red clay ponderings

Hmmm… what shall I ponder on today?



ScarFace Undone

This past October 2014, I had surgery on my face. The surgery was to remove skin cancer from beneath the surface of my face.

September, the month of impending change, is when I learned I had cancer. Before surgery, I had a couple of weeks to think about the alien living below my eyes, beneath my skin. I hated the idea of something foreign living there. Knowing it was caused by too many unprotected days in the sun, I vowed to never again go outside without wearing a good quality sunscreen. I’ve honored the vow.

Below is a photo of the day I learned that the yellow fireball in the sky had not been my friend.


This is what the spot looked like… a pimple that wouldn’t go away. I didn’t think it was anything to be concerned about. Until it lingered and wouldn’t clear up.

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I had both dreaded and looked forward to surgery. I was not excited about having my face opened up, but I was anxious to get the show on the road. October, one of my favorite months, ushered in Surgery Day; my good friend Angie Alexandersen drove me to Marietta for the procedure. I went into surgery believing all cancer would be removed and knowing I would have a scar afterwards. I just didn’t know how wide, long or deep the scar would be. But my attitude was: Ok…you’ve had fifty plus years of a relatively unmarred face. So you may have a scar. Deal with it. You’ve fought tougher battles than a blemished face.”

But I also knew I would help the scar heal physically with the products I “peddle” (that’s how one of my son’s friends described my business skill-set). 🙂

I am a consultant with Rodan+Fields, the skincare company created by Drs. Katie Rodan and Dr. Kathy Fields. During the past year, I had seen my client’s wrinkles decrease, age spots disappear, rosacea, eczema and acne cleared up… leaving behind a flawless complexion. And while RF doesn’t make claims of healing scars, I knew I would give our products a chance before using the expensive creams my doctor suggested.

The doctors and nurses had instructed me to wait a few days before removing the surgical bandages. In the meantime, I tried to set my mind for whatever lay beneath the white netting covering one side of my face. Expect nothing, just pull the bandages back and accept what’s there.

Alone and holding my breath, I carefully removed the gauze and tape. One look and my stomach knotted up slightly and I sort of wanted to cry; but then I talked myself back: It could be worse. It wasn’t in the bone. Others have dealt with so much more. Think of what Denise is going through. If this is the worst of it for you, consider yourself fortunate.


I developed my Rodan+Fields Game Plan. And when the stitches were removed a week or so later, I began applying RF Night Renewing Serum and RF Overnight Restorative Cream directly to the raw, invaded area.

RF Overnight Cream

A couple of weeks after sutures were removed, the scar area began to harden and raise up in a long rigid line down my cheek and alongside my nose. It reminded me of the Rocky Mountains, except it was an angry red mountain range rather than one of snow-capped beauty. My physician told me it was from the internal stitches healing and pulling the tissue and muscle from different directions. “The roots of the cancer were spread in different angles, you were stitched accordingly. We can talk about procedures to correct it after you’re completely healed”.

Searching the internet for restorative possibilities, I came across a surgeon using a ‘needlling’ process to break down scar tissue. Watching the video, I had an “aha moment”: “Hmmmm, RF has the AMP MD Roller. I wonder if that would work as well as what the doctor would use? The roller has surgical grade needles on it. I’ll give it a try”.
Six weeks after surgery, when most of the tenderness was gone, I began “needling” the scar with the AMP MD Roller. Immediately after “rolling”, I applied the serum and the PM Cream. I did this every night before going to bed; in the mornings, I reapplied the Overnight Cream. I still “roll, needle” the area every evening. Since then, I’ve added the full Redefine Regimen to my bedtime routine.
RF Serum Roller

I began to see a rapid improvement in the look of the scar once I added the RF AMP MD Roller to my scar-healing game plan. I’m still elated with the results I’ve received with Rodan+Fields products. Many times I had been impressed with the improvement in my my friend’s skin after using RF, but I was shocked with my outcome. And then one day the thought floated through my head…“Why are you shocked? Didn’t you believe you were worthy of the best? You tell your clients they deserve improved skin. So do you.”

I’ll never stop using Rodan+Fields products. Each and every thing I sell has a 100%, empty bottle, 60 day, money back guarantee. If I can help you, message me or one of your Rodan+Fields friends….we’ll talk about your own game plan. Whether it’s for wrinkles, age or hormone spots, acne, skin irritations…we have something to help you. You have nothing to lose.

Your skin will be with you until the end…treat it well.

I no longer wear foundation cosmetics, so each photo posted here is naked skin, no editing.

Photo in the bottom right corner of the collage was taken in January 2015.


March 2015

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April 11, 2015


Changing Skin, Changing Lives

Video: Scarface Undone

Danita Clark Able
Rodan+Fields Executive Consultant

The Bird Fighter


This morning, with a cup of Russian Tea in hand, I called my mom. It’s something I do daily. Most days, we chatter about the day before us, “what are you doing today?” Some mornings, the conversation is a lullaby of memories. Other times, she voices her concerns about the health and well-being of those she loves. Many mornings, she mentions her brothers and sisters….she misses them. The oldest of six, she has one surviving sibling.

Occasionally, our conversation takes a sharp turn. Unintentionally, I say something that whips up her Crawford temper, and she has to “bring me down a notch or two“. It’s ok.

Every now and then, regardless of conversation topic, I hear her with the ears of someone not from the south. Although I am from the south, I hear her with foreign ears and wonder what someone from New York or California would think of her Alabama vernacular. On those mornings I smile and silently shake my head. I learned a long time ago the pointlessness in correcting her. (When we visited the United Kingdom, an agent behind the ticket booth in a London train station asked her: “Where bouts in the states are ya from, M’Lady? Alabama or Tennessee?”

This morning, this is what I heard on the other end of the line:

Mama: Hello
Me: Are you busy?
Mama: Just fightin’ these old birds.
Me: (silent chuckle) What birds?
Mama: Aw, you know. Them ol’ birds that builds nests where they’re not supposed to. (The birds know this Rule of Helen? I wonder…)
Me: (She likes birds, usually, so now I’m curious). What kind of bird is it?
Mama: You know. Them old Mud Birds (Barn Swallows). I put the plant from Jake’s funeral out on the porch yesterday, and they’ve already started buildin’ a nest in it. They orta (ought to) know better than that. That’s a live plant, not no autoficial (artificial) one! Your daddy’s already knocked a nest out of the barn’s porch rafters, now they’re tryin’ to build one on this porch. They’ll mess all over the place! Nobody wants to clean up birds%$t all the time! Well, I need to go so I can get back out here to them birds. Before they build another nest.

So…if you need a good Mud Bird buster….you know who to call.

Sunshine, Lollypops and Sunscreen

The summer of 68 I took on a terrible sunburn. I was still a couple of years away from being a decade old, my skin still tender. Up until then, I had never blistered from the sun. I had been born with a complexion slightly tanned, so sunburns were never a worry. I don’t think we knew about sunscreen.

My family had journeyed to St. Augustine in early June, for our yearly family vacation. On the first day of the trip, I spent all morning and early afternoon on the beach. After lunch, I went to the pool. I remember playing Marco Polo with some other kids; reluctant to leave when my mom said it was time for dinner.

I remember waking during the night. My skin hot and raw, the crisp cotton sheets felt like sandpaper on my arms. I was miserable. And I remained miserable all week.

Last month I visited a dermatologist for the first time in my life. I had what I thought was a stubborn clogged pore on my face. Rodan + Fields has a fantastic mask that works wonders on such things. So I used the RF mask, but the pore was still clogged. After applying the mask three days in a row without a hint of success, I knew I needed to see a physician. Because the RF product works.

The dermatologist performed a biopsy and a few days later he called with the results: Basal Cell Carcinoma. Non-malignant skin cancer. He said it was probably from a sunburn I had as a kid. Next month I will have surgery to remove the cancer. And depending on how deep and wide the roots have spread, there could be follow-up, reconstructive surgery. I’m praying this isn’t the case.

So…moms, dads, grandparents….apply the sunscreen to the kiddos. Rodan + Fields has a great, waterproof, sweat-proof sunscreen that doesn’t have to be reapplied every ten minutes. Insist on hats and caps. The children may fuss now, but they’ll thank you when they’re in their fifties.

The photo here was taken the day of the biopsy…after the biopsy. I didn’t want to show the blood and gore, but I wanted you to have an idea of where the spot is located. Prior to the cutting away of skin, the spot really looked like a bug bite or small pimple. Nothing to worry about. But it was. If you have a recurring pimple or red spot that never completely goes away, don’t ignore it. See a physician.


Little Refuge

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Every now and then, we all need a little refuge from the hectic pace of life. We need a quiet place we can go to, a place where our busy minds can take a little rest.

Several months ago, a friend took me to his special place, a place he goes when, he said, he needs to think things through, or pray. Fittingly, the place is called Little Refuge. It is a little country church, nestled in the Georgia foothills, and it really is not very far from my parents Waleska home; the place where I spent the last years of my youth. I had never been to Little Refuge. But it was there all along, this simple and beautiful place of sanctuary. My friend had been there many times. It was the place of worship for his former wife’s family…his family in another life; yet the place still called to him when his mind needed a rest. So he shares it with a few others. I was thankful he shared it with me. And I wondered if I would ever be ready to leave.

The old wooden pews, time-worn floors, old windows and plank walls. Tattered Hymnals, a well read Bible. Soft light filtering in through ancient glass. Everything about the space was simple and beautiful and peaceful. And spiritual. We were the only souls in the building, but I felt the need to show reverence, to whisper; I didn't want to do anything to disrupt the peacefulness of the sanctuary. And when we left, although reluctantly, I felt renewed.

When my busy brain needs a quick respite, I let it go there, to Little Refuge. I wander around that little building, even if only in my mind. I remember the peace I felt there. I don't have to go there physically to talk with God, He is everyplace I am. I go there to pour a balm of peace over my harried mind.

There are other places I go, even when my body is sitting in Cartersville, to rest my mind: I sit on the beaches of Hawaii; I roam the wood-paneled halls of the old Ponce de Leon Hotel in St. Augustine, I sit cross-legged on the cool,tiled floors of the Alhambra in Granada, Spain; I wade along the shores of Lake Allatoona. While I'm there, I reflect on the people I love, the goodness in my life, the mercy and grace I've been given.

So, I encourage you to find time each day to take a little vacation, intentionally seek out a little refuge from the crazy pace of life. It’ll do you some good.

Rest easy.

Much love,

Hey Baby!


I blame SnowJam2014, boredom and a mullett, for my brief foray into the mystifying world of online dating.

I’ve just never been curious or brave/interested enough to give dating sites a try. I mean, looking at a stranger’s photo, reading a (most likely fake) profile, and then meeting the person behind the photo/fakeprofile in a public setting…where both parties will be scrutinizing the other, doesn’t sound like fun to me. Yet, it works out for some. For instance, I have a sweet friend married to the man of her dreams; a debonair Englishman whom she met on a dating site. But she is young and beautiful, and I’m thinking her case is probably rare.

A while back, and as a matter of Research, a friend allowed me to enter her online dating page. I crossed that threshold once….once was enough. A quick perusing of the site convinced me online dating wasn’t for me. Weeding through all those cheesy photos and goofy usernames…made my tummy feel yucky.

Two days ago, yet another ‘fifty-something, divorced friend’ and I were commiserating over the good, bad and sometimes hilarious aspects of dating at our age. She had me in stitches with her stories. “I look at photos of these men, see their grey hair or no hair and think….’Heavens! Not that one! He’s much too old for me!’ Never mind that I may be five years older and have more grey hair than he does,” she said. And there was the scrutiny. My old friend confirmed my fear.

Then today, the third day of SnowJam2014, I received a message with a photo attached. I admit to having gone on a few dates with old friends I’ve become re-acquainted with on Facebook. Sometimes I even joke about Facebook being a dating site in disguise. But it feels safe and generally, mutual interest is shown and a fair amount of dialogue takes place before a date is scheduled. Generally. Nothing quite like the following encounter has happened before…

Have you ever crossed paths with someone you (vaguely) knew in high school and, although you are now over fifty, you realize he is still sixteen years old? No? Probably just my good fortune, so please bear with me while I describe such an (facebook) encounter. The Message: “Hey baby! Whats up! Hit me up! Lets go out!!! Lets get together soon!”
Baby? I barely knew the man over thirty years ago. I think Baby is a wonderful name of endearment, but I didn’t like hearing it from this guy. Perhaps my displeasure had something to do with the photo. A man wouldn’t send a photo of himself to the opposite sex unless he felt it was an impressive likeness, would he? The Photo: His hair was still mullettish. His belly hung over his belt and a wife-beater stretched across the belly. Dark sunglasses covered his eyes; no smile. I guessed it was his ‘I’m Cool’ expression. He held a Pabst Blue Ribbon in one hand and a cigarette in the other.

“Why, would you send this photo to me,” I wondered? And at that moment, an absurd but true thought struck me and I laughed out loud, literally. I laughed not at my ‘friend’, but at myself. This man obviously has much more self-confidence than I do, I realized. I dislike photos of myself and would never send one, unsolicited or otherwise, to someone I might wish to go out with. But this guy put himself…in all his glory…out there and took a chance; something I would never have the courage to do. So, I developed something of an admiration for his pluckiness and deleted the connection.

Later in the day, boredom settled in and my mind wandered to the conversation with my girlfriend and, for some reason, I decided to subscribe to a free dating site. Once again, I was in uncomfortable territory, but I lingered a little longer this time and had a few laughs. Oh, and I saw some old familiar faces too. 😉 (An old friend had his senior photo locked in as his profile picture, burgundy tuxedo and all. He graduated in 1978).

In the event you’ve deprived yourself of the amusing experiencing of logging onto a dating site, consider yourself no longer deprived. The following profile information was copied and pasted straight from the site. Usernames have been slightly altered to protect the innocent, but the posts remain the same. Enjoy.

hungry69: (Nonsmoker) Looking for ladies in my area for fun and companionship. I try to stay in decent shape and physical attractiveness is important to me. I do not require a beauty queen, however ,if you describe your body type as average, it means that you are not overweight. Pretty but pleasingly plump could be an exception! Also, I don’t have the time to educate bleeding heart liberals .I only smoke some if I’m enjoying an adult beverage in evening(never during the day).

kingofducktown Hello, Howdy, Hey, and Hi,How are you doing? What’s Up?What’s Cooking? Now don’t be shy, come a bit closer, closer, come on closer I won’t bite…hard,I promise you that I wont.
First off, let me tell you that I was Georgian born and raised, I hope you won’t hold that against me.
I am a somewhat shy person but don’t worry, I’ll open up soon as I get to know somebody, and watch out! My humor could come out of left field and hit you like a ton of bricks and you won’t even know it!
Let me see, hmmm, “scratching his head”, I have been depressed somewhat for the past year, I have been lonely. While being burnt by other online dating services, I think I should try it once more. I hope that I can meet some nice lady here. As for money, You Can’t Take It With You When You Go!

iamdoctor: With muliple college degrees and a passion for life learning and passing along great values to others…I am a caring and passionate Man , driven and focused with lots of love inside to give to the right woman, I have a very young and able body, was recently tested scientifically to be biologically 39, will tell you more , open minded to try new things, positive and a all around very nice guy, drop me a line, as I work two careers and am away from the PC during the days, I will respond to all your messages, flirts are fun too, to begin with, to break the ice, if you do want to really get to know me please write to me,,, thank you for viewing my profile

blinky: Im here to just look around and see if any ladies may be interested. And I know we all have been around the track at least once. Theres no 50 yr old virgins-we all have our past. Get over it. Lets do this!

drgoodman: Fit, good looking. First, combine Doctor Huckstable with Al Yankovick into a Vin Diesel body. Next add a passion for children and good food. Looking for someone to be passionate about me.

Friends….I shook my head and laughed a little today…whittled away another snow day and confirmed I would rather watch reruns of My Favorite Martian and Land of the Giants than try to find love on a dating site. I’m not criticizing those courageous souls who do, but they’re just too funny (and a tad bit intimidating) for me to seriously consider.


Author, Letters From A Whoremonger’s Wife

The Last, First Day

Several times over the last two weeks, family and friends have documented their children’s first day of school and posted their photos on Facebook. I’ve enjoyed viewing the First Day photos of their children and grandchildren: candid and posed shots of excited expressions, book bags full of new things, stories of tears shed (parent and child). All of it took me back to my own children’s First Days …Looking at the pictures, I could just about smell new Crayola’s and crisp, clean sheets of paper. Those days ended much too soon for my liking. Yet, other than a little reminiscing, I didn’t think too much about the start of the new school year. Not until yesterday, when my niece Rebecca shared a photo of my great-nephew Carter walking away from her and into his school for his first day of four-year-old Pre-K. It’s a sweet, wonderful photo of our little man proudly and independently taking long, confident strides down a long walkway; a strong, right-handed grip on his lunchbox.

But I saw more.

The photograph provoked an emotion I had not expected. It stopped me in my tracks. Did Rebecca see what I saw? Perhaps, but probably not fully, not yet. How could I tell her what she had actually captured? Should I try to explain what I saw? Sweet, brilliant, handsome little Carter-Man was in the photo, for sure. But there was an older boy there as well. And a young man.

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The older boy held a set of car keys firmly in his hand. The young man walked with casual determination on foreign soil. Both had their backs to the camera. All three were Carter. But they could have been anyone’s son. Or daughter.

In reality, the older two Carters’ were only visible to my mind’s eye, but I saw them clearly. Sixteen year-old Carter. Twenty-two year-old Carter. Time happens that quickly, it really does. Not so much when you’re in the middle of it; during the living of it. In its present form, time seems to dawdle; move sluggishly. It’s after the moment, not immediately after, but later, that you realize how quickly it slipped away from you.

All day I thought of Carter’s photo. I thought of his mommy watching him walk away and I remembered what that felt like. Without being told, I knew she had watched him until he was out of her sight; watching his back… should he need her. I thought of how there will be other days like this, when she and Justin, Carter’s dad, will watch his back as he walks with great anticipation towards future things: cars, airplanes, girls. A bride. Perhaps they’ll watch with Bulldog pride as he walks toward the same revered arches they once walked through; wave goodbye to his back as he moves to another state. And always, they’ll be watching until he’s out of sight, watching his back…just in case he needs them. That’s what parents do…

I shared Rebecca’s photo with a friend and told him how it made me feel. He said he understood: “I felt the same way when I saw this photo of Jon”, he said.

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We have no experience at parenting until we are parents. That’s how it is….we’re clueless in the beginning and for many years thereafter. We’re amateurs….the most intense on the job training you can imagine…for the most important work you will ever do. We make mistakes, because we know no better. In the beginning, we don’t understand how fleeting a span of eighteen years actually is. We don’t realize how abruptly those little arms will outgrow our own; until they do.

I know Rebecca and Justin give lots of hugs and kisses to Carter and his baby sister, Cooper. Most young parents do. Still, to them and all parents, I would give this advice: Give more hugs…lots more. Read more books together. Give longer back scratches. Snuggle longer. Because those little ones aren’t little for long. And one day, a day that will sneak up on you, you’ll be experiencing your last, first school day.



Carter’s First Day of Kindergarten, August 2014.

Carter’s First Day of First Grade, August 2015.


Carter’s First day of Second Grade. 8/10/2016


Little Sis loving the walk with her big brother.  8/10/2016

He wouldn’t allow his mom to walk him in today. Our sweet Carter-Man is growing up.

First day of 4th grade. 8/10/18

My the Lord bless you and keep you, may He turn His face towards you, and shine His face upon yours, everyday. I pray He is gracious to you, Carter. May He give you peace, and protect you, all the days of your life.

♥️, Aunt Diffy

First day of 5th grade for Carter, his last year of elementary school. The years are moving forward more swiftly than I care to think about. He’s growing up.

This summer, I spent a week with him and Cooper, and I caught several glimpses of the fine young man he’s becoming. I looked for a little fella, but I only found shadows of the little boy.

That’s sweet Cooper with him, trying to keep pace with her big brother. She’s growing so fast. Today was her first day of first grade. She’s already lost a baby tooth. And that’s how I know her baby days are coming to a close.

But for now… she’s still our big-hearted, little Coop-A-Loop.


The Face Of Homeless

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Eons ago, when I was still in my teens, a friend and I walked out of the Fulton County Stadium on a sweltering Atlanta night and came face to face with a “begger”. Up to that moment, we had been goofing around: laughing, singing, having fun watching the Braves lose another one. The frivolity of the evening ended when I encountered homelessness for the first time. Prior to that summer night, I had been naive enough to believe everyone went home to a warm dinner and a comfy bed. And then this man approached us, “Excuse me, can you spare some change? I’m homeless. I’m hungry.” The look of him…the painful pleading in his expression, the desperation in his quivering voice, his dirty, wrinkled clothing…stopped me in my tracks. I wanted to make his life better but felt helpless to do so. A lump lodged in my throat as I reached for the fifty cents in my pocket, “This is all I have, I’m sorry”, I said. “Thank you, ma’am. Bless you,” he said.

My friend grabbed my arm and pulled me away. “Why did you do that? Why did you give him your money? I can’t believe you fell for his trick. He’s just here to get people to feel sorry for him. He has the same opportunity everyone else has, all he has to do is get out and get a job but he doesn’t want to work. It’s easier for him to beg than it is for him to go to a job every day”.

On the drive home, my friend and I had a heated discussion about poverty and opportunity. We didn’t see eye to eye on the subjects.

Later than night, cool, dry and tucked safely beneath my covers, I cried for the man we had encountered outside the stadium. I couldn’t get his face out of my mind. His skin had the ashen look of poor nutrition, his eyes were hollow from hunger. I knew he didn’t live that way by choice. No one does.

I’m ashamed to say, I haven’t done much to help the homeless over the years. Donations and food drives have been the extent of my giving and service. But I know someone who has done so much more. Vitelle Webb’s life and work is an inspiration to all who know her. She has written a play about her own personal experience with homelessness. The Face of Homeless will be onstage in Atlanta this coming August 3, 2013. Vitelle is also the founder of the Feed the Homeless Tour. Recently, I had the opportunity to speak with Vitelle. Here’s what she told me….

The Face of Homeless is my life and experience, portrayed on stage. It is also the stories of a few other lives as well as real life situations that have been experienced by many. The show exposes various circumstances involving homelessness. My hope is the stories of our characters, Gary, Violet, Shelia, Mark and the others will help people to understand that homelessness can happen to anyone. Too many people have a stereotype of what they think homelessness is; a preconceived idea of who the homeless are. People think of the homeless as being an old man digging through a trash can and asking for change to get a beer. Our hope is this stage production will reveal the truth about who the homeless are. With our show, we hope to encourage people who are going through or have gone through similar situations as well as bring awareness to the community of what homelessness really consists of and that it exists in our own backyards.


The Feed the Homeless Tour is a non-profit organization I founded seven years ago to help meet the basic needs of the homless from state to state. We provide such things as food, clothing and hygiene items. We assist people with finding jobs and housing and connect them with other organizations that may be able to help them based on specific needs. We never turn down someone in need due to a lack of identification or age and gender. We strive to end homelessness and have done so for many people!

Our stage production, The Face of Homeless, is one of many fundraising efforts to support Feed the Homeless Tour goals. It is our first stage production and we anticipate many more. After our Atlanta area premier on August 3, 2013 we will travel the country bringing this production to all fifty states, helping the homeless of each state we visit.

Tickets can be purchased at:

Note to Vitelle,

I want to thank you for what you’re doing to help others. God gave you a big heart and a willingness to sacrifice your time for your brothers and sisters. You are living proof that we can take our life experiences, both positive and negative, and use it to benefit others.

I wish you much joy and success as you continue your journey.


Lusk, Wyoming: Small Town, Big Heart


Recently, my daughter Lindsey came across a story I wrote several years ago. The story I had penned was the retelling of an unintentional weekend spent in Lusk, Wyoming. Lindsey suggested I post the story on my blog….

A Small Town’s Big Heart

My husband, Dick*, placed the last of our duffel bags in the trunk of our car while I buckled our two children in their car seats. Lindsey was four years old, Garrett age two. The kiddos could barely contain themselves and neither could I. For weeks we had been planning a camping trip to Mount Rushmore and the time had finally arrived. It was early summer 1991 and our little family was in need of a fun weekend. The previous eighteen months had brought about many changes for us: A move from our home in Georgia to Louisiana and then another from Louisiana to Wyoming. The moves had been difficult for all of us and were especially unsettling for Lindsey and Garrett, who had been accustomed to having family live nearby.

We lived on a tight budget while in Cheyenne. After paying rent, utilities and the other basics of living, there was little money left. Frivolous purchases and leisure trips were not an option. But we had decided we could manage a three-day camping trip to the Black Hills of South Dakota. I had the budget worked out: $8.00 per day for the camp site, $40.00 for gasoline. Food, snacks and drinks we were bringing from home. Between the two of us we would have $90.00 for incidentals.

As we drove north of Cheyenne on Interstate 25, Lindsey and Garrett sang from the backseat, “We’re going to Mt. Rushmore!” The early morning drive was clear and crisp. The wide open spaces and the blue Wyoming sky were breathtaking. I remember feeling far removed from the lush green hills of Georgia, and marveled at the varied and magnificent beauty of the country we live in. Time in the car passed quickly, and when Cheyenne was two hours behind us, we turned east onto a two lane road toward Lusk, Wyoming. We weren’t far from Mount Rushmore now! We continued our eastward drive and passed thru the little town of Lusk without giving her a second thought. Yet almost as soon as we left Lusk, I noticed something. More accurately, I noticed nothing. There were no homes, stores or gas stations anywhere in our line of vision…and we could see clearly across acres of fields and pasture. We had driven several miles before I saw the first lone, rusted mailbox on the side of the road, but there was not a house in sight to go with the mailbox. I began to wonder what people did to entertain themselves. How did anyone ever get to know another person out here? I realized I hadn’t seen a school or a church building, nor had we seen another vehicle since driving thru Lusk. At that moment, I felt very isolated, as if we were the only people on Earth.

Lindsey and Garrett were getting restless so I began playing a game with them. A game we had come up with… the “Looking for a Herd of Buffalo Game”. Or as Garrett called it, “Looking for a Hurricane of Buth-A-Lo”. Just after we started the game, Dick said, “I think there’s something wrong with the car“. The words were still on his tongue when the car shivered and died. Unwilling to accept or believe our misfortune, we sat in stunned silence for a brief moment.

I spoke first, “What will we do?”
Dick said he was almost positive the timing belt had broken, and sure enough, checking beneath the hood proved he was correct. While Dick was outside the car, removing tools from the trunk, I sat inside with the kiddos and tried to maintain a positive atmosphere. For the past couple of years, it seemed even our best intentions had gone sour. This trip was solely for Lindsey and Garrett and we were about to disappoint them. I realized they were too young to remember much of what I had told them about Mt. Rushmore, but I had shown them photos and they knew they were going to see big faces of United States Presidents carved into the side of a mountain. And they were excited about sleeping in a tent.

While Dick worked under the car’s hood, I said a breath prayer that God would help us out of this predicament. Before long, Dick stepped around the car to the passenger window and told me there was nothing he could do to repair the car. He also said we would have a difficult time finding a timing belt considering our location. “I guess my only option is to start walking…but which direction should I go”? As if on cue, at that very moment, we heard a soft rumble. Soon, an eighteen-wheeled big rig truck came into view on the Eastern horizon. Before long we recognized the unmistakable blue and white of a Wal-Mart truck. My first thought was that he would probably pass us by. We were from suburban Atlanta, where truck drivers don’t stop for stranded motorists. But he did stop. And he offered us a ride back to Lusk. We told him Lusk was about forty miles in the direction we had just driven from. He told us we were correct, but that we would find nothing for sixty miles or more, if we tried to go east. “You best hop on in,” he said. The four of us piled into the cab of his big rig. Garrett was ecstatic to be riding in a big Wal-Mart truck. Lindsey was concerned about leaving our car “all by itself”. Our new friend assured Lindsey our car would be alright. “People in Wyoming are the friendliest I’ve ever seen,” he told my little girl, and that satisfied her. Soon enough we were back in Lusk. Smooth as silk, the driver pulled the big rig to an idle stop in front of a small truck stop. As he climbed out of the truck, he said he knew the manager of the restaurant and would explain to him our situation. The driver said he knew for certain the truck stop manager wouldn’t mind if we hung around for a while. He also felt certain someone in the restaurant would know where we could get the parts needed for our car. So while Dick and the driver spoke to the manager, the kids and I sat at a table. A waitress offered us Pepsi….on the house. Before long, Dick came to our table without the driver; our friend was back on the road. Dick had good news, “There’s a kid here who has agreed to drive me to an auto parts store just over the Nebraska line. I promised to give him twenty-five dollars.” Immediately, I did the math. We would have $65.00 left. On top of that, Dick would need money to buy the timing belt. Mount Rushmore would be out of the question. I thought of Lindsey and Garrett’s disappointment and wondered how I would make it up to them.

“Ok. I guess the kids and I will wait here for you,” I said.

Dick had something of a puzzled, choked-up look on his face when he said, “You don’t have to wait here. The town has a fund for stranded motorists. A sheriff’s deputy is on his way here…right now…to take us to a motel. They will also give us vouchers for meals in a couple of the restaurants. This is unbelievable…a free motel room”.

In minutes, the deputy arrived and drove us to the motel; a very old, seldom used facility. But it was clean and welcoming. I was humbled by the kindness and generosity of the people in this little town. The deputy told me to call him when we were ready for dinner, he would send a car for the children and me so that we wouldn’t have to walk. He promised to drive by and check on us from time to time as well. Soon, Dick and his teenaged chauffeur were on their way to Nebraska and the little ones and I were settling into our room. As promised, the deputy drove by to check on us throughout the day and evening. He also gave us a ride to a restaurant in his official vehicle. Lindsey, being four-years old and aware that bad guys ride in police cars, was wide-eyed with concern. Garrett, in the meantime, was loving the adventure.

Just before nightfall, Dick returned, empty-handed. He had arrived at the Nebraska store too late. The store was closed for the evening and worse, would be closed the next two days for a holiday. Nothing, it seemed, would be open until Tuesday morning. There was nothing we could do but sit it out and wait. I had to admit, things could have been much worse. If we had to break down, Lusk was the place to do it. The kiddos were having the time of their lives, not at all bereaved over missing Mount Rushmore. We were the only occupants of the motel, so we had set up the tent in the parking lot. To Lindsey and Garrett, We Were Camping! Excitedly, they told their dad about riding in the police car and “walking a long, long way to play in the city park”.

That night, the four of us slept soundly between cool, clean sheets. The next morning, we were considering a walk to a nearby grocery for breakfast items, when someone knocked on the door. A kind man had heard of us, had heard we would be in town a little longer, and he wanted to be certain we had everything we needed. He also gave us gift certificates to his restaurant. Words were difficult, I was so overwhelmed with emotion. I choked out a thank you and sat on the side of the bed and cried tears of relief, embarrassment, thankfulness and humility. We had done nothing to deserve this kindness. God was pouring out His mercies on us thru strangers. He was answering those prayers I had whispered to Him while broken down on the side of the road.

Eventually, we made it to Mount Rushmore. But not that weekend. That weekend we had lessons to learn: Loving a Neighbor, in our case a traveler, as yourself. Being kind to others. Giving of yourself for the benefit of another. Extending kindness…and receiving it.

I’ve thought of that weekend many times during the past two decades. It still amazes me. My family experienced miracles that weekend. God places angels everywhere and He works thru them. Look carefully for them, because they don’t have wings and a halo. Sometimes they look like a truck driver. Sometimes a burly sheriff’s deputy. Another time, they may look like a truck stop cook sporting a grease covered apron.
And sometimes they look like Lusk, Wyoming.


lindsey and garrett

You Call Yourself A Dad?


Sometimes, I wish Father’s Day would go away. I wish Hallmark and Dayspring would forget to print all those cards…Not because I didn’t have a good dad. I did. But for the sake of the children who weren’t so lucky. Because for those children, young and old, Father’s Day is a reminder of loss and disappointment.

Setting aside a special day of respect to recognize the lives of deserving dads was a wonderful notion. And I’m acquainted with many men deserving of a day in his honor…and the attention it brings. There’s the gifted and talented young musician who accepted a workman’s wages and released his grip on a musical career; because his wife and little girl were more important to him. They were his responsibility. They were his priority. I know that dad personally.

The young soldier who, upon returning from deployment in the Vietnam War, worked full time in a textile mill at night and attended school full time during the day; so that his wife and baby wouldn’t have to do without. They were his responsibility. He did what was neccessary to better the lives of those he loved.

The divorced dad who gave up career opportunities; advancements that would have required him to move away from his little girl. His love and devotion to her was more important than money, so he stayed nearby and did what he could.

The widowed dad, grieving and heartbroken over the loss of the love of his life, who soldiered on anyway, because his love for his children was just as powerful as the love he had for his wife.

The man who married the mother of fatherless little children and raised them as his own…knowing their biological but negligient parent could enter the scene at any time. Yet his love for the children was greater than his fear.

These dads and others like them positively deserve to be honored on Father’s Day and every other day of the year. But what about the others, the ones like my former spouse, who shirked responsibility and walked away? How should Father’s Day deal with them? Personally, I believe these guys should use Father’s Day as a day to apologize to those they’ve hurt; weep for those they’ve wounded and abandoned. It won’t happen of course. Never, Neverland Boys are incapable of feeling empathy for others, even their children. Yet I hope… I hope that at least one might read the letter I’ve posted in this article; a letter penned by my son a few years ago… and feel a bit of a tug on the cold, rigid muscle he refers to as his heart…and attempt to right some wrongs. Perhaps a few others might do the same.

Fathers, Who do you think you are?
By: Garrett Able

Written at 4:17 PM, August 4, 2009

Fathers, who do you think you are?

Who are they exactly? Dad, Father, Pops, all these names are talking about the first true hero in our lives, the first real “Man”. As kids we are always saying, “My dad can beat up your dad!!!” And the rebuttal, “Well, MY dad can lift that car and put it on your dads head!”

As kids we are so in love with our fathers. As we grow older we become more and more like our fathers because our admiration towards them is more than we can understand. It is so strong sometimes, you take on every characteristic of your dad. And to a loving father, this is the greatest sign of admiration! Of an unconditional Love that runs so deep…the jelly sandwich he made you the night before last was the most amazing bit of food you ever ate. And the one tomorrow will be better even than THAT one. What I don’t understand, is why do some wish they had a better life?

I was seven when my dad showed me his better life. Instead of doing what most dads do and leave their family, my dad was sick minded enough to take me along. Her name was Lorraine*, she lived in Pine Log, not far from my house. My “Father”, my “Hero”, would take me “fishing” but before we got to the lake we would pick up this woman from the country corner gas station. She would then join us and once we got to the lake I would take my rod and fish while my father left me. I was seven. A child. Once he had his fill of filth he would retrieve me. Tell me, ‘don’t tell mom I had a friend.” This continued for the longest time, this secret life I was forced to share with my father, all the while I was there watching, listening and hurting. I was seven years old when I became a bigger man than my father. On the way to tennis practice, we all ended up at the country corner store one evening…my mom, me, my father and Lorraine. I turned to my mom and told her, ‘this is dads’ friend”. She asked me what I meant and hell broke loose in the store when I described the relationship between my dad and this woman. In front of me, my father denied what I said. In essence calling me a liar. My father broke my mothers’ heart through me because he didn’t have the balls to tell her himself.

This happened two more times, (that I’m aware of), the most recent was two weeks ago. I am 19 years old. Except I feel like I have been 25 since I was 12. My father had a wife who would NEVER leave him. A BEAUTIFUL wife, a loving daughter, and me. His “Buddy” he called me. I am successful, smart, funny, talented, loving, compassionate towards others…but he didn’t want me enough to stay, or any of us for that matter.

The Love that ran deep has only made a scar. I am nothing like my father. At twelve I knew I didn’t want to be like him. My hero died on the beach of Lake Allatoona.

So this is to you fathers out there: If you are faithful, stay that way. You will be rewarded greatly with Love and happiness and moments where your children want to squeeze you because they love you so much. And kisses from your wife that make you melt like it’s the first kiss you ever had. You will see your children grow and look at you like, “There is Superman, he is sitting right there in front of me…across the table and he is my Dad. MY dad.” Your daughters will mold who they want to LOVE out of you!!!! You, who cuts the lawn and drinks out of the jug of milk and chokes on it when your beautiful wife comes into the kitchen and catches you. DON’T LET THAT GO!!!!!!!!!!

To those of you who are not faithful, it’s time to rethink the pros and cons. YOU WILL BE DISCOVERED!!!! YOU WILL BE UNVIELED!!!! YOU WILL BE MADE TO LEAVE!!!!! Because you are WORTHLESS!!!!!

But I do Forgive him.

If you are tagged it’s because you either already know, can help my mother deal with this, or because I think you should know.