Category: Daily Life

Let’s Be Real

By , September 25, 2012 10:25 AM

Fall Wanderlust

Above most all things, I prize authenticity, genuineness, originality, honesty and, for lack of a better description, that elusive quality of being “real”. I like people who are comfortable being themselves, and who are kind. Not everyone in the world has to accomplish something magnificent; sometimes simply being one’s self is a masterpiece that will be revealed in due time. The older I become, the more I value simple things … walks in the woods with my dogs, a steaming cup of tea, a good book, traditional hymns in church, sitting in silence.

What I see when I turn on the media in our country today pains my spirit. I don’t think there has ever been a presidential election more filled with despair, certainly not in my life time. The ideals I grew up learning and aspiring towards: self determinism, responsibility, knowledge of one absolute and loving triune God, infinite possibility, the belief that I could do anything in the world that I wanted to even if I couldn’t do everything … these ideas have seemingly all but disappeared from the face of America, where now, the media tells us, we need the government to take care of us, and provide us with the things it thinks we need even as it robs us of self respect, autonomy, and opportunity. Our freedom is disappearing at an alarming rate, and the worst thing is that the vast majority of people not only don’t  seem to realize it, they welcome it! Like sheep, they flock together and trust what should never be trusted (the media, the politicians, the popular culture of public opinion) happily bleating the platitudes they have been fed even as they are led away to slaughter.

I feel like a butterfly in a hurricane … there seems not a way to resist this tide, and I realize that the destruction of the America that I grew up believing in may well be inevitable.

I am tired of resisting it. Tired of trying to educate, enlighten and persuade. People who have been through twelve years of public schooling aka NEA indoctrination, not to mention liberal academia, in general, have tightly closed minds even as they value their liberalness. (That word don’t mean what it once did, folks!) People are both polarized and oblivious. There is a LOT of noise being made but not much being said or accomplished except hidden back room agendas aided by the aforementioned sheep.

So I have retreated. I pray a lot. I consider that my first line of both defense and offense, and it comforts me. And I look for the nuggets, the remnants of simple and honorable and real where they might be found.

I recently had a lazy afternoon, and with the change of seasons upon us, was feeling wishful of travel. That isn’t a possibility right now, so to substitute, I found myself initiating Google searches that might yield something different from what America has to offer, a cyber journey of the kind of “off the beaten path” travel that I most enjoy. Scotland was uppermost in my thoughts, so I searched for “Scottish blogs,” “Scottish women bloggers,” “Scotland blog award winners” and so forth. I found dozens of blogs, and followed the blog rolls of one to another to another with increasing frustration. I was hopeful of discovering a legitimate person, someone warm and original, a Rosamunde Pilcher character, someone who might share about dogs, house parties, simmering pots of soup on heart-of-the-home Aga stoves, pheasants, village life, tramping on the moors, people they encountered, drinking, painting, kilts, dancing, history and dogs. (Yes, I realize I listed dogs twice!)

I was so bummed. All that I found was a plethora of the same thing we have in America: politics, technology, strong opinions, labels, criticism, media spin, pop culture superficiality and crime. It’s as if people exist like beads on a string, held back from originality by their proximity to one another.


So much for real and wonderful. Perhaps originality is too much to expect in a world where you can buy a McDonald’s cheeseburger in 123 countries?

However, I’ve been thinking, and it occurred to me that perhaps I am not alone in my quest for authenticity and genuineness.

Was it not Mahatma Gandhi who said, “Be the change you want to see in the world?” So I hereby take the challenge that I now issue you:


It doesn’t have to be done perfectly, or all at once. But for heaven sakes, open your hearts and minds to what the Lord intended YOU to be, and be that instead of merely copying whatever segment of what it is around you that you have adopted. Be yourself. You are so incredibly special.

After all, there is only one of each of us.

We should work harder to be ourselves and think twice before we follow the path of the sheep, particularly those sheep who are not being led by the Good Shepherd.

Whose voice are you listening to, anyway?

“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” John 10:27





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.


Why Does She Want to Be My Friend?

By , September 5, 2012 8:15 AM



Few people

have been so blessed

As to have a friend

like my



I remember

when we first met.

She taught horse riding lessons and

seemed so normal.

(I did not understand normal, at all.)

She is … normal. I marveled

to my husband,

“She acts like she wants to be my friend.

I don’t know why …. what is wrong with her?”

There was nothing wrong

with her …. she simply


what was wrong with me.


Copyright 2012 Brett Valentine Winn

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!



You Might Be a Redneck If ….

By , May 18, 2012 10:11 AM

Cow Panels in Windows

You have to put cut up cow panels in your front windows to keep your dogs from jumping out!

The Downside of Dog Doors

By , May 3, 2012 11:12 AM

Warrior Dogs Capture and Kill!

The photo (almost) says it all. It does fail to display the two baby possum siblings that were left for me on the back porch last week.

Do you suppose my dogs thought I failed to show them adequate appreciation for their previous kills and thus felt the need to bring this one inside?

Quilt Top Adventure

By , March 13, 2012 12:12 PM

Sewing Strips

With the plethora of exceptional quilting blogs on the Internet where women post photographs of what can only be described as works of art, I am almost embarrassed to show you what I’ve been doing. But I must! I cannot remember the last time I had such fun. I am finding this to be one of those activities that I become so immersed in that time seems to stop, and I will look up and literally hours will have gone by. I’m listening to a recording of Alexander McCall Smith’s Love Over Scotland as I sew, and that probably contributes to the my sensation of time slipping past.

I don’t have a pattern and I don’t know what I’m going to do next, and I’ve never done this before, so it all really is quite an adventure. This is what I have so far!

Stay tuned!

Moving Towards Spring

By , March 12, 2012 8:23 PM

Stepping Forward

“Build a little fence of trust around today-

Fill the space with loving deeds and therein stay.

Look not through the sheltering bars upon tomorrow-

God will help thee bear what comes of joy or sorrow. “

Mary Frances Butts

My interests seem to go in cycles.

On any given day of the year, I enjoy baking, sewing, crocheting and knitting, writing, reading, gardening, photography and dog training. But for whatever reason, I find it difficult to do a little of each every day. Instead, I have days when I put everything else aside and just write. Or train dogs. Or garden. One  interest will predominate for a period of time and then drop from my internal radar, to be replaced by one of the others.

Lately, I have found myself with a renewed interest in sewing.

My oldest son turns 24 years old today. When he first went away to college, I went to the fabric store and bought material, intending to make him a quilt, but this turned out to be a project that fell to the back burner and then out of focus entirely. (Life has a way of getting in the way of my projects, too!)

Last week I pulled out my fabric stash and started sorting through the patterns and colors, discovering them like old friends. I recognized the need for more red. Saturday I went to the fabric store, and that evening began cutting out strips. Last night I began to sew them together. This will be my first “real” quilt (assuming I finish it) … but I have a feeling that I will, and I hope it will be the first of many.

I am most blessed to have a sister who, though she would demur, is a master quilter (at least compared to me) and she has been holding my hand and helping me along. (You can see some of her quilts here.)

I will post photos of  my quilt as it begins to look like something other than a jumped heap of scraps!

** Poem is from a leather bound book called Helps to Happiness that was my grandmother’s, and was published in 1907.

Happy New Year?

By , January 10, 2012 8:57 PM

The bells have rung, the chorus has beensung, the confetti has fallen and the ball/acorn/squid/whatever had dropped. The new year is here … hello, 2012! I welcome you! However ….

Here in blogland, where all is cheerful, colorful and humorous, I feel weary. IS it a happy new year? I am not so sure. Time, only can tell.

If the truth be known, which I feel able to write about now that no one is reading my words, I am absolutely, utterly EXHAUSTED. I have been so for thirty years and three weeks. For thirty years, I’ve managed to pull myself together to tilt forward into the harness and continue to pull forward … but for the past three weeks, there seems no ploy available with which I can “trick” myself into continuing pushing forward. My forward gear, folks, has broken.

There just doesn’t seem to be any purpose in continually pulling forward  … for no reward. For for what FEELS like no reward. Which is not necessarily the reality of things.

However … the good news is … I am a Christian. I have a Helper, and I shall persevere.


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.

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