Monthly Archives: February 2014

Fishing Hook Dog

It’s amazing how driving by certain places can bring out the stories Charles can otherwise not remember. Like the day he pointed to a white shuttered house set back behind large pecan trees and said, “That’s where I had to come that Sunday we were all at Revonda’s for Mother’s Day. There was a dog with a fish hook.”

I remembered it as he began to retell the story.

We’d just arrived at Charles’ sister Revonda’s for a wonderful family gathering. We greeted Papa Graham merrily as he patrolled the large carefree yard, Tammy’s small Boston terrier snorting around his feet. I went on in the house with my big bowl of potato salad. I’d made it the night before and its flavors would have had time to blend well. Stepping into the cheery kitchen, I found myself well hugged by Revonda and Mama Graham who’d already been at work lining up various culinary creations including Mama’s fantastic creamed corn and Revonda’s fruit salad complete with pineapple and strawberries. We often joked that we needn’t confer at all about a menu if we decided to get together. We’d just each bring our usual dishes and our dinner would be made.

“Oh,” said Revonda suddenly remembering as she handed me a slip of paper. “Charles left our number with the answering service, I guess. He needs to call that number.”

I went back outside speaking to a bevy of nieces and nephews on the way and noticing that our William had already instigated a football throwing with Mike and Ken while Julie and Tammy were settled in front of the den television.

I handed Charles the slip of paper and leaned over to pet Daffy, the Boston terrier while he went off to return the call.

Starting back up the porch steps, I met Charles. “I’ve got to go,” he said.

“Oh, no, not now!”

“Afraid so. All the way over on the north county line road. I’ll be back as soon as I can. I told Revonda not to wait dinner for me. It’s a dog with a fish hook. Why crazy people leave things like that lying around I’ll never know.” But then he grinned. “Have truck, will travel.”

And he was gone.

Dinner was over and the ice cream churn humming when he finally returned. He told us all about the dog between bites.

“Poor fellow. They’d been down by the pond fishing and that hound was sniffing around as they always do. Suddenly Pete heard the dog yowling in an awful kind of way. Said he was afraid he’d been snakebitten but when he got to him he wondered if a snakebite might not have been kinder. The poor thing had gotten a fish hook in his lip.”

“Oh, I’ve seen that before,” interrupted Marcus. “Not pretty.”

Charles lifted a finger. “In his back paw, too,” he added. “Same fish hook.”

“Oh, no,” everyone groaned.

“And that’s not all,” said Charles with a climactic note in his voice. “He’d evidently tried to get loose from one place only to get himself tangled elsewhere. That fish hook had him three ways.”

“Three ways?” Ken asked. “How, Uncle Charles? What was the third?”

“In his scrotum,” said Charles.

The boys giggled. Tammy put her hand over her mouth and Julie looked mystified. Most of us had a picture immediately of a large red hound wound up in a painful position. No wonder his yowl sounded strange and pitiful!

“So what did you do?” somebody asked as Charles practically licked the last bit of corn from his plate.

“Got out my pliers and tweezers and relieved the poor thing. It wasn’t easy. Took two big guys holding him down but I finally set him free. He ran off with his tail between his legs looking totally ashamed.”



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Thoughts on the Olympics

I’m not entirely sure why I’m so enthralled every four years when the winter Olympics play out. The competition amongst the young athletes is so invigorating and I love to become acquainted with the setting too–the snowy mountains, the palatial buildings, the side stories. My loyalty is pumped up to a high level as I pull for our very own contenders. And I just love to see the snow from the safety of my own living room! I cannot imagine myself every slicing up one side of a huge “pipe” and landing just barely on the lip to swoop back down and up again. But it’s fun to watch someone who is so daring! So–I’m a vicarious athlete!

My favorite venue is figure skating but I enjoy the fantastic skiiers, the crazy bobsledders, and the fast, so fast, speed skaters.I love to see those who have worked for years win their medals. And I can cry for those who worked so hard and ended up way down the list. I can get wrapped up in watching each one’s moves as the commentator describes their tiny, but costly mistakes or applauds their landings from four tumbles in the air to standing firm and skiing on down the slope.

But one of the best parts is the story of each Olympian. Some are truly Cinderella stories as kids from a humble background began working out as first graders or third graders and developed a dream. Behind each one is someone who particularly pushed them to stay focused on that dream, someone who kept telling them they could, someone who inspired and always, always stood behind them. Such a one was Katie Uhlaender whose Dad understood her passion for slicing down an icy, twisting track at 80 miles an hour, headfirst in the skeleton venue. You can read her story leading up to the Olympics in my favorite magazine, Guideposts, their February edition. Read how when her dad died, she thought she could no longer compete and then how she had a comeback.

So, for whatever reason this 71-year-old woman really gets “turned on” by the Olympics. I love the challenging, victorious music, I love the excitement of competition, I love to hear stories of the Olylmpian heroes, including those who didn’t win the gold as they’d so hoped. For instance, there was the brother who won bronze instead of gold but whose tears were not because of winning less than hoped but because his beloved brother had recently died. Or what about the brother whose great victory (I think he won Gold) was shared with his brother there in Russia in a passionate bear hug? That brother was the one who pushed him from the sidelines, the same brother who can’t himself compete because he has cerebral palsy.

No, I’m no athlete, never was and never will be (unless in heaven God puts me on a snowboard and sprinkles me with special power) BUT–watching these athletes do their very best makes me want to do the best with whatever I am “into.” If I’m knitting, I want to make every stitch right where it’s supposed to be! If I’m cooking, I want to turn out delectable dishes! If I’m being a friend, I want to do my best to be the friend God wants me to be. That’s what it’s all about!

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A Riding Shotgun Note

When I started this blog a couple months ago, I told you, my readers, I would include some stories about my veterinarian husband along the way. I haven’t yet done that. Thinking that I probably should start out with something pretty mild, I chose a short snippet from an old journal. This was written back in the days when our own children were about grown and no grandchildren had come along yet–when I could ride shotgun with my veterinarian and enjoy some of the interesting scenes he encountered every day.

June, 1992–Last night we’d planned to go to a play in Thomasville, but it didn’t work out that way. Charles called at 5:15, said he needed me to go to Emory Stone’s with him. I knew then we wouldn’t be able to get ready in time for the play. I knew it even more surely when he called back and said he had to deliver a calf in north end of the county before going to Mr. Stone’s. Later, as we ate sandwiches on our way to Emory’s he filled me in on what had happened with the cow.

He had to tranquilize the cow in sudan grass as high as his own head, wait for her to “go down,” find her in the tall grass, figure out how to tie her up, cut one leg off the dead calf, and reposition it, then push, strain and jack it out. All this with only the one man there to help him. I understood why the smells emanating from his coveralls demanded open windows even on a sultry, hot night.

Driving into Emory Stone’s is always a pleasure. A good hard road ambles through woods and meadows, then suddenly turns steeply down into even darker woods. It’s a little bit like north Georgia to me, the curves and the dips. As we meandered up and down and around the lily-studded pond we looked for a deer to be grazing in one of the little open patches or under the protection of willows and scrub oak. We never saw one when I was along, not a deer or an alligator, nor a coyote, though all were seen by Emory and sometimes by Charles at other times. Once, Charles told me, a coyote had gotten caught in the fence and was found by Emory’s son well after it had died. Poor thing!

On the far side of the pond and up a hill where wild magnolia bloomed we came upon a herd of Hereford cattle watching us curiously. True to his word, Emory had left the calf requiring attention in a corral at the foot of a grassy knoll. It took only a few minutes for Charles to maneuver the calf into Emory’s cattle chute. I was the “tail breaker,” meaning I held the tail straight over the 500-pound calf’s back while Charles examined, performed surgery, and sprayed the affected part to repel flies and gnats. The calf only complained mildly once or twice.

It was almost dark as we back-tracked across the dam and past perfect spots for deer to graze, although they weren’t. Pink drifts of sunset clouds were reflected in the water. Going through the low area with woods on either side we plunged into night darkness, then as we came out in the broad meadow again, it was light enough to see grasses blowing in an evening breeze, to see the waning sunset pink wash the sides of pine trunks in the distance.

Katydids in the trees, and crickets in the grass sounded off in waves rising and falling. I thought about the play we’d missed. It couldn’t have been as good as all this.


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Happy Hearts Day!

I just got back from visiting my friends at an assisted living home near me. What fun it was to take them fresh, crisp warm apple tarts that I’d just fried in an iron skillet.  They are such lovely folks! I see them each week when I give a very brief devotional on Friday mornings. This being Valentine’s Day, I wanted to do something special. Yesterday as I went about my work, I kept thinking about the verse that God had given me: “.. he who toucheth you toucheth the apple of my eye,” Zechariah2:8. God loves us unconditionally. He loved us before we loved Him! He loves us when we are pesky and ornery and totally unlovable. That’s unconditional love–no matter what!

I love that picture from Zechariah where He says to Israel (and now to us) “…he who toucheth you toucheth the apple of my eye.” I’m the apple of His eye? Wow! It’s one thing to be called a teacher’s pet, or a best friend, a buddy, a SWEETHEART, or to know your grandchildren adore you. But imagine! God, the ruler of the universe, calls you the apple of His eye!

I wanted my friends at Magnolia Place to know they are the Apple of God’s eye. What could I do to make it plain on this particular Happy Hearts Day? That’s when God gave me the idea of making fried apple pies. So I mixed the dough last night and left it chilling in the refrigerator. I bought those very green Granny Smith apples, peeled them and stewed them into nubby applesauce, not totally smooth, sweetened the whole lot with a little brown sugar and cinnamon and left the pot sitting on the back of the stove.

This morning my sweetheart didn’t have to go to work, a very rare treat for us. I cooked up a country breakfast of sausage, yellow grits, fried eggs just the way he likes them, and buttered toast with some of our new mayhaw jelly. We had our devotional as we finished sipping our coffee. Then I went to work frying the pies and I had to hurry. But, thank the Lord, they turned out pretty nice.

My friends were happy with their warm pies and the word from the Lord that they are “..the apple of His eye.” We talked some afterwards about the memories fried pies bring to mind. We decided that in south Georgia they were called apple tarts, whereas my mother called hers fried apple pies. Mamma used to make them for us kids in the mornings on rare occasions. I remember walking on a frosty trail towards our one-room schoolhouse cuddling a fried pie between mittened hands. It felt so good and smelled even better! And what a treasure to keep for a midmorning snack, if it made it that long!

To you, dear friends, I say remember you are the “Apple of His Eye” and consider yourself cherished this Happy Hearts Day!

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Jicama, My New Crunchy Munchy

Some weeks ago I wrote about how Charles and I were investigating a new lifestyle/diet called the Daniel Plan, based on the biblical Daniel refusing to eat the king’s rich food and instead asking for vegetables. Well, we’re still at it, though now it’s beyond investigating. We’re committing! In the last few weeks I’ve been introduced to many new foods and spices. For one who is a simple country cook, it’s been unsettling to learn that plain old potatoes, as well as most anything else white, is totally off the list. Oh, and I’m a bread baker, but guess what? No breads allowed now! I’ve learned the scent and taste of ginger paste, a little more eastern than just plain ginger! I’ve learned about grapeseed oil and sesame seed oil and chia seeds and–did I say no sugar? NO sugar!

Yes, lots of strange new items to hunt at the store, such as steel cut oats and quinoa. But yesterday I met a jicama face to face. Author Rick Warren stresses that this “faith, food, fitness, focus, friends” lifestyle is all about abundance, not deprivation. But if you can’t snack on cookies and milk, or potato chips and coke, or chips and dip, then what can you have? You can have crunchy, almost sweet, jicama strips or slices dipped in artichoke heart hummus!

I’d never met a jicama up close and personal. I’d passed them in produce and given them a curious glance. That’s all. Now I know him as a new friend. He’s sort of knotty and very brown. He looks dirty even after you wash him. He’s a Mexican turnip, that’s what he is! Therefore, his name is pronounced correctly hee-cama. Remember it as humorous punctuation! When I peeled him, his hide came off in leathery strips. The meat is very white and moist. It doesn’t darken like apples or peaches when stored in a zip-lock bag. And, indeed, the taste is very satisfying, especially when dipped in artichoke heart hummus.

Artichoke hummus is made of garbanzo beans (oh, I didn’t mention the many beans we’ve been introduced to! Beans are a staple.) Put beans, chopped “hearty-chokes”, crushed garlic cloves, a tablespoon of grapeseed oil, some sea salt and pepper in a blender and “pulse until smooth.” It’s good!

My vocabulary is expanding and, I hope, my waistline is decreasing! My muscles are going to firm up as my exercise program gets underway. And the best part is–Charles and I are doing it together so our friendship and faith will be increasing too!

So pass the “hee-cama” strips and hummus please! Oh, variety is part of the picture too. We can also have carrot and celery sticks!

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“He is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine.” Ephesians 3:20

There’s no way we can imagine His greatness but if we would even act on the tiny bit we do understand, wouldn’t it be wonderful!

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February 7, 2014 · 3:44 pm

Our Snowy South

A Two-Day Diary

Tuesday, January 28

8:30 a.m.–Cairo, GA–heavy cloud cover, not much mention of our receiving precipitation here near the Florida line. They think maybe Albany, sixty miles north may get a touch of snow, and we might get a little sleet. For a 71-year-old who still has a kid’s excitement over snow I have to be content with a day that looks like snow. I grew up in Clarkesville in north Georgia where we did usually have two or three snows each winter, a few really nice big ones, thick enough to slide downhill on an opened box, make snow ice cream, and wage snowball wars. The last snow we had here in Cairo was about three years ago, beautiful falling through our tall pines, dusting every holly leaf and making the cats look very mystified. Our grandson, fifteen then, got his first real look at the cold stuff and he loved it!

10:00 a.m.–I received a voicemail from my son in Alabama where he’s on his day’s trek serving veterinarians. “Hey, Mom, just checking in with you on the weather. It’s snowing where I am, but they don’t think it’s going to be much more than a dusting. I hear you’re going to get lots more. I know you’d love that so I’m hoping for it.” I said, “Oh-h-h-h….”

2:15 p.m.–I talked to Will this time. He said he’s in a mess of traffic trying to get back into Birmingham and make it to Mattie’s day care. “The way it’s looking I won’t be able to make it home. I’ll be staying with Mattie at the church. Several other families will be staying also. There are thousands of people out here on the interstate just sitting in their cars like me.”

3:00–I called Christi to see how she’s doing, got no answer.

4:30–Christi called back. She’s been on Highway 280 since just after 10:00 this morning trying to make the usual 30-minute trip to their house. She realized it wasn’t going to be just the dusting as predicted and did stop and gas up. “If I can get close enough, I’ll just walk the rest of the way.” “Oh, my,” I said, “I hope you’re warmly dressed. Do you have on good shoes?” In her quiet reassuring voice she said, “I bought some fuzzy socks at the gas station and some better gloves and I have the warm cozy wrap you made me for Christmas. And, yes, I wore boots today instead of heels.” “What about the boys?” I ask. “Our next-door neighbor, Mr. Sorrells has gone to the school to walk them home. They’ll stay with him until I get there.”

5:30–I called Will. He’s on the last steep hill approaching Highlands United Methodist’s street. But he’s one of thousands and they’re at a standstill. “I would walk on up there. It’s only about a mile. But I can’t park. I’ve talked to Christi. She’s still struggling to get to a decent turn-off from 280 where she can get close to home.”

My prayers increase. I walk from window to window watching dark come and knowing that it gets dark much earlier where my kids are out on those treacherous snowy roads. I add tomatoes and cabbage to a nice beef stir-fry, then set some rice to simmering. I wish strongly that I could feed my poor cold kids when they arrive at home, and then I pray again: Lord, please bring them home!

7:00–Will calls to say he’s made it to the church. As Charles, Charles D and I eat stir-fry and rice we talk about the weather there and here. Still no sign of snow for us. We may get rain mixed with sleet about midnight. We say a prayer of thanksgiving that Will at least is safe and sound, he and Mattie.

8:30–Christi’s now abandoned her car on the side of the road, has found a ride in a pickup truck closer to home, still not there. Has arrived at a friend’s house where she may spend the night. I picture the winding dark streets, so very, very steep, on the way from 280 to her house,  and I shudder.

We go to bed, praying for our Alabama kids especially much, hoping they’re all safe and sound, though separated in three different locations. And, yes, we do pray for the thousands of people displaced on this snowy night in the south.

 Wednesday,January 29–

5:00 a.m.–I waken to the sound of a soft rattle against window panes. Out the bathroom window I see the barn roof is white in the street lamp.

6:30–It’s light enough to see the white stuff clinging to holly leaves, icicles hanging from each leaf, white ice on deck and deck chairs, the bird bath frozen solid. Charles D is very disappointed there was no snow but thrilled that, because of the ice, the schools are closed today. We discuss the white stuff. I tell him it’s what we always called hominy snow in north Georgia. Here, it’s simply considered ice even if it is white and comes down in granules. Either way, it’s beautiful!

And treacherous.

9:00 a.m. I learn that Christi didn’t stay in that friend’s house. Her mother’s heart drove her to get out and walk toward home. She arrived within a mile when she called Mr. Sorrells. He loaded William, 10, and Thomas, 6, into his four-wheel jeep and went to rescue their mother from the “side of the mountain.”

2:00, p.m.–I call and get William who very happily launches into his own description of their last 24 hours. He and Thomas had a really fun walk through the snow getting home Tuesday, only slid on their bottoms a few times. They had a little bit of a scary time going with Mr. Sorrells to rescue their mom. “The jeep started sliding and Mr. Sorrels had to stop and back up and try again. When we slid to the edge of the road I was a little scared. But then we found Mama and brought her home. And, Nana, this is the best part. When we got near our house, guess what we saw?” (Big pause. I couldn’t guess.) “We saw a buck standing in the road, a big, big buck with huge antlers. I’ve never seen one like that,” he said in awe.

I asked William about his dad and Mattie. “Well, they’re probably going to have to stay another night at the church,” he said solemnly. “The roads are pretty bad. Oh, and Nana, did you know this part? My mom lost her phone in the snow. We went back to where she thought she dropped it this morning but we couldn’t find it. Then Pop called from Gadsden and said someone had called him and said they found my mom’s phone and they’d put it in their mailbox for her to pick up. We just got back from hunting for that mailbox. But we did find it and it was a miracle! Her phone really was in that mailbox!” I could tell he was winded from telling me this long tale. But he had one more note. “Nana, we’re all tired so we’re going to rest. About thirty minutes maybe. Then I’m going out to play in the snow!”

A boy after my own heart!

5:30–Will called. He and Mattie made it home. He says the day care cook was stranded with them at the church so they ate very well. Sleeping wasn’t so good on the floor! But they were thankful for the warm, safe place. So very thankful now to be all home, all together again!



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