When you get, give. When you learn, teach.
---- Maya Angelou


Don't miss the Netwest Writers conference in Sylva, NC on May 10.

Presenters are: Judy Goldman, Kathryn Stripling Byer, Susan Snowden, Nancy Simpson, Gary Carden, Newt Smith and William Elliott. City Lights Books will be there all day. Contact them to sell your books at the conference.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Easter Sunday back then and now

When I was a small child I usually went to church with our neighbors on Easter Sunday. It was understood that girls had to have new Easter Dresses, fluffy skirts, sashes that tied in back in a big bow, socks with lace on top, so my sister, Gay, and I always had a lovely outfit. Mother wanted us to look our best when we walked in with our neighbors. 

She didn’t go to church with us. Daddy had been insulted, he thought, by the folks at the country church we attended. Mother quit going when he convinced her he would never go back. She said she couldn’t lie anymore about why he didn’t come with her. Having grown up in the church, she wanted her little girls to have that experience, but not badly enough to take us. I wished she would.

Beulah Methodist Church sat quietly in a patch of loblolly and long leaf pines, a white one-story wooden structure with no frills; no stained glass or special accoutrements. The windows of this church were usually open so we could have a breath of a breeze in sizzling summers of south Georgia. Most of the time I gazed out of one of those windows and daydreamed. I could be distracted by a bird on a limb or a wasp that buzzed in and bumped along the ceiling or dropped down to crawl along the top of a pew.

Jarred from my reverie, my mind skittered back to the sermon only when the sweating, balding man at the pulpit slammed his fist on the lectern or raised the Bible in his chubby hand and yelled at us, “Read the Good Book, and follow the words of Jeee-sus!” 

Guilt ran up my spine because I knew he was talking to me. He had caught me daydreaming, I thought, and now he was mad at me. If this man was a representative of God, as he said, then I was scared to death of God. 

On Easter Sunday, while the preacher was speaking, someone or several someones, hid colored eggs in the woods around the bare church yard. We had to bring a half dozen eggs to contribute to the hunt that took place as soon as possible after the last hymn was sung and the last Amen.

This was a real hunt, more difficult than searching out a lost calf or pig. No manicured lawn or even a field with mixed grasses awaited us kids. We had to climb over downed limbs, wade through weeds and grass up to our knees or higher. Piney woods usually have an understory of short bushy plants and tall grass. Around the church the ground was sandy and collected into my new patent leather shoes as I led my shy sister in trying to find some eggs. 

Our neighbor boy hurtled into the woods, intent, along with his sisters, on finding the most eggs. There must have been a prize, but I don’t remember. I know neither Gay nor I ever won. We were careful to protect our new dresses and new shoes and socks. How can pretty little girls compete with a rowdy boy? He didn’t have to spend a minute thinking about where he walked or ran, whether or not he would get dirty, or whom he pushed aside to get the next hidden surprise. I was not too disappointed, just irritated at his arrogance over winning.

Gay and I had our own little egg hunt at home, after we opened our cellophane wrapped Easter baskets filled with candy. Of course we were told the Easter Bunny brought us the baskets. One year the Easter Bunny brought me a large stuffed rabbit, a blue one. We never fell for the hype about a hare coming into our house with presents, but we did believe in Santa Claus as long as we could get away with it. 

Mother made sure the Easter Bunny found us, in one way or another, as long as we lived at home, but we did finally grow up and left. By then we had nieces and nephews. They came with their parents before our big meal and enjoyed the egg hunt on the front lawn.

They were all near the same age and made a cute group in their brand new outfits, their hair slicked down, and feet covered with new shoes. Mother left the kitchen and joined her children on the front porch, the best viewing area for the hunt.  

Stan, my brother-in-law, kept his camera handy, following his two girls around. He captured the faces making happy sounds as well as the crying kid who found no eggs at those Easter Sunday gatherings during the sixties and seventies.

Kaiki, Lee and Lyn - cute little girls in Easter dresses

If I were to go back to that house, and if I were to stand on the front porch on Easter Sunday morning, I’m sure I’d hear the voices of my family members, most of them gone now, talking, laughing, and I’d see them the way I remember them – young and filled with hope and promise for the future, filled with love for their little ones who shared and divided up the colorful eggs in their baskets.

Some of my family members on an Easter Sunday before I married

Monday, April 14, 2014

Family Trip to Florida

Did you ever go to visit relatives you didn't know? When you were a kid, did your parents tell you to play with children you had never seen before? Why do adults think that just because you are all children, you will be happy to spend time together and that you will actually enjoy it?

My sister, Gay, and I were shy, uncomfortable with strangers. The year I started first grade, my mother and father and two of my teenage brothers took a rare trip to Florida. Mother missed her sisters, nieces and nephews and my father had siblings in that state as well. We would not have gone had it not been for the car my older sister's husband sold to my parents. It was fairly new and in good shape to make the long trip all the way to Miami with stops along the way. 

I'm sure we were gone for at least a week. My brother tells me we made stops in Orlando, Clearwater, St. Petersburg, Palmetto and on down to south Florida, but the only part of the trip that stayed in my mind was the night Gay and I were sent to sleep over with two girl cousins we did not know. Their family dinners were far different from the ones at our home on the farm. This poem tells the story of that unforgettable night.


When I was seven and Gay was five,
we traveled with our family to visit relatives
we'd never met.

I preferred a pallet on the floor
of Mother's room, but she sent us home
with Ellie who had children near our age.

At dinner Ellie's husband shouted words
we’d never heard. Shriveled by his fury, we
huddled small, wanting to vanish from the room.

Later in the darkness, beside a sleeping cousin,
I mopped my tears in silence and I wondered 
why my mother had abandoned us to strangers
she called kin.
                           ---  Glenda Council Beall

Friday, April 11, 2014

Piglets from Heaven

While doing some research today, I stumbled upon this article by George Ellison in the newspaper.

I think you will find it interesting as I did. George Ellison is author of some terrific books. Check him out.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Regrets and Memories

John Burroughs: "I still find each day too short for all the thoughts I want to think, all the walks I want to take, all the books I want to read, and all the friends I want to see."

Why do I take on more than I have time or energy to do? I know I am not thirty years old anymore and my body cannot keep up with my mind that hatches all these wonderful ideas.

I finally got the taxes done so that is off my worry list, but this weekend I will be speaking at a writers conference. That is not the problem. The problem is that I will be staying at a motel overnight on Friday and, unless they are very accommodating of my chemical sensitivities, I could wake up sick on Saturday morning. Then, my day will be most difficult.

Today I had my yearly eye exam and found all my tests are A-OK. Having diabetes, one is always a little nervous about the vision exams. They take photos of my eyes, and test for glaucoma, and probably other things I don't know about. My doctor is such a nice man. His wife works with him and she helped me choose new frames for my new prescription. I think I will be happy with them. I haven't been happy with what I've worn for a couple of years now. These will only have a lens for reading and a lens for working at the computer. 

I can remember the day when I was first fitted for glasses. I was in fifth grade at McIntosh School. The doctor said I didn't have to wear them all the time and shouldn't. But, it was so great to be able to see well that I didn't want to take them off, and I didn't except when I went to bed. 

It was only after I reached the stage where boys became important to me that I wished I didn't need glasses. I often went on "blind" dates, dates that I didn't wear my glasses and pretended I could see well. I hated wearing glasses when I was a teen. It seems today they are more fashionable and even celebrities wear them publicly. I tried to wear contact lenses - twice - but could not stand them in my eyes. 

Now when I get into my car to drive, I leave my glasses at home. When I take my test this year for my drivers license, I will be able to pass the requirements without my glasses. How strange life is. I don't care a hoot about how I look in glasses now, at this age. Everybody I know wears glasses. I even like myself better in glasses than without them.  

If only the girl I was at sixteen had been able to drive without glasses. That girl would have thought she was pretty if only she had not worn glasses. When I look back at her pictures, I can see she was pretty. I just wish she had known it. 

Sunday, March 23, 2014

A New Student at Writers Circle, Gene Vickers

Mt Zion
By Gene Vickers

The pastor was late and his tardiness allowed time for a sobering walk up the hillside. I didn’t need a
compass to determine which direction was East; all of the headstones and markers faced that way. Hope is ever present, even in cemeteries. A recent burial was indicated by fresh flowers and fresh turned earth; a new neighbor moving into what appeared to be a very old neighborhood. Graves dating from the early 1800s were everywhere. Markers were so old some names and dates were obliterated. Time, the very commodity each one residing here ran out of, is now so brazen as to take away their identities.

As I read names and dates I tried to imagine the era in which they lived and died. What, according to my memory of history, was happening in 1803. Eighteen thirty-five, eighteen fifty-six, and all of the other by-gone years.

As I stood in front of Ezekial Brown’s final resting place, my cell phone rang, breaking the silence of
my contemplation of eternity. I was somewhere between his birth in 1807 and his death in 1886. Why
did I answer my cell phone? Habit, I guess. It was someone doing marketing for a surveillance equipment company. After several no’s, they finally hung up. But Ezekial had closed the door and would not allow me back inside. I couldn’t blame him. Rude is rude no matter the century. I moved on.
Ezekial had a neighbor, a small neighbor, and I decided to read her poetry cut deep into the headstone: “Only five years with us she spent, till God for her His angels sent.” No doubt Elizabeth had brought lots of joy and happiness into her family that sixth day of January, 1929. The Stock Market would crash later that year. It was not the best of years to be born. But the crash of the market paled in comparison to January 25, 1934, when Elizabeth moved here permanently.

“Who wept for this child?” I thought.
“I did and still do,” came a voice into my mind.
I looked next door and there was her mother’s place. Both mother and daughter, side by side, separated only by a few feet of earth and eternity. The hillside seemed alive.
“Come here.”
“No, over here. Come over here and read my name.”
“Please say my name. I haven’t heard it in so long.”

I went to as many as I could, saying each one aloud and reading the birth dates. I purposely did not read the date of their death. Many of the stones were so old and worn I could not read their names. I felt their pain, the pain of being nameless and forgotten. I heard the pastor as he arrived in the parking lot. I could feel the disappointment of those whose names I had not read.

“I will come back,” I told them in my mind. “I will come and visit you again.”

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Barbara Kingsolver talk speaks to me

This is one of the most timely and thought provoking pieces I've read in a long time. Barbara Kingsolver, author, gives a talk to a group of college graduates about what they can expect in the future and what we have left them to face. The theme is how to be hopeful.  http://www.dailygood.org/more.php?n=5140

Be prepared to take a few minutes to read it. It is well worth your time, especially if you have children or grandchildren. She capsules in this speech our loss of community in our own country, our values of money above all else, including the very earth that sustains us. I am going to read this often to remind me of how I can be a better steward of the earth and our people. 

I see how we are becoming more isolated as individuals. I have to fight that every day. Being a writer, I could stay inside like Emily Dickinson, and pour out my thoughts on paper or on my computer. I can send e-mail and post on Facebook. But after a few days of this, I get depressed. I need people in my life. I need face to face conversation that has meaning. 

I lost a dear friend who isolated herself from everyone who knew her and loved her. Her depression became a sinkhole that swallowed her up. Finally no one could reach her. She took her own life leaving all of us feeling helpless and guilty because we couldn't stop thinking we might have done more. 

Kingsolver points out that countries where families gather and make music, dance and tell stories, as once we did in our country, are the happiest and, I'm sure, the healthiest. I came from such a family and those were the nurturing days -- when we sat on the porch in the evenings, one brother played the guitar, my father told family stories. Later, when I was older, I remember holiday parties when relatives came, and we turned the dining room into a dance hall. Always there was music. I still remember some of the songs I heard when I was a child, songs from the war years, love songs and funny songs that we as a family, sang, hummed or whistled. 

In today's American family the children all have their own separate rooms, their own television sets, their own computers, and they play their music alone, often wearing earphones that really isolate them from their parents and siblings. Having all this isolation is a status symbol. Poor people seldom have that much space. Parents struggle to earn enough money to give the kids this kind of isolation, not realizing what they are doing.

Unlike my days in college when we gathered in dorm rooms and laughed and danced, ate and sometimes cried together, today's college students can't imagine sharing a room with anyone else, especially a stranger. Status is to have your own apartment or share a place with a wealthy friend. 

How much they miss. Part of the college experience is to learn about others, learn to accept those who are different from us, learn compassion for those who need it, and learn to reach out to help others who are in trouble. 

Barbara Kingsolver gives a great speech to these kids at Duke. I wish it could be read and discussed throughout high schools and colleges of this country.

What do you think about community in today's world? What do you do to encourage community in your family and your neighborhood?

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Mountain Farm in Spring

Tipper on Blind Pig and the Acorn reminded me of a poem I wrote a few years ago. In rural areas we often see this scene in spring. Hope you like it.

Mountain Farm in Spring

Narcissi nod to the impotent chimney
pointing black against the sky,
where flames melted the snow,
left only charred debris and heartache.

Beyond a span of unmowed grass
crawling bees hum in crimson cups
of tulips at the well. Beside brick steps
that lead nowhere, forsythia shouts.

Pear trees dress in lacy white
behind the barren barn.
Near the mailbox, a tilted sign,
Farm for Sale.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Saturday, March 8, 2014

What if?

Have you ever thought about how your life would have turned out if you had made a different choice? Do you carefully weigh your options before you take action? Do you jump right in without mulling over the outcome? Do you worry that you will make a wrong choice and have to live with the consequences forever?

I made a choice when I was 23 years old that changed my life. A total stranger called my house and asked me out on a date. A mutual friend had given him my number. He called simply because he was new in town and needed a date for a fourth of July party.

What if I had said no, I will not go out with you? What if I had never met Barry? Where would my decision have led me? But I made the decision to go out with a guy who didn't impress me much on the phone. I regretted saying yes as soon as I hung up. I was sure I was in for a boring date. He tried to impress me by telling me he drove a convertible. I also drove a convertible.

Although I was curious about him, I was sure he was an arrogant egotist, the kind of man I disliked and the kind of man who didn't like me. I climbed into his new car convinced I had made a mistake. But I turned out to be a terrible judge of character. A year later we were married.

Glenda and Barry Beall 
I've made some ridiculous choices in my life that I lived to regret.
I transferred from a wonderful girls’ school my junior year to go to the University of Georgia because I thought I’d have more fun there. My sister and I looked forward to going to the same school. She entered as a freshman. I hated everything about the huge campus, far larger than my former college. By transferring as a junior, I received no orientation, which might have helped me deal with all the new and complex issues I faced. I missed my friends at Georgia State College for Women, and never felt that I belonged .

After College
I made the choice to return home to live after graduation. My younger sister headed for California after getting her degree. She went to work with Western airlines and traveled for a couple of years. She experienced life in a way I did not and at an age when I could have been testing my wings. I admired her courage and confidence, strengths I didn't have -- not then.

What if I had headed west, and traveled to all the places I’d always wanted to see? What if I had met someone out there and married him? What if I had been unhappy so far from my loved ones, but could not ever come back to Georgia to live?

I would not have been there to care for my mother when she became ill.  Would she have had to go into a nursing home, and would she ever have gained the quality of life she enjoyed the last decade of her life without the constant care she received?

What if? I know people who say they never ask themselves that question. But as a writer, I find that is an important question. When writing fiction, what if is often the jumping off place for a story.  “What if she meets a kind man or a man with a shady past? What if she lives in a small town instead of a city? What if her mother dies when she is a little girl? What if
Choices. Life is filled with them.

Have you made any choices you regret? Have you played the what if? game with yourself?

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

A Post from 2009 by Kathryn Byer

Tonight while searching through the Archives of our Netwest blog, I came across this lovely post by then Poet Laureate of NC, Kathryn Stripling Byer. I want to share it because some of you did not know me then.

So much has changed in my life since July, 2009, and continues to change rapidly. Many losses of family members. 

But I have been lucky to meet and know you, my readers, and I've been fortunate to meet interesting  people through my writing studio and travel for writing events. 

That is life, isn't it? Each day brings something new and we hope for more good days than bad. We hope when the phone rings it will be good news, not bad. We hope we can make and keep our plans for the week. But we never know.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Did you see how you can mandarin oranges?

I urge you to visit Lise's blog: http://www.liseslogcabinlife.com/2014/03/canning-mandarin-oranges.html

for a lovely photo essay on how to can mandarin oranges. I'd never have thought of such.But I don't can anything.

Lise is quite a photographer. I feel I could reach out and taste one of those oranges. I have a big problem! I can't comment on Lise's blog because my Windows 8 computer tells me something is wrong with Cookies, etc,. and I follow their directions to do all they say I should do, but still I get that same error message every time I try to leave a comment.
Makes me mad!
So I am leaving a comment here on my blog today. Lise does a great job posting about her life in the mountains and using her camera to take us on a visual tour with every new article. 

Monday, February 24, 2014

Tipper teaches mountain cooking at JCCFS

In a little town nearby, Brasstown, NC, resides the John C. Campbell Folk School where adults come from all over the world to participate in "camp for grownups" where every day is filled with fun. I spent many, many happy hours on this campus learning from the excellent staff of writers who have been coming here for fifteen years or more.

I have never taken one of the cooking classes they offer, but I am sure this class 
will be fun because my good friend, Tipper Pressley, the knowledgeable author of her Appalachian blog, The Blind Pig and the Acorn, will be teaching. 
This class is for 12-17 year olds to attend with a parent, grandparent, or guardian -- 1 youth per 1 adult. Youths will receive a $100 discount on tuition.
Tipper Pressley
The folk school has been a fixture in this area since the 1920s and if you don't live in this area, I recommend you plan to take a vacation here and spend a week that will change your life. Take one of the many, many classes offered in music, crafts, writing, jewelry making and other interesting arts. 

a view from Folk School campus
You never know who you might meet because guests from all over the world have found JCCFS and come back again and again. Tipper's class on cooking mountain style is bound to be a good one. 

Have you been to the folk school and if so, what did you like best about it?

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Be Who You Were Meant to Be

I spend much of my time promoting other writers, especially women writers, who will not take credit for their work and be proud of what they have accomplished. It hurts me when women will not or can not see their worth. Is it just in our DNA to downplay ourselves? I don't think so, and I was delighted when I ran across this statement on the subject:

“I now understand that the true measure of womanhood is exactly what I'd avoided for so long—to be filled with all of who I am. Beginning when we are girls, most of us are taught to deflect praise. We apologize for our accomplishments. We try to level the field with our family and friends by downplaying our brilliance. We settle for the passenger seat when we long to drive. That's why, every week, I find my television studio filled with women who tell me they're so concerned with what others think that they've compromised their dreams and completely lost themselves. It's why so many of us have been willing to hide our light. Instead of being filled with all the passion and purpose that enable us to offer our best to the world, we empty ourselves in an effort to silence our critics.

Every time you suppress some part of yourself or allow others to play you small, you are in essence ignoring the owner's manual your creator gave you and destroying your design. What I know for sure is this: You are built not to shrink down to less, but to blossom into more. To be more splendid. To be more extraordinary. To use every moment to fill yourself up.”

Read more of this article here:

I was one of those who was so concerned with what others thought that I lost my dreams completely. I lost all confidence in myself -- many times. I floundered when I couldn't be a mother. I was expected to have children as is every woman. I quit going to church on Mother's Day because the pastor always read a scripture that made me feel worthless. He said that the true purpose of woman was to reproduce. All the mothers in the congregation stood and were recognized. (Just one more nail in the coffin of my confidence in organized religion.) 

Teaching little children did not satisfy my need for completion. Once a child left my classroom, he was lost to me and I never knew what became of him. I could not take joy in what I was doing. I became consumed with the troubled kids that I could not fix. I could not go home with them and protect them from all the pain there. I felt I was a failure as a teacher. Looking back, I realize I was a good teacher, but never thought I was good enough. 

So many of my years were wasted before I had the courage to do what I loved, not try to fit a mold made by others. 
 I try to persuade women not to sell themselves short. Follow your dreams and be bold about it. Be proud of all your accomplishments. Don't worry about what others think. When I am told, I can't toot my own horn, I say, then, who is?

This sentence says it all -- Every time you suppress some part of yourself or allow others to play you small, you are in essence ignoring the owner's manual your creator gave you and destroying your design.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Everyone is a genius.

"Everyone is a genius. But if you judge a fish on its ability to climb a tree, it will live it's whole life believing that it is stupid" - Einstein.

When I saw this quote on Raoul's post on ReadWave.com it hit me like a ton of bricks because, as a teacher of small children and then as a teacher of older people, I have seen this to be true.

I knew a wonderful man who never thought he was smart because he was not a reader. He could read but it was not as easy as it is for me and others who love the written word. This man could play musical instruments, sing, persuade anyone or many to buy his products, interpret instructions on how to use any electronic device, figure out complex situations that would make me throw up my hands and say "enough."

He could light up a room just by walking into it and had the quickest wit of anyone I know. He had all that going for him, but somewhere along his life's road, he was told or made to believe that he wasn't intelligent enough - not smart enough- and he lived with that all his life. None of his accomplishments made up for the fact that he was not a "reader" and he thought that someone like me, a person who reads everything, including labels on the toilet tissue if that is all that is available, was much smarter than he. I knew the truth, but could not convince him.

We don't expect a fish to climb a tree. We shouldn't expect all of our children to become scientists, to lead the free world, to fly to the moon, because that was not what they were meant to do.  If our daughters become wonderful mothers or have the ability to care for their elders, and don't bring in a paycheck each month, we should not judge them as being any less than those girls who work toward leading a major corporation or becoming a doctor.

One of the most important and responsible people in my life has a masters degree but she  spends her time doing for others in her own quiet way. She is the rock her husband depends upon so that he can devote himself to his work. She is the friend who calls someone she knows is having a rough patch. She listens. She gives of her time. She is the one who is there for me when I feel like I can't go on because of physical failings or the need for someone who cares.

Some of us are meant to excel in academia and some of us are better at other things. Some are financial wizards and some have trouble balancing their bank account every month. Some like the field of medicine and the subjects required to do the job. But that doesn't mean that I, who never went to medical college, am stupid. It has taken age and wisdom for me to realize that most doctors know just what they were taught in school but have no sense of what I know and what I could teach them about an ageing body. My expertise has come from experience.

Everyone is a genius, according to Einstein. I think each of us must find the genius in ourselves, and then accept ourselves. Wouldn't that make for a happier world?