Archive for April, 2013

Back to New England!

 I stayed at the Steamboat until early in 2002.    We
had made a trip back to North Adams a year or two earlier &
Rich really fell in love with my little hometown!!   He said it was
charming!!    Charming???     I had lots of adjectives for that
little mill town, but somehow charming never came up!!
But Richard was totally taken with it.    He’d retired in 1999 and
the idea of living in such a “charming little town” really
resonated with him!    But, we had a bought a sweet little brick
house a few years ago in Winston-Salem…..couldn’t relocate anywhere
till we sold it.     We tried everything, but the market wasn’t exactly
booming….even back ‘then!
So I told Rich, we’ll pray about it —–if God wants us up there,
He’ll make a way!     So I did, and He did!!  
I’d recently switched jobs and was working at Wal-Mart.   
Didn’t really know anyone yet, but one afternoon, I’m sitting in
the break  room and here comes Lewis, my supervisor.   Out of a
clear blue sky he asked me if it was true that I had a house I was
trying to sell.    I know my mouth fell open!   “How’d you know?”  
He just grinned,  “Grapevine is a wonderful thing!!”     Anyway,
I called Rich and said, “I guess the Lord wants us in New
England!!”   Major God wink!
Lewis didn’t buy the house, but he ended up leasing it from
us for 5 years.    Long enough to enable us to go up north and
decide if we were going to stay or come back!!
One of our reasons for wanting to go north was our granddaugh-
ter Lauren….Richard’s son had decided they were going to
move to the West Coast where the work situation was better.
 
My kids were old enough to travel  to where we were, but
the prospect of having our little “princess” so far away was sad.   
But it also meant that it didn’t really matter if we were in NC or
New England!   So away we went!      And what a time we had!!
We stayed with one of my girlfriends for a few months until we
found ourselves an apartment.    I transferred to a Walmart up
there just one town over from where we lived and in between 
shifts I had a ball showing Rich all the places I’d been telling
stories about all these years.
 And of course, all my old friends, fell in love with him —
couldn’t believe I’d found someone as classy and distinguished
as him!!  Lynn, my best friend since I was 12, flat out told me,
“He’s amazing….you screw this up and I’ll shoot you!!”   LOL!!
Once we got settled, we started house-hunting in a big way.   We
were both convinced, because of the Lewis Godwink, that the
Lord really intended us to stay up there.    But for some reason,
every house we looked at or we were interested in, developed
some kind of “issue”.
One ended up having major structural problems…..the next
one was for sale, but tied up in probate, one was taken off the
market as soon as we made an offer….etc.    We spent most of
2003 and part of 2004 being disappointed time after time!    
Just couldn’t figure out what God had in mind!  But I knew if
we’d just have patience He’d make it clear and we’d have our
answer!
One thing we did do up there was finally decide to take the
plunge & get married;  something we’d carefully avoided our
entire relationship!    Rich was concerned about leaving me
financially secure if he should pass away and he told me over
and over again that I could live nicely on HIS social security IF
I was his wife….the federal government was not going to be
impressed with how much we loved each other or how long
we’d been together or what our living arrangements used to
be!   If I wasn’t married to his wife when he died they’d make
sure I’d not see a penny of his Social Security.   
Now a bit of advice to any women out there who have decided
to make waitressing their life’s work:    Have a back up plan,
ladies….because if you work for tips your entire career?   Your
social security benefits, when the time comes, will be nothing
to write home about!    You won’t be able to keep a houseplant
alive on what the government gives you because it’s based on
your paycheck…NOT your tips!!
First thing we had to do was dissolve my marriage to Buddy
which was still intact after all these years.   The good news was,
after placing a call to Ramsey, we discovered that a formal 
divorce wasn’t necessary because the marriage had never been
consummated.   All we’d need was an annulment (much cheaper).  
 
So as soon as that came through, we headed to Vermont one
Saturday morning just to see where the marriage license place
was and locate a JP so we’d have the info when we were ready!    
We located the correct office in Pownal, Vt.    Lady behind the desk
was very sweet and helpful….told us her cousin lived right down
the road and  she was retired, but still had her credentials as a JP
if wewere interested in getting married now.   NOW????
Rich looked at me and shrugged as if to say, “Why not now?”   I
was HORRIFIED!   Remember now, it was a Saturday morning-
I was dressed in old jeans, one of HIS flannel shirts, my hair,
pulled back into a ponytail,  needed a shampoo in the worst way
and here was the man of my dreams asking me if I wanted to go
get married….NOW!!   Horrified?  Yes…..Stupid?  No way—I’d
waited over 10 years for this moment so all I could say was
“Let’s do it!”
It definitely was a wedding to remember!    Armed with
directions from the records office lady to her cousin’s house
and her promise that she’d call ahead and let her know we
were coming, we took off to find this retired JP, giggling like
eloping teenagers!     We found her house and she was indeed
waiting for us at the door!    Didn’t take us long to find out just
WHY the dear woman had retired.   
Uncle Alzheimers was obviously her roommate although she
was as sweet as could be!   Kept forgetting why we were there but
insisted on making us tea!    Then we had to undertake a major
search for her “book” which she hadn’t used since she retired—
that took almost an hour!     Finally, when we got down
to business, she had trouble remembering our names!    She
almost married Diane to Robert until we got her straightened
out!      That’s how I became, at last, Mrs. Richardson!!
Then, just a few weeks later, God answered our question as to 
whether we should stay where we were or return to Dixie  
when Rich’s son called and told us that they’d decided NOT to
go out west!   They were staying in Charlotte!!     GRRRRR!    
Now we had a decision to make—would we stay up north or
go back south to watch our precious princess grow up?     
Obviously, since all our plans to buy a house up there had
fallen through,the Lord wanted us back in Dixie.
 I told Rich that God knew what we didn’t—that’s why all those
houses fell through!  If we’d bought a house, we would’ve HAD
 to stay in New England….this way we still had a choice, stay
or go!   Another Godwink!!!
We decided to go back even though we’d be returning to no
house….our lease with Lewis on the house in Winston still had
3 years to run.  
But after some very involved phone calls back and forth, it was
decided that we’d stay with Ricky and Dawn and the princess
until we found a place, so in September of 2004 it was back to
Dixie!
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The Steamboat!!

I continued to work at Mr. Omelet until it closed in 1998.  Then
it was a series of restaurants…first, was IHOP…until one of the
kitchen cooks had an exceptionally bad day, an anxiety attack,
VietNam flashback? 
I don’t know what his problem was, but I
walked into the kitchen & out of the blue, I had a Godwink!  
There was no one in the prep room but me, when I heard God’s
voice clear as a bell…just two words:  “Duck, now!”  And duck
I did!!   Then I hear all this commotion back in the grill area;
I stand up to look around and in the wall, directly in front of
where I’d been standing was a butcher knife!!  Still quivering!!
 
Apparently, one of the short order cooks, had himself an
episode of something or other, and if I hadn’t ducked when I
did that knife would have pinned yours truly to the wall!   Now
I may be a bit hard-headed at times, but not that day.    It took
me around 13 seconds to grab my stuff, clock out, yell “Hasta
la Vista” at the boss and hightail it outta there!       The manager
tried desperately over the next week to talk me into coming back
before I finally convinced her that wasn’t gonna happen!    
After that I waited tables at the local Mayberry’s for a few
months, but business fell off and they cut everyone’s hours so I
had to leave there too.    
 
Had no idea where I was going next…so I’m sitting on the
bench outside the store talking to God out loud, like I’ve been
known to do from time to time.   “Well Lord….now what?   No
job, no tips, no money….how do I feed my kids?  I know You
have something in mind so whenever You feel like sharing?
I’m listening!”     This little old woman sits down next to me
as soon as I stop talking and says to me, “You need to
go up over the hill, turn right, go down the hill and see Tryfon
over at the Steamboat—-he’s looking for a girl to run his
takeout counter!   Bye-Bye sweetie….have a great day! Then
she just gets up and just hobbles off!    
Godwink?   Absolutely, cause I’d never heard of the Steamboat
till that minute & how on earth did she know I was needing a job? 
I’d never seen her before!!  
 
I called a cab with my last $10.00 and the cabbie knew exactly
where I was talking about!   So, I get there, looking for Tryfon.  
(The little old lady failed to mention that Mr. Tryfon was a Greek,
who spoke his language REALLY fast and English hardly at all!)   
But we managed to make ourselves understood and I walked out
with a job that lasted for the next 3 years!   Tryfon and his son
Sam (my age, slightly better English!!) became very good friends,
almost like family, really.   Sam, isn’t his real name but it’s what
most of us called him.   I saw his real name once…..About 14
letters and at least 7 syllables — so Sam it was!!
 
Some customers too, stand out fondly in my memory!    The
Steamboat was an old-time family seafood restaurant whose
clientele was mostly families and senior citizens who came on
their regular days of the week to ordertheir favorites.     
Clayton, was an old black preacher, who came into the takeout
counter every Tuesday evening and Sunday afternoon to pick
up flounder plates with fries for himself and his bed-ridden
wife.    He not only became a close friend, but a mentor I
listened to and depended on up until his death in 2010.    
He was the first one to tell me NOT to allow the disapproval of
local preachers to stop me scribbling my poems. 
 
The Steamboat was the first place that my poetry was exposed
to the public.   I’d dash off 10 or 12 of them, staple them into a
little book and hand them out to whoever was in the dining
room that evening.   They became a big hit and the seniors
looked forward to the next book every week.   Some folks would
take them to church and share them with others, which led to
different preachers getting really agitated with yours truly.   
Some of them even presented themselves and their opinions
at the Steamboat and demanded that Tryfon stop me from
passing out these poems and stories.        Tryfon,  who simply
adored my little rhymes,had no problem telling these ministers
and preachers exactly where to go!
 
I was baffled at first when these ‘men of God’ would rant &
rave about my poetry, declaring I had no training and was not 
qualified to lead folks to the Lord ( and that’s a direct quote!!)
I would have thought we were on the same side..but Richard &
Sam both tried to explain to me, that most of my stories, even 
my style of writing, seemed to speak of a very personal
relationship with God.    I didn’t advocate or even mention one
particular denomination over another.    Apparently, that was
the problem.    I was downplaying the importance of preachers
in general and they saw that as a direct hit to their wallets,
given the popularity of my stories.   Who knew?
 
One story you’ll enjoy reading that’s highlighted by
popular request every Veterans Day….is about another one
of my regular customers at the take-out counter.  It’s called
THE HERO.  Let me know how you like it!!
 
 I stayed at the Steamboat until Rich and I decided to move to
New England....details of that decision in the next episode!

A Health Hiccup!

One thing that will always stand out in my mind as miraculous
that happened  during those years was God ‘hooking’ me up with
the wonderful man who was to become my soulmate, partner,
best friend and eventually, spouse.  Not that we knew  way
back at the beginning of course!   I just knew that he was the
handsomest, classiest guy I’d ever seen and was totally unable
to figure out what on earth he saw in me!!    But after that first
date?  We never looked back!     
 
The regulars at Mr. Omelet thought he was great….said we were
a match made in Heaven because like Bob said, “He never talks
and she never shuts up!!”  (Slight exaggeration!)
 
One thing I have to cover is a hiccup that occurred in 1993.   I had
some female issues that wouldn’t quit so I went to a hospital in
Greensboro.  They found something hinky in the test results so
they called me back a few weeks later to have me come back in.   
Told me I had some kind of rare uterine cancer!   Blew me
away because I’d had my pap smears & check ups every year like
a good little girl….so how did they not find it earlier?    Turns out,
that this type of cancer didn’t show up on a normal pap…  if it
runs in your family, they give you a special test every two years
to check for it.      Unfortunately, I’d been adopted, so I had no
family history, hence, no red flags.  Plus, with no insurance
there was also no motivation to run expensive tests.
 
So now, according to them?   I needed an immediate
hysterectomy, followed by some intensive chemotherapy and
even after all that, my prognosis was less than 18 months
because it was so far advanced.
I can still remember the doctors face when I informed him that,
sorry there wasn’t gonna be any operation OR chemotherapy….
I’d just leave it in God’s hands.    He sputtered, “But if you just
leave you’re going to die!!”    I retorted, “So are you, Doc…we’re
all gonna die….unless  your name’s Elisha ain’t no one figured
out a way around it yet.   I’ll die when God’s ready for me to
die and not one second sooner or later!” And away I went!     
 
What it did do was make me think about the kids.    So I asked
one of my regulars at Mr. Omelet;  we called him simply Ramsey.   
He was one of the best criminal attorneys in Winston-Salem,
who stopped in the diner once, sometimes twice a day for coffee
lunch and/or breakfast, etc.    We spent a lot of time talking.     
So I asked him one day, “Just for chuckles, what happens to my
kids if I die single without a will?”   He said, “Well, if you’re
UNmarried, custody would automatically go to your ex-
husband, their dad.”  Well, the thought of THAT was enough
to give me nightmares!!  
The last thing I wanted was my EX in charge of the welfare of
my children!
I’d been dodging for years my mom’s attempts to get the kids
up there.  She’d tried everything, but I  was adamant….they
were NOT going back to the situation I ran from!!    But I knew
beyond a doubt that if something happened to me, she’d be on
the next flight down to Dixie with her checkbook and my ex 
would sell them in a heartbeat rather than have his life  
interrupted in any way by growing children!
 
So I laid it out for Ramsey and asked, “How do I stop her from
doing that?”
He said, “Easiest way is to find someone who cares about your
kids as much as you do and marry him.    If he’s your husband
at the time of your death, he also has custody of your kids.   
Doesn’t matter how much money your mother has,  the courts
are not going to let some rich Yankee come down here and
re-write our laws.”
 
I knew for sure that Rich was not in a position or a frame of
mind to marry me or anyone else right then.    And although I
loved him even then with all my heart I wasn’t exactly 
 able to wait it out!  I had to protect my children at all costs!    
So I went to my best friend at the time, Buddy and asked him,
“Hey Bud….whatcha doing Thursday? Wanna get married?”    
Poor guy just looked at me and said, “D?   You really shouldn’t
drink this early in the morning!!  It’s not even 10 o’clock!”
 
But once I explained, he jumped right on board.  He was gay
so it’s not like he was fixin’ to marry anyone in the forseeable
future, he was my roommate anyway, there was no doubt at all
that he loved my kids like they were his own and he was NOT
going to be intimidated by anyone for any reason….  once
someone made him mad he was about as agreeable as a angry
pitt bull!     In other words?   No more worries about my Mom
swooping down here and swiping my kids.
 
Now breaking the news to Rich wasn’t exactly the most fun
I’d ever had,  but he understood my putting the children’s
welfare first.   My marriage to Buddy was one of convenience
only and wasn’t ever consummated of course — hardly anyone
even knew about it except those who had to.  But it sure took 
a lot of pressure and worry off me!

The Story of Big Jim

One thing we did a lot of during those years was move!!  I bet in
12 years we lived in 12 different places…always within a mile or
two of the restaurant.  I worked all different shifts and the kids
were in and out of the diner almost as much as I was….everyone
knew them by name.    I remember once when Ryan was about 5
and AJ around 3 years old…they ran into the store, straight up to
Leon, an old black fellow who’d become a really good friend,
because he usually had candy in his pocket that he’d dispense
from his stool at the counter.    Well, this time, he was
apparently out of sweets so he gave AJ a $5 dollar bill saying,
“Now little man?  You be sure and give your brother half of this!”   
AJ never missed a beat, he turned around to face his brother,
tore that bill in half and handed a piece to Ryan.    I thought
Leon was gonna have a fit!!   He laughed for 20 minutes!  Kept
telling me “D?  You better keep an eye on that one….he’s sharp
as a tack!!”
 
Most of the regulars were always on my case for one particular
thing….my penchant and my tendency to “adopt” people.    We
never, ever had too much, in some cases, not even enough some
would say;  but there was always someone with even less than
we had.     And, I guess because someone special was once kind
to me when I had nothing, I never was able to resist doing what
I could to help folks.    It didn’t matter who….bunch of college
kids on their way to Miami with a broke down car who needed
a place to stay and had no money for a motel…..a mom with 3
small kids on the run from an abusive spouse who stopped in
the diner at 2 in the morning to spend her last $4 on something
to eat for the little ones…..a young man, who’d just hitched
hiked into Winston-Salem from Chicago, out of money and
not knowing a soul….  most of these folks found themselves in
my kitchen at some point.   They’d get a meal, a hot shower,
clothes for the kids, an introduction to someone who
worked at whatever agency could provide them with the help
they needed, sometimes it was just prayer or hugs!!    
And because of my tendency to help where I could…..most of the
regulars considered it their duty to warn me that if I continued
to haul people into my house it was just a matter of time before
someone either robbed, hurt me or worse!    But I’ve always
believed, deep in my heart, that the Lord protects those who
do His work….so their warnings usually fell on deaf ears!
 
I guess because Mr. Omelet was only a few blocks from down
town Winston, we also attracted our fair share of what some
would call “street people”.      Folks who, for whatever reason,
were usually homeless, dressed in not much more than rags,
some addicted to drugs or booze, some just out of hope in
anything….they’d wander in & out of the diner, hang out in
the parking lot, trying to beg patrons coming and going for
loose change.    Management made a career of trying to run
them off, especially during first shift….but on the 2nd and
3rd shifts we weren’t quite so dedicated. 
 
One man, (we called him Big Jim, cause he was gentle but
HUGE!!) will always standout in my memory!     Probably
somewhere in his late 60s, he stood around 6’4″ and had to
weigh at least 280 lbs!!   He was also what I guess you’d call
developmentally-challenged….he probably functioned on the
level of a 6 or 7 year old.   But he was assweet a man as you’ll
ever meet!    He used to come stand outside the window of the
diner and wave at me around 11pm every night!    I’d go out and
hand him the wide broom and tell him that  if he’d sweep the
parking lot for me I’d fix him a double-burger cheese plate with
hash browns as payment!   
He’d flash me a smile that could stop traffic and get to work!  
The short-order cook on my shift was a grouchy middle-aged
guy named Joe.   (I’m relatively sure that if anyone ever traced
Joe’s family tree back far enough, they’d find he was closely
related to the original Ebenezer Scrooge, BEFORE his Christmas
Eve transformation!)   If Joe was ever unable to find anything to
gripe about, he’d create something!     My constantly buying
dinner plates for different street people was HIGH on Joe’s list
of things to complain about, but since I was paying for the food
with my own money, there wasn’t too much he could do about it!   
 
The reason I’ll never forget Big Jim is that one night, I found
myself working 2nd shift alone when Joe, the cook, called in.  
Now on the weekend nights, Mr. Omelet really rocked on 2nd
shift, with people on their way to the bars and clubs, preparing
to party, etc…
But during the week,  2nd shift was pretty much the dead zone
once the supper crowd left, so working by myself wasn’t a big
deal.   I can flip an egg or make toast without any major
problems.
Now on this particular Wednesday night, I ran out of change &
had to race across the street to the Mobile gas station to buy
some from their cashier.  
I was on my way back to the diner, headed for the back door
which was between our building and this huge metal dumpster.   
I almost made it to the door when this young kid appeared out
of nowhere,  pushed me up against the wall and tried to snatch
the bag of coins from my hand.   I felt something sharp in my
back….had no idea if it was a knife or a gun or what…..but in
any event?    $2.50 per hour does NOT buy you heroics of any
kind.   I gave him the bag, hoping he’d take off and leave me in
one piece.     I never found out what he might have
done next because right then, we both heard what I can only
describe as  a ROAR from across the parking lot!    I looked
around and in the glow of the streetlight I could see Big Jim
come lumbering towards us, hollering at the top of his lungs:   
“DON’T YOU HURT MY FRIEND!!!”     He was angry and closing
fast!!   
 
The poor kid didn’t know what to do…..I’m sure he was more
scared than I was….at the sight of this HUGE guy headed right
for him!    Jim grabbed him with one hand, flung open the
dumpster with the other, tossed the kid in through the open top,
slammed it shut, then climbed up and sat on the lid.     Then,
with the kid inside banging and yelling to get out, Jim looked at
me calmly and said “You best go inside and call the Po-Po, Miz
D….they’ll come get him!”    I’ll never know what might have
happened that night  if my Guardian Angel hadn’t rescued me!     
The police did find a gun on the boy inthe dumpster….   and they
called Jim a hero, which of course, he wanted no part of.   He didn’t
know or care anything about what might have happened, or the fact
that the kid might have shot him.
All he saw was someone who had been nice to him in
trouble and he knew he had to help!    Thank God and Jim….
because otherwise I might have gone to Heaven that night!  
After that story made the rounds, the warnings and criticism
about how I shouldn’t be “helping” street people died down
considerably.

The Mr. Omelet Years

The next 10 or 12 years have always been referred to, in my
mind & memory anyway, as the Mr. Omelet years!   After my
second marriage dissolved, I took a job at the Winston-Salem
Journal as an inserter.    I worked from midnight  to 4am putting
the junk and advertisements into the newspaper.  You know, the
stuff most folks shake out and throw away before they read the
paper?   LOL!
 
It was part-time but it paid some bills and I worked with the
nicest, most supportive group of folks you’ll find anywhere
while the neighbor lady next door watched the babies sleep!  
After the fire, the Journal crew went above and beyond to help
the kids and I!  
For the first week or so, we stayed with the family of one of the
guys I worked with.    His mom treated us like we WERE
family.     My first priority of course, was finding us a place to
stay that I could afford.    Most of the Journal crew had a habit
of meeting after work at a local diner called Mister Omelet, not far
from the paper.    So, it became my hangout too.     I think most of
us have a place in our memory just like it, either from our
childhood or some other point in our lives.     Little place,  dozen
or so tables, counter with 6 stools,  plate glass windows, open 24
hours a day, juke box in the corner, several waitresses who all
know your name and how you take your coffee, where you’ll sit,
etc.       Same folks  in at the same time everyday, who all
usually sit in the same seat, order the same thing and talk to the
same folks, day in and day out!   (Think CHEERS in Boston, only
with coffee instead of alcohol!)    LOL!
 
Anyway, I have lots of story-poems centered around Mr. Omelet
during those years. for an example?  Next time you’re on the Front
Porch check out The Circle, The Guest, The Good Deed, & The Car
Wash.
 
  
The folks who hung out at Mr. Omelet (staff included!) were just
like the people at the Journal….all the ‘regulars’ were considered
family and, if necessary, heaven and earth would be moved to
help one of them out!   So when word got around that I was house
-hunting after the fire?   Tips poured in from everyone!    I finally
found what I thought was the perfect place….less than two miles
from the restaurant, 2 bedrooms, big yard, etc.    Perfect until the
realtor told me the rent was $600.00!!   That was at least $200
more than my budget could handle….I was SO disappointed!    
There I sat in Mr. Omelet, moaning and whining to anyone who
would listen, including God ( who I’m sure has gotten MORE than
bored over the years listening to my complaints!! )  “Would ya
please do something, Lord?”  “A little help here, Father?”  “Are
You paying attention, Jesus?” LOL!!
 
All of sudden, the payphone in the corner starts to ring.   Now that
happens from time to time —someone looking for someone else
they know hangs out there, etc.    But this time it was for me!!
Someone asked if there was a girl in there named Dusty.    Well,
Dell the electrician, was the one who’d answered the phone, so he
hollered to me,“D?  Phone for you!”    I’m MORE than totally
baffled….who on earth even knew I was here?    So I take the
phone and this guy says:  “Are you the lady who looked at the
house on Fremont St. this morning?”  I told him yes but it was
out of my price range –way out!   He said, “That’s what the
realtor told me and I’m calling to let you know that we’ve have
several price reductions in that neighborhood this morning
and the house you were looking at has been reduced to
$375.00 per month if you’re still interested….”Was I
interested????   I let out a whoop they probably heard in
Canada!
 
Say what you want, no one will ever convince me that wasn’t
what I’ve come to call a GODWINK!
A Godwink is when something so fantastic, so unlikely, so
phenomenal happens at just the right time that you can’t
explain it any other way except GOD!!
 
So here I am trying to explain to the gang at Mr. Omelet what
just happened and fielding all kinds of questions….they’re all
saying congrats and how cool, and that’s wonderful!!   I’m think-
ing myself it’s pretty more than just wonderful….it’s more like a
miracle in my book!!   To God be the glory, right?
 
So I race home to tell the kids we’re not homeless anymore,
then stop at the realtors to drop off the deposit, etc.    The
realtor says, “By the way….you DO know that the appliances
in the house DON’T come with it, right?   You’ll have to furnish
your own….”  
My heart sank to my toes…where was I gonna get that kinda
money????    Then he tells me I can go to Duke Power,
our local utility company and buy used applicances for a fee
added on to my monthly power bill and pay for them over
time.    OK….heart rises back to original position!!
 
Until the next morning, when I show up at Duke Power, pick
out a fridge, stove, washer & dryer, sign up for the “add it to
my bill program” and I’m happy because the monthly extra
on the bill is very reasonable…something I can swing easily.   
THEN I find out that this wonderful deal only takes effect AFTER
I make an initial deposit on each appliance.    The amount
required for this initial deposit almost sent me into cardiac
arrest…..for all four appliances, I’d have to come up with
almost $800.00 total!!!    I told the nice lady, sorry but I didn’t
have that much cash up front and wouldn’t have any time soon
and walked back up the hill to Mr. Omelet very depressed!   
 
How could I move my family into a house with no stove or
fridge?  
I could handle the washer dryer thing…wouldn’t be the first time
I’d done laundry in the tub and hung it outside to dry…
but with no way to store or cook food things were definitely
NOT looking up.    Three growing kids could not eat Mr. Omelet
eggs and burgers every single day!!!    What was I gonna do??
 
Anyway, within an hour, all the Omelet regulars knew the
situation, what I needed & how much for a deposit to get the
appliances, etc.  and they were all commiserating with me. 
It wasn’t the world’s wealthiest neighborhood and most folks
existed on minimum wage jobs or social security or disability,
etc.    But,  I told them not to worry….God would make a
way somehow.    Bob, one of the plumbers, said “Putting an
awful lot on the Big Guy ain’t ya Dusty?”  I told him, “I’m
pretty sure He can handle it, Bob….somehow!”
 
I was off the next day so we got busy moving what stuff we had
left after the fire into the new house….around 10 am, one of the
guys helping move the big stuff  hollers out, “Hey D….come out
front!”
I see  a Duke Power truck in the driveway and two guys are
unloading stuff onto the porch!    A fridge, a stove, and a washer/
dryer combo!!    They weren’t the ones I’d picked out the day
before either…I’d looked at used ones—these were brand
spanking-new!!!    I freaked!!  “Whoa, fellas, whoa!!
I haven’t paid for these…..I couldn’t afford the deposit on the
credit contract and I haven’t signed anything!!”      The big one
consulted his clipboard, scratched his head and asked,
“Are you Dusty Fulbright?”   I nodded.  He pointed to the order
and said, “It’s right here in black and white, 4 appliances,
delivered to this address, no balance due, no payments listed.
They’ve all been paid for in full!”     I just stood there with my
mouth hanging open before I could find my voice to ask…”Paid
for by who???”    He turned around and showed me his clipboard
and I saw on the line that said Paid By?  someone had simply
scrawled ‘Mr. Omelet.’     I lost it!
 
Between the house being mysteriously reduced and now these
appliances being paid for?  I just sat right down on the grass
and started to cry….it was more than I could take in or
comprehend!  Who at Mr. Omelet had that kind of money???  
Did they know the realtor too?   I didn’t know and knew
I’d never figure it out, but I knew for sure Who was behind it
all!!      God was bailing me out just like He had so many times
before.    I knelt down on the lawn,  made the movers do the
same so we could give thanks right then and there to a Father
who is always there for those who trust Him!!!

Unanswered Prayers!

After the debacle in the Baptist Church, Kat and I settled into our own Sunday morning routine of prayer, Bible reading, etc… 
We never again discussed going to “another” church.    Apparently, as we learned the hard way, southern hospitality
stopped at the doorsill of worship services.
 
Now, when we were still up in New England, and Kat was 2 or 3 years old, I had suffered several miscarriages in a row.    The
doctors were never able to explain why I seemed unable to carry another baby to term.   As you can imagine, being pregnant, then losing the baby, over and over again, had me on an emotional roller coaster that after two years or so, became unbearable!   I tried desperately to find a doctor who’d be willing to tie my tubes….I did not want to be pregnant ever again!      But I met with no success….they all said the same thing:   You’re only 24…I will NOT tie your tubes!    SIGH.
Good Catholic girl that I was, I turned to God for help!   I made novenas, said rosaries, lit candles and spent literally hours on
my knees asking God to point me to a doctor who could “fix” this problem for me.      Did I ever get an answer?  Nope…not
then.   It felt exactly like every prayer I sent up was smashing into a HUGE cloud bank & not getting anywhere near heaven…   
On the other hand, even though I didn’t find a doctor to tie my tubes, I DID stop getting pregnant at the mere  mention of the
word, so that was a partial answer?
 
But now, 7 years later, I found myself in the South, married to a man who wanted nothing more than SONS to carry on the
family name!!   I explained that GETTING pregnant had never been the problem….STAYING pregnant on the
other hand was a bit more challenging.   He wanted to try anyway.   And this time? God was obviously listening.   I became
pregnant almost immediately, went to term without a single problem and gave birth to my son Ryan 9 months later.  I was
ecstatic, Eddie was proud, Kat was delighted and I’m sure the Lord was appreciative of my not pestering Him every morning
about what I thought was wrong in my life!
 
When Ryan was 9 months old, 2 things happened.   I gave in to the unrelenting pressure of family in New England to make a
trip back home to show off my baby boy and God decided to reinstate a new session of His series entitled:  Homeschooling
Dusty on what happens when decisions are made without consulting the Lord.
 
I DID make the trip home, and when I returned to Winston-Salem, I was confronted with a husband who missed me SO
much!   Yadda, yadda, yadda….so despite the fact that it was the worst possible day of the month, from an ovulation standpoint, nature took its course and before I knew it?    Baby #2 was on the way…..SIGH!
So, Ryan was around a year and a half when his little brother was born.    Joseph, AJ for short, was a handful from the
beginning so needless to say, that first year of nursing an infant while supervising a 10 year-old AND chasing after a toddler
effectively cured me of wanting any more babies!!  LOL!   And it turned out that my Unanswered prayer about finding a doctor to tie my tubes 7 years earlier was one of the most beautiful gifts from God I’d ever received!!    If He’d answered that particular prayer, I wouldn’t have the two beautiful boys I have today!! 
So, the next time your prayer goes Unanswered?  Take a lesson from me and just trust the Father.   He can see what we do not and He always knows what’s best for us!
 
One other thing that happened was  my discovery that, for all intents and purposes?  My husband was just another overgrown
boy…..he had no interest or talent for things like money management,budgeting, or any other adult pursuits.    The last thing I needed was a 4th child to raise.    One thing led to another and we divorced soon after AJ was born.    To His credit, not once did the Lord say “I told you so!”  He just listened as I confessed, complained and begged Him to forgive me for NOT asking His help with all these decisions I’d made without once seeking His help!
 
A few months later, our mobilehome burned to the ground in a terrible fire one winter night.    I awoke about 3 am to find the
trailer filled with smoke!   God stepped in again to save all of our lives!    I raced to the bedroom at the opposite end of the trailer, scooped up both babies, and raced back to the door, with one on each hip and Kat close behind me.   
Because the heat had warped the door frame so badly, Kat wasn’t able to pull the door open.    She was terrified and
screaming, of course, the babies were wiggling to get down and the whole trailer was on fire behind us…..even my braid
which was hanging down my back was starting to singe!!    I told Kat to get out of the way and without ever putting the
babies down (I was afraid I’d never find them again with all the smoke!) I just sent a prayer up to Heaven and proceeded to
kick that front door OUT.  
 
We lost everything we owned that night except for the pajamas we were wearing and my Grandma’s Bible, which we found the next day during a tour of the totally destroyed trailer with the Fire Marshall.    I was amazed to find the Bible barely scorched on the floor of the living room!    “It’s a miracle!” I said to the Fire Marshall!   He shook his head, saying, “Lady?  The miracle is that a woman your size, was somehow able, with 2 babies in her arms, to kick out a steel door warped shut by intense heat!!   That should have been physically impossible…..a man my size couldn’t have done it!   And I can’t explain it!”    I told him the only possible explanation is that God intervened and saved me and my children.
 
We did end up moving, because as it turned out?   My ex-husband had not bothered to pay the insurance premium on the insurance the previous month….(it was Christmas don’t ya know?)    He was going to catch it up this month…..predictably, the insurance company was NOT impressed or convinced and there would be not one penny to pay for the trailer OR replace our belongings.  Sigh….stay tuned for the next exciting chapter in the adventures of Dusty!!!

Culture Shock!

 , we

I’m going to digress here for a second and attempt to explain the vast
chasm I teetered on when I first came to live in Dixie.   Back in New
England,  in my little home town, we had 3 Catholic churches or
parishes;  the French went to Notre Dame (which was mine ), the Irish
attended St. Joseph’s and the Italians were found at St. Anthony’s.
We also boasted one Baptist church, one Jewish synagogue and one
Jehovah’s Witness Kingdom Hall.   I can count on one hand the
number of times I was in the other Catholic churches and I never
once set foot in any of the former three.   Folks tended to keep
their worship to themselves.
 It was a close-knit community but we stopped short of dis-
cussing spirituality or religion in any way.  I was Marie-Rose’s
daughter so it was just assumed by everyone who knew me that I
went to her church.   Also, it was such a small town that I was
well into my teens before I was actually introduced to anyone who
could even remotely qualify as a stranger in the true sense of the
word!
 
  
Down here in the South, after your name,  the first thing that usually
comes up in the conversation is:   “Where ya go to church?”   To a
newly-arrived Yankee that is going to be interpreted as an extremely
nosy, none-of-your-business type question.   I also discovered, for
the first time, the existence of what are called “non-denominational”
churches.   That whole idea, once it was fully explained, totally 
delighted me because it fell right in line with something I’d always
felt in my heart to be true.
 
 
No matter what we were told down here?  There is not going to be
an angel stationed at the Pearly Gate, armed with a fountain pen, asking
what denomination we are when we show up.     If you know Who Jesus
is, if you believe what He did for you and why, and if you’ve loved and
accepted Him as your Lord and Savior, then it doesn’t matter to anyone
up there what you called yourself down here:   Catholic, Lutheran,
Methodist, Baptist, Presbyterian, etc…..we only ended up with a gazillion
different denominations on earth because we couldn’t agree among
ourselves and we each wanted our own way.    (Sort of like a grown-
up, universal kindergarten full of spoiled brats!)   Jesus had nothing to
do with that.    What He said was, “Believe in Me, trust in Me & go make
disciples of all nations.”   Period.
 
 
Now while I was living in Winston-Salem and after marriage #2
disintegrated, going to church on Sundays wasn’t an option.   Even 
after the disaster we encountered in that Baptist, Kat & I could have
found SOME place to worship, but once I ended up waitressing, that
wasn’t doable.     My intention had always been to teach school once
we’d gotten settled in down South.   However, I quickly discovered 
that a teacher without tenure in Dixie, had better have a second 
line of income until she reached that level if she expected to eat!
Sad commentary on a state’s priorities when a waitress pouring
coffee and carrying omelets makes more money than an educator, but
that was exactly the situation in the mid-80s when I found myself
searching for a full-time job.    As most folks know, waitressing is NOT
a job where you have Sundays off……Sundays are the busiest tip
days of the week, so for almost 15 years, attending services anywhere
just wasn’t within the realm of possibility.    I still maintained my 
close relationship with Jesus though — no way I’d have gotten 
through those years without Him!!
 
 
Once Rich and I were married and settled here in Charlotte in 2005, we
started on a serious “church-search.”  He was raised as a Methodist, now
married to non-practicing Catholic, so non-denominational seemed like
our best bet.    That was an adventure and an education in and of
itself!     We started with the biggest church in the neighborhood; just
walked up the front sidewalk one Sunday morning and I had my first
encounter with what I later learned was a staple of churches here in
Dixie:    “The Greeter!”    Kind of like Wal-Mart….
Folks stationed outside whose sole job is to hail, holler and
welcome folks to Sunday service.    Neat idea…..although I did NOT
make a favorable impression on this particular greeter.   They are
obviously trained to spot “newbies” from a mile away because this
middle-aged lady zeroed in on Rich and I immediately and rushed
towards us, grabbing my hand as she loudly and earnestly inquired,
“Have you found Jesus?”    Now, unfortunately, what’s in my head
usually comes out of my mouth without a lot of downtime and that’s
what happened here.    When she asked, “Have you found Jesus?”
I replied, without skipping a beat, “My goodness…..I didn’t know He
was missing!!   We talked just this morning!  When did you lose
Him?”    Needless to say, although she finally did close her mouth,
she was NOT amused.   As we were walking (slinking?) back to the
car, Rich pointed out that our church-search might be a bit more
fruitful if he were allowed to duct-tape my mouth;  at least until we
got in the door.   LOL!  
Our quest continued for several more months until God Himself decided
to take things in hand.     OK…next entry picks up my story right after
the Baptist church fiasco!
 

were sitting in Olive Garden

at the bar,waiting for a table.    Rich had gone to the rest room while I
was seated in front of the door sipping a ginger ale.     This very well-
dressed young African American couple, probably in their late 20s or
early 30s, came in the door.  
The woman looked around and made a beeline right for me,
saying, “Are you Dusty?”   I nodded my head and she pulled two tickets
out of her purse as she asked, “How would you like two free tickets to a
Christmas pageant?”  I replied, “Sure, where is it?”   She said it was at
Garr church which was right up the road and she was sure we’d enjoy
it!I thanked her very much….she gave me a quick hug, returned to her
husband and out the door they went.
 
So Rich comes back and I tell him we’re going to a Christmas play up
the road and how some lady just walked in and gave me the tickets!
First thing he wanted to know was something that had never even
occurred to me which is “How did this lady know your name?”   GREAT
question!  Which to this day remains Unanswered!       We did ultimately
attend the pageant at Garr, which was marvelous!!    We thoroughly
enjoyed both the performance and the welcoming attitude of the folks we
met there.      Since it was an old, small church very close to our home,
we both felt as if we’d finally found ourselves a church home!
 
So for the first several Sundays, we paid close attention to the parishioners,
always looking for the young couple who had given us the tickets in the first
place.    We never found them.    Even after getting to know Suzie Q, the
administrative guru at Garr and telling her our story, she pulled out all the
old archives at Garr, (apparently, someone at the church is addicted to all
forms of photography as they had album after album filled with photos of
current members, past members, deceased members, etc.) but despite a
careful search of every album, the couple who had presented us the tickets
to Garr were never found or identified!      Now we certainly never would have
found Garr on our own and when you add that to the unexplained fact that
the lady somehow knew my name, and where I would be that particular