We’ve Each A Place

By what authority proclaimed, by what process or fair measure?

Removing living things deemed irritants…are they not also treasures?

Even seedlings have intrinsic beauty, some small redeeming grace.

Might I not display the buds upon my finest lace?


Dear Lord, who’s eye has deemed them such, to reach but never grow?

Should I weed a few, toss them aside, implying that I see

Why I should pull them from the soil – to never fully glow?

And pretend I understand the stewardship you’ve offered me?


To cast them out from Your green earth, I’ve found no meaning in this toil.

As gardener I shall choose to find a safe and sandy rest.

Perhaps a place You’d once designed lies hidden in the soil

Let rains renew old garden seeds to proudly sprout their best!




Unlike our neighbors who installed electric fencing, My Rogue had neither the desire nor the intent of doing any such thing; in fact, our yard did not support any size of man’s best friend with its sloping downgrade to an ever-evolving creek or mud hole, depending on the debris that gathered each season.

No, we are not getting a dog.

I was disappointed at first; I thought for sure we should at least have something akin to a Great Dane or Greyhound type such as the one Cinderella had loved and nurtured long after her father’s death.  He was a faithful soul, continuing his allegiance to her even after she’d moved upstairs to the attic.  So, in my strong-willed, Disney-tainted mindset, I set about looking for a low maintenance breed, ideally with some stature for the size of our retirement dream home, FrogHaven.

I said no, absolutely not!

 My Rogue repeated this enough that his message was clear.  But I continued to search and – equally clearly but creatively – avoided the notion that any restriction existed…there must certainly be a way, I surmised.

When I first came across Bernie, it was love at first sight!  I had admired him for what seemed like several months; but he was forever young and retained his slightly golden aura; if not definitely a pedigree, almost certain he was a well-planned breeding between a retriever and an everyman’s hound.  No mutt was he!  Bernie’s regal carriage was solid. Legs perfectly shaped, his back at attention yet his jaw line strong but friendly… I continued my vigil-like visits, even saddling up to him enough to know that we were indeed a very good match: he seemed content with my constant attention and I was spell-bound by that “je ne sais quoi” bearing.

Because I was now the Lady of FrogHaven (again, a bit too much unbridled Disney imagination over the years), Bernie seemed absolutely the perfect choice!  I’d visit him from time to time, strolling past his place in the entry, quietly standing at attention with his sign between his teeth, bidding “WELCOME” to all who entered in.  Perhaps it was my imagination, but he seemed to catch my attention and speak to me every time I attempted to pass him by without stopping. He was the loving, warm and welcoming “big dog” contender, the one that my imaginary manor called for. What was not to love?

Absolutely nothing except his price tag, which was deemed hefty for this conservative home maker.  I had to be pragmatic.  Some months did not offer the imaginary kingdom budget that I’d dreamed of, not even here in the Midwest.  I’d have to trust that whatever home Bernie eventually guarded would be the chosen residence by the Architect whose reasoning would be far superior to my own child-like notions.

Okay, so I didn’t rescue him from a shelter. But the day came when I did indeed rescue him from the sales table of that local merchant.  So excited was I that my niece helped me load him into the passenger side of my small car; we seat-belted him in so that his ride home would give everyone a second take; a chance to smile at my statuesque golden pup!  Once home, Bernie even won over my nay saying Rogue!

For nearly eight years, Bernie stood at attention, welcoming all to FrogHaven, while ever so gracefully aging into a soft, matte gray.  At the golden age of fifty (in dog years), Bernie lost his grip and dropped his sign from his jaws; the sign landed softly on the earth but, before I could rescue it and seek repair, My Rogue tossed it away, rusted chain and all.  My Rogue believed enough was enough; Bernie had served us well…he deserved to retire there in familiar surroundings, among the Knockout Roses and the wind-swept reeds, surveying the uphill climb and the neighborhood children’s antics.

Recently, Bernie disappeared.  There were no signs of foul play or vandalism: no broken branches or disturbed planter bed; no candy wrappers or soda cans to imply that any children had absconded with him.  Nothing.   In fact, his leaving was so very quiet that we didn’t even notice he was gone until several days later, when a neighbor inquired about him.  I thought it strange, but continued toward my driveway entrance and cast my glance to where Bernie had last welcomed me home.  Alas, there stood only an empty spot midst the garden plantings.

In retrospect, it was just like Bernie; he’d never caused us any added grief or unexpected vet bills.  His nature was simply to withstand the gusts and thunderstorms that our Midwest climate offered…in addition to a few outbursts from My Rogue on occasion!   My Rogue’s behavior had prompted me to suggest I should change Bernie’s welcome sign to read,

Beware of Mr. Grumpy

But faithful Bernie would never have agreed to that, so I abandoned the project.  Certainly the children on the block would have delighted in it…

A June Smile

My fourth birthday photo is a black and white snapshot of my half standing/half bending over my birthday cake; sitting beside me is a lovely lady with an all-embracing smile.  That is one photo I always love to look at; one of many black and white moments that I can cherish as often as I wish.

I don’t actually recall this particular birthday; certainly, I didn’t have many parties as a Christmas Eve birthday can easily pass by unnoticed during such a busy time of year.  But this was definitely my day to shine; and as the years later proved, this lady’s love for life and family meant there was always room for one more celebration and another child close by.

I was ten years old and still trying to figure out just how exactly we were related…she wasn’t a sister to either my father or my mother. Yet her warm welcoming smiles and hugs were there for us all…she definitely had room for an extra “niece” or two.

In our extended families, we cousins had lots of mentors whom we respected and looked forward to seeing each occasion; extended reunions were the norm, and intertwined branches of family and long-time friends appeared and just belonged there; indeed, their absence would have been noted by many of us younger ones who relied on the hugs and kisses to make the day’s reunion complete.

While my mother loved flowers, this lady actually wore them, in beautifully bright, bold and dazzling colors and prints.  They accentuated her olive skin and deep brunette hair, shining bright above the lovely patterns; hers was a stark contrast to my mother’s more classic stripes and small prints.

I was fourteen and attending my first “wake”.  Mom had stated that I was now old enough to attend memorials like this; so, she instructed me to dress up as I would for church.    The big deal for me was wearing my mantilla…a small consolation, but somehow it was very flattering and so, at least, I could look the part and appear more mature than I felt.  I sat quietly there, feeling very uncomfortable and nervous.

 Yes, I was sitting next to Mom, but all I perceived was my mother who was extremely  comfortable in this solemn situation; she had no idea just how very strange it seemed for me, or just how worried I was, were I to accidentally commit a faux pas midst all the adults looking on.

I decided to chance it and look around the room.  I turned around and just a few pews behind me I caught sight of a June smile; the one that was familiar, loving and unconditionally accepting, all at the same time.  She even waved and nudged her hubby to make sure he acknowledged me…just a simple nod and smile.  Sounds hokey, but this very backward teen immediately felt okay and “grown up enough” to sit through this rite of passage.

Such are the memories of a June smile from a lady who crossed my path and influenced me through most of my young adulthood; a mentor who treated friends and family equally; there were none who didn’t get a huge dose of love and hot meals when needed – blood lines or not.

The childlike part of me still craves a smile or a hug to console me; some days, I don’t even know why or what is troubling me, but God seems to provide a certain someone to cross my path.  I may not remember that fourth birthday, but I will always remember that smile.

When one has been lucky enough to have had a June smile come your way, one knows the value that it brings to a child’s heart.  It is incumbent upon one to pass it on…


Election Year Ponderings – another campaign is on the horizon, yet my original concerns remain…

Like many of my fellow citizens, I am an American FIRST. I am disgusted and angry with bipartisan compromises from both the federal and state legislatures that continually weaken and undermine our Republic’s foundation. I don’t want bipartisan measures; I want measures consistent with our American Constitution.

Our Constitution was never meant to be maintenance free; yet, we seem to have forgotten the required due diligence regarding its needed protection from those who would do it harm.  In that category, I include the life-time politicians we have continually condoned and returned to their auspicious offices.

With all due respect, I speak to the young as well as old, no matter your party registration; consider the election year opportunities ahead: IT IS TIME TO MAKE OUR AMERICAN VOICES HEARD.

One of the benefits about an election year is the exciting opportunity to vote OUT poor performing and often destructive public servants; especially after a state of the union or state of the state address reminds one just how truly divisive, apologetic, excuse-laden, arrogant and overpaid our political leaders have become over the last fifty years!

Our common American principles have been compromised by the greed and power hungry activists-turned-politicians, some of whom openly subscribe to socialistic or Marxist principles, yet veil themselves under the familiar “moderate” or “progressive” cloaks so as to pander specifically to a poorly educated constituency.

I’ve had enough of dog and pony shows from incompetent, elected officials whose names, financial backing, and further costly indulgences to their special interest supporters are among the few talents they bring to their respective offices.

Americans are a caring people, but we are naïve and overly indulgent!  In our present economic state, we cannot afford to remain ignorant of global market principles, our country’s history, or our government’s lax performance in protecting our leadership position in the greater world marketplace.

America’s business model depends on a free market – independent of government intrusion – in order to support its citizenry. Yet, our federal debt has grown from cleverly disguised, government programs tailored to meet the needs of the less fortunate.  And programs have been tweaked, revised, and, in many cases, legally rewritten to include the masses who have never even contributed into these programs.

For those of us whose immigrant ancestors understood debt and its consequences, do not be deceived: you and I are here because of their decisions to leave the old countries for the greater freedom and opportunities that America offered.  Opportunity is what called them here; American capitalism was built upon the backs of individuals with dreams, skills, and personal discipline, who willingly adopted a new, common language, promoted love for their adopted country,  and proudly earned their American citizenship, then continued to welcome others with the same goals.

Understand the gravity of staying silent and doing nothing.  This November election is critical. Our country needs competent, skilled, and America-loving individuals from all walks of life – elected at each govt. level – in order to reset fiscal priorities.



— “In matters of style, swim with the current; in matters of principle, stand like a rock.” — Thomas Jefferson

THIS SOLDIER HAD A NAME; a Memorial Day Tribute

Dear Readers,

The month of May brings attention to our fallen; and additional families each year endure the Memorial Day Weekend in a new and solemn light, when a loved one has only recently joined the ranks of those honored at the end of this month.

It is because of the never-ending toll that strips away our country’s youth that I humbly submit this tribute.  While I wrote this piece for a specific young man, I hope that sharing it now will – in some small way – bring a sense of comfort to the many military families forever blanketed in sorrow each year on Memorial Day.

May God continue to Bless and Keep our Military Families in His care,

Annette Brochier Johnson






“Another soldier fell this Friday” and the broadcast continued on;

This time the news became surreal, for the war had touched us, too.

This soldier had a name.

For those of us without a son, the past had met the present

Releasing a stream of déjà vu.

His son would be well cared for, as would his little girl.

Friends and family would come forward

To reassure each other as a generation had before.

“I’ll share my room with my

Cousin, Mommy. I’ll share my daddy, too.”

This soldier had a family.

Ever resilient, the ever constant family values

Were embedded on the hearts of all who shared this surname;

A covenant simply scribed in red, white, and blue.

Camping trips are a summer tradition;

This year will be no different, as summer will not hide.

The campfire will burn and crackle

When branches again entwine,

Sharing growing pains with Siblings,

Watching Cousins meet anew,

Recalling Grampa’s keyboard melodies,

And laughing at what campground antics bring!

This soldier had a voice.

Let each heart in its own tempo listen closely,

So that occasional off-keys and tears may soon transform

To joyous song and comfort all in reverie…

Save a chuckle for that chorus when you congregate and sing!

Peace within will bring forth smiles,

Finding solace now in small hands clasped

Tightly ‘round the photos of One of America’s Finest.

He is forever their very own soldier.

Remind them that there are others, too, who thank God for soldiers like their daddy

Whose service and sacrifices keep us safe in a world of war-torn strife.

This soldier had a mission.

And in serving, he shared The Word with whom he shared a common fellowship and duty.

For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.   John 3:16 KJV

The Man from Valentine, Nebraska

I’d been in the workplace for better than a decade, and had already worked for some very difficult employers; I’d become one myself, co-running the small vac shop at the south edge of town.  But when I left to work part-time elsewhere, I eventually landed downtown on Broadway in another family-owned business.  What had once been a newsstand and smoke shop had long since evolved into a combination card shop and office supply; it was one of the mainstays in the heart of this college community.  Two generations worked the store, but it was the older one with his accompanying “old school charm” that nurtured us younger, part-time housewives.  In our eyes, Douglas J. was an employee’s employer.

His respect for our well-being and deep regard for our working hours’ needs exceeded that of the other employers I’d known.  His morning greeting, query about our health and home, and his supporting input and positive reinforcement about our work there on the daily shift were all spoken with a consistent, respectful undertone for the listener.  He had hired the clerk but related to each personality and was genuinely concerned about our personal family needs on and off the job. 

No day’s contact with Doug was ever complete without a verbal compliment or sharing of a business aside; the latter, too, evoked his respectful manner.  His giggle was infectious, whether he was responding to one of our dry-humored remarks or laughing at his own (often corny) jokes.

The small courtesies were always there: he told us when he was leaving; he made sure we knew when we could expect his return; he called us over and extended a special courtesy when introducing us to his old friends and long-time customers.  Daily, he made several trips downstairs to check on our cash flow, never wishing to leave us unprepared for the closing hours.  One could remark that his routines were necessary to transact the business day, but Doug’s charm and manner enveloped a higher sense in all of his actions.  Over 30 years have passed, yet his smile and giggles are still very vivid…

Masters, treat your slaves justly and fairly,

knowing that you also

have a Master in Heaven – Colossians 4:1


I am slowly facing the reality that I can no longer multi-task; at least, not when it comes to combining my entrepreneurial, social networking with my love for cooking.

My Rogue sat there and didn’t say much last night.  He was gulping down the food in his normal fashion; the joke around here is that he normally ends his meal with “Good as usual, Honey”, then I ask him, “Do you remember what it tasted like?”, but tonight’s meal was anything but normal.  I’m a great cook and have been for years, except when I’m tired: then, I can’t even season boiled water correctly.  This is why I often order the special at any little café…I know the cook put all his effort into that dish, before he tuckered out; the rest of the menu is normally routine, automated, prepped ahead stuff.  I’m not stupid.

My Rogue was almost finished when he began,

Well, I wasn’t sure what it was when I first saw it; it’s still chewable, Honey, but I guess you got so focused, you didn’t hear the timer, huh?

This statement was extremely polite for My Rogue.  Days past, he’d have blurted out,

Good gosh a mighty, what in the world did you do????

And the emphasis would have been on YOU and why I was EVEN ATTEMPTING to cook one of HIS recipes.  After all, macaroni and cheese was not a staple in my childhood home.  I didn’t even know one could find a recipe for it; I just thought Kraft had provided it since the beginning of eternity.

Mom rarely fixed anything that came from a box.  When we did have it in the house, it was for evenings that Mom was too tired to think up another combination, and the Kraft dish accompanied either fish or meat.  Always, always, there were green vegetables to round out the color on the plate.

Like my mother, My Rogue’s mother was a Kansas farm girl who knew how to stretch a budget, but her fare was simply good and nutritious as she didn’t really enjoy cooking as much as she enjoyed other home skills like sewing.  I never had the pleasure of knowing her, but my sister-in-law gave us their mom’s recipe; and My Rogue has made it often.  And I totally enjoyed its buttery finish.  The directions were always reiterated verbally:

Don’t forget to put pats of butter on top!

Last night, I decided to fix an easy dinner. The catch here was that I couldn’t find the recipe, so I opened up my old cookbook for the “old-fashioned” version.  The recipe was not the problem. This one seemed to be close enough, so I followed it with only a couple slight adjustments.

This oven runs on the lower side of the actual temp, so I remembered to raise it by ten degrees.  What I forgot was that once adjusted, I should follow the suggested cooking time, which I didn’t do.  Remembering my oven runs slow, I upped the time.  In my haste, I’d now over compensated (fairly habitual for my worry-wart personality), and completely unthinking, popped the casserole into the oven.  Had some nice fresh green and yellow squash, Arkansas tomatoes and Vidalia onions, so sliced them all very thin, added some cracked pepper and a dash of salt, and some fresh cilantro chopped roughly, then set them on low to sauté in a bit of olive oil for a nice, colorful side dish to go with the baked mac and cheese.

Operative word: baked.  (This poor lot could have used a sunscreen by the time the timer buzzed.) I pulled it out and realized I’d blown this simple, nourishing dish. Back to the table conversation.

“It’s supposed to be macaroni and cheese, Honey. I left it in too long”

“I know what it’s supposed to be; I’m not stupid”.

Thank God it’s still edible.  I’m really sorry…

Nothing to be sorry about.  I just think you were trying to do too many things, Honey.

No kidding.  These days, there was no think; there was just do. Multi-tasking was always a sham; yes, women can do it, but sometimes we just can’t hide the evidence.  This was one of those times and, after many years of serving great meals,  I had now served My Rogue my first prototype for  Mac and Cheese Jerky:  a chewy, buttery, cheesy topped block of carbohydrate and protein easily held in the hand and that could be eaten on the run; cold or warm! My entrepreneurial spirit had already begun to imagine some of the possibilities.

Perhaps if I designed a label and marketed it like a protein bar…