Basket Weaver

She was sitting on a bench outside a busy little gift shop in Grand Cayman. Her hands gracefully wove flat rushes in and out as we talked to her. Beside her were numerous baskets she had made. I asked if I might take her picture to which she agreed, giving me a warm smile.

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I examined her baskets while Charles fished in his pocket for a tip to give her for posing for me. The baskets were so neatly made, all of the same dried pale green reeds. She told us her grandson goes to a swampy area to pick the reeds for her. All the time she talked her fingers danced in and out, in and out, creating strips she then wound together and sewed. She didn’t have to look at what she was doing–like a knitter creating a familiar pattern.

Others in our touring group were inside the shop tasting samples of rum cake and buying tins of it as well as other souvenirs. We had tasted the cake and were happy now to be talking to this beautiful island lady. I just wish we had taken more time with her. I didn’t even learn her name, nor how long she’s been weaving, nor whether she works at the same shop every day, nor just how long it takes to make a basket.

But I did learn something very important about her.

I asked her if she knew Jesus in her heart. The most radiant smile lit her face. “Oh, yes!” she said. “I couldn’t live without Him. He helps me through every day.” Charles gave her a little booklet about eternal life suggesting she might give it to someone else. She hugged it to her chest and fairly bubbled with glee.

I purchased one of her baskets and now I’m wondering to whom I’ll give it. I really want to keep it myself! Not that I need it for remembering her face!

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When we left, I wanted to hug her but knew it would be too bold and so I refrained.

Only a few minutes we spent with this bright lady on Grand Cayman whose name I do not know. But I will always remember her and I know she is my sister in Christ.

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Tools That Really Work

IMG_0167Among the things I’m thankful for are simply those tools/gadgets/machines that do what they’re supposed to do. I heard about the PC user who threw a computer out the window because it wouldn’t do what he wanted it to. And there was the “little moron” joke about the roofer who threw nails away, one after another, because they were upside down. But what about the faithful can opener which, time after time, neatly opens a can? Or the mixer that mixes, the juicer that juices, the iron that heats and the fan that oscillates?

We have an apple slicer. Just position it with apple stem in the center and press down. Voila! A beautifully cored and sliced apple perfectly portioned. Such fun! This is something the children really like. Charli likes to slice an apple and take it to school in a zip-lock. Good thing about that thing-a-ma-jigger is it doesn’t have to be plugged in.

Same for my trusty funnel. No strings attached. Place the funnel in a jar and ladle jelly in with no mess. I even made my own enlarged funnel from an upside down gallon milk jug with its bottom cut off. And, oh my goodness, the right ladle, how nice that is! Or the right spoon for a stirring job. I have an old Dollar Store spoon that is stained and scarred, apt to break any day. I’ve looked and looked for a replacement and there simply isn’t one out there, even at the fanciest kitchen store. I handle that poor old spoon with great respect. It’s just the right size for stirring a small pot, for dipping from a mayo jar, and for scooping flour into a cup.

But of course there’s a need for things that require power.

There’s the blender, good for making lemon slush, kumquat marmalade, and smoothies of magnificent concoction. When Charles Douglas is in the mood he can make a mean smoothie. He throws in almost everything but carrots and mushrooms and watches our faces to see if we like his latest recipe. I recently discovered a new use for the blender. I was making loaves of herbal bread and needed parsley and rosemary chopped very fine. Yes, the blender made green snippets in seconds!

I had a crepe maker for several years. A smooth rounded surface heated perfectly, then dipped in thin pancake batter turned out such neat little crepes. We could roll almost anything up in a crepe and the children would eat it! (We didn’t try mush-rooms!)

Thomas, one of my Birmingham grandsons, noticed I really like shoulder massages. For Christmas he gave me an electrical neck massager. It fits around my neck like a dog collar and, while I’m reclined in my chair, will give me a luxurious workout. A cup of coffee adds to the luxury.

And I mentioned a can opener. What is more satisfactory than a can opener that works? I remember the fights and groans and blood and tears using those old cranky things. Then there were all kinds of “dreamy” can openers, some of which worked if you held your mouth just right. My mother gave me a can opener (a nice simple one) and a paring knife not long after I married. She said I would never survive without those two things. I think she was right! When you find yourself cooking in someone else’s kitchen those are the things you simply have to locate. My present can opener is a jewel of a utensil and I don’t care if “she” hears me bragging on “her.”

Oh, did I say anything about the coffee maker? Who can carry on without a coffee maker? Of course coffee makers never give off the totally friendly aroma that a coffee pot on a wood cook stove does. But the brewing is mighty quick in the mornings.

A waffle maker is a really fun device. If I just remember to spray top and bottom with baker’s spray and spoon the right amount of batter in, I can produce a near perfect waffle. I remember fondly my mother making waffles. She made hers in a waffle iron that she set over an open flame on her wood burning stove. It was a trick to know just when to flip the iron over to put heat on the other side. I loved to watch her. And, even better, loved to eat some waffle drenched in honey or molasses. Since there were many hungry mouths for her to feed, we only got a small portion at one time. Hmmmm. I wonder if she ever did get even a scrap of waffle!

All this being said about tools and gadgets, it’s easy to complain about things that don’t work. I just thought today was a good day to praise the ones that do what they’re made to do.

And I had this thought too. Are we, as God’s instruments/utensils/tools, doing what we were intended to do?

Ephesians 2:10: For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.

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A Dirty Job

I watched Charles taking blood and pregnancy testing Jenny and John Ratts-Harrisons’ Hereford cows. Actually, it takes a whole team to do the job. Charles’ main large animal employee, Val Brock, was keeping records for the office and checking the cows’ eyes. A pre-vet student from FSU was helping fill tubes with blood for testing when Charles handed her each syringe. John worked the head catch and  herded the cows, and seasoned herdsman Carey Humphries drove cows down the lane and into the chute. Jenny herself kept the farm records, passed empty syringes to Charles as he needed them and kept ear tags up to date.

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Jenny in blue shirt checking an ear tag while Val looks on

Jenny is a neo-natal nurse fulltime but the cows are a very strong “hobby.” She’s very interested and involved in the family cattle business. Her husband John and the help call her “the Boss.” I’ve seen her at work at Archbold Hospital in Thomasville when our great grands were born. She showed the same efficient energy and authoritative capability there as she does with her 1200 pound mamas. But her attire is quite different. Here on the farm she had on a billed hat almost hiding her sparkling grey eyes. Pants smeared with green and brown were stuffed into tall boots caked by the time I arrived with mud and manure. Her loose fitting, blue long sleeved shirt came almost to her knees and was decorated in barnyard stuff.  But whether at the hospital in sparkling scrubs, or with her cows, her petite wiry figure is in constant energized motion.

It had rained a lot so the areas inside the pens and lanes were soggy. But no one minded the mud, either bovine or human. As each cow came to the chute (not voluntarily, of course, but with help from a whip and a cattle prod), there was a pause as she recognized she must put her head forward, horns and all, before she’d be freed to go back to her friends. These are not polled Herefords; they have long, amazing horns. Fitting her head into the opening took a certain twisting motion. But these cows have been through this many times as this testing is done annually. They know what to do. Not a one of them bawled, kicked around in the chute, or otherwise made a pest of herself.

Once the cow was secure in the chute, Charles went to work on the back end while Jenny worked back and forth, paying close attention to each cow’s health and status. Charles felt to see if each cow were pregnant and, if so, how far along, calling out the results. He also determined whether or not she needed an additional blood draw and, if so, Jenny was right there to pass him a syringe. Jenny looked at the eyes if Val noticed something, being very careful to catch any abnormality. If there were any spot or blemish on an eye, Jenny then called Doc to make a judgment. Hereford cows are particularly prone to eye cancers because of their white faces. Jenny would also attach ear tags to those who had lost them, and check ear tattoo numbers before writing in her farm record book concerning instructions and follow-up.

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Dr. Graham drawing blood. “It’s a dirty job but someone has to do it.”

Charles had gained permission for me to do this photo op by promising I would bring drinks and snacks for everyone, which I did. During the break, there was time for joshing and socializing before everyone went back to their posts. Jenny showed me on a smeared and cracked cell phone a picture of her second grandchild, a precious little baby. I said, “Oh, Jenny, isn’t it fun having grandchildren!” She raised her eyebrows and said, “I don’t play with the baby much. Get enough of babies at the hospital. But now–the three-year-old. We have a great time!”

Speaking of children, Jenny has been dealing with cows since before her first son, Coleman, was born. In fact, Charles remembers a Monday morning years ago when he arrived at the Ratts-Harrison Farm to work some cows. There came Jenny with a tiny newborn in a papoose. He’d been born on Saturday and there she was out with her cows on Monday! Now that son is in the cattle business also, dedicated to giving cows a good life and to selling healthy, tasty beef to consumers. John and Jenny’s other son, Peyton Tyler, is also in agribusiness.

Charles said of the morning with the cows, “It’s a dirty job. But someone has to do it.” Obviously, he and his crew enjoyed the barn “party” to the fullest.

 

 

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Let the Trumpets Sound

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Our mystery trumpets

The month of May is a time of celebration, especially along a stretch of our driveway. Well, you won’t be hearing “Pomp and Circumstance” or Mendelssohn’s wedding march or any of Sousa’s heart stirring marches. These trumpets are silent. But on each tall flower stalk there are eight or ten little red horns fringed in green. If all one hundred horns, or trumpets, were to play, great would be the sound. I think maybe a hundred cute little toy soldiers would march right out of the woods and down the driveway!

 

I’ve been trying to discover the name of this flower. In addition to its tall stalk, it grows a pretty thick ground cover with lush green leaves that come back every year. When we realized the flower went with this growth, we proceeded to protect both. We’ve been rewarded with a nice multiplication of blooms so now, instead of a few mysterious flowers, we have a large bed of them. They enjoy the partial shade of an Indonesian cherry tree.

I have shown pictures of the little trumpets for two years to friends and family members but until today had not found anyone who knew what they are. Finally, I went to see Beverly at Annell’s Flowers with a couple of samples in hand. She said the flowers look like alstromeria lilies. Pulling one of hers from a cooler, she and I compared them and, though hers come in many colors and are larger, we think it is a match.

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Alstromeria lilies, Inca lilies, trumpets tuning up

 

Alstromerias are native to South America, specifically Peru (where grown in the winter) and Brazil (grown in the summer). It is also called an Inca Lily. I like that. I was calling it our mysterious flower and, even now that I know its name, it still seems mysterious–and exotic. Inca lilies growing under an Indonesian cherry tree beside a Japanese maple.

“Consider the lilies how they grow: they toil not, they spin not; and yet I say unto you, that Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.”  Luke 12:27

 

 

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Conversation

One day Charles and I dropped by the Mitchell County Animal Hospital on a day Dr. AlexGreenberg was the veterinarian. His Great Dane named Sir was trying to be a pal to the orange hospital cat. I took a series of pictures of Sir’s attempts at “conversation” with While Drs. Greenberg and Graham were conferring with each other. Later, I showed five-year-old Kaison these pictures and made up a conversation between the dog and cat. Kaison became the cat, I the dog, then we switched roles. Following is a semblance of the conversation we made up.

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A Vet’s Wife’s Diary–Riding Shotgun

After being married to a veterinarian for over fifty years, I naturally have loads of memories, pictures in my mind, like the following. My veterinarian is a much better storyteller than I am, but I love to write his stories down, even if only in my diary. Here are three from the year 1992.

August 3, 1992

One of our fairly new clients had a sickly pig recently which, the farmer said, should be culled, but whom, his wife said, must be cared for. (Shades of Charlotte’s Web!) One Saturday, a day off for Charles, we were deep into painting our kitchen when this lady appeared at our back door wanting Charles to tell her what to do for the little critter. They went out to his truck where he gave the little pig several shots, cautioning her not to be too optimistic. “But,” he said, “amazing things can happen.”

She wanted to pay him. He insisted not. Coming back in to take up his brush he told me, “She couldn’t afford to pay, the pig is not worth the cost, and if I can’t do some things just because they need doing, I’m not worth my pay the rest of the time.”

A few weeks later that lady called and asked if we liked fish. She gave us a mess of fresh water bass fillets explaining she wanted to do something nice for Dr. Graham’s treating her pig. I cautiously asked how the pig was. She became very enthusiastic. “Well, you know he’s deaf, but he’s been eating and growing since Dr. Graham treated him. Like Dr. Graham told me to, I’ve been spoon feeding him, and now he’s trained just like a baby. He’s really a character!”

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A typical scene, a healthy hog, not the little sickly pig!

November 4, 1992

Charles is blessed with such a huge amount of cheerfulness that in the worst circumstances there’s usually some of it left in his well. He’s sort of like an airfilled balloon in a tub of water. There’s just no way you can keep him down. But the other night I found him morose and very subdued. He’d lost a patient, he told me. It was a cow on whom he’d done a caesarian. The operation was successful, though the calf had been dead for hours. He was almost through closing the wound when the cow suddenly drew a big shuddering breath and died. Years ago this would have been so common he would have been sad, but not surprised. But now procedures and supplies are so vastly improved, he expects to win more of these battles. This one really got him down. For one thing, he was physically exhausted which, of course, affects one’s mental attitude. Being disappointed as well, he was not interested in much conversation the whole evening and announced he was going to bed around 9:30.  But the next morning he was whistling again.

November 9, 1992

I never grow tired of hearing Charles explain firmly and kindly the intricacies, causes, effects, possibilities of injuries, diseases and conditions. For instance, yesterday (Sunday afternoon) a young woman named Rebecca brought in her 11 year-old poodle who’d had two seizures in quick succession. Rebecca was swollen-eyed and still crying, blurting out, “I don’t want her to be in pain. I’ll do what I have to do.” She implied she was afraid she should euthanize her dog.

Charles took the dog’s temperature. Normal. He questioned her about other seizures. Very few. He asked her about the circumstances surrounding these recent ones. There was company at her house, otherwise all was as usual. How severe were the seizures. Very bad. The dog virtually lost all consciousness, eyes glazed over.

Finally, as he rubbed the little dog’s back and looked her again in the eyes which now were wide open and eager, Charles said, “Just because she’s had a few seizures is no reason to put her down. You may have to do that one day if you think it’s best for her, but I can’t recommend it now. She’s not in a lot of pain, just bewilderment at times. When she has a seizure, leave her in safe surroundings and ignore her. Let her be quiet awhile. I don’t even recommend medication unless seizures are pretty frequent and regular. Medication partially sedates one most of the time. I’ll give her a tranquilizing shot now just to calm her and then I recommend you just watch her. You know, we can’t guarantee how any of us will die and whether we may be frightened and alone sometime. But let’s live fully while we can.”

Rebecca smiled through her tears as she hugged her “baby.” “Thanks, Doc, thanks so much!”

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Journey With Two Mothers

When we left Habersham County, Georgia, in our beige 1985 Buick that beautiful October Sunday in 1990, we carried precious cargo: both our mothers. We were bound for Niagara Falls, a veterinary convention in Rochester, New York, and for New England and the rocky coast of Maine. My mother was 86 and dependent on a walker. Charles’s mom was only 65 but had a bad knee and was expecting to have a complete knee replacement after that trip.

Mama Graham (Elizabeth) had dreamed of going to Niagara Falls. My mother (Eula) had a great longing to visit the rocky coast of Maine. We had proposed the trip almost a year ahead so they could anticipate and plan.

As it turned out, Eula had a very bad fall the January before our trip. She crushed a vertebrae which put her into severe pain and a lengthy hospitalization. She de-scribed her pain as “worse than birthing any of her eleven babies.” I realized she wouldn’t be able to travel, that we would all just be thankful if she could walk again and put on her big signature Saturday morning breakfasts. But one day as I leaned over her to adjust her pillow she whispered, “I have to get well so I can go on that trip.”

And get well she did, though she never was able to do without her walker.

Our mothers each chose a side of the Buick’s rear seat, made their “nest” as Elizabeth described it, and declared that would be their place from then on. When we tried to switch around and give them each turns in the front for a better view, they held tight to their places. We worked out a system for getting in the best handicapped, or at least possible, bathrooms–meaning, Charles would park temporarily while I ran in and scoped the place. If I gave a thumbs-up we’d begin unloading the walker and, in some instances, my mother’s toilet seat extender (in a bag!). Remember, handicap facilities were not a given in those days. All up the eastern seaboard, we found McDonald’s to be our winner. They had the best restrooms!

Charles and I had experienced Niagara Falls’ greatness two years before this. But seeing it through our mothers’ eyes was even more awesome. Charles rented a wheelchair for Eula and we walked down toward the overlook. I had a sudden overwhelming fear that Charles was going to lose control of the wheelchair and my mother would go flying off the cliff. But my mother had no such fear. She and Elizabeth were spellbound and not just because of the tremendous roar. They were taking in everything in total awe. It was late afternoon. There were rainbows. It was stunning, incredible, so beautiful. It was, to me, like heaven, simply unbelievable. Could we possibly be actually sharing this experience with our mothers? It was one of those moments when you almost hold your breath for fear you’ll wake and find it was only a dream.

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Charles with our two mothers at Niagara

 

I saw a hotel over on the Canadian side right by the Falls, a brand new nine or ten story ho0tel with windows overlooking the Falls. Charles and I decided we would see if there were a room for us in that hotel. Miracles had already happened, maybe this one too. The clerk at the desk said yes and we took it! I will never forget our thrill when we walked in that generous room and discovered the view overlooking the Falls from a bay window with seats. Three of us went to dinner. My mother said please to let her stay in that window absorbing the view and writing cards to all her other children. She’d be happy with whatever take-out we brought her.

The moon was full that night. We could hardly make ourselves go to bed!

Contrary to the planning of the rest of our journey, we did have a room reserved at the convention hotel in Rochester. Our room was on the mezzanine level which meant we could walk out our door into a beautiful courtyard on the fifth floor. There were fountains and flower gardens and nice benches here and there. We three girls thoroughly enjoyed that place while Charles went to his meetings and seminars.

Ours was the last car on the ferry across Lake Champlain. Charles, Elizabeth, and I went up on deck but Eula happily stayed with the car and, because of our being last on, she could see out.

Riding through Vermont and New Hampshire in the autumn, we were in a constant state of celebration. Every turn in the road brought a new aaah or oooh. It was so much fun just seeing everything together. Even the signs were an adventure, especially when we realized we were passing an entrance to the Appalachian Trail. We had to stop and take pictures there and think about the southern end of the trail near home in Georgia.

The little coastal town of Bar Harbor, Maine, was cozy and bustling just as you’d expect it to be on an autumn morning in the fog. Charles chatted with locals outside while we girls shopped for souvenirs. He learned that we were seeing Bar Harbor at its most normal, fogged in!

In spite of the fog, we drove up the winding, steep road to the top of Cadillac Mountain. We’d talked about this adventure all the way from Georgia. Wouldn’t the sun come out and burn away the fog? It didn’t. We could barely see to park.

Back on the coast, Charles drove along slowly to let us see what we could. We looked for a place where Eula could see the waves crashing into the rocks. The rest of us walked down a steep path to see a Devil’s Cauldron, the water crashing in and shooting up spouts of white foam. Mamma said she could hear it and that was good enough.

Charles was determined we would see the view from Cadillac Mountain. So after lunch in a little seaside “cup up” spot, we climbed the mountain again, this time hoping so hard we could see out. A light rain had started falling. Maybe it would wash the fog away!

Again, no view. Nothing except fog so thick we felt smothered by it.

We left Bar Harbor area midafternoon and drove south along the coast. Suddenly the sun burst free of the clouds and we could see! Our mothers were like little girls in their glee. We drove around a point and could see President H.W.Bush’s home across the sound. We were at Kennebunkport. We took pictures and lingered there on the rocky coast of Maine.

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Eula and Brenda at Kennebunkport

 

One of the highlights of our visit to Maine for Charles and me was eating lobster at a lobster pound. Not so for our mothers. They had clam chowder and looked at us as if we were murderers for eating poor lobsters dropped alive into boiling water.

On the way home we visited Washington for one day, Charles and his mother sightseeing, Mamma and I enjoying time with my niece. We drove through Amish Pennsylvania and then down to North Carolina where we spent our last night out with my sister. Mamma stayed there with her while the three of us headed for South Georgia.

This journey was a time to treasure in our hearts and remember fondly as we pay tribute to our dear mothers on every day, but especially on Mother’s Day.

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