I posted this chapter nearly four years ago today.... when I was still writing my book. Yes, I believe in MIRACLES.
"Four years ago, when I lost my family, when I was desperately trying to hold on to a job, my life, more depressed than anyone ever imagined and pleading for the pain to stop….I surrendered all.
I was driving home from teaching in Pine Bluff and, instead of taking the busy interstate (my usual route to Little Rock), I found myself driving on the old LR/PB highway. An older car with dark windows insisted on riding my bumper and soon, my irritation turned to panic. I made the decision to turn off the highway at the next driveway or intersection. It’s difficult to explain how, in those few seconds, I felt directed by a higher power.
After driving another five miles, I saw a gravel driveway leading into an abandoned church parking lot and turned immediately. On the right side of the driveway, almost hidden among thick, tall weeds, was a large puppy, completely wrapped in wire. I parked the car then walked over to look at the animal’s situation. The brindle-colored dog was very thin, covered with flies, fresh blood and large ticks. One ear was barely attached, as if it had been intentionally cut; the dog's breathing seemed a struggle in the 100 degree heat. There was no way to tell how long the dog had been there but he was in a crouched position, unable to sit, lie down, or stand because of the wire’s sharp barbs. The dog appeared dehydrated, starving, and desperately in need of medical attention.
I quickly found an old store nearby, bought wire cutters and heavy gloves, then hurried back to free my trapped friend. I'd never used wire cutters and it wasn’t easy; I didn’t know how the dog would react once I freed him. But, I wasn’t alone; the power that directed me to this spot.... guided my hands..... as he guided my heart.
After almost one thousand dollars in complicated surgeries, shots, even blood transfusions, Cubby Bear became my new and forever, best friend. When I rescued him he weighed forty pounds and the vets estimated he was about 9 months old. Today, four years later, Cubby weighs more than one hundred pounds. He is brilliant, has a wonderful personality, and loves my three cats. Best of all, Cubby loves me.
Driving on the old PB/LR highway that August day in 2011, heartbroken and planning to end my life, I found Cubby Bear.
In truth, Cubby Bear found me."
Reflecting on my long work history....it seems--through the years-- that every one of my jobs involved a commute. It’s a different way of life and, as a daily commuter, I soon learned the importance of timing. The old sayings “You learn by doing” or “Experience is the best teacher” are both true.
Shortly after beginning life as a regular commuter, I was reprimanded, on two occasions, for being late to work. In an effort to avoid being late in the future, I began allowing extra time for bad weather, highway accidents, car trouble, even suicidal drivers.
Morning after morning, it was not only my responsibility to get myself dressed and ready for work but to also get my two young daughters up, dressed, fed, and ready to attend two different schools. Looking back… every morning seemed the equivalent of running a marathon; each day was a race with the clock to get everyone to their appointed destinations—prepared and on-time.
Driving the highway five days a week, I felt much like a race car driver in-training. Each day I focused on my destination, but a few times, I was distracted by reality.
One morning---the traffic was particularly heavy and I found myself stuck behind a yellow school bus. The bus appeared crowded and I noticed many students riding backwards, looking out the rear windows. The students staring in my direction were smiling and--impressed to see such pleasant, smiling faces--I smiled back. I tried waving several times but the students only smiled. Perhaps their instructors had warned them against waving or appearing too friendly with motorists. For whatever reason, the students stayed in their seats and just smiled.
For approximately ten miles I followed the bus and, childish as it sounds, I felt a little slighted that the students had ignored my attempts to be friendly.
When the traffic eventually lightened, I passed the bus and instantly-- felt ashamed. Printed on the side of the Yellow School Bus in large black letters was the name of the school:
ARKANSAS SCHOOL FOR THE BLIND.
PS… I learned a valuable lesson that day.
Several years ago, one of my meanest critics from my hometown died…at the age of ninety-one. In 1973, He served as the lead attorney for my husband during our lengthy divorce.
I mentioned Steve Matthews in my book, THE BEAUTY QUEEN because he openly hated me. I never understood why-- during the divorce-- he attacked me so viciously, He treated me like a scorned lover. He attacked me personally when I asked for enough money to keep my daughters in the private school they were presently attending. He acted like any money for them would be coming out of his pocket.
Many years later, when we crossed paths-- socially-- Steve refused to speak. Much like a bitter ex-husband, He stared at me from across a crowded room with such anger and hostility, I was actually afraid of him. Surely, his unharnessed Hate must have made him physically ill.
Reading his obituary, I marveled that he was being praised for the various positions he held in his church. I found it puzzling that he was credited for the length of time he’d served in each position. Everything in his lengthy obituary focused on his church duties and number of years he’d performed those duties….but, never once, did his obituary mention any personal involvement he had with life, community, or other commitments outside the church. There was absolutely no mention of any of Steve’s “good deeds”.
For me, Steve’s death was a reminder of his ongoing Hate toward me. I know attorneys are hired to do the best job for their clients-- especially when clients have deep pockets-- BUT---does that also mean attorneys are required to get so-personally involved in cases that they adopt the same hate-contempt- selfishness for the defendant.....as their client!?!?!?
Obituaries seldom--if ever--say anything negative about the deceased. As old people would say, "Never speak ill of the dead." But, as I approach the finish line, I speak out more and more about what I've experienced from people….whether it puts them in a good or in a bad light.
Life is never one-sided; every one of us makes mistakes. Hopefully, we learn from those mistakes......but..... if we purposely hurt others, slander others, and do whatever we can to harm others, should our obituaries focus on our commitment to our Church?
Should our obituaries describe us as candidates for Sainthood? I don't want to hear about someone’s Dedicated Faith or how many hours they spent performing church duties. Talk to me about that person's good works.
PS….For the “first time” ever, I’m acknowledging one very-sick fact: Steve Matthews, my ex-husband, and several others from Pine Bluff's “Good Old Boys” club wrote nasty-ugly letters against me and sent them to Governor David Pryor. Their signed letters of Hate were a serious attempt to get me fired from my job with Arkansas Public Television---a job I desperately needed after the divorce.
I saw copies of the letters because David Pryor was a friend-first (David and I became friends when we both attended the U. of A at Fayetteville, AR)--before he was a politician; before he was Arkansas’s Governor, and before he was a United States Senator.
I miss my childhood days of pretend-playtime; more and more, every day, I miss my father.
Many girls dream of wearing a crown. There’s a Cinderella magic associated with a crown and a beauty queen title; a certainty that once you wear the crown you’ll have it all: fame, fortune, the happy ending and best of all---The Prince.
As a child I remember visiting the Library and seeing photos of Bess Myerson, Miss America 1945. From that moment I switched my pretend-playtime from being a movie star---to being a beauty queen. Discarded curtains became my flowing train and an old wire light fixture easily twisted into a crown. One day I grew up and, too soon, pretend-playtime ended. Sadly, I learned my pretend world and the real world had little in common.
After the Miss America Pageant and prior to returning home, my seasoned chaperone versed me on my future as a reigning Miss Arkansas. Clearly, I would be expected to travel, attend events like ribbon-cuttings, television/radio interviews, speaking/singing engagements, and also crown many local queens like Miss Hot Dog and Miss Pink Tomato. Unlike today’s professional beauty queens with business agents and legal contracts, I was expected to manage every detail involving my “queenly” duties.
Before leaving for the Miss America Pageant, the pageant director had booked future appearances for me as the new Miss Arkansas. Now, back in Arkansas and facing a full calendar, I needed answers.
I was shocked to learn the pageant's director hadn’t give me a second thought since leaving Atlantic City. The director had resumed his management position with the family printing business and, judging from his voice, was also back, full-swing, with his alcohol addiction.
Anxious to know what car to use for all these scheduled appearances and how to pay for gasoline, travel expenses, hotel rooms, I spoke with the director. His response shocked me. I was told to use my own car and pay my own expenses!
Still in denial, I questioned the many wardrobe changes for so many public appearances and again... the director’s answer: “Wear what you have and be damned grateful for the opportunity to serve your state.”
I didn’t have the luxury of another question since the phone call suddenly disconnected at the other end. A one thousand dollar wardrobe was included in my title winnings; a one thousand dollar wardrobe that barely paid for the two elaborate gowns I wore in Atlantic City !
Learning of my dilemma, my daddy stepped forward to pay for the wardrobe I needed, including suits, dresses, shoes, undergarments, and jewelry. In fact, daddy picked up the tab for everything during my year as Miss Arkansas, including a new car with personalized license plate, gasoline charge card, makeup, clothes, and spending money. The world’s greatest father insured I had everything for a worry-free, beauty queen year.
Please note: In 1974, sixteen years after serving as Miss Arkansas, I made plans to attend the pageant. My employer, The Arkansas Educational Television Network, agreed that attending the pageant would be a great talent resource for my educational television show called "Arkansas Talent".
Imagine my surprise when I was told by the Pageant Director I must purchase tickets for each night. I reminded the pageant director that as a former Miss Arkansas, I had entertained at more than six pageants for free and had never been required to buy a ticket. In response I was told: “Tickets are required for anyone who attends the pageant, regardless of who you “once-were” or how many times you performed "for free".
The television station purchased the tickets and I attended each night of the pageant. It was difficult to hide my irritation when, night after night, the master of ceremonies introduced me as a former Miss Arkansas and asked me to stand for the audience.
That was my last Miss Arkansas Pageant.
I TALK TO THE TREES, THE BIRDS, THE ROCKS--ALL OF NATURE-- AND, SOMETIMES, THEY TALK BACK.
Cubby and I saw him several days ago when we were walking along the Spillway Trail. I stopped to meet him, realizing from his appearance… he'd experienced a “rocky” road for most of his life. Then, looking around, I made a mental note where to find him in the future.
Yesterday was especially chilly and damp so we visited the trail for only a short walk. I wasn’t surprised that we were the only ones around-- for miles. Then I remembered my new, little friend. He was in the same spot where I’d last seen him but this time I knew I couldn’t leave him. He seemed so alone, so vulnerable, and so “overlooked.”
Sometimes, especially when you look “different”... in a scraggly-unbalanced-kind-of-way... people avoid you. Of course, it’s easy to be loved when you have the perfect heart-shaped face or have been blessed with classic, beautiful features. Too often, people turn away when your eyes don’t match, or your nose is smashed-looking, or you have a crooked smile.
I knew from the very- first look ...my little friend had a heart. In fact, when you look real close, you see that his lips curve in a heart-shaped design. Forget that he apparently suffered a displaced jaw in his formative years and, perhaps, had some skin issues but….not even one of us is perfect.
Cubby and I took him home, carefully bathed him, then snuggled him in a soft washcloth until he was dry and looked…seriously happy. He’s now a "rock-solid" part of our family and, like the rest of us, he will never be alone, again.
I’ve spent some of my happiest times outside, searching for and studying the wonders of Nature; enjoying the amazing and memorable beauty around me. Don’t tell me that a special-needs Rock doesn’t matter. Everything in Nature, matters.
Like the Trees, the Sunsets, the Bushes, and the Water-- all things big and small--are priceless elements of the Earth. What makes me so sure? Because, Everything in Nature was designed and made by God. And, In My Opinion, God doesn’t make mistakes!
"All things bright and beautiful, All Creatures Great and Small. All things wise and wonderful, The Lord God Made Them All."