Sunday, September 27, 2015

Lightening Strikes Again

Ya know, it’s funny how life sometimes hands you a do over. But you find it impossible to believe that lightning can strike twice in the same place.

I have been offered a chance to travel with Tonya Ritchie and her two young daughters and a family friend, Darrell, to South Carolina for the American Heart Association Annual Fund Raiser and ride my horse, Trig, on the beach for four wonderful days. He and I will be leaving this morning. Believe me, if someone would have told me that someday I would be galloping a horse again on the beach in front of Lakewood Family Campground on The Grand Strand I would have said, “No way! That’s impossible!”


But let me back up a bit and share how this story really begins.

It was a time of innocence in my young life when summertime meant school was out, kids kicked off their shoes and ran and played all day; the rule was you had better be back home by the time supper was laid on the table.
My sister Debbie and I, she seven and I, the younger at six, would often take off down the railroad tracks that ran in front of our house, past Hog Town and heading to a horse boarding farm nearly a mile down the way.  I guess our mom allowed us to do this because her two brothers, Clyde and Claude, both had houses side-by-side near there.
We would spend hours playing in the incredible hay loft of that massive barn with rough-hewn boards, grey and weathered.  We delighted in feeding the horses apples, pears and paw-paws we had brought in a sack from home.

What I remember most though was playing with the barn kittens and constantly begging the barn manager to let us ride one of the horses stabled there. Looking doubt we two silly little girls made a nuisance out of ourselves.
The ancient barn manager, ancient to us, was a very small statured man who wore a massive silver belt buckle and (what seemed to me) a 43 gallon cowboy hat. He was not particularly gracious but he did tolerate our whining to ride a horse, cow or ANYTHING while trying to keep us out of the way of work hands and cowboys. I never, ever remember seeing a cowgirl there but the men were constantly coming and going, hauling bags of feed and bales of hay, slinging saddles and bridles, tacking up and trying to handle their horses with more than a few rearing and bucking the whole time.
One day that will forever live with me because of its far reaching ramifications, there was a life changing incident at that barn. Activity was unusually slow and Debbie and I heard the manager give us a shout. We both bound down from the big tractor we had climbed on and raced around the corner of the barn and low and behold!, he had taken two horses out of their stalls, put bridles on them and was leading them out the barn door!
"Follow me!” he barked. We trailed him down into the bottom pasture and he first put me on my horse, telling me to sit still; then he hoisted Debbie up on her mount, once again telling us both to "SIT STILL!" He apparently wanted once and for all to shut us up from the constant “can we ride, sir, puh-leze let us get on a horse, sir” mantra.
Let me pause for a moment here to quote Vincent Van Gogh... simply because I need to somehow justify, even today, what possessed me to do what I did next while sitting on that horse. "The fishermen know that the sea is dangerous and the storm is terrible, but they have never found these dangers sufficient reason for remaining ashore."
As the good Lord is my witness, the above words must have been somewhere embedded in my young soul as I do not know what made my spindly little legs do it, but I did kick my horse with all I had and he shot off across that pasture. To my utter delight.
Well, as most of you know who ride, when one horse takes off… the other usually follows. Debbie’s horse immediately gave chase. I remember so well that feeling of freedom that swept over me as if imaginary shackles were falling from my skinny body as it clung to that magnificent creature beneath me.
Then almost immediately realty set in.
I knew instinctively I had some kind of hell to pay because I did not 'just sit' as told so I did what I had seen all the cowboys do around the place as they came galloping up. I pulled back on those reins with everything I had and the horse started stopping; so did my sister's.
I was flushed with excitement; poor Debbie…ashen and shaken. The barn manager was beat red with fury. Even so, do you want to know the most heartbreaking reality of my impulsiveness, my friends?
My best buddy left the barn that day and never came back. The fear that was struck in her heart carries with her to this day. Whereas the ride that day that sparked in me a profound passion for horses blew out the tiny flame that had begun to ignite in her. Even today she is terrified of horses. I did that to her and have regretted it all my life. 
Remember at the beginning of my story I said its funny how life sometimes hands you a do over?
Several years later my parents, with their platoon of five kids, had pitched our thick green Army tent at Lakewood Family Campground at Myrtle Beach, South Carolina  for our annual two week vacation. The misery of attempting to sleep in that miserably hot tent at the beach in July was somehow erased every morning by the smell of country ham from a hog we had killed, eggs and hash brown potatoes wafting into that same tent from the iron skillets that were packed up and put on top of the station wagon by a woman we kids never really appreciated what hell that beach trip must have been for her.

 I was twelve years old and my sister Debbie and her twin, Dennis, were thirteen. Mama always let us go to the pavilion on the beach that first night where there was a live band playing all the traditional beach songs...Surfin’ Safari, The Twist, Please Stay and the ever popular, Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weenie Yellow Polka dot Bikini.
We three shy kids were standing on the ocean side of the pavilion watching in awe as all the older kids danced. Suddenly, a young man and woman rode up on their horses.
They had dismounted and were watching the fun when I sidled up to this strange man and, undaunted, asked if I could ride his horse. He threw back his head and horse laughed and asked “Kid, do you have any idea how to ride a horse?” I told him sure; I even knew how to gallop on a horse. Now, I had not even been on the back of a horse since that infamous day at age six several years prior. He then, with no hesitation, gave me a leg up, handed me the reins and off I went.
Debbie and Denny always loved to pick up the story at this point when it was often told through the years.
They both recanted how suddenly that night they looked around and I was nowhere to be seen. Recognizing they were going to get skinned by Mama as we had been told to stick together, they both began to panic. Just about that time they saw me galloping by between the pavilion and the ocean, heading back down the beach in the opposite direction.
"Yep, sure was", Debbie replied in her six minutes older than her twin superiority. "And I think we should tell Mama on her, don't you?"
Well, all was well that ended well that night. My brother and sister did not rat me out and once again I got to gallop on a horse. My love and passion for horses were growing deeper.

But remember... I titled this story Lightening Strikes Again.

It is inconceivable to me I am now a grown women with a horse of my own...a handsome, black, 16-hands tall Tennessee Walker named General Trig 'O Nometry. Trig and I are packing up to trailer him to Lakewood Family Campground, the old stomping grounds of my youth, to ride the wind again.
Once offered the opportunity to go on this trip by my buddy Tonya I asked my best friend, my sister Debbie, if she would go with me.
Yep, she sure could. She wanted to be there with me, she said, to see me recapture my dream to once again ride the wind on that beach I galloped on when I was but a young girl.
She said she would launder my wet jeans when I rode into the ocean waves with Trig; she would prepare me and my friends steaming pots of hot soup to ward off the chill of the cool fall evenings as we camped; she would do everything she could to be the 'wind beneath my wings'.
I could feel my heart cracking once again as tears welled up in my eyes. Those things Debbie offered to do for me were invaluable; what I really wanted though was my precious sister to ride the wind with me on a horse by my side on that beach. 
Sadly...I had sealed that chance long ago in a pasture below a barn with rough-hewn boards, grey and weathered.


My wonderful friend Tonya who invited me to go as her guest caught this snippet of video of one of our wonderful rides on the beach. Here I am riding shotgun with Derrick, a horseman since a young boy on his grandfather's farm.
Posted by Linda Blevins on Monday, November 10, 2014

I Fought the Law and the Law Won

Have you ever known what the law is and deliberately broke it? Just flat out broke it? Well, I did this morning out of sheer anger and frustration. I have known this law since I was a little girl and every time I would read it, it struck the fear of God in me.

It oft times caused me to not rest well at night. I, on occasion, dreamed I would accidentally break this law in my sleep. What if this law was broken by me without my knowing it and the police showed up at my parent's door wanting to know, "Who in this house broke THIS law?"

So I have gone my entire lifetime carefully mindful to not get on the wrong side of trouble, seething because I thought this particular law incredibly stupid...but, the law is the law.  Until early this morning.

I was, for the millionth time, straightening up the decorative pillows on the sofa and, as always, tucking the white attached tags underneath so they would not be seen. Then... all of a sudden irritation overwhemed me.
I marched to the kitchen drawer, took out a pair of scissors and, throwing caution to the wind, picked up my first pillow and with some trepidation, cut that darn tag off!

I did not need to read about the law I had just broken. I had read it hundreds of times since childhood.

Well, the dirty deed was done so I might as well go all the way in my law breaking and I continued snipping until every tag on every pillow was removed.
Then I sat down and weaved between emotions of glee and guilt and in that familiar childish way wondered if there would be a knock at my door.
Slowly I got up and picked up the scraps of tags and looked at one for old times’ sake before tossing them in the waste can and lo and behold, what I read stunned me!

Thank you merciful Jesus!  All children had been loosed from bondage, finally let go from tag fears that have probably scarred them, like me, well into adulthood!
Some kindly soul either took pity or wizened up somewhere in the iron-fisted land of 'Tag Laws and Regulations'.


HELLELUIA! PRAISE THE LORD! And pass me the scissors. I have pillows,  comforters, mattresses; well...let's just say this is going to be a busy, guilt free day up here on the Roan.

Post Script: A brief Google search told me the tag 'law' was actually amended in the 1970’s to assure consumers that the 'do-not-remove' threat was not aimed at them and G-men would not be breaking down their doors.


Pride Goethe Before My Fall

Saturday morning up here on the Roan was busy with preparations for our annual Easter celebration. Family and friends were set to arrive at noon Sunday for Easter Dinner and a day of celebration.
Humming along, Tony was hosing down the winter's collection of, well...winter yuck off the back decking, picnic tables and lounge chairs. Berta and I were spiffing up the house and there was the other very important matter to tend to, getting Trig groomed and dressed out in his Easter outfit. All the activity around the place was rather chaotic.

We had guests coming who had never met my beloved horse, Trig, so naturally I wanted him to look his best. He, on the other hoof, could have cared less.
When informing him that someone was coming to professionally groom and 'decorate' him for the big occasion there was, as usual with my obstinate boy-child, much push back.

Trig: "Mom, I don't want to get gussied up for this Easter thing."
Me: "Trig, listen, there are special people coming who have never met you and I want them to see you at your most handsome."

"I really don't care, Mom. Your dressing me in some silly outfit or whatever should not make them like me any more or less. Please don't do this. It's just not natural."

"Now Trig, it won't take long and it is not going to hurt you to appease me. It will be fun to see the reaction from them seeing how adorable you are with all the pastel Easter colors all over you."

"The way I see it is somebody is going to be chopping on my hair and you know how I hate that. They are going to be pulling and yanking and who knows what all. Please tell me they are not going to chop off my whiskers!"

"Yes, Trig, you have to get a shave. Those whiskers are very unbecoming. They are long and stiff and they are prickly when I try to kiss you."

"Well, you need to stop kissing me on the lips; I don't think that's natural, Mom. Anyway. let me repeat...if you go this dress-up route I feel it's going to end up a total disaster."

"Oh for Heaven's sake, Trig! Stop being such a drama king! It will not be a disaster. I know what I am doing so gird your loins. It is going to happen. Period. End of conversation."

And Trig and I both retreat to opposite corners of the barn.
I, foolishly, thought I had won that battle.

He was groomed and the accompanying photo shows how stunning he looked. His mane was cut and woven beautifully with Easter pretties. His tail length was shortened a couple of inches where it had been dragging the ground and a stunning Avatar tail was plaited down to the ground. Woven in were matching Easter colors.

When the job was finished, I ooohed and awed, carrying on like a typical mom admiring her child in the perfect Easter dress with matching shoes. Trig's only comment? "Mom, I really feel this is not going to end so good."
"Oh hush Trig!"

As a treat for being so accommodating during the grooming process, I told my beloved horse I was going to let him graze in the bottom pasture, his favorite place. I told him to be careful and not mess up his Easter outfit; I wanted him to look just the same when everyone arrived the next day for the festivities.
When I went down at six that evening to lead Trig back to the barn, what I saw shocked me so much my knees nearly buckled. There he stood and I promise you... he looked like he had a slight grin on his muzzle.

"YOU JACKASS!", I screamed.

Along with mud on both cheeks and up on and in the right ear, his pretty little bow was missing from his forelock. His beautiful weave down his mane was totally disheveled and mostly unwoven with all of the Easter pretties gone!
That demon horse had dried mud all over one side as well as down his flank and leg of the other side. His tail was a matted mess. Only because the Avatar tail was braided down through the middle of his thick lush tail accounted for those decorations still being intact.
What a bloody mess!

It was obvious Trig had worked pretty darn hard to rub and roll off just the right places.

I snapped the lead rope under his halter and started to the barn at a fast clip. All the way up that man-child talked non-stop trying to weasel out of the mess he was in.

"Mom, now hold on a minute. Remember all that stuff you've told me over the past two weeks while you were grooming me every day? 'Member? You told me Easter is not about pretty clothes, Easter bunnies, colored egg hunts or eatin' too much.

Mom, do you recall telling me all that stuff? You said yourself Easter was about the Resurrection of the Savior Jesus Christ, our Savior. Huh, huh? Isn't that what you said, Mom?

You talked about how people forget that and how it made you feel so sad every year. I remember you said those things Mom. And then you wanted to make me look like an idiot so you could show off to your friends? Was that being a...what is that big word you taught me Mom? What is it, I forgot?"

I began to slow down my furious pace as I felt my face begin to burn.

Then the tears began to spill onto my cheeks.
"Hypocrite", I responded to my wise equine friend softly, humbled and embarrassed. "It's called being a hypocrite, Trig. And you are right. I need to ask you and my Poppa God both to forgive me for being the hypocritical one.

 I think I need to spend more time with Him today talking about my pride. And I would like humbly  to say thanks buddy for caring enough to hold me accountable."

When arriving at the barn, that horse I adore and I walked into the cool shadows, shoulder to shoulder; Trig with his head held high... mine, not so much.

Beds that Pack a Punch!

Bear Cabin and Jake's, our two cabins nestled privately in the woods on our property, have been essential when you have as many family members as we do. Family gatherings easily stretch from fun, day long visits to "Hey! Why don't ya'll spend the weekend?" Wonderful memories have already been made as we gather for back-to-back activities provided by living on the Roan that 'city living' simply cannot match.

Recently a friend, knowing we lived in the woods in cabins, sent me this incredible photo on Facebook and my reaction was WOW! This looks promising!

My mind immediately kicked into action. First, each of the cabins has an open loft and this built in bed concept would beat putting down blow up mattresses on the floor to augment the bed in each room. And the built-in beds would fit perfectly in the area of those lofts.

Then I realized once these built-ins were, well...built in, they were going to be there forever. It's not like you could take them out once they were in.

Not to worry. That would be perfect.

It was our dream when Tony and I bought Misty Hollow it would be kept in our family for generations to come, never to be sold. We envisioned, God willing, that our kids would hand this little piece of Heaven on earth down to our grandchildren and they to theirs. Having the built-in beds was a good insurance policy that a potential sale would possibly be thwarted in the future as not everyone would want two bedrooms with five beds built inside each with no way to remove them other than to chop them out. Bahahaha!

My little brain is now trying to figure how and when this little project will be starting. :-)

Steel, Silk...and Just Flat Strange

My sweetheart says he loves the fact that one moment I can be so feminine.

But then, he has to contend with hardened steel.

And of course there is that part of me that likes to walk around with a chicken on my shoulder. Living with me, he admits with laughter, keeps him on his toes at all times.

As a Friend, Ya Can't Beat Berta With A Stick!

When ever Tony and I leave the Roan for any length of time I know I can always depend on my dear friend Berta who lives in the holler below us to take care of my horse, Trig, and my cat, Ms. Kitty Pride. Berta is also my morning walking buddy and just an all round sound gal.  An added bonus is Berta is lots of fun and has a wonderful sense of humor. One of the first visitors to scurry up and welcome us home after we pull in front of Bear Cabin is this dear friend, anxious to catch up on all that's been going on and giving me a report on how my 'kids' have done since I've been away.

On a recent trip away and upon our return, Berta came charging up the lane to the cabin unusually stoked. She seemed to be busting at the seems so I fixed us a glass of iced tea and we settled down on the porch swing to gossip.

She said she had sorely missed me this go around for some reason and things got really boring up here after a couple of days. Sitting on my front porch swing and 'chewin' the fat' was not an option so she tried to busy herself with preparation to 'lay down' her vegetable garden for summer. Berta then stunned me with a story about the Spring she watched a huge bear wrap his arms around one of her bee hives, one of several she has positioned right beside her garden space, and carry it off!

Now this tidbit made me more than a little nervous. Her garden is on their land that is also across from her house which abuts our acreage. Our Jake's Cabin is nestled among the trees down in that area. There is a fence separating those bee hives and 250 yards of grass to Jake's Cabin.

I have often fretted about those bees swarming with the grandkids playing in that area. So now I have to worry about a huge bear with his arms around the hive filled with  swarming bees stumbling toward them. Oh good grief.
Berta carried on.

She told me out of boredom she then cleaned out the pond behind her house and remembered back when the Conservation people tried to make her remove the pieces of styrofoam she floated on top for her fish to hide under. "Huh", she said with a snort. "They lost that battle." I had no doubt 'they' did. Berta is by nature...around most people...a quiet and reserved woman but I have no doubt if you try to mess with her or hers she will fight a circle tailed saw.

Taking another big swig of tea, Berta then said with a flourish she was finally out of ideas to keep her mind occupied until she took out the trash that first week. Then an idea stuck up in her head higher than a light pole!

For the next week she began gathering every plastic bag, old rag and any other stuffin' she could find. "I was as busy as a one-legged cat in a sandbox for the next few days, Linda. Even had to go borrow some old rags from family."
"I planned to be ready for the trash man the next time he came 'round. I know how to liven' things up here in this holler!"

And she sure did. The photo she handed me to look at is below.  
I sure am delighted to be back on my mountain with my buddy Berta.

Once Upon a Christmas

"Hey goofballs, wake up!" yelled my oldest brother, Jackie. "You remember what today is, don't ya?" Tumbling out of bed, the stampede began. After thawing over coal furnace vents, we kids bolted breakfast then started dressing for what was, for my family, the second most exciting day of our year.

It was the late 50’s and life was difficult back then. Dad, an alcoholic, was a tormented man who seemed to forever fight within himself over the kind of man he wanted to be and the man he usually was.

The alcohol had been such a part of him for so long that another way of life seemed elusive.

Even after a horrific drunk on Saturday night with Dad holding a pistol to his temple in front of his children, swearing he was going to blow his brains out, by Sunday morning he was up, sober and helping Mom do whatever he could to make sure those same kids made it on the church bus in time.

Dad’s sense of how to teach his children important lessons on morality was skewed by his alcohol dementia. The first time one of his kids stole a two cent piece of candy from a tiny store near our home, he lined all four of us up and, with his thick leather strap, whipped all of us until we had welts that lasted for days. He did the same thing if one of us told a lie. Or cheated. Or said a bad word. He meted out his punishment to all without regard to who the offender was.

I am not endorsing this means of discipline by any stretch of the imagine but I would not be honest with you if I did not tell you that, as far as I can remember, I never stole anything as a child as a result of those beatings. I can never remember telling a lie either. That I promise.

I can never remember cheating, and my cussing as a youth was relegated to, when very angry, saying under my breath, “Shooty, farty, monkey!” Now where in the world I came up with that expression, I will never know. But if you ever needed to be cussed out by me, that was what would be fired at you…unfortunately, you would never hear it.

The huge event that morning was the Raytheon Company's annual Christmas party set to begin at 10 a.m. at the Paramount Theatre downtown Bristol. I was seven years old, the forth of five children with Baby Sandy being fourteen months.  I do remember that exciting morning of the Christmas party was overcast, bitter cold.

After laying out Sunday's best, Mama and Daddy loaded their five kids into our run-down station wagon and off we rushed, our old wagon belching black smoke all the way.

As we drove Daddy began dampening our childish enthusiasm by reminding us it is always better to give than receive. Ignoring him, visions of sugarplums and other such goodies danced in my head. I hoped to get enough toys, candy, fruit and nuts to rival our Christmas morning at home.

While circling Woolworth's parking lot, Daddy started preaching his threadbare sermon. Though we were poor, he and Mama were proud. In his gruff voice he said, "Don't forget now, we have little but enough. When you get your treat bags, don't forget to say 'Thank ya' ".

After being seated in the huge, opulent theater with tens of dozens of other Raytheon employees and their children, the morning started off with a B-grade Western, hot buttered popcorn and icy Cokes. Excitement mounted; still, the kids in the audience squirmed, anxious to see the star of the show. When the curtain finally fell, Santa bounded out with white beard askew, bellowing, "HO! HO! HO! MERRY CHRISTMAS EVERYONE!"

After reciting T'was the Night before Christmas and leading all in singing carols, Santa Claus admonished all to remember Jesus was the reason for the season. He then instructed us to march out single file and pick up gift bags prepared by management, reassuring us they were glad we were part of the Raytheon family.

As expected, the morning offered the familiarity of the prior parties.
It was the trip home that left an indelible impression on my young life.
Our family of seven settled back into the car and we kids dove into our treasures. The toy exchange began but the candy, popcorn balls and other edibles were stashed until we could gather 'round the prickly cedar Christmas tree we had chopped down along the railroad tracks.

Sandy lay sprawled on Mama's lap in the front seat. She had received treats as well but was too small to understand the wonder of it all. As I eyed her bag, I finally blurted, "Daddy, who's gonna get Sandy's toys and stuff?"  After a moments hesitation he said, "Hey, I betcha I know who could probably use it".

Daddy soon pulled into the dirt driveway of a dilapidated shack not far from our place. I often walked past this house on my way home from school, always feeling sad the yard had no grass. The kids who lived there were either playing in mud or dust at the mercy of rain or shine.

Without a word Daddy got out and motioned for us to follow. He carried Sandy's bag as tenderly as he cradled her. After knocking on the door we waited for what seemed an eternity. Slowly the door cracked open and I gazed into a dark, haggard face. As the door swung wider, I saw a baby clinging to this woman then four other scantily clad children scurried to the mother, peeking nervously from behind her skirt.

As they stared at us, Daddy introduced himself. He told the woman where we'd been and we had an extra gift bag we didn't need. Could she possibly use it?

Without a word the mother began to silently cry, tears slipping down a face that was no stranger to hurt and need. Whispering a shy "thank you", she reached for the package with her free arm and clutched it to her breast.  Somehow, Dad’s kids seemed to all realize at once what Dad must have already known. This would be all there would be for this family come Christmas morning.

I don't remember which kid slipped away first but I'm ashamed to admit... it wasn't me. Slowly, I followed my three older siblings out to gather our sacrificial gifts. One by one we delivered them into the outstretched arms of four shy but overwhelmed children.

Then we turned and without fanfare, headed home. I remember the hushed silence except for an occasional sniffle.  Daddy never again mentioned what happened that cold winter day. But...that was his way.

That wasn't the last time my Dad made me cry. I remember another day a few years later when my father said to his demons…it is finished. And again when he gave his life to Christ.

Dad's been gone for quite some time now but his living lessons are deeply rooted within me. In the still, wee hours of Christmas morn I can hear his gentle reminder, "Christmas givin' sure does feel a whole lot better than Christmas gettin', Linda."

I still miss you terribly, Dad, and will see you in Heaven.
As the Holy Season approaches, I wish you God's Blessings and
His Salvation Through Christ, our Greatest Gift of all.

New York, New York

Start spreading the news, I'm leaving today.
I want to be a part of it, New York, New York.
These vagabond shoes, are longing to stray
Right through the very heart of it, New York, New York.

I wanna wake up, In a city that doesn't sleep.
And find I'm king of the hill, top of the heap.
These little town blues, are melting away.
I'll make a brand new start of it, in old New York.
As much as we love Roan Mountain, on occasion 'the better half' and I decide on occasion to fly up to the 'Big Apple' to see the sights and sounds.  Such a trip took place this past week and the most embarrassing thing happened to me while there.

Tony and I had dressed to have dinner at the Kennedy Center and then see a Broadway play. To my chagrin, while walking toward the theatre we stepped on a grate on the sidewalk and at that moment a gust of air gushed up and caught the tail of my dress and...well, the rest is history for me to blush over and Tony to recant for years to come.


Post Script: It should be obvious to all by now I, on occasion, love to pull the wool over the eyes of my readers. A hearty 'Job well done!' to Grandfather Don for the excellent job with Paint Shop Pro. He cropped my head off a photo of me riding a mechanical bull a while back and placed it on the famous photo of Marilyn Monroe. And THAT'S no bull.



Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.

On occasion I will leave the cabin on Roan Mountain and trek down into Elizabethton just to drop in and browse through a specialty shop I adore.
The elderly Christian woman who owns the shop is always playing ole time hymns as background music; the shop is filled with slightly dusty ‘what-nots’, always reminding me of my small home as a child and the fact Mama never learned the lesson sometimes ‘less is best’ when it comes to decorating.

For some reason though, the essence of the place always seems to bring peace to my soul.

This past Wednesday I walked up to the always open door and was surprised to find it closed. Pushing against it, I was equally surprised to see it slowly crack open and a pretty redhead with alabaster skin peered out. I had never seen her there before.

She, in a slightly gravelly voice, informed me the shop had just closed ten minutes before as the owner always went to church on Wednesday evenings. Before I could say anything she asked where I lived and I told her I lived in a cabin on the side of Roan Mountain.

Immediately the door flung open and this lovely, tall, well-muscled gal gently asked me to step inside telling me she did not have the heart to send me away. I was surprised initially but then remembered this was not unusual behavior for the kind-spirited people I was getting use to in Carter County.

I told her she was really sweet but I did not want to inconvenience her; she apparently was the only one in the shop and my browsing would keep her after hours.  “I really don’t mind honey. I can tell already you are a caring soul so I will just do a little cleaning up and you browse ‘till your little ole heart’s content.” My heart melted then and I felt a connection with this woman. There was something about her that drew me.

A few minutes later I thanked her and as I was leaving, I reached out to shake her hand for being so gracious but my heart within compelled me to hug her instead. Tears welled up in her eyes. I cannot explain it but I sensed pain and rejection somewhere hidden deep within.

She thanked me for the hug and told me she hoped she would see me again; I assured her she would. I told her there was something very special about her that would be enough to drag me off my mountain to pay a visit soon.
And there was.  A couple of days ago I visited the shop again. I had thought about my new buddy often and I looked forward to seeing her.

When I parked my car and started toward the shop, out she walked onto the sidewalk to greet me. We immediately embraced  in that way women do when they are awfully glad to see each other again.

“How have you been?”, I asked. “You know, I have thought about you a lot since I left here and I've wanted to come back to see you. I don’t know about you but I don’t believe in ‘chance happenings’ in my life. I believe God has brought us together for a reason and I sure am glad.”  She wholeheartedly agreed.

“I still can’t get over your willingness to let me come in and browse after hours last week. Would you please let me give you a tip for that kindness and causing you to have to work overtime?”  “Oh please do”, she said with excitement.
As I reached into my purse she immediately told me to stop! No, she did not want a monetary tip; she said she thought I was going to share a beauty tip.
Stunned, I just stood there and looked at her.

Linda, she wanted to know. Haven’t you noticed anything about me?
I looked closely and my first thought was she had maybe darkened that beautiful head of flaming red hair since I had seen her last Wednesday.
Before I could utter a word my new friend said very nervously, “Linda, I am a transgender in progress.”

All I know is what happened next was one of those incredible moments God gives us is this life here on earth that reminds us He is El Shaddai. My instantaneous heartfelt comment was, “Well, you are beautiful.”

And, with a love given freely to me from Christ who cherishes me ‘Just as I Am’, I reached out and put my arms around this wonderful, kind and gracious woman and tears flowed between us.

As she clung to me, the only words she whispered were, “Are you an angel?”
And, realizing I had shared my name but she had never shared hers, I  asked my new friend her name.

Sooo Perfect for Both Bear and Jake Cabins

If the good Lord's willin' and the creek don't rise, I WILL get the 'ingredients' together and make me some of these charming lanterns to put outside on the picnic tables for family and friends to gather 'round and enjoy.

Congress. Can't live with 'em...Can't live with out 'em

Once upon a time there was a king who wanted to go fishing.
He called the royal weather forecaster and enquired as to the weather forecast for the next few hours.  So the king went fishing with his wife, the queen. On the way he met a farmer on his donkey.

Upon seeing the king the farmer said, "Your Majesty, you should return to the palace at once because in just a short time I expect a huge amount of rain to fall in this area".

The king was polite and considerate, so he replied: "I hold the palace meteorologist in high regard. He is an extensively educated and experienced professional. Besides, I pay him very high wages. He gave me a very different forecast, my friend. I trust him and though I thank you for your advise... I will continue on my way." So he continued on.

However, a short time later a torrential rain fell from the sky. The King and Queen were totally soaked and their entourage chuckled upon seeing them in such a shameful condition.
Furious, the king returned to the palace and gave the order to fire the weatherman at once!

Then he summoned the farmer and offered him the prestigious and high paying role of royal forecaster.
The farmer said, "Your Majesty, I do not know anything about forecasting. I obtain my information from my donkey. If I see my donkey's ears drooping, it means with certainty that it will rain."

So the king hired the donkey. And so began the practice of hiring asses to work in the government and occupy its highest and most influential positions.

-Author unknown   (But highly regarded for his insight.)


This video of Peggy feeding the donkeys is priceless! She seemed to be a natural. Missy still has not gone into labor and I am about to give up on her. I wanted her to deliver while Peg was here on the mountain with me but...

Posted by Linda Blevins on Sunday, April 6, 2014

How I got my 'Nana' Name

 “Could you just call me Pigeon?” he asked the teacher when she read his name.
“Does your mother call you Pigeon?”
“Then to me you are Paul.”
“Nathan Sutter,” the teacher read.
“My mother never calls me Nathan.”
“Is it Nate?”
“She calls me Honeylips.”
Brandon Mull, The Candy Shop War      

Not long ago I shared something special with my eight year old grandson, Emmett Thomas Deere. After finishing my tale of how I got my ‘Nana’ name he, with his usual ‘you are old, goofy and kind of strange but I love you with all my heart’ laugh, ran off to play. He is a man of few words, that one.

He does call me his Nana.

And as I told the child that day, it was (almost) a miracle how that came to be.

Emmett was just a tiny tyke and adorable; he won the hearts of all females who got a peek at him… given the fact he had such beautiful blue eyes, the chubbiest cheeks and longest lashes God ever graced on a baby.

Years prior to Emmett when I became a grandmother to my first born grandchild, Chandler Logan Tolbert, now nineteen, vanity struck in a major way. Calling me Grandmother, Grandma, Granny or any such name was simply out of the question. Without any conviction, I instructed my daughter, Tara, and her husband, Ken, to repeat ‘Mimi’ over and over to that sweet little boy. They did, I did, and my always compliant first grandbaby was soon murmuring ‘Mimi’ to his adoring… Mimi. Then when sweet Ryleigh Emerson blessed us with her presence, Mimi was the natural name for her as well.

But now there was Emmett. Since the other two grandchildren lived on the outskirts of Nashville and he in Bristol, I set about the time consuming task of teaching him to call me Mimi.

One day while visiting their home, my daughter, Mandy, and her husband, Ira, were gracious enough to let me take over the supervision of lunch for this child I had come to adore. Bits of fruit, veggies, turkey, and soft bread lay on his high chair tray. As I settled before him, I continued the mantra I had begun months before. “Can you say Mimi, Emmett? Say Mimi, my darling. I am Mimi."

All of a sudden and with as much clarity as a bolt of lightning striking my heart, this adorable blond babe looked at me and said, “Nana”. I was thunder struck! I incredulously blurted, “What? What did you say, precious?”

Again, Emmett looked directly in my face and said, “Nana”. Oh holy cow!  “Mandy! Ira! Hurry, come here!”

They rushed into the dining area where their brilliant child sat in his chair squishing a soft piece of bread in his hand, smiling sweetly at me.  

“Did you hear that?” I asked in a hushed tone so as to not further startle the child. “Did you hear what Emmett just said?” “Listen!” “Emmett, I am Mimi.”

Those big blue eyes looked at me again and just as firmly said, “Nana.”

Deliriously happy and with much excitement I jumped up and danced around the room; magnanimously I told my two adult children it did not matter to me if this precious child did not want to call me Mimi. If Emmett wanted to call me his ‘Nana’ he most definitely could!
So from that day on I instructed everyone in our family to refer to me as Nana 'cause that was what my grandson wanted to call me!

So Nana I became to that smart little fella and Nana I will forever be.

But hold the reins on those horses now.

Mandy and Ira broke down a couple of years ago and told me there had been a little misunderstanding in their dining room that day. The kind of fruit on Emmett’s tray back then… slices of banana. He had eaten it all; he was simply asking for more 'nana' from me. They did not, at the time, want to humiliate me.

And so goes the saying…there is no fool like an old fool.