Change, Family, Religion

Rising After a Fall


Today as I left my house to go for a walk in the woods, I noticed the tiny buds on our magnolia tree and a few blossoms.


Spring is trying to happen, I thought, as I walked down the driveway, bundled in my fleece jacket and gloves.


As I walked along the trail, I saw a robin perched on a limb, its bright color a beautiful contrast to the brown, leafless trees.

Sure sign of Spring - Robin - Bird
Sure sign of Spring – Robin – Bird (Photo credit: blmiers2)

Spring will come, I thought. After every long, cold winter, spring always comes.


It just always seems to take a little longer than we think it should.


Like life, so like life.


Change, improvement, second chances, sun on our path, light emerging out of darkness — it all comes.


It just takes more time than we want.


Like my unemployed friend whose full-time job is finding a job.


The wait is killing him.


“I keep being told to be patient. But, patience doesn’t pay the bills,” he says.


True. Waiting can be the hardest part.

Easter Eggs
Easter Eggs (Photo credit: .imelda)

On the eve of Easter, I think of those who watched the Savior die on a cross.


I can’t fathom the grief, sorrow, and pain they felt watching Him be crucified.


That unbearable Friday when He died; that Saturday in the tomb.


Those days had to be excruciating for those who loved and worshipped Him.


But, then, miraculously, on Sunday, he rose.


Like the long-awaited spring, He appeared, giving the world the priceless gift of hope.

Garden with some tulips and narcissus
Garden with some tulips and narcissus (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As I walked along the trail, I thought of all the people I know who have made miraculous comebacks.


My brother, so addicted to drugs, we lost hope in him. Drugs enslaved him, and stole the man we knew and loved.


We couldn’t see a road back.


But, day by difficult and long day, he overcame addictions.


He rose after a long, steady fall. And continues to rise every day to fight his battle and reclaim his life.


My other brother, diagnosed with vascular disease, and then bitten by a brown recluse spider, lost his leg.


An avid boater, fisherman, hunter, brick mason, and handyman, he was suddenly housebound in a wheelchair, unable to walk.


He lost his way; thinking his so-called life as an amputee  was no life at all.


He felt aimless and without purpose.


Until he discovered he was still a dad, a husband, a brother, a son, an uncle, a friend, and that even without a leg, he could love them all fiercely and deeply.


He could help the sister through cancer, the brother through addictions, the daughters trying to create their own independent lives, the nephew trying to raise four small children.


While his life is not the one he planned or ever envisioned — and neither is his amazing wife’s — they too rise every morning, greet the day with gratitude, and fully live the lives they’ve been given.


I nearly cried as I walked this morning, thinking of one beautiful example after another of the people I love who rise after a fall.


That is the real meaning of Easter, isn’t it?


Just when you think spring will never come, you see a Robin on the grass to remind you that winter is on its way out.


Just when you think the phone will never ring with a job offer, it does.


Just when you think you or someone else can never recover, you do.


Change happens, people make comebacks, life gets better.

Easter is a good reminder of that truth.



And then there was the Playboy story

First of all, here’s the update on Kelly and his whiskey.

Mom felt guilty and called to tell him his moonshine was really vinegar.

Oh, the disappointment.

“So, why is it that when I tell someone a secret in this family, nobody keeps it a secret? But, you can all keep secrets from me,” he said.

His daughters pulled up my blogs to show just how many people were in on the secret about his fake Virginia moonshine.

“So everybody that reads your blog knows too? Great. What are you trying to do? Write a book about me on your blog? I can’t believe you broadcasted my moonshine story to the world! I’m surprised you haven’t told the Playboy story yet.”

Oh, the Playboy story!

Thanks for reminding me…

Logo of Playboy
Logo of Playboy (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

After this Playboy blog, I’ll stop writing about him for a while.


But, this Playboy one is just so good…

Actually, it’s really more about my mother than my brother. But, he does have a starring role.

Call it family history.

When Kelly was at that awkward pre-teen age of about 11, my mom took his nicely folded laundry up to his bedroom to put it away in his chest of drawers.

As she organized his stacks of clean clothing, she felt something slick at the bottom of the drawer.  She rummaged around to see what was beneath his clothes, and she pulled out a glossy Playboy magazine.

Her response was epic, unforgettable, and perfectly in keeping with her fiery personality.

She took the magazine downstairs, opened it up, and tore out some of the naked lady pictures, including the centerfold.  She found some construction paper and cut out little circles of paper and taped them over the most revealing body parts.

Later, she called us all to the dinner table.

“Supper’s ready,” she innocently called.

We all trailed in from various parts of the house and sat down for dinner.

I always sat next to Kelly.

I noticed his face quickly turn bright red, nearly purple.

I looked around to see what made him look so shamefaced.

Then, I saw my Dad’s eyes darting from the wall to Kelly, across the table to Mom, and back at the wall.

That’s when I noticed the pictures of the naked women plastered all over the kitchen wall above the dinner table.

We were speechless, motionless.

Mom let Kelly (and the rest of the family) sweat and squirm for a few seconds, and then calmly said, “Kelly, I found those lovely pictures in a magazine in your dresser drawers today when I was putting away your laundry.  I thought that if you enjoy them so much that maybe you’d like to share them with the family so that we can all enjoy them.”

Kelly stared straight ahead of him, not focusing on anything, but maybe the clock above the stove that suddenly seemed to have stopped ticking.

Then, in a firm voice, Mom said, “From now on, nothing comes into this house that can’t be posted on the walls for the world to see.  If you are embarrassed about it and have to hide it in your drawers, it doesn’t belong in this house.”

In his humiliation, Kelly managed to say, “Can we take them down now?”

“Be my guest,” Mom said, “and put them in the garbage where they belong.”

Trying to move past the uncomfortable embarrassment of the moment, Dad casually said, “So, ah, pass the casserole, why don’t you?”

When I told Kelly I planned to blog about it, he said, “Hey, I never looked at another one the rest of my life! That cured me good. And, porn never became one of my vices. I never wasted another three bucks on anything like that ever again!”

Well, at least there’s that…

Some family memories just can’t be forgotten.


More From the Homefront…

A Kerr mason jar
A Kerr mason jar (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Last week, the news from my brother’s house was the bootleg whiskey.

Apparently, from Kelly’s research, he believes the whiskey was aged in a barrel because charred oak barrels produce deeper colored whiskey. That explains the color that makes it look like, well, apple cider vinegar.

English: Oak wine barrels at the Robert Mondav...
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I told Kelly’s wife, Paula, that I could write a blog about Kelly every day because he is so entertaining.

“Do you think he would care?” I asked.

“How would he know?” She asked. “He doesn’t read your blog.”

Good point. Serves him right.

I told him I am writing stories about him, and asked if he cared. He said, “You’ve made my life miserable from the day you were born. Why quit now?”

He’s a sweet brother… He tells me that every time I talk to him.

This is how our one-way conversation today went after I said, “hello.”

“How are you? I can’t believe I caught you home. You’re never home. Where are you off to today? You still can’t sit still for five minutes can you?

“Ah oh! Can you hear that woodpecker? That thing wakes up Chalisse (his daughter) every morning. She’ll be storming out of her bedroom any minute. Oh, here she comes and, boy, is she mad.”

WoodPecker (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“Where’s the gun?” I hear Chalisse ask.

“You leave that gun alone. You don’t know how to shoot a gun!”

“Then, teach me. I can’t stand that woodpecker anymore!”

“Oh, Laurie, I might have to go and do a little gun safety class this morning. That bird isn’t so bad when he tries to drill a hole in the old wood telephone pole, but when he moves over to the aluminum siding, he about drives Chalisse crazy, waking her up at the crack of dawn.

“Oh, she’s going for the guns. I’ve got a BB gun and a soft air pellet gun. (You know, I scare the cats away with that air gun.) You be careful, Chalisse, if you pick up that BB gun. I think she’s going to plug that woodpecker with my BB gun! I better go. I guess we’ve got a noisy woodpecker to kill this morning. Have a good day. I’ll talk to you later.”

I hope they don’t kill the poor bird. It’s just doing what woodpeckers do. And, there could be some legal issues involved. I don’t think the law allows for “plugging” noisy birds if they wake you up.

Not my business, I decide.

“Talk to you later,” I say.

A&E’s “Duck Dynasty” has nothing on Kelly.

English: no original description
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I looked up a Fox News review of the show. They called the male reality stars “bearded bayou brethren,” and it said, the show “provides colorful trappings for a comfortably eccentric and engaging brood.”

It said watching the show makes you want to share a Mason jar of sweet tea with this “quack pack” and join their fun.

This is true in Kelly’s case too. You couldn’t find a more comfortable and engaging brood. And, if you visited him, you could settle in, do a little bird watching, shoot a pellet or BB gun, and instead of sweet tea, you could share a jar of moonshine — Virginia whiskey that looks and smells a lot like apple cider vinegar.


My Mom, the Bootlegger

Moonshine still in Forbidden Caverns
Moonshine still in Forbidden Caverns (Photo credit: Kajvin)

Last week before my mom flew home to Utah after spending nearly two weeks visiting me in Virginia, my brother called her and said, “Hey, before you come home, I want you to track me down some of that Virginia moonshine whiskey I’ve been learning about on TV.”

“What moonshine whiskey?” she wanted to know.

He explained that it was a hooch made in Virginia and sold in Mason jars.

“Do you want me to end up in jail?” she asked. “They’d confiscate that at the airport and send me to jail. Then, you’d see my face all over the news. I don’t think I’ll be bringing any whiskey home.”

Since he struck out with Mom, he asked my sister to track down a bottle for him.

She ignored the request and shook her head, and rolled her eyes like we do when our brothers do something we think is absurd. (Keep in mind this is the same sister who sent me a placard that said, “If it’s not one thing, it’s your brother!”)

Trust Kelly to know all about moonshine whiskey and to find a docudrama on the Discovery Channel that tells stories about people who produce moonshine.

These people brew their own shine – often in the woods near their homes using camouflaged equipment, according to the Discovery Channel website.

When Mom got home, she went into her basement, dug out a Mason jar, poured straight vinegar into it, sealed the lid nice and tight, and asked my other brother to take it to Kelly and say she brought it with her from Virginia.

English: Loco diesel in mason jar
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When Kelly saw the Mason jar full of brownish-gold liquid, his face lit up like when he was a kid and Santa brought him a BB gun on Christmas morning.

He couldn’t believe his good fortune. I can just imagine him thinking, “Most moms bring home little shot glasses as souvenirs, not my mom! She brings the whole bottle of whiskey!”

He called Mom immediately, “Where did you find it? How did you get it through airport security?”

The lies began spewing out of her so naturally that it made her a little nervous.

He said, “Boy, when I opened it up to take a whiff, it threw be back a little. That stuff’s potent.”

“I took a little swig just to see what it’s like. Boy, it’s got quite a bite! I still can’t believe you tracked it down and brought it home!”

“Oh, you know me!” Mom lied. “If my kids want something, I do my best to get it for them.”

“What if you had gotten caught?” he asked.

“Well, then I’d probably be sitting up at the point of the mountain,” she said, referring to the prison, “and you’d have to tell everybody I was a bootlegger, I guess.”

You know that story about lies don’t you? How you can never lie just once because to support the first lie, you have to tell another one, and then another one, until you are nearly a perpetual, pathological liar?

My mom found herself in that dangerous lying cycle, but she was having so much fun, she couldn’t stop.

“It’s terrible, isn’t it? But, I never imagined he’d think it was the real thing. So when he did, I just had to go with it. I couldn’t believe how easily all those lies spilled out of me.”

The next day when she talked to Kelly, he said, he’d hid the bottle at the back of the fridge so that nobody in his family would find it. He had him some special, illegal whiskey, and by golly, he was going to protect that stuff.

His wife asked Mom where she really got it. “It’s straight vinegar,” she confessed, “but don’t tell him. I’m having too much fun dragging this out.”

“Oh, believe me, I won’t!” his wife said, relishing the fun of it all.

“How am I going to get out of this?” Mom asked. “I can’t believe how I just piled one lie on top of another, and now I can’t bring myself to tell him the truth. I guess I’ll wait until April Fools Day now, but he’ll be so disappointed with the truth.”

I giggle every time I think of him appreciating and protecting his little mountain dew souvenir from Virginia.

I really can’t believe he didn’t know it was vinegar! I hate everything about vinegar. I can smell it from across the county, I think. Yet, he smelled it and tasted it, and still thought it was potent moonshine whiskey with a bite? Oh, my.

Moonshine whiskey must be some awful tasting, smelling stuff if it’s at all like vinegar.

For any of you who know my brother, Kelly, don’t spoil the fun by telling him what’s really in that Mason jar tucked into the back of his fridge. His reaction is sure to be priceless.

And can you imagine this sweet lady traipsing through the Virginia hills looking for moonshine?


Oh, brother…

Home, Personal

Trusting My Instincts

3.24.11 Shades of Gray (and blue)
(Photo credit: iampeas)

It’s home improvement time at our house.

We hired a painter that our neighbor recommended.

When I met him, he said, “I am Steve. I am painter.”

I liked him immediately. He wasn’t a wishy-washy painter. He had opinions and ideas.

“Where are you from?” I asked him.

“Where you think?” He asked.

“Somewhere in Eastern Europe,” I guessed.

“I from Hungary. You know, Hungary in Europe. My English not so good but I work on it.”

While meticulously painting the white trim in our family room and kitchen, he said pointing to our amateur paint job on the walls, “Laurie, you come here. Look at this.” He shakes his head like I’m a child that disappointed him. “Ugly. This ugly. I can fix trim, but not this. I do a good job, but can’t fix ugly.”

Paint Brush 206/365
 (Photo credit: anneh632)

I know our lines aren’t perfect, but we thought we’d done a decent paint job. In fact, we have a good painting system. I do the trim. Doug does the walls and ceilings. We make a good painting team.

Or so we thought.

I smile at Painter Steve’s bluntness even though I’m mildly offended.

The man has no filter, and I understand that when learning a new language, we have to get to the point. Nuances and subtleties come later.

For Steve, he think; he say.

When I showed him the paint color I’d chosen for the living room and dining room, he again looked at me like a scolding parent.

“Come. Look.” He held up my paint chip in different parts of the room and under different kinds of light. “Too dark. You will hate. But, it your house, your paint, your money, so I do what you want, but it be ugly.”

I defer to his professional judgment because on his first day, he said, “In my country, I go to school three years to be painter. I learn color — everything about color. I take tests; work, study hard to be painter.”

Then, he whispers, “In America, Mexicans come to me with paintbrush in hand and say, ‘I am painter.’ I say, ‘No, you not painter!’ Everybody in America think they painters. No. In my country, they not painters!”

In addition to new paint, we are refinishing our floors. We chose a dark stain color, and when Steve saw it, he was aghast.

He gave me that intense, reproving stare, and shook his head slowly, saying, “No. No. No.”

New "dark" floor
New “dark” floor

“Is it too dark?” I asked, already knowing his opinion.

“Yes, too dark. You will hate. It show every speck dust. It ugly.”

When the flooring man tried to tell me how beautiful it would look, Steve stepped behind him to be out of his sight and continued to shake his head, “No!”

I told Steve I had no choice. The stair treads had already been made. The floors needed to match the treads. It would cost too much money to start over.

“Fine. Your house, your floors, your money. But, you will hate. It will look like dark funeral home.” Then, he went back to his painting, while still shaking his head back and forth – “No,” he kept muttering.

Maybe the floors will be too dark. Maybe we really will hate them. I only know we liked the look in the many Houzz and Pinterest pictures I saved. We liked the sample in the showroom. I asked my decorator friends for their opinions, and they thought the dark floors would look gorgeous.

I admit I was warned about the dust showing, but that was after we placed the order.

New stairs
New stairs — so far, I like, not hate

I hope Painter Steve is wrong, and that I don’t “hate.”

This is the time to remember Dr. Spock’s parenting advice and to apply it to my decorating decisions, “Trust yourself. You know more than you think you do.”

Like Dr. Joyce Brothers said, “Trust your hunches. They’re usually based on facts filed away just below the conscious level.”

I will trust my hunches, and, as opinionated Steve said, it’s my house, my money, and my floor.

I will trust my hunches.