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I have a dear, life-long friend, Rob Atkins, who lives in San Diego....and we have literally known each other all of our lives. In fact, on my website photo page there is a picture of a little girl about eight, with thin stringy bangs, holding a basket of vegetables, and a woman, whom I called "Mama Akkie", holding another one. That is me and Rob's mother. In my book, "Sunshine and Shadow", there is a whole lot more about that summer and the years afterward. But to get back to my story, Rob and I have kept in touch all these years....and many times he'd say "when are you coming to San Diego?" So one day I just made a reservation and sent him a copy. The whole trip was wonderful, relaxing, and fun. I had forgotten how beautiful San Diego is. One day we took the train to Los Angeles, and the subway on to Hollywood to the Musso & Frank Grill, circa 1919....the oldest Restaurant in, as Rob would say, the big H. It was just like stepping onto a movie set, and we were the actors. And to make the cast complete, we were joined by Jany and Chuck Davenport, very dear friends of Rob who live in LA. I liked them immediately....but there was nothing about them not to like. The next day we drove up to Newport Beach and had lunch with Rob's daughter, Dana, whom I had never met but immediately felt like I knew....another beautiful day. The following day was spent just talking, watching movies, and relaxing or doing nothing. That was the best. When we end our phone conversations, we always say, "talk with you later"....never goodbye. By the way, Rob will always be "Bobby" to me. I've always said that old friends are the best....of course that isn't always true, but in this case, it definitely is.

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Haven't seen this since the initial broadcast

On January 30th I headed for Stephenville, Texas. The people there were so great….typical Texas hospitality. Beth and Carroll Parham host a show there called The Cross Timbers Country Opry, and have for many years. I was to work on Saturday night. Friday night I was a guest on Carroll’s radio show. Suddenly I looked up and in walked someone I hadn’t seen in many years….Johnny Seay. What a nice surprise. I don’t know how many remember Johnny but he has a beautiful voice, and recorded some great songs in the sixties. In fact he is mentioned in my book. You’ll have to read it to find out what I said. Anyway, he quit the music business and moved to Texas where he still lives, flies a crop duster, and loves it. The next night we had a full house at the show….the audience was wonderful. Tracy Pitcox from Brady, Texas, brought a bus load of thirty people. Those folks love traditional country music, and I love every one of them.

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April 2005

Dear Friends,

It's that time again. Spring has sprung, the grass is ris...wonder where them flowers is. I heard that somewhere. Well, my flowers don't ris, rise or whatever...they just die. I'm the only person I know who has a brown thumb. A friend says "just say a few words over the old flowers and plant new ones" so that's what I'm fixing to do. She buys them in pots and plants the whole thing...pots and all. Does anyone else do that?

Things have been kinda quiet so far this year. I'm still trying to get my life back together after the fire. Even though I'm back in my condo I'm still "doing things." I go to get something and realize it isn't there and won't be. I never realized how traumatic a fire can be till now. But, all in all, I know I'm very fortunate and these "things" are just "things" and I have to let go. When I begin to feel sorry for myself I think of families with children who go through this and end up with absolutely nothing and nowhere to go. Then I say a prayer and move on.

Have finally finished dealing with insurance companies (I hope). One thing I advise everyone to the fine print in the policies. We usually just sign and assume it's right. Not necessarily so. I'm surprised my company didn't cancel me....or at least, they haven't yet.

On February 4th my granddaughter, Mitsi, went with a mission group from her church to Honduras for two weeks as an assistant with a medical team to treat people there in the outlying areas. She brought back pictures, one of which I'll add to the web site. One night she, Anita (my other granddaughter) and I went to dinner during which she told of some of her experiences and the people there. Some were so graphic I can't describe them. But seeing those pictures made me, once again, realize how fortunate we are to live in this country. Even in the worse scenario it's still the greatest country in the world. I asked if she'd go back again. She said "probably, but I'll have to wait awhile till I get some pictures out of my mind."

February 14th, Valentine's Day, is also a day to salute Veterans. I had the privilege of visiting with the patients at the Nashville Veterans hospital and I wish a woman I met a while back had been with me. After one of the performances at Dollywood she came up to me and said "the trouble with this country is we no longer have heroes...there are no more John Waynes." I told her "you're right in one sense of the word, there are no more John Waynes. But he was a fictional hero in the movies. We have real heroes. Have you ever visited a Veteran's Hospital? Or a National Cemetery? Or given a moment's thought to those serving right now in our military to protect our freedom? Freedom isn't free and we do have heroes." I don't mean to get on my soap box, but she sure got on the wrong side of me. I'm sorry if I lost a fan but I will not stand still for someone saying "we no longer have heroes."

Speaking of our Veteran heroes, on March 7th I was invited to Washington D.C to attend the National Convention of the Veterans of Foreign Wars where I was presented with the Gold Medal of Merit. The award was presented by the VFW Commander-In-Chief, John Furgess, who happens to be from here in Nashville. I felt very undeserving but highly honored and will cherish it always. Just yesterday I received the beautifully framed Citation along with a shadow box to display the medal. It will hold a place of honor in my home.

While in Washington I visited the WWII Memorial, the Korean Memorial and revisited the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. If you're in the area I hope you'll visit these awesome sights which are dedicated to those who served, fought and died for this country. As many of you know, my son Jimmy is among the 58,000 names on the Vietnam Memorial which was dedicated on November 13, 1982, and today is our nation's most visited memorial. My son Corky, also a Vietnam veteran, escorted his brother's body home.

The month of March resulted in another birthday coming and going. As for me, I just don't associate with numbers. Someone asked recently "how old are you anyway?" I just replied jokingly "that's a personal question. Besides, I've lied so many times I've forgotten what age is right." There it is...another lie. But I'm grateful for every day. And only God knows how many there will be.

I wrote something one time that said "This is not a rehearsal. This is the show. And there are no retakes". Just before my birthday my friend, Ron, brought to me this heavy wrapped package all tied with a pretty ribbon. Inside was a plaque which read: THIS IS NOT A DRESS REHEARSAL. It is now placed on my stairwell where I'll see it each time I walk up or down the stairs. Each time I see it I'm reminded that we shall not pass this way again. And every moment is to be cherished.

While I'm on the subject of birthdays I'd like to say "thank you" for all of the beautiful cards. Not only then but at Christmas, the New Year, Easter and other times during the year. You never forget. And I'm so blessed to have your friendship.

Another milestone...March 27th was my anniversary at the Opry...thirty four years! I keep saying this, but where has the time gone? I really never think about it till someone wants to do an interview about the 'legends' in country music. They say "you know, the ones who started it." Well, I wasn't there when it was started but I'm grateful for the many years I've been in this business, the people I've met and the long lasting friendships. Again, thank you.

A new Opry book will be out soon. Everyone had new pictures made...I did but have no idea which one they'll use. Frankly, I hate posed pictures. They also asked for a new biography...but how can I rewrite my history? Guess I'll leave it in their hands and see what they come up with. It may be interesting.

My friend Tony Smith who lives in Ohio came down recently to play golf for three days. He wanted to get out of the bad weather up there. We had one good day then, guess what, it rained and was cold as all get out. He finally gave up and went home. The weather was better there. Hopefully it stays that way as I'm going there to Middletown, OH, on May 14th to host a golf tournament to benefit children's diabetes.

Oh, I almost forgot. Recently a good friend of mine and Jeannie Seely's, Ron Harman, hosted a group of family and friends to go on the Nash Trash bus tour here in Nashville and we were invited. I have to tell you that the Nash Trash ladies, Sheri Lynn and Brenda Kay, are so funny my sides ached for a week from laughing. If you're in Nashville and have the time, go on the tour. You'll be glad you did!

I guess that's almost it for now. Other things such as show dates and appearances will be posted on the 'On The Go' Page. I would put them here but that would be overkill. Don't look for a lot of working dates though as I still plan to find "time for Jan".

I'd like to close with some thoughts and sentiments. When I was a little girl it was not in my wildest dreams where my life would lead. Somehow, even now some things are still like dreams. I remember one time standing, looking out over a beautiful seaport in Hobart, Tasmania, and thinking "how did Lula Grace Johnson from West Plains, Missouri, ever get to Tasmania?"

To say it was a rocky, crooked road is putting it mildly. First, taking my three little boys and moving to California was a giant step. Then meeting and marrying Harlan Howard who was just starting out as a songwriter. That led to making demos for him which led to a recording career. The move to Nashville was another giant step, for both of us.

After appearing as a guest on the Grand Ole Opry for several years, being made a member in 1971 was the highest of honors. In September of that same year the ribbon was cut for Jan Howard Expressway which runs through West Plains. I still get chills when I see those signs. And now, on May 22, 2005, I'm being inducted into the Missouri Country Music Hall of Fame in Springfield, Missouri. This honor is not taken lightly. A sincere "thank you" comes from deep within my heart.

Have a wonderful, healthy and fun-filled summer.

Love you all,


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Yesterday I was privileged to speak in Lynchburg, TN at their Memorial Day service, and even though there were a few drops of rain, it did not dampen the spirits of those who attended the service on the Courthouse Square to pay tribute and say thank you to all of our military, past and present, who have served, fought, and died for the freedom of this country. Freedom, which sometimes is taken for granted. Someone once said to me," the trouble with this country is, we no longer have any John Waynes, we don't have any more heroes". Trying to hold my anger, I looked at her, and said "you're right, there are no more John Waynes, but he was a fictional hero, an actor. If you want to see real heroes, go visit a Veterans Hospital, a Veterans Home or a National Cemetery where many were laid to rest. Or if you see a person in uniform anywhere – the airport, the grocery store, or wherever – just say "Thank You". I read a quote somewhere that read, "we were young, we have died, remember us". I think it was written from a book on the Civil little to ask, so much given.

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