Monday, December 28, 2015

Monday Musings

I took off work this week, hoping to do nothing, but so far, I've worked most of the day from home. In between emails and phone calls, I've done a little house cleaning, sheet swapping and washing clothes.

Of course, I did some cooking, too. I almost always do cooking when I'm home. Today's "blue plate special" was vegetable soup and cornbread muffins.

The soup is my go-to dish when I have veggies that are nearing their "use 'em or lose 'em" status. Celery. Onion. Carrots. Potatoes. Add chicken broth, a can of tomatoes, salt and pepper. It never disappoints, and is perfect for cold, gray days like today.

The muffins were a new recipe, and they turned out scrumptiously good. The texture was almost biscuit-like, and who doesn't like biscuits?

I also spent some time on my knees in prayer today, giving thanks and making my requests known to God. As the tears rolled down my face and dripped onto the bed where I was kneeling, I felt God's presence in the room, and I knew he understood each tear that fell. How grateful I am for an omniscient God, who knows our grief and carries us when our strength is gone.

Well, the afternoon light is fading now. I think I'll put some logs in the fireplace, heat some apple cider and call it a blessed day. 

"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest."
Matthew 11:28 (NIV)

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Monday, December 14, 2015

Mosaic Monday ~ A Little Glitter Never Hurt Anybody

My precious grand niece melts my heart each time I see her. I can't believe how fast time has flown since she was born, and how fast she is growing. She's not walking yet, but will be any day now.

While visiting with her a few nights ago, she decided to taste a glitter ball from Memaw's Christmas tray. You know the end of that story—glitter all over her face!

I'm linking to Judith's Mosaic Monday.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Powering Down and Looking Up

It was the summer of 1995—a scorcher, as I recall. After running errands most of the morning, I returned home around noon to find my garage door wouldn't open. Thinking the battery in my opener was dead, I exited the vehicle and made a beeline for the front door. But, alas, the front door was dead-bolted, and I didn't have that key. What now?

While pondering my inescapable predicament, an elderly widower from across the street—not known for his camaraderie skills—walked out of his house and waved my direction. After wondering what he had eaten for lunch, I waved back, returned to the car and jiggled the opener again.


Figuring a good kick might do the door some good, I exited the car a second time to discover another neighbor, walking toward me, shaking her head sympathetically as if she understood my plight. Clearly, something strange was going on here. How had the news of my dead garage door spread so rapidly? Was I being watched by federal agents? What was the deal?

Just as I was about to hightail it out of the neighborhood, Larry from next door appeared, declaring what everybody but me already knew: The electricity was off.

According to Larry, he and his two kids were playing a video game, when—poof!—everything went black. Larry sounded a little excited by the sudden event, but I could tell by looking, his two kids weren't. And while they moaned about being bored, a handful of people—most of whom I had never seen—gathered on my front lawn, sharing stories of what they were doing when the lights went out in Grand Prairie. Even the elderly widower was there.

The afternoon sun was hot (and getting hotter by the minute), but this was the most adult conversation I had had in some time, and I was enjoying myself immensely.

One lady in the group looked familiar. When questioned, she told me she had visited my garage sale a few weeks back. We chatted awhile, and after discovering our daughters were the same age, she smiled broadly and pointed to her house across the way.

All around, the atmosphere was friendly, upbeat—neighborly I guess you would say. Pretty soon, even Larry’s kids were having a good time, playing tag, climbing trees, chasing a Cocker Spaniel.

After about 30 minutes or so, the power returned. I expected shouts of jubilation to go up, but there were none. In fact, no one seemed anxious to leave.

But leave, they did. One by one, my unexpected guests said their good-byes and ambled off down the sidewalk. (I guess without an excuse to stay, they were uncomfortable staying.)

To my surprise, the last person to go was the elderly widower. With just the two of us standing in the yard, he glanced at his worn shoes and smiled. “Well, good day,” he said, nodding and giving me a funny little salute.

I returned his salute. “We need to visit more often,” I said, sighing under my breath.

He nodded again, saluted again and slowly shuffled across the street. Watching him reenter his lonely little world of one, I marveled at the lump in my throat and the ache in my heart. I had visited with him such a short time, but I hated to see him go. I wanted to run after him and apologize for not being a better neighbor, for not offering a hand in time of need, for not doing a lot of things good neighbors do. But I didn't.

My garage door was working now. And like everybody else, I gathered my belongings, retreated inside my house and closed the door behind me. Not because I wanted to, understand. But like the others, who reluctantly had gone back to their places of abode, I had no reason not to; life’s diversions had made it so.

Fast forward 20 years, and countless new diversions have invaded our lives, keeping us focused downward at our electronic devices, instead of interacting with those around us, sometimes including the people we love.

Just last week, while dining out with my sister, I saw tables of diners, all looking down, checking their text messages, scrolling through social media, playing games, seemingly oblivious to the warm bodies sitting next to them. For some reason, it made me sad.

I'm not suggesting we throw away our cell phones (although I really wouldn't mind) or return to primitive living without electricity in our homes. But we could power down the diversions for a while, exit our dark holes of digital living and relearn the art of face-to-face encounters with real people who have real needs and desire real hands to hold. We could. We should. We just have to want to.

"You are the light of the world," Matthew 5:14.

I'm joining Spiritual Sundays, where faith lifts are free.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Sharing My Gift With The Governor

One of my greatest honors as a singer/songwriter, was meeting Louisiana’s two-term governor Jimmie Davis. He was first elected to office in 1944, and then again in 1960. As a nationally known singer/songwriter, with several Top Five singles on the country charts during his first term in office, he was often referred to as the Singing Governor.

I had the privilege of sharing a concert stage with Governor Davis in 1982. After the concert, he expressed a love of our sound and an interest in my songs. At the age of 84, he was recording a "final" album for his beloved Louisianans, and he was searching for new material to include. Could we visit him at his home in Baton Rouge, and let him hear more of my tunes?

Of course, we could. ☺

Governor Davis and his beautiful wife Anna Gordon Carter (known for her alto vocals in the Chuck Wagon Gang) were the perfect hosts, and their home rightly reflected elegance and grace.

After sharing a meal around their dining room table, we drifted to the grand piano. Harmonies soon followed, and as I sat there, making music with the man, whose signature song was "You Are My Sunshine," I knew it was a moment I'd share with my children one day.

Later that night, all settled in my stately bed, it felt a little surreal, knowing the governor and his wife were sleeping down the hall. I remembered my favorite scripture in Proverbs: "A man's gift makes room for him, and brings him before great men." For sure, that had been true in my life, and for sure, it was true tonight.

The next year, Governor Davis included two of my songs on his album, and we remained in touch through the years. After my daughter was born in 1985, he sent a personal letter of congratulations, which I still have tucked away in a box somewhere. 

Following his death on November 5, 2000, The New York Times published an extensive piece about Governor Davis's upbringing and his many accomplishments. His was a real rags-to-riches story, and I will always feel honored to have stitched one tiny thread in the giant tapestry of his remarkable life. ♦

Thursday, October 29, 2015

The Birthday Road Trip ~ Pics and a Rambling Play-by-Play

In celebration of our birthday this month, my identical twin and I vacationed in Pigeon Forge for a week.

In my usual post-trip blogging format, here are some pics from the trip, along with a rambling play-by-play, for anyone on the planet truly interested. It's quite lengthy, so read at your own risk of nodding off and falling out of your chair.

First, let me say that I almost didn't do the trip. Heartaches at home have kept me downcast and struggling to smile most days. However, despite the ache in my heart, I can't lose sight of the good things in my life, and the beauty in the world around me.

With that in mind, I took some deep breaths, packed some deep suitcases, and by dawn's early light, the twin and I were heading northeast.

Not everyone likes driving, but I do, so half the fun for me is the road trip. I'm not sure it's half the fun for Dayle, however, since she claims I drive "like a bat outta hell." I'm really a great driver—in the daylight, of course. Nighttime? Ride at your own risk.

The highway yielded some unexpected stops and slowdowns, but once we got out of Louisiana, it was smooth sailing. Here I am smiling with the adorable scarecrows at the Mississippi Welcome Center near the state line.

And here we both are smiling in front of the lovely Mississippi sign, the state where we were born. Woot!

After a night's rest in Bessemer, Alabama, the final stretch of the journey began. By lunchtime, car fever was evident, so we took some de-stressing selfies under a grove of shade trees.

And onward we go!

By late afternoon, our destination was in sight. Normally, we stay in a cabin on a smoky mountain top, but this year, we opted for a condo in town, right off the Parkway. We loved it.

Located on the top floor, it was very tastefully decorated, and the fireplace added a special touch of home.

The view from the balcony and master bedroom was captivating. Of course, no lens can capture the full majesty of the Creator's hand, but I always try.

Dinner that evening was at the popular Old Mill Restaurant (duh), and here we are, looking spiffy in our glasses before heading out.

The next day, we took in the Apple Barn Cider Mill and General Store. It was a first for me, and what a great discovery! The grounds are quaint and inviting, and everything was decked out for fall.

 In a nutshell, anything you want from apples is made and sold here, including apple dumplings and donuts. Mouth-watering aromas going on.

We chose a fried apple pie with ice-cream and hot apple cider. Oh, yum!

Did I mention the scenic landscape across the street, where peace flows like a river?

The weather was perfect, and I could've lingered on the banks all day. Dayle actually lingered a little too long and left her glasses. But she found them upon return. All's well that ends well.

Peace, peace. Wonderful peace. Only God can create such wonder.

I love this shot from the gazebo. The restaurant is in the background. You can't see it, but it's huge.

As the sun dipped behind the mountains, we met up with some dear kindred for a little fun and food on The Island. Here we are with Edward our cousin. He and his beautiful wife Sharon were vacationing the whole month, and thanks to her Dollywood connections, we rode the wheel for free. Woohoo!

Us and Edward—quite the trio, I'd say. 

I love this shot from beneath the big wheel before we boarded.

Here's one from up high. The colored water fountains you see are synchronized to music. And even though the night air was quite nippy, dozens of people were huddled over hot beverages, sitting in rocking chairs, watching the show.

A great shot of the wheel after dark. It's massive!

One of my favorite shops was the Incredible Christmas Place. I'd never been before, but the minute I walked in, I was wishing my little granddaughter was with me.

You look up, and there's Santa and his reindeer flying against a midnight blue "sky," complete with twinkling stars. Magical! I would definitely recommend this stop for any Christmas lovers like me. Ornaments out the wazoo, and trees, trees, trees.

If anybody is still with me and awake, the play-by-play continues.

Mid-week, we took a slow drive down Wears Valley Road. It's always a drive to remember. Quaint little antique stores, gift shops, pumpkin patches, cafes and the most stunning countryside you'll ever see. Made me want to pack up and move to the foothills.

Evenings at the condo were magnificent. Mountainside cabins in the distance sparkled like tiny packages of gold as the sun waved goodbye for another day. If you look closely, you'll see the cabins on the upper left side.

To me, the best part of visiting the Great Smoky Mountains is driving through the national park. It's a long drive, and can be treacherous, and you don't get to focus on the views if you're behind the wheel. However, since the twin had just visited last year, she offered to drive and let me look. She's really sweet like that.

Only the human eye can truly appreciate the splendor, but the next few pictures give you a tiny idea of what we saw.

One of the many breathtaking vistas along the road. If I had a dime for every picture that's been taken at this popular spot, I could retire, I'm sure.

My sweet twin, taking it all in.

The national park has about 2,900 miles of streams within its boundaries, and fishing is permitted. It's quite amazing how the streams wind alongside the roads for miles and miles. We stopped numerous times to listen, look and snap pictures. Stunning!

Beauty around this curve...

...and that curve.

Simple picnic; spectacular view.

Me and her.

Just wow.

The reflections fascinated me.

The leaf painter, showing how much he loves you and me.

The sights and sounds from this wooden bridge were soothing to the soul.

How did I end up in Houston?

The roots on this tree are so bizarre! I had to snap a picture.

These crude steps of stone, scattered with colors of fall, intrigued me. I love this impromptu picture of the tip of my boots, peeking out.

The final sunset was one for the picture books. This is from our front balcony.

And here's the back balcony.

And last but certainly not least, when the twin and I take birthday trips, we try to take an official birthday picture. This trip was no exception. We wanted one on the back balcony which seemed easy enough.

However, after building a makeshift tripod of stacked books and other trappings that closely resembled the Leaning Tower of Pisa, we had to accept that the official birthday picture wasn’t going to happen on the balcony exactly as planned.

But it did happen.

We ultimately decided that, instead of the makeshift tripod doing the leaning (and risking a broken camera in the deal), we'd have to do the leaning and risk personal breakage in the deal. I'm happy to report that nothing of ours was broken during the leaning process, and we managed to get some decent shots.

This was my favorite.

And—sigh—just like that, another birthday is over. Only God knows how much I love the birthday girl behind me, and only he knew how much I would need her in my life. She's is a rock in my storms, a shoulder in my sorrow, a hand when I stumble, and a lighthouse when I lose my way.

I am forever grateful that God chose Dayle to be my wombmate, and I pray her heart doesn't stop beating before mine. ♦

Monday, October 12, 2015

Finding Autumn

A few days ago, the weather turned a bit cooler, but it didn't last long, of course. Back in the 90s this week. Ugh.

I feel certain the cool air is just around the corner, but over the weekend, I made the executive decision to make autumn happen in my house. It's my favorite season, after all, and it always makes me smile like the little straw girls on the mantel and front door—ear-to-ear!

Judith's Mosaic Monday
Smiling Sally's Blue Monday