In late 2008 I started a Neighborhood Watch chapter in my neighborhood. It took quite some time to generate interest and get some people involved, but eventually we got it up and running pretty solidly by Fall of 2009. During that time, there was seemingly a real jump in crime in our small city, and particularly drug-related crime and home-invasion robberies. I was at home most days by myself during the school year, and my neighbor next door (a rough and tumble biker chick) warned me that I should be careful not to let the drug dealers see me out there writing down their license plate numbers. Well, I knew her to be more street-smart than myself, but the Good Lord had kept me safe thus far, and unlike several people living right around us, this is not a rental, we own (well, are still paying on) our house. I had a vested interest in keeping that element of crime away, not the least of which was my two sons, but also, the value of our hard-earned property. I was never easily intimidated (in matters of justice, at least), and so even though I didn’t make a big production of it, (ok maybe sometimes I made it obvious) most of the time I just didn’t make much effort to conceal the fact I was watching them. And there were 4 houses right around us that were involved in the drugs and other issues.
Also that year, we put a new roof on our house, and had new gutters and some painting done. The contractor who did our roof was recommended by my brother. The guy was a Christian, and he was involved in a ministry to help ex-convicts get work. These were ex-convicts who had come to Jesus, and attended a church that specialized in prison ministry and post-prison ministry. We got a decent bid and the guys came and started on the work. The contractor did this ministry on the side, from his other job, so it was one of those things where they had to work-around the other schedule. Most weekdays for about 2 or 3 weeks, there was someone of that crew here. The ex-prisoners were very quiet, and did not interact with my husband or myself, which may have been stipulated by the program, I’m not sure. They’d say “good morning” if I said it first, but that was about all. Well, we had storms, we had wind, we had leaks when the old roof was torn off, and tarps were up, and all sorts of frustrating delays and problems that dragged the job out. Meanwhile, I was still working on building up and publicizing the Neighborhood Watch. I continued to keep my notes of license numbers, descriptions of vehicles, etc. One night we awoke about 2 am to what sounded like a mob outside our bedroom window. (We live on a corner). And sure enough, when I looked out there, there were about 30 people (some teen, some decidedly older) with beer bottles and cups and lots of shouting going on. I called the police, and found out later that the graduation party across the street had drawn several uninvited and unwelcome guests and the neighbor was glad I called the police because she was afraid to.
Another time about 9 pm there was another similar gathering. It was dark already and I heard shouts and excitement in that same intersection. I opened the door to see a cluster of teens gathered around one person on the road with another person straddling them and pounding away with both fists, while yet another person helped restrain the victims arms. I had the phone in my hand and dialed 911 on my way out there, and marched right into the middle of the brawl, and told them to break it up, and unless they wanted to be arrested, to take their “business” elsewhere, and they’d better run, because the cops were on the way. As I drew even with them, I realized those involved were girls, and the one adult moved toward me (a male, tattooed, bald, 6-1, 220 lbs-ish, in his late 30′s) and said “no, don’t break them up, that’s my daughter, she’s taking care of business”. I gave him the evil eye and said, “too late, I’ve already called. The police are on their way, but I’ll be sure and inform them you’re Dad when they get here”. I headed back onto my own property and waited. The police arrived with sirens and the kids started to disperse.
My husband gave me grief over the fact that I put myself in the middle of it, but I declare, I didn’t give it a second’s hesitation. I pay my taxes, take care of my property, AND my kids, and I wasn’t letting a bunch of juvenile (and one adult) delinquents turn my street into the slums.
Come to find out the girl in the fight was my Biker Chick neighbor’s daughter, (the dude lied, he was the fighting kid’s brother-in-law) and when she found out about the fight, she got arrested because she tracked down the girl that had been bullying her daughter and beat her up herself. She may have been a 7 time felon herself, but nobody but nobody messed with her kids and got away with it, and if her own fearless ferocity wasn’t sufficient to take care of the problem, the strength of the entire Pagans biker gang of our area “had her back”.
I mentioned this neighbor before on my blog, as someone I had shared the gospel with and prayed with and really just loved her, and as unlikely as it may seem, we came to genuinely care about one another as friends. (The Biker Chick and the Church Lady). I think of her and her kids like family and have really missed her since she moved. Although it’s much quieter now that 30 motorcycles aren’t roaring down the street by my window every Friday and Saturday night. Actually, by her “order” they were instructed to cut their motors a block away and roll up to her house, for our sakes. True story! She also offered to send the Pagans to take care of some other issues in our neighborhood when frustration was building about the police and local crime. I graciously declined, but promised I’d keep her offer in mind.
She and I would meet at the street and catch up on news from time to time when we were both out working in the yard or whatever, and one day around this time she told me she had been working at a house on the next street (behind our house is an alley, and the back of that house is accessible via the alley by a distance of a couple of lots). She had been cleaning out a house that was “turning over” from old renters to new ones, and had been waiting for someone to come an pick up an old dryer the landlord had replaced. She was sweeping the front porch when an old blue truck drove by, in which there was an older black man and a younger one. She noticed it go by a few times, and then on about the third pass, it finally pulled over. She said she didn’t think much of it, that the guy was probably the junk-man coming to get the dryer, and had only been making sure it was the right address. But when he got out of the truck, he had just kept coming on around, through the fence and up onto the porch. (At this point it might be good if I let you know that my friend was at one time a semi-professional woman boxer). The guy kept moving right into her “personal space” and she sprung off the porch and swung towards him with her broom just as he grabbed her arm. It surprised him enough that it broke his grip. She is quite loud, and curses like a sailor, so she was yelling expletives at him by now, but he kept coming at her, and told her he was going to take her inside that house and rape her. She said she kept fending him off, and was looking around to see if there was anyone who saw what was happening. She noticed the young guy was not in the truck, and eventually a man from across the street came over. (The neighbor is a tiny man, while the assailant was a pretty brawny guy). He didn’t confront the man, but wisely said, “hey, you need some help picking up this dryer and getting it into your truck”. This gave the guy an “out” and my neighbor supposed that having realized he’d picked a real live wire, his best bet was to take it.
When she told me this story, something rang a bell in my mind. I asked again, what day this had happened, and it was on the same day that I had stood at my kitchen sink doing dishes and looking through the window, and through a space of about 1 foot by 1 foot, between a shed in the yard next door, and a tree, I could see a man standing in the alley looking toward the back of a house a couple of lots down. He was standing beside a dark blue vintage (late 50′s/early 60′s) truck, with wide running boards and some grey primer on the fender. I thought, “that’s odd, something’s not right. What is he doing?” And I took my phone with me as I walked down the back sidewalk to my gate at the alley, and blatantly leaned over the gate and made eye contact with the guy to let him know I saw him. Then I turned around and went back into the house and locked my doors. But I didn’t call the police that day, for some reason. I am guessing something distracted me (doesn’t take much) because normally I would have. Well, I told her what I had seen and what I had done that day, and we came to the conclusion that the guy I saw, was the guy who attacked her, and he had been back there watching her that day as she cleaned alone inside that empty house with no curtains, and determining there was no one else there, he decided to go for it.
I’d been doing the Neighborhood Watch for several months, and everyone within the 200 homes in my immediate vicinity knew me as “The Neighborhood Watch Lady” by now, including the drug dealers, when the roofers were working on my house. I’d talked to this Christian contractor about my church, about the Neighborhood Watch, and about the drug activity around us, (although he didn’t know about my confrontational style). One day he said “I want you to know that the Lord has impressed on me, for us to pray for you every day when we are here, and even on the days we’re not. I can’t seem to shake it, the Lord just keeps prompting me to pray.” He mentioned that several times when he came to work. I said, “well, it could have something to do with this Neighborhood Watch stuff”. (I might also add that our city’s Police force was under investigation since a year prior, necessitating a temporary lay off of several officers, and the State Police had to patrol here for a few weeks. That investigation was still ongoing, though most of the officers were back at work, and no official “findings” to this day, have ever been released to the public. Thus, I was very careful about which officers I talked to as well).
Well, one Friday, ( a couple of weeks beyond the would-have-been incident with my neighbor and her “stalker”, when I got hubby off to work, and the kids off to school, I left the house to get a few things at the grocery store. I set the alarm, as usual, but at that time I didn’t have a concealed carry permit, so the gun stayed home.
When I came home, there was an old Chevy Truck parked in front of my house. It was in the spot my husband usually parks in, behind my car on the street, so I pulled in front, and backed into my usual space. I didn’t think anything of it because the people across from us did not own a car, and often someone would park in front of our house, if they were running in to pick those neighbors up and take them someplace, so I didn’t even notice the truck was occupied at first. But as I was backing into my spot in front, I saw in the rear-view mirror that there was a black middle-aged male in the truck. (Our neighborhood is fairly multicultural). I know the rules. I’m supposed to drive off to someplace safe, but I figured if I did, he’d stay and burgle our house. As he sat there, looking at me, and also looking over at my house, I debated on whether to pull out, and go to my neighbors, or to just hop out, leaving groceries and valuables, taking my keys (with mace), and briskly cover the 10 paces to my front door. I opted for the latter. There were usually neighbors home, I had my cell, and can project my voice pretty loudly, so I felt there was little likelihood of him trying to take me down right there in broad daylight. I got inside and locked the door, and reset my alarm, immediately, and then dialed my neighbor Barbara, who lives directly behind, all the while also going to the front window to watch him through the cracks in the venetian blinds.
He now was blatantly watching my house, leaning down over the passenger side of the truck, scanning the windows and porch and door. I was telling Barbara all of this, and told her “if I hang up suddenly or you hear anything that concerns you, dial 911″. Even as I finished saying that, the man exited his truck and started moving quickly toward my house, which I conveyed to my neighbor as I dropped the phone to go grab my loaded gun. I looked out the front-facing window in my room and not hearing the porch door squeak open, I knew he likely wasn’t on my porch, but didn’t know where. So I made my way around the house window to window, room to room and followed his progress until I saw him turn the corner behind my house down the alley toward my back gate. I knew that a frequent break-in tactic was to gang on the front and if no one opens the door, they’ll break in through the back. At this point I made the decision that I’d rather be out on the street than alone with this guy in my house, so with gun in one hand and phone in the other, I went out the front door (triggering the alarm) and ran not in the opposite direction, but in the direction he had gone. I intended to go to my neighbor’s house, who already knew what was going on, but when I got to where the alley was, I saw that he had kept going, moving very briskly now, down the alley. Probably because he heard my house alarm screaming from when I opened the front door. At that point, I knew where he was and knew he didn’t see me, so I walked back toward my front door as I talked to dispatch and told them what was going on. The police arrived then, but the guy was nowhere to be found. They ran his plates and found out his vehicle was registered in a rural farm area 60 miles to our south, and there were several officers, but they didn’t find him. The police finally left, even thought he truck was still parked in front of my house! Which made me even more angry! Oh, in the meantime, hubby came home on his lunch break. He had to leave before the police had even left, so I guess the whole ordeal was 30 minutes or so, from the time I drove up until the police left. Well, I had stood on the porch a little longer after they all left, and a few minutes later a younger black man in jeans and a hoodie, came walking up the same side street looking at my house, back yard, and front, and talking on a cell phone. He looked me in the face, and I looked him in the face, at a distance of about 4 yards. I gave him my best scowl, and continued to look him in the eye, and he continued to talk on the phone, then turn back and walk down the street in the same direction the first man had gone. I went in, locked the door, and continued to watch for the guy to show back up at his truck. I didn’t have to wait long, because almost immediately the guy came. By now I was boiling mad. I came flying out of the house like a crazy woman and asked the guy what the bleep he was doing watching my house and messing around on my property. He said, “I wasn’t doing anything”. I was feet away from him now, with only my front fence between us. I also had my 28 tucked into the back of my waistband. I said “why are you parking in front of my house, watching my house, and going down the alley behind my house?” He said “I have a friend that lives over there and I always park on this street when I go over there”. I said, gave him the “as if” grimace of incredulity, and said “well you’re an idiot, and that’s a good way to get yourself shot. I called the police and they were looking for you. They ran your plate and found out you live in Waverley, so if I were you, whatever it is you are up to, you better take it somewhere else”. At that, I turned and pulled my gun from my waistband, and walked away from him and into the house, where I watched him climb into the bed of his truck, and tuck something into the big toolbox. (Gun?, Knife? Drugs?).
It wasn’t until it was all over that I recalled the neighbor’s incident. The truck was different. Also dark blue, but a Ford and 70′s model. When I was watching the news the next evening, I heard a story that gave me chills. A young man was home alone one morning in a neighboring city, when he heard someone rattling the doorknob on the back door. He grabbed his aunt’s gun and emptied it shooting through the door. A few hours later, the younger man had been found dead block over (from a gunshot wound), and later that night, the other suspect was captured when he showed up at the Emergency Room with a gunshot wound to the abdomen. The news showed the photo of the guy who had died. I was fairly certain he was the same person who had stood out there under my pecan tree on the street beside my house talking on the phone in the midst of my own incident. I immediately looked up the story online, and replayed the video, and I was right! Same guy!
Though the other person in the incident in the next town was also a younger person, (as opposed to the 50-something man who parked in front of my house) I figured that it was a part of some crime “ring” that worked the area, or something. I know one thing, for certain: The Lord does watch over “fools and children”, and work in mysterious ways. Who would have thought that a Christian roofer and his ex-con employees, covering my home in prayer over those weeks, would be God’s means of keeping me safe while I “fought crime” in my neighborhood?
There was one more incident that was odd during that period that I think may have been part of the same “crime wave” (or personal targeting?) One day between 5 and 6 pm, I had 3 different individuals or sets of individuals knock on our door. First group claimed to be an alarm company, and wanting to sell me an alarm system, and when I said I already had one, they wanted to come in and look at it, because they had an “offer for one that was probably better”. Well they had matching shirts and laminated I.D. badges, but I sent them on their way anyhow. Not long after, my husband got home, another knock sounded, and my husband answered the door. A man asked my husband if he had a little dog, “because I think it got loose” he said. Garrett informed the man that our little dog had died the previous month, but figuring maybe a dog belonging to someone else, was maybe out there, we walked through to the back (after shutting the front) to check, and just as I walked toward the gate (and hubby went the other way toward the street), another guy came flying from behind our garage holding his pants up with one hand, slipped on the mud by the trash toter, and landed on his back. My husband just looked at him and said “what the heck are you running from?” He said, “there’s a big ole dog loose back there”. Well, there still was no dog to be found, so we were wondering whether maybe the so-called “alarm people” were in cahoots with the dog people, but we just went on about our business, scratching our heads over it all. Hubby went back in and I was still out in the back yard (probably to pick some herbs to use for supper) when yet another man came around into our side yard with a camera and started taking photos of the back of my house. (I guess he didn’t see me as I was on the other side near the garage). I started yelling at him and demanding to know what he was doing on my property and taking pictures of my house. He claimed he worked for the cable company. We hadn’t had cable in 3 years, and when I told him that, he (unwisely) said “it doesn’t matter”. My volume was nearing howler-monkey range, when I said, “you need to get off my property! NOW!!!
My husband came out then, and I said, “call the police” but he’d already called them and they pulled up right about then. As it turned out, the cable guy was legit, and the alarm people were legit, as they had informed the police department they would be working in the neighborhood. The cable guy was sort of baffled by the time we told the officer about the dog guys and the alarm folks. He seemed much subdued and almost apologetic as he explained that because people often pirated cable service by climbing the poles and re-connecting cable themselves, the cable company had to do loss-prevention from time to time and make sure customers who were no longer customers, were not indeed getting cable. The way to do that is locate the connection and see that it is not hooked up. I guess pictures were to prove the guy had done his job.
I gave up the Neighborhood Watch Coordinator role after a year and a half, and someone else stepped up. We have some periods when no one seems interested in meeting, but people in the area know who is who, whom they can trust, and so it has become and remained a safer neighborhood. My nickname, given to me by the local police? “Eagle Eye”.
Now not only am I known and feared by the kids teachers, (yes, apparently I’m that mom) but the police as well. (In a good way, of course…….I think?!) Especially the new Police Chief, who I had an “encounter” with (not realizing who he was at the time) after which I wrote this Letter to the Editor about the exchange, and had it published in the local paper.
That’s me, the church lady, and that’s my former biker chick neighbor with some sleazebag named Joe she met in a bar.
Not really, but if she ever did meet Joe Biden, it would have been her, lol. Oh, and that’s really Dana Carvey, the original “church lady”.
The rest of it is all true. Unfortunately.
Below is a poem that “Hubby” wrote for me a few years ago!
When most little girls dreamed of having
A shining knight to love
Her heart was already set on treasures up above
She knew her travels would take her
To those streets of gold
Already homesick for heaven, I suppose
When there’s laughter all around her
And all her struggles put away
I see that melancholy smile no one’s supposed to see
I ask her how she’s feeling as I pull her close
She says “I’m homesick for heaven, I suppose”.
Many years from now
When her children are all grown
She’ll have bittersweet memories of her journey home
She’ll finally come to the place
She was always reaching for
And she won’t be homesick for heaven anymore.
She won’t be homesick for heaven anymore.
Lyrics by A.G. Lloyd © 2003
I am one of those weird and crazy people who can get tickled at the strangest things, and can’t stop my uncontrollable laughter until it has run its course. Additionally, when I do laugh, I am prone to collapse due to cataplexy, a condition in which my muscles all go suddenly lax, and my knees may buckle under me.
During the winter months I am often plagued by depression, and it takes a great deal of prayer and proactive determination to keep from losing my joy completely. I sometimes find myself praying, “Lord, I don’t know what I need, but please send me something to help me hang on”.
I always look forward to the hope that accompanies the advent of springtime, and enjoy getting started on my flower gardens. One spring, not long ago, I went out into my front yard to work in the bulbs underneath my Redbud tree. Despite my allergy to mulch,I reveled in the warm sunshine, merrily sniffling, sneezing and digging, when suddenly a bug flew up my nose.
To my horror, he became firmly lodged in that area of the throat from which there is no graceful return. My best hope was to expectorate the offender before he made his way into my lungs. Disregarding social considerations I proceeded to very earnestly snort, hack and blow in full view of God and all the neighbors.
That’s when the laugh-attack struck. I clung to that tree for dear life, holding my aching side, legs crossed, (moms you know what I mean) hacking, sputtering and snorting, turning purple, trying not to inhale, until finally, (gulp) I swallowed that bug just to get it over with!
Be careful what you pray for, and be prepared to be a good sport about it when God in His infinite wisdom (and with a gleam in His eye) says: “I know just what you need”.
Copyright STLloyd 2004
An abridged version of this true story was related to my friend, author Tammi Morgan, via e-mail and used by her (with my permission) in her book, Emerging Butterfly-Finding Life Beyond Anxiety Disorders. (PublishAmerica-2008)
The Blue Ridge Mountains in the Fall of 82
Sitting in our porch swing with my boys when they were little
Watching a meteor shower from the hood of the car on a summer night
Going for snow-walks at midnight before anybody else has left footprints
Being young and strong enough to water ski on beautiful Smith Mountain Lake
The first time I held my babies
The smell of pine pitch on old railroad ties along the trail at Battlefield Park in summers heat
The taste of orange blossom honey
The sound of the swollen creek through grandma’s window as I fall asleep
The gurruuump of bullfrogs on the pond
The sound of my boys as toddlers, playing and laughing together
Stopping on a busy highway interchange to sit among a bank of daffodils as I watch the traffic whizzing by
Giggling with my cousins
Giant fluffy white clouds against Scotland’s blue sky
Celtic flutes and harps
The sound of the ocean and seagulls in the morning
A lonesome faraway train whistle
Purple Morning Glories and gold tortoise beetles
The fragrance of daffodils and hyacinth and honeysuckle and jasmine
Cooking with fresh herbs
The smell of an orange at Christmas
Dozing off to the sound of the clothes dryer
Running 5 miles
Singing in harmony with family
Warm, caressing breezes
Fresh picked apples
My aunt Gwen’s Bread and Butter Pickles
Mama’s Macaroni Salad
Laughing together as a family
Hymns echoing in a one-room church-house
Seeing loved ones lost to death, alive and well again in my dreams
The fragrance of Gardenias
Looking at old photos
A letter from a friend
A satisfying and fulfilling day’s work
Sheets fresh off the clothes line
Easter dresses and patent leather shoes
The playing of taps and the red white and blue flying high
Fourth of July Fireworks
Food at the State Fair
The first “barefoot day” of summer
Walking in the rain in Quebec
Swimming laps for an hour or more, my mind a complete blank
Wave runners and four-wheelers at full throttle
Big Band Swing
Sarasota Botanical Gardens and my sketchbook
Popcorn and fudge and charades
Walking with Jesus
And some day soon, the sound of the shofar and the sight of my savior’s face!
(iHeartradio 105.9 KGBX via Facebook)
Wow, someone must really need to read/view the stuff I tried to post earlier, because when I viewed it, it had published with writing overlapping, video missing, and just mis-configured and I kept trying to separate things, try different sizes to the fonts, all to no avail, until I finally just split everything up into these several posts. Anyway, here is the part about Reagan I was trying to share.
My husband once said “Lord, if Jesus isn’t coming soon, could you please send Reagan?”
I posted that on my old blog and within a few days I saw a tee-shirt for sale online with that on it.
Good news: Chemo session went well, will continue on infusion pump at home until Friday, nurses at the facility were wonderful, and thus far no nausea, only some slight sensitivity to cold which is to be expected. Praise the Lord! Please continue to pray for there to be no permanent neuro-toxic effects.
And now for news, a wee bit of healthcare humor, and finishing off with a visit with an old friend.
The String-A-Longs were an instrumental group from Plainview, Texas, produced by Norman Petty on Warwick Records. They consisted of Richard Stephens, lead guitar, Keith McCormack and Jimmy Torres, rhythm guitars, Aubrey de Cordova, bass guitar and Don Allen, drums.
Their biggest hit single was their first, “Wheels”, in 1961 (released in 1960). The tune peaked at #3 on the Billboard Hot 100 and was the number 8 single of 1961 according to Billboard. The track reached number 8 in the UK Singles Chart. It sold over one million copies, and was awarded a gold disc. In Britain later the same year the tune was revived by the Joe Loss Orchestra as “Wheels Cha Cha”; it reached #21. It became popular in France later in 1961 under the title “Dans le cœur de ma blonde”. Billy Vaughn was at number one in the German singles charts with the song for 14 weeks; in the USA he reached #28.
The String-A-Longs followed up “Wheels” with “Brass Buttons” (U.S. #35), “Should I”, and “Replica”.
Mama and Me 27 or so years ago!
This is me now: