Winter Cranberry Bread

This week in Alabama, we got to experience our own little winter wonderland. Now, to someone who lives in the beautiful northern part of the country they would never consider our measly inch of snow a winter wonderland, but to this Alabama girl who loves snow, I’ll take whatever I can get. On these cold, snowy mornings, my mind is flooded with memories on my granny making her Winter Cranberry Bread. This bread is sweet, but not too sweet, so it’s perfect for a breakfast bread or just an afternoon snack.

My granny never used a hand mixer to stir this lovely bread together. “All you need is a bowl and a wooden spoon” she would say. Her recipe would change, depending on what she had in the cabinet at the time. During our Southern blizzards, everything shuts down, so she couldn’t just run down to the local Piggly Wiggly and purchase the exact ingredients to make the bread. If she didn’t have cranberries she would use this same recipe but substitute the fruit. Apples or pears with the addition of a little cinnamon is wonderful.

On your next snow day, take the time to go into the kitchen with your loved ones and make this lovely loaf of bread. I encourage you to cook with your loved ones. The memories I have of being in the kitchen with my grandparents and parents are ones that I cherish. I love cooking with my nieces and nephews and hope that when they are my age, they will look back on our time in the kitchen together as fondly as I look back on mine.

Winter Cranberry Bread

2 ½ cup All-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
¼ tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
2 Tbsp. grated orange rind
1 ½ cup fresh whole cranberries (or frozen, thawed)
1 cup chopped pecans
2 eggs, beaten
¾ cup vegetable oil
1 cup buttermilk
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix together all ingredients until well blended. Pour in to greased pans.
If using a Bundt Pan, bake for 40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the bread comes out clean.
If using loaf pans, bake for 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the bread comes out clean.
By: Anna Hamilton

By: Lynne Hart
I would like to take this opportunity to introduce you to a few of our outstanding Adopt-A-Spot volunteers and the organizations that have financially benefited from their volunteerism.

First, let me explain how the Adopt-A-Spot program works. KALB invites Individuals, citizen groups, and organizations to adopt a designated Adopt-A-Spot location to perform cleanups monthly, or as often as possible. After every 3rd cleanup, with a maximum of one reward per quarter, a $50 check is written to the adopting or designated organization. The receiving organization can potentially receive a total of $200 per year. KALB is grateful to the City of Athens for helping to fund this program through their annual appropriation.

Our city benefits from the removal of unsightly and dangerous litter AND a local organization receives funds that help give back to the community again!

SPOTLIGHT: INDIVIDUAL
Mr. Barry Phillips is faithful in his commitment to picking up two Adopt-A-Spot locations. The first is Forrest St. from Hwy. 31 to Jefferson St., and the second is Jefferson St. from Hwy. 72 to the Square. You can spot Mr. Phillips easily in his yellow safety vest using the supplies provided by KALB as he picks up litter along his chosen routes.

“I have been doing a couple of Adopt-A-Spot streets for a few years now and have gotten to where they are MY streets,” said Phillips. “I find myself getting upset at people who trash MY streets. Even when it’s not time to pick up trash, I’m looking for litter and planning my next pickup time.”

Mr. Phillips has chosen the Athens-Limestone Public Library as one of his designated non-profit organizations to receive his reward checks. “There is also an organization that profits from my work,” said Phillips. “I hear from them periodically, and I realize how important even a small gift is to them. It benefits both me as the giver and the community as the receiver.”

Paula Laurita, Director of the Athens-Limestone Public Library appreciates the donations received due to Mr. Phillips’ work. “The donations received through the KALB Adopt-A-Spot program have benefited everyone in the community,” said Laurita. “Mr. Phillips’ work supports literacy for all ages. ‘We Both Read’ books have been purchased with the reward funds for adults and children to share together. The best way to improve reading skills is for children to enjoy reading. By using the Adopt-A-Spot donations for these books, we are putting books in children’s hands.”

SPOTLIGHT: ORGANIZATION
The organization that has been continuously volunteering in the Adopt-A-Spot program is Boy Scout Troop #24. This troop adopted Lucas Ferry Rd. in 2007 and has been faithfully picking up trash along that road ever since.

Reward checks go directly back to Troop #24, since they qualify as a non-profit within Limestone County. Scoutmaster Van Miller appreciates the opportunity for his troop to provide service to the community, and for them to learn through action the foundations of the Boy Scouts of America. “Being a good steward of the environment is one of those foundations, as well as being a good citizen,” said Miller. “The boys have commented many times on how much litter has been thrown along the road, and they question why people are not more considerate of the community.” Scoutmaster Miller said this service has been a great teaching tool. According to Miller, the funds received over the years from this program have allowed the troop to invest in the future of the scouts’ lives by allowing them to go camping, support service projects, purchase equipment, and supplement scout expenses so more boys can take part in scouting activities.

A SPOT FOR YOU
KALB has several spots available for adoption. I would be pleased to share more information and answer any questions you may have about adopting a spot in the City of Athens. The Adopt-A-Spot program benefits our community twice! It does not get much better than that!

Citizens may also adopt areas outside of the city; however, there are currently no reward monies available for county locations.
Call, email, or just stop in…I’m anxious to hear from you!
By: Lynne Hart
Executive Coordinator – Keep Athens-Limestone Beautiful

By: Tim Lambert
The new year began with more scholarship signings for local athletes. James Clemens’ Amy Haddock will be continuing her playing career as part of the UAH lacrosse team. Athens High’s Kobe Melton signed a swimming scholarship with Arkansas, while another Golden Eagle–Alexis Woods–will go on to play basketball at UAH. East Limestone’s Kaleigh Tribble inked a softball pact with Columbia State.

Calhoun Community College announced the signing of eight high school seniors to join the Lady Warhawks’ softball team during the 2018 fall semester. The list included James Clemens middle infielder Aubrey Little. She was joined by Mattie Kerr (outfield, Hamilton High School), Hailey Olsen (third base/pitcher, American Christian Academy), Rayna Melton (catcher, Wilson High School), Alex Green (outfield, Northside High School-Northport, AL), Savanna Uhlman (pitcher, Muscle Shoals High School), Jenesis Morgan (first base, Fultondale High School) and Anna Kate Jones (outfield, Florence High School).

Local athletes made it on to All-State football teams. In Class 7A, James Clemens’ Daevion Davis was named to first team defense while teammate Zach Hopkins made honorable mention. Perry Kirby of Athens was 6A second team defense while honorable mention went to teammate Kannon Biggs. Davis was also named as a finalist for Class 7A Lineman of the Year. The winner will be announced at the Player of the Year Luncheon in Montgomery on January 30.

The latest boys’ basketball rankings had West Limestone eighth in Class 4A and Lindsay Lane in fifth in 1A; on the girls’ side, James Clemens was at the fifth spot in Class 7A and Tanner sat at number nine in 2A. Local highlights (by school) since our last column:

Ardmore—the Tigers overwhelmed West Morgan while the girls got a win over rival Elkmont.

Athens Bible School—the Trojans defeated then sixth-ranked Whitesburg Christian along with their second meeting with Elkmont.

Athens High–the Golden Eagles beat Tanner. The Athens girls smothered Haleyville and got by Florence. Both teams notched wins against West Limestone.

Clements—Colt teams swept East Lawrence, the boys got past Tanner; the girls turned back Russellville and Lawrence County.

East Limestone—the Lady Indians posted big wins over Brooks and Central-Florence along with victories over West Morgan, Winfield and West Limestone.

James Clemens—the Jets recorded victories over Westminster and an upset over top-ranked Huffman. The Lady Jets blistered Columbia; both teams won their cross-town rivalry games with Bob Jones.

Lindsay Lane—the Lions knocked off Addison and both teams squeaked out wins against Waterloo.

Tanner—the Rattlers downed Lexington and Sheffield, while the girls came out on top against Clements.

West Limestone—boys’ and girls’ teams both topped Tanner and Elkmont; the Wildcats held off East Limestone.

The Limestone County basketball tournament will be hosted by Elkmont High School this year. Middle school action will begin the proceedings on Saturday, January 20, at 11 a.m. with the Ardmore and Clements girls, followed by the Tigers and Colts at 12:15 p.m.; after that, the Tanner and East Limestone girls face off at 1:30 p.m., the Elkmont and West Limestone boys at 2:45 p.m. and the East Limestone and Clements JV boys at 4 p.m. Varsity games will tip off on January 22 at 6:30 p.m. as the West Limestone girls take on Ardmore and the Elkmont and Tanner boys play at 8 p.m. Listen online at www.pasnetwork.net or on the PlayAction Sports app for the varsity finals Saturday, January 27 at 5 p.m.

Odds and ends: The Athens Recreation Center is having youth spring baseball registration going on through February 10, and spring softball registration through February 15, for ages 5 through 12. Fee is $70. For more information, call 256-233-8740. Ongoing offerings by the center include karate classes on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays at 6:30 p.m.; Zumba classes on Mondays and Thursdays at 5:30 p.m., Saturdays at 9 a.m. and Sundays at 2:30 p.m.; and Super Circuit on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 8:30 a.m. and Wednesdays at 7 p.m. and 8:30 p.m.
By: Tim Lambert
Tune in for the PlayAction Sports Update, three times each weekday on 1080 AM WKAC. Visit us online at www.pasnetwork.net!
email: playactionsports@hotmail.com

By: Teresa Todd
The 3rd Annual North Pole Stroll was an amazing success this past December 2017, in Big Springs Memorial Park. With a record number of children and parents coming to visit Santa, and the guests visiting the park daily, attendance easily reached over 10,000 for the 30 days of festivities.

I would like to take the time to thank our sponsors, community organizations, and decorators for their time and energy that made this annual event a “Holiday Hallmark” event for our community.

The event wouldn’t be possible without the efforts from Ben Wiley and the City Parks and Recreation staff preparing the park with the beautiful Frazer firs; Mr. Kerr and Ms. Calvert from Lowes of Athens who secured the 52 seven-foot-tall trees, which made this year’s Stroll even better than the ones in the past; and for everyone’s special efforts, I greatly thank you all!

Santa, as always, was amazing! His kind-hearted patience and caring demeanor, listening to each and every child and adult who had a wish list for him, was fantastic.

Lynne Hart and volunteers of Keep Athens-Limestone Beautiful with their exhibit the “Tired Family” was the place to snap a selfie or take a group photo to remember your experience for the holidays.

The Athens-Limestone County Tourism staff, Cayce Hutchins, Andrea Turner, and Teresa Todd, are all very proud to bring this event to our community each year and look forward to making it happen again in 2018 with a Bicentennial flair.

Thank you to these Tree Sponsors & Decorators:

Medical Massage Therapy; City of Athens Utilities and Relay for Life; Athens First United Methodist; First Presbyterian Church of Athens “on the Square”; Dr. Griggs Orthodontics; Limestone County Master Gardeners; Optimist Club of Athens; Dealer Auto Auction; Friends of Athens Limestone Animal Shelter; First Baptist Church Mission Group; Martin & Hubbs Inc.; Welleswood Venue Inc.; Brown & Brown Accountants; Limestone Health Facility and Athens Dulcimer Group; Athens News Courier and Girl Scout Troop 1922; Southeast Quality Refrigeration; Great Oaks Management and the Limestone Lodge Assisted Living; EFI Automotive; Athens Lions Club; Fowler Auction & Real Estate and Athens Main Street; Innovative Realty Solution, LLC; Lowes of Athens; Maria A. Taylor – Learn to Read Council of Athens & Limestone County Inc.; Alabama Veterans Museum and Archives and Volunteers; Boy Scouts of America Arrowhead District; Karen Sticker – In Memory of Korry Young; The Valley Star; Chick-fil-A of Athens; The J.T. Ray Company; Brody Jackson – State Farm Ins.; the Family of Richard and Mabel Gooch; Courtesy First Home Lenders and Athens Arts League; First National Bank; Athens-Limestone Hospital Department of Radiology; Wee Wisdom’s Little Red School; Hospice of Limestone County; Innovative Health Solutions; Redstone Federal Credit Union; Southern Home Realty of North Alabama; Defensive Applications and Behind the Badge; Capt. Thomas H Hobbs Camp 768, Sons of Confederate Veterans; Traditions of Athens; Kindred Hospice; Alabama Real Estate Solutions; Athens Limestone Community Association; Jimmy Smith – Buick – GMC; Smith INFINITI of Huntsville; Recentered; Athens Dental Associates; Greater Chamber of Commerce L.E.A.D program; and the Huntsville International Airport.
By: Teresa Todd, TMP
President, Athens-Limestone County Tourism Association

By: D. A. Slinkard
It seems to me that January 2018 is going just as fast as the entire 2017 year, and I’m wondering when it is going to slow down. Then, I realize that time slows down for no one and we must be prepared to be victorious. Yes, victorious for 2018, as it seems the previous year was done and over with before many of us were able to achieve the hopes, dreams, and goals we thought we would have. So, I am going to ask you, “What are you waiting for when it comes to grabbing 2018 by the horns and slowing it down?”

The first few weeks of this year, I have been busy with a variation of activities from church, to work, to even just trying to stay warm. I am definitely not looking forward to the utility bill because I believe the heater has been running full blast pretty much all month. Honestly, this kind of weather makes me despise the people six months from now who will be complaining about how hot it is. There are always alternatives to every situation, and I would much prefer summer than winter any day of the year. If you are one of the people who complain about all the seasons, next time you go to say something, please just stop.

We are all busy in our lives, but we must make the decision to control our year. We have an idea of the goals and activities we want to complete, so now we need to map out the game plan as to what we are actually going to do to make this happen. Sometimes we make our goals and know the things we need to do, but put them on the back burner for later on when we have time. I am telling you from what I am already seeing in 2018, you are going to just have to do it. You are going to have to force the activities into your day. Otherwise, we are going to continue upon the same path we traveled down last year in which we get to December and we say, “Man, we sure left a lot undone. How did that happen?” Well, it happened because we enabled it to happen. We allowed the distractions to take place, we allowed ourselves to say, “I’ll do that tomorrow,” and tomorrow was replaced with something else.

At this point the year is almost 1/12 of the way through as we draw closer and closer to February. My question for you is how close are you today to your goal versus where you were on the 1st of January? This can be a tough question, but it can also be a revealing question to help see how positive or negative your year is going. If you are in the same position at the beginning of the year, then you are not taking the necessary steps to achieve success in 2018. It will not happen because you are not doing enough to make it happen. What will you do differently to make sure you hit the goal? What will you do differently to make sure you are your own definition of success?

We live in the land of opportunity, but some people will tell you that is a falsehood. Anyone who suggests you should give up on your hopes and dreams, just know that they are a person who has already given up on theirs. These are not the kind of people you should be wanting to take advice from because they will lie to you about other things. I personally think you should brainstorm about all the things you want in life, picture the career you would want, the house you would want to live in, and then think about how you can achieve that success. Sadly though, too many of us know what we want, but we become too lazy when it comes to the thinking part of the how to get it.

There are people every day who know what they want, and they take the time to think about how they are going to do it. We have these very people in Athens, Alabama, but many of us lie to ourselves and say that could not happen to me. This way of thinking must change for you to have an impact in 2018 and realize that just because someone else cannot do something, it does not mean that you cannot. What are you waiting for?
By: D. A. Slindard
D.A. Slinkard is the manager of the Athens Staples store

By: Ali Elizabeth Turner
Mayor Ronnie and I met on Wednesday due to the wild and wooly-coat weather, both of us scrambling to get caught up. As always, the mayor made me laugh with a tale of some kind of recent caper, and all of it played into us deciding on this article as the launch for the Enjoy The Ride series. The book is written by Steve Gilliand, whom Mayor Ronnie had heard speak at a national mayor’s conference, and its subtitle is: The True Joy Of Life Is In The Trip!

The “caper” had to do with the fact that there are thankfully a number of department heads who know how to find humor in almost any situation; the mayor had called one who actually had the authority to meet his unusual request and said, “Please flood the streets so we can make ice for everyone to slide on.” The reply? “Mr. Mayor, I’ll get around to it in July.” In addition, our City Attorney valiantly tried to slide down Marion Street, which is also known to old-timers as “Ice Pick Hill,” but unfortunately there wasn’t enough ice to get much traction. With all kidding aside, Mayor Ronnie shook his head in gratitude and said, “We’ve got guys out in 6 degree weather taking care of power outages.” The utilities guys are an important part of our team of first responders, and they are the best.

In spite of the weather, the week had started out with one of the mayor’s favorite celebration days of the year — Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday. “It is always a great day,” he said. “The kids’ essays were good, and this year we had artwork, too. Raven Warner won the essay contest, again. There was the parade to the Event Center, and church at Sweet Home, which is always wonderful. It’s one of my favorite days because of the chance to fellowship, and it builds the community,” the mayor said.

Before we talked about Steve Gilliam’s book, we touched on the recent announcement of the new Toyota plant, and how it kicks up the need to plan well for future growth. Mayor Ronnie will be addressing that challenge on January 31 at the State of the City address to be held at the ASU Ballroom. The topic is “200 Years of Classic. Southern. Character,” and the question, as it relates to quality of life, is one of balance: How do we maintain the historical essence of our city and what makes it so special, and prepare well for the soon-oncoming population explosion?

Well, keeping a sense of humor is certainly a part of it, which is why Gilliam’s book is so timely. “Life may not be the party we hoped for, but while we’re here we should dance,” is the opening statement in the book, and the author is unknown. He also says, “Your life’s work can be found where God’s plan intersects with your passion.” It is not at all uncommon for authors to make bookmarks as part of their give-away promotional bundles, and Gilliam’s is one of the best I’ve seen. He takes every letter of the alphabet and assigns a word that functions as “The ABCs to enjoy the ride.” They are: appreciate, believe, care, dream, encourage, forgive, give, help, imagine, joke, kindle, listen, mentor, nurture, observe, pray, quality, read, sympathize, trust, understand, value, walk, x-pect, yearn, and zealous.” I could tell that it was time to buckle up, as this was going to be quite the ride as we travel through this book.

It was also time to pray, as the mayor had a meeting, and so we did. Then once again, Ronnie had to roll.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner

By: Ali Elizabeth Turner
Mrs. Wynell Reynolds was born at home near Cross Key on February 18, 1939, “right in the middle” of two brothers and two sisters. She graduated from West Limestone High School in 1956, and she married that same year. Her daddy was a farmer, “and we farmed with horses,” she told me. They grew cotton and corn. She grew up without a phone or TV, and she’ll tell you that she thinks that the greatest change in her lifetime has been the invention of both. She was on her smartphone when I came in to her room, and knows her way around Facebook I think better than I do.

Wynell and her husband Wesley first had two boys, David and Dwight. It was the early days of open-heart surgery, and three-year-old Dwight only lived for a few days after the surgery that they hoped would close up the hole in his heart. Wynell is glad that she got to hold him, and is full of faith that she will see him again, but that’s not a loss that any parent ever gets over completely. David was 5 at the time of his brother’s passing, and she says it was “really hard on him,” as it was on the rest of the family. Several years passed, and the Reynolds decided that they wanted to add to their family, so three more sons came along—Paul, Dwayne and Preston. Wynell worked for 29 years at Clements High School, first as a teacher’s aide, then later as a library assistant.

Wynell and her family have always fellowshipped with the Church of Christ, and her favorite scripture is Romans 8:28, which says, “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” Her favorite hymn is “When We All Get To Heaven,” so we sang the chorus together: “When we all get to heaven/what a day of rejoicing that will be/When we all see Jesus/We’ll sing and shout the victory.”

We moved on to some other favorites:

Favorite color? Purple, or lilac. “Not too dark,” she said.

Favorite season? “Fall. I like spring, too, but that’s when I lost my son, so I really like fall better. I love the colors.”

Favorite food to cook? “Reynolds stew.” It’s a family favorite.

Favorite food to eat? That would be her mom’s pork, gravy, and biscuits. Wynell told me the biscuits were the best she ever ate, anywhere.

Favorite authors? Grace Livingston Hill and Mary Higgins Clark.

Mrs. Reynolds is an avid reader, and loves to do word search puzzles. She was working on a Bible word search puzzle whose theme was I Corinthians 13, most commonly known as “The Love Chapter.”

Favorite President? Harry Truman. She was young when he was president, but she remembers him well and thinks he was the best.

She has been at the Limestone Health Facility for rehab three times, and raves about the care she receives and the attentiveness of the staff. She took me down to the therapy room to tell them that she was going to be in the paper, and she told me that earlier they all teased her about who her favorite was. She smiled back with, “You ALL are!” She told me that if she ever has to be a permanent resident anywhere, this is where she wants to come.

I asked her if she had any advice for young people, and she replied, “Listen to your elders because they have been through things you haven’t. Ask them questions, and keep Christ in your life.” Those are good words no matter how old you are, from a sweet and wise woman named Wynell Reynolds.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner

By: Ali Elizabeth Turner
A couple of weeks ago on the Tennessee Valley Spotlight, I was discussing with my my co-hosts Tony Llewellyn and Rex Davis the fact that even though we are not “runnin’ with the Big Dogs” when it comes to being powerful members of the media, nonetheless we have what I feel is a sacred duty to do our best to be accurate and fair with all that we do, even when we are giving our opinion on the air, in print, or in social media. This is especially important when the lives of our brave warriors are on the line, as was the case during the Vietnam War. As is true with every other part of life, it is important to “let the story be the story,” even when there is good, bad, ugly or at the very least, controversial content.

February will mark the 50th anniversary of the Tet Offensive, which historians agree was the point at which the war in Vietnam bogged down badly and began to be lost in the court of public opinion, especially on college campuses. Central to that shift away from supporting our troops was an op-ed which was aired by the venerable CBS anchorman Walter Cronkite himself. He had just made a trip to Vietnam to get the “boots on the ground” aspect of the Tet Offensive, as well as its aftermath. Ostensibly, his purpose as a veteran newsman was to get it right, and tell the truth.

However, that is not what happened; and I don’t think it’s irresponsible to say that Walter’s now irrefutably documented speaking-out-of-both-sides-of-his-mouth resulted in slaughtering the morale of our soldiers, and perhaps insured the torture and possible death of those who were really boots on the ground, our troops.

What in the world am I talking about? Well, 50 years after the fact, a dusty piece of footage has been found of the first statement which was filmed of Cronkite’s broadcast right after the U.S. victory during Tet. What was actually broadcast later though, was the complete opposite, and even President Lyndon Johnson reportedly reacted by saying, “If I have lost Cronkite, I’ve lost middle America.” The truth is that perhaps LBJ would not have “lost middle America,” and Jane Fonda would not have been able to do her worst, if the original clip had been shown.

What Cronkite said on February 28, 1968, after he got back to the States was, “Tonight, back in more familiar surroundings in New York, we’d like to sum up our findings in Vietnam, an analysis that must be speculative, personal, subjective. Who won and who lost in the great Tet Offensive against the cities? I’m not sure. The Viet Cong did not win by a knockout but neither did we.” He then advanced the narrative that now the war was at a stalemate, could not be won, that our soldiers would leave their post “not as victors, but as an honorable people who lived up to their pledge to defend democracy, and did the best they could.” What would be waiting for those “honorable people” when they got home were people like I used to be, people who thought they were not only not in any way honorable, but that they were “baby killers.”

Now contrast “Uncle Walter’s” previous statements with the following, which was filmed on February 13 while Cronkite was still in Vietnam, and which was recently found by accident: “First and simplest, the Viet Cong suffered a military defeat,” he reported. “Its missions proved suicidal. If they had intended to stay in the cities as a negotiating point, they failed at that. The Vietnamese army reacted better than even its most ardent supporters had anticipated. There were no defections from its rank, as the Viet Cong apparently had expected. And the people did not rise to support the Viet Cong, as they were also believed to have expected.”
So, which was true, why was the second piece the one we all heard, and why does it matter?

Perhaps Brent Bozell, founder of Media Research Center can shed the most light on the subject: “Walter Cronkite’s partisanship in his ‘news’ coverage of the Vietnam war is not just a matter of speculation. It is not just a matter of fact. It is celebrated fact by those closest to the newsman. Leslie Midgley was Cronkite’s long-time producer and in his book, How Many Words Do You Want, he recounts how he turned ‘America’s Most Trusted Newsman’ against the war and concludes they were doing ‘the true work of the Lord.’ In journalism the only thing worse than bias is the false denial of bias. Cronkite and company were guilty of that until the bitter end.”

Clearly fake news is nothing new, and it is extraordinarily uncomfortable to face what can happen when it goes unchallenged, even if it’s 50 years later.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner

By: Ali Elizabeth Turner
I have a daily ritual, and it involves getting my coffee in the morning, complete with a dab of coconut oil in it, sitting down, opening up my journal, and writing down five things for which I am grateful. If my journals are left behind for any who might be interested in reading the record of my life, most often the early-morning “AM Grats” listing is going to start out with number one being coffee, and number two being sun. Anyone who is from the “Great Northwet” understands the importance of the first two, trivial and shallow as they may seem. They just get my gratitude juices flowing, and then I move into weightier matters like Steve (my husband), my salvation, my family, the Baptism of the Holy Spirit, being an American woman, Juice Plus, or some specific thing that has seemed as though it was specially delivered as a tender grace from Abba Father. Being able to do Athens Now as a later-in-life career for which I had no training is one of my “grats” as well, even though there are moments when I wonder, “Why did we decide to do this again?” That often hits on Publication Day, has been pushed aside for the last seven years, and I almost always sigh with amazement and humble satisfaction at having the team and the opportunity to bring “information and inspiration” to the Tennessee Valley. Through the miracle of online publishing, we are also now read all over the world.

Developing an attitude of “guerilla gratitude” is crucial in successfully shooting the rapids of contemporary life because now, more than I can ever remember, we are surrounded by bitter, fearful people. These folks look at people, who are grateful to be alive, and are committed to wrestling life to the ground until their last breath as being more than wack-a-doodle. How can it be for some that it is an amazing time to be alive, while others pray for death to take them? I understand that illness, chronic pain, loss, death, divorce, broken relationships, abuse of all kinds, and the worst life slings at us can make it challenging beyond belief, and I understand it from experience. However, I have met many who are smack dab in the middle of the very things described above, and they still can say, “It is well with my soul.”

I think this is most dramatically exhibited in our senior care facilities, and we have some excellent ones here in Limestone County. I get the chance to interview residents and tell you their stories, which are often told through the oddly beautifying glow of gratitude emanating out of a frail and sometimes pain-wracked body. I think what gets me the most is when the frail still choose to use their limited energy to help others.

One such permanent resident at the Limestone Health Facility leads an abundant life using her walker, takes a long stroll down the many halls in order to get exercise, and makes sure that her friend is in tow. They stop and visit folks along the way, and she expresses affection and concern for all that she meets. I know from having previously interviewed her that the loss of her husband of 64 years knocked her for a loop, but she has landed on her feet with the help of her walker, her faith, her family, and the facility, and she is a “gratitude guerilla.” Another lost a child 55 years ago, and the grit with which she could say, “All things work together for good,” made a lump form in my throat. She knows where she’s been, she knows where she’s going, and her story, as common as she feels that it is, has strength in it for all who will listen.

What a time to be alive! The good, the bad and the ugly are all friends in different disguises, waiting to be discovered and made into a “documentary,” that if heeded will strengthen your soul and spirit, and nourish those around you long after you are gone.