Thursday, February 4, 2016

Life on the Farm for a big Southern Family

Clearing New Ground

His lunch packed in a syrup can,
he mounts his John Deere, leaves at dawn.
She churns the cream, bakes a pie,
washes shirts and hangs them on the line.

West behind the pines, sky reddens.
Worry working on her face, she leaves
his supper warming in the oven,
trudges miles to new land he is claiming. 

Stone silence sounds a warning long
before she spys his lunch pail biscuits
spilled on up-turned earth, before she
spots his checkered shirt crushed 
beneath the green.

                        ---Glenda Council Beall

This poem is in my poetry book, Now Might as Well be Then, published in 2009 by Finishing Line Press.

Memories of childhood can produce poems and stories you have not thought of in years. I was a young child when I heard my parents discussing the death of a neighbor who was clearing new ground to plant more crops. 

My brothers and my father cleared most of our farm in the first couple of years we lived there. The boys worked all summer every day. At first they cleared the fields of rocks and loaded them on a wagon. There were several rock piles on the farm where the wagons were unloaded. 

Some acreage had to be cleared of brush and trees. I could hear the dynamite blasts from my safe playground under the big oak tree in the yard. Pulling stumps with a tractor was dangerous work. Mother worried about them. How easy it must have been to overturn those new machines. Even the youngest son drove the tractor and when I was six years old, I inched along, my foot on the clutch, between the rows of cornstalks while the boys and Daddy pulled the dry ears and tossed them into the wagon. 

Children who grew up on a farm in the forties and fifties were not exempt from farm work, even girls, if they were needed. Daddy only asked us to help out once or twice when we were small, but my brothers found ways I could help when I was old enough to keep the front wheels of the tractor going the right way. It was fun for me until one of them complained about something. Then I just put the gear in neutral and climbed down. Boy, those brothers changed their tune as they all began to call me back and promise they would not say another word. At six or seven, I knew I didn't have to help, and was doing the boys a favor. With all four of them on the ground they covered more of the corn field than if one of them had to drive the tractor. They could get done quicker and go home to take a shower. I don't think I have ever been so much in demand. 

My four brothers enjoyed working together. They sang and told stories. They laughed and made fun of each other. That made the hot sweaty days pass faster. My father had a philosophy he taught his sons. He told them they should always work together and depend on each other because "a bundle of sticks are harder to break than one stick alone."

1955 Council Brothers sing at a family reunion
We three sisters, June in front, Gay on right and me in red in 2008

Few families can spend their lives working so closely. Some families just can't get along that well. I didn't know it was unusual for a family to work and play together as we did until I was older and people seemed incredulous when they heard it. "I couldn't work one day with my brother," I heard from a friend.  

Our family not only cleared new ground on the land where we all lived, but also with their unusual business plan and responsibility for each other. The brothers' wives were expected to understand that none of them could ever draw more salary from the business than the others. Damages occurred along the way. One marriage failed because a wife couldn't understand this kind of loyalty to family. Having come from hard times on the farm, my brothers determined to build a better life for themselves and their children. 

Taking risks is easier when you aren't the only one responsible. If the man in my poem had not been alone that day when his tractor overturned, perhaps he could have been saved. My father and his sons worked together. C.L. Council and Sons was the platform on which a number of corporations were built. All seven of us were involved in some way. Life was exciting as we grew and created more opportunities in which we found our niche. 

I think of us as a pioneer family but we were not out west. We lived in southwest Georgia just after World War II. I have not seen much written about real life on a farm in the deep south at that time of our history. The ups and downs of building a successful farm business took a toll on my father. With the physical help of his sons as they grew older and the financial support from his oldest daughter who generously handed over part of her salary each month, the positive attitude from Mother who never let anyone give up on himself, the family business prospered.

I am so proud of my family, my brothers who worked so hard, my sisters who have always been there for each other, and my parents who never let set backs stop them. When someone asked me what was the key to keeping it all together and keep moving up, I say the key is love. Simply and purely, love. We have all had our disagreements and periods of being so mad with each other we can't stand it. But anger passes. Love lasts. Forgiveness heals. 

Our house overflowed with love. Mother was the fount from which unconditional love poured out and warmed the home in which we lived, no matter if it was the drafty old farm house or the new brick ranch built later. If I close my eyes, I can smell bacon frying and biscuits cooking as I approach the back screen door. 

Sun has set behind the  pines to the west and light reflects from a clear sky. Inside I see my dark haired mother in her worn house dress at the stove with her back to  me. That image alone floods my mind and my body with a feeling so intense I want to linger, suspend time, with eyes closed and never have to open them, never have that moment disappear. 

We gathered as a family on Sundays and all holidays, and some of us dropped in to see Mother and Daddy every day. I lived nearby after I married, so I usually dropped in on my way home from work. If other siblings stopped by, none of us wanted to leave because we enjoyed being together. Mother often stretched her evening meal to include enough for several of her children. 

Is that unusual? In today's movies set in cities or other parts of the country, it seems the parents are often divorced, the children are complaining about their busy-body parents, the parents are upset because the kids never come to see them, the grandchildren make fun of their grandparents, and all of this gives me the feeling we have lost what made our culture so special. 

I hope that what we see on TV and in movies is not the norm today. Are there still families with young children that gather each evening for a meal? Are there multi-generational families that still meet up on Sundays and holidays and have a wonderful time just being together, laughing and telling stories?

What is your family like? Close or not? Do you see them often and do you enjoy those times? If not, why and what could be done to change that? Would you want to change it?
Tell us your thoughts in our comment section.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

When kids worked for their money, I earned half of a quarter for a nasty job.

A blog post I read today reminds me of some of the jobs I’ve held in my life. 
A job, to me, is anything I have been paid to do. Therefore, my first job was when I was about eight years old and my sister Gay was six. 

The work was tough and gross, but we were promised a quarter. Not a quarter each, but one quarter for both of us, for doing a job no one else wanted to do.

We lived on a farm. 
Chickens lived in and around the barn. Hen nests hung on the walls, and we gathered eggs there every day. On a hot summer day, my daddy asked Gay and me to take a dead chicken down to the woods where we would leave it for wild animals to devour. Yes, there are animals that eat such things. I guess you could say this was recycling. 

Mother and Daddy standing behind Glenda, with braids, and Gay.This is about the ages we were when we earned our quarter.
Daddy saw our faces when he first mentioned it, and I’m sure he could tell it did not appeal to either of us. Then he said something that caused our ears to perk up.

"I'll give you a quarter," he said.

For two little girls who never had any money of our own, a quarter meant ice cream, Cokes, and candy from Hancock’s store. Gay looked at me, as she usually did, to see what I would say. We wanted the quarter, and I knew if Gay and I worked together, we could do it.

“OK. Where is the dead chicken?”

“Behind the barn, in the lot,” Daddy said.

Gay and I headed out to the barn. From outside the fence we could see the feathers of a white leghorn hen, and it was obvious, by the smell, she had been dead a few days. 

Holding our noses, we took a shovel into the lot and approached the decaying mass. The overpowering stench made me gag. I knew I was going to throw up. But I needed both hands to push the shovel under the hen and carry it. How could I do that and hold my nose, too?

After a few tries, Gay and I came up with a plan. I don't know who had the idea, but we have always worked well together, and it was the only way we could take care of this chore.

While I wrangled the heavy round-pointed shovel under the mess that was once a laying hen, Gay pinched my nostrils together with two fingers and held her own nose with her other hand. That was the beginning of a great working team. 

My father watched us that day. 
He laughed many times over the years as he told what became a family story, of how the two little girls carried the stinking dead chicken all the way to the woods with Gayholding both our noses and me hauling the heavy remains on the shovel. 

Thank goodness I never had such a bad job again, although I had some that I hated, and people I worked for who disgusted me. I’ll write about them in the days to come.

If you want to write stories about your life for your family why not start with the first time you worked to earn money. You will enjoy recalling the memories and telling the story.

I was inspired to write about my jobs by the blogger, roughwighting. She tells quite an interesting story. 

Do you remember your first job? 

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Do you own a dog? Have you ever had a dog for a pet?

My love for dogs goes way back to childhood when our family usually had a family pet. The dog belonged to no one in particular, but to all of us. Mother said she didn't care for dogs or cats. Her family was not one that embraced pets for the children. But my father was very fond of dogs. So they had a stand off when he or the kids wanted a dog. Mother ended up feeding the pet most of the time, but we all loved and played with it. But animals stayed outside.

This is Kodi, our beloved Samoyed, who grew old in NC after we moved here.

Our dog stories go back to Daddy's bulldog who saved my brother Rex from a snake bite. The dog attacked the reptile that was about to strike the child, took the bite and died. I was not born at that time, but I've heard the story all my life.

We have all heard of the many benefits of a companion dog. Research shows that petting a dog brings down our blood pressure. We see in restaurants and stores now, dogs with special harnesses that say Service Dog. We have dogs that help diabetes patients, epilepsy patients, deaf and blind people, cancer patients and now I hear Dr. Weill tell us more.

Having a dog for a pet reduces our stress. When we look into a dog's eyes and they look into ours, both have an increase in oxytocin, a substance our body makes that helps us to stay calm. 

"Widely referred to as the love hormone, oxytocin has also been dubbed the hug hormone, cuddle chemical, moral molecule, and the bliss hormone due to its effects on behavior, including its role in love and in female reproductive biological functions in reproduction."

Since I have had my new puppy, I have been much calmer. I realized I am less anxious, and feel less stressed. That was before I knew anything about the oxytocin effect of having a dog.

Last night I told someone that I never get mad at Lexie, and  I always feel warm and tender toward her. I described my feelings lately as "almost like being in love."  I felt similar to when Barry and I were young and in love. Our oxytocin levels must have been soaring then because I loved everything about him and he felt the same way. 

Oxytocin appears to play a role in protecting the intestine from damage, with potential for use in treatment of irritable bowel disease.


So many people suffer with this ailment and doctors have very little success treating it.
There is now promise of using this hormone to prevent the vomiting and intestinal distress of  chemo patients. 

I am lucky as are most dog lovers. I can look into Lexie's intense gaze for a long time. Our social behavior is amazingly affected. We are both more loving, and she jumps into my arms and we cuddle and I tell her how much I love her. I leave her at home, go out to see friends or go to a store, and my mood is still good because of the oxytocin level. I speak to strangers, smile and invite their smiles. Who would have thought seven pounds of lively fur covered personality could reach out and touch so many.
This is Lexie, my present little companion, who has changed my life in the past three months. 

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Balmy, Rainy Weather, Just like Home

Weather in western North Carolina has been unusual this winter. Warm temperatures, seventies, in December and January reminded me of winters in south Georgia where I lived most of my life. Barry played golf all winter and we played tennis winter and summer.

One of my nephews wears shorts all year around down in Albany, my home town. If it is a little cool, he puts on a light jacket. I have done that here this year. Jeans are too hot in the house, so I wear light weight capri pants, pajamas or long shorts. But when I go out I wear long pants. I laugh at many folks who wear winter coats and boots when the day is so warm flowers bloom. I guess they dress according to the calendar and not according to the outdoor temperatures.

A few years ago I wrote a poem I'll share here today. It was published by Scott Owens in his Wild Goose Poetry Review, spring issue 2013. 

Glenda Beall on the tennis court on the farm where the family often gathered on weekends


like none I’ve seen in years. In the park,
sunshine heals like days when I waited anxious
to be free of walls, to tear across the pasture
on my mare, rushing toward fulfilling childhood dreams.

I stroll with Rocky this winter day, warm enough
to over-heat his black fur, his weakened bones.
His unconditional love fills a tiny part of that left empty now.

Women in tennis attire stride toward the courts,
new bags on their shoulders, swinging rackets,
tossing hair, wearing trendy shoes. Love – one.
Love-two, their happy voices sing on brisk air.

Tennis was once our game, long ago,
when a simple quarrel over a match seemed
the end of our world; a gentle world we did not
properly nurture, because we didn’t know
what we didn’t know.
                                       ---Glenda C. Beall

Sunday, January 10, 2016

How Do You Want to be Remembered - Number 1 Post on this blog since 2012

To my wonderful, loyal blog readers all over America, Russia, which is our second largest number of readers, as well as those world wide, I want to share with you the most popular posts from this blog. This is an all time count. The first post, How Do You Want to be Remembered? is at the top of the list almost every week. I think this is one of those things that many people think about and perhaps go online to find what others have said. What do you think? 

Mar 5, 2012, 10 comments
Mar 27, 2011
Aug 1, 2009, 11 comments
Jan 22, 2009, 4 comments

Two of the most popular posts of all time were written by my guests, Hope Clark and Julie Buffaloe-Yoder. I am grateful to Julie for bringing many of her fans to my blog with her article. 

I have been a follower of C. Hope Clark, a generous writer and blogger, for many years. I was honored when she guest posted on my blog back in 2011. She has published three novels in her mystery series. 

If you are a writer and have a subject that fits with this blog and you want to post it here, contact me: gcbmountaingirlATgmailDOTcom 

I am interested in topics that fit with the subject, writing life stories, writing family stories, or writing in general. If you are a published writer with tips for new writers, contact me. 

Monday, January 4, 2016

Why are you afraid?

It seems so many people today are afraid - afraid of everything.

I remember living with fear. As a child I was constantly afraid although I was not conscious of it at the time. I hated to go to school because I was afraid I would make a mistake and embarrass myself in front of my class. I was afraid to speak to the kids I really liked because I thought they would turn away feeling I was not worthy to be in their space.

I was afraid of water and had dreams about drowning. For most of my life crossing a bridge gave me a hollow feeling in my middle. I un-hooked my seat belt because I feared I would be trapped in the car and unable to get out when the car was swallowed up by the river. 

As a teen, I was afraid I would succumb to a boy's advances and bring shame on my family. All my life until now, I was afraid of the dark. 

But the one thing I feared most of my life was the death of my mother. We had the good fortune to have no losses in our immediate family, but I saw grief in others. I saw my mother grieve and weep when her brothers and sisters died. I could not relate to that pain since I had not faced anything like it.

I thought that if my mother died, I absolutely could not go on. Those were the fears I had growing up. I did not have the fear of being bombed and hiding under my desk in school. That must have come after I left elementary school. 

I also had faith in my family. I believed that few things could happen to me that my family couldn't take care of. We had nine people and I never knew of any problem that could not be handily managed by some or all of us.

After marriage, I learned to fear other things. When my husband lost his job only a couple of years after we married, I was devastated. The fear of losing what little we had loomed large and threatening over me. And over the years we had ups and downs when I was afraid for our future, but I have never had the fear that my friends talk about today. This Doomsday attitude is new. 
I had faith that my family, including my four brothers, above, could handle things I could not. Playing the guitar is my husband, Barry, who always had my back.  

What is the world coming to?
People I know talk about the horrible situation the world is in today. They are afraid of a terrorist attack. Some think that our country is in danger from the Muslims who live here. Most of them don't know anything about the Muslims who live here. After all, they are different from us, so they must be bad.

Others say they can't sleep at night wondering if our country is going to be destroyed. People seem to live in such fear that I wonder how they go on with their daily lives. Speakers in the churches often play into this fear by telling the members that the world is going to end soon, and all who are not saved or born again Christians will burn in Hell. I heard a TV evangelist scaring his viewing audience recently before I turned away to another channel.

This is my sister, Gay, in a six-way hood I gave her for Christmas. It is not a Burka. I hope she isn't yelled at, mistaken for a Muslim woman.

The use of fear to manipulate people has become a major method to extort money, to persuade people to join questionable groups, to incite citizens to carry guns for protection, and to keep our entire country in a state of unrest. The only fear I have is that this building fear in the United States will cause us to elect unworthy leaders who will lead good people to do bad things.

This reminds me of the fear instilled in my uncle when he was a child. He said that in bed at night he could hear the older people in the family talking on the porch. This was in the late 1800s after the Civil war. He heard terrible tales of people being murdered by former slaves. My uncle was a little boy, but he tried to stay awake all night so he could protect his mother if the black people came to kill her. 

How sad that fear was embedded into this child's mind, an unnecessary fear, that he carried with him for a long time. It also led to his prejudice against black people as an adult. Fear leads to prejudice and hate. Hate leads to war. 

This fear that has arisen in our country, especially in the rural areas of the south, feeds on itself, and there is no reasoning with anyone who is convinced that every person of the Muslim faith is evil and is a terrorist just waiting to kill. 

The Macho man running for office spouting random statements about what he will do when elected is all mouth with no wisdom in the ways of government. Anyone can proclaim what they will do, truth or lie, but anyone who knows about how governments run, can attest to the fact that the wheels of government move slowly and must run carefully or our country can be thrown into a situation in which we cannot win and we cannot retreat. Important agreements with other countries can take months and even years to negotiate. 

I am happy to say that when I go to bed tonight I will not have any fear keeping me awake. This country has seen tough times, WWII, the great depression, Vietnam and the wars in the Middle East, and still most of us have a roof over our heads, food on our table, children who go to college, work of some kind, medical care when we need it, and Social Security in our old age. We have the freedom to speak, act and live wherever we want. That freedom is what many come to this country to gain. Nothing else. They just want freedom.

Women in this country are allowed to have all the children they want -- even when they can't afford to care for them. Women also have the legal right not to have children. They can drive cars, wear as much or as little clothes as they want, and work in any field where they qualify. In some countries women do not have any rights, any freedom at all. People all over the world want to share our freedom. 

Perhaps I am not afraid because I don't look for those negatives others seem to dwell on. I research anything that I question and learn all I can. What I find out usually tells me that the fears of others are unfounded because they only know half-truths or rumors. 

Perhaps I feel about our government the way I felt about my family. I trust that there are enough intelligent people in charge that when or if an emergency happens, everyone will work together to take care of it. I just hope that is not the only thing that brings folks in Washington D.C together in the coming year.

Another reason I don't tremble in fear is that I have endured death of my loved ones and I survived. My mother, father, brothers and a sister, but especially my husband, who was also my long time friend, have all gone and I lived through it. I can handle much more than I ever thought I could. It wasn't easy. It was very hard and seemed the end of me, but I made it, and actually thrived over the past few years. So, I appreciate every day and all I have left in life. 

Maybe that is also a gift of age. My generation lives with less stress, I read. We have learned by now what is worth our worry and what is not. I am no longer afraid of bridges, afraid of what others think of me, afraid I'll fall short or not be worthy. Time is too important to waste it being afraid.

I'll send you to a very good post I read tonight about a courageous young woman.
I was once the writer, Kelly Davio

Do you think that age helps with fears experienced when we were younger?

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

New Year's Coming - Bring it on!

2015 flew past as all the years seem to do now, each day seemingly shorter. Today as I sit here on December 28 with my doors and windows open to enjoy the warm temperatures and the sound of a slow rain falling in my woods, I wish for many more days like this. Quiet times to observe nature and hear sounds I don't hear when my heat pump is on or my AC is blasting. 

I think I need more quiet time like this, but it seems time passes too quickly. Since I found my voice and became the woman I had inside me all these years, there is no end to all the things I want to do, to see, to become part of. 

On my way home Sunday, I stopped to eat at a popular steak house. I had totally forgotten it was Sunday. The past few days had seemed like Sunday to me with all the Christmas celebrations going on. With only a choice of sitting at the bar or waiting a long time, I chose the bar. I ended up sitting where the bar curved around and became a table of ordinary height. A single woman sat two seats over and right away she began a conversation. I learned that she was 80 years old and lived alone in Elijay, GA where the steak house was located. She had ordered a hamburger, but I used a gift card I had received and ordered a prime rib dinner. Oh, was it good!

We enjoyed the best conversation while we ate our meal. I don't know her name, and she doesn't know mine. We will not likely ever meet again, but she said she was glad I had sat down beside her because she had enjoyed getting to know me. "I don't like to eat alone," she said.

I think she often eats alone. Her husband is in Alaska. Not for a visit, but he lives there. Her grown children in the Atlanta area seldom come to visit, she told me. But she loves her house in the mountains, being so close to nature, seeing bear cubs and wild turkeys in her yard. 

We discussed the health problems that often come with age and how difficult it is to find a doctor who will listen while you tell them what you know about your own body. She said her children have no clue about her health problems, and they don't want to hear about them. She is diabetic with nerve pain in her feet. From our conversation, I can tell she spends much time on the Internet. This made me think again about technology and my love/hate relationship with it. I often feel it takes too much of my time but for this woman, the Internet is her outlet to the world, a place where she continues to learn new things, her way to converse with her family and others. 

For over an hour we two strangers ate and conversed. The time passed quickly, and we were both happy that we had come in alone. As my dinner companion said, "I love to talk with strangers. I learn so much that way."

She reminded me of my mother who talked with anyone she met--in line at the store, in the elevator, standing at the meat counter in the super market and always in waiting rooms. I have that gene, too.
If I smile at someone and they smile back, I know they are open to conversation. 

Since time is the most precious commodity I own, I hate to waste it. Having dinner conversation with the lady at the steak house was not wasted. She showed me her Fitbit and told me how she used it as a reminder of when to take medication, when to exercise, and many other things that helped her live better. I had thought a Fitbit was just for athletic people to keep up with how many calories they burned, etc. But now I might look into seeing how this new technology could be helpful in my life.  

My husband, Barry Beall, liked people and talked to everyone. I wrote this poem before I became one who also talks to strangers.

Never a Stranger
                    --- for Barry

I watch you and I'm jealous.  You talk
to people on the elevator, at the airport
waiting, at the grocery store in front
of the cucumbers.

I stand stiff, my eyes averted from
the woman's eyes, in line at the post office
window. What should I say?
I don't want to be intrusive.

Never lost for words, you smile
and burst right in. The stranger's
eyes light up and suddenly she has
become a friend.

--- by Glenda Council Beall

Sunday, December 27, 2015

After Christmas - what now?

Christmas is over and life goes back to normal. 
Normal for  me will be training my puppy. She was an excitable little girl with her cousins to bark at and play with and with so many new people to jump on and faces to lick. January is going to be a time of concentrated training where I will learn how to control Lexie and she will learn that I am Alpha in this family.

I joined family and friends this Christmas for laughter and lots of good food. So much good food!! My niece Lee and her husband Dave, had us over for a great dinner. Dave cooked the most delicious tenderloin, and we brought our side dishes. Lee had fallen and dislocated her elbow a couple of days before but even with her arm in a sling, she was an excellent hostess.
Lyn Hunter, Real Estate Agent

We all congratulated Lyn who passed the test for her NC real estate license. Now she is licensed in Georgia and North Carolina. I hope she sells many, many houses in 2016, continuing her trend of pleasing clients.

Old friends Dick and Linda visited and brought a smoked turkey. Dick smokes a turkey every Christmas and shares with us. This year we vented about how fast the  world is changing including popular music.  We hate the way modern singers murder old familiar Christmas Carols. Why do they have to change the tunes we all love? In years to come, will the songs we have sung from childhood be jazzed up and made impossible for us to sing along?

We also discussed the  need for a landline phone even if you have cell phones. Cell phones often have no signal or lose signal while you are in the midst of a conversation. Between Murphy NC and Hayesville, NC we get no cell signal at all at certain places. My sister calls one of my nieces who cancelled her landline and uses only a cell phone and the signal drops out or is very sketchy when my niece is on her cell at home. We believe that just because something is new doesn't make it better. I will keep my landline which I can be sure will reach anyone I need in an emergency.  

Summer  weather in December??
Record warm temperatures in Atlanta required turning off the heat and going to air conditioning. I wish I had taken more summer clothes for the visit. Shorts or capris would have felt good with short sleeved shirts. The unusual weather brought bad storms and tornadoes to Mississippi andAlabama. It saddened me to  hear about the Christmas presents scattered up and down the streets and decorated trees thrown about as houses crashed down killing a number of people.

In our own joy we also stopped to be thankful for all our blessings and to think about those people who had lost so much.

Now I’m ready to head into a new year, to accomplish goals I’ve set and to stay as healthy as possible to complete my obligations to others.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Christmas Gift - Mine is already here.

Jingle bells, jingle bells, I hear them ringing constantly. No, I’m not riding in a one-horse open sleigh. I am hearing Lexie’s bell on her collar. It never stops ringing unless she has finally worn herself out playing non-stop.

Lexie at 3 months and five pounds 

I could not find a collar with a bell on it among the fancy and plain ones on the rack for dogs, extra small or large.  But cat collars often have attached bells to signal the birds when the cat tries to creep up on them. My tiny little Lexie now sports a red collar with a jingle bell as well as a blue collar, the only one she has not yet taken off.  
The bell drives us crazy, and I suppose I should take it off, but I don’t trust my baby girl just  yet. She is quick and moves as silently as a  sunbeam. She often grabs things in her mouth that she should not have, so I stay alert to her ringing in hopes of knowing exactly where she is at all times.

Like a human child at two years old, my four month old puppy is curious, easily distracted or attracted to a voice, a laugh, a movement and anything on the floor. Today she found a frozen green bean that had escaped the pot. It kept her busy for a time. I try to keep her plied with toys and puzzles. She loves a challenge – like managing to thwart my efforts to fence her off the stairs, or keep her in a play pen those times I can’t  watch her.

Play Pen for pups - light weight, with zip cover
I think my sister Gay found a way to contain a busy, energetic little dog. She bought a puppy pen with a cover. Now Lexie can’t jump out. But when we first put her in it, we howled with laughter. She jumped up on the sides and her weight pushed the pen over – and over and  over as she rolled down the hall and into the  kitchen where we had gone. We might put her in a pen and leave her, but Lexie doesn’t give up. She just rolled the pen to where we had gone.

Finally we figured out that we needed to add weight to the canvas and mesh container. Eighteen pounds of hand weights on the floor of the pen keeps it in place and she cannot roll it over. She actually learned to like it, at least for an hour at the time.
I’m so  happy that  she has not bothered the Christmas tree or the presents. But I don’t think any doggie gifts have yet been placed there.

Lexie has already taught me many things. First, I can now type with a seven pound dog lying across my forearms. I can get up early and take her outside when I am not yet awake. I can carry seven pounds up and down my stairs. Although I had said I would never make the mistake of having a little dog sleep in my bed, I learned I actually enjoy a small cuddly pup curling up against me when I sleep, waking me with  puppy kisses and playing in my hair.

I had forgotten the delight of scooping into my arms a puppy who cries with excitement and anticipation when I come home. 

Without love, life would not be worth living, whether  the love of one person, a family, traditional or not, or a little furry creature who adores you and you go daft over. We human beings seem to never learn that to love is to risk losing that love. If we learn, we forget and love again and again when the time is right, when we can’t stand the quiet or stillness of our lives another minute.

I gave my heart away to four special dogs in the past and bore the pain of their deaths. I had told myself that I would never again let myself in for that grief. Like my aunt Judy after she lost Dixie, her beloved Eskimo Spitz, years ago, I felt I could not deliberately open my heart for more hurt. But here I am again in love with a dear little bundle of fur with alert eyes that look deep into my being. I almost see her brain turning  over and over the diverse options she has before she charges with direct decision into her next play.  

She befuddles me  with her eager actions and her confidence that all who come into  her  world will turn into babbling fools. They will hug and  kiss her, talk in strange tongue, and want to take her home. 

Gay, Dixie, Glenda on the right

Of course it is likely she will outlive me since little dogs of her sort can live 15 or more years. But I think we will grow old together, side by side, through tough times and during the times when skies are blue. Already my family is smitten with Lexie, and so are my friends. They tell me she has made a difference in me, and we have only been together for about two months.

I have already received  my best gift this year, and I plan to enjoy it for many Christmases to come.

Other posts you might like:

Thursday, December 24, 2015

A Special Birthday

A teen aged Lois Robison
December 23 is my mother's birthday. She was born in 1904, right at the turn of the century near Whigham, GA. Her family lived on a farm near the Tired Creek Community. At the time, Whigham was in Decatur County, GA. I think it is now in Grady County. In that early part of the 20th century, the borders of the counties in that area were re-drawn.

Bainbridge, Georgia was the biggest town in Decatur County and was the county seat so Mother's records of birth, etc. would be found in Decatur County, in Bainbridge, I suppose. Many years ago I spent some time in Bainbridge doing genealogy research. Most of it led me to Grady County and later to  Mitchell County where Mama and Papa Robison are buried in the  Pelham Cemetary. 

The Robison family, William Henry and his wife, Malula Jones Robison, were good salt-of-the-earth people. That means they were the kind of people who were decent, upright and admired by their peers. I am proud to be descended from those Robisons who were hard working people, who raised good families and brought  up their kids with values that their own ancestors had passed down to them. 

Mother had three brothers, Avon Robison who was a barber, Dewey Lamar Robison, and Rudolph Robison, who was liked and admired by everyone who knew him including my father. When my mother spoke of her brother Rudolph, her voice softened and she smiled. I knew him better than I knew Uncle Avon and Uncle Dewey. When he visited us, he often slipped a nickel or a  dime into my hand as  he  was leaving. He did  the same with my  sister Gay. He had one child, a girl, Caroline. She has his sweet nature and genuine personality.

Lois Robison

When my mother married my father she was 18 years old, so young to become a wife and within the next year, a mother. She was the  kind of woman who took her marriage vows seriously. Although some women might have refused to move her family away from a home with electricity, running water and inside bathroom, to live in a drafty farm house with no electricity or running water, Mother did this. She had another baby in that drafty old  house and almost lost her to pneumonia.

 But Mother wanted him to live his dream. She never failed him in any way. She supported him when he was in despair, when he thought of himself and  not her, and when he needed her, in sickness and in health, she was there. 

Without Mother, I would not have survived. She listened to  my complaints, went to  school to talk to my teachers when I said I could not go back. When I needed her, I had all of her attention. I think I was a needy child and worried her more than the others.

Mother had a smile that could not be ignored and anyone she met soon felt like they had made a friend. I wish that every  troubled child could have a mother like mine. Her children never doubted she was there for us. She had confidence in me that it took me fifty five years to find in myself. 

We celebrated Mother's birthday every Christmas around the 23. She didn't make a big deal of  it, but she loved people and having a house full of family on her birthday or to celebrate her day, meant more to her than she could ever express. 

Mother and Daddy with their seven grown children at their 50th wedding anniversary
When I think of Mother I think of sacrifice. Selfless and generous, she made sure we had what we  needed even if she had to do without. Good mothers are like that. I was blessed to have a good mother. Unlike many girls I knew, I had a  great relationship with Mother. As I grew older we became close friends. 

My biggest regret is that I never told her how much I appreciated her sacrifices. But I have said it often since she has been  gone and I believe she hears me.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

High in Colorado

Looking through some of my poetry today, I came across a poem that has been published in a magazine and in my poetry book, Now Might as Well be Then.
One year, right after Christmas, Barry and I joined my brother Rex and his wife, Mary, for a skiing trip to Snow Mass Colorado. We were young and eager to go although I had never seen any real snow and had never put on a pair of skis.
Barry had lived in California before I knew him and had spent weekends skiing. He was athletic and able to play or participate in almost any sport. 

We left southwest Georgia in January where the weather was almost balmy, flew to Atlanta and changed planes. I was in my twenties and had never been on a large airplane, so the 747 with three sections of seats across amazed me.

Barry let me sit by the window and because of my nervousness and anxiety, he plied me with Bloody Marys before we boarded and then, because we were on a Champagne flight, unheard of today, the flight attendant continued to fill my little plastic glass with the bubbly. 

I am not and have never been one to drink lots of alcoholic drinks, so you can imagine the buzz I had going as we crossed the country. Large head phones covered my ears, and the most wonderful classical music filled my head. I closed my eyes and drifted off to an imaginary world while the miles fell away behind us.

When we landed in Denver, we found that all flights to the ski resorts were grounded because of a blizzard. Rex, who was stubborn and resourceful to say the least, decided to rent a car. 

"They will keep the roads open," he said. 

Although we were warned the weather was going to get worse, Rex would not give in. I was afraid for our lives as he drove through snow so thick you could not see the road ahead and could not see the side of the road that often dropped off to nothing. 

His fortitude prevailed, and by nightfall we arrived at Snow Mass Ski Resort. Our condo was perfect and at the top of a rise above the little village. Our directions were to go to a shop and retrieve skis for the next morning. We put on all our heavy clothes and walked down the road which had no snow on it. Underground pipes warmed the surface so the road stayed clear. 

Before we had walked a hundred yards on the way back carrying our skis, I had begun to feel faint. I gasped for breath, and Barry suggested we stop and rest. Even sitting on a bench, I felt that I was going to pass out. An employee of the resort stopped in his truck and offered us a ride. We gratefully climbed aboard. 

I wish I could say I was fine then, but I continued to have serious trouble breathing. I went to bed but grew more anxious as my respiratory problems increased. Rex, Mary and Barry gathered around the bed with worried looks on their faces. I'm not sure if it was concern for my health or that I was going to mess up their ski trip. I was relieved when another guest, more experienced with high altitudes, said I was having these problems because the thin air was so different from what I was used to breathing. I'll say it was different. Not humid and thick, but cold, dry and sharp. Still, I suffered all night and part of the next day.

Having never been on skis, I decided to take a lesson from a professional ski instructor. What a joke! The first thing he had us do was fall down on the snow while wearing our skis. "Now," he said. "Get up."

No way was I ever going to be able to do that. The six or seven other students managed to pop right up, but I struggled and the tanned instructor with blue eyes laughed at me. Finally he reached down and gave me a hand up. Then he proceeded to ask me where I was from. That was too funny! A girl from the deep south who had never even seen snow, had the gall to think she could learn to ski. That was the only lesson and the only time I have ever worn a pair of skis.

I spent the week inside the lodge watching people, writing about them, and feeling giddy when the cute instructor appeared. The article I wrote about this trip was my first published piece.

The poem below originated from the ski trip. I hope you like it.

High in Colorado

He poses, hip cocked in red and blue,
sun-glistened face of Eros turned to me,
a fledgling atop the icy slope. My
breath quickens in foolish adoration

at the sound of my name from his mouth.
Knees bent, I push on poles and slide
down to him, past him, racing for the edge.
"Sit down," he cries.  My legs collapse,

long shoes shoot side-wise.  I try to rise,
but can't.  He twirls, zips toward me,
digs in.  You know a mogul is a South
Georgia girl who falls and can't get up.

He laughs, his teeth like sparkling icicles.
Giddy Aspen air heliums my brain,
overflows my heart that dances in triple time.
He yanks me up, skims powder to the lift.

At sea level, snow dreams
melt into arrogant soap bubbles
as his smiling face yellows
on a faded brochure beneath my ski apparel.

First published in Georgia Magazine