Sunday, January 8, 2017

A Wanna Be Minimalist

As I think about what makes us live longer, more content lives, I remember my father sitting at the table in the mornings drinking from his large coffee mug as he “studied” on his day and week ahead. He always had plans for tomorrow. He lived to be 87 years old.




I find myself doing the same thing. When I get down and have health issues, I get depressed. But as soon as I feel a little better, I get out my legal pad and begin to make a list. I write down my plans for the coming week. Each day is a clean slate with space for me to take to use as I want. 

My new calendar for 2017 excites me as I think about how I will fill each day. This year will be a bit different from last year. I am intentionally leaving more spaces open on my Writers Circle calendar. I am setting forth on a journey that will be quite different.

I have started already. Every day I take a few minutes to go through a drawer or a cabinet or a shelf in the storage room and pack up things I no longer need or use. I don’t spend a whole day on this, but just a half hour of getting rid of socks, or half empty bottles in my bathroom, or clothes from my closet lifts my spirits. It gives me a feeling of accomplishment.

I realize that part of the reason I feel so much better when I go away from home is that all the flat services in my house are covered with something. Magazines, newspapers, books, boxes, mail and more collect on tables and chair seats, on counters and desks. 

Getting rid of paper is my first priority. As a writer, I can’t seem to get away from paper. I have piles of poems and stories that I haven’t had time to go through and revise. I have files of notes for my classes and they need organizing. Why is it so hard to throw them away when I have most of them filed on my computer? Maybe it is my fear of computers and their failings that show up when I most need them to be reliable. Save them in the Cloud, I’m told, but I don’t trust the Cloud or maybe I don’t trust my ability to gather them back when I need them.

I can never be a minimalist, I am afraid, but I can certainly do without much of what is in my house and my garage. When I look around at my studio and all the tables covered with boxes and bags, etc. from my storage room, I could become overwhelmed, but I am going to work on it in small pieces. One box a day or one end of the table tomorrow.

No Traveling 
To do this I will have to spend most of my time at home this winter. No trip to Florida as I had planned. Not unless I get more done that I think I can.

When I mentioned this on Facebook, someone said I should blog about it. So I decided to write and share my intentions with my readers.

It seems most of us want to declutter our lives. I am watching some videos on You Tube about minimalism and they motivate me to do better. I am disgusted at what we all buy and waste in this country. The plastic junk made in China fills our land fields. We buy another tee shirt when we have fifteen in drawers in our homes. We fill up all our spaces until we have to move to a larger house to hold all the toys the kids have. I heard that some people rent storage units because they have used all the space in their houses and garages. 

I am not going to be part of that community anymore. It will be difficult for me, I admit. I often feel the need for Retail Therapy. Just buying a new lipstick or hand cream gives me a lift. But when I do buy another lipstick, I will consciously throw away an old one. I will feel so good when I do.
What about you? Do you find yourself over run with too much stuff? If you have conquered this problem, please tell us how you did it.


Saturday, December 31, 2016

Beginning the New Year

Christmas is  over and I am back at work. For the past two days, I have begun working  on scheduling for next year, 2017.

As one of the two Clay County Representatives for NCWN-West, I facilitate Coffee with the Poets and Writers each month at the Moss Memorial Library. All county reps hold one free event open to  the public each month. Janice Moore, the  other Clay County Rep, is in charge of the Poetry Critique group. 

I have also begun inviting writers and  poets to teach at Writers Circle around the Table, my home studio in Hayesville, NC. This will be our seventh year of  inviting writers  into my home to  study with the finest literary artists in the region. This year we have Karen Holmes, poet, scheduled to teach in July. Tara Lynne Groth, a smart and astute young woman who earns  her living writing and teaching, will be with us  in August. She knows about platforms and branding, using social media to promote yourself as a writer and how to build a following. Her classes are always filled to the max.

Mark Saturday, May 6, on your calendar now. NCWN West and the Jackson County Public Library will sponsor A Day for Writers in Sylva, NC at the library. 

For several months I have been working with other members of NCWN-West to  find presenters for A Day for Writers, the one day writers conference to be held at the Library in Sylva, NC on Saturday, May 6, 2017. I am very  pleased we will have the popular author, Terry Kay, an award-winning writer of seventeen novels. If you haven't read his books, you might have seen movies made from them. Most people remember To Dance with the White Dog, but two more were made into movies.

We are also fortunate to have poet, Kathryn Stripling Byer, past Poet Laureate of NC on our program. She will teach a two hour workshop.

Although November was not so good for me, I look forward to the coming months. Being with my family the last couple of weeks was relaxing and fun. We saw the touching and beautiful movie, Collateral Beauty. Although some of the young critics panned it, it proves that, once again, my tastes and theirs are far from the same. Anyone who has lost a child or someone so dear the grief overwhelms them, will appreciate what the main character is going through. Unless one has experienced such loss, it might be hard to understand the actions of the characters. I feel I learned some life lessons in this film. Kudos to the writers and the actors of Collateral Beauty.

December with my family in Georgia washed away those blues that have been hanging over me. I was certainly fed well and will have to get serious about watching my diet in the coming weeks. Although the weather was mild, we are now experiencing winter here in the mountains of North Carolina. I had to put Lexie's sweater on her when we went out today.

It is New Year's Eve now in the United States, and tomorrow I will eat the typical meal that will bring me luck and good fortune. Black eyed peas, greens, and pork of some kind. That was always what my mother made for New Year's Day.

Are you having winter where you live?
Have you seen a good movie the critics don't like?
Do you have a special meal on New Year's Day?



Sunday, December 25, 2016

Christmas Present and Christmas Past

Here I  am on Christmas Eve, 2016, snuggled in bed listening to Christmas Carols and other Christmas music. 
Lexie is sleeping, curled into my knees. She was in her crate most of this day but when she was set free, she did manage to slip out the front door and run away for a short while. 



Gay and Stu, sister and BIL, went to church  tonight. They sing in the choir at the Presbyterian Church in Alpharetta, GA. I always like to  hear them sing. Barry's Memorial Service for our families was held at that church in 2009, and several members of  the choir sang the most  beautiful music. Ollie, the pastor there is a gifted man. I'll always be appreciative of the service he presented for us in memory of my dear husband. 


Barry Beall on his horse in Georgia

Like many of us, Barry loved Christmas. He enjoyed having people come to our house in Albany where we lived twenty-five years. He and I cut our own tree from one of the  many Christmas Tree farms in southwest Georgia until the Morings and Bealls joined in partnership to grow our own trees on the family farm. When our trees were tall enough, we spent most of  our weekends in December selling them to the  public. 

Our farm was called Santa's Forest. Gay drew a delightful Santa and painted him on wood for our large sign that we  put up a few weeks before Christmas each year. The selling  of the trees, meeting the families that came out together to purchase that all-important-part of Christmas, brought happiness to us, and all four of us enjoyed that part of having the farm.

The hot, buggy summers were not fun. Spraying the trees for insects, pruning them twice each summer, and greening them before harvest, was hard work. My sweet sister, whose idea it was to become Christmas Tree growers, felt such a responsibility that she did all of the labor. I was not much help with my allergies. Barry and Stu worked all week, so Gay climbed up on our little orange Kabota tractor and spent many, many days working to bring in a harvest we could sell. Our father was obviously proud of her, and I think that was because he felt he had finally found one of his children who enjoyed farming like he did. 

Gay and I are heeling in the little pines until time to plant them in the field. I am in front in the red hat. It was a cold February. 

Having a business built around Christmas put a dent in our time to decorate our houses, buy and wrap presents and entertain our friends. When Gay realized that she was the only one of the four who really wanted to grow Christmas Trees, she sold the business to our nephew. 

Like my father, I was very proud of her. She had so much determination and self-discipline. She would call me and say she was coming  out to work on the farm and I felt my heart sink. I could not bear going out into the ninety-degree weather which sapped my energy. An hour working outside left me limp as a dishrag. I felt like a wimp, a traitor to my sister, but I was just no good as a farmer. The chemicals in the spray made me sick, and I worried about Gay breathing in those toxins. I was extremely happy when the tree farm was sold. I was glad Gay had been successful with her business even though her partners did  not hold up their end of the agreement. 

A real Christmas Tree was always important to us.
Barry never minded struggling with a tall tree, forcing it into a stand and helping me with the lights. Stu is the same. He strings the lights for their tree and Gay prunes any branches that need to be cut to enhance the cone shape expected. She knows how to make a Charlie Brown tree look like a Fraser Fir.

I have  not  had a real tree in my  house since Barry died. I bought some small artificial trees over the years, but  it was not until this year that I found one I  like. It came with the LED lights already strung and all I had to do was stick the two parts together and plug it  in. Not so  much fun, but it gives a nice Christmas touch with the lights Gay and I strung on the windows behind it.

Gay and Stu still buy the real tree, wrestle it into the stand, and Gay still prunes away anything that doesn't look like a Christmas Tree. The three of us open gifts on Christmas morning. We miss Barry. I feel an emptiness that will never be filled, but we enjoy our Christmas morning. Stu makes a great Santa Claus as he gives out the gifts, even some for our canine family members. 

The years pass quickly, and before we know it, it will be December 2017. 

When we were young, it seemed we had plenty of time. Now I reflect on Christmases past and wish I could go back to visit some  of those times. I'd like to do a few things differently.

I wish I had made a big effort to include Barry's mother in our holidays after she was too old to drive down to visit us. She spent many Christmases alone. 

I wish I could see my mother in her kitchen making fruit cake and eggnog, having a little drink of the whiskey with Stan, her son-in-law, before pouring it into her recipe. Her house smelled like Christmas to me, and I miss that smell. I miss her.

I wish I could tell my father how much I appreciated his picking up pecans all during the fall, having them cracked and picking the fruit from the shells by  hand. He  put in hours and hours of time to give each of his seven children bags of shelled nuts for Christmas. I don't think I ever really thanked him for his thoughtfulness and hard work.

We can't go back, but we have great memories that will be with us, in our hearts, as long as we live. We can make new memories, and we can share our memories with others, in our writing, in our family stories, our journals, and our stories will become their stories one day. 

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all my readers in the United States and in other countries in this wonderful world.












Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Excellence is not an act, but a habit

Excellence is an art won by training and habituation. We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have those because we have acted rightly. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.
- Aristotle -


Aristotle is saying we must make a habit of good behavior in order to be virtuous and have excellence. This makes me think of some who have spoken often on Facebook, other social media and in opinion pieces in our local newspaper. Words used in inflammatory messages become a habit if done often enough. 

We hear people say we want peace, we want love and gratitude to reign. But often those people are the ones who post mean-spirited graphics, or write hateful letters to editors calling them names and telling them to go back to where they came from.

I recently subscribed to the Graham Star because I have two friends whose articles appear there. The first time I read it, I was surprised at how viciously local people verbally attacked a man who represented his homeowners association at the county commission meeting.

He was told to go back where he came from although he has lived in the area for many years. The editor of the newspaper wrote a fine article defending the man and defending many people who had moved to Graham County and provided jobs and done other good works for the long- time residents. I commend you, Gary Corsair.

The shoe is also worn on the other foot sometimes when people move to this area and claim the people who live here are different, strange or dumb. Of course that is not true. Even in our little town we have highly educated women and men, but they don't wear their educations on their sleeves. You would never know who has a PhD and who became successful running his father's business. Newcomers say they miss having a Barnes and Noble or complain there is nothing to do here in the mountains. Locals have always found plenty to do here with church, school, music concerts almost weekly and our fine local stage performances. 

When I think about the division in our country, I realize that it festers within our towns, cities and in the rural areas. Sometimes it is due to  fear of those who are not just like us. We assume that if someone comes from far away, they  can't want and enjoy the same things we do.

If we act the way we want others to act toward us, maybe we can make a habit of being fair and we can learn the art of being honorable. If we talk about others in a way that is kind, especially in front of children, we can make that manner of speaking a habit and we won't have to even think about it. The children might make the same habit.

 In families where parents fear those who are different from them, that fear is  passed on to their children. Fear brings out anger and prejudice toward others. I hear my southern friends talk about people from up north like they are from Mars. We don't have that many differences.

Mannerisms and accents set us apart, but I have lots of good friends who did  not grow up in the south. We can have fun discussing our backgrounds and the ways we are similar as well as how we are different. But deep down my friends who came from Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, Illinois, New York and other states have the same values as the good, decent people I know who grew up in Georgia and North and South Carolina.

As I try to  understand the anger and violence in our country, the road rage, the fear of people who don't look like us and hate for authority, I ponder on how we, the people, can change those things. Maybe if we tried to put ourselves in the shoes of the people we feel are not up to our standards or our expectations?

When someone speaks from fear and anger, maybe we could discipline ourselves to refrain from reacting the same way. Why is that person afraid and why is he angry? I am not sure some folks even know why or to whom that anger should be directed.

In a road rage killing of a young child this week, perhaps the angry man would not have gotten out of his car and shot into the woman's car if she had not responded when he honked his horn. She thought he was angry because of her slow driving. If she had not honked her horn. If she had just driven on and not responded, maybe he would not have exploded and shot at her car.

Practice mature and thoughtful behavior long enough it will become as natural as breathing. Neither of those people acted like mature adults. He was angry at her driving habits, and she reacted, not  like a mature adult, but like a kid when she honked her horn back at him. The child paid the price.

We are what we repeatedly do. If we continually strive for excellence in our lives, it will become our way of  life.

This could be a New Year's Resolution for those who make them.


http://www.dailygood.org/2016/12/19/can-virtuous-habits-be-cultivated-/




Monday, December 12, 2016

Cousins are coming

I am excited that in May of 2017, my cousins, Rob Robison and Joy Dent, are coming to visit. Rob lives in Arkansas and Joy lives outside Nashville, TN.

You might know Joy as Darcy Flynn, the romance writer. She has published a number of popular romance novels. Visit her on Twitter here


Although Rob and I met years ago, it was genealogy that brought us back into each others lives in the past few years. He is interested in his Robison line which is the same as mine. He made two trips to southwest Georgia to family reunions. 

He has published a number of nonfiction books on fish and marine life and many, many papers on his research at the University of Arkansas. He has a PhD and taught at the University in Magnolia Arkansas for 37 years before retiring in 2008. Like many of us, however, he is still at work and recently had a new form of crayfish named for him. He is as passionate about his interest in science as I am about writing and poetry. 

Rob and I have become E-mail pen pals. I find him so very easy to talk to and he has the same outgoing personality as my mother, Lois Robison Council.

When Rob and Joy come to my house, we plan to look at all my years of research on the Robison family. I will share with them anything I have and we will have fun talking about our family histories.

Meantime, I am trying to bring some Christmas cheer into my house with a tree and lights on the deck. I hope your Christmas will be as wonderful as you expect and want it to be. Thank you for reading my blog posts and especially for your comments and e-mails. Remember you can reach me at gcbmountaingirl@gmail.com 

Take a few minutes to read my latest post at www.glendacouncilbeall.com 

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Does Organic mean Humane?

My friend, Tara Lynne Groth, is writing a Pay it Forward series and this one about animal welfare speaks to me. We treat animals cruelly in this world. Not the dogs and cats we keep as pets, although many of them are abused, but domestic animals raised for food.

I grew up on a large farm where cows lived on green pastures. Dairy cows spent their days grazing and sleeping. Their purpose was to go into a milking barn twice a day where they were treated humanely and milked by electric milking machines which they seemed not to mind at all. 

Beef cattle also had the wide open pastures with plenty of water for their consumption until the day they were loaded onto a truck and taken to the cattle sale. When I was a child, I tried to never think of them once they left the farm. But as a mature individual and one who has read many books and articles, the horror of the way they are slaughtered makes me ill. Even as the cows are killed, those crowded in behind them see, hear and smell the process of death. The same is true for hogs and pigs. They don't grow up in a field but in a pig barn, on concrete where they have no room to move around.

Poultry is one of the largest food products in this country. I know first hand how chickens are raised for food. After the dairy business became unprofitable, my family began raising chickens. A large chicken house, larger than our family home, was built with cages for the hens. Three or four  hens lived in one cage and they only had room to squat and lay an egg. They never touched the ground for as long as they lived. It was horrible and I said so to  my brothers, but they said that is the way this business was done in order to be profitable. I think they felt it was awful but had to  be done.

I've seen trucks on the highway with white chickens packed into cages so  tightly they  could not turn around or move. Often their feathers fly in the wind and scatter like snow flakes on the asphalt. Empathy overwhelms me and I can't bear to look at them. I know they are usually on their way to be killed or to go to a chicken farm. Either way they have no decent future.

While we think that organic food labels mean that the animals are grown humanely, we are wrong. 

Read Tara Lynne's post to learn what is being done today.

Feedlots - where animals are kept to be fattened before slaughtering.






Monday, November 28, 2016

Writing is our lifeline when tragedy befalls us

I have certain blogs I visit on a regular basis. One of them is https://writingthroughcancer.com/

Writing Through Cancer.  One might think this would be depressing and would not want to read the posts, but the writer, Sharon A. Bray, teaches writing to cancer patients. The patients, like all of us who write, find it helps them deal with what is happening to them or happened to them. The blogger writes very well and she uses quotes from writers and poets in her posts. 

I recommend this blog for anyone who has known someone with cancer or anyone who is a survivor of cancer. I have had two members of my family diagnosed with cancer, and I know what it does to the patient and those who love him. 

Without writing, I don't know how I would have survived Barry's tortuous lymphoma ordeal. Tonight I came across a rough draft of a poem I wrote when he was sick. The caregiver, in an effort to protect the patient, becomes ill as well, emotionally and physically at times. In spite of my  pain, you can see I have hope for both of us.


Bowed and broken, he forgets
that I suffer, too.
I suffer his losses and my own.

He forgets I have needs, someone to share
my fears with, my anger, my grief.

Beside the lake, water brings calm
to my spirit that has been torn, crushed and shoved
under his illness that becomes mine.

Somewhere the sun shines behind the clouds.
I see a small glow over western peaks,
a promise that we'll reach a joyous place
again one day. 

Saturday, November 26, 2016

The Day after Thanksgiving

The day after Thanksgiving was relaxed and uneventful for me. My sister and I slept late and after breakfast we went out for some shopping. We hit two stores and had lunch at Chili’s before coming home. After a huge meal at my niece’s house on Thursday, we didn’t need much to eat today. I did come home and have some of Gay's banana pudding. She makes it by Mother's recipe passed down to my sister, June, and now to  Gay. It is sooooo good!

I am taking this opportunity while staying with my sister to do some shopping I don’t normally have time to do. I bought a new halter for Lexie. She has gained two pounds and can’t wear any of the things I bought for her a  year ago. Her sweaters are too small and so are her halters.
Now she is dressed in red and black with a red leash. She went shopping with me and was so good as she waited in the car. She knows I will bring her a taste of my lunch and she can’t wait to get into my purse to see what I have for her. Today it was a bite of burrito which she gobbled up.

Lexie in her new halter which does't fit perfectly. She is between XS and S, so this is the best we can get.

Lexie curls up in a little knot when she sleeps. She is now ten pounds. I wanted her to stay smaller.

It is good to  get back to  normal, at least as normal as I can being displaced from home due to forest fires. As I fretted and felt in limbo for the past few weeks, my sister said it should be nice to  get away from my responsibilities at home. That made me think. I am going to look at my situation as a nice vacation in the city. In time I will get my house livable again, get rid of the  smoke and be able to run my heat pump. But for now I am going to pretend to myself that I am on vacation and not think about what lies ahead.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Food for Thanksgiving, Food for Thought

Thanksgiving
This holiday, more than any, makes me think of family. Mothers are a huge part of this holiday. My mother cooked turkey, made dressing, biscuits and desserts, She bought canned pickled peaches which I love, but have not had any in a long time. We always had canned cranberry sauce until my older sister June began to make the whole berry kind. I still prefer the canned. 

Mother's cornbread dressing was the talk of all who ever tasted it. She added oysters. My brothers and most of the family loved it. I like oysters but not in my turkey dressing. So mother made one pan without oysters for the few who preferred it. Her giblet gravy was made from scratch, no packaged powder mix for her. 

Our family dinners at Mother and Daddy's house included all generations. My brothers' wives were good cooks and their contributions to the dinners were never left over. My contributions were not too spectacular. I was married to a man who cared very little about food. He could take or leave it. I hardly ever heard him exclaim over a dish, even when it was not mine. Lucky guy! He never had a weight problem either. 

This poem on Jayne Jaudon Ferrer's Your Daily Poem site reminded me of all the foods my mother made for her family over the fifty years she cooked. This is a list poem. Have you ever written a list poem? You might want to try it after you see this one. Send your poem to me and maybe we can post it on this blog. 


What did your mother cook that was special to you?

Monday, November 21, 2016

Take What Matters Most

Written a week ago.

My house in the mountains is safe from the fires at this time, but filled with smell of smoke. I wear a mask inside as well as outside. With allergies and so many sensitivities that cause respiratory illness, I can only stay here a short time and then must leave again.

We often take our lives for granted. My life is good I often say to myself. I have never been overly attached to material things, but when I had to  think about what I would save if my house burned, I was a complete mess. I didn't think so much about important papers, but old photograph albums, my husband's first guitar, my sister's first full-body sculpture she gave me, my mother's portrait and my own paintings. I also remembered the letters my father wrote to my mother nearly 100 years ago. None of them could be replaced.

I didn't think about the boxes of journals I've kept for so many years. Why should I keep them? No one will ever read them anyway. I don't go back to them anymore.

If I had more time, I would have grabbed the original manuscript of my family history book, notebooks with my ancestry and Barry's  ancestry carefully researched and plotted for posterity, articles and letters my mother saved and I saved after she was gone.

Maybe it was good that I didn't pack those things into a box for my friend to keep for me. When I am gone from this earth, they will very likely be thrown away and never even looked at by anyone. Isn't it good that when we die, we have no need to know and no way to know what becomes of our worldly possessions?

Do we collect these historical documentations of  our  lives just to make ourselves feel important? Most of us will never have crowds yelling our names, wanting to hear us speak, as Mr. Trump had at his rallies. If we did, what would we say? Would we waste that time, those adrenaline moments, denouncing  others or would we make an effort to share what wisdom we have achieved in life? Would we try to relate to the human condition and inspire our approving audience? Would the ideas and examples of what we have learned in seventy years mean more in the long run than boxes of papers no one will ever read?

How do we want to be remembered?
By the awards we win, the plaques we hang on our walls, the buildings we build, our names on the university doors, or by the words we use to help others enjoy a successful life? Do we want to be judged by our material gains or by our empathy for those less fortunate and gentle encouragement of those who seek our wisdom?

Perhaps it is the  teacher in me that makes me ponder these questions tonight. Perhaps it is recognizing how few material goods I have that matter. Perhaps it is because so many of my friends say their children want none of the silver, crystal, fine china, antique furniture, expensive paintings and memorable clothes that have been in the family for generations. Why don't these daughters and sons recognize the value of the family heirlooms?

The  past seems not to be important to younger generations. Live in the present. Today is all that matters. We hear this all the time. This is not just a condition of  the Gen-X or Millennials.

When my mother-in-law passed away in the 80s, her two sons and her grandchildren had no interest in what she left behind except for her automobile which was passed on to her grandson. She left her good silver to her granddaughter. Being more sentimental I wanted her paintings, a certain table and a couple of chairs, her photos and family clippings. Her house filled with a large collection of antique furniture was sold for a song.

Most of us would like to see our special treasures passed on to someone who would truly care about them. I don't have children to inherit my special keepsakes, but even those people who have children find that no one wants to be encumbered with "stuff." I have that gene from my mother, the one that wants to hold on to precious memories and precious things, whether of material value or not.
But when I can no longer live alone and in my own house, God forbid, I know I will have to let some things go. But until then, I will get my things back from my friend, Mary Mike, and hope that I don't have to evacuate again.


Sunday, November 13, 2016

The Election is over

I have spent too much time on Facebook this week. Like many people I had to vent and have my say on a few things. I will be honest. I was so turned off by Mr. Trump's words and actions I could not possibly vote for him even if  he had been my party's candidate.

I grew up with  men in his  generation, men who thought women were only here for their pleasure, who laughed at people who were not like them. I saw men belittle their wives so badly that the women left the dinner table in tears. But the men saw no harm in what they said. Maybe it was a generational thing, but I think not. I think it was a male domination thing.

I think men have tried to dominate women, if they could, since time began. I have this visual image of a cave man with a club dragging his woman by the hair.  In my own family, my mother was the calm one, the sensible one, who held the male-dominated family together. When all the egos rose up at once, Mother could usually keep the peace. But she got very little in return for her work. The men always  thought they had solved the problems, they had worked out their differences, and never thought about what she did in her quiet way. Her influence on her oldest son, her devotion to him, was instrumental in his taking on the leadership of the family. She was a woman who never had the  opportunity to realize any personal dreams, but she did her job of raising seven kids better than most anyone.

It was not surprising to me to see the demographics of the Trump supporters. The men I have talked to in the past year who supported him are very familiar. They are the rural good old boys I grew up with in south Georgia. What surprised me was how the wives of those good old boys hated Hilary Clinton as if she had stolen their first born. I don't think I have ever hated any candidate for president. I did not  like the policies of some who were elected. In fact, I didn't know anyone who hated a politician. We just accepted the inevitable governing that we didn't like. But I was not a political junkie.

The first political campaign that piqued my interest was when John F. Kennedy ran in 1960. I was captivated by his earnest words about why we should help those who are less fortunate and how our government can do more to bring freedom to the world, how we as individuals can do more for those who need help right here in our own country.

"My fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country."     John F. Kennedy's Inaugural Address, January 20, 1961

I had heard the tales told by my father of working in a mill when he was twelve and the supervisors who were cruel to the children and would not let them have breaks. I was in college when Kennedy ran for president. I was old enough to understand what he stood for and what his party wanted to do for our country. I read everything I could find on him. I fell in love with his family. I had some difficulty understanding why a man of his wealth and ease would want to work so hard when he had it made.

Looking back I wonder if I were not like those who, at a young age, fell in love with Princess Diana. Maybe I loved to read about him in order to live vicariously through him. I was planning to be an elementary school teacher. I would never be wealthy, never be famous, and if I was lucky, I would marry someone and live a simple and normal life in south Georgia.

Most surprising to me was my father's reaction to my support for Kennedy. He had always been a Democrat, a huge fan of Franklin Roosevelt, and when I listened to him speak of the horrible ways Negroes were treated, I could tell he had empathy for their plight. But he was furious with me for being a Kennedy supporter. He completely changed his thinking. He became a Republican because the Democrats listened to Dr. King and planned to integrate the schools.

"When they let them go to  school with white people, it will just bring down the education of the whites," my father said. I soon realized that most of the people I knew felt the same as my father. I was confused by his change of heart. He was the one who had taught  me to  care about the poor blacks who were lynched by evil white men if they were found on the road after dark.

The  belief that white people are genetically better than black people was inborn and bred in southern culture. Perhaps to believe differently would create too much guilt for those who used them as slaves, kept them uneducated and later kept them as low paid servants. I know that most white southerners like black people as individuals, but not as a group. They consider the black friend is "not like all the others."

Until I was in college at the  University of Georgia, I had my own prejudices that had been taught to me since I was a child. I had been told by my mother not to ever be alone with a black man. They were dangerous. My father had told Mother to make sure my sister and I never wore shorts when the black laborers where around. We thought that was ridiculous. We were teens and everyone wore shorts in the summer.

My father did not hate black people. He worked with them all the time on the farm and he liked them. Abe Dawson had a large family like my own and in the summer his family and my father and brothers harvested crops together. On Saturdays the black boys and my brothers played corncob war in the barn.

It wasn't unusual for black and white boys to play together until they were in their early teens. Jimmy Carter writes about his experiences playing with the black children on his father's farm. I heard two prominent black leaders in our town talk about how they had played with the man who was head of our county commission when he was a boy. The sons of other white families played with these men when color didn't matter. But as adults, the relationships ended. Neither of the black professionals were ever invited into the homes of the white men they had played with as children.

I never knew an  educated black person until I was married and met the doctor and lawyer I speak of above. I remember entering the well-appointed home of Dr. C. He was wealthy, as wealthy as his former playmates, but money made no difference in the traditional ways whites treated blacks in our small town.

Because I had been brought up with prejudice toward black people, I had to adjust to the different ways of the world when I learned more about race issues. Looking back, I am embarrassed about my thoughts when a charming Chinese boy was thrust into our lives when I was in  high school. I don't remember why he was with us, but several of us girls walked down the street in our small town with him. I could see strangers glaring at us as if we were doing something wrong. I knew it was because he was different and that made us suspect in the eyes of our townspeople. I hate to admit that I tucked my head in shame.

In 1960, a junior at the University, I  had my first opportunity to be with educated people of other races and other cultures. My roommate was the  daughter of the Education Minister of Indonesia. She was adorable. Her sweet and kind personality shined through her dark almond eyes. Her hair was long, black and crinkly, and she usually kept it braided and neat. We were the same age and had such different lives. I loved hearing about her country and soon realized how much we had in common. She  changed my  life, my beliefs, and made me see that we can't judge people by  the  color of their skin. Her country was in the midst of a revolution, and she was distraught as she could not reach her father. She was afraid he would be killed. Seeing her tears and feeling her fear,  I held her in my arms as she cried.

During that year, I took her home with me. She performed an Indonesian dance for my  parents. They were impressed, but my father never spoke of it to me.

That same year I met Emily, the Chinese American from Augusta, Georgia. She never referred to herself as Chinese American. She spoke southern English just as I did. She was funny and fun to be with. She and my sister became the best of friends and are still today although they live on opposite sides of the country. I learned from Emily that she and her siblings who were all born in this country had to endure some of the crazy prejudices of those who judged her by her looks. If one looks Chinese, she must speak Chinese, right? But when Emily opened her mouth, you never heard a more southern accent.

I credit my college education to opening my eyes to a new world of diversity. Had I never left south Georgia, might I have been persuaded to believe that all people who did not look like me were somehow inferior. Even now, I find myself aggravated when I have to choose English on my bank ATM. Old ways of thinking die hard.

So, I understand Mr. Trump and many men of  his generation. He was brought up with servants who were likely black or brown. From seeing interviews with him when he was a young man, I can imagine how egotistic, arrogant and demanding he was. He had everything he wanted when he was young and had to be sent to military school so he could learn some discipline. Why would anyone who has had a marginal life believe this man has a clue about what they need. I don't think he knows what I need from my government, what I want my taxes to pay for, how important it is to me that Social Security stay solvent and stay a government program.

He certainly couldn't understand a couple from Mexico who came here on a visa years ago and worked at menial jobs, even though they were both  professionals, to raise two children as American citizens.. He could not possibly understand their sacrifices to give their children the best life possible. He called a Latino Miss Universe Miss Housekeeping, remember? How could he understand? If he did, he would not want to send these parents back to Mexico when their children are American citizens.

I am not against enforcing our laws to stop undocumented immigrants from entering the  United States. President Obama deported more illegals than any president ever has. I think we must have compassion for those who have been here many years and have children who grew up here and go to school here. They will someday have jobs and pay taxes and help our economy. They will bring more diversity to our culture which I believe is a good thing. We live so isolated from the rest of the world in our rural areas, like I did as a child, we tend to believe we are the only people on this earth, the only ones who know what to do and how to think.

I would like to see an education system where all  high school students spend part of their school years in another country where they can see how other people live. My nephew has been to a country in South America two or three times on mission trips. He has such compassion for the people there and has fallen in love with the kids.

More and more college students are doing that now. Maybe in time, the number of those people will outgrow the number who never leave their own little world, and we can have more progressive government in this country. I see a difference in the young men in my family who have traveled abroad. They are open minded and enlightened.

Meantime, I hope Mr. Trump will surprise me. I am more concerned with Paul Ryan's ideas on privatizing Medicare and Social Security. What he wants to do will be disastrous, I believe. We will have to  become proactive with our letters and calls to  make sure they know we oppose them messing with our senior programs.

I want to stop thinking about politics now. I want to write and think about more pleasant things. Thanksgiving is coming and I have so much to be thankful for today.


What about you?


Thursday, November 10, 2016

Forest Fires are Near

Fires are devastating our beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains. Yesterday one fire was within a mile of my house. Not wanting to have to  evacuate in the middle of the night, I packed a few things and went to a motel. Today I will go back and try to decide what I must take with me in case my house burns.


The smoke is dangerous for everyone but especially for those of us with respiratory problems. Inside my house I feel pretty safe from the smoke with air purifiers going in every room, but can't use my heat pump. I am afraid it will bring outside air inside.


I am suffering from effects of the smoke, but those who  stay outside for any length of time complain of burning eyes, sore throats, and difficulty breathing. The ash in the air is  very harmful to breathe and I am going to stay as safe as possible.


How do you choose a few things from a lifetime of collecting meaningful objects, paper or hard material. I must save my sister's sculpture, my niece's wood-turned pieces, my husband's guitars, photographs, my mother's portrait, many binders with  genealogy research, family albums, my grandmother's trunk which is filled with photo albums. I  might need important papers regarding our house, my insurance, the latest bills  I need to  pay.


If my house burns and my computers are destroyed,  I  will lose some documents, probably, but the  one I would miss most is the  one with all my family history stored on Personal Ancestral File. Oh, I almost forgot. I want to take my original manuscript for my family history book.


It is hard to get up to date information about this fire. I am told I will be notified when the mandatory evacuation comes. The Sheriff's deputies will come to my door and tell me I have to leave. I don't want to wait and  have to  rush. I  am going to prepare for that now. Must go and  pack. Pray for rain,  please.