Words from a Reader

The “Writing Life Stories” e-mails I receive are such treasures. As soon as I see there is one in my inbox, I read it immediately. I look forward to them and never know how they will touch me. They can be interesting, informative, humorous, and/or touching.

Sunday, November 29, 2020

Three Things We Most Fear

It is said there are three things we most fear.
Fear of success. Fear of failure. Fear of change.
Which is our biggest fear? Fear of change.

Looking back I think I lived with fear most of my early life. I didn't fear success. I was terrified of failure. I wanted to make the best grades in school. I hoped I would have a report card that made my family proud of me. Most of my school years up to my middle school or junior high school years, I made honor roll. I was in the top percent of students in my class.

But when I reached seventh grade, I was in my early teens, the hardest time for kids to fit in and feel worthy. I still made excellent grades in all my subjects except physical education. We were graded 1=A; 2=B;
3=C;4=D and so on. Until I received my first report card in seventh grade, I made 1s and 2s. 

The first time I made a 3 or a C, I was devastated. I was not a good athlete and tried to avoid softball games. I had not grown up playing team sports. I lived in the country and rode horses with my friends. Every time teams were chosen at school, I was the last one picked. If I could, I actually hid behind a tree. They didn't want me on the team anyway.

But my teacher, a pretty blond young woman who wore short white shorts every day, had no empathy or sympathy for me. She was determined I should make a fool of myself and be ridiculed by others because I could not play ball. Now I know from Dr. Brene' Brown, my teacher was shaming me. 

She ruined my years of status of honor roll by giving me that awful mark each six weeks. I was devastated. There was nothing I could do to change it. She didn't try to teach me how to play so I could become better. She did nothing but send us out to the playing field, appoint two captains and have them choose sides. Once the game began, the little lady in the white shorts disappeared. 

Probably because I wanted desperately for my family's approval, I became a perfectionist who never quite reached my perfection point. 

Yes, failure was my biggest fear most of my life. But when I moved away and lived among strangers who became good friends, my fear of failure weakened. I became stronger in many ways, found I had leadership abilities, and followed my passion.

The fear of change is one I have to fight now.
As the world changes and as I grow older, I have to accept the changes in our culture, and in behavior that is hard for me to understand. The vulgar language on TV and in movies is difficult for me to take. It seems that society in general has become coarse and crude. I am not a prude, but the pendulum has moved too far for me, and I wish we could swing back to a more civil society. 

We have become a more violent nation. Our language is filled with violent words and our movies are filled with violence. Murder with gory scenes fill our books and television shows. Even the medical shows take our minds and our eyes into gory, shocking scenes I don't feel are necessary to the show. 

Children see more people killed in their young lives than I did in the first half of my life. Watch a sports match and you would think Americans are mean and blood thirsty. "Kill him! Bash his head in! Break his leg!" These are cries from the crowds at football games in the United States. 
Even when we want to speak of someone's success, we say, "She killed it." 

I see the fear of change in many of my peers who can't make themselves move out of their comfort zone. 
We have to accept the new technology, the use of the Internet and virtual communication if we are to be a part of the community now. The pandemic has brought us into a place where we have little choice unless we want to be isolated forever.

Complete isolation is harmful to our health, mental and physical. I wish we could expect to go back to our normal methods of living when we have a vaccine, but I am forcing myself to accept the changes that are happening to my life and life of all in this country. Doctors are saying that the vaccine will not be enough to eradicate this disease. We still must continue to wear masks and to social distance.

I spent Thanksgiving with two family members, part of my bubble, instead of joining others in the family for a gathering as we usually do. But, we had two Zoom gatherings of family which brought all of us joy. 

The most important thing we can do now, I think, is have hope for a better 2021. If we can do something that helps others, we will feel better and so will those who receive our help. People are hungry. Food banks need donations. I have found that giving small gifts throughout the month is easier for me than making big gifts.

Facing change is hard and it is especially hard for those in my generation. I gripe more than most, but I know if I don't make changes, I will be left behind. 

We expect very cold temperatures here in the mountains of North Carolina tonight and tomorrow. My plants on my deck will not likely survive. Winter will slip in tonight and life will change for a few months.
But I welcome winter and the quiet time ahead. I hope to do much more writing in the coming months. Enjoy your holidays!

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Happy Thanksgiving during a pandemic

As Thanksgiving approaches here in the USA, Gay, Stu and I have decided to celebrate all week instead of one day. We will not wait until Thursday to make our turkey and dressing and Mother's banana pie. Each day we do something we enjoy.

I am surprised that we are so happy and having such a good time when the whole world is in pain. We have put politics off limits, no news to ruin our days. Someone will open their phone and see the headlines for the day and share anything new or important. Then we go on with what we like to do, smiling and feeling grateful for what we have, and reminiscing about good times in the past.

Stu will remember something he and Barry did or a funny anecdote Barry told or something they enjoyed together. We all loved him. We keep his memory alive and feel he is with us in spirit. At times Stu will say, "The only thing that would make this better is if Barry was sitting there beside you."

Glenda and Barry - last photo taken 

Throughout our lives we make memories. 
Hopefully most of them are good ones. In times like this it is good to bring back those memories of loved ones, special times together and words spoken. 

Growing up in a big family with a loving mother who enjoyed her children and wanted them near, we made lasting and special memories at home on Thanksgiving. Our big family meals surpassed any restaurant food, and Mother made sure we had the traditional dishes we loved. 

I hope my readers make good memories this year. 
Please be careful and don't take risks with your health and your life. We are skipping large family gatherings this year in hopes that next year we will still be here and can share another Thanksgiving gathering when life has some normalcy again.

I do believe that the world will be better by this time in 2021.
I am filled with hope that our country and the entire world will have learned a big lesson. Be sure to live your best life today. Think of others and what we can do to help those who are struggling. Be thankful every day for what we have, not just on Thanksgiving. I am grateful for the dear friends I have in the blogging world, the writers and poets in my life and of course, my family.
Happy Thanksgiving to you all.

Sunday, November 15, 2020

Writing conference pushed me to begin a new writing project.

I attended an online writing conference this past week.
Read about my experience and what I learned here.

I was motivated and inspired by the smart women I heard speak. I have begun to tell my mother's story. She was the glue that held our family together. We took her for granted and even I, who was so close to her, have found it hard to write about her. I want her descendants to know her story. 

Saturday, November 14, 2020

Reposting from another Autumn

I have been reading older posts from this blog and decided to repost this one from a few years ago.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

My Poetry Book is reviewed

I was very pleased when Marcia Barnes wrote this review of my poetry book, Now Might as Well be Then. It is published in our hometown newspaper where Marcia reviews a local writer's book each month. We have many excellent writers in this area.

Monday, November 9, 2020

Most Americans feel threatened and frightened - Why?

We all seem to be frightened and uncertain these days. We live in a culture that has to blame someone for everything that happens. When we feel threatened and afraid, we don't behave normally.

Years ago someone invented the term, Fight or Flight, and it seems so many people are doing just that. The stress we are dealing with now often makes us want to fight, call others bad names, criticize anyone we don't agree with, even lie about others to prove a point.

This stress, fear and uncertainty is dividing families, bringing out the worst in us. Even my dearest friends who are good, caring and loving people use phrases like  I hate him and I have felt myself so angry I am sure my blood pressure rises. When we get upset with things we can't do one thing about, it depresses us.

Since election day here in the United States, I have withdrawn from the real world as much as possible. I am sick of the name calling, the mean-spirited nature presented on TV.  

Brene' Brown says our media frightens us with all the news we see and hear. I know that is true. If the story is upsetting, it draws more viewers. If the media can bring forth a villain that unifies their viewers and brings out the worst in them, advertisers pour in money for ads on that network. In America, the bottom line is most important.  Already I see the villains will be Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. Just today I heard someone say horrible things about Harris. The same thing always happens when a woman manages to get ahead in this world. They don't want to give her the respect she has earned. 
Look what has happened to our world since FOX News and CNN openly took opposite political sides. Each feeds hate, fear and suspicion about leaders in the other party. Whether the opinions spoken are true or not, the viewers now expect to learn all they need to know from those on their preferred Cable News. If anyone is negative about the other party, tells some conspiracy tale, the viewer falls for it.

I heard a learned man on a podcast say we are in need of something other than the status quo which he says is not working. I assume he is speaking of our government in the United States which seems to influence people around the globe. Lots of ideas flow forth from the young, the rich, the middle class, men and women, marginalized groups and senior adults like me. In order to express these different ideas and solutions for a world that seems to be going to hell in a hand basket, we see protests and rebellions against those in power. Is it time to have multi parties in this country? Would that work?

I am being very quiet and staying home. I have to make changes in my life that I can live with and, hopefully, thrive with. It means I must put my health, both mental and physical, ahead of everything else and everyone else.

Being a person who has always helped those who need me, I will now only concern myself with my needs so I can thrive in the difficulties I presently face. 

I hope 2021 will be a different world than we have today.

I know we must continue to follow guidelines for COVID-19 and I am getting used to that. I hope we will have a vaccine that we can feel is safe. I hope all people will understand what is needed to bring this virus under control and will follow those rules to do that. Sadly, today I saw a woman at the drug store who was not wearing a mask, give me an angry look which I assume was because I was wearing a mask.

I heard that a new church opened here and already seventeen people who attended there have tested positive for the virus. The man who opened this church seems to think God will not let people get sick in church!! I heard this from someone and can't be positive this is true, but I do know the new church opened just recently down the road from where I live. 

I think this writer is on course with what has happened and why we should be concerned about political parties and how politics has polarized our entire country. This negative partisanship can destroy our democracy if we don't wake up and make changes.

My readers, I hope you are doing well and enjoying life in spite of the present conditions. I tell myself every day that I have so much for which to be thankful.  My heart goes out to those who have lost jobs and who can't pay their rent or pay doctor bills. I worry about young college graduates who can't find jobs now and have to depend on their parents to support them. Their hopes and dreams have been dashed as they planned to start their journey to independence.  Next year will see a better future for all of us, I know, and that is what gives me hope.

As for now, we have the best weather here in the mountains of NC and my trees have turned red and yellow. I sit on my deck and soak up the autumn sounds, smells and sights. My doors and windows are open to welcome the slight breezes and cool air. I welcome the dryer air which is better for my breathing than high humidity. 

Tomorrow will be a better day and I will feel happier about my life, I'm sure. I have made plans for January doing something I enjoy. I hope you are enjoying life in your world and that we can share with each other on social media, on blogs, or by email. You are very important to me.


Tuesday, November 3, 2020

Losing a loved one brings back the pain

Today I am in a pensive mood. Feeling a bit down and uncertain about my future and the future of our country, I found myself reading posts by my niece Lee, on her blog which she is not maintaining at this time. She is an excellent writer and a thoughtful and intelligent woman. 

As some of my readers are facing deaths of friends and family, I decided to share this blog post and Lee's blog with you today.

The last few blog posts on her site are about the death of her mother, and the grief that she feels about all the losses in her life. I think you will find they are well-written and, like me, will relate to what she is saying.

I hope Lee will one day continue with this blog. What do you think?

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Tipper's really good cornbread

Tonight I watched a video by Tipper Pressley, owner and administrator of the blog, Blind Pig and the Acorn. Tipper lives in the southern Appalachians in North Caroliona. Her blog and her You Tube channel celebrates Appalachia and the people who live here. I have followed her blog for twenty years or more and now she has begun making videos for her You Tube channel.

She and I cook in much the same way. She learned from her mother and I learned from my mother. Tipper taught us the secret to good cornbread in this video, She has a special cast iron pan she keeps only for cooking cornbread. In the south, our cornbread is that important. I, too, have a cornbread pan. Mine once belonged to my mother-in-law, Helen Beall. 

I learned something new from Tipper tonight. She coats the pan with lard or Crisco and puts it into the oven where it heats as the oven heats to 475 degrees. Mother usually put some lard or vegetable shortening in the pan and let it melt. But Tipper spread it thickly over the bottom, sides and rim of the pan. That makes for a crisp crust on the bread. And like Tipper, I like that crust and I, too, have to cut a small piece when it comes out of the oven, slather it with butter and eat it. Delicious!

Tipper is helping to revive or restore the old ways of living here in our beautiful mountains. She and her family grow a garden every summer. She cans and freezes vegetables. She teaches cooking classes at the John C. Campbell Folk School in Brasstown, NC close to her home.

Her family is also keeping the music of Appalachia alive. She, her brother and her twin daughters sing and play traditional music together. If you want to know more about this part of the world, check out The Blind Pig and the Acorn. Get to know her family and the many friends who leave comments every day after reading her words. 

Saturday, October 24, 2020

What is joy? What is happiness?

I received an email recently with an article by Dr. Angela Williams Gorrell . The following is an excerpt from that article.

I want to be clear: Joy is not the same as happiness. Happiness tends to be the pleasurable feeling we get from having the sense that life is going well.

Joy, on the other hand, has a mysterious capacity to be felt alongside sorrow and even ― sometimes, most especially ― in the midst of suffering. This is because joy is what we feel deep in our bones when we realize and feel connected to others ― and to what is genuinely good, beautiful and meaningful ― which is possible even in pain. Whereas happiness is generally the effect of evaluating our circumstances and being satisfied with our lives, joy does not depend on good circumstances.

Happiness - a state of well-being and contentment

In the last year of Barry's life when he was dealing with cancer, he asked me.
"Have you been happy? Didn't we have a happy marriage?"

"Yes," I said, and I meant it. No matter how many times we disagreed, no matter how many times I complained that he didn't help me enough around the house, my life was generally happy most of the time. To live together for 45 years and not have upsets, arguments and feel anger toward each other at times is unbelievable to me. But, because we loved each other and knew we were in it for the long haul, we didn't let those times define our marriage, our lives. 

Barry and I knew we wanted only to be with each other, and we accepted the good and the bad, always trying to work out our differences to preserve our lives together. 

My wedding day. Our mothers, Helen Beall and Lois Council on my left. To Barry's right are Gay Council and Richard Beall. 

A Harvard study on happiness followed a large group of people until they were 80 years old. The study proved that large financial success was not what made people happy. The study group said their happiness came from being in a good relationship and knowing there was always someone they could turn to, they could depend on to be there for them. The men who were in good relationships in their fifties were healthier in their eighties.

Knowing I was there for him and he was there for me was the basis for our long relationship. Trusting each other and knowing we never planned to leave grounded us and made us happy.

Joy is another thing, I think
Watching my little dog doing something especially cute, funny or loving brings me joy. Looking at my phone and seeing my sister is calling brings me joy. 

I used to find great joy in receiving notice that a poem had been accepted for publication, or a short story was going to be published. I hope to find that joy again soon.

Before the pandemic, I experienced joy visiting and  lunching with my dearest friends.

I remember feeling extremely joyful after attending choir practice on Sunday afternoons at the First Presbyterian Church in Albany, GA. The choir director, the members of the group and singing lifted me to a higher level of joy on those days. 

Most parents experience joy when a child is born and when their children have special moments in their lives. On a daughter's wedding day, her mother finds joy in the event even if she is also feeling sad.

I remember my own marriage that way. Although I wept when my mother, sisters and brothers hugged me at my reception, my day was filled with joy. 
"joy is what we feel deep in our bones when we realize and feel connected to others ― and to what is genuinely good, beautiful and meaningful." 

Do you remember special moments of joy? 
What brings you joy?