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One Small Dino Footprint

Kaison still likes his dinosaur!

When Kaison was three years old he and I spent a good bit of time together, particularly on Tuesdays. His older sister had started Pre-K. Until we picked her up in the afternoons, it was just Kaison and I learning about roly polys, turtles, squirrels, how to pedal a tricycle uphill (a very gradual south Georgia hill, but a hill nonetheless), and the big lesson of learning to stay out of the street.

One day as we rounded a curve walking in our circular driveway, I said, “Oh, Kaison, look!” I pointed at a strange white formation in the asphalt and then squatted down with him to get a closer look. (I could still bend at that time!) “A dinosaur’s footprint,” I breathed.

Kaison was really “into” dinosaurs then. I think it was the year his parents gave him a big toy dinosaur that roared and swung its neck in a truly forbidding way. Kaison would sneak up on me and scare the willies out of me with that dinosaur. Also, we played a matching game with colorful dinosaur cards, a game that was more fun when his sister Charli was there to make us a threesome. They always beat me hands down. I got lost remembering where on the table brontosaurus, tyrannosaurus rex, stegasaurus and all the rest were.

We examined that design in the asphalt and we wondered together. “It was a baby dinosaur,” observed Kaison.

What kind of dinosaur made this footprint–a tyrannosaurus rex maybe? We speculated about where the baby’s mother was and why there were no other tracks. Thereafter, every time we came upon that white “track” imprinted in the driveway, we would speculate more about the baby dinosaur. Was he lost when he made that print? Where was his home? Did his father come looking for him? What did he eat? Where did he sleep?

A trip to the library answered some of our general questions. Invariably, like his uncle Charles, Kaison chose books about dinosaurs.

Time passed. Kaison started school and just loved it from the very beginning. He learned to read–all about butterflies and elephants–and dinosaurs. Now he could ride a bike around our circle and the new game was for me to time him and see how many seconds it took to go around.

We never talked about the dinosaur footprint anymore. Until one day when he and I were walking around the circle. Suddenly he bent over to inspect the “track.” “Here’s the dinosaur footprint,” he said with glee, almost as if it were his first time to see it.

“Oh, Kaison,” I said, “you do realize Nana was just telling you a story for fun. That couldn’t be a real dinosaur’s print. This driveway wouldn’t have been here then.”

He nodded. He looked as if he understood. But a few weeks later he took me by the hand and said, “Let’s go look at the dinosaur footprint.”

Again I explained that I had been using my imagination when I told him that was a dinosaur footprint. Would he ever believe anything else I told him?

Shortly after that conversation Kaison and I were sitting in the swing talking about Jesus. He looked at me with his big blue eyes shining and said, “And all that about Jesus is really true. Right, Nana?”

I was so glad to say yes!

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Yesterday-Today-Tomorrow

It has been an anxious time in our nation. And it isn’t over yet. My state of Georgia is now in the political beam as two senators vie for keeping Republicans the majority in U.S. Senate and, hopefully, keep us from falling to a socialist minded government. But–I was reminded this morning by a beautiful blossom that governments may come and governments may go but Jesus is still on His throne!

All summer long we watched our Yesterday-Today-Tomorrow shrub for the pretty purple-to-pink flowers that fade day by day giving it its name. The foliage was healthy and bright. The plant almost doubled its size since winter. But no blossoms appeared, not a single bud. We reminded ourselves that it was slow blooming last year. But evidently it just wasn’t going to bloom this year at all.

We had searched online and in person for this plant when we heard about it three years ago. We were intrigued by its name and description. When we finally found one (at Nesmith Nursery in Coolidge, a nursery which has since closed its gates because the owner retired) we were ecstatic. We came straight home to plant it. It has a favored spot beside a butterfly house and close to the yellow lantana bed. It gets nice morning sunshine but is somewhat shaded in the afternoons by a clump of azalea bushes. All in all, it seemed to us the shrub had everything it needed.

But it wasn’t blooming.

It was two days after the election with the counts for the two presidential candidates so close, razor thin in some states including Georgia. We, along with half the nation, were dismayed at the way the election was turning out. Tensions were high. Members of each party are convinced this election is not just about two candidates. It’s about what our nation is to become.

On top of the anxiety over our country, we received sad news from family and then more disturbing news from friends. It was one of those days when, as happened to Job, “while he was yet speaking, another servant arrived with more bad news.”

We had to run an errand downtown and decided to take a ride afterwards “to get a grip on things.”

When we returned, we walked around our driveway and that’s when we saw it–a purplish blossom on the Yesterday-Today-Tomorrow shrub. On closer inspection we discovered many buds ready to pop open in days to come.

I’m not happy with Biden as president. But if he is the one, then I will honor him as president and pray for him to gather wise people around him. We Trump supporters will not burn cities down in our disappointment.

I don’t know what may happen to our beautiful free country. But “I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day. (2 Timothy 1:12)

Nothing is resolved. The outcome of the election is still not clear and certain. Sickness and problems still prevail. Death separates us from dear ones. But the purple-pink-lavender blossoms remind me: “Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, and to day, and forever.” (Hebrews 13:8)

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/christmas-carols-in-my-heart-brenda-knight-graham

Consider an interactive Christmas journal for gifts this year. My stories of memories hearing twelve dear Christmas carols are followed by an invitation for the reader, too, to recall special Christmases. Follow the link above to find out more! (Highlight link, then right click, then choose “Go to barnes and noble”

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Camping Across Canada II

I think we left you last week as we were driving into Calgary, Ontario. Calgary is quite a city and as I drove into the edge of it, I thought “I don’t want to find my way in this place.” Spying a visitor information center, I pulled over so Charles could drive. Of course we went in the visitor center. That’s a good way to learn about an area even if you don’t have time to sightsee. In a few exciting minutes our new plan had developed.

We discovered it was not just any week in Calgary. It was the week of “Stampede Calgary” and the tour consultant told us she thought we could still get tickets for that night. We found a motel, checked in, changed into warmer clothes, and hurried to Stampede Fairgrounds.

Luckily for us, we were an hour ahead, having crossed into mountain time. So we had plenty of time to eat an absolutely scrumptious plate of barbecue with trimmings and get into the stadium in time for the chuckwagon races. It was late in the Stampede week so the only tickets available were “rush” or “standing room only.” We found our places at the front line about thirty feet from the spirited thundering horses pulling the wagons around the track.

An older Canadian couple stood with us and explained some of what was going on. They heard our Georgian accent and had pity on us! There were nine races of four entries each, four horses for each wagon, and four outriders. Outriders must be within 100 yards of the chuckwagon when it goes under the finish line. Winners are announced at the end of the ten-day Stampede according to the number of points throughout. When the wagons came past us, it was almost overwhelming but we loved it. The rough and ready flavor of the old west surrounded us–men in their big hats laughing and yelling, horses raring to go, the crowd cheering all around us.

Immediately following the chuckwagon races a stage was rolled into place in front of us and we were treated to two hours of Canadian talent–music, humor, dancing, skits, unicycling, circus elephants, trained dogs, bands, and even fantastic fireworks. My fingers grew tired of taking pictures but, surprisingly, our legs weren’t all that tired after three or four hours of standing. We were just that enthralled.

Following the show we wandered about the grounds enjoying the sights–local art, home displays, so much that was interesting and delightful. To cap off this surprise involvement in Canadian life, we went to our motel which had, to our delight, a flush toilet, hot shower, and a wonderful luxurious bed!

July 13, 1988–After sleeping in (two days of 500 miles each had earned us that!) and breakfasting at Denny’s, we pulled back on to our western road. While getting petro, we were told by an eager friendly attendant about the Olympic grounds. “You’ll be going right by them. See? There are the ski jump towers you can see from here.”

We did stop at the scene of the 1988 Winter Olympics–so interesting! We saw a much-used bobsled, the bobsled chute, and the ski jumps–all different without the snow. We had watched the Olympics on television and it was surreal actually standing on the grounds, viewing the high slopes, imagining the skiers and the bobsled riders vying for the gold.

Soon after we left Canmore, we began to see high craggy mountains, our ears tightened, new (to us!) wildflowers appeared on the slopes. At our first stop we grabbed our coats and still shivered in a fine mist of rain. It was such a beautiful drive up to Roger’s Pass and on, stopping often to read historical markers, mainly about the railway, the spiral tunnels, etc.

We passed through Banff, British Columbia (both town and region), Lake Louise, rode across and along Bow River. Couldn’t believe the generosity of the Lord as He poured out beauty in wildflowers, waterfalls, mountains, and trees. There were glacier lilies (white bloom low to the ground similar in appearance to a dogwood blossom), bluebells, pink sweet williams, Indian paintbrushes and more!

There were, along with the beauty, very large and healthy mosquitoes who loved us! While eating our lunch by a little lake, we kept them about an inch from our faces with a thick spraying of “Off.”

We stopped in Glacier National Park at a visitor center built in the form of a snow shed with moss and grass growing on the roof. There was a fire inside, a cheerful sight compared to the chill damp wind. It was a long day and we were dead tired when we arrived at Niedusachsen campground. The hostess was a warm interesting lady originally from Germany. Coffee tasted so good along with our beef stew eaten in sight of glacier mountains. We went to bed quickly when it started raining and lay in bed talking about all we’d seen. We hoped some of the poor dry wheat fields back in the Saskatchewan were getting rain too.

July 14, 1988–We weren’t quite as thankful for the rain when we woke up with puddles developing in our tent and rain still drumming on our thin roof. We had to take down the tent in the rain and pack it away wet. Our big black garbage bags came in handy. We were so thankful for a down home kind of restaurant downtown. We had eggs, croissants, and sausage. Charles asked for grits and got very little humor from the waitress, though she was very nice, just didn’t know anything about grits.

Traveling through the Rockies was wonderful as long as Charles was at the wheel. The flow of the traffic was about 70 mph even on those steep grades where signs warned trucks to gear down and watch for runaway ramps if necessary. At one point, we took an alternate route through the Okinagan Valley on advice of a petro clerk who lives there. There we saw lake after lake after natural lake, a rich land of orchards, pastures and beautiful gardens. We bought cherries and raspberries at a roadside stand to add to our lunch menu in a provincial park.

July 15, 1988–We arrived in Brentwood Bay, British Columbia, home of Butchart Gardens in time to have almost a day going crazy over the beautiful flowers. The beauty of Butchart Gardens took our breath away, a trite description but so true. We literally fought over the camera in that garden begun by Mrs. Butchart in her husband’s gravel pit. She turned an ugly eyesore into a lasting place of beauty visited by people from all over the world.

It was late afternoon when we began investigating the ferry possibilities in Victoria. I had spent a day in Victoria in 1964 as a college summer missions volunteer working at Port Angeles. I was delighted now to see that VICTORIA is still written with gorgeous flowers on the slope one sees ferrying over from Port Angeles, Washington.

Prospects of our getting on the ferry that night were slim. It was already full, we were told, so we’d have to wait till the next morning. Even then, we must be in line no later than 7:00 a.m. or we’d still be left behind. What to do? This was no place to set up a tent and if we left to find a motel we’d lose even the tiny hope that we could get on that night. We walked to see what we could of that beautiful city and took a ride in a carriage pulled by horses named Gypsy and Hope.

We were elated upon our arrival back at the docks to learn that one vehicle in line for the ferry was too big so we would be allowed to be the last car on! We arrived in Port Angeles about 10:00. It was hard finding any campground but we did and had to set up tent in the dark. It reminded me of our night at Niagara Falls. But this time there was no railroad nearby.

Thus ended our trek across Canada. We would attend the American Veterinarian Medical Association Convention in Portland, Oregon in just two more days, and then we’d have another long trip across the USA before getting home. It was truly a “trip of a lifetime.” We were then, and still are, grateful for that opportunity. We owe a big thanks to Dr. Eugene T. Maddox for his cooperation in letting Charles be gone from the veterinary practice for all those weeks.

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Thanksgiving Birthday

Fifty-two years ago our little boy was born. He was born on Monday night before Thanksgiving. It is the only time I’ve spent Thanksgiving in the hospital. Although it was somewhat lonely between the times when little William was brought to my room, all in all, it was an extraordinarily wonderful Thanksgiving. The disappointments had nothing to do with him.

Archbold Hospital in Thomasville, Georgia, had some very strict rules in those days (as I suppose other hospitals around the country had). The normal hospital stay for first-time maternity patients was five days, no matter what. There were no cozy “Family Room” possibilities. Fathers could not be in the room while babies were being fed. They couldn’t even see their babies except through the glass nursery window. Charles was the only veterinarian on call that whole week so it was very hard for him to get to the hospital at all, even harder to get there when the baby wasn’t in the room!

Thanksgiving morning there was a special handmade card on my breakfast tray reminding me, in the hands of a little girl from a local church, that God loved me. I had helped children make cards like that before and here was one on my tray, a happy beginning for what would be a great day. Charles would be having dinner with me.

That day the hospital rules were relaxed so that fathers would be allowed to have dinner with their wives. So at noon two trays arrived. I peeped under the cover to savor the anticipation of turkey, dressing, green beans, sweet potato souffle, and pumpkin pie. I’d wait for Charles before eating. Finally, about 1:30 the LPN came to get my tray and found it still full of cold food. I was admonished that I’d better eat because babies would be brought out soon.

By the time Charles arrived it was so late it was time for the baby’s feeding. The sergeant-like nurse came in almost on his heels and barked at him that he must leave. He looked so weary and defeated–and hungry!–but he gave me a smile just the same and a wink implying “this won’t be for long.”

In spite of my disappointment it was a wonderful Thanksgiving, one of the very best.

I studied my baby William’s perfect features, fuzz of hair, and his tiny hands as I fed him. What would those hands do as he grew? They seemed, even so tiny, as if they would be capable and strong. Those long fingers might play piano, clutch a baseball bat, bind wounds, open doors for ladies, maybe build forts or sandcastles. I prayed he would be blessed and would be a blessing. And my prayers have been answered.

Every Thanksgiving since that one in 1968 we’ve celebrated Will’s birthday in some way. I can picture him now at his five year old party when all his kindergarten class came. They crowded up to the table when it was time for cake and ice cream their faces full of eager anticipation. I guess he was twelve and his sister eleven when we gave him Traveler, a horse Charles had found that would be gentle and kind to children. Traveler wasn’t what he’d been touted to be. The children had a double birthday party, Julie’s birthday being December 9. Traveler threw off nearly every one of the kids who climbed on him. We began to fear we’d be arrested for child abuse! When William turned thirteen, he and his sister were with us enjoying a marvelous vacation in England, Hyde Park to be specific, a really awesome place to receive birthday licks! 

After receiving many honors at Cairo High School, including the prestigious John Philip Sousa award as a baritone player in the band, William went on to the University of Georgia where he played in the Dixie Redcoat Band. It was during a studies abroad term, that he became Will instead of William as there were three Williams in the sixteen member class. We, however, still called him Will until he and his wonderful wife, Christi, gave us a grandson named William Stacey Graham, Jr.

Now we have wonderful times around the birthday table right before Thanksgiving, as it is this year, or on the very day, or some time that week. Will’s wife wasn’t named Christi for nothing. She is a bright Christmas lady, but she loves making birthdays special too. She and the three children including now Thomas Hamilton and Martha Elizabeth, go to very special pains to give birthday celebrations, whether we are in Birmingham or here in Cairo. In addition to a cake baked by Christi, or me, or Publix, I usually bake Will a pecan pie. On one of his birthdays growing up we spent Thanksgiving at St. George Island and had pecan pie on the beach. Pecan pie became a tradition for his birthday celebration.

I think back to the thoughts I had that Thanksgiving Day in Archbold Hospital gazing down at my precious little baby. Yes, my prayers have been answered extravagantly.

And, yes, those hands have become quite strong and capable. He gripped a baseball bat in little league as well as holding ready a catcher’s mitt. He studied piano, played in recitals, practiced with great self discipline and received honors from third through twelfth grades. He picked up pecans, mowed the grass, worked with his Dad at the animal hospital, fished at the river, and played backyard basketball and football with his buddies. He helped bind the wounds of animals. He loved to build forts in the woods and sandcastles at the beach.

I’ve seen his hands guiding the children as they learned to walk and later to play ball. His hands have been busy as, for fifteen years, he’s worked for a veterinary supply company, calling on veterinarians in central Alabama, as well as his Dad’s practice in Cairo, Georgia. He’s busy taking care of his beautiful yard in Mountain Brook, Alabama. Almost every year he brings us cuts of venison from his deer hunts. When we’re at the beach together he’s the go-to person if one of the children is wounded and always may be found at some time during the vacation building a sandcastle, his six feet two frame hunkered down with whoever will help. Or he’ll be throwing a frisbee, kayaking, and fishing. A vacation to him is a time to do as many activities as possible. And all his family joins in.

When we had COVID, Will came to take care of us. I experienced the gentleness and capability of those hands, now so strong and capable. He even had to pick me up off the floor one time! He’s always been good to call us often but has been particularly attentive since our illness and hospitalization. He talks to his Dad about veterinary drugs and equipment. He often calls just to tell me about some beautiful and/or interesting sight he encounters as he travels–a shimmering lake, a mountain, bright flowers, even weird roadkill.

Well, I’ve made this quite lengthy but it was hard not to write even longer about this wonderful Thanksgiving son! However, now I’d better let you go and I’ll go to the kitchen and start on that pecan pie so it will be ready when we go to Birmingham for Thanksgiving. We are especially thankful, with the world as it is right now, that we can make this trip.

Happy Thanksgiving to all!

P.S. Time to think about Christmas! Please take a look at my Christmas interactive journal, Christmas Carols in my Heart, released October 2019. It is available at Barnes and Noble, Amazon.com, and Books a Million. Ask for it at your favorite store as well. Locally, you will find it at Rayann’s in Thomasville, Center Drugs and Miss Myrt’s in Cairo.

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/christmas-carols-in-my-heart-brenda-knight-graham/1133044431?ean=9781732239197

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Camping Across Canada

A few weeks ago I wrote about the first part of our trip from Georgia to Oregon in 1988 by way of Niagara Falls. The next leg of our journey, a very long one, was our camping across Canada. This, too, was an experience never to be forgotten.

We were traveling in a 1987 Buick, a roomy comfortable car with a nice big trunk for our tent and other camping gear. It was just the two of us. We were scheduled to be in Portland, Oregon by July 17 for the American Veterinary Medical Association annual convention. We rode the ferry across from Tobermory, Ontario to South Baymouth on July 8. By driving three or four hundred miles a day we knew we could make Oregon in time and have leisurely evenings and mornings in provincial camps.

I am drawing many of my recollections from my journal, some direct quotes. I wrote in my journal sitting at a picnic table, in the car riding across the prairie, and in the tent retreating from fierce wind.

We pulled in to a KOA camp at Wawa, Ontario about 7:00 p.m., July 8 and quickly set up camp. In minutes a can of stew was heating on the sterno. Contrary to our last camp on Bruce Peninsula, a beautiful provincial camp  but with only primitive toilets and no showers, this one in Wawa had everything. There were showers, a pool (much too cold to tempt us!), a laundry, even movies if we’d wanted one. But we actually preferred the provincial camps, some of which did have showers, because we were much more interested in exploring our surroundings. The firs were particularly beautiful, so many of them–bigger ones, cute little ones with knitted branches hugging the cool night air. We had known on Bruce Peninsula not to light a fire because of fire danger. But we saw no such warning sign around the camp in Wawa and it was cold. We had a fire long enough to make coffee before a fellow camper told us there was, indeed, a restriction so we started pouring water on our feeble little fire. That was the last time we had a fire in Canada.

Charles and I had been so busy with church responsibilities and raising children we’d neglected our shared devotional time. At the beginning of this trip we made a commitment to read the Bible and pray together each morning. It became more and more of a special time and we have kept up that practice to the present. One morning we sat down at a table to read our Bible and had barely gotten seated when we were literally attacked by a swarm of some kind of stinging fly. We ran to the car for cover and pulled out the Sting-eze.

The beauty of the drive along Lake Superior is as impossible to describe as that of Niagara Falls. There were views of rock-ribbed ridges spiked with firs. There were slopes covered with wildflowers (white, yellow, and soft pink). There was the view at the top of a peak, then a swooshing ride down into a valley again with the blue, blue lake on our left and, on the right, a jewel of a tiny lake fringed with spruce. (We had a new tree book but were constantly disagreeing about whether a certain tree was a spruce or a fir!)

Charles offered to turn around and go back to let me get a picture of a dead moose by the highway, but I told him I hoped we’d see a live one later on. There were lots of moose signs: MOOSE, NEXT 2 KM. NIGHT HAZARD. As it was, we did see a live moose one day eating grass right along the road. We stopped and watched him but at that point I had no film left in my camera!

Breaking camp in the mornings gets your blood going, particularly washing your face in icy water.

It was as we crossed into Manitoba that the road we traveled, which had been Highway 17 for all those many miles, now became Canada 1 with a sign near the border announcing “Crossroads of America Highways.” We could have turned there and gone all the way to the Gulf of Mexico! In Manitoba we saw fields of Christmas trees, a raspberry picking farm, and cherries for sale (yum!) by the roadside. We came to a giant field of potatoes, something we hadn’t seen since Pennsylvania and then not so large a field.

The first time I saw a red and blue oil pump right out in a huge field I asked what kind of a baler that could be.

Riding across prairies of Manitoba and Saskatchewan was almost like being in a virtual view, it was so smooth, so straight, never a curve or a rise. Yet, there were always interesting things to see: wide forever fields of yellow rape for making Canola oil, also fields of blue flowers we learned is flax used also for oil. The manager at Buffalo Lookout Campground near Regina also answered other questions. The little creature like a small prairie dog with whom we shared lunch was a Richard’s ground squirrel. The trees around our camp were Russian olives, elms, and aspen. This wide flat prairie surely does need trees! And water. A sign in the washroom pleaded: “Water is a precious commodity. Please use with care.”

Some road signs we saw: Yellow Quill Road, Red River Road, Thunder Creek, Roger’s Pass, Ocanagan Valley, Fertilizer Good for Peas and Lentils, many signs in English and French one of which read “Debut” for “Begins.”

Our mileage at the Regina campground showed we had driven 517 miles that day. We were certainly ripe for bed after eating our sardines, crackers, bananas, and moon pies. But our sleep was not to be a peaceful one. The wind picked up, getting stronger and stronger, until our tent literally blew down across our noses. We knew that, without our bodies, the tent, even with its good pegs, would have blown away.

July 12-8:00 a.m. Headed west to Moose Jaw and the Rockies and Portland! Drove downtown Moose Jaw just to see this pretty prairie town with handsome old buildings, well-blended new ones, a neat train station.  We ran into a downpour that day and were so glad the dry thirsty prairie was getting a drink. The year before, we were told, the crops had been so good, the surplus pulled the prices down. This year, 1988, the drought was threatening famine.

The land had been prairie-flat for such a long way but suddenly it appeared rippled like blankets loosely spread. We began to tease each other with “Look out for the Rockies!” though we knew we had a long ways to go before we’d see those majestic mountains.  We came to a scientific point of interest: salt mines. Saskatchewan is the only province in which sodium sulphate is known to occur naturally. The salt is saturated in lakes in summer, pulled up in ditch lines to reservoirs where the salt settles in cool autumn months, then is harvested in winter.

When we came to the Alberta line, we stopped. A woman from Australia offered to take our picture by the sign. The wind was blowing so hard we could hardly stand steady. Charles did the majority of the driving but I was the one driving when we first saw the Rockies. We had joked about cloud formations being the Rockies ever since Thunder Bay, Ontario, so when I exclaimed “There are the Rockies!” Charles didn’t believe me. The mountains were so far in the distance and it seemed as if we didn’t get any closer for such a long time, I was beginning to doubt my own eyes. But finally we were close enough that we knew absolutely. The mountains were jagged blue irregular teeth biting the sky. There was a sign reading “Rocky View” and then the Calgary Welcome Center.

More about Alberta, the Calgary Stampede, a quick view of the 1988 Winter Olympics park, the Rockies, and British Columbia next week!

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/christmas-carols-in-my-heart-brenda-knight-graham/1133044431?ean=9781732239197

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Autumn Flowers

Following the wonderful occasion of my getting my first haircut in over two months, we decided to expand our rare outing to take a ride in the country, see if any autumn color was showing along the creeks.

It has been seven weeks since we were struck with COVID-19. At this point, Charles is still on oxygen, still coughing some, and definitely not up to his usual strength. He has gained back three or four of the fifteen pounds he lost. Unfortunately, I have found the few pounds I lost! But fortunately I’m able to move freely in my kitchen and, with a walker, to make those rounds in the driveway (we’re almost to a mile a day!). We are still secluding until we’re well enough to have the flu shot. But it was a joy to get out and ride around a “country block.”

Quickly we realized that, fall leaf color or not, fall flowers are blooming in abundance.

Goldenrods bloom in thick profusion on the roadsides, along the fences. Red, blue, and pink morning glories festoon themselves amongst the goldenrods or climb fence posts. Other flowers, particularly a dainty white one blooming close to the ground, join in the picture of wild beauty. In front of pretty homes roses still bloom. Pots of chrysanthemums make splashes of color on many porches.

We drove in and out of short stretches of live oak canopies. I always love to see the shadow patterns on the roadway from those huge trees so lavishly decorated with Spanish moss. Looking upward in these “tunnels” gives one a feeling of looking up at the arches in a cathedral. Also, being a girl from the hills, I take a certain joy in seeing even a semblance of banks along the road as often are part of the canopy stretches. Unlike the Meridian Road toward Tallahassee, though, these stretches are so short you can’t dwell on their beauty for long.

One of those canopies arched over the road as we approached the turn into Providence cemetery. We drove in and circled the very neatly kept cemetery and paused to read a few headstones, something we enjoy doing. Then we put our windows down and listened to a mockingbird trilling out a great repertoire of songs and sounds.

We paused on the quiet roads to take pictures as if we were tourists.

I was hoping the sweetgums might be changing color along Wolf Creek Road. I’d noticed the sweetgum at Cairo First Baptist already has a hint of red. But the only color we saw along Wolf Creek was a slight gold tinge of tulip poplar and grapevine leaves. In a couple of weeks we’ll have to venture out again and see if we can see sourwoods and sweetgums turning red.

When we pulled back into our own yard we were struck by the beauty of our own surroundings. Climbing jasmine on our big mailbox pine has yellow blooms, not as many as back in the summer, but so pretty all the same. The red firecracker plant does not display the wonderful abundance of little firecrackers as it did on July 4 but it’s still showing out. The lantana beds are a mass of yellow which butterflies hover over. A stray, very late, azalea blossom peers from amongst leaves like a child not wanting to go to bed yet. Camellias are already covered with buds and the Susquehanna is blooming. Around the rusty cotton planter the spring wildflowers we planted are looking as bright as ever.

And those autumn leaves? Our Japanese maples are tinged with red and the Indonesian cherry tree is dropping persimmon-colored leaves in the driveway. Stray red leaves appear on crepe myrtle and soon the nandina bushes will take on color as well. In a neighbor’s yard across the street from our mailbox a large flowering tree is an absolute brilliant show of pomegranate red.

Aside from flowers and leaves, we have been so interested in birds that come to our feeders and bird baths. The usual titmouse, chickadee, cardinal, mourning dove, bluejay, purple finch, nuthatch, wrens, mockingbirds and catbirds are all delightful. But we’ve also seen bluebirds on the bird bath and a bird we’re not familiar with, so bright and beautiful, maybe a painted bunting, according to our bird guide.

As usual, little green lizards find their way into our porch and don’t know how to get out making cute little green exclamation points on the screen. We now have identified four different turtles who show up repeatedly. Squirrels and birds have been enjoying the berries they dig out of the magnolia pods and even are hunting for stray fresh leaf buds on the otherwise sprangly bare branches of the mulberry tree. And, of course, our cats, Sassy and Cramer, contentedly sprawl on warm patio tiles, drink at the bird baths in preference to their own water dish, and prowl through the shrubs or, in spurts of youthfulness (they’re eleven and twelve now), chase each other. One of them greets us at our kitchen window each morning when we open the shutters.

The earth is the Lord’s and the fulness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein. Psalm 24:1

Pines and goldenrods

A couple of October reminders: (1) It’s breast cancer awareness month. Girls, get those mammograms. I’m speaking as one who knows she probably wouldn’t have caught the cancer in time if it hadn’t been for that pesky mammogram. (2) Don’t forget to vote!

Christmas will be here before you know it. Order Christmas Carols in my Heart for readers/journal keepers on your Christmas list. Click on the link below.

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/christmas-carols-in-my-heart-brenda-knight-graham/1133044431?ean=9781732239197

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Vote Your Convictions

Election time is here. We’ve heard many say this is the most important election in the history of our country. That has been said probably concerning every election. But this one is crucial because it’s not just a preference between parties, it is a vote on whether or not to keep our America as she is today.

When I was growing up in the 1940’s and 1950’s my father listened to the news every evening on the radio. I almost can hear the sonorous voice of H. V. Kaltenborn now. And there was Morgan Beatty. Dad would expound on the news, standing in the kitchen door while Mom cooked supper. He hated the very idea of government handouts. He made no bones about disliking FDR. He would pay his fair share of taxes but he preached vehemently against the government taking control and telling us how we could live. He and Mom taught all ten of us at home. They taught us to love our country, honor those heroes who had fought for our freedom, to respect the flag  (by all means, stand for the national anthem), to cherish our inalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. They taught us to love God and worship Him daily and never to give up this precious right secured for us by our heroes George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and all those others.

My Dad talked about the horrors of a society where a government takes on the job of making everyone the same, not just equal in their rights, but on the same level. He himself was an artist and he was fiercely determined that his children, too, be able to develop as individuals with the ability to compete and accomplish great things, to own property, to make the world a better place.

Even though Dad talked so much about a government, like Russia, taking over its people, I didn’t believe ours could ever come to that. I lived in a dream world of security and peace. I thought my Dad was eccentric for being so worried about a government take-over.

Now I’m thinking that my father saw what was coming even way back then. My Dad probably wouldn’t like Trump’s overbearing personality, but he would look beyond that to see that Trump is the man God is using to rescue us from that government take-over he dreaded so much. The Green New Deal, free health care, free college, free child care–he would be horrified at what all that means: government telling us exactly how to live.

In the early 1970’s a missionary to Cuba came one day to speak to our ladies’ group at Cairo First Baptist Church. As I remember, it was a sunny afternoon. I delivered my little boy to the cheerful sweet lady who kept the nursery and went to the meeting room, excited to hear what the missionary had to say. But that was not to be a warm fuzzy meeting. That missionary (I don’t remember her name) spent thirty minutes talking about how blasé the people of Cuba had been, not believing they could ever be turned into prisoners and hopeless laborers and even executed in huge numbers. But it did happen. She had been one of the “lucky” ones to escape rather than being executed for preaching Christ. The chilling message the missionary gave us was that this very thing could happen to us unless we were diligent in using our freedoms and alert to what was happening in our own government.

I titled this “Vote Your Convictions.” What are my convictions? What are your convictions? What do we believe so firmly and long to pass on to our children and our grandchildren and great grandchildren?

My pastor, Chris Allen, preached last Sunday on “Voting Values.” He didn’t talk about securing the border, having the right to defend ourselves, taxes, any of that. He summed up our values with three points: the value of human life, the value of traditional family, and the value of religious freedom. If life is not valued (from the unborn infants to feeble senior citizens); if traditional families are no longer respected (so that children grow up without a mother and a father); and if there is no religious freedom (freedom to worship, to speak of Jesus, and sing His praises), then nothing else matters.

I long for my grandchildren to have the security, the choices, the inalienable rights, that I have enjoyed. There is only one way to vote, in my opinion, to make that a possibility. I will vote for Trump.

I pray for our children and grandchildren to be able to live as the following verse, Isaiah 32:18, describes: “My people will live in peaceful dwelling places, in secure homes, in undisturbed places of rest.”

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Niagara Falls

The Maid of the Mist in the mist

While confined with COVID-19 we’ve had time to talk about our past adventures. Of the following episode our memories differed. I thought it happened the night before we saw Niagara, Charles thought it was the next night. I dug out my journal and found we both were right. We first saw Niagara late one afternoon but went back the next morning. This camping experience took place the night between.

It was July of 1988 and we were on the first leg of a journey across Canada with tent in the trunk of our 1987 Buick.

After leaving my sister’s house in Raleigh, NC, where we’d enjoyed a fun Fourth of July family weekend, we headed north arriving in Amish country in time to have good daylight setting up our tent. It was a new tent and very simple to put together, or so the instructions said. To us, even in our well lit family room at home practicing, it was tricky making all the poles fit the way they should. It took us almost an hour there by that creek to put it all together but we did it, tent pegs down and rain flap in place.

Our camp site was right by a pretty creek. On the other side cows were plodding home. We’d been charmed and fascinated as we drove through Lancaster and the countryside by little buggies, often driven by ladies in long dresses, mingling with the traffic. We saw boys in black hats baling hay on wonderful neat homesteads along the way.

The next day was a very long one but full of beautiful sights. We wound through Pennsylvania following narrow roads intending to reach Niagara Falls by midafternoon. We purchased beanie weenies, crackers, and apples and ate lunch at a wayside park. As my journal reminds me, “because of my making a wrong turn, we saw a lot more of the Alleghenies than we’d intended to.”

It was late in the afternoon, 6:00, when we arrived at Niagara Falls. First hearing, then seeing Niagara was such an incredible experience. I remember it as a time when I wanted to shout with surprise and ecstasy but instead was struck dumb. Maybe it was a tiny bit like when we first will see Jesus, just totally struck dumb by His Glory.

Tons and tons of water, green and splashing white, thundered over the precipice, cool spray hit our faces, and wonderful rainbows played in the mist, adding unbelievable beauty to the scene. The roar was so loud we couldn’t talk much, just make motions to each other as we moved from one viewing place to another.

We enjoyed the sights so much that we let ourselves be late looking for a campground. By the time we found a camp, then drove cautiously between rows of quiet tents to our site, it was thick dark. We had a flashlight but decided quietly not to use it so we wouldn’t waken those sleepy campers. Putting the tent together in the dark was pretty tricky and we were exhausted when finally we crashed on our nice plump air mattress. We weren’t so tired, though, that we couldn’t talk about the prospect of going back to the Falls the next morning. I imagined I could still feel the vibrations from the thundering water as I drifted off to sleep.

I was wakened from a hard sleep by the sound of a tremendous roar, if anything much louder even than Niagara. Through the thin nylon of the tent I saw a huge blinding light coming straight at us. I shook Charles awake screaming, “We’ve set our tent on the railroad track! We’ve got to get out of here!”

By the time we could have gotten out of that tent, the train would have smattered us to pulp. But, as it was, there was a curve in the track and the train cruised on by. It is advisable that campers set up camp while they can see their surroundings. The next morning we observed that there were campers even closer to the tracks than we were and they didn’t look at all stressed or haggard. 

The next day was wonderful. We saw the Falls from the Canadian side. We saw them from the Maid of the Mist wearing yellow raincoats. Our ride on the tour boat took us right into the cloud of mist at the foot of Horseshoe Falls, close enough to speed up the heart rate of at least some of us. Our tour guide told us many stories of those who perished when they went over the Falls (some on purpose) and those few who survived. One story that I recall was of a young child who somehow fell out of a boat upriver. No one was able to rescue him before he plummeted over the Falls. But he was rescued below by the crew of the Maid of the Mist. I couldn’t imagine anyone’s surviving such an accident.

We had a picnic lunch near the Falls before we struck out toward Guelph, Ontario. We would go then to Cyprus Lake on Bruce Peninsula, cross a ferry to Wawa, and drive along the shores of Lake Superior, exclaiming over and over at the splendor. But nowhere would we see anything more astonishing and magnificent than Niagara Falls. 

Have you started looking for Christmas gifts? How about a fun and inspiring interactive Christmas journal? Check out the link below.

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/christmas-carols-in-my-heart-brenda-knight-graham/1133044431?ean=9781732239197

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From the Floor

The words “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up” have taken on new meaning to me. I studied the den rug, nose to fiber, spent a long time seeking a way to pull myself up or, at times, contemplating the ceiling fan in an all new way. COVID-19 will do strange things to people, including putting them on the floor.

When we first got sick, someone suggested that I keep a log of how Charles and I felt each day. I did that for a few days until everything began to fuzz out into a fog. Now I’m going back and trying to remember the progression of our illness in case it might be helpful to anyone. It is a strange and mysterious virus affecting people so very differently including the two of us in the same household.

My husband and I became sick at the end of August. Charles came home from work at the animal hospital at noon on August 31 burning with fever, shaking with chills. I started coughing a couple days later and knew that I, too, had the dreaded virus, in spite of how careful we’d been with quarantine, hand washing, etc.

Our doctor administered dextamethazone, hydromed cough syrup and in- halers for both of us. We took measures to keep family and friends safe and figured out how to get through this illness. Our granddaughter regularly picked up items we needed at the store and dropped them on our back porch. By the end of the week, Charles was feeling much better and I was two days behind but making progress. We thought we were recuperating nicely and felt almost smug, as if to say “We’ve got this covered!”    

But on Labor Day Charles’s fever spiked. He woke repeatedly in heavy sweats. I noticed his breathing changing to a pant but when I asked him if his breathing was impaired he said he was just hot. The day after Labor Day we called Dr. Nesmith who sent us immediately to Grady General ER. He was admitted that afternoon about 5:00. At the time he was admitted his fever was 103 and his oxygen level in the low 80’s.

I naiively thought this would be a short hospital stay for Charles so was surprised the next day when Dr. Nesmith informed me he was giving Charles a strong intravenous drug which would require at least five days of administration. I appreciated the daily phone reports from Dr. Nesmith who also asked how I was feeling. He particularly asked if I was breathing all right and whether I had any fever. I told him I was fine except for the incredible fatigue which is, he assured me, a normal affect of the virus and takes a long time to get over.

Day by day I expected to hear that Charles was much better but instead heard that his “numbers had not yet turned around.” I called him about twice a day but couldn’t talk very long as I could tell it was hard for him.

That week when I was home alone is not very clear, looking back. A couple of days I took things to the hospital for Charles. I fed the cats, replenished bird baths and such. Amanda brought things I needed and I would creep out after she left to retrieve them from the porch. I treasured her wave and air hugs. As the week wore on, I began to think it was all right to leave the mail in the box. I remember one afternoon walking around the end of the house to put seeds in a bird feeder and wondering if I would make it back inside.

Food didn’t taste right. Everything had a metallic taste.  I was supplied with beautiful soups and casseroles by loving friends who brought things to the porch. But I would take two or three bites and push it away. I didn’t realize how little I was drinking.

By Saturday that week I was so wiped out I hardly budged from my chair. When I did, I used my cane, not feeling very steady on my feet. Dr. Nesmith reported that Charles’s numbers were beginning to turn a curve but Charles said the doctor wouldn’t even talk about when he might come home. I fed the cats and locked the door against the dark of another night. Opening “These Far Green Hills” by favorite author Jan Karon, I tried to concentrate on her funny, inspirational characters.

It was about 9:00 when I attempted to get up and prepare for bed but ended up on the floor instead. After an hour and a half when I did finally get back in my chair and to my phone, I called my sister-in-law and told her I was ready to use Memaw’s walker she’d been offering me. We agreed she would bring it the next day. Opting for as little movement as possible, I slept in my chair that night. Sunday was a bright beautiful day but I didn’t dare move much, stayed close to my chair waiting for the walker. When Revonda delivered it, my first thought was to feed the cats. As I attempted to take the step back up onto the porch I hit the floor again, this time the hard unforgiving porch floor bricks.

“Lord, what do I do this time?” I asked with my face smashed against the bricks, my glasses frame hopelessly bent. Wrangling my phone out of the walker basket I managed to call Amanda. I was halfway inside the screen door and half way out and too scared to worry about how ridiculous I might look. As I waited on Amanda and Jared, I tried to squirm myself into a more bearable position. My phone rang. My son Will calling from Birmingham to see about us. I had repeatedly told him not to come, not wanting him and his family exposed to the virus but now when he said, “Mom, I’m on my way” something in me relaxed as if God said I could let go.

It was that night while Will was with me that I fell a third time. The next day he took me, on Dr. Nesmith’s instructions, to ER where I was eventually admitted that afternoon to an ICU room. Dr. Nesmith grinned as he cautioned me what to expect: “Your husband is still here but don’t even think you’re going to see him.” Someone has joked since then that Grady General should have a honeymoon suite. When I was admitted my temperature was over 100, my oxygen in the low 80’s. I was put on a different steroid than Charles had been given. After three days I was moved from ICU to a regular room. The hospital was eerily quiet with no visitors at all. Nurses dressed in their COVID resistant gowns, masks, gloves, and shields were like aliens. But they spoke kindly and were very thoughtful.

Will brought his dad home equipped with oxygen the day after I was admitted. When I talked to Charles on the phone, I was shocked at how weak his voice was. In fact, when we tried to talk he usually let Will interpret for him.

After a week of IV’s, careful nursing, long nights and slow days, I came home, so happy to see Charles who’d grown a woolly beard. We hadn’t seen each other for two weeks. Will stayed on several days to be sure we were okay before heading back to Birmingham. We were so thankful when the report from his test came back negative!

Sitting here safe in the den I remember clearly the feeling of helplessness as I urned this way and that trying to pull myself up from the floor. I remember whispering against the rug, “What time I am afraid, I will trust in thee.” In the hospital during forever nights words of Psalm 103 scrolled in my mind: “Who healeth all our diseases and crowneth us with lovingkindness and tender mercies.” Charles and I are both so thankful for the Lord’s bringing us to this side of COVID. We’re thankful for the superb hospital care, for Dr. Nesmith and his staff, and for our family and marvelous church family who kept us supplied with beautiful food and other needs. 

Never does a trauma occur that God’s faithfulness cannot shine. Even when we’re knocked all the way to the floor, God reminds us to “keep looking up.”

Start planning for Christmas! Look up my Christmas book to give to family and friends.

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/christmas-carols-in-my-heart-brenda-knight-graham/1133044431?ean=9781732239197

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National Geographic

The other day our great granddaughter, Charli, expressed her curiosity over the shelves of yellow magazines in our den. “What are these books? Why do you keep so many? What’s in them?”                                                                     

We subscribed to National Geographic when our son was a toddler and have continued our subscription to this date. Each month the magazine with its marvelous pictures arrives. When he was little, our son loved for us to read to him and National Geographic with its colorful pictures was one of his “books.” Over the years one or both of us have perused the pictures, the captions, and many of the articles, sometimes all of them. Granted, during hectic times we might only have skimmed through the pages but usually we at least look at the pictures.

Before internet took over the information world the Geographics were a much-used source for school papers on almost everything from dinosaurs to earthquakes to every place on earth and the moon too. The spine of each volume has titles of the featured articles with titles of maps in red so they’re very easy to spot. And oh! those maps! I love maps that show you places all over God’s earth and I have always enjoyed using them in teaching children, allowing them to have a vision of where countries are and their relationship to each other. The maps are folded inside the magazine, easily extracted and, unfortunately, easily lost.

It is so easy and fun now to ask Siri for information about everything, even chewing gum. But it’s a lot more colorful and fun to look things up in National Geographic. The pictures alone with their captions can give you the taste and feel for places and people around the globe.

A few times over the years we have looked at each other and voiced the possibility of stopping our subscription. But then, how could we? We couldn’t give it up as long as our children were students. Then there were the grandchildren. They might seldom look at the treasures between the yellow covers but the source was there for them. Then we couldn’t stop it because we liked the magazine so much. Then suddenly (or it seemed that way!) we realized we had forty years of National Geographic and we certainly couldn’t break that wonderful heritage.    

Along the way we had a bookcase built specifically for the National Geographics. Tommy Humphries was a skilled woodcraftsman and we asked him to build a bookcase with adjustable sloping shelves, maybe three shelves, something low that would fit under a window. Tommy added his own ideas to ours. Didn’t we want four shelves? We said okay, four. Next thing he insisted five shelves was what we wanted and we agreed to that, knowing it now would not fit under a window. Well, the bookcase has six four-foot shelves, four of them now filled to capacity with golden Geographics, 1972 to 2020. Good job, Tommy! You knew better than we did!

A year or two ago I, as the bookworm of the house, had the audacity to approach Charles with the possibility of selling our collection, just so we’d have space for the books spilling out from other bookcases. I thought he would be so pleased that I was actually willing to part with this marvelous set of magazines. Turns out, he was shocked I would even think of such a thing. “We can’t let them go now. Look what a treasure we have!”

So the National Geographic keeps coming, month by month. When we moved we were able to set them all in order by dates. But that was six years ago. So when I began to answer Charli’s questions and show her some of the wonderful contents, I realized the bottom two shelves were woefully out of order.

“I can fix them for you, Nana,” Charli proposed. Well, Nana thought that was a wonderful idea “for another day.”

I left the room to see about lunch and when I came back there was Charli in the midst of stacks of National Geographics happily organizing. Together we matched loose maps back to their proper issue, pausing of course to take a look at them. I told her maybe she’d be a librarian one day. In the meantime, I hope she’ll be inspired to look into the fantastic pages of this magazine that, issue by issue, shows us things about ourselves and about people we’d never know otherwise, about coffee plantations, volcanoes, hieroglyphics, and even some of the latest on the dreaded coronavirus.

Psalm 107:8 “Oh that men would praise the Lord for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men!”

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