Tuesday, April 9, 2024

An Eclipse to Remember

Eclipses come and go and the world goes on. 

Although I wasn't in the totality range, I was determined to catch my fair share of yesterday's heavenly display. I dug out my leftover solar eclipse glasses from 2017 and made reservations at Grandfather Mountain, a park about an hour's drive from my home, ten minutes as the crow flies. I figured if we were atop a mountain, we'd be closer to the sun and have a clearer view in case of cloud cover in the foothills below. 

Don't let that picture of my husband and me fool you. As the eclipse heightened, the temperature dropped and by the time it was over I was bundled in a flannel shirt and my husband had on a sweater. 

The cold didn't seem to bother these three!

We weren't alone on the mountain since Grandfather decided to take advantage of the occasion and sponsored all kinds of solar and animal-related activities. We rode up the winding (extremely winding) road with good friends of ours, but were stopped halfway at the education center parking lot below the peak. The upper parking lot was already packed with cars and the road blocked. 

So we found a spot in the lower lot and set up a tailgate party with the rest of the overflow. There were car tags from across America, all joining with us in a corporate moment of unity. Humanity was getting a glimpse of the wondrous world of creation.

So was the animal kingdom. My friend and I walked the trail to visit Mildred, the bear, or rather, since Mildred herself died thirty-some years ago, a variation of Mildred. 
Eclipse? What eclipse?
She was sound asleep, as were the cougar and the otters. Was that the norm for their afternoons or did they think night was coming on? The birds certainly did. They roosted and chirped just as they do when evening approaches. The eagle swooped past us on the way to his sleeping spot. 

The highlight of the day was driving to the peak as the eclipse waned. By then those who arrived earlier to grab a spot were long finished with dealing with keeping their children from falling off the cliffs. We easily found a parking spot. 

Years ago I had brought my own children to the swinging bridge that is the major attraction of the park. As I crossed, my son shook the bridge to scare me and I swore I would never again walk on that bridge. 

I did walk out three steps on the bridge before I turned around. Just for perspective, here's the same bridge from the parking lot.
I suppose that lone person left to himself was soaking in the beauty and awesomeness of the day and didn't want to give it up. Another view, from afar:
Bridge and bear notwithstanding, we had a blessed eclipse experience. Using our glasses we witnessed a quirk of nature that is awarded to the world only on rare occasions. It also reminds me that eclipses come and go and the world goes on. We paused yesterday and breathed the beauty surrounding us. Today we go back to our daily routines. Refreshed.

What a blessing!

Catch of the day,


Monday, March 18, 2024

'Tis the Season

One thing I've learned lately, Christmas is not the only season where giving becomes front and center. Although a gracious heart never fails to find the proper time to support a worthy cause, these past few weeks in my area provided many opportunities for donors to contribute and have fun in the process. 'Tis the season for fundraisers, fun being the added benefit. Fundraisers impact the very core of a nonprofit organization's ability to function, depending on the success of raising money for specific projects. The month of March has seen many a creative endeavor to squeeze donations from already thinned-down good Samaritans. 

My husband and I enjoy charity events. They prove to be a double joy, both the fun of the event itself and the satisfaction of donating to causes we support. We work hard on the first Saturdays of each month to serve a fundraiser breakfast with the Ruritan Club. Money there goes to many projects in the community. This March, that first Saturday only kicked off the several events we attended (but didn't have to work).

First up was the Rotary Club's chili cookoff with the individual entry's hotness factor conveniently displayed, ranging from blah to blazing. 

I did find, however, some entrants in the contest claim their hotness factor to be calmer than my taste buds found. My tongue burned, but since it was for a good cause, I played along. At least I had fun going down the row and making my selection. 

Thankfully, this chef left his delicious pot of gold unspiced (is that a word?), and brought sauces in bottles with various spiciness degrees for the individual's taste:
Speaking of a pot of gold, last Friday a good friend of mine accompanied my husband and me to the annual Pot O'Gold fundraiser sponsored by the local medical clinic called Helping Hands whose clients are hard-working adults who cannot afford the high cost of insurance, but don't qualify for government assistance. I wrote a biography of one founder of this organization, Dr. Jane Carswell, in the book subtitled Family Physician, Humanitarian, Friend
For a few years now, the clinic's major fundraiser has been a Saint Patrick's Day gala. It's a chance to wear green. It's a chance to eat great food. It's a chance to celebrate the success of the clinic made possible through the many donations. My husband and I got in on the celebrating!
Every NGO, nongovernmental organization, depends on donations. It's their lifeblood for continuing specific altruistic projects. Those millions of us across the country who donate help make the world a better place to live. 

And if they offer a fun moment as a reward for donating, all the better. I'm game.

Catch of the day,


Monday, March 4, 2024

A Basket with a Cause

Every once in a while I have the chance to use my books for a purpose beyond the usual and I recently was honored to do just that. I donated two of my fishing books to the Gamewell Fire Department to use in a raffle for the Burned Children's Fund. What an opportunity to do something right!

The North Carolina Fire and Life Safety Educators (what a grand, significant title) conference was held this past weekend. Sitting there amongst the varied items for their fundraising raffle was this basket:

In case you are wondering what was in the basket, here's the spread, including my two fly fishing books:

All were ready and waiting in a basket for someone to bid on. I often wonder about my books after they are out of my control. Who is the face of the reader holding them in their hands? Was the basket a gift to someone? Did they keep it themselves to enhance their times on the creek? My email is on the back of my book. I hope that person contacts me. 

Earlier this year I donated two of my books to a fundraiser for the local hospital. I have written the life stories of two physicians in our county and gladly donated copies of them to be in their silent auction. 

I am humbled that my work can be used for altruistic purposes to make life a bit better for others in this world. 

Catch of the day,


Thursday, February 29, 2024

Happy Leap Day

Is there such a thing as wishing someone a Happy Leap Day? Ready or not, here I come with my wish:

 I hope everyone has as happy a day as this goat who leapt (or is it leaped?) on his owner's car.

For some unknown reason, that goat had to have enough desire to be on top of that car. Was it to escape a predator? Was it to have an observation overlook? Or was it just because he could?

On this 2024 Leap Day, how about taking a leap of faith and doing something completely outside your box. Be like the goat. Take a leap. 

This cat did. 

Catch of the day,


Monday, January 29, 2024

The Vietnam Era from a rearview mirror

While we were scrounging through the mounds of letters my then-future husband and I wrote back and forth to each other in the late sixties, we found these two letters:

If you are from the Vietnam Era, then you know exactly what these are. They are the letters that determined many a future of the young men of America during this time in history. Of course, it's what's inside that counts, usually a summons, or in his case a warning. 

Let me back up here for those of you not of the boomer generation. When a male child is born in America, the parents are/were required to register him with the military branch called selective service. Eighteen years later he must go to the (in our son's case) post office and officially make himself available for service to his country. It's their patriotic duty. The actual term is conscription, but we called it the draft. It kicks in when not enough men volunteer for military duty.

When my husband-to-be registered back in 1965, he listed himself as a full-time student and as long as he was a student, he would not be called to active duty. Married men weren't called either, although that soon changed. Then even married men with children, who had also been deferred, were called. However, the military needed even more boots on the ground in this Vietnam conflict that we called a war and realized many a strapping young potential recruit was avoiding the draft by hanging out in college for as long as the schools would allow them. So the military powers got as wise as these "dodgers" and made a new rule. In order not to be called up, they must be in the top half of their class. Whew! 

That's what one letter was about. Wingate College had sent in the rankings and he wasn't in the top half. So he worked a lot harder, stopped playing College Joe, and pulled up his grades. Then the second letter arrived to confirm his status still as 1-A, but allowed him a deferment to complete his current academic year, which he did, and graduated from the junior college in 1967.

Although he was accepted to Appalachian State Teacher's College as a junior in the fall of 1967, he still had to have his medical examination during the summer and was on his way to full-time military service call-up. Then the rules changed again and he received a deferment because he was accepted in good standing at the school. 

We married the next fall, September 14, 1968, and shortly after, the rules changed again on who would go to war. In the wisdom of those military powers that be, or maybe perhaps the wisdom of the government officials, they decided upon a lottery system. That seemed fair to them. Put all the birth dates in a hat and draw them out one by one. Those drawn first would be called first, and all the way to 366 days (leap year babies had to go too). First date drawn was September 14. Wow, we had just married on that date, but praise the Lord, anniversaries didn't count. Only birthdays.

My husband's birthday is January 23. Lucky draw number 118. Check out the link here and compare your date. Would you have been called up? I'm not speaking to women here...which was a real bone of contention during the women's lib movement and equality for women. 

My brother had already joined the Army and served in Vietnam as a helicopter repairman. I had pushed any memories of his military service to the back of my mind until I read through these then-boyfriend letters and saw references to writing to my brother. I also talked about the Christmas break from school just before he was shipped out to Vietnam and my emotions about that. I understand my mother's dread more now that I am an adult parent.

The war protests on the television tube bypassed me thanks to the no television rule in our dorm. We had to go to the lobby downstairs and watch whatever of the three stations available. Appalachian State was far into the mountains, isolated, and conservative, so no live protests. We even passed rumors about a top-secret military installation under the gymnasium there on campus. True or not, I never learned. 

In the end, my brother survived but he carried the war, and those friends he saw die, with him in his mind and in his heart. My husband was needed in service more to the school system with a teacher shortage than to the army, so he maintained a deferment as long as he was a teacher.

Years later I purchased a Prisoner-of-War bracelet when I was at the Vietnam Wall in Washington, DC. I wore it faithfully, especially during a particularly difficult two years at work. I figured if this brave soldier endured his trials, I certainly could endure mine. It's tucked away now in the back of my jewelry drawer, just like my memories were tucked back in my mind. 

Reviewing memories is a difficult process at times, but seeing the past in a rearview mirror might be what makes a difference in driving into the future. 

Catch of the day,


Saturday, January 20, 2024

Shredding the Past Away

Even though Christmas was different at our house on the year without a Christmas tree, we still had a joyous time. Of all the practical gifts available in this world, my husband gave me a stackable washer/dryer. I countered and one-upped him with a paper shredder. Yep, romance sort of took second place...sort of. Read on!

There's a story behind this shredder. Stay with me here.

For years we have told each other that we needed to move the washer/dryer upstairs to the main floor, but we never actually did it. Instead, we dutifully walked up and down the steps to do the laundry in the basement. Nine months pregnant? I walked around outside in the rain to get to the basement carrying a basket of clothes on my hip. Those were the days, my friend!

I thought they'd never end. Up, down, carefully holding to the banister, watching not to trip over the dog, pulling the door at the top of the stairs shut so the cat couldn't get downstairs. And repeating all this to search for that one stray sock that just didn't make it back upstairs. 

Until...back in September, I broke my leg. Those days had to end, my friend. We knew the day would come, yet we didn't expect it to happen so fast. 

We called a contractor for advice and we started the process. Our four-bedroom home is now a three-bedroom home with a laundry room on the main floor. Yippeeee! It all sounds so easy now that we are nearly finished, but let me tell you it wasn't. And that's where the paper shredder comes in.

This fourth bedroom turned laundry room happened to be filled with all kinds of boxes and bags and crates of accumulated married-life junk. Before the contractor could even start, we had to clear out the room completely, no small task. Our very lives unfolded before our eyes. Since we hadn't moved from the house for over fifty years, the piles astonished us with odds and ends of memories.

One thing in the piles was a box of letters, not just any letters, but letters to me from my husband back when he was a student at Wingate Junior College and I was a student at Appalachian State Teacher's College. Yes, we're that old because both schools are now universities. We had just started dating and the letters were filled with cute comments about love and life that we have no intention of their ever seeing the light of day to anyone but us, especially not our children who will be the ones to clean out this mess once we kick the bucket.

So I bought a paper shredder and a bottle of wine, and on Christmas Day we opened the box. We spent the afternoon reading letters aloud to each other, laughing at how immature we were and tearing up as we read about boys on his dorm hall being called up to the draft and VietNam. We time-traveled by the songs of the sixties that he mentioned in his letters and the movies he wrote about that we had long since forgotten. Many of the people he mentioned are no longer living, but they came alive in his descriptions of their corporate antics as college sophomores. 

We did save a few select letters that show our children how much of a true romance we had, but the rest are gone. No regrets. 

Mainly because then the contractor started.

A glance at the room during construction

This week, the washer was installed. 

It's not all that great a picture, but I'm in love with it, and with the man who gifted it to me (to us really) for Christmas. We have a few things to tweak in the room, but we're already using this new blessing. 

It's a wonderful life!

Catch of the day,


Saturday, December 23, 2023

O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree

I belong to a wonderful writer's group called Foothills Writers. This year for our Christmas celebration we decided to do something different. Well, the delicious food we shared was the traditional, but the comparisons to Christmases past ended there.

We regifted for our Dirty Santa. You read it right. We brought gifts that we had received from others through the years that we had finished with and were ready to pass along. I had a myriad of such to select from, like shopping in one of those specialty boutiques. Swapping (and Dirty Santa stealing) these gifts resulted in many a laugh.

One other thing, we each were asked to write a Christmas poem. I anguished about this for days. Should it be one of jolly joy, or of reverent faith. When we read our poems aloud to the group, I found a little of both. Mine mingled a little of both as well. It was from the heart and pretty much explains this year's Christmas cheer. 

Here it is, for your Christmas entertainment:

               A CHRISTMAS POEM

          Never did I think there’d ever be 

A year without a Christmas tree.
But this year, it’s not meant to be.

Never did my dad neglect to chop a backfield pine

Though it made my mamma sweep the needles everytime.

He untangled strands of bubble lights

And strung them round to our delight.

My father’s death took out her joy

But the hope of Christmas it did not destroy.

Never did my mom not have the spinning light

To shine on her silver tree at night.

Never did we newlyweds neglect to have a tree

It might have been a Charlie Brown, but it was fine for me.

Our meager gifts we placed beneath

And on our door we hung a wreath.

The babies grew and began to trim.

Year by year through thick and thin

We never didn’t have a tree

But this year, it’s not meant to be.

Off to college they both went

A welcome home tree was our intent.

It cheered them to know they were home

No longer did they have to roam

The tree was where it was meant to be.

It’s shining lights saying come in, let’s see.

Their lives they led apart from us,

Without the tree they would have made a fuss.

Soon our grands were doing the trimming,

Hot chocolate mugs for them were brimming.

But alas, they too have grown and gone

And now we two are back alone.

This year remodeling is our gift

Nothing about that can be swift.

So amidst our mess and moving the clutter

We’ve failed to have a single flutter

Of pine needles and light strings

And ornaments that joy will bring,

Full of memories of years past

Joys and love that long will last.

A ceramic tree we chose to light

It brings color and joy each night.

But still it isn’t quite the same.

In fact it seems a little lame.

Never did I think there’d be 

A year without a Christmas tree.

Yet the spirit of Christmas still lives on

In the night and early dawn.

It’s not the usual, but it will set 

Our focus on the One who paid our debt.

The tree reflects the joy we know.

And sets our hearts at last aglow.

Merry Christmas, y'all!

Catch of the day,