A Rooster Tale

RoosterWhen I was a kid, we lived in a trailer house on my grandparents’ place. They had a farm with requisite chicken coop, cows, and garden. It was also the residence of the meanest rooster God ever created. It had wild red eyes that glowed in the dark, sleek reddish-brown and dark green feathers, oily with evil.

I hated that bird and was thoroughly terrified of him.

I was about five when the rooster from hell crossed my path for the first time. My brother was six. To this day I believe that rooster lurked in the yard, waiting for my brother or me to come outside. He was a sneaky creature, full of cunning.

Seventy-plus years have not dimmed my memory of the terror I felt the first time that cannonball of pure wickedness homed in on me. All I could do was stand there and scream my head off. Fortunately someone, probably my grandmother, came into the yard and scooped him up before he could fly into my face and peck my eyes out! Okay, maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but I swear I can still smell that bird’s chicken yard breath!

For days afterward I wouldn’t leave the safe haven of our house. My parents had little patience with slackers, and threatened me with dire consequences if I didn’t do my chores, which meant at some point, going outside.

With quivering, wet-noodle legs barely holding me up and a belly watery with anxiety, I opened the door carefully, scanned the yard to see if the evil one was anywhere around, then stepped outside, watchful and alert. About the time I started feeling easy in my mind, that foul fowl came cartwheeling right at me, a flurry of feathers churning up dust. An awful squawk raised the hair on my arms and neck. After one breathless second of terror I was off like a shot heading up the steps to the house screaming, “ Mama, Mama, Mama!”

My mother hated that bird almost as much as I did, but she wasn’t afraid of him. She hauled out the broom and went after him with a vengeance. “Shoo, shoo! Out of here or it’s into the pot for you!”

My father didn’t hate the rooster, but he didn’t like the fact that my brother and I were terrorized by something with feathers. Dad told us to yell or throw rocks at the rooster to scare it off. “You’re bigger than that bird, don’t let him scare you.”

As I recall, I wasn’t bigger. In my mind I was about the same size and I didn’t have spurs.

Nevertheless, with my father’s words as a motivator I made up my mind, no crummy chicken-legged piece of poultry was going to keep me prisoner in my own house. My brother and I started carrying a stick or a broom with us when we were outside. The yard became a battlefield, one we defended resolutely, usually with me standing behind my brother as he did battle for both of us, until one night something got into the hen house and the rooster met its end. I’ve always suspected my dad had a hand in that, but maybe not. Dad insisted it was a fox.

That rooster, as much as I despised him, and my father’s insistence that we couldn’t let a silly bird whup us, taught me a lot about not allowing fear to rule my life.

In 1941 President Franklin D. Roosevelt said in a speech to Congress:

In the future days, which we seek to make secure, we look forward to a world founded upon four essential human freedoms.

The first is freedom of speech and expression – everywhere in the world.

The second is freedom of every person to worship God in his own way – everywhere in the world.

The third is freedom from want – which, translated into world terms, means economic understandings, which will secure to every nation a healthy peacetime life for its inhabitants – everywhere in the world.

The fourth is freedom from fear – which, translated into world terms, means a world-wide reduction of armaments to such a point and in such a thorough fashion that no nation will be in a position to commit an act of physical aggression against any neighbor – anywhere in the world.”

There are a lot of roosters in the world, stirring up hatred and violence in every barnyard around the globe. Freedom from fear is something we lack in this anxiety-filled world. We’re afraid to speak out; we’re afraid not to speak out. We’re afraid we won’t have enough money to live. We’re afraid of terrorism – domestic and global. We’re afraid of illness. We’re afraid of death. We’re afraid nobody will like us. We’re afraid we won’t or can’t live up to the expectations of others. We’re afraid to marry. We’re afraid not to marry. We’re afraid our leaders are dolts. We’re afraid our homes are vulnerable to thieves. We’re afraid we are vulnerable to violence. We’re afraid of millions of problems that can arise in an instant over which we have absolutely no control.

The good news is that we have at our disposal two weapons to overcome that fear, much like the stick and the broom we used to defend ourselves against that wild-eyed rooster. We have courage and vision. It begins with courage based on wisdom and discernment, and is under-girded by a vision of ourselves as winners, not victims. Courage gives us confidence, vision gives us possibilities.

Be courageous and visionary. Don’t let the roosters win.

___________________

 Updated and reprinted from an opinion piece written by me in the Hermit’s Peak Gazette in January 1999. Given the state of the world, this seems as relevant today as the day I wrote it 20 years ago. Interestingly the words of President Roosevelt from 1941 resonate as well.


Follow Sharon at:
www.vandermeerbooks.com
https://www.facebook.com/vandermeerbooks
Amazon Author Central


I am a writer and I have a writing business. Contact me for free consultation about your writing needs. Write Stuff Writing Services


 

A musing

Sharon Vander MeerThoughts on aging

I am old but it pisses me offmakes my blood boilgrinds on me… is a rude awakening when people treat me like I’m old. Even worse, I recall treating old people the same – or worse – when I was young. The following is a short list of comments I would prefer people keep to themselves.

Isn’t she sweet. Puleeze. Some of the crotchiest people I know are old and they have every right to be crotchety. Nothing works the way it used to. Sometimes peeing is the priority and there is NO BATHROOM IN SIGHT! Your kids rarely call. You spend way too much time wondering how time got away from you. The bucket list sprung a leak a long time ago and all your dreams drained away. You would be crotchety, too.

She sure is feisty. What the hell does that mean and why is is applied more often to old women than anyone else? People with a few miles on them have learned the value of persistence, hard work, dedication, and self-denial. There’s nothing “feisty” about that. It’s plain common sense.

Let me get that for you. Yes, it is nice for people to lend a helping hand, but sometimes it makes older folks feel helpless and hopeless. Age-related changes become more evident when you can’t bend over and pick up something you’ve dropped, or the door to the post office is too heavy for you to open on your own. You appreciate the courtesy of kind gestures, but it irritates you as well because someone decides you can’t do it for yourself. Go figure.

Is that appropriate attire for a woman your age? Oh, it’s never said that way outright, but subtly raised eyebrows or a snicker behind the hand conveys volumes without a word being said. I’m delighted the fashion of the ’50s that put women in house dresses with no thought to style has come and gone. Women no longer must fit a mold. I don’t care if leggings are only meant for young skinny women; I’ll wear them anyway. Life is too short to let anyone dictate one’s style.

You don’t look your age. Gloria Steinem famously said to the person who told her she didn’t look 40, “This is what 40 looks like.” This is what aging looks like. Telling someone they don’t look their age when they clearly do, is an insult. Mom used to say, “I’ve earned every wrinkle and gray hair.” So have I. Life is good, even joyful most of the time. I don’t know what tomorrow will bring. No one does. I do know I will be about the business of living fully and with anticipation. I believe that no matter what age you are, you can have hope for new adventures, even when the adventure is a trip to Charlie’s for a cup of Starbucks.


Like, share, comment. Your feedback means the world to me.

 

 

 

Change is challenging

I posted this about two years ago and – with a few updates – I think it is worth repeating. Although WordPress has been more of a challenge than I anticipated, I’m glad I switched. An important lesson I’ve learned is that you can go to You Tube and get clear instructions on how to do most anything.

 

BloggingFive thoughts about moving to WordPress

When I decided to move to WordPress two years ago, it was with trepidation. It was a bit of an adventure and a huge learning curve… or so I thought. I had tried multiple times to get everything under one roof, meaning everything under one website/blog/writing and author platform. I had suspected for some time that WordPress was the way to go, but quite honestly I couldn’t figure out how to make it happen. In fact, I created a whole new language around building a WordPress website, and it involved behavior I was not proud to admit. Not much gets my goat, but trying to figure out WordPress was at the top of the list. What made it even more painful is that everyone else seemed perfectly capable of figuring WordPress out. I’m not brilliant, but the thing is, WordPress doesn’t take brilliance; it takes patience, a characteristic I have in short supply.

The scary thing is that I have built a website from the ground up on another server/host platform, and while it wasn’t easy, I could figure it out. Not so with WordPress, until I listened to an archived tutorial on Writers Digest by Jane Friedman. She made it so simple I’m embarrassed I didn’t work it out on my own. So here are some thoughts if you’re considering making a change to WordPress

It is simple… unless you make it hard

WordPress uses unique terminology. So if you don’t know a widget from a doodad, don’t worry. In case you’re wondering, a widget defines a tool to add functionality to your website/blog, a doodad is just another name for a thingamajig, which WordPress isn’t using anyway. What I did was try to use the hunt and peck method (that had worked for me on another site) to “force” a template to do my bidding. The templates have constraints, and you can waste a lot of time on a quest that leads nowhere. WordPress is designed in such a way you can grow your website’s complexity and functionality as you gain experience. It is an open source platform used by a broad spectrum of individuals. You can use it for free or upgrade to a premium package for under $100. Follow the instructions and look for help in the forums if you’re struggling. And you can find help for free on YouTube, or go to this tutorial at Writer’s Digest. Jane Friedman’s presentation is on point and worth the $16.99 I paid for it. After three (or is it four?) years of banging my head against my stubborn preconceived notions I finally have my website/blog all under one “roof” and I couldn’t be happier.

Free is good; premium is better

I started with the free site. While it has appeal, I knew from the outset of my unnecessarily long journey that I wanted a .com address that was my own. I did not want it to include the “WordPress” site as part of the name. Being professional starts with appearing professional in all your communication and a critical component of that is your website. johndoe.com looks better and more professional than johndoe/wordpress.com, don’t you think? However, if what you can afford right now is “free” go for it until you get your online equilibrium.

A house with many rooms

Before I got where I am today with my website/blog, I was managing (poorly) four blogs that I posted on rarely if at all, and a website I maintained sporadically. I’m a one-shop stop writer, and I couldn’t for the life of me manage my time around my web presence and still get writing done on my latest novel. I completed most of the books I’ve written before my test of wills with WordPress started – however long ago that was. I published my latest book “Finding Family” in July 2014. During the time I was working on it – and for nearly a year before that – I didn’t touch WordPress. Copywriting, alumni magazine development for a small university, hosting a couple of radio shows, and community volunteerism kept me busy. But my web presence was hanging fire, going nowhere. When I did update the site, which is separate from the blogs, I had to post teaser paragraphs on the main site with links to the blog site. It was like having a five-room house with a different roof on each one. Drove me nuts. With this site I can do it all without undue angst… I hope. Bottom line, WordPress is my one roof. It’s up to me to make it work.

Experience not necessary

I have come to believe that if I had never experienced another design platform, getting set up with WordPress would have been easier. I brought a lot of notions about web design to the table. Start at square one and follow the instructions. It’s easy peasy.

Is it a website or a blog?

Don’t stress about this. A rose by any other name, etc., etc. Your web presence is important enough for you to spend time making it professional and accessible. WordPress provides the tools. It’s up to you to put them to work. I consider www.oneroofpublish.com to be a website with a valuable blog component. The truth is, blogging is as only as good as the attention you are willing to give it. Call it what you want, but feed it often and with worthwhile content.

In the valley

SorrowWhy does today have to hurt so much? Don’t say you’ve never been there. We all have days we don’t think we’ll make it through breakfast much less through the rest of the day. To deny our hurt, loneliness, pain, isolation, anger, discontent or whatever name you put to your well of sadness or sorrow, you can’t help but feel alone in the pit. No one understands. How can they? Your pain is your own. No one else can bear it. When that is the pit you are in, tell God, because you are right in this, no one else understands, possibly because in your pain you can’t articulate what you feel, nor do you have faith anyone will listen. God will. He won’t argue with you. Tell you everything is going to be okay. Offer empty platitudes. He will just listen, even if you shout and tell Him your mess is His fault. He listens. Yea, though I walk through the shadow of death (hurt, loneliness, pain, isolation, anger, discontent*) thou art with me, thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. (Psalm 23:4) God is present. Enter into his protection. Vent your pain. He always listens. When you listen closely, He may lead you to those who will hear you, to those whose life commitment is to give you a sounding board. Help doesn’t end with God; it begins with God.

*Paraphrase mine
_________________
Photo: clipart.com

I am old, but that’s okay

Amaryllis in Bloom

Every once in a while I catch my reflection in a store window and am puzzled by the stranger looking back at me. Yes, I do look at my reflection every day when I’m putting on makeup, but that’s different, that’s a feature by feature application that doesn’t require looking at the whole picture, the big picture you might say.

It’s those unexpected sightings of myself when I stop and think, “Who is that old woman?” And then the rude awakening, “Oh, right, that’s me, the girl who used to weigh 97 pounds soaking wet (yeah, that’s been a while ago), and the one with – at varying times – dish-water blonde hair, black hair, blonde hair, red hair, and now nearly entirely white hair.

Being old doesn’t bother me, maySharon Vander Meerbe because I’m blessed with good health and don’t have to deal with the issues of a failing body and wandering mind, at least not right now. I’m happy to get up in the morning and look out into the patio to find an amaryllis in full bloom that’s been around for at least 50 years, its blossoms as brilliant and showy as if sprung new from the ground for the first time. It blooms twice a year without fail, with two to three spikes bearing three or four brilliant blossoms. Oh, that as I age I continue to blossom in my own way. I hope by the end of every day I have done something that made someone smile or laugh or think.

And then there are my friends. I don’t have many, by the way, only a few. Yes, I know many people, and I treasure those relationships, but a friend is someone who will listen to you blather on and pretend what you say matters. A friend is someone who will ask you the right questions without trying to give you her version of the right answers. A friend is someone who has known you for a long time and still likes you. A friend is someone who doesn’t judge you or the choices you make. A friend is someone who knows you want an honest answer to the question, “Do these pants make me look fat?” So, yeah, the only way you have old friends is if you are getting old too.

Life in general is as happy as we each want it to be. Make a conscious choice every day to be happy. If life has taught me anything it is to be forgiving, not only of others, but of oneself as well. Carrying around the baggage of discontent can plumb wear a person out. Taking on the stress dealt out by life is a time and energy waster. Guilting over past mistakes is to allow other people or circumstances to control your life, and why would you want to do that? Try to right the wrongs you can, and trust in the Lord for the rest. I learned the hard way that I can’t make other people happy no matter how hard I try, but I can make me happy, and by doing so hopefully have a positive impact. Life Lesson 101 – Count your blessings, they far outnumber your disappointments.

So, yes, I’m old, but that’s okay. I do count my blessings, and being able to write these words and share them is one of them. Aging is more than a physical process. It is to a degree mental. I agree with columnist Doug Larson who wrote, “The aging process has you firmly in its grasp if you never get the urge to throw a snowball.” I can’t wait for the next snowfall. I’m ready to make my pitch.

News or Hype?

VoteI know it has never really been this way, but in an ideal journalism world, news is reported not made by the media. In truth – especially during political seasons (which seem to be perpetual nowadays) – the media decides what we should think about candidates and how we will act in the voting booth, and it becomes so.

It is amazing that one candidate can call a “news conference” and have salivating national media show up. The man said nothing worth hearing, called fellow candidates liars, and threatened to sue one of them. He got a bunch of free advertising at the cost of the fifth estate’s integrity. Give me a break. Give our country a break.

This isn’t the most bitter political fracas ever mounted, but it ranks right up there with being the most farcical. It seems candidates no longer run on platforms; they run off at the mouth, not about issues, but about each other. Of course with the state the world is in, is it any wonder those aspiring to office make no claim they will actually take on what really matters? To name a few – global unrest, foreign policy, poverty in America, mental health issues, education reform, the economy, deterioration of law enforcement, and – dare I say it – political reform.

No matter who ends up in the White House, unless there is a major effort on the part of everyone elected to get along and get things done, our country will continue to slide backward.

No doubt those reading this will have sufficient reasoning to defend their candidate of choice. While I continue to believe everyone who runs for office does so in the interest of making America a better and safer place to live and raise children, I’m not hearing that on the campaign trail. Something happens as soon as the candidates get in front of a microphone or have the attention of a reporter. Their rhetoric becomes more about what the others can’t do and less about what the candidate will do.

And aren’t the analysts a hoot? What can they say that will make sense of it all? Why should we listen? Their interpretation of the political scene is no more valid than mine or yours. Talking heads blither and babble and yell at each other a lot, but they don’t make any more sense than the candidates.

The campaign has become a media circus and journalists are playing right into the hands of the most vocal candidates. We all lose because fewer meaningful questions are being asked amid the storm of words.

The wake up call will take place the first Tuesday in November. My prayer is that whoever is elected will be up to the task.

One thing is certain, this political season has more people showing up at the polls in primaries across the country. John and Jane Q. Public are more engaged than ever. Let that be a message to the candidates. Citizens want meaningful change that will indeed make America prosperous, healthy and safe.

_________________
Image: http://www.clipart.com

Ever the Optimist

The Optimist

I heard a new definition of pessimist recently. A pessimist is an optimist with experience. I am, as the song from South Pacific goes – a cockeyed optimist. I haven’t quite made it to pessimist, but I do have my days. There are many surprises in life, some of which make it difficult to maintain a positive and upbeat outlook.

But I do.

I’m like Snoopy in the Charlie Brown cartoon shown with this post. Yes, bad things can and do happen, but the rest of the time they don’t.

I have friends who have terminal illnesses of one kind or another. You know the amazing thing? Most of these folks are more optimistic about life than the people around them. One of them has dealt with cancer more than once, but through it all she remained a fighter, and a survivor. This time she knows it’s the last time, and she is preparing and prepared. Her spirit is like starlight on a dark night, brighter than anything around it, eclipsing the sadness and fear, overcoming despair.

When my sister-in-law was in cancer’s waiting room, those of us fortunate enough to be with her through the last days of her life found more comfort coming from her than we ever gave. My mother was the same, but I knew she was ready to move on when she said, “I want to go home.” We all knew she wanted to pass from this life into God’s hands. One day she looked up toward the ceiling, lifted her arms and said, “He’s reaching for me. I’m ready.” Eerie? Yup. Did we think she saw someone, God, reaching down for her from heaven? Does it matter? She believed it.

Others I know who are in treatment for cancer have amazing stamina for the grueling and sometimes debilitating regimen they undergo. Their faith and trust are without question. Are they being optimists, or is their connection with – and understanding of – God so profoundly strong, it colors their every day with a clarity we who want to love them into remission simply cannot fathom? I don’t know. I share the gift of their trust and give it back with prayerful respect, trusting in my Creator God, as do they.

No doubt there are non-believers who are just as strong and just as amazingly inspirational through the trials of cancer and other illnesses. Believers don’t have a corner on bravery and hope. The point is that whether you call it optimism or faith, the bubble of believing is in each of us in some measure. What we can’t know is how our courage brings healing and hope to all the people around us.

In this befuddling world I continue to be optimistic. I continue to have hope that people I love who are struggling will turn their lives around. I live each day believing today will be better than yesterday and tomorrow is a gift waiting to be opened. I believe in miraculous healing. I believe in letting go and saying goodbye to those with terminal illnesses whose suffering has made their lives miserable. I believe there are no easy answers; that does not mean we shouldn’t work through the hard questions.

In the words of Charlie Brown and Snoopy: “Someday we will all die, but on all the others, we will not.” Snoopy was always the wise one… and the optimist.

________________________

The Charlie Brown cartoon was circulated through Facebook, which I hope makes it public domain, and I’m not even sure the caption is the original text.


Thank you for being a reader/subscriber. It is my goal to present informative, interesting and creative content on this site. Your likes, shares and comments are welcomed and hugely appreciated.


Follow Sharon at:
www.vandermeerbooks.com
https://www.facebook.com/vandermeerbooks
Amazon Author Central

Yes and No. Yes or No.

Yes or NoI’ve been a community and church volunteer for most of my adult life. It’s taken me this long to learn the best advice for being trusted and trustworthy. “No,” and “Yes,” are complete sentences.

No, is a complete sentence. Too often we use the excuse method of telling people we don’t want do something. “Oh, I don’t have time,” is a favorite. Really? You don’t have time? What about the person making the request who is already doing more than his or her share? Is it possible the elasticity of time allows that person to do what they’re doing times five? Uh, “No.”

Or, this one: “Well I can’t do it now but check with me next week.” Delay tactics don’t get the job done. Giving the person asking for help the hope you will be more ready at a later time is misleading.

This is a particularly irritating one: “Why don’t you ask Sue (or Joe or Jan or Stan), she (he) is so much more qualified.” This is the passing-the-buck method of saying no, something I’m guilty of from time to time. Hey, I’m just trying to be helpful! In truth, sometimes I don’t know how to say, “No.” How about you?

Then there is the other aspect of, “No, is a complete sentence.” When you want to say “no,” be very clear. Not maybe, not later, not now, not I’d rather you didn’t, but, “No.”

Years ago I had a staff member who was a wonderful photographer, but that was not the job she was hired to do. She was hired as a page editor. We already had a photographer. At that time in my life I thought being considerate in my choice of words would make me likable. In truth it left the impression I could be manipulated. The final straw with this staff member was on a day when the newsroom was on deadline and we had a breaking story. The assigned reporter/photographer did what he was hired to do and headed out. The page editor turned to me and asked if she could make a run out to the site and take photos. I said, “I’d rather you didn’t.” She grabbed her camera and went anyway. I won’t go into detail, but by the end of the day she was no longer on staff. The truth is I left her some leeway about how to interpret what I said, and she used it. It wasn’t the first time. I learned the hard way that when I meant “No,” I should say it.

Yes, is also a complete sentence. Please don’t say it if you don’t mean it. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had people tell me “yes,” and let me down. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve said “yes,” and let other people down.

Yes, isn’t maybe, or later, or when I feel like it. It means you can be depended on to follow through. It means you are a person of integrity who stands by your word. It means when you run into a snag and can’t complete the task you’ve agreed to do, you let the person depending on you know as soon as possible. It means that if you are participating in a group effort, you do your part to the best of your ability, even when you don’t get the credit for the group’s success. It means you understand saying “Yes,” means you’ve entered into a verbal contract, an agreement to come up with results, not excuses.

Before you do say yes or no, ask a few questions.

  1. Do you have someone else in mind for this task?
  2. When did you want this done?
  3. Who else is working on it?
  4. Can I get back to you after I check my schedule? (And then give a specific time when you will get back to them.)
  5. How long do you think this will take?

Depending on the request there are other questions you might want to ask. Your goal is to have assurance that your commitment – short or long – is one you’re able and ready to take on, or not, as the case may be.

It all comes down to integrity, that nitty gritty word that defines who you are, or are not, as the case may be.

 

 

 

Irritated Worrywart? NEVER!

purseDo not, under any circumstances, leave your purse or wallet in the car, or anything else of value. Never, ever.

A friend and I were out of town on Sunday. She parked in a parking lot and when I got out of the car, I left my purse and a bag containing my snow boots, a travel mug and my iPad in her locked vehicle. When we returned about an hour later, someone had broken the window on the passenger side, grabbed my purse and bag, and rifled through her glove compartment. Fortunately she had been wise enough not to leave anything of value in the car. We immediately called law enforcement and I got on the phone and reported the theft to the credit card companies and my bank.

For me, as unsettling as all that was, it doesn’t hold a candle to the aggravation and inconvenience of having to replace everything including keys, driver’s license, credit cards and multiple other items.

The most aggravating is dealing with a credit card company that assures me we won’t be responsible for the fraudulent charges on the cards. And yet, today rather large charges at two businesses have appeared on two of the cards, charges I was assured were never approved by the businesses involved. THEN WHY ARE THEY ON MY CARDS?!

I am left with the assurance that all will be well in the end. I must trust and not get bent out of shape. I WILL trust and not get bent out of shape. Much.

Interestingly I reacted rather well on the day the incident happened. It’s the aftermath of getting everything back to normal and being a tad worried that my paper identity may be stolen. What I must not do is let this incident steal my real identity, the one that steams through troubles and keeps on going; the one that doesn’t let anything get me down; the one who realizes that everyone who is irritating the hell out of me right now is just doing their jobs.

The most crushing loss was a pen my brother and his girlfriend gave me for my birthday the year he died. It was engraved with my name. The pen is an irreplaceable personal treasure. When it hit me that it was gone, I almost wept. Up until then I was pretty stoic about the whole thing. Well, I’m still pretty stoic about it all. Getting angry changes nothing. I’m sorry there are people in this world so desperate or heartless or just plain mean that they take from others. I pray for their restoration to wellness of spirit.

When I was getting my driver’s license replaced, the clerk said a couple of women had been in the week before on the same errand. Their purses were stolen at Walmart, one inside the store the other in the parking lot. The inside theft was from the victim’s cart. She did what I often do, left the bag where babies usually sit, and someone ran by and grabbed it. The woman outside had a similar set up. She was unloading her cart into the trunk of her car, and unwittingly left her bag vulnerable to the purse-snatcher.

I guess my point is that this kind of thing can happen to anybody at any time. It’s important to make taking your property as difficult as possible. Don’t leave your purse in the car and don’t leave it in the cart. Carry it with you or put it out of sight where thieves won’t be tempted to take it.

In conclusion, I will appreciate a little prayer of thanks that neither my friend nor I encountered the thief, so there was no risk of us getting hurt, and a second little prayer that I don’t let my real identity be stolen. I refuse to be an irritated worrywart.

 

A Rooster Tale

RoosterWhen I was a kid, we lived in a trailer house on my grandparents’ place. They had a farm with requisite chicken coop, cows, and garden. It was also the residence of the meanest rooster God ever created. It had wild red eyes that glowed in the dark, sleek reddish-brown and dark green feathers, oily with evil.

I hated that bird and was thoroughly terrified of him.

I was about five when the rooster from hell crossed my path for the first time. My brother was six. To this day I believe that rooster lurked in the yard, waiting for my brother or me to come outside. He was a sneaky creature, full of cunning.

Sixty-five-plus years have not dimmed my memory of the terror I felt the first time that cannonball of pure wickedness homed in on me. All I could do was stand there and scream my head off. Fortunately someone, probably my grandmother, came into the yard and scooped him up before he could fly into my face and peck my eyes out! Okay, maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but I swear I can still smell that bird’s chicken yard breath!

For days afterward I wouldn’t leave the safe haven of our house. My parents had little patience with slackers, and threatened me with dire consequences if I didn’t do my chores, which meant at some point, going outside.

With quivering, wet-noodle legs barely holding me up and a belly watery with anxiety, I opened the door carefully, scanned the yard to see if the evil one was anywhere around, then stepped outside, watchful and alert. About the time I started feeling easy in my mind, that foul fowl came cartwheeling right at me, a flurry of feathers churning up dust. An awful squawk raised the hair on my arms and neck. After one breathless second of terror I was off like a shot heading up the steps to the house screaming, “ Mama, Mama, Mama!”

My mother hated that bird almost as much as I did, but she wasn’t afraid of him. She hauled out the broom and went after him with a vengeance. “Shoo, shoo! Out of here or it’s into the pot for you!”

My father didn’t hate the rooster, but he didn’t like the fact that my brother and I were terrorized by something with feathers. Dad told us to yell or throw rocks at the rooster to scare it off. “You’re bigger than that bird, don’t let him scare you.”

As I recall, I wasn’t bigger. In my mind I was about the same size and I didn’t have spurs.

Nevertheless, with my father’s words as a motivator I made up my mind, no crummy chicken-legged piece of poultry was going to keep me prisoner in my own house. My brother and I started carrying a stick or a broom with us when we were outside. The yard became a battlefield, one we defended resolutely, usually with me standing behind my brother as he did battle for both of us.

As it turned out the battle was won by default. One night something got into the hen house and the rooster met its end. I’ve always suspected my dad had a hand in that, but maybe not. Dad insisted it was a fox.

That rooster, as much as I despised him, and my father’s insistence that we couldn’t let a silly bird whup us, taught me a lot about not allowing fear to rule my life.

In 1941 President Franklin D. Roosevelt said in a speech to Congress:

In the future days, which we seek to make secure, we look forward to a world founded upon four essential human freedoms.

The first is freedom of speech and expression – everywhere in the world.

The second is freedom of every person to worship God in his own way – everywhere in the world.

The third is freedom from want – which, translated into world terms, means economic understandings, which will secure to every nation a healthy peacetime life for its inhabitants – everywhere in the world.

The fourth is freedom from fear – which, translated into world terms, means a world-wide reduction of armaments to such a point and in such a thorough fashion that no nation will be in a position to commit an act of physical aggression against any neighbor – anywhere in the world.”

There are a lot of roosters in the world, stirring up hatred and violence in every barnyard around the globe. Freedom from fear is something we lack in this anxiety-filled world. We’re afraid to speak out, we’re afraid not to speak out. We’re afraid we won’t have enough money to live. We’re afraid of terrorism – domestic and global. We’re afraid of illness. We’re afraid of death. We’re afraid nobody will like us. We’re afraid we won’t or can’t live up to the expectations of others. We’re afraid to marry. We’re afraid not to marry. We’re afraid our leaders are dolts. We’re afraid our homes are vulnerable to thieves. We’re afraid we are vulnerable to violence. We’re afraid of millions of problems that can arise in an instant over which we have absolutely no control.

The good news is that we have at our disposal two weapons to overcome that fear, much like the stick and the broom we used to defend ourselves against that wild-eyed rooster. We have courage and vision.

It begins with courage based on wisdom and discernment, and is under-girded by a vision of ourselves as winners, not victims. Courage gives us confidence, vision gives us possibilities.

In 2016 be courageous and visionary. Don’t let the roosters win.

___________________

 Updated and reprinted from an opinion piece written by me in the Hermit’s Peak Gazette in January 1999. Thanks, Marylena Melton for sending this to me. Given the state of the world, this seems as relevant today as the day I wrote it nearly 15 years ago. Interestingly the words President Roosevelt wrote 75 years ago resonate as well.