Sunday, March 11, 2018

The End of a Bad Week, the Start of a Good Weekend

A bad week ends and a great weekend begins.

When our wonderful few days of spring came and fooled us into believing it was real, I fought that thought because it is way too early for purchasing flowers and planting things in the earth. But I did have a few days when I could open my windows, turn off the heat and sit on my deck.

Surprise! Those days did not last.Cold freezing weather came back and my studio became very cold because my propane heater was not working. The pilot light was out and I assumed I had no gas in the tanks. My call to the company was not met with much hope of getting my gas tanks refilled and my heater back on this week. I turned on my small electric heater and bundled up when I worked down there.

Upstairs, I still had my central heating unit working. But not for long! One day the thermostat went completely blank and the compressor would not come on even after I hit the red reset button a number of times.This happened last weekend so I could not reach a repairman. On Monday I called and was told how busy the repairman was, but he would try to get to me as soon as he could. To make a sad and long story short, the repairman came and put in a new transformer that lasted one day. I was back with no central heat. Two days later he came back and worked three hours. He left me with the words that he had it fixed. All day I watched and listened to the unit work, but after a couple of hours I realized I was  only feeling cold air coming through the vents. I turned it off and have not had any central heat since. My calls have not been returned either. 

The small electric heater will not heat my whole house when it is freezing cold.  After my electricity went off on Thursday morning, and after a pitiful call to the gas company, my tank was filled and the nice man lit the pilot light on the gas heater. At least I had heat downstairs for my company coming Friday afternoon.

But here I am Saturday evening and I have no gas heat downstairs and no central heat upstairs. The pilot light went out on the gas heater and neither I nor my house guest can start it. My electricity was back on after about three hours on Thursday and I am so grateful for my little electric heaters both upstairs and down. Perhaps on Monday I can reach the Heating and Cooling company and maybe get the gas company to send someone to relight the pilot light.

My worst fear is that I have to buy a new compressor for my heating and cooling system and that the gas heater is broken. 

The bright star in my week is the visit from my sister and brother-in-law, Gay and Stu, and their precious little dogs. They arrived on Friday and we went out with a friend for dinner on Friday night. We had a great time, drank some champagne, and I forgot about my cold house.
Smokie, the dog I love the most after Lexie.

Saturday morning, the three of us drove over to Waynesville, NC, a lovely mountain town, to meet with friends for lunch. Again we had lots of fun and took a walk from the restaurant on Main down to the church where our friend is  Choir Director now. I have a special love for this man because he was responsible for the music at my husband's memorial service at Alpharetta Presbyterian Church in 2009. It was one of the most beautiful services I've ever seen. We handed him a list of hymns and songs Barry liked, and our friend, Joel, turned it into an outstanding medley with solos and choir participating. Barry loved music so I know he was delighted with what Joel did for him and for us who loved him.

The Presbyterian Church in Waynesville has a warm feeling with lots of wood. The piano, we were told, came from Billy Graham Ministries. The staff, including the minister, is all female except for Joel. I think I would enjoy attending that church. it was nice of Joel and his wife to give us a tour.

We made one more stop in Waynesville and that was to a doggy shop. They carry everything for dogs and people who love dogs. Gay and I each filled a small cup with dog treats for our little ones back home. We can tell that Waynesville is a dog friendly town because we saw several people walking dogs on the sidewalks. Some stores had bowls of water sitting outside their doors for dogs walking by. One sign said, "bowls of water for dogs or very short people." 

Gay and Stu

Tonight I will sleep warm with my little doggy heater, Lexie, and warmth from my electric heater that ran all day while we were gone. I am grateful to EMC for their quick service getting my power back, for Gay and Stu, and for a terrific Saturday that made up for the crappy week. 

Hope your coming week is filled with things you can be grateful for and that the good times out-number the bad.


Monday, March 5, 2018

Talk to your older relatives before they are gone. They have great stories.

Sunday is almost over and I am just getting to my computer. I hope you all had a great day. The sun shone here, and it was a nice break from all the rain.

I gave myself permission (yes, sometimes I have to do that) to while away my afternoon watching a movie on Netflix. I kind of napped some, too.

Tonight is the big Oscar’s night on TV and I am not big on watching award shows. Tomorrow all the shows will encapsulate the most interesting moments and that leaves me with more time tonight.
I do have a little interest however in this year’s show. The woman I most admire these days is Jane Fonda.  

She is 80 and looks like she is thirty. Just this afternoon, as I was going through boxes, I pulled out one of Jane’s exercise tapes. I couldn’t do those exercises when I bought it and surely could not do it now. So it will go with all those other useless things I am ridding myself of and I won’t look back.

I not only admire Jane Fonda for keeping herself fit, but she has not given into ageing or the presumptions we Americans have about ageing. 

She is still working and stars in a television show, Grace and Frankie on Netflix. She keeps herself relevant to the times. Isn’t that what all of us want as we age? Not to be forgotten or to become invisible, but to be listened to and contacted when we can make a difference.

So many times I see younger people with an older relative or parent, and they never listen to the older person nor do they ask for his input. The younger ones talk loud and laugh and make so much noise that the older person can’t be heard. They show no respect nor interest in wisdom that could be important to them in the future.

My father used to leave the dinner table when my grown brothers began telling their stories. We all laughed, and everyone talked loudly. He would go into his bedroom and watch television or read. Some of us criticized him for doing so, but I understand him better now that I am near the age he was then. He was left out of the conversation completely, and had difficulty hearing and understanding. Mother sat there and smiled, but I am sure now that she was not understanding everything either.

As we get older most of us prefer smaller groups and being with people whom we can exchange ideas and opinions. Our hearing becomes impaired, and our voices are not always as strong as those who are younger. When older people have difficulty hearing they can become isolated and shut themselves away from the world.

I urge anyone who has a parent still living to go to them and ask them to tell you about their youth. You must be genuinely interested, however, or you will not pay attention. I think it is best to ask detailed questions to get your relative thinking about a time or a place that will provoke more memories. If possible use a small recorder so you don't forget important details.

I often ask my older brother, almost 89 now, to tell me about our family before I was born. I learn the most surprising things.
Two of my Council cousins - she is over 100 years old.
Most of my writing classes are designed for writers who want to share their life stories. I am amazed at the lives my students tell about in their memoirs. We all have unique stories, and they will not be told unless we tell them. In the coming months I will be teaching again and I look forward to hearing more of those interesting tales.

Have you written any stories about your life that others would find interesting and unique?

Other similar posts. Birthdays, What to Celebrate

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Is everything OK? Haven't seen a blog post lately.

It always makes me happy when someone emails and says, "Is everything Ok? I haven't seen a new post on your blog lately."
It doesn't make me happy that my life is so busy I am not keeping up with this blog. I am trying to be as punctual as my blogger friend, DJan, who writes faithfully every single Sunday morning. But lately the days are running past and into each other and I can't keep my head above water.

As usual, I over-scheduled myself for spring this year. I was excited to get back to teaching, but I forgot that this is also tax time and I must get all that done. I also forgot that often I must take a long nap in the afternoon to refresh me for five or six more hours of work.

The job of program coordinator for NC Writers' Network West is supposed to be twenty hours a month, part time, but I am positive that I spend more hours than that answering emails, sending email announcements, supporting our members in their own endeavors and staying in touch with our county reps. I love it all and just wish my body was as strong as my mind.

Also I am working very hard to get a book ready for publication. My friend, Estelle Rice, writer and poet, is my collaborator for a book about our pets and other creatures. It is going to be a fun read and we will include pictures, but it seems that every time I think we have it ready, something comes up and there is more work to do. Estelle said today, "Isn't this fun?" I said, "No, I am sick of this book."

I hear that all authors feel that way by the time the book is done. "There are no good writers, only good re-writers." So we go over and over and find errors or see a better way to write a sentence or change the organization of the stories and poems. The book has been edited by other people twice and by us three or four times.

To my readers who have missed my blog posts, I hope you don't leave me or forget me. I hope to get back on schedule very soon. Meanwhile, if you live near my town, and if you want to learn to write better or start writing, contact Lisa Long at Tri-County-Community College and sign up for my class there beginning March 5, 5:30 p.m. - 8:00 p.m.. Every Monday for four weeks we will meet and learn and have fun doing it. Visit to see my writing schedule and how to register.

Some of my writing students from a class at TCCC in 2015

Lexie is curled in a little ball beside me and it is late. Tomorrow is another busy day and I am blessed to have plans and opportunities awaiting me.

Sunday, February 4, 2018

My Immigrant Ancestors

While talking with a friend today we discovered our ancestors came to this country in the seventeen and eighteen hundreds from England, Ireland and Scotland. So many of us in the deep south descend from those pioneers who migrated down through North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and Alabama. Just as in present day, people migrated in groups or families. Besides the Councils who came down from NC, the Poseys and Pelts, the Boyettes and my mother's Robison, Jones and Coopers also migrated south.

Around 1850, after the native Americans were pushed out of north Florida, the land which now belonged to the Federal Government, sold for as little as $1.25 an acre. Now I understand how my great grandfather, John Cecil Council came to own so much land.

I find members of the Robison (Robinson) family in Wakulla County, Florida. Larkin Robison, believed to be brother to John Monroe Robison, is buried in   
Woodville Cemetery in Leon County, Florida.

I am digging bones again now that I have downloaded Legacy 9, supposed to be the most popular genealogy program out there today. I plan to take a couple of classes with Larry Van Horn who writes a column for our local paper and who is the predominant family historian in this area. His expertise extends to all the digital records and histories found online.

When I began exploring family roots in the seventies and eighties, I traveled around south Georgia perusing old records, files, and cemeteries. I bought books about early families in North Carolina and Virginia where the first John Council stepped off a ship.

Seventeenth Century Isle of Wight County Virginia by John Bennett Boddie is filled with information including names like John Council, his son Hardy Council and their descendants. Many of the residents here came before the Pilgrims landed in Plymouth.

Boddie explains the difference in his use of Puritan and Pilgrim. "The Brownist Movement (Separatist Movement)was an original defection from the English Church and favored separation from that body. There is a definite parallel between two of its offspring, viz: The Ancient Church formed in London in 1592, removed to Holland in 1597, whose remnants in 1618 migrated to Virginia - though most of them died enroute; and the Separatist or Pilgrim Church which in 1607-8 escaped to Holland and in 1620 embarked for Virginia but landed in Plymouth....the two groups then had much in common and history shows that the Rev. John Robinson, at different times served both of them."

Could that John Robinson be an ancestor of mine?  Robinson and Robison seem to be interchangeable on many records of that time.

Before Isle of Wight county became such, it was home to several tribes of native born groups including the Warascoyak and the Nansemonds. This was the James River region. The first white settlers who came were the Puritans, who came over from Holland after breaking from the church in England.

Boddie gives a couple of chapters to explaining the forces of the church and how they played out in forming Isle of Wight County, Virginia. Of  course many fights with the local Indians caused death to those early settlers. Boddie uses written records of the time to tell this story of the history of Isle of Wight County.

Boddie offers proof that men from Isle of Wight County were among the first settlers in North Carolina. So the migration began to move south.

In a chapter on Land Grants 1674-1705 I find other names in my family lines: Council, Jones and Robinson. In Land Grants 1628-1674, I see a Justinian Cooper. Could he be an ancestor to my Samuel Cooper line which I traced back to South Carolina?

John Council is named in a Deed Book in 1697. In May of 1775, Joshua Council was name to a County Committee of Safety. Was this man related to John Cecil Council born in 1833 in Alabama?

As a genealogy enthusiast, finding these surnames and the dates when they lived in Virginia  is like finding pieces of a jig saw puzzle and trying to find their place among all the other pieces. It is addictive and keeps me up at night. What intrigues me is how many of the names in Boddie's book are also found in the 1800 census records in Georgia, Alabama and Florida where my known ancestors lived.

We are a land of immigrants.
All the Councils, Joneses and Coopers as well as the Robisons, Robinsons and Poseys and Bealls came here from England, France, Holland, Ireland and Scotland in the days when white people fought the Indians for the land. With all the talk of immigration today, it is hard to think of my family as immigrants because they came so long ago, but still they came here to find a better life for themselves and their families just as do the people who come today.

I know we must be careful to monitor everyone in order to protect us from terrorists, but we are still the land of the free and that is what drives people to try to live here. Freedom which we all cherish is what many now want to deny anyone who is brown or black or comes from Africa. We have what we want here and we want to turn others away from sharing our land of the free.

Immigrants who come here from impoverished regions will take any job, usually, just to be able to live in this great country. Many wealthy people work undocumented people and pay them small wages, and those workers don't complain. They sometimes do the work no one else will do just so they can be here. Some are treated like slaves. Those same wealthy people pretend to be angered about illegal immigration when they are fostering the process.

In recent years I have met Americans who are first and second generation descendants of immigrants. They are so glad their grandparents came to this country, worked very hard to raise and educate their families. I feel that I have been ignorant of the whole matter of immigration most of my life because my family and people I knew growing up were descendants of those who fought in the war for our independence from England.

I assumed that most people in this country, other than Native Americans, had the same family backgrounds. Now I realize that our country is full of recent immigrants who are making a huge difference in our culture, a difference that many don't like and don't want. People with my kind of  ancestry are often afraid that darker skinned people will prevail and change us in a way they won't like. Well, it has already happened. Our popular music today is not what I grew up listening to and the food we eat is not what I grew up eating. The traditions we followed a few generations ago have changed in many households and in many communities, but is that so bad?  

Most young people embrace the changes and accept people for who they are and not the color of their skin. However, there are always those who hate anyone who is different. I have hope that as time passes we can all accept the changes in our culture and look for the good it brings us, not the bad.

If my ancestors had not wanted a better life for themselves and their families and if they had not braved the hardships to get here back in the seventeenth century,  what would my life have been like? They broke all kinds of laws to  build a country where freedom of religion and freedom of speech could be guaranteed. And now we have Americans who want to curb freedom of religion if it is not what they believe.

I hope the immigration laws can soon be worked out so that those who have been here most of their lives can be given a path to stay and work. I hope they can also be made so that those who want to come here don't have to wait for ten years to gain citizenship. Surely compassionate men and women in our government can put themselves in the places of the people affected by our laws and make the right decision. 

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Travel to India - If you want to go, read this travelogue by Nanine Case who went there alone and documented it with photos and stories.

A travel blog by Nanine Case about an unusual visit to  India

Recently I answered my home phone and someone asked a name I  knew, but it was not someone at my house. I politely said, "She doesn't live here. You have the wrong number."
The caller did not respond as most people would. She did not hang up, but began telling me why she was calling this woman. She had an old newspaper clipping with a heading that said Ronda B. was teaching a class on Create Space and the caller wanted to see if Ronda would teach her how to use this program to publish a book.

The caller, Nanine Case, and I talked for over an hour. She is a most interesting person who has written a historical novel. She writes a travel blog and she is an excellent photographer. I don't remember when I have enjoyed a conversation so much with a complete stranger.

The mystery of the wrong number was uncovered when she said she found the number on the article listed as where to call regarding the class. Of course, that number was my number because Ronda was to instruct a class at my writing studio.

After our long talk on the phone Nanine and I both were delighted that the wrong number ended up in our meeting and finding we had much in common. I was able to answer many questions she had about writing and publishing and gave her the names of others in the area who might be of help to her.

We will meet one day and sit face to face. We will continue our discussion about writing and many other topics. Meanwhile, I visited her blog. What a beautiful site. I read all of her  posts about her unusual trip to India. The accompanying photographs put me right there with all the sights and  sounds, the food and the smells. I hope you will click on

To take the trip from the beginning, the reader will have to scroll backward from the present post to find when Nanine makes the decision to go on this trip 1n 2013.  

Let me know what  you think by leaving a comment. 
Don't forget to follow me by leaving your email address in the space on the side bar of this blog.  You will not get any emails from me other than the posts which I write once a week. 

You can read more about my writing and my upcoming classes at 

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

What will spring and summer bring?

Although there is snow on the ground at my house tonight, spring will be here before we know it. January promises to be a cold, rainy, icy and snowy month here in the mountains. I have all my heating units, central, gas and a couple of heaters working tonight. Lexie wants me to go to bed where she gets under the covers and stays warm. 

But the weather will get better in a couple of months.
I am happy to be going up to Waynesville, NC to meet with the Netwest Mountain Writers on Tuesday, March 13 at 1:00 p.m. Merry Elrick, our NCWN-West Rep heads up that group which meets at the Trailhead Bakery & CafĂ©,18 N. Main Street.  Merry invites writers and people who can speak about the world of writing to their monthly meetings. I enjoy seeing and talking with writers in our region and speaking about NCWN-West. I hope we will have long time members there as well as people who want to know more about our writers organization. I have some good friends I met years ago in the Haywood County region and would love to see them when I am there.

Estelle Rice, author of fiction, poetry, personal essays

Mary Ricketson, Cherokee County rep, has taken over the monthly reading at the John C. Campbell Folk School in Brasstown, NC. My dear friend, Estelle Rice, will join me on Wednesday, August 22, at 7:00 p.m. She and I have collaborated on a collection of poems, stories and essays about the animals we love and other creatures who share the world with us. Our book, Paws, Claws, Hooves, Feathers and Fins, will be published by the time we read at the folk school. 

I hope our local readers will put this date on their calendar and come out to hear about our book and hear Estelle read her delightful stories. 

When the book is ready, I will post information on where it can be purchased and I am sure, if you buy this book, you will get some smiles and even some laughs from it. But, you will also read some touching words, especially if you like pets or have had pets in your home. 

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Real Food found in old recipe books - a treasure I had forgotten I kept

I wanted to get this post written before the weekend was over, but I have been so busy today going through and discarding magazines, papers and books I don’t need or want. Every time I do this I discover so much interesting material I had forgotten I had.

In a closet downstairs filled with a hodge-podge* of stuff, I discovered several old recipe books with recipes that I like and plan to use. New recipe books are no fun to read. They include foreign ingredients I never heard of or fat-free and sugar free recipes using other things I am not familiar with to improve the taste.

In one of the old books I found a biscuit recipe that uses mayonnaise instead of vegetable shortening. It brought back the memory of when my niece, Lyn, stayed with me one summer and we made mayonnaise biscuits. They are very good.

When I was a young woman, our Rural Electric Association published a newsletter and many of my mother’s friends sent in recipes. I had clipped them and found them in a folder. Some of the names jumped out at me. Mattie Rossman submitted a recipe for Cherry Delight. I often heard Mother speak of Georgia Wooten. She shared her recipe for Shell Point salad, pineapple, sugar, and gelatin with a topping of nuts, coconut, grated cheese and Cool Whip.

Some of these recipe books dated back to the sixties and seventies. We ate differently then. We used real foods, not processed and boxed meals with all kinds of preservatives in them. Cakes were made from scratch using flour, not ready-made mixes that only need milk or water added to them. I became so excited about the recipes I found that I look forward to cooking again. Since Barry died, I have not had much enthusiasm for making meals. It seems such a waste of time to spend an hour in the kitchen to cook a meal that I will sit down and eat in just a few minutes.

I have already begun to cook some of my favorite things though. Just this week I cooked black-eyed peas, adding ham flavoring, green pepper, onions and garlic with a dash of red pepper flakes. I made some terrific cornbread from corn meal that came directly from a local granary in Blairsville,Georgia. I added buttermilk, salt, baking powder and a couple of eggs. It turned out so beautifully that I enjoyed it for two meals and gave Lexie a little. She loves cornbread. A true southern Chihuahua, she is. I am trying to eat gluten free right now, so cornbread is something I can eat that I enjoy. No wheat in the real thing.

But if you buy a cornmeal mix, which is what is usually found in the grocery stores, wheat flour is added to the corn meal. I can add rice flour or almond flour if I wish, but I don’t find I need it.

Real food. Fruits and vegetables are good and easy to make. Last night I cut up an apple and cooked it with a tiny bit of brown sugar and apple spice seasoning. I put a pat of butter on top and a tablespoon of orange juice in it. It was delicious!

Since I want to cut out wheat products, I don’t eat as many sandwiches now. The gluten free bread is just not as tasty although I found one that I can use for toast in the mornings. The brand is Canon white bread but it is not made with wheat.

Well, it is time for a snack before Lexie and I head off to bed. She has been urging me to go upstairs for a while now, so I think I will. Have a good week, readers, and stay warm if you live in the cold areas. Stay cool if you live in the hot areas. I appreciate you all.

* hodge-podge - Etymology: an altered form of hotchpotch, from Middle English hochepot "mixed stew," derived from early French hochepot (same meaning), from hochier "to shake" and pot "pot, container" : a confused mixture 

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Holidays - soon they will be over, but we have memories to keep

It is almost 2018 here in the United States, but some of you live in other places and have celebrated the coming of the New Year.

As the year ends I am concentrating on my blessings of the past twelve months. I am not going to make resolutions. I never do. I like the idea of choosing a word for the year and letting that word guide you through everything you do in the coming months. I subscribed to a site that will send me a directory to use to choose my word. I will work on that tomorrow, but tonight I am listening to the angelic voices of Celtic Woman and writing my posts for this weekend.

I have spent the holidays with my sister and brother-in-law, Gay and Stu, and it has been great. I sleep whenever I want or need to, and eat whenever I get hungry. I go to good restaurants we don't have in the mountains and experience different foods or good food that I don't give myself permission to purchase at home where I am on a frugal budget, frugal for my bank account and for my health account. I have enjoyed a two week vacation in the city. My bedroom is private and so comfortable. I look out over a pond with wildlife and woods surround the house on three sides. 

I have access to the kitchen at any time to cook or to raid the refrigerator. My hosts went away for a few days, and I had the entire place to myself. 

Today we went to see Hugh Jackman in The Greatest Showman. (Hugh is Barry's first name) It was fun, exciting and filled with uplifting music and story. He is the epitome of a great actor. He sings, dances better than anyone, and has a smile that melts the viewer. In one scene of this movie, for about one minute, his face alone expressed amazement, enjoyment, wonder and sadness - that was miraculous. His movies that I have seen are all great entertainment and show his singing and acting abilities. I would not want to see Wolverine and I think those were movies to make money which they did, but the kinds of movies I like have drama, sentiment and character at which Jackman excels. The Greatest Showman is a PG movie which I also liked. No f-words or unnecessary sex scenes. I'm glad the public is embracing this movie.

We came away feeling happy. We all need to do that this time of year when so many are fearful of what is to come. 

I also took advantage of the Downton Abbey Marathon this weekend. When I could not sleep last night, I watched several episodes and another this morning. Of course I have seen them all, but it was fun to re-visit those delightful characters again. If I could go into a time machine and visit another time and place, I would go to old England where gentility and respect prevailed. I know what I see on TV and movies is mostly fictional, but I can dream, can't I?

As we head into the next twelve months, we don't know what lies ahead, but I am holding on to my belief that good will prevail over evil. I am not a Polly Anna, but I do believe that we reap what we sow. 

When we make good moral decisions and think about the benefits to others, we make this a better world. We can look for the best when choosing people who make our laws. We can listen to the needs of those who don't have a voice in our culture. 

What can we give? We can give love, caring and concern for those who need it. I don't have money to give to all the charities that ask me for donations. But I can give encouragement, support and my time. No one can buy these things for another, but we can offer them to people we know. All around us are men and women who are suffering in some way. Perhaps they are worried about their future, their children, their parents and just need a good listener. I am not a certified counselor, but I can listen and encourage. I need that kind of person in my life and I imagine many others need that person, too.

I wish for all my readers the happiest and healthiest coming year. May your problems be small and your dreams be fulfilled, may your joys in simple things bring you laughter and love, and "May the Good Lord Take a Liking to You."

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Santa's Forest was a labor of love - for a while - when we novice Christmas Tree growers began.

Gay and I were always like two peas in a pod, always together and happy with each other. We were sisters and best friends. In the photo above, we were dressed for school. 

When Gay graduated from high school and enrolled in the University of Georgia, I transferred from Georgia State College for Women and entered UGA as a junior. We actually roomed together my senior year.

Years later after Barry and I married and Gay married Stu, he took a job in our home town. Gay and I were overjoyed. Now we could be together as much as we wanted. 

Each year the four of us climbed into Barry's truck and drove down to Moultrie, GA and bought our Christmas trees from a Choose and Cut farm. It looked like the growers were having so much fun. Christmas music rang out over the crowds who poured into the fields and voices of children could be heard everywhere. This trip put us into the Christmas spirit and we were as happy as any of the kids we saw that day.

On one of these trips, Gay suggested we start our own Christmas Tree farm, the four of us. I immediately said no.
 "It's hard work and I don't think I can physically do it," I said. 

Barry said he didn't have time and didn't want to spend his weekends working on a farm. My sister was determined she could raise trees and if we didn't go in with her, she would do it alone. What a quandary we found ourselves involved in! I didn't want her having to do all the work alone. Besides, we had always been a good team. She assured me I would not have to do anything that was too hard for me. I finally gave in and badgered Barry until he agreed to help. But his heart was not in it. 

Little did I know just what was involved in growing trees in south Georgia. We chose five acres of the family farm and planted an acre each year. In the photo below it is February, planting time. It does get cold in south Georgia in winter. We had to order the plants and they came in bulk. Gay and I are heeling them in behind my house. They had to immediately go into the ground to keep them alive 
until we could plant them in the field. 

Barry and Stu went to their jobs every day, and Gay and I became farmers. We traveled around and talked to the experts about what trees we should plant and what kind of care they needed. We found out that the best tree to grow in our area was Virginia Pines. These trees had to be pruned twice a year to shape them like Christmas Trees. Otherwise they would grow up like any pine tree in the woods.

We had a quite an investment to make including buying a tractor from our friend, Mike Johnson, who owned a tractor company. We fell in love with our little Kubota. 

 Gay who had never driven a tractor, learned quickly. In the bottom photo Barry is on the tractor. You can tell it is cold because he has a scarf around his face and neck.

About the only part of Santa's Forest that Barry liked was driving the Kubota tractor. The horses in the back ground are our horses in a pasture in front of our house.

I am sorry to say that Barry and I finally had to sell out our share of the farm to my sister and brother-in-law. The spraying had to be done throughout the summer and I was very allergic to the pesticide. Pruning in the hot summers in south Georgia was just more than I could physically handle. But Gay was an excellent pruner. She could shape a tree the same way she could draw a dog or a horse. She had an eye for it. 

She hired teenage boys and she taught them to prune. They dealt with snakes and yellow jackets and still she brought in a great crop of trees each December. Most people did not know that she had to spray green paint on the trees before marketing them. She would be covered with green from her forehead to her boots and I was concerned about what that chemical was doing to her health.

Stu helped her on weekends, but she did the bulk of the work. Although Gay was shy, she gave talks on growing Christmas trees. I was so proud of her, and so was my father who was a farmer. He enjoyed telling people about his daughter who was a farmer.

When selling time came around, people from all around came to purchase a tree from Santa's Forest. The happy Santa on the sign Gay painted and displayed at the entrance put a smile on the faces of all who entered.

I have admired my sister for as long as I can remember. She is not a quitter, no matter how difficult the situation. When they sold the farm to my nephew, the four of us took a Princess cruise to Alaska and had the best time of our lives. 

Gay has a masters degree in Counseling. She is a person who listens and knows how to help people see what they need to do to solve a problem. Family and her friends know we can count on Gay. She has more talents than I can even imagine. An artist and a dancer at heart, she studied sculpture and created some beautiful pieces before she lost vision in one eye due to a torn retina. She studied modern dance at the university. I will post some photos of her dancing in another blog post. 

She is one of those people who will not be handed awards for this or that, but those who know her applaud her generosity and caring for others. Her drawings are in my house and homes of others. The portrait she did of my beloved horse is one of my favorite possessions. 

She is my hero for many reasons and one of them is how she took on all the work of that Christmas Tree farm with no complaint when we wimped out on her. It was her idea to do it and she did it. 
Merry Christmas, Little Sister, and thank you for keeping that Christmas Spirit going all these many years. 

Gay has always loved Christmas. As girls we decorated Mother's tree and her house. Once married Gay put all her talents into making her own house a Christmas delight. Above is one of her trees from a few years ago. This year I have already been there and she has done an even better job of making their house a joy to visit.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

How We Face Change Makes a Difference

Do not fear what may happen tomorrow. The same everlasting Father who cares for you today will take care of you then and every day.  He will either shield you from suffering or will give you unfailing strength to bear it.                              St. Francis de Sales

This is an excerpt from a prayer sent to me when a loved one died. I think it is good to remember that when we have hardships, we can't blame ourselves, give up on ourselves, or become a victim, but look at them as changes in our lives that we must face and hope that we can accept these changes no matter how difficult, and move on to become stronger. 

We learn to find a way around the boulders in our path. We can't sit down on the trail and give up. We can't curl up and wait for someone to rescue us. A hard blow might knock us down, and we might need some time to get our breathe again, to focus on where we are headed, but while we hope for rescue, we work tirelessly to make our way through the pitfalls and over the walls that would imprison us. 

We aren't likely to learn much from being rescued by others. We learn from our own efforts to save ourselves, what works for us and what does not. Some say failures are necessary for us to be successful.

Changes in life will come, but we can adapt, and we must adapt to them if we want to live a fulfilling life.

When I was a teenager, I had an overwhelming fear that my mother would die. That stayed with me through adulthood. When she died at the age of 80, I still had that fear and thought I could not live without her in my life. Learning to go on was extremely difficult for me, but I did and grew stronger once I knew I could. Since her death and my father's death, I lost three brothers and one sister, people I dearly loved. I miss them every day. 

The hardest loss was the death of my husband in 2009. But I knew I had to go on living and somehow make a fulfilling life for myself. Accepting the many changes brought about by his death brought out the tiger in me. I could not and would not let his passing make me weak or needy. Anger filled me up and brought out negativity that I didn't realize lurked inside me. 

I turned to those who had been through my experience. I read blogs and books by people who had lost children, lost husbands and wives and those who had suffered other losses. Their pain was no different from mine. These writers had overcome their fury and accepted the difference in their lives. That was how I learned that change is not always easy, but when we accept that we can't return to what was, we can go on and make the best of our lives. We make new goals and find new purpose.

Do not look forward in fear to the changes in life; rather look to them with full hope as they arise.

The above is also from the prayer by St. Francis de Sales. Even if you are not a believer, these words hold true.

I found that the changes taking place in my health as I grow older depressed me and caused me to wonder if I could continue with my work - writing, teaching and leading our writers group. As I searched for answers from therapists, doctors and others, I felt like giving up. I feared I would become bedridden due to the pain I suffered every day.

However, I know that people must take responsibility for their health as well as all aspects of life. So I have not given up, but reached out to others for advice, researched methods of treating my problems, and now I look forward to teaching a writing class in March and hosting writers and poets at my studio in the coming year.  

Be at peace and put aside all anxious thoughts and imaginations.

Until next time, embrace the changes in your life, they are inevitable.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Monday, a day for learning some things, but a bad drive home

My drive home from Roswell, GA yesterday took six hours instead of two. I knew it would be a bit longer as I had a doctor's appointment that would take about 1 1/2 hours. Lexie was with me.

We left my sister's at 1:00 p.m.. That gave me time to fill up my tank before I reached Hwy 575 in Woodstock, GA. Once I pulled onto the ramp I noticed the traffic was bad. Little did I know that up ahead an accident would make my short trip to Canton, GA almost an hour long.

I needed to call about my appointment, but my cell phone would not charge. It was dead. I made it to the appointment 30 minutes late. When I left the office, I walked Lexie a bit and then put her in the car. I did not notice that I had left a window open. I removed her leash and she immediately found the open window. Out she flew and out I flew to try to catch her before she ran into the traffic. Three others joined in my chase but Lexie was not coming to any of us. We spent what seemed like ages trying to catch her but she ran far down the road behind the office building. I thought she would not ever be found once she disappeared from my view. I jumped into my car and headed around the buildings to the road where I could see her. But when I got to the area where I had seen her she was not there. I drove on down the road and finally turned around.

That was when I met one of the people helping me search. "She is in Robin's office. She came back to the parking lot and he has her."

Thanks to Robin, a man with a small dog on a leash, I have my runner back home. She followed his dog into his office and he closed the door. 

By then I was hungry and needed to find a Verizon store to fix my phone. Lucky the man at the store opened my phone, took out the battery, rubbed it and blew into the cavity where it fits, then put the battery back in. He placed my phone, an old flip phone which I love, into his charger and it lit up. By then it was nearly five o'clock and I was a long way from home. So I stopped and had ribs for dinner.

When I I drove into my driveway long after dark, I was tired and weary. I brought in only the basic things I needed and then brought in Lexie. She is on my black list at this time and she is getting no special love. We are definitely going to enroll in an obedience class very soon.

She knows she was bad and she has some work to do to make up for giving me cardiac arrest.

Friday, November 24, 2017

Hope  your Thanksgiving was wonderful. Mine was great. I spent the day with my sister and we were invited to the home of my niece,  Lee and her husband, Dave, where he cooked the most beautiful and delicious turkey you ever saw. Dave enjoys cooking and every time we go there, Dave cooks. All of us chipped in and furnished side dishes to the turkey. I made my usual cornbread dressing and gravy. Lee made a scrumptious broccoli casserole. Gay, my sister, made an old fashioned lemon meringue pie and roasted vegetables. Dave made green beans and mashed potatoes as well.

You can imagine how stuffed we were when we finished. It was one of the nicest days I have had lately. Lee and Dave's grown-up son, Will, was home from college, sporting a mustache. I looked at this fine young man and remember when he was born and how loved and wanted he was. His parents are so proud of him and I am proud of him as well. He will be twenty very soon. Gay and I were happy he spent the entire time with us, but he did have his phone and a football game on TV. I'm sure that helped.

I am grateful for my loved ones who include me in their holidays. I will never stop feeling guilty for how Barry and I stopped going up to his Mother's house for Christmas when she became too old to drive down to our house in south Georgia. Young people get so busy with their lives they don't think about older relatives. We were ignorant of what she needed, but now I know what her life was like. She lived alone and we were five hours away. She never complained or asked for anything. Helen Beall was an independent woman right up to the day she died.

I think the problem might be in how you raise your kids. Because she was so independent and never asked anything of her sons, they didn't think about her needs. She had no daughters. My mother had four sons, but I don't think they would have skipped something they wanted to do in order to drive five hours to spend time with her, especially after she lost her short term memory and could  not carry on a normal conversation with them. When some of my brothers came out to visit with Mother and Daddy,  they went into the room with my father and watched sports. Their wives spent the afternoon with my mother.

A son is a son 'til he takes a  wife. A daughter is a daughter all of her life. (Irish saying)

Sounds like I am  putting down men, but I am not. Some men are totally devoted to ailing parents. I think my nephew, Will, will always be there for his parents. He is a compassionate person even at twenty. We have to guide young people in the way they should go so they understand the needs of the  elderly or ill and not be so self-centered or afraid of dealing with the possible loss of a parent that they ignore them completely.

Another fine man who is there for his mother when she needs him is my nephew, Jon. He has also been very good to me. When he comes to my house he immediately asks what can he do for me. He insists on taking care of anything I need while he is visiting. So there are men who see when they are needed even if no one asks them.

I thought it was interesting that my father, when he was in his eighties and made the decision to stop driving, told his sons that they were to drive him to his doctor visits and look after him. He said to  them, "Glenda took care of  your mother, now you can take care of me." And they did as well as they could. One of them was with him in the hospital room late at night when he suffered a  respiratory arrest. Another brother was with  him late at night when he died.

Maybe men do better at taking care of men and women do better taking care of women. What do you think? I know I would not have been comfortable caring for my father if he needed long term care. We never had a close relationship.

However, as  I  told some of my  nephews when their father was very ill, "The Council family takes care of parents when they are old or ill." Family is important to us and I am glad I have dear family that loves me and that I love. I am very fortunate. I know that is not true for everyone. This Thanksgiving, I  am most grateful for family and also for my little Lexie who brings me much joy.