Category Archives: The World According to Roo

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Voithos 2.1.1

Journal entry 2022Feb01

gorge Jeff SheldonJanuary in Southeastern Washington is mild compared to the last month I spent with the kids in Chicago. Now settled back into the apartment at the ranch from my two month visit, I’m comfortable and happy.

boyd sans cape

Moving home to the Ranch, so close to my crazy kid brother could have been worse, but it was the best move I ever made. However rough he’s always been a gem.

To be living my dream is marvelous. Royalties from my app already provided enough residual income for all those travel pieces. Aside from my blog, releasing rights as featured spots on my friend’s newspaper blog was a good call. I’m so glad I networked the project out to young Techies that keep my work on the cutting edge of the market place.

telex-vulcanhammmer-infotypewriter-pixabayAnd to think I actually salvaged so many of my old manuscripts. Those ones I keyed from a an old, rented typewriter onto discarded telex paper rolls (so I didn’t have to feed paper sheets). Did I really get through them all only five years after I moved back to the Ranch?

I shake off the chill and voice, “Voithos, coffee please.” In moments I could breathe in the aroma of a fresh mug of brew. “In a few more weeks I’ll enjoy opening the new electronic wall to bring in the fragrance and color of the landscape – and let the dogs in when I call them.” Not realizing I’d been speaking my rambling thoughts, Voithos, in his rich brogue responds, “Acknowledged.”

Heh, heh, I think. The folding, patio doors I installed, replacing the original garage door is now considered old school. I sigh. Dated or not, I love them.

Was it only five years after that first WordPress Blogging U course (fine, the second), I became a paid Technical Adviser for the upcoming YouTube enterprise? And collaborating with Two Are Better than One was a blessing.

I gaze over my office area, past the wood burning stove (the only heat source when I moved here). I installed a solar powered HVAC and water heating systems. Then I remembered the many rejections I printed and papered on my work area wall. I framed the last one, that sits on my old desk. “Lest we forget…” I startled, not intending to say it aloud, Voithos responds, “Acknowledged.”

img_1869 img_1862And to think, I did all of that while working a ranch, daily horseback riding – for leisure, traveling, hanging out with friends, cruising all over the globe with the gang and my offspring who now fly in from all over.

Thankfully my sons and daughters-in-law served more than their fair share in the military and public service so their grand kids aren’t subject to TDY assignments or the terrorist threats we all endured.

I reflect upon the happy years that followed, blogging about my stays around the globe. I met up with Lisa and her gang, Jacqueline, Mitch, J.Gi, Diane, David, Michelle, MescaAmir, Christi, and so many other great friends in the blogging community (what parties those were)! Traveling has certainly been more peaceful since Iran, North Korea, South Korea, Japan and Russia all made nice and the U.S. got out of their business!

How often I once dreamed of this life, and now it’s hard to remember the long, hard nights working. But I recall when the results finally took off. And now, with the wonderful people I’ve met in along the way, it’s hard to believe I ever felt lonely for someone, anyone to remind me life is worth living. God forbid I ever forget.

I must have dozed. What was I thinking? No matter, I’m breathing. “Voithos, start a new chapter, date 2023 November 22, draft title JFK-CSL. ‘With the years of memories I’ve collected, and some considerable loss… [I pause to rethink]’ ”

Voithos softly interrupts, “Roo, Roan is calling. Do you wish to answer or shall I intercept?” I sigh happily, saying, “Voithos, answer now. Hello, this is Roo.” [Momentary silence]… “Voithos, Increase outgoing volume. Hello, this is Roo.” like Roan doesn’t already see me in her holographic monitor. She looks too thin… “Hey…” Roan says with that confused tone I know so well. I wonder, who forgot what. I respond with our usual reply, “Hay hell, you’re old enough for oats.”

Suddenly I realize we had talked about letting the Jeep drive us to the Gorge – today – and her plane from Galveston departs in minutes.

I think, this must be what heaven will be like.

My foot rolling onto the cold, concrete floor shocks me into reality – I actually had been dreaming – a wonderful dream.

Wait, “Is that a trumpet I hear…**”

 

**“I declare to you, brothers and sisters, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed – in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.” 1 Corinthians 15:50-52 (NIV)

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One Unforgettable Day

As the morning light crept across the floor I noticed black, wavy hair had already collected under the dining table. I took the Swiffer from the broom closet and wiped the floor from the front room carpet to the back door – again. As I tossed the sheet, fluffy with dog hair into the waste basket Hopi, our black, Golden-Aussie dog trotted into the room and stopped. She sensed my anxiety and studied me closely. 
 
I clicked my tongue and extended my hand toward her. She came near and sat beside me, leaning on me. I stroked her head as if doing so comforted her more than me. Hopi somehow knew what we all felt – something was not right. Nobody wanted to think about it. But we all felt it.
 
It was Tuesday, April 14, 2003. My second son deployed for Iraq on His grandpa’s birthday the end of February. By the second week of March, Nathan was able to send short emails every day or so. He phoned a couple of times, briefly reporting that he and his men were all good. But it had been almost two weeks since anyone heard from him.
 
Now, looking through the doorway to the computer monitor across the room, I saw the screensaver still undisturbed – no new email. Unable to sleep I’d gotten up and busied myself by cleaning the house hours before. Exhausted, but restless, I still needed to do something. I reluctantly said, “Walk?” Hopi stood, tail sweeping high and wide as she trotted across the room to take her leash in her mouth from the doorknob, carried it back to me and stood expectantly. Her eyes fixed on me, watching closely.
 
“Good morning.” Kerry called from the far side of the office.
 
“Hey, good morning.” I called back. 
 
The phone rang, startling us all. I spun on my heel, reaching for the handset on the table next to me, sucked in a deep breath and pressed the button. Hopi sat when she saw my shoulders droop slightly. Instead of the static-laced, overseas connection I’d hoped for, the recorded telemarketer squawked for a moment before I hung up. I heard Kerry sigh loudly as he hung up the handset in the office at the same time. Something had to give.
 
I took the leash from Hopi and she trotted before me a few feet toward the front door. As I passed the office doorway, Kerry leaned around his computer monitor, smiling at me – my sunshine. I paused hoping to not see any trace of concern which would increase mine. “Telemarketer” I reported already forgetting we’d both answered our handsets at the same time. We each considered something pleasant to say, but settled for silent smiles.
 
“We’re going to get some fresh air. You want to take a break?” I asked him.
 
“I tossed the ball for her when I got back from the depot. I want to try to finish this by eleven.” nodding to his screen while studying my face. He’d taken my fourth son Quinn to the train so I could stay by the phone. I nodded. Work was good and a healthy distraction. I had surrendered working on my manuscript for the more immediate gratification I get from cleaning.
 
“I need to walk” I reiterated.
 
He agreed, “It’ll do you good, Honey” still watching the doorway. We both sighed, waiting. I wondered if he too could practically see the apprehension in the air. With another sigh I started toward the door. Walking down the hall I lifted my coat from the hook, pulling it on. The newspaper clipping with the names of the troops already k.i.a., taped to the wall fluttered as we passed. The moments seemed longer, each step taking greater effort. At the door I pushed one hand through the sleeve, turned the doorknob with the other and then zipped the coat closed.
 
Stepping outside, Hopi right behind me, I stretched my arms up and then bent down to touch my shoes, amazed at the effort it took. Hopi sat waiting for me to click her leash onto her harness. It’s strange how I didn’t notice the harsh Chicago weather for the last week – it simply didn’t matter to me. Instead I imagined my son and his company finding relief from the average 80 degrees in Baghdad. Closing the door behind us, Hopi and I crossed the street to the park. 
 
As we walked the length of the block I envisioned Nathan and the company playing volleyball in the Iraqi sand, blowing off some steam. Then I realized they would be doing so in combat boots and battle dress uniforms. Scratch that thought. We were almost back where we’d started. I envied Hopi walking calmly, happily alongside me, her breathing slowing steadily.
 
“Hey!” I called, as though Kerry hadn’t heard us banging the storm door coming in. Anticipating I’d ask if there was any news, (like he wouldn’t have found me had there been), he called out, “Hi Babe.” And then, “Nothing yet.”
 
As if someone pulled my plug, my energy drained, exhaustion set in. The fact is, I hadn’t really slept other than brief cat naps for days. Before sunup I’d poured a cup of coffee, realized I’d already finished two, and then I poured it back into the pot. Feeling lost, I mechanically wiped the counters with a towel and then went to the table before I realized I had done that before sweeping. I reflected upon how the bursts of phone calls from friends at church and the rest of my family in other states kept me going like they hadn’t in years.
 
I sat down at the table. A moment later I rose, and stepped to my computer in the office again. Checking my email gave me no relief. I began to key whatever words came to mind: worry, fear, trepidation, war, danger, Nathan, please call or write. After a few more sentences that made no sense I took the keyboard from my lap and set it back on the desk. I stood, announcing more to the air than to Kerry that I was going downstairs. Kerry silently followed me with his eyes. He could see what I felt. There was nothing more to say. He nodded and went back to keying.
 
I started the washer and then realized there was nothing for me to put into it. I turned it off again and began washing the lid and the surfaces. While I wanted to think about times past, wiping grass and dirt from the top of the machine during little league seasons, I shook it off to keep my head in the present. This should not be so hard after raising four sons. But this was different from all his previous tours, even Bosnia-Herzegovina. Everything changed on September 11, 2001.
 
I walked back up the stairs, instantly recognizing the pronounced difference in the atmosphere. Kerry had stopped and stood in the doorway on his way out of the office. “She is right here” he said into the phone. Locking his eyes with mine, assuring me he was not moving, he handed the phone to me. Confused that I hadn’t heard it ring, something else struck a very flat, discomforting chord in me. I thought I felt a shock race from my hand to my feet and back as I raised the phone to my ear. 
 
 
“Hey Mom.” It is Nathan’s weary, reserved voice. But he doesn’t say Ma’am, as he has for some 15 years. The suppressed dread that had been stagnating for days, exploded.
I struggle to speak, “Oh, Nate…” 
“Listen Mom. I’m okay…” time slows. I recognize his voice is controlled – eerily, too controlled. I feel it  – I know what is coming. 
“Uh… I took a hit, Mom…” Again, not Ma’am.
I gasp, but no air flowed in. I glance up to see Kerry hiding his face behind his hands, his chest wretches. I must keep my focus on Nathan. I manage a quick breath.
“You are going to be alright, Natty…” I instinctively use the pet name I called him as a toddler that comforted him when he was sick or sad.
“I am, Mom.” The last time I heard fear in that voice was long ago, but louder than his voice, it screamed at me, mocked me now. I feel like someone shoved a wide blade in my diaphragm. I do not imagine fear in my son’s voice. Talking to his mom, it is real. The gravity sinks in, pushing that blade deeper. I pull myself tight, every muscle hard. Deep inside I find words, 
“I’m right here Natty. I’m not going anywhere. You can tell me. It’s okay.” I want to breathe, but I can’t risk drowning out his voice. He sounds strangely apologetic, 
“I’m gonna be okay, but I’m pretty messed up right now.”
He stammered slightly, “I – uh, Ma’am, my leg’s in a few pieces, an’ my boots are tore up…” 
This is not his usual precise speech, his carefully chosen words. This casual, slurred language coming from my uber-disciplined soldier son is dispersing my last shred of hope. This nightmare is real. I silently bare down again and shove,
“It’s okay, Natty. You’re going to be just fine. I know it. God’s not done with you yet.”
“Uh, roger that, Ma’am,” his familiar tone returns. He continues, “I was in full body armor, so I was pretty much covered, I’m not sure about my junk…” I heard someone very close to his head say, “The family is secure, Sarge. There are a couple of pieces of shrapnel in your glutes. Repeat, Sarge, the family is secure.” 
I hear Nathan acknowledge the corpsman, and goes on telling me, 
“…but shrapnel tore through my other hand. This awesome corpsman offered me his phone so I called you. Uh. I’m gonna be okay Ma’am.”
“I know you are, Son. Where are you now?” 
I am not surprised to hear him reply immediately, “Ma’am, I’m in a field hospital not far from Baghdad on Highway 8. They’re going to transport me to Landstuhl pretty quick here. And hey Ma’am…” 
I can hear a corpsman assuring him. I feel Kerry’s hands gently rest on my shoulders, now aware he is praying.
“Nate, good men have you now and I won’t stop praying until I can kiss your face.”
“Thank you, Ma’am. I know you will and I appreciate… Hey Mom, I’m real good an’ uh, I love you Mom.”
“I love you Natty. I always will.” I could hear him breathe calmly, deeply. I said softly, “I will see you real soon.”
He quietly agreed, “Oh, yes Ma’am.”
And now I hear nothing.
My instincts had been spot-on again. I stand frozen. Silent. Time stops. I do not feel. I do not think. I can not allow myself to feel.

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Catch Up Over Coffee

While I adore the idea of meeting up with you all, I’m too much of a realist. We’d have to meet somewhere public and I don’t know my new area well enough to know some wonderful, quirky place with superior food and drink to meet yet. I will have to arrange to have one of the cars, which doesn’t always happen on anyone else’s schedule easily. Face it, we’d settle on texting photos, on our coffee breaks. Still, anyone in the Dallas-Fort Worth area is welcome to come by. Call first, of course!

So, since we’re planning this date to share coffee together in the not-too-distant future, I can get to the local Starbuck’s which is now also Teavana – yeay! You are most likely aware I cut myself off of any form of caffeine and processed sugar after ten-ish. So tea, especially herbal blends are kind of a big deal in my world. That way you don’t wonder if I’m not a gremlin after midnight, manning the captain’s chair inside the head of a robotic costume.

I don’t give a care about what cups they’re serving around their beverages, I don’t frequent non-fair trade coffee shops enough that I feel any guilt or remorse (again, walking distance), and the atmosphere is almost always pleasant. Not only that, if we embarrass or offend anyone there, no one there will ever recognize us again. Besides, being new in the community and far from other friends and family, my speaking skills need remarkable warming up before conversing. You get to start!

Josey tea Carli Jean

While we share tea together I’ll be delighted to hear what’s new since the last time we talked (Skyped, whatever). I’ve learned (finally) that listening is actually more important than talking, or entertaining as I tend to do. While I have become adept at systematically changing names to protect the innocent in my stories, many of my dialogues and short stories come from simply listening to the people around me – with a little splash of creative drama now and then, just to make it interesting. Besides, I am literally so weary of my story where it is right now, I’ve been writing it in the first person the way I thought it would go starting two years back. It still sucks at times, but I feel better a lot more often in my fiction.

While we share tea together we’ll go over the last week’s global events and the news from each other’s localities. Getting trapped behind my side of my nose makes me forget the many different perspectives on the other side – your side of my nose. What’s more, the world isn’t quite as frightening on your side of my nose as it is in here! Over drinks together we get a better grasp of reality, examine truth for what it is and find better balance in the world today. As Ellen (you remember meeting her) used to say, “we must get together and talk through the world’s problems, fixing it all over a pot of tea (or a bottle of wine) soon. Balance. It’s all about balance in all things and one simply can’t do it alone.

While we share tea together I’ll torture you with the details of building my blog, the amazing things I’m learning about the mechanics of WordPress, the people I meet and the fun I’m having taking the Blogging U. classes. I’ll pester you for ideas to write about and how to promote myself where I haven’t already. We won’t talk about that episode last spring when I put into action a clever promotional idea, but the officer thought I was soliciting. I played the Grandmother card and he let me go. Whatever…

While we share tea together we’ll discuss the latest fitness challenges I’ve tried out and diet discoveries have come to light since our last visit. Surely something there will help me shed another five pounds so I’ll be back to normal body weight six months after I start lifting and boxing again. If I’m still breathing, of course.

While we share tea together I’ll tell you the actual discoveries I tried and work well for me in my overall health care (like coconut oil), especially during the last bout with cancer – ugh. It’s all gone and all good now, “… I said, knowing I gained five pounds the last six weeks. (The physical therapist ordered me to not walk every day). I couldn’t believe she was serious about that until I popped one of the sutures in my calf going down the stair too fast. Note, it was only one stitch.”

While we share tea together I can tell you the secrets to spotting poison ivy, poison oak and poison sumac. I never heard of the latter either until I Googled homeopathic treatments, not wanting steroids. I can also advise you (after my second contact – they actually are bigger in Texas) how to treat the rash before it spreads – take the steroids. The End.

While we share tea together I’ll only be dull a few minutes boasting about my thirteen adorable, amazing grand kids, my marvelous sons and my heroic daughters-in-love. I promise only to show photos from my phone if you ask. And you know better than to ask just to be polite.

While we share tea together I’ll tell you the wonderful, interesting new ways I’ve learned to meet new people in Texas (not counting that soliciting thing). We’ll probably even touch on how I found the best church home (third time was the charm). You will be amazed that I’m not on the Worship Team and remember that’s where I served primarily for the last thirty years. We’ll talk about the good old days and we’ll look forward to what’s coming up ahead.

I’ll bet you can hardly wait. Hey! Where are you running so fast?

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My Clandestine, Subversive Mission

I write mostly because I’m a far better person in text than I am when I speak.

Of the many skills I developed that help maintain plausible sanity, I have more confidence in writing and rarely ever tire of it.

I pity the poor things who occupy space with me while my mind spins so fast that even I can’t keep up. I can’t expect anyone else to understand my feeble attempts to orate the vast, intricate thoughts spinning from the centrifuge of my brain; ones that comprehend quantum physics, string theory and Latin, yet I can’t recall if I ate today or how many steps get me to the light switch – and the freezer for ice cream – in utter darkness.

Mostly I write to sound the wee small voice within me, to be a beacon to seemingly hopeless lost souls, desperate to know someone gives a care. While I have failed time and again, forcing me underground, my clandestine, subversive mission is to help guide each lost child toward home.

Of an entire tree, if one piece of the fruit of my labor, a single sentence eventually helps somebody find reason enough to keep living, then I feel my time is not wasted.

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Joke’s On Me

Changing routines in our household is like moving the furniture in a blind and deaf person’s space.

Typically in our household I am up and moving about hours before anyone else. With the elevated pollen count and the North Texas autumn’s arrival (our first experience here), I feel like someone moved all the furniture.

This morning, the first Friday of the month, the entire household abounded with entirely too much brain activity, very many words, followed by questions. All this included considerable use of numbers, something I try to avoid at least 25 days each month – this isn’t one of the number days I recall planning. This all set in motion before my brain actually did.

The good news; in this trepid land of three alpha females under the same one roof; all survived with no bloodshed or flying fur – two hours later all funds are allocated and mostly disbursed.

Someone should write this down.

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About Self Storage

Obsession over possessions fascinates me. I invested more than $13,200.00 in self storage over nineteen years. Except for a couple of pieces that are worthless to anyone else, everything I stored is gone and forgotten now.

Throughout that time I drove the same, cool, pickup truck I bought for $9,000. It had gone 7,000 miles when I bought it. The day I sold it, over 353,000 miles later, I was positive it had thousands more miles left on it.

Three years later, after very little work, the same old truck I sold for $400 is still running strong.

I wonder if things in self storage for more than a few months need to move on. I could have bought a nice, newer vehicle with the money I spent hanging on to stuff I couldn’t keep. But I treasure the memories from all the miles that great old truck carried me.

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Why I Write

I began writing letters to my grandmother, my touchstone. That was when we drove graded roads through orange groves, pastures and cactus forests from Phoenix to Mesa. A long distance phone call on the only land line phone in the house was a costly event involving a telephone operator. Postage stamps cost less than a nickel. My parents moved us from a remote suburb of west Phoenix to Los Angeles. They called it a fresh start.

I learned as a young child that Grandmother saw right through a story to the truth. I mostly wrote fiction, so most of my writing never left my tablet. Fiction was nice. Outside of discussing the weather and describing the nearby landscapes, truth was rarely nice. I actually mailed an average of one letter to Grandmother each month.

I also wrote to my classmate Lanie about an exciting California lifestyle, most of which took place somewhere between books, black-and-white television, the drive-in movies and my imagination, all created from different hiding places in my parents’ house.

In writing I was somebody people liked. In print Grandmother didn’t notice a runny nose, crusty red eyelids, or dirt under the fingernails of a fat girl. From describing our new home far from Phoenix, I began to write to Grandmother about the lovely sunsets over the ocean (that I’d yet to see except on tv). I described the cars along Sunset Boulevard which was actually Leffingwell Road.

Grandmother always replied with her newsy updates. After some time she encouraged me to write more. I’d developed a knack for making my stories believable.

In my stories I was anyone and anything I wanted to be. I wrote about a smart, pretty, stylish, popular girl that blended into our neighborhood. In reality I could not see myself as anything but my mother’s stand-in cook, maid, and babysitter.

Early into adolescence I began to see myself as my characters and in 1966 the whole world began to change.

As my world grew with more characters, both genuine and those I imagined, I eventually realized many others felt entirely alone. Within that realization my awkward style became less gangly. A seasoned adult in Chicago, reading became my passion and writing became my touchstone. Ultimately, sharing with others and encouraging them along became my purpose.

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Higher Ground

So, I was on Facebook and viewed a short video. I laughed, and saw some wisdom in the feature. So, I set out to track its origin.

The next step grabbed my attention even tighter. Granted, it led me to the wall of a person whose focus is upon self expression. It’s Facebook – not necessarily reality.

I couldn’t find the fun, quirky and thought-provoking video that user posted some time before. Instead I saw an onslaught of the user’s more recent posts and skimmed over some of the comments, most screaming racism.

It be like, If ya dis, you not da fix.

KK, your Facebook wall infers you are one K short of perpetuating a bigger problem than the light-hearted subject that led me to you. So, I’ll keep looking for the next best thing.

End of rant.

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Notably Sound

Zoe couldn’t talk yesterday, but this morning we caught up. Unlike many of my friends and family these days, Zoe and I occupy the same time zone, so this doesn’t happen much.

Fast forward 150 minutes; epic – even for us. We touched all bases; our work, families, mutual friends, political and social concerns. Then, for fun, we skimmed back over my notes from our past year’s conversations.

Yes, I keep notes, chronological and color coded – on everything.

The happiest part of this old habit is getting to see so many details actually are accurately recorded.

So… you may be thinking.

So, my lesson today addresses how my amazing, adult sons more frequently than ever suggest I’m either confused about statements from previous talks or I wasn’t listening to them.

In all fairness, from my trusty notebook, our typical conversations appear compressed into time restraints and thus multi-directional, but though the subjects get jumbled among various categories, I pen the statements accurately. Innately defensive, though days or weeks may have lapsed, I am rectified. My notes serve me well.

And so, on this down slope of mid-life this is a kind of a big deal. Modern medicine has forced us to minor in self-diagnosis so that especially the savvy peri-senior is watchful for symptoms of dementia, senility and a host of diseases and distresses.

Today I am happy to report that empirically, according to my notes, Zoe and I are in good shape; at least between our ears!

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What’s Next

The world is changing. The changes didn’t start on 9/11/2001 yet that was a distinctive milestone.

Despite the many changes, some important things are the same as when I was a child – a very long time ago. I’m talking about what makes the world go ‘round; what makes us happy.

Above all the violence, tragedy and the madness, more than ever before I see people care about people. The technological advances in my lifespan alone, the blogosphere all have presented us with more opportunities, advantages that were only Sci-Fi when I was growing up.

We have gone global. Our family, friends, and neighbors – our community has become immense.

Even from my limited perspective life occasionally seems overwhelming; health issues, ecology, economy, strife… We all have dark days when the world feels hopeless. And yet the globe continues to turn, the sun keeps rising on a brand new day.

My dear, sage friend Zoe once said, “Don’t worry. Every day, step outside your door. Really look around you and help the first person you see. Sometimes a smile, a kind word or maybe helping someone carry out the trash can change everything. You continue on your way, but you did something.”

Even when it feels like we’re at the end of our ropes, we can get radical and possibly change the course of a day, a life – the world. Like Zoe said, we start by simply responding to the question, What’s Next? What can I do to help, right where I am right now?

I suggest we keep doing the next right thing.

“I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” Jesus, The Bible (NLT), John 16:33

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