Category: Deep Thoughts

Moving On

By , January 27, 2013 7:27 PM

I’m not about looking back. I like to press on, move ahead, follow the muse, dream new dreams, set new goals, plan new plans. However every now and then, I get this dim realization that some of my internal wires might be crossed. At those times, I’d love to plug myself into a booth at the mall for psychoanalysis and then walk away with a print out that explains myself to myself.

In other words, I am weird.

I absolutely adored this blog when I first began it. Then I did the logical thing that everyone else does, and put the web addy for it as a tag line on my email signature. And shortly afterwards, began to experience numerous mental blocks as to why I should not post. I have a similar problem with Facebook.

I have so many acquaintances … and they span across a very wide range of people. I have family. I have dog friends. I have writer friends. I have Christian friends. Some of these categories subset one another and others do not. But invariably I have found that when I am myself … real … that I seem to offend one group or another. So for a very long time, I have posted erratically, or not at all.

Yet I miss being “out there” being me.

So today, I had just enough introspection to consciously take the tagline for this blog off of my email signature. Now, once again, especially as neglected as it has been these past months, it is quite possible no one will read me at all.

Oddly, that actually seems perfectly OK with me!

When my husband (a small town boy of some renown) and I were dating, it seemed that everywhere we went, people hailed him and wanted to stop and chat. Which, if the truth be known, was a bit annoying to my then almost thirty year younger self. The climax occurred at the NC State fair, when thrice in a row he was hailed by old buddies who just wanted to chat. I recall snapping somewhat peevishly at him, “Don’t you understand the value of anonymity?”


I have a much more mature view today of how and why things happen (hint, there’s a reason!) but all the same, I must confess that I feel like a kid released from school … I again feel free to …

just be


Letting Go

By , September 9, 2012 10:07 PM

Fly Away

My heart is breaking and I care not who knows.

You want not my advice.

You are on your own.

My prayers go with you.

Fly safely, my children.

On the wings of love.


Reasons to Stay Married

By , September 7, 2012 8:15 AM

My paternal grandparents … married until “death do us part”.


A quarter of a century –

Twenty-five years

Of marriage, he and me.

Tears, fears and many beers –

We have evolved


Into a couple more

Than each of us is alone.

The divorce rate makes me

Shudder and wish to advise

Persevere! For you know not


How soon marriage might

Become life-long friendship.

Shelve criticism … for

Despite gray, thin, and fat.

Only my husband knows my journey.


The mirage is, “in love”

If only you knew –

Those who persevere learn –

Infatuation morphs

Into something much

More enduring.


Copyright 2012 Brett Valentine Winn

Growing Old, Let Me Grow Lovely

By , September 6, 2012 8:15 AM


The photo is my own; the poem is from a greeting card I gave to my grandmother on her 80th birthday:

Growing old,

Let me grow lovely.

Laces and ivory and gold

and silks need not be new.

There is healing in old trees.

Old streets, a glamour hold.

Why may not I as well as these

Grow lovely, growing old?”

Hidden Blessings in Sheep Farming

By , September 1, 2012 8:15 AM



In the Beginning ….

One frigid morning several years ago, a few days before Christmas, my husband and I drove to a neighboring farm with a borrowed trailer and watched with breathless excitement as a very capable Border Collie loaded my Christmas present onto the trailer: four woolly, recalcitrant, and obviously pregnant ewe sheep. At home, preparations for our little hobby farm were complete: fencing and shelter were installed as well as a round pen, gates, water lines, hay racks, and all the other assorted paraphernalia deemed necessary for proper sheep care. At that time I had a couple of herding dogs (Australian Shepherds) in training, and the sheep were purchased so we could practice at home what we were learning in lessons. Sheep need a guardian for the times their shepherd is not present, so a sheep savvy guardian donkey was duly located and installed, and his needs provided for as well. In the way that one thing tends to lead to another, it seemed only reasonable that if one is to have dogs, sheep and a donkey, to throw in a few chickens … a few ducks … a flock of guineas … which is the short version of how it happened that I began to view myself as my sheep saw me, as the great provider, aka, the Shepherd of the Flock.


Donkey and Sheep


Shepherding 101

One of the first things I learned as a shepherd was just how powerless a shepherd really is. My many failures created in me a conscious humility, an acute awareness that the realShepherd, the one upon whom I depend, never suffers from a learning curve. I felt I was behind that curve with each situation that arose. Several times there were ewes who were pregnant with triplets who, when they began to lamb, labored to no avail. The ewes’ value as livestock was less than the cost of the veterinarian’s farm call and treatment. Oh, what to do, what to do? I searched the Internet, (of course), and learned of the internal placement of lambs, of buckets of antiseptic and soapy water, of how to hopefully turn things around. Sometimes it worked, and sometimes it didn’t. I was quickly brought face to face with the shepherd’s reality … that sometimes, despite all good intentions, the shepherd fails. And yet … and this was so humbling … my Good Shepherd has never, not once, not ever, failed me. Even things He has allowed to occur in my life that have seemed bad were ultimately used to further my growth, and His glory.

When you keep sheep, you count sheep. Not to go to sleep at night, but to make certain they are all there. When one goes missing, your heart skips a beat, particularly if the missing sheep is a baby lamb. You begin to catastrophic fantasize … “What if stray dogs got in? … What if it got out of the fence? … What if, what if, what if ….” The Scripture in Matthew 18:12-13,

“What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray? And if he finds it, truly I say to you, he rejoices over it more than than over the ninety-nine that never went astray.”

takes on a whole new meaning when it is YOUR sheep that has strayed. And the Scripture is true. There is nothing more gratifying than to find that wayward lamb caught in the clutches of inadvertent brambles, safe and unharmed. Nothing compares to the joy of watching him scamper to the safety of his mother’s side, butting her udder for a meal that makes his little tail waggle.


Aussie Moving Sheep

Lessons in Humility and Innocence

Then there are the other experiences. Such as when the “guardian” donkey fails to recognize the newborn lamb as a flock member, and attacks it, kicking and shaking it, ultimately breaking its jaw. Where does the responsibility lie? Why, with the shepherd of course. The failing, incompetent, inexperienced, inadequate shepherd, who herself is answerable to the Great Shepherd. This, indeed, is humility learned at the feet of the Master

There was the time an unknown assailant took a bite from the haunch of a sheep … who then, beneath the cover of wool, hatched out a brood of maggots. What shame this shepherd felt upon discovery, such chagrin and mortification, such humiliation. For my own Shepherd has never seen fit to permit me to suffer maggots.

And do not forget the lamb. A baby lamb is the very picture of innocence. It is impossible to see the wondering liquid eyes of a lamb and not be struck that God chose the innocent, trusting lamb to represent the “lamb of God,” our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, in the Bible. It brings home His innocence, it makes real His sacrifice, and it touches the heart. Although I am sure there are some, I do not know of an earthly shepherd who is not a Christian.




Consider the Ewe

Sheep, when in pain, will “pretend” to be well despite whatever ailments they suffer. It is a holdover from the wild, when to show weakness was to single one’s self out for destruction by the enemy. In other words, they are very human like in their ability to put a good face on things, no matter how bad.

The mother ewe is the queen of this subterfuge. Even when she is in need of care, she only wants to be left alone. She is so protective of her babies that the sole way to adequately care for her sometimes requires kidnapping her babies, too small and unwitting to flee, whom Mother Ewe will helplessly follow, risking fear of death to save her children.

See any parallels here?


Black Sheep



It was my Shepherd’s cry to his disciple, Peter, in John 21, to, “Feed my sheep.” And despite his shortcomings, Peter, to this day, feeds his Lord’s sheep.

A little known, but true fact is that a sheep can starve to death with a full belly. Sheep will eat roughage, regardless of lack of nutrition, when nothing better is available. Again, the shepherd is brought face to face with a modern day parallel … how many human sheep daily gorge themselves today on fodder not worthy to be eaten? Think of the television shows that fail to bring Him glory, the movies, the pornography, the drugs, the endless pursuits of any and everything that might change one’s feeling state … while all the time true Nourishment waits patiently for the sheep to exhaust every other choice available before turning to Him.

The Good Shepherd watches over His sheep. He gives them life, He leads them, they hear His voice. When one cares for sheep, one is transported as if by miracle into that childlike state of living in the moment. It is impossible to relate to sheep any other way, for that is the only state they know. The relationship of sheep to shepherd is perhaps stated best in the Psalm below.


Nursing Lamb


Psalm 23

The Lord is my shepherd;

I shall not want.

He maketh me to lie down in green pastures:

he leadeth me beside the still waters.

He restoreth my soul:

he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,

I will fear no evil: for thou art with me;

thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies:

thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life:

and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.

Amen, and amen!



New Beginnings

By , December 29, 2011 11:50 AM

I have a new friendship in the making, and feel honored that my new friend has shared her blog with me. Her blog is private (I think) and I do not have permission to share it, but trust me when I say that her writing is deep, real, wrenched with pain and filled with joy all at the same time. It has touched my heart in a deep way, being written as it is to work through past events, to heal, to record memories, and to expunge pain. It is very genuine, and I do so dearly love all things genuine. She has inspired me to pick back up with Quack and Quill, which has been “on hold” while I was busy in other areas of my life, and while I tried to figure out exactly what I want to DO with Q&Q. I still don’t know, but she’s rolling again, so stay tuned!

Words are such a gift. A privilege. A powerful tool that must be used with care. We paint with words. Heal with words. Rip big gaping holes into people’s hearts with words. Like so many tools, they can be used for good or for harm. The Bible tells us in Proverbs 31:26, ” She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.”

I aspire to this, but confess that many times, many, many times in my life I have fallen short of this lofty goal. James 3:8-9 tells us of the tongue, “but no human being can tame the tongue.  It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God.” It is apparently part of the human condition, so perhaps I am not alone. None the less, I aspire to the first, to have the teaching of kindness upon my tongue.

I value above all other human qualities, kindness and charity … and I define charity as deliberately making the effort to see people in their best light … as others have so often done for me.

I am a person of many acquaintances, but I can count my true friends on one hand, the first one being my husband. Not many people gain access to my life, for my life is so full, and only the most rare and special of people are admitted … those that God brings to me. This new friendship is still in its infancy, and may go nowhere. It is being born between two women, wives and mothers who have been knocked about by the winds of life and yet who have deep roots and who know how to bend.  We each have wounds, we each have been wounded by women, which makes women relationships harder. Yet here we are … sharing, taking small risks in sharing of ourselves and our pasts, forging a tender new bond.

I pray it will grow strong as a redwood tree, and endure through this world and into eternity.

On Suddenly Becoming A Border Collie Owner

By , September 23, 2010 11:09 PM

There is this thing called spontaneity. It is loosely related to serendipity. Sometimes, it just happens.

I love how there are such DIFFERENT people in the world. And on the Internet, in blogosphere, you sometimes get a glimpse of how “the other half lives” only, I don’t necessarily mean the richer half (as that phrase is often wont to indicate) but rather, just those different from yourself.

I am really different. I guarantee you, you never met anyone that was entirely like me. First of all, I have “issues”. Second,  God only creates originals, so I speak with a certain amount of surety. But thirdly, I am a girl, named Brett. And there isn’t exactly a plethora of those floating around.

When I was little … I so000 wanted a feminine name … I wanted to be a Laura, a Cathy, a Sonya. Lindsay would have worked nicely at one point, or Anne. As I got older, I had more esoteric (but still feminine) names in mine: Eugenia, Carson,  Ursula,  Phoebe, Beatrice. I went through a spell of wishing I’d been given a traditional, Biblical name: Grace, Rebecca, Rachel, or Sarah.

But alas, it was still Brett.

(I have a friend who didn’t like her name, and as an adult,she just up and changed it, presto! She went from a plain Jane name, to one that was popular and full of frills. I never felt I could do that. There was the disloyalty I would have felt to have gone against the name that my parents obviously valued.) I was (mostly) always a “good” girl.

And then, I got older, and  older still.

I still haven’t the faintest clue what on EARTH my parents were thinking (and WHY didn’t I ask them while they were here to be asked???) … what was cool about naming your first born daughter BRETT in 1958??

But of course, you knew, there was a the silver lining:

What ultimately occurs when you have a boy named Sue (thanks, Johnny Cash, I always loved you for that song, and I delighted my children once, on a road trip, but pulling it out of the hat of memory and singing the entire thing to them, every word ….), or a girl named Brett, is that what you end up with, is … (drum-roll, please) … a true original.

There ain’t no possibility of a girl named Brett pretending to be an Ashley or a Jennifer.

(Back in the days when I photographed church directories for a living, in the 80’s, it was not uncommon to have two or three families a day with two daughters, one named Ashley, the other, Jennifer.) It was around that time that I began to sense that being an original wasn’t all that bad. At least you weren’t cast into the molds of OTHER people!

There was no one like me.

Still isn’t.

I am … evolving still, but ..  the dog lady, theologian, farm animal lover, delighter in the practical and utilitarian, home-schooler, wife and mother, photographer, word crafter, tea drinker, field walker, solitary thinker, bread baker, soon to be tile cutter, girl who can do it her “damn” self if need be, woman who finds it incredibly important to be kind and fears I fail in doing so miserably. So there. That’s me, today.

The cool thing is, though, whether you realize it, or not, is that neither is there anyone like YOU!

I pray you the best of blessings, that you will discover who you are in Him, where your true North lies, who you were born to be … regardless of the name you were given.

This weekend I’m off to spend a few daysat the beach with my sweetie … I hope y’all have a great weekend, too!

Photo of the evening in 2006 when I found myself walking in the door with a four month old Border Collie puppy, ZuZu, totally unplanned, and what turned out to be one of the greatest blessings of my life.

Don’t Look Now, But I Got the Blues

By , August 4, 2010 2:15 PM

Hello out there ….

In case you wanted to know, the main reason I decided to start a blog was as an exercise in self-discipline. I wanted to see if I could reach inside and pull something out every day. I’m not sure why I wanted to do this; I just did. I tend to be easily distracted AND to have frequent environmental and circumstantial distractions in my life, the combination of which sometimes makes me feel fragmented and somewhat crazy. I guess I was trying to prove to myself that I could do something with regularity, other than drink coffee.

There were other reasons, too.

I often find the social chit-chat thing to be tedious. I’d rather read a letter than talk on the phone. I suffer with the chit-chat to get below the surface, to the meat of life. I found the idea of sending my thoughts “out there” to be the cyberspace equivalent of a sealing a message in a bottle and tossing it upon the open seas. An adventure. Of sorts. I like flying blind, like shooting a missive into the dark, not knowing where it might land. It does get lonesome when no one leaves a comment, but the fruit of those times has been the realization that I’m not doing this for anyone else; I’m doing it for myself. I’m growing through the process! It’s kinda cool.

The hardest part is writing when I don’t feel like it.

The last few days I have felt unusually blue. I think I’ve just not taken taken the time to feel all of my feelings about life in a while.

I heard a really sad story recently about the son of a friend of a friend, who went to war in Afghanistan and came home with Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome, then suffered several severe emotional setbacks and has now committed a crime of anger that has landed him in jail where he’ll probably stay for years to come.

I don’t know this young man but my heart aches for him. I don’t believe that this would ever have happened to him, had he not gone to war. From high school, he was in love with the idea of serving his country. Of being one of the few, the proud. That he signed up to do something he believed to be noble, was sent to fight for a country not his own, came home damaged, and now has a life in tatters, all at the age of 24, makes me sad and angry. I have a 22 year old son. This young man is barely grown. This young man is somebody’s son.

I feel too much.

Anyway, to entertain you, and in attempt to exercise discipline despite the blues, yesterday I took photos of things blue:

A dirty blue dog bed, awaiting washing —

A photo of a photo I took of my fifteen year old when he was a baby, in his blue Osh-Kosh overalls —

A blue tow strap on our twenty year old truck —

And an old blue quilt, fresh from the laundry.

Photo at the top is of a puppy toy, picked up out of the yard prior to mowing ….

Big Night in a Small Town Girl’s Life

By , June 8, 2010 9:44 AM

When I was a little girl, I wanted a birthstone ring. And patent leather shoes. And perfume. Fingernail polish. Lip gloss. And a lot of other, useless, frilly, feminine things that I didn’t get. Instead, I was given whole worlds that opened before me from the pages of books, the magic of a blank page, puppies and adventures; I was nurtured in numerous other ways that I wouldn’t fully appreciate for years.

I am intensely practical. Perhaps too much so. Years ago, my sister, in a discussion on gift giving, type cast me well when she said, “Don’t give Brett anything that just sits there. If it doesn’t DO something, she doesn’t want it.” LOL. It was true. I don’t understand women who decorate and redecorate their homes, or who view shopping as a fun activity and why anyone would want to dust a bunch of knick knacks is beyond me.

So I guess it shouldn’t be a big surprise that I also find the whole concept of children’s dance studios a bit mystifying. That such a thing even existed never touched the surface of my childhood existence. And I am no stranger to dance studios! My niece danced from the age of two to eighteen, so well that it was quite possibly a career path she could have taken had she so desired. My family subsists in part because of dance studios as we photograph a number of them year after year. The Real Man is so skilled at dance photography that he’s the only photographer around who doesn’t need a dance teacher to pose the children for him: he knows the positions, the vocabulary, and can demonstrate a pose for a student as well as most instructors. LOL. (That’s a sight to see, I assure you!)

So it was that I recently found myself in the center of a darkened auditorium watching the recital of one of the Real Man’s favorite studios. I sat there for over two hours, watching, and pondering the attraction. These definitely were not the June Taylor dancers. (Does this date me, or what?) Or Riverdance, either. This was a studio devoted to nurturing children with the dance “experience”, one more likely to produce adults with a life long love of recreational dance than the next New York City Ballet’s prima ballerina. Dance can be frightfully expensive, the costumes alone are frequently budget breaking. Not to mention the shoes, the competition fees, the travel expenses associated with the competitions, all in addition to the dance classes themselves. Why would any sane mother want to spend all that money just so their daughter could prance around on a stage wearing sequins, satin and tulle? What was the value?

And as I sat there, watching these children strive to give their best performance, listening to their families and friends call their names from the audience and applaud the more difficult portions of their dances, and as I observed the audience itself: the parents, sisters and brothers, grandparents, uncles, aunts, friends and neighbors who had come to support these children, I suddenly “got it”. I really did. This was so much more than vain prissiness.

This was a great big night in a small town girl’s life. This was these children’s night to shine, to be on the stage, in the spotlight, moving to the music, sparkling with glitter and sequins, all dressed up wearing eye shadow and lipstick, participating in something larger than themselves, feeling the outpour of love and support from their family, friends and community. The applause, the flowers and gifts, the dinner out afterwards … how inestimable the value of the opportunity to be prepared to be front, center, beautiful and well received.

Not everyone is meant to be a prima ballerina. Maybe none of the children I watched that night will ever grow up to dance for a living. But … BUT … perhaps having had this experience will be a brick in the foundation that causes them to be “prima” in other ways. Perhaps as teachers, doctors, or even (and by no means is this least): mothers. I see how the confidence gained through dance will be put to use in myriad other ways, how the real value is not the dance, but the investment, and how the dance is but the means to the investment.

It takes me a while sometimes, but I’m always glad to see the light.

Photo is by the Real Man, taken some years back, of my niece in her first pointe shoes.

Deep Duck Thoughts

By , March 20, 2010 12:53 PM

I’ve got a deep question for y’all today.

What are your thoughts about racial equality? Ethnic diversity? Discrimination based upon one’s cultural heritage? These are my deep thoughts for the day.

The reason why I’m spending an absolutely gorgeous Saturday morning engrossed in such musings, is because last night, I happened to go through some of my duck photographs from last year. Photos like these:

This year however, I’ve ducks of a different color:

Now, I ask you: how do you decide between these two colors? On the one hand, you have cute, and on the other, you also have cute. And they are different cutes. And I like them both.

You know what? Today I want to celebrate duck diversity.  I think I will go on record:

I love diverse ducks!

Happy Saturday!

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