Hiking My Dreams at Grotto Falls:


Dearest Readers:

A few years ago, I wrote this story, managing to get it published many times. I’m hopeful you will enjoy the story as much as I did writing it, and hiking at Grotto Falls. If you are ever in Gatlinburg, treat yourself to this fabulous hike.

Hiking My Dreams at Grotto Falls:

In June 2005, I kissed the corporate world of America goodbye. Tired of planning and coordinating events, answering to corporate rules and schedules, I decided it was time to follow my dreams.

So, off my husband and I go to Gatlinburg, Tennessee where I’ve scheduled my first research trip for my new career as a travel writer. While driving through the mountains, we discover a sign. Grotto Falls just ahead. I tap Phil on the shoulders. “Let’s stop and take a hike. Phil looks at my feet, still embraced in sandals. “Don’t you think you should change your shoes?” He asked.

Reluctantly, I rush to the back seat to get my socks and sneakers, furious that he is still telling me what to do. His controlling nature is about to get the best of me, but I take it in my stride. With digital cameras ready, we stroll up the mountain as a slight rain kisses our faces with raindrops. At first, we could stand under the trees and not get wet. The more we plunge into the falls, the wetter we get. Taking our time while gasping for breath, I shoot several photographs, continuing our ‘easy’ hike. Decaying trees, fungus and moss, along with the thickness of the woods make interesting images revealing a story my fingers itch to write.

heading-towards-grotto-falls-we-discover-the-first-tease

Our first tease of a waterfall at Grotto Falls.

 

What seems to be an endless walk going nowhere takes us at least an hour just to see the first tease of the falls! Stopping at this trickle of water, we are revitalized. With this first tease of rushing water, the falls can’t be much further! Now, the rain isn’t just kissing my face, I’m drowning, at least my face is, and I look more like a raccoon with blackened eyes than a human. When we started this excursion, rain was only a slight mist, refreshing and cool, now my hair is sopping wet and sticky from hair spray. I must look like a squirrel, but I dare not ask my husband. I wipe the rain pouring down my face. My hands are covered with black mascara. Phil stops to remind me to be careful; he was concerned I might fall. He knows what a clumsy woman I am walking on hardwood floors, or simply walking. My knees are weak from years of dancing on stage, but I was determined to show him, and I finally snapped if he didn’t hush, I’d make certain he fell, or slipped, or something—! Breathless, but determined, I refuse to go back. I enjoy a nice hike, but this was almost torture, not to mention, what would happen IF one of us fell, or managed to get bitten by wild animals on the prowl! My dream was to see a bear in the woods. We never saw any wildlife!

A family of hikers, dressed with back packs, sticks and bottles of water in their hands meet us on the narrow, slippery path. I look at the tiny boy drinking from a bottle riding on his father’s shoulders. I can almost taste the moistness as he gulps the water bottle dry. “Hello,” I say, wishing they’d offer us a bottle of water. We move closer to the edge. The softness of the path moves under my feet. I look down, thinking if I fell, the doorways of Hell would open up and swallow me.

second-tease-of-grotto-falls

The second “tease” of an upcoming waterfall — or — is THIS the waterfall?

That’s when I realize rules are made for a reason, and some rules should be followed, like the rules of hiking. Be prepared – we were not. Carry equipment – like first aid kits, bottled water, and wear good hiking shoes. Sneakers are comfortable and they certainly beat sandals during a hike, but some rules should be followed! What would happen if Phil or I were bitten by a snake, or if my spaghetti like ankles give out? What if I broke a leg? Some rules, even those made by the Corporate World, should be followed!

Phil nods to the family asking, “How much longer?” The small boy atop his father’s shoulders whimpers, “A long, long, LONG ways!” His father snickers.

“Thanks,” I say, sarcasm spilling over. “Appreciate that.”

Phil scrutinizes me as I lean on a tree stump. “You okay?”

Huffing and puffing, wishing I had my inhaler I nod. “OK. Let’s go.”

“Take a break,” he responds, listening to the wheezing in my chest. “You’ve got your inhaler with you. Right?”

My look says it all. Knowing me as he does, I can almost read his mind. I’m certain he’s thinking, ‘Your inhaler is in the car. You should’ve remembered it!’

Furious with him, I think about the edge of the cliff, wishing to move him closer. The sarcasm returns to my voice and I ask, ‘Did you remember your cell phone?’

He pats his hip, removes the cell phone. “No service.”

“Great. Just what will we do if I fall, or get bitten by a bear?”

The endless path to nowhere continues as we plunge our bodies forward.

“I think someone lied to us,” Phil says cynically. There’s nothing ahead.”

“I’m not stopping. If there’s a waterfall here, I intend to find it.”moving-closer-to-the-falls

Another ‘trickle’ of a waterfall

 

Phil grows more irritated with me every moment. Perhaps he doesn’t like this determined woman I am now. Corporate America has changed me for the better in many ways.

I think about the conversation I had with the girls at the office on my last day of work. Phil had called numerous times that day, and I threatened to throw him overboard when we rode the rapids.

“Look over here,” I said, leaning over a bit. “If someone wanted to get rid of somebody, this would be the perfect place. I bet it goes all the way down to Hell. Who’d know?”

“Eventually it would smell. You trying to tell me something?” He asks, lifting his eyebrows suspiciously at me.

“No, just thinking out loud. Suppose it’s the writer inside me, asking those what if questions.”

“Whatever. Let’s go. Time’s wasting.”

Reluctantly I stretch my aching legs.

“You wanna go back to the car?” He smirks.

Another group of hikers meets us. I’m in hopes they found the falls. One of the ladies in this group holds a wooden stick.

“You’ve got a while still,” she says, inhaling deep. “About two more miles.”

The guy next to her punches her on the shoulder.

“You are kidding, aren’t you?” I ask.

The group laughs.

Phil and I continue the pursuit. Now, he’s gasping for breath too as we climb steeper, placing our feet carefully along the slippery mud puddles. The rain is torrential now, as if someone turned a water faucet on high. My hair no longer feels like cotton candy with syrup on it. It is soft, as if the rain has washed all chemicals and mousse away.

What seems to take forever, a stroll all the way to the Heavens feels like it was hours away. My arthritic knees ache, but I am determined. I will not be defeated, even if it is the last adventure I complete in my lifetime. I inhale, exhale, stretch my legs, and plunge higher. I hear the sound of water. “It’s just the rain running down the mountain,” I say to Phil. We hear the sounds of falling water and move closer. The falls are just ahead. I feel a sense of accomplishment! Glancing at my sneakers, I discover my legs, socks, and sneakers are covered with mud.

“Thank goodness we have a washer and dryer at the cabin,” I said. “My socks and shoes were white this morning.”

Startled at my determination, Phil sees the new and improved me standing before him. Excited to see the world as a new adventure, I’m energized, like the non-stop Energizer bunny. I grab my camera, zooming in to capture the pure, flowing, sparkling falls. This is heaven. I wipe the splashing water from my eyes, unaware if it is rain, or my tears.

img_0032

Our first view of Grotto Falls, Gatlinburg, TN

 

waterfall

Beautiful, breathtaking Grotto Falls, Gatlinburg, TN

IF YOU GO:

  1. Don’t break hiking rules. Carry a backpack with supplies, first aid.
  2. Be prepared for steep hills, slippery rocks, and tree roots.
  3. Wear hiking shoes. Sneakers work, but hiking boots recommended.
  4. Carry a camera. The view is well worth the hike.
  5. Bottled water recommended. You will get thirsty as you climb higher!

For more information about Grotto Falls, visit the web site: www.southeasternoutdoors.com/public-lands/national-parks/smoky-mountains/grotto-falls.html

Photo credit: Barbie Perkins-Cooper

Barbie Perkins Cooper is a talented, award-winning writer of travel guides, screenplays, fiction, non-fiction, plays, and numerous articles for regional, trade and travel publications.  In her spare time, she enjoys photography, boat riding, relaxing on the beaches of South Carolina, and listening to good music, especially jazz and hiking.

 

 

Hello Four Walls – I’ve Been Kidnapped ByThe Noro Virus Kidnapped Me


Dearest Readers:

I planned to share this story about three or four days ago; however, this noro virus had other ideas.

Saturday, April 16, 2016 began as a beautiful, sunshiny day. One of the beauties of living in South Carolina I appreciate the scenes, beaches, scents and flowers, especially at spring time. I rushed around the house in anticipation of a shopping trip with new friends. While riding in the back seat of their spacious truck, I commented about what a beautiful day it was to spend time with new friends. Little did I know how quickly things can change.

Walking around the shopping center, I walked into a shoe store. Phil found a gorgeous pair of sandals for me. He wanted me to try them on, I declined. My forehead was dripping with beats of sweat, or as I like to say, “my glitter is showing.”

“I feel strange,” I whispered to him. “I think I’ll go outside and sit down at one of those benches.”

Ever so slowly I made my way and sat down. Now, my entire face was covered with sweat, along with my neck. Phil commented while touching my forehead. I tried to laugh, mentioning something about maybe I’m having those ‘hot flashes’ now that all my friends complain about.

I’ve never had a hot flash. My friends describe them as a quick, burning flash of heat that rises from your toenails to your head. The only place I was hot was my forehead, covered with beads of perspiration, or as I like to say, ‘I do not sweat, I glisten with sparkles.’ Today, I could not joke or make silliness about how ‘strange’ I felt. The beads of ‘sparkles’ continued to soak my forehead. My hair was soaked, along with my neckline. My fingers were shivering. One moment – my body felt as if I was standing in a sauna. The next moment, I was standing inside an igloo. Just what was this feeling? I was sitting on a bench in the bright sunshine. Temperatures outside were warm but not hot enough to make me dripping with my little sparkles.

Our friends saw me sitting at the bench with Phil. They suggested we might find a restaurant, eat an early lunch and I would probably feel better. I agreed.

Sitting down at the restaurant, my body was shivering now. I read the menu, ordered coffee and a salad and waited to feel better; nevertheless, the strange sensation overwhelmed me.

Moments later, my stomach regurgitated. I projectile vomited everything that was inside of my stomach. At least I thought. Phil wiped my blouse, placed a napkin on my forehead and I attempted to stand up, to get to the restroom. Fortunately, I made it to the restroom before my entire stomach exploded. I breathed deeply…Inhaled…Breathed again…

What is wrong with me? My hands were shaking. My legs felt like spaghetti. This was not going to be a good day for me.

I flushed my face with cold water, noticing how pale and deathly I looked. I sat down in a chair at the ladies restroom and waited for the color to return, or to see if I was swimming in a sea of nausea again.

Returning to the table, my stomach regurgitated once again. I was mortified. In my entire life I have never thrown up in public. Deciding that I was much too weak to shop, I suggested going to the car and resting while everyone shopped. How I wanted to slip under the table and crawl under the floor so nobody could see me. Phil got our friend’s car key and walked with me. The walk to the car, usually an easy and short journey for me appeared to be miles away.

“I can’t make it to the car. Find me a wheelchair, please.” Phil sat me down at a bench. Moments later, he returned with a wheelchair. A $10.00 fee at the shopping center, even with an emergency. I fell into the wheelchair and off we went. Riding in the wheelchair reminded me of my ride in a pace car at Bristol race track. G-force of nausea captured me again, although this time, I kept everything down. I had a nasty taste of stale coffee in my mouth. Phil offered me a mint. I sucked on it, hoping to feel better.

Slipping into the truck, Phil rolled the windows down so I would feel a breeze. I was shivering still. He took the key, locked the car and off he went. My stomach gurgled, so I opened the door to the truck. The burglar alarm screamed. Now, if I did regurgitate in the parking area, everyone would see. Phil returned, wanting to know why I opened the door.

“If I throw up again, I do not want to do it all over his new, beautiful vehicle.”

Phil apologized, leaving the key with me! Thank goodness. If I had to make a spectacle of myself, I wanted it to be when EMS came to get me, in the event I needed to go to the hospital. Today was not the day I wanted to enter a place and be remembered. I simply wanted to crawl through the woodwork and die, if today was the day I left this earth.

What was to be a splendid day of shopping was one of the sickest days of my entire life. I thought it was related to a migraine headache, but this was much worse.

Cutting our plans short, we got home before dark. I apologized to our friends, hoping they would understand I was really sick and not faking this dreadful illness. I remember bathing and crawling my way to bed. About 8:45 pm, stomach cramps and a gurgling stomach awoke me. I rushed to the bathroom, only this time I was not nauseated. I was suffering from some of the worst diarrhea a human could endure. The constant waves of diarrhea reminded me of a riptide, washing over me keeping me awake all night long. I battled with this manic stomach illness until 8:15 the next morning, a total of 12 long, painful and weak hours. The riptide of diarrhea forced me to take three additional baths before the sickness eased. I kept asking my body how it could explode with such illness when nothing was inside of my stomach.

Today is Friday, April 22. Still, I feel incredibly weak. Phil got sick on Tuesday at work, arriving home before lunchtime. Every morning I told myself I could do the laundry…Or, I could cook a meal…If I tried, I could vacuum. Once, I attempted to get the vacuum cleaner, only to decide I was much too weak – still. I managed to wash the clothes that I wore when I was so sick on Saturday, washing them twice just to make certain the fabrics were clean and sanitized.

No, I haven’t exactly tracked my food intake since I’m a member of Weight Watchers. This week I’ve eaten only small bites of food, or a small can of soup. Our Friday night date – let’s just say, it was postponed! Every doctor’s appointment had to be postponed, along with my weekly weigh-in at Weight Watchers. I was contagious. I would not share this illness with anyone!

When Phil arrived home on Tuesday, I noticed how white his face was. Neither of us wanted food or liquids. We placed our pups in the breakfast room and away we went, to separate bedrooms to ease the illness. For two days, both of us camped out in the den, moving only when Mother Nature called. I suppose we were quite a silly pair together. Neither of us feeling strong enough to care for the other.

My head continues to spin and hurt from this virus. The noro virus whips all of the strength a body has. No appetite. No strength to walk or care for yourself. I Googled stomach virus, discovering norovirus.

The symptoms of Norovirus include:

Nausea & Vomiting – my vomiting felt like I was projectile vomiting my entire stomach.

 

Fever & Chills – one moment my head is covered with sweat. The next moment, I shivered.

 Migraines – Daily I’ve awoken with a bad headache.

 Stomach Cramps – reminding me of the severe cramps I suffered before menopause.

 Sore Muscles – my husband suffered with sore muscles. The only sore muscles I have are in my throat and stomach.

 Urine Changes – surprisingly, my urine was a bright yellow. Normally, clear, that is how I knew I was dehydrated.

 Dry, Parched Mouth – I still have chapped lips and a dry mouth. To resolve this, I am drinking more Gator Ade.

 Increased Heart Rate – I didn’t notice this. What I have felt is the inability to walk well. I have clung to the walls in my home whenever I feel “strange” again. Suddenly the lyrics of “Hello Walls” are changing and my weakened body is saying: “Hello walls. Thank God you’re here today…Just to hold me and keep my feet from falling from all this pain….”

 Several of my friends suggested I should get to the doctor immediately. Just how does one get to a doctor’s office when she is so ill? Friends suggested they would take me. I declined. I did not want to contaminate anyone! No doubt this norovirus could result in someone losing friendships. I cherish my friends, so I refused to let them do anything for me.

 Today I do feel better and I am hopeful I can style my hair and wear makeup today. To those who know me, they realize I am never seen in public without makeup. Not so this week. I haven’t left my house at all, until Friday. My face is naked now, but I feel confident after writing this, I will smile again and attempt makeup. Who knows If I will succeed. I suppose you will just have to wait to read my next post – that is WHEN I am well. This virus kidnapped me, only no one would pay the ransom. Another side effect I’ve had – a lack of cognitive abilities. Attempting to answer a question on the phone, or to discuss how I really feel…let’s just say – I’ve struggled to speak with intelligence. Let’s don’t even discuss my keyboarding skills now. I keep telling myself this too shall pass.

 UPDATE: Sunday, April 24, 2016, I wore makeup yesterday and today. Happy Days are here again…I have no idea when I will be able to sing again!

 Yes…This Too Shall Pass…I’ll be so happy when I can be well and strong enough to get myself to the beach. Weather forecast say it has been a beautiful, picture perfect beach week, but don’t ask me. All I’ve seen is people walking by the side of the road and four walls. Lots of walls! I did manage to clip roses from my rose bush. They are helping me to see that life is out there and soon, I will be strong again. I hope!

 This

Too

Shall

Pass!

 

Welcome to My Pity Party


Dearest Readers:

Have you ever had a time where you could not shake your mood? No. Matter. What? I’ve had more than a few weeks like this. Tuesday, December 15, 2015, everything came to a standstill. Losing my temper, I recognized I needed to inhale. Exhale. Breathe.

On that date, I got up in a dreadful mood from so many nights without sleep. I counted the days until Christmas – only ten days away. No, this wasn’t the Christmas blues – just a time of physical exhaustion and stress triggered by the torrential storms we had in Charleston in October. Still, my home wasn’t well. The leaks from the skylights appeared to be growing with a science project of mold, mildew, and ugliness I wished to erase. I decided we should decorate our Christmas tree in the den this year, not the traditional place in the living room.

Negative thoughts ate away inside of me. My stomach was twisted in knots; at least, it felt like it. Christmas music helped a little, although I still had moments where I wanted to scream. Still,  the moodiness left a bad taste, an emotional feeling of absolute depression, clouding every thought and mood. Looking at the calendar again, I realized December 19th would soon be here, only now, I could not celebrate my dad’s birthday with him. This year he and his identical twin brother would celebrate 101 years of life. I lost my dad on July 6, 1999. He lost his identical twin brother long before I was born, or even thought about. How I wish I could reach out to him – just to wish him a Happy Birthday.

This year I could not shake my mood. I jotted down things I should be happy about, and then I added an additional listing of things I wish I could change. “No wonder I’m so depressed. The things I wish I could change are longer than the happiness list. Not a good sign. Meanwhile, the phone rang, almost constantly – a nauseating ringing of telemarketers and scam phone calls that refused to leave me alone. I’m certain you’ve probably received your share of these calls. One call said ‘unavailable,’ another was ‘unknown caller,’ and another said ‘government.’ I listened to all of them, never speaking as a robot call said ‘this is your third and final call. You owe the IRS…’ I laughed. Just what is this? We are on the Do Not Call list. Honestly, I think when you sign up again [for perhaps the 10th time] with the Do Not Call list, there must be a way these companies are getting our phone numbers, just so they can aggravate us! Another caller was a guy. He expressed the following, “Congratulations…You’ve won!”

Okay, I’ll play his little game. I listened as he shared that we were the winners of a contest we recently signed up for. “News to me,” I breathed. “We haven’t signed up for anything except the Do Not Call list!”

“F$%# you,” he said. I hung up, daring him to call back.

Without a doubt, this was one of the worst days I’ve had in a long time. “I suppose this day is my pity party day,” I shouted to the walls inside my house.

My poor husband was greeted at the door by a woman almost half out of my mind. Grief. Sadness. Tears. All of the ingredients for a pity party.

Although I tried to shake this strange mood, I could not. Defeated, I took a leisurely bath, having a soft, quiet discussion with myself, recognizing I was behaving in the same manner of my mother. ‘This has to stop.’

After the bubble bath, I approached my husband again, only, this time, I apologized for being such a monster. “It’s so unlike me to be this way,” I cried. “I’m so worried about the house. I wish I could make all of this go away.”

Phil hugged me. I kissed him and went to bed. I prayed for God to listen to me. Much to my surprise, I whispered, “God, are you there? Do you hear me? Are you testing me? I need you.”

The next morning, my mood was better, although I failed to sleep well. After two cups of coffee, the phone rang. I checked caller ID. The caller was listed. It was a phone call from a church. That’s unusual.  I answered it. The caller was a recording, mentioning scriptures from the Holy Bible. I suppose God is telling me something. I listened to the entire conversation, recognizing I’ve never had a phone call this — EVER! I  suppose God was listening to me and now He is encouraging me to get a grip. Be the person you know you can be, not the person you lived with as a child. 

A few minutes later, while praying, the phone rang again. My best friend was on the line. She was recovering from another kidney surgery. I asked how she was progressing. She was in route to work. Still weak and having a bit of pain, I listened to her while recognizing how selfish and insensitive I had been.

Why? Simple. All of the stress I’ve endured will ease when the house is finally repaired. I will be able to get myself out of this house and the stress. As for my friend, she was fighting to get well. To have healthy kidneys. She is my best friend. Every day I pray for her and for a miracle to happen in her life.

“How foolish I have been,” I said aloud after we hung up. “I can change my mood. I can do something pro-active to feed good thoughts, and I can move to get away from the stress, if only for a few hours.

My friend is fighting just to get stronger. She’s like the energizer bunny, always bouncing back.

As for me – I’ve been a fool. I have to remind myself of the old clichés I say to myself normally when depression kidnaps me.

“This too shall pass.”

“It’s when things seem worse, you mustn’t quit.”

“Life is like a box of chocolates…You never know what you’re gonna get.”

“Stupid is as stupid does.”

One of my favorite quotes is “Once you replace negative thoughts with positive ones, you’ll start having positive results.”

Yes, I knew better. I am a strong woman. Normally, I can talk myself out of these situations. I suppose today is an eye-opener to me. A day to be thankful I am still alive. A day to breathe in and breathe out. A day to give thanks. I still have a home. I have a warm bed to sleep in, even when the four dogs take over the bed, and I have a good man to live with me and to love me, even when the devil of depression kicks in wanting me to have another pity party. Little things. These amazing little moments that help keep me focused. Little moments when my personality shines as I smile at someone. Little moments when I greet a complete stranger.

I cannot walk in the shoes of my mother, [nor do I want to] and I must promise myself that next time – when the monsters of depression torment me, I must move and force myself to get dressed, to smile and to appreciate life’s precious moments.

I must get dressed every day, and not stay in pajamas — ALL DAY LONG!

These actions are not who I am. I must remind myself that I should take care of myself. I must appreciate life, with all of its blessings and with all of the tests that can easily defeat us. I will not be defeated. Today is a new day.

Next time, I plan to take a nice long walk on the beach, to remind me I am blessed! No doubt, the beauty of the ocean, the sand between my toes, the warmth of sunshine, and the Pelicans flying along the waters will bless me with reassurance that life is to be lived, every day — even when the gloominess of a pity party attempts to ruffle my feathers.

 

 

 

 

My Thoughts About The New Weight Watchers…


My thoughts regarding “Oprah” and the changes are simply this: Those of us who are overweight have had difficulty with belief in ourselves…We have the tendency to cater to ourselves via comfort foods, sweets…temptations…etc…when we should be caring about ourselves. Instead of negative thoughts and “I’m done with Weight Watchers” posts, what we should do is say this — “We are good…We are worthy…We are strong…and together…We Can Do This!” I have the tendency for depression, and when I am depressed, nothing will stop me from eating bad things. Thru Weight Watchers, I’ve seen changes — in myself…my faith…my belief…I am strong…I’ve made loyal friends with several members at our meetings. I am blessed! Maybe I am beautiful…Maybe I truly believe in ME — now! Thank you, Weight Watchers. I believe change is good. Without change, we cannot grow. If we do not grow, we do not find success, happiness and belief in ourselves. Just my two cents worth for today! BELIEVE!!!

I’ve been a member of Weight Watchers since 2011. Four years. During my four year journey, I’ve seen changes. I am one who believes in life we ALWAYS have changes. Weight Watchers has been around for 50 years now, through many changes – everyone of these changes is for the better! I’m one of the rare people who truly believe life is all about change. Without ‘change’ we cannot grow. If we do not grow, we are not successful. So, you ask — what is the BIG DEAL with the changes at Weight Watchers.

Honestly, I cannot answer those questions. My meeting is on Thursday of every week. It is my “Weight Watchers” day. I plan my schedules around this day. No doctor’s appointments…meetings, etc. on this date. After our meeting three of us go out to lunch – to do what most great friends do together — to talk…to get to know one another…to build friendships! To support!

At the moment, people who are members of Weight Watchers are FREAKING out! On social media sites, they are asking, “what are the changes?” And — “why are they changing things?”

I suppose they want someone to tell them ahead of time about the changes. News Flash – people — Weight Watchers, their leaders and those who work for Weight Watchers are FABULOUS about keeping secrets!

No, Weight Watchers is not a secret society. They are there to help us; nevertheless, there are many changes rolling out this week. ALL of these CHANGES are to build a better Weight Watchers for all of us to succeed. They DO want US TO SUCCEED! By now, you’ve probably heard millions of complaints about the new plan…”It isn’t working…I can’t log in…” And — “Why did they change something that isn’t broken?”

Correct me IF I’m mistaken, but Weight Watchers is interested in the self-worth of a person…not only is it a corporation established to help those who are struggling to lose weight…Weight Watchers is helping us to BELIEVE IN OURSELVES!

We’ve had discussions about Belief. Self Discovery…and How We Can Break the Plateaus. Activity…Mind Over Matter…How to Cope With The Holidays and Social Events…and so on. All of these weekly discussions are building us to truly find the person we want to be. None of this is related to Oprah Winfrey. These “changes” were in the works earlier this year, not when Oprah signed on.

Speaking only for myself, Weight Watchers has changed my life for the better. Yes, I am eating healthier. I am more active – able to walk the Arthur Ravenel, Jr. Bridge…able to dance and to sing. I have found a new and better person previously locked away, deep inside my soul. In March, 2011, Jennifer Hudson was the spokesperson. I was struggling to lose more weight, and I kept telling myself — “One day, I plan to walk that bridge.” For those of you who do not know, that bridge [Arthur Ravenel, Jr. Bridge] opened in July 2005. Just WHEN would I walk it?

In 2011, my life changed for the better, and I feel confident that the New and Improved Weight Watchers 2016 will lead the way for me to embrace the change and get going with my weight loss. After all, I have goals (secret goals) I will not share – yet. Hopefully soon, I might share a few of those goals on my site.

Today, I will go on record to say – Hello, 2016 — it is ready, and it is time for me to move on with my writing and my story, “Chattahoochee Child,” and it is time for me to get moving more with Weight Watchers. Many members are throwing their hands in the air, as if to say — “I’m done.” The question they should answer is this — as a member of Weight Watchers — online, or a weekly member who attends meetings — are you really ready to give up on yourself? Think about it. Change is good. I embrace it!

 

 

 

HAPPY THANKSGIVING


Dearest Readers:

This will probably be one of the shortest posts I’ve written lately. Not because it isn’t important – simply because I must get back to the kitchen to make certain my Tom Turkey is roasting properly.

Today is a day for the United States of America to celebrate Thanksgiving, and to give Thanks for all that we have, all that we are, and all that we WILL be today and in the future.  Today, Thanksgiving 2015, we will spend time with family and friends. This year, I am blessed to have one of my sisters and her family with us for Thanksgiving. I am so thankful we found our way back to each other while our Dad battled esophageal cancer. Sometimes, it is the little things in life that count the most. Finding my way back to my oldest sister was a blessing for me. A blessing I will never set free. I cling to these blessings while giving God the gratitude He deserves.

Today, many of you will have empty chairs at the dining room table. Empty seats where a loved one fighting for his country, our freedom and safety — those seats may not be filled, but their memory will be close to heart. I would like to say to our Military, Thank you…for your service to our country. Thank you for stepping up to volunteer during these tumultuous times. I cannot imagine what it is like to fight in a war, even though my husband fought in Vietnam. One thing I’ve learned about war is — the experience, fears, and horrors of war are not shared with us. The soldier returns home a different person. Scarred. Tormented. Fearful. And hopefully, proud.

You, our precious Military will share your turkey dinner with your comrades, not your family. I pray you will be able to speak with family today. Perhaps sending an e-mail, or doing SKYPE. From this household to yours, soldiers, troops, you are still family. I pray your Thanksgiving is blessed. May God keep you safe…and may the United States of America be safe on this day, and every day.

For me, safety for you, our precious Military, is my concern. Every day I pray you are safe, knowing we in America are proud of you, and we thank you for your service to our country. And when the day arrives that I might see some of you — wearing your uniform proudly, I will take the time to stop…to acknowledge you…to thank you with a warm hug. I’ve practiced this exercise in my life at airports, shopping malls, restaurants, etc. many times — to Welcome You HOME!

Sometimes, I tear up while speaking with these brave men and women while I remember the homecoming I gave my husband after he finally came home from Vietnam. I pray for the soldiers, hoping, wishing and praying they will receive a loving welcome home.

Happy Thanksgiving to our soldiers. May God keep you safe on this day, and every day. Thank you for your service so that American can celebrate Thanksgiving! Enjoy your turkey while knowing we in America care for you. We miss you, and we pray you will come Home soon. May God Bless!

 

Some Days Are Better Left Unsaid


Dearest Readers:

Some days are better left unsaid, or forgotten. Such was the case yesterday, November 9, 2015. The morning started with a discovery that the tarp protecting our roof from further damage after the catastrophic rains of October 2 – October 5 in Charleston, SC was missing in certain areas. Waking my husband up, I rushed around the house, covering furniture, sopping up the puddles of rainwater, covering the furnishings with plastic – still waiting for my husband to crawl out of bed. When we awoke, he looked at the living room, noticing the tents of plastic covering the sofas.

“What happened?” He groaned.

“I suppose the gusting winds we had yesterday and this morning blew the tarp loose, and now it is pouring outside once again. Will this rain NEVER stop? What a dreadful way to begin the early morning.”

Our insurance adjuster was scheduled to come to the house that afternoon to review the damage and determine IF we had wind and hail damage. Meanwhile, the house was a mess due to the plastic tents pitched in several places, and the wet ceilings. I wanted to run away.

My husband phoned work, taking the day off to get the tarp covered again. About 9:00 the phone rang. The insurance adjuster needed to reschedule due to the heavy rains. Another day shot, I thought.

Deciding Monday was not a day to worry about cleaning the house like I normally do on Monday’s, I rested. My body is so exhausted from these torrential rains and a home not exactly in the condition I desire it to be. During the rains of October, my ability to sleep was almost non-existent. Just how much stress can one tolerate?

Later that afternoon, the roof was covered again. The rain was only a light mist now. We ate dinner in the den, settling in for the night to watch “Dancing With the Stars,” and to relax to the point I could finally sleep.

About 9:30, I walked to the door of the back of the house to let the dogs inside. Surprise! They were nowhere in sight. I glanced towards the gate — opened. My heart did flip-flops. Rushing outside, standing on the dark street filled with a thick gray blanket of fog, I called for them. No response. I listened to the darkness of night. I heard a clicking noise – the sound dog collars with tags make when the dog runs. Moments later, Hanks rushes to me. Next was Toby, and finally Shakespeare. I gathered them up, let them in the house and wanted to choke my husband for leaving the gate open.

Why was the gate open?

Earlier that evening my husband unlocked the back gate, leaving it open so he could get something from his car. He failed to close the gate, so when I let the dogs out, I did not check to make certain the gate was closed. Trust me, I will from this day forward!

I screamed for my husband to come help me find the dogs. Of course, he was clueless, unable to hear my screams. Rushing back inside with three of the dogs, I screamed once again. This time, my husband who is ALWAYS glued to the TV, heard me.

“What the Hell is wrong with you?” He shouted.

“You left the d— gate open. Now I’ve got to find the rest of the dogs.” How I wanted to jump on him for becoming so forgetful once again. Instead, I grabbed my bag and car keys. Rushing outside, dressed in my PJ’s and slippers, I drove off. I rolled all the windows down screaming for my remaining dogs – missing. I wanted them to hear me, and I listened carefully to see IF I could hear them.

“Just where do I go?” I spoke aloud, hoping God could hear me.

A voice spoke to me, so I drove on Simmons Street, shouting their names. “Here, Shadow. Here Sandy Bear…Here boys.”

I prayed I would not see a blonde or a solid black dog laying on the roads. I saw a boy walking along the streets, so I asked him if he’d seen a black or a blonde dog.

“No. I ain’t seen nothing,” he responded.

I thanked him and continued my search. I prayed for God to guide me.

“Drive in the direction you always walk them.” God spoke to me. I turned the car, heading in the directions the dogs were accustomed to walking with me.

By now, I’m certain my neighbors must think I’ve completely lost my mind. All of them know to bring animals to me if something happens to one. There have been many times someone rang my doorbell asking me if I knew who the lost animal belonged to. Each time, I’ve managed to find the owners. Sometimes it pays to be active with the Neighborhood Crime Watch.

As I am shouting for Sandy Bear and Shadow, I hear sirens. Please God, don’t let them be coming after me, or rushing to a car accident with animals involved.

Or, could it be someone has reported a woman driving an unfamiliar car around and around while shouting out the car windows? “Please God, don’t let them be coming to arrest me.”

Cars are behind me now, so I pull over, almost dropping my right wheel in a ditch. Moaning a few more expletives, I’m certain I’ve already reached my weekly allowance of ‘dirty words’ on this night. Always wishing to be in control of my temper and character, when something goes wrong I have the tendency to ‘lose my dignity with my off-color language’ when I am angry at my husband and his forgetfulness. Tonight was no exception.

“Heavenly Father,” I prayed, tears rolling down my cheeks. “Please help me find Shadow and Sandy Bear soon. Sandy Bear doesn’t like the dark of night, and he doesn’t like to walk far from the house. Please, dear God, guide me to where they are.”

Again, I shout for Shadow and Sandy Bear. At the end of the road by the stop sign, I imagine something dark on the road. “It can’t be…”

I inhaled. Exhaled. “Shadow…Here Boy.”

I hear a bark. The image in the road rushes closer to me, running at a fast pace. I place the car in Park. Open the drivers’ door, forgetting to remove my seat belt. As the door opens, Shadow jumps inside!

Tears rush down my face. “Thank you, God. Thank you so much!”

Shadow hops into the passenger seat. Jumping around with excitement, or could he be overjoyed with gratitude, I hug him tight, noticing his fur is soaked and muddy, and he has a nasty smelling odor. I was curious as to what he thought while running around the neighborhood. Did he recall the sad memories of abandonment when he was left in the dark of night at an animal shelter in Georgia? If only I could dig deeper into his mind, just to communicate his thoughts.

“Just where have you been, boy?” Shadow licks my face. Driving, I pet his head. “Was Sandy Bear with you, boy? Do you know where he is?”

We drive around the block. My husband is walking around with a flashlight. “I found Shadow,” I scream at him, letting him know what street he was found. Turning in the direction of the area where Sandy Bear and I walk, I remember how skittish he gets while walking. I’m convinced he must be nearby. The night is dark with a thick, blanket of fog. It is difficult to make out images nearby, but I’m determined. I will not lose my animals again like I did when our little buddy Cletus escaped.

While driving and screaming Sandy Bear’s name, I think of what I must do in the event I do not find him tonight. I’ll make a poster, include his picture and I’ll put it on Facebook. Tomorrow morning, I’ll post flyers all over the neighborhood. Please God, let me find Sandy Bear. It is so damp out here. He must be horrified and cold.

I drive around the block once again, still screaming Sandy Bear’s name. The fog is so thick now; one could cut it with a knife. I hear a familiar sound, hoping it is Sandy Bear barking this time and not a neighbor’s dog. “Sandy Bear,” I scream. “Is that you barking?”

I glance at the stop sign I am approaching. I see a shadow. Blonde. Small, shaped like Sandy Bear, and I squint my eyes, hoping to make out the image. I hear a familiar bark.

“Sandy Bear,” I squeal! He rushes towards me. This time, I jump out of the car, closing the door hoping Shadow will not jump out. Looking back at Shadow, I see he is not moving! His black fur is curled up on the seat, probably hoping he will soon be safe at home.

I scoop Sandy Bear into my arms. He is soaked, with mud and a musty smell. Just WHERE have you been? I hold him close, placing him next to Shadow. I see my husband walking in the middle of the road.

“I found them,” I shout to him. He rushes to the car. As soon as he gets inside, he apologizes. I do believe this is a first for him. Vietnam Veterans with PTSD have difficulty with apologies. Although I wanted to scream at him, to beat his chest with my fists, I do not. “Apology accepted,” I smile – that devious smile I give him that says so much without uttering a word.

“What is that smell?” He asks.

“They’ve been somewhere they shouldn’t be. I’ll bathe them when we get home.”

Rushing into the house, I prepare both dogs for a bath, removing my smelly night shirt.

At bedtime, both dogs smell delicious. As soon as they jump up on the bed, they fall asleep. Early this morning, all of my precious family sleeps together, in the same positions and locations where they fell asleep. “Welcome Home, Boys. Do you want to go potty?” None of them respond. They must be exhausted. I laugh, so thankful to have them safe at home. I kiss each one of them good morning while I walk to the kitchen for coffee.

I glance out the garden window in the kitchen. “Thank you, God for a new day, a special day of thanksgiving with my precious family, and for my husband! Now — If only you could do something about his forgetful ways!”

The Adventures of Cletus Cleet, Cleet Runs Away


The Adventures of Cletus
Cleet, Cleet Runs Away
By
Barbie Perkins-Cooper
Copyright ©2012 Barbie Perkins-Cooper, All Rights Reserved

Thursday, November 8, 2012, was a bitter day, with an early and cold winter’s chill, the first for the fall in Charleston, South Carolina. The morning sunshine could not warm the grounds of the coastal area where Cletus rested. He sniffed the coldness under his belly. Shivering, he was so tired, weak and getting thinner every day.

How long has it been since he ran away? Although he struggled to remember, his brain was tired from so many nights of little sleep. He dug deeper under the house. He heard the noise of a motor. Someone’s coming. I need to hide. She might see me again and this time, she might catch me.

With his docked tail tucked between his legs, he rushed away. The dark skinned lady with white hair knew where he hid at night. She tried without luck to catch him, but he always managed to move quicker than her crimpled body would permit. Her arthritic legs would not bend so she could stoop down to get him. Cletus knew how to outsmart humans. Yes, they were taller than he was. Bigger, and humans had long arms that stretched out with fingers that felt more like shovels than something warm to touch him. His sandy blonde and cream colored fur usually kept him warm, but this morning it was cold in Mt. Pleasant.

Cletus looked back as he moved. Why can’t I run like I did when I ran away? Why is every step feeling like I will fall and never get up?

Cletus crept down under the bushes. She could not see him here. “Here little puppy. Come here to me. I got some food for you. You look so skinny. I just want to feed you little puppy.” The lady walked with a cane, dragging it behind her as she shook the food bowl. For three early mornings, Cletus ate the food, warm with runny looking yellow grains of corn, oats, bread, egg, and other ingredients. Cletus didn’t care what it was. He ate every bite, wanting more.

Cletus heard the softness of a human voice before, at the house where he escaped. The woman living there was blonde, with big green eyes, colorful red fingernails and a sweet sounding voice, and a great smile. Every time Cletus looked at her, she smiled at him. Yes, her voice was a nicer tone than before…in the puppy mill. When Cletus lived there all he ever heard was a harsh shouting of Move…get on over there…do your work boy…now get! Cletus knew what to do, and he rushed away before the bald headed man with a belly that jiggled every time he moved, turned the water hose on again. He didn’t want to get wet again. The waters stung him every time they hit his tiny body. The waters made him feel like he was drowning. He didn’t want to drown. He hated when the man picked up the shovel, grabbed him, throwing him into the next kennel where a frightened girl dog shook next to him. He wanted to hear the soft voice again…the gentle voice and the sweet words, “Cleet…Cleet…Come on Little Buddy. It’s OK. No one will hurt you here.”

Cleetus curled into a ball to get warm. His tired eyes closed. Cleet. Cleet. He dreamed. The soft, musical voice of a woman soothed his tired, emaciated body. Cleet….Cleet…Hi, Little Buddy. It’s ok. No one will ever hurt you here. Your sadness ends, starting today.

Isn’t that what the blonde headed human said when she met him? The day he left Maddy, his little black schnauzer friend, and the vet’s office? Yes, she called me Cleet…Cleet. I didn’t know what it meant, so I jumped out of her arms. Humans hurt. I was afraid she might hurt me while smiling at me. If only I could find my way back to the place. The red brick house with a gold car in the front and a white ornament next to it. There were trees in the yard. Sweet Jasmine. A magnolia tree. Dogs…Dogs barked at me. Dogs played with me. Dogs told me I would be happy here. One dog, a salt and pepper color talked to me, telling me I would be happy here, but he said I had to learn the rules. Try not to poop on the floor. If you have to poop, do it on the doggie papers, or wait until you’re outside. Cletus didn’t like the outside. He didn’t like rules. He wanted to make his decisions. He was scared.

The world outside is a cold, cruel world. Cars are on the road. Kids rush around and on bikes. Bells rang during the day from a big brick building with lots of children. When they’re on bikes, they play games, trying to run over me. Just like today. A boy in a gray hoodie and jeans rode on a bike. When he saw me on the sidewalk, he darted over to me. “Get out of the way you stupid dog.” The bike tires caught up to Cletus, but he ran, not as fast as before; he managed to scatter away from the bike, bumping into a fence. The gate was open. Cletus rushed to the corner of the fence, waiting for the boy to come after him. The boy stopped the bike. “Stupid dog. You’re nothing but a scaredy cat! You know I can’t go back there. Stupid…stupid dog!”

Cletus took a deep breath. He fell fast asleep. If only he could find his way back to the red brick house.

Dreaming again, he thought of the place he left. If only he hadn’t been so curious. Walking around the fence, he found a loose piece of wood. His feet scratched at it. The soil was soft. Before he knew it, the hole was big enough for him to slide through. He looked back, at the door. The blonde headed lady with a sweet voice wasn’t there. Cletus wasn’t certain he should leave, but something inside of him said Run. Go on. Set yourself free…where humans can’t hurt you. Go…Run!

The dogs told him he was in a safe house. Shakespeare, the alpha dog, teased him, but he could tell that Shakespeare, Sandy Bear, and Shadow were happy in the red house. Shakespeare didn’t know what a cruel world it was. Sandy Bear knew. Sandy Bear was the same color of Cletus. He told Cletus he might want to give these humans a chance. Sandy Bear barked, “If you give her a chance, you’ll love her. She pets you. She rubs your belly, and at night, she lets you snuggle up close to her. Sometimes she sings to us. We watch TV together. Sometimes we watch doggie shows, and she laughs, telling us Doggies on TV. And if you’re scared when storms happen, she’ll hold you close and sing to you. Such a soft and sweet voice, you’ll feel safe and warm. She doesn’t raise her hands to hit you, and she’ll give you treats and make sure you eat well. There’s no violence here. Ever.”

Shakespeare jumped. “Violence?” He barked. “What’s violence?”

“Oh get real,” Shadow interrupted. “Don’t you know what violence is? I forgot – you came to this house when you were a puppy. No one’s ever been mean to you.” Shadow was midnight black, a giant schnauzer that loved to jump high in the air. Tall with wiry fur that shined in the sun, Shadow pranced around with grace. “Violence is when humans throw their hands up and hit you. Sometimes they’ll kick you with their big feet with hard shoes. And sometimes they’ll get a shovel, and poke it at you. Sometimes the shovel cuts. It hurts. Humans don’t give you food. And if you tear up things, they’ll take you for a ride and drop you off somewhere. You’ll end up sleeping outside in the dark of night. Alone. You’ll have to find your own food. Maybe that’s why I love to catch squirrels. Humans are mean. But Mommy and Daddy, well, they’re from a different world. The sweet lady I call Mommy has a pretty smile. They drove all the way to Georgia to rescue me. They let me sleep on a soft and warm blanket in the back seat and drove a long ways to bring me here. I met Shakespeare and Sandy Bear when we arrived. They told me to let these humans love me, but Shakespeare said, he was first…the most important and alpha dog. He gets the most attention. At least he thinks he does. Never have I seen these humans hit any of us. They sit with us on the floor when feeding us. I’ve never seen a human do that. And the lady? She walks us, but she won’t allow us to chase squirrels. I guess that’s the only bad thing I can say. She wants us to behave and prance around with grace. She combs us. Heck, she even sings to us. This house is a good and happy place to live. You’ll learn to find out what love is.”

“Love?” Cletus barked. “What’s love?”

“Oh silly. Hush,” Sandy Bear spoke. “Love is something that makes you feel warm and toasty inside. Just like you feel after eating a good meal. I fell in love with Mommy when she looked into my eyes after rescuing me. She rubbed my floppy ears, smiled and kissed my forehead. She told me I was going to a new home with her and some more doggies who would play with me. She said I’d have a warm, fluffy bed and a soft blanket to sleep on. Mommy gives us all attention. If she feeds one, she feeds us all. She even sits in the floor with us, to make certain we all eat and no one steals the food. This family will give you a good life, Cletus. You might be sorry if you escape.”

Cletus turned to look at all of them. “Don’t you want to go with me, guys? I can dig a deeper hole, Shadow.”

Barking in unison, they sang, “No. Don’t go, Cletus. Don’t go!”

Cletus rushed away. Shakespeare poked his head out, watching him as he ran away. “You’ll be sorry!”

Sandy Bear rushed to the back door, barking a high pitch. “Mommy. Help!” Mommy!”
Sandy Bear jumped by the window. Mommy wasn’t there. “But she’s always here,” he barked. “She sits there and has her hands working across some silly board with a big picture screen on a shelf.”

“Computer, stupid,” Shakespeare grumbled. “Mommy’s always at the computer.”

“Not now,” Sandy Bear barked.

“I hear her,” Shadow shouted. “See. She had to get some coffee.”

“Mommy!” Sandy Bear screamed. “Help Cletus!”

The door opened. The dogs rushed inside. “What’s all that barking for? Where’s Cletus?” Mommy said. “Cleet…Cleet…Here Cleet Cleet. Here Little Buddy…”

Cletus was gone. Escaping into the sidewalks, woods, bushes, roads, and shrubs of the Old Village of Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina.

Mommy rushed around the back yard, looking, sighing, singing, “Cletus…Here Cleet…Cleet. Come here, Cleet…Cleet…Mommy won’t hurt you.”

Cletus heard her sobs but he kept running. No one will ever mistreat me again, He cried.

Later, as Cletus frolicked along the sidewalks, he chased squirrels. He drank from a stream. He heard sounds from a school. Children on bicycles. His eyes widened. Quickly he dove into the shrubs. The ground was warm. For the first time in his sad life, Cletus felt safe. He curled his body into a tightly woven frame and slept, the first real sleep he felt in much too long. When he awoke, it was dark. He listened. Only the sounds of night were around. An owl on a tree. A cat meowed a frightening sound. A fog horn hummed along the coast. Cletus heard a growl recognizing it was his stomach.

I should’ve caught that squirrel. I could’ve had a nice meal with him. I’m hungry. Maybe I should go back. He stood, rushing away from the shrubs. Which way do I go? Oh no. I’m lost. Help me. Shadow. Shakespeare, Sandy Bear — where are you?

The next morning, Cletus awoke lost and frightened. He heard a familiar voice.

“Cleet…Cleet…Here Cleet…Cleet.”

He ignored it. He sniffed the familiar scents of Shakespeare and Shadow, choosing not to respond.

I’ll be all right. The world is a big place. I don’t need humans to take care of me. No one will mistreat me again. Ever! I am free. Tears rushed down his face.

“Here Cleet Cleet…Little buddy…”

Cletus lifted his head. She’s here. He lifted his tired body, praying she would not hear his growling stomach. He sniffed. That smells like her.

Moving closer, he heard the school bells ringing. Cletus dropped to the ground.

“Come here, little Buddy. I’ve got you some food. Aren’t you hungry?” She shook a brown bag dropping it. Cletus sniffed. Food!

Shivering, Cletus did not move. If he moved or made a sound, she could grab him. He was tired of people thrashing their long, extended arms to him, only to hit him or push him around. The lady seemed nice, but he was still afraid what she might do. He let out a gentle sigh falling into an exhausted sleep as the lady turned and walked away.

The next morning, Cletus sniffed the bag, finding kernels of dog food. He tore the bag open, eating every bite, hoping she would return soon.

-30-

19 Kids, and Counting…The Disgraceful Duggars!


Dearest Readers:

I confess…I WAS a recent semi-fan of the TLC program, 19 KIDS, AND COUNTING… Surfing on the TV one night, I discovered the program, 19 KIDS, AND COUNTING, so I watched it. I noticed how all of the girls wore long skirts with slightly below-the-knee hemlines. When I watched one of the programs where they went to the Georgia Aquarium, and they swam in Lake Lanier, GA, I was curious IF Mom and Pop Duggar would permit the girls to wear swimsuits or shorts. They did not.

Why I Started Watching 19 KIDS AND COUNTING

This program brought back my childhood, strict with all of the rules we had to live with. Attending church, which I enjoyed until I heard the ‘speaking in tongues’ ceremonies. I sang in the church choir. I practiced the golden rule; nevertheless, I still chose to wear my shorts – against my fundamentalist grandfather’s approval. Watching 19 KIDS AND COUNTING. I was curious IF any of these 19 children EVER disobeyed their parents. On the episodes I watched, never did I hear any child rebel, disobey, or mutter anything their parents would not approve. I realized, with cameras rolling, they obviously edited anything where the children did not follow the ‘holier than thou’ mentality of their parents.

This isn’t normal, I thought. Children on this program never dispute, shout, or fight with their siblings. Just what is wrong here? Obviously, I was on to something.

Many of the episodes of 19 KIDS AND COUNTING brought back memories to me. Memories of my childhood and how I dressed. As a little girl, my grandparents did not ‘approve’ when I wore shorts. Young girls were never to cut their hair, since it was a sign of glory and holiness, according to my grandfather…and young girls were NEVER to show their skin. He wanted us dressed in high necklines, preferably in white. Virginal and pure. At 13, when I had cleavage, I disgraced them by wearing a V-neck T-shirt and shorts. Disgraceful! I must say, I did not wear the Daisy Duke shorts and when I bent over, you could see absolutely nothing with the exception of tanned, firm, athletic legs. At 15, I wore shorts and T-shirts and my grandfather alluded that I was ‘cheap…’ Actually, he described me as a w—-. When I confronted him with ‘how can a virgin be a wh—;’ he refused to speak with me.

Attending high school, I wore clothes that revealed – NOTHING! Necklines were high, usually turtle neck. If I wore a blouse, it was buttoned all the way. No skin revealed. Skirts were long and cumbersome to wear. When I committed the most cardinal of sins by wearing makeup, my grandfather gave me a new name. The Scarlett Woman. The Tramp…and of course again – The Wh—! I continued wearing makeup! After all, if the pastor’s wife at the church could wear makeup, why couldn’t I?

Child Molestation Charges

Yesterday, May 22, 2015, the news was hot with a topic about 19 KIDS AND COUNTING. Apparently, Josh Duggar committed a dreadful sin as a 14-year-old – seems he molested five girls. http://www.cnn.com/2015/05/21/us/josh-duggar-child-molestation-allegations/index.html
When I read these reports, I was flabbergasted, to say the least. Now, Josh Duggar has apologized and he has resigned his impressive, political position in Washington D.C. with the Family Research Council. Reportedly, his wife, Anna, knew of his ‘sins’ before she married him and she was impressed that he confessed these behaviors before their marriage.

Josh and Anna have three children now. The oldest is a girl, Mackynzie. Two boys – Michael and Marcus and she is pregnant with their fourth child – a girl. Sometimes I cannot help being curious as to why this family reproduces like rabbits. What about the quality of time with children?

The reports are endless about the Duggar Family. I will not elaborate more, but I would suggest – IF you read these Internet postings, keep in mind, many are simply chat areas.

Duggar Disgrace

Yes, the recent news is a disgrace, and what makes it even more disgraceful is the fact that Michelle and Jim Bob Duggar chose to keep the molestation quiet. Their program, 19 Kids, and Counting did not air until 2008 after the molestation charges were swept under the Duggar Family rug. Disgraceful. Absolutely disgraceful!

I Was a Victim of Child Molestation

As a young girl and teenager, I was a victim of child molestation. One of my uncles touched me. We were riding in his delivery truck. He chose to turn onto a dirt road. No houses were around. He suggested we should ‘pick blackberries.’ I was 15-years-old at the time. Yes, I was wearing a T-shirt and shorts. Scandalous, aren’t I! I was 100% naïve. Trusting, especially of my elders.

My uncle moved closer to me – touching my legs, his hands probing and searching, rushing towards my chest. I grabbed his hands, pushing him away. I reached for the door handle, got the door open and jumped outside. I ran as fast as I could. On that date, I failed to bring my inhaler, so the dust on the dirt road reacted with my asthma and I had difficulty breathing. Wheezing and coughing, I stopped, hearing my uncle’s delivery truck moving close to me. I ran the other way. Laughing, he pulled ahead of me, demanding that I get in the truck.
I screamed. No one heard me.

My uncle forced me inside the truck. I slapped his face – HARD. I screamed and I cried.
Hysterical and horrified that I would be raped, my uncle said he would drive me home.

“I don’t believe you. All you want to do is to touch me. I want to go home.”
I opened the door again. Still wheezing, I walked as fast as I could. My uncle said he would take me home.
“I can walk.”

“We are at least 10 miles away and you’re going to walk? That’s a long way.”

“I walk home from school – a 10-mile journey. I can walk home.”

My uncle was shaking. I suppose he was fearful I would tell someone what he did. In my childhood I knew no one would listen or care.

“If you tell any body I touched you, no one will believe you. I’m a deacon in the church. Who’d believe you? You’re a teenager. You’re wearing shorts. You tempted me by how pretty you are. I’m a deacon, “ he repeated. “ You’ve got beautiful legs I wanted to touch…”

Recognizing he was afraid, along with the fact that absolutely no one in my family would believe me, I slid into the passenger seat of the truck.

“If you move one hand off of that steering wheel, I will get out and I will tell somebody,” I said. “You are not raping me or touching me again.”

Later, after arriving home, I rushed to take a shower. Scrubbing my body hard with the hottest water we had, I cried in the shower. As hard as I scrubbed, I could not get the feeling of his probing hands off of my body.

Years later, when my uncle died, my mother phoned me. “You need to come home,” she said. “Your uncle just died.”

Inhaling and exhaling, I bit my lip, and then I spoke, more of an enraged shout than my normal voice.
“May he rot in Hell,” I said, tears stinging my face, as I relived his probing hands.

My mother was annoyed. “Why do you feel that way about him?”

“Because the bastard tried to rape me!”

Our discussion continued while she confessed that he had been charged with rape twice, but never convicted. She wasn’t surprised by my confessions.

Now that I read the reports about Josh Duggar, I feel compassion for him – just a bit. Apparently, he received a bit of ‘help’ when his parents sent him away to a ‘retreat, to work on construction jobs.’ [???]
I am hopeful he did make amends and ask God for His forgiveness; nevertheless, reportedly there are five young girls who will never forget his probing hands touching their bodies in private places. Unforgiveable!
Yes, I am hopeful the five girls who have not been revealed were able to move forward after these events. Child molestation is something a victim never forgets. After my experience, I prayed, but never confessed what happened to anyone within my family. Never did I speak to my uncle again, and when I saw him in church, I turned away, never giving him a chance to speak to me. As for blackberries – for me – they are truly the ‘forbidden fruit.’

For the Duggar Family, I pray that the entire family learned a valuable lesson from this experience, and I pray that they will finally realize that no family is perfect; nevertheless, I suppose I was a bit wiser just by watching them. I recognized how hypocritical they are. Jim Bob always comes across as Mr. Lovey Dovey, especially with his wife, Michelle; however, if you watched her closely, you recognized she was a bit reserved. Sometimes pulling her head away when he kissed her in front of the children, after preaching to all of them that the girls must ‘court with a purpose.’ A courtship that leads to engagement and then – marriage. No kisses and only side hugs – until marriage. In one of the last episodes I watched, Jim Bob confesses that he and Michelle kissed LOTS before marriage??? Hypocrites’!

I hope and pray the five girls involved with the incidents with Josh Duggar are able to move forward like I did. Never did I share the child molestation incident with anyone, with the exception of my husband in 1982. On that night, my husband was able to understand exactly why and how I responded to certain touches. After therapy, I am happy to say, I no longer fear probing hands. Yes, as my father taught me, I was able to move forward with life, and not look back.

I hope the five girls involved with this Duggar Disgrace will be able to do the same. As for Josh Duggar, I hope he and his immediate family will remain close, and I pray he does not repeat his previous history with his children.

Will I continue to watch a reality show? I doubt it. After all, those reality shows are edited, revealing only the good times, — not the reality of bad times. At least the Duggars were not bleeped like a lot of those idiotic reality shows! I pray Jim Bob, Josh and Michelle are praying for forgiveness, and I pray the five girls will learn that not all men are monsters on the prowl. Shame on you, 19 Kids and Counting! You are a disgrace to religious families! You allowed this dirt to be swept under the rug and remain there while you pretended to be a close, almost perfect family. Shame on you, TLC! Shame On You…19 Kids and Counting!

The Art of Making Chocolate…


 

 

 

Shawn Askinosie shares his passion for chocolate beans and the art of making chocolate
Photo credit: Barbie Perkins-Cooper, Editorial photojournalist

Shawn Askinosie, The Chocolate Maker of Springfield, is Raising the Bar for His Passion in Life as a ChocolatierDSC_0174

Stepping inside the aromatic setting of Askinosie Chocolate Factory tempts the taste buds of anyone who craves the tantalizing taste of chocolate. Located in a historical building built in 1894 in the commercial district of Springfield, Missouri, this chocolate factory makes chocolate artistry that snaps. Askinosie Chocolate Factory is the newfound passion of Shawn Askinosie, a former criminal attorney who chose to leave the hustle, bustle of the courtroom scene, for his newfound passion as a chocolatier. Discovering his passion for baking began a few years ago when he was searching to ease the stress of criminal law. He found therapeutic relief when baking cupcakes and pastries. Unbeknownst to former clients, his law degrees are now displayed in the men’s room of his factory while he pursues a passion he dreamed about and now lives, the love and euphoria of chocolate making.
As time progressed, he discovered he wanted to learn more about chocolate, especially the art of roasting cacao beans and the art of chocolate making. Researching his newfound passion, he chose to learn all he could about the chocolate industry. Traveling to meet with farmers in the Amazon rain forest, he found a new calling in life. Although the process of chocolate making is tedious, for Shawn tasting the raw beans in the pod, dealing with the farmers, and striving for the highest quality product he demands, Askinosie Chocolate Factory is raising the bar to a new standard for the artistry of chocolate making.
Changing his career to follow his dreams, Shawn Askinosie works diligently to create the best chocolate available, roasting chocolate beans, grinding and melting the chocolate until it meets his high standards. Askinosie is the first chocolate maker outside of Mexico to make chocolate. He travels internationally to Mexico, the Amazons, introducing himself to the farmers who grow chocolate trees. He has many farmers in each region and he shares the profits with the farmers.
He contributes an amazing percentage of the tour profits of Askinosie Chocolate Factory to cocoa educational programs, collaborating with universities. He is a wealth of information about chocolate, the history, and development, and the health benefits of dark chocolate.
Unlike the demands of criminal law, the artistry of making chocolate requires lots of time and patience. The process could best be described as intense and time-consuming, something Shawn is accustomed to practicing during his career as a lawyer. Cacao beans are stored in a climate-controlled environment. The beans are cleaned and roasted at a high temperature. The roasting process of cocoa is similar to the roasting procedure of coffee beans.
There are many steps to making chocolate and Shawn is proud that Askinosie Chocolate Factory performs all the steps to make the chocolate the proper consistency, gloss and snap. He wants to create the perfect, most delectable flavor he can to the chocolate beans and give them a creamy, smooth texture. There are many health benefits related to dark chocolate and the nibs have a nutty taste with anti-oxidants that are good for your health.
Tempering, a delicate procedure of melting the chocolate at just the right temperature, is one of the most difficult procedures. “If the temperature is one degree off, the batch of chocolate is ruined,” said Askinosie. “The art of making chocolate is a lot harder than baking cupcakes.” Askinosie Chocolate has a gloss and snap, one of the secret qualities of pure chocolate artistry.

Following His Passion:

Shawn Askinosie has lived an interesting life, including living in Japan for a while, and working with Vietnamese refugees. Reaching burn out from the demands of law, he felt blessed to find a new passion in baking and chocolate artistry. During school tours at Askinosie Chocolate Factory, he stresses the importance of education and goals to students, encouraging them to “Don’t do the same thing over and over in life. Follow your passion.”

Tours of Askinosie Chocolate Factory are held every Tuesday at 3pm. Excited to share his knowledge and expertise about the art of making chocolate, the factory shares 100% of money from the tours with partnerships with universities and cocoa educational programs.

After touring the immaculate factory, it is easy to understand why Shawn changed his lawyer suit threads for the passion he expresses so eloquently as a chocolatier. Believing in yourself, seeking your dreams and following your passion makes for a great recipe for success and happiness while enjoying the delicate taste of chocolate.

 

If You Go:
Visit Askinosie Chocolate Factory at 514 E. Commercial, Springfield, MO. Phone 417-862-9900. Visit the website: http://www.askinosie.com/ for additional information and to subscribe to the newsletter or order chocolates.

Barbie Perkins-Cooper is a travel writer, photojournalist specializing in hospitality, food and wine and photography. Residing in Charleston, South Carolina, Barbie is the author of “Career Diary of a Photographer,” and “Condition of Limbo.” In September 2007, she was chosen as an approved artist for literary arts with the SC Arts Commission Arts in Education Roster of Approved Artists.

Remodeling 101 — A New Kitchen


Dearest Readers:

Below is a story written in 2007 when our household decided to remodel our kitchen. Enjoy!

TUESDAY, MARCH 27, 2007

Remodeling 101 –

KITCHEN FACELIFT
The Saga of Remodeling a Kitchen, and a Marriage

For many years I’ve dreamed of a modern kitchen, filled with contemporary, custom-made cabinets with plenty of storage space, a place for the microwave and the clutter that was swallowing my work area. I dreamed of granite counter tops, traditional customized cabinets that opened easily and were convenient for storage. I wanted pretty wood instead of drab, cheapened boards containing too many coats of monotonous paint and drawers that refused to open easily. Recognizing it was time to sale our home or remodel, my husband and I decided to take on the task of a kitchen facelift. Knowing life is ALWAYS filled with unexpected surprises, we decided it was in our best interest to hire a contractor, a master of remodeling, instead of another Do It Yourself project that would undoubtedly take my husband years to complete. He has the tendency to start a project and finish it when he ‘gets around to it,’ and when he takes on a project, I serve as his helper which leads to many heated disputes.

After meeting with kitchen designers, we finalize the plans, pay for the project, including the expense of custom-made cabinets, new sink, granite countertops, faucet, a new stove and a convection/microwave oven. Our original budget was $10,000. After discussions with the kitchen designers, we decided to increase the budget. After all, we want the kitchen remodeled the right way, without cutting corners.

Next step for the renovation – packing up the kitchen and moving forward with the gutting process. The custom-made cabinets are scheduled for delivery March 22, so now, it is onward and upward! Every night after dinner, I empty a cabinet or two, package the dishes, cookware and ingredients into boxes so the facelift may begin.

Day One

February 26 – with cabinets and the pantry empty, and a portable kitchen area set up on the breakfast room table – microwave, coffee pot, and other incidentals that a family must have just to survive – we are ready to move forward with the first phase – demolition. I inform my husband that for the next few weeks, until the kitchen facelift is complete, we will be connoisseurs of microwave foods, nothing more. No gourmet dinners until. Our dining experience will include Lean Cuisines, Healthy Choice, sandwiches, and paper plates. Bon Appetit!

Thank goodness I do not have a headache today, and if I survive this date without a migraine, it will be a miracle! The contractor arrived early at 8:00 sharp. Before 9 am, the cabinets by the sink are gone. That’s where we run into the first surprise, and I am one who doesn’t like surprises.

Our old cabinets were built over a soffett, a construction term used to describe the installation process of the existing cabinets. When the top of the cabinets are removed, we discover exposed beams leading to the roofing. Apparently when the first remodeling was done in the early 1970’s, the couple who owned the house chose to cut corners and not box in this area. The cabinets they installed were built overhead, leaving the ceiling exposed. Thank goodness we chose not to cut corners and do this renovation the correct way.

Later, when the enclosed pantry is ripped out, we run into a brick wall – literally, figuratively and physically. My husband and I wondered why the pantry was such an odd and non-user-friendly pantry, designed with angles and corners leading to wasted space. I do not question it anymore. When exposed, the contractor discovers the pantry is attached to an exterior brick wall, which was built at a 45º angle. Now we will need to have the custom-made cabinets re-made. By this discovery, my husband is on a business trip and I am stuck at home to take care of all of the incidentals of this mess. Several phone calls later, I am relieved, but furious that I rarely have a husband who will take care of such things. Sometimes I wonder what the convenience of marriage is; nevertheless, I can certainly understand why marriage is referred to as an institution, and I agree with this description. My friends laugh when they hear me grumble about the business of marriage. If only they walked in my shoes. After phoning my husband, I reassure him I have taken care of the matter and everything will be worked out.

“Good,” he replies. “I’ll try to get home early.”

Knowing him as I do, I understand he feels a bit guilty for not being home now, and he should. My one request just last week was for him to be home, but Corporate America dictates his schedule, so I take this in my stride, thankful that I can write even when the hammering and banging sounds like a wild eyed monster is loose in my gutted kitchen.

Sometimes it is a good thing that I cannot crawl through the telephone lines because if I could, I would probably want to do something not too nice. Perhaps now he understands why I insisted on hiring someone to remove the cabinets. Our marriage would never survive if he took on these projects. I suppose it is good that opposites attract – since I am the partner in our marriage who is gifted with multi-tasking, and he is good at directing, controlling, and walking off when things do not go as expected. Since today is only Day One of things to go wrong when remodeling, it is the perfect day for his business trip and my stress level to be tested.
In the afternoon, the construction crew leaves and I have the luxury of quiet again. I decide to turn the stereo on and when the music fails to relax my mood, I leave the house to get a manicure. Sometimes a woman needs a bit of pampering! Tomorrow will be another day of hammering, sawing, the constant ringing of the telephone, and more unexpected surprises. Calgon, please take me away!

Three Weeks Later – March 22, 2007

D Day arrives – Delivery Day! Last week I received a call from Kraft Maid. The cabinets are on track, scheduled for delivery March 22. There is a three-hour window of opportunity set for delivery, between the hours of 12:00pm – 3:00pm. At 11:40, the truck arrives with seventeen boxes. Last week I was told, we would need 337 cubic feet of room – whatever that means. I do not claim to be a mathematician! Now, I am living in a sea of boxes – everywhere! Even the front door is backed up with boxes, especially one lengthy box exactly 94 inches in length so large it cannot turn the corner to go into the kitchen. Since we are blessed with a kitchen located in the front of the house, we have no option left. We must place this monstrous box next to the front door! The question at hand is – when the cabinet is removed from this coffin sized box, will it turn the corner into the kitchen for installation? Let us hope we do not have a fire in the house. We only have one exit/entrance now. I created a Caution Under Construction sign, taped it on the front door, in the event someone rings the doorbell, and does not understand why we cannot open the front door.

I confess, I did everything humanly possible to prepare the house for this arrival, feeling as if I was giving birth to these cabinets and this project. Why is it a woman MUST DO EVERYTHING in a marriage???

This morning, I rushed around in anticipation of an early delivery since my husband had something to do this morning and wasn’t around! I had labor pains, excruciating pains from muscles stretching to move so I can lift awkward pieces of furniture. The coffee table bit me when I moved it, leaving a nice scratch and bruise on my leg. Labor pains! I moved living room furniture around, making way – only to discover due to the tall pantry we ordered, we cannot open the front door. If I survive this disaster, it will be a miracle! My husband is receiving the cold shoulder treatment from me – well deserved. This is my way of dealing with his abstinence!
When Phil arrives home, he asks if I have contacted Home Depot to let them know the cabinets are here. My reply, “I’m working on a deadline. Why don’t you call them?” He grumbles, requesting the phone number.

Later we have a slight discussion. Phil reminds me he has done his part to prepare for this project. He was the one who rented the machine to strip and remove the wooden kitchen floor. He was the one who sanded the concrete smooth. He reminds me he worked on this labor pain for two days while I was out of town.

“Oops,” I reply, conveniently forgetting that I was out of town for four days during this process.
“Oops,” I apologize. “I’m so sorry.”

I move closer to him, managing to give him that stupid, innocent grin that usually works to make this stubborn, persnickety man respond to me and forgive me. Then, I kiss his lips. He pulls me close for a moment. Grins. We’ve never been the type of couple to remain angry for long, so the moment of silence and cold shoulder is gone. Anger never resolves issues. Never.

Friday, March 23, 2007

The representative from Home Depot arrives a bit late, due to traffic in Charleston. No surprise there. Traffic is ALWAYS a problem in this holy city. After a couple of hours of opening boxes and investigating what is inside, it appears we have one or two damaged cabinet doors. I must say, the cabinets are beautiful. Later, while basking in the sun, the phone rings. I ignore it since I am outside enjoying the beautiful spring weather we’ve been blessed with. My cell phone rings and I’m surprised to hear that the scheduled installation is set for Monday, March 26, 9:30 am.

“I had no idea,” I shriek, excited that soon I might be able to do my spring cleaning, instead of having a sea of boxes and kitchen clutter everywhere in the house. The dining room table is covered with items we might need during this process, and there is not a corner left to place anything else. At least for now, I’ve recognized that I can sort mail and put it away, instead of allowing it to clutter the kitchen and dining room tables. I make a mental note to self – Never allow mail to be left on the tables. Put it away.

This sea of brown boxes is confusing our pups, The Three Stooges, Shamus, Shakespeare, and Shasta. Shakespeare continues sniffing at the boxes, as if he cannot wait to find the perfect spot to lift his leg and claim his territory. When I scold him, he rushes away, as if to say, “I was just testing you to see if I could do it.” Our pups do not like change and this clutter is mystifying to them.

Shamus likes things clean and tidy, with everything in its proper spot. He prances quickly through the rooms, as if to say, I gotta get out of here. This mess is driving me nuts.

Shasta, our princess of a Maltese, the smallest of our troop of rescue animals, doesn’t like change – in any way, shape, or form. She is the ditzy little blonde in our household and each time I open the door to let her outside, she scatters back to her little bed, her private territory. Her tail is tucked between her legs, and she looks back at me as if to say, I’m so confused. I may never survive this change.

Tomorrow at 1:30, Phil and I are scheduled to go to Home Depot to learn how to paint a textured wall. Since the walls in the kitchen are plaster and quite defective – fifty years of age has not been graceful to them – I made the suggestion to texture the walls with a textured paint, and use stencils with a nautical theme. I found some cool looking dolphin and nautical stencils at a craft store and I’m hopeful they’ll give me the look and creativity I desire.

Home Depot was swamped on Saturday so I suggested we could play with the paint technique at home. If this textured effect works well, I have a master bathroom to do, using the nautical theme, or maybe I’ll get more creative and do a lighthouse on the wall. Wouldn’t that be cool!

Monday, March 26:

Today is the day. Installation of cabinets. Let us hope it goes well. The installers are named Scott and Kyle. Not your typical construction workers, they are tall, lean, and hard working. They arrive on time and go straight to the task at hand. I am impressed with the quality of work they do. With saws grinding a painful tune into the wood, I am reminded of dental visits, and I clench my teeth, thankful it is not me on the cutting board. I am so grateful I do not have a headache today.

Phil arrives home at lunchtime, no doubt to stupervise. Yes, I said stupervise!

He walks through the kitchen, looking at things, especially looking for things that can go wrong. He questions a few things, makes comments and suggestions. Again – stupervising!

After a few minutes of his getting in the way, I remind him the kitchen is long and narrow, only having so much room. He looks at me, turns his head, continues to ask questions. Always in charge! Think I’ve decided if we remodel again, I am running away for a while!