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Southern born, Southern reared. It's a quirky place and we are unique folk... These are my people and these are my stories.

Friday, December 14, 2012

The Power of One Word

I attended the Wellspring service in Winter Park last night. For a few minutes, earlier in the evening, I'd thought not to go. I'd had a long day. Fatigue wrapped itself around me. Not so much tired. Fatigued.

But, I thought, this is the season of Advent. What better time to go than Advent?

The chapel of First United Methodist Church in Winter Park,
FL where the Wellspring services take place each
So I went. I drove along the brick streets of Winter Park, enjoying the Christmas lights as my radio played holiday tunes. I parked. I went inside the chapel at the First Methodist Church of WP. I spent time with Jan Richardson and her husband, Garrison Doles, helping them to light the candles. I conversed with my new friend, Steve, whose last name I don't know ... not because I never asked, but because it doesn't matter. I see Steve only once a month and--it is in knowing his first name and in the breaking of bread together that we are connected. The name of Christ holds us together as brother and sister. And, I find that amazing. Amazing enough to not ask his last name.

I know so few of the people who gather at Wellspring by name. Yet, we are brothers and sisters by The Name above all names. Additional amazement.

Our responsive reading came from Isaiah 60. Left side goes first. Right side follows. The right side always seems to me to be the loudest.

I sit on the left. Near the front. So I can see.

Jan instructed us to "reflect" on what we'd just read. As I did, I circled with my purple-inked pen the word "then" in ...

Then you shall see and be radiant; your heart shall thrill and rejoice. 


I jotted these notes in the margin:

One day.
Not today, perhaps, for night's shadows have fallen already.
Only then.
Maybe tomorrow.

During this season when heaven and earth meet in thin places, as Jan so poetically puts it, what are you waiting on? Or, waiting for? What must take place before the then can occur?

And, as you wait, will you trust the One who came? Will you wait for His perfect timing? His perfect "then"?

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Paper Memories

Funny how memories come.

Yesterday evening, I watched one of my favorite "classics," The Andy Griffith Show. In this episode, Andy gets the mail, which includes a magazine for Opie.

Probably Boy's Life, I thought.

Then I remembered the excitement each month when I received my American Girl magazine. And Mother's when she received McCall's and Good Housekeeping. 

In time, Mother receiving those magazines was as exciting for me as for her. I loved reading the articles, the short stories, and flipping through the glossy pages of fashion and beauty products.

One remembrance which always makes me laugh came one day when Mother had received her Good Housekeeping (or possibly McCall's). I had returned home from school, gotten my homework behind me and sat down in the family room to read the magazine. Mother worked at the stove, just over my left shoulder.

I came across a magazine about a hard-spoken-of topic (in those days). "Mother," I called to her, "what's homosexuality?"

A moment of silence was followed by, "Where'd you hear that word?"

"Your magazine," I said, holding it up with the pages fanned to the article.

I looked at her. She appeared resigned to answer and she did, but she wasn't happy about it.

What amazes me is this: I was a teenager. A teenager! And I didn't know.

I love my parents for protecting me. I wish I could have done the same ...

One of my favorite poems came from American Girl. In a sidebar the words:

How odd of God
to choose the Jews.

I didn't know what it meant, exactly. I didn't know anything much about Jews except that Jesus had been born into the faith of Judaism and that it was the root of mine, Christianity.

Years later the words came to mind when I found the poem in its entirety:

How odd of God
to choose the Jews,
but odder still
are those who choose
the Jewish God
but hate the Jews.

Now do yourself a favor: enlarge the magazine at the top right ... read the headlines. Amazing ...

Monday, November 26, 2012

What's Buggin' Me About Church

I enjoy going to church.

Years ago, J started going to a church in Sanford, about 20 minutes or so from home. The youth group was hoppin' and I've always said that a church is only as strong as it's nursery (or youth department). I attended another church, one J had been baptized into, but slowly made my way to the church in Sanford where I found friendly, God-fearing, God-loving people.

Then the "J" story happened and, for nearly a year, I couldn't bring myself to go back. I felt like people were looking at me, judging me on the lies "J" had told and the sickness that had overcome us. Little by little, however, I eased back in and then, one day, the Women's Sunday School leader called me and asked me to join their class.

I consented, went back, and have enjoyed a fairly regular attendance since (when I'm not traveling).

So, yesterday I went to church. First to Sunday school, which I enjoyed as always. I love the ladies in the group and somebody (I don't know who) can make a really nice pot of coffee, of which I always have a cup. In this class, we sit around tables draped with pretty cloths. Candles flicker in their centers and, over on a table, a scented candle sends out a delightful, spicy scent. We learn about God, we talk about His awesomeness, and we pray.

When Sunday school was over, I gathered my Bible, my journal (for note-taking, as our pastor is a good teacher!), and my purse. A "hello" to this person, and a "Hi, how are you" to that person and I made my way into the sanctuary.

Our sanctuary serves both as a place for worship and a recreational room. In other words, you can look down at the floor and see the lines for a basketball court and up and see the hoops. It's in this room we offer "Upwards Basketball" as an outreach to the community. But on Sunday, we gather to worship, to pray, to learn.

When I was a little girl, I went to a formal church. On Saturday nights my hair was rolled into sponge curlers so I'd look "pretty"--as my mother put it--for Jesus. For a good part of my early years, I wore frilly underwear, dresses with petticoats, white frilly socks and black Mary Janes to church. As I got older, that changed, including the curlers in my hair on Saturdays, but one thing never changed. The respect I showed the room I entered. This was "God's house."

Over the years I have worshiped in school auditoriums, formal churches both large and small, a former roller skating rink, storefront churches, home churches, and cathedrals and synagogues. Never have I brought food and drink to any of those services.

Yesterday I found it a bit disconcerting that several people walked into the sanctuary/basketball gymnasium with bottles of water, cups of store-bought coffee, and car mugs filled with I don't know what. Yes, I know the weather had dipped down to the 60s and, for Florida, that practically calls for fires in the fireplaces, but seriously? Isn't it enough that we don't really "dress up" for God any more? Yes, I've been known to wear jeans--albeit dressy ones--but coffee??? Furthermore, if we're going to bring beverages into the sanctuary of God, shouldn't the liquid be made of grapes somehow? And shouldn't peta bread be served alongside said beverage?

Okay, so while I'm on a roll, here's the other thing that kinda bugged me. I'm not a great singer (believe me!) and I really only kinda whisper during praise and worship (so as not to bother the others who may be int he midst of worship), but I do like to listen to the voices of others, especially when they sing well. What I don't like to listen to is the chit-chatting of others while I'm trying to bask in the Spirit. Whisper-whisper-whisper. What in the world is so important that you cannot wait one short hour? What do you have to say to the person in front of you (and not a short conversation, mind you) and beside you that is more important than what the Spirit is trying to say to me?

Well now. I got that off my chest didn't I?

What are your thoughts? Noticed anything going on in your church buildings lately that make you go, "Hmmm?"

Friday, November 23, 2012

When Life Goes to the Dogs

My life has literally gone to the dogs.

According to a website I found, "gone to the dogs" dates back to the 1500s. When food was no longer consumable by humans, it was "thrown to the dogs."

That said, I know some dogs who may eat better than I do. Have you priced decent dog food lately? Not the filler kind. Not good enough for my dogs, you know. Which is the point of this post.

Angel 2003-2010
I have two dogs. Two years ago, I had three. Two were birth sisters: Hope and Angel. Their "grandmother" told us about them, that her daughter had both parents AND "the girls" as we called them. With one toddler, one baby on the way, and a husband working overtime, four beagles, even miniature ones, was about three too many. My husband and I (and especially "J") were ready for a new family pet. We'd lost Aimee, our dog of 16.5 years about 2 years earlier and felt it was time again.

So, we acquired Hope and Angel. Two of the funniest dogs I've ever known. Angel--the psycho dog. For no apparent reason, Angel would jump up, run around the house, and then return to Point A. Hope, on the other hand, has always had one thing on the brain: food.

What will I eat next?
Hope, looking for the next thing to eat
What did I eat last?
Is there anything in the yard I can eat?
What are my owners eating?
Is what they are eating good for me?
Does it matter?

Yep, that's Hope.

We lost Angel in 2010 to, what we believe, was heart failure. She became weak and simply died. I cried as if I'd lost my best friend. I loved that little doggie so much. Of course Hope became a different dog. Her constant companion of 7 years had left her. I believe she has substituted food for life with Angel.

Then, there's Poodar. Poodar, so named by "J."

I said to her, "Don't you want to come up with a different name?" But "J" insisted on "Poodar" and, I have to admit, it fits her. She responded to it so quickly I have to wonder if maybe "Poodar" wasn't her name before we found her.

We found her about 10:30 one evening. J and I had just returned from Georgia in July 2010. She and her "Dennis Daddy" were unloading the car while I put the things from the car in their rightful place inside. When they stopped bringing things in, I went outside to see what was going on. Sure enough, something had stopped the flow. And that something was a black miniature dachshund, who was starving, dehydrated, had bloody ears and a bloody tail. She was darting down the road, scared silly. I stooped down, extended my arms, and she ran right to me.

"J"with Poodar, Christmas 2010
"First thing we do," I said to "J," "is feed her. Then we bathe her." We did all that and, lo and behold, Poodar slept for a long, long time in "J's" arms. The dog was so dehydrated she didn't urinate for three days. I had called the vet, worried something was horribly wrong, when "J" happily announced that Poodar had finally "squatted."

Poodar was evermore "J's" dog, but after "J" left our home, she became my constant companion. She wouldn't even venture into "J's" room, she was so heartsick at the abandonment . This dog has serious issues, I'm telling you. If I take two steps forward, she does. Two back, she repeats the steps. When I go on business trips and return home, my husband says, "Mom is home!" as soon as he sees my car coming down the driveway. He tells me she jumps up and runs for the door, about as happy as a dog can be!

Every day Poodar sits behind me in my chair. Yes, that's right. While I am working away on the next best novel, or editing one, a little black fur ball is taking up the majority of my executive office chair. I've learned to work while balancing on a fraction of a chair's seat.

Hope, on the other hand, comes in periodically to either 1) tell me she's hungry, or 2) tell me she's hungry and she needs to go outside. Sometimes, she lays down on the floor, wanting to be near Poodar and me (or maybe just hopeful I'll have snacks in here). Which is what she is doing now. Poodar is behind me, covered in a warm blanket. Hope is beside me (not covered because her thick belly is warmth enough!). And both are snoring like dueling saws!

What I'm doing is this: wondering how much longer I have to wait before I can get up to get something to eat. I'm hungry. I have not had my breakfast and it's 10:22 a.m. But if I move, the dogs will want something. Not sure what, but something.

Which brings me back to my life having "gone to the dogs."

Such is life...

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Faith to Face

A couple of weeks ago, the church I attend--Westview Baptist Church in Sanford, FL--hosted a visiting pastor. Our pastor was in Haiti, along with several others from the congregation--mostly youth--doing God's work.

Faith to Feet, I call it.

The visiting pastor's message was captivating.The man was completely at ease behind the podium. He spoke distinctly. Authoritatively. He simply knew his stuff.

I could tell this was not his first rodeo.

And then, a slip of the tongue.

I didn't blink much at it because, as a speaker, I've had enough slips of the tongue to last a lifetime. Most of them embarrassing. And, I've learned, that the best way to handle these moments is to just "go with it." Make a joke and move on.

This slip was not joke-worthy, however. This slip was ponderable. (Which is not a real word, but think about it, will you?)

The pastor meant to say "face-to-face," but what he said instead was, "faith-to-face."

As a speaker, I could tell he'd caught his own tongue-slip, but rather than correct himself, he simply went on. I, on the other hand, wrote the phrase down on the cover of my bulletin.


What does that mean, I asked myself. What does "faith-to-face" look like?

Then I realized that "faith-to-face" is seeing, face-to-face, faith in action. Which is what our young people, along with our pastor and a few select adults, were doing in Haiti. Faith-to-face is what we see every time we witness someone praying fervently. Believing. Though they do not yet hold the evidence of the belief.

Faith, as someone said to me recently, is believing that God still knows the recipe for manna.

What faith-to-face actions have you encountered? Perhaps just today? Or this week? Or this month?

Better yet, what faith-to-face moments have you been to others?

Think about that ...

Happy Thanksgiving!

Eva Marie

Friday, November 16, 2012

Our Story Continues: Why I won't shut up

I have not written much about "J" lately ... I've said what I've had to say, not to expose her, to hurt her, to cause her any grief should she actually read this blog. I write what I write because when you love someone, when you have given of yourself for nearly 12 years in a parental role, and then watch in horror as it all comes unglued, you find it difficult to just "let go." When you are the one who was always there and when you know the truth about the way someone really felt about you--and that certain someone can't seem to remember it, or their mind has been so twisted by others who never really knew, who only wanted to destroy because it's the only way they can satisfactorily lose--you just cannot shut up.

I watched a movie recently in which children gave a school performance to proud parents and grandparents within the audience. I had a memory then ... one in which "J's" school was doing such as that. Her mother's job did not allow her to "take off" in the middle of the day (which was when the program was given), and it was the best job she'd had in some time, making more money than she'd made for a while. J's father was incarcerated. Everyone in the family--aunts, uncles, grandparents-- had jobs they just could not break away from.

I was fairly snowed under myself, but my job working from home allowed me to walk away for a while. Doing so meant putting in longer hours later on, but J was worth it. So I went.

I'll never forget the anxious look on her face as she scanned the audience looking for a familiar face. At first she seemed to panic, then she appeared so sad. No one had come, she thought. She was alone. But then as her eyes came near to mine, I waved and she brightened. Someone had come. Her MrsEya.

When the performance was done, I presented her with flowers. I'd brought cupcakes for the "after show party" and, together, we sat at a table and ate. Just as we did the many times I went to her school over the years to have lunch with her. My husband and I were the only ones who ever did.

But she has forgotten that and all those other wonderful memories, like the Tuesdays I read to her second grade class from Mrs. Pigglewiggle. Whether by illness or by coercion or by choice, I don't know. I only know what truth remains and that truth is how much she is loved and always will be.

But there's another truth as well. One you need to know. And if you don't know, you must educate yourself. "J" is now a part of a system that cannot adequately serve her. One she keeps running away from, landing on the streets. Each time she does, I push heaven and earth to find her, even if it means she "hates you for it" or others think I'm interfering where I don't belong. (Of course, those same people and that same system loved me when we financially supported her before child support was ordered, years of asking for nothing.)

I do not and will not sit on my can or act out some "pretense" of searching. And this is why: human trafficking is real and it's right here in Florida. Worse for those who are bipolar or borderline or who suffer from any number of mental health illnesses. The idea of J crying, of her being enslaved because of another's greed and a system's stupidity, of her being used like a sex toy or a punching bag or a personal slave, is more than I can bear.

I beg you to read this article by my friend Dan Beckmann. And then you tell me if you would just sit back and do nothing.

The Article.

Thank you for reading. Thank you for passing this on.

Eva Marie Everson

Thursday, November 15, 2012

A Poem to My New Grandson

Welcome to the World, Baby Boy!

Your mother is so brave
and now a part
of the sisterhood 
of women.

Women who bear much pain
who exhale much energy
who hold hands with 
one another
in the rhythm 
and the dance
and the 
of the ancients.

I heard their cries echoing 
in hers.
I heard their joy in her laughter.
And I felt the dearest 
presence of those
who have
felt the rhythm
and danced the dance
before her.

There they were--
holding their breaths
bearing down through
the pain.
Cheering her onward.
Cheering you, too.

Into this world, Baby Boy!

Feel the breath 
of God
in your nostrils
listen to the voices of
your grandmother
and her mother
and hers
and hers.

Hear the choir sing
their heavenly song,
"Welcome to the world,Baby Boy!
You who have much to do.
Many lives to change.
So much 

With one final push
Two arms reaching out
Two hearts
one on top of
the other ...
... life begins anew.
It begins again.

Your mommy is so brave
and you are so

Welcome to the world,Baby Boy!
copyright: Eva Marie Everson, 2012

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Welcome to the World, Baby Boy!

On November 9, 2012, on the date of his "suggested arrival," my grandson decided it really was time.

The call came in at 2:19 a.m. As soon as I saw the caller ID, I knew that, not five miles from my house, my daughter was beginning labor and delivery.

A home delivery had been planned. For months we'd visited Kelli Johnson of A Mother's Nature Midwifery. After the last "office" visit I'd gone to with my daughter, Jessica and I decided Jess would call me as soon as she knew she was in labor. I'd get the house in order--if anything needed to be done--run to the grocery store for healthy snacks, etc. while Jessica napped, preserving her energy.

So, when I stared at the caller ID, and I couldn't figure out how to answer my own phone, I should have known this delivery, like all deliveries, would be different. Somehow. Sure enough, Tony stuttered, "Mom. You gotta come. She's in a lot of pain. A lot of pain."

"Have you called Kelli?" I asked.


"Call Kelli."

Something was wrong. If Jessica were in the beginning stages of labor, why was she in so much pain already? I sprang into action, brushing my teeth, combing my hair, slipping into something warm but comfy. I told Jessica's father what was happening. He groggily said, "Okay. Call me."


I ran out the door. Darted back in to grab the camera. Back out. All the way to Jessica's, I prayed. "Lord, if you don't want this baby born at home ... if there is something wrong ... you tell us and we'll listen."

When I got to Jessica and Tony's, it was to discover that Jessica was way beyond the first stages of labor. Kelli arrived shortly after me, checked the little mother-to-be, and said, "Girl! You're nearly 7 cms! I need to call my team!"

The team arrived. I called my husband and told him to "come on." The time: 3:27. A birthing pool was filled with water from the bathroom sink and hot water I had boiled on the stove. I heard one of the doulas (birthing assistants) say, "She says she feels the urge to push."

You have got to be kidding me. I went into the bedroom to find my daughter in the birthing pool, draped over one end, clearly wiped out already. But, with each contraction, she rose, she breathed through it. She became stronger. Kelli and the doulas praised her, all the while recording notes in my daughter's "chart" and talking in labor and delivery "code."

I called my husband again. 4:17 a.m. Nearly two hours had passed since I'd received the initial call. "Are you coming?" I asked.

"Well, I guess, but I'm still in the bed," he answered.


"Well, if you want to see your grandson born, you'd better come on. She's already in the birthing pool. This is going fast."

Believe it not, I had to call him again at 5:41. Sure, he had been through this three times before, but he didn't know the strength yet of our daughter. "Are you coming???" I asked.

He said he was on his way. I'm still not sure about that.

The night waxed on. Our daughter persevered through the pain every biological mother since Eve has felt. She rarely cried out. She hardly moaned. She just did it. Tony and I changed places holding her hand periodically, while one of the doulas took the other hand. With each contraction Jessica pulled us toward her, with such amazing strength, I thought I might end up in the water myself.

And then it happened. The "crowning" moment. Kelli had finished making the skull cap she crochets for every newborn she brings into the world. She stood at one end of the birthing pool with the two doulas. Tony sat behind Jessica's head, encouraging her, praising her, telling her how wonderful she was doing. I stood beside her, video camera rolling (I don't know how I managed that), and her father stood in the doorway. Close enough to witness, but not so close as to "see."

At 7:50 a.m., my grandson left the warmth of his mother's womb for a brief swim in warm water (like one second). The doula pulled him up and over to his mother's outstretched arms. As heart laid upon heart, she cried, "We did it, baby. We did it."

My husband and I wrapped our arms around each other and cried. After two years of painful emotions, losing our beloved "J" to a system gone amuck with power, God smiled on us with this perfect life. All 8 pounds, 20 inches of him. Part of the pain went away. Not all of it, but enough to relieve this tattered heart.

Welcome to the world, Baby Boy!

Friday, November 2, 2012

Time Whispers

I found a business card on my dresser the other day. Someone had given it to me, apparently the person to whom it belonged. According to the car, he is the president/CEO of a bank in a town north of where I live. I flipped the card over to see if I'd written anything on the back. I hadn't. I took it to my desk, typed the name into my browser, clicked "images" and voila! Photo.

I remembered the man. I'd sat next to him on a flight from Orlando to ... somewhere. Not the most recent round of flights I took. Another one. The one before this most recent? I think so. Where had I gone? Grand Rapids, I think. By way of ... somewhere.

Mystery solved. I picked up the card to put it in the box where I keep such things, but found myself pulling it out again, studying it. Odd. I hadn't remembered getting the card until I investigated a little. How many other cards have I received in the course of my career--my life even--that I cannot connect to a person? A conversation? A moment in time?

This doesn't apply to just me. Or someone like me. Someone who flies a lot. Meets a lot of folks. This can happen to anyone.

Today I mopped my kitchen floor. I like using Pine Sol and hot water and so I did. The scent of pine took me back, as it has every single time I've used it over the past 36 years. Back to a large one bedroom apartment with narrow oak floors. Directly across the hall from my front door (marked "B"), stood another front door (marked "A"). Beyond that door lived a young woman named Anita, her husband Philip, and their daughter whose name, naturally, escapes me.

Anita's job kept her working from Tuesday through Saturday. On Sunday the family went to church and spent time together. On Monday, after Philip went to work and the unnamed child went to school, Anita cleaned. Top to bottom, that apartment sparkled.

She used Pine Sol. Though I haven't seen Anita in probably 30 years, Pine Sol reminds me of her.

Sometimes time whispers to us, using business cards or scents. Music. The rustle of leaves or the way they crunch under your feet in the autumn of the year ...

Time whispers. But, I think, we are often so busy ... we miss the brushing against our ear.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

New Month, New Life

The month has finally arrived. November.

Last year, I felt it's bitter sting. The month of my mother's birth would not be celebrated with her here, on earth. No special celebration in heaven, I know, because every day in heaven is a reason to celebrate.

As my heart felt it could take no more pain--the loss of Daddy, the loss of Mother, the loss of J--God held a secret. A special surprise He would not share until the day we celebrate the resurrection of His Son.

On that day, my daughter shared with me the secret she and God now knew. Life had formed inside her. Miracle of miracles, because it was not supposed to happen. A true opening of the barren womb.

The baby was due, she estimated, in November.

This morning dawned and with it the realization that the month had arrived. For the life of me, even as I anticipate my "little man's" arrival, I cannot help but mourn those who will not or cannot be a part of it. I know some will say, "Oh, they'll be there ..." and in our hearts, I know that's true. But I grieve, still, that I will not, on this earth and in this time, see my parents hold their grandson. I think I fully understand now how my mother felt, knowing she would never see her mother hold my brother or me.

Such loss in this life. Such gain. No matter the tragedies that befall us, life really does go on.

Being of Gaelic descent, I find myself drawn to the music. I tuned Pandora Radio to my preset station of Capercaillie and, a few songs in, heard one of my favorite tunes. I am always reminded of "J" when it plays. I share it with you now and, soon--very soon--I will share photos of "my Isaac," who I have so named (even though his parents have already named him by another name) because he is God's gift to me, and he will restore my laughter.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

What We Sleep Through

My dogs woke me at a little after 6 this morning.

I'd tell you to "go outside," but the truth is, my beagle would rather eat than take care of Mother Nature. I fed her, of course, and I took her out as well. As we neared the the sliding glass doors leading to the patio, I noticed the moon, full and brilliant, shining on the lake, which has been turbulent in the wind of late.

The sight was so spectacular, I had to go back inside to get my camera. It was too early and I was too tired to get the "really good camera." The "still quite good" camera was on the dining room table, anyway.
I wasn't sure if the lens could capture what I saw. But I tried. And I returned inside thinking, "What do I miss when I sleep?"

We have to sleep sometimes. And goodness knows I get little of it. But I couldn't help but wonder, what if I'd decided to say to the dogs, "Go back to sleep," turn over and do the same? What wonder of God would I have missed? 

Monday, October 29, 2012

And so I have become ...

...more contemplative.

Since 2010, I tend to think just a little more deeper. Longer. I ... contemplate.

So, I thought I'd share some of those contemplations with you. From my Southern perspective, if you will.

The Fall of the Year

The author's mother, Betty Purvis, March 2010 Livestock Festival Parade. 
Autumn, we also call this season. For a long time, I thought spring was my favorite time of year. The cold has been pushed aside. The leaves and flowers begin to bud. In my hometown, we held a Livestock Festival, complete with beauty pageant. On the final day of the festival, meticulously decorated floats, choreographed school bands and cheerleaders, grown men in funny hats riding on tiny tricycles, classic convertibles carrying beauty queens of all ages strolled, rode, marched, or drove down our dogwood and azalea lined Main Street. Sylvanians lived for this week.

And so I thought, I too lived for spring.

But, no. I went to Idaho this past week and experienced--for the first time in a while--the fall of the year. That time when we sing, "The autumn leaves, drift past my window ... the autumn leaves of red and gold ..."

I sat at a kitchen table, my hands wrapped around a warm mug of hot coffee, and watched those gold and red leaves do exactly that. Fall like snow. Spiraling downward. Autumn's dance of praise.

Author Photo Taken in Idaho, 2012
I told my hostess: this is my favorite time of year. The chill in the air. The look of a new season as leaves turn vibrant and then fall to the ground. This was the time of year when, as a child, I played outside, creating stories which only I played out. Stories of traveling westward in the 1800s. Life was primitive. Challenging. And, when I'd come to the open landscape ripe for building a new town (AKA, my back yard), I raked the pine straw that had made a blanket over the browning grass, forming small houses, merchant stores, a church ...

During one such autumn, our neighbor watched me from her home across the street. At some point, she and Mother met at the side of our home. Martha Nell declared, "She doesn't belong in this world, does she?"

Mother laughed and said, "She's always got these stories forming in her head ..."

She left me alone to create and act them out.

My father, on the other hand, encouraged me to write ...

Monday, October 22, 2012

"If I ever get you raised ..."

I've never been a contemplative.

Let me rephrase that. Before 2010, I wasn't a contemplative. Between 2010 and 2012 I found myself, not by choice, falling back-first toward the definition. Until then, I'd been a seat-of-the-pants person in nearly everything I've done. My whole life. Which is why my mother used to say (a lot!), "If I ever get you raised, I'm going to write a book." It wasn't unusual that my "not thinking" got me into trouble that my poor mother had to figure a way to deal with.

I have a memory of being sixteen. Being called into the school counselor's office. Being told I had enough credits, as a junior, to graduate high school and start something called The Senior Program, by which high school seniors left high school early to begin their higher education. While I could walk with my senior class the following early June, I would not actually receive my diploma (I received a blank piece of paper) until I had finished what I'd started.

I looked at the brochure in my hand. One of the possible fields of study for the program was nursing. I didn't think about it. I didn't pray about it. I didn't talk into the night with my mother and father about it. I simply thought, "Well, I like General Hospital ..."

...which is what launched my miserable nursing career. General Hospital. A lifetime career choice based on a soap opera. Seriously.

A few years later (too few), I met a man named John. He was cute. He was funny. He was single. So was I. I flirted (something I was very good at it those days) and he responded by asking me out on a date. And, the next thing I knew, to marry him. I'm not kidding when I say that I met him in September. By October I was engaged. By February I found myself crying, walking down the aisle. Crying because, while I hadn't given this engagement and subsequent marriage two seconds of thought, I knew instinctively I was making a huge mistake.

Thirteen months later--after what was probably the first time I'd ever even slightly thought anything through--I stood before a judge and asked him to dissolve the marriage.

I can think of only a few times when I've contemplated things. A few. But not many.

Let me explain why--and the explanation is simple: I move too fast.

And I think too fast. I wake up with thoughts whirling in my brain. All day long, thoughts. Memories. Future possible memories. Stories I've yet to write. The people I have created talking to me. Telling me what will happen in Chapter Twenty-one. Unless one of the other characters chimes in. In that case, what I thought was going to happen in Chapter Twenty-one happens in Twenty-two. When I sit down long enough to watch television or read a book, I constantly jump up to take care of this or that. Because, even when I'm totally lost in a show or a plot, part of my brain is still saying, "Don't forget to do this ... " These kinds of thoughts wake me during the night. My dreams are always vivid. Full of action. Talking. Words, words, words. To be a contemplative, I think, one must stop thinking with the brain and start thinking with the heart.

Oh, but those few times I have stopped ...

Like the night Linda Evans Shepherd and I went to see one of the last performances on Broadway of Les Miserables. For two hours, I was spellbound. Too caught up in the moment to think about anything but what was before me. And where I was at that very minute. In a ornate theater. On Broadway. In New York City! With a dear friend. Listening to the most amazing piece of artwork ever performed ...

Contemplation ... That was one. And there have been a few other times ...

Saturday, October 20, 2012

A Client and a Church

The woman introduced herself as Sue, but told me little about herself. She was all about her husband, Dan. He'd lived in Israel, she told me, as an NBC videoographer. Naturally, my ears perked. In his years working for NBC, he'd hobnobbed with the rich and famous and had some rather funny tales to tell.

"He's a storyteller, but he needs a good editor," she said. "Are you also an editor?"

I told her I was, that I had an editing business, which had become part of my writing life. She grabbed one of the bookmarks I'd just given to the clerk, asked me to write my name and email address on it, and said, "You'll hear from me!"

She wasn't kidding. I had an email before I even got home. Sue and Dan, who calls himself Danny, asked to meet me for lunch in Winter Park the following week. I agreed.

Dan "Danny" Beckmann wasn't anything like I expected. He's Robin Williams on speed. Funny. Articulate. Filled with stories that either leave your mouth wide open or your eyes squeezed shut from laughing so hard. Next to his lovely wife, Sue, who is lovely and poised, he's the pepper to her salt.

I took the project (and have loved every minute of it)!

A few weeks later I received a call from Sue telling me about a church service she and Dan attend once a month in Winter Park known as "Wellspring." Something about it sounded familiar, but not enough to make me say, "Oh, yeah! I've heard of it." Wellspring, founded by Jan Richardson, meets once a month in a Methodist church's chapel on Interlachen, she said, and she'd love it if I'd meet her for dinner on Park Avenue (one of Winter Park's most sought-after brick-laid streets). Afterward, we could go the the service together.

I agreed.

Praise God, I agreed!

I was standing at the corner of Anguish and Relief. Ready to turn. Left or right, it really wouldn't matter. I was about to step onto and into another part of my journey ...

Friday, October 19, 2012

A Timely Encounter

My book, Chasing Sunsets, had just released. In an effort to touch base with all the Christian bookstore managers in the Central Florida area, I packed my Jeep Cherokee with hot-off-the-press copies, a hand-drawn road map with directions from Store A to Store B and so on and so forth, and my trusty admin behind the wheel.

Her job was to drive, mine was to jump out at the stores, run in, introduce myself with a gift of a book and some bookmarks, and a happy-to-meet-you smile.

We went to the first store. The whole thing went well. And, I somehow managed to go into a bookstore without coming out of the bookstore without having bought, ah-yet, another book.

Then we went to Store B, which was no longer there.

Store C. Which we drove past. If we looked head on at the extraordinary long strip mall, the Family Christian Store was at the far right end. We had to enter the parking lot at the far left end. The mishap cost us a good two minutes. Maybe three. (That's important for later on.)

Cheryl drove toward the front door of the store, pulled up alongside it, and I jumped out. "Be right back," I said, then darted in. Just inside, I found the store empty (at least as far as I could see), save one store clerk who stood behind the counter to my left. She was talking on the phone.

I stood a few feet away, waiting patiently for her to end the call with the person on the other end, apparently a customer. When she did, I took a few steps forward and introduced myself, handing her the copy of my book. A hand reached over my shoulder--out of no where, it seemed.

"Did you write this book?" a woman's voice asked.

What the heck? Where did this person come from?

I whipped my head around to look at her. Tall. Slender. Angular features. Wild dark hair. Funky glasses. I liked her on sight, even though I still couldn't figure out where she'd come from. But that wasn't the greatest mystery.

You see, what I didn't know--yet--was that this phantom customer was about to bring a change to my life. A deep change. In a most unexpected way.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Something New ...

Since my last post, I've spent time thinking about what I want to do here.

I am first and foremost a Southern girl--a GRITS (Girl Raised in the South)--but, I'm changing. Not in my feelings so much about my heritage. I'm just changing.

If you've read my blog over the past several months, you know the last year and a half has been painful.These days, weeks, and months have stretched me in ways I never knew I could be pulled. I've gone through the stages of grief more than once. Up one side and down the other, as we say in the South. I've been lied to, lied about, thrown in the fire, burned, scarred ...

But somehow, I came out on the other side and discovered that the fire--the burning--did not char me; it refined me.

Like gold.

While I would give anything not to have had to endure these many months, and to get my old life back, I can't say I'm sad about the glitter and polish. And, right here, right now, I want to thank those who loved me through the worst of it. One in particular who heard my screams. My wails. Who listened as I beat my fist on the floor. Who understood as I threatened everything from homicide to suicide and knew I didn't mean it.

Well. Not really.

And in the  midst of it, God brought someone so special, someone who would change my life and who would lead me to others who would add to the metamorphosis.

I'd like to tell you more about her. About them.

Stay tuned.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Doing Something New & Different

I've decided to change things around here at my blog.

Not sure what the change will be, but a change is coming.

Stay tuned ... I'll be back, probably next Monday.


Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Monday's Musings on All Things Southern (a day late...)

So, how about a little funny about Georgia (my home state!)?      

Seems the owner of a golf course in Georgia was confused about paying an invoice, so he decided to ask his secretary for some mathematical help.

He called her into his office and said, "Seeing as y'all graduated from the University of Georgia, and I need some help, I'm gonna pose a question for ya. If I was to give you (pronounced ewe) $20,000 but wanted you to subtract 14%, how much would you take off?"

The secretary thought for a moment, then replied, "Ever-thang but my earrings."

(Shameful. I know ... but, I bet you smiled!)

Friday, September 21, 2012

Friday's Southern-Style Faith: Our Story Continues

Losing J to the State of Florida's idea of help and to mental health issues was much like losing her to death. She was no longer accessible to us. In many ways, worse.

I have buried a few people in my lifetime. My beloved grandfather died when I was ten. I distinctly remember his funeral, my mother breaking down and into my father's arms. In our family, shortly thereafter, we buried three of our loved ones--two were an aunt and uncle who died in a car accident. Then, at the age of 14, I attended the funeral of  my "first love," a young man shot in a hunting accident.

Over the course of life, we hear the news that our loved ones have died. Their bodies live no more. We have that initial moment of shock, we cry, we grieve. In the South, we make casseroles, platters filled with deviled eggs, or decadent desserts, slip into our best funeral wear, and attend viewings, family gatherings, and funerals. I have been to my fair share.

Two of my most devastating moments in life came when my brother called from across the country to tell me our father had died. A couple hours earlier he called to say Daddy was getting better and was about to be moved out of intensive care and to his regular room. Hearing, "Daddy died!" threw a bolt of electricity through me I can still feel today.

The second call also came from my brother, only this time he was only a mile away. We were taking "shifts" over our mother's dying. His time to watch was my time to sleep, which--as exhausted as we were--came like bricks falling to the ground. That night, when I returned to our room at The Rathbun Center, I didn't even bother to undress. I simply kicked off my shoes and climbed into the narrow twin bed I'd been sleeping in for a week. An hour into my semi-comatose condition, my cell phone rang ...

Only a few months after Mother died, the words "the little girl you knew is gone," hit much in the same way as "Daddy died!" and "She's gone ..."

The difference being ... I knew she was out there, somewhere.

Stages of grief are real and, as J's therapist said to me, I would have to go through them. For me, the biggest problem was that I'd not quite made it through the stages of grief from my mother's passing. So, right in the middle of trying to experience that, which we owe to ourselves after the death of a loved one, I was hit with more than I thought I could emotionally and spiritually hold.

1. She's not mentally well.
2. You are being accused of abusing her.
3. The Powers that Be believe her even though the investigating police do not.
4. Though you are still her guardian, you cannot see her. You cannot talk to her. You cannot legally know where she is.
5. She's in the ghetto, not getting help, not doing well in school, still believing her own twisted stories

Harder still, for me, was that those who we knew as a family were seeing and speaking to her. It was as if we, and we alone, were ostracized. We--who had been there nearly every day for 12 years--were told (and I quote) to "get on with your lives and forget her."

But how do you get on with your life when the fingerprints of her life were all over my house? I stood at the doorway of her bedroom every night, unable to walk in, just staring at the bed, picturing her propped up on the pillows, laptop opened and resting on her knees, fingers flying over the keyboard. In my mind's eye, I could still see her looking up at me, smiling. I could hear her voice. "Tov you!"

Which meant, "Love you!"

Every so often I could hear her door opening, see her dashing out from "her side of the house," across the family room floor and to the kitchen where she'd get her favorite snack, pizza rolls.

"Can I have a Sunkist?"

"Have you had one today?"


"Yes then."

I could smell her.

And I could not believe--I could not believe--she was gone. Refused to believe this was happening. Surely I could blink my eyes or nod my head or twitch my nose and this whole thing would be absolved. Surely I could go to sleep one night and wake up the next morning and discover it was all a bad dream A very bad dream.

Looking back now, I was in the first stage of grief. Amazingly, those who should have recognized that, were too oblivious in their own self-righteousness to recognize it.

I distinctly remember the morning I fell to my knees and cried out to God, "Please help us!"

This will be one year ... came the whisper to my heart. This will be one year.

And so, for me, the idea that in one year a miracle would occur, came to be. And it would be a miracle, but not the one I imagined ...

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Wednesday's Recipe of the Week

Yesterday I had lunch at one of my favorite Italian eateries, Papa Tony's. So, in honor of that fabulous meal, I thought I'd share with you a recipe I used to make for my family quite often. There was never anything left on the platter, so I must have done fairly well with it.

Chicken Parmesan

1/4 cup fine dry bread crumbs
4 Tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon oregano leaves, crushed
dash garlic powder
dash pepper
2 pounds chicken parts (I always used thighs, because it was a favorite with my family, but breasts should do well, too)
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1/2 cup milk
dash paprika

Combine crumbs, 2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese, oregano, garlic and pepper; roll chicken in mixture. Arrange in 2-quart shallow baking dish. Bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes . Turn chicken. Bake 20 minutes more. Meanwhile, blend soup and milk; pour over chicken. Sprinkle with paprika and remaining Parmesan. Bake 20 minutes more or until chicken is tender. Arrange chicken on platter. Pour heated sauce over chicken, served with rice. You may also pour the sauce onto the chicken during the last 20 minutes of baking.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Tuesday's Southern Style Tunes

This isn't a "tune," but I would be remiss if I didn't post this VIDEO. The movie opens THIS FRIDAY! Go to UnconditionalTheMovie.com to find the theater nearest you!

One other thing: if you are on Facebook, go to Unconditional The Book page and look at the upcoming contest! :)

Eva Marie Everson
Unconditional, the Novel
Novelization of the screenplay and movie by Brent McCorkle

Monday, September 17, 2012

Monday's Musing on All Things Southern

How about a little Southern humor?

Let's start with Florida (although you have to go north to get south of here!)


A Florida senior citizen drove his brand new Corvette convertible out of the dealership. Taking off down the road, he pushed it to 80 mph, enjoying the wind blowing through what little hair he had left. "Amazing," he thought as he flew down I-95, pushing the pedal even more.

Looking in his rear view mirror, he saw a Florida State Trooper, blue lights flashing and siren blaring. He floored it to 100 mph, then 110, then 120. Suddenly he thought, "What am I doing? I'm too old for this!"
and pulled over to await the trooper's arrival.

Pulling in behind him, the trooper got out of his vehicle and walked up to the Corvette. He looked at his watch, then said, "Sir, my shift ends in 30 minutes. Today is Friday. If you can give me a new reason
for speeding--a reason I've never before heard -- I'll let you go."

The old gentleman paused then said: "Three years ago, my wife ran off with a Florida State Trooper. I thought you were bringing her back.

"Have a good day, Sir," replied the trooper.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Friday's Southern-Style Faith: Our Story Continues

Hearing the alleged charges brought against us was nothing compared with what was to come. I think, sometimes, God is like this: He allows the smaller tragedies that come with living in a sin-filled world to fall upon us first. Before the big stuff. And then the really big stuff.

In March 2011, two months after seeing J for the last time, we were cleared of all alleged charges against us. By Child Protective Services. By Casselberry Police Department. And by Seminole County Sheriff's Office Crimes Against Children. I received an official report from each of them; the latter contained a notation that the detective had gone to the foster home to see J. The foster home address was listed. I jumped in my car and drove, anxious to know. When I saw where my child was staying, I was horrified. Shambled houses, young people as well as older ambling aimlessly, liquor stores--outside which women stood, ready to sell a different kind of intoxication. More liquor stores. Second-hand stores. Litter. Graffiti.

My husband and I were invited to a meeting at CBC of Central Florida. I looked forward to the two hours we were to be there, but I should have been forewarned. When we were greeted by the case manager, it became apparent immediately that she didn't care what the police reports said. We were guilty. Why? Because the child had said so. Her cold demeanor and "I really don't care what you have to say" attitude said it all.

J's bio-family was with us and her bio-dad was "patched in" to the meeting by speaker phone. And, when he had the chance to speak, he had the nerve, the absolute audacity, to accuse my husband of sexually abusing J.

In an act I'd never seen before or since, my husband stood, slammed his hand down on the table near the "speaker" and began his own list of accusations. We'd known for years what her bio-dad had done and hadn't done to and for his child when she was a baby. It was all documented. And he wasn't denying it. My husband--my fabulously wonderful husband--had given this child love. Pure love. Never ever touching her inappropriately. He had paid for her needs, not just her wants, because her own father had not. He had held her when she was afraid, laughed at her childhood jokes, and taught her to ride a bike. Taught her to read. How to tie her shoes. He'd made sure she had food in her tummy when she was hungry and a warm place to sleep when she was tired. He'd built playhouses for her and her friends out of palm fronds. He'd held one end of a rope so she and her friends could jump over it as it swung near the ground.

He was old enough to be her grandfather, but he gave her all the energy of young dad. And, he had always treated her bio-dad with respect. In spite of his shortcomings. In spite of what he didn't do for his daughter, my husband's attitude was always, always: he is her father.

And this was how he was being repaid?

It took everything we had to get our story across to a room of about 15 people, most of who clearly didn't want to be there. The supervisor of supervisors at CBC spent more time reading her emails off her phone than she did listening to the facts of our situation. And, finally, when the case manager's direct supervisor stood and informed us that the child had all the rights and we had none, and that J didn't want to see us or allow us to get her the help she needed, we knew we were done.

So much for Children and Families.

Still, I continued to monitor J's school progress online. Even though she was in foster care, we were still the legal guardians and I still had access to her records. She was often tardy. She was belligerent to teachers. And she was in after school suspension and suspended quite frequently.

She was taken to several facilities for testing and with each report, the news grew more grim. Still, CBC and DCF refused to see the real problem.

And, like good parents, my husband and I continued to buy her clothes and those things we thought she might need and/or want. J accepted the gifts, but not us. Totally out of character from a little girl who always "thank you thank you thank you"'d anyone who gave her even the littlest thing.

In June, the State of Florida sent a doctor to talk to J for a half hour; this women--in spite of all the medical records and history--deemed that foster care and therapy would be sufficient. After a half hour with the child and no time with family or with us.

Then came July ... and something growing out of my chest. Turned out to be a form of skin cancer, which was painfully removed. I had a check up scheduled with a specialist on August 4 (I believe it was). About that time, I also received a call from the GAL office that CBC and DCF had filed a request with the court to have my husband and me removed as J's guardians.

"Will we get a notice to come to court?" I asked.
"You should," she said. "I just wanted to give you a heads up so you wouldn't be surprised." Out of all the people involved in this case, she and the GAL volunteer, and one therapist from DCF were the only ones who had treated us with any semblance of dignity.
"When is the hearing?" I asked.
"August 4," she said.


I waited for the paperwork to come, but it never did. J's aunts went to the hearing while I went to see if the cancer was contained. They called when it was over to tell me the judge had refused the petition. I breathed a sigh of relief. We were still J's legal parents; we could still fight for the welfare of our baby girl.

But then another call came from the GAL office. J had been taken into the judge's chambers after court, I was told. She didn't know the details, only that J showed such a level of mental disturbance that the judge removed our rights. "I honestly think he is trying to protect the two of you, Eva."

Devastated, I waited for the paperwork that would prove all our work, our expenses, our love and devotion were for nothing.

But it never came.

DCF and CBC of Central Florida had our rights removed and we were never notified. Not before. Not after. Not since. The Big Bad Wolf had finally huffed and puffed and blown a child's house down.


(Note: For the third time this year, J is missing from the "care" of DCF and CBC of Central Florida. But she is not alone. Right now, this minute, there are nearly 200 children in Florida they cannot account for. 200. What if one of them was yours? Just one?)

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Thursday's Talk About a Book

Papa Joe Bradford & Me standing (and sitting) in front of
a monitor playing the trailer to Unconditional at ICRS
July 2012.
Most of you know, by now, that I wrote the novelization of Unconditional, the Movie. The book released on September 1; the movie will release on September 21.

The movie, which stars Michael Ealy (Think Like a Man, Common Law) and Lynn Collins (John Carter, 50 First Dates), is the dramatization of the real-life story of Papa Joe Bradford (Elijah's Heart Ministry).

Yesterday, I picked up Papa Joe's book, A Walk of Love. Over the next few hours, I eagerly read, unable to put the well-written book down. Here, readers get the whole story of Papa Joe. The questions raised by the movie, and only partially answered in my book, will be put to rest by A Walk of Love. 

Highly recommended.

Eva Marie Everson
Unconditional, the Novel

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Wednesday's Southern Recipe of the Week

Sinful Salad


2)    pkg. strawberry Jell-O
2)    10-ounce pkg frozen strawberries
2)    bananas, sliced
1)    20-ounce can of pineapple, crushed and drained
2)    cups hot water
1/2) cup sour cream

Combine Jell-O and hot water until dissolved. Add strawberries, pineapple, and bananas. Put 1/2 in casserole and chill until set. Spread sour cream over this. Add the rest of the Jell-O and chill until set.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Tuesday Southern-Style Tunes

Jeannie noticed that the Southern-style tune from a few weeks back featured The Statler Brothers behind Johnny Cash singing "Daddy Sang Bass."

When I was a little girl, hearing "Flowers on the Wall" came quite frequently. Our little country station played it till the vinyl nearly wore off the record.

So, I looked it up ... and found it on YouTube!


Saturday, September 1, 2012

Friday's Southern-Style Faith: Our Story Continues

I am often asked, "Why are you doing this?"

Meaning "the blog."

I thought I'd take a break from talking about various mental health issues that can claim our children ... and/or about our story in particular ... to answer that question.

I do it because, God forbid, it ever happen to any of you.

I do it because the State of Florida--in particular the Florida Department of Family and Children, and Community Based Care of Central Florida--need to stop thinking they are the do-all, be-all of child and family services and come to realize that there is a difference between:

1.  The abused child
2. The vindictive child
3. The mentally ill child

These agencies have the ability to know the difference. But, they don't want to know the difference. They have--and I have this on the word of those who have worked within the mental health system for decades, who have worked alongside organizations like these--spent so much time and energy on swearing that every child who claims abuse is abused, if they go back now and try to correct that untruth, they will open Pandora's Box.

There are those, right now, who are serving time for abusing children they never laid a hand on.

There are those, right now, whose reputations are destroyed because the lies or mental unrest of a child were not dealt with properly by the organizations who should have known better.

There are those, right now (my gracious, how many of you have emailed me privately) who have boxed up, packed up and moved, leaving no forwarding address, as soon as their child, foster child, or guardianship "child" ages-out of the system. Why? Because the system has done such a poor job of helping the child, they are now a dangerous adult.

Every effort I  made to help J was stopped by the work of DCF and CBC of Central Florida (if you, or anyone you know, if aiding CBC of Central Florida financially, I implore you to demand they get their act together on issues like ours before you give another dime).

DCF and CBC of Central Florida swept into our lives without ever once coming to our home to see where J lived, how J lived, or the level of love poured out on her. They hardly ever returned a phone call or an email. They spoke to us with such contempt, we knew they'd accused us, tried us, and convicted us without so much as hearing our side of the story and without full disclosure from a doctor. Or, in our case, doctors.

They gave all the power to the child. The word "parent" meant nothing to them. The word "permanent" meant nothing to them. They snatched J up, threw her in the worst possible area of one of Central Florida's towns -- a place I dare say none of them would allow their dog to stay -- and then treated us with contempt.

When this much power goes to a group of people who claim to have a child's best interest at heart, but who don't even know the child, we have a problem.

More than once, J ran away from foster care. She was gone about a week the first time, thirty-one days the second time. She lived in every whore house, crack house, and abandoned house (according to what I have been able to piece together from family and law enforcement officers and J's own friends) in Sanford, FL. My husband and I worked tirelessly during that time to find her. Her great-aunt -- my dear, sweet friend -- and I worked side-by-side. We were constantly on the phone (my phone bill doubled the month of her second leaving), in the car, on the Internet. Our friends and J's old friends "from before" did the same. We were not afraid to put out posters, knock on doors, talk to people, beg if necessary.

What did DCF and CBC do?

Notified a website. Notified family (more than 24 hours after she was missing with a three-line email essentially saying, "J is missing."). And then they went on about their business.

When J was found the first time, CBC's director issued a statement to the press (because I had gone to the press to plead for assistance) that (paraphrased slightly) "each child in our system is important. Like one of our own."

Really? I don't once remember bumping into you on the streets. I don't once remember you calling me to find out what I knew, me the one who kept her ear to the ground. I bet you never lost a second of sleep worrying about J, while her aunt and I were on the phone and on the Internet at 2 and 3 in the morning. I'd be willing to bet you don't lose sleep about J or about the hundreds of kids the State of Florida cannot account for on any given day. Hundreds. Some as old as 17. Some as young as six months.

How dare you ...

Finally, I do this because I love J. I never let a day go by that I don't pray for her. She is one of my first thoughts in the morning and my last at night. I do this because I have 11- 1/2 years of precious memories and only a few weeks worth of nightmare. I do this because, I believe, one day she will knock on my door and say,"I love you, too." I do this because I don't know what else to do. 

I am not doing this to draw any attention to myself as a writer or as a speaker. Let me make that clear. I have all the attention I need, thank you.

I do this because--for nearly 12 years--I protected and loved and adored. And I was loved and adored in return.

And then, one day, I was told by a system sworn to protect families to "back off," and get on with my life.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Monday's Musings on All Things Southern

I've been thinking about my daddy a lot lately. His 81st birthday, had God not called him home in 2006, would have been the past August 13th.

Daddy was in the USAF. Recently my husband found this video online and shared it with me. My heart soars with pride ... 1) at being an American (no matter how messed up we are at times), and 2) being the daughter of an American Air Force vet. When we laid Daddy to rest, his casket covered with the American flag, and when that flag was folded and placed in my brother's hands ("On behalf of the President of the United States.") ... well, that was one of the proudest moments of my life.

And one of the saddest.

To all those who have fought and fought well (no matter the branch of service), I thank you.

To my daddy, I love and miss you.

To all: do yourself a favor, take a few minutes, and watch this. Tell me what you think!

Friday, August 24, 2012

Friday's Southern-Style Faith (Our Story Continues)

The meeting with Detective D was set for Wednesday afternoon at 2. I called my husband, told him, and he arranged to be off from work that day. Feeling that this was just a gathering of information on J's earlier life, her time in the system, and what we'd seen transpire over the last month, I returned from Denver and put the data I'd collected over the years on one of the desks in my office.

I spent Wednesday morning doing what I always do. I worked. When 2:00 was nearly upon us, a wave of nausea swept over me. It made no sense. I had absolutely no dread of the meeting, but now, suddenly, as if the Spirit was alerting me in the way He always has ... I felt sick to my stomach.

I tried to do something "normal." I told my husband I was going to let the dogs out so they'd not have that need once the detective arrived. Outside, the nausea continued. Swelled, even. Inside, I fed the dogs and was just returning their food to the pantry when my husband said, "How many detectives did you say were coming?"


"Well," he said looking out the front window, "there are three cars and four people standing in our front yard."

My heart beat a little faster. "What are they doing?" I asked, unable to move.

"Just talking."

A moment later, the doorbell rang.

Dennis and I went to the door together, opened it, smiled. Our dogs stood at our feet, tails wagging. "Come in, come in," we said, graciously.

Three women, one man. Dennis shook his hand. "I believe I met you at the hospital," he said. Then he looked at me, gave me the "I told you so" look.

Detective D, who was clearly in charge, suggested we sit at the dining room table. They had notebooks and files; it would be easier for them. So, we did. I offered them something to drink. They declined.

I honestly cannot remember how the conversation started. Perhaps they asked us what had occurred on that awful night (as we then knew) when J  had planned to kill us. What had caused us to send her to the friend's farmhouse for a month. What had happened (the cutting) to lead us to being forced to Baker Act her again. I don't know. Because what happened next, I do remember. And I remember it well.

There was a moment of perplexity between the detectives by something I said. I was clearly innocent of any wrong-doing and so I presented as such. I knew about the allegations of cameras in the bedroom and bathroom. And I was honest about the odd things we had found around the house, things that psychologists and therapists had explained to us were signs of early sexual abuse. I spoke as though I were giving them the information they had come for. They'd asked us simple questions (Question: How do you discipline? Answer: take away privileges. Question: Does she have a bedroom door? Answer: Of course she has a bedroom door! Reply: You understand that as the parents in the home, you have a right to remove her door. Answer: But we haven't. We don't allow locked doors for long periods of time, but we allow closed doors. And, we knock and ask permission to enter, even for our children.) Simple questions. Simple answers.

But that was not why they had come, I guess. And thus, the perplexity.

"Perhaps," Detective D said to Detective SJ, you should read the allegations to the Eversons.

"Allegations?" I asked.

"That J has brought against you."

"Okay." I turned my head to the left, to where Detective SJ sat. She flipped open a manila file and began to read.

She wasn't allowed to take a shower unless we watched.
She wasn't allowed to have a bedroom door.
She wasn't allowed to dress unless we watched.
I forced her to pull down her pants so I could look inside her.
Cameras in the bedroom.
Cameras in the bathroom.
We punished her by hitting her.
She was kept prisoner in her room. (Which I found odd, considering she "had no door.")
I was touching the dogs sexually and smiling.

(There's more, but you get the point.)

I looked from the detective to my husband. Everything moved in slow motion. Whirring inside my head blocked most sound in the room. When my eyes finally reached my husband's face, I saw his eyes rolling to the back. His hand was at his mouth, fingers laying gently against his lips. They quivered.

"Oh my gosh ..." I breathed. "Oh my gosh." This could not be happening. Not our little girl. Our precious precious J. Our funny child who we loved and who loved us with such depth. No!

Then I remembered. I looked back at the detective. I had reports from years before, I told her. Reports that proved she was "transferring."

"Do you have that where you can show it to us?" they asked.

"I sure do," I said, jumping up from my seat and then darting into my office where I'd carefully stacked the old files. My legs felt like they were made of jelly. My hands shook. My head ached. My heart shattered. My vision was blurred by tears. How could she have lied. How could she have done this to us? To us, the two people who had loved her so much. Protected her? Adored her? Gave her everything she could have ever wanted? How could she not know the truth?

I managed to get everything back to the dining room table. They looked over my files, asked for copies. I returned to my office where I made the copies. Just then my phone rang. I looked at the Caller ID. The caller was her new doctor who had performed the psychological.

I answered, said, "I can't talk right now. Detectives ... charges of abuse ... I can't talk right now."

I know now that I shouldn't have answered the phone. I should have just let it ring.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Wednesday's Recipe of the Week (One Day Late)

You don't hear a lot about "icebox cake" any more. Occasionally, while watching an old TV sitcom or drama, a housewife comes out of her kitchen carrying a sheet pan and says, "I think I'll take some of my icebox cake over to so-and-so." But that's about it.

Yesterday, while flipping through an old recipe book from my shelves, I found an index card with my mother's handwriting on it. Icebox Cake  is written in her perfect script across the top.

Mouthwatering memories came my way. I haven't had Mother's icebox cake in forever, it seems. (And, as soon as I'm off this diet, I think I'll make some.)

But maybe you or yours is not on a diet. If not, try this before summer comes to an end, because it's the perfect summer dessert!

Ingredients & Directions

4 egg yolks (save your cardiologist's number in your phone)
              Put the egg whites aside for later
1/2 lb butter (Mother wrote "oleo")
1 1/2 cup sugar

Mix together at medium speed 20 minutes
(Yes, I wrote minutes.)

Add 1 #2 can slightly drained crushed pineapple (I believe that is 20 oz can)
Add 1 cup chopped nuts

Fold in stiffly beaten egg whites (Did I mention, you should stiffly beat the egg whites?)

Fix a layer of vanilla wafers in pan. Pour mixture in. Refrigerate 24 hours before serving (good luck waiting)

Monday, August 20, 2012

Monday's Musings on All Things Southern

Pecan piiiiiiiiiie.

Do you remember the line from When Harry Met Sally?

This was an ad-libbed scene (which is pretty obvious by Meg Ryan's expression and her glances off camera) and one of the best in the movie. One of the best out of all of the best in the movie. 
At any rate ... pecan piiiiiiie. Every time I hear it, I think of growing up Southern, and Mother's pecan pie. (Of course, every time I think of pecan pie, I think of this scene ... )  

If you grew up Southern, you probably spent time picking up pecans in an open grove or at someone's house where pecan trees grew tall, casting leafy shadows on the ground in the summertime and looking all scary in the wintertime, spindly arms stretched toward a gray sky like an old woman begging God to die. 

And, if you grew up Southern and you picked up pecans, you've probably put a couple of them in your hand and squeezed in order to crack them open. Nothing like a nut to crack a nut, I always say. (But usually I'm talking about people, not pecans.) You also probably know what it's like to take one of those little silver dealies to "dig out the meat," as my mother used to call it. And you've probably had the age-old discussion of just how to pronounce "pecan." Is it PEE-can or is it pe-CAHN? I tend to say the latter. What about you?

Friday, August 17, 2012

Friday's Southern-Style Faith (Our Story Continues)

The day after I admitted J into the hospital, I boarded an early-morning flight to Denver for a business conference. I didn't want to go; I didn't know how to stay.

After I admitted J into the hospital, my next order of business was to cancel a protective order I'd filed against her bio-dad. Having managed to get into her computer and read the emails and messages between them, and between J and the woman I previously called "S," I realized adults--adults!--had planted such disgusting lies into this child's mind, facilitating the madness, encouraging the stories her sweet, sick brain had made up in an effort to understand its own past. My first order of business was to file an injunction for protection against these two people, along with her father's girlfriend. Having filled out all the paperwork, I elected to drop the case against S because I knew it would be a "she said/she said" court case and I'd lose. In spite of knowing I'd told this woman more than once that J could not legally see her father without my supervision or without my permission, and in spite of reading in the emails and messages between them how this woman had facilitation these meetings, encouraging them even, I would lose. Because I knew that any woman who would knowingly say such things to a child as what I was reading in these messages would easily lie in court. No morals. No scruples. No conscience.

So ... no way.

With J in the hospital, and enough paperwork filed out for the time being to help get her into residential (the hospital told me we were looking at at least a year of treatment), I called the judge's office and cancelled the court hearing. "He can't hurt her where she is now," I told the Judge's Assistant. "Nor can he get to her."

How foolish I was.

And so I flew to Denver.

The first day there I received a phone call from my husband. He'd been asked to go out to the hospital to have a family therapy session with J. He was so hopeful. He couldn't wait to see her, he said. And, if she would let him, to hold her. To tell her he would take all this pain if he could. He would make everything as it once had been--happy childhood. Happy memories.

Later, he called again. It had not gone well, he said. "When I got there," he went on, "a Casselberry police officer pulled up about the same time. We went to the locked doors and rang the buzzer for entrance together. I said, 'Good day, sir,' but he really had nothing to say to me. When the therapist opened the door, she whisked him inside, turned to me and said, 'I'm sorry, Mr. Everson. We cannot meet today. J is not doing well right now.' Something is up," he said. "I think the officer was there for J."

"Why would an officer be there for her?" I asked. "There are hundreds of kids in that hospital. What makes you think it's J they came because of?"

"I don't know," he said. "It's just a feeling."

His feelings were right. Later that day my cell phone rang. "Mrs. Everson," the woman--J's new therapist--said, "This is C, from University Behavioral Center. I need to talk to you about allegations of abuse J has made against you and to tell you that, by law, I have had to call the authorities. I also want you to know that I believe J is a very, very sick child and that I don't believe what she is saying based on her case history and what I have learned from the courts about your relationship with her and who you are. But I have had to file the report."

I asked what it all meant.

"It's not good," she said. "And all I can tell you now is that your time with J. may be over. I don't see this going anywhere but south."

I told her I was a woman of faith. That I believed in a God who could do the impossible. I told her about the abuse J had sustained by father and mother and select family members, about the emails, both from her bio-dad and from her friend's mother, S. She agreed that their interference had accelerated J's illness, but that much of this was also genetic, based on hospital records. And, she told me, I should look for another call to come within the next few hours.

The following day, a Sunday, as the conference was wrapping up, I sat outside the auditorium doors, listening to the keynote speaker when my phone rang. The number was from the courthouse. A 665 number. I answered as I made a beeline down the hallway to an abandoned ballroom of the hotel where we were meeting. Looking for privacy, out of instinct, I suppose.

"Mrs. Everson," said the woman, "This is Detective D. I'm with Seminole Country Sheriff's Office Crimes Against Children. We need to speak to you and  your husband as soon as possible ..."