Re-Run Charlie

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This is not an actual photo of MY Charlie–but this is one of her cousins with a close resemblance. In honor of all the baby birdies that are making their way into the world right now, and due to the fact that I have NO time to post right now. . .I give you my first ever blog re-run. Best wishes to all of Charlie’s progeny. . .right now.
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Luke 12:6&7 Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.

Prologue:

I have a lot of hair. A lot. It is thick and coarse and plentiful. It was a great source of much pain and many tearful brushings when I was young. I got it all chopped off when I was 10 and didn’t grow it out again until I was a freshman in college. That scripture from Luke, and also Matthew, has long been a favorite of mine. The idea that God knows the number of hairs on my head–amazing. Whether you take that scripture literally or figuratively, it is still a great illustration of how much God loves us. Not only that, but the soothing, assuring tone of Jesus’ voice when he says it, well, I can almost imagine how he sounded. In essence, he was stroking the hair of the disciples, calming their fears, using words and things familiar to them to make a point.
“. . .Do not be afraid. You are worth more than MANY sparrows.”

I was in a hurry. I had made it home from school early, and changed clothes to go buy groceries. It was spring. Tony and I had been married for 3 years or so.

I hustled out to the car, mind elsewhere, and what I saw annoyed me no end. It was a teeny, tiny, scrawny, pitiful, NEKID baby bird. It had fallen out of its nest, which was lodged in the eaves of the metal cover over our parking area.

And it had landed RIGHT in my parking spot, RIGHT next to my front driver’s side tire.

And I was not happy about it.

Having grown up in the country, I knew better than to try and put that birdy back in it’s nest. The momma would not have taken too kindly to a 5th grade teacher hand smelling baby. I did not have time for this. I was in a hurry. I had plans. I had groceries to buy. But the thought of coming home and finding a teeny, tiny, scrawny, pitiful, NEKID baby bird corpse was none too pleasing either.

So, I did what I had been taught never to do, and I picked up that baby bird and carried it into our apartment. Then, fingers crossed, I called the science resource center which happened to be housed inside my school. They had all sorts of orphaned, injured, unwanted animals in there, and I was sure they would welcome this little one with open arms.

Evidently, the inflation rate on birds was not too much different from New Testament times, and the director informed me that she was NOT in the market for a baby bird as they were “a dime a dozen.” She WAS happy to tell me how to care for it, however. Rather than going to the grocery store for People Food, I went to the pet store and got Babies That Fall Out of Their Nest Food and a feeding syringe and VOILA–easy as that I became a mother house sparrow.

I named our baby Charlie. Why, I cannot now say. At that time, I had no idea what kind of bird it was, but I thought it was a boy.

Baby house sparrows are really not so very different from baby humans. They eat a lot, and when they are hungry they make a lot of noise, and what goes in must come out, and they do that a lot too. They need to be kept warm, and they sleep a lot. The up side is that unlike baby humans they sleep through the night from the get-go, because their parents do not fly around finding food for them after sunset. The down side is that like baby humans, they need constant care and attention throughout the day, and I was a full-time school teacher.

The next morning, I put that baby bird in a plastic dollar store basket lined with a dish rag. I made the equivalent of a baby house sparrow diaper bag complete with food for the day, and I took both of us to school. I marched into my principal’s office and said, “I found this bird yesterday, and Margie in the SRC does not want it, but I couldn’t let it die, so it will be in my room from now on.” And he said, “Okay.”

My 5th graders were thrilled. Well, at first they were a little grossed out, ’cause just like brand new humans, brand new birds aren’t so attractive unless you are the mom. But they were thrilled at the possibilities. So Charlie became a part of our world.

Little feather sprouts began to grow in–on the head first then on the wings. After the feathers arrived, I was able to tell that my baby was, in fact, a girl. When she wasn’t asleep in her dish towel covered basket with the lamp shining on her for warmth, my students were constantly wanting to see her.

Like a baby human she began to sleep less and chirp more. The kids would watch me feed her. She would sit on my shoulder while I taught class, or nap under the collar of my shirt. Her little birdy feet would clutch my finger as the kids stroked her fluffy, soft head.

One day, she jumped off of my finger and fluttered her way to the floor. It took about three or four days, but that baby learned to fly in my classroom. Again, like a baby human, she loved her new freedom, but she didn’t stray too far from mom. She would flutter, flutter, flutter, then turn around to find me and my ever present index finger perch.

The day came when I had to leave her home in the cage with seed food to eat. She was full grown and ready to go. At the end of that school year in 1996, I gave all of my students a small photograph of me holding Charlie on my finger. She was a part of their world for over a month, and they felt very protective of her.

Tony and I never planned to keep her. She was a wild bird and would need to go back into the wild, but we were moving to the suburbs in the middle of May and decided that would be a better place to turn her loose.

Thing was, once we turned her loose, she kept on coming back. She perched on the light fixture by the back door at night to sleep. She flitted from crepe myrtle to crepe myrtle but never left the back yard. She rode on Tony’s shoulder while he mowed. She flew to us any time we opened the door. She loved to peck at my diamond engagement ring. She was on her own, but still not ready to leave the nest.

One night at sunset, she didn’t come home. We thought she’d finally decided to go her own way. Then Tony saw her. She was hopping along the back porch to us. She tried to fly, but her wing was useless. We never knew how she broke it. We were afraid to pick her up for fear of damaging her wing further, so I moved very close to her. She hopped into my lap and fell asleep in the folds of my nightshirt.

I was so sad for her. I didn’t want her to be caged for the rest of her life. Tony took her to the vet the next day. She gave us some special food with extra calcium but told us that Charlie would never fly again and that house sparrows can live in captivity for 10+ years.

We fed her and took her out every day to let her hop around the yard. She seemed happy in her cage in the kitchen. A few weeks later she was riding Tony’s shoulder as he mowed when the wind began blowing and whoosh, she was up and flying.

House sparrows are very, very smart. They are hoppy little birds that weigh next to nothing. And our house sparrow, well, she was pretty much unbreakable. She survived a 12 foot fall to a black topped parking lot. She survived my paltry ministrations as a mother bird. Then, against all odds, she learned to fly again after she broke her wing. She resumed her perch by the back door, and life went on as usual.

Late in July we had friends over one night. It was a Saturday. I was in the kitchen cooking. Tony and our friends were outside. After dinner, it was time for Charlie to go to bed, so I walked outside to show Mike and Kathleen where she slept. No Charlie. When I asked Tony if he had her he said she had been riding his shoulder before dinner, then took what he called a victory lap around the back yard and flew over the fence to the front. She had never flown into the front yard before, and after she did she never came home again.

Charlie. She loved us and we loved her.

I grew up around animals, but have loved only three: two dogs and one bird. I do not give my heart to animals lightly. It always ends up broken. After Charlie left, the door on that little section of me was closed for good. Even though we never planned to keep her as our own, I had grown attached.

The night she flew away was warm and beautiful. The wind was blowing gently. It wasn’t too terribly hot for July. The sunset was blazing. I don’t know where she went or what happened to her, but I hope she had a good life and raised lots of little house sparrow babies just as strong as she.

Epilogue

Spring of 2006, I went to pay Thad’s enrollment fee for his new school. When I got to the office, the director said, “I have someone who wants to see you.” She left for a moment and came back with the young man who is in charge of the afternoon program. The first thing he did was ask the question I hear a lot, “Mrs. Langley, do you remember me?” It had been 10 years, but I still recognized the face. He was a student the year of Charlie. The next thing he said was, “I still have that picture of you and Charlie.”

That kid’s name was Jamar. He was one of TWO Jamars that I had in the same class. He ran everywhere he went. I cannot tell you how many times I fussed at him. He didn’t like to do his homework, and he talked a lot in class, and I visited with is mother on the phone a time or two. Now that KID has grown into a fine young man. He is finishing college and working on a degree in elementary education. I would never have predicted that. Last year a little girl had a siezure on the playground. She quit breathing and began to turn blue. Jamar performed CPR until the paramedics arrived. Her parents took her home from the emergency room alive. And now? That “kid” is watching after MY kid. And he’s doing a very, very fine job.

Annoyances and inconveniences come our way every day. Although distracting, they still seem small and even insignificant. We swat at them like pesky flies. Tiny birds drop from high eaves. Squirrely 5th grade boys run everywhere they go and generally get on people’s nerves. Trivialities come along that divert our plans and take our time and energy and we wonder why that always seems to happen. Yet, in the distance, in the tapestry of what is our future, they converge to become blessings, memories, lessons, gifts from the One who knows the very number of hairs on our heads–the One who knows right where Charlie lived out the remainder of her days–the One who knows where I shall live out the remainder of mine. Neither Charlie nor I have been, nor ever will be, forgotten by God.

An Open Letter to the Lotion/Shampoo/Soap Manufacturers of America. You know who you are.

Dear Lotion/Shampoo/Soap Manufacturers of America:

STOP IT.

Stop it NOW.

Stop changing the color/formula/appearance of your products.

Step AWAY from the Laboratory of Insanity.

I had JUST grown accustomed to my shampoo that USED to smell like a lovely clean floral scent of unidentifiable origins smelling like cucumber melon.

THAT change occured in June of 2007. I even got wild and bought the soap to match. But tonight, TONIGHT when I took myself to Wal-Mart before the thunderstorms of Hades descend upon my portion of the Texas Gulf Coast, I find that CUCUMBER MELON is no longer good enough. NOOOOOOOOOOOO. . .now it’s Cucumber and GREEN TEA. Which smells REVOLTING. I could get that OR Rejuvinating Grapefruit Lemongrass scent to invigorate me RIGHT BEFORE I GO TO BED WHICH IS WHEN I WASH MY HAIR.

The same shenanigans have been pulled with my soap, my children’s soap, my children’s shampoo, my clothes detergent, my WONDERFUL apple Lysol, the list goes on and on and on.

I have to make about 1.4 million decisions in a day. When I get to Wal-Mart at 9:00 p.m. with an ankle swelling like an over-ripe melon for NO particular reason, I do not want to have to NEGOTIATE the shampoo aisle. I want to find my (now newly familiar) white bottle with green writing and be done.

DONE.

It’s only been around for 10 months, yet you feel the need to change it ALREADY??????

Alas, I had to sniff and smell and inhale several different things until, in desperation, I looked up and down the aisle for ONE–just ONE recognizable shampoo.

And I found it.

I found some FINESSE. The blue bottle now has a pink daisy on it–but it is still the same Finesse blue it’s been for the past 25 years, and it still SMELLED the same way it has for the past 25 years, and I have not used Finesse in about 10 years, but tonight it was the ONLY recognizable product on the shampoo aisle. I didn’t even WANT Finesse, but by-golly I bought it. I will wash my hair with a recognizable scent wafting on the steam from my shower and know that all is right with the world.

There are several parts of me and mine that need to be lotioned, deoderized, washed, conditioned, and generally maintained by products that YOU–the producers produce. I get it. Really I do. I also understand that it’s a green tea, cucumber, lemon grass jungle out there what with all the OTHER companies that have their very OWN Laboratories of Insanity. I also know that you are aiming for a “target audience,” but allow me to state this loud and clear.

I should be your target audience.

I. Me. Moi. Mrs. Middle America. I am the ringer of your bell, the maker of your bacon, the turner of your world, the consumer of your product. Me. And I am a tired, tired woman. I understand the need for “new and improved” I suppose–but some of what you make, I really, really like–just the way it is/was. Which is why I have bought it all these years–over and over and over.

So I beg you, on behalf of Wal-Mart/Target shoppers everywhere, please, please, for the love of all that is washed and slathered with scented products on a daily basis, STOP THE INSANITY. Give us a break. I and the ethnic couple on the canned foods aisle that heard part of my rant on the phone to a friend (and gave me an “AMEN, SISTUH”–not even kidding) ask you to stop changing the way is smells/works/tastes/looks/and COSTS, and leave it BE. For just a little while.

Please.

Pretty please.

With Cucumber Melon Lemon Grass Green Tea on top.

That is all.

How we’re doing

It is spring break, and I am glad. We are leaving on Tuesday to go and visit Momma for a few days before attending a church youth thing in a different town. We are trying to dig out from under well over a month of packing and unpacking. I told Sarah tonight that since I plan to USE the suitcase for our return trip to Louisiana, it might help for me to actually UNPACK it.

I have had so many people (and I am very grateful for the concern) ask how I am or how Momma is. The other day I sent Melanie and e-mail, and she suggested I share my thoughts as it might help someone else who is grieving. So, here they are.

I am holding up “fine.” That meaning that this death of a parent is not quite what I had imagined it would be–not that I spent lots of time imagining it, but we KNEW all of our lives that Daddy (as robust and active as he was) would probably die young due to the fact that he was walking around on an artificial leg.

I am sometimes amazed at what this IS like. Since I’ve been gone from home for so long, and since Daddy spent so much of the time I WAS home out gadding about with the ducks and deer and fish, my brain just feels like he is on an extended hunting trip–or that he’s at home with Momma while I am here in Texas. I am a person who thinks it is better to walk THROUGH pain than around it, since it tends to grow the more you ignore it. But when I try to wrap my brain around the fact that he is really, truly, physically gone, it’s too big a reality to comprehend.

I don’t know if it’s denial, or the peace of God, or the fact that I feel Daddy’s influence in my life so strongly, but right now, I feel the strength to get through the days much like I did before. I keep going over how we handled the last few weeks of his life, the choices we made, how we spent our time together, and I cannot think of a thing to do differently than we did. The steps that led us to that last day together were guided by God’s own hand to give us peace now. Of that I am confident.

As I write this, I feel the tears and pain creep in around the edges, so maybe I am in denial, or maybe the loss is so big–so huge–that, like I said, I can only handle it incrementally. I can only touch little pieces of it, digest those parts, and then back away for awhile until that little section becomes a part of my reality. As for the pain and loss my mother must feel, I cannot begin to fathom the loss of a spouse of 45 years.

That was most of the e-mail. . .what I didn’t write was that I keep having dreams about Daddy or his dad–my Grandaddy–our family. . .my brain is trying to process this in ways that I cannot in times when I cannot control my thoughts and steer it away from what has happened.

One of the odder of the dreams was that Momma had died instead of Daddy but she was in a spot where we could call her on the phone. Daddy came to my (childhood) bedroom and said he wanted to talk to Momma. I said, “Well, let’s call her.” And so we did. She answered the phone and when I asked how she was she said, “Well, it’s NOT what I expected. . .there are a bunch of us just waiting in this room, but they haven’t taken us anywhere yet.” She encouraged us to call frequently as once she left–I guess–the foyer of heaven? the heavenly vestibule if you will?–we’d no longer be able to reach her by phone.

My father was such a huge presence in our lives, that his influence is still there, so in some ways it feels as if he’s not gone at all. We are still a family–and strong family–without him physically here, because he spent his life teaching us how to get along in the world, and no matter how annoyed we have ever gotten with each other–our family has never fought or had protracted silences. We always love each other no matter what and try to enjoy the time we have.

I think the hardest part for Mom is losing half of herself–not having someone to talk to–to bounce ideas off of–to make decisions with–and she is having to make LOTS of big decisions. We are all looking forward to seeing her this week, and in April, she will be here with us for two weeks, so we are looking forward to that too.

I hope you have a wonderful spring break/Easter week wherever you are.

If you don’t know Lolcats

So Lolcats aren’t really cats. . .they are pictures (normally of animals) that people add captions to. My children and I have followed the saga of the walrus and his errant bucket. Occasionally there will be an off-color one (so I scan before showing them to the kids), but for the most part, they are just hilarious. Take, for instance, this jewel. It totally cracked me up.

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Or this one. . .

Humorous Pictures

Or even these. . .

Humorous Pictures

Humorous Pictures

Humorous Pictures

Humorous Pictures

Humorous Pictures<

You can even click on the “Random” button at the top and it will pick on for you.

Go. Click. Enjoy.

Done and Done

After a long, long, LOOOOOOOONG and exhaustive/ing day of house hunting/style perusing/measuring/rethinking/and picture taking, we FOUND the house. . .the PERFECT house for us. I was even able to get a photo to show you.

As you will see, it has all the rooms we need. It is also not just your ordinary box on a lot. It has character which I found WOEFULLY lacking in some of the other homes we saw.

This one just seemed to fit the bill.

One of the things I cannot WAIT to do it decorate, and I hope you will all feel free to lend me a cyber hand as I tackle the task. As we looked at empty speck homes and decorated designer model homes today, I was truly convinced the the more ideas you have the better. I would LOVE for you to leave comments regarding the types of decor you think might work in this home.

Thank you for your comments in advance. I know they will come in very handy as we now tackle the likes of Home Depot, Lowe’s, The Great Indoors, Bed Bath and Beyond and the like.

Take a look and then let me know where to start.

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Planners We Are

So remember back when I told you we were going to build a house in two years. Guess what. Two years is only a couple of months away, and build a house we are.

It, of course, is not going to be the one we want. Not in any way, shape, or form. It will, rather, be the one we can afford and scurry about in with our creaky knees when we are old, although I will be the only one with creaky knees I’m pretty sure.

I say it will be the one we can afford because as luck would have it, the house we WANT to build is about 600 square feet smaller than this one. . .and about $30,000-$40,000 more expensive. . .go figure. These home builder people, they like their own plans. And the custom people are very, very kind and have come and sat at our kitchen table and taken careful notes on exactly what we want and how we want it, but their buying power is not as “frugally appropriate” as the larger builder people.

We wanted a two story Victorian Farmhouse with a couple of porches. That is hard to come by for a reasonable price–not that houses are currently reasonably priced–have you PRICED houses lately people???? Oh. My. Goodness. Atleast in our neck of the woods–and we will LITERALLY be in the woods. The one we wanted was 2,300 square feet. The one below is 2,900 square feet. I am aghast even saying it. . .that is a BIG house. . .but if you look below, you will see that the only “wasted” space is in the monstrosity of a master bathroom that will embarass my humble roots for the rest of my life.

Anyway. After MONTHS and WEEKS of talking and looking and planning and getting bids, I give you what my friend Susan calls “The Perfect House.” She used to sell real estate, and she knows her houses. She took one look at our cobbled together plan and wrote comments all over it, and at the top she wrote, “This is the PERFECT house.”

No Kidding.

So. . .I give you the perfect house. Even though it’s not what we wanted.

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Allow me to ‘splain a few things. I say this is not what we wanted. . .but it does have all of the ROOMS we wanted. . .the main ones being:

*a dining room large enough to house the table for 10 that my husband INSISTS upon–and you are all invited to dinner ’cause we’ll be able to fit

*a study (also hubby’s request) so there is an actual spot for him/me to grade papers without having to remove everything for dinner–the HUGE size it to match the dining room so as to maintain the symmetry of the front

*a craft room (WITH a closet) for ME, ME, ME so I can sew and scrapbook and not have to remove everything for dinner

*a game room for the children where they can play games and do their thing and not have to remove everything for dinner

*are you noticing a theme here?

*we ended up putting two plans together, because when we went to this particular model home builder place, the look of pride on our son’s face when he went into the door of “his” room and came out the door of the Jack and Jill bathroom into the hallway was beyond price. He was beaming at his cleverness AND the cleverness of whomever designed the Jack and Jill bathroom low these many years ago. Should you care to see the two original plans you may go here and here

*the first plan is called the Victoria–ironic no?

*the second plan is called the Sonora

*we’ve taken to calling our version the Sonoratoria–but I’m hoping it doesn’t stick

*the Sonora is the main part of the house and the Victoria has the bedroom area we wanted to use. You will also see that I finnagled the plans to give me a room and the kids a room and stretched the dining room ’cause Microsoft Paint rocks when it comes to messing with house plans

*the Jack and Jill bathroom and a “game room” will lessen the disappointment (for all of us) at having to sacrifice the window seat and smallish balcony we were planning for the children.

*evidently window seats and smallish balconies run about $15,000-$20,000 apiece

*and lookit. . .a laundry room that no one will need to walk through to enter our home. We have one of those right now. . .it’s called the garage. . .and lookit2 a table on which to FOLD the laundry. . .and lookit3 IT’S BY THE CHILDREN’S ROOMS which may not actually get the clothing into the washer, but it’s a lot shorter distance that I will need to carry it

*the kid’s rooms are “near” us without being TOO near us as they are growing older and getting louder

*either the study or the craft room (or both) could become a bedroom should any of our parents need to live with us in the future

*the game room is CLEAR on the other side of the house so on nights of slumber parties they are atleast 30+ feet away from my bedroom.

*and, as Susan pointed out, the living room does not share a wall with the bedroom, so the chances of the t.v. being heard by me when I want to go to bed is far less

*this house will also have a farm house appearance AND the appearance of dormers on the roof. Alas, it is a great anguish to me that the dormers upstairs will not be used as it costs the SAME $30,000-ish to put stairs in so the game room and craft room can be upstairs with the great dormers. My friend Susan, however, assures me that I will prefer a game room down stairs 30+ feet away from my bedroom as opposed to over the top of my head, so I am choosing to believe her
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*I have prayed and prayed that God be in charge of this, and though it’s not what I’ve long dreamed of, it “feels” right, and I’ve learned to trust my feelings some of the time.

So, tomorrow Tony and I will hie ourselves to the available models/speck versions of these houses (without our long suffering children in tow) to measure and walk around and look at the space to make ABSOLUTELY FOR SURE, SURE, SURE before we walk in and ask Dude Man at the home builder place to lay down a bid.

I should have gone to bed two hours ago, but I needed to think this through before we set out, and I figured I might as well drag all of you along.

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And if you care to sign a petition. . .run on over the Rebecca’s blog. She currently homeschools her twin 6 year old girls (who, by the way, think playing chess is cool and were recently amazed to find that soup can come from something other than raw ingredients) and the state in which she resides, California, has just ruled homeschooling illegal. I don’t for one minute think that this will stand, but she’s asking us to sign the petition even if we don’t live there so that the idiots who passed this law will know that we think it’s just ridiculous. And that’s coming from someone who has taught in public schools for quite awhile. And I also find it rather ironic that the granola crunching state of free love would make this issue of personal choice illegal. Go figure.

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

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There are many, many things I would love to tell you about my Daddy, but it would take a really long time. So I will tell you just a few things and then show you some pictures.

My Daddy was hard-headed, stubborn, and tough.

He was tender-hearted, loving, and friendly.

Among the 400-ish people who came to the visitation at the funeral home and the 400-ish people who attended the funeral, the most profoundly affected by Daddy’s death were the crusty old hunting and fishing buddies–the men who are just about as hard-headed and stubborn and tough as Daddy was. They were undone, unable to speak. They wept openly.

I told Momma I was reminded of when Jesus went to the tomb of Lazarus, and upon seeing how sad his sisters were and the emotion of the people, Jesus wept. The crowd that was present said, “See how he loved the man.” These men of which I speak loved the man Harold Watts, and even though it was not said in life, Daddy knew, and it poured from his friends at his passing.

So I give you some pictures to help explain my Daddy. We had these and many more at the funeral home. The body that was in the casket served Daddy as well as it could. After housing his indomitable spirit for 68 1/2 years under more than trying circumstances it deserved to be treated with respect. But the man everyone knew was to be found in the photographs and in the roar of stories and laughter that came from the gathering of friends and family. It’s a shame Daddy missed it, ’cause he would have had a great time.

Daddy won this trophy when he was in the Air Force in Homestead, Florida
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My sister blowing kisses to Momma
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Fishing in Florida
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The day Daddy killed the cougar. He had just lost his leg.
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Skeet shooting
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Daddy loved the hunting dogs. I am the one in the striped dress.
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This was taken when I was in high school. The deer was HUGE.
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Church directory
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4th of July
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My wedding
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Daddy and Thad
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A highlight of the summer visit was a tractor ride from Pop
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This is the picture Thad requested for his room
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Daddy in the club house with my eldest nephew, Gavin
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All of us at Christmas–I think this was 2004
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Can you tell he loved to fish?
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This photo was taken in January. He and Momma had bought a camp over on one of his favorite fishing spots so he could fish off the dock when he could no longer get into the boat. He never got to enjoy it, but we will think of him every time we go over there. This photo is the one that made Momma cry. I think he’s looking to heaven.
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Thank you for your prayers, your kind words, your concern over the illness and passing of my father from this life. He lives on in each of us who knew him, and we hope that the image of him you see through us is one that would make him proud.