The Offering Plate

In my little blogging world one random idea often leads to another, and soon a theme emerges. After I posted “Choosing My Religion” on Monday, a piece prompted by a sun beam shining through clouds on a stormy day, the feedback I received here and on Facebook dredged up some long buried church-related memories.

As I recounted in “Choosing My Religion” I grew up attending three varieties of Protestant churches: Pentecostal, Primitive Baptist, and Southern Baptist. While the three were quite different in terms of worship volume and decorum, ranging from the jubilant, yet often apocalyptic tone of the Pentecostals to the solemn certainty of the Primitive Baptists, they all three shared one thing in common–the offering plate.

At some point in every service the preacher would intone an offertory prayer and the choir and/or the congregation would commence singing an offertory hymn while the deacons passed the plates. There was a rhythm to the plate passing and an order to it that made this one of my favorite parts of the service.

A person sitting on the end of an aisle would take the plate from the deacon in one hand, deposit money with his or her free hand and then pass the plate on to the next person and so on until the plate was handed to another deacon at the end of the pew. It was a beautiful thing to behold.

No matter which church I happened to be attending on any given Sunday I always had a bit of money to contribute, either from my own allowance or from one of the adults in my life. Usually I had a quarter, sometimes only a nickel, but occasionally I was able to give a whole dollar. Those were proud days indeed, although, we were taught that excessive pride was a sin, so I squelched the chest puffing and smile that went with placing a buck in the bucket.

One Sunday when I was five or so I was with my Grandma and Grandpa Hall at their little Pentecostal Church in Floydada, Texas. Just before the service started my bladder told me urgently that I needed to potty. My no-nonsense Grandma took me firmly by the hand and marched me back to the ladies’ room, accompanying me inside so as to hurry me up. I might have had a reputation for lollygagging, and she was having none of that on her watch.

I placed the two quarters I had for the offering plate on the back of the toilet, did my business, and went to flush, accidentally knocking my money into the toilet. Thankfully I hadn’t pressed the handle, so a tsk-tsking Grandma had me pull a handful of toilet paper off the roll to keep my hands dry while I retrieved the coins, all the time trying to get me to hurry.

When I bent to pick up the coins with one hand using the toilet paper as a shield, I leveraged my free hand on the side of the toilet and accidentally pushed the handle, flushing the quarters. I started crying, but Grandma Hall got tickled. This stern woman laughed as she dried my tears. She laughed until tears of her own rolled down her cheeks.

I washed my hands and walked solemnly back to my seat, chagrined at having nothing for the offering plate that week. Seeing my Grandma laugh that hard, though, more than compensated for the lack of funds. It’s still one of my best memories of her.

Peace, people.

A Real Fungi

Monday is Labor Day here in the states, and Studly Doright has the day off work. Since he’d played golf on both Saturday and Sunday, Studly decided to do yard work on his holiday. I was drafted to assist. Oh joy.

My job was to drive the lawn mower around the yard and load fallen branches into the trailer while Studly used his manly skills to chop branches that were too big for me to lift. We’ve had two fairly severe thunderstorms this past week, so I filled my little trailer multiple times.

Once I’d finished my part I handed over the reins of the mower to Studly who insists that he’s better at the job than I am. Hey, I only almost backed over his foot twice today. That’s a real improvement over previous performances.

Doright Manor sits in the middle of a forest on a small lake. I grew up in the Texas panhandle where trees are few and far between, so I never get tired of exploring our woods. Today, while Studly was mowing I found this little party animal:

Yep, they tell me he’s a real fungi.

Peace, people!

Wakulla Swim

On Tuesday morning I took our granddaughter, Dominique, and her friend, Sophia, to Wakulla Springs. Sophia had never seen an alligator outside of a zoo setting, so we had high hopes for a sighting.

When we first arrived at Edward Ball State Park rain was falling, and tickets for the boat ride weren’t being sold yet due to the possibility of lightning down the river. The girls donned their hoodies so we could go exploring.

That’s the diving platform above.

The small blue markers strung across the river are the only demarcation between swimming territory and all manner of wildlife including gators, manatees, and snakes. According to the park rangers the only real thing keeping wildlife out of the swimming area is the presence of people.

Occasionally an alligator will cross the line and have to be removed. While the girls were swimming I watched two other swimmers each pull a snake from the water. They assured me that these snakes weren’t venomous, but eeek!

Around noon we were cleared for the boat tour. The rains had cooled everything off, so while we saw a good many gators, they were all in the water.

And I managed to fail at getting a photo of anything other than my fellow passengers, trees, and swampy water.

After lunch the two Texas girls swam in the Florida sunshine for over an hour.

Meanwhile I reclined on my brightly colored blanket and read.

The girls slept all the way back to Doright Manor, while I sang along to the 60’s channel on Sirius/XM. Now, I need a nap!

Peace, people.

Snapshot #207

I took a few photos at Tallahassee Nursery’s “Summer Sips” event on Wednesday evening. Here’s one of my favorites from the night:

I call it “Big Bad Bromeliad.”

That reminded me of my favorite childhood song, “Big Bad John,” the heart wrenching story of a miner who sacrifices himself to save his co-workers during a mine collapse. Yes, that’s the kind of tale that appealed to me as a child.

Jimmy Dean, famous for his sausages, sang “Big Bad John.” He was practically a hometown boy, having grown up in Plainview, Texas, just 30 miles or so from my own home town of Floydada.

I believe that’s a young Jimmy Dean in the photo below, but Pinterest couldn’t differentiate between Jimmy Dean of sausage fame, and actor James Dean.

I know for certain that it’s Jimmy Dean sausage pictured here, though.

As far as I know James Dean didn’t deal in pork products as a sideline, nor did he sing.

He could have, though. He was just that cool.

Without further ado (or a decent segue, for that matter) here’s Jimmy Dean, singing, “Big Bad John.”

https://g.co/kgs/b8nuxi

Peace, people.

Umbrella Geography

As I drove through a pop up thunderstorm on my way into Tallahassee yesterday I glanced over to make sure my umbrella was tucked into its appropriate spot in the catch-all pocket of the passenger seat door. Sure enough, there it was just waiting to provide an invaluable service. And if it hadn’t been there I knew there was another umbrella in the pocket behind my seat.

Studly Doright and I keep two umbrellas in each of our vehicles, plus spares in the house for visitors and one in his shop. We are a proud, multi-umbrella household.

For most of my life I didn’t even own such a device. I thought they were pretty when characters on tv and in movies unfurled their umbrellas to stroll through a gentle rainfall. In theory I knew they could be useful, but I grew up in the dusty Texas panhandle where most days it was too dry to whistle.

Unless one is an umbrella fetishist there is absolutely no use for an umbrella in places that might get rain three times a year. And when it does rain in Floydada, or Claude, Texas, the howling winds generally render an umbrella useless.

When our daughter was small she desperately wanted a colorful raincoat with matching galoshes and umbrella. We were barely living paycheck to paycheck back then, so something the child might get to use once in her life wasn’t high on my list of priorities. But she’d have been adorable in matching rain gear. Damned poverty.

How many umbrellas do you own? Is the number directly related to where you live? I considered making the claim that I could tell where respondents reside by the number of umbrellas they owned, but decided I’d just be guessing. I’m no umbrella soothsayer, after all.

Peace, people.

A Week of Loss

Earlier this week my mother-in-law, Saint Helen, called to let us know that her beloved brother-in-law, our Uncle Junior, had passed away. Junior was one of the best men I ever met. He always had a smile and a story to tell. Every Sunday he’d call Saint Helen and they’d share their week’s adventures. Even in his last years Junior would be out on his large property in Oklahoma tending to chores that would be daunting to much younger men. He was quite a man.

I also lost a friend I met in a Facebook group of political progressives, and while we never met face to face, Thom’s death hit me hard. He was a retired Methodist minister who lived a life of service to others. His heart was huge and his sense of humor kept us all on our toes. He shared his beautifully written prayers with us along with his calming and deep wisdom. Even in his last days he was posting puns on Facebook to cheer us up. The world has lost a great man.

Then just this morning I learned that a friend from my hometown was hit by a car and killed. I hadn’t seen Roy in years, but he was like a big brother to me when I was in high school. He had a big personality and an even bigger heart. I’m so sad for his family and for all who knew him. Another good guy gone.

Life is short. Hug your loved ones, cherish your friends.

Peace, people.

How Saving My Brother Resulted in My Burps Smelling Like Peppermint

My brothers and I were free range children, left to our own devices in the town of Floydada, Texas, over the three long months of every summer. As the oldest, I was placed in an undeserved position of authority while both of our parents worked full time jobs. I’m still amazed that brothers K and B will still talk to me after the horrible and random punishments I inflicted on them.

In my more self-forgiving moments I imagine that my poor efforts at babysitting equipped them both with survival tools far beyond what two small town boys might’ve gained otherwise. I mean, we had no cougars or grizzly bears to challenge their respective skill sets back in the 60’s. I was the next best thing.

I did teach them how to escape the lava that unexpectedly bubbled up in the living room from time to time. By carefully leaping from couch to chair to chair and back again we could keep our feet from becoming molten stubs. It was imaginary lava, but still. And I taught them how to scavenge for loose change in between the couch cushions and inside dresser drawers so we could walk to the drugstore downtown and each have a “baby” Coke on a scorching hot afternoon, so I wasn’t all bad.

Over the years both brothers have forgiven me for my cruelties, or at least they don’t mention them every time we’re together anymore. Instead we have edifying conversations. Just a week ago brother K and I were discussing our respective irritable bowel syndrome issues. He recommended a product called “Heather’s Tummy Tamers” with the caveat that they’ll make my burps smell like peppermint.

I ordered a bottle and indeed, my belches, along with other expressions of gas and bodily emissions, now have the distinct odor of peppermint. But they work beautifully on alleviating gas and acid reflux. I’m so glad I never actually tossed him into the lava.

Peace, people.

Random Photos from Austin, Texas, plus Bonus Footage of Me on Drums

On my recent trip to Austin, Texas, I took a good many photos. Surely some of them are worth sharing.

These photos below are of random works of art I saw on the Austin Tour of Weird Homes:

The one above was part of the black light decor in a bathroom!

One home had two rooms dedicated to various images of Marilyn Monroe.

We stopped for lunch at Lucy’s where darned near everything is deep fried and delicious, even the deviled eggs!

I did find a sandwich that wasn’t fried:

Oh, except for the fried chicken in the chicken salad sandwich.

Sister-in-law, Angie, struck a pose at Lucy’s.

We also strolled around the expansive grounds of The Great Outdoors nursery.

But best of all, I got to play drums at the house we rented!

Autographs, anyone? By the way I’m well aware I am holding the sticks incorrectly. Don’t be haters.

Peace, people!

A Snore Thang

I flew home from Austin yesterday. My original flight, scheduled to leave the Texas capital at noon was cancelled, and I ended up on an earlier flight. My 5 a.m. alarm came much too early, especially since I hadn’t slept much anyway.

Not long into the first brief leg of my flight from Austin to Houston I must’ve dozed off, something I’m rarely able to do on a plane. Unfortunately some pesky person near me jarred me awake with their snoring. The same thing happened on the flight from Houston to Dallas. Just my luck to get stuck by two snorers the one time I’m able to catch a few much needed zzzz’s.

It wasn’t until the third leg of the trip from Dallas to Panama City Beach, when once again my sleep was interrupted by snoring, that I realized the culprit was me. I guess the drool on my chin was the giveaway.

At least my seat mates were different on all three flights so my embarrassment was diffused. I do so hope my snores were ladylike.

Peace, people.

Austin’s Weird Tour of Homes

Saturday in Austin was spent touring weird homes around the city. In a town known for being weird, it takes a special kind of home to qualify for this tour.

I’m not even going to try to explain what we saw on the tour, but here are a few photos I thought it would be fun to share with my readers.

Pictured above are the weirdest people in Austin this weekend. From left, my sisters-in-law Lyn and Angie, friend Mauri, niece Christie, and yours truly. We’re not nearly as innocent as we look.

Too much happened today and I’m too tired to post much, but suffice it to say I had way more fun than is probably legal in the state of Texas.

Goodnight and peace, people!