Veterans

On this day, we as a nation take a designated day to recognize and appreciate those who proudly wore a uniform to serve and protect their country.

The term “their country” is a vague description of all that we call American. Even with all that is wrong with this nation and the human experience, thousands still proudly stand ready to defend it. Truth be told, most of those who no longer wear the uniform, would tell you they would do it again if needed.

Two songs, The Star Spangled Banner and Taps, still bring a tear to my eye because they remind me of the sacrifice of my fathers and some friends. They also fill me with a sense of pride.

Today, I salute my fellow veterans and say thank you to you and your families for your service and support.

The Worst of Man, the Best of Man

With Hurricane Michael slamming into and ripping apart parts of Florida, Georgia, and Alabama, there were plenty of opportunities. Opportunities for mankind to sink low and take advantage of his fellow man and for mankind to rise up and help. Stories abound of both.

A drunk driver swerved off the road and killed three linemen in Chipley, Florida. The National Guard was stationed in just about every town and hamlet to ward off vandalism and thievery. I saw a mobile vendor set up shop in Greenwood, Florida and sell food at prices one wouldn’t be asked to pay at fairs or amusement parks. I saw roofing contractors inflating the estimates on work so the owner could get more money. These are just a few examples of what I know. We could fill pages with how people were being scammed. However…

I saw more good than bad. Most of the people I encountered put their own needs on a back burner to help those around them. Many of them with damage to their own property felt “it can wait” and “others have it worse than we do.” These people formed a small army within their communities, working tirelessly helping others.

Friendship Baptist Church in Malone, Florida happened to be on the same electrical leg as the local prison, so when power was restored to the correctional facility the church also got power. Even before they received power, they opened their doors to be a major supplies distribution center to Malone and the surrounding areas. Men would load up supplies in their trucks and deliver goods to people out in rural areas who had no power and subsequently, no water. It complicated matters when vehicles were under trees or blocked in by trees covering driveways. The men, in their trucks, went around the debris to reach the people in need.

For several days, Friendship would feed anyone who came to their fellowship hall, including National Guard, linemen, first responders, and folks who hadn’t had a hot meal in days. When the area around Malone received power, the supplies were shipped to Marianna to help the people there.

Our little country church reached deep and out to those around us in southeast Alabama and even into Florida. A local gas station donated a pallet of water. We sent two small groups to Florida with supplies. Each time we discovered needs, we sent out the word, and the needs were met. We opened our pastorium to a displaced minister and his family from Florida until they could make other arrangements.

When in Florida, we made friends with an associate pastor and his family from Marianna who had been working so much to help their community that they had hardly touched their own yard. It was littered with huge oaks the wind had toppled. They had to drive on their lawn because their driveway was blocked. In short, with their help, we cleared out the driveway of the trees and limbs. We took a blower to it for good measure.

I personally reached out to the company where I work, both corporately and locally. The response was tremendous. Locally, my fellow workers gave supplies to our church to distribute in Florida. Supplies were shipped to us from Kansas, other parts of Florida, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and even from colleagues in North Carolina who had just gone through Hurricane Florence.

I am not recounting any of this to sound our horn. I am offering these few stories as a reminder of the goodness of God that still resides in our land and in our neighbors. The stories are endless of the sacrifice whole communities and individuals have made. I am only privy to these. They are a testimony to the good that still exists and the good that still can be done in the world. God is good and he continues to work through human hands to heal human hurts even in the darkest of times.

More Enjoyable Stories

Last month I featured several stories I enjoyed from new-to-me writers. I would like to introduce to you more new-to-me writers and some of their work. Some of their short stories are listed below along with the website links to the author and the story. I have given you a little taste of the story line. I hope you enjoy these as I did.

First Class – David Rae

Ruth took out her compact mirror and inspected her appearance. She was pretty enough for sure and her make-up was immaculate. Her hat was slightly shabby but decent. She could easily pass for a school teacher or perhaps the wife of a tradesman rather than a pregnant housemaid, who had been curtly dismissed and sent home in disgrace. Continue reading…

David Rae’s Website Homepage – http://davidrae-stories.com/

The Writer – Lorraine Johnston

The key slid into the lock. Richard entered his apartment, carrying his mail and his briefcase. He felt the stress leave his body as he crossed the threshold. He loved his apartment, even though it was much smaller than the house he had shared with his now ex-wife. He had his writing room. That’s all that counted. Continue reading…

Lorraine Johnston’s Website Homepage – http://lorrainejohnston.com/

The Diplomat’s Wife – Selma Writes

Patting and humming, Victoria paced the floor, burping her baby. She rubbed his back gently.

Why does it take longer for you to burp and fall asleep with me than you do when daddy rubs your back? Perhaps he’s a better back rubber than I. Oh, I cannot wait for him to return.

With heavy eyelids, she glanced over at the clock. Five thirty. She stifled a yawn and hummed quietly.

Patting and humming, patting and humming.

It’s not your fault that I’m sleep deprived, it’s not your fault. But these four nights without daddy’s help has turned me into a real zombie. I cannot wait for him to come back to us.

She sighed, caressing her baby’s head gently. His golden curls latched around her fingers. She paced the parquet floor. Continue reading…

Selma Writes’ Website Homepage – https://www.selmawrites.com/

A Letter To My Daughter’s Mother – M.E. Cooper

You don’t know me, but because of you, I am a mom. Because you made the choice to leave her, your newborn baby, where someone was sure to find her, she has had a love filled life.

I can’t begin to know or imagine the thoughts and hardships you faced when you made this decision. I don’t know if you wanted her and couldn’t keep her, or if you just couldn’t handle the prospect of being a mother at that time. I do know the policy of your country made boys more favored than girls. Maybe this is what influenced your decision. But whatever the reason, the question of why you did what you did, is one that will always remain a mystery to me. Continue reading…

M.E. Cooper’s Website Homepage – https://me-cooper.net/

Sharing My Day

This is a blog I started to write last year but did not post it then. I found it again as I was going through some other unfinished posts. I thought it amusing, so I wanted to share.

I don’t usually blog about my day since they are usually so mundane, but it seems like God throws one in there just to liven things up a bit. Like the time I boarded a plane to Denver, and I walked past Dr. James and Shirley Dobson. He is one of my spiritual heroes, and I couldn’t believe I saw him. Then I got to speak to him. That is another story.

Encounter Number One

adults airport architecture blur

I thought things were going well when I arrived at the airport an hour early. A few times I have been late and once I missed my flight. I checked my bag and went to the TSA line. I always take off my shoes before actually getting to the bin line and scoot them along on the floor as I take my laptop out of the case. This time I reached for my shoe to find cat manure on the bottom. Really? I am about to board a plane.

I quickly dismiss myself from the line and make a quick trip to the lawn out in front of the airport. I can only imagine what anyone who saw me was thinking. Don’t know if you have ever been blessed to have this happen. If you have, you know it doesn’t all come off. I did the best I could and then got back in line. I took off my shoes and put them in the bin and went through the metal detector. The detector where I went through gave out a ding. I paused.

“Oh,” said the all too happy TSA agent. “That was a random alarm. We need to check your shoes.” I began to laugh.

“Ok. Just thought I should let you know I had to just wipe cat crap off the bottom. So, I am sorry about that.”

“No worries,” she said. “I won’t touch them with my hands.” She swabbed them when they rode by. Knowing ammonia is a key chemical in some bomb-making; I was a little worried she would discover too much cat ammonia. My shoes passed.

As I gathered my things, I thought this has got to be a start to a very interesting trip. I had seen this general scenario played out before. I smiled as I made my way, shoes, and belongings in hand, to my seat to get readjusted. After a few minutes, we were allowed to board. I am not sure how, but I had lost my Silver Medallion status, and I was in Zone 2 even though I was scheduled to sit in A5 toward the front of the plane.

Encounter Number Two

white hat in woman s face

When I boarded, I noticed a small Asian man in my seat and next to him, in the aisle seat a small Asian woman. I had been through this scenario before. They could not get a seat together so one of them got in my seat and would hope I was an understanding passenger that would trade with them. I danced with them.

“You are in my seat,” I said waiting for the reply. He didn’t speak up. She did. In broken English with an Asian accent.

“You sit there. Okay. Okay. You sit there.” Hmm. She didn’t ask; she told me to sit there. In the in the interest of not causing an international scene, I relented and sat down next to a gentleman who took up his seat and part of mine. No, this not okay I thought in an Asian accent; me cannot move. Has your brain operated strangely before you had time to stop it? Yeah, that happened. I repented. The flight was uneventful except for the fact the Asian lady spoke in her native tongue to her companion, which was kind of cool. Except I don’t think she took a breath the entire flight and I don’t think he got in much more than fifty words in the interchange.

Encounter Number Three

appetizer close up cucumber cuisine

With less than forty-five minutes before my next flight and my stomach growling at me, I stopped at my usual eatery and got a Greek salad, complete with Taziki sauce. Midway through the salad, my phones start annoying me to charge them. I finished my salad and dutifully sought out a changing station near my gate. I found a charging station several spots down. Plugged them up and sat in the nearest chair which also happened to be in front of the trash cans. Hey, it was near the walkway, so I began to watch the people around; wondering where they were going and what their story was. A nicely dressed lady walked by, and I heard her say “You shot what?” Of course, it is not hunting season, so that kind of piqued my curiosity. A pretty blonde in high heels walked by, and I smiled as I watched every male eye, young and old follow her.

Five minutes into the charging and people watching a gentleman came by me and threw his gum into the recycle container instead of the garbage can. It caught my eye since I have done this several times myself when I could not get past people to get to the trash can. I looked at his face and instantly realized that I knew him, but I couldn’t place where from where I knew him. He walked away and went into to a newsstand store across from me when it hit me: that was Sammy Kershaw. Those who know anything about Country music from the 90’s knows who he is. He was on top of his game then. Not only was I amazed that I saw him, but I was also amazed I recognized him. Some things you just never seem to forget.

Encounter Number Four

Well, I thought, I have met Dr. Dobson, saw Buzz Aldrin the astronaut and now was within two feet of Sammy Kershaw. Too bad I took so long to recognize him. I could have had a great conversation with him I bet. In the middle of my thoughts, the gate agent requested us to board our plane. I was on a little earlier than some this time and got to my seat before anyone else did. I sat down and buckled up. A young lady sat down in the seat next to me and shoved a purple overnight bag under the seat in front of her. Let’s call her Sherry. Sherry had room in the overhead bin but elected to put it under the seat instead.

selective focus photography of white dog

We began to converse in which I learned the purple tote was a pet carrier with a little dog in it. It wasn’t uncommon for people to carry their pets on flights. They have to pay extra unless they are a service animal, which I found out “Pumpkin” the dog was. She looked like a cross between a poodle and a terrier. Pumpkin, I was told had to be sedated for the flight from Texas to Atlanta and it seemed the medication was wearing off which was evident by the clawing and chewing on the cloth carrier. Sherry asked if I thought it would be okay for her to hold Pumpkin until the plane took off. I shrugged.

Pumpkin, the comfort dog, was a little agitated even though she had that partially sedated look in her eyes. When we began our push back from the gate, Pumpkin was returned to her cage. She came back out when we got to cruising altitude.

Pumpkin and I became friends, which I think endeared me to her owner. I say this because she started to give me her life history and the history of Pumpkin and her other two dogs. All seemed well until Pumpkin started to growl at the flight attendant as she passed. Perhaps the sedative was wearing off faster, which defeated the purpose of being a comfort dog because Sherry was also becoming unsettled. It was quite interesting to watch the interaction. Pumpkin thought it would be okay to growl even louder at the flight attendants as they got closer, which seemed to upset Sherry even more.

Then it happened. The attendant got a little too close with her cart for Pumpkin. Pumpkin started to bark, and Sherry panicked. She peck-type kissed Pumpkin on her mouth in an attempt to keep her quiet, all the while telling her that it was “okay” and “mommy” wanted her to stop. I was waiting for Pumpkin to bite Sherry on the lips. Realizing the tactic wasn’t working, Sherry put Pumpkin back in the carrier and slid her under the seat with an apology and promise to get her out as soon as she could. I think Sherry needed sedating now. She sat there in stunned silence the rest of the flight.

I put in my earbuds and turned on my music. I have to admit. You can’t make this stuff up, and people can really be entertaining.

The Game – Guest Post by D.L. Strand

Every once in a while you come across a piece of writing that strikes a chord within you. When I read this short story, I immediately loved it. It touched, what I believe, every writer who has been at this craft for any length of time feels. I asked if I could share this story. You can find other writing from D.L. Strand here.

The Game

The old man sat at his desk, scanning the fresh-typed words. His Olympia Manual waited patiently. Silently. Eager to record any thoughts he felt like sharing.

The words wouldn’t flow as they once did. There was a time when the hammers struck sparks and the words exploded off the page for those who read them.

He pursued the revelation. The constant eureka. He didn’t know how the process worked. It just worked. Of course, some days were better than others.

Especially now.

This was the tragedy of age. He knew he wasn’t as fast as he once was. Not as sharp. The audience was smaller, many of them moved on, one way or another.

His fingers, like his back, grown bent and stiff with age, moved slow and ponderous on the keyboard. Still, like a well-worn hammer, they pounded out the words as they came.

Still, every morning he sat down at his well-worn chair – the one that leaned slightly to the right – and hunted.

There are those who think inspiration a gift. He knew better. He knew Inspiration as a fickle mistress, to be wooed, seduced, pampered. The more you romanced her, the more she’d flirt with you.

She never came on strong. Not at first. She’d lightly tease the fuzzy edges of his dreams. Stroke the embers of his imagination. Eventually, he’d lose himself in the seduction. The fire. Unaware of the world around him. Typing furiously. Images scorching the page. Fingers struggling to keep up with the drama playing out in his head.

Sometimes he chased her all day, it was true. Never catching a glimpse. But later, after he’d left his desk and put his labors behind him, she would tempt some half-formed dream out of his thoughts. It could be during the news, a movie, while drifting off to sleep, or in the shower.

It seemed, that sometimes, running water drew her to him. Obviously, it wasn’t his body. Not anymore. Not ever. He had after all, the frame of a writer, built through years of sitting – stooped over his typewriter – drinking black coffee, eating donuts or whatever his wife put in front of him. Some days, he was unaware that he had eaten at all. But the evidence was there. The empty cup, the smeared plate.

It wasn’t that life didn’t attract him. He loved his wife. He loved the mornings spent together over eggs and coffee. And he loved the children they’d raised together.

He knew that it hadn’t been easy. Artists are a selfish lot, after all. Everything takes a backseat to the muse.

He was committed to his muse. And why not? Had they not shared 1000 stories? Created people? Worlds? Gods? Had she not given him a life richer than any he’d hoped for, had he worked for a company or gotten a job?

Job! It should be a four letter word. Who cared if he ate. Art drove him. He could go days without eating, but never a day without his art. No, never that.

So he sat in the place where he knew, one day he would die, surrounded by his volumes of his work, and those his peers. His awards. A fan’s standout letter claiming his words changed her life. A  framed note from an old teacher insisting he had no talent. In many ways, that letter gave him more pleasure than any of the awards or acclamations.

Today, he sensed a slight difference in the air. In the pressure on his face. In his lungs. Was it the weather? The season? No, he thought to himself. Nothing so mundane as that.

He searched for the cause. Not with his eyes or nose, but with his fingers. His mind. He knew that the change was not external. And yet…

He asked his muse, what was the change? If he could gain the truth of it, he could express it.

He sensed a stirring at his back. A bony hand on his shoulder. It was The Call. The one he’d dreaded. No Muse reached out for him today. No, it was her cousin, come to steal his breath.

He felt the icy breath on his ear. “Your efforts are done. Cease your toils.”

He typed on as if his fingers could flee for him.

‘I won’t leave with another story in me.’ He pressed on, struggling to remain, to complete just one more tale. To share another small slice of his soul with a hungry world.

“Come. She’s no longer yours. Moved on to younger fingers – agile minds. Her faithless eyes gaze elsewhere.”

Bitter sweat racing down his neck, he hunkered down, and continued his pursuit. His fingers floundered here and there.

“Stop this folly. Let someone else have their turn. Step back. Stand up. Release your pain and be free.”

He leaned in all the harder. His brow furrowed – squeezing words out of his mind. It dripped slowly, like juice from a spent orange.

“Come.” Another bony hand grasped his shoulder. An ache clutched his chest.

“NO!” He shrugged off the clasping hands. Not while I have breath in my lungs. Life in my fingers. They flailed for the formless. The story. The song. Just one touch to scratch another tale out of the scaly mind that once gushed forth prose and song like a fountain of shimmering water.

The Presence leaned in. Weight bore down on his shoulders. The final kiss to end his tale.

His fingers began to falter, to stumble, to slow.

‘Wait!’ He thought. “What was death, but the ultimate inspiration?”

He inhaled deep and righted himself. Ripped out the spent page, replaced it, and began the race anew.

He recognized The Shade for what it was. Just an outfit. A costume.

His Muse loved him. Loved the chase. She tried one final time. “Have an end.” She whispered.

He smiled. “No.” He whispered back “Let’s dance.”

She smiled and kissed his head. Her man. Her writer. He’d just needed a little push after all.

The shot fired. The game was on.

D.L. Strands Websites:

http://dlstrand.com/

The Storyteller’s Pub

 

Remember

On water, land, and in flight, they answered the call,

Protectors of liberty and right, against evil and the wrong.

Marching to a different drum, they sang a different song.

Misunderstood by many, as to why they gave their all,

 

America, these are your daughters, these are your sons,

These are your warriors, who gave all when they gave.

We recount to the generations, the valor of the brave.

Now we are the watchers, we volunteer to be the ones.

 

Listen now, dear children, of our country’s warrior band,

Hear their stories, honor them, be proud of their fight.

How one could give their life in pursuit of the right.

Grasp what was given since the beginning of our land.

 

As the flags are lowered, and the lone bugle plays.

Turn your thoughts to heroes, and the sacrifices made.

To the guardians of freedom, and the high cost they paid.

To those with warrior hearts, who stepped into harm’s ways.

 

You are their legacy, the torch is passed down to you,

Hold high your heads, as Tap’s last note is played.

Hold tight to their memory, and never let it fade.

Salute, remember and give these heroes their due.

Meet Linda Tillis; Crime Scene Investigator (Ret.), Photographer, and Author.

Linda Tillis

One of the best things I have gained from blogging, writing, podcasting, and audiobook narrating over these past several years is the people that I engage with. One of those people that I have had the honor of developing a friendship and partnership with is Linda Tillis. She has written three books, and I have had the pleasure of narrating two. I believe you will find her as interesting as I do. Recently, she agreed to let me interview her.

 

Q: Your third book (A Heart for All Time) has just released on Amazon for pre-sale on Kindle. Congratulations!   Have you always wanted to be an author?

A:  As much as I loved to read in my younger years, I never once gave thought to becoming an author.  And I did love to read!  In my senior year of high school, I would sell book reports to friends during Thursday’s lunch hour.

 

Q: Tell us about your early career that led up to your writing.

A:  Immediately after graduation, I went to work at a sewing factory. (Thank goodness for four years of Home Economics). I spent eighteen years there, nine years on the sewing floor, then nine years as the assistant to the production manager. When garment manufacturing started to die here in the United States, I saw the handwriting on the wall and started looking for another job.

I went to work for the local police department. I spent a few months as a dispatcher, then applied for an opening as a non-sworn Crime Scene Investigator.  The Corporal who trained me had been a medic in Vietnam. He had been doing CSI work for ten years and believed that no one should do it for longer than that.  I replaced him and went on to do the work for twenty years.

During those years I saw a side of life that most folks never see, and that’s a good thing. The constant exposure to death, brutality, and total lack of morality can either harden a person or push a person to the edge of their personal tolerance.  My husband realized I had reached my limit and suggested that I retire.  I realized he was correct, and when I reached the twenty-year mark, I left police work.

 

Q: It’s interesting that you have broken down your career into segments. So, what was the next chapter in your life? Pun intended.

A: My husband bought me a good camera and said,” Now go out and take pictures of living things.” And so, I did.

Once I had a nice portfolio of nature photography, he insisted I should write articles and sell them.  I sold two separate articles, with photos, to the Florida Wildlife Magazine. During this time, I had gone back to work for the local sheriff office as a 911 dispatcher. At the end of seven years, I retired permanently. Then my husband said, “You should write a book about the things you’ve seen.”

I jokingly said, okay. But once I had started, the first book just poured out. I found it was less painful to address the awful memories if I put them in a historical context, so I became a historical romance/inspirational writer. Telling stories of strong women who overcome adversity to find the love they deserve.

 

Q: Looking back, what would you say that you would have done differently?

A:  The only thing I might have done differently, is to start writing earlier, however, I am a firm believer that everything happens in the Lord’s time. I believe He knew I would need this career at this point in life, and I attribute my small success to Him.

 

A Heart for All TimeQ: So, now you have three books out. The most recent, A Heart for All Time, has just been released. Would you tell us a little about it?

A: It is a time travel set in Greeneville, Tennessee, where my sister has lived for several years. Just like the first two, there is a thread of law enforcement. The heroine, Sarah Haskins, is a 911 operator. She buys a piece of Cherokee Indian jewelry that transports her back to 1890 just in time to save a man from hanging.

 

Q: I would like to post links to your books and your author page. Which ones would you like for me to use?

A: I am in the process of building a new website, but, anyone interested can follow me at

https://www.facebook.com/LindaTillisAuthor/

The books can be found on Amazon at   https://amzn.to/2uL3TBJ

Or The Wild Rose Press at   https://bit.ly/2IuRrYT