Walking by Faith Alone

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Community Brew & Tap – Everything I Expected But More…

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Step through the doors of Community Brew & Tap, and the whole atmosphere changes – like something from a Science Fiction movie, where time interrupts existence and the future intertwines with the past in one neat package with a bow on top. From beveled glassed mirrors to photos of the Prohibition – Bootlegging Era, the bricked walls whisper the secrets of the past. I could almost hear the hustle and bustle of the streets, see women in flappers, and gentlemen wearing fedoras. Wedding cake crystal chandeliers and original murals from early 1900s lead the way to a historical adventure, leaving one to wonder, “Have I stepped back in time?”

Housed in a beautifully restored 120-year-old building on the corner of North Main Street in lovely Cornelia, Georgia, the experience is everything you would expect in fine dining with a touch more. The innovative Jay and Melissa Reeder, owners of the establishment, walk the hallways describing the care to detail of maintaining the integrity of this period in time. But it is the feeling of community, the respect of those who once opened and closed the doors, locked the vault, or marched up and down the staircase carrying merchandise that brings the “MORE” which places Community Brew & Tap above all others. It is a tribute to those who have gone before us, a reminder of the impact the past has on the future, and the contributions of others who make us a part of something larger than ourselves.

Greeted by the distinguished  Maître D’ and seated in the eloquence of an open yet homey Dining Room, which conjures images of the Roaring 20’s, cannot adequately prepare you for the palatable, mouth-watering, food-affair just up ahead. The bread, warm and tempting with a hint of Rosemary; the Chopped Salad, perfectly blended with fresh, leafy vegetables which combine into a flavor, even the reluctant, non-vegetarianist, would long for; and the meat – from cuts of steak – to porkchops and chicken – portioned for those who like a good steak and want to take some home. Dessert? We topped it with a sharable chocolate, flourless cake and homemade ice cream – better than my grandmothers. Chef Jason Vullo’s artistry is imaginative, alluring, and envisages feel-good recollections.

However, the truth of an experience comes down to the nitty-gritty of how-it-made-you-feel. My husband, Rolando, and I left holding hands, having laughed more than we have in quite a while, wishing we could stay longer, and planning our next occasion in the ever charming Community Brew & Tap. And, lucky for us, we get to live in Northeast Georgia, where a simple 20 minutes brings me to a place like none other.

Written by Nora Hatchett Almazan

October 31, 2021 at 5:45 pm

Are Mountains TOO High?

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I think most of us, if we’re honest, simply want to be reassured our existence matters. Somewhere, somehow, some place, we must add value to a world which ticks away time and tells us what we lack and why we lack it.

At the age of four, she can do anything. The entire world is held between her fingers. There is no mountain too high – river too wide – valley too low (you know the song). My granddaughter is grounded in goodness and value. Recently, she has proclaimed to have strawberry powers and wears a pink Cinderella glove on her hand to keep her from turning everything into a strawberry.

While pedaling up the hill of my driveway she stops, extends her arms, and proclaims, “You can do it, Hallie.” Always pushing through – always striving to do better – move faster – learn more – be more. I used to be that way too – and probably you did also.

Until somewhere somebody told us a lie. The lie which says there are mountains too high, rivers too wide, and valleys too low. Superheroes do not exist. And, you really can’t do it. Even if you try.

I am here today to tell you 3 simple words, “You are AMAZING!”

Want to know why? Because there is no other human being on this planet like you. Stop and consider what I just said. Some of us are unkind to ourselves. We feed ourselves a negative narrative and before long, we believe that narrative.

“I will never get this done.”

“I don’t have the skills to do this.”

“I am ugly.”

” I am stupid.”

“No one likes me.”

“I’ve accomplished nothing in my life.”

“People think I’m a joke.”

The sentences can fill pages upon pages of narrative, and if you are honest with your beautiful self, you’ve said these horrific words once or twice or millions of times to that incredible reflection in the mirror.

I read the results of a study which concluded any given day we think 50,000 thoughts. OK…I think more than that. My mind is this constant barrage of thoughts intertwining and running all over each other. Of those 50,000 thoughts, the average person only things 10,000 positive thoughts. That means 80% of our thoughts are either negative or worthless?

The good news is we can control those thoughts. We can make it better by stopping the negative mantras we’ve been telling ourselves since we were quite young and start fresh and new. Philippians 4:8 tells us, “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me – put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.”

Instead of “I will never get this done” try – “I am more than capable of getting this done.”

Instead of “I don’t have the skills to do this” try – “I am more than equipped.”

Instead of “People think I’m a joke” try – “It only matters what God thinks I am. He created me to be purposed, unique, and filled with abundant goodness.”

Write a positive sentence each morning to yourself. Start with this one, “God adores me; therefore, I adore myself.”

You Are Amazing! Climb those mountains! You’ve Got This!

Written by Nora Hatchett Almazan

July 1, 2021 at 1:55 pm

Sister Secrets…

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It has almost been a year – a year of wanting to call her as I’m driving home from the grocery store. A year of listening to 70s Love Songs because we always did. A year of sitting on my porch because she loved to. A year of trying desperately to hang on to the sound of her voice.

I used to see people who’d lost someone close to them. On the outside they looked good. Life continued – as it should; I just never understood until now what was on the inside. What was layering the smiles, the glossy cover, the above the surface smoothness.

For awhile I sent her texts. Somehow I thought she’d answer. I called her number hoping to hear the Verizon Ring-Back Tone she insisted upon hanging onto even when no one else still had it. Now, I only hear that the number has been changed or disconnected. And I feel disconnected and very much changed. Little did I know how July 21, 2020, the day she left Earth for Heaven, would alter my universe.

We held eachothers secrets – some so deep and painful – some mischievous – some so unbelievably incredible “we actually got away with it” kind of secrets. It is hard for me to fathom, when I am gone, there is no one left to tell our stories. They say confession is good for the soul – well, maybe it is.

Renie lived in New York for a brief period in her life. Her departure for me was devastating, and I saved every dime I earned waiting for the opportunity to go and visit her. I loved how the city fit her; the way she moved on the sidewalk, took the subway, and raised her hand to hail a cab. New York and my sister blended together smoothly. She could be anyone she wanted to be in the noise and traffic and flow of people. The summer I visited her was one Renie and I would remember for a lifetime, but only between “us”.

It was the summer I became Madeline Sims.

For most of those close to me, Madeline Sims was simply a name I liked. But, the truth lies somewhere, very oddly, in between an invitation, black limousine, and a borrowed teal dress with silver stilettos. We were where we weren’t supposed to be – an opening line to most of our “secret” stories.

Renie loved to mingle with the rich and famous. She had a knack for blending in at just the right moment. We loved playing the part of other people and when the tall, red-haired passenger exited First Class that day, destiny took hold. She had left inadvertently the invitation in the pocket of the seat in front of her. I arrived in New York the day my sister returned from this flight as a flight attendant.

“By Invitation Only” – with the words Madeline Sims written in calligraphy across the front of the envelope. There was never a doubt in my mind we’d be going. I knew my sister. She knew this would be an affair to remember. (Oh! How right she was).

She’d ordered a black limo – I borrowed a stunning tulle ball gown from a friend in her building with an off the shoulders neckline, empire waist, and silver jeweled stilettos. Renie wore an equisite black velvet fitted gown with rhinestone trim with slits on both sides.

The doors of the sleek, black ride were opened for us and we nervously stepped inside. “You are Madeline Sims, ” she affirmed.

“No. You need to be her!” I whined, in a typically little sister way, even though I was nearly 20.

“I’m going to be me. What if I meet the man of my dreams? You’re returning to Georgia,” she explained.

It made sense. “OK – fine,” I echoed.

The address directed us to West End Avenue where we were escorted to the Penthouse and awed by a view one cannot describe in words. The smells, the food, the people, the click of high heels across the stunning marbled floors. No one questioned our existence – the invitation gave us access to a story-book lifestyle, people we’d seen in magazines, a few actors, and people we could only imagine their identity.

A young handsome Italian looking man showed me the magnificent skylight while Renie talked with a famous singer on the terrace. There were hor d’oeuvres, smiles, light conversation, until I caught her eye. She politely excused herself, nodding at me to follow. “You’re a call girl,” she whispered, leading me to the kitchen towards an outside door.

“I’m a what?” I questioned.

“Time to exit,” she said, half panicked and half laughing.

By the time we exited the building, hailed a cab, and were bumper-to-bumper in the center of the city, she laughed – a belly chuckle, nothing can stop it kind of laugh.

“Well, it explains why I have about 4 $100 dollar bills shoved in the front of my dress!”

“What?” she stopped, gazing at me.

“Just kidding!” I teased and took her hand.

“Between you and me, Madeline!” she laughed.

“Between you and me. Always,” I affirmed.

Memories are gifts we give to one another – smells, sounds, pictures which don’t really mean anything until they suddenly do. Late at night when my sister couldn’t sleep because of the brain tumor, I would tell her the stories only she and I knew. She’d lost most of her language, but she could still laugh. I told her we’d do them again some day when she was better.

I know your life is busy – you are busy just getting through so you can be here or there – but today, just stop. Stop and make memories with the people you love. Don’t waste all your time trying to get some place in order to be happy – it will never come! Appreciate where you are today. Celebrate the people you are with. Stop longing for something more – Your life is now – LIVE IT!

Written by Nora Hatchett Almazan

June 28, 2021 at 2:05 pm

Love Conquers All…

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The very first valentine I ever receive other than from my Daddy, was a red stoned Cracker Jack ring from my cousin Sporty. He knew I had a horrible crush on him at the mere age of 5. I still remember his dark curly hair and the way he laughed, a deep chuckling, contagious sound which caused everyone to join in whether you understood what was funny or not. I’m not sure if he actually ate the Cracker Jacks in order to find the ring or if it was simply by chance on his way to our house. My Mom, only a few years older than he, and my Dad enjoyed grilling and watching a sports game or two while my sister and I pretended to play Barbies in the other room, gazing at his 27-year-old beautiful self.

I wanted to marry him. It didn’t matter that our last names were the same or that he was 22 years older than me. I couldn’t drive a car or turn on the stove – I hadn’t graduated from Kindergarten yet but would in May – small details which couldn’t thwart the undying, dramatic affection I had for him. Surely, with the offer of such a ring, he must’ve felt the same?

It wasn’t until a week later while washing my hands that the ring snapped and broke, half of it tumbling down the drain, I realized, it probably wasn’t all that I had imagined. My grandmother, Mama Dolly, assured me one day I’d be given a real ring by someone who would love me my entire life. Suddenly, Barbies were fun again.

Valentine’s Day comes with such emotion. Whether we are in a state of dreaming of that perfect someone, or in a relationship with someone, or lost someone we loved dearly, February 14th seems to bring it all to the surface. Love isn’t just an expression between two people, but a full-blown Commandment from Jesus Himself. It isn’t just enough to love your significant other, but your family, your neighbor and your enemy.

Expectations become realized, and we usually spend a moment reflecting on the possiblities of love. What does it really look like for us? And how does it seem so perfect on the Hallmark Channel and not in our homes. Life complicates things. Friends disagree. Children grow-up. The neighbor’s cow crushes your fruit tree. And, someone decides he/she really doesn’t like what you think on Facebook. I mean, the reality is often, love is a struggle. Showing love can be such a daunting task, and there are times when one has to wonder if it is even possible to love as Jesus called us to love.

Years ago I journaled ways I could show other people love – people I may have a difficult time loving. I came across it while searching for something else and wanted to share.

  1. Celebrate People. Romans 15:7 tells us, “Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.” The girl behind the cash register, the man in the waiting room, the teenager playing loud music in the car next to yours… we need to learn to accept one another – just as we are – warts and all. Be welcoming and inviting. We may disagree with people, but listen to them. Hear what they have to say. They might just in turn listen to you.
  2. Get Out of Your Comfort Zones. It is easy to have the same friends – go the same places – eat the same food; but, I think God called us to a different platform. Mark 16:15, “He said to them, ‘Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.‘”No matter your age – no matter your educational level – no matter your balance in your bank account – get up and get out. The greatest love we can show to one another is the message of Jesus Christ.
  3. Smile, smile, and smile again. Phillipians 4:4, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again, I will say rejoice!” It isn’t easy to smile when life has kicked you around a bit. But, a smile brings hope to those around you. It says, “Today is going to be good. Things are going to be good again. You are stronger than you know.” Spread the contagious hope of a smile to everyone you see.

Love is a rhythm we can walk in step with every day. It uplifts. It offers. It accepts. It dreams. It endures. It outlasts all other emotions. Maybe Valentines could be every day…maybe love could conquer all…and maybe it does simply start with just you and me.

Written by Nora Hatchett Almazan

February 13, 2021 at 6:16 pm

Beside Still Waters

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Wendy was my black Tennessee Walker; a feisty mare, built for speed. Riding her felt like being on water skies  in the early morning, when no other boats were out. She was smooth as glass.  A group of us rode on Saturdays, a few times a month, galloping down long stretches of dirt road. When we came to forks in the road or intersections, we would simply place the reins on the nape of the horse and go whichever direction the horse chose. For me, it was life on the “edge.” I never knew where Wendy would take me and since horses are pack animals, they will always follow the lead horse who 99% of the time was mine.

One Saturday though – Wendy didn’t want to choose. There was a T- shaped intersection up ahead. Instead of going left or right, she decided to go straight up a hill  covered in pine trees and briers. The sting of the branches on my face felt razor-sharp and I wondered if my cheeks would be covered in blood. It seemed as though she ran uncontrollably; and although I tried to slow her down, she wouldn’t. The other horses had not followed – this time. I could hear a distant shout from my friend Rhonda, “Nora, are you ok?”

The woods opened to a clearing with a creek running through the center, and there she stopped. I hadn’t been to this spot before, which seemed impossible since I felt I knew every inch of Dublin, Georgia. I sat down on a rock and washed the cuts on my hands and face. The sound of the water flowing passed me, calmed my beating heart.

“He leads me beside still waters; He restores my soul…” the passage from Psalm 23 entered my head. Our pastor, Jim Rush, had just encouraged us to memorize the Psalm in our confirmation class. Suddenly, it made sense. Sometimes we go down paths of our own making; sometimes paths other’s have forced us on; and sometimes, one’s God brought us down purposefully. We may not know the reasons for the trials or how long we will have to endure the journey; but one thing is certain, He will bring us back to still waters.

Faith holds true in good times and bad. It is the assurance that when we walk with God, no matter the decision we’ve made, He will see us through the obstacles, the pain, the suffering, the grief, the destruction, and bring us back to peaceful waters.

Written by Nora Hatchett Almazan

January 24, 2014 at 10:50 pm

Lessons from Mama Dog…

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Her brown eyes blink slowly up at me as I lean over to pet her and scratch her belly protruding with nature’s puppy formula. She sighs ever so slightly and nestles her head against my knee, prompting me to find a spot on the ground next to her. Her name to us is “Mama Dog” and with each passing day I realize, I am not her blessing – she is mine.

When my husband first found her, her ribs displayed her struggles but her apprehension of people, her timidity, spoke of abuse. There was no trust and yet there was no fight left in her either. She lay at Rolando’s feet, humbly, waiting for him to beat her; instead, he offered her Pork Rinds. As he poured the bag on the ground and she took one in her mouth, the crunching of her own jaw frightened her. What kind of life had she endured?

At first we simply wanted to rescue her, fatten her up, and find a family for her; but the challenges of her past caused more than we had bargained for. On 12-12-12, Mama Dog delivered 9 of the prettiest puppies I’ve ever seen and through it all, this is what I’ve learned from “Mama Dog.”

1. See People With Fresh Eyes. I don’t know what she has been through. From her scars, I can only imagine; but Mama Dog didn’t view us as she did the human’s of her past. She saw us with new eyes and gave us a chance to love her and care for her.

2. Trust Again. When people who are supposed to love you betray you, it is difficult to ever let anyone near your heart again. But if you don’t let down the metal walls that guard you, you will never know the joy of true love. Mama Dog trusted us even though she had every right not to do so.

3. Stop and Breathe in life. The other morning she and I took a brief walk to give her a break from the puppies. As we approached the end of the driveway, she looked up at me, took a deep breath, and sat down. In the cold, we snuggled up close to each other and silently listened to all of nature’s sounds around us. Her cold wet nose touched my cheek as if to say, “Isn’t life beautiful?”

4. Play. As I waited for Mama to do her business outside, I sat on the steps of my back porch, watching the sun rise. To my surprise, out of nowhere, she lept on my back and ran in circles around me. I hadn’t seen her play before. She wrestled me to the wet, muddy ground. Something I hadn’t done since I was a child. Playing is not just for puppies.

5. Greet those you love. When she hears our voices or sees us, she and her puppies with tails wagging run to greet us. Why don’t we do the same for our loved ones?

6. Recognize the gifts. Last night, as her puppies fell asleep around her, warm and snug, she looked up at me. Her eyes said it all. Her belly was full. She was warm and clean. She was loved.

7. Live in the moment. It is about now; the people who are around you now; the tasks you have to do now. Mama Dog isn’t worried if I will dump her on the road next week or from where her food will come. She is with us today and that is enough for her. Enjoy what you are doing right now and the people you are with.

I went to bed thinking of my own life and all that I had been through. If we spend all our time dwelling on where we’ve been and what we’ve done or what has been done to us, we just might miss what is around us today. I wonder if God sent Mama Dog so that I could help her or she could help me. Maybe a little bit of both.

Written by Nora Hatchett Almazan

January 12, 2013 at 2:58 pm

Slow Cooking

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I like making smoothies, a few chunks of mango, banana, strawberries, a few almonds, vitamins, and presto! breakfast. My husband bought me a fancy blender just for this purpose. I jokingly remark, “I think I’ll blend something,” and with a push of a button, blending couldn’t be easier.

At times we find ourselves in uncharted waters, trying to make sense of the chaos around us: financial distress, heartache, loss of a loved one, an empty nest, misunderstanding with a friend, misguided children, addiction, or divorce. No matter how we try, we can’t seem to make it right. We feel disheveled and out of sorts, unable to tie it all together. Unable to push a button and blend it all together.

I’ve always enjoyed cooking with a crock pot. Slow and steady, with the right ingredients, spices, occasional stirring, and patience, a meal emerges. Each individual part: potatoes, carrots, onions, celery, chunks of beef, salt and pepper gives an enjoyable taste; but, it takes time.

Many times in life’s situations we want an answer that will put it all back together, blend it, make it fit. The last eight years of my life have seen tremendous heartache and loss. Darkness. Uncertainty. Despair. There were times that I could not understand how it all fit; how God could possibly turn it for good; how I could have reached this point. Very much like Job, I stood wondering what God had against me. What could I have done to displease Him? Other times, I knew that although the waters were rough, and my ship tossed out-of-control, God was at the helm.

But when I take the heartache, the pain, the kind words of friends, the scriptures that came in the middle of the night, the loyalty of loved ones, the prayers of those around me, the constant hand of God on me, and the love of a wonderful man, I found, in time, an enjoyable life – crock pot style.

John 16:33, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

Written by Nora Hatchett Almazan

December 1, 2012 at 6:00 am

The Challenge

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I heard my first season’s greetings today as I exited Wal-Mart, “Happy Holidays!”

I understand. Many people celebrate various holidays during December. There is Hanukkah or Chanukah, if you prefer the Hebrew spelling. Holidays that do not include Jesus and those that are secular. I get it and I’m not offended. But I celebrate the birth of my risen Lord! So, Happy Holidays me all you want; although, I’m a Merry Christmas girl.

So, why am I on a soap box today? I’m not; but as I left Wal-Mart, an older gentleman left his red truck and came to my car. “Can I help you load your groceries, Mam?” Startled, I turned to see a white bearded, white-haired man in a red shirt. His tummy extended further than his belt line and his silver glasses glistened in the sun.

“You remind me of someone I know,” I chuckled.

We loaded my car. He actually gathered the trash from the back. Embarrassed I remarked, “I was the ballet carpool mom yesterday.”

He smiled. “I’ll just throw this away.”

“Thank you,” I replied.

“It is not my pleasure,” he said. “It is my honor on behalf of my Savior’s Birthday. Merry Christmas.”

Stunned and speechless, I stood for what seemed hours, staring at him. With a twinkle in his eyes he added, “I challenge you. Spread it.”

As I drove home, I thought of my experience. The radio blared a familiar Christmas tune, “Go Tell It On The Mountain.” Wasn’t that what the man in the red shirt just did for Christ? As Christians, are we hiding behind political correctness?

I want to challenge you. I want to challenge myself. In a world lost, let’s spread the good news, “…that Jesus Christ is born!” From now until Christmas, every day honor Him in some way. Tie a Christmas tree on the roof of a car for someone; decorate someone’s home who can no longer climb a ladder; give someone your place in line to visit Santa and you take their place in line; make a dinner for a friend; wrap presents for an overwhelmed mom; babysit for free; blow leaves in someone’s yard; decorate your neighbor’s mailbox; give Christmas cards out to people you do not know; buy someone’s dinner at a restaurant – and give Him the glory – declare to the mountaintop – I do this in honor of Christ’s Birthday.

Challenge others to do the same. Spread it across the nation. It is the Birthday of Christ. Love spreads joy. Love is a servant. Love heals brokenness. Love is His story, make it yours.

To my friend this morning, I am delivering your challenge to the world, in honor of Him – the King of kings, the Lord of lords, the Rescuer of the lost, the Savior of the world.

Will you join me?

Written by Nora Hatchett Almazan

November 26, 2012 at 4:43 pm

Live like you were dying

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While on the exercise bike at physical therapy, an older man, somewhere in his late 80s, climbed on the bike beside me and jokingly said, “Race you to the top!”

I smiled at his humor. The television in front of us showed a Tim McGraw video of the song, “Live Like You Were Dying.” He pointed to the screen and with a wink whispered, “That’s my song!”

I laughed to myself, “Such a cute old man!” I hadn’t listen to the words really, although I’ve heard it before. The man began to sing aloud the lyrics. He turned his face toward me, “That song happened to me.”

He began to quote the words, “I was in my early forties with a lot of life before me and a moment came that stopped me on a dime.”

My legs began to slow a bit as I listened to his voice. “I spent most of the next days, looking at x-rays, talkin’ about the options and talkin’ about sweet time.”

He paused for a moment to observe my expression. I wasn’t sure where he was going with all this.

I asked him when it sank in that this might really be the real end, how’s it hit you when you get that kind of news? Man, what would you do?”

“What would you do?” I asked. He smiled pleased that I was grasping his story.

I went skydiving. I went Rocky Mountain climbing. I went 2.7 seconds on a bull named Fu Man Chu. And I loved deeper, and I spoke sweeter, and I gave forgiveness I’d been denying. And he said, ‘Someday I hope you get the chance to live like you were dying.

I was finally the husband that most of the time I wasn’t. And I became a friend a friend would like to have. And all of a sudden going fishin’ wasn’t such an imposition. And I went three times that year I lost my dad. I finally read the Good Book, and I
took a good, long, hard look at what I’d do if I could do it all again.”

“So, you were living like you were dying,” I clarified.

He nodded, “Like tomorrow was a gift and you’ve got eternity to think about. What you’d do with it? What could you do with it?
What did I do with it? What would I do with it?”

He ended his lyrical explanation by singing the chorus. Ironically, it was right in step with Tim McCraw on the television.

“I never listened to those words before,” I admitted.

“Now that you’ve heard them, what?” he asked.

“But you didn’t die, right?” I confirmed in a ridiculously gullible way.

“Not yet,” he smiled. “But since I was diagnosed with cancer over 40 years ago and survived, I’ve lived every day as if I were dying. Because we never know.”

My bike signaled I was finished. He patted my arm and winked, “Don’t waste a minute, sweet lady.”

I couldn’t stop thinking of his words or his sweet smile. I couldn’t stop thinking of the lyrics to a song I’ve heard a hundred times and never paid attention to the meaning. I wondered if that is how I am living my life, unaware of the meaning around me. When I got home, my daughter asked me if I’d watch her ride her horse. She can drive herself. It’s not like she really needed me. I was so behind on my writing schedule and have two edits due…

“Let me get my boots,” I whispered. “You think I could ride with you today?”

She smiled.

I smiled, too.

Live Like You Were Dying…”

Written by Nora Hatchett Almazan

November 21, 2012 at 3:01 pm

As simple as a sneeze…

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Last Wednesday I went to visit my mom in Athens. As I was leaving, she handed me two stacks of papers folded neatly in a yellow over-sized envelope. They were my writings, hundreds of stories, from as far back as the age of seven. “Really?” I quizzed my mom surprised. “You saved them?”

Over the past few days, I have enjoyed reading my manuscripts and taking trips back in time. I wanted to share a story I wrote around the age of 16, back in 1979, for Thanksgiving. I hope you enjoy its simplicity and message.

The Thanksgiving Gift

By: Nora Cordell, November 1979

Each year around November, I begin to think of all in my life for which I am thankful. The list seems endless and then an incident that happened on Thanksgiving Day six years ago reminds me that it is the little things in life for which we should be most grateful.

Stars were still bright when I left the warm kitchen of my home in Dublin, Georgia, and headed towards the barn. It was an early morning in October, a little colder than usual, with a tangy fragrance of autumn in the air.

I found her hovering in a corner. Dad had predicted that today was the day she would give birth to my namesake.

“Lucy,” I called out to her, moving carefully toward the black heifer. Lucy didn’t seem to mind my being there, for giving birth had become commonplace to her. This was her eighth calf.

Something seemed different this time, though, and I ran to the house and called my dad. He arrived just as the calf was born. Lucy died, having given the gift of life for the last time.

“She’s all yours!” Dad said, forcing a smile. She was a beautiful, wavering, pinkish Charolais, barely able to get to her feet. She gave a little squeak and started toward her mother on crooked, wobbling legs. I could see the hurt in my father’s eyes. Lucy was his best cow. She had been one of our first.

He lifted the little calf into his arms. “We had better fix Miss Nonie some milk,” he said with a wink.

“Can I really name her after me?” I asked excitedly.

He nodded. “As promised. You’ve got your work cut out for you though. Raising a calf isn’t easy.”

Miss Nonie became quite a project, not to mention a very special friend. Like all mothers, I bragged about her, claiming she had crystal blue eyes to complement her white furry coat. Dad would laugh at me, pretending to agree.

Every morning on my trip to the barn, I carried a bottle in one hand and M&Ms in the other. Nonie loved them. Each afternoon, we went for long walks through the woods, walks that always ended in a game of chase. I put a red dog collar around her neck and three bells. She was impossible to lose. One morning the house was awakened by a strange noise. My grandmother, Mama Dolly, thought I had the croup, but it was Miss Nonie, standing on the back porch demanding her bottle.

Spring arrived with its fresh green beauty and golden sunny days. On Saturdays Miss Nonie received a bath. She was probably the cleanest creature in Dublin, Georgia. I know she had me beaten!

One morning in early April, my younger brother Lindsey ran into the house screaming that our neighbors bull had jumped the fence. “He’s marrying every one of your cows, Daddy!”

At first we didn’t think Miss Nonie had been bred, but by September it was evident. I could tell Dad was worried. Miss Nonie was less than a year old. All he said to me though was, “it could be tough. We’ll have to wait and see.”

The night before Thanksgiving, I sat quietly in my room. I hadn’t talked much that day and Mama came up to see ‘what was on my mind.’ I remember our talk as if it were just yesterday.

“The calf will be born any day now. You worried about that?” she began.

“I don’t care,” I answered sullenly.

“Yes you do, Nora Cordell!”

“But what if Nonie dies like Lucy? It will be all that calf’s fault!”

Mama paused, lowered her head, and answered as only my mom could, “Nora, when you borrow things from people, you know that you have to return them one day, right?”

I nodded.

“Well, God loans us precious gifts of His to take care of. He picked you to care for His little calf Nonie. One day you are going to return her to Him. See, God has given your dad and me you to take care of.”

She kissed my cheek and smiled, “Now get some sleep.”

Turkey Day arrived and as usual my dad headed for the woods to hunt, my brother Lindsey close at his heels. The bare, leafless trees surrounding the barn seemed so peaceful, yet so lonely. My thoughts drifted…she could have that calf any day now…it’s going to be tough…one day you have to return. “Nonie!” I called out, running to the barn. “Oh God, please let her be all right!”

I had barely opened the stall door when I saw her, stretched out uncomfortably in the corner, her head caught under the trough. I tried desperately to move her but her size was too much for me. I called for my dad, hoping he was within hearing range. He and my brother came quickly. We moved her and waited.

I rested her head in my lap and gently spoke to her. She began to tremble. I put my face close to hers.

Four hours later a tiny head appeared and within seconds, legs and tail.

My dad noticed the calf wasn’t breathing. My heart sank. I thought of the horrible things I had said about it; now, its life seemed so important. Daddy picked up a tiny wisp of hay and tickled her nose.

What had always appeared to be a common, every day sound became a miracle. She simply sneezed.

Miss Nonie lifted her head to see her precious gift from God. I lifted my head too and thanked Him for saving mine.

On this Thanksgiving, put aside the time-consuming projects; they have no permanent value. What matters most are the simple, day-to-day pleasures we tend to overlook or take for granted. Enjoy the people around you for none of us know how long we will be near eachother. Today, forget the dire predictions of gloom with which we are constantly bombarded. The true joy of life is in living itself. Be enthusiastic and never stop dreaming. Miracles happen every day and can be as small, yet as significant, as a sneeze…

Happy Thanksgiving from a once 16-year-old girl – now 48-year-old girl.

Written by Nora Hatchett Almazan

November 19, 2012 at 4:59 pm