Tuesday, November 13, 2018

"Getting the Story" by Jan DeBlieu sounds like me

I follow a blog, Searching for Seva, Finding Wholeness Again by Helping Others. The author is Jan DeBlieu.  This is the link to her blog.  http://www.jandeblieu.com/blog/

Jan DeBlieu

Jan has a journalism background, and like me, she likes to hear the stories of others. My readers know I love to interview interesting people and post their words on my blog. My memoir classes are such fun for me to teach because I hear the unique stories of my students. When we write about ourselves and read our stories aloud in class, we get feedback and get an opportunity to explain more about us. Most of us just want to be heard.

Read Jan's latest newsletter article, Getting the Story, and you might see how much she and I have in common. You might also relate to her story..


Sunday, November 11, 2018

Saving Memories of our Parents When They are Losing them

I was very lucky to be caregiver for my mother after she lost her short term memory from a ruptured aneurysm on her carotid artery in 1975. During the next ten years of her life, I saw her almost every day and talked with her. Although she could not remember what happened a few hours earlier, she remembered her childhood and everything she had learned about my father's family and her own.

In an article I read this morning, a man decided he would be the caregiver for his mother when she began to have signs of dementia. He used this time with her to take photographs and share her last days in fun and interesting ways. She and he spent time laughing and making pictures, some funny and some unusual that the man will cherish always and so will his family.

My mother's stories about family and people she loved was the impetus for my book, Profiles and Pedigrees, The Descendants of Thomas Council. It is a family history book about my father's family but my mother gave me most of the early information that began my search. She also told me about her father, William Henry Robison and her mother, Malula (Lou) Jones Robison. She remembered her life growing up in Pelham, Georgia, where she was a happy girl with good friends. I can see her in my mind now. A pretty girl with black hair, done in the fashion of the day, wearing light colored dresses with lace at the neckline or sleeves. Her family was middle class for that time. William maintained all the buildings for Mr. Hand who founded and owned the town of Pelham, a small mill town in south west Georgia. Mother was born in 1904, just at the turn of the century. In her 8o years of life, she traveled in a covered wagon, the first automobiles manufactured, and in an airplane. She had dreamed of owning a Cadillac automobile and one day she went to the dealership and bought one. She paid cash. I loved that story because the salesman was shocked when she began peeling off the bills.

Although my mother lived in a time when women had little independence she managed to save up the money she needed to purchase the car. I don't know how long she had to save, but I know it was her persistence and sacrifice of other things like nice clothes and a fine house that enabled her to buy that car. By this time in her life, her children were grown and married. She was dealing with the empty nest, a time for her to finally have some things for herself.

But I digress from my point. I wish that children of parents with dementia or elderly parents who might be stressors to their children, would look for ways to interact with them, to find what the older people can talk about or share from years ago when they were growing up. It is interesting and might help the adult child better understand the mother or father he has never spent quality time with.

In my work as a teacher of memoir writing, I have learned much about the chasm between parents and children, a chasm that is often unrecognized. "My children are not interested in my life," some tell me. "My grandchildren know nothing about what my life was like, and they really don't care."

What I have found is that many children wish they had asked more questions, had listened instead of talking so much to their parents. Everyone has a unique life, not like the life of anyone else.

I urge adult children, if your parents are still alive, ask them about their childhood, where they lived, what were their homes like, how did their parents make a living or raise their kids. Your parents hold in their memories history that only they can pass on to you.

I cherish those days I had with my mother, even when I was tired, when I needed her to be mother again and I her child. I admire the man who wrote the article you can read HERE. He made his time with his mother a very special time to save her memories.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Why are people fleeing their homes to come to the United States?

What Would You Do?

In this article( https://tinyurl.com/yako5fqn) from the Wall Street Journal, it is obvious why those poor people in the caravan that is headed for the United States must find a new home. In many of the countries south of us, families are scared to death of what will happen to them. The gang members are not coming here. They are forcing the innocent families to run from their homes.

In a recent article on PBS, a man was interviewed, incognito to protect him from the gangs in the area, and he told of how the thugs demand he pay them, yet he is afraid to go to work because he might be killed and his wife and children will have no one to take care of him.

I have to ask anyone who is so heartless that they would want our military to shoot them or harm them when they come to our border begging for asylum, what would you do in their place?

I remember when I was in school we learned that the United States of America, a country founded by people escaping Europe to find a better life, welcomed those who were doing the same. That is why we have the Statue of Liberty.

I don't think we should have open borders where anyone can walk into our country without being interrogated and made to follow protocol, but change the laws so when someone comes here, they have permission to work and pay taxes and are given a work permit or something that will make them feel they don't have to live in fear of being sent back to the hell they escaped from. Of course they will disappear into the population if they are afraid the government will not give them justice or will take away their children.

I watched a program on C-Span where some congress men and women were trying to understand just what is needed at the border. The heads of the departments that deal with the immigrants had no clue except to say they needed more money to build shelters and more people to enforce the laws. Each department did not overlap the other so there was no one who had the responsibility to follow up and find those who did not show up for their notified appointment to court.

One man said it was the responsibility of the police to find those people and bring them in. It was not the responsibility of his department. His job was to try to be sure that children and young people were placed with a responsible family or person. The men and women who asked the questions talked about some teenage boys who were released into the hands of the traffickers who brought them into the country. These kids were eventually found working in fields up in Oregon or somewhere far from the border. They had no way to get back for their court appointed date.

At the end of that program, no one knew any more about what to do about the immigration problem, it seemed. The three department heads were sullen and not very responsive to those asking questions. Perhaps they felt they were made to feel at fault. I think it is a problem where some have their hands tied because of the changing rules that do not take into consideration what these departments do and are limited in doing. One department head said they had little warning when the order came to separate the children from parents. 

If it takes six months to meet with each of those who have traveled so far to find freedom and safety, then it should be done. Check each one out and find a way to be sure they are not further damaged by coming to our "land of the free" that we sing about.

On Facebook I see some who say they don't want these immigrants to come into our country because they are going to change the way we live. I know there are farmers and businesses that would love to have these people work for them at the cheap rates they have to pay. Even in my little town, we have low paying jobs that need to be filled. All the restaurants and small stores need people who will work for less than minimum wage. But where are these people?

A farmer out west said he would never have voted for Trump if he had known that the immigrants would not be allowed to come and work on his chicken farm. That is dirty and difficult work and only those who are desperate for work will take the job. Now, he says, he can't get the labor he needs.

Mr. Trump hires immigrants to work in his hotels and his businesses, I'm sure. In the big cities, immigrants fill the low pay jobs like maid, janitor, and dish washer. If we don't let immigrants into the country the cost of labor will have to go up. Citizens of the USA don't want to work for less than minimum wage.

I find that hiring a person to help me now includes extra money for the high price of gasoline she needs to drive to my house. In rural areas, gas prices impact everything.

Recently I heard that Asians actually make up the majority of immigrants in the United States. They don't come to the border in Mexico, probably, but they are here. Most of them are educated and don't take the menial jobs that the people in the "caravan" will take if they are allowed to stay here. They hope to work up to having a better job and their work ethics are strong.

Instead of fighting over immigration and making it a huge political battle, I wish all parties in our government would work on creating good immigration policies. I hope with the women and diversity in the House now, that sensible and caring bills will be passed and we can still practice what we preach in this country.

What do you think about immigration as it is now? What would you like to see accomplished in the future?


Thursday, November 8, 2018

Written last Sunday, November 4

As I sit at my computer tonight, the rain is softly falling on the colorful leaves that cover my yard. I hear it and it makes me melancholy. Perhaps that is also because of the phone call I had tonight from Barry's cousin, Andrea. I have not talked to her in about ten years. It was not because I didn't want to talk with her, but I had an old phone number and kept forgetting to find an updated number for her.

Andrea was a little girl when Barry was a teenager. He loved her like a little sister and she adored him. He often spent part of his summer vacation with her family. His aunt Dot adored him as well.

For many years, Barry and I drove down to Roopville, GA to attend the Alexander reunion. It was held at his Aunt Jimmy Lou's farm house. The house was not air conditioned but was shaded by huge old trees and even with all the folks there it was not too hot in August when we usually met.

Aunt Jimmy Lou lived to be over one hundred and, even when she was bedridden, we met at her house. Her devoted daughter, Joan, cooked and prepared several kinds of vegetables from the garden and all the family that lived close by brought more food and iced tea. Joan took care of her mother until she died. The next year when the second weekend in August rolled around, Joan invited everyone to her house where she hosted the reunion. After Barry died, I went to the reunion at Joan's house. It was good to talk with all those who had known him since childhood. He was very popular with his family.

I haven't been back to the reunion in a number of years. It is hard for me to drive long distances now. When I received the call from Andrea tonight, I was saddened to hear that Joan died today. She was in good health until last week when she slipped on the wet floor at the pool where she went for water exercise. She hit her head when she fell and did not recover. Joan was 91 years old. She held the reunion at her house in August and Andrea was there. Although Joan had a tough year, she was still driving, growing a garden and exercising. But now she is gone because of an accident.

Andrea and I reminisced for over an hour on the phone. We talked about her mom, Dot, who would not let Barry leave her side at the reunions. I can still hear her call his name in her southern dialect. Andrea told me all about the other family members and who had health problems and who was still doing well. I can't go to the funeral for Joan, but she will be in my thoughts all day on Tuesday as all the family gathers at her beloved church to bid her goodbye.

I am fortunate to have met a dear man who had a great family that embraced me when we married. Tonight I will think about the good times we had with the people he loved and that I came to love, also.

Barry Beall and his mother, Helen Alexander Beall, a lovely woman and great MIL.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

AUTUMN - Is it finally here?

It seemed that we would have no autumn this year. The temperature went from nineties to fifties suddenly, but for a few days we are having great fall weather. The leaves are beginning to change and to fall, a month later than usual.

Pumpkins are a big symbol of Fall. I see them everywhere.

Morning view from my house of mountains peeking up through the fog. 

One of my favorite photos of Barry, my late husband.

My woods turn color every year, but later this year. 

Barry Beall, on left and Stu Moring at Cades Cove years ago. These men
were like brothers. We took vacations with the Morings (Gay and Stu) for many years.  

If you live where fall is happening, hope you have a brilliant and bright autumn before the cold comes in. 

Saturday, October 27, 2018

What is Elderspeak? Why it should not be used.

Recently I attended a birthday party for a friend and during our conversation I mentioned that I hate it when staff in doctor's offices or other places use elderspeak with me. What is elderspeak, I was asked.

Elderspeak is the vocabulary and speaking voice used when speaking to an older person, usually over 65.
"Come with me, Sweetie."
"Sweetheart, let's take your blood pressure now."
"Darlin', you look so pretty today."

Should this woman be spoken to as if she is five years old?
I know the person using this language is not trying to make me feel bad, but it raises my ire to be talked to like I am five years old. We have three stages in life--childhood, middle age, and old. Just because one is old doesn't mean they have regressed to childhood in mental state.

Studies in older people, even those with dementia, have found that when elder speak is used it has a very negative, even damaging, effect on them.

To me, it seems to be an effort to strip me of my authority over myself. It is a method of controlling me and my thoughts about myself. I prefer Mrs. Beall or I accept Miss Glenda as respect for me due to age. But what is wrong with calling me Glenda just as they did when I was forty years old?

Elderspeak conveys sympathy for my age. I don't need anyone's sympathy because of my age. I am enjoying my life abundantly, and wish the staff people and doctor's took the time to learn why I am happy and enjoying my life instead of seeing me as a person with health problems who has one foot on a banana peeling.

Unknown mother and daughter enjoying each other's company

Of course the people who use elderspeak are young. Even the doctors are much younger than I. As one doctor told me, "I have no way of understanding what you are going through since I have never been your age. I won't understand until I reach your age."

Older doctors, like my cardiologist, call me by my name. I think office staff usually just don't want to take the time to check names when they are in a hurry. 

That is why I write abut it. I try to let others know what I think and what I want. My hair dresser calls me Miss Glenda, which I don't mind. It has always been a southern way to show respect to our elders. But in medical offices, they have my name on my folder, or my records. Why not call me Glenda, or Mrs. Beall? I will answer to anything but Dear, Sweetie, Honey, Sweetheart, or Darling.

The following article from www.agingcare.com has some great advice for caregivers or people who work with older people. This is important for younger adults who have parents they help care for or need to get help for in the future. Don't wait until you need to know.


Sunday, October 21, 2018

Dr. Newton Smith memorialized

I  attended the memorial service of Dr. Newton Smith, the last person who looked like he would have Ph.D. behind his name, the man who was once a professor at Western Carolina University in Cullowhee, NC. The service was at St. David's Episcopal Church, and although we were not late after driving nearly two hours, the church was completely filled. We were told we could sit in the Parish Hall and watch on a TV screen. A fellow writer and member of NCWN-West, Carroll Taylor, author,  accompanied me. The hall was filled and we had some difficulty finding two seats together. Although I knew Newt and had met June, his wife of over fifty years, I did not know his children and grandchildren who took part in the service.

Dr. Newton Smith 1939 - 2018
Newt had a son, Zack,  and Courtney, a daughter, who gave the perfect eulogy for her father. She helped me see the older man I knew as a young father, playing with his baby girl, kissing her toes and smiling down at her. She told us that she knew she was the most special to him, but later she admitted he made everyone feel that way. His grandchildren read poems and Newt's own poems graced the front and back of the bulletin for the service. Newt was a person who had many talents and many interests. It seems to me that he lived life according to his own wishes and needs. He had beside him a lovely and talented helpmate in his wife, June.

Among the many people attending were faculty and students from Western who had their memories of the smiling man I saw on the screen. One young man, an engineer, said Newt was a mentor for him when he was a freshman in college.

Newt's  family was grieving, shedding tears as they heard the words said about this man who was so dear to them. As Newt would have wanted there was also plenty of laughter in the stories of life shared with him by his sister and his daughter.

He became treasurer for NCWN-West in 2009 when he was asked by Kathryn Stripling Byer, who was then program coordinator. Although we had several program coordinators over the past decade, Newt continued to take care of our money, pay our bills and report to NC Writers' Network each month. When he became ill from cancer a few years ago, I asked if he would like me to find someone to take over as treasurer, but he said no. "I like having something to do," he told me.

We held a one day writing conference in 2016 in Sylva, NC. Newt handled all the registrations and  fees paid. I was deeply appreciative of this because I had all I could handle already.

When, a few months later, Kathryn Byer passed away, Newt volunteered to help me again by emceeing the tribute program NCWN-West gave for her. It seemed he could handle whatever was on his plate and he did it with panache.

I am grateful that I knew Dr. Newton Smith and that he was a member of NCWN-West. We all will miss him and never forget him.

Friday, October 19, 2018

Animal stories--seems everyone has one. What about you?

My life has been busy the past few weeks. Our NCWN-West website was down and it took forever to get it back up. I was on the computer for hours. Shipping books to fill orders kept me running to the post office as well.

My co-writer, Estelle Rice and I held a book signing at the Good Shepherd Episcopal Church in Hayesville, NC last Sunday, October 14. Estelle and her husband attended this church for many years and she is still a member. I knew she was loved, but was not prepared for all the men and women who crowded around her, hugging and kissing her over and over.

We were delighted at the animal lovers who could not wait to get their copies of Paws, Claws, Hooves, Feathers and Fins. One person stood counting on her fingers how many books she was going to purchase for gifts. She ended up with seven copies.

I enjoyed hearing the stories and seeing photos of pets of those who wanted our book. I was especially happy when Carol S. , one of the first to buy our book, bought another book to give to her friend.

One day this week, my dear brother-in-law, Charlie, called and told me how much he enjoyed the book I sent to him. He had a suggestion I might consider one day. Charlie said we should call this the first volume of Paws, Claws, Hooves, Feathers and Fins and then do a second and a third book using stories of other people who love their pets. What a neat idea, but not right now. I am overwhelmed with work for NCWN-West and for myself.

What do you think, dear readers? Would you have a story to offer if we do another book about animals we love? Charlie, who has a dog he loves dearly, said he had three stories he could tell me.
My friend, Linda, once had a huge rabbit named Studley. Today she told me some great stories about him. He was quite a character.

Of course, I have many more stories that did not go into this book that I could include in the next book. Just an idea, but fun to contemplate. I did not even include my beloved horse, Pretty Thing, who was with me thirty years. Linda said she really likes the color pictures in the book. I, too, think they made a big impact.

 This week, I will celebrate my birthday with Gay and Stu, my sister and BIL. And they will celebrate Paws and Claws, etc. with a book party for me on Tuesday. I will read and speak on writing  and sign for those who want to take a book  home. I look forward to that.  Gay and Stu are so supportive of me and I love them very much. I am blessed indeed.

Have a good week. If you live in my area, come to Writers Night Out in Blairsville, GA on November 9 when Estelle and I will read from our book.

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Leaving this earth

My friend, Linda, sent me the link to the video I have above this post. It is best on full screen. Tonight it speaks to me for I would like to fly above the world, touching down only where I wanted. I am in awe of this young man and his ability to soar in the mountains, over the oceans, along the beach and on top of cities. I don't want to know how he does it. I am just amazed that he can and happy he takes me along with him. 

Friday, October 5, 2018

You want to know about this!

We are featured on the NCWN Book Buzz page: Thanks to Charles Fiore.

We have a new website/blog. That is, Estelle Rice and I have a site for our books. Check it out here.  Be sure to look for the Pages where you can see where we will be reading or signing books and for Your Comments.We would love to hear from those who have read any of our books. Send comments to gcbmountaingirl@gmail.com. I will publish them on Your Comments.Or you can leave your comments on the page.

Our new book is Paws, Claws, Hooves, Feathers and Fins: Family Pets and God's Other Creatures. We published a collection of stories about our own pets and also added some fiction about animals. We included poems. One of mine is about our first mixed-breed dog, Rocky, and how he came to be with us. A touching story is about Barry, my husband, and how a special horse helped cure his depression after open heart surgery.
Rocky came to us when we most needed him, but I didn't want him.

Estelle wrote a funny story about what happened when she tried to tell her youngest child where babies came from using the pregnant family dog. All of her stories are entertaining, include humor and keep you reading until the end.

We have been pleased by the number of books ordered, and we hope more orders will come in as Christmas nears. The books, filled with color pictures, are great gifts for animal lovers. 

We each published a poetry chapbook some years ago. That is a small book of around 28 pages of poems. Estelle's book, Quiet Times, is a lovely collection of inspirational poems that is loved by everyone who reads it. 

My poetry book, Now Might As Well Be Then, was published by Finishing Line Press and sold on Amazon.com. But recently I learned Amazon is not selling books with the binding used on my book. Sadly, someone has stolen the link to my book and now when you click on it, you go to a website that sells devices. The book is still available at Finishing Line Press and from me.

In 1998, I combined my genealogy research with creative nonfiction and published a hard back, beautiful book: Profiles and Pedigrees, Descendants of Thomas Charles Council (1858 -1911)  Although I was not as good a writer back then, I am proud of this book because I spent ten years researching the lives of my grandfather, Tom Council and his ten children. 

All of our books can be found at Blue Heaven Press.

A Poem from Quiet Times by Estelle Rice:


When I am silent,
thoughts surge onto the shore
of my consciousness.
There is no place to hide
or deny my fears.

Silence endures my frailties,
nudges me toward the paths
where I will meet myself.

Silence encourages me
to listen to the universe,
that I may hear
the songs of angels.
             ---Estelle Rice

Sunday, September 30, 2018

When Mourning Comes

This past week has been a sad one for me because I have heard bad news from several sources.

One of my dearest friends has been diagnosed with metastasized breast cancer, stage IV. She is elderly and has had two mastectomies. It breaks my heart. She was my "Guardian Angel" when Barry died. She was never too busy to talk with me, to counsel me about losing your mate, she had gone through it, and going on with your life. She has a delightful personality and finds humor even when things are tough. We used to go out for pizza often, and we always laughed. She is a good person, a great cook who shares her wonderful dishes with anyone who needs them. She has certainly fed me many times. If I took her food I cooked, it would be like taking coals to New Castle. 

The husband of another friend died quite suddenly after a diagnoses of lung cancer. He was not elderly. In fact he was running for sheriff in our county. He was a good man and well respected. I saw his wife, a former student of mine, just a couple of weeks ago, and she said his back had been hurting. She was getting him an appointment to see the doctor. I need to take his campaign sign from in front of my house. 

And the third loss was another friend and member of our writers' network. He went in the hospital for a valve replacement in his heart and was recovering from the surgery. But suddenly he suffered bleeding in his brain. A stroke. His daughter said it was due to his being given too much blood thinner. Mistakes happen, I know. But so many mistakes in hospitals take the lives of people we love. I try to avoid hospitals if I possibly can. I lost too many loved ones, including my dear husband, from mistakes by the medical world.

So, I am sorry if I can't write a cheery bright post today. You deserve better, but I have been too depressed to even get dressed to go out. 

My life has been filled with loss since 1975, losses I had to learn to deal with and had to accept and go on. That year my mother suffered a ruptured aneurysm on a carotid artery, lost her short term memory and was never the same. My sisters' husband, a man I truly loved, died from a doctor's mistake.

Since that time I lost a brother to cancer, two brothers to heart attacks, my mother and my father have died. My oldest sister, June, died from heart problems, and my own beloved died from cancer. 

Each of these seven deaths slammed me to my knees, and I had to pull myself back up and go on. The recent deaths and illness I write about above seem harder because I don't have Barry to talk to, to share with him my feelings and to be comforted by him. 

The men who recently passed away were not that close to me so why do I feel such despair? I feel for their wives, their families because I know that pain of grief that seems to never end. I am more empathetic than most, I'm told, and I feel deeply others' pain. But my feelings for my friend with breast cancer is not only for her and her family, but for me. 

I am sharing a poem I wrote a few years ago. I went to the funeral of a man whose wife I knew. 

For Whom Do I Mourn?

I never met this man who owns
the casket covered in white flowers.
They say he was a craftsman,
hand-built chairs, rivaled scholars
with his logic, his understanding,
though he never finished high school.
He entertained his grandchildren,
made funny faces, loved a joke,
was a VIP at church and in his home.
Beside his grave, gray-haired soldiers
fold the flag. That haunting bugle tune
lays him to rest.

Why do my eyes moisten?
Why does my throat constrict?
I cry not for the old soldier,
but for my own, who lie beneath
their stones, under still and leafy oaks
above the pond.

Posts you might want to read:

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Ten Favorite Books Blogger Challenge is complete

I was invited by blogger, Abbie Taylor, to participate in My Ten Favorite Books Blog Challenge. i will now invite three bloggers to participate. I don't usually participate in such things, but Abbie is my friend, and it was kind of fun to look back.
My 10 Favorite Books are:

  1. The Black Stallion by Walter Farley
  2. The Black Stallion Returns by Walter Farley
  3. My Friend Flicka by Mary O'Hara
  4. Little Women by Louisa Mae Alcott
  5. The Yearling by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings
  6. Hotel by Arthur Haley
  7. To Kill a Mocking Bird by Harper Lee
  8. Valley of the Dolls by Jacqueline Susann 
  9. Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate
  10. A Girl Named Zippy by Haven Kimmel
I chose books from different eras of my life. The books about horses were from my childhood. Little Women and The Yearling were favorite books from my early teens. Hotel and To Kill a Mocking Bird were from young adult years and the Valley of the Dolls I read as a young married woman. The last two are books I can't forget from recent years.

If I had room for one more it would be Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell. 

I invite Brenda Kay Ledford, Joy Griffin Dent  and Joan Gage to take this challenge.

Here are the rules for this CHALLENGE:

1._ Think about those books you enjoyed over a lifetime of reading. It is not easy to do because you have to whittle your list down to only TEN books! Write them down – make a list of 10.

2._ When you complete your list, post it on your blog.

3._ Send a link to your blog post to 3 friends and Invite your 3 friends who love books to take the challenge. List the 3 friends you are inviting at the end of your blog post.

4._ Ask your 3 friends to send you a link to their blog post so you can enjoy seeing their 10 favorite books, too.

6._ Your 3 friends will invite 3 of their friends to continue on with the challenge.