All in the Brew

Hello, Thursday Morning readers! Once again, the weather has given us a big surprise. After an absolutely beautiful non-Derby Day, winter has returned to the Ohio Valley. Is anyone else underwhelmed?

There is a bright side, however. The cooler temps mean I can have another cup of coffee. I’ve received a second shipment of my favorite local beans, so it’s gonna be good!

This has been a week of exits for me. I resigned one of my jobs, effective end of June, and a multi-author blog I’d co-created and co-developed, is slated to close at the end of May.

Though goodbyes are coming in on both fronts, I’m at peace. I trust in God’s timing for everything. He knows what lies ahead and He is never taken by surprise. Don’t you love that? I suppose that’s the reason for my peace.

And just in case you’re wondering, I live in the Louisville area, so the first Saturday in May is BIG. Except for this year. The Derby has been postponed. So, we had a non-Derby Day for only the second time in history.

Getting back to my work downgrade, what will I do with all those spare hours? Writers can always use more time. In fact, there’s no such thing as “spare time” for the writer. Each empty moment is an opportunity for either writing or thinking about writing.

A story is always brewing in my mind. Even the not so empty moments can be filled with stories. I often work through story elements as I garden, or while I walk.

Right now, I’m working on a suspense novel. The main characters are vying for my attention throughout the day. I was about a third of the way through this one when I realized the timing was off. So, I had to go back and rework many of the scenes to blend them together.

It was as if I’d written them all separately as free-standing stories. I’m not sure how that happened, except that I’d been extremely busy and was trying to fit writing moments into my day.

My lead male character is Jake Bradley, a struggling reporter. He stumbles on what he believes will be his best story yet, but there are many roadblocks. I like Jake. He’s a country boy at heart, but he has ambition.

Since it was Friday morning, I’d expected more activity at police headquarters, where I had that ten o’clock meeting with Detective Scott. The boss had insisted I turn over any information I’d dug up on those two goons in the black LTD.

“That girl’s life could be in danger,” he’d said.

I ran a comb through my unruly locks before I headed inside. I was no dummy, but I figured if they wanted her, they’d had their shot. I grimaced. Maybe that was a bad choice of words.

In appearance, Jake looks a little like a young Tom Wopat (circa Dukes of Hazzard). He tends to swagger and drives a muscle car. Fun!

I’m looking forward to writing this story, so having more time to write is definitely a good thing. Will it be any good? It’s kind of like brewing the perfect pot of coffee.

Sometimes it’s the beans, and sometimes it’s all in the brew.

Family History

Last week, I wrote about a 1939 Packnett family reunion in New Mexico. My mother’s mother, Audrie Packnett Christy, was about twenty-six years old at the time.

My grandpa wasn’t with them but his family, the Christys, also have western roots.

Hello, Thursday Morning readers. Quarantine may have grounded us for a while, but it can’t keep us down. I’ve learned a lot about myself and my family during this time. I have pioneers and cowboys in my bloodline. They had to be tough and sometimes, well…it showed.

Grandpa Christy’s mother was a Younger. Her parents are pictured here. This is Alexander and Prilda Younger. I reckon they were farmers, or maybe ranchers from the looks of them. Great-great-grandpa Younger never went anywhere without that hat. Somewhere, I have a photo of a more youthful Alexander, in the same style hat.

This cute couple ended up living in a travel trailer, parked in their grandson’s yard in Amarillo, Texas. I wish I could’ve known them. Oh, what questions I’d ask them!

Alexander hailed from the Missouri Territory. His daddy was a Union sympathizer during the Civil War. I’ll bet he was a popular guy, huh? He looked a lot like one of the Duck Dynasty guys, with a long beard that hung to his belt.

Junior married and headed West to claim his own land. Maybe this is why I loved those Janette Oke books so much.

The Christy Family, 1937

Years later, their daughter, Minnie Younger, would marry Great-Grandpa Christy. Those two had four sons. Grandpa was the middle child because the eldest two were twins. The twins spent their lives working for the railroad in Amarillo, Texas. Grandpa married Audrie Packnett. They left Oklahoma during the dustbowl days, seeking greener pastures.

There are so many stories in these old photos. I’m sure much of their life was ordinary but we know ordinary lives include magical days. There’ll be hard days, too, when the wells of hope dry up like those dusty fields of the thirties.

Looking at these familiar faces gives me a profound sense of peace. I have a good, strong heritage. Folks who weren’t afraid to work hard. Mom is the youngest in these two photos. She’s 86 now. When I think of all the places she’s been, what she endured after these sweet days of her childhood—the breakup of her parents’ marriage, her mother’s death when Mom was only 22—my heart fills with gratitude.

Mom & Me

She raised me to ride the waves of hardship, knowing that difficulties come to everyone, but what you do during and after the tough times, that is what defines a person. Those hard times make the good times all the sweeter.

Thanks for joining me today. I hope you’re staying strong and healthy.

And if anyone out there knows what Great-great-grandma Prilda’s name means, I’d love to know. I couldn’t find any information. I’ve never heard of anyone else with that name.

Reunion in New Mexico

The week before the quarantine, I visited Mom’s new apartment. It’s smaller than her former one, so she wanted me to take her collection of photos. She was afraid something would happen and they would be accidentally thrown away.

I happily agreed, but that was before I knew there were four boxes of photos. Four large boxes. There are numerous albums, shoeboxes stuffed with photo envelopes, and letters from family all over the nation labeled, “photos enclosed.” There is even a sleeve of slides (try saying that aloud three times) and a reel of film from the fifties.

*Sigh*

Hello, Thursday Morning readers! I am so happy you’re here. I hope you’ll join me for a cup of coffee, or your preferred morning beverage.

If we’re friends on Facebook, you’ve probably already seen some of the pictures I found in Mom’s collection.

My mom has a very interesting family who managed to spread out all over the American West. I feel very blessed to have known them, though I didn’t get to see them in person all that often. When I was a child, we tended to pass through on the way somewhere. We’d plan our trips with a night in Amarillo with the twin uncles, a night in El Paso at Aunt Goldie’s, a stopover in Blythe, California at Grandma Cain’s (my great grandmother), before arriving in L.A. to visit Grandpa.

Mom’s sister lived in Oregon and then Idaho. Their half-brother lives in Bonner’s Ferry, Idaho, and they have cousins in Seattle, Washington, Butte, Montana, East Texas, and who knows where else.

Carolyn (child in front) sent Mom these photos.

So, when I discovered the 1939 Packnett family reunion photos from the ranch they called “The Canyon” in New Mexico, well, I practically jumped up and down. These beautiful black-and-white photos document a rare (for them) family get-together long before I was born.

I had always heard about the ranch and Mom’s “cowboy cousins,” but I’d never seen these photos because we didn’t have them until they were sent to Mom by the little girl in this shot.

Marvin, Evelyn Brobak, & Ruford

I look at these faces, most of them so familiar to me, and I’m in a sort of awe. I haven’t seen them in years, yet I can almost hear their joyful voices.

Mom’s family kept in touch and visited when we lived in Southern California. The man on the left in this photo (my Great-Uncle Marvin) married the young woman next to him, and they later settled in Seattle.

My Great-Uncle Ruford on the right, moved around a lot. He used to write letters to my mom. She called him “Uncle Rufie.”

The Packnett Ladies

My grandmother is back left in this photo of all the Packnett women. She died when I was two, so I don’t remember her. But I feel as though I know her. She was one of the first to hold me when I was born. And somehow, I know I loved her.

Years later, I would stand beside her grave in Seattle, Washington, surprised by tears and the unexpected emotion of that moment. Seeing her beautiful face in these photos gives light to her existence and helps me know her better.

Great Grandma Packnett (back right in above photo) later became Grandma Cain when she remarried. We visited her house in Blythe (CA). I remember her house, and that they had grapevines in their backyard.

The lovely lady on the right was my Aunt Goldie. She and her husband lived in El Paso, Texas. Their daughter, Carolyn, is the one who later sent the pictures. We visited them often over the years.

The woman front left is Aunt Edris. I don’t really remember her.

The photos below are my grandmother. I think she must have had a lovely visit with her family before she returned to Seattle with her daughters (Grandpa stayed behind, probably working).

Is it odd or strange to love people you never really knew that well? There’s a strong bond within me to the folks in these photos, though I grew up thousands of miles away from most of them. Mom kept that alive through her lifelong communications with them. Communication she shared with her children so, when we came to this point, we’d know them and love them as she did.

That’s an important point to make in our present circumstances. Though distance and protective measures keep us parted, we need to keep the lines of communication open so that our children’s future will include their extended family. I can’t imagine my life being as rich if I hadn’t known or known of this wonderful family.

To be continued…

Life Renewed

Hello, Thursday Morning! I know it’s still cold out there for some of you, but here in Kentucky, it’s warm. Spring arrived early this year. The trees are all abloom, the tulips are full-blown, my roses are budding (not just leaves, but blossoms!).

We’re already seeing butterflies!

While we’re safely home, staying busy so we don’t worry, it’s nice to look out and see the sun shining.

This weekend, we will celebrate Easter. For those of us who celebrate it as the resurrection of Jesus Christ, it is our most holy season. This year will be unlike any other we’ve celebrated. But different doesn’t mean bad. I encourage you to put your imagination to work.

Decorate if you normally would and if you don’t usually, try it. Make a nice dinner. If you don’t have anything to decorate your table with, boil and color some eggs. Put them in a nice bowl in the center of the table. (Don’t leave them out too long, and you can make deviled eggs or egg salad sandwiches, garnish a green salad or potato salad. Or just eat ’em.)

Put on your Easter outfits to watch your online service. Make it fun and special.

If you couldn’t get out to buy something for the kid’s baskets (if you do that), use your imagination. Check out Pinterest if you need help. Dress up a basket, or a bowl or box, fill it with homemade goodies. Hide treats or small toys around the house. You can even hide the Easter baskets!

This will be a year like no other, but that doesn’t mean it has to be bad or disappointing. I hope I’ve given you a few good ways to stir up your imagination.

Also, I know some of you are alone and the thought of spending Easter on your own can be overwhelming. I encourage you to join in wherever you can. Find a service to watch, play worship music, call friends and family. Open the Bible to your favorite gospel and read the story of Jesus’ death and resurrection. Try reading it aloud.

Note: If someone in your family is alone on Easter, take a few minutes to check on them. Make it a video call if possible so they can see your face. Don’t forget to smile! 🙂 You can also send a pre-recorded video greeting via text messaging.

On Easter, my cousin Rick used to answer the phone, “Happy Easter Egg!” in a joyous tone of voice. It may seem silly, but he made us all laugh. He’s celebrating with Jesus this year, but the memory of that greeting remains. We’ll never forget it.

The point is, you have the power to make this holiday special for yourself and others. Let’s not allow our circumstances to keep us “in the grave.” Hope renews life and builds faith. These will all work together when you allow the great “I am” to have His way in your life.

Click to Tweet: You have the power to make this holiday special for yourself and others. Let’s not allow our circumstances to keep us “in the grave.”

Into the Fort

My friend Gail Johnson wrote a wonderful post this past Tuesday entitled, Held. She captured my imagination and changed my focus. If you have a few minutes, I hope you’ll take a look.

Hello, Thursday Morning!Hello, it’s Thursday Morning! I hope you are safely navigating these strange times. I am learning the benefits of online shopping, among other things. What I’ve enjoyed most is still being able to support local businesses like my favorite local coffee roasters. 🙂

While I’m home, I’m building myself up. The plan is to allow the present circumstances to strengthen rather than weaken me. I’m studying the Bible, reading devotionals, doing balance and strength-building exercises, walking, etc.

I’m getting back into the habit of cooking on a daily basis (yes, we were eating out way too much). I actually enjoy cooking.

We’re better stewards of what we have. We were also throwing out way too much fresh food. Are (or were) you guilty of that? In normal times, after working all day, we’re tempted to stop and pick something up instead of eating what we have at home. The result was a fridge full of yucky old produce well past its freshness date. Hello, compost. Now, I’m using all that stuff. Yesterday, I used up less-than-fresh apples by making apple bread. Yum!

My workspace looks out on the backyard. I’ve become personally acquainted with the cardinals and the doves who fight for feeding room among the bossy squirrels. Sometimes I find myself watching them too much instead of working. Focus, Betty, focus.

So, there are some good things coming out of this “time of testing.” I am finding that I don’t really have as much time as I thought I would. It seems everyone wants me to do things all the time. I have a tee-shirt I wear on days like those. It has Snoopy on the front and says, “Please don’t make me do stuff.” 🙂

Into the fort – what do I mean by that? There was a time when we would have been required to go to the fort for protection from enemies or medical help or natural disasters. For me today, “into the fort” means staying in place.

My safe place is right here, in my home, only going out when necessary for food, supplies, or work. It means staying away from people while I’m out. I’m washing my hands a lot and trying not to do anything that is considered unsafe. It also means I’m not able to visit Mom. That’s for her safety.

I’m praying for you, my readers, that you are safe and well.

The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer,
    my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge,
    my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. – Psalm 18:2