This week the letter is G. G is for glass blowing. In January, Gina and I took a trip to Lincoln City, Oregon for a reunion of her siblings. One of the things that we did while we were there was to visit The Jennifer Sears Glass Art Studio.
The glass blowing artists have some of their work on display in the studio. We met Kelly Howard, and she explained some of the process of producing these beautiful fish that are some of her signature pieces.
One of the things that the studio offers is the chance to blow your own glass. You can make a Float, Fluted Bowl, Paperweight, Starfish, Heart or Jumbo Float. They supply everything you need and have expert artists help you. You can get up close and personal with the process of creating Art Glass. Friendly instructors guide you through a creative process that has been handed down from generation to generation through the centuries. Gina wanted to experience blowing glass, and decided to make a sea float.
Her instructor was Andrew Kogle. He was right with her for each step and made sure everything was done correctly while letting her do as much of the process as possible.
This week the letter is F. F is for folk music. I have always loved folk music. As a young kid in the 60's I grew up listening to Peter, Paul and Mary, The Kingston Trio, Trini Lopez, Judy Collins, Pete Seeger, Bob Dylan and Arlo Guthrie. Some of the earliest records that I owned were by The Wedgwood who were a Christian folk group. I still love to listen to their music. It takes me back to my childhood.
For those of you who have never heard The Wedgwood; here is the song, There's A Light, from their Country Church LP.
Over the last couple of years, my favorite folk music group has been 3 Penny Acre. Their name comes from the fact that the price of the Louisiana Purchase was three cents an acre. 3 Penny Acre is Bayard Blain, Bernice Hembree, and Bryan Hembree. They are all wonderful musicians, vocalists and songwriters. There sound is acoustic, and has been labled as Folk, Bluegrass, and Americana.
I first heard 3 Penny Acre when they came to Mena, Arkansas and gave a concert at The Ouachita Little Theater. I was curious about them because Bernice Hembree grew up here in Mena. I was blown away by how talented they were. Last fall I heard that they would be at the Ozark Folk Festival in Eureka Springs, Arkansas. We made plans to attend and were weren't disappointed. They put on an awesome show.
One of my favorite songs of theirs is the title track off of their new album Highway 71. Highway 71 runs through Mena, and my shop is located on the highway. When we first moved to Arkansas in 1981, Highway 71 still had one lane bridges and there was a popular bumper sticker that stated "Please pray for me; I drive Highway 71. Here is their performance of Highway 71 at The Ozark Folk Festival.
For the past few weeks 3 Penny Acre has been providing the music for the world premier of the play "Sundown Town" in Fayetteville, Arkansas. Sundown Town is a significant new addition to the American stage. When an African American drifter wanders into a rural North Arkansas town in the summer of 1918, a law prohibiting "strangers" after dark threatens to tear the tight-knit community apart. The play features more than a dozen bluegrass, folk and gospel songs. Sundown Town is an uncommon theatrical story of prejudice and redemption, persecution and hope.
This Sunday evening was the 3 Penny Acre Sundown Town Closing Concert. We were able to attend, and it was an incredible two plus hour concert. They played all of our favorites plus some new songs from Sundown Town, and from a new album they are working on that will have a Celtic influence. Here is video from the concert of the song, Ballad Of John Lambeth.
To close out the show, the band invited the cast of the play to sing "I'm Ready For The Times To Get Better" What a fun way to end the concert on such an upbeat note.
My wife and I have been involved in our local Relay For Life since its inception in 2007. My wife is the chairperson and I am the online chair and the accounting chair. American Cancer Society volunteers hold more than 5,000 Relay For Life events in the United States. There are also Relay For Life events held in 19 countries around the world. One of those countries is Australia.
One of the Australian Relay For Life stories that I recently came across was the story of Sharon Cohrs. Sharon and her husband are avid mountain climbers, and in 2007 they were preparing to climb Aconcagua, a 22,841 foot tall peak in South America, the highest mountain outside of Asia, when Sharon found a pea-sized lump in her left breast. After a biopsy and days of waiting, she learned she had breast cancer. “Instead of embarking on an amazing adventure with my husband doing what we love, I was undergoing surgery and chemotherapy treatment,” she says.
Sharon had climbed several soaring mountains in the past 4 years, but this time she was scaling a different kind of mountain. Taking “one step at a time,” she remained focused, positive, and determined to beat breast cancer.
Now she is “Climbing for a Cause” in an effort to raise $250,000 for cancer research and to bring awareness to the disease. With a goal of being the first breast cancer survivor in the world to reach the summit of Mount Everest, Sharon climbed Ama Dablam in Nepal in October 2009 and is climbing Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania and Cho Oyu in Nepal this year. When Sharon reaches the peak of each mountain, she showcases her Relay For Life pride by putting on her Relay shirt and taking a photo with her homemade banner saying, “Survivors can conquer mountains.”
Sharon’s story is an incredible message of hope. If you are a cancer survivor with a story to tell, will you share your story as well to motivate survivors worldwide to keep up the fight? Use this form to submit your message of hope and encouragement to cancer survivors across the globe, then encourage friends and family to do the same. Help us gather 1,000 messages of hope by the end of February! The more messages we have, the stronger our collective voice will be.
This week the letter is E. E is for epilepsy awareness.
Epilepsy affects over 50 million people worldwide. That's more than multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy and Parkinson's disease combined.
When I was a boy I suffered from a mild form of epilepsy. I had episodes called petit mals. A petit mal seizure is the term commonly given to a staring spell, most commonly called an "absence seizure." It is a brief (usually less than 15 seconds) disturbance of brain function due to abnormal electrical activity in the brain. I had no idea that other people did not experience them. I could feel them coming on and knew to sit down or hold on to something for a few seconds.
MY SCHOOL PHOTO CIRCA 1967
The first time that my Mother witnessed one of my petit mals she was very scared. I guess that my eyes rolled back in my head. I knew that for those few seconds that I could not see, but did not know that my eyes rolled back. I didn't think that it was a big deal, but my Mom said I had to see the doctor as soon as possible. The doctors were able to control the petit mals with medication, and told me that I would most likely outgrow them by the time I was 20. Fortunately I did, and was taken off of the medication by the time I was 18 or 19.
Epilepsy is a medical condition that produces seizures affecting a variety of mental and physical functions. It’s also called a seizure disorder. When a person has two or more unprovoked seizures, they are considered to have epilepsy.
A seizure happens when a brief, strong surge of electrical activity affects part or all of the brain. One in 10 adults will have a seizure sometime during their life.
Seizures can last from a few seconds to a few minutes. They can have many symptoms, from convulsions and loss of consciousness to some that are not always recognized as seizures by the person experiencing them or by health care professionals: blank staring, lip smacking, or jerking movements of arms and legs.
One of the reasons for this Epilepsy Awareness post is because of my blog friend Michele over at Rocky Mountain Retreat Photography. Take a look at her blog and you will see some of the most outstanding photography you will find anywhere. I always enjoy her blog. Michele is an excellent photographer, but she battles epilepsy and suffers from tonic clonic (gran mal) seizures, a type that affects the whole brain.
Michele says that she has been suffering seizures since she was a young person. People with seizures often suffer more from the attitudes of those around them than from the seizures itself. Michele is in my prayers daily as she battles the seizures.
Please take the time to learn more about this condition that affects over 50 million people worldwide. Based on recent surveys, The Center For Disease Control estimates that nearly 2.5 million people in the United States have epilepsy, with 150,000 developing the condition each year.
One way to get involved is to participate in Purple Day. Purple Day was started in 2008, by nine-year-old Cassidy Megan of Nova Scotia, Canada. It is an international grassroots effort dedicated to increasing awareness about epilepsy worldwide. On March 26, people from around the globe are asked to wear purple and spread the word about epilepsy. You can learn more about Purple Day by going here.
After a week of snow and record low temperatures, Saturday was an incredible day. With blue skies, sunshine, and a 60 degree temperature, It was a perfect day. My sister and her daughters are here visiting and we were able to spend the day with them.
We spent the day in Hot Springs, Arkansas. In the morning we attended church at the Hot Springs Seventh-day Adventist Church. We spent the afternoon at Garvin Woodland Gardens. Even though it is too early in the year for anything to be in bloom, the gardens were still beautiful and it was a great place to spend the day outdoors.
Although we have been to Garvin Woodland Gardens many times, today was the first time we were able to visit the Anthony Chapel that is located at the gardens. It is a very popular place to have a wedding, and is usually being used when we visit. It is a very beautiful chapel that gives you the feeling of worshiping outdoors.
On our way back home the sun was going down and the sunset was breathtaking. I stopped beside the road near Oden, Arkansas to take some photos. It was a perfectly beautiful ending to a beautiful day!
Today I received a phone call from my friend, Neal Scott. He let me know that his wife, Tillie, had passed away last night.
A couple of years ago, in February 2009, I had received a call from Neal. At that time Tillie was recovering from heart surgery, and Neal had decided that he should move from the ends of the earth in eastern Oklahoma to a retirement community near Oklahoma City. He felt that they needed to be nearer their doctors, and emergency medical care. He had made arrangements for his son to come and help them move.
When Neal called me that Thursday, there was a sense of urgency in his voice. He said, "I hate to ask you this, but I didn't know who else to ask. I feel strongly that I need to get Tillie to the retirement village this weekend. She has had a small stroke, and the doctors say you never know if there will be another one. My son won't be able to come for few weeks. Would you be able to help us move this weekend."
I told Neal that we would be over Sunday morning to help them move. Daddy and I got up early Sunday morning and were at Neal's place before 8 o'clock. When we looked at what needed to be moved and then looked at my pickup we began to wonder if we could get it all on. I knew that if anyone could it would be my Daddy.
DADDY TYING THE LOAD SECURELY
We were able to put in my little S-10 pickup, 2 beds, a large dresser, bedding, chairs, clothes, kitchen appliances, and a microwave. We were also able to find places for a number of cases of canned food they had. We definitely looked like Okie's and Arkie's. It made me think of the Grapes of Wrath or maybe the Beverly Hillbillies. As we left for the 200 mile trip to the retirement village, we had to stop at the first gas station with air to pump up the tires on my little truck. There was way more weight on the truck than it was designed for. We took it easy on the trip over, because the 4 cylinder engine had a hard time going more that 55 mph. As we drove, Neal kept me entertained with the story of how he and Tillie met, and the early years at La Vida Mission.
AT A REST STOP ALONG I-40
After about 4 hours we pulled into the Summit Ridge Retirement Village. Neal and Tillie were moving into a small but nice 1 bedroom apartment. Even though they wouldn't have the room they were used to and the wide open spaces, they would be so much safer with people nearby to help if there was a medical emergency. There was a beautiful church right across the street from their apartment.
NEAL UNLOADING THE PICKUP AT THE APARTMENT
The next morning, Neal and Tillie were going to drive into town to get some things at the grocery store. Before they had gone far they turned around and went back to the apartment because the roads were icing up. Before long they were completely iced in.
I was so thankful that Neal and Tillie were in a safe place where help was available if they needed it. Their place out in the woods was completely iced in, and there would have been no way to get help if they needed it. I think that God nudged Neal that Thursday and impressed him that he needed to be in a safe place before the ice storm hit. I believe that God is concerned with every detail of our lives, and that if we listen he will guide us. It was great to be able to help old friends and to feel that they had the security of being in a safe place.
Summit Ridge proved to be an excellent place for Neal and Tillie to live. Over the past two years Tillie has suffered from several strokes, but with help and medical facilities close by her time with Neal was extended. She fought a good fight, but finally last night her fight ended.
I have known Neal and Tillie for over 10 years. They moved to this area after he retired. He bought acreage in the middle of nowhere, Oklahoma where he and his family built a house. Neal would have been a great homesteader, as he is very self sufficient. He actually went to New Mexico as a young man to try and claim a homestead. He didn't get the homestead, but he did find Tillie. He and Tillie were instrumental in starting La Vida Mission for the Navajo people of northwestern New Mexico.
The property of La Vida Mission was once an abandoned trading post. In this one-room trading post, the little mission was born. School was held for six students in the crumbling, mice-infested building by Neal and Tillie, who lived in the school building with their two tiny sons, Steven and Tom. Each day Tillie drove the rutted reservation roads to pick up her students, then returned them to their hogans at the end of the day.
In December 1962 Tillie wrote, "Up on the bluff on the Mission grounds a road is taking shape, a 600- ft. well has been dug, and a pump installed. A 24x88-ft. two-room school building is being built according to specifications, with the foundation, floor and plumbing already finished.
"We here at the Mission so wanted a school this year that we relinquished our bedroom for the purpose. To date, we have nine students all busy learning English. Six are starting from scratch. We travel 35 miles daily to get these nine boys and girls. We could get many more, but our funds do not cover the expense of the gas required to traverse such distances, nor does our vehicle have what it takes to navigate these twisting, rutted, sandy-in-spots and muddy-at-times roads."
Neal and Tillie started their married life with a passion for missions and decided that they would follow wherever God led them. During over 40 years of ministry they worked in many places including Jamaica, Mexico and Africa. Neal was a printer by trade, and he managed printing presses in many places. Tillie was a school teacher and always found ways to help others wherever they were. She always had a special place in her heart for kids, from those Navajo Indians at La Vida Mission where her mission work started to the kids of Africa. Her and Neal adopted two children from Africa and brought them back to the U.S. when they retired.
Even in retirement Neal still had a passion for missions and helping others. He was a local volunteer fireman and helped those in his community however he could. He spent several months after Hurricane Katrina helping in a relief distribution warehouse in south Louisiana.
I know that Tillie spent her life dedicated to God and because of that her focus was always helping others. So many lives were better because Tillie was there for them. I am confident that because of the way she lived her life for others and her close relationship with God that Tillie will be in Heaven. I hope to be able to see her there. I hope that the circle will be unbroken.
This week the letter is D. D is for Dam, as in the old stone dam right here in Mena.
I like to hike back to this old stone dam that is not far from town. I first found the dam in August 2006 through Geocaching. There was a cache listed that was called The CCC DAM BOMBER TRAIL cache. I had a hard time figuring out how to get to this cache, and even though I made it I did everything wrong. I found an old cowpath through the brush that took me to the bottom of the dam on Ward Lake. I climbed the dam and bushwacked through the bottom of Ward Lake as it was dry. I found my way up the creek bed and eventually came to the bottom of the CCC Dam. I had to climb the dam to get to the cache. Once I made it to the dam, I realized that there was a trail, and I took it out to the road.
GINA ON THE DAM
The dam was built in the 1930's by the Civilian Conservation Corps. The CCC was a work relief program for young men from unemployed families, established on March 21, 1933, by U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt. As part of Roosevelt's New Deal legislation, it was designed to combat unemployment during the Great Depression. The CCC became one of the most popular New Deal programs among the general public and operated in every U.S. state.
During its nine-year existence the CCC enlisted nearly 3 million single men between the ages of seventeen and twenty-five to work at erosion control, fire prevention, land reclamation, and pest eradication. For their service, enrollees received $30 monthly, $25 of which they were required to send home to their families.
In Arkansas, the CCC erected 446 buildings, constructed 6,500 miles of road, built eight dams, laid 250 miles of fence, erected 86 lookout towers in forests, planted 19.4 million trees and strung 8,600 miles of telephone line. They also built cabins, pavilions, bridges and trails in Arkansas’ state parks.
VIEW FROM BELOW THE DAM
Every time that I reach the dam I am amazed by it . It looks like an archeological site. The trail is almost never used, so there is absolutely no indication of people having been there. Every time I see it I feel like I have discovered it again.
Oh the weather outside is frightful, But the fire is so delightful, And since we've no place to go, Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!
The forecast for Friday, February 4th was innocent enough. A few snow flurries early in the morning with accumulations from one half to one inch; High temperature 38 degrees. The forecasters missed just a little bit. In the Mena area snowfall totals ranged from 4 and a half to eight inches. We received a little more that five inches here at the house.
My little shop truck had a hard time with the roads. I thought I wouldn't even be able to get out of my driveway, but after numerous attempts I finally made it. I went in to work, but didn't have a single customer all day. I took some photos of our old cars in the snow.
After finishing the job that I had inside my shop building I decided to take off early. I took my nieces playing in the snow. We had a great time but Brooke, the standard poodle that we are dogsitting, had the best time of all.
Just down the hill behind our house is Prairie Creek. We took our walk down to the creek and let Brooke run and play in the meadow by the creek. Prairie Creek is always beautiful, but there was a very special beauty with all of the snow.
I put a few video clips together to make a short movie of our snow day.
Click on the photo above to purchase my latest book, In the Fog, for $5.99. The Kindle version is only $2.99.
I was born in 1956 in Madison, Tennessee, while my parents were attending Madison College. I grew up along the Front Range in Colorado, attending schools in Longmont, Brighton, Boulder and Loveland, Colorado. Two years after graduating from Campion Academy, I married my sweetheart, Regina. We lived in Loveland, Colorado for six years before moving to Mena in western Arkansas.
I love the people of Mena and the friendly easy going way of life here. I have owned and operated my own business since moving to Mena. I enjoy the natural beauty of western Arkansas and being out of doors.
My newspaper column in The Mena Star, An Arkie’s Faith, premiered on January 7, 2016. In March 2017, I published my first book, titled The Little Things - Devotionals from a small town, using articles from the column. I published the second book in the Devotionals from a small town series, titled In the Fog, in December 2017.