Friends for a Season

This morning as I sip on my chocolate donut coffee and peruse Facebook, I am very sad to hear about a friend from my past life (before marriage) who is very ill and is spending her last days with her loved ones.

Prior to this I had written about my first job and apartment in Huntsville, Alabama, and briefly shared a Christmas memory about my first Christmas away from home.  I cut and pasted that memory and added some other memories.  Please take a moment to read this today.

My very first grown-up job was with Girl Scouts of Northern Alabama, Inc. in Huntsville, Alabama. I was hired to be the Director of Programs. I am not sure why or how I got this job, as it was kind of a middle management position and I only had my camp experience to go on.   So many other people would have done that job better than me, and as a young person in a new job, I had something to prove. (This could be another whole post on me being too big for my own britches. We learn so much as we grow up!)

The people I worked with there at GSNA were awesome. They showed me what it was like to work as a team and took me in. They taught me how to adult, taught me how to be a team player, gave me advice on my relationship with Brad, and were my family away from my family.  Huntsville was a great place to live, except that it was in Alabama, and not in Tennessee.  One such person who really took me in was Kaye.

The details are little muddled, but we ended up going to visit her volunteers in a very rural corner of Northern Alabama. She asked me to hang out, and offered to let me spend the night at her house, where I met 3 of her sweet kids–at that time I think the boys were in high school, and the youngest was in elementary school.

Kaye was a very transparent person. You never had to guess what she was thinking.  She knew a lot of people and was a good friend to me.

I remember it was December, and I was going to be able to take a few days off to go home at Christmas, so I had already decided not to have a tree, as I wouldn’t be home anyway.  Thankfully Kaye had taken me under her wing.  Kaye was my partner in crime, who by the time she was 40 had seen a lot more of the world than me.  She was the mother of 4 kids, and had been through a divorce, and had lost some very precious people in her life by the time we met.  We spent a lot of time driving back and forth from Huntsville to Guntersville, where our camp was, and then to Cullman where she lived.  The next day we got up and went to Moulton.

We met with some volunteers and then we drove. And drove. It was a long way from Huntsville to the farthest most points of our region.  We were still driving through the sticks of Northern Alabama that afternoon, when she asked, “Hey, do you have a tree?” I told her I didn’t, because I wasn’t going to be there. “Everybody has to have a tree at Christmas. Let’s stop and get one.” I was wondering where in the world we were going to get one in the middle of no-where when she stopped her car on the side of the road. “Here’s a good place.” I was like “Um, isn’t this stealing? What if we get caught trespassing on someone’s property!” She said something like, “Shut up, we’re getting you a tree.” Before I could ask how we were going to chop it down she pulls a machete out from under her front seat!

Real quick-like she went a few steps into the woods and said, “Here’s a good one.” It was a cedar tree. She started whacking at it. “But, Kaye….” I decided I’d better shut up, since she had a machete. She chopped it down and threw it in her trunk in less than 5 minutes and we were on our way again.

We got a stand and I put it in my little apartment in my redneck neighborhood, and decorated it with all the ornaments I’d collected over the years that my mom had given me when I moved out. It ended up being pretty and made me feel a little more like home. I am so thankful that Kaye came along at just the right time.

Unfortunately when we got back to work late that afternoon, we both got reprimanded for not telling anyone where we were going. That was 1991, and there were no cell phones, so we weren’t connected to the office that day.  And while I’m sure it was frustrating to be the management part of managing us, it was well worth the day spent with Kaye.

I have a lot more stories to share about Kaye.  She taught me how to love life and have fun with friends. She was often impulsive, but also witty, and was always up for a laugh–even when you were on the verge of tears. I value those 18 months I spent on my own down in Huntsville, and those 18 months I spent learning how to adult. I also want to thank Kaye for what she did for me.

I pray for Kaye and her family.


The Power of One


The Power of One

Summers always bring take me down memory lane to camp.  I usually get “campsick” each year around this time, and it’s even worse this year, with a heaping helping of “campsickness” and a side of “teacher envy. ” As I was already thinking about my own staff and summer program, my thoughts drifted to a summer camp director’s post on Facebook. It made me stop and think  about the entire picture, not just the end product.  The title was “The Power of One.”  The question posed: Was your life changed because of one conversation at camp or because of one particular camp person? The answer for me is yes, as a matter of fact it was!

It was the late 1970-something, and I was a first year camper.  I was going into the 4th grade, and I had met the coolest person who had ever walked on the face of the earth.  She was a CIT named Judee Marshall. She always made us laugh and was great at keeping kids entertained. Her willingness to be silly with a bunch of campers made her a rock star! And her rendition of “superman in a hurricane” was hilarious!

Later she became  a counselor, where her new alias (her camp name) was BlueJay.  She was on the waterfront. Her enthusiasm was quite contagious. She was my swimming teacher and I just couldn’t catch on to the idea of survival floating (it was simply floating with your face in the water), and I wasn’t getting it. She finally explained to me how to do it, and with a little help from another CIT, something finally clicked and I passed my Intermediate swim test.

Judee took a hiatus for a few years, and as I got older, I still kept coming to camp.  Right after my freshman year of high school I found out she was back at camp, and she was going to be my counselor! I was SUPER stoked!! As we all sat around the campfire that night on our very first night of camp, she taught us a song called “On the Loose.” It was a song she had learned while at National Center West.  It was the coolest song ever!

Two days later we waved good-bye to Judee, yelled “we love you Bluejay” on her way down the road, as she left on her time off. She was going to speak at a youth ministry event. When She didn’t arrive the next day when she was supposed to come back, I asked another counselor about where she was– she just lowered her head and said, “I don’t know when she’ll be back.”  I kind of had the suspicion that something was up, but I didn’t press for information then.  The next day they gathered us together with many of our favorite counselors in the staff house and shared the news. First, we thought we were in trouble.

“Girls,” the Camp Director said, “I need to tell you that Bluejay was killed in a car accident.” It was devastating news to us. We were all crushed, but we were asked not to talk about with the younger campers. We were the oldest kids in camp. We were able to talk about it with our counselors, and they brought in as a grief counselor. That afternoon we gathered in Bluejay’s tent and sang songs from her John Denver songbooks and remembered her. The next day we had a beautiful camp flag ceremony where they raised the flag to half-mast to honor Bluejay, and then retired the colors at night. There were lots of tears and sadness. I’d never experienced anything like it!

So yes, when you ask about a person at camp who changed my life? I’d say camp itself had a huge impact on me, shaped me to be who I am, and most of the people I came in contact with at camp changed my life. Conversations that changed my life? Too many to count. Who impacted it the most? Bluejay. What a an amazing person, who led by example, lived out her faith without words, had a passion for caring for people, and shared the love of Christ.

What an amazing level of passion she shared with us for two short days when she was my counselor.

The Power of One 2.

This a little bit of a different version of the song, but it’s the same idea. It’s a favorite campfire song.

On the Loose


The End of an Era

Old Fort Park

This week the old pavilions at Old Fort Park were torn down. While they were old and decrepit, they made people happy by being the celebration site for thousands of birthday parties, picnics, family reunions, and most recently breakfasts. Breakfasts? You asked? Yes, over 300 Sunday breakfasts. The pavilions were the site of the Experience 5000 breakfasts begun as a homeless ministry by the newly planted Experience Church.

Shortly after the 5000 Breakfasts began, our Sunday School class began reading Shane Claiborne’s book “Irresistible Revolution,” a must-read for anyone who is called to be a radical Christian to serve the least of these as Jesus did. A friend had mentioned the Experience Church was serving breakfast and meeting in a small building near downtown, so we visited one Sunday night. At that time, there was a small group of people from many different socioeconomic backgrounds, as well some people who were very obviously down on their luck or homeless: the least of these.

While the service was nice and worshipful, but I got hung up on who was there. This was the first time I’d met someone face to face  who was homeless. I was a little uncomfortable.

I went home and told Brad (my husband) about the breakfast program, and he went out and visited one morning later that summer. He discovered people out there had a few other needs that he thought our friends at Trinity could help with. It was deep into the middle of summer when he visited, and he saw people with scratches, bug bites, bumps, and bruises. Many of them had aches and pains, so Brad went through the Experience group leaders and started bringing little health kits each Sunday to give out. This grew into us providing tents and tarps for people who need them.

As the word got out, people came and helped with the kids–yes, kids are homeless and eat breakfast there, too. People brought coats in the winter and shoes, backpacks, and school supplies before school started. If you ever wanted to see the face of Christ, you could see it at the park on Sunday. I cannot explain how I felt after leaving there on Sunday morning! Sometimes my Girl Scouts would do fun things for the kids.

Hundreds of families attend the Experience Church, and it has grown by leaps and bounds! Church members now go to church in a large renovated warehouse, they have a thriving youth group, and lots of young children…The people at Experience Church do amazing things. Many of them come to the park to serve Sunday after Sunday.

The park program has grown to serve over 100 people most Sundays. So many lives have changed through this program.

A few months ago they were told that the city was going to tear down the pavilion where the breakfast has been held for over 6 years. It’s amazing how we may not always know what God’s plan is, but God knows, and we should have faith.  This was no exception. The last breakfast at Old Fort Park was held at some picnic tables under the trees today, but there will be no delay in services, as next week breakfasts will continue on at Patterson Park. This will be an amazing leap of faith, as the need is great in this   neighborhood, and new opportunities could truly grow the program. Stay tuned for Chapter 2. It really could be even more amazing than Chapter 1.



But do you mean it?

Today’s reading from “My Utmost for His Highest” by Oswald Chambers brings to mind both a modern hymn composed by Dan Schutte and a prayer composed by John Wesley. Here is an excerpt from today’s reading. Readiness for God means that we are prepared to do the smallest thing or the largest thing— it makes […]

via 4/18/2017 Here I Am, Lord — georgeriggins

Now What Do We Do?

Friends, there’s something crazy to complain about in this world every day. We have something new to be angry about every single day. People are idiots, and our country is full of them! I feel like we would all agree on that.
You know I love you, but really now? Where do some of you get these crackpot websites?  You have found so many conspiracy theories, fake news sites, alternative facts and 1/2 truths that I struggle with discerning the truth. And, as any Gen Xer knows, your truth isn’t my truth, and that’s ok.
I don’t share my disdain for politics on my social media platforms, but I do share my passion (ok, with the exception of  educational policies). You are doing the same. But, whether you are passionate about protesting, praising, or praying for our country, I can’t help but think there are better ways we can spend our time. And no matter what you’re doing, always pray. Always.
So how do we REALLY make America great again?!  I have no control over the economy, or policies and mandates that have been put into place with the stroke of pen, so here’s my  suggestion on how to make our little corner of America great again:
Angry about what’s going on in Washington? Start campaigning! You have less than 2 years to find the perfect candidates to represent you in Congress, and less than 1400 days to find someone who can run against President Trump and win.
Angry about refugees who don’t have a home? 15 refugee families just relocated to MURFREESBORO! They each need 5 Rover passes, jobs, housing, and food. (The group working with them also need clothes hangers and racks to sort the clothes from the clothing drive.)
Angry about women’s rights being violated? Every day– Creeps drive women through this area on their way to all kinds of horrible places to be trafficked, sold into slavery, and prostitution. Right here in Murfreesboro there are women and families spending the night in churches and temporary shelters. These ladies need the basics–like food, shelter, a place to take a shower and do laundry. They even need soap and detergent. These are basic things we take for granted each day. I never considered taking a shower a luxury, until I saw a woman taking a birdie bath in a parking garage bathroom in Chicago. Contact the Domestic Violence Program, Way of Hope, or Stepping Stones Safe Haven to volunteer. These women are very grateful for whatever you do for them, and some of their stories are amazing.
Marching for life? The United Way is taking up donations for their annual Community Baby Shower from 10-1 on February 11. This program allows expectant mothers to network with each other and attend classes on health and wellness. Each mom will get much needed baby supplies.
Do you want to protest about the lack of federal funding for housing?  Journey Home always needs help feeding the homeless that come to them each and every day! Contact Amber or Sandra from the Experience Church to see if you can help serve breakfast at Old Fort Park on Sundays. Or, Jason with the Murfeesboro Cold Patrol would appreciate donations and volunteers to hand out supplies or help on the Coldest Nights Shelters. Or Brad to help give out tarps, tents, sleeping bags and health packages on Sundays at the park.
Are you angry about the wall? Help tear down the language barrier by becoming a tutor with Read To Succeed to teach an immigrant how to read and speak English.
Angry about possibly losing public funding for education? They are going to need you more than ever! Schools need lunch buddies, readers, and classroom helpers to support our kids and teachers in local schools.
This only scratches the surface! There are so many other ways to Make Rutherford County even greater (we’re already great)–Greenhouse Ministries, Smyrna Heart of Grace, Smyrna Food Bank, Big Brothers and Big Sisters, Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, Discovery Center, Volunteer Rutherford, local food pantries, and United Way. And, there are so many more! I love this community and what we do for each other every day.
So friends, take your anger to the streets! Remember, until you participate in making the world a better place, nothing will change.

Response from Senator Lamar Alexander on Betsy DeVos

I had hoped that name-dropping the name of his former Assistant Secretary of Education might help our cause. I had hoped that telling him I’ve supported him in every election he’s been in since his walk across Tennessee might sway him (Ok, I was 10, but I gave out bumper stickers to people who wanted them,–which wasn’t an easy feat in a small Democratic town.) I even had an “I’m in Alexander’s Band” sticker on my trumpet case in middle school! I remember shaking his hand when he walked through my hometown in his red and black flannel shirt, and attended a tea with my mom to honor his wife Honey.

Unfortunately, it didn’t. I tried, ya’ll. I made my voice known. I wrote a letter to Senator Alexander to tell him that we didn’t want Betsy DeVoss as our Secretary of Education. He sent me the following e mail:

January 19, 2017

Dear G,

Thanks very much for getting in touch with me and letting me know what’s on your mind regarding President-elect Trump’s selection of Betsy DeVos to become the next Secretary of Education.

Betsy DeVos is an excellent choice. The Senate’s education committee will move swiftly in January to consider her nomination. Betsy has worked for years to improve educational opportunities for all children. As Secretary, she will be able to implement the Every Student Succeeds Act, the new law fixing No Child Left Behind, just as Congress wrote it, reversing the trend to a national school board and restoring to states, governors, school boards, teachers, and parents greater responsibility for improving education in their local communities. Under the new law, the federal government may not mandate or incentivize states to adopt any particular standards, including Common Core.

I also look forward to working with her on the upcoming reauthorization of the Higher Education Act, giving us an opportunity to clear out the jungle of red tape that makes it more difficult for students to obtain financial aid and for administrators to manage America’s 6,000 colleges and universities.

Improving our schools has been one of my top priorities in public service, both as a U.S. Senator and during my earlier service as governor, president of the University of Tennessee, and U.S. Secretary of Education. Better schools mean better jobs, which is why I have worked to support states and school districts in improving education so that our students have the tools they need for success.

We are unleashing a new era of innovation and excellence in student achievement—one that recognizes that the path to higher standards, better teaching and real accountability is classroom by classroom, community by community, and state by state—and not through Washington, D.C. I appreciate your taking the time to let me know where you stand. I’ll be sure to keep your comments in mind as this issue is discussed and debated in Washington and in Tennessee.





Looks like he’s going to confirm this nomination.  Bummer.

Amateur Artist Blogiversary

Yesterday was my blogiversary.  7 years, 102 entries. 6 followers, and usually  less than 100 readers–thanks for reading. It’s been good to be able to go back and see how life is different, how it’s the same, how I’ve grown and how I haven’t changed a bit.

Everything old is new again. The more things change the more they stay the same. 7 years ago my oldest child was in middle school and youngest was in elementary school. I worked in a children’s museum. Since then I have learned that I love STEM and the community. I sure would like to create my dream job. Last year my dream job came open, but I had to pass up that opportunity, and now I’m on the hunt again. My newest thing is an opportunity to teach a college class at the local university. This is a side gig, but I am looking forward to it.

About 20 years ago, I had the idea to write a book. My idea stemmed from the fact that I had come across many people in my life and I wanted to write about the ones that made an impression on me.Back then we didn’t have the internet as we know  it today. I wrote a few entries and gave up. Then my computer crashed and I lost it forever.  It was called, “The people I’ve Met Along the Way.” Then, I wondered, who would read it? And why? It’s not interesting, sexy, steamy, or violent. In fact, my stories are likely warm and fuzzy. Not too exciting is it?

So, I aborted the mission and kind of gave up on  it. Several years past and children kept me busy. Then I discovered WordPress. I thought about it a good long while before I jumped in. At that time I was looking to see how people’s passions played out in their daily lives–I still am! As a writer, you get inspired sometimes just to write. Like you have something to say, and you can’t think of anything else until you get it written down. It happens at very inopportune times–like 3 am or 12 am when I should be in bed. Lots of times what I have to say is only important to me. Other times, it’s about a cool person in my life. Sometimes, it’s a song I want to share.

The blog really helps me sort things out. I can go back and find some pretty dark times–the death of a friend, job stress, family things going on and even world events. I am thankful for this place to sort out things. Often, it’s not the product, it’s the process.