The Right Words Don’t Matter

One year ago today, January 11, 2014, Suzi and I rushed to be with a friend as she faced one of the darkest and most painful days of her life. During the early morning hours lightning struck her barn. The entire barn burned and took with it all of their precious animals: twelve horses, eleven cats, and their newly adopted dog. I wondered how Atha and her husband, Carroll, would get through this. Just weeks prior to this, a drunk driver crashed into their truck while they were out on a simple get away date around town. The truck was totaled but luckily they both walked away with their lives. Scary; how in an instant we are forever changed. We are never guaranteed tomorrow.

Joined by two other friends from high school, Debra and Patty, I sat in Atha’s living room that day overwhelmed with emotion. These three beautiful friends have faced some tough circumstances. How fragile our lives can be. In seconds our lives can change forever. How do we handle tough times? What do we do?

Debra had lost her home to a fire a few years ago. Also struck by lightning, her house was completely lost. All the things they cherished in minutes were lost to the flames. They lost their sweet family bird but Debra was thankful that no one in her family was physically hurt.

Tears falling from her swollen eyes, Atha speaks from her painful heart, “What have I done wrong? Why did this happen God?”

Quietly, beside Atha, sits Patty. She holds Atha’s hand tightly. All of us searching for words of comfort, trying our best to comfort our dear friend Atha, we respond, “You did nothing wrong. God loves you… You’ll get through this.”

Patty too has a story, a journey. Patty has beat cancer twice but they had discovered it again and she was facing her toughest battles yet. And there she was comforting Atha. To me this is a picture of real beauty.

Yes, throughout our thirty something years as friends we’ve had our share of great moments, tears of joy, fun times, and beautiful moments. But we also had our share of pain and tragedy.

I’m so grateful I have my wife Suzi by my side, and these wonderful, strong friends Atha, Patty, and Debra. I love how we simply love one another through the good, the bad and the ugly times.

Sometimes the right words don’t matter, just simply embracing one another. Being there, praying, loving, this is all that matters.


New Years Day 2012, Debra shared a motto Life goes on. It wasn’t easy for Debra but day by day, second by second, life went on.


patti-christmas2012_LRChristmas 2012 – friends gather to decorate Patty’s house – Griswold-style




April 2012  the birth of twin colts

We laughed with Atha that day and were so blessed with the beautiful you she is and will always be.
Debra and Patty too are beautiful you’s! How lucky we are to have friends. Love and blessing.


Life is beautiful, love it out.

Atha - January 11, 2015 - 12:49 pm

Thank you so much for you friendship and love throughout all of the years. Your presence that day made such a difference if us not feel alone. From our youth till the end of time I will forever cherish you both.

Dan & Linda | Happily Ever After

What a lovely honor to photograph Dan and Linda Bidwell. Our Happily Ever After project gets more and more interesting. In a world where half of marriages end in divorce, I find it comforting to see the other half — marriages surviving and thriving.

Linda Bidwell was the Drama and English Teacher at Lee High School. She was well known and always loved. She truly cared about the students and is still in touch with so many. I graduated in 1981 but never had the luck to have her as my teacher. But we had the opportunity to meet earlier this year at the funeral of one of my favorite teachers, Mrs. Lawson. Face Book brought us together as friends as I have been drawn to her posts about her garden. Seeing her posts about gardening and life together with her husband Dan made me curious to know more. In addition, I’m so excited and blessed to have Linda editing one of our new children’s books that Suzi and I are currently working on.

I met Dan for the first time on our photo shoot. I did happen to see on FB some cool pictures of him long ago with his long hair. From the moment I met Dan I could sense his gentle heart. As for Linda you could just see the beauty of their love and feel this incredible 37 year chemistry they have together. 



Screen shot

 Click above to view video!

Their Love Notes:

1. How did you meet, what attracted you to each other?

Linda: Dan and I both moved to Huntsville in 1975 and by luck were neighbors in the same apartment complex. What attracted me to him? Everything — the whole package. A flower child of the 60s, naturally I loved his gorgeous long hair and his good looks. but even more, I loved his gentleness, his honesty, his wit, his intelligence, and his quiet demeanor.

Dan: We were comfortable and natural friends right away. I was quiet and somewhat of a geek, and I certainly wasn’t a natural at trying to impress. I loved that she accepted me as I am and didn’t try to change me and didn’t need me to be something else. We just hit it off.

2. Describe a memorable story of the two of you.

Linda: This is a difficult question because we are a self-proclaimed boring couple, perfect little home bodies. I will relate a story to shows Dan’s thoughtfulness and his ability to make me smile. In 2000, I had a major surgical procedure at the Cleveland Clinic. As a friend describes it, I was literally cut in half and was hospitalized for 8 days without food or drink or even an ice chip. On the eighth day when my epidural was removed, I realized how painful the surgery was. When I asked my burley male nurse for some pain medication, he told me that because I hadn’t swallowed anything for 8 days, he wouldn’t give me oral meds, though the doctor had said I could have them. Eventually, the nurse did give me what seemed like children’s Tylenol, which didn’t touch the pain. I told Dan to go tell him that I wanted some serious pain relievers and if he didn’t comply, he was going down. Dan looked down at me lying in that hospital bed, smiled, and asked, “And who is taking him down? You and whose army?” I had to smile at my foolishness. In spite of being in pain, he made me laugh at myself. Several days later I was released to fly home. We didn’t go to the Cleveland airport; instead, we went to a private airstrip on Lake Erie where we boarded a chartered plane. Dan knew that I would be in pain and didn’t want me to endure the crowds and layovers of a commercial flight. That was my first and only chartered flight, and I will never forget it.

Dan: Our wedding day story. Until that day, we gave no notice to our parents or to anyone else. This was a real shocker to my parents because they lived out of town and had never met Linda. In fact, they were not even aware we were dating. We got married at the courthouse. There was no big proposal. The week before, we just decided to get hitched after Linda expressed a concern that she would not be given funeral leave from work if anything ever happened to me, but we knew all along that we would get married anyway.

3. Key ingredient to your success as a couple, biggest challenge to overcome?

Linda: Our relationship has just always worked for us. I take care of him and he takes care of me. I want to make him happy; he wants to make me happy. We support and love each other as we smile and journey together through life, laughing every chance we get.

Dan: For us, we never have to try to make it work. It just does. When we are at home, we often do our own thing, comfortable the other is close by. When one of us is away from home or is out of town, the other finds it more difficult to get things done. We are not clingy, but are extremely close, independent people.

4. Favorite quote of verse?

For me, it is a line from Bob Dylan’s “Forever Young.”

“Always do for others and let others do for you.”

I really don’t know that Dan, a man of very few words, has a favorite quote.

5. Best gift ever?

Linda: If Dan never went shopping, he would be a happy camper. Early on, I let him off the hook and told him he didn’t need to buy me gifts for Valentine’s Day, Christmas, my birthday, or any other holidays. This was fine for both of us. My sisters laugh when I tell them that Dan is tight with his money because, as they see it, he spoils me with lavish gifts. I suppose I should say that he is tight with is money, but when he spends, he really spends! He will likely think I will identify the best gift ever from him as the tractor with the front loader, but he would be wrong. I have three favorite gifts, the first of which is RK eye surgery back in the 80s when it was still experimental and not covered by insurance. Prior to the surgeries, I was highly myopic and astigmatic. After these four surgeries, we were outside one evening and I shrieked with delight because I saw blades of grass instead of a carpet of green. Thanks to him, I have enjoyed keen eyesight for a quarter of a century. Another favorite gift is custom made hiking boots. Every year we spend a week in the Smokies hiking those wonderful mountains. After decades of buying ill-fitting boots, he arranged for me to have boots made to fit my short, fat, 3 1/2 E-width foot. My third favorite gift reflects his kind, thoughtful nature. The day before Valentine’s Day many years ago, he made a CD for me. He secretly recorded a brief personal message followed by Bob Dylan’s recently released “Make You Feel My Love.” He put the CD in my car, knowing that I would listen to it on my way to work that day. He was a romantic when I met him and now 37 years later, he is every bit as romantic.

Dan: There is no pressure of having to do the right thing at the right time. Our gifts to each other are not because of holidays or occasions. We give each other gifts when the time feels right, which make them more meaningful. Back in 1984 following worrisome hours awaiting my late return from a motorcycle ride, Linda told me if I sold my bike I could buy that BMW I had been eyeing. Years later, she signed me up for a BMW Driving School, something I had talked about. We refer to this as the gift that keeps on giving. Was she ever surprised when the registration package arrived and she learned I’d have to buy a helmet. Little did she know that this was a Performance Driving School. Twenty-three years later, and four cars, several helmets, race tires, brake pads, performance suspensions, a trailer and Linda’s Porsche Cayenne for towing the race car. . .   Yep, the gift goes on and on. And I love it!

6. Something he/she does very well?

Linda: Everything. Literally everything. He is a great thinker and a great “figure outer.” All his life he has taken things apart to see how they work.   He understands the science (or is it math?) behind everything great and small. Problems eat at him until he can figure them out. I accuse him of never giving his brain a vacation. He loves to learn, and he loves to share his knowledge with others.

Dan: She takes such great care of me. What more could you ask for?

7. Favorite food? 

Dan’s favorite food is anything eaten at home. He prefers “Linda’s Cafe” to any other eating establishment. I swear when he gets home from work, he walks into the house sniffing to see if anything is cooking. For me, it’s Mexican. On our 25th anniversary, he told me he’d take me anywhere. I suggested San Antonio so we could feast on Mexican foods.

8. Something you still dream about doing but haven’t done yet?

Linda: Dan’s retirement, which is still years away.  We have no grandiose plans other than to enjoy our golden years together. Sure, we have a short bucket list of places we’d like to visit (Yellowstone with my sister and brother-in-law, a true Yellowstone expert), but mostly, we look forward to relaxing here at home.

Dan: I would like to take a European Riverboat Tour.

9. What hobby will you enjoy during retirement?

Boy, are we ever boring. Years ago Dan introduced me to organic vegetable gardening, something he enjoyed doing with his granddad. Before I met him, I had never heard of compost, and now I am the Queen of Composting! He taught me all about making compost, and because I had summers off and he didn’t, I took over the task. Believe me, I tell him how quickly I’m giving this chore back to him the day he retires. Of course, I’m only partly serious about that because I know how much faster shredding compost is when we work as a team. As others plan exotic trips, Dan and I dream of the days when we can hang around the house and piddle about, growing and sharing good ol’ veggies.


10. What does Love It Out mean to you?

Linda: At the end of her show, Ellen DeGeneres tells folks to “be kind to one another.” Indeed, if we were kind and patient and gentle in our dealings with others, love would come naturally.

Dan: Treat everyone with kindness and respect because we are all equals.


Thanks Linda & Dan for a lovely time! We so enjoyed your hospitality, your trail & gardens, conversation, and mostly your love story!



We loved their window seat with a garden view!


Alphabetized albums – A, B, C, DYLAN, E, F, G…


bidwell_058_LRYour life is beautiful when you love it out! 

Leave a comment boelow
jen - October 21, 2014 - 5:50 pm

My wonderful brother and sister (in-law)!

Lauren - October 22, 2014 - 4:00 pm

Love this! Mrs. Bidwell was my favorite english teacher at Lee! We are still in touch and good friends to this day!

David Jackson - October 29, 2014 - 8:29 pm

I remember calling Mrs. Bidwell “Lovely Linda.” Glad she had such a good fella, she was a favorite!

Lori Bidwell - October 30, 2014 - 7:45 pm

What an awesome tribute. These are two amazing people. My Aunt and Uncle. I love them both so much!


It’s all in the name!

About ten years ago I discovered something about my name. When you spell Tony backwards you receive an interesting message: Y-NOT

I love it! The students I taught through the years loved my backwards name too. It’s just fun! This made me think a little bit about my own philosophy of life: “We live, we learn, we grow and we go!” I want to spend the rest of my life growing and going! Life is short so live happy, love happy, and learn. Stay away from doubts and fears and that “NOT-me” thinking.

Learn from your mistakes, and learn from your success. Learn that no one is perfect (except Jesus).

Here are some of my backward’s name dreams I made happen!




(Photo credit: Captured at Lumberyard Studio by Karen Wilburn Photography – Thanks Karen for taking these two of us together!)



Tell us by adding a comment below!

Remember your life is beautiful when you love it out!

Tina W. Greer - October 20, 2014 - 9:22 am

Just listen to you shine, shine, shine!!! It was so wonderful being with you and Suzy Saturday. Through photography, you captured my Katarina in a way I’ve never seen before. ‘And the camera lense was just a tool. Your spirit of love, acceptance, caring and sharing is what sets the two of you apart. Who knows what others things you will accomplish with your y-NOT philosophy grounded in faith and credited to the Lord that you serve…and, you still make the best fudge in the world!! Love you both dearly!

Suzi - October 20, 2014 - 9:40 am

Tina, it was delightful being at your home sweet home and capturing Katarina! Thanks so much for your kind words – we love you too!!