Saturday, October 11, 2008

God the healer, God the provider, God the magician

Those who know me well know that I am a very sentimental person. Growing up, I would treasure any item someone gave me – even from the most minute one – as if it were gold. Since childhood, I have collected what my mama always termed “dust collectors.” They are small items – such as ceramic figurines or tiny trinkets. I kept most of my collection on three small wooden shelves in my hallway.

From time to time I would move them to dust or move the items around, grouping them in a way that made sense to me. Included in my collection were very sentimental things like a statue of a Japanese fisherman, the last birthday present my godfather had given me as a teenager; a patchwork duck from Amsterdam that my friend, Helen, had sent from a trip there; a ceramic baby cardinal that I had bought for my mama the first Christmas I had a “real” job; and a ceramic statue of a girl dancing in a long white skirt, the only item that I have, other than three or four letters, that Papaw Hughes had given me.

Also on the shelves was a collection of shot glasses from various Planet Hollywood and Hard Rock Café restaurants I have visited throughout the years and other knickknacks that most folks would consider worthless, but I treasured.

Folks familiar with my home had learned to walk around the shelves. From time to time someone would bump into it or knock an item off onto the floor with little damage resulting from the accident. Needing some sprucing up, I’d hired a guy I attend church with to do some minor repairs and improvements to my home. He started Monday and although I moved a few things around for him, I pretty much left things that weren’t in the rooms he was working in the way they are.

Wednesday night I got home from work and noticed the shelves were no longer hanging on my hallway wall. That concerned me a little, especially when I began looking for the items that sat on the shelves. Finally I located a small box with items in it. Emptying the box, I began to realize that many of my most treasured items were missing. Investigating further, I found them … in the trashcan, smashed to small pieces.

To say I was upset was an understatement. Although I know in my heart the man working on my house would never have damaged anything on purpose, it hurt that he didn’t call me to tell me what had happened. Or even leave a note, for that matter. He just swept up the destruction and tossed it in the trashcan. I sobbed while looking at that mess of broken treasures. All that was left of the Japanese figurine was his head. The cardinal was unrecognizable to anyone who didn’t know it ever sat on one of the shelves. All but one of the shot glasses was shattered.

Mandi called me on her way home from church and I was not consolable over the phone. I kept naming to her all the stuff that was lost and it would make me cry harder. In an effort to stop the tears, she finally got me started talking about something else. Since I didn’t see pieces of the little girl in the white dress in the trash, I began thinking that I had moved her from the shelves and forgotten about it. I walked from room to room looking at every possible spot I would of put her. But the little glass doll wasn’t there.

As a step of precaution, I moved some irreplaceable items to the extra bedroom where the door was remaining closed during the renovation work. Deciding to take one final sweep of my house in search of my treasured doll, I found nothing. So I sat down, attempted to watch TV and mourned the loss of my stuff. I realize stuff is simply that … stuff. But it was my stuff. And I was heartbroken. Even “Criminal Minds” couldn’t hold my attention away from the loss.

So I gave up and got ready for bed. After brushing my teeth, I realized I had left the light on in the living room. Walking through the door, a glint of white caught my eye. There, perched precariously on a table, was that little white doll. Although most folks would say I had just overlooked her, I can say honestly that she hadn’t been there five minutes before. I know this because I looked on that table twice. And the manner in which she was placed was too temporary.

My conclusion is obvious. God put that object there just for me. He, in His infinite wisdom, knew I didn’t need to end the day in restless, mournful sleep. So, instead I went to sleep knowing that the God who keeps the universe in motion took a moment out of time to give me back a treasure. Although it truly impresses me to know He can do major things like part a sea to allow people to cross on dry land, it’s those smaller, more personal things God does that get my attention the most.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

me, me, me

I don't do memes very often. I really didn't know they were called that until a few minutes ago. But this one was pretty cool and not too challenging. So, JMom, this is for you!

What were you doing 10 years ago? Not a whole lot, really. I was working for the "Daily Corinthian" both night and day and wishing that I had a life and friends to go places with. That's basically it.

Favorite Snacks: It used to be most anything Little Debbie but since I've been having blood sugar issues of late, she and I have taken a slight respite. I really enjoy anything that includes dipping - salsas, chips and dip or fruit dips. I love kettle corn, peanut butter, pretzels, bananas, most any nut, Pecan Sandies and tangerines. Not all at one time cause that is a weird combo pack.

To Do List: I keep mental lists of all sorts in my head - even a "to do" one. Course it hurts when I attempt to cross something off!

Jobs I Have Had: Babysitter, editor of an alumni newspaper, editor of a weekly newspaper, news editor of a daily newspaper, part time desk clerk at city library, noon cashier at diner, substitute teacher, project director for a school district.

Places I Have Lived (counting college): Jackson, TN, Kirkville, MO, Somewhere else in TN where my dad was principal briefly, Corinth, MS, Booneville, MS, Columbus, MS, Baldwyn, MS, Corinth MS again and still. Bad Habits: Biting my fingernails, worrying (most of the time over nothing), jumping to conclusions before I have all the facts, talking to other drivers when I'm on the road, and, I'm sure, many, many more things!

Random Things People May Not Know

* I once had a drum set in my kitchen.
* One of my ancestors founded (and funded) a Quaker church in Maryland. My grandparents and great-grandparents founded the Methodist church my parents attended. I've never been a member of either denomination. Another ancestor worked closely with William Penn during the founding of the Pennsylvania Colony.
* I'm technically a farmer. My sister and I rent out the land we own in Jobetown. I am the one who deals with all the business of this proposition so I consider that farming.
* My great-great grandfather had 21 children so I am related to most all of the Jobes from Alcorn County.
* My middle name is spelled Anne to match the spelling of my last name. Although my parents were being clever, though, they didn't remember this fact until I had to get my birth certificate out to get my driver's license. Needless to say, we had been spelling my first and middle names incorrectly for years.
* I used to be a HUGE Lawrence Welk Show fan. I had a HUGE crush on Guy Hovis and told him that when I met him once. It probably wasn't quite so endearing coming from a 2o-something as it would've been from a four year old!
I'm sure there are even more less fascinating things that I can't think of right now.

CDs I would want if stranded on an island: anything by Audio Adrenaline, Mercy Me, Casting Crowns, Nicole C. Mullen. Specifics: Pure Country CD, Pure Disco CD, 80s Hits CD, B52s Greatest Hits, Earth, Wind and Fire's Greatest Hits, John Cougar Mellancamp's Greatest Hits, Martina McBride's Greatest Hits and the "Wicked" soundtrack. Yep, my tastes vary. I'd really like to have a satellite radio system if stranded anywhere (I REALLY wish I had one now!)

What I'd Do if I Were a Billionaire: I would first get out of debt and help those closest to me do the same. Then I would build the respite camp for families with special needs kids on my land in Jobetown and have it equipped to the max - including lots of farm animals for them! I would buy a new vehicle - probably a convertible of some sort (Mustang, I'm sure - fire engine red). I would renovate my house here in Corinth FINALLY buying the leather couch, recliner and queen-sized bed I've been wanting. Plus I would build a large theatre-type room on the back of my house with a huge flat screen TV, arcade style games and a soda fountain. I would subscribe to satellite radio for life. I would buy a house on the Outer Banks, either in Buxton or Ocracoke, and get an apartment in New York City, too. I'd probably go ahead and get a cabin in the Smokies as well. I would put some money in savings for McCartney, Taylor and any other nieces or nephews I have at that time to go to college. I would get them all a vehicle when they graduated from high school. I wouldn't live extravagantly really, but it would be nice to have more money at the end of the month rather than more month than money!

Anybody else want to play?

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Finding comfort from a genius

It's been a difficult past few days for me since my daddy died. I've received such wonderful love and comfort from those around me and I feel so blessed to have such caring people in my life. I honestly don't think I could've gotten through the weekend without my best friend, Mandi, here to keep me centered and make sure I got to the funeral home on time. She even put up with my bouts of insomnia and didn't complain when I watched Tom & Jerry cartoons at 4 a.m. on Saturday. I know the volume was probably louder than it needed to be at that time.

Perhaps the most unusual source of comfort came from someone others might think incapable of offering it. Tonight, my friend, Julie, called to check on me and her six-year-old son, McCartney, got on the phone. Here is some of our conversation:

Me - Hey, McCartney! How are you?

Mc - I'm sorry to hear about your daddy dying.

Me - Thank you! That means alot!

Mc - I wanted to come to the funeral.

Me - I know. Your daddy and Nana told me. It was OK, though, that you didn't come.

Mc - Did you see your daddy dead?

Me - Yes.

Mc - Was there blood?

Me - No, he just went to sleep and then went to Heaven.

Mc - I don't see him (I'm guessing he was looking up cause I know he was outside; I heard a train whistle blow).

Me - Well, you probably can't see him. But he is up there with the angels and God.

Mc - Did the angels come get him?

Me - Yeah, they did.

Mc - When?

Me - Friday morning.

Mc - Hmmm ... hey .... do God and Jesus sleep?

Me - I don't think so, but what do you think?

Mc - I think they are WAYYYYYY too busy to sleep.

This was all from a kid who will enter first grade soon and already reads at a third-grade level and who declared, at 2, that "I IS a genius!" All of the folks eating at Dixie Castle that night thought his declaration was hilarious. I knew it was simply the truth.

And I still think so.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Remembering 'Wild Bill'

“Crusty” would most likely be the adjective William Sorrels would’ve used to describe himself if asked.

Not surprising to those who knew him best, I would’ve chosen the word “tenderhearted” to describe him instead. For within that skin, thickened by years of newspapering, beat the heart of one of the most caring individuals ever to cross my path thus far in life.

Mr. Sorrels’ booming voice often sounded gruff as he would bark orders down the hallways of the Cromwell Communications building on The W campus. Most of us figured out early on, though, that the roar was pretty much for show and slight intimidation; that even when he was at his sternest moment, you could still see that caring sparkle in his eyes.

We lovingly referred to Mr. Sorrels as “Wild Bill.” The name just kind of somehow fit the laid-back man who truly believed that each one of us could become a viable member of the newspaper community.

“There’s a feature in everyone,” Mr. Sorrels proclaimed during the first day of our feature writing class. “It’s just up to you to find it.”

And the search was on. Although I truly wanted to use his class to hone my journalistic skills, I also highly sought his approval of my writing. Most of the time, I received it. When I got off on a tangent of two or three word leads, though, he told me that maybe I should consider putting a little more thought – and wording – into my starting paragraph.

During the times I felt the least confident about my career path choice, “Wild Bill” would come up with some adage or words of encouragement to cheer me on.

“Jobe, it’s not rocket science,” he would often say to me as a large grin covered his wrinkling face.

Although I received my degree and was thrust out into the cold, cruel world, I wasn’t ever totally alone. From time to time I would answer the phone at work and a familiar voice on the other end would boom, “Jobe, what’s your lead story today?”

Being a firm believer in giving folks their accolades while they’re still around, I once got the opportunity to tell Mr. Sorrels how much his guidance meant to me both personally and professionally. Although I had a father, I told him how he was truly a father-figure in my life. He paused as if trying to come up with the exact response, and simply replied, “That means more to me than you will ever know.”

Although I never rose higher than a news editor for a community paper, Mr. Sorrels was as proud of me as if I were a member of some major metropolitan newspaper staff. Often he would read one of my “Impatience of Jobe” columns, photocopy it and send a personal note in the margins.

When we would get the opportunity from time to time to actually visit, Mr. Sorrels always wanted to “talk shop” first, but he never missed an opportunity to ask about my family and, specifically, how my personal life was going. He knew that being content with life made a writer even better and wanted to make sure I was content with mine.

Mr. Sorrels truly taught me how to view the world in a way no other person had before. Because of him, I took pride in writing even the most mundane stories because, like he taught us, every person deserves the opportunity to have their story told. To him, a life was worth more than just an obituary when it was over.

And I adopted that form of respect for others during my 23-year newspaper career.

Encouraging us to dream and do, Mr. Sorrels often made us believe we could do things others felt we could never achieve.

“Jobe, you really need to write a book,” Wild Bill would often say. I would just brush off the comment, stating that my column and the newspaper articles I wrote from time to time were fulfilling enough for me. If I ever do follow through and write a book, though, I have always known in my mind how the dedication will read.

Although he is no longer in this world, I can’t imagine Wild Bill ever at total rest. I’m sure by now he has interviewed almost everyone who has entered those gates of pearl since his arrival there Saturday. And I’m certain Mr. Sorrels has patted St. Peter on the back at least once, encouraging him to take his job – and his life - a bit easier.

“It’s not rocket science, St. Pete,” he’s said.

And I’m sure St. Peter simply smiled as he ushered Wild Bill into eternity.

Friday, June 27, 2008

You've gotta be kidding me!!

I've never wanted to be a celebrity! I don't think I could stand living life in a fishbowl like that. But I enjoy keeping up with the likes of Laura Linney, Kristin Chenoweth, Alec Baldwin ... yep, I like my celebrities a little less controversial.

In order to keep up with the Pitts and other famous folks, I tend to read People magazine and tune in to "Entertainment Tonight" from time to time. Sometimes I literally laugh out loud when I read or see some crazy antic a celebrity, pseudo-celebrity or wannabe pulls. A segment on tonight's ET, though, made me scream - YOU GOTTA BE KDDING ME! - after hearing it. It seems little Suri Cruise is celebrating her second birthday and her parents threw a little shindig for it. ET reported that the price tag was reportedly $100,000. Get outta here! What did they do, hire Barnum & Bailey to bring the big top to their backyard? Geez, the kid is two! Two! She hasn't been eating solid food for very long and they're spending that kind of money on a birthday party. Sadly, one that she won't even remember!! At this rate, will they drop a cool mil on her Sweet 16?

Although I totally realize it's really none of my business what someone spends on their child for their birthday, some things just seem, well, a bit excessive. Craziness, just craziness!

And I had to comment on it publically!

Lemme know what you spent on your kid's 2nd birthday! Or lay some memories on my that you have of your own second birthday party! I'm sure I had a cake and that it was chocolate (had I been old enough, I woulda asked for white cake and chocolate icing!!).

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Time for a summertime dip

I'm a huge fan of the Big Mama blog. In her post today, she asked for summer recipes. Since my friends all KNOW I'm quite the Rachel Ray of Corinth .... yeah, right ... I decided to share some DIP recipes. Ya know, food is more fun if you dip it in something before you eat it! I can't take credit for either of these except for the fact I've consumed lots of both. Shellie is a co-worker of mine who likes to cook and is good at it. She likes to share with us, too, which is also good!

Shellie's "You're Gonna Fight Over It" Fruit Dip

1/2 cup of regular sugar

1/2 cup of light brown sugar

1 teaspoon of vanilla

1 block of cream cheese( let it get room temp)

Heath cookie chips( just like choc. chips)

Mix well.

This should be refrigerated, but put it out 15-20 minutes before you're gonna serve it.

This is served best with sliced apples. If you dunk them in Sprite, they won't turn brown so quickly.

Mississippi Caviar (from Shellie, too)

2 cans Rotel

2 cans blackeyed peas (drained)

2 cans shoepeg corn (drained)

1 large bottle Wishbone Italian Dresssing (don't substitute)

Chopped bell pepper

Stir together and serve with tortilla chips.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Truths from fuzzy-tailed friends

(I am going to try to NOT share many of my writing from my "past life," but there are a few things I want to either redo or simply share in their raw form. Staying with the animal theme here, I had to share this one! Hope that's OK! It's from 2005, if that matters.)

Squirrels are funny creatures.

Seriously, they are.

Some folks think squirrels are just oversized rats
with big, fluffy tails. I simply give them a bit more
credit than that even though my computer’s dictionary
defines them as “arboreal bushy-tailed rodents.” So I
guess that means they are first-cousins to a rat aka
“long-tailed rodent.”

As a child, I was fascinated with them. So much so
that my grandfather, George Hughes, would take
afternoons off from selling insurance and take me to
watch them play in the trees at the city park.

Not long after our ritual began, Papaw nicknamed me
after the furry animals. No one has called me that
since his death, but I often think of him as I watch
one scamper across my back yard looking for pecans.

Of course, I don’t have such warm feelings about the
squirrel (or more than one fuzzy-tailed monster) that
continuously jumps from tree to roof and sprints along
the top of my house above where I’m trying to sleep
late on the Saturday mornings I can.

It seems a friend of mine has had a similar
fascination with the furry ones. Or so she told me the
other night as she was looking through an old journal
she found at her house. It seems that while in
college, she was asked to give a devotional for the
Wesley Foundation. Her talk was inspired, apparently,
by a stint watching a squirrel play in her backyard.

From this observation, she gleaned three squirrel
facts that can aptly be applied to our lives as human

The first one? Sometimes you just have to jump.

While watching the squirrel stand on one limb and look
longingly at the branch of a nearby tree, she asked
herself what the squirrel might be thinking. He could
be, she penned, thinking that the branch was simply
too far away and he couldn’t possibly jump that far.
Or what if he jumped and missed? The failure could be
fairly costly to the little fella.

Perhaps, she surmised, that the squirrel would
determine in his little squirrel brain that the risk
was far too great and wouldn’t jump at all. Instead,
he would remain content in the safe confines of the
tree that he knew would hold him.

The second truth of sorts determined from the squirrel
watching was discovered after the animal actually
jumped. “Hang in there!” was the outcome. Leaping from
the safety of the branch that held him, the squirrel
found himself swaying toward the sky and toward the
ground on a much smaller and flexible limb. It would
bend a lot but not break.

From that observation, an object lessons was formed.
God never said doing his work would be easy, she
wrote. Many times taking that first leap and doing
what God calls us to do is the hardest. We think the
limb is going to break and we will fall. Things may
not go the way we think they should but we have got to
hold onto his words and his promises, know he is in
control and we can do it with his help.

How about the third point?

It seems that once the squirrel got his bearings and
realized the limb was gonna hold, he decided to keep
climbing toward the original destination. He kept
climbing higher and higher. We, too, should keep going
higher because there is always room to grow closer to
God, my friend concluded. What is God calling you to
do today?

After hearing this devotional read again five years
later, I felt very uplifted and encouraged. And I’m
certain I will treat squirrels with a bit higher
regard now.

Even those evil ones that love to stomp across my roof.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Catching magic

Summer started a little early at my humble abode this year.
I stopped during a brief moment – VERY brief moment, mind you – of housework Thursday night to take some garbage out to the poly cart near the street. The wonderful waste engineers (what we called garbage men when I was a kid) were coming by on Friday to pick up my trash. It was long overdue, too, since I hadn’t been at home to roll the cart to the street in several weeks.
It was just about dusk as I trekked out to the curb, plastic bag in hand. Stepping off the porch, I caught a glimpse of a tiny spark of light in front of me.
“They’re here!” I thought to myself! “It’s officially summer!”
Exactly who was ushering in the sunny season? Lightning bugs, of course. Mother Nature’s little LEDs.
Growing up, it was not unusual for a group of us kids in the neighborhood to spend hours chasing lightning bugs with mayonnaise jars. Prior to our hunt, we would use an ice pick – or a knife from some mama’s kitchen if it could be safely snuck out – to poke holes in the jar lids. Sometimes we would pick blades of grass to drop inside the jars for the bugs to have for sustenance even though we didn’t plan to keep them that long.
Catching the little critters took quite a technique. We had to watch for the tiny yellow light to flash and follow it until the bug was either enticed into the jar or flew into the jar. Then we had to snap the metal lid on and twist it in almost one motion. We honed this skill by catching bumble bees during the daytime hours; something you had to get right the first time or possibly face the stinger in the end.
Even when I got too old to chase the flying flashers, they still became my sign of summer’s arrival each year.
Not too long ago, I was visiting my longtime friend, Tusha, at her Long Island home. Tusha’s only daughter at the time, her nephew and I were in the backyard playing kickball. Without us really noticing, the sun set and it began getting dark. Right in the middle of a kick, I saw Cassidy point at something and say, “ooooohhhhh!”
Checking out what she had found, I noted a familiar sight. “You’ve spotted a lightnin’ bug!” I exclaimed.
“That’s not a lightnin’ bug,” her mother said, mocking my Southern accent. “It’s a firefly!”
“Well, I guess you’re right,” I told Tusha. “Cause no respectable lightnin’ bug would fly this far north of the Mason-Dixon Line!”
Agreeing to disagree on the name, I asked the two little kids if they had ever caught a lightning bug. Both of them continued to stare at the flashing lights floating around them and pretty much ignored me. Since I didn’t have a mayonnaise jar handy, I just reached up and grabbed a bug out of the air. Carefully cupping both hands together, I slightly held my fingers apart to let the light shine between them as the lightning bug blinked and crawled within my hands. The looks on those toddlers’ faces was a MasterCard moment (and, unfortunately, my camera was in the house so it couldn’t be a Kodak moment, too). Their eyes got as big as saucers when I let the bug lift heavenward off the palm of my hand.
“Do it again!” she whispered.
For hours, we ran around their backyard catching fireflies and letting them go until the two little ones were exhausted.
Although I’m not certain the little girl even remembers our game of catch-and-release, I just hope that when she sees a lightning bug firefly now she will at least notice their flicker. I know I won’t ever forget the evening I briefly held magic in my hands for two little toddlers.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Temporary roomies

Just had to put a couple of photos up of one of the baby birds that was born and lived briefly in my geranium. He wouldn't look directly at the camera cause, well, he was a little mad at me. I gave the siblings a bath accidentally when I watered the geranium. I couldn't see them and had no clue they were there until I heard a bunch of squawking going on in the flowerpot! Obviously it didn't kill them cause they flew away a day or two later!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

National treasure

Out of all the creatures God created, I think birds fascinate me the most. I’m not a card-carrying member of the Audubon Society, mind you, but I do enjoy sitting and watching those feathered folks who fly around me from time to time.
I have learned to identify some of the more common birds who hang around my home. Grackles, robins,sparrows, blue jays, mockingbirds and mourning doves often hang out in and around my oak tree and look for food in my front yard. A pair of cardinals must have had a nest somewhere near my house because I saw them flying around for weeks. The male was the most vivid shade of crimson that I have ever seen. He was almost friendly and would stare intensely at me whenever I would talk to him. It gave me great comfort to have them around because my mother and grandmother both loved those birds. Their appreciation for them came from the fact that my grandfather was such a huge fan of the St. Louis Cardinals that they adopted the bird because of him.
This spring, I’ve even had a little finch lay eggs in the red geranium that hangs on my front porch. I have photos of the two little offspring shortly before they took flight and left my ‘hood.
It sometimes annoys my friends because I gather up scraps of bread or any other foods that I think birds will eat and throw it out on my lawn for the little feathered creatures. To them, a little piece of moldy bread is caviar. The squirrels – who gnawed up my feeders that were hanging from trees in the backyard – get to enjoy the handouts as well.
As much as I enjoy watching the birds that cross my path at home, none of them can top the four I had the opportunity to observe recently, though. Seeking something fun to “shoot” during Memorial Day weekend, my best friend, Mandi, and I ventured up to Shiloh National Military Park. We had gone one time before but the battery on her camera had played out long before the tour was over.
I couldn’t talk her into watching “Shiloh: Portrait of a Battle,” the antique movie that not trip up there is truly complete without viewing. But I did con talk her into walking down the Sunken Road in search of my favorite monument that we never did locate. I need to put that on my “things to ask my favorite Park Ranger Ashley Ball the next time I see her” list.
We got out of the car at almost every tour stop along the way and found something interesting to take photos of each time. We spent the most time at the old cabin and the Bloody Pond. We snapped photos of the cabin with the split rail fence in the foreground and some without the fence at all. I even got a close up shot of the door just because I thought it would make a unique enlargement some day.
At the Bloody Pond we got landscape perspectives as well as lots of reflection shots of the nearby trees. There was a black and white horsefly that eluded my attempts to get a photo of him in flight. While taking photos, I thought of all the soldiers who supposedly used this pond to wash the horrors of war from their bodies and couldn’t imagine the carnage that area witnessed during those bloody two days in April. I thought of it until I overheard a re-enactor tell his wife that most likely the pond didn’t even exist during the actual Battle of Shiloh and the story of it was made up by the first park superintendent. Dude was dressed in blue so I don’t know that I believe his tale and plan to add that to the infamous Ashley Ball list.
Nearing the end of our tour we drove up to an area of the park that had been roped off and noticed several people sitting in lawn chairs looking skyward. I couldn’t imagine what they were doing until a recent article in the Daily Corinthian came to mind.
“Eagles,” I whispered.
“What did you say?” Mandi asked.
“There are baby eagles in that tree!” I exclaimed.
Noticing a nearby no parking sign, Mandi drove to an area where other cars were parked and we hiked back to the site. Looking up into a pine tree, I spotted the ugliest two animals I think I’ve ever seen. They were poised on two different branches around this huge nest that looked like something out of a dinosaur movie. Another bird watcher explained that the two creatures were the eaglets and one of the parents was sitting in a tree way across the open field in front of us.
Pretending that I could see the adult eagle, I stood there silently wishing it would fly toward us. Almost as soon as I made the internal wish, I heard a slight “whooshing” sound and quietly said to Mandi, “EAGLE!!!!”
Anyone watching would’ve thought we were being attacked by killer bees or something by the way we were moving around trying to get photos of the regal bald eagle in flight. And the eagle must have sensed we wanted some good pictures cause he (or she, we still can’t tell ‘em apart) slowly glided over our heads and circled around before landing ever so gently on a branch near the babies.
Although I couldn’t see my face, I’m certain my mouth was open as wide as my eyes at that point. I’ve seen eagles flying on TV and in movies and have even seen the majestic creatures at zoos and wildlife reserves. But nothing that I’ve seen before that Memorial Day weekend Saturday was as awesome as that bird in flight.
Thanks to the joy of digital photography, we stayed there until nearly dusk and shot hundreds of pictures of the babies and parents. We got to see both adult eagles fly a couple of times each and every time they did, it seemed just as magical as the time before.
Taking the long trek back to the car, Mandi said, “What are we doing tomorrow afternoon?” to which I quickly replied, “Coming back to see the eagles!”
Deciding that eagles are probably creatures of habit, we timed our second visit to the nesting site with the first one. We hadn’t been up there 10 minutes when one of the eagles flew up to the nest. Even though each flight was exciting, this one was even more of an event to watch when we noticed the adult was carrying dinner in their talons. Since Mandi has a zoom lens on her camera and could get more up-close-and-personal views of the birds, we were able to determine that the menu for Sunday night included catfish.
An observer who had apparently made several trips to view the nesting area said that various cuisine including a baby pig and small red fox had been brought in for the treetop picnics. While we were talking, someone in the nest tossed out a turtle shell and, as it hit the ground, I added that to the running list of snacks the birds had devoured.
It’s still odd to me that those eagles – a national symbol, you know – picked a national park to build a nest. And of all the trees In that park, they chose a pine tree standing near the roadway pretty much in a solitary area. It’s almost as if the birds wanted to give us simple minded humans a special glimpse into their world.
As of yet, I’ve not become an eagle expert. But I have been doing a little research. I’ve found that eagles tend to return to the same nests each year. So odds are there will be more little eaglets hatched there next spring. Odds are, Mandi and I will return to visit them, too (odds are, also, that I will have a zoom lens by then).
Watching those birds take flight on that Memorial Day weekend, I couldn’t help but think of Isaiah 40:31, of course: “But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk and not faint.” (KJV)
Seeing the birds so closely not only renewed my strength, it also rejuvenated my faith.
And for that, I’m grateful to my four new feathered friends.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Giving my regards

I fell in love with the stage at an early age. Even though I don’t remember the exact date, I remember the show explicitly.
It was during Daddy’s first stint of employment at what was then Northeast Mississippi Junior College. Most likely I was around 5 because my sister wasn’t married yet. Daddy had gotten a couple of free tickets to the spring musical and he and Mama allowed my sister to drive me to Booneville. Something they rarely ever did – much less let us go alone on fairly lengthy journeys at night. At that age, 20 miles seemed to be a fairly lengthy journey.
But the show made the trip very worthwhile to me. It was Rodgers & Hammerstein’s “South Pacific.” Although it was a simple community college adaptation of the Broadway hit, I was hooked at the first note. Back then I had an odd talent of being able to sing almost the entire lyrics of a song after hearing it only one time. I wore my family down with my continual renditions of “Happy Talk,” “I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Outa My Hair,” and “Bloody Mary.” My mama would later recall that the funniest part of that whole time was hearing me croon “Some Enchanted Evening” while trying to make my voice sound like a baritone singer.
Probably hoping I would learn some different lyrics, Daddy found the “South Pacific” soundtrack on an album at Big K and made my infatuation with the musical even greater. I listened to the album so many times it finally refused to play again without skipping.
Even though I was a child before cable television, I managed to find Broadway-ish shows on educational TV from time to time. As I watched them, I dreamed of what it must be like to sit in a darkened theatre in New York City and watch the actors hone their craft before me. I wanted to travel to the Great White Way even before I really understood the geographic distance between Mississippi and the Empire State.
I was in middle school before the chance to see another stage play came around again for me. Our high school presented a version of “Up the Down Staircase” and I sat alone in a metal folding chair near the stage soaking it in like a sponge. Although I didn’t want to be up on the stage, it certainly made me want to see more and more productions.
My high school “crush” was a French horn player who joined the orchestra for a musical our local theatre was producing. Since they needed a chime player and I had played marching xylophone several years in band, he asked me to join them for “Camelot.” Even though the chimes weren’t really similar to what I had played, I agreed because he offered to transport me to rehearsals which sealed the deal for me to get to see him more often for at least a month.
Although my part was a minute one in the overall score, it gave me the opportunity to see the behind-the-scenes portion of play production. And getting to see my French horn player more often (even though that absolutely didn‘t do anything to help that relationship flourish) didn‘t hurt either.
I was over 21 before the chance to see my first Broadway show happened, and wouldn’t you know it, my first show featured frolicking felines. Yep, a group trip to NYC got me to the Winter Garden Theatre to see “Cats.” Believe it or not, I was mesmerized. And when we were offered the opportunity to go up on stage during intermission and look at the set - and Old Deuteronomy - I was one of the first ones up there.
Trying hard not to fall down on the very shiny and overly-buffed stage, I quietly sang a bit of “Happy Birthday” and did a Cabbage Patch move or two. It gave me the opportunity to legally place that I had “sung and danced on Broadway” on my resume.
Even though I spent a weekend in the Big Apple, I didn’t darken the door of another theatre that trip. I had too many landmarks to see and lunch with my friend, Marcia. The next year, though, I not only saw the long-running, mucho award winning “Phantom of the Opera” at the Majestic, I went down the the famous Village to see “Steel Magnolias.” There were six of us in our group and we were the only six Southerners in the entire theatre. It showed but we didn’t care. Afterwards we stopped to get ice cream at a nearby shop and ran into Maeve Kindcaid who played Shelby’s mama in the show. It was fun getting to talk with one of the actors and have her quiz us about our reactions to a very Southern show.
Not content to wait until I could go return to NYC, a friend and I began buying season tickets for the Broadway tours that hit the Orpheum for a few years. I can’t afford the season tickets anymore, but my best friend, Mandi, and I try to see some of the shows that stop there now. She wants to see “The Lion King” if it ever makes a return visit to Memphis; I desperately want to see “Wicked” despite the fact I’d rather have seen it with Kristin Chenoweth and Idina Menzel cast as the leads.
Who knows if I will ever get on the old boards myself. I’ve always had this secret dream to sing on stage at the Corinth Coliseum-Civic Center (of course, I’m still dreaming of getting married there, too, one day) so it might happen. And I’ve always felt there was a little bit of “Ouiser” trapped within me for a “Steel Magnolias” production one day, too.
Until that happens, Sunday night’s Tony award broadcast made me want to head back to the old “City That Never Sleeps” for some serious theatre time. Six years has been way too long and I’m ready to snag some front row seating from TKTS again!
Plus it’s been way too long since I’ve seen my friends Marcia and Sarah. I’m betting at least one of them owes me lunch!

Monday, June 16, 2008

Still learning from Daddy

Daddy didn’t even know it was Father’s Day Sunday. Actually, he didn’t know it was Sunday. He did know my sister. And finally came up with my name. Although he knew his name, he couldn’t recall his date of birth.
In his reality, Daddy still isn’t sure where he lives either. The last time he talked about it, Daddy thought he lived in a castle - and it was the best castle he had ever lived in. According to Daddy’s story, the castle was owned by Tishy, the woman who lived down the road from Papaw and Granny and helped rear him. He also believed that Tishy’s children and grandchildren helped “run” the castle.
In actuality, Daddy lives in a nursing home and has for almost four Christmases. That’s how my sister and I remember how long he has lived there. Despite the fact that we asked her to wait until after the holiday, my stepmother put him in a nursing home right before Christmas three years. She also placed him in a nursing home 50 miles from us.
But that really has no part in this story.
Visiting Daddy at the nursing home is difficult at best anyway. Going there on Father’s Day, his birthday, Christmas or any other significant day during the year just seems to escalate the emotions of the time. My sister always quietly cries when we get to her SUV; I just pack the feelings further down into my heart.
The last time we had visited Daddy was perhaps the most difficult and frustrating visit of them all thus far. He didn’t know who I was at all and I honestly don’t think he was certain who my sister was either. So it was an understatement that I was dreading our visit this time. But since it was Father’s Day, there was no way we were not going to make the trip up there even if we didn’t visit for very long.
We found Daddy still sitting at his place in the dining room. Someone nearby was still eating lunch and it looked and smelled, honestly, good enough to eat. When I asked him if lunch was good, Daddy simply said “uh-huh” but I knew he had enjoyed it, too.
Generally we sit on one side of the dining room to visit. It contains a couch where we can sit and plenty of room for his wheelchair. Since we were early this trip, though, our visit began out front by the entrance. Daddy would watch the door and comment when a child would walk up to the door. “Look!” he would softly say. “There’s a pretty little girl coming in the door!”
The dialogue pretty much consisted of questions from us to him that Daddy could answer with an affirmative or negative. Apparently he hadn’t had any visitors since the last time we were there, according to him. He isn’t watching TV and he has a new room complete with a new roommate (we, of course, had gotten attached to the old roommate and REALLY liked the old room cause there was lots of room for us to visit there if we wanted to do that).
Very little else was said by him or us. He seemed content for us to sit there with him and we felt the same. Still not comprehending what the day was all about, Daddy looked with apprehension at his new shirts and pjs that we got him for Father’s Day.
In time, though, he got “antsy” so my sister and I convinced him to show us his new room. It wasn’t really a new one, per se, since he had been there before with the same roommate. That one, we don’t really care for to be honest. And since it was about as hot as the back side of the sun in there - yep, the roommate had the heater turned on full blast on a hot mid-June day - we talked Daddy into going to get him a Dr. Pepper.
Usually he wants a Milky Way or Snickers chaser to go with his DP. Not Sunday, though, since he had just had lunch. Instead he drank the soda from a cup as we continued our visit. As soon as the last drop of his drink was gone, Daddy was, too. Literally. He pointed the wheelchair toward the door as a cue for us to get ready to go home. We rolled him back to the lobby and said our “goodbyes.” My sister hugged him first and told him she loved him. He responded with a whispered, “I love you, too.” I followed suit and got no response. I tried not to take it personally as difficult as it was.
Walking toward the SUV, I glanced back over my shoulder hoping that Daddy would slightly resemble the man I’ve known, well, all my life. Instead, I saw my Daddy sitting there with his head bowed, studying his hands.
Dementia - or whatever you want to term it - is a difficult thing. It’s frustrating for the person afflicted with it. It robs them of not only their everyday existence, but steals away memories to share at the golden times of their lives. .
For my daddy, it has stolen one of the best storytellers I’ve ever met. Daddy could spin a yarn verbally better than any sentence I’ve ever written from the very depths of my heart. I will forever regret that we didn’t force him to use a Christmas gift from long ago since no audiotapes of family stories exist.
Although I’m getting used to the crew cut-style haircut Daddy now sports, it’s hard to see it on the man who took more time with his hair in the mornings than most Miss America contestants I’ve ever known.
Despite the fact that Daddy and I have had a complicated relationship at best, it simply hurts to watch as time and an unpredictable mental disease slowly ensnares him and threatens to shut him away from us forever.
A longtime educator, Daddy didn't turn off the teaching when he left work. Although it was Mama who helped make sure I did my schoolwork and learned my lessons in life, it was Daddy who would often quiz me about both areas. I miss the political debates, spiritual discussions and historical recollections we used to share.
As we drove away Sunday, though, I silently prayed that God would continue to bless me with good mental health. I also prayed that God would continue to bless all the residents of Daddy’s castle and the hands that care for them there. I also asked God to continue to give me the patience, the courage and the strength to continue visiting Daddy there - no matter how difficult it may get in the future to make the trip.For as hard as it may be to understand, I believe I still have a lot to learn from my daddy.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Precious Memories

Although I never met my great-grandmother, Ada Jobe, I'd like to think that I am alot like her in lots of ways. I own the 30 acres where her home used to live and there are daylillies growing there each spring, offspring of the original ones my great-grandfather planted for her.
Several years ago, desiring to have a bit of the "homeplace" at our home, Daddy transplanted some there. I love coming home from work and finding them growing in the jungle that I now call MY yard. So much so that I HAD to share a photo of one here!

Friday, June 6, 2008

The next chapter

I seem to have gotten a bit too proverbially "long winded" for the About Me section of the blog. I posted a bit of what I wrote, but decided to use the rest of it as my first post here so you can understand why I have created this.
Here goes:
I am a Tennessean by birth but I grew up in Northeast Mississippi.
Educated by the Corinth School District, Northeast Mississippi Junior College (now NEMCC), and Mississippi University for Women, I spent almost 22 years in the newspaper business. Last November, because of budget cuts, my job of 19 years was eliminated and my employment was terminated. For two months I did a lot of literal soul-searching, trying to determine exactly what path God wanted me to take next.
Feeling a real need to get out of the newspaper business, I found myself entering the world of education (an obvious path for someone whose father was a career educator). Since January, I have been working as Project Director for the Corinth School District. I oversee a Teaching American History Grant and do special projects for the District. So far I've written and designed a tabloid and helped get our recent $12.8 million bond issue passed. I love my new job and the folks I work with very much! When not at work, I enjoy photography.
Since I recently acquired a Canon Rebel XTI, you will be seeing some of my work here, I'm certain.
As for other hobbies, I also enjoy movies, TV and basically life itself. I love, love, love to travel and will do more as I can afford it. Although I've enjoyed my various trips to DC and NYC, I have to say the trip to the Outer Banks of North Carolina that Mandi and I took several years ago ranks at the very top of the best place visited list! I wanna go back sometime, take a box of books and just sit on Ocracoke and surrounding beaches and read (and pick up seashells, too. I had to pay American Airlines an additional $25 to get home since my suitcases were filled with shells! The Outer Banks has some of the most beautiful shell beds in the U.S., I believe!!)
The most important aspect of my life, though, is my relationship with God. Lately I have wanted to know more and more about Him and draw closer and closer to Him. I honestly believe He still has things for me to accomplish for His kingdom and I am diligently seeking His will for my life. And looking forward to accomplishing those things He has planned and purposed for me!
As an editor at two newspapers in North Mississippi, I had a personal column called the "Impatience of Jobe." I not only shared my thoughts with the newspaper readers, but for the past few years I've also shared my columns with my friends. Since losing my job in November, I haven't written a column. Many of my friends have encouraged me to write them again. To be honest, I've missed that therapy of sorts. Although this blog won't be exactly like the Friday columns, I hope it will fill the void folks seem to have been missing. I truly believe it will fill that writing void I have felt lately!