Gone Home

45 years ago my boyfriend stopped by my house after work and I wasn’t home. He left this note. I was sad that I had missed an evening of riding in the woods with him, and that he had already gone home. I knew I would see him again though.

I was sixteen and he was twenty. We got married just four months after this picture was taken and were together until his exit to Heaven on November 7, 2014.

I found this note while going through some keepsakes after Frank’s passing, and still feel the same as I did the first time I read it. I love you, too, Frank!

Gone Home

God Empowers and Gives Peace

I recently made a nPeaceew friend who shared her story with me. Her story is an ongoing one because she deals with difficulty every day. As she shared the details of her struggles, she also shared evidence of the strength she draws from our Lord to carry on. She has an undeniable peace about her.

This young woman’s mother, a strong woman herself, has a disease that may inevitably cause her demise, but can never take her life. Her life is in Christ, so if the disease claims her body, she will simply step over the threshold into perfect life with Him. Meanwhile, my friend helps to care for her mom and draws strength from God both emotionally and physically to power through the difficult days. Each day she has an early morning devotion that lifts her faith and sets the tone for that day. She strives to keep her mom, her family, and herself in good spirits despite the disease.

That is not her only struggle, however. My new friend spoke of the issues she encountered as she and her husband grew their family. They experienced a difficult pregnancy that ended in the stillbirth of a son at twenty-seven weeks. After the doctors informed the young couple of the son’s physical abnormalities and the handicapped life he would have faced, they knew that God had spared their precious son this tumultuous life and were at peace. They are certain they will see him again in Heaven. Their faith in God was tested, but He constantly gave them reminders of His love and care through the months that followed. And their faith is even stronger than before.

She also spoke of her two other precious children, a boy and a girl. Again, the details of each of their births were not in line with the normal course of conception, growth, labor, and delivery. Let’s just say they are each a beautiful gift from God, made more precious by the difficulty this mother experienced.

Her little girl was born with an unusual condition, which causes her skin to tear easily and her joints to quite often dislocate. My friend told of the first-aid kit she keeps in her car to repair skin tears, and of the times she has to put her daughter’s joints back into place. She said she refuses to make her little girl miss out on life because of this anomaly in her body. Other folks get a little squeamish as my friend takes care of an ugly skin tear or pops her daughter’s arm back into place at the shoulder. Her friends say they just couldn’t do that. I love the statement she made about God giving her this particular little girl. She said, “God gave her to me, because He knew I could handle it. I would be the right Mama for her.”  Oh, what strength! And what confidence this woman has in her Lord and Savior!

We women are nurturers and deal with things emotionally. That is simply how God made us. That said, I am amazed at how He strengthens and uses our emotions and character traits – love, compassion, fortitude, perseverance – to help us be the women we need to be.

After conversing with my new friend, I felt empowered, believing that God is able to strengthen us no matter what we face each day. My difficulties are certainly different from hers, but the same God who empowers her to wake up each morning and face the day with joy and determination, can and does do the same for me.

He can and will do it for you, too.

More Student Poetry

I had planned on posting more poetry about six weeks ago, but school ending and other stuff kind of got in the way. Hope these still bring a smile or a good memory.

The Beautiful Ocean

by James

I stand frozen like a statue

admiring the beauty of the lapping waves.

She slowly moves back and forth

like a butterfly gracefully flying.

She acts like a mirror

reflecting everything in sight.

As I slowly walk away

she says goodbye

in a soft voice.

***

What Am I?

by Unique

I slowly creep through the grass

I cannot move fast

I am like a worm

crawling on a leaf.

I tell stories to kids in the sea

about what good adults they will be.

I won against the hare

because I took my time.

He thought he would win

because his legs are faster than mine.

I may look young, but

trust me, I am old.

I am talked about horribly in this world.

You should check the things you say,

because you will also be old and slow one day.

***

Lost Mother

by Jonathan

The wind blew,

moving my hair around.

I closed my eyes

and heard her whisper my name.

She held me as her own

while I rested in the grass.

I remembered the love in her voice

as I drifted to sleep.

When I awoke, I reached out

but could not find her.

My eyes teared up

as I remembered her.

***

School is out and I have now retired. Twenty-nine years is enough, I have decided. I plan to do some writing of my own, but I sure enjoyed teaching these talented students. They will always be a part of my heart.

Student Poetry (I’m proud of them)

As the school year ends, I want to share some of the great works of my seventh grade students. They wrote poems about their interests with attention to figurative language and sensory details. Enjoy!

At the Beach

by Brianna

Under the radiant sun all day

my family and I sat and played.

We splashed and scared the fish

as small as fleas.

The water, a beautiful clear blue,

refreshed on this exciting day.

As time went by, we sat together

and let the ocean speak to us

in the pink light of the setting sun.

***

The Best Day

by Latavia

It was a beautiful day.

The sun was beginning to seep

through the lightly shaded clouds.

Then I rounded third base

my heart racing, as fast

as a fox, I slid home.

There was a long silence …

and then the ump shouted,

“SAFE!”

The crowd erupted like

a thousand horns in my ear.

My smile was too big to control.

My uniform was covered in soft dirt.

It was the best, most beautiful,

just-the-right-temperature day.

***

The Beach

by Elisa

As the sun arose across the way

the water waved to me today.

I lay down in the sand,

eyes straight at the sun.

I covered my eyes while humming along

with the seagulls singing their own song.

***

Fishing

by Taylor

I went out into the wilderness

with my boat, hoping

to catch a fish or two.

I cast my bait onto the

cool, blue surface

and lay in wait.

The sweet cicadas

sang their song

all around me.

And I will remember

this day as I walk toward

home with my bass of gold

and a smile.

Thank you for reading our work…

More next week!

He Taught Us a Thing or Two, Pt. 5

He Taught Us a Thing or Two, Pt. 5
About Life.

The poem entitled If, written by Rudyard Kipling, helps us to see why Frank was often called a “real man” by those who knew him. Not only was he tough, he was wise.

“If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you
But make allowance for their doubting too,
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:
If you can dream—and not make dreams your master,”

“If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it all on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: “Hold on!”

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings—nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you;
If all men count with you, but none too much,
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!”

Mr. Kipling no doubt penned these words after meeting someone like Frank.

I miss your wisdom, Frank, and your comforting words telling me whether whatever was bothering me was worth my time or not.

I miss the hugs that said, “You are okay. Don’t let a problem define you.” (So I wouldn’t. You taught me to learn from the problem, and I did. Every time.)

I miss the heart that soaked up my tears and replaced my fears with love.

I miss you, Frank.

We all do…

Wind blown family love

He Taught Us a Thing or Two, Pt. 4

He Taught Us a Thing or Two
Part 4 : About Life.

Frank taught us that a key component of a quality life is respect.

He defined respect as “an understanding that someone or something has certain attributes and should be treated in an appropriate way.” This was true for anything from poisonous snakes to sweet gray-haired old ladies.

He also felt that a person should show some respect for themselves by speaking and acting appropriately. When he opened doors for ladies, or retrieved things from high shelves in Walmart for a short person (he was tall), he was just being himself. He had enough respect for himself and those around him to conduct himself well in public.

One thing that upset Frank was disrespectful children. He wondered why parents would neglect to teach their children at least to honor the sacred and important things. Not just God and the church, but gray-haired folks, law enforcement, and institutions like schools and courtrooms. He held in high esteem those parents who taught their children respect, and had a soft spot in his heart for children who learned and lived it. He would do anything for them.

He was never fake. If he didn’t like you, he respected you enough that he wouldn’t act like he liked you. He was cordial to everyone, but only engaged in conversations with people he liked. There were only certain people in his “inner circle” that he would go so far as to laugh and joke with. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the inner circle folks were the ones who respected him the most and showed it.

There is no question that Frank deserved and received respect. He also gave it. He held in high regard those persons and concepts everyone should, like God, and family, and country, but he also respected fellow men and women, particularly those in the military. Anytime he had an opportunity, he paid for their dinner, and it didn’t matter how many were in the party.

We were having lunch with our son and his wife one afternoon at a Mexican restaurant. Frank noticed a table of ten or so folks, one of whom was in military attire. We were seated near them, so their conversation somewhat wafted our way. We understood that this soldier was about to be deployed to a war zone, and the family was enjoying this time with him before he was to leave the next day.

As Frank paid our lunch bill, he also picked up the tab on theirs. He tried to get out of the restaurant without them knowing, but as he was finishing up, the soldier asked for the bill for their table. The cashier shook his head and then pointed to Frank.

The soldier quickly came over to thank him saying, “Sir, that was a large ticket. A lot of food. Thank you.”

Frank choked up and barely could get out the words, “No. Thank you… for your service.” The soldier nodded, shook Frank’s hand and let us leave. Mutual respect.

Frank taught us that true respect is shown, not just spoken.

Thank you, Frank, for the respect you gave me and others,

and my respect for you will go on forever.

Lion and lioness

 

He Taught Us a Thing or Two, Pt. 3

Part 3 : About Romance

Frank was a practical romantic. He had this idea that people should make sure their spouses know they are loved. He thought in order to do that one has to discover what is important to the person and do that for them.

Because I agreed with him and since I knew culinary variety was one thing important to him, I prepared meals accordingly. Being the Daniel Boone type of guy, he loved wild game. He taught me how to cook it correctly. With wild turkey, he always wanted me to “fry the breast and stew the rest.” Venison would be packaged to be fried, stewed, or ground.  Frank enjoyed stuff peppers, especially with ground venison.

Stuffed peppers

Leftovers brought a frown to his face, unless I could change it up a bit. I can be creative. Cold fried venison would  turn into smother-fried venison over rice. He also loved spicy food and added hot sauce to almost any dish. (I think his throat was seared because he could drink hot sauce right out of the bottle.) When I made chili, his was cooked in a separate pot because he was the only one who could eat it. Yes, food was important to him and so I romanced him that way.

Frank knew that words are important to me, so instead of just sending roses or a bouquet of other beautiful flowers, he found a poem on the Internet that spoke his heart, snapped a photo of it and sent it to the florist to transcribe onto the card that went with the flowers. ( Our florist is wonderful.) He did this several times a year.

Single red rose

The flowers were great, but the poem… Always beautiful because I knew he really meant what it said. I kept the little cards with the poems in my purse so that if I was having a rough day I could take one out, read it, and know that no matter what, I was loved. That kind of put things in perspective.

I’ve heard stories of young men Frank worked around receiving these lessons on romance and actually using it in their own marriage, with great results. One might comment about forgetting her birthday or their anniversary, and Frank would teach him that that was close to being a cardinal sin. He even taught him to find out what her favorite flower was and send her a bouquet of those. With a poem, of course.

The poem Frank sent with the roses on our anniversary is one of my favorites:

Today we celebrate
The joining of our hearts.
We were meant for each other
Right from the start.
We were destined to be together
And never to part.
You are my friend, my lover,
And the keeper of my heart.

The song “Waitin’ on a Woman” by Brad Paisley and Andy Griffith was special to us. (It is more true about us than I’d like to admit.) When we saw the video on TV, he told me that one day he’d find that white bench. I thought he was just being his usual romantic self, so I kissed his face and told him if that did happen he could know one thing for sure, I’d be along sometime. He wouldn’t wait in vain.

I am so looking forward to spending eternity with you, Frank.
You are my friend, my lover, and the keeper of my heart.

 

He Taught Us a Thing or Two, Pt.2

Part 2 : Adventure

Adventure: an unusual and exciting, typically hazardous, experience or activity. (Another definition: daring and exciting activity calling for enterprise and enthusiasm.)

Frank lived for adventure and every day was just that if you were with him. If you went riding in the woods with him, you’d better take food and water because you never knew how long you would be gone or what unusual or exciting activity you would experience.

Sometimes it was bland stuff like photographing some animal or insect in the wild, or getting stuck in a bog he tried to navigate with his four- wheel-drive truck.

Butterfly 5

Other times it was down right nail-biting.

One time we went for a ride in the woods on a weekend afternoon. He was home on R&R from his job in Saudi Arabia and wanted to see some Florida greenery. We had our oldest daughter with us. She was four years old at the time, and I was expecting our son.

In the woods

As usual, during our ride we talked about animal habitats and behavior patterns. I learned a lot. He liked catching the animals with his bare hands and looking them over before he let them go. If a sow pig crossed the road with her babies, he’d stop, catch one, scratch its little belly, and let us pet it before sending it back to its mama.

On this particular trip, though I was not aware of it until after the fact, he was looking for a particular animal. A friend of his had been having trouble with thieves stealing tools out of the back of his truck. He asked Frank for advice on an anti-theft device. Frank had the perfect solution and it slithered into the middle of the road that day right in front of our truck.

Frank stopped, got out, and walked circles around the 5 foot diamondback rattler. He broke a piece from a large dead limb nearby and used it to help him catch her. ( I am not sure how he knew it was a female, but he said, “she.”)

Photo credit: usg.edu
Photo credit: usg.edu

Once he caught her, one hand gripped just behind her head and the other supporting her large body, he told me to bring him the empty feed sack from the back of the truck. As I said before, I was expecting and our young daughter was in the seat with me. So I slid off the truck seat, shut the truck door behind me securely to keep her inside, got the feed sack, and threw it toward him. I didn’t want to be within twenty feet of that thing.

Frank looked at me oddly, as if to say “Why’d you do that?” He then held the snake toward me and said, “If I let her go now, she will bite me. Pick up the sack, hold it open, and I will put her in it. When I pull my hands out, close the sack.” He never broke a sweat, and spoke with confidence. His whole demeanor said,”I’m in control here.”

I did as instructed, and he took the bagged snake from me. Then I began to breathe again. I got back in the truck and my whole body turned to jelly. When he got in the truck, I told him the next time he did that, she could just bite him. He’d better never put me in that position again!

He laughed and  said I wasn’t adventurous enough.

I believe being married to him proved I was adventurous enough.

I knew that he knew a whole lot more than I did about animal behavior and … I learned to trust him. He got bit a few times by different types of animals, but nothing dangerous or poisonous. He gave respect when it was due.

He took the snake to his friend, who used it as a theft deterrent. I never heard if the thief lived.

I’m concerned life may be dull now.

How do I live, really live …

without you, Frank?

 

He Taught Us a Thing or Two

I am a teacher by profession. My Frank was a teacher by nature. Anyone who cared to learn, and hung around for a bit, would get lessons about hunting, fishing, adventure, romance, and life.

Let me talk a little about hunting and fishing first.

Frank taught folks how to select the proper gun for the hunting they were doing. Obviously, one would never harvest a mess of squirrels and a white-tail buck with the same caliber rifle. It could be done, but it is better done with the appropriate rifle to maximize the harvest while minimizing animal suffering.

(Yes, a mess is what a group of dead squirrels is called. If you ever had to clean them, you’d understand the term.)

He taught folks how to shoot a gun, or rig a rod and reel,  sharpen a knife,  dress the kill or clean the catch, cut it up, and even cook it. He figured they knew how to do the eating. Though for children, he did teach them how to pick the meat from the bones. Especially certain kinds of bony fish.

He also taught folks how to catch fish. The method depended on what type of fish they were after. Around here it was usually mullet, redfish, or flounder.

For mullet, his favorite method was a cast net. He’d sometimes take the boat, but more often he’d just wade down the creeks at Shired Island, off the sandy point. He could throw a cast net while standing in waist-deep water and it would open perfectly. He put his catch in a mesh bag tied to his waist and they would flow along in his wake. He usually caught enough to give away twenty or so and still have enough for our supper.

Open Castnet

If he wanted to catch a redfish, a rod and reel was his tool of choice. He enjoyed the boat for this kind of fishing. The largest he ever caught was forty inches, nose to tail. He had to release him because the limit is twenty-seven inches. He pretty much tried to abide by the rules. (Don’t laugh. I said he tried.) As he got older and wiser, he tried harder.

Forty inch redfish

Floundering : the act of wading in a creek, spotting a flounder after you bumped into him with your feet, and harvesting said flounder. When Frank went after flounder, it was with a light and a gig at night. Before our children were born, I went with him sometimes. He taught me how to shuffle my feet properly.

He had the pole with the light on the end of it down in the water.  It was pitch black otherwise. No moon. He said it was easier to see the flounder lying on the creek bed on a moonless night.

When he spotted one, he gigged it and put it on the stringer. Just like with mullet, the fish would trail along behind him. Yep, right where I was, holding onto the washtub floating in a truck-tire inner tube carrying the floundering necessities. Every now and then one of those slimy things would touch my bare leg ( I had on knee-length shorts). I’d yelp and try to get up under Frank. He didn’t like that too much. It hindered his floundering.

Another couple went with him one time and she had the same slimy experience, except she reacted differently. The noise she made and the way she climbed up his back, he said later, kind of reminded him of a spider monkey. Her husband was not as tall as Frank. He stood and watched his wife with amazement.

When Frank got home and told me about it, I told him she was just trying to get out of the water. I could empathize. He  appreciated me more after that.

After our children got old enough, Frank took each one of them floundering. They were smart enough to wear blue jeans and Frank’s floundering was a lot more fun for him and them.

So many memories… So many stories to tell.

Enough for now.

I love you and miss you, Frank. You taught me so much.