Monday, November 25, 2013

John Kennedy - Fifty Years Later

Fifty years. Has it really been that long since I was sitting on the couch, in tears, watching John John salute his father's funeral procession? Fifty years seem like yesterday, it's that imprinted into my memory.

One thing I've noticed the last few days, it's been imprinted into virtually everyone's memory as well, those masses of us who sat huddled in silence beside a television, shocked into an unexpected grief. But I already knew that from doing this Pilot Mountain project. It was a defining moment for this little school, for the nation, the world. All the conspiracy theories that have cropped up since then have not distracted me from what I felt.

Only later did I realize this picture above of Jackie, her children, the Kennedy brothers, the picture of sadness in their faces, this one family portrait represents the moment we as a nation lost our innocence. Nothing was ever the same.

Fifty years, and we are still recovering.

Catch of the day,


Wednesday, November 20, 2013


Today I'm extending a special welcome to those visitors from the Learn Like a Mom link. I'm thrilled you have taken a moment from your busy schedule. If you haven't had a chance to check out the link, please do, and make note of the subtitle: Embrace Life's Teachable Moments. What a concept!
Earlier this week I posted a blog about Grandparents and the role Abuelo, Grandfather, plays in my When Christmas Feels Like Home picture book. He is secondary, but essential to the story of how Eduardo adjusts to his new life. So, too, is Eduardo's mother. She is there for support, to comfort him when he wants to go back home and to help him through the adjusting process.

That's what moms do.

When they can.

Sometimes, like in my second book, Called to the Mountains: The Story of Jean L. Frese, that proves to be impossible. The mom in this very true book could not support, comfort, nor help her daughters through adjusting. She was a single mom in 1927, working as a maid in the local hospital. Her energy went into surviving and her girls went into family members' homes. She did the best she could with the limited resources available.

As I went through the interviewing process for the Lessons Learned: The Story of Pilot Mountain School, I caught (I consider myself a storycatcher) many stories about moms. Mothers in the forties had the additional responsibility of comforting their children during blackouts, rationing, and nightmares of war. Often they did this alone, all the while worrying about their husbands or brothers on the battlefield.

Mothers in the fifties chuckled, I'm sure, when June Cleaver of "Leave it to Beaver" fame appeared at the door of their ideal television house in her full skirt, tiny waist, and pearl necklace, welcoming her husband, Ward, with the perfect meal after his long hard day at the office. Some of the mothers of this era in the mountains of North Carolina were stay at home moms that had three complete meals on the table every day of the year, square meals they called it, those fresh biscuits at the break of dawn kind of mothers. Other mothers worked in the furniture factories or the chemical plants and depended on their own moms to handle child care.

Their war was against polio. They feared nightly as they tucked their children into bed and listened to them pray, "If I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take." That was their reality. It was happening across the nation, polio striking in the middle of the night, unpredicted.

Mountain mothers of the sixties didn't have time for hippies and love beads. They were busy raising children, working the gardens or the factories, being room mothers with Valentine cupcakes. Society was changing around them, yet they were the one constant the children had.

Styles change. Trends come and go and lead the world away from the known into the unknown. Through it all, mothers stand by their families and withstand the challenges.

That's what moms do.

Catch of the day,


Monday, November 18, 2013


One of the unexpected joys of becoming a member of the writing community is that I have interacted with so many extraordinary  people both in person and online. We share ideas. We share our successes, and quite often our rejections. When the time is right, we share books.

The time is right. I am sharing a copy of my children's picture book, When Christmas Feels Like Home.

Actually, today is the last day to win one of my books in a drawing. Go to TALKING STORY: GRANDPARENTS  and follow the directions posted in the November/December issue that features grandparents in children's literature. Yes, there is a grandparent in my book. Abuelo. Grandfather. The one who helps carve the manger for the nativity scene.

Joyce Hostetter and Carol Baldwin
The Talking Story
 And yes, there are grandparents in Lessons Learned: The Story of Pilot Mountain School, gobs of grandparents, grandparents that are fondly remembered by those people I interviewed.

• My grandmother would tell me Indian tales. This little Pearson lady that was ninety some years old said her grandmother told her about the last Indian that lived in this area three or four miles back on the mountain. When they rounded the Cherokees up and took them out west, he started hiding out. He hid under the Raven Rock in a cave. When he got really old, her grandpa let him move down off the mountain and live in their cellar.
• My grandfather was a collector of Indian artifacts and his collection is now in the Cherokee museum. When the land was plowed in the spring, the kids would follow the plows and pick up the arrowheads for my grandfather or they would get out early in the morning right after it had rained and the arrow points were exposed. They’d trade with my grandfather’s store for candy.
• Gold mine holes were a big part of our play. They weren’t just barren holes. They were full of pine needles and leaves. My cousin would crawl down in a hole and pull a wooden cover over him. When my grandmother would call for him and he wouldn’t answer, she would come up in the woods looking for him. He’d be down hiding in that hole.
And those are all in the first chapter. Grandparents were essential to the family structure, then and now. Read through Talking Story. You'll be delighted.

Catch of the day,


Monday, November 11, 2013

Veteran's Day 2013

As I worked on this Pilot Mountain project a few years ago, I unearthed several stories about men connected to the school who served in the armed forces, a few of them paying the ultimate sacrifice so that I am free today to blog about them.

Ralph Smith - Viet Nam, 1965

Lawrence Crawley - Viet Nam, 1971

There were also those who paid the price and lived to tell about it. Or not tell about it, like my brother, who wasn't at Pilot Mountain School, but was in Viet Nam. He flew on helicopters, arriving after the battles, and a few too many times in the midst of the battles, picking up body bags filled with the latest casualties.

He was never wounded, not physically, but one thing I know. He couldn't walk past their names on the Viet Nam Memorial Wall in Washington, DC.

The cost of freedom is high even for the survivors.

Catch of the day,


Monday, November 4, 2013

Wearing Red for Public Ed

Today I wear RED.

Today the teachers in North Carolina have drawn a line, a "stop the madness" line.

Today many teachers performed an act that I am supporting by wearing red, because, after all, retirement doesn't break bonds with fellow educators. Today, November 4, they performed a "Walk-in." Akin to the powerful, often used (but not in North Carolina)"walk-out," today's announced through social media walk-in will have the teachers there, on the job, doing what they love...teaching. They aren't deserting their charges. They aren't leaving their posts, nor walking away.  

One example of today's Walk-In
  Instead, they are coming to work as they do every other day prepared with lessons designed to fit the core curriculum of their particular field. They are wearing red, announcing to the world they want their grievances to be heard. They are
inviting the world to listen to their pleas for fairness and equity.

My commentary here, after all, it's my blog: The teachers at Pilot Mountain School came to work every day ready to do their jobs, anticipating that their students would learn. Forty years after its closing, that hasn't changed. Neither has the determination to do the best for every child.

What has changed is perception. The state of North Carolina traditionally looked upon its employees as "civil servants" who gave willingly and sacrificially to the greater cause, for little compensation, a pittance in reality. Through the years, after much hard work to change that perception, teachers had been elevated to the professional career status. They still serve, but servants, they no longer are. Unless...

...unless the General Assembly in Raleigh carries through with current legislation. Loss of tenure. No pay increase again, fifth year in a row. Advanced degrees that mean nothing. Jobs lost over classroom test results. Required teaching methods. Wait. What am I saying? Even in the 1950's, an advanced degree meant something and test results were used to point out weaknesses in the student, not the teacher. There was no tenure, true, and teachers could be fired at the whim of an enraged school committee member. But are we going forward into a new century or backward to an earlier century?

I'm wearing red. You know my answer.

Catch of the day,