Thursday, November 28, 2013

Choosing to Be Thankful...

It is 10:30 a.m. on Thanksgiving Day.  The dressing is finishing in the warming drawer, along with chicken breasts for me.  Two buttermilk pies are cooling on the counter, and the turkey breast is roasting in the oven.  I cooked green beans in Mam-ma Polly's cast iron Dutch oven yesterday and will reheat them today.  A layered salad and cranberry chutney are in the fridge.  I'll add mashed potatoes, gravy from the turkey breast, a skillet of fried sweet potatoes (nod again to Mam-ma), and Sister Schubert's rolls (nod to the memory of my dear friend - and cook extraordinaire - Frances Evans), and we will call it good.  And there will be exactly THREE of us dining for lunch!
I know... that's a lot of food for three people.  We will have leftovers for the weekend while I decorate the house for Christmas... and I will freeze much of the dressing to serve to my family on Christmas Eve.  It's still probably too much food... but I come by this habit honestly... and we all know that old habits die pretty dang hard!

I haven't done the 30-days-of-thankfulness thing that some have done on Facebook, but I would like to stop today and note some people - and things - for which I am incredibly thankful.

First and foremost, I am thankful for my salvation in Jesus Christ... and for all of the "glorious blessings" that God has given me (as noted in Ephesians 1:18 - my scripture reference for today's devotional - see Aunt Deb's Attic for more).  God has truly "made a way" for me when I saw none... over and over and again... and I know that He will never fail me.  I am so grateful for His tremendous sacrifice of His only Son, Jesus Christ, so that I could enjoy such freedom from sin... and so that I am guaranteed a seat at the Great Thanksgiving Table in Heaven, alongside so many loved ones who have preceded me.

Beyond this, I am thankful for:

  • Greg.  He blesses me every single day.  God chose him for me 42 years ago, and I see His hand in so many things that have happened to us along the way... and how every time, Greg was right there to share them with me - the joys, sorrows, struggles and triumphs.

  • Elaine... aka "Grandma E".  I truly do count my mother-in-law among my dearest friends.  She and I can talk about anything... we can sometimes read each other's mind... and I don't know what I would do without her.  I love her so much, and I am grateful and honored that she will be at our Thanksgiving table today.

  • My mother.  I will miss Mom today, as she is spending a few months in Kentucky while Lee does a stint as a Workamper at an Amazon fulfillment center.  But my mother has shared a lot of her talents with me - and many insights along the way. I know that she always has my back, and I love her dearly.

  • Marla Ann... my dearest friend in the world... my sister in the truest sense of the word...and my rock more times than I can count!  I love you Marla... I miss you today... and I hope you and your family have the best Thanksgiving ever!

  • Timothy, Zola and Nathan.  I love ALL of our nieces and nephews.  But I have to say that these three little ones have taught me life lessons I would never have received otherwise.  I cannot remember what it was like without them in our lives... and I cannot wait to see them again.  I hope that their Thanksgiving Day is magical and filled with making memories.

  • My cousin Natalie.  There are people you know... and people you KNOW... and my precious cousin totally gets me... and I get her.  And you cannot put a price on that!  We have shared amazing things... weddings, births, holidays, deaths... and "life"... and I cannot imagine not having her by my side for all of it.  There are long stretches where we both are so busy that barely a word passes between us.  Then a texted photo will appear (no caption necessary)... or a message will be exchanged... and it's like no time passed.  I know she always has me in her thoughts and prayers... and it's ditto for me.

    Along with Natalie come her two precious children... Olivia and Owen... both of whom light up our lives on a regular basis.  They rank right up there with Timothy, Zola and Nathan in our book... and we love them to the moon and back.  And not to be forgotten are Natalie's mom, Janette... another "sista girl"... her husband Darrell, her brother Franklin and his wife Tracy - and their darling little girl, Harper.  I love my "Fallshed" contingency with all my heart... I miss their cornerstone - my cousin Eddie - every single day... and I hope that they are stuffing themselves silly today in honor of him and my dad, because I know that THEY are surely doing the same in heaven!

  • Our siblings and their families.  Between us, we have one sister and two brothers living... three nieces, a nephew, four great-nieces, and three great-nephews (with another baby on the way).  We don't see many of these folks often (even though some live right here in town!)... but we love each of them dearly and wish them a Happy Thanksgiving.

  • My extended family and friends whom I love like family.  I am truly blessed to have a large family.  I only have one living aunt - and no uncles still living - but I was blessed "back in the day" to be surrounded by many who loved me and nurtured me.  Today, I have cousins who are dear to me... and countless friends who are "like family".  For all of these, I am grateful and blessed... and I pray that this will be a spectacular day of Thanksgiving for each of them!

  • Finally, I am thankful for good health... for retirement... for a beautiful place to call "home" (and I'm not just talking about our house and our panoramic view)...for my two "cat-children", Mabel and Lucy...for our church family... our community... and for the chance to share Jesus Christ with others each and every day.
God has blessed me beyond measure.  I know that.  He has allowed me to grow and learn from challenges... and to draw closer to Him in the process.  And today, I am thankful for the opportunity He has given me to share this GOOD NEWS with others... for His grace, mercy, forgiveness, compassion, love... and abundant blessings!  Now, it's time to finish up this meal and start the traditional stuffing!  I pray that YOU are having a happy Thanksgiving Day... and counting your blessings with every mouthful!

Friday, November 08, 2013

It's a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

In between rains and fall weather "fronts", we have had some beautiful days.  Thursday was no exception.  Our niece Zola had been here for an overnight visit, and I took her home around noon.  When I returned, Greg was waiting for me with a suggestion that we go have lunch at a nearby restaurant, then take a bike ride and a walk.  And that's what we did!  We enjoyed sitting along the lakeshore in the still and quiet.  Apparently most of the deer hunters were busy getting ready for opening day on Saturday, so we saw a total of TWO boats in the hour or so we were there. 

We did see (and hear) several flocks of geese fly over... and one flock waddled along a grassy knoll a few yards from us, honking up a storm!  The color has probably peaked here, but there is still plenty to see... and many trees that have yet to turn.  This is an autumn for the record books around here... and we're soaking up all of it that we can!

When you eat all of your breakfast at Uncle Greg
and Aunt Debbie's house, you get to finish it
off with some chocolate chips!
Hard to see, but just above the picnic table on the knoll
are a half dozen or more geese, all honking at once!

The color is muted now, but these gum trees blazed red a
week or so ago... I love the reflection in the lake.

There was a slight breeze, but in this cove, the water was
almost slick like glass.  It was a great place to "reflect" for awhile.

Crisp blue sky frames the yellow-orange leaves of gum trees.

Back at the bike... one last shot before we
left... a fitting end to a perfect walk.

Friday, November 01, 2013

The Beautiful, Lovely, Very Good, Anything-but-bad Day!

When I taught kindergarten, I used to read Judith Viorst's book... Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day... to my students.  As Greg and I took a four-hour motorcycle ride today through eastern Cleburne and western White Counties, I thought of that book, and how this day was the total antithesis of that title.  The fall color is almost at its peak... the temperatures were just right...the sun shone brightly...and we were together - riding in the wind and sharing the vistas!  How could it get any better?!

We rode north on Hwy 25 through Ida, Arkansas, where we turned onto Dry Mountain Road and continued along the ridge, absorbing the colorful, scenic, seemingly-unending valleys that lay below on both sides.  Emerging at Wilburn, we continued past my great-grandparents' homeplace (now a baseball field) to Hiram, and then stopping outside Pangburn at the Henderson Cemetery.  There we visited the gravesites of Mam-ma Polly's sisters and their husbands... Bessie, Minnie, and Babe... and my great-grandmother, Mary, and Mam-ma's beloved brother John.  I read the headstones for several ancestors on my Grandfather Truman's side... Hendersons who established this final resting place.

From there, we drove to Hickory Flat.  If you haven't been there, I don't know what to tell you.  We veered off the highway at Little Red, Mam-ma Polly's birthplace, and headed north along yet another scenic ridge.  We ended our tour in Hickory Flat proper, where the highway pavement abruptly ends at a large compound of concrete buildings and eighteen-wheelers... a stark contrast to the pastures filled with beautiful cattle that are quietly feasting on the grasses in the rolling pastures.

Coming back toward Pangburn, we stopped at the Ramsey Landing access to the Little Red River.  I've passed the sign for this launching area a zillion times and never stopped.  To my knowledge, these Ramseys are no relation to mine.  However, we drove down to the launching area, managed by the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, and we found it to be quite beautiful.  There was no generating on the river today, so the water level was low and the flowed quietly.  We could see sandy beaches and a large rocky outcropping... rarities on "our" river... and we saw several Bald Cypress trees with their characteristic "knees"... some River Birch, and an incredibly large and beautiful Water Oak.  I stood underneath it for pictures... our version of the tourist visiting the Sequoias of California!

We returned to Pangburn and ate bar-b-que lunch at a small diner there.  Then we stopped this side of Pangburn to walk out on a low-water bridge that used to extend over the Little Red River.  It's located just east of the "new" bridge that now carries vehicles across... and a center section has been removed and handrails added, making it a good place for people to fish or take a look at the river.  When I was a little girl, my grandparents would take me across this bridge to visit my Aunt Minnie and Uncle Ray in Pangburn.  Greg commented that it seemed a little high to be considered a true "low-water bridge", but I assured him, in the early 60s when the rains had come and the river rose to just underneath - and once, I believe just over the concrete "lip" on either side that appeared to rise about 10-12 inches, you would say it was a low-water bridge!

We then took McJester Road to the McJester school house, a rock building probably erected by Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) workers.  It has been neatly refurbished now and probably serves as a community gathering place and polling center.

From Pangburn/McJester, we headed back through Wilburn and stopped at Magness Cemetery to check on our family plot.  This is where my dad, brother, Mam-ma and Pap-pa Chandler, great-grandparents Chandler and Ramsey are buried, as well as countless cousins and other relatives and ancestors.  I always love visiting "Magness"... it is incredibly peaceful and scenic, and I always feel at "home" there.

Some four-and-a-half hours later, we were back home, safe and sound, and a little tired... but filled with fresh air, good pictures, images in our heads of beautiful fall color and scenery, and memories of a very happy day spent together.  I told Greg, "If this is what retirement is all about, bring it on!"

The launching ramp at Ramsey Landing on the Little Red River
near Pangburn, Arkansas.  See the rocky shoreline and
the Bald Cypress tree at the right?

More Bald Cypress trees at Ramsey Landing on the Little Red River
near Pangburn, Arkansas.  These have the characteristic "knees"!

Such a beautiful, calming scene.

Still several trees that have not turned!

Hanging out on the river bank!

I could have stayed here all day!

This was taken from above the landing in a shaded parking area.

The "Arkansas Sequoia"!  This is a beautiful
Water Oak tree.  The photo doesn't do it justice!

"Helmet hair!"

Parked in front of the sign that documents for
posterity that "We were THERE!"

Trust me... this is probably the closest I will EVER come to
actually driving the bike!*lol*  But ain't she purty?! (the bike!)

My handsome husband... and the REAL driver
of the bike! He got warm enough to shed
his jacket... mine felt good all day long!

He really WAS happy... he was just looking into the sun...
and he just doesn't have my cheesy smile for the camera!*lol*

The opposite end of the "low-water" bridge as you enter
Pangburn.  The "new" bridge can be seen to the right.  If you
drive across it and are not aware there is an old bridge below,
you might have never seen it!

Looking downstream from the Pangburn "low-water" bridge.

Looking back up toward where we parked our bike... on the
Cleburne County side of the river bridge.

Such a beautiful day to be on the river!

You can see portions of both bridges in this photo.  See how
short that "lip" is on the old bridge?  That used to be all that
stood between your car and the river when I was a kid!
Our trusty ride... so fun!

This praying mantis was hanging out on the handrail.

The center section of the old bridge has been removed
and handrails added... making it pedestrian friendly.

What a day for fly-fishing!

Serenity personified... except for the noise of cars
crossing the other bridge in the background, of course!

Except for the missing center chunk and the handrails, this
is the bridge approach I remember from my childhood.