Purpose

For those of you that are following my post or have followed my post I apologize for not  writing in quite a while.  There is a perfectly good explanation I promise!  She’s about 5′-1″ tall, prettiest hazel eyes you ever saw and serves as my most honest critic.  I would often leave my posts up for her to read and we would talk about them when I got home from work.  The last several posts were, in her words, “rushed”  So, I took a hiatus.  Forgive my verboseness.

I titled this post purpose because I want to talk about purpose.  I’ve had jobs and a career  but was never content in what I did.  I’ve worked construction in many different forms, was a soldier, draftsman, and finally a project coordinator, all of which I did very well.  But I was miserable.  There was no joy in it for me.

In 2004 I found myself working for an OEM Auto parts manufacturer which is a very strange place for an architectural project manager to be, but they had a need for my services and I had a need for their money.   Eventually the man that hired me moved on and I inherited a new boss.  We did not care for one another and we both knew that eventually I would be let go but that he would have to manufacture a way to do so. During this time my wife and I had been working with young people at our church and I began to confess to her that I had always dreamed of being a teacher.  She was surprised but supportive, so I  began to pursue my Masters of Arts in Secondary Education.  I cannot remember working harder towards any one thing in my life, but I relished the challenge.

I did eventually lose the manufacturing job and found myself the unemployed father of 5 Master’s student scrambling to make ends meet working whatever construction jobs that I could scrounge up.  My wife never questioned our position and the good Lord kept a roof over out head and food in our mouths.  I remember finishing my last course work class and filling out the paperwork to do my student teaching portion of the degree…and waiting. The money ran out and my wife and I discussed it.  I found work with one of the world’s largest dollar stores in the corporate office.  The money was good but I hated the work.

Meanwhile my placement advisor is struggling to find me a school.  He called and told me that Sumner County said no the same day we applied and that Robertson County said no promises but they would look into it. So I worked and waited.  Then Wednesday arrived.  Phil, my placement advisor, sent me new paperwork to select two new districts.  I had been struggling with this and had all but come to the conclusion that God had closed the door on this portion of my life and that I should stay where I was.  I had composed an email to Phil and then decided to go to lunch before I sent it. I called my wife and we talked about what we should do.  She reminded me that God had brought us this far and that we should continue to trust him.  So we prayed and I went back to work.  I sat at my desk and an email popped up.  It was Phil and it was very criptic “I’m calling you”  I raised me eyebrow, looked at my phone and almost jumped out of my skin phone when it rang.

Phil was nearly breathless when I answered, “You’re not going to believe this!”  I shook my head and rolled my eyes as if he could see me and asked, “Believe what?”  My world spun when he said “Robertson County just came through!” I did some quick calculations and figure that since it was the end of January this school year was out, I could stay where i was save some money and start next school year…”Ok…when do I start?”  I nearly had to pick myself up off the floor when he responded “Monday”  I asked “Monday, when?”  He sounded exasperated “This coming Monday!”

This was a whole new set of problems!  I had to call my wife and discuss finances…again.  Then I had to go quit my job.  I had a meeting to attend with my cooperating teacher and field supervisor the next day.  So off to a running start and scrambling I embarked on the path of becoming a student teacher.  At 42 years old I embarked upon the career I had always dreamed of.   The thought shook me to my very core…me…a teacher.

When I started my cooperating teacher told me “Do not expect to get a job here.  People retire or die from this school”  By the time I left I had made some great friends and both the principal and cooperating teacher told me that if something came open they would give me a call.  Student teaching complete…all done.  We had enough money to get through to the start of the school year. I started filling out applications.  Towards the start of the school year I had applications in at 8 school districts across two states.  No calls.  Nothing.  My teacher friends told me to not be discouraged.  But I was looking at my dwindling checking account, shrinking larder, and saw little or no hope.

It was the end of July and graduation day had finally arrived.  My lovely bride and I were once again going to be walking down the aisle for the third time.  We graduated together in High School, our wedding, and now she had earned her bachelors degree the same time I earned my masters. Our families, as they often do, planned an intimate after affair party, at which I discovered that the prime rib that I ate was tainted and I received a good dose of food poisoning.  I was miserable.  My wife tended to me, feeding me sprite, crackers, and a wonderful does of phenergan.

I finally dosed off at about 6:00 in the morning only to be awakened at 9:00 by my phone shattering the silence. I let it ring figuring a bill collector who had of late become aware of my phone number at an alarming rate.  The phone fell silent.  Silence is good.  Then it chimed letting me know I had a voice mail.  I stirred up the strength to get out of bed and get my phone off the dresser that stood ominously across the room.  I fumbled my way through the menu’s and checked the message.  It was a number I didn’t know and the voice was unfamiliar, but the message he left made my heart soar.  It was a principal.  And he wanted to interview me.  Tomorrow.

The interview went well, so well in fact that I found myself waiting on a phone call the next day.  I woke up figuring on a 9:00 AM phone call.  10:00 rolled around.  1:00 rolled around.  2:30 arrived.  No phone call.  My wife gathered out kids and told me that they were going to the library that she couldn’t take me anymore. I paced, and paced, and paced.  4:25 rolled around and she text me, “Anything?”  I responded “No.  I don’t know how much more broken God needs me to be because right now I am shattered.  If I don’t hear back by 4:30 I’ll have my answer”  I hit send noting the time as 4:28.

I was about to slip my phone back in my pocket when it rang in my hand.  I figured it was my wife calling to console me and looked at the screen. It was him.  Oh Lord…I answered.  He greeted me and informed me that he had made a recommendation for the position.  Dead silence.  Recommendation…what did that mean?  Did I have it or not?  He broke the silence, “Congratulations! Welcome aboard! Now I know that I am hitting you with a lot of stuff but…”  I wrote down his directions and all the information that he gave me as my mind reeled.  We said our goodbyes and hung up.

I stared at my phone.  I knew I had to call my wife but could not make my fingers work, besides my blood sugar must have spiked or she forgot to dust because I couldn’t focus for some reason.  I will never forget the sound of her voice, and the hope, dread, anxiety, and concern in it as she said “Hello?”  In a barely audible voice I told her “I got it”  She didn’t hear me and had to ask, “what?”  I managed a little more composure, “Honey I got it!”  We shed tears of relief, and joy together. Since that time my life has been a whirl wind.  I have become a friend, mentor, socialologist, counselor, psychologist, bouncer, and coach.  When I was asked how could you be a teacher the only response that I had was how could I not?

I am finally living out the purpose that God intended me for, I pray everyday that with his help that I will be enough.

Comfort Zone

When I first started dating my wife I made a conscious decision that I would try things that I never would have tried before.  Let me warn you, when you make that sort of conscious decision, you will be put to the test.

We had  been dating for over a year.  Long distance.  I lived north of Nashville, TN and she lived in Winchester, KY.  Three short hours away.  Our dating consisted of talking.  A lot.  Our days started at about the same time.   We’d get our children ready for school or the baby sitter and out the door we’d go.  Each child dropped off at their perspective locations.  And we’d call one another.  We’d talk for an hour on the way to work.  We’d talk for an hour at lunch.  We’d talk for an hour on the drive home.  We’d eat dinner, get the kids down for the night and call.  We saw each other every other weekend.

It was no surprise when the phone rang, the surprise came with what she had to tell me.  She said that she had agreed to be part of the “Murder Mystery Weekend” at Shaker Village in Harrodsburg, KY.  She was to play the part of the Inn Keeper’s wife.  There was a loaded pause in the air as I waited for the next bit of information to pour forth with her next exhale.  “I did say I volunteered us right”. Uh,no, you didn’t.  I closed me eyes and held my breath as she continued.  “I know you don’t like crowds, if I over stepped my bounds I’m sorry.  I was just so excited by the idea of a weekend away together, and it’s free…” and she went on.

As she continued talking I tuned her out.  My gut reaction was to tell her “NO”.  For some reason I asked myself “why not?”  The only thing that I could think of was that it’s outside of my comfort zone.  So would it hurt?  I could still hear her in the background.  I thought about the torch that I had carried for this woman for over 20 years.  I thought of our relationship and how it had progressed.  I thought of our talks of marriage and planning to move her down to Tennessee in just a few short months.  Was this a test?  A trap?  If I said no would she rethink the entire relationship?  I didn’t want to find out.

Silence.

I came back to reality and realized that I didn’t hear her charming alto voice on the other end, then she said “Honey, are you there?  Did I mess up?  Are we ok?”  Before I knew it I heard a voice saying “No you didn’t, yes we are, and yes we can do it”  Yes, who said yes?  Me?  Yes, me.  Mr. Conservative who does not like crowds, whose military experience has him fading into the shadows and assessing every individual and situation told a 5′-1″ and a little bit blonde “yes”.  To say that she was thrilled would be an understatement.

It was one of the most challenging things that I have ever done.  We were in costume and character whenever we were in public.  The fun was that the only script that we had were the scenes which took place at four meals, the rest we were free to add lib.  We had the poor attendees so confused that they did not know which way was up.

At the first breakfast scene I found that cowboy boots, stone floors, and butter balls do not mix well.  It was hilarious.  One character, “The Professor” was to die of poisoning during the meal and I was tush to his table, kneel down grab his wrist and exclaim “He’s dead!”  All was going as planned.  The Professor keeled over as per the script.  I ran from the door of the entrance to the dining area towards the murder scene.  Suddenly I realized that I was no longer running but was sliding and looking up at the ceiling.  I was headed right towards the back of the chair of one of the lady attendees.

I am 6′-0″ and at the time weighted somewhere around 245.  Not huge, but not small either.  All I could picture was chair shattering into pieces the lady flying into the air and me sliding all the way under the table.  Luckily none of the above happened.  My slide started to slow just before I hit the chair.  I came to a complete halt.  Rolled over, scrambled to the “convulsing corpse” The poor professor had witnessed the entire scene and could not help but belly laugh.  I managed to grab his wrist and pronounced him dead before, or so I thought, anyone was the wiser.  I could barely contain myself when the man at the other end of the table that I had hit stood up and in one of the best umpire voices that I have ever heard, complete with hand motions, loudly pronounced me “SAFE!”

I had fun.  I found out that saying yes to something that you normally wouldn’t do is not the end of the world, in fact it can be rather enjoyable.  It was a test, I passed, and it changed the way that she looked at me.  I learned that she will keep me young.   

Nonsense can be fun.  

“A little nonsense now and then is cherished by the wisest men”

Archery…Ministry…Youth

Romans 11:29 - For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.

Gifts.  Calling of God.  Irrevocable.  Sounds ominous doesn’t it?  Almost like a draft card.

But why do we always view the calling of God as ominous.  Maybe you don’t, but I did.  People always spoke with reverence when they made statements like, “he got the call”, “he was called by God”, or “God put a calling on his life”  It always sounded so…sacrificial.  Like a lamb to the slaughter.

It’s difficult to answer God when you have that type of view about his work.  I would know.  I ran from his calling when I was 19.  I did everything as far away from the plan that he had for my life as I possibly could.  He even put a group of men in my path that offered to pay for my college.  I joined the Army instead.  Through a very twisted path God still found a way to get me into a ministry.

So down this twisted path we will go.  In my first post I talked about what it took for me to become interested in hunting and latter about how I have become enthralled with bow hunting.  I wanted to learn more about all of this and soon discovered a fantastic website. http://www.TNDeer.com.  The friendliest camp fire on the internet has a great forum and some of the most God fearing friendly people I have ever “met”.  As I studied the site I began to learn about hunters, hunting, deer, and honest male fellowship (remember my post on becoming a man?).  The site isn’t perfect but I have seen some fantastic things happen from there and I’d like to share a few.

One of the members had to give up his beloved compound bow because open heart surgery wouldn’t allow him to use it anymore.  He traded that in (and in his eyes down) to a crossbow.  But even that became difficult for him to use.  The guys on the website pitched in and bought him a battery powered crossbow cocker.  There was enough left over that they put it on gift cards and mailed it to him.

Another member has been wheelchair bound since he was 18 (or so).  For the last year he’d been suffering with  a blood clot and bed ridden for 22 of a 24 hour day.  He was down about not being able to finish a project that he had started and posted pictures of it.  This guy was going to build a deck even though he’s in a wheelchair.  Before you know it TNDeer had organized a work bee.  Close to a dozen people showed up to help, some knew one another, most did not.  They did this out of the kindness of their hearts.  Knowing that these fine folks would not take payment his mother insisted on cooking for them.  I was not able to attend though I wanted to, but from the pictures and the tales told the lady put out quite a spread.

Most recently one of our members, a disabled veteran, passed away unexpectedly.  His son made a post informing us of his passing.  His wife then came on and asked if anyone could help her price his hunting items as money would soon become tight and she needed to raise money.  Various members got together and one was actually close enough to go help her sort items out and price them for her.  Some went to friends of the family, some sold on the site, but a fair price was paid and no one haggled.  Those who were not able to buy decided to donate.  The last time I checked the widow had be given nearly $3,000.00 by complete strangers.  No, I have that wrong.  Not complete strangers, just family she’s never met.

As much as all of these event s touched me there was another that touched me more.  My wife Mitzi and I have been working with the youth in our area for quite some time.  The ministry started at about the same time I started becoming interested in deer hunting.  I bought my bow and the young men in my group started asking questions.  Then a young man by the name of Chase approached me with a request.  He’d lost his dad tragically a year before and one of the only things that he had left was an old broken down compound bow.  This thing was busted.

I had an idea and approached  TNDeer with the request of used hunting items.  I received far more than I bargained for.  The next thing I know I am being asked clothes sizes, boot sizes, does he have arrows, what about a release, and on and on it went.  I received many of the items I was asked about and a couple of the guys got together and sent a climber tree stand.  I never thought that I would be the recipient of anything like that,  But it wasn’t over.

Warning – Andrew and Matthew I’m going to out you on this one.

A great guy by the name of Andrew had helped me with my first bow, getting it tuned, and set up as well as you can set up a 26 year old Browning Magnum Plus.  I asked him about getting Chase’s bow setup and he said sure bring it on down.  I’ll abbreviate the story a lot here.  We worked on the bow and soon discovered that the bottom cam was bent beyond repair.   We took the bow home and stepped back to punt.  Andrew and I talked, batted a few ideas around, and he involved another TNDeer member, Matthew Eddie of Energy Wave Bow Strings (shameless free plug) to help.  They asked me to bring the bow down and leave it, so I did and didn’t think much more about it.

A few weeks later Andrew calls me up and tells me to bring Chase down because his bow was ready.  What we found when we showed up was more than either of us had expected.  The two gentlemen had scrounged up a new sight, a dozen new arrows, field tips, cams off of a Matthews Single Cam, a whisker biscuit, and Matthew had added new cables and bow string.  The bow was as new as it could possibly be made.  I don’t even want to venture a guess towards a dollar amount, or the amount of labor they put into that bow, but I will forever be grateful.  Chase was floored, I had experienced the milk of human kindness before, he had not.  He really got a dose, and he still hasn’t recovered.  I haven’t either.

Not long after all of this went down I had another boy, Darrell, show up on my door step.  I didn’t have a bow for him, but it didn’t take long for one to pop up.  One of the guys on the website posted that he had a bow for a kid.  I had a kid no bow.  We connected and were able to put a bow in Darrell’s hands and with Andrew’s help have him shooting in very short order.

God also showed me in other ways that this is a ministry that he has a hand on and has enabled me to help others as well.  I’m always scouring Craigslist for bows and archery equipment.  A PSE Nova popped up for $60.00, yep $60.00.  I looked at other PSE Nova’s listed and they were going from $150.00 to $200.00.  I contacted the guy and we chatted, he asked what I was going to do with the bow so I told him about my youth archery ministry.  When we got to his house he had the bow, a sight, rest, and quiver for the bow.  He also donated some boots, hats, gloves, and a jacket.  As I was getting ready to leave he asked if I was interested in a climber stand.  I didn’t think it was in my price range but agreed to look.  I walked away with a used Hunter’s Choice climber for $15.00.  I’m still shaking my head over that one.

So now I have a bow and no boy.  That didn’t take long to fix either.  My friend Andrew posted on our website that he had taken a boy under his wing.  The young man lost his father unexpectedly and was growing up in an estrogen riddled house.  Andrew was determined to get the boy as good a dose of testosterone as possible.  As soon as I saw his post I knew who the bow was for.

And the stories go on and on.  And things are still happening.  God called me to a ministry 24 years ago and I ran.  When I finally got tired of running He still had a ministry for me, involving an activity I love helping young boys become young men.

Archery.

Go figure.

The Birth of the Savior….My take

Once again I must preface what I am going to say is of my own ideas discoveries and thoughts.  They do not reflect any doctrine or denomination and are completely my own.

I sat in church a few years ago and for the first time in many years my younger brother sat beside me.  He wasn’t totally comfortable but he was there.  My mom sat beside us beaming with pride.

As the service waned on and I do mean that time passed very slowly, we both became distractedly uncomfortable.  When the final hymn was announced we stood and turned to the correct page.  It took just a moment for him to lean over to me and say, “I know I need church or something, but tell me how this pertains to me?”  I looked to see him pointing at the date the hymn was written.  1699.  I didn’t know what to say.

So I begin to think.  What about all of this is pertinent to me?  In order to come to my answer I had to separate denominational religion and God.  My thoughts and study turned to the birth of Christ.  Here’s how the story breaks down:

  1. The gospel of Luke Chapter 1:26-38 tells of how an Mary came to be the mother of the Savior.
  2. Matthew Chapter 1:18-25 tells how Joseph, not wanting to disgrace Mary, decided to put her quietly away when according to Hebrew law he could have had her stoned to death.  He only changed his mind when he was visited by an Angel who told him to not be concerned about taking Mary as his wife and that she would be the mother of the Messiah.  And he fulfilled prophecy by keeping her a virgin.
  3. Into all this mix let’s throw the government.  Luke 2:1-3 tells the portion of the story of how Caesar Augustus required that a census of everyone of everyone on the face of the earth.  Everyone in his own city.  That means that Joseph had to pack up a very pregnant Mary and take her to Bethlehem.

So how is all of this pertinent to us today? Have you ever really thought about it?   Let’s break it down into terms that perhaps make it a little more clear.

Mary gets pregnant by the Spirit.  Joseph chooses not to believe her and rejects her.  God tells Joseph to marry her anyway.  So now we have Joseph who first rejects his bride-to-be then turns around and says yes the child is mine, instantly becoming a liar.    He does marry her but in order for prophecy to be fulfilled does not consummate the marriage.  Can you imagine the first view of your wife naked being in the doctor’s “catch” position?  Then Joseph gets a letter from the Government saying “go to the city of your ancestors so that we can count you and your household”.  Can you see the joy in this relationship so far?

So the happy caravan headed to Bethlehem..was it really so happy?  A rejected bride, a child conceived out of wedlock, and a disgraced husband on an 80 mile road trip.  Sounds like a load of fun doesn’t it?

How is this pertinent to us today?  I believe with all my heart that his story was part of God’s grand design.  In the eyes of man Jesus was conceived outside of marriage.  His father was a liar.  He rejected Mary then married her anyway.  They were poor.  Marry was later a widow (assumption).  He had half-brothers.  He worked with his hands.  He came from the most wicked city in Israel. Folks, Jesus came to this earth to be me and you.  To experience the things that we did.  He was not born of privilege.  No silver spoon for the King of the Universe.  He experienced things that the lowest of the low experienced.  He became us.  All of us.

To me that is exactly how Christ is pertinent to us today.

Christmas

I’m not sure when I started remembering Christmas, but there are definite memories from different points in my life.  All of them center around my family, and time spent with them.  The one gift that I remember most is the time I was able to spend with them.

The first Christmas that I really remember was probably 1974, or maybe 1975.  We lived in Olin, NC in a big ramshackle farm house that was literally one mile from the black top.  The outhouse still stood when we lived there.  It had a front porch and a side porch.  No one ever used the front door but came through the back door into a breeze way that lead into the kitchen.  It was always warm in there and always smelled of food.

My grandma Chaffee, who lived in Portland, TN would come and visit us twice a year.   The time of year never mattered, whenever she came she brought Christmas with her.  That year when she arrived we didn’t yet have a Christmas Tree so she and my mother decided that they would pack all three of the boys into the car, grab dad’s bow saw, and go get one.  We didn’t have to go far.

What occurred next was the awfullest mess you have ever seen.  Two women trying to cut down a little cedar tree with a tool they knew little about compounded by three little boys doing their best to help.  They had forgotten to bring any rope and grandma was not about to put the tree in her new car, so they threw it on top.  I don’t know how many times we had to stop and put that tree on top of the car, but what I do remember was the laughter.  Mom and grandma laughed like school girls all the way home.

They wrestled that tree in to the house, got it stood up and the lights on before dad got home.  I remember that it had snowed mightily the remainder of the day.     He walked in looked at the tree then at mom and grandma and said “Let’s roll it in the snow!”  Before they could say a word he grabbed the tree, lights and all, and out the front door he went.  I remember watching him from the window rolling that tree over and over getting it covered.  I’ll never forget decorating that tree.  It was the most beautiful tree I ever remember having.

One of my other favorite memories was watching my dad and uncles come in from hunting together on Thanksgiving or Christmas Day.  They smelled of the cold, tobacco, the great outdoors, and gunpowder.  I remember my older cousins being invited to go hunting with the men as they got older.  It was a right of passage and I greatly anticipated my invitation.

It was an invitation that never came.   By the time I was 8 my family moved away and dad stopped hunting.  Things happened and I lost interest in hunting, but as time passed I started thinking about it again.  It became a desire to re-establish that tradition.

This Thanksgiving I was afforded the opportunity to go hunting with my younger brother Kelly.  It is a tradition that we will continue and as our own sons grow older we will invite them to go with us, carrying on a long standing family tradition.

I guess that’s what I cherish the most about Christmas, spending time with my family.

God bless you all.

Merry Christmas.

Cease Striving

Psalms 46:10 - “Cease striving and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”

Be still.  Watch for movement.  Still yourself.  Tune  in to your surroundings.  Remove everything from your mind other than the sounds around you.  Watch for movement.  Still your mind.  These are the thoughts that penetrate my brain when sitting in my deer stand.  So totally opposite from my walk with God.

Opposite?  Yes, opposite.  When I first came back into a relationship with God I had so much going on in my life, and the only thing I could do was pray to Him.  It got to the point that I was so stressed that I was “machine gun praying”  Every extra ounce of energy, every spare-able thought was a prayer.  I often told my wife I feel like an old boiling tea kettle boiling and vibrating itself across the stove top.

In the midst of all my turmoil I read a devotional that basically said sit still.  But I have so much to do in a day!  I was managing multiple projects  in the million dollar column.  There were Cub Scouts, my wife, my children,  all of  whom required something from me.

And the bills.  I shudder at the thought of paying bills.  There  was nothing to pay them with.  We had money coming in.  But the timing was all off.  By the time the NSF fees and the bills were paid we had no money left.  But people demanded to be paid and did not want to hear “if you can just wait a few days….”

Be still.  God what does that look like?  How do I do that?  I am pulled in so many different directions, how do I stop?

So he used my daughter to show me.  She’s five at this point.  Blond, big blue eyes, pixie nose.  Cute as a button.  She’s out of zone so I drop her off to school every morning on my way to work.  I sit as most parents do and watch as she walks to the big double doors, to make sure she gets into the building.

She walks to the big ominous double doors, and to my amazement she stops.  She stands there, looking in through the glass to where she is supposed to go, and waits.  School books in pressed against her body, lunch box in hand, and she waits.  And I watch.  Suddenly she flashes a smile and waves at someone inside the school and they come open the door.

It hit me like a ton of bricks.  She knew what she was capable of.  The doors were too much.  So she waited patiently, rather than exert every ounce of energy into fruitless effort, she waited.  Her stillness paid off.

Cease striving and know that I am God…

October Birthdays

This time of year always makes me think of my family.  For some reason our women folk decide to have babies in September and October.  My Great-Grandmother, younger brother, nephew, an uncle, and an Aunt were all born on October 30.  I know most people think of Halloween during this time of year but I always think of Birthdays and family celebrations.  So, I would like to share my birthday memories with you.

I don’t recall when they brought Kelly home.  I was three so I do vaguely remember looking into his bassinet.  He had the absolutely awfullest curly hair you ever saw.  To the point that people thought he was a girl.  I even got into trouble once because I informed a man that mistakenly thought he was a girl, that no as a matter of fact he was not a girl, but a boy.  And that he was name for my Great Grandfather Keller.

It never failed we would go somewhere and people would say something like “oh what a pretty little girl”  I think I had my own “Boy name Sue” complex for him!  I blame my mom for that!  You could finger curl his hair, and she would.  He hated it so much that to this day he wears it so short you can see his scalp.  If you can’t it’s too long!

I don’t know which of his birthday’s I remember the most fondly.  Mom has always decorated birthday cakes.  I think there are two that were Kelly’s that stand out to me.  The first was an Fall based theme.  It was a road, split rail fence, with autumn colors.  She even made frosting pumpkins.  I think the most fun cake that he had was I giant Cheeseburger.   I saw it and had to laugh.

The birthday’s of his that I remember the most?  The ones that I missed.  I joined the Army at 19 and left home.  I remember sitting in my Humvee looking at the calender, and then my watch thinking about what I was missing and wishing I were home.  So for all the birthday’s I missed little brother this is to let you know that I did think about you, missed you, and wished I could be with you.

My next favorite birthday was my great-grandmother’s .  Foda White was born on October 30, 1900 in Olin, NC.  She was 4′-11″ tall and my dad often says that if you soaked her in oil all day fully clothed she might come out weighing 100 lbs.  I stop and think about everything that she experienced and wished that I could have talked to her more about it.   She probably knew and was related to Civil War Veterans.  If I have my facts straight her brother was a Marine in WWI.  Her son served in WWII.  She owned a car in the 1920′s.  She obtained a college degree in 1922.   She lived during The Great Depression.   All of her children were born at home.  Three of her great grandsons served in the US Army during Desert Shield and Desert Storm.  But for all of that we knew her simply as Maw Maw.

Maw Maw was 70 years old when I was born.  We loved to go visit her in her big old ramshackle farm house.  It was a place of wonder.  Books and dust and old toys everywhere.  She wasn’t dirty, just…dustily cluttered.

She would often babysit the three of us boys and our cousin Randy.  We weren’t bad boys, just very active and prone to try things as all boys who live in the country will.  She’d often find us up a tree, in a creek, or messing around in my grandfather’s dairy barn.

She was ingenious though.   We came to visit her once and found her sitting on the back stoop churning butter.  By hand.  She instructed us to take turns churning while she fixed us lunch.  She kept the four of us busy for quite sometime making sure that butter turned out just right.  I have often told that story with fondness to family members.  My dad finally heard the story and I could not for the life of me figure out why he was laughing so hard.  He finally gathered his composure and said, “Son, her grand-kids got together several years before and bought her an electric churn.  She was just keeping you out of trouble!”

My favorite story about her is one that her son, Noel Kent, tells.  He was a teacher in Roanoke, NC and would come down to visit Mama and  do things for her as she needed.  He’d stay the night and leave early the next morning.  By this time Maw Maw was in her early 90′s and had shut down the majority of the house and only lived in the back two rooms of a very large farm house.  He arrived as usual entering through the back door.  Maw Maw was no where to be found.

He called out for her and became worried when he could not find her.  He listened and realized that he was hearing a noise coming from the front of the house.  As he made his way towards the noise he realized that it was indeed my great-grandmother but was unsure if she were laughing or crying.

Uncle Noel Kent finds himself at the front door and then hear’s his mother giggling like a little girl.  He turns and looks up the stairs.  He stares in disbelief as he watches his mother swing her leg over the banister of the stairs yelling “Wheee!!!”  as she rode it all the way to the bottom.

That’s my blood ya’ll.

When I turn 90 I fully plan on finding the biggest Bannister I can find and yell “wheeee!!!” all the way to bottom in her honor….and dare ya’ll to say a word!

Happy Birthday Maw Maw!