Archives for November 2019

A Different Kind of Turkey Dinner

There was a reason why suggesting a clambake for Thanksgiving in place of the traditional turkey and dressing did not go over very well with our children. I think it brought back memories of another Thanksgiving meal that caught them off guard.

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Our three children were elementary school age when we spent our first Thanksgiving with their grandparents in Missouri. They lived in a big brick house surrounded by 10 acres of rocky land on a rural road at the foothills of the Ozark Mountains.

My father-in-law had two ponds stocked with all kinds of fish. It was a memorable moment as I watched him assist the children with casting their line into the water and being instantly gratified by an unsuspecting “big one” as the fish latched onto their baited hook.

However, our youngest son, Jay, said his most poignant memory of that moment was a little different from mine. It was the fact that he had seen his grandpa feeding the fish with the same fish food that they were using to bait the hook that stood out in his mind.

A Different Kind Of Turkey Dinner P3nbHe remembered feeling sorry for the unsuspecting fish as they hungrily devoured their daily meal from the end of a deadly hook without even realizing that they soon would end up being someone’s lunch.

The 10 acres their grandpa owned wasn’t a real farm, but it had the atmosphere of farm life, with the big barn behind the house and chickens constantly pecking on the ground.

In addition to the faithful dogs and stray cats, dropped off in their yard, they had rabbits–not your ordinary eastern cottontail. These were big beautiful, weighty rabbits with lush, shiny coats and curious twitchy noses that sniffed at your fingers when you pushed them through the mesh walls that housed them high off the ground.

They were bigger than any rabbits I have ever seen. The children loved going out to the barn and wading through rabbit pellets to stroke their thick fur and poke carrots through the holes.

Our arrival was a few days before Thanksgiving, and the kids were ecstatic to see their grandparents. They spent their days fishing with their grandpa, exploring the fields, and petting the rabbits.

The evening before Thanksgiving, I noticed our youngest son nosing around in the big kitchen. His curious eyes were searching for something that obviously wasn’t there. Finally, he said, “Mom, where is the turkey for Thanksgiving dinner tomorrow?” We had asked earlier if we needed to go to the store for the turkey and fixings for the next day’s family dinner, but they had told us not to worry, it was all under control.

I told my son that his grandma probably had the turkey in the refrigerator. Later, when he could get away with it, he sneaked into the kitchen and peeked into the fridge to check it out.

As he slid close beside me on the couch, he tugged on my shoulder to share his secret information.“There is no turkey in the refrigerator,” he whispered.

Tucking him in bed that night, he asked me how we could have a real Thanksgiving dinner tomorrow if Grandma weren’t thawing out the turkey, as I did every year. As I was helping his grandma clean up the dishes, I offered to do whatever I could to get ready for the next day’s dinner, but once again, she said no, she had it under control.

The next morning Jay was the first one up as he scurried into the kitchen with his thick white socks and flannel pajamas. No longer able to control his curiosity and concern, he blurted out, “Grandma, where is the turkey?”

She replied, “Don’t worry, it’s coming.” So, we assumed one of the older children were bringing the turkey when they arrived. After breakfast, my mother in law disappeared out the back door. The older children were beginning to arrive, but no one had a turkey.

All the children were playing together and didn’t notice when grandma came back inside with a massive pan of clean sliced meat. I watched as she heated the large cast iron pot and suddenly realized what we were having for dinner–rabbit.

When the children came in and smelled the meat and all the other trimmings, they said, “Wow, grandma, everything smells good!” But then our son looked through the glass oven door and then the pan on the stove and said, “Where’s the turkey, Grandma?” She replied, “We’re not having turkey, we’re having rabbit!”

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Jay turned to his sister and brother, and the three of them ran out of the back door. Sure enough, the biggest rabbits had been slaughtered and prepared for dinner. It did not help when their grandma explained that she raised the rabbit for meat.

The children had eaten game meat before. Their dad was a deer hunter, and our freezer was filled with deer meat. However, they had never petted or played with the deer before they became dinner.

We quietly explain to our children that this was their tradition, and we would enjoy it with them. They ate everything on their plates, except the rabbit, and liked it. Of course, we didn’t adopt the tradition, but it was an interesting experience. One that our children have never forgotten.

So when our daughter announced that we should have a different kind of Thanksgiving dinner, our son said no, he would go buy a turkey.

Thank You Notes

Inside the small white envelope was a pretty little card with a bear and flowers on the front. When I opened it, a note written in a child’s handwriting read, “Thank you, Mrs. Landers, for the movie tickets. We’re going to watch Lizzie McGuire. I appreciate your letter. P.S. Thanks.” Signed Sami (with a flower over the I).

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It was a thank you note from a child I sent movie tickets for a story that we published of hers for a contest.

When I finished the note, I thought about how wonderful it was that her mother was teaching her to write thank-you notes at such an early age.

Another young mother I met recently was trying to teach her child to say thank you when I gave him some stickers. He took the stickers and turned to walk away, and his mother called him back and reminded him to say thank you. He didn’t want to. I said it was OK, he didn’t have to say thank you. His mother looked at me firmly and said, “Yes, he does.” I understood and waited. The mother asked the child, “Are you glad she gave you the stickers?” The little boy said yes. The young mother said, “Then, you should say thank you.” He seemed to understand and looked up at me and said thank you.

I said, “You’re very welcome,” and watched his face change as he squared his shoulders and walked away.

I thought about the way his mother approached that moment by asking him if he was glad that he had received the gift. It made me check my own thankfulness.

Sometimes it may seem that we don’t have anything to be glad about.

When the pilgrims celebrated their first Thanksgiving, things were not perfect for them. The winter before they arrived, they had lost more than half of their families from bad weather, hunger, and illness, and yet their grief did not make them bitter. They gave thanks for the life they had left.

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They were thankful for their food, even though their rations were meager. Today we have plenty. Even homeless people can receive food if they take advantage of the many organizations that want to help them. We are living in a time where the overconsumption of food is crippling lives with illnesses while people in other countries are thankful for a bowl of rice for the day.

The Pilgrims were thankful for peace. They were fleeing religious persecution and felt blessed to be on good terms with the Native Americans. It is true our country has problems. Sometimes when I go home to my quiet life, I think about how safe I am and I know I am blessed.

The Pilgrims were so thankful for the small amount they had, that they were willing to share it with their potential enemies, the Indians. This was not a shrewd political maneuver — it was an honest expression of being thankful for what God had given.

On Thanksgiving day, many families will gather around a table filled with delicious food and share with each other what they are thankful for.

Our family has a special tradition of giving thanks before we begin our meal. Before the turkey is carved or the rolls are buttered, we take three small kernels of corn that have been placed in our empty plates and share three things that have happened during the year that we are most thankful for.

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As youngsters our children recited thanks for our family, friends, their schools, food, the birds, the deer, the toys and even the snow.

When they were teenagers, they were a little more reserved with their gratitude. They thought the corn thing was really corny and recited their three thanks as quickly as possible.

Now that they are grown and have families of their own, they are more aware of how blessed they are.

It is fun to watch them wince at the things their children say.

Thanksgiving is a wonderful time to gather with our friends and family and share what we are so thankful for, but having a thankful heart the other 364 days of the year will make our lives peaceful.

Children don’t realize all they have to be grateful for yet and they don’t realize the peace and benefits of a grateful heart. That is why it is so important to start when they can understand, like a simple thank you note.

Having Fun at the Mediavine Conference 2019

“Blogging is so much more than writing,” the woman told me when I introduced myself as a writer at the Mediavine conference I recently attended. Her words were a meer peek into what I was going to learn in the next three days.

 

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I have been a professional freelance writer for 30 years. I am a retired nurse and health educator, so I have written for many health venues, but, as a Christian writer and speaker, my passion is to write stories that educate and encourage my readers.

The difference between writers and bloggers is that blogging is a personal approach. Bloggers post their first-person experiences, thoughts about a product, a public issue, a service, or anything that comes to his/her mind.

Writers write and create visuals through language and storytelling. Bloggers, not only use words but also visuals, such as art, photography, and videos

People who blog can also make a good living doing what they love by turning it into a business. Blogging for business, projects, or anything else that might bring you money has a very straightforward purpose – to rank your website higher in Google SERPs, a.k.a. increase your visibility.

This is where a company like Mediavine comes in. Mediavine is for publishers, by publishers. Mediavine helps content creators build sustainable businesses. Everything they do helps grow your company, in traffic and in ad revenue.

The three-day conference was filled with information, instructions, inspiration, strategy, branding, Pinteresting, podcasting, and networking. And if you didn’t understand or needed more help, the room was filled with Mediavine team members to speak with you personally. It was wonderful!

I am not yet a publisher for Mediavine. I was at the conference because my son, Jay Landers, CEO of Anion Creative, discovered a box full of columns I had been writing for years, created a website for me, and encouraged me to attend the Mediavine conference with him to learn how to turn my passion for writing into a business.

Bloggers like Marie Denee, The Curvy Fashionista, talked about creating a mindset to become successful. Ashish Kaisi from Google gave the 101s about website security. Danny Ozment, Emerald City Pro taught attendees how to use podcasts and grow your business.

One speaker I connected with was Amanda Berlin, who was once a journalist. She laid out the keys for connecting with media, creating relationships with decision-makers and developing ideas.

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And then there was the networking and making new friends. One of my favorite bloggers at the conference was Katie Emery from Katie Goes Platinum.com. She tells her story on her website of how she and her family went through hard times and how she fought her way out of “brain fog” through researching, learning and starting her own blog.

“I decided to chronicle my gray hair on Instagram, Youtube and a blog, said Katie. I spent countless hours learning to blog and make videos, and to my surprise and delight, I gained a number of fans very quickly! Through my blog, I discovered a whole community of supportive, amazing online friends in the vibrant gray hair community.”

Katie says that blogging gave her a comeback she desperately needed. “Blogging incorporates all of my favorite things: community outreach, learning, photography, and writing.”

Another amazing blogger I met was Cindy Scott, from Smart Family Money.com. “After my kids started school full time, I wanted to be more than being a stay-at-home mom,” Cindy said.” I tried working as a tax preparer, but it didn’t work for my family because I still wanted to be there for my kids. I began blogging about how to save money.” Her site talks about saving money, shopping smarter and creating a family budget.

Cindy said that Mediavine has helped her grow her blog in two main ways: helping her learn to increase her traffic & reader engagement and by increasing her income. “As a Mediavine publisher, if my traffic and income grow, Mediavine’s income also grows (since they keep a percentage of my ad income), so it’s only natural that they’d want to help.”

Two other successful bloggers at the Mediavine conference, that made a great impression were David Nikel and Chef Dennis.  

David, from Life In Norway.net, began this simple blog about Norway that became a 400-page guidebook, called Moon Norway (Travel Guide).  His book, which he signed for us, is available to buy from Amazon and in all good bookstores.

Chef Dennis, from Ask Chef Dennis.com, a classically trained chef agreed with me that the food at the conference was beautifully prepared and delicious.  Dennis is the writer, photographer, recipe developer and creator of Ask Chef Dennis ®. He demonstrates easy and delicious restaurant-style recipes and combines them with his travel adventures to share with his readers.

Mediavine also provides ample resources on how to improve things like user experience, site speed, and search engine optimization. Following their learning materials has helped these professional bloggers grow their traffic and improve their reader engagement. Many of these resources are freely available to anyone on Mediavine’s website and Facebook page.

The conference was an education for me. The closing keynote speaker, Brandi Riley, Mama Knows it All, summed up what can be used by a writer who uses words to tell their story, a blogger who is building an online business, or anyone who is trying to reach his/her dreams or goals; that is, we need to stop waiting for someone to choose us. We can make our own dreams come true by working hard and anticipating abundance.

Please Read Me a Story

One of the best memories I have from my childhood is the time my mother read to me. When it was cold outside, we sat on the couch late at night with the fire blazing in the fireplace. I leaned against her shoulder and watched the lines on her face disappear as she used her voice to mimic the characters she read about.

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She laughed and pretended to cry to make the story come to life, and sometimes in those moments, she looked younger to me. It was our special time together to read and talk about books. It could have been her time to relax after taking care of children and a husband all day, but instead, she would just smile when I slipped out of my bed and come tiptoeing back in the living room after everyone else was asleep. Being the youngest of 11 children; sometimes, it was easy to get lost in the crowd, and I cherished those moments I could sit close to her and know it was just my time.

I had the opportunity to visit an elementary school recently to read to the first-grade class for National Children’s book week. The students told me that they loved it when their parents read to them, too. One young man, Juan, said he did it the other way around. “I read to my dad,” he said. “He sits and listens to me, and I like that.”

Besides helping a child develop a love for reading, it is a wonderful way to be close to your children, and it instills a sense of security they never forget. It’s a time when the parent is focusing on the child without distractions, and a child can feel that. I did. When my mother read to me, I felt like I was the center of her attention, even if it was only one night, now and then, when everyone else was asleep. It is also a time parents let their guard down a little. For a moment, we aren’t adults with all the answers and rules, but someone lost in a story with our children.

The reason my mother’s lines would melt away during those moments was because she wasn’t thinking about cooking or cleaning or disciplining or paying the bills. When she read Cinderella to me, she would make me feel the transition from ashes to riches because she was using her imagination to feel it, too.

Another little boy said he read to himself, but always in his mother’s room, because he liked the way it felt to be in his mom’s room.

Reading and letting our imagination travel is not just for children, either. Even now, when I am at my busiest and feel the most stressed in my life, I find a book and let myself get lost for a while. The difference between reading a book, hanging out on your iPad, or lounging in front of the television to relax is that when you read a book, the story can be what you imagine it to be, and you can read as fast or as slow as you want to. I like that.

When I became a parent who was busy with my own children, I understood the sacrifices my mother made to share that late-night story time with me. But, somehow, I think she needed it as much as I did.

Turn Your Light On

On my Facebook page recently, there was a post about how the theology of “feel-goodism,” “universal tolerance,” and “moral relativism,” which are the highlights of the New Age Movement.

Turn Your Light OnAnother post about the new Hey-Google device that could be bought at Walmart and simply addressed as “Hey Google” to find the answers of encyclopedias gone by about the New Age, Allah, and Budda. However, Google does not recite the definition of Jesus. As a result of consumer concern, Google has disabled responses for all religious figures.

Additional posts included in our FB lives each day: those living in the dark, denying Christ, and how we should ban them from our daily lives.

Often times, I feel we spend more time exposing those that are in the dark, and less time letting our light shine.

I know there are people out there who want to suppress the very existence of God, the people who serve Him, and the powerful love that comes from His very existence.

My dilemma as a Christian is, what is my job? Do I spend my time exposing those who live in darkness, or do I spend my time celebrating those who live in the light, including myself?

I know what you are thinking. During the Passover, Jesus went to the temple in Jerusalem, made a whip of cords, and drove out the money changers who were doing business there. He said,” Take these things away. Do not make My Father’s house a house of merchandise!” John 2:16.

But what did He tell us to do? He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.” Mark 16:15, and then He instructed us to: “Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5;16.

That is the question we must ask ourselves. Do we spend our time exposing those who are trying to discredit God and our Christian faith, or do we let our light shine as people of faith?

No, I do not think we are to be naive. I do not believe we should sit back and let evil take over this world. I do not believe we should be as lambs going to the slaughter. I think we’re to be loving and kind in all our ways, as that will be an example of our Father. I think we should be strong. We should not give in to those who want us to give up.

Ben Carson, an American neurosurgeon, author, and politician who is the 17th and current United States Secretary of Housing and Urban Development under the Trump Administration, revealed he was under attack for having a Bible study in the White House. “We sometimes smugly say that we won the cold war with the Soviet Union, but it was Joseph Stalin, the Russian tyrant who said the United States could be destroyed from within by eroding three things; our patriotism, our morality, and our spirituality,” said Carson. These things are currently under severe attack. We the people must decide who we are and what we stand for.”

We should be wise as to those who are trying to deceive us. We should be bold when it is necessary, and we should not compromise our faith.

When you put all those qualities together with the love that Jesus taught us, we do not have to post other people’s hatred of Christ on Facebook, because our light is stronger than any darkness that the enemy can manifest.

Besides, when people walk in darkness, even the bravest are afraid, but when the light illuminates a room, a situation, a heart, everyone is glad, even when they don’t dare to admit it.

The Power of Sharing our Family Stories

I had never traveled anywhere alone. Riding a bus from Macon to Atlanta, Georgia with strangers was not a long distance, I know, but it was frightening and exciting for an 18-year-old.

The Power Of Sharing Our Family StoriesMy mom died when I was 13 and I lived with my brother and sister-in-law. The trip was a graduation gift to visit my aunts, who I hardly knew. They thought it would be good for me to hear stories of my mom and get to know what she was like when she was a young girl.

The bus arrived late that night at a very busy bus station on Peachtree street, but there was no one to greet me. My aunt and uncle were not able to drive after dark so I had to take a taxi to their home near Stone Mountain.

The taxi driver was a little frightening. He seemed to have taken the long way around for what was supposed to be a 15 minute drive, but when I lied and told him my uncle was a policeman, he suddenly found the right street and my aunt standing on the front porch waiting for me.

I spent the next few weeks visiting other aunts and uncles listening to interesting and wonderful stories about my mother. Their stories gave me a new picture of the woman I called mama.

My aunts showed me yellowed photos taken when she was a young, red-headed girl. They told me how she liked to sing in the church choir, how shy and stubborn she was and how she and my dad had eloped before she finished high school. It was a gift I wished I had received much sooner.

I know there are so many ways you can trace your roots, genealogy and ancestry and get the facts, but nothing takes the place of the stories we can share with each other.

In fact, research shows sharing family stories can increase well-being, reduce anxiety and depression, reinforce feelings of closeness among family members, and build resilience for navigating life’s normal ups and downs.

These story moments can happen anytime families get together. When our children were younger, it was fun for them to hear what their dad was like as a child when we visited my husband’s family.

Their view of him was different from ours. We saw him as a husband, a father, a pastor, a man who worked hard for his family.They saw him as a fun, loving boy who had somehow stumbled into becoming a man.

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Watching my children’s faces when they heard stories of their dad touched my heart deeply. I see the same look on our grandchildren’s faces when their aunt and uncles talk about their moms and dads.

One day our youngest son called our house in total exasperation. His oldest son said he was going to the bathroom while they were in a pizza place. Instead of going to the bathroom as he said, he decided to check out the red button on the emergency exit door. Of course, the alarm went off and our grandson was in trouble. “He is so mischievous, mom”, my son told me. “Sometimes I don’t know what to do with him.”

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When we related the story to his brother and sister at the next Thanksgiving gathering. It was their turn to remind him of when he decided to satisfy his curiosity by pulling the emergency alarm at the hotel where we were staying and another time his curiosity got his knee stuck between the column and the wall at his elementary school, and on and on. Our grandson listened with great interest.

Stories are the secret sauce that bind our families together. I believe that when a child hears that their parents did silly things and made mistakes, they can accept their own mistakes-and learn from them.

When they hear stories about their grandparents, their aunts, uncles and cousins their world becomes bigger and safer in their hearts, because they know they are not alone.

When I read the Bible, I love that Jesus used parables, a Jewish style of storytelling, to teach people and make a point. I think that is where I learned the value of using a story to make a point. It is a powerful tool.

As the tenth child of eleven children, I wasn’t close to my older brothers and sisters. When I married I moved away, and for a while we had nothing much in common, but when we came together with our children and grandchildren, it was easy to see how very much alike we were and how our childhood had defined the people we had become.

I wish parents understood how much children need to hear the stories their families have to tell, even if they are the same stories over and over again. It explains or reinforces the foundations in their lives. The stories may be entertaining and sometimes sad, but they are also an important part of informing.

Stories tell us our history, who we are, what sort of people we come from and why certain events happened the way they did. They remind us of the legacies that we are obliged to live up to, or in some cases, that we need to change.

They give us a context for our lives, assuring us that we are part of an ongoing story, an epic that began long before we were born and will continue long after we are gone.

My Vietnam Soldier’s Story

My husband was a cook in the Vietnam war.  One morning after praying for God’s protection for himself and his fellow comrades, he felt he should go into the mess hall early to prepare his baking duties.  He had to convince the head cook to allow him do his work during the evening meal time. Normally, he started his baking after dinner and worked late while the soldiers stayed in the lighted building to do their letter writing and play cards. However, they all had to leave early when he closed the building for the night.

My Vietnam Soldiers StoryNext to the Mess Hall was the EM(Enlisted Men’s) Club, where movies were shown once a week, but it also closed early because one of the movie reels was missing.  The soldiers were frustrated and angry when they had to go back to their barracks early,

Right after they were all settled into their bunks, a 155 mm rocket was dropped. The Mess Hall and the EM Club was destroyed.

I didn’t know my husband when he was in service, but a few years after the war ended we met and married.  Even though I wasn’t a part of his life during his tour in the service, the pain he carried with him, as a result of the Vietnam war, became a part of my life, too.

We didn’t talk much about his service in the army before we married and today, 48  years later, I am still learning the things he saw, the things he felt and the scars in his heart.

The first time we watched fireworks together, I could tell he was tense, but didn’t understand until later that the popping of the fireworks reminded him of gunfire in the jungles of Vietnam.  Sudden loud noises, especially, the whirring of a helicopter, would cause him to flinch.

He always likes to sit with his back against a wall so he can see what’s in front of him.  He learned in war that it wasn’t safe to not know what was around you at all times.

Whenever war stories were played at the movies or at home, I didn’t know whether it was good or not to watch them. I was concerned that it would make him relive that time in his life.

But he always wanted to watch war movies. It was as though he was looking for a story that validated what he remembered as a soldier.

He seemed to have found the story he was looking for in a movie when we watched the 2016 film, Hacksaw Ridge. The true story a PFC., Desmond Doss, who won the Congressional Medal of Honor, despite refusing to bear arms during World War II on religious grounds, brought back memories hidden deep in his heart. Doss was drafted and ostracized by fellow soldiers for his pacifist stance, but went on to earn the respect for saving 75 men without carrying a gun.

My husband was a conscientious objector. When he was drafted he was a young minister, but did not yet have the education and credentials to be a chaplain.  He, too, was treated very badly by his fellow soldiers because he refused to carry a weapon. However, many men would have been killed the night their Mess Hall was blown up, had he not obeyed the voice of God, by going in early and closing the building before it was destroyed by enemy fire.

Another war movie that touched him so deeply was, We Were Soldiers, based upon the best-selling book “We Were Soldiers Once. … and Young.”  This compelling war drama depicts the true story of the first major battle between the United States and North Vietnamese forces. It is a film about uncommon valor and nobility under fire, loyalty among soldiers, and the heroism and sacrifice of men and women both home and abroad.

The war scenes in this film were very graphic.  However, it wasn’t the bloody battle scenes that brought tears to his eyes as much as the last two scenes: one of them a mother pulling her children to the other side of the airport when the veterans came home, and another of a soldier weeping after the war was over because he survived and his friends did not.

Ironically, one of the most agonizing parts on the Vietnam War for many soldiers, including my husband, was returned home – the long, shameful walk through the airport as strangers shied away in quiet judgment.

The other agony is much like the 9/11 survivors experience. They lived when the people they loved and knew did not. The relief and the guilt of surviving will haunt their memories for a lifetime – soldiers and civilians alike.

As I watched these movies with my husband I think of how young he was when he went to war; only 21. Still, so many years later the sounds of battle are only a nightmare away in his mind.

When I’ve talked with Vietnam veterans other than my husband, the thing that seems to haunt them the most is why so many had to die. What were they fighting far? Lieutenant General Harold G. Moore and war correspondent, Joseph Galloway, wrote the book, We Were Soldiers Once…And Young.  Moore said he was sent to Vietnam to lead his men into battle, but in the end they fought only to save each other.

VfwMy husband is Chaplain Monroe Landers, now and he continues to serve beside his comrades at the VFW(Veterans of Foreign Wars) in Marion, Virginia, Post 4667.

I watch sometimes as the different war veterans meet each month.  They are still saving each other as they talk of when and where they served, their experiences, their pain and survival.  And they are still working together to help our widows and orphans and the dependents of needy or disabled veterans and promoting Americanism by means of education of patriotism and constructive service to our local communities

STANDING YOUR GROUND

When I noticed the two women getting out of the convertible in front of the hotel, I had a feeling there was going to be an awkward moment. My husband spotted them the same time I did and proceeded to do exactly what I was hoping he wouldn’t do.

Standing Your GroundExcuse me, ma’am, he called out. The two women looked up curiously as they stepped out of the car. Are you aware that you’re parking in a handicapped parking place?” he asked. I was sure everyone in the parking lot and possibly all of those on South Padre Island heard him.

They looked a little confused. I nudged and said, “Shhhhh, they may be handicapped.” Being handicapped isn’t always about needing a wheelchair. Other conditions, such as severe visual or physical impairment, severe respiratory problems, cardiac conditions, and loss of all, or substantially all, the use of one or more limbs are certified medical qualifications for a handicap sticker. However, he had already thought of that. “There is no handicap sticker on their car,” he said.

The women were irritated and retorted angrily, “It’s none of your business.” “Oh yes, it is,”he said“I have friends who are handicapped, and they may need that space.”

I really wanted to escape by then, but the women looked at each other and said, “Well, you can’t do anything about it, anyway,” and proceeded to go on their way.

Undeterred, he said, “Yes,” as he patted his cell phone. “I can call 911.” Parking a vehicle in a space reserved for persons with disabilities or in a striped access aisle in violation of this section shall be punishable by a fine of not less than $100 nor more than $500, with zero tolerance.

I urged him to continue walking into the hotel where we were going for brunch, but the truth was I admired him for standing up for what he thought was right.

I felt that same admiration when Senator Eddie Lucio spoke at our Texas writers conference that weekend so many years ago. He talked about the Senate Bill 19 that would require half-hour of physical activity daily as part of physical education and the breakfast–lunch initiative that would ensure all school-age children to have a hot, nutritious breakfast and lunch. When he completed his presentation, he put his notes down and finished with, “I am glad Texas is still a state under God, with liberty and justice for all.”

Knowing that was not a part of his prepared speech, I was curious to see if he would stand by his closing remarks. “What you said about being under God and justice for all,” I said. “Is that something you wouldn’t mind me quoting?” Without hesitation, he replied, “Yes, sure you can.”

The reason I flinched when I saw the women illegally parking in the handicapped space was because I knew my husband would say something. His example of taking a stand for what he believes is right is why our children have never hesitated to do the same thing.

When our daughter was in the tenth grade, she took a chance of being rejected by her peers. An announcement was made on the intercom that prayer would no longer be allowed before the Friday night football games.

“There will only be a moment of silence,” the principal announced. This upset her. She talked to other students who felt the same way, and they decided to take the stand.

They printed the Lord’s Prayer on little cards and stood at the gate, handing them out to all who accepted them. When the moment of silence changed she and the cheerleaders and all those who wanted to participate, repeated The Lord’s Prayer.

She didn’t lose any friends or become less popular. Her actions did not result in putting prayer back in the schools, but it strengthened her character.

History is peppered with great moments when people wouldn’t back down. From the Boston Tea Party to the French Revolution, the world has been changed because one small group stood up for what was right and refused to go with the flow in embarrassment (or worse).

And I can assure you that when American Patriots through a few barrels of tea in the water to protest taxation without representation, they had no idea they were throwing out the seeds of the greatest country ever born.

We see these as tremendous accomplishments, but taking a stand for what we feel is right–every day– is no less important. Life would be pretty dull and quite frightening if we all lived in neutral gear, I thought as we walked outside the hotel restaurant in the bright, sunny afternoon.

I looked to see if the convertible and the two women were still in the parking lot, but they weren’t. I did notice a silver convertible that looked just like theirs in the regular parking space, though, as we drove away.

You’re Almost There….

“When it was over, I lay spent and exhausted on the cold, hard earth…never to be ranked with the average and mediocre…” This is a quote from one of our late presidents, my daughter sent me when I was toiling with one of life’s many problems. She continued with, “In essence…I am a winner, and I will not say it’s over until I have given everything. Until there is nothing left in me to give. That makes me special and unique.” I keep this close to me and read it when I am struggling or just want to feel the strength of my children.

You're Almost ThereThe warm air is disappearing, and the cold weather is sending us back into the gym to keep our bodies strong and healthy. Don’t worry, this isn’t going to turn into an exercise column.

The last few weeks, I have been testing my perseverance at the gym. My step class has actually been demonstrating my need to be more determined. I took the class to build stamina. It looked pretty easy to me. We begin vigorously with simple repetitive movements and stay at it until every muscle has been thoroughly worked. The steps are simple. There are no strenuous movements, so I figured I could handle it. Yet when I began, I realized that the hardest part had nothing to do with movement, it was all about endurance.

After 15 minutes, I felt like a limp piece of spaghetti. I just wanted to drop to the floor. So, of course, I did what anyone who is out of shape does, I quit. However, I kept going back. Over and over, I would go and last as long as I could and then just stop. One night after quitting, I watched the class. It wasn’t but a few more minutes that they reached the peak and began cooling down. If I had only tried a little harder, I could have finished. This week I was determined that I was going to stay with it until I finished or, as the quote said, “lay spent and exhausted on the cold, hard earth.”

I did the first 20 minutes without much of a problem, but then it got hard. I wanted to quit, but I didn’t. I just began to do the movements the way I could until I could catch up. Occasionally I would have to stop and start again, but I refused to quit. As you have guessed by now, I finished the class, and I felt great! Tired, but great!

The reason I wanted to write about this is because life is like that sometimes. I had quitted some things in my life when it got hard, but the things that I struggled with and finished are the things I am most proud of. When the work is being done, the heart is hurting, and you feel like you just can’t take another moment of whatever it is that you are reaching for, it is essential to know that you are probably almost there.

When I reached the peak in my exercise class and thought I couldn’t make it, I pushed and allowed the sweat to fall down my back, and then to my relief, the instructor began the cool-down movements. Just when I thought I was going to have to quit again, I had made it.

If we worked as hard in our marriages, with our children, and our jobs, we might find that the goal was not near as far away as we thought. One of the things you do when your children are grown is hope the efforts you made as a young parent were good enough.

“Did I do a good job raising them,” I ask myself sometimes. There are occasions when all I can remember are the things I wished I had done better. After my daughter sent me the letter, I asked her where she learned to be so determined. She eased my heart by saying,

“Mom, one of the most important things I learned from you and dad is to never give up.”

What would the world be without color?

A wonderful time of the year! Color is everywhere, and everything has color, especially during these beautiful Autumn and Fall days. The variety of colors are endless, and it fills our world with beauty.

What Would The World Be Without ColorWhat would the world be without color? As an educational writer, that’s the question I sent to an elementary school recently. The answers ranged from no changing leaves, no beautiful flowers, no rainbows, and no jelly beans! What an awful thought!

“I think that the world would be depressing because you wouldn’t see the beauty of our world,  Color plays an important part in our lives and the nature around us. For example, the colors of some animals attract mates, while the colors of other animals help them to protect themselves. Think about how the white coat of a polar bear blends with the snow. Chameleons can change their color to match the things around them. This causes their enemies to have a hard time finding them.”
— John

“So many animals would die,” she writes. “Birds and bugs wouldn’t be able to see the flowers to pollinate or eat. Color helps us communicate. In sports, differently colored uniforms identify which team a player belongs to.”
–Isabel

“When you are playing soccer with your friends, your shirt is going to be the same as the other players, and you wouldn’t know who to give the ball to, On streets and highways, a red light tells drivers to stop, and a green light tells them to go.”
— Diego

“People won’t know if the traffic light is red, yellow, or green. And policemen can’t arrest them because they won’t know either,” she writes. “A lot of crashes would occur because of this too. On a colored map, blue stands for rivers and other bodies of water, green for forests and parks, and black for highways and other roads. The colors of different snakes tell us which ones are venomous and which ones are not. For example, red and yellow bands on certain snakes indicate that they are venomous.”
— Belinda

In home economics, students are taught to prepare meals with color so that it will be more appealing.

“Without color, everything would be unexciting, When you see food, you pick it for its color, but you wouldn’t be able to do that because everything would look dull.”
— Sophie.

“What a dull world it would be without rainbows,”
— Olivia

It is the most fascinating sight to behold. It appears to be placed so perfectly in a bright sky immediately after a light rain.

It happens when the sun’s rays are refracted by the drops of rain, showing the full spectrum of the light. The water acts the same way that prisms do. They break the light into different colors.

Colors can perk us up, mellow us out and depress us in different situations. Teachers use colors in teaching, churches use them in ministry, and hospitals use them in healing.

All the students who wrote to me agreed that the world without color would indeed be a sad and boring place to be. But there was one thing that many of the students pointed out that might be better without color.

They wrote that maybe without different color skin, people would be kinder to each other. But the truth is, God made us who we are, what we are, and the color we are.

We, as God’s creatures, need to recognize and enjoy the palette of nature, the seasons, and our unique differences, and be kind to each other. After all, we are all God’s children.