Until this week, I have never researched what “dog days of summer” really means. It is just something I grew up hearing my great-grandmother Clifford say. Clifford was a character. She had all sorts of sayings, many of which I can’t put into print. No one really knew when her birthday was. She chose February 14 for the Social Security Administration and so that everyone could easily remember it. No one was exactly sure of the year she was born either. I am pretty sure she made that up, too! I do think we celebrated her 90th birthday more than once! She loved a good party. She also loved her snuff and she was the only woman I knew who did this. I still have an old Levi Garrett tin that was hers!
Clifford was as superstitious as she was clever. If you went to her house, as I did daily when she lived nearby, you knew not to rock the rocking chair if it was empty. Nobody wants to invite evil into the house. She believed if her nose was itching, company was coming; that meant she’d “scorch up” a pan of cornbread for the visitors. She taught me to throw salt over my left should if I spill any. Although it makes a bigger mess, I still do this! She adamantly believed that bad news happened in threes. Whenever there was a death or a tragedy in the community, she’d issue warnings to everyone that they could be next.
To Clifford, “dog days” were the hottest days of the year and they were a time where the dogs would go mad and people were likely to join them. “It’s the dog days, everybody and everything is meaner. You gotta be careful,” she’d warn. Her general belief was that people and animals were more cantankerous during this period than any other time of the year. Snakes were meaner. Dogs were meaner, of course. We have never not had a dog around and my favorite dog of my childhood was a black lab named Dino. He was a good-natured dog and didn’t bother anyone. But if in late July or early August, Clifford looked out and saw me with him, she would warn me that he could become a “mad” dog and that I needed to “leave him be ‘til the days passed.” I asked Daddy if what his grandmother told me was true. He told me that Dino had had all of his shots, but not to play with him anywhere near Clifford’s house. He was careful not to call it an “old wives’ tale.”
Another of her dog days’ beliefs was that the birds would go quiet until the dog days were over. Additionally, she assumed that everyone knew if you got hurt during dog days, the wounds would take twice as long to heal. She had no way of knowing it, but her description of dog days gave me terrible anxiety! I never asked anyone about the root of the term. All of my grandparents and great-grandparents had used it, but no one else defined it like Clifford.
I have thought about her so much this week as we are indeed in the dog days as we reached record heat. I have carefully watched all of my dogs (and friends) for signs of madness. My little dogs would rather be left alone to sleep in the shade or splash in their kiddie pool. Leroy, the lab we rescued in February has shown no new signs of madness. All of the people I know are choosing to stay home, not because they are afraid of mad dogs, but because home is where their air conditioner is! Thankfully, I have not encountered any extra meanness from people or animals, but I have seen more snakes being killed. Maybe they are more aggressive during this time.
The term “dog days” actually comes from astronomy as there are two dog stars, Canis Major and Canis Minor. All of Clifford’s beliefs were loosely based on Greek legend, but I doubt she knew that. Instead of boring you with those details, I’ll let you do your own research.
I will tell you that anything scientific you may read on the Internet pales in comparison to what my feisty snuff-spittin’ great grandmother taught me!
Making Moments matter
Most of the time, when we hear the word “hospice,” our minds do not allow us to think positively. We do not tend to use the terms “hospice” and “hope” in the same sentences. AseraCare Hospice is challenging the common, negative stereotype of hospice in several ways
The AseraCare team can be seen at community events wearing brightly colored shirts and even brighter smiles. They are willing to talk with anyone curious about what hospice truly is.
For Director Wendy Smith, hospice is a commitment to making every moment matter. Smith and her team work together to create unique, memorable moments for their patients and the patients’ families. They are intentional about getting to know their patients personally and creating special moments for them.
“All in” for Ken
Ken Higginbotham was diagnosed with glioblastoma grade four in 1998. He was a teacher at Jackson Middle School and a coach at Jackson High. Ken was a healthy man with a wife and two daughters under the age of 5.
His wife Shan recalls reeling when the doctor delivered the news that her husband, a former athletic standout and current coach had nine months to live.
Meanwhile, Ken looked at the doctor and told him that he wanted to know the record of how long anyone had survived with this aggressive cancer. When the doctor said he would find out, Higginbotham looked him in the eyes and stated, “I am going to beat it.” A typical response for a competitor, and Higginbotham has been beating the odds for more than two decades.
Avid Auburn fan
The Higginbothams are what Alabamians call “a house divided.” Ken is an avid Auburn fan, while his wife cheers for Bama. Ken’s love for all things Auburn was evident when the AseraCare team met him. He wears an Auburn shirt daily and his room at Jackson Health Care Facility is decorated in Auburn’s colors of orange and blue.
As they discussed what they could do to celebrate Ken, the answer obviously had to involve his favorite team. Social worker Dana Adams reached out to the athletic department at Auburn University. They responded quickly and wonderfully.
Head Coach Gus Malzahn penned a letter to Higginbotham that remained sealed until last Saturday. In addition, signed posters, a tee shirt, and other Auburn gear
Continued from front and decorations were sent. The AseraCare team worked with Shan to plan a perfect surprise.
War Eagle, y’all!
As they wheeled him into the dining room, clad in his AU attire, Higginbotham surveyed the room and saw his wife, his parents, his children and his friends gathered. Tears filled his eyes as he gazed at them. He smiled at a life-sized cardboard cut-out of Malzahn provided by the university. Many pictures were taken as the family celebrated Ken.
JHS principal and friend of the family, Ken Harbuck was present to share in the festivities and to read the sealed letter.
Dear Coach Higginbotham,
I understand you have a special event today. I just wanted to write and say thank you for being such a great Auburn fan. It is special people like you who make Auburn so great…
I also heard that you are a former high school coach. As a former high school coach myself, I know the commitment that goes into football at that level. Guys who coach high school football love the game and love their players. Thank you for giving your all for your team. I always encourage my players to use their influence in a positive way. It sounds like you are a special person who impacts the lives of those around you. I hope it’s a great day for you. War Eagle!
A great day indeed! War Eagle!
Here we are at Labor Day weekend 2019. That means eight months of this year are behind us. It also means that summer is coming to a close, although temperatures here won’t reflect that for some time. Even if it’s 90 degrees, I’m still decorating my home with pumpkins and sunflowers and pretending that it is glorious autumn.
I always like to reflect on a season as it comes to an end. It doesn’t matter if it’s a literal season or a metaphorical one. I just like evaluating it. The summer of 2019 was definitely one to remember. It was a summer of exploration, music and a whole lot of time in the car.
As Labor Day is usually the marker of the end of summer, Memorial Day is used to officially mark the beginning. We started our Memorial Day weekend by exploring northwest Alabama. If you haven’t been to Ivy Green, the home of Helen Keller, you definitely need to add it to your bucket list. To consider all that Keller accomplished in spite of her disability and in a time of limited technology is amazing. You get a new perspective of a familiar name-always a good thing.
Lunch at the Rattlesnake Saloon was particularly memorable. It has been named one of the most unique places to dine in the South. Dining in a cave is a fun diversion. Thankfully, the den of rattlesnakes that was found during construction is no longer present.
Music pretty much drove our family’s summer plans. In fact, the reason we were in north Alabama was a Pentatonix concert. Then we found the Alabama Music Hall of Fame. Alabamians are talented and have made their mark on American music. I am thankful that the recording studio is at the end of the tour, otherwise Tatum would have never seen the museum. For just $10, you can record one song onto a CD. You can guess how that went. She has her own mini album.
Music also took us on a New Orleans tour with Mobile’s Singing Children. You learn a whole lot leading 40 kids around in the Big Easy! I saw parts of the city that I had never seen and loved the ghost/history walking tour. The group sang in some beautiful venues including St. Louis Cathedral in the French Quarter.
So May and June had very musical moments, but so did July. My daughter went to a performing arts camp in Medora, N.D. It was a family road trip that at the end resulted in nearly 6,000 total miles and a whole lot of singing in the car. Since Mark went with us for the first time, we took the scenic route and enjoyed every minute of it.
We enjoyed the lack of humidity and the cooler temperatures on the Great Plains. Our explorations took us to the Enchanted Highway, Crazy Horse, Mt. Rushmore, the World’s Largest Petrified Wood Park and downtown Deadwood. Those are just the highlights. I have learned that you can pack a TON of activities into a two-week period!
Tatum missed a week and a day of band camp, but got back in time to learn the half-time show and perform it in August. Mark and I missed a good bit of work and a month later, I think we are still trying to catch up on rest. Thankfully, there’s a three-day weekend coming up that I can use to rest and to further reflect on the blessings of music, family, safe travels and memories.
I hope that this weekend provides you with some time to rest and reflect and refocus on what matters most in your life. And if you have time, go find an adventure!
20 Years ago
So...I started writing this post on June 6, nearly two months ago. It should not take me so long, but there are SO many emotions tied up with this one. Now, I can further complicate it by adding that I went back to Montana last week and it stung. Here are my thoughts-FINALLY---with an addendum.
June 6, 2019
I can't believe that it has been 20 years since I went to Montana for a summer internship. I didn't want to go to Montana. I wanted to go to WorldSong, that precious corner of Alabama where I had spent so many summers as both a camper and a cabin leader. (We were called "counselors" at the time.) When a director of missions from Montana showed up to speak to the missiology class that I was taking at Southwestern, the only reason I wanted to talk to him was to get more information about Montana's Native Americans. It just so happened that we were studying Native Americans at camp that summer and I wanted real information. So, I went that afternoon and met the speaker and asked a ton of questions.
It was good as long as I was asking the questions, but I quickly became uncomfortable when HE started asking the questions.
"Have you ever considered working with Native American children?"
"You have a lot of children's ministry experience. There's a need for that in Montana. Would you pray about coming?"
The answer to those questions was initially a "NO!" from me. I had a plan that did not involve Montana and strangers, but still involved children and ministry. Plus, my dear friends would be working at WorldSong, so there was that. But the cowboy hat wearing director of missions was persistent. He made a point to see me every day for the next two days. He wasn't the only one getting my attention. Montana, a state I was only familiar with because I wanted to go to Glacier and Yellowstone, suddenly was everywhere. EVERYWHERE! And all of a sudden, I wasn't feeling quite as "camp-y" and I could not explain it.
As I read my Bible, one verse kept coming back to me, Isaiah 55:5, "Surely you will summon nations you know not, and nations you do not know will come running to you, because of the LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel, for he has endowed you with splendor." I had no idea why I kept coming back to that Scripture.
Thanks to the generous donations of Washington County Baptist Churches, I went to Montana. I lived with a pastor's family in an apartment at the back of a church sanctuary on a federal reservation. The lady of that house was Cindy and I had never met anyone quite like her. To this day, I have not met another like her! She cooked enough every Sunday to feed an army. She cooked extra food at every meal and there were never any leftovers. There was always someone who was hungry. There was always someone who needed something and Cindy's doors were always open. I learned so many things that my sheltered life in the South had never shown me. I saw beautiful children living in extreme poverty, right here in America and it broke my heart. There were teenagers who could not read. At that point, I had never taught anyone to read, but I'd had lots of practice at actually reading, so teaching literacy became something that I did.
I'll always remember the first night in the apartment with the Wilmots. They tried to prepare me for the culture shock that I was about to experience. I vividly recall hearing these words, "Not all of them will respond to the Gospel, but if we can change just one child's life, it will be worth it."
One particular family seemed to always be around the church. A young mother and her three sons. The middle son gravitated toward me and I thought he was the absolute most beautiful human I had ever seen. He and I were basically inseparable. He went with me everywhere. I took loads of pictures of this two-year-old because what was the likelihood of me ever seeing any of these people again.
People that know me already know the rest of the story--how two short years later that precious child was with us for good. In that two year period, I had gotten married. In the years since, that four-year old has grown into a man and I am quite proud of him. When I picked him up at the airport, he ran to me and in my mind I recalled, "Isaiah 55:5, "Surely you will summon nations you know not, and nations you do not know will come running to you." It was a definite God-wink. It was an honor to be entrusted to raise this child. He changed and challenged every thought process I ever had!
Staying in touch with Cindy was easy. She was always phone call away. I flew out and visited with her for an entire month before my wedding in 2000. In 2001, a friend and I drove out to see her. By 2009, they had retired from the mission and were living in Lemmon, SD, so I flew out and she and I toured 4 states in a 3-day weekend.
Four years later, I was itching to see my dear friend Cindy again. My daughter was 10 years old and at the time, I was teaching. So...I got an idea. I could drive to Lemmon, South Dakota. That's a mere 1,300 miles (24 hour drive) for me. We went and we stayed for 40 days (significant, right?). I intended to stay a week, but Cindy just kept making us feel more at home. Currently, we have driven to Lemmon for SEVEN straight summers!
This summer was different. For starters, my husband went with us. We took our time getting there and saw the sights. Cindy took a full week off work and hung out with us. It seemed like we went on mini vacations every day! On the second full day that we were there, I had the fabulous idea to go back to the reservation in Montana. The church had long been shuttered and turned into a tribal building, but I wanted Mark and Tatum to see the reservation and I wanted to go back one more time with Cindy.
There have been some good changes. There are new business in the tribal capital of Lame Deer. Many of the ones we recalled from two decades ago were still in operation also. There is a new high school. The Boys and Girls Club is still active.
I was heartbroken to see that the steeple had been removed from the church. I mean, it's not technically a church anymore, so there was really no reason for it to stay. For me, it will always be the church building, though I'll likely not ever see it again. That beige metal building was my life for the summer of 1999. It is where I learned so many things. My eyes were open to social problems and injustices that I had never even known about and that no sociology class had ever adequately prepared me for. I was forever changed and I had made a forever friend and I didn't know it at the time, but my family would be forever altered, all because I went to Montana--that place that I wasn't interested in.
Twenty years later, I still love Montana. My heart still breaks for the plight of the impoverished. I still love children's ministry (though I am not involved at the moment). I'm still a captive audience for anyone who wants to talk about missions. I still love WorldSong and both my kids have gone to camp there. I still love learning about cultures.
Twenty years later, I am so very thankful for that cowboy director of missions' willingness to answer my questions and I am eternally grateful for the friendship I gained and the lessons I have learned.
At the beginning of every month, I scroll down a website to see what “National Days” or “Month of” designations have been given. Sometimes, it provides some inspiration for writing. Today I am in luck. August is “Happiness Happens” month and Aug. 8 is “Admit you’re happy day.” Many parents in the area are happy because school is officially back in session. That means the routines are back and there is more structure in the homes. It also means getting the kids up early, fixing the lunches and doing the homework. These are things about it that aren’t necessarily happy.
Apparently Happiness Happens month has been in existence since 1999, when The Secret Society of Happy People agreed to have the first Admit You’re Happy Day. I am a little confused as to why a bunch of happy people has chosen to be a secret society. Surely I’m not alone! At any rate, I’ll go ahead and admit that I scoffed at the notion of a month devoted to happiness. Real life isn’t always happy. Events over the weekend where people were killed in public places reminded me that life isn’t always happy. I don’t consider myself an optimist or a pessimist. I like to believe that I am a realist. I LOVE hearing about good things, but I know that no person or situation is perfect. I don’t like raining on anyone’s parade, but if I’m asked my opinion, I will share it, even if it’s not a positive one.
But here we are on Day 8 of “Happiness Happens Month.” As August has 31 days, the Society has designated each one to a specific type of happiness, hoping to broaden an individual’s definition of the word. Words that are used as types of happiness include: humor, thankful, confident, nostalgic, amused and peaceful. The designated words help me to put happiness into perspective. While every day may not be generally happy, there are some things that we can focus on each day to let happiness enter our minds for a bit.
So in the midst of the supply shopping, carpool planning, practice scheduling, uniform washing, form signing, check writing days of August, I hope that each of us can find some time to reflect on things that bring a smile. The Secret Society of Happy People states, that August should “remind us that happiness happens one small moment at a time and it’s our job to recognize those moments when they happen. It reminds us that sometimes a small action boosts our happiness. It reminds us that happiness is a personal experience and it’s also contagious!”
So find those small moments and share them! It’s easy to spread bad news, let’s focus on spreading the good news.
Weekly columnist. Feature Writer.