Who is John Boozman? Veterans Need to Know.

FACT: In the United States, a veteran commits suicide every 80 minutes.

U.S. Sen. Fay Boozman votes against veterans.

Arkansas Sen. John Boozman

FACT: Today, one in four veterans is unemployed.

FACT: The total number of employable, but unemployed veterans now stands in excess of 700,000.

FACT: On Wednesday, Senate Republicans blocked the vote on the Veterans Jobs Corps bill that would have infused $1 billion over the next five years to help veterans find jobs in their communities.

FACT: Arkansas Republican Senator John Boozman was one of the leading authors of the Veterans bill.

FACT: Boozman serves on the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee.

FACT: Yesterday, Boozman voted against allowing that bill to come to a vote on the Senate floor. He did so along with three other Republican senators who authored the bill.

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The question is why.

The answer is clear.

It’s called partisan politics and the Romney Effect.

senators who voted against veterans

These four Republican senators authored the Veterans Jobs Corps bill, yet voted against allowing it to come to a vote.

There were no downsides to the Veterans Jobs Corps bill. As a primary author of the legislation, Boozman and others knew that. So why in the world would they vote against a bill that would put veterans, whose 10.2 percent unemployment rate stands well above that of the general civilian population?

This generally bi-partisan bill was a cornerstone of President Obama’s 2012 budget and a highlight of his 2012 State of the Union  Address.

At this late stage in the game with Republican’s likelihood of capturing the White House diminishing daily, the GOP will have nothing to do with anything that might be deemed a presidential success.

It’s like sending our veterans to war all over again.

Veterans Jobs Corps billAnd there is no “Plan B.” This measure won’t come up again for at least another year.

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All potential good aside, Boozman joins dozens of other Republican candidates this week doing everything they can to be anything but Republicans.

The Romney Effect has Republican candidates scrambling to hide from their identity, at least for the next several weeks.

Republican candidates in key swing states such as Wisconsin, Massachussetts, Ohio, Virgina and Nevada now claim no association with Romney after he willingly acknowledged his dismissal of 47 percent of the American population.

“I think there is a broad and growing feeling now that this thing is slipping out of Romney’s hands.” ~ conservative columnist Peggy Noonan

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That’s not the way I view the world. As someone who grew up in tough circumstances, I know that being on public assistance is not a spot anybody wants to be in.” ~ Massachussetts Sen. Scott Brown, who now trails his Democratic opponent Elizabeth Warren.

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“I just don’t view the world the way he (Romney) does.” ~ Nevada Sen. Dean Heller.

Who is Sen. John Boozman? All veterans should remember.

He’s the politician who solicited your vote, then turned his back on you.

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Becoming My Father’s Son

duck hunting on the Mississippi flyway

Of all the memories of my dad, this one is perhaps the most vivid. This photo, taken some time around 1973, shows my dad at his finest, completely in control, at peace, living precisely in the moment in a duckblind on the St. Francis River.

At the end of an emotional week, last night I quietly cried myself to sleep.

It’s not the most masculine thing to acknowledge, but I quit wearing the mask of the facade some time ago.

Last week, life wasn’t particularly wonderful.

Work was a challenge, the writer in me drew a daily blank, it was the first harvest

PS Olt and Yazoo duck calls

The collection of duck calls my dad amassed over his 71 years.

season my dad never saw, and so I mostly went into my quiet place piling up all the emotional junk until it finally had to come out.

And as they have many times over the last eight months, my thoughts turned to my dad who died last January. The memories and mental images came rushing back and I dismissed the week’s frustration in exchange for the memories.

Oh, daddy, if we could just sit down and talk today.

It’s not so much that we had the perfect father-son relationship. Here on earth, I think we may have misunderstood one another as much as two men could. Dad wasn’t a visionary. He was never compelled to achievement or notoriety. The moment in which he lived suited him just fine. And I thought he had it all wrong. Why didn’t he strive for “more,” I often wondered.

And so now, months after he’s gone, I suddenly get it in a retrospective sort of way, and I’m learning by no particular choosing of my own, the value of becoming my father’s son.

I never made a concerted effort to be like my dad. Never particularly wanted to.

The characteristic I most remember about him is contentment. Doing whatever it was he was doing in the moment, he was perfectly content. Driving a tractor, hunting ducks, drinking beer, loafing with his buddies, he was content, and lived perfectly in the moment.

In the 46 years I knew him, I had no particular respect or admiration for his ability to live moment by moment, until now. And now, he’s gone.

Me? I had much bigger plans. The present moments mattered much less than the future ones, because the time in between would be an investment spent working, performing, planning, reaching for a vision that would ultimately be something. I didn’t really know what, but it would be something. That was for sure.

It’s funny how the tide has turned.

In all the time I spent performing … showing him who knew best, it’s a funny thing now who’s showing who what.

In the years of my performance, I checked off certain achievements awaiting his praise. I suppose I thought he’d walk in the door one day and say, “You were right son. You knew better than me.” In retrospect, it’s easy to see the obnoxiousness of it all.

In the process, I went broke trying to get rich. As I tried to manipulate my professional and personal circumstances, and keep it all together, things fell disastrously apart. I learned scrambled eggs don’t easily go back together, and in the process, I became my father’s son.

At this moment, I look down at the keyboard and I see my daddy’s hands. A quick glance in the mirror will show me his face. Maybe I’ll have a laugh later today, and I’ll surely hear his voice.

My achievements didn’t impress him. All he wanted was my time, shared moments and a good laugh or two.

duck call collections

This was his favorite duck call – a P.S. Olt made in Pekin, Illinois.

Fortunately, we did have some special moments on which I can now reflect.

From the time I was 5 years old, I was by my dad’s side in a duckblind on the St.  Francis River. There was never a place I saw my dad happier, more peaceful and more in control than in the duckblind. In the duckblind, daddy was the boss.

There’s an image I have of dad in the duckblind. It’s one of the fortunate images my mind has retained over the years. His face peering out the window, looking eastward, he’d spot the ducks and begin the long call. He could call ducks for hours.

If you’ve never duck hunted … there are good duck callers and bad duck callers. Daddy was good. Very good.

He’d call them in from a mile away, lure them into circling our pond, and as the ducks drew closer his style would change. He’d begin the chatter, the calling would be more strategic. He’d twist his neck north and south, knowing intuitively what the ducks were doing even when they were out of sight. His steely blue eyes actually twinkled as we’d hear them come around from the north side, the wind would whistle over their spread wings and he’d raise his hand in the signal we all knew was his call for complete silence.

“Let things happen naturally now. We’ve gottem’ boys,” he said, without saying a word.

I haven’t duck hunted in 25 years. As much as I enjoyed those times years ago, they became less important because I thought they were moments that really didn’t matter. Now, I know how much they did.

I’m going to hunt again. I’m going to capture some of those moments again. Daddy knew best. It was the moments that really matter.

I know that now.

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I Don’t Always Read Blogs, But When I Do…

Dos aquis man

“I don’t always read blogs, but when I do, I prefer the blogroll at http://www.stevenwwatkins.com” ~ Dos Aquis Man

The best bloggers I’ve come across know The Great Blogging Truth.

They know it takes more than good writing; and more than a good tech-savvy knowledge to get noticed.

The best bloggers know getting noticed requires a delicate blend of art and science. Good writing’s not enough. Techno-wisdom’s not enough. It requires a good bit of both.

I’ve always been a decent writer. But I’ve never been tech-savvy. Fortunately, WordPress is user-friendly enough, that over time, I’ve learned how to do things that better balance the blogging requirement of art and science.

Until recently, I thought a blog was the place where I went mudding in my 4-wheel drive.

Until recently, I thought a dashboard was the thing that collected dust in my truck.

Until recently, I thought a widget was one of those things the government made at $3,000 a pop.

And so it was just recently, I learned how to create a blogroll. It’s something I’ve wanted to add to my page from the beginning. There are so many great blogs out there, but a few always make me stop and take notice. The blogs on my blogroll are the ones that I’ll read beginning to end 100 percent of the time.

Thanks to these bloggers, and their good work for giving me pleasure, inspiration and knowledge I never had before – in no particular order:

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Bucket List Publications – A great site by Lesley Carter who challenges us to embracelesley carter bucket list adventure with no regrets. Periodically, she also has great advice about how to get better noticed in the blogging world. www.lesleycarter.wordpress.com

Catherine, Caffeinated – Catherine is an indie author with some of the best advice I’ve found to help weave your way through the world of self-publishing. Check out this post for her latest work affordably priced at $2.99. www.catherineryanhoward.com

Holly Michael’s Writing Straight – I got to know Holly after she nominated me for a undserved award, and immediately took notice of her work. She’s a published author, missionary, philanthropist and writes with a transparent style I really enjoy. Since our virtual introduction, Holly and I have even considered collaborating on some projects. www.writingstraight.com

Las Palmas Ecuador – Admittedly self-serving. I write periodically for this business blog. It’s aPuerto Cayo Ecuador developing beachside expatriate community in Puerto Cayo, Ecuador. Dana and I are now building a home near this community. Working with this blog is one of the ways we live out our own personal adventures. Las Palmas has a great and informative website here. www.laspalmasecuador.wordpress.com

Let’s Go Digital – A blogsite by David Gaughran with terrific advice on self-publishing. I first became aware of David’s work through a book review post from Cristian Mihai. After reading the review, I immediately bought the book and it’s quite good. www.davidgaughran.wordpress.com

Let’s Overthink This – The title itself captured me from day one. I’m guilty. A diverse blog that challenges us to know when to go with our gut, or think things through. www.letsoverthinkthis.com

Los Rodriguez Life – Freshly pressed on a number of occasions, Javier and Leslie have a special talent for drawing attention to the things they do every day. Great photography, and their blog is enhanced with bi-lingual text, both English and Spanish. Their blog makes me feel like a voyeur. www.losrodriguezlife.com

Moment Matters – A great site encouraging us to pause and take in life’s simplest, and most pleasurable moments. Life doesn’t necessarily have to be that complicated. www.momentmatters.wordpress.com

blogsite of dana watkins

My Window 2 The World – Yes, this is my wife’s blogsite. Dana’s always had a special flair for photography. The photos on this site that chronicle her 2005 mission trip through Greece and Morocco show her real talent. www.mywindow2theworld.wordpress.com

Project 40

Project 40 – Suave, cool, sophisticated and cosmopolitan. I really like this guy. www.project-40.com

Hilary Billings

The Nomad Grad – Hilary Billings travels the world as a professional adventurer. She’s currently in Australia. Hilary uses her blog how to demonstrate some creative ways to travel and explore on a shoestring budget. If I could go back in time, I’d model many of the thing’s she’s now doing. www.nomadgrad.com

Truth and Cake – This site is hosted by an American, now living in Canada who’s married to a guy from South Africa. It’s the cleanest, classiest blog I’ve come across. Well designed, good writing, always a pleasure to read. www.truthandcake.com

Vocus Blog – These guys may now be the world’s leaders in social media marketing. They’re very good. How do I know? Recently, I was scouring the internet for advice on how to create an electronic newsletter for a client. I came across their site, made a few clicks, and within 30 minutes, they called me. Yesterday, I did an online-demo with a Vocus sales rep. They’re expensive, but very good. www.vocus.com

Latitude One – Again, self-serving. This is where I strictly focus on the adventures Dana and I enjoy in Puerto Cayo, Ecuador. www.latitudeone.wordpress.com

Thanks to all the author-entrepreneurs of these sites who give me pleasure, encouragement and the inspiration to be more like them.

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The New Blog at Las Palmas

A new look for the blog at the Las Palmas Community in Puerto Cayo, Ecuador, thanks to developers Gary & April Scarborough.

Las Palmas Ecuador

Las Palmas EcuadorHola everyone!

Welcome to the blog for Las Palmas – your Paradise on the South Pacific in Puerto Cayo, Ecuador!!!

We have a new look, big plans and a genuine excitementfor all the things ahead.

Just a few of the all-new things you notice in the future are:

  • Feature stories on your neighbors and friends who are making Las Palmas their home.
  • A regularly-published electronic newsletter featuring the latest at Las Palmas.
  • News and current events from Ecuador and the Manabi Province.
  • A peak into the lifestyle of a few of our expatriate neighbors up and down the Ecuadorian coast.
  • And of course, visual documentaries of the construction progress at Las Palmas and the surrounding neighborhood.

Please share the new site with your friends, on your social media posts and to your peers who are looking for an adventure, and if you have additional information or suggestions about thing’s…

View original post 39 more words

Remembering the Day AFTER 9-11 and Our Present Hypocricy

What I remember most, is not the day itself, but the days that followed.

I was one of the lucky ones, I suppose. I lost no family members, no friends, no colleagues in the triad of disaster that day. As so many others, I simply watched in disbelief.

bush and chief of staff at school on 9-11I was 36 on September 11, 2001, and pretty much numb to our nation’s divisiveness. Uncomfortable as it all felt, it was a privilege freedom carried, I’d somehow come to reason.

But the precious days that followed, at least in my small hometown, gave birth to a feeling I’d never before experienced. For a few short days, things were just different.

I think it must have been what it’s supposed to be to feel like an American.

On the day after 9-11, cars proudly displayed American flags waiving through the rush-hour commute. And there was no road rage. If someone cut you off that day – well, it was no big deal. We had our families and our futures ahead. We were alive and safe so we let it all slide.

In the few short days that followed 9-11, handshakes were firmer, hugs were tighter – we were actually civil, united, kinder and gentler.

The day after 9-11 all politics were cast aside. We all supported President Bush. And we wanted him to kill Osama bin Laden. He was the commander-in-chief and we stood united in his leading the charge.

Wouldn’t it have been nice if we could’ve somehow captured our collective sentiment and made time stand still? But time moved on. And eventually, we returned to our former selves.

Yesterday, Americans across the country shared the memories of 9-11. We gaveremembering 9-11 tribute and honor to the fallen, and we celebrated our resiliency as a people. It’s an honorable thing we do in our remembrance. But I can only think about how much we’ve forgotten.

In the days that followed 9-11 we were so … well … together. It’s quite the paradox that we remember a former time of unity during such a present time of divisiveness.

Today, we cast outright hate toward our commander-in-chief. And as the election approaches, we also question the morals of his opponent.

Politically, we disrespect the beliefs of our friends. Racially and ethnically we continue to build impenetrable walls. Economically, we endorse growing the margin between the wealthy and the poor while children go hungry.

Yesterday we all talked about our memories of that day. We made endless social media posts with powerful visuals recalling the day we came together as a nation and we made ourselves feel good for a brief moment in time.

Today, history will repeat itself, and yesterday will be forgotten. How does that happen?

I think about all those who gave their lives, and what they might say about our current state of affairs.

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Obama vs. Romney: What Would Jesus Do?

signing of declaration of independence

My personal struggle with the issue between separation of church and state dates to a real experience in 1998.

I was campaign press secretary for Democratic congressional candidate Marion Berry, and at the time, a member of a Southern Baptist Church. Interestingly, my counterpart, the communications director for our Republican opponent, attended the same church. We were even in the same Sunday school class.

Throughout the campaign, my counterpart, who was also a personal friend, proudly wore a button to church each Sunday in support of his candidate. It’s no particular criticism of him. It was just something I couldn’t do. Personally, I felt more at peace leaving politics at home than bringing attention to them at church.

Fast forward 12 years to the upcoming presidential election and it seems we’re all struggling with the separation of church and state issue more than ever. It’s creating a huge divide that causes me to wonder where it all may go.

Perhaps the biggest news to come out of the Democratic National Convention this week was whether the party would make the slightest mention of the word “God” in its platform. At the outset, the Democrat’s original platform made no mention of God. On Wednesday, they slipped in a mention of the divine creator.

I can imagine God sitting on his throne in Heaven wiping his brow. “Whew,” he must have exclaimed. “That was a close one!”

Within the last couple of years, I’ve actually found myself in the midst of “Christian” gatherings where in one breath leaders would pray for the safety of our troops abroad, only in the next breath to label our Commander-in-Chief as the anti-Christ.

It’s difficult to explain what that causes me to feel, so I won’t even try.

Right or wrong, statistics show more than half the American population believes President Obama to be a subscriber of the Muslim faith. He declares himself Christian.

On the other hand, Republican candidate Mitt Romney is Mormon. And many of the Christian evangelicals I know would say under their breath that to be Mormon is not to be Christian. I really don’t know. It’s not for me to decide.

Is God a Democrat or Republican? Romney or Obama? What would Jesus do?

As a nation, it seems we’ve never been more divided along the lines of race, the issue of right to life and the rights, or lack thereof, in the lesbian/gay community.

racial divide in politics

We stand to the extreme left, or the extreme right. Those who stand anywhere in between are labeled as heretics, unbelievers or a hateful people void of love for others.

I confess to find myself in the greyness of uncertainty between the two extremes and don’t believe I’m any of those things. What’s wrong with a simple confession that we just don’t know the mind of God?

Is it wrong to take the life of an unborn child. Yes, I think so. Yet is it wrong to deny a woman her freedom of choice for her own well being as a result of certain circumstances? I simply can’t deny that right. So, I just don’t know. It’s not for me to judge and I don’t believe that makes me a heretic or a coward. I just don’t know.

Evangelicals to the extreme right declare the sanctity of the right to life, yet in his years as governor of Texas, George W. Bush presided over the execution of 153president george w. bush prison inmates who were condemned to death. Many will argue there’s a huge difference. Personally, I don’t see it. Is strapping someone to a gurney and injecting them with medication that stops their heart from beating somehow not a violation of the sanctity of life?

Thou shalt not kill except behind thy prison walls?

It’s a double-edged sword we wield.

Can a gay or lesbian couple live together in the bonds of matrimony and yet declare themselves as members of the Christian faith? My read of the bible says that marriage is between man and woman, and that any such act would be one of sin. Nothing more, nothing less. And yet, I know God also disapproves of the many sinful acts of which I’ve been guilty over my 46 years. Am I unforgiven of those sins? I don’t believe it for a minute. Who am I to judge, or to know the mind of God?

Earlier this week, Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan declared the Obama presidency to be the most failed period of governance since Jimmy Carter’s term in office.

president jimmy carterI’m reminded of a 1976 interview Carter did with Playboy magazine in which he confessed his shortcomings. Policy and party politics aside, I think Carter was on to something when he acknowledged this about our society’s moralistic judgment:

“Because I’m just human and I’m tempted and Christ set some almost impossible standards for us. The Bible says, ‘Thou shalt not commit adultery.’ Christ said, I tell you that anyone who looks on a woman with lust has in his heart already committed adultery. I’ve looked on a lot of women with lust. I’ve committed adultery in my heart many times…. This is something that God recognizes, that I will do and have done, and God forgives me for it. But that doesn’t mean that I condemn someone who not only looks on a woman with lust but who leaves his wife and shacks up with somebody out of wedlock. Christ says, don’t consider yourself better than someone else because one guy screws a whole bunch of women while the other guy is loyal to his wife. The guy who’s loyal to his wife ought not to be condescending or proud because of the relative degree of sinfulness.”

I think it’s one of the more transparent and honest acknowledgments of any president in modern history. Carter didn’t declare himself to be perfect, without fault or all-knowing of the difference between right or wrong.

Many would point to the notion that the framers of our country intended us to be a nation of Godly people, yet they clearly set some boundaries for our own well being that we somehow fail to grasp.

As the principal author of the United States Declaration of IndependenceThomas Jefferson articulated a statement about human rights that most Americans regard as nearly sacred. Together with James Madison, Jefferson carried on a long and successful campaign against state financial support of churches in Virginia. It is Jefferson who created the phrase “wall of separation between church and state” in his 1802 letter to the Danbury Baptists of Connecticut. During his 1800 campaign for the presidency, Jefferson had to contend with critics who argued that he was unfit to hold office because he did not have orthodox religious beliefs.

Yet with the adoption of the idea of church-state separation, Jefferson authored these words in the Declaration of Independence.

“When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

The constitution itself says there shall be no religious standard in the qualification to hold federal office. We should stand for what we believe, but also remember the boundaries to which we say we subscribe.

Obama vs. Romney? What would Jesus Do? I don’t know.

And I’m okay with that for now.

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(Timing + Buzz) x Tags = Blog Hits

It’s a formula that will demand blog hits every time. A recent event in my home town proves it works.

Quick Background: On the evening of July 28, a young man was arrested in Jonesboro, AR, handcuffed, and placed in the back of a patrol car. Moments later, he somehow managed to commit suicide.

The arresting officers were white. The man placed under arrest was black. And for several weeks to follow a divide between races went public. National news agencies from all the major networks covered the story, only adding to the local community buzz.

Ten days ago, Rev. Jesse Jacksoncame to Jonesboro to lead a prayer vigil and a

chavis carter and jesse jackson

Chavis Carter

peaceful march questioning the details (or lack thereof) of Chavis Carter’s death.

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From a blogger’s perspective, a story like this has the perfect ingredients for a recipe that will set your blog afire.

When Jackson arrived, I spent no more than a grand total of 30 minutes snapping photos and doing a quick interview. But it was important to be there in a physical sense to observe and get a “feel” for the environment.

I came home, tired from a long day, and really didn’t feel like writing the full story, so I published an immediate tease with a photo of Jackson. The short post gave readers notice the story would appear on the blog first thing next morning. The tease story, a photo and one paragraph, generated hundred of blog hits over night while I slept soundly in bed.

Early the next morning, I wrote the full story with a headline designed to get search engine attention, tagged the photos and story with key words, and the blog lit up like a match.

Some readers even criticized the post for “stirring up a mess.” I’m okay with stirring up a mess when it’s based on facts and newsworthy events. The fact is, controversy generates attention.

Since the time of the original post more than 30 different phrases have been plugged into various search engines leading them straight to my blog.

In all, the original post’s had more than 1,500 hits, and a day hasn’t gone by when a search engine didn’t lead a reader to the story.

It’s an opportunity that presents itself more often than you may think.

Here’s another example:

Were there more hours in the day, I’d write an additional post today about Hurricane Isaac, a story that’s dominated the news for days. The hurricane, now a tropical

hurricane isaac

Arkansans will receive much needed rain from now Tropical Depression Isaac. Just a different angle to the story.

storm, soon to be a tropical depression, is headed straight up the gut of my home state. While it’s created havoc at the point of landfall, Isaac will bring much-needed rain to hundreds of thousands of acres devastated by drought conditions over the last four months.

Isaac is actually a positive weather event in my neck of the woods, and it would be a great angle for an original blog post. There’s just not enough hours in the day. But you understand the strategic potential.

When you’re presented with an opportunity that has the elements of timing and buzz, you can choose to make a small investment of time, think “tag-strategic,” and readers will come.

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The Weekend in Photos

The Refinery in Jonesboro

Sophie’s new TOMS from The Refinery.

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cocker spaniel photos

Snickers and Dana soaking up the last poolside days of summer 2012

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home oil

A welcome .9 inches of rainfall on Saturday. We haven’t had this much total in the last four months.

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flower gardening

The rainfall gives the zinnias one last, late summer flurry of color.

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gardening okra

…and the hope for a little late okra in the garden.

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Ordaining elders

Ordaining elders for a new church plant…Fellowship Bible Church – Paragould.

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summer 2012

Believe it or not, she really is a competitive swimmer.

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poolside angel

Our poolside angel.

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jonesboro ar

After church. Before lunch.

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fashion statement steven w watkins

Sophie says this image appears to be a egg. Actually, it’s a self-portrait of my latest fashion statement.