It has been years since I sat in a courtroom to listen to a court case.
Truth be told, the overwhelming bulk of my reporting experience called for me to spend my time in government meetings. So last week's murder trial in McDuffie County Superior Court was somewhat of a new experience for me.
And, quite frankly, it was a personal one. Small towns do that to people.
I went to school with Todd Brooks. Played high school baseball with him. My wife and his wife are cousins, and Miriam and Missy grew up like sisters. We went to their wedding. And they came to ours. Miriam's Aunt Louise wrote one of the victim impact statements in court on Friday. And she cried as I hugged her when all was said and done.
Todd's death was a tragedy for our community, and not just because the Brooks and Jones families must figure out how to move forward, something that is a daily battle for them. Another family's son will spend a long time in jail. And still another family still struggles with the wild ways of their daughter.
So please keep them all in your prayers. Justice has been served. Now, let God heal their hearts.
On Saturday, I battled the rain and freezing temperatures to travel out to Dearing to sample of the soups, stews and chili concoctions created by country cooks in hopes of raising money for the Relay for Life.
It's the second year that I had served as a judge for the cook-off. When Rev. Todd Upchurch called, I jumped at the chance. It was a no-brainer for me: Unlimited free food and a chance to test my palate? I'm there. Especially if there is a good cause involved.
This year, I was on soup detail, with choices including a ham, potato and leek soup, a couple of vegetable varieties and a bean soup. I ate plenty, even took a second helping of a couple, and then dove into the desserts on the way home.
It was a great day that would have been perfect with the addition of a little snow, just like the forecasters promised.
Speaking of, last Wednesday, the snow was a welcome sight - especially for someone who hasn't taken down most of their Christmas decorations.
Much to the chagrin of my wife (and to the delight of Tony Pate and Kelly Evans - who as of last week, said they still had theirs up), it still looks like Christmas around the Smith house. The blanket of white that lasted a few minutes was the perfect compliment to colored ornaments, strands of lights and boughs of garland.
Of course, that argument didn't help persuade my wife to let me leave the decorations up all year. She said the practicality was outweighed by the "embarrassment."
And here I was thinking that the red in my face was just the cold weather.