I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel." - Maya Angelou

Saturday, November 22, 2014

I'm back and blogging again

It is so good to be back! For a while I've had some interlopers on my computers that popped up every time I tried to post or read my blogs. My great computer guru, Bob, spent about two hours last evening cleaning up the mess.

We have a local paper, Clay County Progress, in Clay County, NC where I live. It is published only once a week, and by the time I get it, many of the events are over. But this week the paper has two articles about the Tour of Homes here December 6 and 7. It includes five homes and a stop at the Tusquittee Tavern for music, history and refreshments. I’ve been to the tavern and it is a friendly place I look forward to visiting again.   
One of the homes will be that of Mary Street who lives in the Elf community. The photo of her house in the snow reminds me of a Christmas card with a wish for all the warmth and love of home. The house is filled with her own paintings, quilts and other handmade designs sewn by Mary. Also in Street’s house will be woodturnings and carvings by local men. All the homes will be beautifully decorated for the season. 

I look forward to the tour this year. In years past, Barry, Gay and Stu and our friends, the Clarkes took a tour of homes in the area each Christmas. I miss those times. The homes are always decorated with Christmas trees, and seasonal colors. I don’t decorate much at all now since I don’t have family coming. I go to my sister and brother-in law's house for Christmas. When I walk in their door, I feel like Christmas has arrived, and I get that joyous but melancholy feeling I've always had at Christmas.

The Hayesville Holiday Tour of Homes goes on from 1:00 p.m. until 5:00 p.m. both days and only costs $15.00. The proceeds will benefit the many community and school projects the Clay County Historical andArts Council  sponsors each year. Tickets can be bought at the Chamber of Commerce in Hayesville, Tigers Department store and other places in town.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Final Goodbye

Lee, my niece and writer of this touching post, Saying Goodbye, expresses the pain of burying your mother. She talks about the mundane and the deep feelings of not wanting to  let her go.


Her mother was my sister, June. For days I've thought of her and what I owe her for the life I lead today. I've thought of what I can say at the burial, if I can hold myself together enough to talk. There is  no way to sum up the long life of such a special person. I will tell about my admiration for her from the time I was a small child. 

Imagine that you have someone living  in your house who is as pretty as the movie stars on the  covers of the magazines. And imagine that she loves you dearly and will do anything for you. So different looking from my sweet mother who had lost her figure long before I was born, but just as loving as my mother and as kind and caring for her young siblings. 

She was meant to have a happy life because she sacrificed so much for others, but as a young woman with two teenage children, she faced the death of her husband. Her world fell apart and the weight of raising the kids alone seemed overwhelming. She had not  held a job for fifteen years. 

She was a resilient woman who persevered under grueling circumstances. The family had to move where she could find work that  would support her family. The children didn't fare well in the new school and June had to rethink her situation again. 

All I wanted to  do was save her from the overpowering grief and sorrow that had stolen my sister's smile, her love of life. But I could not fix her problems. Now I know that grieving is a personal and private matter that no one can ease  for another. 

She raised her  girls and they are both doing well. She finally found another man that she could love and who adored her. But their happiness was short lived. Less than ten years of marriage before her health deteriorated. She knew when it was time to go, and she passed away with her family around her.

Now we must say a final goodbye. I can hardly bear it.

My sister, June

Friday, November 14, 2014

“I am so glad you are my friend.”

Recently a friend said to me, sincerely and quietly, “I am so glad you are my friend.”
I was moved almost to tears by this simple sentence. She and I have been friends for a number of  years, more so since my husband died. She has other friends, old friends, from many years ago. She has certain friends she spends time with each week. I am not in that circle and it doesn’t matter. I have friends that don’t include her.
How many times have you stopped and counted the people you can really call friends, not acquaintances? Are they  good friends, best friends, or occasional friends?

In my life I have had only a few best friends. When I was a young teen, my best friend was Joyce. We rode horses together and told each other our deepest secrets. A couple of years older than I, she graduated high school and entered college before I did. But we always tried to stay in touch. She and her husband, her high school sweetheart, were our first visitors in our furnished apartment right after Barry and I married. What a surprise to find that she and Barry had known each other at the university. Like many women in the sixties, Joyce dropped out of college and got married. We  never would have imagined that mistake would haunt her to death.
Joyce and Barry going to a  Georgia-Florida football game. I miss both of them.

One reason I had few close friends when I was growing up is I had a built-in friend, my sister, Gay. While we both had occasional friends, neighbors, girls we met at school, I reflect now and realize that my two friends in high school drifted away after their marriages, where I served as bridesmaid. Neither of them pursued higher education. One was eventually divorced, but the other raised a family in her husband’s home town in Wisconsin. We visited them once, and she was still the funny adorable girl I had known at sixteen, faithful to her Catholic upbringing.

In college, a girl’s school in Georgia, I met some classmates I enjoyed. We had great times laughing and talking  late into the night, trading our stories. I was awed by one girl, Peggy, the sophisticate from Washington, D..C. Dark-eyes heavily lined and mascaraed, she was crowned with a  head of jet black hair. She was independent and courageous. I had grown up with a strict father and seldom broke any rules except when I was out with Joyce who sneaked cigarettes from her family’s store and impressed me with her ability to smoke and drink when she was still in high school. 

Peggy was similar but took even more risks. She could have been sent home for slipping out of the dorm after hours to meet her boyfriend and then slipping back in after curfew. She couldn’t have done that without my help, of course, and in return she let me be her friend. I was used, but it had its rewards. Through Peggy, I met Richard, the first real love of my life. I felt extremely grateful to travel in the same circles with Peggy, who was respected all over campus. She had street smarts, but she was super intelligent and earned top grades. Her goal was to become a doctor. I heard that she reached that goal.

When I left the girls’ school to attend the university, I lost touch with Peggy and all the girls I had known and liked for the past two years. Several moved on to other schools to complete their education. Some went home to get married. I entered a school where I knew no one but my younger sister. We lived in different dorms and she made friends right away. I did not weather the change too well and wished many times that I had stayed where I was to finish my education.

Coming from a large family that enjoyed each other, much of my social life involved my siblings. My sisters-in-law often turned to me as a friend and I loved them, warts and all, but was burned when my brothers cheated or divorced their partners. How could I make a choice between a friend and a loved brother? I hated the sin, but loved the sinner.

I like the metaphor that life is a sailboat and at times the winds come up strong. We have to navigate them carefully, even changing our course sometimes. Friendship is a large part of a healthy life. Having social ties has been proven to lengthen our days on this earth. But I also believe people come into our lives and go out of our lives when they are supposed to do so. For that reason, I have no desire to seek out old classmates on Facebook.

I am so very fortunate to have my sister who will always be a huge part of my life, and a small number of good friends in my life now that I know will never turn on me or hurt me. I am glad they are my friends. 

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Wildacres Retreat - Fall Gathering

Wildacres Retreat is a place I like  to go to find freedom from everyday responsibilities. This lovely place on top of a mountain in North Carolina has rustic bedrooms, no telephones or television sets. The quiet is only broken by the wind whistling through the giant oaks, maples and other hardwoods that provide the visitor with myriad leaf colors in fall.

My room mate and friend, Mary Mike hiked most of the trails around the campus and brought back a  bouquet of small limbs filled with leaves of gold, red, orange and magenta. She put them in a pitcher and sat on her bed and painted them with watercolors. I just enjoyed looking at them. 

Mealtimes are fun at Wildacres and the food is delicious. We sit about ten people to a round table and we are served a meat dish in a  large platter with a couple of side dishes. A salad  bar is set up in the center of the room. Dessert is placed beside each plate. It is good that we have to walk a ways to the dining room and back up a  hill after we eat hopefully using a  few of the calories we take in.

I love almost every person I have met at this retreat where I came for several years in the  past. Lots of hugging goes on when we see each other  again. This year I was very happy to see Sidney again. I met her the first time I went to Wildacres. It was  her first time as well. It was good to see how far she has come with her writing in the past five years. Her novel is almost complete.

One pleasure for me is visiting the studios of the painters and potters. Dorothy, from Asheville, is a potter. One day I'd like to try my hand with clay. I think the process would be most therapeutic, molding and creating with my hands. I think writing is creating with my mind, but I was once an oil painter and I remember the deep satisfaction I received from watching a scene develop on canvas. I remember the contentment that crept over me when I saw something I created with brushes and paint. 

Mike House, Director of Wildacres, is amazing the way he knows all the details about the place. One windy evening he called out to someone leaving a studio, "Be sure to close that door real good. It doesn't always latch, and the wind will blow it open and it will bang all night."

He is dearly loved by the guests and so is his family. His beautiful wife, Kathryn, is on staff and she played balaphone for us one night. Mike plays keyboard and usually entertains us on the last night of the Gathering. This year I requested Forever Young, a song he sang the first time I came to Wildacres, and he sang it for me that cold snowy evening before we left the next morning.

I kind of wish The Gathering was not so popular because now you have to register early or be put on a waiting list. I used to be able to get a private room but now we are told there are no private rooms available.

This year I had the opportunity to talk at great length with Jan Parker, writer from near Raleigh. She is on the Board of Trustees of the North Carolina Writers' Network. I introduced her to NCWN West, our writing group here in the mountains. She gave me a copy of a book of poetry published by Main Street Rag. I gave her a copy of Echoes Across the Blue Ridge, the anthology published by our group. We discussed her visiting us in the coming year.

Wildacres holds many events during the year and there are two gatherings where you are on your own to do what you love best. Check them out.  www.wildacres.org  

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Happy Birthday, Estelle Rice

I had a birthday this  month and celebrated in the best way I can imagine.

My friend, Mary Mike and I hosted a lunch for our dear friend, Estelle Rice. Estelle is celebrating a big one, but we don't talk about numbers.

The group that gathered was just large enough and not too large to carry on some great conversations.
Some of Estelle's oldest writer friends attended, including Paul Donovan and Glenda Barrett. Paul read a cute piece that had us laughing at ourselves. Mary Mike read two poems by Estelle from her book, Quiet Times. 
Age has no bearing on following your passions and continuing with what you enjoy doing as long as you are healthy enough to pursue your goals. Estelle is still writing poems and revising short stories. She still works on her family history, the genealogy of her lines. And  most importantly, Estelle keeps smiling and stays positive even when her life is not as cheery as her voice. 
From left: Paul Donovan, Glenda Barrett, Estelle Rice, Glenda Beall,Carole Thompson, 
Mary Mike Keller, Staci Bell

Friday, October 24, 2014

Clay County Historical and Arts Council

I am happy to see that our local Clay County Historical and Arts Council has local artists who are members listed on the home page.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Home from Nova Scotia

October  7.
Flying in an airplane for hours is not my idea of a fun way to spend my time, but that is what I did today. I have been vacationing in Nova Scotia, Canada for the past week with  my sister and  her husband, Stu. He is one great guy. My going along makes his job harder. He makes our travel plans with airline reservations and rental car. He makes sure our luggage gets where it needs to be  and that we all get to the gate where we need to board.

On a trip out of the country we must have our passport up to date and be sure our bags don't contain anything that is not allowed. Since I don't fly that often, I need instructions and some help to be sure I don't cause any trouble with the security folks. Gay, my sister, knows the rules and teaches me what to do. 

View of Bras d'or Lake from restaurant in Baddeck where I ate fresh halibut fried to perfection. Seafood chowder is a  popular item on almost all menus. I had scallops, fish, and a whole lobster during my week there.
Our trip began in Atlanta at the busiest airport in the world. We flew to Toronto, Canada where we had an hour and a half to connect to our flight that took us to  Halifax, Nova Scotia. It was unanimous among the three of us. Toronto airport is not very well organized. 

We had to go through immigration so we stood in line for a half hour until an airline employee came by and asked if anyone needed to  make a connecting flight. Once she realized that we were going to be late, she rushed us along and we made our flight, barely. 

Once we arrived in Halifax and loaded into our rental car, we drove to a hotel for the night. That was when I began my love affair with Canadians. No one seemed surprised when I asked for a chemical free room with no scented products. Unlike American hotels where the artificial smell of chemical fragrance hits me like a brick to the head, the Canadian hotel had no odor at all. My room was very clean and had not been sprayed with "air freshener" so I slept well. 

I remembered there was a hospital in Halifax for those with chemical sensitivities such as I live with. Throughout the week we were all impressed with the cleanliness of the house we rented and the places we visited, while none of  them smelled of  synthetic scents. The ALTA hotel at the Halifax airport where we stayed Monday night, a  modern futuristic building, had no odors in the elevators or hallways, nor in our rooms. We were told that only sanitizers were used in the rooms, not artificial fragrances to cover smells. I could breathe safely.

As I have felt in the past when visiting Canada, I hope, if  I come back in another life, I come back to live in Canada, preferably in the Canadian Rockies or in Nova Scotia or New Brunswick. 

We stayed in a rural area of Cape Breton Island, above Baddeck in a house right on the water. At night I opened my window to hear the waves lapping on the rugged shore. Far over the water we could  see a blinking lighthouse The only sound other than the waves was the wind whistling around the  corners. The only light was the moon streaming across the black expanse of lake. 

The house had beds and a bath in the loft where sun spilled in through a skylight. The entire living and dining area looked out through floor to ceiling windows giving a view of endless water that opened to the Atlantic Ocean. My bedroom on the first floor held a most comfortable bed that begged me to climb in each night and held me captive in  the morning even after I woke up.
Here I am under an apple tree, little green apples all over the ground, bright flowers bloomed all over the place, in pots and wild along the roadside. 

If I could have, I would  have stayed another week or a month. The peacefulness of that  place and the friendly people we met in restaurants and shops convinced me that those who make their home on this island are very lucky folks. Though the economy is  not too good in that far north country, they enjoy life by making and listening to their own kind of music, Gaelic or Celtic, made with piano, guitar, and fiddle. The fiddle is king and the kids learn to play when they are very young. I could not keep my feet still as a pretty dark haired girl and a boy entertained at the Red Shoe Pub. Those memories will stay with me for a long time.

We spent an hour at the Glendora Distillery where these men made mighty fine music. The fiddler first played piano. The musicians pound the floor with one foot, hard, no matter what instrument they play. It seems to be an important part of this kind of music.

Click on this link to hear some Cape Breton Fiddle music .

Friday, September 19, 2014

Guest Post for Robert Lee Brewer's blog on Writers' Digest site

I don't often seek out guest posting opportunities, but recently Robert Lee Brewer, Senior Content Editor, Writer's Digest Community placed an invitation on his blog asking for anyone who had a good idea for a guest post to send him an email. I did, and he requested I write the post and send it to him.
He published it today. You can read it here.

Karen Paul Holmes, author of Untying the Knot

What do you think? Would you rather read a review of a book or read an interview with the author?

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Voyeurs of Today

“Today the average person will have spent nine years of their life doing something that is not an essential human endeavor: watching other people, often people they don’t know. I’m talking, of course, about watching TV.
When asked to choose between watching TV and spending time with their fathers, 54% of 4- to 6-year-olds in the U.S. preferred television. The average American youth spends 900 hours a year in school and 1,200 hours a year watching TV.” This is from an article you can read here.   http://www.dailygood.org/2014/09/11/9-ways-in-which-the-culture-of-watching-is-changing-us/
Those in my generation might remember when there was no television and certainly no computers and cell phones. One might say our world was smaller, and it was, but I liked it. Today we are voyeurs, looking at everyone else to see how we should be, should look, what we should eat, and who we should admire or hate. I wonder if and how anyone today grows up with a mind of his own.
Children are constantly influenced by people they watch on TV or online. Sadly, the watched ones are often not the best examples for our kids to follow. When we think about how little juvenile delinquency we had when I was a kid, I think it was because the adults and those we emulated were our own family, our neighbors or perhaps a movie hero we saw on Saturday matinees.
Look at what is watched on television today: graphic crime scenes where people are shot, electrocuted, tortured and cut to pieces. Young people don’t bat an eye when they see murder night after night on TV. When I was a kid I never saw a murder except in a movie and it was a brief scene that alluded to how the man was killed. I didn’t see blood oozing out of his mouth as flies ate away at his eyeballs, or see his intestines spill out on the ground from a horrific slash in his belly. Today those scenes feed some hungry desires of teens and young adults.
I don’t know of  many older people, over fifty, who like those gory pictures or shows that rely on them. I don’t know why anyone is surprised when they hear of teenage children murdering their parents or cutting off the heads of an older couple in order to steal from them. This is taught on TV night after night right in the family living room or in the kids’ bedrooms.
Today, in a class I’m taking, the book, Orange is the New Black, was recommended as a good memoir. I’ve not read the book, but the Netflix movie is nothing but Lesbian porn. Although the story and some of the characters entice me to watch, I turn away from the ultra-graphic sex scenes. The movie could have been made without such depictions, and I am disappointed in the producers who allowed this degradation of women. I see this movie as another way to push the progress of women back a step, and the young women viewers of this trash don’t get it. Once again women are made into sex objects on the screen, and I am sure many men watch this only for the certainty that there will be nude women having sex in more than one scene each episode.
Gay women are portrayed in an even worse manner than most heterosexual people could imagine. If women behave in such lewd fashion in prison, I don’t need to know it and I certainly don’t want to see it. This is one case where I’d prefer tell, don’t show. I don’t want to go into anyone’s bedroom and watch them having sexual intercourse. That is a private  matter – on screen and off.
We have become a culture of watchers and being watched. Anyone can photograph us at any  time without our permission and make those photos available to the entire universe. We have no right to stop it. Our society is ravenous for more people to see or watch. We become more sedentary or if we go to the gym, we watch TV from our treadmills.
I admire the people who still get out there and experience life, who hike, bike, ride horses, walk and run; people who observe nature and the wonders to behold there. I miss being able to ride as I once did. How I’d love to be able to take a long walk in the woods; climb up to the head of a waterfall, or climb aboard a horse and trail ride.
I am selective in the TV shows I watch, often recording the best ones to watch at a  convenient time. I am a big fan of public radio and public television now because PBS has more adult dramas, many of them English. I have never enjoyed the reality shows and I don’t think I ever will. But that is what is popular with younger audiences, the voyeurs of today, so I think they will be around for a long time.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

A Rainbow Like None I've Ever Seen

My camera could not contain this spectacular rainbow painted across Clay  County NC this afternoon. 

We  all love to see a rainbow in the sky and I'm no exception. Today's rainbow had people pulling off the highway with their cameras. It was perfectly complete from end to end. I thought I'd actually see that gold where the colors dropped down on Lake Chatuge. I had never seen the end of the rainbow but today I saw it against the trees by the lake and miles away in the mountains.
As I drove east on Hwy 64, at one point I saw both ends 

The rain interfered with my photos so I don't have many to show. I can't explain my feelings when I saw this amazing sight. I felt that I had been chosen, somehow, to see this vision. Was it a sign? Should I have a new understanding?
Once I turned on my road home, I saw it no more. Only from a certain area could one see the entire rainbow, end to end. How nice I came along at that particular time and saw this wondrous sight.

Taken through my windshield in the rain. Still couldn't get the entire rainbow in my photo. To the left the rainbow ended in the mountains behind my house. To the right it ended in the lake in front of my house. 

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Wearing the Wrong Dress

Have you ever gone to a social function and found you  were wearing the "wrong" thing? I have. The worst such experience happened to me when I was in junior high school, seventh grade. The school held a Valentine's dance for the students and all of us were welcome to attend. I didn't have a boyfriend and had no intention of attending the dance until some of  my friends agreed that we could all go together, even without dates, and it would be fun. I was the only one who had doubts. 

I wore a white strapless gown with lots of chiffon. Mother had my aunt make it for me. When  I put it on and stood before the mirror, I thought it was the  most beautiful dress I'd ever seen.  Even now when I look at the photos made that night before I left for the dance,  I see a pretty girl in a pretty dress. 

My friend, who must have known something I  didn't, wore a dress in a fashionable length, with a discretely cut neckline, made of a shiny satin-like fabric. So did almost all of the other girls at the dance. In fact, it appeared they had all bought the same dress except in different colors.

The other two girls in our party were as improperly dressed as I was, and none of us were asked to dance. I couldn't  have felt more conspicuous if I had a bulls-eye painted on my face.
It was the most miserable night of my youth. I came  home and cried in my mother's arms. 

At that age, those things seemed far more serious than they do now. We are fragile and easily bruised and damaged when we are very young.  But we grow older, and one day we realize that being different isn't always the worst thing we can do. The young girl I was then wanted more than anything to fit in and belong. Being so obviously out of step with the majority left a deep scar on my psyche for many years. One of the perks of growing older is realizing those things really don't matter anymore. Mature people, intelligent people, don't judge others by what they wear. I'm sure no one but me remembers that night or that dress.

This incident came back to me when I read  this article on Seniorwomen.com by Rose Mula. 

Do you have painful memories of when you felt you  didn't belong?  Do you relate to Rose's clothes dilemma? 

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Writing classes at Tri-County Community College in September

I finished my August class at Tri-County Community College last night. This was one of those groups of people who seemed to bond right away. Their enthusiasm motivated each other. Their enthusiasm motivated ME. 

We had one man and seven women in the class. Our lone male stood his ground well but was not arrogant or combative as some men are when outnumbered by the opposite sex. He was a gentleman of the old school and a good writer. His subject was military life in Viet Nam, and he made us laugh.

Because everyone enjoyed this class and wanted to continue, we decided to hold another class beginning September 2, Tuesdays, 6 - 8 p.m. The title of the class is Write What You Like. That means we feature fiction, nonfiction, creative nonfiction, memoir, and poetry to give everyone a taste of it all. But for homework, students write what they like to write. 

I hope anyone who lives locally, in the area of TCCC, will call Lisa Thompson at the Community Enrichment department if you would like to attend four classes in September. The fee is only $29.00, but you must register before class time on Tuesday.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Where is the Love?

I am not a fan of television evangelists usually  but tonight while I was working on something Joel Osteen came on  my screen. I have heard some church-going Christians scoff and call him "the feel-good preacher." The times I've listened to him, I enjoyed his inspirational sermons that left me feeling uplifted instead of down on myself, accusing myself of being a bad, sinful person as the preachers of my youth often made me feel.

Tonight his subject was love for those who are different from us. He asks that we not judge people by their appearances or the mistakes they have made. He says we should love everybody. He said that Jesus made it simple. "Don't judge and you won't be judged."

I perked up when I heard his talk tonight. He was speaking my mind, my thoughts, about how our culture today has become so judgmental. If you are on Facebook and read the comments there, you know how mean-spirited people are. If you don 't believe as they do, they post hate-filled comments. Some people I know have had death threats against them because they voiced their political beliefs.

It is easy to judge people but it is not so easy to love those who are different, the poor, the unfortunate and often sick people who are homeless, those who are not like us, have different ways to worship or who do not worship our God. I found it amazing that this preacher tonight said that his God loves every person no matter whether they are Christian or Muslim. 

It seems to me that the very people who should love the poor, help the poor, and want to do what is right, are often the ones who want Medicaid cut, are against the idea of equal insurance for all, don't want their tax money to go toward helping people who are down on their luck or who have lost jobs and can't keep a roof over the heads of their children. In our  local newspaper there is a  page devoted to churches. We probably have more different churches in our little county than any other in North Carolina. The  opinion of most who write on that page each week speak more of hatred and judgement than they do of love. 

I come from a family that worked hard on a farm in south Georgia. Empathy for those who struggled in this life was instilled in us by our parents. Mother gave food to hobos who got off the freight trains near the house my family lived in during the depression, yet my father had no job and their little store and filling station went broke. That was before I was born, but I grew up hearing those stories and I have never forgotten the lessons they taught me. No matter how little we have, we can always find something to share with others. 

I  like the quote, "Let your life be a lesson to others." That was how my mother lived. When my father had more vegetables in his garden than we could eat, she took them to her relatives and friends. When someone helped at our house, she went home with a couple of  bags of something she could use for her family as well as her cash payment. I have no idea of how much my mother sent to charities through the mail even though she never had money to spend on herself. My father was always fair with his workers, paying the most he could for their work. 

It was only after my family became more financially secure that I saw some members change their attitude. Isn't that strange? The poor want to help the poor, but the wealthy who have security and have enough money become stingy and hoard their wealth. I hear these affluent people expound on the laziness of those who are poor and declare they think the government should stop all aid to indigent people. "I don't want my tax money going to those deadbeats."

Sadly we have what  is called " the working poor" and many of them just can't get ahead no matter how hard they try. I know good  people who work hard and still barely get by. Some become ill and need assistance. One woman has fought cancer for a number of years with  surgery after surgery but she still works as much as she can. Her husband is disabled and she is the sole bread winner in that family. Without some government assistance they would be homeless. But there are people who would say, "just let them die." My friend told me today that a member of  her church said those words when they were out for dinner one day. Those are the Christians that Joel Osteen was speaking to tonight on his program; those who go to church every time the doors are open,  but have no love in their heart for anyone but themselves. 

Recently I was touched when  a single mother who makes minimum wage at best told me she tries to help some of the charities that send her requests. "I tell them I can't send but a couple of dollars, and I hope it helps." 

My other concern is that churches are constantly taking in donations to send overseas - mission work - but often their members don't want to help people in their own state or community. Maybe it is easier to send money than to look around and see those who are right in front of you.

"There but for the grace of God go I." Could it be that we don't want to think about  that? Is that why we write a check to a faceless entity to ease our conscious?

After hurricane Katrina decimated an entire city and thousands of  people, I heard condemnation of those who lost their homes and everything they had. How on earth could those people be blamed for what happened? 

I have never been more proud than I was of my sister, Gay, who took one family under her wing and helped turn around their lives. The family of five took refuge in Atlanta and ended up at Gay's church which gave them some assistance. My loving, non-judgmental sister, spent weeks helping this family find an apartment, get furniture for it and did what she could to counsel the distraught mother of three children who were now homeless. 

My sister didn't think, "Oh well, I'm just one person.  I can't do much."
Read my interview with that Katrina survivor here.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Garrison Keillor - writing stories about our youth

Garrison Keillor has been hosting A Prairie Home Companion, a variety show on Public Radio, for over 35 years.

Question: When you first came to the Big Apple as a young writer, how did you come to shift the subject of your writing to stories about back home?

Oh, I just realized when I came to New York that what I had to write about was where I’m from and the people that I grew up with. And I think that’s true with most people. But it’s a difficult step to take, because, we become writers because we want to escape from that of course. And we want to get away from those benighted people. But in the end, I think the first and strongest stories you have to tell are stories that happened to you before you were 12 years old, and then you go on from there.

The above remarks by Garrison Keillor, one of my favorite storytellers, hit home with me. For years I thought I had nothing to write about because I had lived in the same place my entire life. I had too little experience in living, I thought, to write anything of interest.

But when I moved away from the land where I grew up, and found a writing community that embraced me, I found that my poetry and my stories centered on my life before I came here. Like Garrison Keillor, my writing wants to take me back to my childhood, my family and activities of my youth. Whether I am writing a poem, a short story or a personal essay or memoir, I go back to south Georgia where I grew up, where I can smell the rain coming in over the pasture, hear the lowing of a cow missing her calf. I go back to conversations I heard on the dark front porch or under the big old oak tree beside the house. I taste the cornbread dressing and giblet gravy on a groaning table at holiday time. I feel the coolness of sweet iced tea on my tongue when sweat is rolling down my forehead from hot August sunshine. The laughter and teasing of older brothers, the quiet love and gentle eyes of my mother come to me unbidden. The awkward relationship with my father lives on in me even as I come to understand through my writing why he was distant.

Like a sponge, we soak up those images of our youth, unknowing at the time how they will mark our future. As I age I write with less fear about my childhood, my family, most gone now, and give myself permission to love that flat hot landscape where I never felt I quite belonged.

I try to impart to my eager students, many over fifty, the joy of visiting their past and sharing their history in prose or poetry. Some of them open up and binge-write page after page as memories push to surface and become visual.

Read a story from my childhood here.

A poem from my childhood:

My Father's Horse

Stickers tear my legs, bare and tan
from summer sun. Long black braids
fly behind me as I sprint like a Derby winner
down the path.

Harnessed with hames, bridle
and blinders, Charlie plods down
the farm road. Tired and wet with sweat,
he is perfume to my nostrils.

My father swings me up. I bury
my hands in tangled mane. My thighs
stick to leather and damp white hair
high above the ground.

I want to sing in glorious joy,
but only croon a child's nonsensical
tune, grinning for a hundred yards
between field and barn.

My father's arms are strong.
His hands are gentle. The horse
is all we ever share. For he has sons
and I am just a daughter.

Please leave your comments or send email comments to gcbmountaingirl@gmail.com

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

A Post from the Past

Today I am going back to 2008 and the post I wrote on my great grandfather John Cecil Council. If you weren't one of my readers back then you might enjoy reading about my ancestors.

John Cecil Councilborn in Barbour County, Alabama in 1833, was my great grandfather. He was the son of Temperance Weaver Council. John, in 1845, was one of the first settlers in Wakulla County Florida. He, along with his mother, his sister Susan Council and her husband, Boyet or Lott, either traveled with the Pelts and Poseys or arrived about the same time and they all settled in Crawfordville, Florida. John Cecil acquired a good bit of land around the county. He married Frances DeLaura Posey who birthed a large family before she died.

John then married Missouri Redd. She was referred to as Miss Missouri. The two of them raised a second large family.

At the age of 28, and with children at home, John joined the Florida Militia during the Civil War. He was captured off the coast near his home while fishing to provide food for his unit. The Union ships took him and others captured with him to Shipp Island, off the coast of Louisiana.

When the southern prisoners first arrived on Shipp Island, there were no barracks, only tents, no protection from the wind, rain and large mosquitoes that carried disease. John Council took a leadership role among the prisoners as they set about building their own huts and shelters.

Back home Fanny, his wife, along with a black woman helper kept the farm going and raised the crops and hogs and cattle. She picked the cotton and had it bailed. Fanny's first born was a daughter, Georgianne Council. (1857-1957) Like her mother, Georgianne was strong and resilient. She knew how to use a gun and tramped through the thick woods to kill game for the family.

Georgianne lived a long life. A one hundredth birthday party was held for her and written about in the Wakulla County newspaper, but I hear from cousin Sandra that her birth date might be in question. No matter. Aunt Georgianne was a real pioneer woman who could do the work of any man and actually the work of more than one man from what I've heard. More about her later.

John Cecil Council was highly respected in his community. He was one of the founders of a church in Wakulla County, and was a leader of that church. He lived a long life and fathered his last child when he was in his early seventies.

Over the years I've researched this great grandfather of mine, and I met his youngest daughter as well as hundreds of his descendants. I have copies of his military records, his pension papers, his last will and testament. I've collected stories I've heard about him and hope to one day put them together for my family members.

John Cecil's oldest son, Tom, was my grandfather. Tom and his wife Sarah (Sallie) head the family I write about in Profiles and Pedigrees, Thomas Charles Council and his Descendants.

In this marriage, Tom died young and left Sallie to carry on without him. Tom and Sallie raised ten children, Mae, Charlie, Maude, Oleo, Horace and Hortense (twins), Lillian, Annie, and Coy (my father). Their first born son, John Henry, died at the age of fourteen from malaria. He is buried in the Council Family Cemetery outside of Crawfordville, FL.

Since this was first posted in 2008, my brother Hal Council and his wife, Yvonne, moved down to Wakulla County and in 2010 both of them passed away within three months of each other. They are buried, also, in the Council Family Cemetery where John Cecil and both of his wives are interred. They rest near John Henry's grave. When Tom's family moved up to Georgia in the early 1900s, John Henry's brothers built a one foot wall made of sea shells surrounding his grave. That wall, showing their love for their brother, still stands today.