Photos of Brady

Wednesday, March 31, 2004


One thing about morning….it comes whether you are ready for it or not. We had to get up and get ready for the gospel brunch at the House of Blues. This seemed like a better idea on Saturday, but I got up and got ready. We all met up with Mom and Rocky at the hotel in the French Quarter, and went directly to the brunch.

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, but we were seated and went directly to the buffet. It was a wonderful meal, with everything you could imagine. A large selection of Cajun fare, fruit, biscuits and gravy, eggs, chicken, beef, desserts and salad. I didn’t think I could handle anything but breakfast so early, so I chose eggs, biscuits and gravy, and potatoes.

The show was great. Wonderful gospel music, talented singers, and lots of fun. We shopped at the gift shop before leaving to shop the Quarter. Since the guys were interested in the KU/Georgia Tech game, they found a little hole in the wall to watch that and the women went to the French Market to shop.

The French Market is a place where you can find absolutely everything. It is the best place to buy souvenirs and Mardi Gras things. You’ll hear about every language there, and the smells of the food are wonderful. After a couple of hours there, we found the men, where the game had gone into overtime. KU battled valiantly, but in the last several minutes they couldn’t sink a shot. Everyone was bummed when they lost and didn’t advance to the final four.

We all made our way back to the car, and on to Zea’s for ribs. Yummy. Nothing better than Zea’s for ribs. I had the Thai ribs, which are so great, and they have a grit casserole that is to die for. We had a lot of fun catching up with each other, sharing family news and talking about the weekend. By the time we left the restaurant it was dark. We drove back across the causeway, and unloaded everything. A good day.

Monday morning came to soon. We loaded up the car and said our goodbyes to John, Barbara and company, and headed north. We stopped for breakfast at a Cracker Barrel, and once we were all full, back into the car for the drive home. It was a wonderful trip, one that I will remember always. It is good to be home again, though…..here on my country road.

Until tomorrow,
Becky Strain


Tuesday, March 30, 2004

New Orleans Photos WARNING: contains nudity



I have been waiting for a year to celebrate my 50th birthday in New Orleans, and I wasn’t disappointed. My brother John and his wife Barbara really know how to celebrate things. They put together the whole weekend, and by just adding a group of their closest friends, who are the best people- really extended family to all of us, and my family, we had all the ingredients of a party I will remember always.

In New Orleans, when a woman celebrates a milestone birthday, she wears a feather boa and a tiara. This distinguishes her everywhere she goes as the birthday girl. We started over at Brian and Faye’s home, which is located right on the river. It was a beautiful location for taking pictures, and if he has time this morning maybe John will put up my official birthday portrait taken there. Barbara gave me a wonderful frame with ‘Queen’ written on it, and that picture is in it. After we took pictures, we stopped for New Orleans Daiquiri, and I was thrilled that when I went in, everyone knew it was my birthday because of the tiara and boa. After getting refreshments, we started across the Causeway to the French Quarter.

John had booked a wonderful balcony room at the Inn Of Bourbon. As we rounded the corner at Toulouse and Bourbon Street, John and Brian were up on the balcony waving at us. It was a beautiful hotel, John has a link to it on an earlier post. Although it was late afternoon, revelers were already walking up and down the street. We had a fantastic location to base our celebrations, and although I was supposed to stay there for the night, I passed the honor to Mom and Rocky so that they could get more rest. It was also a great way for them to celebrate their wedding anniversary in April. John had brought lots of Mardi Gras beads, and we all had fun tossing them to the people on the street. People will do anything to get beads, and it was lots of fun. By this time, the street was a sea of people, and it was blocked off to vehicle traffic.

For supper Brian’s wife Faye took charge of the meal. Because we had such a wonderful room, we wanted to stay there, so we ordered shrimp poboys and freedom fries. We ate on the balcony, and then went out and strolled up and down Bourbon Street. My red feather boa was shedding red feathers, and they are all over the French Quarter. John’s other friends Marty and Cindy also came down to join the party. My brother George rounded out the group.

After several more stops at New Orleans Daiquiri, we went to O’Flaherty’s Pub. It is one of our favorite places, and my favorite entertainer was there. He does lots of audience participation songs, and I had such a good time. My memory of things begins to blur a bit here, but I do know that I sat on lots of laps- John, George, Brian and Marty. I danced with a young man from Topeka, Kansas. He was such a good sport. Really, everyone was. You are forgiven much when you are celebrating something special in New Orleans.

About 2 a.m., we all began to make our way toward the cars. We stopped at Café Du Monde for coffee and beignets, but again, this is a bit fuzzy. I was so tired, and my voice was pretty much gone. We finally made it to the cars, and as I already alluded to, there are red boa feathers all over the French Quarter. I didn’t know it until morning, but we didn’t get home until 3:30 a.m. To be continued……

Until tomorrow,
Becky Strain


Friday, March 26, 2004


In a couple of hours we will be on our way to N’Awlins!!!

I have a few more things to pack, and I am walking around with toe separators so my pretty red toenails can dry. You know, all the important things. Anyway, I just wanted to say goodbye and thank you again for all of the heartfelt wishes you sent my way.

John has quite the itinerary planned for us, so I am going to try and sleep on the way down. You know us old people, we sleep any time we sit, ha.

Have a wonderful weekend while I am away, and I’ll be back at my posting chair Tuesday morning. All of your good wishes go with me,

God Bless,
Becky Strain


Thursday, March 25, 2004


Giving advice is a dangerous proposition. I don’t like to give it because people ask you for it but want to you to tell them what they want to hear and not what you really think. I used to hate to get advice myself. I always had an opinion for others, but liked to make my own decisions. If I got unsolicited advice it immediately went into the delete file. Ah, the folly of youth.

Through the years I have paid the price for not listening to others and making foolhardy decisions. Over the past fifteen years of my life I have learned a lot, mainly by listening more and talking less. Life here in Smalltown has taught me a lot about patience and acceptance.

This past month I have taken time to really think about the direction my life is taking. It is far different than I had thought it would be last year at this time. My goals and focus have been tweaked a bit and now I am living a dream. It doesn’t get any better than that! I have wonderful exciting goals, and look forward to every day with joy.

I really wanted to come up with some sage advice that would reflect the milestone of my 50th and the wisdom of the acquired years, but there is nothing better than something we have all heard many times. I like it so much that it hangs in my house where I can see and enjoy it every day. I wanted to share it with all of you:

Live Well, Laugh Often, Love Much.

I hope for all of you that your life is exciting, joyful and memorable. If not, take a look at your goals. If you don’t have any make some. If you can dream it you can do it! Everything else is just icing on the birthday cake!!

Until tomorrow,
Becky Strain


Wednesday, March 24, 2004

BOX #2 

Another Box!

I came home from work last night and went through the same routine I do every night. Got out of the car, park my briefcase on the hood of the car while I go down to the mailbox and check the mail. Had two more birthday cards from Diane, #5 and #6. Put them in my briefcase and by then Scaredy and Tiny had come home from the big woods. I fed them and shut them in the garage for the night. Got my briefcase off the hood of the car and walked up to the porch. There was something leaning against the front door.

It was delivered by FedEx, which means WOW down here. Long box with Hallmark on the side. I finally negotiated the front door and fought my way inside, set down my things and went back out to get the box. The cats immediately went berserk. They already knew what it was. I left the box on the counter and changed out of my uniform and into something comfortable, turned on the computer to check email, and brought the box into my office.

While the computer was running through it’s paces, I opened the box. Inside were the most beautiful flowers. Tightly budded pink sweetheart roses with a frosted pink vase.
I finally found the card, and saw that it was from my older brother George. What a wonderful surprise! He is always doing nice things like that. I suppose it has nothing to do with the fact he feels badly about scaring me so much while we were growing up? Ha.
He is thoughtful that way.

When George turned 50 in 2000, Mom and I were the only ones to help him celebrate. His birthday is December 22, and he had come down for Christmas. Of course the whole country was in the throes of the big Millennium thing. Mom had been sick and we had a very low keyed pizza supper and opened his gifts at the kitchen table. While we tried to make his birthday a special one due to the milestone it was, it was nothing like mine is going to be. I have always hated that, but the family was all spread out with Christmas and Millennium plans. I hope he is able to join us for my celebration, and we can recelebrate his as well.

Thank you all so much for the many birthday wishes, cards, and emails you have taken time out of your busy lives to send my way. It is so heartwarming. John has gone to a lot of work and effort to ensure that we all have a wonderful time. As he says, ‘Let The Good
Times Roll!’ Happy Wednesday.

Until tomorrow,
Becky Strain


Tuesday, March 23, 2004


Milestones are one way to mark forward progress. I have endured many good natured jabs and jokes about my age this past month, and love it. What could be more exciting than to greet the half century mark with a big smile? When I decided to celebrate my birthday in New Orleans I made it my mantra to be ‘Fifty and Fabulous’. Half of it I can guarantee!

Fabulous: Almost impossible to believe; incredible; exceptionally good or unusual; marvelous or superb; known through myths and legends.

While I have been working out and eating right, those changes in lifestyle were geared more toward my inner health than appearance. Although who wouldn’t love to wake up looking like a swimsuit model? I wanted to ensure that in spite of high cholesterol and dubious family health history, I would be around to enjoy this birthday and many more to come. I wanted to have a better quality of life as I grow older. There is so much I want to do and see and experience!!

I cannot remember ever having as a goal when I was in my teens; ‘I want to be fifty and fabulous’, it is an exciting thing for me now. I have known people all my life who act twice their age. This is not a good thing. I suppose the dear people who know me the best would say I rarely act my age. Thank goodness! If I cannot enjoy each moment, laugh in the face of adversity, and look forward to every sunrise and sunset, I will miss part of the big experience we call Life.

When my big brother George turned fifty three years ago, he had a portrait made. (under duress, but made nonetheless.) I will do this as well, but I just haven’t had time to get it done before now. I have been too busy making goals and working toward them. Even if I never meet the goals I have set for myself, it is the journey that is important. And I am having the time of my life.

I have been walking toward the Milestone of Fifty for 49 years, 361 days. Barring any unforeseen circumstances, I will meet that Milestone in New Orleans. Under the direction of my brother John, we will be at the French Quarter that day and evening. And how will that be for me? FABULOUS!!! Although many of the people I love won’t be able to be there in body, I will hold them close in spirit. In that way they will also be able to help me celebrate.

What Milestone are you working toward? Whatever it is, enjoy the journey!!

Until tomorrow,
Becky Strain


Monday, March 22, 2004


I spent the entire weekend having trouble with my eyes. The computer screen was darker, and everything else looked like there was a fine haze over it. Taking my glasses off doesn’t really help, as everything looks blurry. It was distracting. And troublesome. And irritating.

Saturday dawned with two whole days that I could focus on writing. Aside from the trip to Springfield with the folks, that is. Even at that I had three hours of car time I could have written. Instead I spent those three hours editing what I have written so far. When I finally did get home, it took me four hours to make the edits in word and reprint the corrections.

Sunday I had planned to start fresh with the chapter I am currently working on, but interruptions and distractions kept popping up. My eyes were still bothering me, and I decided to just get up from the computer and clean house instead. In the afternoon I walked down to Mom’s house and visited a while. We all walked over to the neighbor’s house to visit them and little Davey. It was a welcome and needed break.

When I came home I fixed some dinner, watched a TV program and went to bed at nine o’clock. I was sleeping soundly when a huge crash next to the bed woke me. Thinking it was one of the cats, I laid back down, figuring I could straighten whatever the problem was in the morning. As I settled back into the pillows, the carriage clock struck twelve.

The next thing I knew the alarm was going off. I got out of bed and turned on the light to see what the cat had knocked over, only to find that a large picture I have hanging on the wall of the bedroom had fallen and was laying haphazardly on the floor. I suppose I had wrongly accused the cats when the real culprit was the little screw on the back of the frame that had just let loose. One of the problems with using old frames.

I reached for my glasses to make the coffee and came in to turn on the computer. Still having problems with my eyes. While I was waiting for the dial up to connect me to the internet, I took off my glasses and cleaned them. Once I put them back on, AHA! I can see clearly now. Everything is once again sharp and clear.

My eyesight is once again on track, and after taking a break, I have decided to stop looking back at what I have already written, and move forward. Today is Monday, and the day I play musical offices at the courthouse we will be working in. What an adventure. One thing is for sure, wherever we work and whatever happens, at least I will be able to see. How old am I going to be?

Happy Monday, make it a good day.
Until tomorrow,
Becky Strain


Sunday, March 21, 2004


When I finally got home last night and could sit down and take time with it, I opened the box from my friend Diane. What a journey. Since this will be my 50th birthday, she pulled out all the stops. We have been friends for 35 years, and she sent things to celebrate each one of them.

The first item was a beautiful card. She will search for weeks to find just the right one. It had pictures of us through the years, newspaper clippings I had sent her chronicling my life here in Smalltown, and little cartoons she had clipped out of magazines that she thought I would enjoy. I was toast at that point, already crying and just getting started.

The box was filled with lots of small presents she had put together for an aspiring writer. Nothing big, just lots of little things she thought would help me in the process of my writing. Each one was wrapped in beautiful paper and adorned with Victorian roses. I had so much fun opening each one! I should have written each one down, as I have already set the things she sent around my office. I will try…..

In the box:
Packages of legal pads in two different sizes
A box of pens
A beautiful coffee mug by Marjolein Bastin’s Natureworks collection
Peanut M&M’s
Josh Groban’s CD
The Pretty Woman DVD (one of my favorite movies)
Yankee Candles in my favorite fragrance, Hydrangea
An instant funpack camera (she wants pics of my house since I redecorated)
A beautiful frame with a picture of us taken the night before I left for Hawaii
A beautiful Victorian trunk box full of copies of letters I had sent her over the past 30yrs.
A beautifully written letter in celebration of our long friendship

Of everything she sent, the letter was the real gift- A wonderful celebration of our journey as friends. Diane is a wonderful person, and we have gone through many things together, as we all do with those forever friends. Reading that letter made it seem as though she was right here with me. I laughed. I cried. And I miss her so much. She is the sister I never had, a kindred spirit, and always and forever, my best friend.

I have a sizeable stack of letters, poems, and stories she copied from the ones I have sent to her through the years. It will take me a long time to read through them, and it will be an emotional journey, as I often wrote of the trials, problems and frustrations I was feeling as the days of my life passed. There are things only Diane knows about me, so I know I will find much of that within the pages. I can’t begin to imagine how much time it took her to put this box together, but it is a beautiful and thoughtful gift.

My hope for each of you is that you have such a friend in your life. There is nothing that can mean more than someone you have and share a history with. Words are not necessary, for the heart speaks a language all its own. Thank you, Diane, from the bottom of my heart.

Until tomorrow,
Becky Strain


Saturday, March 20, 2004


Yesterday I received a large box from my friend in KC. She sent if for my birthday next week, and like a good girl I brought it in the house and set it on the floor in the living room. I decided to leave it there so I wasn’t tempted to open it early.

It is heavy.

It rattles when you move it.

Last night she called me to see if I had opened it yet. I could honestly say NO. Evidently this was not the answer she was hoping for.

So, she wants me to open the box and I get to open the one gift that isn’t wrapped up.

Then it will be up to me when I open the rest of them. Hmmmm…..

Any guesses? I will be gone today, so I will have to wait until I come home this evening to open the box. Right now the cats are using it for a perch.

One neat thing that my friend and I do for our birthdays is to celebrate birthday week.
Years ago, I couldn’t afford to buy gifts for her birthday, so each day of her birthday week I mailed a card, letter, or poem that I wrote. It extended her special day for the whole week, and let her know how much I valued her friendship.

This quickly became our tradition, so each day I open the mailbox to a new birthday card. She had to tweak a bit and start early due to the fact that I am leaving for New Orleans next Friday.

I will be anxious to get home and unwrap the box. Don’t worry, I will tell you what is in there.

Mom, Rocky and I are off to Springfield today for the day. While they pick out furniture, I will be sitting in the van with my little legal pad and automatic pencil. A wonderful chance to flesh out chapter 7. Have a wonderful day, whatever you choose to do!

Until tomorrow,
Becky Strain


Friday, March 19, 2004


There have been many people throughout my life who have tried to harness my happy go lucky nature. I have always possessed a natural joy of life and positive outlook, and thank goodness for it.

My first grade teacher, who I adored, called my mother one day and told her she thought it would be a good idea to put me in tap dance class. It seems that I had worn her out with my youthful exuberance. I was put into tap class, which I loved. Just one more thing to be excited about! School was wonderful. There was so much to learn, and I loved the brightly decorated classrooms. I used to pick tulips and iris out of mom’s flower garden to take to my teachers, and tried to get there early so I could be ready for the day. Many times I got to pass out worksheets or clean erasers. I found out many years later that Miss March (first grade teacher) had called mom. Weird how it still bothers me, but she was a wonderful teacher, and I have fond memories of her.

My mom always tried to encourage my brothers and I to use our imaginations and dreams to set high goals. The sky’s the limit, she would say. Coupled with my nature, this was a dangerous thing. I still love the creative processes and am most excited when I have a project to complete. This is sometimes the fodder for family jokes and good natured jabbing from my friend in KC. She refers to them as my ‘phases’. Whatever I do, I throw myself into it 200%.

I have always thought that other people were like me. Many of the problems I have had with relationships arose because of this misperception. After nearly half my life has passed, I have come to realize that most people are NOT like me. This is okay. It is not good or bad, it just is. Once I realized it I was better able to understand other people. I approached them differently, dealt with them differently and got along with them better.

Happiness, joy, and being positive is a choice. I hit the floor running every day, and am anxious to greet the day. The possibilities are endless, and you know what? When other people don’t really appreciate it, I remember the tap classes. Even in a negative situation something positive can come of it. I’m afraid that Miss March was disappointed, because having tap class to be excited about only made me more exuberant. Be careful what you wish for!

Today I am excited because this is Friday. I am well into the seventh chapter of my book.
This is the day I eat lunch out. Chinese! I only allow myself a treat once a week, and today is the day. Tomorrow is the first day of spring. My favorite season. More new beginnings!
Have a wonderful day, and it will be if you greet it with a big smile. Think I will go practice a few tap steps, ha.

Until tomorrow,
Becky Strain


Thursday, March 18, 2004


Today is the longest day of my workweek. We have to drive two hours to even get to the station, which is located at the end of the hilliest and curviest roads in the area. I used to hate the drive, as I get car sick. Now that I am the supervisor I have the responsibility of driving the car, so I can tolerate it without getting sick.

On Monday I picked up our new examiner to begin work with our crew. The wonderful thing about her is that she worked for us before as a part time clerk. She was a great worker and complimented our crew very well with her bubbly personality and work ethic. The traveling crews are like a family. We spend more time together than most families do in the course of a week, so it is important to get the right mix of personalities. We had an examiner who was due to retire soon, so when an opening came up in a neighboring troop for examiner, she applied. She got the job, which meant full time work and benefits. It also meant a three hour daily commute. It was tough, but after six months of twelve hour days our examiner retired and she put in for the transfer back to our troop. I was pleased because I knew she would mesh well with our crew. Her transfer was granted last week.

This week the other examiner on our crew is off on vacation, so it has just been the two of us for her first week back. It has been wonderful to see how she has grown and matured in her promotion. She is a joy. Of course I am drawn to her positive outlook and good heart, and she soaks up any help you offer her like a sponge. It is great when good things happen to good people.

Normally it is my job to provide the instruction and guidance for the crew, but in this instance it has been the reverse on a couple of counts. We all get staid and complacent in our jobs. It becomes routine and old hat, and we plod through each day until quitting time and come home again. This week it has been my pleasure to see someone thrilled to come to work each day, excited about her job, and seeking to become better and more knowledgeable about it. It reminded me of the day I got the news I had been promoted to full time. Nothing could wipe the smile off my face, and every day was a blessing and an adventure.

Even though this is a long day, we only have four hours of actual office time. I will spend the four hour commute chatting with her, and when I get home it will have been a good day. We have some of the most beautiful sights in the area for company today, as we will be driving though the heart of Ozarks Scenic Riverways and the Mark Twain National Forest. Happy Thursday! It is a great day for a drive…..down a country road.

Until tomorrow,
Becky Strain


Wednesday, March 17, 2004


Yesterday I was sitting in the office just an hour from quitting time when a lady came through the office door in a wheelchair. She had been unable to drive for many years due to an accident and recovery from the resulting injuries. It was her desire to apply for a new license. I rearranged the room to accommodate her wheelchair and put her at the examination table with her test.

At three in the afternoon we have a large rush of high school students who come in after school for testing. This lady sat at the table for over half and hour taking her test, enduring the looks and staring from the students and their parents who were waiting in the hallway.
When she was finished with her test I graded it and she had passed. I was surprised, because usually when people take that long with their test they don’t pass the first time.

Since we had to be out of the office by four o’clock, I took her out for the driving test. Usually this is a fairly short and straightforward thing. It took her five minutes just to get into the van and out of the wheelchair, and another five minutes to get settled and get her controls adjusted. I sat there quietly, allowing her to take the time she needed. It was harder for her to do everything, and add to that the fact that she had hand controls for the brakes, accelerator, parking brake and steering wheel. Simply amazing.

I gave her the instructions for the test, and she drove the course with more care and attention than most of our applicants who are unimpaired. When I handed her the application for license, she was overcome. Not so much hat she had passed the test, which was the realization of a very big goal, but that she had come to the end of a quest she had been working toward for so many years.

Smiling at her, I said she would have to set another goal. The most amazing thing for me is how much energy and time it took this lady to do the simple things that we take for granted each and every day. We live in a society of instant gratification. Jumping in the car and buzzing down to the store for something is a feat that will take her very long time to accomplish. Yet she was so happy and grateful to have independence again. Bravo!

Wherever she goes and whatever she does, I pray God continues to bless and watch over her. What an accomplishment! Whatever your goals and dreams, I hope that you can take encouragement from this story of courage and perseverance. We can achieve anything if we want if badly enough and work hard enough. The important thing is not to give up half a mile from the finish line!

Happy Wednesday.
Until tomorrow,
Becky Strain


Tuesday, March 16, 2004


Eureka! Thankfully I slept all night long. At least from the time I went to bed to the time just before the alarm went off at five. Probably a good thing, as the wind came up in the night and is blowing ninety to nothing . With all of the white pines that surround my house, it creates a loud rushing noise. A plaintive sound. Lonely. Melancholy.

As I write, the wind chimes on the front porch are dancing merrily in the breeze. A fine counter balance for the sound of the wind. The usual night noises are carried away on the wind, which may be the reason I slept so well. My grandmother didn’t like the wind either. She would tie on a headscarf any time she had to be out in it. I must agree with her on one salient point, wind wears me out. I will have to fight it all day long as I am in and out of the office giving drivers tests.

The dictionary lists thirty two definitions for the word wind, which was mind boggling to me at the hour of five o’clock in the morning. So much so in fact, that I will forego the listing of a definition in the interest of time and space. It is March, and therefore the wind has made an appearance right on schedule. Were I younger I might be tempted to buy a kite. I loved flying kites when I was a young girl, and flew kites with my own children when they were small. Is there anything so wonderful? Watching a gaily colored bit of paper dancing high in the sky with pieces of rags from mom’s rag bag for a tail lightened my heart.

Do they even sell kites anymore? I am telling my age, I am sure, but the dime stores used to sell them each spring just after the snow sleds were put away for the season. They would place a big box of them just inside the door, and for a dime you could walk away with a paper kite, and the roll of kite string. The fun of putting it together and constructing just the right amount of tail was an annual rite of spring.

In this respect, every child was an engineer, a pilot, and a dreamer. Running across the backyard in an attempt to get the kite up into the air brings back fond memories of happy, carefree times. Since my birthday is coming up, I may just need to check the stores. Then I can stand out on the lawn and fly my kite as I sing the song from Mary Poppins, Let’s Go Fly A Kite. What a picture that will make…..here on my country road.

Until tomorrow,
Becky Strain


Monday, March 15, 2004


Last night I went to bed the same time I always do. I normally sleep all night long and wake to the awful sound of the alarm clock blaring at five a.m.. For some reason, I woke up and my body thought it was time to get up. I laid there for a while waiting for the alarm clock to go off before I finally decided to just get out of bed. Walking into the kitchen to make coffee, I saw that it was only three a.m.. Forget the coffee, back to bed with me. The problem with that was I couldn’t go back to sleep.

The strangest noises go on while the world and I are usually asleep. The carriage clock on the entertainment center in the living room chimes every fifteen minutes with Westminster chimes. Freight trains go by Smalltown every fifteen or twenty minutes. The plaintive whistle blows whether anyone is awake to hear it or not, and at night it sounds so much more lonely and remote.

There is a hoot owl that lives in the big white pine tree outside my bedroom window. He hoots all night long, and I had to wonder why? To whom is he speaking? Doesn’t he get tired of hoot hoot hooting all night long and receiving no answer in return? The sound an owl makes is eerie and sad at the same time. The tone of their hooting reminds me some of the oboe, or perhaps the French horn. Melancholy. Other worldly.

The cats roam the house at will, but doing what? I could hear them walking up and down the hallway, then silence. Momentarily I heard the crunching sound of them eating their cat food in the kitchen. After sleeping all day, this isn’t so much of a puzzle as it is odd. I keep their food out all the time, but I never thought they ate in the middle of the night. They also hop up on the bed at frequent intervals. Obviously I do not normally notice this, but it is irritating when I am awake and trying to go back to sleep.

Lastly, problems and thoughts rear their ugly heads at night when they seem so much worse than during the day. My positive and optimistic outlook is challenged by thoughts that go bump in the night. New worries rise to the fore. The most important being why can’t I get back to sleep? And then there is the anxious thought that I have to get back to sleep before the alarm really does go off.

Somewhere in the middle of all of that, I fell sound asleep again. The alarm clock rudely woke me at five, and here I am starting my day. Again. Here on my country road…..

Until tomorrow,
Becky Strain


Sunday, March 14, 2004


I was sleeping soundly this morning when a joyful cardinal decided to serenade my bedroom window. While still dark, cardinals are the first birds to greet the new day. Of course the beautiful song was a magnet to Scrappy, my cat, who spent the next ten minutes trying to get his head under the blinds to see what all the commotion was about. This drew the notice of my other cat Paddy, who came running down the hallway to see what Scrappy was up to. I gave up and got out of bed. Both cats are now curled up in their little cat beds sound asleep. In my next life I will have no indoor animals.

Smalltown had a good soaking rain last night. I was attempting to write a troublesome passage about a bad storm when I heard the rain start falling. I was just about to congratulate myself on the realism of the story when it dawned on me it really was raining here. It rained all through the night, and this morning everything looks much refreshed. The skies are dark and foreboding, but hopefully as the day progresses they will lighten.

I woke up stiff this morning from a day of sitting at the computer. I got no forward progress made, due to editing and reediting. Today I hope to move the story forward so that my weekend isn’t entirely wasted. It is becoming abundantly clear to me why serious writers have no other job. It is a full time thing, and just when you get your mind into the story, it is time to work. Of course most of the full time authors are well published with dozens of books to their credit, not just a first timer like I am. All things in time, I suppose. The important thing is just to keep going.

I said all of that to say this…I woke up stiff, and today I have to make time to get the exercise tape out and jump around the living room. Keeps me limber and entertains the cats. Wouldn’t you just love to know what they are really thinking? They look so superior, and I am sure if I knew what they were really thinking they would be going down the road looking for a new home.

The coffee maker is calling my name, and breakfast will be close behind that. Have a wonderful Sunday!

Until tomorrow,
Becky Strain


Saturday, March 13, 2004


By some miracle we escaped the hard frost. The daffodils are still swaying in the breeze and the brave trees and bushes that are beginning to bud are safe for the time being. Seldom do we get a reprieve this early, but I’m glad for it. Yesterday I saw early tulips standing tall in the morning sunshine, a beautiful contrast to the yellow daffodils. They lifted my spirits all day.

Spring is such an exciting time of year. Each day you are blessed with something new. The flowers of course, the new grass coming up so green that it hurts your eyes, and new growth everywhere. The one thing that is so noticeable as I drive the countryside to and from work is the new calves in the fields. Proud mamas and new baby calves are everywhere. Yesterday I saw a mama with new triplets. New calves are so cute, and always have a look of bewilderment about them, as though they can’t figure out the new world they have been thrust into.

Today we have rain forecast for Smalltown and surrounding area. I have inside work to do, so it is okay. Wherever you are today I hope that you have sunshine and blue skies!

Until tomorrow,
Becky Strain


Friday, March 12, 2004


Winter has once again returned to Smalltown. After weeks of warm temperatures and sunshine, we had a hard dose of reality last night. A hard freeze was forecast, which will effectively halt the progress of the daffodils, tulips, and all of the perennials that had poked their heads through the ground. Many of the trees and bushes were beginning to bud out.

Normally the gardeners around Smalltown don’t begin working their vegetable gardens until the first part of March. Leaf lettuce, radishes and carrots are planted the first of March and potatoes are planted on St. Patrick’s day. This year the temperatures were so warm all through February that the local nurseries opened early in order to accommodate people wanting to get an early start and take advantage of the spring weather.

It is odd to have your windows open to air the house all winter, but the temperate days have offered the opportunity to do so. Those of us who have lived in Smalltown a long time know that we aren’t finished with winter yet. When the winter is mild, we usually get hammered with a snow or ice storm in March. Last night I wasn’t surprised to hear the meteorologist forecasting snow for the weekend. Darn and blast. I suppose we are spoiled.

I hate to see the happy spring blooms covered with snow or nipped by frost. It seems so sad. Being called forth early by nature only to pay the ultimate price is a cruel trick, but there is one thing I have learned about that. Should the frost effectively kill the early risers, they will simply go dormant and when the weather fairs up again they will start all over. It is a good lesson. Nature always provides life lessons. When we get knocked down or discouraged, we don’t stay there. That is what bootstraps are for.

This morning before I leave the house I have to allow time to find my gloves. I don’t think I have used them since January, and may have already put them up for the season. You’d think I would know better. Hoping that you have a beautiful day, we’ve made it through another week! TGIF…..

Until tomorrow,
Becky Strain


Thursday, March 11, 2004


Today is my son’s twenty ninth birthday.

Twenty nine years ago Hank and I were living in an old two story farm house that was almost a hundred years old. The landlord hadn’t taken care of it, and the only reason we moved there was because Hank wanted to be in the country and the rent was only fifty dollars a month. During a particularly heavy rain, the dining room ceiling, which was already sagging, gave way and rain was coming right into the house. The wood floors were warped already, and Jennifer used to amuse herself rolling a ball into the dining room from the living room and it would roll back to her. We had two wood stoves for heat, but if you wandered too far away from them, it was cold in the house. The only bathroom had been added onto the house and had no insulation. The stool water froze in the winter until we got up and made a fire in the stove. For a city girl, it was quite an experience.

I was two weeks past my due date. The weather had been very cold for the end of February, and we were under a winter storm advisory. I was watching the weather very closely because the hospital was twenty five miles from Smalltown. On Sunday March ninth, Snow began to fall. Slowly at first, just fluffy flakes. By afternoon we had a full fledged snowstorm going on and I went into labor. We took Jennifer to my Mom’s house and went to the hospital.

Hank and I were put in a labor room. I had hard pains all afternoon, but no baby. All through the night and into Monday I laid there having contractions. The nurses called my doctor, but he never came. He told them to get me up and walk, but by then I was weak and couldn’t. Hank had to go to work, as we needed the money. He was working at the Walnut Mill, and we had no insurance. Tuesday morning my step dad came to sit with me. It was my doctor’s day off and his partner came in on rounds. He immediately broke my water. Things went quicker after that. Jonathan was born just past one in the afternoon. The cord had been wrapped around his neck, which had kept his head from engaging.

Jonathan Hank was almost nine pounds and 22-½ inches long. He was a strong baby. When Hank came to the hospital after work, we walked down to the nursery to see the baby. While we stood there Jonathan started crying and worked himself into a fit. He was unhappy about something, and lifted his head up and turned it over. We couldn’t believe our eyes. Jonathan was a happy baby. Once we got him home, he settled right in.

Jonathan has very blonde hair and incredible blue eyes. He has a daredevil personality, which caused me no end of worry when he was growing up. He always had scrapes and bruises, but required stitches on only one occasion. He was hospitalized with pneumonia and H flu when he was four, and was there eight days. Other than that, Jonathan sailed right through to his teen years with little problem. It was the teen years that gave me gray hair.

When he was twenty one he began dating a local girl and it was apparent that it was serious. I was so happy to see him settle down. She was diagnosed with joint cancer when she was sixteen, and lost her right leg from the knee down. Jonathan was a very big support for her. It would be the beginning of a long battle for them. When she was diagnosed with lung cancer, they got engaged. Although they both had tremendous faith and believed she would be able to overcome the odds, she died three years later. This began a year of struggle and decline for Jonathan. He lost the will to move forward with his life. It was a long hard year.

The following year Jonathan started seeing a very nice girl. Aimee is a beautiful young woman. She is almost as tall as Jonathan’s six feet two, and very slender. They make a striking couple. I was so happy for them, and the family welcomed her in. Last September our family gathered for their wedding. I can’t remember a room being filled with so much happiness and love. The wedding was a beautiful event.

Tonight we are going out to Jonathan and Aimee’s for his birthday celebration. It is the first big official family dinner they have hosted, and knowing what I went through as a young bride getting ready for those events I know they are both excited nervous and excited.

Happy birthday Jonathan. I love you very much. You have been both a challenge and a joy, and I am very proud of you. Without a doubt I know you will be at my side should I ever need help. Your wit and happy outlook on life make you the charmer we all love. You will make a wonderful father, and look forward to watching you as you and Aimee raise children. Your faith in God will be a great source of help and inspiration for you as you go through life, and today I pray a special blessing for your life.

Until tomorrow,
Becky Strain


Wednesday, March 10, 2004


Last night my Mom, Rocky and I went to Davey’s birthday party. Is there anything more fun than spending time with a four year old? He was all dressed up in his nice clothes, and looked very dapper. I bought him an 18 wheeler he had admired the last time I took him shopping, and that his Mom had told me he wanted. I feel sorry for them, as it has flashing lights, a horn, and a talking CB. It also takes every battery in the book to operate. We had birthday cake and ice cream, and some of the hot rolls my Mom baked for him. He loves hot rolls. All in all a wonderful evening, and I believe he had a good time.

I had a wonderful surprise last night. My son Jonathan’s birthday is Thursday. We usually celebrate family birthdays and holidays at Mom’s house and I had told him we would have his birthday dinner there if he wanted. Last night he called and invited us to their house for dinner. His new wife is going to cook dinner for us, and it will be the first dinner we have had in their home since they got married. It really is going to be a special evening. I had gone out right after they got married in September and taught his wife how to make his favorite dish. It would be my guess that we will be having green enchiladas for dinner.
I’ll let you know how it goes. This will be a new experience for me, and a chance to be a mother-in-law.

Finally! John has been able to post, so visit his site for his news.

Many of you are trying to quit smoking, have started a diet or exercise program., or are searching for a new direction for your life. I just wanted to take a minute and congratulate all of you who are taking each day at a time in a effort to improve your lives. You are not alone in your struggle. In sharing your goals with all of us, you have opened yourself up to succeed. All of us can be a support to each other. I admire grit and determination. The worst part of the battle for me is in making the decision to begin.

I have been fighting high cholesterol and triglycerides for many years. My doctor doesn’t recommend the popular drugs for me. I also have had a major body change due to a medication I began taking three years ago. Dieting hasn’t helped either problem. Only exercise seems to help, and it has been a long slow battle. I am happy to report that after several months of struggle, I am finally seeing some results. This July I have to return to my doctor for the dreaded annual physical. My goal is to see him smile when I walk in the door. The results of the tests should bear out some improvement.

Like many of you in my age group, I decided that the odds of my enjoying a long full life would be greatly diminished if I didn’t make some lifestyle changes. I want to be here to hold my grandchildren when they come, and be here for whatever life brings my way. I applaud your efforts, and send good thoughts and prayers your way. Whatever your goals, good luck. Your hard work will pay off.

Happy Wednesday!
Until tomorrow,
Becky Strain


Tuesday, March 09, 2004


Since we haven’t heard anything from John as yet, I finally gave up and called his son LJ in Louisiana. John had called on Sunday following the race, and had finished in just under four hours. I don’t think the time was as good as he had hoped for, but it is incredible to me that he was able to finish at all considering his cold, etc. I am not sure why he has not been able to post, but at least we know he has survived the race and achieved his goal. I know that you all can celebrate with him knowing that.

To other victories, I have finished that pesky chapter four and have a good start on chapter 5. The next couple of chapters are going to be challenging due to the twist the story has taken, but I am excited about it. Your encouragement has been wonderful. Hopefully my Muse will approve #4 so that I don’t have a rewrite to do.

Yesterday being Monday, we worked in a small court room all day. The people we came in contact with never smiled and went about their work day as though it were drudgery. My coworker and I were amazed that these people never spoke to each other. Three people used a common copy machine located in our room, and we watched them come and go, walk around each other, and never speak. Shortly before lunch we began talking to them as they entered our work space. We laughed and commented on different things with them, and before long, they were smiling. I had a very quiet day, got a lot accomplished, and when we left, all three of the people said goodbye and that we could use their office anytime. My coworker and I were amazed at the change in their demeanor when they smiled. It was a lesson to me. Many times in the course of my work day I may look the same way to people who come into our office. Although I greet them with a smile, there are those first impressions to consider. Today I will be very conscious of that. Mondays have become lessons for me. When the auditors are finished and we go back to our own office again, I will miss that.

Today is a special day. Davey is the little boy that you have heard me speak of so often. He lives down the street, and today is his fourth birthday. When I get home from work Mom, Rocky and I will be going down for birthday cake and a little party. When I saw him Sunday evening, he was wound up like the energizer bunny. It should be fun.

Happy Tuesday, put on that smile! You just never know who might be watching.

Until tomorrow,
Becky Strain


Monday, March 08, 2004


I love the house at this hour. The alarm goes off at five a.m. Once I have stumbled out of bed and turned it off, there is blessed quiet. I do some of my best thinking of the day at this time. The problems seems less tragic, the joys are more sweet and the day is new. There is a fresh sheet on the legal pad by my elbow awaiting the list for a new day.

Before I started writing again the house was always filled with the sound of the CD player or the TV. Whichever one was on at the time would be turned up so I could hear it at the back of the house. For the first six months I wrote my blog I wrote to the tune of the morning news. There didn’t seem to be a problem then. Something changed. When I sit down to write now, there is silence. Just the hum of the computer and the coffee maker.

Saturday morning I set goals to finish chapters three and four for my book. Chapter three went well and is finished. Yesterday morning I started writing, and remembered I hadn’t called my daughter yet. She lives in Connecticut, and I usually call her every weekend for a visit. Not wanting to forget, I shut down the computer and called her. We had a good visit, and was a good thing I called. Saturday she fell down a flight of outdoor steps at their house and was all banged up. She is okay, but sore and bruised.

After my visit with my daughter, I fired up the computer and had written two sentences when the phone rang. My best friend from KC was calling to chat. Chat is really a misleading term since we usually talk at least two hours. We have written letters back and forth since I left KC in 1972. She has kept every single one, and every card I ever sent her. Recently she began reading my blog. She was inspired to get my boxes of letters out and go through them, because a lot of the short stories and poems I sent to her over the years are the only existing copies. I didn’t keep a copy for myself. She had been up until two in the morning the night before reading my letters, and wanted to talk about them. It was a wonderful gift. Many of the things she read to me I had completely forgotten about. It was a lesson to me. Having a written record is so important. We laughed and cried. The time taken away from my writing was well worth the interruption. I was given a rare and priceless gift and shared time with a friend who knows what my natural hair color is.

Things have a way of working out. In the afternoon my son called and talked for half an hour. Finally I gave up. It was getting late, and I decided to type up what I had written and start fresh Monday. Thank goodness I am not a violent woman. After typing several pages the computer lost connection with my server. This is a common problem in Smalltown and surrounding rural area. The result was I lost what I had typed into the word processor. I wanted to cry, which would have done absolutely no good at all. There was nothing to do but start again. I was happy to see that I had accomplished half of the fourth chapter. Amazing.

There is an unseen hand that guides us, and I am very thankful. Today I will be in some as yet to be determined office. I don’t know what the facility will be like, but the experiences have been good ones. I have spent the day with people who inspired me and blessed me for the past couple of weeks. Today will be no different. Have a wonderful day, make it a good one.

Until tomorrow,
Becky Strain


Sunday, March 07, 2004


Although cold, we are going to have a beautiful day. The sun is just getting ready to rise, the sky a beautiful blush pink along the horizon. Looks like a big yellow sun this morning.

Chapter 3 is finished, and today I will hopefully be able to move chapter 4 along. Last night I was just too tired for my brain to work the ins and outs of the next scene. Instead of writing I took a nice hot bubble bath, and painted my toenails. Girly feminine stuff that is essential to my well being. Flipped through Glamour and Cosmopolitan, read a chapter in someone else’s book (ha) and turned in early. Great day.

This morning the printer is loaded with fresh paper, I have the edits on chapter 3 ahead of me, and then write, write, write. Hopefully will have 4 done by days end.

John is getting ready for his big race today. I know you all are with us in sending good thoughts and prayers his way. Hopefully that cold has moved on to someone else by now. Can’t wait to hear how it goes.

I guess I had better get busy. Just wanted to check in with everyone before going to Silver Lake. That first cup of coffee is calling. Have a wonderful day.

Until tomorrow,
Becky Strain


Saturday, March 06, 2004


Today John and his wife Barbara board a west bound flight with his running partner Neil and his wife. At last count a bad cold had John in its grip, and he felt terrible. I hope that by tomorrow everything will fall into place and John will be able to run the time he had set as his goal. Bon Voyage!! All of us go with you in your hip pocket.

There will be no sunrise this morning. At least that I can see. Those of you who get to see it enjoy it for me as well. We have gray clouds that look as if they could dump more rain at any moment. Since there will be no outside work today, I guess I will clean the house and then finish typing Chapter 3 into the word processor. Chapter 4 is swirling around in my head, and am hoping to get it written as well.

The coffee maker is taking its time brewing my morning coffee, and the dulcet tones of Rod Stewart’s American Songbook Volumes 1 and 2 are wafting through the house. After waking me up early both cats are curled up in their cat beds at my elbow snoozing away.
I have the makings of a wonderful weekend.

Is it only me that has been waiting for the past several years to see JAG’s Harm and Mac get together? I think I need to apply for a writing position for the show. I can tell you that I would make a more interesting story line…..Although last night’s tease showed the show we have all been waiting for next Friday night. Ha. We will see. Keeps me watching, huh?

And last but not least, hurray for Clay Aiken. After being robbed of the second seasons title of American Idol, time has blessed him with the success we all knew he rightfully deserved. His debut CD is a double platinum winner, and his first video was retired in the #1 position after being in the top 10 for 50 days on MTV’s Total Request Live. His second video was released Wednesday, and after only 2 days, has climbed into the #5 spot. He is currently on tour with Kelly Clarkson, American Idol’s first season winner. There is so little in life that works out the way it should the first time, but Clay has made success from the runner up position. Good for him! Let me see- who was the winner of season two? Hmmmm……

By now my coffee should be ready, so I am on my way to pour a big cup. Whatever your plans for the weekend, stay safe and God bless.

Until tomorrow,
Becky Strain


Friday, March 05, 2004


My Mom, Rocky and I have been working out at the family YMCA for a year and a half. It is a twenty-five minute drive from Smalltown, so we usually make an evening of it. After we have finished at the gym we stop at Subway for a healthy dinner. I eat their sandwiches and salads in the six grams of fat or less category. There has never been a problem, and I have been very happy with my food.

One evening we got there a little later than usual. The evening rush was over and the girls were restocking the bins of vegetables and meats. When we walked in one of the girls was taking a plastic bin of something out of the microwave. She set it on the counter so she could take our order. The bin was filled with water and there were probably twenty five weird looking things floating and bobbing in it. We were trying to figure out what it was, because it looked like yellow sponges. Hearing our conversation, the girl cheerfully told us it was grilled chicken breasts.

We all looked at each other, silently attempting to reconcile the gross looking floating, bobbing sponge looking things with a grilled chicken breast. Actually they looked like something from Fear Factor. I had ordered a chicken breast sandwich , and she went to the proper bin to retrieve one. Seeing it was empty, she turned to the gross bin of twenty five perfectly and identically formed “grilled” chicken breasts and caught one with a pair of tongs. Horrified, we all watched as she blotted off the water with a towel and plunked it on my warm six inch wheat roll.

I was speechless. Three pairs of eyes watched the preparation process, and I turned to Mom and Rocky saying I didn’t know if I could eat it or not. They obviously and wisely ordered turkey breast, which was sliced deli meat. Sadly I took my sandwich to the table and sat down. I am on a budget, and am a one income family. Only the fact that I had paid for the thing already persuaded me I had to eat it. Mom and Rocky came to the table with their nice turkey breast sandwiches and looked warily in my direction. After asking me if I was really going to eat it, I said yes. After all, it was paid for. Whatever the heck it had been in a previous life, it was now my dinner.

I somehow choked down the biggest part of it, but the last bit went in the trash. Every time I go into a Subway, which is five or six times a week, I glance down into the chicken breast bin as I make my way down the prep counter. There lies perfectly and identically shaped/formed “grilled” chicken breasts awaiting hungry health conscious customers. Not this kid. It has been over a year, and I haven’t had anything chicken at Subway since.

Last night we were eating our sandwiches and laughing over the whole thing again. Deciding it would make a wonderful blog topic, the rest is history. Hopefully chicken breast salads or sandwiches aren’t your favorite, or if so, you have a stronger stomach than I do…..here on my country road.

Until tomorrow.
Becky Strain


Thursday, March 04, 2004


I have related the thought before about a journey being shorter the second time. It is definitely sweeter, I can tell you. Yesterday I had a huge challenge ahead of me. We were busy at work, but I had taken my legal pad and the printed manuscript for chapter two hoping to get some time to rewrite and rework the whole thing. Nothing like being optimistic. All I needed was a few unbroken minutes to get the first few paragraphs roughed out, and the whole chapter flowed. I am very happy to say it is finished once again, and hopefully will now lend more credence to the two characters. A special thank you to my Muse. You were very right, and your input invaluable.

We are in the middle of a monsoon here in the Ozarks. Rain started yesterday and it is still raining. Flash flood warnings have been issued, and many of the low water crossings are under water. They have forecast very heavy rain and severe weather for our area. Today I have the longest drive of my work week. It will take an hour and a half to get there, and I have three low water crossings. The chances of me being able to get there are better than the chances of my getting back home again following another day of hard rain. Will have to monitor the situation through the day and make adjustments to the departure time.

Yesterday on the drive to work I was blessed with seeing daffodils in full bloom. They are ahead of us here, so it was a treat to see a whole line of the happy yellow blooms swaying in the wind. Spring seems to be in a hurry this year and although our winter has been very mild by all accounts, I am ready. Being a child of spring, I love everything about it. After the long gray winter I love the new beginning of nature. Bright leaf green buds on the trees, happy spring flowers, and new growth sprouting everywhere. It lifts my heart and fills my soul with hope.

This year I am experiencing new beginnings. Although I am closing in on my 50th birthday, I have never felt younger or more excited about life. Every morning I look forward to the day, and what it will bring my way. Although the body is slower to follow along and respond to the messages sent by my brain, midlife is sweet. Hopefully spring is just around the corner for all of you. It is very close…..here on my country road.

Until tomorrow,
Becky Strain


Wednesday, March 03, 2004


Discouragement is a wonderful teacher. It isn’t the good times that teach us enduring lessons in the school we call life. When I get knocked into the trenches the first thing I want to do is get out of them and get back to the road toward my goal. While it is admirable to be determined and focused, there are definite life lessons to be learned when life throws us a detour. Failure and broken dreams have taught me more about myself than anything else I know.

Monday is quickly becoming the day of the displaced. If you will remember, the state auditors were given our examination office for three months, and due to court schedules on Monday, we were put in the county commissioner’s office. They were gracious and gave us their space, however cramped. They apologized for the heater being stuck in the on position, so we worked all day in wool uniforms in 85 degree heat. My philosophy has always been that no matter how bad the working conditions may be, we only have to endure for eight hours and then we can go home. For others it is not as simple.

One of the commissioners has Parkinson’s disease. He has been a figure in the court house for the past eight years, and is respected because he never complains. I had only seen him in passing over the course of the past year, and had not realized how ill he had become. He is now also suffering from deterioration in his spine and it is very difficult for him to walk. I talked to him for quite a while throughout the morning, and at noon when we broke for lunch he prepared to go home for the day. I was shocked to see that he had a wheelchair in the corner of the room. He is six foot four. The grace with which he has dealt with the ravages of his illness is inspirational, but is something he never gives thought to. He is simply living out his life one second at a time. I thought about discouragement a long time after he left.

In the afternoon we had a young woman whose story is worth telling. She has a mental handicap and several physical health issues. She lives with her father, who has dedicated his life to her care. For the past two years she has come every Monday to take her written test so she could apply for a learner’s permit. Every Monday she would fail the test, but she never gave up. Last year while watching the evening news, I was horrified to see that she had been kidnapped. Her father was tearfully appealing to whoever had taken her to bring her home because her life depended on the medications she had to take several times a day. I could not get the situation out of my mind, and prayed for her safety and quick return. Two days later she was left at the police station in a town many miles from her home. The TV cameras were there to chronicle her being reunited with her father. It was an emotional reunion. She didn’t come for her driving test for a couple of weeks, but as soon as she was recovered from the ordeal, she came every Monday once again. A month ago this determined young woman passed her written test. We were all overjoyed for her. Monday she came in for her driving skills test. After writing her application up I wished her luck and she left. I am happy to report that she passed her driving test and now has a driver’s license. Discouragement is not in her vocabulary. While I have mixed feelings about her safety, I am happy that she accomplished her goal.

I have set several goals for myself that I am already experiencing bumps in the road with.
It is okay. Discouragement and failure help you see how determined you are to reach your goals, or if you have chosen the correct goal for yourself. Last night I pulled the second chapter of my book out of the file and reread it after receiving some feedback from someone I love and trusted with reading it. Many of his suggestions and observations were correct. Last night I began the rewrite. After several pages, I realized I was just too tired mentally to do it justice, and went to bed. Today I will begin again.

My brother John has been training for his upcoming marathon since September. Over the weekend he came down with a bad cold. I doubt that he has cancelled his flight. Sometimes it is in the journey that we experience the real victory. I intend to finish my book, and John will run his race. They are goals and races that have already been won in our minds. That is the hardest and most important thing in the achievement of anything worthwhile.

Today is a new day. I would challenge you not to be content to sit on the sidelines, but to get in the game. Carpe Diem!

Until tomorrow,
Becky Strain


Tuesday, March 02, 2004


Author's note: In honor of my brother John's birthday today, I am posting the piece I wrote for him. Happy Birthday, John. Your card is in the mail!

My mother told me that when she brought my little brother John home from the hospital she walked by his room to find me standing in front of his crib contemplating some dark and sinister plot. At the age of three it is debatable what might have been going through my mind--probably the same thing that went through my brother George’s mind when I was brought home from the hospital three years earlier.

John was born under a happy star. He may have been born with club feet and congenital cataracts, but nothing slowed him down. He had his first surgery at the age of five months to improve his eyesight, and once he had braces and corrective shoes for his feet he never looked back. He is considered handicapped due to his sight problem and is legally blind, but it is really hard to believe.

John just wanted to be a regular normal kid. Because of the thick coke bottle glasses he wore, he knew people stared at him, but he also knew that in a few minutes they would forget about it and accept him on his own terms. He had to attend the Kansas State School for the Blind through the fifth grade before he was accepted into the public elementary school George and I had attended.

John was a baseball fanatic, but because of his sight problem, could not play organized sports. That did not keep him from realizing his dream of being a baseball player, however. He worked at it every day, made a modified baseball diamond in our back yard, and stood by the hour learning to hit the ball. He hit the ball, ran to field it himself, run the bases back to home plate and start again. His little baseball was so grass stained it was hard for George and I to see it in the grass ourselves, but John never gave up. He was a better player than we were, organized neighborhood ballgames, and his team won a lot of the time. I remember one summer day I heard the crack of his bat connecting with the baseball-it sounded different this time. The next thing I knew it came crashing through my bedroom window, which was a very long way from home plate. He was pretty proud of that.

John accomplished all of the regular normal childhood things. He was a cub scout, boy scout, a duck…..yes a duck. Mr. Meyer, who was his sixth grade teacher the first year he attended public school , used to say he had 23 students and 2 ducks. John liked to talk like Donald Duck, and became quite proficient at it. He taught his best friend how to quack, and before long they had a secret duck club, secret duck code book, and other duck-like things that were of course, secret.

When we went to the library, John always got books on riddles and jokes because he loved to hear people laugh. He followed us around the house reading jokes and riddles, and once he heard the sound of laughter, he never got off the stage again. He is still a frustrated comedian but he has perfected his delivery, and with very little encouragement can entertain for hours on end.

We all played the piano as kids, but John wanted to play the drums as well. Actually he was very good, and when my junior high school drill team was in need of a drummer to play cadence, I asked if John could do it. He became our drummer, playing cadence for our performances until I went to high school.

After George went to the Navy and I got married and moved away, John finished high school. He moved to Smalltown to live with Mom after graduation, which really spiced up our quiet country life. He started a running regimen which quickly blossomed into a lifelong passion. He has been running for 27 years, and still hasn’t gotten where he is going. He has been in numerous marathons and races, but mostly he runs because he loves it.

John attended college, and after graduating, was ordained as a minister. The next year he moved to New Orleans to attend the Baptist Theological Seminary for his Masters. It was there that he met his wife Barbara. Barbara compliments and completes John. They have a wonderful relationship, and we love her for the unique person that she is. After receiving his Masters of Divinity they moved to Rock Island, IL. They spent 2 years as church planters, and had their son John there before returning to New Orleans to live. John wanted to help people, so through a series of events now works at a psychiatric hospital. Barbara works there as well, and they are both caring and committed people in their profession.

John is one of the richest people I know. He is a caring, loving, loyal person and knows who he is and where he is going. He is disciplined, focused and hard working. He sets goals and surpasses them, encouraging and challenging others along the way. John is beloved by his many friends, a dedicated husband and father, and a wonderful brother and son.

Like my brother George, I am proud of John and I love him very much. They may have ganged up on me when we were kids, but I have the two best brothers in the world. I am very thankful that in middle age we are closer to each other and have more fun with each other than we ever have.

Until tomorrow,


Monday, March 01, 2004


What a wonderful weekend! Farewell to February.

I got so much done that should I keep this pace up I could have my book completely written in three months. There will be times when I will not be able to write as much or as often, and my goal was to be finished within a year. I am hoping to be finished much sooner, and if the Muse that drives me is any indicator, that will be the case.

Today is the beginning of a new month. I love new beginnings. The whole thirty one days lay ahead of us as a clean slate. This will be a good one, simply because it is full of birthdays of family members. My brother John’s birthday is tomorrow, so everyone be sure to send him good wishes. This is also my birthday month, and the year I will be turning fifty. How exciting is that! I am really happy to be reaching such a milestone. There were many times in my life I didn’t think I would make it.

Back to new beginnings. I have had a big year of new beginnings already. That doesn’t mean that I will stop looking forward or be satisfied with what is. A person who has no vision or goal soon withers. The human spirit is a driving force. Thank goodness! I want to make a difference. I think we all do. Today I choose to be happy and kind. I want to look forward and not back, but I want to enjoy the present by not living in the future.

These are not new concepts. They are good things to remember and to help me stay focused. I have a great support group. Literally an international one. My family and friends, Matt, co-workers, and a host of international blogging buddies offer daily encouragement for me. I am so grateful for that, and for the blessing it is.

Yesterday Mom, Rocky and I celebrated in Springfield with a day out and wonderful lunch. Today they officially start retirement from their business. Another new beginning.
Actually it marks the first day of my retirement from being their office manager as well.
I plan to fill my extra time with writing and working toward accomplishing my list of goals and fantasies.

Yesterday I had many comments on how you all celebrated your extra day of life. By applying those same attitudes to today and tomorrow, and the rest of your life, think how different it will be. Have a wonderful day, however you choose to spend it.

Until tomorrow,
Becky Strain