Transition

Over the last week or two I’ve been struggling to find time to sit down and write a blog. We are in transition right now and when I finally think I have time, something comes up. A lot of things are being put on the back burner or falling through the cracks. I haven’t had time to read blogs or connect with others much, as I’m just a wee bit overwhelmed with life right now (maybe I shouldn’t confess that) but I AM being pulled in many different directions. It’s not all bad, mind you, and God is definitely in the midst of it, answering prayer in miraculous ways.

There are ongoing medical visits for me as I try to get the diabetes back under control, and though I am on an insulin pump, it’s been scary at times, especially at night when my sugars have dropped, and now they are often elevated. I was given an opportunity to have a one week trial of a Dexcom: a Continuous Glucose Monitor which tracks the blood sugar. It will set off an alarm if my sugars go too low, or begin to climb, and it also indicates how fast or slow it is dropping or climbing. I was approved by my insurance company, and my Dexcom arrived a few days ago. On Friday of this week, I am happy to say, I will be getting hooked up, and I am hopeful this will help me to regain some control. The doctor also wants me to have a ‘gastric’ test to see if I have any neuropathy (nerve damage) in the gastric tract, as that could also affect my food and insulin absorbtion. I also, requested that the doctor change my insulin from Humulog  to Novolog, as I began to suspect my body was beginning to resist that particular insulin after years of use.  So, yes, that’s been an on going stress factor in my life, but I’m seeing light at the end of the tunnel. 

The other major transition, and it’s a biggie, is the process and ultimate moving of my precious mother-in-law to assisted living. As of now, we have just found a beautiful, Christian facility. That in itself is a true miracle. I had put her name into a couple of places over a year ago but the waiting list was at least two years, and even then, the fact she would be on Elderly Waiver, meant there were limited spaces available. It did not look like anything would open up. We were working with an organization, looked at two places, and the second place left my husband, myself and my mother-in-law feeling discouraged. In fact, she teared up. 

I had sat in my office earlier that week, and though we were working with a great organization, I had seen Auburn Manor online, and thought to myself, and said out loud to the Lord, ” That would be the perfect place!” I began praying that somehow God would open the doors.  So, against all odds, I wrote them an email. To my surprise, I received an email and a phone call from the manager. I missed the first call, so I called back right away but had to leave a voicemail. The weekend came and went, and on Monday the manager called me again in the morning. I asked him about rooms and the fact LaVera, my mother-in-law, would need to be on Elderly Waiver (government assistance). He says, ” We have two Elderly Waiver openings.” At that point, I could hardly believe it, and asked him if there was a waiting list. He assured me there was none. I knew God was answering not only my prayer, but that of our friends and family! I knew I needed to act quickly, and made an appointment for the next day. LaVera was near tears, and I just felt this overwhelming sense of joy and gratitude towards God. After we met with the manager at Auburn Courts, it was confirmed, this would be LaVeras new home; a place that I am sure she is going to shine bright with the love of God. When I returned home, I called the organization we had been working with, spoke to the owner, Rick, and told him we no longer needed his services, he was very happy for us but shocked at the same time! He said that just a week and a half ago he had talked to Auburn Manor and there were no openings! Honestly folks, this was a miracle, there are less than 50% of assisted living places that take Elderly Waver, and on top of that there are few openings available period! I would say, God’s timing was and is perfect! 

Here is the lovely lady herself, and though it will still be difficult to let go of what was, she knows that God loves her and is working everything out to her good. She can come and go as she pleases (she is still very independent) will have a great community to thrive in, Bible Studies, volunteer opportunities, events, ladies luncheon’s, three meals a day, nursing on staff at all times and more. Truth be told, this is not easy for any of us and I’ve shed a few tears grieving for her, too, but my heart is at peace. ❤ I know hers is too, she slept like a baby for the first time in days that night! I’m so grateful God is with us through this journey called ‘life.’

                                                    LaVera Valle

Memory Bouquet : Pieces Of April

Pieces of April

Published on Apr 7, 2015 (revised from my original post on Youtube)

I originally made this video for a dear friend, a free spirit of sorts, and a nature lover. I loved this song as a young teen/adult, though I was limited to mostly country in our home, there were times, when I was finally able to drive, that I would, as soon as I left the driveway, crank the music up, and it wasn’t usually country. It seems like yesterday I was driving the folks Chevy and headed down the highway…listening to this song, ‘Pieces of April’ . I am thinking a lot about family these days, my family of origin mostly, and how fast time is slipping away. So, as I look through picture albums and video’s lately, I am making ‘memory bouquets’. When I come across a video of my mama’s grin, laugh, mannerisms, or beautiful face and/ or  a video of my daddy laughing and teasing, well…sometimes the tears threaten to come to the surface; other times  I catch myself smiling or laughing…but always I’m overwhelmed with gratitude and love.

So, over the years, I’ve become a collector. A collector of memories, through pictures, video’s and more. I have a Memory Bouquet…full of life, love and laughter. Times of joy and laughter, times of pain and sorrow…but through it all  a wonderful ‘bouquet’ of memories. I’ve learned through the years how, to pray, to forgive, to push forward, to endure, to love, to sing, to overcome, to speak my mind, to break through intimidation and fear and to fight for what I believe in. I’ve learned to laugh through the pain, I’ve wept in times of joy,  praised God in the storm, stood on His Word, and sat at His feet in worship and surrender. God is constantly working in my heart…pruning, watering, breaking up the shallow ground, and shining His light in the dark places. I am ever so grateful He knows how to love me to life, picks up the broken pieces, looks beyond my faults and sees my needs. He tends to me like a well watered garden.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Hula Hoop Challenge; And the Winner Is….;)

I’ve been feeling a bit blue lately, and decided to go through some of my old video’s.  I have a few gems such as this one.  Recorded and uploaded in 2015 I couldn’t help but laugh! Laughter certainly IS good medicine. 😀

My husband is an engineer, but there is this ‘little boy’ in him that comes out around our grandchildren, especially our oldest granddaughter, but ALL the grandchildren gravitate towards him. I do have a cameo appearance here, but my granddaughter and I both lost it when Papa took up the challenge. I was trying so hard not to laugh behind the camera. I treasure these moments in our lives, they pass so quickly.

So, who DO YOU, think won the Hula Hoop Challenge? hahaha

😀

Aging Gracefully

Hi, there folks.

This is me through the years starting as a baby – high school graduation (last picture). A lot of life, love and laughter. I look at these pictures and wonder, where did the time go, and who is that ‘stranger’ looking at me in the mirror every morning and every night: Okay, okay…sometimes I look more often, but at my ‘age’, I see every line and wrinkle; perhaps against all odds, I’m hoping  that the latest ‘anti-wrinkle’ cream I am using is REALLY going to produce a miracle like it says it does. So far, no such luck. Nope. Not til Jesus comes to take me home will I be without ‘spot’ or ‘wrinkle’, says so right there in the Bible. 😉 Well, maybe I’ve taken it out of context…but sometimes if I don’t laugh, I think I might cry, and believe me, after the cataracts came out a couple of years ago, I came close. One day I thought I was looking  pretty good for my age, and the next day ‘bam’, right between the eyes…, I mean right between my eyes, those little crinkly lines, not to mention every crevice and spot on my face suddenly became much clearer! Of course, the up side was seeing colors and everything  more vibrant and alive…who knew that the ‘orange’ facial scrubber I was using, was actually ‘hot pink’, and the shirt I thought was orange was a ‘hot pink’. Thinking how many times I thought I was wearing black with matching black shoes, to find out one was black, the other blue?

Let’s be real here! In a few days I’m going to turn 64 years old. I’m trying to embrace who I am NOW, not yesterday, bite the bullet (we really don’t have a choice), continue to laugh, love and live. The Bible says there’s enough trouble today, so don’t worry about tomorrow (paraphrased), He’s going to be there for all my tomorrows as He was for all my yesterdays, and today! I think it is wise to plan for the future, but it’s never wise to worry (and this is something I have to lay at the feet of Jesus daily…some days I win, others I really struggle).

Forgive me for rambling just a little bit today (you know us ‘old’ folk do that from time to time, eh)? I got to looking at some of these old photos today of myself through different stages of my young life. I started out pretty cute; chubby and wrinkly…and I was thinking to myself, how ironic that I’m probably gonna end up that way too, yeah…chubby and wrinkly, though if someone calls you ‘cute’ when you get older, it’s usually more about your ‘behavior’, or some quirky habit you’ve picked up unknowingly as you’ve aged . Not too long ago I read a police report about an ‘elderly’ woman, 63 or 64 years old, whose car was rammed into by a desperado who was driving a stolen car. I thought to myself, “Elderly?”  What were they ‘talking about?’ I was 63, and that sounded so foreign to my ears! Never would I consider myself or call myself ‘elderly!’ I cringed at the mere thought of being called  elderly at the ‘young age of 63.’   NO WAY was I going to accept what the dictionary (and some of our society) labels ‘elderly!’

eld·er·ly
ˈeldərlē/
adjective
  1. (of a person) old or aging.
    “she was elderly and silver-haired”
    Synonyms:
    aged,
    old,
    advanced in years,
    aging,
    long in the tooth,
    past one’s prime;
    gray-haired,grizzled,
          hoary; in one’s dotage, decrepit, doddering, doddery, senescent;
          getting on,
          past it,
          over the hill,
          no spring chicken
         old people,
         the aged,
         senior citizens;
         geriatrics,
         seniors;
         retired people,
         retirees,
         golden agers;
         oldsters,
         geezers
 ∼

Hmm, Some of these descriptions I can accept, but long in the tooth? Getting on? geezer? decrepit, doddering? I think NOT! Doesn’t sound like me at all, nor most of my ‘elderly’ friends! Not yet anyway, and when that time comes, and I do see it coming, I’ll let you know, or as my sister once said to me, “Don’t call me, I’ll call you!’ 😀  In the meantime, I’m going to dance the dance of life, and celebrate everyday as a gift from God. As His Word says…I will rise up as an eagle, and my youth will be renewed as I wait on the Lord.

In all seriousness, though, aging gracefully is a struggle for many in our youth oriented culture, and has been for me too at times, especially when you feel ‘young’ but the ‘number’ keeps creeping upwards. Inevitably, we all age but one of the most beautiful of women I’ve ever known was my mother…she was graceful, her smile, the way she moved, gentle. She was always there for my siblings and I, and knew when to call and when to come. This is true ageless beauty; to love others and have a giving heart.   God’s word says it best in 1 Peter 3: 3-4:

 3 Don’t focus on decorating your exterior by doing your hair or putting on fancy jewelry or wearing fashionable clothes; let your adornment be what’s inside—the real you, the lasting beauty of a gracious and quiet spirit, in which God delights.

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You Are So Beautiful To Me

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The wrinkles on a time-worn face
Can be symbols of God’s grace,
If through our laughter and our tears
His love has freed us from our fears. —D. De Haan

“Even to your old age, . . . and even to gray hairs I will carry you!” (Isaiah 46:4).

Yes, we can be assured that God will always be with us through every season. My advice: Love Deeply, Forgive Quickly, Laugh Loudly, Be Thankful. In our lives things are constantly changing, but we can be assured that our God NEVER changes and that His love for us is not dependent on our performance, nor what we look like on the outside, or even the crud on the inside. He just loves us. God used this song, ‘I Am’, along with the picture of mama touching my heart gently, to reassure me when I was in the throes of grief, that He is always with me. He is the one constant in life. The words to this song say it all.

I Am

 

Oh gently lay your head
Upon my chest
And I will comfort you
Like a mother while you rest
The tide can change so fast,
But I will stay
The same through the past,
The same in future, same today

CHORUS:
I am constant; I am near
I am peace that shatters all your secret fears
I am holy; I am wise
I’m the only one who knows your heart’s desires
Your heart’s desires

Oh weary, tired and worn,
Let out your sighs
And drop that heavy load you hold
Cause Mine is light

I know you through and through;
There’s no need to hide
I want to show you love
That is deep and high and wide

CHORUS(2x)

Oh gently lay your head
Upon my chest
And I will comfort you
Like a mother while you rest

View From the Bottom Rung (the life of a scribe)

By Vander H. Atwell.  August 20th, 2016

Hmm. View From The Bottom Rung must be running nigh onto five years to date. Let’s see now, how does one express his heartfelt gratitude for the chance to appear here on this page every other Saturday? Welst, the well-worn old phrase, it’s an honor and a privilege pretty well nails it. A lot of water under the bridge since it began but still ambling along despite the roiling of rivers. Not always easy but we manage.

I do have the best, most approving critic a man could ever hope to have review the final draft before sending over to the good folks at the ’Courier. Each time an article is finished my gal reads it, graciously nods her approval and asks what the next will be about.

You wouldn’t know what a tough question that is to answer most time, and invariably the reply is “I don’t know.” It’s hard for an old guy with only a couple of stories to tell when it all began five years ago to come up with fresh material every two weeks, what with distractions so numerous and interesting that he postpones scribing long as he dares, or simply extends the current project out by making it a bit wordier than perhaps it should be.

Oh, you noticed, eh? The great cowboy philosopher Will Rogers (not to be confused with my friend, local sage and musical entrepreneur Mr. Bill Rogers) once said “Never miss a good chance to shut up,” wise advice one supposes after all rambling on and on means more likelihood of wandering off onto sidebars and less time to began and finish the next text. Despite the uncoupled and misarranged prose we do manage to persist despite an arthritic neck and shoulder compliments of my long career as a logger; hunching over this infernal word processer only serves to agitate and exacerbate a condition brought on by 45 years using myself as a pack animal, forcing the keeping of the pain reliever Tylenol close at hand.

Recently the hocus pocus of politics has been a major distraction from the primary purpose of simply “jawing” with my friends and neighbors. “Hocus pocus” by the way, is a term ordinarily applied to the realm of politics and means ‘tricks used to hide what is happening, especially by distorting the situation and making it difficult to understand’; the constant buzz tends to pull the old gentleman’s focus aside from the chase like a fox hound distracted by a cotton tail rabbit.

There was a time early in life political distractions just didn’t happen, working too hard and much too tired for politics; come election time no question asked, like a loyal and dutiful son I just went to the polls and voted Democrat. And why not, my heritage was Democrat, the political landscape in my place of origin here in the South was Democrat, my grandparents were Democrat, my father, mother and three siblings were Democrat: (well, there was that one sister married to a Republican, a World War II veteran and survivor of the Battle of the Bulge). ’Just say I was “habitized” by tradition into a political philosophy, no hard choices wherewith my conscience to contend. Rather than choosing a political ride by raising its hood, kicking its tires and examining the chassis, t’was the only franchise in town and only modal on the lot.

But now, 17 years into retirement sitting beside the boulevard of humanity’s dreams, watching chariots running to and fro, observing the industry and strivings of my fellow citizens, I sit’s and ponders the debits and the credits of unquestioning obedience to “the faith.”

It’s not that my conscience or philosophy has changed all that much through the years, rather that the political landscape shifted beneath my feet, even before I walked off the job to feast on the fruits of my long labors.

My disputation with the change tends to show up in the heat of this election year battle, where the constant buzz of bizarre machinations tends to distract from sane discourse. Yes, yes, I realize that involving in the chaotic tangle makes me just as zany, but t’was born with a fiery competitive feistiness, and the embers are slow to fade.

No, there’s not a thing to be done about the folly of it all, except “to thy self be true. A song by Larry Gattlin allows that “All the gold in California is in a bank in the middle of Beverly Hills in someone else’s name” still, one remains “involved” even as coastal tides sweep inland consuming every sacred value and conscientious tradition that made this country and its people great.

Eventually though, we try getting back to more mundane things and focus upon the community around us; things that sustain the soul as life, love – or is that liberty – and the pursuit of happiness; take it from someone on the latter end of a long trail, “pursuit of happiness” becomes more important the less time allotted to the “pursuit.” Admittedly there’s not a whole lot of human interest in such mundane topics as lawn mowing, tree trimming, house washing and flower gardening, yet, in chaotic times we should all be happier to channel our lives in more tranquil directions and occupy ourselves with the comfort of the common and the familiar ere the last embers die and cold of darkness chills flesh to the bone.

Does not the scriptures say that ‘Man does not live by politics alone’? Well, perhaps it should, considering the distracting brouhaha seeping from every crack and corner of our own little domain these days. Then there’s the scriptural suggestion that we “eat, drink, and be merry” for tomorrow, well you get the gist.

Many retirees take up vegetable or flower gardening as a hobby, and as a relief from the tedium of idleness.

When I bought my house in Alma, the appeal of it was a large yard that would need my attention, keep me occupied all toned up and out of trouble. But the main distraction, hobby, whichever we shall call it is/ has been music, especially in the years looking forward to retirement and what to do with idle hands.

But music itself can be a distraction sometime with serious potential for hurt by drawing attention away from demanding activities at hand.

Yes son, some jobs are so dangerous that daydreaming (preoccupation with other things) can be deadly.

Early on in life I fancied myself a guitar picker playing my first gig with a Country Dance band at Susanville California ’way back in 1953. It soon became apparent that I would never become another Chet Adkins, and the fancy only distracted from the responsibility of raising a family. The bars we played were no place for a young man with a start-up family to hang out, and having a wife and child, domestic and financial stability overruled any fanciful strivings or sacrifice for fame and fortune out ’neath those neon lights. I quit my government job, left my budding musical career behind and hit the timber trail, the bluest skies, the freshest air and the most lucrative employment a kid of my humble raisings might find. In retrospect, the danger of it made it a dumb thing for a young greenhorn to do, but then a yearling is never easily advised and what the heck—I did survive.

Today with time on my hands to make music an enjoyable and satisfying hobby, it again becomes a distraction of sorts at least in relation to my uh, “literary contributions” here at the PAC. So much time and effort dedicated to musical venues, projects, practice, etc., and further, the old scribbler has recently been “domesticated” and there’s all those social activities divided betwixt two families and a passel of friends each vying for time and attention within the heart and soul of me. Not much leeway for a column written by a slow plodding thinker and one finger “typer” and no time for thumb twiddling over on social media though admittedly I’m often inclined to that direction. Some might even say addicted.

It has been said that procrastination is the thief of time and lord knows there’s been times I’ve wasted so much time there was little time left to finish an article and get it in in time for publication.

Yes, the laptop upon which I scribe, itself is a major distractor from things more important in life, but I’ve yet to reach the point of insanity: Had lunch over at Chili’s a few weeks back and watched as three different couples came in, ordered, then brought out their iphones and proceeded to ignore each other the entire meal. So much precious time lost when one becomes lost out there in the endless reaches of cyber space.

Today I finish this column five days ahead of schedule, a luxury I tell’s ya! Next due Sept. 3. Time’s a wasting.

On the Political Side (Vander H. Atwell)

This is an article (opinion piece) from‘View From the Bottom Rung’ written by my father, Vander H. Atwell, for a local Arkansas paper. Though he writes about many things pertaining to life, and his growing up in Arkansas, and America, he often delves into the political side. I don’t always agree with his views, but the majority of the time, I certainly do. He’s old school, and was Democrat for many years, until as a logger, the ‘activists’ began to put ‘pipe’ bombs and slash tires for whatever cause they felt justified in doing so. It is, in my opinion, NEVER okay to bring harm, destruction or possibly death to any fellow human being when protesting.  He is always a gentleman, well thought out, researched, and has watched in his lifetime, the spiraling down of the American way of life, as  our government began to take more control over the lives of it’s good citizens (both Democrats and Republicans have had a hand in this one way or another). You may not always agree with him, and that’s okay, but it’s a great article, worthy of reading. 

June 24, 2017: Arkansas News

The time has come the Walrus said, to speak of many things, of shoes and ships and sealing wax, of cabbages and kings; and why the sea is boiling hot and whether pigs have wings. (Credit Alice in Wonderland.)

Seventeen years ago when I first picked up a pen and endeavored to put together a couple of sentences that made some sort of sense and incorporate them into a paragraph with enough coherency they might make it to the public comment page of the local paper, the invitation was for timely social topics, community news and views, the rule of conduct, no cussin’ and no private vendetta’s made public.

In reality the theme drifted to mean spirited attitudes, the premier topic, state and national politics interjected into the small rural venue by a culture of liberal activists up from metropolis to a person against any industrial development that might grow the city and offer jobs to a habitually economically stressed community.

Ideological lectures on a scale that would do an evangelical proud dominated public comment and in order to color (or discolor) local culture and politics, the newly arrived often brought lawyers along to litigate their complaints in courts of law.

If anyone ever wandered onto a ‘scene’ unawares, well that was me: how the new arrivals described the community, the people in it, and, indeed the world in which we live was one I failed to recognize, the outpouring of contempt against the “local yokels” sunspot hot. When the editor gave place to a conservative columnist, the discontented not only flooded editorial with protests, they confronted the papers editor and demanded the column be taken down.

It’s like that with volatile people who somehow find themselves politically isolated within cultures not to their liking, and with ideological firebrands, as here in Arkansas, a state which over the last couple of decades has slowly morphed from a Democrat cant into a Republican leaning society. This constant shifting of political fortunes is historical, represents the American experience and is accepted as part of the territory by a mature citizenry long accustomed to political grounds shifting beneath their feet. However, not so much the liberal “apparachiks” who live and die by the sword. Liberalism is the new “fire and brimstone religion.”

Arkansas is a case in point: The more Arkansas morphs from its traditional shades of blue to tinges of red, the more extreme the vitriol slung at the good folks of the state and those they choose to represent them. I believe this thesis can be supported by searching out the chronicles of the more vociferous of leftist advocates lying within the archives of several northwest Arkansas newspapers. Those who aren’t being heard (fail in their attempt to halt the trend) tend to elevate exponentially, both the decibels of their voice and the bitterness of their complaints often reverting to muckraking tactics in an effort to discredit the leadership of any political association crosswise of their own; public rejection of their political doctrine is not only unthinkable, it is personally devastating.

None of this is to say that criticism of Republicans is never warranted, or that the whole “kit and kabootle of them” should be sainted; rather, that the Republicans large evangelical memberships with its strict adherence to time honored principles of personal conduct affects the party’s ethical standards in ways that are not so “detrimental” to the fortunes of the Democratic Party. Christian philosophy calls upon its adherents to strive for betterment daily, admits to human frailty, that everyone “falls short of the glory,” and that every man-jack of us are in constant warfare against a carnal debility that exists within humankind’s own nature, a philosophy grounded in a set of ethics and principles that is the primary voice evangelicals bring to the cultures and associations that they support or with which they align. Democrats not only ignore their own shortcomings, tend to dismiss that they have any, and actively propagate that Republicans are inherently evil, a cancer on our society whose initiatives will or “may” result in the deaths of thousands of American citizens.

There are, to be sure, Christian elements within the Democratic Party, but that ethic is counter balanced by groups that are virulently anti-culture and anti-Christian. And while it is true that good men and bad men are found across the political spectrum, Democrats are not so much defused by a diverse clientele less religious, and less enthusiastic of Christian concepts.

But View From the Bottom Rung drifts more to philosophical musings rather than hard-core political activism, therefore will not ‘muckrake’ by researching and reporting the party affiliations of Washington bureaucrats and lawmakers whose legislative initiatives may kill millions. Neither will it search out Democratic miscreants that have run afoul of the law; rather, since we are all of one nature as Christian philosophy advises, one suspects both sides of the aisle are well represented. Yet one also suspects that, facing the same charges, more Democrats get off the hook for crimes large and small, than Republicans do and for the same foregoing thesis: Democrats are far more loyal to the brotherhood because they do not claim, nor are they held to the same restrictive code that tends to hinder more ‘robust’ competitiveness within the Republican enterprise.

Without attempting to rewrite history, does anyone at all doubt had Nixon been a Democrat he would have went down so easily, and that, with a hefty assist from his own party? Democrats stick together like a swarm of bees protecting the queen. Count on it.

But View from the Bottom Rung does not intend to become a “bash the Democrats” column. We see enough partisan opiners, both sides of the aisle, who diligently search out the sins and misadventures of the other party while ignoring the rascality of their own. Loyalty to one’s own associations is an admirable thing one supposes, but in fact amounts to a shallow conscience indeed if it detracts from accountability to the association which binds us together and to which we pledge allegiance.

Differences of opinion aired in a public forum and processed at the voting booth is the hallmark of our society. Evil is not a part of that equation. But grievances of evil motive against other “faiths” for the sole purpose of political gain is not only an unethical activity, it is an immoral and dangerous one as well as recent events would suggest, especially if that recriminatory stance has been institutionalized by the association that finds it a benefit to its political interests. Eventually some suckered idiot will believe it and act on it.

It happens time and again, eventually some propagated soul(s) ignorant of the concept takes a gun and “goes hunting,” or feels justified in donning a mask and taking to the streets in defiant protest of authority and in fits of violent and destructive activity. Ironically, it is Democrats who have actively cultivated the suspicion that Republicans are a volatile association, that they are prone to volatile elements that present a threat to society and that their policies and initiatives will cause thousands of Americans hardship, heartache and death.

But it is that very, twisted narrative along with an SAS 7.62 assault rifle, an assassin carried onto a ball field in Virginia and took “justice” into his own hands by acting upon the liberal spin that Republicans are out to destroy the lives of millions of U.S. citizens, strip them of Social Security and starve to death countless old people, puppy dogs and little children.

One cannot teach hate without messing with the minds of hateful people. That fact is made transparently clear in the caustic rhetoric of partisan news organizations and the imputation of evil purpose by Democratic lawmakers into conservative thought, and of the entertainment industry with its classless exhibitions of assassinations and beheadings; all of which served to create an atmosphere of social hysteria that contributed to the attempted assassination of a dozen Republican congressmen by a distorted soul driven mad by the cacophony of it all.

Some are hoping that the attempted assassination of Rep. Scalise and fellow congresspersons will result in a sober reflection by both Parties, of where the white-hot heat of partisan rhetoric is taking us and expressing hope that the incident will usher in more respectful attitudes and cooperation. When pigs grow wings.

But virulent rhetoric is a fundamental tool in the Democrats seven-month effort to subvert the Trump administration, a road with no apparent end; it’s not likely to change anyways soon but the fact that members of both parties now feel threatened by the violent fallout of unbridled vitriol may serve to dampen the rhetoric and encourage a little civility. Maybe its time the conversation departed the boiling hot seas of political acrimony and drifted to such mundane topics as ‘shoes, ships, sealing wax, cabbages and kings.’ If the “Donald” can wax conciliatory in the wake of a politically inspired assassination attempt, perhaps there’s hope that others may also.

Van, the Mandolin Man

When I was a little girl I remember daddy buying one of our first pieces of furniture (I say that with a smile, not sure how mom felt about that)…a blonde Fender Guitar and Amp. From that time on he was hooked. He would practice all the time, and over the years he eventually traded his electric guitar in for a mandolin, not that he stopped playing the guitar entirely but the mandolin became ‘his’ instrument of choice. He began playing with some country fella’s in California but it seemed ‘bluegrass’ was what he really loved. I remember some fellas and a couple of gals, gathering around mama and daddy’s small living room when they lived in California; banjo, mandolin, bass fiddle, acoustic guitar and fiddle all joining in the fun. He traveled the circuit and played as often as he could at different events and venues around the surrounding areas.

When my folks decided to return to Arkansas, after living in California for over 50 odd years (mama called it their last ‘big’ adventure), daddy had no trouble finding others to play bluegrass with. His younger brother, Billy, played bluegrass as well, and one thing led to another and soon daddy was off and running. I wish I knew this song they are playing, but suffice it to say we all had a great time that night, and the highlight for me, was of course my mandolin playing ‘pappy.’ My sister once said to me, (both of us having no appreciation for bluegrass or country much when we were growing up), “Listening to daddy play bluegrass is kinda of like having a spiritual experience.” I’m not sure about that, but I got what she meant as only sisters can and do.

View From the Bottom Rung (by Vander H. Atwell)

Vander H. Atwell is my father. He is soon to be 84, and pretty spry for his age and downright puts me to shame. Longevity runs in the family, the oldest member of his family is 90 years old, my Aunt Pluma, then there is Aunt Oleta, and Uncle Billy. Daddy, is the third born. He is a widower, and now a newlywed by about a year at the writing of this. He is an amazing man, not perfect, and there are a few things we don’t agree on, but he is and will always be my ‘hero’. He’s a writer, philosopher, professional quality mandolin player, retired logger and mountain man, and more. I love him with all of my heart, and if you can’t tell I’m bursting with pride.

He writes an opinion piece called ‘View From the Bottom Rung’, at least twice a month for a local paper in Arkansas, The Press Argus. Though it can sometimes be political in nature, he most often writes about life, and especially how it was days past. He was born in Arkansas around 1933, the third born out of four siblings, two older sisters and one younger brother. His father, Roland Atwell, a Baptist Preacher, and his mother Minnie ‘LaRue’ Atwell, were also farmers and lived in Crawford County, in the vicinity of Mountainburg, Arkansas. In those days they would have been called ‘Hillbilly’s, which was not considered a compliment by many. Today, it’s often associated with Bluegrass music and good ole, down to earth country folk, pot lucks and so forth. In fact, I am quite proud of my ‘hillbilly’ roots and the wonderful people I call ‘the salt of the earth’ kind of folk.

My father, upon finishing the 8th grade, did not return to school, though I know not why,  I would assume it was to help out at home and the family farm. I think it always bothered him that he had not continued on in his education at the time, but it actually spurred him on later to take educational courses through the mail. He is a natural born story teller. When he writes, he often paints a vivid picture of how it was as a young ‘lad’ back in the early days of his childhood. His lively hood until he retired several years ago was that of logger, timber faller. He grew to love the mountains of California, and much like a professional sailor longs for the sea, my daddy still , at times, longs for the mountains. My siblings and I were able to visit the camp sites at times growing up and I still love the smell of the pine trees in the mountains. One day I hope to compile many of my fathers writings and stories and put them in book form. He’s a brilliant man. I will share more about my mother and father in the days ahead. It will be random as there is so much. I will highlight my fathers various articles, and other writings on my blog as well as feature video’s of his musical past time.

The following was written by my dad and posted in the Press Argus Newspaper, on April 29, 2017. As I read this,  images came to my mind as if I was watching the movie ‘Old Yeller’ as I envisioned a much younger boy growing up in a very different time and era, running through the backwoods of Arkansas. You can find the article if you google it…but I was unable to get the link to work…(still a newbie on here unfortunately).

By Vander H. Atwell  

Arkansas in springtime is a beautiful place to be. Yes, it amazes that even through the stifling heat of its sweltering summers, the timbered hills and spreading flatlands retain their prideful green luster. in all my 55 years in Northern California surrounded by the state’s vast evergreen forests, nothing like the constant and consistent sea of green that is Arkansas in season.

Even though the Lady’s beauty endures through the scorching summers of the hot humid U.S. South, there is an extra special richness of color in the state’s springtime awakening; a soft, lush chlorophyll driven glory that reflect the miracle of birth and the promise that comes with renewal of life.

How I loved those idyllic times when the budding of my own life blended with an Ozark spring; lazing in a sea of cool green grass gazing up at pillowed clouds wandering like sheep against a backdrop of deep blue sky. Small islands of “pushups” (miniature flowers of white, pink and blue) thrusting themselves up through a soft green blanket spread out over hill and dale, various insects crawling or flying about, most of them new to the world as me, scurrying about in their industry much too preoccupied with their own society, their own exclusive little universe to pay attention to mine.

It was not the spreading blanket of green or patterns of miniature flowers growing thereon that caught the fancy of my faithful sidekick “buster” the family dog who always seemed at my heels on those idle moments I wandered about soaking up the wonders of the earth ‘neath my feet and the heavens skyward of my searching eyes: It was an ant or some other creepy crawler scurrying just beyond the forward thrust of his resting paws that caught his attention and ‘bugged’ him no end.

The dog lay quietly at first, adverse to confrontation but as the insect charged his position, shifted ever so slightly and was soon intently focused on the critters determined industry shifting his head side to side, wrinkling his brow in puzzlement as the cerebral processes became increasingly stressed. Most times creepy crawlers were allowed to pass without incident, but other times, depending on the dog’s patience, or lack of it, came a snap and a bite in which case the unfortunate interloper was caught up and spit back out in a somewhat wet and disheveled condition.

Buster was a brown mixed breed male that showed a pit bull lineage. His first years were prone to terrifying seizures, or “fits” as we called them back then, but eventually outgrew them and by the time I was 6 to 8 years old considered the tenacious beast invincible and trusted him explicitly. A nervous sort exploring the countryside alone might find himself a bit intimidated but not with the pit trotting alongside exploring every brush pile rabbit hole or rock fence along the way. The tenacious animal once tackled an upset Hereford bull that walked through a fence onto our property, grabbed an ear and survived the ‘ride’ bruised but not beaten. Often pranked by his young human pals yet always forgiving, in my time, for my time, my Lassie, my ‘Old Yeller’ together exploring the mysteries of a world only recently discovered.

By my calculations, I was 5 years of age when my parents settled on the narrow Boston Mountain spine called Burkett Ridge; in those distant times the “world” consisted of two 20-acre plots joined, one belonging to my father, Roland Atwell the other to my mother’s uncle, John LaRue. Neither of the plots was ‘move onto’ properties at the time of purchase but had acreage ready for cultivation and room for expansion into parts of the land not yet cleared of brush and trees.

Each built a two room log cabin, the material to build including logs and wooden shingles for the roof were taken from the surrounding forest; the windows, glass and frame, ceiling and flooring of tongue grooved pine boards about the only pre-processed material used in the construction.

The kitchen took up one full room, cooking was done on a cast iron wood burning stove while heat for the un-insulated shanty was a light-weight sheet metal wood fueled stove called a King heater. The King’s thin sheet metal sides were often forced red hot in an effort to warm the airish two-roomer, especially on those frigid days’ temperature dropped so low it produced ice crystal skies, buckets of drinking water froze solid during the night and dampness inside the house turned to ice-glazed walls ere the dawning. Stoked to such intense heat the King burned out over the winter and each following autumn had to be replaced with a brand new store bought. No direct heat was had for a two-room lean-to added to the house later on: air conditioning to relieve the misery of the sweltering dog days of summer was doors left open.

The worse the misery of a cold hard winter cold, greater the joy of springtime.Rebirth of stubbled fields began with miniature wildflowers pushing up through seas of new grass; it came with the arrival of butterfly meadows, lush foliage of newly leafed forests freshly painted with the green pigmentation chlorophyll tempered with a dusting of yellowish pollen; the freshness, the wonder of it more than compensation for being cooped up inside for weeks on end by winters wicked bite the cold misery of evening chores and sleeping beneath tons of quilts and blankets while the sweep of cold nighttime winds wearied one to sleep with weird vibrations, mysterious rattlings and ghostly whispers from the dark cold abyss.

Sanitary conditions were nigh onto primitive those first years on the ridge. The positive of it, was that the immune systems of the ‘hill people’ were so robust from exposure to various vermin any disease that attacked was at serious disadvantage. Got sick you ‘rode it out’ on the back of ancient remedies handed down generation to generation. One survived albeit, not much for the relief of pain and suffering endured.

Not only was there no running water in the old “cabin on the hill” there was no well from which to fetch it, rather, spring water from a robust “seep” a couple of hundred yards down over the slope back of the house. Inconvenient at the least since water for drinking, cooking and bathing had to be carried a distance up-hill in two-gallon zinc buckets or in empty one gallon Karo syrup cans.

Eventually a well was sunk back of the house and beyond it an open-side storage shed/chicken shelter. The shed, constructed of scrap lumber, was used as a place to discard used-up junk that might later be salvaged for heretofore unseen purpose and to accommodate the dozen or so yard hens that served the table with both eggs and meat.

Later still, ‘volunteer’ peach trees sprouted and grew from seeds thrown behind the shed, which, betwixt the shed and the foliage afforded a bit of privacy to replace that lost as the old outhouse, set off a ways to the western most side, weathered, withered and finally collapsed into the ground.

There were other than the comforting presence of an old dog, and a stretch of grass mixed with low growing flowers on warm and sunny afternoons to occupy the time of a lad newly introduced to the general creation. Nearby was a section of ‘new ground’ cleared for cultivation the year before, or the year before that. In springtime a field of small “saplings” grew from the stumps and roots of cut trees and each spring before planting time, the acreage was brushed, sprouts cut, piled and burned ere a plow point broke the ground or the plot given over to pastureland.

The springtime ritual of cutting, piling and burning was a favorite chore, if any labor at all might be viewed favorably by a youngster who’s feet coveted the freedom of game trails, and whose hands sought their own creative devices. Rather the mind drifted to the idleness of day dreams and adventure; amongst the sprouts we cut, piled and burned were saplings forked at the top, excellent to cut and use as slingshot stalks (back when automobile tire tubes had the ‘snap-back’ elasticity of real rubber) and from short pieces of budding hickory shoots one could unsheathe his old ‘Barlow,’ slip a section of bark and carve himself a wood whistle slick as store bought.

Wicked little darts were made by attaching a needle like pin and paper rudder, (fore and aft) to a matchstick, a ‘tractor’ that moved on its own from an empty spool of thread, a piece of bar soap, matchstick and rubber band, a Jews Harp of sorts from string and a small pliable branch. Ground snakes, lizards, salamanders and June bugs were a part of a lad’s youthful distractions, foraging for dew berries, black berries, huckleberries and black haws, part of the action.

As my youthful friends and I grew older the more daring became our adventures the more dangerous became our creations. How we survived climbing trees, scaling rock outcroppings, swinging like monkeys through stands of persimmon, jousting wasps and exploring snake dens may be best attributed to providence. Looking back, how else to explain it?

Today the honey locust over the back fence here at my home in Alma blossoms the whitest of white while, in stark contrast of color, swarms of large black bumble bees the size of a mans thumb gather pollen. Beds of Iris’ ring the lower yard roses dominate the upper, a low cover of small orange wildflowers push themselves up through a cover of Irish green lawn. An ideal place for a boy and his dog to while away a lazy summer afternoon.

Yes, we may dream our way back to yesterday and yearn for worlds of un-ending springtime: but the old dog is gone, the time of making slingshots and whittling whistles past: The magic of the seasons is still there but then was then and now is now and lawns have to be mowed.