Religion in the small towns

Driving across rural Texas panhandle, I am reminded how small town southern America can be overwhelmingly, in your face, Christian. I have no problem with having religion or who anyone wants to worship or how you worship. That’s your business.

I also know this country was built on the concept of Freedom of Religion. The founding fathers were still stinging from the enforced imposition of the Church of England as the only sanctioned religion in the nation. To the point of, if you wanted to preach any other doctrine, you literally had to stand on the graves of your ancestors to speak it.

I have heard those who say this country was founded on Christian values. If you mean respecting every person, and valuing every life, then yes. But these are common core values for every religion on this earth. Freedom of Religion means you are free to worship in the religion of your choice. And since all religions, at their core, revere human life and believe in kindness and love to your fellow human beings, why is worshiping in a different way a problem?

Being an empath can be a curse. You always see the other person’s side. You always try to understand where the other person’s viewpoint comes from. And if I were a non Christian, driving through all these little towns professing a love of Jesus in their signs, I would take it that a non Christian would not be welcome here. Based on the current state of public partisan Christianity, I would believe I would not receive help I might need, especially if I was a Muslim woman wearing a hijab. Or if I had a Jewish or Arabic last name. Or if I was traveling with a female friend and held her hand as I needed, for emotional support.

I know you are vocally proclaiming your support for what you believe in, but did you think it might make someone feel unwanted, unwelcome or afraid?

Think about it. Really, really think about it deeply.

Do you really need that sign?

The good things

Ok, I work at Walmart and it’s not exactly a glamorous job. Most times, not a rewarding job. Most of the time it’s just fixing things the overnight stockers got wrong and telling people what they want is either right here behind me or two aisles over or we don’t have it anymore. Some people come in with the attitude that nothing they want will be there and nothing will make them happy. 
And then there’s the little happy surprises. And they seem to come from either old people or little kids. 

I have worked at this store long enough to watch kids grow up and people grow old. The middle ages don’t change that much but both ends do. I have seen awkward kids grow into confident young adults. I have also seen some of my favorite older people slow down, start using canes and disappear. 

I started out in the photo lab where you really get to see where people live, their vacations and holiday gatherings. You see babies born, start school, where people go on vacation. It gives you a window on people’s lives. Well, digital took over photography and photo labs disappeared. I lost my career there. I miss that a lot. 

Life is what it is. 

Now, I work keeping things stocked, putting it on the shelf where customers can buy it and helping people find things. And sometimes you still get to connect with people. 

My very favorite customer is a blind woman who simply needs someone to walk her around the store and help her select groceries. I have been doing this so long, we have gotten to be good friends. We have fun talking about cooking and food and I have introduced her to new things available in the store we both like. A few years ago, she got a fabulous guide dog named Wella who is now one of my best friends too. 

Sometimes you just get used to seeing a face around and have an extra smile for that person. I never seem to learn their names but there is this one old man who reminds me of my dad and he always talks to me and teases me about something. I always have a hug for him. 

Sometimes I have to sit on the floor to straighten things or stock things and it never fails, some old person will say something about “sitting down on the job”. There’s a couple of them I have a running joke with about whether I’m sitting on the floor or not. We both get a laugh out of it. 

Then there’s the little kids. I like to smile and wave at the babies and I often get a charming smile in return. 

Yesterday, I was stocking things and as usual, I dropped one. This little boy came over, picked it up and handed it to me. I thanked him and told him he was sweet to do that. Hey, positive reinforcement can’t start too early. He might have been 4. He showed me his hot wheels car which was one of the characters from the movie Cars and I went along. A few minutes later, his mom was asking me where something was and almost before I could answer, he ran over to me and wrapped both arms around my knees and gave me a big hug. It was the sweetest moment. 

It’s people like this that make my job worthwhile. 

Idiocy, panic and the coming apocalypse 

A hurricane, with the same name as an invisible rabbit hit Texas recently. And we were doing ok, even with the current president coming to visit and making it all about him “what a turnout, good luck Texas”.
Sunday night, I  heard something on the news about the gas refineries on the Texas coast shutting down for a week or so driving gas prices up so I told my hubby he might need to go top my tank off before prices started going up, and he did. This was at $2.19 a gallon.

Next couple of days, status quo. I drive by a small gas station on my way to work, they usually keep an average price and don’t bounce around matching prices to the penny. Monday, still $2.19 a gallon. Driving to work Wednesday, I notice it’s $2.43 a gallon. Going home for lunch, it’s $2.59 a gallon. And after work…same price as at lunch but all the pumps have plastic bags on them saying gas is out, all gone.

I’ve heard stories, seen posts on Facebook about long gas lines that go around the block and people actually fighting over getting gas. In the city I live in. And we are a four hour drive from Houston.

The gas is still there, people. There is over a year of supply in the reserve. The only reason gas is running out is because people are acting the fool and acting like it’s all running out NOW.

And now that all the gas stations are out of gas, it’s going to take much longer than usual to get them all filled up again because there are only so many trucks that can only supply so many gallons to them so prices will only continue to climb.

And I’m sitting smug on a full tank that will keep me going for two weeks if I use it like normal and longer if I ration it.

Summer Art Camp

Thursday morning, I woke up too early and got up early and still didn’t get on the road till after 7:30. Picked up Layne and we got on the road about 8:30.

Uneventful trip, we stopped off at Cadillac Ranch and looked at the cars. The spray paint on them is in layers inches thick. There are spray paint cans by the cars, there are two dumpsters filled with empty spray cans. The paint chips off in chunks with layer upon layer of colors.

We crossed into New Mexico and stopped at the visitors center to get maps and they also had books laying on the counter. Layne and I picked up a couple of them and were flipping through them and the lady said “You can have those. Or those. Or those.” We each picked up several books, and some of them are nice hard cover art books. We felt like we were robbing the library.

 As we drove along I40, we could see traces of Route 66.

We drove into a storm.I love a storm in the desert but not so much when you have to drop to 40 mph and follow the lights of the truck in front of you. But it washed the Xterra clean. And after we got through the storm, about 5 minutes later, I looked at the hood and it was dried.

Finally got to the camp and caught the end of supper. After a little confusion on where to park we got settled in. The little cabins are about 10 feet by 8. They have two bunk style beds, one on each side, they fold up against the wall if one person wants more room.

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I got settled I and got my dragonfly lights hung up and my bed made and went to bed.


I didn’t sleep that well and finally woke up around 7.

I got dressed and headed to the main house to use the bathroom. I was partway there when I heard someone yelling “don’t walk this way, go back!!!!” There was a bear in front of the house! And it was a stubborn bear, it did not want to move on. It took someone driving a car over to make it run off. And I was halfway to the house when it came back. At that point, I figured the house was a better bet so I approached from the side and made it in.

We finally got it to leave the area by honking car horns and a bear horn.

So breakfast was a little late and I was totally unprepared for workshops. But it all turned out ok.

Our morning workshop was metalworking with Dale Janssen. The first project was making night lights with a sheet of copper. She had several templates to choose from but I had found a dragonfly stencil and used that. We punched holes and bent the metal and smoothed the edges and she flamed them for us. We used epoxy to put the clip for the light on it and today we will put it all together and see how they work.

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Suzie Monday did a talk on using the iPad to make art on. Then we played a little with AirPlay and Airdrop.

After lunch was a workshop on linocuts and collagraphs or you could work on your nightlight again.

After two bad nights sleep I was having trouble seeing straight so I played with pictures on my iPad for a while before getting out a little piece of linoleum and doing a design.

During the evening gathering on the porch, we watched the birds, identified several of them and talked about many things. After dinner we had a campfire. Stories were told and marshmallows were roasted.



On the schedule for today is to go see some petroglyphs. They are accessible to the public but you have to have a guide. I know he got frustrated by the various speeds of various women.

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The site was incredible! Lots of symbols, some common and some unique.

On the way back, we stopped in Mountainaire for a box lunch and to browse the stores and galleries. Things were bought and carted back to camp. I found a wonderful animal shapes necklace to buy.

The afternoon’s project was to make a luminaria with Dale. I used designs from the petroglyphs and drew them freehand on the copper and when we were finished punching, we flamed them and then painted some chemical on them to turn the copper green blue.

The bear made an appearance again at the main house and was finally scared off.

Dinner was pulled pork and the debate about Black Headed Grosbeak versus Spotted Towhee continued. (This was finally resolved by determining both were present)


After breakfast today, we went on a nature walk around the camp. Of course, we had to pose for a group picture before we left, and another one on the walk.

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We saw lots of interesting stuff including where a bear did what bears do in the woods. He seems to be eating something with lots of tiny seeds.

After the nature walk, a few of us walked down where a house burned in a forest fire 8 years ago. We found melted glass, bits of rusted metal and a long snakeskin. Good encaustic additions.

For one of my encaustic efforts, I used things I had picked up on my walks. It looks pretty cool. For another one, I used some Chinese writing on paper and alligator juniper sprig and bark.

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Then it was time to get back to Dale’s metalwork. I have rolled the cylinder for my luminaria and it has been sprayed with clear coat twice now. It’s ready to rivet together tomorrow.

Our dinner was planned for the peak of the mountain. Having 4 wheel drive, I volunteered again.

The road goes on up past the camp to a camping area and fire watchtower at the top of Capilla Peak.

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We watched and heard a storm roll in and got dinner eaten and then had to drive down in the rain. I put it into 4 Low, 1st gear and overdrive off to keep my foot off the brake. The road was slippery in places and had water running down it. Thank you Brian for teaching me how to drive offroad!

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I expect I will sleep well tonight. I hope. At bedtime, it’s still raining and cool enough I put another blanket on the bed.


This morning, we finished our luminarias and started the next project. I chose to do a small box and as it worked out, I used 6″ flashing, so I made two, each 3″ high. One turned out better than the other. I used upholstery tacks to fasten these together instead of rivets. The better of the two will be for Daddy.

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Today was the day to finish all projects and get everything wrapped up. It’s the last full day.

Suzie has many decks of cards so after dinner we did a group reading, everyone choosing one card from three decks. After that, I chose a random card from a random deck.

Tomorrow, it’s time to say good bye and leave this wonderful place.


By the time brunch rolled around, half of us had already gone. So the art show and tell was small and we all fit around the table for eats. Suzie had cooked the most amazing cheese grits with New Mexico peppers.

About 10, I had finally gotten all my stuff, Layne’s stuff and Junanne’s stuff all loaded up and drove out.

The drive went smoothly and about 30 minutes out of Tucumcari, I called a friend in Amarillo and made arrangements to spend the night.

We had a lovely visit, went to bed early and visited again in the morning.

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I got away from there by about 10 again and finally got home at 4. It was a long day.

All in all, it was a wonderful adventure, I learned more about making art, met some wonderful people, some of whom I will see again, saw some beautiful scenery and had a grand time all around. I also added 6 birds to my life list.

I will do it again next year if can. 


Tasty Tuesday, November 18

This is a rerun but I didn’t have many followers then, so most of you haven’t seen it. Also keep in mind that this works with leftover turkey for yet another way of getting rid of leftovers

My mother used to fix chicken and rice. It was plain and simple, chicken, cooked and shredded, and white rice. She may have added peas or celery for a bit of color. It was seasoned with salt and maybe pepper but not much else. It was good on a cold day or a day when I wasn’t feeling good. It is my idea of comfort food.
Now I make chicken and rice, but the colors and variations are a bit brighter. I usually use brown rice with one exception. We’ll get to that in a bit.
I start out with one large or two small boneless, skinless chicken breasts. I put it in a stockpot with enough water to cover it. It can be frozen or not. If i am going in a particular culinary direction, I will add some seasoning here, it might be curry, or a bay leaf and thyme, or wherever in the world I am thinking about. The chicken gets simmered on low until it is cooked through or nearly so then gets pulled out of the cooking water (chicken broth now, now you see where I was going here) and put on a plate to cool.
I have a rice cooker so I use the directions for it to cook the rice. I usually follow the directions to make 2 cups of cooked rice to feed two. Some brown rice needs rinsed and some doesn’t so I usually rinse it whether it needs it or not. Put it in the cooker and fill with the broth you just made by cooking the chicken to the proper amount, adding water as necessary. Brown rice takes at least one and a half times the amount of liquid to cook as white rice. If I am going the Asian route, I will add some saffron and a kaffir lime leaf while it’s cooking, otherwise I might add another bay leaf and some salt.
When the rice is nearly done, I might add a handful of frozen peas to the top and let them cook quickly.
The chicken gets shredded on the plate it is sitting on when it’s cool enough to handle.
When the rice is done, it gets put in the saucepan the chicken was cooked in with the chicken to make sure everything is warmed through. You can add any variety of cooked vegetables for color and to round out the meal.
Serve and enjoy!

Now for the white rice variation:
Mexican yellow rice
(Courtesy of 1000 Mexican Recipes by Marge Poore)
2 T vegetable oil
1/2 tsp achiote seeds, also called annato
1/2 medium onion, minced
1 medium clove of garlic, minced
1 cup long grain white rice
2 cups chicken broth
1/4 tsp salt or to taste
1/8 tsp black pepper freshly ground
1/2 cup cooked fresh or frozen peas

1. In a small saucepan, heat the oil and cook the achiote seeds until the oil is a rich golden color, about 1 minute. Strain the oil into a large saucepan and discard the seeds.
2. Heat the oil over medium heat, add the onion and garlic and cook until softened. Add the rice and cook about 3 minutes. Stir in the broth, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil.
3. Reduce heat to low, cover and cook 18 to 20 minutes until the rice is tender and water is absorbed. Remove pan from heat and scatter the peas on top but do not stir. Cover and let stand for 5 minutes. Stir the rice with a fork to fluff it and stir in the peas. Serve hot.
When I cook the chicken for this one, I will add maybe some garlic powder or cumin to the pot. The shredded chicken gets put in when it gets the peas stirred in to make sure everything is hot.