Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

A Little Happy

This was one of my first blog drafts. I’ve gone back-and-forth with finishing it for 3 years because of the obvious–who wants to put their two-cents in regarding anything about Muslims? But I feel I have to publish it. I know I’m not a well-known blogger, only about 100 people will even see this. But for my own heart I want to get this out there.

I have had the pleasure of living near two major metropolitan areas, Miami and Washington, D.C. If it hadn’t been for these experiences, I probably wouldn’t know any Muslim families personally. Growing up in the deep South, it’s just not a culture you run into frequently. When you don’t run into something frequently the natural inclination is fear. And fear often turns to hate.

When I was young I would go to my mom’s dance studio and play an old Kris Kristofferson record. My…

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Have a life checkup–four areas of concern

Regular checkups call for a SWOT analysis. Look at your Strengths–these can be used in God’s service or corrupted by honoring the world rather than God. If I have a strong, healthy body, do I use it in humble tasks to bring glory to God or do I seek to impress the world? If I am of sound mind, what do I look upon, read, study, use in my intellectual pursuits?

Weaknesses–the W part of the analysis. To what area am I prone to fail? Where are my limitations? Weaknesses are not necessarily flaws; these areas may be challenges for us to grow. “The proper study of mankind is man,” according to Alexander Pope: ‘Know then thyself, presume not God to scan/ The proper study of mankind is Man.”   I like the sound of those words, but I disagree with them in overall content; don’t be so self-absorbed in looking at yourself that you fail in asking God to “Search me and try me, oh, Lord.” Psalm 139:23-24 puts it this way (NIV) Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me and lead me in the way everlasting.”

O stands for Opportunities–look around the place you are planted; ask God to show you needs, and how you could or should meet those needs. There are needs that may become priorities for you; there may be some that could and should be delegated or left to others. Remember you also have needs; see how people or circumstances can help you to meet those needs. How can I best honor God in knowing of this need? I have a stamped, addressed envelope with a blank card inside, made out to the couple that lost their child last month. I will write it and send it; I have texted encouragement; I have supported through phone calls. Others are physically there; because there are steps to their home, I cannot visit. I pray regularly for them and for others who have lost their loved ones. I have made my counseling service available.

As a young person, one has to take care of his own growth and not be caught up in the drama of others much worse off. It is being a friend to tell an adult of others’ problems rather than seeing problems as a reminder to get involved in providing personal help. It is a balancing act. We depend on God’s spirit guiding our actions. If we are praying for someone and God’s spirit whispers an action we can take, then we must act.

All of this points to a need for us to look at Time. Timing plays a key role in considering our actions and decisions. A young person can decide to be a journalist, but he is not to quit high school to launch his career. It is time to hone the craft, learn the words, consider others’ philosophies, and practice writing. Time may mean that I need to shore up weaknesses in any area now, not later. Many times, we have good ideas, but the timing is not right, and the opportunities do not exist without other people’s involvement. There are areas I prayed for many years that I am now seeing being fulfilled by my local church. However, my only involvement is in praying. They are more involved on missions; they have home church on Sunday nights. They do cooperatively what I could not do alone. I helped plant and water through WMU and mission organization. People are hurting, so there is an opportunity. I will pray to see if others support current timing, After all of this analysis, I make myself available to be used. There are other areas where I wanted to be involved, a Lay Renewal ministry for one. I started praying to be a part in the 1980’s when our children were small. It did not happen until ten plus years later. Charles and I were selected to be members of Sidney and Mary Lou Ellis’s team once the girls were grown, and we were experiencing empty nests. God both used us and met our needs. “Wait on the Lord; again, I say, wait.”

No one, including yourself, will ever be the person you want him to be. We need to have the regular checkups mainly for ourselves but also give ourselves the grace to know we will not be perfect on this Earth, and the grace to others that they will not be what you want or expect them to be. The greatest good you can do of others is to talk to God about your concerns for them and ask God to change their hearts or yours. He is willing if we would only ask.

A compliment from a colleague came my way many years ago. Charlotte Ashley told me, “I like the way you talk about your husband.” I was unsure of her meaning, but she pointed out that when other teachers in the lounge were fault finding regarding their husbands, I did not join them. I will not say that Charles and I were always of one accord, and we had many verbal battles to prove my point. However, after I surrendered my life to Jesus fully, I can remember being hurt at something he had said or done. Instead of engaging or correcting him, I withdrew and prayed for him. Shortly, he came to me with an apology. Again, God is willing–but we need to pray for His will, not our want.

Michael Jordan’s words of advice: “I can accept failure, but I can’t accept not trying.” This advice is also a matter of timing. There are pursuits that have to be worked on intermittently because of either timing or urgent events. If I feel led to try anew area, I don’t just give up. One of the key benefits of being in this weakened body is that I carefully plan my activities, charting our time for spiritual, creative, physical, and mental pursuits. I also have to figure out how to accomplish activities of daily life I once took for granted; if one way offers the real possibility of falling, then I think through the actions to consider what else might work.

John C. Maxwell gives us words of wisdom from Pablo Picasso:   “The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away.”            Think of yourself as a gift to the world. How does God want you to employ your gifts? Ignore any pressure that would cause you to be a doormat. I have found purpose in writing for now; that may change. My husband Charles acts as a care-partner and, more and more, is moving into a caregiver role. This role for him is not something I want, but I have been grateful for his help and could not manage my life without it. However, I sometimes find myself wincing when he is not as gentle as I want him to be. I have to remind myself that he is also tired and old and is doing the best he can.

In our marriage, we are each other’s gifts from God for romance, companionship, and now caregiving. 
The roles are defined in the marriage vows we took to love, honor, cherish each other in sickness and in health until death parts us. His view is that I took care of him for years, and now it is his turn to take care of me.

 

 

A HISTORICAL SEARCH FOR A MURDERER

SPOILER ALERT

If you intend to read BACK WHEN: A TASTE FOR DEATH, the convicted murderer is revealed in this next section. Don’t read if you want suspense.

My father’s younger sister married in 1927, had two children and was pregnant with a third when she was murdered in August 1931by her husband Houston Roberts for the insurance proceeds. She was buried very quickly before her family even knew of it. He and his mother took care of the two children, Gladys and John; but there was a third child, Myra, listed in the census as being two years younger than John in the 1940 census.  I have found no other information on Myra. Update 9/2015: Myra was born to the union of Houston and Etta McRaney. Etta was the second wife not to succeed her marriage to this man, dying within one and one-half years of Aletha.

Charles and I made the trip on 9/24/15 to Hopewell Cemetery, across the road from Hopewell Presbyterian Church in the northeastern corner of Jefferson Davis County on Jaynesville Road, just west of MS Highway 541. I hoped to find Houston’s unmarked grave in the edge of the woods to take a picture to give to Mississippi Department of Archives and History. Although they have a printed copy, it is of poor quality, and I wanted them to have an original print for their files. I also need to share with them the newspaper articles I found from across the country that tell of this Bluebeard murderer.

When Houston made his confession to his wives’ deaths, he was made out to be heart-broken with a statement that he did not know why he had killed them and that he had loved them both. His was a love that kills. I took pictures in the area around the graves of his mother (Sallie Butler Roberts), father (John), son (John Edward, died in 1958), and his two wives. Both tombstones listed their maiden names, then wife of H.M. Roberts. Aletha lived to be 21, born April 28, 1910; she died August 17, 1931. Etta McRaney was born September 20, 1910 and died January 13, 1933; evidently she was the mother of Myra. Both wives had the same verse inscriptions on their rather plain tombstones: “She was a faithful mother/And sunshine in her home/No one can take her place/ Where has my mother gone?”

The family account of his arrest follows; this is not what was reported in the newspaper nor in the crime magazine story written shortly after his death by electric chair execution. In 1949 he was arrested after Aunt Ethel, another of Daddy’s sisters prevented him from giving a poisoned hamburger to his sick grandchild, Shirley Ann Hill, Gladys’s daughter.  Ethel’s husband was a highway patrolman, and the two arranged to send the hamburger over to Mississippi State A and M because the child was in the hospital and had told her mother that her grandfather had given her a pill. Aunt Ethel Rutland (married to Lavell Rutland, formerly Mt. Olive, MS City Marshal and later Mississippi Highway Patrol trooper) had one son, currently a banker in Arkansas, Dwight Rutland. Dwight was born in 1951, two years after me, and he received as much of this story from the Ainsworth siblings as I—that is, none!

When Dwight was in his mid-twenties and working in a Collins, MS, bank, one of his colleagues, Marilyn Roberts, stated they were somewhat related. She told him of the story of this unheard-of aunt and her killer husband. Her father was Laverne Roberts, a State Farm agent in Mt. Olive, and he was either a nephew to Houston. Dwight states his understanding that after Houston’s arrest before he was released on bond that Aunt Ethel and Aunt Vondell left the courtroom to go to his home and they discovered poison in various medicines. On the other hand, I have found no record of his release on bond and question whether the two would have known contents of the medicine bottles to be arsenic or other poison. They might, however, have taken them to the authorities to be analyzed.

Another distant cousin of ours, my friend in grades 3-5 when I attended Mt. Olive, has since become a Facebook friend; she informed me that she was related to the Roberts side through her grandmother. Janet Easterling Smith has stated she had heard of him as a child but did not know I was related to his wife. She confirms hearing the story of his setting a cornfield of fire with a child trapped inside the fire. She had thought the child died. I have not seen a second account of the child’s dying.

According to newspaper reports of that time, Houston was arrested in Jackson after arsenic of lead was found in the hamburger. When Houston realized the truth was coming out, and the body of the grandchild (also Gladys’s) he had poisoned in July of that year was to be exhumed, he confessed.  He confessed to killing two of his four wives as well as his five year old grandchild, Mary Louise Hill.

I am still grappling with the information that Gladys and John both asked for leniency regarding their father’s upcoming execution.  As a daughter and mother, I find myself holding onto the idea of vengeance—let me flip the switch I am unsure whether I will portray Gladys as very weak and submissive, or as a forgiving Christian, or someone who has had an unhealthy relationship with her father and had returned to his domination.  She was at the time separated from her husband, and I have no records available yet to tell me what happened.

I will probably have to dig some into land titles and deeds to find the Hills.  I have read the newspaper articles at the archives, checked through census records, read the Supreme Court of Appeals decision, but the actual case did not make it to the Archives.  I have not read the Parchmen Penitentiary or the Mississippi State Hospital for the Mentally Insane information yet.

No one in the Ainsworth family ever discussed it.  We knew about it because the older siblings lived through the trial when young teens; it was written up in a True Crime-type magazine in the 1950’s with names changed. I like murder mysteries and literary fiction so this is the result, so far.  I do hope for a print version when I finish, but there is a great deal more to imagine and tell.  One scene needs to blend into another, but I have several decades to cover.

It will continue until Houston is dead.

Click below if you want a copy of the possible first chapter.

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FAMILY HISTORY MATTERS!

These are my maternal grandparents, WilliamHill brewer and Nancy Lucile Bryant Brewer. She died prior to my birth.

These are my maternal grandparents, William Hill Brewer and Nancy Lucile Bryant Brewer. She died prior to my birth.  Theirs was a musical family.

These are my paternal grandparents. Through research I discovered that he liked to dress all, particularly liking nice shoes and hat.

These are my paternal grandparents William Ed Ainsworth and Maggie Margaret Saulters Ainsworth. Through research I discovered that he liked to dress well, particularly liking nice shoes and hat.

Most adoptees know the importance of family history; theirs is lacking in many ways, and those of us who know our forebears often ignore our family histories. We need to take advantage of the people resources we have available to us.

As more and more diseases are discovered that have a familial link, people need  at least to get the information as to what diseases took family members.

Whether you are writing a family history or getting a medical family history together, the process stays pretty much the same..

  • Write down all of the information you already have.
  • Confirm your information with that of a trusted older person in the family.
  • As you record information about family members, note the dates for  important life events–birth, marriage, children, divorce, location of home, and death.
  • If you’re recording the family history for the first time, attempt to get older members of the family to share personal reminiscences about other family members.
  • Seek to get the black-and-white photos of your antecedents, even if you cannot identify them.
  • Organize chronologically.
  • Back up your work.
  • Ancestry.com or Family Search.org are great resources for storing your family tree. You may find that others have already begun the preliminary search, and you can build from that search.
  • Share your results with others.Publish as an independent writer on Kindle, Nook, SmashWords, or other ebook outlet.

    This is the result of my family history effort.

    This is the result of my family history effort.

  • Plan and organize a family reunion–another place to share.

All of us, including adoptees can benefit from discovering our genealogical roots through DNA testing.  Ancestry.com has more information regarding the process. Start a family Facebook page so that members can share with you.

NANOWRIMO DEVOTIONS

NaNoWriMo devotions

November 1, 2015

I’m in the back bedroom: the back room closet is now clear; the stuff is listed in the Facebook Yard sales; the writing area has been set up: outlining reminders, laptop, results of research, hints of ideas, and devotional area.

It is 5:30 AM. I am wearing blue jeans, T-shirt, even a bra! Coffee, juice, animal crackers have accompanied me as I begin this solitary occupation for this month.

House is quiet–too quiet, maybe–I’m not used to being able to concentrate. Yeah, I find myself delaying, procrastinating, hindered by trepidation. I know I have the grammar skills; I’ve done the research; I know the skeleton of the story; but fear assails me.

What if I prove I cannot write? When I was actively involved years ago with the Copiah Writers Group, I thought that everyone else wrote better than I. Do I believe in me or in the story enough to begin the work?

I turn to God’s word, The Message. I read some from John 14 and15, and my attention is centered on the last verse in John 14: “Get up. Let’s go. It’s time to leave here.”

Oh, Lord, I feel humbled by your mercy in waking me early, giving me this verse. I sin in not turning to your words more often. Yet, when I do, you give me a fresh word. Forgive me, dear Savior, and guide my steps this day. Amen

(Accomplishment for day: transferring work into Novlr, checking out submission to other eBook sources of “That’s What Friends are For,” writing of physical description of Houston, working on computer problem. I do no real writing with reason being that it is Sunday. As I watch the Saints beat the New York Giants, I tear apart old jeans to be cut into quilt squares and rectangles.)

November 2, 2015

Today, again, God has shown me a verse I need to hear from The Message: in John 4, Jesus is talking about parables In answer to his disciples’ questions. The message uses the word “story” for parable, and it applies to me as a writer: “You’ve been given insight into God’s kingdom– you know how it works. But to those who can’t see it yet, everything comes in stories, creating readiness, nudging them toward receptive insight.”

Wow, Lord, wow!   My words fail me; you answer me before I even ask the question. The demon of non-writing had whispered in my ear that my words, that my story did not even matter, it would not serve your purposes. Before I even spoke the words aloud, you answered. I worship you today, oh, mighty God, and heavenly Father. What a great God we serve; you are the provider, JEHOVAH JIREH. Please grant me today that the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be serving unto you. May my purpose be to nudge others to the receptive insight they need. Grow me today, Lord. Amen

November 3, 2015

Tuesday, day 2 of NaNoWriMo, and I was well distracted. I ended up sleeping in the living room after one a.m., read myself back to sleep. Today was general election, and errands to the bank and insurance office, pick up lunch from Red Barn, home, some computer work in living room because I was hoping to fall asleep to nap. Michael Bowman had planned to stop by, so we delayed getting into the pool. Finally did, then change clothes, supper, look for pool heater for warranty. Found part of materials needed, then sat and fell asleep.

We received an email from Tiffany at the church stating that Brenda C. is fighting off an infection and is in need of prayer.   Elizabeth’s sister Marie was buried over the weekend. Glenda S. died last week. We have reached the age where funeral visitations are a social occasion.

I hurried through a Bible reading from The Message, and God’s Word does not fail. From 2 Corinthians 13, two verses stand out: “Don’t drift along taking everything for granted. Give yourself regular checkups.” and “We don’t just put u with our limitations; we celebrate them, and then go onto celebrate every strength, every triumph.”

The regular checkups have more to do with our spiritual condition, but I think this is also a reminder of how precious life is and how thankful I am to be. Yes, I am limited; we all are, but not hindered from doing our best with whatever our limitations are.

Oh, Lord God, your Word calls us to the end of ourselves, and we can only worship you. I do pray for so many who are struggling for life itself. May your presence be constant with them and those who wait upon them. My heart is burdened for those who are going through loss of a loved one, and I pray you walk beside them and comfort them. AMEN

BACK WHEN: A TASTE FOR DEATH–RESEARCH

REASON FOR THE SEARCH
SPOILER ALERT

If you intend to read BACK WHEN: A TASTE FOR DEATH, the convicted murderer is revealed in this next section. Don’t read if you want suspense.

My father’s younger sister married in 1927, had two children and was pregnant with a third when she was murdered in August 1931by her husband Houston Roberts for the insurance proceeds. She was buried very quickly before her family even knew of it. He and his mother took care of the two children, Gladys and John; but there was a third child, Myra, listed in the census as being two years younger than John in the 1940 census.  I have found no other information on Myra. Update 9/2015: Myra was born to the union of Houston and Etta McRaney. Etta was the second wife not to succeed her marriage to this man, dying within one and one-half years of Aletha.

THE SEARCH

Charles and I made the trip on 9/24/15 to Hopewell Cemetery, across the road from Hopewell Presbyterian Church in the northeastern corner of Jefferson Davis County on Jaynesville Road, just west of MS Highway 541. I hoped to find Houston’s unmarked grave in the edge of the woods to take a picture to give to Mississippi Department of Archives and History. Although they have a printed copy, it is of poor quality, and I wanted them to have an original print for their files. I also need to share with them the newspaper articles I found from across the country that tell of this Bluebeard murderer.

When Houston made his confession to his wives’ deaths, he was made out to be heart-broken with a statement that he did not know why he had killed them and that he had loved them both. His was a love that kills. I took pictures in the area around the graves of his mother (Sallie Butler Roberts), father (John), son (John Edward, died in 1958), and his two wives. Both tombstones listed their maiden names, then wife of H.M. Roberts. Aletha lived to be 21, born April 28, 1910; she died August 17, 1931. Etta McRaney was born September 20, 1910 and died January 13, 1933; evidently she was the mother of Myra. Both wives had the same verse inscriptions on their rather plain tombstones: “She was a faithful mother/And sunshine in her home/No one can take her place/ Where has my mother gone?”

FAMILY NARRATIVE

The family account of his arrest follows; this is not what was reported in the newspaper nor in the crime magazine story written shortly after his death by electric chair execution. In 1949 he was arrested after Aunt Ethel, another of Daddy’s sisters prevented him from giving a poisoned hamburger to his sick grandchild, Shirley Ann Hill, Gladys’s daughter.  Ethel’s husband was a highway patrolman, and the two arranged to send the hamburger over to Mississippi State A and M because the child was in the hospital and had told her mother that her grandfather had given her a pill. Aunt Ethel Rutland (married to Lavell Rutland, formerly Mt. Olive, MS City Marshal and later Mississippi Highway Patrol trooper) had one son, currently a banker in Arkansas, Dwight Rutland. Dwight was born in 1951, two years after me, and he received as much of this story from the Ainsworth siblings as I—that is, none!

When Dwight was in his mid-twenties and working in a Collins, MS, bank, one of his colleagues, Marilyn Roberts, stated they were somewhat related. She told him of the story of this unheard-of aunt and her killer husband. Her father was Laverne Roberts, a State Farm agent in Mt. Olive, and he was possibly a nephew to Houston. Dwight states his understanding that after Houston’s arrest before he was released on bond that Aunt Ethel and Aunt Vondell left the courtroom to go to his home and they discovered poison in various medicines. On the other hand, I have found no record of his release on bond and question whether the two would have known contents of the medicine bottles to be arsenic or other poison. They might, however, have taken them to the authorities to be analyzed.

Another distant cousin of ours, my friend in grades 3-5 when I attended Mt. Olive, has since become a Facebook friend; she informed me that she was related to the Roberts side through her grandmother. Janet Easterling Smith has stated she had heard of him as a child but did not know I was related to his wife. She confirms hearing the story of his setting a cornfield of fire with a child trapped inside the fire. She had thought the child died. I have not seen a second account of the child’s dying.

NEWSPAPERS

According to newspaper reports of that time, Houston was arrested in Jackson after arsenic of lead was found in the hamburger. When Houston realized the truth was coming out, and the body of the grandchild (also Gladys’s) he had poisoned in July of that year was to be exhumed, he confessed.  He confessed to killing two of his four wives as well as his five year old grandchild, Mary Louise Hill.

I am still grappling with the information that Gladys and John both asked for leniency regarding their father’s upcoming execution.  As a daughter and mother, I find myself holding onto the idea of vengeance—let me flip the switch I am unsure whether I will portray Gladys as very weak and submissive, or as a forgiving Christian, or someone who has had an unhealthy relationship with her father and had returned to his domination.  She was at the time separated from her husband, and I have no records available yet to tell me what happened.

I will probably have to dig some into land titles and deeds to find the Hills.  I have read the newspaper articles at the archives, checked through census records, read the Supreme Court of Appeals decision, but the actual case did not make it to the Archives.  I have not read the Parchmen Penitentiary or the Mississippi State Hospital for the Mentally Insane information yet.

No one in the Ainsworth family ever discussed it.  We knew about it because the older siblings lived through the trial when young teens; it was written up in a True Crime-type magazine in the 1950’s with names changed. I like murder mysteries and literary fiction so this is the result, so far.  I do hope for a print version when I finish, but there is a great deal more to imagine and tell.  One scene needs to blend into another, but I have several decades to cover.

It will continue until Houston is dead.

NOVEL IN SEARCH OF A TITLE–PLEASE HELP!

NOVEL IN SEARCH OF A TITLE

DESCRIPTION:   Emma died at a young age during the Depression years in Mississippi, shortly after her miscarriage with her third child, leaving behind one son and one daughter, less than three years old.  Her husband Houston remarried, and his second wife died within one and one-half years of Emma’s death;  Etta left one child.  Fast forward 20 years to the death of their granddaughter and the attempted murder of a second child.  It turned out that poison had been given to each of these.

Title Possibilities

  1.  Murdered: The Sharecropper’s daughter

2.  Death Comes to the Farmer’s Daughter    3.  Till murder do us part

4.  Of death and retribution                               5. Selected for Murder

6.  Family secrets                                                  7.   Secrets unearthed

8.  Grave Unmarked                                              9.  Necessary evil

10  entitled to happiness                                       11  Murder for success

12  Family disrupted                                               13  Family interrupted

14  Sweet revenge                                                   15   A taste for murder

16  Fits and ends                                                     17  Mississippi Mayhem

18.  Mississippi murder                                         19.  Murder, Sweet Murder

20, Family murderer                                               21.    death insurance

22.  other______________

Declare your choice in the comment section, and send your email address to   dotday@bellsouth.net to receive a copy of a short story “That’s What Friends Are For.”