Archive for the ‘Roots by the River’ Category

Tree Limbs

Posted: July 17, 2011 in Roots by the River

We have a beautiful home on the farm where I  grew up.  Actually we have the last remaining two acres.  The rest of the farm has been sold off to developers and we are now surrounded by a very nice subdivision.    We have a neighbor on each side who also have approximately two acres each.

Ms Bradford to the north of us, was a sweet old lady who was always pleasant and cheerful.  Mr. McConkey to the south of us, was completely the opposite.  He was a frustrated old man. He never smiled and was always looking for some way to find fault with what went on in our home.

We would see him in the yard and Jim would wave and try to speak, only to be met with ill remarks and a disgusted look. Mr. McConkey would take pictures of us as we worked close to the road, I guess to use them as evidence against us for trying to improve the roadside.  We never quite new what he was up to or his motives associated with his actions.

There was no fence separating our two yards and if a ball or the children crossed the imaginary line, Mr. McConkey was quick to register his complaint.  We lived daily wondering what his next move would be to make our lives miserable.

It was the spring of the year, and as we always did, we worked feverishly to get our yard in shape.  Both Jim and I enjoy digging in the dirt, planting flowers, and creating a beautiful landscape. Located in our front yard, just inside this imaginary property line that separated our front yard from Mr. McConkey’s was a large water oak tree.  This tree was so large the canopy from the tree crossed “the line” into Mr. McConkey’s yard..  It was hard to tell who really owned the tree because we shared so much of the canopy.

One Friday afternoon when I arrived home from work, I turned into the driveway, and there it was, a huge pile of limbs from the water oak on my side of “the line.”  Immediately my blood began to boil.  I was convinced, that old man had trimmed the tree limbs that had crossed “the line” and thrown them over in my yard to be picked up.  It was the final straw.  I was fed up with his attempts to annoy me and I was going to teach him a lesson that would put to rest his meanness toward us forever. 

Still in my work suit, I got out of the car, and threw every limb on the pile back into his yard.  I thought, “that will do it, when he sees this we probably will have it out once and for all, and I would be rid of this old man forever.  He truly had become a thorn in my side and I was ready for a fight.

I headed to the house once the deed was done, and noticed Jim had returned from his weekly travels.  As I stormed into the house I found Jim and told him what that old man had done and what I had done to correct it.  I noticed Jim was not in a very supportive mood.  The expression on his face was a strange combination of humor and fear at what I had done.  He very quietly said to me, “I came home early and trimmed the limbs and was going to get you to help me clean them up when you got home.” 

It was one of those moments for me when my brain processed the consequences of my past, present and future actions, and I began to panic.  I realized Mr. McConkey was not home and I  scramble to correct my selfish mistake before he returned.  I called to Jim, “quick come help me get the limbs and put them back into our yard.”  By this time, Jim was laughing so hard, he could barely walk. 

We managed to return all the limbs to their rightful owner, and to this day Mr. McConkey never knew of the event.  Mr. McConkey has returned to Texas to be with his children, but the water oak is still there sharing its canopy with our new neighbor.  It is a daily reminder to me as I return home of how quickly we can misjudge a situation, and how quickly our selfish motives can take over.

Ephesians 4:31-32 says, “Let all bitterness, and wrath and anger, and clamor, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice; And be ye kind one to another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, even as God, for Christ’s sake, hath forgiven you.”  I am grateful Mr. McConkey was not the recipient of my anger, and I am grateful my husband is a patient man.

Dear Father, please help us to remember things are not always as they appear.  Help us to see things through the eyes of the Holy Spirit, to be slow to anger, quick to forgive, and always ready to share a kind word, especially to the Mr. McConkey’s of the world.

Ann Cason

3/11/05

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Pete and Paula

Posted: January 7, 2011 in Roots by the River


I believe every child should grow up with a pet and finding the right pet for the family was quite a job. After the disaster with the fish, we decided to try a bird. I searched for the perfect parakeet, one that would sing and fill our house with beautiful music, one that was colorful and pretty. His name was Pete. Pete was bright yellow from wing tip to wing tip. He was like a little ray of sunshine in our home.

We took great pride in finding the right bird cage, a spacious home, for our new arrival. We filled it with all the right toys, food, and bird stuff, hoping to make his new home an enjoyable experience. But Pete was just not a happy bird. He just sat motionless. He didn’t sing, and he didn’t even play with his toys. He just sat!! It was obvious after several weeks of trying to entertain this bird, we were doing something wrong.

Then it dawned on me one day Pete was lonely. He needed a companion, someone to share bird things with. So off we went to the pet store to find Pete a friend. Her name was Paula. When we arrived, we heard this parakeet singing all the way from the back of the store and we knew she was the one. She was bright blue as the sky and just beautiful. We knew this was the one for Pete. He would fall in love with her, we hoped!

We were not disappointed, when we arrived home and put her in the birdcage with Pete it was love at first sight. For days he did not leave her side. Everywhere she sat in the cage, Pete was right there. If she ate, he ate, if she slept, he slept, if she sang, he sang. He was a happy bird and our home was filled with music. Paula was the focus of Pete’s life.

Unfortunately, Pete was not the focus of Paula’s life. We began to notice she was becoming increasingly unhappy. In her efforts to have a little space she would move away from him slightly when he got too close. On one occasion, Pete had her pinned so tightly against the side of the cage she could barely move.

Now I don’t pretend to know what goes on inside a bird’s head, but I just wondered what Paula would do about this situation. It was obvious this was not what she had in mind.

The birdcage was strategically placed in our kitchen by the picture window where there was lots of sunshine and activity they could see from their little home. I entered the kitchen one morning to fix breakfast, and found Paula sitting on the outside of the cage on the clothes pin affixed to the coddle bone. Pete was directly on the other side. Paula would fly off, ride the ceiling fan for a few minutes then return to her perch, outside the cage. She sang with such joy, it was wonderful. This went on all day, but in the evening, Paula would return to the safety of her cage and get as close to Pete as she could. She was a happy bird.

As for Pete, well he was a confused bird. He never figured out he too could slip through the cage and go for a morning or evening flight on the ceiling fan. He never figured out he could enjoy Paula outside the comfort of his little world. He just sat in the cage motionless until Paula returned. He missed the joy of being a bird!! We can learn a lot from Pete and Paula. Pete’s focus was on something/someone who could only bring him temporary happiness. His focus was limited to what was right in front of him. Paula, on the other hand, seemed to enjoy the fellowship Pete could bring, but also enjoyed the beauty of the world of a bird around her.

Our Dear Father in heaven says to us in Matthew 6:33, Seek ye first the kingdom of God and all his righteousness and all these things shall be added unto you. When we place our focus on the only one who can bring us not only circumstantial happiness, but the soul fulfilling joy of being a child of God, then we are free to enjoy the relationship of our spouse and friends in light of His glory.

Dear Father, don’t let me miss the joy of being a Child of God.

Ann Cason 2/10/05

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HOMEOWNER’S ASSOCIATION

Posted: October 3, 2010 in Roots by the River

 I was about 14 years old when my parents decided to move from downtown Pensacola, FL out to the country to build a house on my Grandfather’s farm.  It was a dream they had since Dad returned from World War II.  My Grandparents moved to Pine Apple, AL,  where my Granddad was raised,  to build their retirement home on 60 acres of family land.  So that left their house for us to use while our new house was being built.  We moved in and life was good.  I loved just being on the land. 

It was the spring of 1968 when plans for the new house began to take shape.  My best friend’s father, Pete Ubelstead, was a carpenter and agreed to act as general contractor for my Dad.  I later discovered Dad was going to subcontract out the house one step at a time, paying as he went, with the end product a new house, debt free.  What I didn’t realize was the labor he was going to us was cheap, young and without a summer commitment.  That translated into me, my sister and any other young teenager in the neighborhood who was up to the challenge.

As with any good construction project, it began with the foundation.  The footers were poured, and dirt was brought in.  My cousin Johnny Kilhefner was elected to tap down the dirt.  What a sight, one inch at a time he pounded the dirt with his homemade tapper. The other kids in the neighborhood began to gather with interest wondering if they too could get in on the action.   It took about two weeks for him to pack the dirt before the concrete could be poured. There were secret bets  he wouldn’t make it, but he did, and by the end of his job, he looked like Mr. Universe, with muscles bulging everywhere.

Next came the framing and rafters for the roof.  Between my sister and I, Johnny, Pete’s two daughters, Gail and Sharon, and the Thompson brothers across the road, the little house began to take shape.  We were such a sight with our blue jeans, tank tops and tool belts, the workers from Monsanto about a mile away, would stop along the roadside just to watch the action of these seven teenagers standing up walls, and walking the rafters.

Dad hired professionals to lay brick, and put in the electrical and plumbing. Under the guidance of Dad and Pete we did the rest.  We took great pride in the quality of our work.  The large picture window in the living room was put in four times because it was a 16th of an inch off square.  When we finished, it was perfectly square.  For three months, from sun up to sun down the “Homeowner’s Association” as we called ourselves, worked diligently to put up paneling, stain cabinets, hang ceiling tile, stretch carpet, and install light fixtures and by the end of August, just before school started our little house was finished.

It was an ambitious project, but my Dad was not known for his lack of motivation.  He knew if he could harness the energy of seven teenagers, not only would we have a new home, but the experience for each of us would last us a lifetime.  During those three months, we learned what it meant to stay focused.  We learned what it meant to work together and solve problems.  We learned if you get tired, you rest, but you don’t give up, you press on toward the goal.  Not to mention by the end of the summer we were in the best physical shape of our lives.

I am grateful to my Dad for his vision for our home.  But more grateful for his vision to teach us, by allowing us hands on experience, the rules of life.  Some kids join sports, others clubs, but we got a lesson in real life construction.

Matthew 7:24-25 says: “Therefore, whosoever heareth these saying of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, who built his house upon a rock.  And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat upon that house, and it fell not; for it was founded upon a rock.”    

Dear Father, let me learn of the foundation of Christ.  A foundation which will never crack, a foundation which will sustain me throughout eternity. 

Ann Cason

3/17/05

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COMMANDO JOHN

Posted: August 28, 2010 in Roots by the River

Life at the Cason home has been filled with many strange and funny moments.  I tell Jim on many occasions, “one thing for sure, our marriage has not been dull.”  He just laughs and shakes his head like what will be next.

It was a regular evening in our home on a Tuesday night.  Jim traveled with his job and would leave on Tuesday and return on Friday, which left me and the kids there alone.  Well not quite alone, we had Gwinnie, our cat, and Grandma, who lived around the corner.  We were safe, we thought.

John was about 14 at the time, and into this commando stuff.  His room was filled with items of war and pictures of Marine Corps heroes.  His best friend Bo and other friends would play all night war games in our back yard, and I would awake in the middle of the night to find camouflage faces in my flowerbed planning their strategy to take over the enemy in the other flowerbed.  It was a fun time to be a young man.  John’s games were about to turn into reality.

We had our dinner, John was doing homework and Ashley was fast asleep.  It was about 9:00 p.m. and I had prepared lunches for the next day, and after cleaning up the kitchen from dinner, and folding a load of clothes, I decided to go to bed. Jim had made his evening call to see if we were okay and all was fine, I thought.

As I began the ritual of securing the house for the evening, I opened the door from the kitchen to the laundry room to check the outside door, and the door would not open.  It was not locked, and when I pushed  to open it, the bottom of the door would not move, but the top of the door tried to open.  It was like someone on the other side was holding it closed with their leg.  I tried several times to open the door, and it just would not open.  My heart began to pound rapidly as I closed the door and grabbed the phone to call 9-1-1.  I was convinced some uninvited person was in our laundry room.

I headed down the hall to get John and Ashley out of the house.  The officer on the phone began giving me instructions to get both children in one room for our protection until the police arrived. I told John what was happening and asked him to get ready.  I ran into Ashley’s room, which was right next to John’s, and woke her up.  By the time I got her awake I decided it would be better for us to be outside rather than trapped in a house with a stranger.  I called for John to meet us in the hallway, and when he arrived I was shocked.  He was in full combat gear! Including the face paint and everything.  I was stunned!!!  He began giving ME instructions on how to protect Ashley by putting her between us as we went out the front door.  He led us to a place in the yard he used during his war games as a safe place.  From there we could see the house completely, but no one could see us. 

It took, about 7 minutes for the police to arrive and  we emerged from our hiding place.  As we moved into the reflection of the street light, the officer looked rather startled.  We must have been a sight, a near 40 year-old  woman in her pajamas, a 12-year old little girl barefoot and scared half to death, and John, in complete control looking like General Patton, ready to protect his family.

The officers searched the house and found nothing, no footprints outside, and no damage to the outside laundry room door where we thought the intruder may have entered.  To this day, we have not solved the mystery of the door that would not open.  The officers stayed a while to calm us down and give us some pointers on home safety.  We thanked them and sent them on their way.

 As was common in our home, when we had a crisis, we usually gathered around the kitchen table for a snack to discuss the issue.  This was no different.  We grabbed the ice-cream and  cookies and began to review our episode.  I told John, “I don’t know when I had been so proud of him.  He took control of the situation as a grown man, and I knew when he finally did become a grown man, the world would be a safer place with him around.”  He smiled so big and kinda sat up in the chair a little taller and said, “I don’t know about y’all, but I’m going to spend the night at Grandma’s.”  Ash and I said, not without us, so we grabbed our stuff and  headed for the safety of Grandma’s house. 

John served four years as a Marine and was discharged with honors.  He is a grown man now, and the world is truly a safer place.

John was in control that night because he was prepared for the impending battle.  He did not know when or where it would happen, but when it did, in an instant,  he was prepared for the fight.

As God’s children in a fallen world, we too, must be prepared for battle.  Paul tells us in Ephesians 6:12-13, “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.  Wherefore, take unto you the whole armor of God that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.”

Dear Father, let me put on the whole armor of God each day to keep me ready, to keep me strong, to keep me fearless, in the face of danger in whatever form it may come.

 Ann Cason

2/14/05 

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The Painting

Posted: July 25, 2010 in Roots by the River

 

My life with Jim Cason has been a wonderful journey.  Like most men, he has a strong side and a sensitive side to his personality.  Little did I realize on that special day in May of 2005 he would touch my heart in a way that would bind our hearts deeper in love than I thought possible.

We own a business and work together which makes it possible to have lunch together most every day.  On this very special day, we finished our lunch and headed to the office, when Jim turned left toward town instead of right toward the office.  When I questioned where we were going, he said he had to run an errand.  I sat patiently wondering where he was going, only to end up in front of the art gallery owned by a very well known southern artist, Greg Cartmell.  We had done some work for him in the past and he and Jim had become friends.

I loved going to this gallery.  It was filled with paintings of landscapes and sunsets so full of color you felt like you were in the middle of a rainbow.  As I admired the art, Jim made his way to the back room where Greg was painting.  A few minutes went by and Jim called for me to join them.  Upon entering the room, I saw Greg sitting on his stool in front of this large canvas painting away.  I stepped slightly to the right to get a peak at the painting and began to cry.  It was the most beautiful wisteria I had ever seen painted.  But more than that it was a painting of my wisteria.

In the front yard of my grandparent’s home were two trees about 50 feet apart, an oak tree and a wisteria tree.  They had to be at least 200 years old because they were absolutely tremendous in size.  The trunk of the wisteria was about 30 feet wide with a latticework of vines as large as your leg, which spanned the 50-foot distance to the top of the oak tree 65 feet high. About half way up the wisteria was a vine, which hooked half way up the oak tree and formed a walkway from one tree to the other.  Hanging from the top of the wisteria were numerous vines large enough to use as Tarzan vines and small enough to hold on to.

As children, my cousins and I would climb up the outside of the wisteria about 30 feet to this opening in the latticework of vines, which I am sure was put there by God himself, onto the vine walkway, grab a Tarzan vine, let out the Tarzan yell, and swing ourselves off into the jungle.

No tire swing could have ever brought us such adventures as our beloved wisteria.

In the spring, to the girls, it was a princess castle, covered in thousands of purple flowers, with purple petals 2 inches deep on the ground beneath the vine walkway.  In the fall, to the boys, it was the perfect headquarters for commandos to plan their attack on the enemy.  In the summer, it was a cool place to rest under the shade of the foliage and in the winter, it was a reminder to be strong until spring.

 

As I wiped the tears away, I began to thank Jim for his thoughtfulness and Greg for his willingness to take time to paint a memory that will forever be with me.  The farm was sold and the developers who bought it cut down the oak and wisteria trees, but not before I got a cutting and rooted a tree of my own.  Greg’s painting is of the wisteria I rooted, and hangs in my office.

I found comfort as a child playing in, around and under that wisteria tree.  I can also find comfort in knowing my Father is preparing a place for me to spend eternity in joy and peace.

John 14:2-3 says, In my Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so I would have told you.  I go to prepare a place for you.  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself.

Dear Father, thank you for the earthly examples of your heavenly promises.

Ann Cason

6/2/2010

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CRICKETS AND FROGS

Posted: June 20, 2010 in Roots by the River


Growing up on my Grandparent’s farm
was a wonderful childhood experience.  My childhood home was in downtown Pensacola, but we “lived” at the farm.  It was a working farm in all respects.  The only reason Grandma went to the grocery store was to purchase items like cooking oil, sugar, flour and a few odds and ends.  Everything else was grown on, or provided for, by the farm.

There were chickens for eggs and those terrific fried chicken Sunday dinners, pork for the best bar-b-que in the south, beef for steaks and hamburgers, and a lake full of all kinds of fresh water fish.  The vegetables were year round and so fresh.  Not to mention blueberries, strawberries, blackberries, peaches and pears.  We not only had fresh fruit in season, but Grandma made the best jellies and jams in the local area.  She was known for her culinary expertise.

We didn’t have to worry about gaining weight, because there was so much work to do any excess pounds would not hang around for long.  We worked from daylight to dark and everyone had their own chores.  It didn’t matter how young or old you were, Grandma made sure everyone had something to do.  We worked hard and played hard, and at the end of the day we settled down to quiet time with a good book or board game while Granddaddy watched, (slept through, HA!), a ball game.   

My favorite time of the day was in the late afternoon just as the sun was going down.  Life on the farm began to slow down.  I would retreat to the Florida room where Grandma had bunk beds for all us kids, and climb up on the top bunk, look at the lake and listen to the outside noises.  In the summer we would leave the windows open, because Granddaddy didn’t believe in air conditioning.  He believed it was bad for a person to not breathe fresh air, so we had the pleasure of fresh air all through the evening.

As the sun went down, I could hear the crickets and frogs begin their evening serenades.  The darker it got the louder they got, until all you could hear was their music, and all you could see was the light from the moon across the lake.

I cannot describe to you in words the peace and security I felt there on that farm especially when the crickets and frogs began to sing.  We were all together, with our tummies full, our bodies tired from a good day’s work, and the music of God’s creatures to sing the nighttime lullaby.

 The farm is gone now.  It has been replaced with a large subdivision of beautiful homes.  The family members I grew up with are all safe at home with our Lord.  But the music of God’s creatures follow me wherever I go.

Late in the afternoon, I can hear them singing.  It reminds me, that no matter where I am and what I have been through, I am forever protected by the presence of my heavenly Father.  The peace I knew as a child covers me and strengthens me to face another day.

Our Father tells us in Isaiah 26:3-4, “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on thee, because he trusteth in thee.  Trust ye in the Lord forever; for in the Lord God is everlasting strength.”

Dear Father, help me to remember to open the windows, turn off the air conditioning, and listen to the music you provide.  Help me to slow down at the end of the day and listen, to know you are forever with us and the music you send is a reminder of your constant protection, even to the lullaby of peace, courtesy of the crickets and frogs.

Ann Cason

2/16/05

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The Rescue

Posted: May 28, 2010 in Roots by the River

THE RESCUE

Pets are a wonderful addition to a family.  Our family is not unlike any normal American family who goes through a wide variety of pets to find the one that fits in our home.  After we had gone through caring for fish that died of overfeeding, dogs of all sizes and breeds, and a co-dependent bird, (that really is a funny story), I decided to give it one more chance and try a cat.

I worked at the Water Management District in Tallahassee, Florida and out behind the maintenance building, the crew found some very small kittens abandoned by their mother.  They were so small their eyes were not open yet.  Well my heart fell in love with this marble-colored little bit of fur.  I took her home, and began the task of caring for Gwinnie.  Her name was actually Lady Guinevere, but here close friends and family called her Gwynn for short.  We decided since she had a rough start in life and we wanted her self esteem to be high, so we named her after an elegant lady of history.  Not that she would care, but it made us feel better.

Gwinnie took her place among our family and was constantly in and out of trouble.  She would get stuck in the strangest places, and sometimes I believe she would actually hide just so we would look for her.  She had her favorite places to nap and one place was under the shop outside.  The shop was built up off the ground just a bit, and she dug a hole big enough to squeeze under.  It was warm in the winter and cool in the summer, and a perfect place for her to rest and not be disturbed.

Now if you are from the South, you know afternoon rain showers can be very quick and heavy.  It was a warm day and the clouds were gathering for the regular shower.  I decided to take advantage of this down time and do some work in my office.  John and Ashley were playing in their rooms, I thought!  While deeply engrossed in my work, Ashley bolted in my office and began yelling, “Mom, come quick, Gwinne is stuck under the shop!”  It was thundering and lighting and I knew this storm was a doozie.  I told Ash, ”she is okay; she is protected from the storm under the shop.”  Well, Ash was not buying that one, and she kept on until she was screaming for me to help her cat.  So I decided to go check it out.  I got my umbrella and headed to the shop. One step out the back door, and I knew we were in trouble.  The water was like a river around the shop.  I saw the small hole where Gwinnie went in and began to dig her out.  The more I dug, the more water came out.  I saw this little paw digging from the other side and knew Gwinnie was digging for her life.   I would dig, and then she would dig.  Ashley kept yelling to her, “hang on Gwynn, we’ll get you out!”  After some effort, we finally pulled her out.  She was shaking and soaking wet, and so were we.  We headed for the laundry room and wrapped her in a warm blanket.  It was a scary moment; we thought she was going to drown.  She spent the afternoon in the safety of the den with her family close by.

 Looking back I believe had it not been for the watchful eye of Ashley, Gwinnie would have died.  I believe it was the sound of Ashley’s voice Gwinnie heard and knew she was to be rescued.  From the very beginning Ash and Gwynn had a very special bond.  Gwynn would come when she called and Ash could get her to do most anything.  It was Ashley who was most concerned when the storm was approaching and it was Ashley who went searching to make sure she was safe.

 We have someone who is searching for us.  We have someone who is concerned if we are trapped in the storm.  His name is Jesus. He longs to know we are okay and he knows if we trust in Him we will be safe, no matter what the circumstances.  Psalms 37:39-40 says, ABut the salvation of the righteous is of the Lord; he is their strength in the time of trouble.  And the Lord shall help them and deliver them, he shall deliver them from the wicked, and save them, because they trust in him.@

 Dear Father, when I wander off into a place where I think I am safe, rescue me and draw me back into your loving arms, where I KNOW I am truly safe.

 Ann Cason

2/1/05

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