Weekly Photo Challenge: Beloved

Dad and Mom

* “Dad” – the one who made us smile

Beloved – “dearly loved, cherished, treasured…prized.”  The dictionary defines it.                                                            But only people can embody it.

To share a photo of someone or something that is beloved.  Now that’s a hard challenge– because there are many.  But since this is February I chose my Dad.

Echoes of his voice, his piercing whistle and the scent of his pipe filter in and out of my thoughts this time of year. It was a February four years ago I got the call.  You know the one–when someone leaves this world for another–and you aren’t ready for it.

Yet, it was in my loss that I learned how MUCH I’d been loved.

Yes, my Dad was truly beloved.  Not just by me, but by many.  My brothers, my mother, grand kids, friends at his morning coffee spots and business associates… It is easy to say why.  In a quiet and unassuming way, he made you feel as if you mattered–valued, important, and heard–as if you counted.  Believed in.  Some people go their whole lives and never feel that.

Yep.  Beloved is the best word for a man like that.

 

*Photo credit for the collage goes to my younger brother, Jeff Vestal

 

 

 

The Wonderful Winter of ‘77

 

It was 1977–the winter of my 13th year.  You guessed it—not a great year:                                                          Eighth grade.  Junior High.  Need I say more?

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I’ll add that I was nearly 6-feet-tall, a GIRL, gangly, with B-R-O-A-D shoulders, glasses, AND braces. Oh, and short hair that was supposed to be a cute “shag,” but mainly caused folks to mistake me for my older brother.  Ha-ha.

But then, a miracle happened.

Just before Christmas break ended—a snow blew in. The dreaded return to school (and all that yucky PEER PRESSURE) was delayed!!   Not only did it snow once– on it came, snow upon snow, until we missed six straight weeks of school! For middle Tennessee–where a couple of one or two-inch snows per year is the norm…

            this was incredible.

What a glorious gift those weeks were—a last chance to press pause— before re-entering  teen life.  I don’t know when puberty hit me, and have no idea when it left.  But like everyone—I knew when I was in the middle of it—and it wasn’t good. But oh, those 6 weeks were like an instant rewind to being a 9-year-old again.

                                                                 A gift from heaven.

There was nothing to do but simple chores and play in the snow with my brothers and the neighbor boys. No worrying how your hair looked, or if you had a pimple, or what clothes to wear.  No worrying if you were “good enough” or if so-and-so liked you.

No one cared!

We were too busy finding the best sledding slope, daring each other to catapult over the creek, or hooking up the round silver sled to Sugar the pony and trying to sling each other off–as she galloped giant pony donuts in the pasture. We went to bed aching and sore from bumps, crashes and laughter.

And once again..who cared!

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Some days we’d slide around on the pond, if the temperature stayed well below freezing, or hike through the woods with BB guns, shooting at squirrels–as if we might hit one. When we were frozen, we’d stomp back inside to play long games of Monopoly, Crazy Eight, or ping pong in the garage. Maybe read a book by the fire–or watch old re-runs  (selected from one of our 4 attenna-TV stations!).

We didn’t know it then, but how lucky we were that there was…

No internet.

No cell phone.

No video game.

No cable TV.

Because we played together like children–and laughed—or sometimes argued!  But still together.  And together might not have happened much–were it not for the pure simplicity of those weeks.

Now, the memories feel as close as the winter snow outside my window today —        fresh, cool, and enticing.

And I’m left smiling…and longing for a simpler time.

 

 

 

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Facing the Unknown…enticing, yet Frightening

As I drove to work one cold, foggy morning, I looked in my rear view mirror and saw the road disappearing behind me.  I literally stopped in my tire tracks.

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Facing the future…enticing, yet frightening.

 

Here was the perfect picture of the beginning of a New Year…walking into the unknown.  It can be so enticing, beautiful–and yet frightening.  To me, anyway!

Especially as I age, marching even further past the ‘back side of fifty’ (as I like to call it).  Quite honestly, there are a lot of changes I really don’t like.

     But if I embrace the “not so good”, along the with the good–and don’t try to face things by myself–then walking through the fog, I find you can actually see one step at a time.

And I suppose that is all one really needs.

Just Grateful: New Year’s Bread–learning from the Homeless

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Since New Year’s Eve fell on a Sunday this year—and a very COLD one for North Carolina—I found myself being truly grateful for my HOT coffee this morning as I prepared bags of goodies to pass out to the homeless and displaced folks who would be at the downtown church fellowship I was headed to later in the day.

As I worked I thought of the friends we had made in the few months we had begun helping there…  First, we met Al—I remembered how he wouldn’t even lift his head off the table that first week. But when I started taking him coffee and granola bars from the kitchen area, he slowly began talking to us.  Still looks tired now,  but brighter in the eyes.  He’s in and out of the shelter, making it a day at a time he says.

And there’s D…Every week he’s there like clock work–rides the bus from several miles away where he lives in a tent– just to come to ‘Homeless church,” see everyone and get a meal.  He told me his story one day–how he started drinking after he was in his 40’s (due to some bad events)—and surprise, turned out he couldn’t “drink just one” and wound up losing his job, then his apartment….  You know the rest of the story.   Now he does odd jobs and can buy his own basic supplies, but hasn’t quite licked the habit.  Though he was jumping for joy last week when he was dry 7 days in a row.   First time in years he said. And he was still smiling this morning–tho as he put it–it was “awfully hard to crawl out of that sleeping bag when my phone said 20 degrees outside!”

Then  there is joyful, young Joe–who preaches to me and keeps me encouraged. His faith is way beyond my level.  I personally think he is Michael come down in African-American garb. And oh,  there’s Mike–serious and steady–always cleaning for us, before and after services; and long, lanky Johnny—who reads everything, and talks to the people we can’t see–but to us, too–always politely.

And the occasional women and children who look tired but grateful for a meal, a chair, and someone to share a word with.  Or perhaps a song and a prayer.  Either way it adds up to one thing we all need for each New Year:  Hope.

It might be as simple as the hope for daily bread, or the hope that someone cares. I know I’m learning to be more grateful for the bread on my plate and the people I love.

 

*Names changed to protect personal privacy

 

 

WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge: Display Your 2017 Favorites

This was a wonderful Photo challenge as I had a unique year–getting to revisit the Rockies in Colorado with my husband –to reminisce on our first trip there as a very young couple 30+ years ago…plus a trip home to the valley in Tennessee where I spent my teen years collecting memories.  It is still true that a picture is worth a 1000 words…

Special places–full of memories of special people.

 

WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge: Ascend

 

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I thought this rooster perched so boldly atop this post was an apt symbol for our “Ascend” theme this week–especially since he and I were both UP for an early start in the morning fog!   I was driving by on my way to work and saw a horse I wanted to photograph and, oh well–the rooster took over the photo shoot.