Sunday, November 22, 2015

While everyone is at the NCWN Fall Writers’ Conference in Asheville

I wanted to have a pity party for myself today.(Saturday) So many writers I know are in Asheville for the Fall Conference with Lee Smith and Kathryn Stripling Byer plus many other great presenters, but I am home with Lexie, my puppy. She is not the reason I didn’t drive the two hours to get there, but she has made staying home much more pleasant and the main reason I didn’t throw myself a pity party.

The fact is, I had a bit of a trauma the last trip I made alone. I locked myself out of the vacation home where I was staying and locked my car keys and my cell phone inside the house. To make matters worse, it was raining.

There I sat, my car half-packed to go home, trying to think of something I could do to get attention to my plight. But the only house I could see that was near enough to hear my horn blowing was totally empty. Far away, I could see a house with two cars parked in front. To get to that house, I had to walk down a steep, leaf-covered driveway to the main road. Then I would have to walk further downhill and then uphill again to reach the house. When I say hill, I mean steep inclines in the mountains of the high country just off the Blue Ridge Parkway.

I have trouble walking on flat land with my ailing feet and back, but I had to give it a try. I draped a blanket over my head to protect me from the light rainfall, and began my trek on the slippery leaves, praying that I would not fall and break my hip or leg. I would not let myself think about the consequences if that happened.

When I finally reached the asphalt road, I turned left and continued downward hoping that someone would come by in a vehicle and give me a ride.  I trudged along until, through the silence, I heard something and turned to look back. Far above me I recognized the sound of a motorized vehicle. Then I saw it. A white pickup truck was winding its way down from the top of the mountain. I turned to face it and began waving my arms up and down, then out in front of me, hoping he would stop. I was afraid I looked loony and perhaps the driver would just go on past not wanting to get involved with someone walking in the rain with a blanket over her head.

But the truck slowed and the window lowered. I saw a clean cut man looking at me with alarm.
“Are you alright?” he asked. “Can I help you?”
“Yes, please,” I said. “I locked myself out of the house where I was staying and I have no car keys and no cell phone.”
“What can I do? Do you want me to try to get in the house?”
“I need to call the rental company and get them to bring me a key.”
“Oh. OK, come and get in the truck and you can use my phone.”

His name was Tom and he was such a gentleman. He turned up the heat afraid I was cold, and he looked up the name of the rental company before calling them and handing me the phone. They said it would cost me twenty-five dollars for them to bring me the key even though I told them I had no car. Tom told the rental company he would take me to get the key.

Tom drove me about twenty miles to the rental company and then returned me to the house. On the way over and back I learned that he was a retired police officer from Dade County, FL. He and his wife had lived in the area full time for about ten years. He looked after a few vacation homes.

I also learned that I was very lucky that morning because Tom had been up on the mountain installing a humidifier in a house for someone who, like all the people who were there for the summer, had gone back to winter in Florida.

“I don’t know if there would have been anyone else coming down today,” he said. “I think everybody is already gone.”

I had not had breakfast and I am diabetic so my blood sugar had fallen quite low and I felt awful. As soon as I retrieved my car keys and my handbag, I headed out to a restaurant a few miles away. I did not start home until nearly 2:00 p.m.

The stress of the morning took a toll on me and the physical stress of packing my car caused a flare-up of fibromyalgia which left me exhausted and in pain. I made it to Asheville where I stayed overnight. A good night’s rest helped me feel better the next day for the drive home. 

Since then, I have had second thoughts of traveling alone. Also, I have had other health problems in the past few weeks that caused me to wonder if going for a weekend conference might be a little more stressful and difficult than it was in the past. Maybe I should stay closer to home, take advantage of the many opportunities that are nearby, and be able to sleep in my own bed at night.

Today was a dreary, dark day. That made it easier to enjoy being home where I could cuddle up with Lexie, read and write. But she has no clue about my writing. She thinks she can curl up on my chest and sleep while I sit in front of my computer. I cannot type with one hand, and it takes one hand to hold her so she won’t fall off.

I moved my desktop computer to my dining room table so she and I can be in the same room together. She is into chewing right now and if I don’t watch her every minute, she will chew computer wires, the legs of my table, and anything she finds on a table. Yes, she is like a monkey, up on chairs, walking on tables and running from one room to another unless I keep doors shut.

Tonight she is finally asleep in her crate where she is very happy. And that makes me happy. So this weekend at home was not too bad after all. Now I will look forward to the Blue Ridge Writers’ Conference in BlueRidge, GA in April. That one is close to me and I always enjoy going there. 

Blue Ridge Writers' Conference a few years ago. Seated: Janice Townley Moore, poet, Left to right, Joan Howard, Brenda Kay Ledford, Mary Ricketson, poets and all members of NCWN-West and Diana, also a writer

Tuesday, November 17, 2015


It is not yet Thanksgiving and I am already filling next year's calendar. We are all so busy we can't wait because every day fills up before we know it.

Lisa, head of the Community Enrichment Program at Tri-County Community College said she had to have next year's calendar turned in this month. So she and I set up two Tuesday courses, 6 - 8 p.m. for me to teach in March and another in September. Both of these classes will be for those who want to write personal stories or essays about themselves, their families or pass on the stories of their ancestors. One class will be for those who have not taken classes before and the other will be a little more advanced for those who have taken my classes in the past. 


Because publishing has become so much easier with self-publishing having lost most of its taint, authors are asking how to market their books. I can't begin to tell you the number of writers who have called me to say, "I have a box of my books in my closet. Now what do I do with them?"

Of course, they should plan the marketing program before the book is published. Who is the audience they want to reach? How much travel will they be able to do to read and sign books? How well do they know how to use social media to build a network of readers? Have they published anything before? Do they have a reputation as a good writer? Do they have a big email list of prospective readers or buyers of their book?


I will teach a couple of Saturday afternoon, two hour classes on Publishing and Marketing next summer. One will be May 14 and one will be August 13. The fee, $25.00, is beyond reasonable. 

If you live in driving distance of Murphy, NC, you might want to consider looking into taking classes at Tri-County Community College in Cherokee County. 

TCCC is where I began taking writing classes in 1995 with Nancy Simpson. That was where I met most of my writing friends I have today. Because I took that class, I learned about the NCWN-West group of writers and the critique groups that met each month. 

Within a few counties and small towns in the far western tip of North Carolina and north Georgia, we have a writing colony made up of poets and fiction writers as well as nonfiction and memoir writers. I was introduced to them all because I signed up for a course at TCCC and took a poetry class at the John C. Campbell Folk School.

When I teach adult writers, I feel I am giving back some of the joy and happiness I was given all those years ago. I hope my students find the fulfillment I did when I began learning the craft and publishing my work. 

Monday, November 9, 2015

Millennials? Where did they get that name?

How did the young generation become known as Millennials?

Who gave a generation that title? Lately all we see or hear is what the Millennials think, how they plan to vote, how they are changing the country.

Millennials are also known as Generation Y, the demographic that directly follows Generation X. Those who reached adulthood around the turn of the 21st century are considered Millennials.

This is the generation that was raised to believe they should follow their dreams and they could accomplish anything they wanted to do in life. Many of them were made to believe they were special. I hear grandparents say, “Just ask my grandson. He knows everything about computers and the Internet. Kids are so much smarter today than we were.”

Computer or device savvy?
I have not met anyone among my family or friends who can help me when I have a computer problem.  Most of the young adults I know can tell you how to use a smart phone to take a selfie, to research on their tablet, or how to bring up You Tube videos that make me laugh.  But very few of them know about using a computer for writing, for blogging, for setting up a website, marketing or building a readership for an author. 

A college student recently told me she never uses a computer and doesn’t know much about them. She uses her smart phone and thinks she knows all she needs to know.

While Millennials grew up in the electronics-filled world and they seem to be online constantly with their devices, research has shown they are the most stressed-out generation.

A quote from an Arianna Huffington post said, “According to Stress in America, a study commissioned by the American Psychological Association, Millennials are the most stressed demographic….
The study asked participants to rank their stress level on a scale of 1 ("little or no stress") to 10 ("a great deal of stress"). Millennials led the stress parade, with a 5.4 average. Boomers registered 4.7, and the group the study labeled the "Matures" gave themselves a 3.7.

The Millennials are more tolerant of differences and is the most diverse generation, ethnically. They have extreme confidence in themselves. I can’t imagine having such confidence at such a young age.

In spite of coming out of college unable to find jobs in their fields and burdened with huge debt, they are optimistic about the future of America. I hope their optimism proves true and they can make the enormous changes we need to get our economy back on track for the middle class that is the backbone of the United States. 

I am sure that parents who hovered over their children, sending them to the best schools, and gave them every advantage possible, worry that these young adults will never have the good life their parents enjoyed.

I see it happening. 
Parents lived in fine houses, drove the nicest, newest cars, belonged to the country club, and their kids grew up privileged, expecting to always have everything they ever wanted.

When the silver spoon tarnishes, the expectations are too high, and the adult child feels thrown to the wolves. Without financial support from parents, no job, no income, the stress can take a person down into addiction or depression or both. It is no wonder the Millennial generation faces more stress than anyone today. 

Whether they are working or unable to find work, stress becomes a health issue.

"Stress is a huge factor when we look at medical problems such as obesity, hypertension, diabetes, cardiac disease," says Dr. Nancy Snyderman, NBC's chief medical editor.

I heard of a few Millennials who surprised and disappointed their parents when, after earning a degree, they announced they were going to be organic farmers or were going to work for a non-profit that they believed could change the world for the better.

Now that I understand the stress these young people are dealing with, it is easier to see why they have weight problems and suffer chronic illness. Stress leads to heart disease, high blood pressure and autoimmune disorders.

I am in the Mature Generation, and I have had diabetes for 13 years. When I have too much stress in my life, my blood sugar goes up. When life is calm and I sleep well, my levels are good. I imagine how  difficult it is for young women who work and care for a family.

Anxiety is a precursor for depression. Too many young women today take sleeping medicines, anti-depressants, and anti-anxiety medicines to help them get through their busy days.

I sympathize with the Millennials who face uncertain futures in today’s world. We all want to pursue our dreams, work only at jobs that we enjoy, and we all want to earn a decent living. But my generation didn’t always have that opportunity. People I know worked at jobs for forty years that were boring or unfulfilling but paid the bills. Now they are retired and are excited to have the chance to pursue those dreams.  Perhaps that is why the Mature generation feels less stressed.

What is your stress level these days? How do you manage to keep the stress under control, or do you?

Friday, November 6, 2015

Is there anything more fun than a new puppy?

I have now had a darling little baby, Lexie, for about three weeks, and she is controlling my life to a certain extent although I am determined not to spoil her.
She weighs only five pounds

How could anyone resist that little face?

Lexie is a Chi-Weenie, a mix of Chihuahua and dachshund. She has long ears that stand up like a jackrabbit's and a long body like a weenie dog. We think she is about three months old.

She is not the prettiest dog I've ever had, but she is loved. Barry and I always had dogs in our family for as long as we had a home, 45 years. A couple of years after Barry died, our sweet Rocky had to be put down. He had a terrible illness that I believe was a brain tumor.

I decided I would not get another dog. After all, they die on you. I wanted to be done with grief. I had lost my husband, three of my brothers, my parents, and a sister. I grieve over the loss of my pets just as I do a family member. Well, they are family members. At least all of our dogs were loved like a member of the family. They lived in our homes and were our constant companions. 

Brandy, the miniature poodle was our first. Barry gave him to me a week after we were married. Brandy soon owned us and we obeyed his every wish for nineteen years. Poodles are such people-dogs, that it is hard to leave them, even with someone they love. He mourned when we were away. After all, he didn't know if we were coming back. 

Our next dogs were Samoyeds, the most beautiful dogs in the world to me. Nicki died when he was only two years old from a mysterious malady the vet could not explain. Barry could hardly stand it until we found another snow white puppy and that was Kodi who lived to be fourteen. He was my shadow and I adored him. While I was grieving over having to put him down on Christmas Day, Barry found Rocky who had been put out on the road by the Chatuge Dam. And so began another love affair with a wonderful dog. He and Barry were inseparable until Barry passed away. Then Rocky realized he had only me and we were best friends going back and forth to Roswell where we visited family. I'll always remember Rocky as the most gentle, loving dog who let other dogs he liked, take his bed or eat his food. He would even let the cat have his bed.

Now after time has eased the pain of losing Rocky, little Lexie has come into my life like a bright star that had been waiting until the right time to fall into my lap. She is smart, too smart at times, and is going to be a great dog when she is house trained. She snuggles with me and sleeps nestled up beside me until I put her in her own bed. She sleeps there without making a sound until I wake up in the morning. 

There is more to Lexie's story and I'll tell it soon, but this is enough for now.

Monday, November 2, 2015

EWG and Duke make a discovery that could be dangerous for women and girls.

What are endocrine disrupters? Why should we know?

A recent article on the senior women website tells us why we need to know  this term and why we should be concerned.
The Environmental Working Group works constantly to protect us, the American people, from  becoming victims of the products we use, the food we eat, and the air we breathe. The EWG and Duke University conducted research to find out what girls and women are innocently doing to harm their endocrine or 
hormone systems.

Endocrine disruptors are chemicals that, at certain doses, can interfere with the endocrine (or hormone) system in mammals. These disruptions can cause cancerous tumors, birth defects, and other developmental disorders. Any system in the body controlled by hormones can be derailed by hormone disruptors.

The research study included ten nail polishes such as OPI, Sally Hansen, Wet n Wild and others, popular with girls and women in this country. Nail color is trendy with girls as young as twelve. Adult women flock to nail salons where polish and other chemicals are applied.

The Duke and EWG research shows that within hours of polishing their nails, the subjects’ blood contained a toxic chemical, TPHP, which has growing evidence suggesting it may affect the hormone regulation, metabolism, reproduction and development systems.

Read the complete article on this subject at the link below.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

What does October Mean to You?

October is here! That means fall, pumpkins, cornstalks, and Halloween. Down on the farm, my nephew and his buddies will open the Haunted Forest, which he does each year. Hundreds of people come out to ride through the pine forest which was once a Christmas Tree farm my sister Gay and I sweated over each summer. When my nephew bought it, he let the trees grow up, and now he works one month a year and makes more than we did, I think. I've never been through the Haunted Forest which was Santa's Forest years ago, but I hear that the creative ways used to scare the pants off all who enter is beyond imagination. My friend, Sue, said she took her young grandson and he was terrified and she was just as scared.

I was never much for Halloween. When we were kids, we did not trick or treat. When you live on a farm, the neighbors are few and far between. At school we drew pumpkins and colored them orange. We cut out black cats and gave them green scary eyes. But that was it. Sometimes the  teachers gave us Halloween candy which I never liked.

But all that changed after Barry and I met the Clarkes, Linda and Dick. This couple held the best Halloween parties ever. They transformed their house, their property and themselves into a fantasy of what you imagine Halloween to be. They became characters so real I didn't recognize my friends. Linda became the ugliest witch, long nose, pointed hat and fingernails that frightened me.
Her green face completely hid the pretty woman I knew. Dick, a tall serious man for the most part, opened the door to greet us. Who was this ugly hunchback with wild  hair and distorted features?

Igor and the Witch with her Cabbage Patch doll

Here they are again, another party, another year

Not to be outdone, Barry found a mask that became the basis for the character he created. He dressed in overalls, packed on a paunch, and developed a voice for the old man he became when he put on this mask. We  went to  the party together, but once there we separated. He came in after I  had been there a while. No one knew who he was. He stayed in character all evening  and those of us who knew him had the most fun watching him fool his  friends as he introduced himself as Lonzo Carp.

Carrie Council, my niece, and Lonzo Carp aka Barry Beall

The best outfit I  ever wore was cut-off jeans and a tee shirt with the words Barry's Old Lady on the back. The cut-offs emphasized my best feature, my long legs. Barry and I went to that party as a motorcycle couple, Hell's Angels type, wearing chains and leather, and boots. Dick said a few years ago that he still remembers me in that Motorcycle Mama costume. That makes me smile. (I asked them to dig out these old photos for me to post.)

Glenda And Barry dressed as members of a motorcycle gang

Now my favorite things about October do not include my birthday on the 22nd, not Halloween or parties or trick or treat. My favorite thing about October here in the mountains is the crisp dry air, and the leaves--the oranges, reds, yellows, golds, and all shades of each that brighten every day;The colors that decorate all the store entrances.

It is a time when I enjoy driving around the countryside, seeing doorways garnished with pumpkins, scarecrows, and corn shocks. Festivals with country music and clogging, vendors selling canned jellies and jams, wood carvings, and home made aprons, occur every weekend. Apple butter and gallon jugs of cider gleam in the sunshine on make shift stands along mountain roads.

What does October mean to  you? Got any good October memories? Share them with us in Comments.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Celebrating Libras

I know some pretty great folks who were born in October, my birth month. My friend and fellow writer, Estelle Rice has a birthday on the 25th. She and I will have lunch together on my birthday, the 22 , with  Mary Michelle, our mutual long time friend.  Estelle is not a Libra. She misses by two days. But Joan Gage, another writer friend, was born October 22, same as I. She fits the Libra profile pretty well, I think. My niece's husband, Dave, was born October 16, and will celebrate his birthday watching the Cubs play ball.

I don't  put much store in horoscopes but find it interesting to read them. This is what is said about people born under the Libra sign.

"The people born under the Sign Libra (Sept. 23 - Oct. 23) are kind, gentle and lovers of beauty, harmony and peace. However, in their effort to keep everyone happy, they find it difficult to say ‘NO’ to anyone, and as a result, they end up getting stressed. They have a lot of positive traits, but some negative ones, too.

The Libra women are flexible and accommodating and will carefully listen to different opinions. If they are logically convinced that they should change their minds, they will do it, without being stubborn.

Though they are balanced people, they can sometimes lose their temper. However, they are quick to restore the balance and harmony, and will get back to their usual charming and mature selves soon."

Gay  and Glenda at the Riverside Restaurant Oct. 16

Glenda beside the river at Toccoa Riverside Restaurant

Friday I met Gay and Stu, and friends, Dick and Linda, to celebrate Dick's birthday and mine. We also threw in Stu's since we didn't get together in September. Dick has been a friend for thirty-plus years. He was born on the 16th of October and was at the Toccoa Riverside Restaurant on his birthday where he received a free meal. I was too early for my free dish. 

I very much enjoyed having lunch with my nieces, Lyn and Lee Hunter and my sister, Gay at Olive Garden Sunday. I love the sweet cards from the girls, not to mention birthday gifts. I am having a great time celebrating my birthday and it is not even my birth day yet. 

My Libra father was born on October 12. 
This is what is said of Libra Men:
"The Libra men hate to get into arguments, and hence will rarely ever complain about anything. That’s why they are fairly easy to please. However, on the negative side, they may not always express their views genuinely as they prefer to say things that people want to hear."

Wrong! Not my father. He had no trouble expressing his views to us, his family, and didn't give a fig what others wanted to hear. He was polite to visitors and held his tongue when he might want to express his political views  or what  he thought about a self-righteous neighbor, but it was not because he said what someone else wanted to hear.

The father I knew was not the man he was before I was  born. 
Perhaps he once possessed the positive Libra traits. "Since the Libra men are friendly and charming, they can lighten the atmosphere and help people overcome their depression. This is the reason why people seek out their company in social gatherings and parties."

I learned from others, my father was friendly and charming when he was younger. He certainly charmed my lovely mother into marrying him. People loved to be with him. When he was a young father, his children and their cousins gathered around him while he read to them. My cousin Ethel said he acted out the parts, changed his voice, to become the characters.

His family and friends regularly attended  the local baseball games to watch him play. He teased the kids, and they adored him. When I was born, he had five kids already and was in his forties. He was more serious, and he worried too much. His health had begun to fail, and I never knew that fun-loving, teasing father my brothers enjoyed. 

I  don't believe in Horoscope readings. What fits one person today might not fit him at all forty years from now. In many ways, I am not the same person I was twenty-five years ago. I still enjoy reading my horoscope to see if anything I read fits me. I like to believe that I am balanced, loving, kind and gentle and have all those good traits of the Libra. I ignore the negative ones.

I was born on Sunday so, of course, I also believe the words of the nursery rhyme that the child that's born on the Sabbath day, is fair and wise and good and gay. I would not believe what is said about Wednesday's child if I had been born on that unfortunate day. 

What month were you born and what day of the week? Do you believe these dates reflect your personality?

Friday, October 2, 2015

Stories of Extinction

I receive an email newsletter from City Lights Bookstore with announcements of new  books. This is one I think I'd like and hopefully tons of people will read. While many of us older people think about the past, I think about  the future of this planet and who will care for it.

Paul R. Ehrlich says:There's not the slightest question in anybody's mind of why we're facing an extinction crisis, both of populations and of species, and that's human activities. It's not extinction of humans, it's humans forcing birds and mammals to extinction.The whole idea is to introduce people to what we're losing. The average person on Wall Street has never seen a natural ecosystem or, say, the animals on the plains of Africa, and can't really picture what's going on. 

Paul R. Ehrlich: Stories of Extinction

Paul R. Ehrlich is the Bing Professor of Population Studies and the president of the Center for Conservation Biology at Stanford University

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Lunar Eclipse Tonight - Will I see it?


Tonight I hope to go somewhere I can see the lunar eclipse. With all the trees around my house, I can't see the moon until it is straight overhead. In south Georgia where I used to live, the land was flat and I could just walk a little way to an open pasture, lie on a blanket and see all of the sky from east to west. Here, I will drive to the lake, park up on the dam level, and see it, I'm sure.

Life in the mountains is much different from life on my beloved farm where I grew up. I don't remember hardship as a child although we had little money. I had my sister to play with every day and my sweet and loving mother always near. I didn't miss what I didn't know others had, like fancy dolls or toys. I used my imagination, as did my sister, Gay. We played farm using Daddy's tobacco bags with their string ties as wagons for our horses which were Daddy's empty match boxes. Sometimes we played farm under the big oak tree. I would be the horse pulling the plow (a long tooth rake) while Gay handled the reins, a long hay string that reached from my mouth to her hands. 

When I think about playing farm, I realize that was what we saw day in and day out--my father and my brothers working on the farm. When we weren't playing farm, we played with my sister June's cosmetic bottles and her high heel shoes. The bottles were all sizes, and they made fine families of grown ups with children. The bottles fit into the shiny shoes, and we pretended the family was going for a ride in the car.

The two of us lived in our imagination

When we went to bed at night, we composed stories in our head until we fell asleep. I learned in later years that my father did the same thing. He read western novels by  Louis L'Amour. Before he fell asleep, he made up his own western stories. I wish he had written them down. I'd love to know what he thought about. 

Tonight's Moon
When I go out tonight to see the moon, I'll think about all the moons I've seen in my life, who I was with when I gazed up at the night, where I was at the time and why I remember them. We remember things for a reason. If there is no reason, we don't remember. Maybe I'll take a notepad and jot down my thoughts as I watch what happens in the sky.

Do you have any moon-watching memories? I hope you will share them in the comments. 

Sunday, September 20, 2015

September is Suicide Awareness Month

Depression is a disease, not a weakness, and suicide is its tragic consequence. 
Having come from a family in which depression lurks, I can recognize most of the symptoms. 

My father became depressed when he was in his early forties, about the time my little sister was born. Throughout my life and hers, we knew a father totally different from the man my older brothers and older sister had known. He worked hard every day on the farm. He paid his bills. He managed to overcome physical illness most of the time and lived a quiet life. But depression changed him, and he was not the happy man who teased and played ball with my older siblings. His emotions were always right on the surface. The slightest little thing could make him lose his temper. 

As a result, my little sister and I stayed as far from him as we could, not knowing when he would blow up. Mother was the calm presence in our lives, the only one who could settle him down. Looking back, I think his depression caused him to worry abut everything. He would not go anywhere except to the doctor. He voluntarily gave up the keys to his truck when he didn't feel capable of driving. He did enjoy watching sports on TV. Perhaps that was his escape from reality. And he planted and harvested a big garden, which seemed to bring him joy.

As far as I know, my father never thought about taking his own life, although he had a beloved family member who did. Mother said my father almost had a “nervous breakdown” in the 1950s, which was what people said when someone became so emotionally distraught they could not function. 

Looking back, we are fortunate that he did not give up on himself and us. I give my mother and my older brother much of the credit for pulling him through those dark days. 

Suicide is no stranger to me. My first experience with someone taking their own life was when I was sixteen years old. A teenage girl I had seen many times at the local skating rink, killed herself with a shotgun. No one ever explained it. That shook me to the core. She had everything she could have wanted—money, looks, prestige, and a nice family. At least that is what outsiders saw. Who knows what went on behind that family’s doors?  (see poem below)

I was older when the suicide of a dear friend broke my heart and left me feeling terrific guilt. She and I rode horses together when we were kids, and we had stayed in contact. She had been the happiest, devil-may-care kind of girl, bordering on being a rebel, but not quite. Although we lived distances from each other over the years, we always kept in touch and loved to be together. When she visited, we sat up till the wee hours discussing everything from books, to plays, to religion and relationships.

I knew she fought demons even when she seemed happily married to her high school sweetheart. Once she told me she had flown to NYC to see a doctor she hoped could help her. But she was disappointed when she did not get better.

She continued to fight those awful feelings as much as possible. She sought counseling several times and was given prescription drugs. Like many with depression, she turned to alcohol to blot out the desperation. Nightmares, fears she could not explain to me, left her asking questions about an afterlife. I had no idea how the mental anguish stripped her of energy, of happiness, of the desire to get out of bed each morning.

Her husband asked for a divorce after twenty years of marriage. That must have been the tipping point. Her health spiraled down. She found a job in a factory where she stood all day and used her arthritic hands. They swelled so badly and hurt so much, she came home each day and buried them in a pan of ice. Her mental and physical illness drove her to withdraw into a shell, isolated from friends and family.

My only contact with her at the time was by telephone, and often she didn’t answer the phone. Although I was concerned about my friend, I had no idea her situation had become so hopeless. When I heard she had taken her life, I cried for days wondering if I could have helped. I think that is what everyone does when this kind of tragedy happens. 

In the poem below you will recognize the first girl I mentioned above.

Anne’s One Flaw

Her mother heard it from the kitchen.
Her brother heard it above the radio
playing in his room.

The night before, she skated at the roller rink,
blond hair flying 'round her shoulders,
tanned legs clad in short white shorts.

She was sixteen; a cheerleader, and a perfect student.
All American girl with eternal promise.
Thomas loved her and he thought she loved him, too.

She dressed in a powder blue blouse
and navy skirt for their seven-thirty date.
She combed and curled her shiny hair,
and pinked her lovely lips.

Then she sat down upon her bed,
and pulled the trigger on the gun that splattered red
her white bedspread, and left her family stunned.

This poem was first published in Wild Goose Poetry Review

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Friday and Saturday, full of fun for me

This weekend has been full and fun for me. Friday evening I had the great pleasure of being a featured reader at Writers’ Night Out, hostedby Karen Holmes, in Blairsville, GA. We had an enthusiastic crowd of people including some students from Young Harris College.

On the same program with me was Scott Owens, a favorite poetand teacher in our area. He has 12 or 13 books out now and all of them are big hits. His reading last night brought bursts of loud and long applause.

For my reading, I included a couple of poems at the beginning, one of which is in my poetry chapbook, Now Might as Well be Then, published by Finishing Line Press. Steve Harvey, essayist and memoirist, whom I admire, said he particularly like the poem about the tractor. In the book it is titled Clearing New Ground. I changed a few words for the reading, making the poem more powerful, I think.

The surprise of the evening was the short story I read. It is a humorous piece about a young man who came to work at the dairy barn early one morning hung over with a pounding headache. I have not submitted this story for publication, but many people suggested I should. I might send it out and see if it finds a home. The audience found it funny. I don’t think many people expect my writing to be humorous, but several of my short stories are funny.

This morning Scott taught poetry at Writers Studio. He gave us ideas of where we find poetry, how to find poetry and when to write. We had a few short writing exercises that were helpful. I think everyone who knows him loves Scott Owens. At least in my area they do. I hear nothing but compliments for him from those who attend his readings and his classes.

Scott told me he is trying to get his popular online journal, Wild Goose Poetry Review, running again, but he is extremely busy with Taste Full Beans Coffee Shop in Hickory and teaching three classes each day. I expect him and his wife to become even busier now that a post on Facebook about their generosity has been shared hundreds of times and the hits keep coming. We all want Wild Goose to continue to publish the great quality poetry it has in the past.

After the class today, I took a long nap to be ready for my night out with the girls. A dear writer friend treated me to dinner, and another friend joined us at the Copper Door, one of the finest restaurants anywhere. We three went over to the Peacock Playhouse later to see the Songwriters in Concert. I’ll save that for another post.

I could feel Fall in the air today although it was still humid. A crisp breeze swept over my deck and I wanted to sit outside and enjoy it. Sunny and Smokie  like the weather, running in and out.  They can make me smile every time I look at them.

I hope you had a good day wherever you are and thank you for reading this blog. If you aren’t a subscriber, please sign up on the sidebar. It is free, and you will receive in your Inbox each new post I write. I love reading  your comments, so please tell me what you think.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Two Buttermilks for Pamela

We all need connection with other people. Listening to Pope Francis talking to children who live in difficult situations, some homeless, some who have lost parents, I was struck with his emphasis on staying connected with others.

I thought about the many elderly or ill people who are home bound or have no family near. Often their sons or daughters are busy with their own lives, their children, and don't seem to have time to visit. Popping a head in the door to say, "Are you all right?" is not a visit. 

After my mother, age 70, recovered from an aneurysm that left her unable to drive and with no short term memory, she still enjoyed her children's visits. Some found it hard to spend time with her because of her loss of memory. I was fortunate that she and I could talk and we loved being together. My sister, Gay, and I often took Mother to the Dairy Queen where she ordered a banana split. She could not eat it all, but it was her favorite and, even though we reminded her that she could not eat all of it, she insisted the banana split was what she wanted. 

My mother in blue and her sister. They had the same birthday, two years apart
The last ten years of my mother's life had a large gap where something was missing. Her brain swelled from the hemorrhage that took place in her artery. She almost died. 

When she lived, to the surprise of her doctors, we took her home and began to program her brain with pictures and tales that eventually brought her back to a place where she knew our names and recognized her home. We had to tell her that her parents and many of her siblings were dead. It broke my heart when she cried. She lived those losses all over again because she didn't remember their passing. 

Her memory of her childhood and even early marriage was vivid, so we talked about what she could tell me. Because I am curious and ask questions, I heard all of her stories. She told me about the dance parties in the community each Saturday night when she was young. 

"They rolled up the rug and pushed the chairs back against the wall," Mother said. I could see the joy in her eyes when she remembered those happy times. She smiled as she talked. "Coy would walk me to the dance, but he wouldn't dance with me. It was fine with me. I had plenty of boys who asked and I danced until the party ended. Then, Coy walked me to my house. If we stayed on the front porch too long, Mama let us know."

Coy was my father so I knew, even though he didn't dance, they fell in love. He asked her to marry him when she was eighteen. 

Mother knew the history of my father's family as well as she knew her own.  I learned about my aunts and uncles on both sides. She told me about her little brother who died, and how her mother became very protective of her next son, my uncle Rudolph. The entire family adored Rudy and I understood why. When Mother was in Intensive Care and didn't know anyone, he came to the hospital and visited her often. I can still see him, tall and thin, a slight smile on his face, standing beside her bed feeding her like she was a baby. She didn't know his name, but she knew she loved him and he loved her. I could tell by the trusting way she looked up at him as he spooned soup into her mouth. 

I was fortunate to come from loving family and to know that being connected to others is healthy and important to living a long life. For several years Barry and I delivered Meals on Wheels to men and women living alone here in the mountains. Some of them could no longer cook for themselves and the hot meal they received every day gave them nutrition they might not have received  if left on their own. However, I think the most important part of delivering those meals was going inside, giving a hug, speaking with them and letting them know someone cared. I think we had a few on our route who saw no one all day other than the people who delivered the meals. 

Just that connection brightened their days. All the television in the world cannot replace a human touch and a human voice. Even telephone calls cannot replace the visit of someone who cares. 

I wrote a poem about one of the women we saw each month. She was ninety and still able to live alone. I often think about Pamela. You can find that poem here. 

If you have the time and are able, delivering Meals on Wheels in your community is a very worthwhile program.