Thursday, October 14, 2010

Reunions- Why Bother

Of all the reasons that humans gather into groups, reunions of any kind have the worst reputation. You’ve heard all the old excuses. Boring, a bunch of people I don’t remember, etc, etc. You can find negatives if that’s what you’re looking for. But for me, the positives far out-weigh them.
The three I’m involved in are all groups that I was not born into. The Hunt Family, who meets at Petit Jean each May were forced to accept me when James Carlisle chose me as his permanent pot-luck partner. The Bryant High School Class of 1975 fully adopted me, though I only attended school with them for that last, all-important year. The Tuggles of Hot Spring County also inherited me, when one of their sons married a woman from Kansas with two teen-aged daughters. In all three cases, I feel included, legalities aside.
The most important thing about re-uniting is that we keep doing it. If you compare the possible guest list to the number that actually show up, it can be discouraging. Rather, I just like to enjoy and encourage those who do make the effort.
Family reunions are fun because they have the potential of growing and continuing. You start with a core group (the first generation) and invite all of their descendants. That number grows exponentially each year. (Do I get extra credit for that word?)The key is to get the younger ones interested. The Hunt family accomplishes this by holding their gathering at one of the most beautiful places in Arkansas-maybe the whole world: Petit Jean State Park. Little ones will have memories of standing on the banks of the creek with a fishing pole. “I remember the year (they’ll tell their own kids) that the water was so high we couldn’t stand here. We had to move up to that spot.” (Pointing back toward the pavilion). Or- “I remember once when Uncle so-and-so led us on a hike after lunch, and Mom and Dad were waiting on us when we got back. They already had everything loaded in the car.” The love and acceptance we feel here keeps us coming back.
At the Tuggle reunion in September they take pride in the old recipes. There are conversations about who makes the best chocolate pie. Memories being swapped recall family gatherings after church, lots of laughter and happy times. Here again, all hope is invested in the next generation. I talked with a young lady who was very happy to tell me all about the book she had brought along to read. But, the all important question was “When do we get to eat?” Of course, documenting the family history is another focus of the day, and my Mom is proud to be the keeper of the family trees. Her table attracted lots of interest with people wanting to be sure they understood how everyone was connected, and making sure she had listed all of the newest grands and greats. One young man was very interested in her story of a Tuggle family cemetery in Tennessee that had been destroyed during the construction of a new sub-division. “Why would they do that?” he asked her. Why indeed.
Best of all are the stories- happy memories and even sad ones. We can gain new insight into how our relatives made it through- and came out smiling.
The High School reunion has an entirely different vibe. Unfortunately, this group is destined to only get smaller as time goes by. So, the focus is on really enjoying each other’s company each time we can. For the Bryant High class of 1975, much of the fun is in the planning. Friendships are formed between people who never “hung out” together when they were in school. More than one activity is planned, so that those with different interests will be intrigued. We try to make it worthwhile for class members who travel in, while keeping the costs down. Once there- it’s all about happy hugs and handshakes. We laugh together because there is no need for pretense. No need to try to impress anyone with who you are today. We know all about you, where you came from, the silly things you did when you were young. It’s all about the roots we have in common, and even the struggles we’ve been through since we threw those blue mortarboards in the air. Through all the ages and stages, you’ve still got friends who understand. So, Hornets, if you need details about the 35th, give me a shout at Can’t wait to see you the first weekend in November!
Next time you’re invited to a reunion- don’t just send the letter to the shredder. You might be surprised how much you enjoy it!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Getting to Know You- Whatever it Takes

Could it be that Ouachita Life is entering its fifth year? And I’ve been writing this column for four? What they say about the way time flies is true. Except for a time or two of missed connections, my byline has appeared in every issue you’ve picked up for a long time now. One very rewarding new development- I get letters!
After my recent column about weddings, a reader from Bismarck wrote to tell me the fascinating tale of the beginning of his 62 year marriage.
The best place to start in this love story of Henry and June Williams is with the last line: “So you see, we never had a date, and all of our courtship was through the mail.”
Yes, you read that right. Here’s how it happened: When Henry was just seventeen, he and a friend were traveling on a bus from the State of Washington back to Arkansas. A family with two teen-aged daughters was on the same bus, headed for Minnesota. One of the girls wanted to sit with Henry’s friend, which left him with 13-year old June as his companion for the overnight trip.
Perhaps we can understand the old fashioned term for courtship-“sparking” a little better now, because that night, a flame was lit that has burned for more than half a century. At some point the next morning, the youngsters had to change to separate buses, but not before they exchanged addresses. Back home in the Northern Midwest and the Upper South, June and Henry continued to get acquainted, by mail.
I asked Henry about those letters, and he said they must have been pretty good. He particularly remembers that once while serving in the military, he nearly panicked when he couldn’t find June’s address to answer her latest letter. Thankfully, she was not just sitting around waiting for a response, and another letter arrived in time to keep everything rolling.
For four years, the correspondence continued, with letters traveling half-way around the world. Then, while Henry was stationed in Florida, the two decided to make a change. I can picture June running to the mailbox in Minnesota as those plans were being firmed up, until the day she received money in the mail to go and get the marriage license. Now 17, her 20-year old fiancé was making another bus trip. This time, they would leave together, as husband and wife.
June’s uncle met Sgt. Williams in Grand Marais, Minnesota to bring him back by pontoon airplane to the family’s lakeside home. Henry sounds a little nervous as he describes arriving to see two girls standing on the dock. Because he’d only seen her in pictures for four years, he says he “hoped he would pick the right one.” After 62 years, three kids and lots of grands and greats, he tells me that now “We have the same thoughts”. I’m no expert, but I think he definitely picked the right girl.
From the “More Things Change the More they Stay the Same” department, another reader tells me about his experience with an on-line match-making service. These days, the information gathering took a matter of months, rather than years. He says that after the surveys and opinions on all sorts of things were finished, and actual email letters started, they were corresponding once or twice each day. By the time he and his on-line sweetheart decided to meet face to face, they felt they knew each other quite well.
Just to be sure, these two dated for a little over two years, and are now happy newlyweds. Of course, we should add a “Results May Not be Typical” disclaimer, but it seems that just like Henry and June, these modern-day pen-pals succeeded in their quest to find a soul-mate. When it’s right, it’s right.
So what’s your story? Happily attached after an un-orthodox beginning? Still out there looking? Content to live your life the way you want ? I’d love to hear about it. Write me c/o Ouachita Life, P.O. Box 147, Benton, AR 72018. Or come by my blogsite and leave a comment. The fiction writer in me loves to hear a great tale, and so do our Ouachita readers! Hope you have a great September.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Cool Fiction- The Great Summertime Escape

I think Summer-time in the South must be similar to what my forebears in the Midwest experienced in the dead of winter: weeks and weeks of outside activities being postponed due to miserable conditions. By the way- wasn’t last month’s Ouachita Life feature “50 great ways to Beat the Heat” wonderful? I’ve already checked off several of the ideas, and I’m keeping that list handy.
There is one thing I like to do when the mercury rises that wasn’t included- curl up under the ceiling fan with a good Christmas book. Nothing cools me off more than thoughts of snow and Christmas carols. Many authors have provided us with these delightful diversions- perhaps written in July or August?
Arkansas-born John Grisham’s offering is “Skipping Christmas” (Doubleday, 2001). This tells the story of a couple whose grown daughter will be spending the holidays away from home, providing her parents an excuse to forego the traditional hustle and bustle, and instead sneak off for a tropical vacation. Unfortunately, habits that are so firmly entrenched are not dismissed so easily, and the whole community is affected. You’ll sympathize with the sentiment, and laugh at the absurdity.
Former President Jimmy Carter got in the act with “Christmas in Plains” (Simon & Schuster 2001).It is, of course a nostalgic look at growing up in the South. Though it takes place a few years before my own childhood, it brings back some great memories of simpler times.
A more recent favorite of mine is Susan May Warren’s “The Great Christmas Bowl” (Tyndale House, 2009). This purely delightful tale will strike a chord with any parent who has struggled to maintain family traditions as the children grow up and establish their own. You’ll also identify if you’ve ever been swept up in the spirit of friendly competition at a high school football game, or dressed as a Big Lake Trout to attend one. (Okay, now you just have to read it!)
A third great summer read is not centered around Christmas, and is in a more serious vein. Deborah Raney’s “Almost Forever” (Howard Books/Simon and Schuster 2010) tells the story of a young wife who has lived through a terrible tragedy. It’s about rebuilding her life, and even more importantly, facing the truth about what really happened. Ms. Raney is so skillful at portraying the torment and release felt by her characters as they come to terms with what is happening in their lives, and how God can help them get through to the other side. Recommended reading for any time of year!
Watch for a new book about Summer- “Seeds of Summer” by Deborah Vogts (Zondervan,2001). It’s the second in a series that started with “Snow Melts in Spring” and promises to be a delightful expansion on modern day romance set on the beautiful prairies of Kansas. It’s obvious that this author really knows her topic, and easily involves us in the lives of her characters.
The population of successfully published Arkansas authors increased recently when Tricia Goyer and her family moved to Little Rock. She is a multi-talented writer whose topics include child-rearing and romance, but I think she really shines in her historical fiction, particularly those books set during World War II. “The Swiss Courier”(Revel-Baker-Bethany 2009) co-written with Mike Yorkey delivers non-stop action and suspense right up to the “why didn’t I see that coming” ending.
On my nightstand right now is “Judith and the Judge” (Servant Publications, 2000) by Stephen and Janet Bly. If you like Westerns, you’ll love the Bly’s books. They always depict strong men and women in a realistic fashion. Even some of the minor characters will remain in your heart long after the last page. Anything with Stephen Bly’s name (with or without his wife) is guaranteed to please.
So, there you are. A list that includes a little something for everyone. Great for relaxing with a nice tall lemonade. Find them at your local library, or better yet purchase your own copy so you can share with friends. Speaking of sharing, I’d love to hear from you. Check out my blog and leave a comment at My monthly columns, and a few more musings about this and that are posted there. Until we meet again- stay cool!

Monday, June 14, 2010

The First Day of Happily Ever After

It’s June, so the topic on everyone’s mind- at least at the Carlisle house, is WEDDINGS! In our family, we’re preparing for a big celebration to kick off a new life for our middle son Jon, and his lovely fiancĂ©e Gina. Travel plans are made, new clothes have been purchased, and we’re all eagerly anticipating. Of course, more important than any ceremony or huge party is the fact that these two are clearly meant for each other. We all want to be there because we can see that it will be the historic beginning of a marriage made in heaven. We want to fuel them up for their journey with lots of smiles, hugs and prayers. It will be a day that will be talked about for generations to come.

Weddings always provide great stories. Most little girls have great expectations for their big day, and may even have the details planned for years, penciling in the name of the groom at the last minute, and showing him where to stand. The mark of maturity for her is the ability to adjust if everything doesn’t turn out exactly as she pictured. Failure to do this gracefully has become the stuff of legend, and even spawned a television show with the very descriptive title of “Bridezilla.” So far, all of the brides in our family including the latest one have successfully avoided this label.
It’s understood that the marriage is much more important than the wedding, so sometimes, the less fuss, the better. James’ parents kept their plans very low key. They caught a ride from Paron with someone who had business that day in Benton, and were married in the vault at the Saline County Courthouse. A very inauspicious beginning for a very successful sixty year union.
My mom and step-dad also had a very low key ceremony, but the exciting thing was what followed. We celebrated with a steak dinner at one of the best restaurants in my Kansas home-town, but even better was what happened the next morning. The entire wedding party, consisting of the happy couple, me, my sister and my brand new step-brother squeezed into a well packed truck and a car with the family dog and moved to Arkansas!

May 31, 1976 was a momentous day in more ways than one. It was the day that I married my own Prince Charming, in the best 70s fashion. The bridesmaids wore wide-brimmed picture hats, and the groom and his attendants were decked out in baby-blue bell-bottomed tuxedos. It also marked the first time my husband met my father. James recalls that this very imposing man came into the room behind the altar just before the wedding, and asked in his best tough policeman voice: “Which one of you is marrying my daughter?” Though at that point he must have felt like slipping out the back way, I’m so grateful that my intended stood his ground. You’ll have to ask him if he made the right decision.

My daughter’s wedding eight years ago was simply beautiful. Held at her new husband’s home, the guests made our-selves comfortable on the very nice couches and chairs in the family room. When the time came to exchange rings, the closest person available to hold the bride’s bouquet was also reading the vows. We have a precious picture of our beloved minister with his Bible in one hand, and a sweet bundle of posies in the other.

Our oldest son married a very sweet girl from Texas. Their wedding party included two sets of small siblings who served as ring-bearers and flower girls. After the service, they knew that they were to lead everyone back up the aisle. However, the minister (the same one who had held my daughter’s flowers) paired up the wrong brother with the wrong sister. With a quick nod, the bride’s mother and I stood up and corrected the error, and the recessional continued.

So, we’re off to Orlando, where in an amazing example of history repeating, we’re to attend a wedding in another historic courthouse. There will be quite a bit more pomp and circumstance this time, but the underlying emphasis will be the same. It’s all about this couple, and their resolve to spend all of their come-what-mays together. With the support of two loving families, and God’s blessing, they’re sure to have many happy years ahead.

The Whole Truth-Like it or Not

Donald Trump and I have something in common. He and I share Scottish Ancestry. Also- he’s one of the wealthiest people in the world and I’m ….. not. But seriously, his mother was a MacLeod who was actually born on the Isle of Lewis in Scotland. This means that his family and mine originated from the same clan many centuries ago. There are many wonderful people all over the world that share this heritage. Our clan motto is Hold Fast, and our symbol is the bull. Many of the people we have married are not surprised at all to hear these two facts.

In Scotland, the story of the MacLeods is typical of many Highland families. Filled with strong-willed people who survived against terrific odds, and along the way, a lot of bloodshed. When we teach our children about their history, it wouldn’t do to gloss things over. The violence and feuding may seem senseless to us now, but it’s still part of the past; part of the truth that made us all who we are today.

James’ family has their own legends. His mother was the great-grand-daughter of Nancy Sophronia Huff, who as a small girl, survived the Mountain Meadows Massacre in Utah. This horrible event in 1857 wiped out all of the adults and many of the children in a huge wagon train that was traveling from Northwest Arkansas to California. Immediately after the attack, the local people tried to convince the rest of the country that Indians had been responsible. But, because of the determination of the children that were allowed to live, and the guilty consciences of a few of the perpetrators, the truth came out. When the children grew up, many, including Nancy, insisted to anyone who would listen that the attack was carried out by the Mormon people who had promised to protect them. A very hard truth to accept, even over 150 years later.

Here in the South, we have another uncomfortable issue in our past. Disagreements about whether the residents of each State should have the right to govern themselves caused the great conflict that split our nation, and took generations to heal. At the core of the conflict, as we all know, was the fact that some states wanted to allow ownership of human beings as slaves. Perhaps this issue would have resolved itself without a war, but like it or not, our history includes a terrible struggle that should never be forgotten. Southern people know that bitterness this big is not forgotten for many, many years. Unfortunately, even in the next century when the descendants of those slaves were ready for equal rights, there was another struggle. Those who couldn’t let go of the past used the Civil war symbols of the Confederate flag and the song “Dixie” for hateful purposes. As wonderful and nostalgic as that song is, to some who lived through riots and lynching, “Old times there are not forgotten.”

My new friend, historian Janis Percefull loves to study and write about the history of Hot Springs. Even in her Children’s book, “Three Strangers Come to Call” she mentions that all was not sweetness and light in the nation’s first National Park. Many people came here with the idea that the government was going to completely support them while they received a miracle cure for all of their ills. Most found out that there was no free ride, and they were left to their own devices in the spa city. Knowing this doesn’t change the fact that it’s still a beautiful place to live, but it’s good to remember the whole story, not just the “pretty” parts.

I heard that the State of Texas is revising the way their public school children learn about history. Present day politics is driving not only what views the children learn about, but even which names are included. For example, the biographies of Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln may not make the cut. What? I think this is the most dangerous story in the news today. Right up there with terrorism in Times Square. Parents and grandparents, you must be on guard to make sure future generations get an accurate picture of where they came from. Otherwise, how can we really learn from the past and make the future better?

History is fascinating, and worth studying. We shouldn’t try to cover up the unpleasant parts. It’s all a part of who we are. So, this July 4, I want to wish the USA a very happy birthday. We love our country, warts and all.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Nature vs. Nurture: Hand-me-downs Happen

Nature vs. Nurture: Hand-me-downs Happen

I have never been considered a scientist. Just ask Mr. Peek from Bryant High School. One topic though has always intrigued me. How do family traits get passed down from one generation to another, and just exactly what kinds of things are coded in our DNA?

 Physical characteristics are easiest to track. Some families have extremely strong resemblances.  Our newest grandson was almost an exact copy of his brother when he was tiny. I’m convinced I could walk down any street in Saline County and randomly guess a person’s last name, or their mother’s maiden name. So far, my husband has successfully curtailed this experiment.

Other things are quite obviously learned. Just watch a four year old boy, like our grandson, walking behind his Daddy. He will practice and practice until he gets every movement and nuance down perfectly. Even the make-believe games our eight year old plays mimic his parents’ careers and hobbies. Play leads to interest, which leads to following in foot-steps.

But when a child behaves like a relative he has had little or no contact with?  Just how does that happen? Our almost three year-old grand-daughter has a way of looking at her brother with exactly the same “bless his little heart” facial expression of her great-grandmother. As we were leaving a restaurant recently, I looked back to see her clutching her coat, and walking with the same halting gait. Positively spooky.

My middle son inherited his blue eyes, hair color and complexion from my father. Though they didn’t spend any time together until my son was grown, he also has the same sense of humor, the kind that with little or no effort keeps everyone around them in stitches. Even the way he laughs is eerily similar.

We may even have an example of traits being repeated by marriage.

It takes a special man to play a trombone. The instrument is a little awkward to hold and makes a very unique noise, especially until one learns to play properly. Those who choose it usually have long arms, a good sense of humor, and a certain amount of natural leadership ability. Remember: 76 trombones LED the big parade. My father played the trombone in high school. When I found my future husband, he too was a trombone player. My daughter also married one.

          The activities one chooses in life can be influenced by the values learned in his or her family. You might hear someone say “Our people have always done that.” My father-in- law was a very active worker in the local group of believers. He concerned himself with the nuts and bolts of keeping things going, paying the bills, scheduling speakers. While researching his family tree, I found that his ancestors were among the founding families of another fellowship. “Brother Carlisle volunteered to procure new songbooks.” His son, my husband, performs exactly the same sort of valuable service today. Our son (who by the way also played the trombone) is now planning a Men’s retreat for his congregation.

          My mother, like her mother before her, is very committed to recording the happenings of each day on her calendar. Looking back, we can discover the high and low temperatures, significant news events, family birthdays, and who happened to call or come to visit on any particular day. This tendency skipped a generation, as most of my writing is done for pure enjoyment. But, my daughter carries on in a more updated fashion. She has not one, but two blog sites where she posts pictures, relates the events in her life, and even gives cooking tips.

          So where does all this rambling lead? It gives me hope for the future. Somehow, I know that the McLeod/Carlisle descendants will always be folks I would recognize, someone that others will enjoy being around. It takes a lot of love and prayers to raise a family. But a little bit of unexplainable inheritance doesn’t hurt either.

Monday, April 19, 2010

The Latest Fashion

Spring wears her new dress.

Green, trimmed in dogwood lace with

Wisteria cape.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Winter lingers

Bright pansy faces

Bob in the damp breezes

In no rush for spring.

The Joys of Weeding

It seems I write about gardening quite a bit in this space. Not that I’m an expert, but I just enjoy getting dirt under my fingernails, and seeing immediate results. Besides, don’t you think we can learn a lot about life while kneeling? On so many levels!

This time of year is when I’m mostly moving old stuff out of the way so the new stuff can emerge. My iris bulbs need to feel the sunshine to encourage them to grow and display their beautiful potential. So, with the “help” of my  very friendly Corgi, I pulled out all the old dead leaves, removed some overly enthusiastic clover, and tried to make room for the lovely green stalks that will soon appear.  My pansies still look bright and cheerful. They loved the cold weather. By snapping off some dead blooms they’ll last a little longer before the heat of summer discourages them.

There is pleasure in removing un-necessary stuff, in order to emphasize the beauty in your life. After only a few hours of bending, stretching and pushing hair out of your eyes, you can stand back and see that all is well, ready for the next chapter of Flower Bed 101. That is, if you haven’t taken on more than you can handle.

I’ve heard that some personality types have trouble with this process. There’s been talk lately about collectors and hoarders. I don’t think I’m a collector. Purchase and protect many items that are so valuable you can’t even open the packages? That’s not me. Hoarders tend to keep useless items, and reject efforts to organize or purge anything. No, I think I’m more like a “maybe-I’ll-use-it-againer.” Hard to let go of something that may come in handy. My husband has a very sensible time limited approach to these things. But, just the other day, I made a really cute card with some stickers I had stashed away in my scrapbooking drawer. See, one never knows! To return to the gardening theme, I do have some remnants of last year’s flowers tucked away on the side of the house. What if they “volunteer” to bloom again? I might need those plastic pots some time. Okay, maybe I do have hoarding tendencies after all.

It’s so much easier if you have limited your scope, and are only trying to tend to your own patch of weeds. When we were young, we seemed to be all about expanding our territory. More, bigger, prettier, better than anyone else’s were the watchwords. As we matured, though, we began to recognize that our idea of happiness and beauty might not match another person’s exactly. We became comfortable and content, and gradually began to de-emphasize some things that just didn’t seem important. Not that we don’t enjoy our neighbor’s front yard display. We just prefer our own.

So, we set about taking care of what we have. We try our best to learn all we can, and use the recommended methods to maintain and improve. Sometimes, regardless of how careful we are, unexpected menaces creep in. Where they actually originate is not that important. They could come in with the wind, or be carried by a wayward bird. The bottom line is, if they are threatening the things we treasure, we want them gone. So, we call in experts, and trust their advice. We weigh their recommendations, and might even ask for a second opinion. But once we’ve determined our course, we forge ahead, trusting that with God’s help, things will turn out for the best.

Yes, thinning, prioritizing, purging are all worthwhile activities. It’s a good feeling to be able to stand back, take a look and say, “It may be a mess, but it’s my mess.”  So, bring on the weeds. We’ve been told we’ll never get more than we can handle, and I’m trusting in that promise.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Bloom Where you Are Planted

How did you get where you are today? No, I’m not looking for your “self-made man” stories here. I don’t want to hear about the day you were discovered at the corner drug-store and became a star. I’m thinking more about the myriad of stories in your family’s past that caused a change in location, bringing new opportunities, and how you’ve made the best of them.

This is one of my Mom’s favorite angles when she researches family history. Why did a family move from Kentucky to California? Just look at the future generations it affected. In our family’s case, if my great grandmother had not moved herself and two small children that incredible distance to live near a brother who had already settled there, my grandfather and grandmother would never have met. My grandmother was there because her parents, both of German descent, had retired from the military at the Presidio. So, how in the world did I end up in Arkansas? That takes several more stories.

Perhaps even more telling, though, is what happens next. How do the children adapt and adjust when they are uprooted and replanted?

It must have been a huge culture shock for my Mom when she moved from the San Francisco bay area as a teenager to a farm in South Central Kansas. But, she says she loved the sunshine, and working outdoors. At the small town school she attended, she flourished, and was elected President of the Student Body before she graduated. No small feat for a girl in post WWII America.

In my job with the State of Arkansas, I’ve been privileged to work with people from Asia, South Africa, Eastern Europe. How difficult it must be to adapt to a country with strange customs, and a language that makes very little sense. Remarkably, many of these people speak better English than I do, though you must listen carefully at times to communicate well.

Once, my friend Kristina had a new chair in her office with the tag still attached. As I helped her remove it, I introduced her to Minnie Pearl, a legendary American icon remembered for the price tags that dangled from her hats. Imagine how strange that story must be to someone who’s never seen the Grand Ole Opry. But, there’s another example of someone who thrived in her environment. Miss Minnie was a great lady, both onstage, with her hilarious antics, and off, where Sarah Cannon was an incredible force for good in the Nashville community.

Sometimes, it’s not the choices our family makes, but our own that change our situation. When I was a little girl, I had two dreams. One was of a happy family with a mommy, daddy, and two or three kids. The other was to write stories. Very early, I found out that writing stories might not pay much, so I aimed at being a teacher and writing stories on the side. Little did I know that the happy family dream would come first, putting the teaching and writing goals on hold. But, today, I have three kids and four really grand kids, and I’m still in love with their really grand daddy. At work, I teach people to use computers, and the writing? … It’s coming along. It took a little while, and a much different route than I had anticipated, but hey, I’m blooming in my own way.

You still want to hear how our family tree made it from Kansas to Arkansas, and now has branches in Texas and Florida? Good. That means I still have stories to write. As springtime comes to the Ouachitas, enjoy your family gardens, wherever they may be planted.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Just a Peek

Glorious Sunlight

Blazing from behind the clouds

A Glimpse of God's Face.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

New Decade- Fresh Start

We were born in the fifties, raised in the sixties, married in the seventies, reared our kids in the eighties and nineties. So what will our grandchildren say about the decade they arrived on the scene? What will we even call it? The Oh-ohs?

          In our family, the upcoming year will bring many new starts. We have a brand new grandson, and will soon welcome a new daughter-in-law. This year, the older grands will turn eight, four, and three, and will be learning and experiencing new things every day.      

          At the end of 2009, a very prominent and successful athlete chose to start his life over. Maybe chose is not the appropriate word. He was forced into this decision when some previous wrong turns suddenly caught up to and consumed him. This has happened to many others, because of too much attention lavished on someone who is too young. Those who genuinely care about him are supporting his new path: take a huge step out of the limelight and re-evaluate. What is really important? Where should his life go from here? If he never receives another endorsement or appears on the cover of another magazine, he’s had more than his share of fame. Good luck, young Mr. Woods. Hope you get yourself back together.

          While recovering from a health issue in my own life, I’ve realized there is a goal I’ve had since I was a child that has never gone away. It’s been on the back burner as I’ve put career and family first. It’s still a part of me, and during the coming year, I plan to take concrete steps to reach it. All things happen in God’s time, and the experiences I’ve had up to now were all important. There was no wasted time. It was all valuable in one way or another. This year, I’ll be checking out new possibilities, creeping ever closer. If any of this intrigues you, check out  the section called “The Writer’s Journey” on this blog for more details.

Sometimes, new chances happen one day at a time, or even a minute at a time.  

On the last day before returning to work, I made a shopping excursion to a very unique store. The free spaces nearby were all full, so I parked a few blocks away, requiring feeding a parking meter. Change in hand, I noticed that there was already over an hour of time remaining. The space in front of me was occupied, and its meter had the same amount of time displayed. Obviously, this was a little gift from a stranger, a welcome bit of holiday cheer.

After finding four items at the little shop, the clerk gave me a much larger discount than the posted signs had indicated.  Another unexpected gift.  My good fortune continued at the restaurant I chose for lunch , as I was able to purchase a smaller portion, for less money than what was advertised.

Outside, as I enjoyed the December sunshine, a man was inspecting the trash cans, obviously hoping someone had discarded something usable (or edible?). He wore a nice, warm coat, but his gloves were mostly without fingers. He smiled at me, but didn’t speak at first. I greeted him, and we talked about the beautiful weather. I made a quick tally of the little favors that had been granted me that morning.  As he turned and went to the other side of the pavilion, I asked him if he’d had lunch yet. “No ma’am,” he said. “I’m homeless, and I’ve been trying to find a job.”

As I sent him off with a handshake and enough money to buy something to eat, I realized that he’d given me a second chance. Here was a way I could show my appreciation to the stranger who paid for my parking space, the clerk who helped with my Christmas shopping, the Loving Father who takes care of me each day, and gives me so much more than I need.

Here’s hoping the coming year, and the new decade, is full of all sorts of exciting new beginnings for you and your family.