Friday, May 31, 2013

Old Friends

Keep a SMILE on your face ~ And a SONG in your heart!
A smile - is a sign of joy.
A hug - is a sign of love.
A laugh - is a sign of happiness.
And a friend like me? - Well that's just a sign of good taste!
We'll be friends until I am senile .
Then we'll be NEW friends.

 This week, I talked (at length) with an old friend, a beautiful soul who has always been an encourager and a source of strength for me.  We haven't seen each other in years, but modern technology allows us to stay connected.  The wisdom above is from her.
Life is good.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

A Time to Gain

You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, 'I lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.'
~Eleanor Roosevelt

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

A Blast from the Past

*Photo courtesy of  Dave Tabler

Anyone remember this?  I do.  We would get the bottle caps from a local store, so we were more uptown than the ones in this photo.  We would have two kinds of bottle caps for the opposing teams. 

Our game board wasn't quite this fancy; ours was made from a cardboard box with red and black crayons.

It is amazing how much fun we had with no noise or batteries!

Monday, May 27, 2013

Memorial Day: Roy Robertson, Soldier

This post is a repeat of last year's Memorial Day blog.  Just wanted to honor my father-in-law's memory for his service to all of us and the difference he made in so many lives.

It was a different world.

The people living in North Alabama in the late thirties lived simply. Working without ceasing, they had little time or opportunity to keep up with world affairs. When they began hearing talk, sometimes weeks old, about fighting in Europe, about a crazed Nazi killing innocent people, they agreed it was awful, terrible, but it had little to do with them. When the news came that the Japanese had bombed the naval fleet at Pearl Harbor in the Pacific, a place as far removed as the moon to them, they wondered what they would hear next, wondered if this evil could reach their sleepy little river town.

Roy Robertson, 28 years old, was content with his life on the small farm. He and Mary Elizabeth Sharp were married in 1939, and he and his young wife were building their future, starting their journey together. He had just finished his spring planting when he was drafted in June 1942. He reported to Fort McClellan, Alabama, for his basic training.

A strong man who had hunted most of his life, Roy excelled in training, getting numerous badges and listed as a 'Pistol Expert'. Fort McClellan was less than 200 miles from his home, and while Roy was willing to do his part for his country, homesick and heartsick, he found a way to sneak home on occasion, staying until he was escorted back by military police. In October of 1943, he departed Fort McClellan for war-torn Europe. He said afterwards that once he was in Europe, he couldn't sneak back home, so all there was to do was 'soldier'. And what a soldier he became!

The following is part of an article published in a local paper in April, 1945.

Staff Sergeant Roy Robertson, the "one-man mortar squad" who won the Bronze Star medal for heroism in the Battle of the Bulge, is coming home to Waterloo, Alabama, for a 30-day furlough under the Army's rotation plan.

Qualifications for the coveted rotation furlough include length of foreign service, length of combat time, wounds and decorations. Except in the matter of wounds--he has come through a lot of flying scrap metal without a scratch--Sergeant Robertson was the best qualified man in his outfit, Company "M", 112th Infantry.

The Waterloo doughboy came overseas with the 28th "Keystone" Division in October, 1943, and landed in France shortly after D-Day. He was with the "M" Company mortars when they first were committed to action in the St. Lo breakthrough, and pumped hundreds of rounds into the Falaise pocket, where the 28th Division was part of the force which cut off the German Seventh Army.

Moving fast out of the Normandy hedgerows, Robertson and thousands of other Keystone soldiers staged their famed "tactical parade" through Paris on August 29, 1944. While the Parisians cheered in a delirium of joy over the capital's liberation, the doughboys were actually hounding the heels of the Germans as they hiked over the miles of cobbled streets. Next day, Robertson was again dropping mortar shells on the fleeing supermen.

He was on hand when the Yanks took Compiegne, where the first Armistice was signed, and in November he was "zeroing-in" on targets in the dank Hurtgen Forest, scene of one of the bloodiest battles of this war. After Schmidt, where the 28th Division stood off a reinforced Panzer division and two infantry divisions until forced back by sheer weight of numbers and metal, Robertson had a brief respite from battle. For a while the 28th occupied a portion of the "quiet" Belgian front and the men rested--until Von runstedt began his historic counter-offensive.

It was during the 112th Infantry's stand near St. Vith that the Waterloo heavy weapons expert distinguished himself. Operating a mortar alone while his buddies were pinned down by enemy fire, he dropped shells at dangerously closes range and captured a 'hornet's nest' for an estimated 150 Nazi casualties. (The lengthy article continues here with details of other battles.)

When he heard that he had been selected for furlough, Robertson had just completed a gruelling 12-hour march through enemy territory as the 28th Division played its role in the First Army smash across the Rhine. None of Sergeant Robertson's furlough time will be wasted in travel. The deluxe trip, with a stop-over in Paris, is thrown in extra. The 30 days won't start officially until he is almost home on his farm on Route 2, Waterloo.

Roy did make it home on that furlough, exhausted, bone-weary of battles and blood. After digging foxholes in frozen European soil, Roy was delighted to feel the warm, red Alabama soil beneath his feet. He just stayed home after the furlough officially ended. I suppose the military police just didn't have the heart to come and get a hero. They sent him an honorable discharge on October 9, 1945.

After he returned home and life settled around him, he was reluctant to talk about his metals or battles. To him, he just did his duty the best way he knew how.

He never left his farm or community again as long as he lived.

He and Mary raised two daughters and two sons. They had a granddaughter, followed by five grandsons. Illness came to Mary at an early age, and Roy buried his sweetheart in October 1976. He was never the same again.

In October 1979, Roy died suddenly of a massive brain hemorrhage. An American flag was presented to his 9 year-old grandson, our firstborn. The flag was new, the kind presented at military funerals, and it is treasured today. It is just like the flag that flew with the troops on the beaches of Normandy, in the snow in Korea, in the jungles of Viet Nam, and the deserts of Iraq. God bless that symbol of freedom, now and forever.

Thank you, Papaw, for your sacrifice and courage. Thank you for having the fortitude to do your job when fire and bullets were falling around you. Thank you for being an example of strength, strength that is now seen in your children and grandchildren. We remember you with joy.

Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.  John 15:13

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Sunday Scripture: Who Will Go?

And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here I am! Send me."  ~Isaiah 6:8

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Sweet Dreams, Dear Lady

Strong southern women, many-faceted diamonds dripping honey, are not as common as they used to be.  Today, we say goodbye to one of the best, Jimmie Nell Robertson Oliver.

I met Jimmie Nell when Hub and I were first married, as one of many new cousins.  Her sister, Ruth, ran the Kriesman's Ladies Shop downtown, so in addition to new family members, I married into the family discount at that great store!

We didn't see a lot of each other for years, until after Jimmie Nell retired.  More than a decade ago, I started having a Christmas tea for some of the older cousins.  Jimmie Nell always came and delighted us with stories of her childhood and the early years of her career.  My granddaughters loved being there and hearing the stories.

One Christmas many years ago, a little two-year old decided she would dance for us.  I had bought her a little tutu (and what two-year-old girl doesn't like tutus?) so I suggested that she might want to put it on for dancing.  She left, then returned a few minutes later buck-naked except for the pink tutu around her waist.  All of us managed to keep straight faces while she danced, but it has been one of the favorite memories of our Christmas teas.  The little girl still dances, but always fully clothed now.

The last time I talked to Jimmie Nell, she was cheerful and told me she was loving every day she got to live.  After years of struggling with breast cancer, she had just gotten weary and opted out of any further treatment. "For crying out loud," she said, "I'm ninety years old and I'm tired of it."

She saw many changes during those ninety years, and I think the world is a better place for her journey here.  Rest in peace, Sweet Lady.  You will be missed.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Smell the Privet?

Privet hedge was introduced in the United States in the 1700s as an ornamental shrub.  Apparently, its habits were not well known then.

Privet is more invasive than kudzu, because it can adapt to any light conditions.  It will kill off native plants and  wildflowers growing around it, so it has become the bane of gardeners.  You could spend the whole summer getting rid of it, then a bird deposits a seed and you have to start all over again.

It is in full bloom here now, and the smell mixes with the honeysuckle.  It is glorious, unless you have allergies, in which case you are stuffed up so much, you can't smell anything.  Bees flock to the blossoms, which turn into blue berries that the birds love in the fall. 

I love birds, and birds love privet, so it would seem that I would love privet.  Uh, no.  Privet hedges are the bullies of the plant world, and I see no way to ever rid ourselves of it.  We might as well enjoy the aroma while we are fussing about it.

Thursday, May 23, 2013


They say that our olfactory sense is the last to go, that up 'til the end when our memories of names and faces and places are gone, we can remember certain smells.  I can instantly remember the smell of burning leaves, the richness of a plowed field after a summer rain, and potatoes frying in a skillet.  I can remember the smell of mimeograph machine ink from fifty years ago, and that of Vick's salve that Mama rubbed on our throats.  I remember waking up to the smell of coffee and bacon cooking every morning of my childhood.  Nothing was as good as the honeysuckle.

We knew it was spring then, when we played outside by the porch light and our bare feet got slick with dew, and it was like being in a perfume factory with the wild honeysuckle blooming along fence rows and road sides.  Later, when we were dating, we rode those county roads with the windows down, listening to music with the smell of honeysuckle just enhancing the young love being born.

Farmers rued the day that they had planted honeysuckle to stop erosion, but we loved it.

Unlike a lot of things from my childhood, the honeysuckle lasted.  Driving down Cox Creek Parkway with the windows down last night, the honeysuckle smell permeated everything, much to my delight and the dismay of those suffering from allergies. And I remembered. 

In the language of flowers, honeysuckle meant sweetness of disposition because of the sweet scent of the flowers.  It also implied a bond or meant "captive of love," suggested by the plant's twining growth habit that embraces trees and other plants.  The common name woodbine comes from Middle English and refers to the ability of the plant to tie or bind as it grows and climbs.  Bobby J. Ward, A Contemplation Upon Flowers: Garden Plants in Myth and Literature

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Sunday Scripture: Comfort

Shout for joy, you heavens; rejoice, you earth; burst into song, you mountains!
For the Lord comforts his people and will have compassion on his afflicted ones. ~Isaiah 49:13

Saturday, May 18, 2013

May Romance

Hard  is the heart

 that loveth naught in May.

--Chaucer, The Romaunt of the Rose, c. 1440-50

Friday, May 17, 2013

and a Time to Refrain from Embracing

When I went into a high school as a teacher, many years had lapsed since I was a student in one. I had a great culture shock.  Things were not as they used to be. 

One thing that we didn't do (at least, I didn't see it) was to openly display affection in the hallways.  I had two students who had discovered love, and they had no qualms about sharing it with the world.  They would find each other between classes, and I'm surprised the paint didn't come off the walls from the heat.  Other students would pass by and yell, "Get a room!"  I had them for a one o'clock class, and both were frequently absent, having taken a longer-than-allowed lunch break.

Ah, young love.  I think we have all been there, but some of us were able to contain ourselves in public.  Some things are so special, they should not be shared with anyone, especially a bunch of strangers.  I see it now in the mall, in restaurants, and in movie theaters.  I wonder, are they trying to impress us?  Do they think they are the first to discover physical attraction and want to show off?  Peeps, please!  There is nothing new under the sun.

Oh, and my young students so much in the second semester, they hated each other fiercely and had to be seated on opposite sides of the classroom to keep the peace.  Life goes on.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Relay for Life schedule

Here is the schedule for Relay for Life in Florence at the UNA practice field tomorrow night.  This is such a fun and worthy event.  Everyone should come and check it out if you haven't attended one before.  I will be with the Austin/Barger SS class and my granddaughter, Amanda, will be with the St. Joseph School group.

I would be honored if you came by our booth and make a bid on one of the teddy bears I made for the silent auction! Here's a peek!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

A Time to Embrace

She is not known for being on time, and sometimes, Mrs. Clara huffs and puffs her way to a pew long after the service begins.  She is not a Sunday School teacher.  She does not sing in the choir.  She is not called on to head committees or women's groups.  One might think she doesn't have a ministry.  One would be wrong.

Mrs. Clara is a hugger.  She can spot those of us who are sad or just going through a hard day.  She can see tears through perfect make-up or behind the giggles.  She knows when we have need for affection, and draws us to her ample shoulders and pats our backs the way our mamas used to.

She doesn't hug everybody, and can cunningly discern those who are not interested.  She knows, somehow.  Sometimes, when one thinks they can't possibly make it another day, they can draw strength from Mrs. Clara and the world looks like a brand new place, a place where things are possible and there is promise.  Her ministry is just as important as that of the pastor or choir director or Sunday school superintendent.

I've known some good huggers, but I think my Aunt Marie was one of the best ever.  I won't ever be able to enjoy another hug for her, but Mrs. Clara is a wonderful substitute. 
Hugs are free and require very little effort, but they can change a person's day.  I wonder why we are so stingy with them?

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Sunday Scripture: Happy

I know that there is nothing better for people

 than to be happy and to do good while they live. ~Ecclesiastes 3:12

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Just Its Nature

I used to stand amazed and watch the redbirds fight.  They would flash and flutter like scraps of burning rags through a sky unbelievable blue, swirling, soaring, plummeting.   On the ground they were a blur of feathers, stabbing for each other's eyes.  I have seen grown men stop what they were doing, stop pulling corn or lift their head out from under the hood of a broken-down car, to watch it.  Once, when I was little, I watched one of the birds attack its own reflection in the side mirror of a truck.  It hurled its body again and again against that unyielding image, until it pecked a crack in the glass, until the whole mirror was smeared with blood.  It was as if the bird hated what it saw there, and discovered too late that all it was seeing was itself.  I asked an old man who worked for my uncle Ed, a snuff-dipping man named Charlie Bivens, why he reckoned that bird did that.  He told me it was just its nature.

~Rick Bragg, All Over but the Shoutin'.

Friday, May 10, 2013

...and a Time to Gather Stones Together

Mr. Tom Hendrix is one of the treasures of this area of North Alabama.  He has gathered stones and built a wall to honor the memory of his ancestors.  Read the story here; it is much more informative than anything I can write.

Mr. Hendrix can be found working on the wall almost any day.  He is always happy to stop and talk with visitors who come by to see what he has built.  The visitors come, locals like me and his Indian ancestors from all over the country, to stand in this spiritual place and hear his stories.

The wall is immense, and I wonder if he could see it in his heart when he hauled in that first load of rocks that he had gathered.  I asked him if the wall would ever be finished, and he just shook his head as if the ending was too difficult to think about.

The wall is located just off the Natchez Trace parkway and you will be welcome there if you want to see it for yourself.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

A time to cast away stones. . .

Anyone raised by depression-era parents learned to be frugal, to save, because you might need it someday.  My mom saved used aluminum foil, every grocery bag, and old clothing that someone might could wear.  She saved mayonnaise jars and empty plastic containers after the butter was gone.  She saved old magazines, including the ones that people with a strange and misunderstood religions left for her in hope of mass conversions.

Attending estate auctions is something I have done for several years, and sometimes, I find treasures.  There is usually a stack of boxes that are sold as one lot, because they contain things that were valuable to the deceased but can't get a $1 bid from strangers.  It always makes me sad, thinking about those people saving these items that no one wanted.  These carefully hoarded items had become a burden that the survivors had to get rid of.

There comes a time to get rid of, to cast away, material things that we no longer need; things that hold us back.  I know one couple who won't attend social events together; one of them has to stay home to guard their "stuff".  How sad is that?  Let it go!  Some of my friends have told me that it is very freeing, getting rid of stuff that ties you down.

One of my heroes changed careers about fourteen years ago, moving to another state to start over.  When she was ready to leave, she was able to move all her possessions in the back seat of her car.  She has made it just fine without the things she left behind.  I'm working on it, but it would still take a moving van for me.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

New Science Building at UNA

Tomorrow is the last day of school this semester, and it will complete fourteen years that I have been working at the University of North Alabama.  When I started in the last century, there was already talk of a new science building somewhere on the distant horizon.

Through many years, much time has been spent on meetings and fundraising by the  department heads of chemistry, biology, physics and earth science.  New problems came up constantly.  Sometimes, we thought it would never happen.

     *University of North Alabama photo

On Monday, during a cool day when it was raining straight down, the symbolic first shovelful of dirt was moved.  We are thankful that this is now a reality. There are promises of quick construction with the building possibly ready for use in January 2015.

I was seriously thinking about retiring.  However,  wouldn't it be nice to teach in that new building where labs were modern and everything works, even the elevator? I may have to hang around for a while to find out.

Monday, May 6, 2013

. . .and a Time to Dance

We were told as youngsters that we weren't supposed to dance, but no one could clearly explain why.  Maybe they associated dancing with the wicked women who frequented the honky-tonks out on the highway.  I don't know the reasoning, but I'm sorry for any society that forbids dancing.

dance [dans, dahns]   danced, danc·ing,  

1. to move one's feet or body, or both, rhythmically in a pattern of steps, especially to the accompaniment of music.
2. to leap, skip, etc., as from excitement or emotion; move nimbly or quickly: to dance with joy.
My granddaughters started dancing lessons soon after they started walking.  The first recitals were a mix of pride and humor as they concentrated on finding their place in the dance lines. I have watched them grow into beautiful young women, with the confidence and grace that comes from dancing. I have watched them make the music and movement into art that left me in tears.
David danced with joy before the Lord.  Just like always, there were those who scoffed and made fun of him out of jealousy. But David didn't care; he just kept right on dancing.
Oh, visit the earth, ask her to join the dance! Deck her out in spring showers, fill the God-River with living water. Paint the wheat fields golden. Creation was made for this! Drench the plowed fields, soak the dirt clods With rainfall as harrow and rake bring her to blossom and fruit. Snow-crown the peaks with splendor, scatter rose petals down your paths, All through the wild meadows, rose petals. Set the hills to dancing, Dress the canyon walls with live sheep, a drape of flax across the valleys. Let them shout, and shout, and shout! Oh, oh, let them sing! ~Psalm 65:9-13

It is a sad life indeed that never feels the joy of dancing, whether it is in the privacy of your home or on the world's stages. 

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Sunday Scripture: Dance

You have changed my sorrow into dancing.
    You have taken away my sackcloth
    and clothed me with joy. Psalm 30:11

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Bluebirds and Dolly

My Blue Tears by Dolly Parton

Fly ye away from my window little bluebird
Fly ye as far as you can away from here
And let not your song fall upon my ears
Go spread your blue wings and I'll shed my blue tears

For the one that I have loved, he has left me and gone
And I am in no mood for to hear your sad song

Bring not your light into my dark gloom, yellow sunshine
Waste not your warmth on the coldness in here
Trouble me not. Go ye elsewhere
Go light your blue sky and I'll shed my blue tears

For the only one that I have ever loved has gone away
And I am in no mood for the sunshine today

Go spread your blue wings, go light your blue sky, and I'll shed my blue tears.

Don't know exactly why but I love this Dolly song.  Enjoy your Saturday!

Friday, May 3, 2013

Rosemary: Herb of Remembrance

Put rosemary leaves under thy bedde and thou shalt be delivered of all evill dreames. ~Banckes' Herbal, 1525

As for Rosemarine, I lett it runne all over my garden walls, not onlie because my bees love it, but because it is the herb sacred to remembrance. . .that maketh it the chosen emblem of our funeral wakes and in our buriall grounds. ~Sir Thomas More, 1478-1535

The Ancients were well acquainted with rosemary, which had a reputation for strengthening the memory. On this account it became the emblem of fidelity for lovers.  It holds a special position among herbs from the symbolism attached to it.  Not only was it used at weddings, but also at funerals.  Maud Grieve, A Modern Herbal, 1931

Thursday, May 2, 2013


The robin flew from his swinging spray of ivy on to the top of the wall and he opened his beak and sang a loud, lovely trill, merely to show off.

Nothing in the world is quite as adorably lovely as a robin when he shows off - and they are nearly always doing it.

           ― Frances Hodgson Burnett,
The Secret Garden 

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Lily of the Valley

The root is small, and creeps far in the ground, as grass roots do.  The leaves are many, against which rises up a stalk half a foot high, with many white flowers, like little bells with turned edges, of a strong, though pleasing smell....It is under the dominion of Mercury, and therefore it strengthens the brain, recruits a weak memory, and makes it strong again.  The distilled water dropped into the eyes, helps inflammations there....The spirit of the flowers distilled in wine, restores lost speech, helps the palsy, and comforts the heart and vital spirits.  ~Nicholas Culpeper, Complete Herbal, 1649

As lily of the valley blooms in May it was customary to decorate churches with them at Whitsuntide...In the West of England, to plant a bed of lily of the valley was a bad omen, and invitation to an early death. ~Josephine Addison, The Illustrated Plant Lore

One legend associated with the lily of the valley comes from Sussex, England.  The hermit St. Leonard battled a dragon that was the devil in disguise.  He struggled for four days and finally summoned the strength to cut off the dragon's head, not before, however, his adversary's strong claws had torn through his armor and spilled his blood.  Lilies of the valley sprang up from the drops of blood, and pilgrims to the site could trace the path through the fields and woods where the battle had raged.  Every year since, lilies of the valley bloom each May on the battleground. ~ Bobby J. Ward, A Contemplation Upon Flowers

White bud! thu'rt emblem of a lovelier thing:
The broken spirit that its anguish bears
To silent shades, and there sits offering
To Heaven the holy fragrance of its tears.
~ George Croly, nineteenth-century poet, The Lily of the Valley

Photos courtesy of Loree Lough.  Thanks!