Teresa Todd - Community Service AwardWhenever Teresa Todd and I are in the same room, I describe her to whoever is listening as being “the sweetest of competitors.” Technically, Teresa’s online newspaper, Athens Plus, is in competition with Athens Now. But in all the time I have known her, Teresa has never seemed like a rival, and has only been what Doris Estes of the John Keyes Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution describes as “an encourager.”

Therefore, it is with great joy that as part of the November 2, 2012 edition of Athens Now, we get the chance to spread the word that the local DAR chapter has honored Teresa with its Community Service Award.

I initially met Teresa when I attended my first Coffee Call at the Veterans’ Museum. She had on an apron and a name tag, and she made me feel completely welcome even though she had a number of duties to attend to. That “welcoming spirit” is what I have consistently encountered as we have worked on projects and attended functions together, and she dishes it out to everybody.

How she manages to be everywhere at once with her camera is beyond me, and she has, on more than one occasion, provided photos for us to use. This is what I mean by “the sweetest.” She has saved my bacon, and I am grateful.

I have watched her carefully escort Alice Rogers, who is over 90 years old, (and a WWII nurse,) to and from her car, and yes, Teresa picks her up and takes her home so she can attend Coffee Call. She has a gift at making aging vets feel like they are the “king of the world,” and sheds tender tears when they pass.

She serves on the boards of Spirit of Athens, Limestone County Tourism Association, and the Veterans’ Museum. I probably have missed some organizations, and if so, I apologize.

One of the many things I appreciate about her is her humility. While she has been the recipient of a number of awards, she is quick to find a way to honor others. She also gives great hugs!

I am sure she has her “moments,” (as do we all,) but this gal is the “real deal.” Her sweetness is genuine and consistent, and by contrast she has a dry wit. On more than one occasion she has completely cracked me up with a one liner made with a straight face.

Her love for her family is intense, and she has taken care of other ailing family members who live in Tennessee, her birthplace. I imagine they are enormously proud of her, as they should be.

So please, when you see her, take the time to congratulate her on her well deserved award. Athens is already a wonderful place to live, and it is people like Teresa who make it even more so. Congratulations, Tessie, and thanks for being so very easy to love!

Kindred Spirits & Diva Nails

How in the world does one begin to fathom what would motivate a Taliban gunman to shoot a 14 year old Pakistani girl in the head because she wants to go to school? The simple answer is evil, something we faced down routinely in Iraq. On our camp, which is where the fledgling Iraqi Special Forces was formed and trained, there was an inside job that resulted in the deaths of more than a dozen trainees. They were all kidnapped and beheaded, and the head of one was sent in a box to his widow.

CourageInsurgents would also control and manipulate whole neighborhoods through fear, the worst example being a “feast” that was thrown by Al-Qaeda, and the “entrée” was one family’s nine year old child, who had been missing. They roasted him, and told those present that the same thing would happen to their children if they cooperated with the Coalition.

I am not being gratuitous, here, in my description of evil. I have no desire to shock or alarm any reader of Athens Now. But it is so easy, (in the current climate of political correctness that is insisting that FBI training manuals no longer make any references to terrorism and Islamofacism,) to forget what we are really up against.

Then along comes this gutsy little girl named Malala Yousafzai, who does what teens do throughout the West: she posts videos of herself online, and rather than blather on about what she is going to do this weekend, makes quite the case for something we in America take for granted, i.e., the opportunity for girls, (and boys, for that matter,) to go to school.

And what is the response of the “courageous servants of Allah?” A plot is hatched to silence Miss Malala forever by murdering her in cold blood. Only, Miss Malala survives, the Brits spirit her out of Pakistan and back to the UK where she gets the best of care, and surgeons say she is not only going to survive, she is going to recover.

And the Taliban’s response? They vow that they will hunt her down, no matter where in the world she is hiding, and they will not rest until they have completed their mission and stilled her voice. That might take some doing, though, because throughout Pakistan there have been demonstrations, and little Malala and her plight has gone “viral” on the Internet. Muslims, Christians, Jews and secularists everywhere are denouncing the Taliban’s actions, and as unbelievable as it sounds, the Taliban is whining about it, essentially saying that they are the victims here.

To say that the Taliban has been exposed once again for its insane hatred of freedom and maniacal insistence upon control is an understatement. The question is, will we grow weary in well-doing, first of all in resisting those who would usurp our own Constitution and replace it with something else, as well supporting those in other lands whose freedoms are so routinely quashed through fear? At the end of the day, I believe evil springs from fear, and the only thing that casts it out is love. May God have mercy on both little Malala and her malevolent maurader, and may justice, true justice spring out of this assault on a child.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner

Diva Nails

I have often stated that I am one of the most blessed women on the planet. My sins have been paid for, I am loved, I am healthy, and I am an American woman. I don’t have to wear a burqa, I can talk to guys without getting killed by my husband or brother, am ridiculously overeducated, overfed, and over-entertained. My business is in the black, and I get to work with a truly delightful team of talented people.

As part of the requirements of being the publisher of Athens Now, I have had to get real familiar with Athens, from its roads to its folks, and while I fell in love with all of it over a decade ago, today I have fallen in love all over again.

As part of an experiment to increase productivity, as crazy as it may sound, I spent “Pub Day,” (the Wednesday we bust our tails to get the paper put together, and then put it “to bed” so it can come out on time on Friday,) in the Starbuck’s on Hwy 72. I was there for nearly 12 hours straight, and as I was ensconced in a cushy leather chair typing away on my laptop, drinking too much coffee, and enjoying the marvels of modern technology by texting while not driving, I was reminded again of what a wonderful time it is to be alive. It was multi-tasking on steroids, and it was glorious.

My “publishing partner in non-crime,” Deborah Huff, pulled in, eager to use a gift card she had been given for her birthday, bought a coffee drink guaranteed to cause an adrenaline rush, and sat down in yet another cushy leather chair next to me. As we chattered away in “pub speak,” our conversation was noted by a young insurance businessman seated across from us, who was waiting for an appointment.

We struck up a conversation wherein I discovered that he, as I, was still a newbie when it came to owning his own business. While I was old enough to be his mother, we had overlapping experiences both in the classroom and the mental health field, and I was able to bounce some ideas off of him that confirmed my suspicions about certain aspects of patient diagnosis, and it providentially gave me some answers to some questions I needed answered, like yesterday.

Add to that the fact that we both loved music, (and the music at Starbuck’s is perfect for getting work done,) and agreed that absolutely no one could rival the performance of the late Etta James while her signature song “At Last” was playing in the store, and I was one glad girl.

But really, what does Miss Etta have to do with the “awesomeness of Athens, Alabama?” Well, a couple of years ago I had the pleasure of attending the wedding of a local architect who had not found the “right one” until he was in his 40s, and they chose “At Last” as the processional. The wedding was held outdoors in front of Founders’ Hall, and as I heard that marvelous intro, and realized that what was coming was both a beautiful bride and a gorgeous ballad, I smiled at my friend, the groom, and gave him the “A-ok sign.” It was perfect in every regard, from the location to the lavish food.

Where did all this awesomeness occur? Right here in Athens, the town I love and for which I thank God, and I just wanted to take the time to remind you of her beauty and bounty.

To say we live in perilous times is a ridiculous understatement, and the news of the past two weeks has been particularly disturbing and ominous. Israel is on the brink of war, they must make a preemptive strike, and the President has no time to speak with Benjamin Netanyahu. This is the second time our ally, (about whom it is said in scripture is a source of blessing for those who bless her, and cursing for those who don’t,) has been ignored. There is a Presidential election cycle going on that at times would convince some folks that the inmates are running the asylum.

The Arab world is on fire over a movie that no one has seen, State Department personnel have been brutally murdered, our southern border is porous, we’ve murdered our unborn, our economy is nearly in a free fall, and everyone is accusing everyone of being racist if they disagree with their beliefs. Not exactly cheery news, this, and these are problems that are so tangled that only God can straighten them out.

If we look at Israel of old, we see that they went through 12 cycles of captivity, and there came a point in each cycle where the people wised up and sought God for deliverance from their “many waters.” They were like us, full of idolatry, sacrificing their children, consumed by everything except the Almighty, and in mortal, cultural, economic, physical and spiritual peril.
Thankfully in our nation and in our community there are people who are willing to reach across denominational lines, humble themselves, and come together to fast and pray for the survival of our nation.

On Sept 29th there will be an all day event day from 9am to 5pm at the Wellness Park. The purpose is to gather together to begin a 40 day season of fasting and praying for this crucial time in our nation. There will be a video link to the national event being held in Philadelphia, PA. The event in Philadelphia will be on the Freedom Mall, and it is expected that 20,000 will gather to call a solemn assembly, repent, worship, and seek God for a Great Spiritual Awakening. For more information, or to volunteer, call John Axford at 256-431-4111, or go to www.AwakeningAmerica.us

It was said that Mary Queen of Scots feared the prayers of John Knox more than anything in all of life, and we are told in James that the “prayers of a righteous man availeth much.” If ever there were a time to “avail and prevail,” this is it. We may not get another chance before we are plunged into the collapse of all that we hold dear.

It’s not often that I go to see a movie on the big screen twice, but I have been greatly affected by the recently released documentary film, 2016: Obama’s America. It is beautifully filmed and written, avoids a number of opportunities for screed, and is produced by bestselling author Dinesh D’Souza and Oscar winning producer Gerald Molen, who won an Academy Award in 1993 for his work on Schindler’s List.

The film starts off with something that only Dinesh could accomplish, and that is draw upon his own personal initial similarities to the President. Both were born in 1961, both lived in former British colonies, both went to Ivy League schools, and both were married in the same year, 1992. Dinesh was part of the Dartmouth Review, and allegedly the President headed up The Harvard Review, although no one has ever seen any of his work. But that is where the similarities end.

Dinesh broke out of a destiny determined for him by his family in India, received a wonderful education at Dartmouth, was invited to be on the White House staff of President Reagan, and has gone on to be highly successful.

The President was abandoned by his father, taken away from his stepfather, sent by himself at the age of 10 back to America to be raised by his grandparents, and was mentored by self confessed Communist and pornographer Frank Marshall Davis. The President in his book Dreams From My Father is candid about the fact that his grandfather, Stanley Dunham, would get either rip-roaring drunk, stoned or both with Frank Davis, and Barack would listen by the hour as they discussed the follies of the free market system.

None of this is the fault of Barack Obama. He had no way to prevent being abandoned by his father, being abandoned by his mother, being sent away from his stepfather Lolo ( who was actually quite good to him,) being raised by his grandparents and being mentored by a Communist and pornographer.

But he does have control over returning a gift given to us by Great Britain in the form of a bust of Winston Churchill. He could respect common good sense and manners. He could side with our ally Israel, and not ignore Benjamin Netanyahu while he goes to eat dinner in the Residence. The President could let us know how he came up by letting us read his thoughts while in college or come clean about the fact he told Jeremiah Wright, his former pastor, that Reverend Wright’s “problem” was that he, (meaning Wright) had to tell the “truth” about their relationship.

Last I checked, telling the truth never ultimately caused any true problems, and I believe you owe yourself the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you God. And I also believe you can get a well documented dose of the truth by going to see 2016, which also happens to currently be the 4th most successful political documentary of all time. It also stands to break out of that distinction as its message gathers momentum. Would you consider both helping it to succeed while you arm yourself with unassailable facts? You certainly won’t regret it.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner

When I first began to attend Coffee Call at the Vets’ Museum on the first Saturday of each month, one of the friendliest women there was someone who had been born and raised in Germany during the rise and fall of the Third Reich. Her name was Margret Mefford, and she quickly became one of the best things about getting to the museum by 8 am.

When we first met, I found out she was working on a book about what it was like to grow up in Nazi Germany. She had diligently sought out the stories of eight German women, most of whom married American soldiers and came to the States to make a whole new life. Indeed freedom had been found, they had remarkable stories to tell, and Miss Margret has compiled them with the help of James Ehl into a dear book entitled Journey To Freedom.

Stories have a power that never abates. They are the basis of scripture, the tales that define us as a culture and as individuals, and the best part is, if they are true, can never be successfully challenged. As a former pastor once said, “He that hath an experience is never at the mercy of the one who only hath an argument.” The stories told by the eight women run the full gambit of emotions, and make one glad that after great adversity, liberty was captured and continues to be cherished.

Margret began to tell me some of her stories, and one of her frustrations is that while there has been necessary attention given to the Holocaust, rarely is the carnage perpetrated by Joseph Stalin mentioned, and it was many times more than what happened in the concentration camps of Germany.

Another stereotype that Margret quickly dispels is the notion that all Germans hated Jews. “It simply was not true,” she said. “We didn’t know any Jewish people, and where we lived, we honestly did not know about any concentration camps.” I found that shocking, but know Margret to be a woman of her word.

She tells of things such as her first pizza, eaten during the American occupation, and she mistook the olives for grapes. She tells of her wedding day, not at all the dream wedding that most girls think of, and it especially touched me that there were absolutely no flowers, not even a corsage. She was married at the justice of the peace, and her immediate family served as the witnesses.

There were no pictures, no trappings of any kind, but there was love and it is a marriage that has lasted more than 50 years.
Other women were not as fortunate initially. One had been repeatedly savaged by members of the Russian army, but then married a kind man who was the love of her life. They escaped from East Germany, made it to the States, and were married for 52 years.
All in all I think that Journey To Freedom is an important book that deserves to be read more than once, and as a published author, I would like to both congratulate Margret on her hard work and encourage you to buy her book.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner

Former Governor Mike Huckabee may have been the unwitting spark that lit a grassfire throughout America by declaring August 1 as “Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day.” Huckabee, along with millions of other Americans believe that Dan Cathy, the President of Chickfil- A has the right to say what he believes about marriage, and suggested that Americans show their support by patronizing their local franchise. I’ll go one farther: the 1st Amendment of the Constitution of the United States protects Mr. Cathy and his right to have an opinion on what constitutes marriage without any qualification whatsoever, and the lines around the block of cars and people spoke loudly that they agree.

Marriage has, from time immemorial, always been defined as either being between a man and his wife, or a man and his wives. It is inherently heterosexual, else there would be no life brought forth, and mankind would cease to exist. It doesn’t involve unions with kids, animals or objects. Does Mr. Cathy have the right to hold to his views, whether they be corporate or private, part of an address or just a sideways comment? He does, and the mayors of Chicago, San Francisco and Boston cannot interfere. People can disagree with Dan Cathy, should they choose to, and there are those who do.

If the President of the United States indicated back a few years ago that he believes marriage is between the sexes, and then changes his mind, as maddening as it is, the Constitution cannot step in and prevail against him. But when it comes to public policy, no mayor can say that a business is unwelcome because their CEO expressed an opinion with which the majority of Americans happen to agree. As Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day gathered steam, many wondered if the mainstream media would report on it or ignore it. At least the network affiliates in the Valley acknowledged what was going on, and has always been the case since the advent of social media, it is the citizen reporters and alternative media that have carried the day. What I found particularly remarkable was that there were reports of Wendy’s outlets that recommended that their customers, just for one day, go have lunch at Chick-fil-A. Perhaps the almighty dollar doesn’t have the power we have thought it has, and Americans actually have some spine.

In Athens, the Chick-fil-A store was packed, the drive thru wrapped around the building, the parking lot full, and cars were parked up both sides of the street. But what I enjoyed was the upbeat feeling that I encountered when I opened the door. People were patient and quietly celebratory. The staff was friendly, and if I hadn’t needed to put the paper to bed, I would have stood in line for as long as it took to get some tea. Hmm, perhaps Americans will now have a second Independence Day, to be celebrated each year on August 1st, where we’ll drink tea, eat chicken, and tell our progeny about the day when we shocked everyone, including ourselves, and defended the Constitution of the United States from all enemies, both foreign and domestic.

By: Ali Elizabeth Turner

Athens Now Information & Inspiration
256-468-9425 ali@athensnowonline.com
Website: www.athensnowonline.com

Dr. Stephen Covey, author of several books including The Seven Habits Of Highly Effective People, died on Monday, July 16th from complications from a bicycle accident. He was 79 years old, in great physical shape, and yes, he was wearing a helmet at the time of the crash.

His family, which is reminiscent of the tribes of old, was present at his side, and he died surrounded by love. The man was happily married, had nine kids, and 50 grandkids! But what made him so special was that he was just a regular guy, a smart one, to be sure, but someone who used to go riding small motorcycles through the pineapple fields of Hawaii with his wife hanging on for dear life right behind him. Last year his son Sean spoke to local teachers at a conference held at Athens State University, and I had the privilege of hearing him.

Stephen spent years researching the lives of people whom he wouldn’t refer to as successful, necessarily, because too often success is associated with money. Rather, he referred to them as “highly effective.” He was all about possessing and developing integrity, as well as the power of the internal, unseen victory that he believed always preceded the outward public one. Ideas like writing a personal or corporate mission statement, which are a standard in most business cultures today were revolutionary back when they were introduced by Covey in the late ‘80s.

His books sold by the millions, were translated into myriad languages, and he travelled the globe until just a few years ago to spread his message. So, what was his message? That essentially a well run life was one that was built upon the following seven habits:

  • Be Proactive-Take responsibility for your life and actions, refuse to be a victim, and plan ahead.
  • Begin with the end in mind-Take the time to become very clear about who it is that you want to be and what you want to do.
  • Put first things first- Plan your week and life based on importance rather than urgency.
  • Think Win Win- Don’t settle for solutions in home or business that don’t benefit everyone.
  • Seek first to understand, then to be understood.
  • Synergize-Understand that a team accomplishes far more than an individual.
  • Sharpen the Saw- Live with the concept that if you are going to be effective, you must take time to “recharge your batteries” through recreation, creativity and spiritual renewal.

So effective and practical was his approach that our local schools are now using the Seven Habits for kids, and last year I saw their effect in action. On more than one occasion I wrote about how they impressed me, and gave me hope for the future of our kids.
By any stretch, Dr. Stephen Covey was a highly effective person, and he will be missed. I, for one, am glad I came to “know” him, if only through his work, and will spend the rest of my life making the Seven Habits my own.

Ali Elizabeth Turner
Athens Now
Information & Inspiration
Website: WWW.AthensNowAl.Com

I am just home from having made a difficult, but most memorable trip to Seattle. My sisters and I cleaned out the apartment of my mother who is struggling with Alzheimer’s, and got her settled in assisted living. It is indeed the beginning of “the long goodbye,” and it has been a good while since I have had such a tough week. But while it might be tempting to “kvetch,” (i.e. “fuss” in Yiddish,”) what I was struck by during my time in Seattle was the kindness of strangers.

First there were the staff members at the care facility. They hailed from all over: Ethiopia, the Philippines, India, and the States, and their tender care of my mom helped me to relax. I knew she was in good hands. Then there was the crew who manned the front desk. They were the cheerleaders who treated each victory at getting one more piece of furniture moved and squared away like a touchdown at a ‘bama/Auburn football game. They even bent the rules a bit and allowed my son and me to move some pieces through the lobby out into his waiting truck, rather than use the freight elevator and go out through the parking garage.

There came one day, though, down toward the end of the week where I “hit the wall,” as they say. My heart was breaking over having to watch my mom say goodbye to so many of her treasures because there simply was no room for them in her new location. Nerves were frayed, muscles were tired, tempers were short, and I needed a moment to “leave and grieve.”

The facility, one of the finest in Seattle, was undergoing extensive remodeling, which is always a nightmare. I found what I thought was nearly a secret passage where I figured I could let my tears flow without disturbing anyone, and wouldn’t you know it, I was discovered by the Director of Sales for the whole shootin’ match.

“Are you alright?” she asked. I managed to croak out an “I will be.” She intently listened to my brief description of what was going on, and said the simplest thing: “This is very hard, what you and your family are going through.” All I could do was nod in agreement. And then she, a complete stranger, showed me kindness that gave me the strength and space to settle down and go get back into the fray.

“Here,” she said, “Come into my office. I am going to be away for about 15 minutes, and you can have it all to yourself.” I let her lead me almost like a little child into my newfound “sanctuary,” and she closed the door and left. There I wailed and prayed. I thought of the cautionary tales all around me I was observing, and became more determined than ever to get my own life in order. I thought of the fact that at the age of 92, my mom’s days are limited, and how much I wanted to build the last part of my relationship with her on this earth. I wondered whether her mind would allow it.

Now, while Peggy, the Director of Sales probably has encountered someone in my temporary emotional state on several occasions, I am sure there is no place stated in the facility’s policy manual that she be required to let me use her office to have a come apart.( Hence, the subtitle of this Publisher’s Point: The Kindness Of Strangers.) While I intend to do my best to tell her what a difference her dear gesture
made to me in that hour of great need, I don’t think Peggy will ever know on this side that her spontaneous kindness gave me what I needed to get through a uniquely rough spot, regain my strength, and get back to my post. She made me want to “pay it forward,” and by God’s grace, I will.

Ali Elizabeth Turner
Athens Now
Information & Inspiration
Website: www.athensnowonal.com

I don’t think that anyone could have predicted that one of the most serious assaults on our freedoms would come in the form of trying to control things that have never, ever been considered the purview of the Government homemade food and drink.

Imagine for a moment that you have been taken back in time to the summer when you were 6 or 7, and you are wanting to make some money to save up for a BB gun, or if you are as old as I am, a Davy Crockett coonskin cap. What do you do? Set up a lemonade nor Kool- Aid stand on the top of a wooden crate, set it up on the curb and don’t charge more than 5 cents. Because most folks think you are cute, and they want to be a part of the “village raising the child,” and desire to see to it that you have your first foray into the free market, they’ll pull over, pay you the nickel, buy the lemonade, and make a point of telling you how delicious is your fare.

It is a rite of passage, like going to summer camp, or going to your grandparents, or building your first go-kart. Except now, in many states, even if you are on your own property, you need to have a license to sell lemonade! All of this, of course is “to protect us,” because who knows if the kid has just laced it with cyanide, and we as citizens can’t figure out this stuff on our own, nor dare take the risk of drinking it.

I appreciate the fact that we have regulatory agencies that are looking out for us. My grandfather actually worked in an Armor meat-packing plant in the early part of the 20th century where acid was used to remove the hides of the animals and protective gloves were not a part of the equation. People were so desperate to work that they literally worked their fingers down to a nub. Such horrible working conditions were made public by muckraker authors such as Upton Sinclair, whose whistle blowing journalistic work definitely improved our national quality of life.

But seriously, does it make any sense to require an entrepreneurial child to conform to the constructs of an agency that was designed to monitor the actions of a corporation? Let’s take this a step further, and say that food or drink has been purchased in a licensed outlet. Is it reasonable to have it become illegal in New York to purchase more than 32 oz of Coca-Cola at once? And, more importantly, who is going to police one’s choices or infractions?

Can you imagine getting pulled over and given a ticket for drinking too much soda, or eating trans fat or red meat? Don’t think it is that far out of the realm of possibility, my friends. But do remember this: if you allow others to regulate your personal choices, you will indeed lose your freedoms one cup of lemonade at a time.

Ali Elizabeth Turner
Publisher’s Point
Athens Now Information & Inspiration
Website: AthensNowAl.Com