Saturday, June 17, 2017

Father's Day 2017

Just in time for Father's Day, my husband's brother gave us a flash drive of hundreds of photographs they had scanned from the albums and stuffed shoeboxes we found when we cleaned out my in-law's house. So yesterday my husband and I sat down in front of the screen and watched a remarkable life unfold, that of Wesley Newton Griffith.
That's him, on the right, 1930, with his brother and sisters

1939 in front of his school
From his early years to his teens to his war service, I became acquainted with a man I thought I knew, but didn't. He was more, much more, and the pictures introduced me to that part of him I never considered.

His life before I married his son.


That's him with my mother-in-law before he went off to war

He spent his service time in Hawaii, radar, watching for enemy bombers. After Pearl Harbor. In a tunnel on a hill.

This Father's Day I honor not only the memory of my own wonderful father, but also that of my father-in-law. After all, he's the one who taught by example what it means to be a father. 

The baby that grew up to be my husband
My husband learned well.

Catch of the day,


Saturday, May 27, 2017

Racing On and Off the Road in Caldwell County and Surrounding Areas

With much pleasure and anticipation, I'm here today to reveal to you the latest book I've helped become a reality. This one I was co-author to Johnny Mack Turner, the same man with whom I wrote Wheels and Moonshine. That book was about his Uncle Claude. This book is about him. Well, him and hundreds of others in our end of the state.

The cover was designed by Books That Matter, and they did an excellent, eye-catching job! The pictures featured on the cover have been toned down a bit in a later revision, but you get the idea. There Johnny is, front and center, with a racer by the name of Curtis Turner. The other four on the front are men from our county who went on to great accomplishments on the track, Don Carlton, Larry Smith, Sam Snyder and Max Prestwood. Same story about the five on the back, all from Caldwell County, Mac Martin, Johnny Price, Dick Greene, Hubert Ennis, and Raymond Wilson.

Note the words in the title, "On and Off the Road." They are important to the story because much of the early racing here in our county was on-the-road street racing, back-country road racing to be more exact. Johnny is a master story teller with plenty of action in his past to build a book around. Here's the introduction from the book's Amazon page

From its shady beginnings in the moonshine industry to the shiny glimmer under track lights, motor racing has been an unavoidable element of reality for several generations in Caldwell County, North Carolina. Local lore is overflowing with the adventures of racing both on the road and off, where if a person wasn’t involved in racing, then his neighbor was. He might have been the one spending hours in the garage perfecting his car for the next trophy chase, or he might have been the one who heard the deep rumble of the engines in the distance and hurried to the roadside to watch two drivers prove their worth. This passion to control the power of the engine unfolds in a most remarkable story captured by Johnny Mack Turner with the help of Gretchen Griffith. He opens his scrapbook to the world, revealing a personal account of motor racing in western North Carolina. From his roots in the history of the region through tales of on and off road drag races, circle tracks and motocross events, Johnny gives the reader a glimpse into a vibrant culture seldom revealed.

Special thanks to Bill Tate who restored several of the original pictures. The differences are striking.
The book is chocked full of photographs from Johnny's personal collection and from many others throughout the area who shared with us. It is also filled with life stories of the men from Caldwell County who answered the roar of the engines in their own unique ways.

I can't wait for you to read it.

Catch of the day,


Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Gracie's Grumpy Grandma

People often ask how long it takes me to write a book. That answer varies according to the book. The shortest was six months. The longest...well, let me tell you that story.

When my granddaughter was born nearly twelve years ago, my friends wanted to know what my son and his wife named her. I repeated the name so often, it soon became a habit to introduce myself as Gracie Griffith's grandma Gretchen Griffith. After even more repetitions I added grouchy and then grumpy, and I grinned. This is fun, I thought. It's a tongue twister, I thought.

It's a book, I thought.

I made a list of "gr" words and started thinking about how I could meld them together into a story. Thing is, most of the words on that list were along the negative, aligning with grumpy and grouchy. I don't write negative books, but I could write negative turned into positive books. I wrote, rewrote, revised, and let it sit for a few years as Gracie grew...ooh, a phrase I didn't use!

This picture book manuscript sat unused for years because I am not an artist. My canvas is on the computer screen, not on an easel. I paint pictures with words in a "word is worth a thousand pictures" kind of way.

Then the right artist came along, a student named Frankie Song. He brought my characters to life, Gracie, the grumpy grandma, the gray goat, the gray grasshopper, and the gray grouse. He made the green grass gray, just like I wanted.

He made the gray grass green, just like the story said.

And then he returned to China and left behind a set of individual pictures that needed to be put into picture book format. That's when artist number two came along, Tina Bryant. She took the pictures and wove them into the story, added her own background pictures, and TA-DA!!!

Gracie's Grumpy Grandma

Nearly twelve years later and it's a done deal, in my hands. It's on Amazon, I usually don't put the link straight on the page, but take a look at how it's written, I couldn't resist. That's the whole idea of the book!!! Amazon gets it, even if they don't know it.

The back cover fades out a bit to make way for the bar code, but you get the picture. Granny with her girls, Gracie and Reagan. And I'm not so grumpy after all.

Catch of the day,


Saturday, May 6, 2017

Back in the Time

Back in the time, a couple of weeks ago to be specific, I launched my newest book,
  Back in the Time

A launch is a celebration of the birth of a book. This one, we did right. There was food. There were friends. The venue couldn't have been more welcoming...Caldwell County Senior Center. 

The book was hidden undercover until the big reveal
Co-author, Jasper Reese entertained us with his comments and stories about growing up in Spring Creek, the theme of the book. That's him on the cover, twelve years old after building his cart using gears from a textile plant's machine. This is him now, standing with me at the launch.

Needless to say, we had a great time kicking off this book. The star of the show, despite all the hoopla, was definitely the book. It's the story of Jasper's life, but more than that, it's the story of a community in the far back isolation of the mountains in western North Carolina. The subtitle tells it all: 
Medicine, Education and Life 
in the Isolation of Western North Carolina’s Spring Creek

Just in case you need more, as if, here's what we said on the back flap:

Spring Creek, North Carolina was more than a location. It was a real and natural, down-to-earth way of life that should never be forgotten. Jasper B. Reese, the son of a country doctor, reveals true stories of extreme hardships and joyful successes from back in the time when nothing was more important to the isolated Madison County mountain family than individuality, a self-sustaining life style and pride in the ability to go it alone.

One more thing, on the back flap is the portrait of a school, not just any school, Spring Creek School, the hub of the community. It was built in 1929 using rocks from local fields on the exterior. After decades serving the community children, it now has been converted into a community building.

I've given you a glimpse of the front and the back of this precious book. For the interior, see me today at the North Carolina Butterfly Festival here in Hudson, or find it on Amazon, just a click away.

Catch of the day,


Sunday, April 16, 2017

Easter 2017

Happy Easter Sunday Morning!

Good morning to all.

I'm heading to the sunrise service at our church in a few minutes, then breakfast cooked by the men of the church featuring plenty of salty country ham and biscuits and sawmill gravy. Then to worship on this highest of holy days in the Christian calendar.

Yesterday I took the grands to an Easter Egg Hunt. They hunted with the dozens massed there at the church park. Easy finds for the very youngest with the eggs laying in plain sight on the grass. A little harder for the next to the youngest. And for my two grands, the true hunt and search for the oldest group in a completely different section, the trail through the woods. 

As we were eating the hot dog lunch, the exchange student from Japan living with our pastor asked the simple but necessary question. Why do the children hunt Easter eggs, followed by the next obvious question, Why is there an Easter bunny?

They looked at me. Shrugging was not an option.

How do you explain death on the cross and resurrection after three days?

We had taken the grands to the Seder meal Thursday evening where they were reminded about why Passover is celebrated even today. God instructed the people of Israel to teach their children about the hardships and sadnesses of being enslaved and escaping and wandering in the wilderness. There was no glossing over those facts.

So why, then, is the death of the Messiah glossed over with shiny eggs?

It's because the death was not the end. Sunday brought happiness and a new life. On that horrible Friday which we call Good Friday, his body had been taken to be buried in a cave, yet three days later it could not be found. He had risen. The Lord has risen indeed! 

New life. Today Christians celebrate new life. Maybe using a rabbit with plenty of life is the only way to explain this to children. Maybe hunting the eggs implants a searching mentality within them to always be on the lookout for the joy and the newness offered to them. 

When I watched the children yesterday, I was reassured of this hope. They will search for far greater things in their unfolding lives, things like love and truth and faith. I pray they find their answers in the cross.

Catch of the day,


Saturday, March 11, 2017


Overwhelmed author

No time for writer's block now

Self imposed deadline

Catch of the day,


Saturday, March 4, 2017

Three at Once

Am I crazy, or what?

I'm working on three major projects at the same time. I didn't set out to do it that way, the planets just aligned and the timing was right for all three to hit exactly at once. I can now sympathize with mothers of triplets. While I'm not getting the full effect to be certain, I at least have a glimpse at being tugged in three different directions.

Books are needy little children. They really are. They demand their rightful time, even the runt of the litter, my twenty-four page picture book. I started it when my first grandchild was born and people wanted to know her name. After a while I began introducing myself as Gracie Griffith's Grandma Gretchen Griffith, and the seeds of the book were planted. I reworked it through the years (she's ten now) to come up with a tongue twister of a picture book, Gracie's Grumpy Grandma. Ten years!
Is this grumpy enough?
The other two projects are nonfictions that demand more than their fair share of my hours before the computer. If I'm not fact checking for one, then I'm photograph hunting for the other. I interview a person for one book and mix in questions pertinent to the other. To confuse things even more, one I'm writing in present tense, and the other in past. I force my mind to change time zones more than I care to admit.

One project is on the verge of being completed. The only steps left are tweaking the back flap and a few issues with the interior. When I saw one particular picture, I knew it would be a perfect fit for the cover of the book. It embodies the title, Back in the Time, showing my co-author riding a cart on what he calls a major thoroughfare near his home back in the time. I can't wait for you to see how we incorporated it to form the cover. Trust me, we fixed the age related issues.

There's even a set of triplets in this book!
Which brings me to the third child of my threesome. It's not nearly as far along as these other two, and I'm not ready to share photographs as yet. I will toss out a teaser and say it's about motor racing here in western North Carolina, back in the time. Once again I'm co-authoring the book. I've worked with the author before on the Wheels and Moonshine book and even back then in the time he was working on this manuscript. I'm helping him to make it a reality, filling in the gaps with research and pictures beyond what he has on hand.

Birthing three books so closely together might be driving me up the wall (or in circles as in my racing book), but in the end, as with birthing anything new to the world, it will be so worth the effort.

Catch of the day,


Saturday, February 25, 2017

After the Fire

A string of forest fires across our western North Carolina mountains struck fear and dread into our hearts last fall. The worst my house got was the smell of burning wood, but my heart ached for those in the direct path of destruction. Fires don't discriminate. They choose whatever is before them. Only the forest service firefighters stood between the all consuming wall of fire and the next house on the list, or the next nest on the list. Squirrels have homes in the forest, too. And deer. And foxes.

Walking outside during one particular week was not only smelly, but also dangerous for those with lung issues. My eyes burned as well, tearing up often and not necessarily in sympathy for the losses. I had written about these South Mountains in my Lesson's Learned book, so I felt a kinship to this land abundant with stories for a story catcher to catch.

Finally a week of rain stopped the onslaught and the nearest fire to me was pronounced contained. So I forgot all about it, as people often do about tragedies when they aren't directly affected. Until last week.

I had a chance to join up with the Foothills Nature Conservancy. and hike their property bordering the South Mountain State Park that just so happened to back last fall's Chestnut Ridge fire line.

That would be me closest to the camera, listening to directions

The hike was three and a half miles uphill all the way. Well, it seemed like that anyway. The plot of land where we hiked followed the watershed up the side of the mountain, although we hiked along an old logging road, the very one firefighters followed to battle the fire. Where we were was in the back-lit area, the part that was intentionally set to burn out any fuel that the encroaching fire would need. 

What I saw was a bit of burnt wood and a whole lot of spring trying to reclaim its rightful place. Things had been purified by the fire. The brush had burned away leaving the sturdy plants there.

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Bark on healthy trees is thick enough to withstand a tremendous amount of burn, the man explained.  I could see that for myself. The crown in the trees were beginning to waken after their winter dormancy. Green will soon replace the charcoal. Life was returning, of that I felt assured.

Except for one thing. Other than our footfalls and acorn crunching, there was no noise. None. No birds chirping. No squirrels scampering up the sides of oak trees. No lizards scurrying away. Nothing, not even the cry of a hawk or a crow in the distance. When we stood still, we stood absolutely still. That's an odd kind of silence that is noticeable to those of us from modern civilization not accustomed to dead silence. Dead. Silence.

Maybe on top of that hill my brain felt reassured that life would go on, but my heart ached for the creatures that were displaced. Come back, come back, I wanted to shout. It's over. It's gone. The ground has been purified for you and it's better than ever. It is safe now. Bring back your children. There are plenty of untouched acorns waiting for a woodsy feast. 

It's all part of nature's plan. Life goes on.

Catch of the day,


Saturday, February 18, 2017


Yesterday I put in a few hours at an art co-op called My Happy Place Gallery where my books are for sale. I do appreciate this group and their decision to include my work as art, because, indeed, there is a creative process to what I do.

There I stood, surrounded by beauty, talking with others, basking in things grander than me, when I heard the oddest sound, a soft, rolling in the throat kind of noise, gentle yet so out of place in the shop. I thought the stereo system was on the blink since the music for the first time that day had ended allowing me to hear this oddity. My co-volunteer noted my scrunched up, questioning face.

"It's the birds," she explained. "Doves. Pigeons, who knows...They coo. That's what you're hearing."

Now a good storycatcher doesn't exactly take something like that as fact without investigating, so I went to the alley outside to find out for myself.

I searched for the birds. 

I found them.

They have found their happy place.

And a zoomed-in shot:

I look so forward to establishing a distant relationship with these two turtledoves...okay, pigeons. To think they chose the one spot on earth called My Happy Place Gallery to call home.

How poetic!

Catch of the day,


Saturday, February 11, 2017

Valentine Romance

Valentine's Day 2017 will be a bit different this year. Now don't get me wrong, I'm still hoping for the candy, even though I'm eternally on a diet. I'll no doubt get a card from my husband like I have for every year since we've been a couple. That's even counting the lean years, the times we shopped for cards together, standing in front of the red and pink array, privately picking out the perfect sentiment, handing our selections to each other, reading what the other chose, giving each other a peck on the cheek, and then returning the cards to the slot. That's romance.

This year will be the most romantic of all time, even though some will wrinkle their noses and question my definition of romance, if they haven't already.

My husband and I have taken the next step in volunteering for our local Caldwell County Habitat for Humanity. We've been donors for years, not major donors, just small time contributions that, added to other small time contributions from equally minded folks, make big time impacts.

He's helped out at times hammering a few nails, carrying shingles up ladders, those kinds of things. I've taken food for volunteers on-site.

Then the phone call came. Would you become family advocates, the voice asked. We thought. We prayed over this. We questioned our capability between ourselves and then to the committee. After a couple meet and greets and training sessions, we took the plunge.

This Tuesday, on St. Valentine's Day, we meet our family for the first time. We did meet them earlier at the Christmas reception, back when we didn't know who would be assigned to whom. I hope they are as pleased as we are.

We'll spend a year with them, standing by their sides as they go through the home owner's process, no easy task. They have volunteer hours to accumulate, and after so many hours of theirs, they can begin to collect our work hours as well. To think my bringing snacks to on-site workers will draw this family closer to becoming home owners. When they meet their point goal, their name is placed on the house list and they can begin picking color themes and flooring and appliances, the fun part after all their sacrifices of time and sweat.

Habitat for Humanity is not a give away government program. It is an independent, international organization that helps selected families become home owners. Is there a more romantic way to spend Valentine's Day than to volunteer for others? I think not.

Catch of the day,


Saturday, February 4, 2017

It's All Over Over Here

I write memoirs for other people. That sentence breaks down one aspect of my writing into the basic pitch, Preserving Local Stories.
A reject from my designing the back of my business card.
The rock wall behind the words is from the school
in my latest book...soon to be released.
On the other hand, probably the other side of my brain, I write children's books. The two overlap on occasion, but usually I compartmentalize them during my working habits. Survival technique, I suppose. For now, I'm doing what I love most, meeting new people and listening to their stories...catching them so to speak.

Yesterday was one of the doozies. What fun I had. Two gentlemen, brothers, one a hundred and three years old, one ninety-eight. When I walked into the house of the ninety-eight year old, my eyes were drawn immediately to a portrait hanging on the wall. As I interviewed him, I couldn't keep my eyes off it, off its meaning and its simple joy. I contained myself as long as I possibly could and after a few growing up stories, I popped the question: Is that you?

He smiled as if he couldn't contain himself either. "Yes," he answered. "Want to hear the story?"

This is what storycatchers dream of. Could I take a picture of your picture? "Yes, It'd be an honor."

He scrounged around, not an easy thing for him to do considering his yards and yards of oxygen hose dragging behind him, until he found the correct picture album, the World War II album. He opened it to a well-worn page. He's done this before, I could tell.

"Florence, Italy. I was tired. I sat on a wall to read the Stars and Stripes newspaper, the one that told us the war on the Italian front was over. All I could think about was going home, because the war is over. A man came up, took my picture, sent me a copy."

He showed the photograph over and over and over until his son painted it and gifted it to him one year. Norman Rockwell himself couldn't have done a more poignant job. 

Sometimes a storycatcher is fortunate enough to find a gem worth blogging about. This is one of those times. I need say nothing more. The picture says it all.

Catch of the day, 


Saturday, January 28, 2017

Days to Remember

Sad day, today is. January 28. Has it really been thirty-one years since the Challenger Shuttle disaster? How can that be?

On facebook and twitter today, in a collective patchwork of stories, people are reliving the moment they heard about the explosion. Pulitzer Prize winning editorial cartoonist Doug Marlette captured the moment best for me in his drawing of a tearful eagle looking into the starry skies. Some writing comments on the internet heard about the tragedy second hand during work. A few were in the audience there at the launch site and witnessed it first hand. Many teachers watched on television surrounded by a group of eager students who received an unexpected lesson about life and grief.

What a day for a storycatcher like me to haunt the internet! Our history is scarred with days to corporately remember, sad days for sure, days to hug and listen to each other and share the experience once again, lest we forget.

In my latest project, a memoir about living a life isolated in the mountains of far western North Carolina, the gentleman talks about that day, that lovely Sunday in December 1941 we now call Pearl Harbor Day. Even though there was no electricity to power a radio, his family heard the news with the rest of the nation, broadcast on a battery operated gadget making do for a radio. His family mourned. They cried. Their father rushed to town the following week with multitudes of angry men, just to join the Army.

Stories about Nine-Eleven. About the Challenger. About the Kennedy assassination, the Martin Luther King assassination. We tell our children and keep the moment alive perhaps in the prayer that these will never happen again.

We don't do this with happy days, do we? Maybe we take those for granted so that we are shocked back into reality when the sad days come. Are there happy days to remember where we were when we heard the news?

Oh, yes, and I've heard stories to prove it. About V-E Day, Victory in Europe when the European portion of World War II came to a close and the people here in western North Carolina celebrated. Schools closed at lunchtime and children were sent home to celebrate with their mothers. "Daddy is coming home." Mobs turned out in the streets for no other reason than to share the mutual experience with each other.

I once interviewed a lady who was one hundred three years old. She told about the day when she was just a tot and her father grabbed her up in the field, putting her on his shoulder. Across the land came the toll of church bells announcing the end of World War I.

"Remember this always," he said, "because this is the sound of peace." She did. She never forgot, and when she told the story to me a hundred years later, I got chill bumps watching her eyes glisten with tears even after all those years.

Maybe this is what makes us human. We cling to each other when we need to, for better or for worse, in sickness and in health, in war or in peace.

Have you hugged your someone yet today?

Catch of the day,


Saturday, January 21, 2017

Old Style Misinformation and the Perkinsville Tunnel

A frontpage feature article in the Charlotte Observer this past week told the story of a graduate of nearby Davidson College who wrote the intentionally misinformational (is that a word?) article about fraudulent votes. He faked it all, yet it went viral and fed into the "rigged election" frenzy. In fact, the headline of the article about him read "Faking 'News' for Profit."

He needed the money, he says. "You're fired," his boss says.

I have so many comments about this blatant disrespect of the reader, and of the writer's integrity, that I could fill every post on my blog from now on. But that's not today's topic. Today I want to tell you the story of the Perkinsville Tunnel. Hang with me here, there is a connection.

During my graduate year at Appalachian State University, my husband commuted to his job from our apartment in Boone, down the mountain to the other side of Lenoir. His time spent on the road frequently doubled because the highway was being widened into three lanes and he was stopped by construction crews. Once we moved to Lenoir I mentioned the construction in an offhanded comment to someone, whom for the life of me, I can not remember.

I do remember he (or she) leaned over and whispered, "You do know there is a tunnel going up the mountain, don't you?"

This I had never heard. Nor did I know why he/she was whispering.

"It's top secret. Military. They needed a tunnel to get the supplies unseen to their storage sites."

I passed it off as preposterous, completely contrary to the logic I had studied as a university student. How could anyone believe such absurdity? Okay, so this was the early seventies filled with daily reports coming from Viet Nam, and from Viet Nam protests. Even then, the idea of a tunnel made no sense.

Fast forward almost fifty years and there I am in front of my computer working on my latest project, this one about racing in Caldwell County (yes, you read that right). I flip the page of the scrapbook I'm using as a resource and I find a 1993 news article clipped from the Watauga Democrat, the Boone newspaper. Headline: 50s dragsters gather near the Perkinsville Tunnel.

As I'm reading through the article, this long ago story of a mysterious military tunnel begins to rattle in the deep recesses of my mind. The dots start connecting. That person who whispered in my ears so many years ago...wasn't so loony after all. Maybe.

And here's why...

Drag racing.

On the street drag racing.

Middle of the night, on the street drag racing.

Stay off the road because in the middle of the night, there's drag racing.

We need an excuse to force people to stay off the road because in the wee hours of the morning, there's drag racing.

People will believe anything if we stick the word "military" to use as an excuse to force people to stay off the road because in the wee hours of the morning, there's going to be drag racing.

A tunnel. A top secret, military based tunnel that people will believe, and not question, and the more elaborate the lie, the more likely they'll accept it.

The word spread. The road is blocked because of construction tonight. You'll have to pick an alternate route, as if there was that much traffic to begin with that needed to reroute on the mountain roads after midnight in the fifties and sixties. That roar of engines you hear? That's the construction gearing up.

Bob Barnes, a disc jockey on Boone's radio station WATA got wind of the story. He knew it was misinformation, but the temptation to spread the word was too good to pass up. He even coined a name, the Perkinsville Tunnel, using the nearest community as reference. He'd announce updates on the tunnel construction, knowing full well this very tunnel did not exist. His warnings were heeded and people stayed away (and those in on the ruse knew something was afoot... bring the cars, we're drag racing tonight).

These former dragsters laughed with Bob Barnes when they met at the reunion in 1993. They talked over old times and how they fooled the world into thinking there was a tunnel. They had no pictures to share and point at and to ooh and aah over. Drag racing on the street was illegal and no one at the time wanted incriminating photographs. Instead they came out of the woodwork years later and held a reunion in broad daylight, complete with newspaper reporters. What a difference a couple decades make!

Former drag racers meet and greet at the Perkinsville Tunnel Reunion

So if I ever think of who that was whispering to me years ago, I'll be sure to set them straight. That, my friends, is a little old-style misinformation for you to pass along.

Catch of the day,


Saturday, January 14, 2017

Saving the Environment the Old Fashioned Way

This past week a facebook friend of mine posted a copy and share article that set me to thinking. With a bold title like "Green My Ass," I'm surprised I even bothered to read it, but I'm glad I did.

The unknown author wrote about an encounter between an older (I can call it that now since I'm edging on up there to that label) customer and the checkout clerk at the grocery store. "Paper or plastic?" got the rant started, especially when the clerk chided the customer about her generation not saving the environment.

Game on.

And it wasn't even a contest. She (I'm assuming it was a she because she fumed about hanging diapers on the line on ice cold days instead of using disposable diapers to overflow the landfill) started with milk bottles as in "We returned milk bottles," and from there it went to a list of items that were no doubt on the counter as the clerk clicked up the price. Drinking from a water fountain instead of a plastic, often thrown away, bottle. Then it moved to walking instead of using (abusing) gasoline powered autos. And riding the school bus instead of clogging parent kiss and drop lines. On to television in every room wasting electricity.

I was raised by depression era parents. In the summer my father mowed the lawn with an engineless push mower. I tried to help several times, but the thing was way too heavy for me even on the flat stretches. In the winter he shoveled the snow with a garden shovel because with not all that much snow in the south, purchasing a rarely used snow shovel would be a waste of money.

My mother saved all kinds of electrical energy by hanging clothes on the line. That, I was old enough to help with, much to my dismay. The newest generation should at least once have the wonderful experience of cracking their air dried jeans back into human shape. The stretch metals that my mother inserted when they were wet didn't help all that much, either. Besides, inserting them into wet pants was my most dreaded chore.

She had few gadgets or specialized appliances in the kitchen. Her cooking was on the basic burners or oven. When we made cranberry relish at Thanksgiving, I helped her cut each berry in half, one by one, a good half hour's job if we anticipated a large crowd to prepare for.

Wait! What am I thinking?

I make that same relish each Thanksgiving using my food processor and finish the entire recipe including clean-up in a quarter hour, ten minutes if I'm rushing. My poor mom. I wish life was easier for her. Her hands might not have been so chapped if she could have used a dryer those cold days. And for my dad, he would have so enjoyed mowing on a riding mower and spending saved time fiddling in his garage.

So there's trade offs. Can we save the environment and still enjoy the amenities that modern life offers? That answer lies in awareness and effort and potential innovations that help preserve our resources so that in the future a clerk at the grocery store won't have to be lectured about saving the environment the old fashioned way.

Catch of the day,


Saturday, January 7, 2017

Preparing for a Long Cold Winter

I'm sitting here in the warmth of electric heating, not worried at all that I need to fetch wood for the fireplace. Although there's a good five inches of fresh fallen snow outside, it's downright toasty in here. We do have a back-up heat plan in case of emergency, an old Franklin stove in the basement (thank you, Ben) and plenty of firewood my husband chopped last fall (thank you, Van).

As I'm working on memoirs for other people, they often talk about the "good old days." I've come to the conclusion that parts of the olden times were not all that good. Take wood chopping. Please (thank you, Rodney).

Times were simpler when struggling to survive was the major day-to-day activity. The housewife in the mountains wouldn't have had time to stress about facebook posts or twitter accounts. The latest styles from the runway in Paris meant nothing to her. A new scent sprayed on her as she walked near the perfume counter in the department store? Wouldn't have happened. Ten minute supper preparation from freezer to microwave to table couldn't have even been dreamed of it.

Face it, folks, the good old days didn't pass out any favors to the women who worked the earth. They had it hard. True, they were a sturdy breed because they had to be, in a do it or die sense. Most did it. Some died young from the labor intensive household, or the labor of having a baby a year.

I recently read Asylum on the Hill, a nonfiction about the Athens, Ohio Lunatic Asylum by Katherine Ziff. This book traces one institution from its beginning days just after the Civil War to its closing in 1993. I was surprised to read case studies about men who suffered PTSD (with a different name) from serving in the Civil War, thinking post traumatic stress came about only recently. And the mothers and fathers who lost sons during that horrid war between the states, their ranks filled the asylum as well.

Saddest of all, I read of wives who could not cope. Look at the picture of this housewife in the mountains with traces of snow on the frozen woodpile and imagine what a harsh and lonely life she might have led. 

But wait. 

The human spirit doesn't usually quit when the going gets hard. Not usually. Not when there is support from family. Not when children or caring neighbors come along and help with the chores. Not when faith in a higher power restores faith in getting through the day.

I wish I could tell that woman in the picture that it gets better, but I'd bet she'd say back to me, "I'm doing right well, thank you very much."

That spirit is what gets us all through a long, cold winter.

Catch of the day,


Sunday, January 1, 2017

Happy New Year!!!

Okay, so 2016 wasn't my best year with all that went on health wise. I'm not glad I went through the cancer part of it, but at the same time, I feel blessed that I did. I learned more this year than I ever imagined possible, about life and love and friendship.

I'd say to you I hope you never have to go through anything like this, and I really do mean that. However without the bad, you will never learn lessons about life and love and friendship. I wish you good health in 2017. I wish you prosperity in 2017. Most of all, when the inevitable happens, I wish you lessons learned.

This charming card came to my husband's great grandmother in 1911, a very good year because that's the year my mother was born. No wonder the elves are extra gleeful knowing that by the next time they dance around the clock, there will be a wonderful soul born. 

This new year, I must tell you, I dance like these elves. I anticipate happiness. I look for great accomplishments. I will love life, every minute of it, come good or come bad.

And I wish the same for you.

Catch of the day,