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

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

March 2, was Barry's birthday. I can't let that special day go by without writing about him. I'll also share some photos.

Barry, Glenda and Gay on vacation out west-photo by Stu Moring
He was not big on celebrating his birthday, but Gay and Stu, and our friends the Clarkes, had begun a tradition of celebrating both Gay's birthday on the 23 of February and Barry's birthday on March 2 with one event. 

The Clarkes often had us over to their house or we would go somewhere, the six of us to eat and drink wine, and enjoy the day.

I remember one year when the weather was particularly nice in late February and we drove to a tumbling creek where water splashed and spun in circles around large smooth boulders. We ate our sandwiches sitting in the warm sun on one of the huge rocks. It was one of those days that stays with you forever because of the pure joy and happiness we all felt and the love we had for each other.

Glenda and Barry on a creek in North Georgia Mountains

Barry and Gay, my best friends and biggest supporters of whatever I wanted, had the same signs on the Horoscope. Pisces. In many ways they were similar. Neither liked to dwell on details but would rather glance at the big picture and move on. Barry was not a worrier and neither is Gay. At least she seems to accept that things aren't going to always go her way, so she puts the problem behind her and goes on. Barry used to tell me that I worried about things that would likely never happen. He didn't worry and if something bad or difficult came up, he handled it at that time.

That is not the way I work. That is the way the government works. Reactive thinking. I hate that.
I am proactive. I plan and think ahead about what might happen so that I can prevent it. 
Good planning prevents most mishaps, I believe, but Barry felt that worrying or over-thinking was a waste of good time, energy and it was stressful. He was good for me because he often talked me out of a major melt-down when I imagined the worst scenario. But I was good for him when I prevented a disaster by thinking ahead. 

We fit together like a couple of puzzle pieces, frayed around the edges, maybe, but our ins and outs matched perfectly.

Now there are five instead of six of us, and we celebrate Gay's birthday with lunch at a favorite restaurant. We don't forget Barry's birthday, however, and we can now talk about him and laugh at his zany remarks and cute ways, his comments that made us all laugh. His spirit is with us and we all miss him, but cherish the happy times we had together. 

Monday, February 23, 2015

Home Remedy Saved My Sister's Life - Happy Birthday, Gay

Gay Council 
   Mother's Miracle Home Remedy
Glenda Beall

I felt as tall as a tree riding on the shoulders of my brother Max that twenty third day of February. I had spent the entire day at Mrs. Womble's house and when my brothers arrived home from school they were sent to retrieve me.  As we all approached our weathered grey farm house, another neighbor lady came out and stood on the long back porch.  She called out to us with a big smile.
"You kids have a brand new baby sister."
The boys were excited and couldn't wait to see her.  My mother had gained weight and lost her girlish figure after birthing six children. She had hidden this pregnancy until the last few weeks.  I suppose my brothers knew she was expecting, but I was too little to understand. 

Rex, the youngest brother was five years older than me.  Hal was ten and Max was thirteen.  The oldest brother, Ray was sixteen.  My big sister, June, was away at college.  I was delighted to have a baby sister to play with, but to my disappointment, she was so small that I wasn't allowed to hold her.  I still loved her.  She was so pretty with a head full of dark curls.  Even though she took my coveted place as the baby in the family, I was not jealous. Mother named her Manita Gay, a name she found in a book she read, and I have always thought it was just beautiful.

The year before Gay was born, Daddy applied for a FHA loan to buy a one hundred twenty five acre farm in the eastern part of the county. The family moved into a run down house with no running water and no indoor plumbing.
Christmas Tree farming Gay and Glenda

When Gay was less than a year old she became seriously ill with double pneumonia.  I'm sure all of us were sick that dreary winter.  Our only heat other than the wood stove in the kitchen was a fireplace.  At night our beds were piled high with quilts my mother had inherited from my grandmother.

Even though money was very scarce, when Mother had tried all of her home remedies to know avail, she took my baby sister to a doctor.Antibiotics were on the horizon but not used in our town at that time. The doctor knew very little to do for such a serious illness. After a few visits it became obvious his medicine was not working.

He shook his head sadly and said, "Mrs. Council, there is nothing else I can do for her."

Mother cried as she sat before the fire cradling her infant daughter in her arms.  The child was burning with fever and so weak she couldn't nurse.Word spread among the neighboring farms that the Council baby was dying.  Mrs. DeBarry and Mrs. Womble came to sit with my mother. They took turns holding little Gay.

I clung to my mother, knowing something was wrong but not understanding how wrong. The women talked softly trying to keep Mother's mind occupied and off the terrible scene that was unfolding in that room. When the fire burned low, one of them threw on another log. The sparks flew, looking like shooting stars against a black sky, and a puff of smoke billowed out into the room. It burned my eyes. I buried my face against my mother. She smelled good like the bacon she had fried that morning for breakfast. I climbed into her lap. She held me but hardly noticed me.

"There must be something else we can try," Mrs. DeBarry said, as she took Gay from Mrs. Womble's arms.

"I've never done it before, but I heard my mother talk about making a tar and tallow plaster one time and curing somebody of a real bad cold," Mother said, "Maybe I should try that."
"Well, it sure won't hurt," Mrs. Womble said.
"I'll get everything together." Mother said.

 First she rendered hard beef fat until she had a quantity of tallow. Next she went to her rag bag and found a soft piece of flannel. She ripped it into two strips. On one strip she spread a thick coating of pine tar and covered that with a coating of the beef tallow.  The poultice was warmed by the fire and placed flannel side toward the skin, on the sick baby.  The other strip of flannel was wrapped around the baby and the plaster to hold it on.

Then the women sat down again to wait, each one praying that the home remedy would work.  Hours passed and it grew dark.  Mother lit the kerosene lamp. It spread a warm glow over the room and created dark shadows on the drab walls.  Daddy and the boys came in from doing farm chores.  Daddy helped us with supper and Mother put me to bed in the same room where the women held their vigil.  Daddy sat in his rocking chair, rolled his Bull Durham cigarettes and smoked silently.

Mrs. DeBarry, a large, kindly woman and my mother's best friend, cradled Gay.  She placed her plump cheek against the baby's face and said, "I believe she is a little cooler feeling."

A few minutes later Gay opened her eyes and moved her little arms.  She reached up and touched the concerned face of the woman who held her.

"Miz Council," Mrs. DeBarry said in her slow drawl, "I believe this child's fever has broke."
She was right. Gay's temperature dropped to normal and soon she was able to nurse again. It took several weeks for the baby to completely recover, but soon she was a happy toddler, and we were all enjoying her just as though she had never been ill.

Her recovery was a turning point in my life because she and I are as close as twins. The day I was told I had a baby sister no one told me that she would be my best friend always, my confidant, and my biggest supporter in all that I do. Whenever there are problems in my life she is there to share them, and we have found that together we can weather any storm. My life growing up on the farm would have been extremely lonely without her, and I don't believe that I would be the same person I am today without Gay in my life.

First published in: Moonshine and Blind Mules and other Western North Carolina Tales, 2006  (anthology)

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Do You Know Paul Byrom, the Irish Tenor?

On this cold snowy day in western NC, I've been safe and warm and working on some of the many projects I keep going. Today I updated my files on published poems and writing and those rejections I get as well. It is time consuming and one of those things I postpone.

But while I work, I am listening to Celtic Thunder sing those wonderful songs from Ireland. I can hardly sit still when they sing those lively ones. Back in December, I went to see Paul Byrom who was one of those singers a few years back. He has the most beautiful tenor voice. I had my picture made with him.
Hear Paul sing She in this video:

Gay, my sister, and I are going to see him again in a few weeks. He will be back in the Atlanta area. He is not only a great singer, but an excellent showman with a sense of humor. His Irish accent is fun.

There is an Irish singer in Savannah that we go to see when we are there. His name is Harry O'Donoghue  and he sings at Barry's Pub.
He also leads tours to Ireland. He is very enjoyable. If you get a chance and you like Irish music, I think you should go to see him. 

Thursday, February 19, 2015

How to write about your family - WD article

This is a question I hear every time I teach a workshop or course on Writing About Your Life.
Often when we begin to write about family, we want to tell all the negative things about some of them. Once a student said she had been waiting a long time to tell about her awful mother.
In the article in Writers Digest, the online editor, Brian Klem, has excellent advice about how we might handle the awful mother or others who have hurt us or let us down.

At one time, I wanted to write about my distant father who seldom seemed to know I was in the room. Now, after years of writing I see that my father had another side to him that I didn't know. I learned he was similar to most men of his generation, afraid to show his soft side. Afraid he might show tears that would embarrass him. I know that is why he didn't give me away at my wedding.

Brian Klem, in this article touches on many of the things that we must take into account when we write about family. Read more here.

Write Your Life Stories at Tri County Community College in Murphy, NC with Glenda Beall, instructor.
Classes begin Tuesdays, 6 - 8 p.m. March 24 for four weeks. Contact Lisa Thompson, lthompson@tricountycc.edu   for registration.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Children's book author Laura Fritz and Casey who helps children

Laura Fritz is the author of a delightful children’s book, Poodle on a Noodle. Laura is a cancer survivor and she donates a portion of proceeds from her book to help fund research to find a cure for cancer and other childhood diseases.

Laura’s black poodle, Casey, is the main character of her book and children love him. The book is filled with pictures of Casey and his antics. Laura and Casey appear at Barnes and Noble and at fund raising events all around the Atlanta area. See the video here. 

I am very impressed with this author I met at the Blue Ridge Writers’ Conference last year in Blue Ridge, Georgia. She is a mother and her efforts are solely based on wanting to help others who face horrendous challenges as she did.

Laura impressed Dr.  Good, veterinarian, who is founder of the Homeless Pets Foundation (http://www.homelesspets.com/). He asked Laura to write a second book and she did. Poodle in a Puddle is also popular with children. This book teaches the value of putting a chip in your dog’s skin so if he is ever lost, he can be returned to his owner.

Poodle in a Puddle is a touching story about little Casey who wakes up to find his family is missing.  He sets out on a journey to find them, but loses his collar along the way.  As night begins to fall we find him all alone, cold, scared, and wet, standing in a puddle unsure which way to go.
The book is jam-packed with pictures of Casey and his journey.

Dr. Good commissioned Laura to write one more book and this one is to help increase awareness of the Homeless Pets Foundation. More about that book later.

Grandparents purchase these books for their grandchildren because they teach valuable lessons and the children enjoy hearing them read aloud over and over. Casey is real and can be seen around Atlanta, and north Georgia as he greets kids and parents with his happy little face. Find out how to order Poodle on a Noodle and Poodle in a Puddle by going to Laura’s websites, www.poodleonanoodle.com and www.poodleinapuddle.com . See how you can contact her for an appearance at your next event and check to see if she will be in your neighborhood soon.
The books are only $9.99 each plus shipping and part of the proceeds go to Children’s Hospital of Atlanta and research to combat cancer and other childhood diseases. Use your PayPal account or a credit card to purchase.
Please leave a comment or email me at glendabeall@aol.com and let me know how  your kids or grandkids like these books.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Finding old poems, stories and love words in an unmarked folder

It seems we are all using these cold days of winter to go through and discard as much as we can live without. I am no exception. I worked in my studio today. I had a stack of files I had planned to look at for some time. I found the folder I made on the Gibson family and those friends of mine who had donated money to the Katrina victims after my sister and her husband set up a fund to help them save their flooded home. I felt good because the family is now doing fine and Gigi, the mother, started another restaurant but this time in Roswell, GA.

I found lots of stuff that could be tossed, but I felt my heart soar when I came across writing I had done many years before I had a computer. I have wondered for years what became of my poems, a children’s manuscript and some light verse poems poking fun at Barry’s HAM radio hobby. 

The script type took me back to the lovely little blue electric typewriter Barry gave me when he realized that I was a writer and wanted to publish my work someday. Not knowing anything about what I needed, he had no idea that I’d never submit my work in script. Even a novice like I was then knew that would not be acceptable.  Seeing those pages reminded me how he always supported me and what I wanted to do. He thought I was an excellent writer. I thought he was an excellent musician and singer as well as having many other talents. 

Barry Beall
Finding these kinds of things is what makes de-cluttering so difficult. Finding my story about Prissy the Pink Poodle stopped my work, and I had to read every word I wrote so many years ago. Among the faded papers was one on which I had written what I loved and appreciated about Barry. It was almost a love letter, but it was not written to him. 

Did I ever tell him all the things I wrote on that paper that day? Did he hear those words come from my mouth or did I just let them flow out of my fingers and embed themselves where no one but I would see them again?
 I titled the piece, Thank you, God, for Barry. It was stream of consciousness writing and no editing.

This is a little bit of what I wrote back then:
“Thank you, God, for giving him blue eyes that sometimes change and almost always twinkle with a little boy type of mischief.  I am grateful for his manly concern for my welfare, for the confidence I can place in him when I need him, which is all the time…
I want to thank you, God, for his tenderness and caring for animals, for his gentle nature and warm love for people.” 

After long years of marriage, we often take for granted that our partner knows how we feel. I hope I told him that I was thankful for all his goodness to me. I hope I said those things, especially at those times when he could use a kind word to boost his spirits and when he just needed, as we all do, to be reassured that he was loved.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

A Poet Named Jane Kenyon

I learned of a poet named Jane Kenyon when I first came to the mountains and began studying poetry with Nancy Simpson. I don’t remember where I found the first poem I read by Jane Kenyon, but I know I immediately felt a kinship for this woman. Her poems spoke to me like no other poems I had read. I bought her poetry books, and I read them over and over. That was in 1996. She was my favorite modern poet.

Jane Kenyon
I learned she was married to noted poet, Donald Hall, and then I learned a terrible fact. I learned she was dead. She died from leukemia in April, 1995, the year before I discovered her. I felt as though I had lost a dear friend, and no one had told me about it. Jane was too young to die, only 47 years old. I realize now that her poems reflected her feelings about her illness. I sensed the depressed woman she was when I read her poems, and I felt such empathy for her.

Donald Hall has written many poems about his wife. He published a collection about her after her death. I hated it. He seemed to be angry, a common emotion after losing a loved one, and I didn't like the foul language he used or the mood he was in when he wrote that book. I felt Jane deserved better. I know from losing my own beloved, that fresh grief doesn't make one the best writer, only a writer who needs to  pour out his pain on paper.

When I discovered the following poem by Hall in a book of  poems collected by GarrisonKeillor, Good Poems, as heard on TheWriter’s Almanac, my displeasure at Donald Hall and his book I had hated, dissipated like early morning fog. I hope you like it.

Her Long Illness
        By Donald Hall
Daybreak until nightfall,
he sat by his wife at the hospital
while chemotherapy dripped
through the catheter into her heart.
He drank coffee and read
the Globe. He paced. He worked
on poems; he rubbed her back
and read aloud. Overcome with dread,
they wept and affirmed
their love for each other, witlessly,
over and over again.
When it snowed one morning, Jane gazed
at the darkness blurred
with flakes. They pushed the IV pump
which she called Igor
slowly past the nurses’ pods, as far
as the outside door
so that she could smell the snowy air.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

My Favorite Computer and Why I Love it

January 10 already. Christmas came and went and suddenly we are into 2015. My calendar's white space is filling too fast. I have enjoyed my down time this winter--no pressure, no deadlines unless you count the deadlines of poetry contests I was determined to  make.

For two days I found myself organizing my documents on my old laptop. I  have done my best to go paperless, but I have problems finding what I filed. Maybe it is the way I title my files. Or, maybe it is the way I change the title several times before I'm finished with it. 

My problem might be that I use three different computers - my Windows 8 desktop, my small Dell basic laptop, and my older laptop where most  of my writing is stored. I had hoped to transfer all my work to the new desktop, but I hate that system - Windows 8. I now  hear there  will be another system coming out  in the fall, hopefully  like Windows 7 or XP,  because the majority of the people who use Windows hate Windows 8. It is a poor combination of the popular tablet method and a computer. The genius who thought this up should find another  line of work.

Also,  my new desktop computer has become inhabited by gremlins that pop up and freeze the page when I try to use Google Chrome or try to get into my blogs. Now I avoid using that computer for blogging.

There was a time when I felt I was on top of new technology, when I urged my peers to use the Internet to promote their books and help them build a platform for their work. I even garnered the admiration of a young nephew who was impressed that a person my age, and I was much younger then, administered a couple of blogs. 

I have a Facebook and a Twitter account and a  Pinterest account and a LinkedIn account and a Google plus account. But  there is no way I have time to use all those things. I try to get to Facebook once or twice a week. That is all I can or want to do.

Recently it dawned on me that my favorite computer in my house is the old dinosaur that sits in my studio. It is not connected to the Internet at all. My genealogy program and my Word program is all I use on that old relic, and it faithfully opens and endures for as long as I can sit and use it. I also have a good photography program to use with my scanner. I spend hours scanning old family photos stored in albums that are falling apart, hoping to save them for future generations, and hoping they will care. 

I don't remember when we bought this computer, but I smile when I sit down to use it. It is like an old friend that I know will not fail me. No viruses, no mal-ware, no danger of being hacked. Like an old pair of shoes that are slightly out of style, it feels comfortable to me.

Writing is a way to learn about ourselves. Often when I begin, I don't know where I will end up. 
The lesson I learned today by writing this post is that it is the Internet that stresses me, that gives me a headache. Less time on the Internet and more time on the word processor is my  goal from now on. 

The following poem comes from my interest in family history and many trips to old cemeteries. Tell me what you think.

A Southern Family Cemetery  
by Glenda Council Beall      

The creaking wrought iron gate
breaks the silence on the hill
like thunder warns of summer storms.
I feel the breath of gentle winds
that nuzzle long leaf pines and leafy oaks. 

They surround sleeping ancestors
lying in the dust of caskets facing East,
buried deep, blanket green. Lichen-covered
crumbling stones etched with family names
are barely seen through overgrown azaleas.

My great grandfather, John, veteran
of the War Between the States lies
bordered by two wives; Fanny,
dead at fifty-three, worn out
from birthing seven children.

Missouri half his age, presented 
seven more to complete his second
round before he passed away at seventy-five.
My family men are strong
and woman-wise.

This deathwatch lends my mortal
soul continuum. Strung together
by our veins, like roads on a map,
century to century, suffering the same
finality, enduring the same foreverness.

(Previously published in a different version in Stepping Stone, 2000)

Friday, January 9, 2015

100 year old enjoys her party

Monteen celebrating her 100th birthday with her brother, Earl Council
Monteen Council Hayman of Palmetto, FL celebrated her 100th birthday last weekend with 100 guests, many of them members of her family. She and her husband, Hollis, had a son and a daughter, aned she had four brothers, Walter, Earl, Charlie and Paul. Descendants of her siblings were also present. Beverly, Monteen's daughter, sent me photos taken during the party. Walter and Paul have passed away, but Earl and Charlie Council were able to attend this occasion.

Earl, Monteen, laughing, and Earl's wife, Nadine

Friday, January 2, 2015

Who says 100 is old? Not in my family.

Today, January 2, 2015, is the 100th birthday of my cousin, Monteen Hayman, in Palmetto, Florida.
When I was compiling information on all my Council aunts and uncles for my book, Profiles and Pedigrees, The Descendants of Thomas Charles Council (1858-1911) Monteen wrote the history of her family. The details she supplied about her father's life, his early years in the south-central area of Florida that was emerging in 1906, created an  interesting insight to the history of the area as well as how her father and mother were respected leaders in their community. He was a carpenter and often built coffins for families when they lost a loved one. He worked in a shipyard during WWII, but returned to Palmetto and bought an acre of land near the Palm View region where he built a house. Later he bought more land to farm and the family moved there. My own father, as a young man, worked for Uncle Charlie on the farm.

Monteen described how the "truck-farming" was done. I found that an interesting part of the story, as well. When I was down in Palmetto last year, I saw where Monteen taught elementary school for many years and where her brothers attended school. She took me to the church where she met her future husband, Hollis, when they were kids, and to the cemetery where many of the family is buried.

I could visualize from the stories I've heard, my father, aunts and uncles back in the early 20th century, the parties on the beach, the dancing to the record player. Monteen wrote that only Uncle Charlie's home had a telephone. When neighbors needed to make a phone call, they were welcome to come to Charlie and Verter's house. Verter was nurse and midwife for the community. Several of my aunts lived with Uncle Charlie until they could get a place of their own.

Monteen is devout in her faith, and I believe her faith has kept her going through the rough times, the losses of her husband and other family members, as well as broken hip bones and such. Her eyes twinkle when she smiles and her sense of humor is very much intact. She is a pretty lady.

Monteen at age 99 and her brother who was 89 at the time of the photo.
Happy Birthday, Monteen. I wish I could be there to celebrate with all your family. I heard that this has been a wonderful day with calls, cards and flowers, and newspapers will be interviewing you and your daughter, Beverly. I hope the coming year will be healthy and happy for you and that next year at this time, we will be wishing you another happy birthday. .

Friday, December 26, 2014

Christmas Day 2014

We have come  to the  end of another Christmas Day. When I was a young girl, the end of Christmas left me feeling sad, even crying sometimes. I didn't understand why I felt such sadness. My sister didn't feel sad. No one in my family seemed sad  but me.

Now I understand it. During Christmas season, everyone I  knew was happy. Mother was extremely joyful because all of her children would soon be around her table again. She  never minded all the cooking a
nd cleaning, the shopping and gift wrapping. Her cheerfulness rubbed off on all of us. Daddy smiled more. Christmas was a family time, a time to show the love we had for each other. 

We sang Christmas Carols, played Christmas music on our record player, and gift giving for the children was a big thing. Anticipation is often more exciting than the main event. My husband said he believed I had rather plan a vacation than actually go on the trip. I think my sadness at the end of Christmas Day was because of the let down, the drop of the  adrenaline, the end of preparation for that special day. 

And part of it was disappointment. The Big Day never measured up to my high expectations. My family didn't behave as I had hoped. I wanted a Hollywood Christmas, just like the ones in the movies. My family laughed and told stories, but kept serious feelings under wraps. No one uttered words like "I love you." 

This weekend while I was away, a couple of young people stayed at my house. They were visiting my neighbor and she didn't have enough room for all her company. One was a young Muslum who was so excited that he would have the  opportunity to be part of a real Christmas holiday celebration. He asked his friend, "Will it be like in the movies?" 

Barry and I were big fans of Andy Williams and I loved his Christmas TV specials.

I don't know what the young visitor expected or if it met with his ideas of what  it should be. I never  had a Christmas like in the  movies. The happiest were with my beloved husband who never outgrew his boyish love of giving and receiving at Christmas. He deliberately and very slowly opened each gift, taking as long as he could while everyone waited. The kids complained loudly and begged him to  hurry, but he liked to tease them.
His passing has affected my enjoyment of the holiday and it affects my sister and brother-in-law with whom we always spent the day.

Now, six years after his death, I can say I really enjoyed  this Christmas. I missed Barry and we talked about him with love and laughter. The pain has lessened enough that I can find joy in being with friends and family so dear to me.

Barry Beall

Tonight I am excited about the coming new year. 2015 is going to be a good year. I feel it in my bones, and I am not crying tonight. 

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Christmas Present and Christmas Past

Dec. 14, 2014
The minute I enter this house the Christmas spirit lights up in me. The classic holiday music by Perry Como and Johnny Mathis fill each room. I see the traditional decorations that I've known for most of my life. A perfect Christmas tree, cute animated snowman and Santa Claus, and artistic portrayals of angels throughout the main rooms.                                           

The mantel over the fireplace looks like a Christmas card from olden days. Garland and poinsettias border high shelves. My sister Gay’s big smile and hug take me back to our childhood when Christmas was the most important time of the year for our family.
All seven children, even June who often lived in a distant state, gathered at our family home on the farm. Mother was prepared to cook for any size crowd that happened to show up for a  meal in the days preceding December 25th, especially after June and her family arrived.

I sit here beside this Fraser fir that emits a scent of freshness and remember. Gay loved Christmas so much she wanted to have a Christmas tree farm. Stu, her husband came on board, Barry and I reluctantly joined in. It was an adventure we will never forget. We called it Santa’s Forest. The first day we opened for people to come and cut trees our hearts beat with happiness each time a vehicle arrived with a family of excited kids who couldn't wait to cut the perfect tree.

No one knew how we had sweated in the hot summer sun, pruning twice each year, spraying for insects and fire ants. Gay worked harder than any of us. Soon all the work and the chemicals we used took a toll on me and Barry came to hate giving up his weekends to work at Santa’s Forest.
Glenda and Gay heeling in little trees in winter. Will plant them a few weeks later.

Eventually Gay ran the farm all alone, hiring young men and training them to prune correctly, to form a perfectly shaped tree. We had to plant Virginia pines instead of Fraser firs which would not grow in the heat.

When Gay sold the business she had five acres in trees with one acre ready each year to harvest. Even our father, a man who seldom praised anyone in his family, was obviously proud of her. She had built a successful business.

Since Barry is gone now, I spend Christmas with Gay and Stu in their house that exudes Christmas. This morning they are at church where they sing in the choir. I am sure their rendition of the Messiah, which the choir will sing for two services, is beautiful. If I didn’t have MCS, a serious sensitivity to perfume, I’d try to be there, but a church filled with people is not healthy for me.

I hope you, my readers, have delightful holidays wherever you live around the world. We need to turn our thoughts to love and peace, to cherish people in our lives and reach out to those less fortunate, even if they are different from us, to remember “Christmas is not just a day, but a frame of mind.”*

Millions of people, even those who don’t know the original Christmas story, celebrate life at this time. I think that is wonderful.  

*From Miracle on 34th Street

Thursday, December 4, 2014

A Holiday Tour of Homes to Put One in the Christmas Spirit

This weekend our local Clay County Historical and Arts Council is holding a Holiday Tour of Homes. Six families in our county will open their beautifully decorated homes for us to visit and enjoy. The tour starts at 1:00 p.m. both Saturday and Sunday.

One of the places on the tour is the Tusquittee Tavern, a friendly place where people gather to have a drink and visit with their friends and neighbors. Unlike a big city with pubs and bars all over town, our county was dry until a couple of years ago. Few places serve alcoholic beverages.

For the tour, the tavern, located away from town on a scenic route, will be decorated for Christmas and will offer apple-pie cider as well as music and some history. The couple who own the tavern made me feel welcome when I dropped in one day to see the place I'd heard about. On the front porch, a group of adults sat in comfortable chairs sipping cold drinks. I promised myself I'd drop by there again, but it is out of the way from my house.

I plan to have lunch with my friend, Joan, and we will spend the afternoon driving through our scenic landscape here in the Appalachian mountains.

Anyone who lives near Hayesville, NC can come into town and purchase tickets for the tour at almost any business around the town square. The Chamber of Commerce, Moss Library, Tiger's Department store and many other places will have tickets. The cost is small, $15 and the proceeds go to the Arts Council for the many activities offered to our community. 

One of the most popular events held by the volunteers at the Historical and Arts Council is the huge Festival on the Square in downtown Hayesville each July. I try to never miss it. Hundreds of vendors come with art of all kinds and thousands come to shop with them.

CCHAC also sponsors an Arts competition for the high school students each year and a poetry contest for adults and students. I won the adult contest soon after I moved here. Later, I was proud to be a judge of the poetry contest.

Above see the brochure with the places you'll see on the tour. The first one, the Ward home, has six bedrooms, six and one half bathrooms, with many interesting and unique rooms including one for meditation. This is a mountain-style lake front home with a 12 foot Christmas tree.

Another house on the tour, the Nichols home, sits on a mountain top and has a magnificent view of Lake Chatuge and Brasstown Bald, in Georgia.

I am delighted that the people who own these houses will go to all the trouble to make them inviting and welcoming to strangers, folks like me, who come to admire their tastes, maybe steal a few ideas to use in our own homes this holiday season, and help us get into the Christmas spirit.

I hope all of our local readers will come out and enjoy the Hayesville HolidayTour of Homes this weekend. Don't let a little rain stop you. It won't stop me.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Write for your family. Leave a written legacy.

At holiday time, we all look back on those times when we were young and had parents, grandparents and family that gathered around tables at someone's home. We remember the stories we heard, the faces of those who are gone now, the laughter that roared from the adult table as everyone remembered a favorite narrative and heard it again from a  brother or another dear family member.

We all have family stories. Some might be sad or bad, but we also have many stories of our family history that make us who we are. My father was a story teller. My uncles were also story tellers and my brothers told stories I'll remember all my days. 

Those of us who like to write have a responsibility, I think, to keep those stories alive. The days of several generations sitting on the porch or around a dinner table listening to family stories are fading away. Families are scattered all over the world. Grandparents get to see their grandchildren on Skype for a few minutes, but that  is a far cry from conversing face to face with plenty of time to share.

That is why I am passionate about writing those stories, leaving a written legacy for the future. Even though I have no children, I have always been the family historian and have documented many of the stories of my father's family in a  hard bound book: Profiles and Pedigrees, Thomas C. Council and  His Descendants.
I have also written a collection of short stories based on stories about my immediate family -- father, mother and my sisters and brothers. One day I hope to publish them for my family.

For over a week I have been listening to a memoir by Pat Conroy, the southern author of The Great Santini and Prince of Tides among other excellent books. He writes a detailed story of the life he has led with his abusive father, mother he adored, his siblings who all suffered from growing  up in the dysfunctional family. One of his brothers killed himself. A sister seemed to suffer from mental illness. Pat, himself, had several breakdowns and several marriages. All of this made for interesting reading, but those are not  the stories most of  us want to tell about our families. 

My students want to tell about how life was when they were kids. They want to tell about living without electricity, going to school in one room with all ages of students, the games they played when they were kids, their first car, their first date and many of those turning points they would tell their grandchildren if their grandchildren were available. They also want to tell about  where they went to school, their military lives, their work, the accomplishments and even their failures. I hope they will also tell the sad stories, the hard times that helped mold them, the loss of loved ones and beloved things. I hope they will  tell about the time they spent with grandparents, what they remember about those family members. 

One of my students told me he decided he should write about  his life when his little grandson said, "Grandpa, I know about your life. You had to  fight Indians and live in a  log cabin."

It is hard to entice young people to care about anyone or anything but themselves once they are in their teens. But those kids will grow up and one day they will be so happy to read about their family history. 

In March, 2015, I will teach a class on writing life stories at Tri-County Community College. If you are local, check with the Community Enrichment department, Lisa Thompson, to register.