise videos.

I have broken my toes on both feet at least...well....let's say I have x-rays enough to line my bathroom wall. I now have an $8.00 pair of shoes I wear in the house. It's great. I no longer have to suffer the insurance deductible and humiliation of driving myself to the emergency room while my pinky points at the passenger PLUS, I can't tell how dirty my floors are because the stuff sticks to my shoes instead of my feet! So, I am quite possibly saving myself on cleaning supplies as well (that last part is pure fiction - I swear!)

I am thinking of developing my own info-mercial selling shoes that I can buy from some third world nation for next to nothing for three easy payments of $19.95. I may toss in a bonus item or two - you know - a dishrag for those wanting to save utility bills - it will be dual purpose- you can wash your dishes and not waste water and electricity and your walls- even dust with it. I could even toss in my new cost effective salad maker (a bowl with a lid, a knife and instructions on how to hand tear lettuce - cut it up, shred it up, put on lid, shake). It would not be a shoe but a lifesaving invention designed for your protection, health and inspiration (I will set up a website for people to blog and tell me how wonderful the new invention is, how they are losing weight from using their shoes, how they are saving in gas and how much simpler it is to STEP on a can than line it up in some hand crank device for crushing. Oh and the accolades I will be getting from OSHA for protecting housewives all over America from those evil cabinet corners!). As a final bonus, you get the handy dandy crushed can container for delivery to the recycle facility (a box of plastic trashbags - $2.00 at Dollar General - shhhhh)

Oh the joys of shoes! No more broken toes, no more outrageous gas bills for those trips to the mailbox and oh how much better you feel! Yes America. This new device will be available on-line very soon!

What makes me sick?

You know what makes me sick? Germs!

That's going to be my answer to everyone from now on when they are so riled by gas prices, food prices, clothing prices, and every other price spiralling us into a depression. Germs make me sick. So what are germs?

Germs are those little things that creep into our lives spreading negativity and disease to a level that we can no longer fight them off. Germs are frustration, disobedience, rebellion (sitting here without shoes again today) selfishness and then, of course, those little things we can't see that get into our system and really cause us to collapse internally. Right now our country is completely infested with germs! We sit and worry about how everything is going to affect "me" and we forget that the old woman down the hill may already be starving. Do we forget or do we just not care? Are we so consumed with fear of losing "our stuff" that we forget someone else may have never had any stuff to lose -so where does today's economy leave them?

I don't have ANY of the answers. What I do have is a desire to live my life on a positive note instead of a daily gloom and doom. For instance, last week my husband lost his second pair of glasses - not his first but his second pair. I had several options and none of them were pleasant economically. However, he has to see so we are having to once again replace them. So, yes, he's a dumb....s but he's the man I love. I suppose I have to do the right thing and give him sight once again or at least let him buy another pair of glasses. I do have the choice you know - I could nag and embarrass and harrass him to the point he NEVER wants another pair of glasses as long as he lives. I can do that - I DO have that kind of power. One thing my mother instilled in me was the supreme genetics of nagging! I can nag a man to the point he will walk straight into a wall! It's the ONE THING in this universe I am near perfect at. If I were to let the gloom and doom overwhelm me, I would be surrounded by people dead from self-inflicted injuries. I would nag my co-workers, neighbors, friends, relatives to the point they would see no use in going on. Then again, perhaps one of the reasons my husband agreed to move to the sticks was the fact that there would be no heavy traffic for him to walk himself into after one of my serious nagasms! That's food for thought.

I am not sick today. I feel quite healthy and restored after a weekend of rest and worship. So, those germs - all of them - have been rejected successfully one more time. I still see my neighbor's suffering and feel pain myself from that. Yes, I suffer and struggle as well, but I don't feel that it's the responsibility of my neighbors and friends to lessen that load on me unless I am willing to do the same for them. I wish the neighbors could be neighbors in today's world instead of competitors for some higher status. I can't fix that except to start with myself (coke commercials now playing in the background). I have to be the antibiotic for the germs that are invading my life and the lives of my family. I chose to protect the wounds with humor, love and dignity. If those are all I have as defenses, I feel like I- will be well protected.

6/6/08

Old Jeans

I think everyone has their favorite article of clothing. For me, it is an old pair of jeans. They were my favorite jeans six years ago when I bought them new. They fit just right, were not too short which is hard for me to find, and they just looked GOOD! As time progressed, these jeans faded which made them even better and they softened with age.

I think that's sort of what happens to us only over a longer span of time. These jeans slowly transitioned from being my "dress" jeans to my "casual day" jeans to my "farm" jeans and finally to my "only wear these if no one is around" jeans yet still, they were my favorite. Those jeans would stretch when I needed them too (after a big meal, holidays, just about everyday of the year recently) yet they still felt snug and soft and...yes...comforting.

About six months ago, those jeans and I were assisting husband with loading hay in the field when I felt a slight...o.k...more than slight draft. Yes, one side ripped from seam to seam across the back. So...they looked like they were transitioning into Daisy Dukes only a bit shorter. This happened about five minutes before our new neighbors showed up who I had never met before. Of course, I had my back to them bending over picking up a bale of hay as they pulled up. When I turned around and husband motioned for me to come meet them, I TRIED to stand at the correct angle, but I fear the glare from the ...em...skin on the backs of my legs was quite disturbing to them.

Fortunately, as I chewed husband out for "exposing" me to such humiliation he explained that since they reeked of sweat and hay from working their own take of the field, we were even and no one could really tell the story without exposure themselves.

Still I clung to the old blues! I just could not sacrifice them. With the new ventilation, I found they were great for the evening walks provided I stay to the back forty out of sight of neighbors and passers by. They've probably gone another 10 or 12 miles with me since the original unraveling and never seemed to complain.

Unfortunately, around Thanksgiving as I was heading for my walk, my special girl Diamond decided to ask me a question. When Diamond asked a question, she would simply take her massive paw and place it on my knee and begin to pull - even the best of pants suffered as she didn't realize her own strength. So, I speculate Diamond was about to ask which route we were taking when she reached for me. She didn't know the jeans meant the back route, she didn't know the jeans were on their "last legs" and she didn't know her own strength. Sadly, I have to announce, the jeans gave in to the pressure.

Yes people, they caved, gone from the pockets down. The bottom part simply fell away from the top part...down....down...down they went. At first I thought I could fake it - I could use safety pins and a needle and thread and tack them back together but they just kept disintegrating in my hands as I feverishly worked on them telling them I would not let them go without a fight.

Finally, the voice of reason - husband - spoke up and simply said "honey, they are gone! You have to let them go! And I WILL disown you if you see you in them ANYMORE!" This was the end! So, today when I went to feed in the wee hours of the morning, I donned my favorite khakis. Oh to hope they are as faithful as Old Blues was.

Something about Old Blues reminded me of life. We fade, we wrinkle, we even fall apart at times. When it's over, someone disposes of us as they move on to new friends and family. But, if we get it right, if we are made of the right cloth, with the right styling and the right mixture of loyalty and strength, we will never be forgotten.

King of the Road

Four years ago, my daughter and I had just turned onto the old dirt road that leads to our house and we saw what we thought at first was a branch in the road. As we drove closer, we realized the branch was moving....moving...moving...until finally, it was at the side of the road. She and I are both incredibly curious about nature and God's creation and we HAD TO stop and see what this particular creature was. As we pulled up beside it, I rolled down my window and Leiren leaned over me poking her head out next to mine. It was no real surprise that this snake was a rattler. The surprise was his size and non-chalant attitude towards our presence.

People see snakes and cringe. They run, they attack, they kill. This snake was at least as long as I was tall. We counted over ten rattles on his tail. He was an awesome creature. But, he was as non-threatening and comfortable with our presence as any creature I have ever seen. He didn't coil and shake his tail. He didn't run into the brush - he probably knew he didn't have to do that. Instead, he approached our car and very gently began to examine it. He looked at the door. He raised up slightly and looked at us. We couldn't move, we were spellbound by him. He then eased over and appeared to sniff our tires, raised up and looked at us again intently studying us as we remained stuck in that now barely open window. We couldn't breathe, he didn't care.

After several minutes of analysis he must have known that our awe at his size and beauty prohibited us from exercising the typical farm-girl reaction - killing him. He ever so slowly began to slither off the road. We exhaled and re-aligned ourselves in our seat and he sat there, stretched out next to us yet carefully not bothering us or threatening us. Leiren asked me "are we going to run over it?". I responded "Do you want us to run over it?"

We sat there what seemed like a few more hours and she said "you know, he hasn't bothered us and he's really pretty. Can't we not bother him either!" My 12 year old had read my mind. This creature had lived without disturbing a soul for what appeared to be a very long time. His size alone indicated that he had done quite well on his own. I am not a person who has an affection for snakes of any kind, especially the poisonous kind, but I experienced a respect for this creature that forced me to just do what he did and leave the scene without engaging. To this day, I have no regrets with that decision.

Last night as I was driving home, near the same spot, I saw a snake someone had killed. This snake was at least two feet shorter than the guy we had met and it had been tossed off the side of the road after someone removed it's rattles. Someone's treasure meant the death of this creature and more than likely, they justified that killing with the fact that they may have spared some poor fool his life. But, I haven't seen much in the news about rattler bites. This scene reminded me of my own encounter and my bizarre inclination to not act in fear but in respect.

This experience left me wondering. How often do we react to one another out of fear and anger instead of respect and admiration? How often could we just sit and watch, look over one another and then simply walk away? Why is our first reaction to destroy something which leaves us feeling uncomfortable? Lastly, can I treat my human foes with the same respect as my reptile ones, simply walking away without trying to get in the first attack?

6/5/08

Morning Thoughts.

My world is pretty small. I live in a small community right outside a small town. I drive five miles to work. I drive five miles back home. I shop at the local Piggly Wiggly or Dollar General. If I eat out, it's at one of the two local restaurants - Crowe's Chicken and Sit N Sip. A trip to Troy which is 15 miles away has become a major undertaking for me. I just enjoy the smallness of my world.

My fifteen year old daughter is just the opposite. She wants to live. She wants to be a citizen of New York City or some other fast paced environment. She's fifteen- it's what they do at that age. She doesn't realize that life happens everywhere and the best life is the life you make for yourself regardless of where that may be.

I have learned a lot of hard lessons in my life. I have also learned that no matter where I am in this world or in my life, I have Christ to lean on and I am saved only by God's never ending grace. As I look back on my hard times and my good times, there is one central theme - God. In the hard times, I prayed to Him for guidance, help and peace. In the good times I prayed to Him in Thanksgiving. There were those times that I failed to glorify Him in either direction and, looking back, those seem to be the emptiest times I endured. Without a focus on Him, my sense of direction was rather impaired.

So, this morning, as I start what my daughter considers a most boring day, I begin it with a prayer. This prayer will include thanksgiving for all my blessings, requests for protection and hope for everyone else who I can't seem to prove how valuable it is to live a Christ centered life. My peace comes through my prayer or more through the fact that I have a conversation with God through Christ. My life is fulfilled in the knowledge that my salvation is secure. My day is glorified with the warmth of His never-ending/perfect love for me. Oh- to be able to EVER give just a piece of that back to Him.

6/3/08

Rebellion - Minnie Style

So, this weekend was a blessed one. We have the siding mostly installed on the exterior of the house. It looks wonderful! We enjoyed company and one another. We enjoyed the peace of our little patch of paradise.

Sunday evening I realized that the plum trees have had quite a yield this year. We are tired of them, our neighbors are tired of them, even the deer seem to have slowed down their evening raids. So, I looked at Radar. At 30, age is finally showing on him. His back is swayed, his hips are showing and ribs are beginning to peak through what was once a very round belly. We experienced the same weight loss issues with Trusty when he got old. What was once a very overweight horse became a very thin and frail creature.

So, I decided to release Radar and allow him free access to the plums. It was a great sucess! He was thrilled! Minnie, however was less than thrilled at separation from her friend and mentor. Therefore, she sought to break the fence not once but three times. I have decided that her partial blindness has resulted in partial ability to sense pain. Electric fencing seldom stops her when she's on a mission.

Around 10:00, out of complete frustration, I grabbed the feed bucket once again and headed through the now open gate. Of course, they ALL followed me through the gate except Radar. He was still remembering the juicy plums. It took a little more coaxing and then he finally decided to go through the gate on his own without being lead by me. This meant he chose his own path. That path was directly over and THROUGH the ONLY piece of water line that was left exposed. It was left exposed to design me a new spicket to water the horses in the back field. Radar didn't care. Apparently, even with his weight loss, he was heavy enough to break the line. Water gushed everywhere. A new emergency developed as my husband began weighing the benefits of fixing the break in the dark, fully covered in mosquitoes or simply turning off ALL water until morning. He opted for option 2.

Yesterday morning, I was able to simply call in and get the day off. This option was better than going to work hair all askew from inability to wash it. I am useless without my morning shower. Most people use coffee as their morning wake me up. I use the warmth and gentle benefit of a shower and scented soaps. Not Monday though, I was stuck remembering it was my decision to allow Radar out. As my husband began assessing the needs to make a list of supplies for our hardware store run, Minnie was assessing again her desire to have more plums. This time Radar was behind her, not out in free roaming status. So, again, she broke the electric fence!

The entire morning became a seen from a country circus! First rounding up the horses again, second trying to fix the water line and third trying to figure out how to make the fence more secure. I installed more posts, adjusted the charger to deliver more charge and hoped for the best. As I watched, Minnie tested the fence for the final time, leaning on it ever so carefully until "POW" - success, the shock was enough to deter her for the time being.

Next- water line. My husband is quite skilled at fixing calamity wrought by livestock. Instead of patching the line, he went ahead and installed the new spicket and buried the line - two successes in one day. We had a bit of a challenge regarding what to do with the remaining two hours of daylight and opted to play in the garden a while. Paradise was restored.

I leave this entry with this. As my challenges of my Monday developed, I knew the Lord's loving kindness and tried to exercise a miniscule demonstration of the kindness and patience he shows me daily. In other words, I didn't shoot any of the horses.:

Thus says the Lord: "Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, Let not the mighty man glory in his might, Nor let the rich man glory in his riches;But let him who glories glory in this, That he understands and knows Me, That I am the Lord, exercising lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness in the earth. For in these I delight," says the Lord (Jeremiah 9:23-24).