Monthly Archives: June 2013

The Storms of Summer

The Storms of Summer

I has been a wet summer in Atlanta, unseasonably drippy with rain coming when it darn well pleases, dumping as much as three inches of rain in forty-five minutes. Farmer Billy and I have endured this, watching helplessly as seedlings rot, as a river of muddy silt cut a path through the garden, as the pages of the calendar turn from May, to June.

Enter into this unpredictable season, storms that are so severe they smack the life out of trees, pull roofs from houses, cause severe damage. On Thursday, June 13th, the beloved and I were sitting in the office when it suddenly turned dark. We are accustom to this now, darkness at 6 pm., a time when the clouds dip low, heavy with rain.

“Best cover the porch,” I said.

We’ve been working on our porch since April. It should have and would have been finished by mid-May had it not been for the aforementioned weather.

The beloved is a storm watcher, the kind of man who stands on the porch ignoring the whine of the tornado siren. He did so last Thursday. Stood watching the rain fall sideways and fill the muddy front yard. From the corner of my eye I watched him, knowing better than to urge him inside. He never comes in. Then the rain stopped, the wind stopped, all fell silent. The sky took on a sinister hew. Mother Nature sucked the leaves back, pulling them close, inhaling them toward her. The beloved came inside. Said, “Get to the basement!”

Rushing to grab my shoes, the beloved pulled the dog with him. I crammed my feet into already-laced shoes and hurried down stairs just as Mother Nature exhaled hard. The power flickered. We heard a crash, all became dark.

By 6:30 the storm had passed. Without power, I trekked to the street to see if one of our pine trees had fallen on the line. Thankfully, it had not. Instead, a magnificent oak next door crashed to the street, one of its limbs hitting a car in the process. The driver had thrown the car in reverse, high-tailed it out as fast as possible. Lucky. Very lucky. Power lines sagged across my hedge bushes, hanging chest high, blocking our exit. My neighbors assembled quickly, checking on each other, reporting of trees just missing houses. We were all lucky.

We began directing traffic, flagging people, begging them to turn around. Warning them of danger, we all, every one of us shocked as time and again drivers ignored us. Even though we stood in the road, even though we yelled STOP!  Drivers swerved around us, speeding up until they encountered the oak.

Thus began my observation in the de-evolvement of mankind. I’m not sure that de-evolvement is even a word. I only knew our intentions were to keep everyone safe. Obviously with leaves strewn everywhere and a dozen people standing in the road, a reasonable person could imagine that there had been (at least) an accident. As night fell and the police still hadn’t arrived, one of the neighbors drove to the police station. We need something to keep people from running into the fallen tree.

Obviously, we had no phone coverage. Even cell phones didn’t work.

Billy's field. Literally, a river runs through it.

Billy’s field. Literally, a river runs through it.

Upon learning that Hardscrabble Road had also been hit, I could only imagine what Billy’s farm looked like. I would later learn he lost several trees, a fence, and experienced more flooding. In addition his church three doors down, lost three oak trees. His cleanup began at God’s house. Farm cleanup will begin next week.

Friday morning, the Department of Transportation had installed barrier fencing. The fence blocked both lanes, but did little to stop those who had pre-determined that the signage was not meant for them. Yes, power lines still hung in the road. Yes, the tree still blocked the road. It would not be removed until Saturday.

The first barricade.

The first barricade.

By Friday afternoon the Department of Transportation determined their barrier sign wasn’t sufficient. They placed a “Road Closed” sign further up the street. Now those who refuse to obey signs had to go around two barriers.

And go around they did.

Deeply concerned for the safety of these people, I wrapped caution tape around the first barrier, so that people couldn’t drive through. Three minutes later (what else did I have to do but watch traffic), someone drove through the barricade; and once one person drives through, the rest follow.

Road Closed. Please, do not enter. People there are trees down !

Road Closed. Please, do not enter. People there are trees down !

Enter now, the television station. Storm chasers, known for sharing shots of storm damage, also provided the exact location where the damage occurred. This opened the gates for a variety of people who were, shall I say, not-so-reputable.

It seemed that every meth-head within a fifty mile radius threw a chainsaw in the back of their vehicle and hit the road, hoping to find someone who needed a tree removed.

“You mean no one has tried to cut down that tree?” One particular addict asked. “I bet I could cut it up for you.”

I said, “Honey, the fire department cut on it for two hours. The tree is as big around as your car. I don’t think you can move it. You need to turn around and look for someone else who needs help.”

By the way, you can tell when folk are on meth. Their teeth give them away every time.

After the news crew (who also passed through the barricade and filmed from my driveway) reported the tree down, a slew of tree crews jammed the road only to turn around when they found no one willing to expense the removal.

I used this as a teaching moment, “You see, all of these people. They believe the rules do not apply to them. They are the type of people who will pass on through (while gabbing on their cell phone, with their children in the back). They are the ones who will get injured and then sue the City for lack of signage. When you are driving, do not cross a barricade under any circumstance.”

My daughter nodded.

By now it is Saturday. When my dad worked for the power crew, they kept a chainsaw, or three, in the vehicle. They didn’t need to wait for someone else to remove a tree. Apparently, this tree was the City’s responsibility hence the delay, the days without power as my food thawed and dripped from the closed freezer.

Hello saggy power lines.

Hello saggy power lines.


Welcome tree crew.

Welcome tree crew.

Disclaimer: After all was said and done, we suffered minimal damage. Nothing compared to others who have lost it all. Being without power for four days is nothing when compared to loss of life and loss of property. I am not trying to diminish the loss of anyone. Merely report that people have lost their minds and aren’t paying attention when driving.

I live in an area where most of the residents are college graduates, and (in theory)  believe they are more “intellectual” than those who live in the rural area I once called home.

That’s bull hockey.

After people watching for a short time I can state this as a fact. The people who shot through the barricade either believed the rules of the road don’t apply, or they are not paying attention, or they didn’t give a tinker’s you-know-what.

Had an oak tree fallen across the road in my home town a group of good old boys would have showed up with a wench and six or ten chainsaws. They would have yanked that tree off the line in no time. They would have restored the power in record time. They would have done it all not because they are college graduates, or because they needed someone else to remove the tree, but because they knew what needed to be done.

Oh, they also would have blocked the road with their vehicle and dared another human being to cross their barricade.

Renea Winchester is the award-winning author of  In the Garden with Billy: Lessons About Life, Love & Tomatoes. In 2012 she released Stress-Free Marketing: Practical Advice for the Newly Published Author. 2014 will see the release of In the Kitchen with Billy: Farming, Friends & Fried Bologna Sandwiches. She is currently working on her first novel. She would love to hear from you. Visit her at


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The Prayer Shawl

If you are a regular follower to my blog you’ll remember my post defending prayer. May was a prayer-filled month. Many of you have struggled with a variety of issues. Whether your struggle is health related, relationship difficulties, loss of loved one, or test anxiety we have a God who not only hears, but answers our prayers. Let me pause for a moment to speak to the unbelievers, even if you don’t believe, even if you despise God, He loves you. He loves you because you are His. God gets very lonely for you; he gets lonely for me too when I dash out the door and forget to take Him with me. He will never stop loving you.

God knows our struggles, He hurts when we hurt, and sometimes He sends complete strangers to comfort us. After my blog post, I received a personal message from a kind lady asking if she could make me a prayer shawl. My immediate answer, “YES!”

Last week the shawl arrived. Now, I must confess I didn’t know what to expect when I opened the package. The shawl that tumbled out literally filled my heart with love. Tears pricked my eyes. Bringing the softness to my face, I wept, one of those uncontrollable Southern spells of weeping. A complete stranger, invested a whole bunch of time to create something lovely for little ole me.

My prayer shawl, along with inspirational books given to me by Ann Hite and Kelle Mac

My prayer shawl, along with inspirational books given to me by Ann Hite and Kelle Mac my prayer journal, and of course the Bible. Some days I need all of these books just to start the day.

I’ve gotta be honest, I’ve been feeling unloved lately. Without getting into the details, let me just say that I’ve been fighting the good fight for my daughter’s sake and for the sake of other students, I’ve been working hard, physically, on many projects, and in the middle of that working equally hard on my latest writing work in progress. At the end of the day I’m exhausted and feel very under appreciated. I know that all mothers feel this way. We’re all tired, weary of working so hard for so little. So for all the women out there who feel overwhelmed, I feel your pain!

The prayer shawl reminded me that no matter how I feel physically or emotionally, God loves me. He wants to wrap His arms around me. He wants to love little ole me, (and you) all day, every day, if I will just let Him.

Tucked inside the shawl was a beautiful card which read (in part) May the prayers stitched into this shawl come alive for you as you wrap yourself in hugs.

The beautiful note tucked inside my shawl.

The beautiful note tucked inside my shawl.

So today, I am thankful for my prayer shawl, and for the woman who listened to the voice of God saying, “stitch a shawl for Renea.” This morning I flipped through Psalms and found what I thought was a great scripture: Ps: 116. I love the Lord because He hears my voice and my prayer for mercy. Because He bends down to listen. I will pray as long as I have breath!”

I love the visual image, of God listening, bending down to hear me. He is listening for me, little ole dust-speck me. 

Renea Winchester is the award-winning author of In the Garden with Billy: Lessons About Life, Love & Tomatoes. In 2012, she released Stress-Free Marketing: Practical Advice for the Newly Published Author. 2014 will see the release of Farming, Friends & Fried Bologna Sandwiches. She is currently working on her first novel. She would love to hear from you. Visit her at


May Challenge: Words and more words



During the month of May I challenged myself as an author. As I sat down with my work in progress, a voice whispered that I should churn out a few short stories.

Someone of my regular subscribers just said, “aren’t you working on a novel?”

Yes. Yes, I am.

While my first book received two prestigious nominations: Georgia Author of the Year and a SIBA nomination, all of my awards are for short stories. I cut my teeth on them. Pressed pen to paper, wept, laughed, and bled pieces of myself into those stories. So when the voice whispered I sat up and paid attention.

After all, the voice had whispered before.

For those of you who are authors and parents, let me pause a moment for some plain talk. You should expect the following EVERY time you are under deadline.

*             You or your child will be come ill (it was me, terrible allergies/cold)

*             Everyone in your home will make demands on your time (Honey, I know we’ve had the slate in the basement for 6 years, but I’ve decided to start the project now)

*             You will learn to prioritize, or you will not meet your deadline (I’m sorry, I’m available after June 1st)

*             You will want to give up (Lord, what am I doing? Why do I bother?)

To stay on task, here is what worked for me:

*             I did not obsess about subject matter.

*             I prayed for words, then waited.

*             I wrote something every day. Sometimes, it was a notation in my prayer journal, other times it was a burst of 1800 words.

*             I dusted off the Trash File; you know the one, these are the stories you’d be embarrassed to let out of the house.

*             I wrote stories in 3rd person, this was a real challenge.

*             I unplugged from Facebook. I wrote by hand, edited by hand.

*             I did not give up.

I’m not certain why I lost my mind and agreed to write 40K words in May. It wasn’t even NaNoWriMo (National Write a Novel in a Month). May is an impossible month:end of school, family reunion, Memorial Day activities, all tug at me leaving very little time, but still, I do what I’m told. The beauty of my self-imposed deadline is accountability. I am my biggest critic. No one needed to nudge me. If I want success, I must work. I must work hard. I must sacrifice.

You do know that . . . right?

I didn’t obsess about word count. I wrote. Obsessing about content will kill your creativity.

Every. Single. Time.

You can not sit down and force words. They will not come. Ever. Actually, when words failed to arrive according to my schedule I walked away from the computer and arranged pieces of slate for my husband’s front porch project. This physical labor allowed me to sweat and allowed the words to stew.

Arranging tile allowed my words to rest, and me to sweat. Both are good things.
Arranging tile allowed my words to rest, and me to sweat. Both are good things.


Words need to stew. Stew is very good.

The final week was a disaster. Multiple issues pulled me away from my work, leaving me emotionally exhausted (my cold didn’t help either). At one point I sat outside, weeping. Crying, I had a big ole pity party. Then the voice spoke. You have allowed this drama to come between you and your work.

Notice that the voice said: “allowed.” Yes, issues required my attention, my time, my energy, but I would only fail if I allowed the issues to wear me down.

This is why writing pen to paper works for me. When I must be away from the computer, work travels with me. Notebook pages have no internet access. No access is a good, almost as good as stewed words.

So I wiped my face and I pressed on. The end result is a pretty awesome short story collection. Now I will determine whether to shop them for a publisher, or release them myself. Regardless of my choice, with my deadline met I will let the words marinate for a couple months. Pick them back up in August and make my decision; unless the voice whispers. By now I know to listen and obey.

Renea Winchester is the award-winning author of In the Garden with Billy: Lessons About Life, Love & Tomatoes. In 2012 she released Stress-Free Marketing: Practical Advice for the Newly Published Author. 2014 will see the release of In the Kitchen with Billy: Farming, Friends & Fried Bologna Sandwiches. She is currently working on her first novel. She would love to hear from you. Visit her at


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