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, September 9, 2014

A Rainbow Like None I've Ever Seen

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

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

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

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

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Wearing the Wrong Dress

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Writing classes at Tri-County Community College in September

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

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

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

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

Friday, August 22, 2014

Where is the Love?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Garrison Keillor - writing stories about our youth

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read a story from my childhood here.

A poem from my childhood:

My Father's Horse

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

A Post from the Past

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Pamper Myself Month

August is  here.

The buzz of the insects in the woods and the shadows' change in slant are telling signs to me that fall will be here before we know it. The cool mornings draw me out to sit on my deck and "live in the moment" which I am trying very hard to do now.

The coming week will be busy for me. I have begun physical therapy twice a week and I hope it will help me regain strength and use of my leg and hip. I am doing much better now and can go up and down the stairs with little worry. I don't think I'm  "done" yet.

I am excited about my writing class at Tri-County Community College which begins Tuesday. We have some beginning writers who are champing at the bit to get their words on paper and have some constructive feedback. Who knows what will happen in their lives once they start to put their thoughts and ideas out there for others to read?

I advocate for some things that are very important to me. Writing is one of them. Writing is the best way I know to improve focus when we feel scattered. When I wake up and feel overwhelmed with all the tasks and chores that lie ahead of  me, I calm myself by writing it all down. Make a list and see what can be postponed until tomorrow. Often that is all  I really need to do. Prioritize my to do list.

When I find myself unable to sleep or concentrate because of some problem or matter, I find that if I write about it, both sides of the issue, a solution will come to me. If I am pondering a decision, I make two lists. One is the Pro list and  one is the Con list.

The solution might be to let go of this for awhile and revisit it later. My husband gave me good advice when he saw me fretting over something. "Just forget about it for now. It probably won't happen or if it does, it won't be as bad as you think it  will." He was usually right. 

I've read that good writers don't like to  think of writing as therapy. I believe that writing is great therapy. Recently, after a long tiring day, I came home and sat down to the computer. For months I've had to set a  timer and  be sure I didn't sit for more than fifteen or twenty minutes without getting up and walking around. This time I forgot to set the timer. I forgot everything, even my long hard day, and for almost three hours I wrote about a period of my life that I have not touched on in the past. When I finished I checked the word count of my document. It was over 4000 words. 

My feeling of satisfaction went deep but I was amazed that I could  sit there for that long pouring out all those words without the normally resulting pain in every muscle and joint.  An Aha Moment for  sure. Losing myself in writing affected my entire body. It took away my pain and lifted my spirits higher than any medicine could have done. As author, Maren Mitchell, says in her book,  Beat Chronic Pain, An Insider’s Guide,  distraction helps chronic pain,  but I think this therapy went even deeper. The subject matter transported me back to a very  happy time in my life and for those hours of writing I escaped from here and now. Writing was the time machine that transported me back to when I was nineteen and twenty years old, innocent of tragedies and losses of my present life.  
Just the right time

This happened at a most opportune time as I have just declared August to be Pamper Myself Month.
I gifted myself with a dozen roses, and interspersed with baby's breath, they sit on my table where I see them all day long. The roses are a reminder that I am worthy, I am viable and I love myself.  

Please leave your comments below or email me: gcbmountaingirl@gmail.com 

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Folkmoot? We went to see what it is all about.

Written July 24.

Although having been in existence for over 30 years, the Folkmoot USA international festival held in western NC is not known as well as it should be in other parts. When I told friends in Hayesville and in north Georgia that I was going to Folkmoot, I was met with the question, "What is Folkmoot?"

I learned that over 600 volunteers work to put on this beautiful and worthy endeavor which is home based in Waynesville, NC. I also learned from the emcee at the Flat Rock Community College that someone from Haywood county went to Europe with a group of Appalachian cloggers to perform at a festival over there. This man, I believe was a physician, came home and said why can’t we hold a festival here and invite performers from other  countries. He found a community that believed  in this  idea and funding from locals to get started. Soon the Folkmoot USA festival became a reality and has continued with dancers, musicians and performers from all over the world descending on Waynesville, Maggie Valley, Asheville, and several other towns in this region every year in July. This year the events scheduled were from July 18 – 27.

Not having been to Folkmoot before, I had no idea what I’d see at the first event. I found that performers from five countries and from our U.S state, Hawaii, would be on stage. Romanian dancers led off and were followed by Trinidad, Russia, Colombia, Taiwan and Hawaii entertainers. The costumes, colorful, authentic and expressing the culture of the people of each country, kept my eyes glued on the stage and the dancers.

I learned this is really a folk dance festival, but the instruments used in making music for the dances are unique to each country. The men and women from Trinidad played large drums standing before them on stage. Some of the drums were large steel barrels. The sounds emanating from them changed from loud and strong to soft and beautiful.

The Taiwan group was my favorite. The instruments are diverse and unlike those I have seen before, and the delicate young women who dance seem to float over the stage. They move together, hands and  arms graceful and flowing like a quiet mountain stream. In one number they carry and use pastel green parasols made from translucent material to enhance their story told in dance movement.

Hardly anyone would expect to see this diverse cultural happening in the mountains of Appalachia coming together each year to share awareness, respect and caring among our citizens and those from other countries. But it is occurring and reaching children, and local people of all ages as they learn and teach through volunteering to work with Folkmoot.

My sister with two members of the family group from Hawaii
The guide for the folks from Hawaii, a family group of singers and dancers, says she spends twenty-four hours, seven days a week with this group while they are here for Folkmoot. That  is dedication. She sleeps and eats with them at the Folkmoot Friendship Center, an old schoolhouse that has been given to the non-profit Folkmoot organization and which has been converted into dorm rooms, cafeteria, and rehearsal space. I visited the center one afternoon. Performers, some  in costume, walked up and down the halls and sat chatting with each other. If only the leaders of these countries could sit down and chat with each other, get to know each other and how much we are alike in our goals and our needs.

Folkmoot seems to me to be a wonderful exchange of cultural traditions, opportunity to make lasting friendships with people who live worlds apart, but have the same love of music, dance and performance. Many of them are young, talented and curious men and women who want to know more about our customs and wish to share their own with the people of the United States.

If you haven’t attended any of the Folkmoot events, I urge you to mark your calendars now and make it a point to see at least one next year. Enjoy from a seat in the audience, but also take time at the break to meet and talk with the talented performers. Check www.folkmootUSA.org 
I am now a fan and hope to be back  next year.

Colombian dancers were terrific

Friday, July 18, 2014

A Family Story from my collection

I am compiling a manuscript of family stories. Madness is one of them. Let me know what you think of it. 

Glenda Beall

It was summer and the hot August sun beat down on the fields and pastures surrounding our white frame farmhouse in southwest Georgia.  My sister Gay and I played with our dolls on the covered front porch while Fluffy, a black curly dog near the front screen-door, slept. She had been given to us when she was a puppy, and we loved her. I often buried my face in her soft fur and squeezed her in a tight hug. She licked my face to show me she loved me as well. Wherever Gay and I played, under the huge oak tree beside the house or on the porch, Fluffy was always close by as if she had appointed herself babysitter.
Our playtime was interrupted when Mother rushed out on the porch, grabbed each of us by the arm and hurried us inside.  We were forced to leave our dolls and Fluffy behind.
Being grabbed so quickly and seeing my usually calm mother in such a dither, I cried, “Mother, what’s wrong?”
“There’s a strange dog in the yard.  He looks dangerous. Stay inside until he’s gone," she said. 
It was then we saw through the screen door, the large brown dog coming from behind the house.  Mother had noticed him from the kitchen window, his muzzle white with foam, slobber dripping down in long streams. He seemed intent on a mission, looking for a victim.
Mother called to Fluffy, "Come here, come inside, Fluffy."
But Fluffy would not come. Mother did not believe in having pets in the house. Fluffy had never been inside. She ran down the steps heading for the place where she felt secure, her bed under the porch. It was the only refuge she knew.
The strange dog saw her and followed. In minutes we heard Fluffy’s pitiful yelps. I wanted to go to her. I pushed on the screen door, but Mother would not let me open it. I stood safely inside and called Fluffy until she finally came up on the porch. I let out a sigh of relief. I saw no blood. She looked fine to me. I wanted to run out to her and give her a big hug. There was no sign of another dog in the yard. 
“He didn’t hurt her, Mother,” I said. “She’s not bleeding or anything.”
Still, Mother insisted we stay inside away from Fluffy who was back on the porch, licking her fur, cleaning herself of the terrible ordeal she had experienced.
My father and brothers came home for the noonday meal, and Daddy examined our friendly pet. He found bite wounds we had not seen. The rabid dog had done the damage. Daddy locked Fluffy in a cage beside the barn. She would be fed and given fresh water as he watched for signs of illness. She was quarantined, a word my sister and I did not know.
 Her sad brown eyes begged for our pats and hugs, and when we approached she wagged her bushy tail. But we could only talk to her from a distance and tell her how sorry we were that she had to stay in the cage.  We missed her and every day we asked, “How much longer does she have to stay shut up?”

One day Gay and I went out to visit Fluffy and found the cage shut tight, but our beloved dog was not there.
“Mother, Fluffy’s gone. What happened to her?” I ran inside to the person who always made things right. Tears ran down my cheeks. Somehow I knew she couldn't fix this problem. She seemed as sad as I was, but I couldn't help my anger toward her. If only Fluffy had been an inside pet.
We were little girls and no one wanted to tell us Fluffy had to be euthanized. Daddy said she must have gotten out of the cage somehow. He evidently wanted us to believe she escaped and wondered away. Even today my older brother tells me he doesn't know what happened to our pet.
I knew Fluffy would never have left us. No matter what we were told, Gay and I believed she had been destroyed. I vowed then and there, at the age of six, that when I was grown up and had my own house, I’d have my own dog, and he would sleep in the house and even sleep in my bed so that I could protect him.
We had other dogs as I grew up. They were family pets. Brit was an English Shepherd that was killed when she was run over in our yard by a neighbor kid.  Turbo, a purebred Cocker Spaniel, was given to us by an Air Force officer who was going overseas. That was a big mistake. That fine animal deserved a home where he was groomed daily and fed treats, curled up by the fireplace. Instead he ran out and collected sand-spurs and burrs in his lush coat. He went to the field with my brothers and my father. Turbo rode in the pickup and acted like a hound dog. He disappeared one day, and we never saw him again. I always hoped he had found a better place to live.
One week after my wedding day, I was finally able to fulfill the promise I had made to myself. My husband Barry, who also loved dogs, gave me a puppy, a miniature black poodle, that we named Brandy.  This lovable little animal quickly owned our house and both of us. In many ways he looked like Fluffy with his dark curly coat, his deep expressive eyes that could read my mind. For nineteen years I kept him safe in spite of his mischievous ways, his daredevil personality, and his stubbornness. But one afternoon, his old body gave out as he slept in our bedroom. It was raining. Barry was out of town. Alone, I buried him under the trees behind our back yard.
Since that time I've opened my heart to other dogs – Nicki and Kodi, the Samoyeds, so pristine white, always smiling and loving – Rocky, the rescued mix, who was Barry’s dog, but won my heart even as I grieved for Kodi. We protected them well, loved them and they loved us. Each one had his own personality, his peculiar traits just the way humans do. They all lived long and good lives except for Nicki who died at the age of two from a mysterious malady no one understood. All of them lived in our house and Brandy slept in our bed. The bigger dogs had their own beds or slept wherever they wanted. 
Rabies is a terrible disease, and found in wild animals in our area even today. I am grateful that my mother was vigilant enough to protect my sister and me, even if she couldn't save sweet Fluffy. 

Sunday, July 13, 2014

What a summer!

Summer is definitely here. It has been a  mixed bag for me since May 12. I had plans for this summer. This year I had writing classes scheduled every month in my studio, and I am scheduled to teach four classes at the local community college in August. I had worked hard to attract good writers, who were also good instructors, to our area. I wrote articles about them for the newspapers and posted them online. I accepted registration fees and planned for snacks for the students.

In May our literary group held a writing conference, and I was involved in the planning, and more, for that event. I had not realized the stress I had taken on myself until two days after the conference. I started up my stairs from my studio and a sharp pain shot through my thigh. My left leg collapsed under me and I fell on the stairs. I was alone in my house and for a brief moment I was terrified. I thought I might have broken my hip. Although I couldn't put weight on my left leg, I didn't think anything was broken. 

The following day an  x-ray of my back showed no serious damage. Still, my hip and left leg hurt me like a bad toothache. I began treatment with my wonderful orthopedic massage therapist and my chiropractor. I was told I had periformis syndrome, a painful condition involving the periformis muscle in my low back. I was also told by my chiropractor that I had a slipped disc in my low back. Each of them gave me relief, but the relief didn't last. I was told not to sit for more than an hour. I was told to rest and learned that it could take 8 - 12 weeks for the muscle syndrome to heal. 

Meanwhile, I had become almost an invalid, unable to stand in the kitchen and make meals or load the dishwasher. I had to hire help to take out my garbage, sweep the floor, and do most of the menial chores I did every day. I didn't dare go downstairs because I wasn't sure I could come back up.

I admit this situation took a toll on my psyche. For the first time since Barry died, I felt helpless to care for myself. What was I going to do? Should I leave my home? Should I move to an assisted living facility? The previous self-assured woman who juggled duties and took on projects had become a fragile person I didn't recognize.

To make matters worse, one week after the fall on the stairs, I was exposed to a room full of perfume which triggered my multiple chemical sensitivity and created a respiratory illness. For four weeks I fought a sinus infection and then an ear infection with two rounds of  antibiotics and over the counter meds. I went to see my sister and she took such good care of me, which helped me in my healing. I recently had an x-ray of the hip and an MRI of my spine. I will likely begin a physical therapy protocol soon. So, you see why this summer has been a bummer.  Because of all the health problems, I have cancelled classes at Writers Circle for the summer.
Students gathered around the table at Writers Circle
Forced retirement was not on my radar, but I am beginning to get used to waking up with no schedule of tasks awaiting me. I feel like someone who has been carrying a heavy stone for a long time and didn't realize how much it weighed me down until I dropped it.

I made up my mind that I will do nothing but what is good for me, what I want to do, until I get over these setbacks. I decided to look forward to what the future holds for me and not look back. I have learned that I can re-invent myself as I did five years ago.

The new me will not try to multitask, not feel driven to accomplish too many goals. I accept my limitations and look forward to new experiences and challenges. As soon as I can walk without pain, breathe without effort, and get my energy level up to par, I know I will be back to seeing my friends, my family, and enjoying these beautiful mountains where I am so fortunate to live. 

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

July - different this year for me

The month of July, which is often a tough one for  me because my husband died in July, 2009, is going to be a good one for me this year, I hope.

On July 9, 10:30 a.m. I will be the featured reader at Coffee with the Poets and Writers, a program I initiated in 2007 for local poets in our area. It is held at Blue Mountain Coffee and Grill. The reading is sponsored by Netwest, our mountain chapter of the North Carolina Writers' Network. I hope my local friends will come out and support us that day. We have a good time. We offer an open mic session where folks in the community can come and read an original poem or recite a poem they have learned. After our meeting, we get the chance to socialize when we pull tables together and have lunch.

I will read and share my poetry again on July 19. at 2:00 p.m. in Franklin, NC at the Macon County Community Facilities Building, 1288 Georgia Road, Franklin, NC 28734.  Also on the  program that day is Susan Lefler  an outstanding poet from Brevard, NC. The NC Poetry Society and the Ridgeline Alliance sponsors this event. I am a  long-time member of the NC Poetry Society and sat on a panel for Poetry day at Catawba College this year.

During the month of July I hope to attend some of the events of Folkmoot, USA an international festival held in Waynesville, NC and surrounding area. I found a little cottage with reasonable rental rate in Maggie Valley, NC which is not far from Waynesville. It seems the events are held within a wide range of towns in W North Carolina from Burnsville down to Franklin. Performers come from five or six different countries and some local groups perform as well.

Susan Lefler from Brevard, NC will read in Franklin,NC
 at the 
Macon County Community Facilities Building, 1288 Georgia Road

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Where is she now?

Twenty three year old Glenda

Glenda Council fishing at lake in AL with Barry Beall and his parents

I don't think I had ever fished until I met Barry and went on a trip to a lake in Alabama with his parents. I was 23 years old, shortly after I met my future husband. The pictures here were slides that I recently digitalized. I have more photos that show a young, shy girl, who thought she was too thin and was unattractive because she wore glasses.

In a box downstairs are many slide trays that tell the story of our lives from the early dating until our honeymoon in Gatlinburg, TN. Slides tell about vacation stories, our high moments and our low. I am the token person in most of the pictures because Barry liked to have a human being or an animal in all his nature or landscape pictures. We don't have nearly as many pics of him because he was the one behind the camera.

When we married, both of us had new convertibles. My first job, teaching fourth grade at Sylvester Road Elementary School, afforded me the luxury of purchasing my first car. I loved that car more than some folks love their kids, and I was not about to part with it. So Barry sold his brand new Chevy II ragtop because we could not make two car payments each month. He bought this little bug-eyed auto you see above. I think it was an Austin-Healey Sprite. This was not his first sports car. While in the army in Germany, he owned a couple of fast little cars, and he loved to drive them.

The house in the above photo is my parents' home in southwest Georgia. We gathered there almost every Sunday for a big dinner with my family. Barry and I lived only a couple of miles away on the same farm where I grew up. I thought I would live there always, even though he and I often fantasized about having a mountain getaway in north Georgia. We built our dream home based on Barry's memories of California houses he had seen while serving at Monterrey Language School. The slant roof, redwood structure with walls of glass, an upstairs balcony and spiral staircase developed into the home we had saved for and always wanted. I dreamed of my house for several years after leaving it to move to the mountains.

Monday, June 23, 2014

That's Life, New and Selected Poems by Abbie Johnson Taylor

Congratulations to Abbie Johnson Taylor, a faithful reader of this blog. Her poetry chapbook, That's Life, New and  Selected Poems is being published by Finishing Line Press and they are accepting pre-orders now. See below what Abbie says on her blog.

My poetry collection from Finishing Line Press, That’s Life, is coming out late this summer. Life happens. As a teen-ager, you’re told you can’t go to the mall because your aunt from out of town is visiting, and the family is planning a trip to see The Nutcracker. As an adult, you hear news on the radio about an airport bombing in Los Angeles. Your husband suffers a debilitating stroke, and you spend the last six years of his life caring for him at home.
Not all the poems in this book are about tragedies. Some are humorous, others serious. Topics range from school to love to death and everything in between. Here is what others have to say.
“Abbie Johnson Taylor’s book of new and selected poems, That’s Life, speaks to both the small and momentous events in our lives. She writes of a picnic in Florida where she eats fried chicken, and she writes of her husband’s stroke and then death. In between, we see a woman who appreciates her foldable cane, and who offers advice to teen-age girls. Taylor’s language is simple and clean. She doesn’t get distracted by trying to make her poems sound “poetic,” but rather uses clear, everyday language to convey her thoughts to her readers. I know that many readers will find solace in Taylor’s plain-spoken, but heartfelt lyrics.” Jane Elkington Wohl, Author of Beasts in Snow and Triage
That’s Life is a collection of poems that celebrates the normal, the ordinary. In this book, beauty, peace, and happiness are found in everyday events and situations. Abbie Johnson Taylor also emphasizes the strength of the human mind and heart. Faced with difficult, stressful, and tragic circumstances, the subjects in this book nonetheless endure, thrive, and bask in happiness and hope.” Allyson Whipple, author of We’re Smaller Than We Think We Are
If you order before August 29th, you can buy the book at a reduced shipping rate. It’s not available as an eBook yet, but it will be IF the publisher sells AT LEAST 55 copies. For those of you who need the book in an accessible format, at some point, I’ll try to record it and make it available on my Website as a free download along with a text version. In the meantime, I’ll post excerpts here. Please share this with others who might be interested. Thank you. 

(Please mail all orders to the Finishing Line Press address below or order online at https://finishinglinepress.com/product_info.php?products_id=2081.
Please send me ______ copy(ies) of That’s Life: New and Selected Poems by Abbie Johnson Taylor at $12.00 per copy plus $2.99 shipping. Enclosed is my check payable to Finishing Line Press for $__________ Name Address City/State/Zip Please send check or money order to:
Finishing Line Press P.O. Box 1626 Georgetown, KY 40324

Monday, June 16, 2014

Fathers, Daddies, Papas - we all have one

Coy Council with his first car

 I never knew what to get my daddy for Father’s Day. He said he didn't want anything, but I felt I had to do something. We always gave presents to Mother who enjoyed our making over her. I am sure that Daddy had many shirts, belts, shoes and stuff he never used or wore. With seven kids he couldn't expect to have a father's day come without the obligatory box and card.

I agonized over what to get him because I wanted it to be special, to give him something that would please him, to show that I had made an effort. Once I wrote a poem for him. I gave it to him in a card, but he never mentioned reading it or whether or not he liked it. 

One year I made the mistake of going up to him and giving him a big hug. He stood like a giant tree, his arms straight down by his sides. I was hurt, but I should have known better. He was uncomfortable with any show of emotion. I used to think he had a heart of stone, but in his last years, I came to know him better and realized he was a marshmallow inside.

Because he was brought up to believe that real men don’t cry, he was deathly afraid he might shed a tear and someone would actually see it. He lost his own father when he was only ten years old.  But even before his father, Tom, died, he was not around for much of my daddy’s life. Tom brought his family to Pelham, Georgia from the farm in north Florida where Daddy was born in 1900. All the children went to work in the new textile mill there. But Tom hated working in a factory, and he went back to the farm. He came back to Pelham a couple of times each year with a wagon loaded with cured meat, corn and beans and anything from the farm that would help to feed his large family. My father remembered his daddy, and told us stories about him. But Tom Council died when in his early fifties, leaving a wife, several daughters and a little son behind. 

Men of my father’s generation were expected to be the breadwinners and expected their wives to nurture the family. With four sons and a grown daughter, my father didn't find much use for my little sister and me, it seemed, until we were grown and could help out. My lifelong goal of making my father proud came to fruition after my mother’s stroke, after she lost her short term memory. At the time, both my sisters were married and lived hundreds of miles away. 

Finally, when he understood that Mother had to have extra care that he could not provide alone, he appreciated his girls. Both of my sisters came and each stayed a month until we could make arrangements for a part-time housekeeper. When they left, I supervised her and managed Mother's care. Daddy called me when he needed me, day or night, and he was happy I was there. 

My father, an honest, kind-hearted, hard-working man was devoted to his family. He said to me in his last months of life, “I always prayed that I would live to see all of my children grown and married.”  

The average life span of a man in the early twentieth century was 48 years. From an early age, he had been afraid he might die and leave my mother and his children all alone. Growing up without a father, he knew the impact his death would have on his kids. After he bought the farm and suffered an injury to his back,  he was prone to kidney infections. I remember as a little girl that I was afraid he was going to die. As Mother worried and piled quilts and blankets on him, I heard him moan as he endured hard chills and fever.  

My parents' 50th wedding anniversary in the seventies with all seven kids
My older brothers had a different father than the one I knew. He played baseball with his boys and read comics to the kids. But I never knew that man. My father was often worried and serious, often upset and complaining, a pessimist who was sure he was going to lose his farm due to bad weather or a poor crop. When lightning struck a tree and killed the livestock under it, he was devastated. But he managed to hang on and, with four hardworking sons, they bought the adjoining farmland and formed a business that eventually made them all financially successful.

I am proud of the man who fathered me. He was not easy to love, but he gave me a home, with all the security and comfort he could afford. I carried his name with pride. And after years of writing about him and learning about his life, I now understand him and why he was unreasonable at times, extremely strict and demanding. His concern was usually for our welfare, our safety, our good names, our futures.

If we made a dumb mistake such as the time my youngest brother and his friend, as a prank, stole some bee hives, Daddy went on the warpath. He said he did not raise thieves, and he made my brother take the hives back to the owner and apologize. Daddy did not go with him. My brother had to face the music all alone. That was a lesson to all of us. Unlike many girls I know, I never, never took anything that did not belong to me. No shoplifting in my past, I assure you. My father did not raise a thief.

My parents set a great example for the seven of us. Their work ethic became instilled in all of us. Daddy had no use for self-righteous, pretentious people who held themselves above others. He spoke with disgust about men who did not put the welfare of their families first. Life was hard for my father as he grew into a young man. He had been betrayed in his youth by people he trusted, so he developed a tough shell that shut out everyone but his family. At times it seemed to me that he didn't even trust everyone of his kin. 

He loved Mother and his kids above all else, although he was not one to say it. He also loved his bulldogs -- the Georgia football team, and his canine pets. 
Daddy, before I knew him, in his baseball
He had been quite a baseball player in his youth, and sports were his major interests throughout his life. Growing crops was his passion. He was on his tractor in his huge garden just a few days before his death from pneumonia at the age of 87. 
I am grateful to have had this good man for my father. 

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Today, June 14, is the anniversary of my wedding to Hugh Barry Beall from Rockmart, Georgia. We met on July 4 and married on Flag Day, June 14 at the First Methodist Church in Albany, GA.

Barry at 28 when we married. 
While I've been laid up with first one malady and then another the past month, I've used my time to go through old photos, slides, and albums. How young we were that summer day we met. We had no idea where life would take us but we only cared about one thing. We wanted to be together. Boy, did we have fun! He had the greatest sense of humor and could always make me laugh any time he wanted. When he sang to me and played his guitar, I could not believe that I, shy and self-conscious, was the one he had chosen. He was charming. He lit up a room when he entered and he had that quality right up until his death.
I was a brand new fourth grade teacher and he, recently discharged from the U.S. Army, worked as manager of the Luggage and Gift Store. I couldn't cook when we married but he never complained. When I ruined a meal, he said, “Let’s just have peanut butter sandwiches.”

He loved the mountains and so did I. He loved dogs and so did I. We both loved convertibles and each had new ones when we married. He taught me to ride motorcycles, and I taught him to ride horses.

Barry Beall

Looking back over the 45 years we shared, I realize what held us together through good and tough times was our commitment to our marriage and the fact that I didn't think I could live without him in my life. I never allowed the word divorce to enter our conversations, no matter how angry or upset we were with each other. I tried to support him in everything he did, and he was my biggest cheerleader.

At Halloween, Barry became Lonzo Carpe, the old man you see here. At parties no one recognized him. He stayed in character all evening. 
Our ambitions were not to make tons of money, but to enjoy our relationship, to take care of each other and to glean all of life’s greatest joy out of every day.  
When I make my gratitude list, I always find something about Barry to put on that list, and I don’t think I will ever run out of items.

Our first Christmas at our mountain house in 1995 with Kodi, our beloved Samoyd.