Saturday, May 4, 2019

Tree on Roof

I came up with the idea for my first children's picture book When Christmas Feels Like Home when I watched Robin Williams as Mork from Ork (or is that backwards?). As an alien he witnessed cars driving about town with trees loaded on their tops and wondered what was happening. Trees riding on cars! Go figure!

Thank you, illustrator Carolina Farias,
 for getting it right!
I began watching the cars around me, studying the people inside, their faces, their joys, and then a little story seed grew in the writing side of my brain. End result, a picture book.

There's a new seed growing now in the same side of my brain, at least it's been planted there. I'll call this one, "Tree on Roof," thanks to a violent storm that whipped through our neighborhood.

Image may contain: tree, house, plant, sky and outdoor

It could have been worse! We ended up with a few holes punched in the roof, which we were able to patch with no problem. Having an excellent insurance agent does help.

Image may contain: tree, sky, plant, shoes, outdoor and nature
Husband on roof clearing limbs
Okay, so my husband might not be yet ready for the literary version of our latest homeowner trials and tribulations. Fortunately we found an available company who came to our rescue. 

Image may contain: tree, sky and outdoor


Image may contain: tree, plant, sky, house, outdoor and nature

Image may contain: tree and outdoor
Walnut wood, anyone?
The walnut harvest for the squirrels will be minus one tree this year. Therein lies the seed of a picture book. Maybe. Possibly.

Just in case any of you are in need, here's the company we dealt with.
Image may contain: one or more people and outdoor

Maybe it is time for me to go out on a limb and write this book!

Catch of the day,

Gretchen



Saturday, April 27, 2019

Personal Essay Publishing Project 2019

In this week's mail I received copies of a new book, fresh off the presses. It's an anthology of personal essays about exploring, discoveries, challenges, and adventure, which just happens to include the key title word, Exploring One of those essays is mine, and I thank publisher Randell Jones of Daniel Boone Footsteps for including me with the esteemed line-up of authors I found listed in the table of contents.

I haven't read any essays yet. The book is top on my list of next week's beach reads when I trade sitting in front of my desktop screen for sand, surf, and under-the-umbrella reads.

I did scan the book, and I read through the paragraph at the end of each essay introducing the author. When I say esteemed, I mean ESTEEMED authors from the southeastern United States, each with his or her own take on exploring, discoveries, challenges, and adventure.

Last fall when I first sat down in front of aforementioned computer screen, I wasn't sure what challenge in my life I was going to write about. I've had my fair share of trials and tribulations, but they seem to pale in comparison to what many people go through in life. So I chose to concentrate on a personal story that embodies each of those elements of exploring, discovery, challenge and adventure...My family's quest. The Brown-Sign Challenge.
To my husband and me, travel equated exploring. History minded that I was, each time I spotted a brown sign along the interstate or back roads announcing a recreational or historical site, I'd "suggest" that we explore the possibilities. We found all sorts of discoveries waiting to be uncovered. As we drove the Alaskan Highway with our Milepost Guide in our hands, we jumped at every adventure, and in the process, enriched our children's knowledge of science and history. Talk about a challenge!

I'm so looking forward to sitting with this book next week on the beach to see what challenges these esteemed authors wrote about.

Grab a copy of the book. My essay starts on page 113. I challenge you when you are finished to find a brown sign along the road where you can find your own discovery and adventure. Maybe we'll bump into each other.

Catch of the day,

Gretchen

Sunday, April 21, 2019

This I Believe

For this Easter 2019 I am posting the declaration of faith about my Christian beliefs. Each Sunday morning my congregation joins with countless others affirming what we believe. We stand. We say it. We believe it. Sharing this ancient affirmation of faith with you brings me great joy:

I believe in God, the Father Almighty,
maker of heaven and earth; 
And in Jesus Christ his only Son, our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, dead, and buried,
the third day he rose from the dead,
he ascended into heaven
and sitteth at the right hand of God the Father Almighty,
from thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead; 
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting.
Amen
A penny post card greeting from the early 1900's.
Catch of the day, on this Eastern morning,

Gretchen

Saturday, April 13, 2019

Update on my Mother's Cousin

Several of you asked about my mother's ninety-two year old cousin who moved in with us in February. Check out my explanation when I posted about her earlier this spring. She is doing much better, thank you for caring, but the journey wasn't easy nor without bumps in the road. She was one sick lady, but we just didn't realize it. She so wanted to return to her own home, and we tried it. I moved her home March third. She returned here March sixth when she admitted she was too sick to be alone.

In fact, she was sicker the second time around than the day she first arrived in our home after her hospitalization. I felt helpless at times. I'm no nurse, that I must admit. I raised two children and assisted with my ailing in-laws, but I was ill prepared for this bout of stressful health care.

Many people came to my rescue as I came to her rescue. I appreciate the words of advice from friends who had experienced care giving in their own lives. They guided me through my many fears and doubts. They brought much needed home health equipment. I also appreciated the several pharmacists who went the extra mile to find the medications she needed, no easy task for them or me. Her home health nurses? Wonders, to be sure!

My eyes have been opened to the plight of ailing elderly citizens among us, but that is fodder for a future blog post. For now I want to say that we made it through the worst and came out the other side much wiser, much more gentle, and so much closer to each other. At times I felt I had my mother back, she was that similar to her. She endured staying here for a total of seven weeks and was a good sport when things didn't go well. By the end, she was feeling so much better she actually became bored and started mending some of my clothes.

She was also well enough to attend church services, and even went to a dinner theater presentation with my husband and me. That's where this photo was taken.
She is a gem. She is a holy woman, never deserting her faith in times of trials, spending hours daily with Jesus in Bible reading and prayer. She read the Sunday School Quarterly lessons I taught each week and discussed them with me. I welcomed her input during the classes, and input she did. She does not hold back when she has a chance to share her faith with others.

I learned so much from her in those seven weeks. Patience. Elder care. I'd say she learned the true meaning of family from my husband and me, a concept she never had the chance to experience in her single adult years. She was taken in as an orphan by my grandmother, went on to the mission field in her early twenties, and became totally independent. Well, let me rephrase that. She was dependent only on God. That I learned.

For now, life is back to normal. I hope she knows she is welcome if the circumstances call for another round of care. After all was said and done, the one single Bible verse I applied these past weeks is found in Philippians 4:13: I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

The impossible can sometimes be conquered.

Catch of the day,

Gretchen

Saturday, April 6, 2019

Questions Anyone?

Fourth graders certainly do have questions, that I know. Childhood curiosity is a given across all grades levels, but ten year olds are blessed with a tween kind of innocence in their questioning. They aren't held back by peer pressure found in older children, and better than that, their thirst for knowledge has not been stifled yet is more refined than the preschool "Why?" bombardments. Still, they often have no filter as to what is politically correct to ask. They want to know what they want to know.

I've had all kinds of questions thrown at me, the raise your hand, wag it around kind of oh-oh-oh burning ones, the walking down the hall in the morning polite ones, and the whispered, stand by teacher's desk kind of private discussions. No matter which, those I remember most are the out of the blue, what does that have to do with anything blurtings. If you ever read Jef Mallett's comic strip, Frazz, you know the kind I'm referring to. Teacher Ms. Olsen hasn't learned yet NOT to end the day with, "Any questions?" even though main character, eight year old Caulfield, reaches for the sky in his questions. I wasn't on the receiving end of any way-out Caulfield-style questions these past weeks as visiting author, but I did get some well planned ones that were to the point and not out in left field with Caulfield.
I faced all kinds of questions from the children. I learned a couple years ago not to reveal my age (yes, I'm frequently asked) beyond "Think about your grandmother, I'm about the same age." As a part of the lead-up to my time with them, the children learned how to interview our generation about memories of Apollo Eleven. One teacher brought a stack of questions the children created for me to answer. We didn't have time during the presentation, but I brought them home to respond individually. I scanned and snipped and pasted to a document and then replied. Many questions overlapped each other and many I answered during my presentation. For your reading enjoyment, here are a few samples, and my replies:

Q




A
Finding my book for sale in a store was thrilling. I moved it to the front of the stack so more people would see it. I love to go into libraries and find my books on the shelf, but that isn't such a good thing. Not finding them would be better because that means someone has checked them out and is reading them!

Q






A
From the last research I did, I found that Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins are still alive but Neil Armstrong is not. I have not been fortunate enough to meet any of these men. I have not researched the kind of metal on the rocket, but that would be an interesting fact to find. Yes, I have been to the site in Florida where the rocket was launched, but I was not there on that day. I was in college when I watched Apollo Eleven on television, so that gives you an idea of how old I was.

Q




A
Gold! Isn't that a beautiful color to enjoy. I have a pair of gold tennis shoes that I wear for fun. Most of my jewelry is gold.

Q






A
I tried. I honestly tried, but I have no sporting talent. I was tall enough that the girls' basketball coach in eighth grade put me near the basket to block other people's shots, but that's about all I could do. I prefer to watch and go home and write about it. I do play golf, so I'd consider that my favorite sport.

And finally questions about my illustrator:

Surprise here, Bobbie is a girl, Roberta, but Bobbie to her friends. She married my cousin, so I guess we are related that way. She illustrated my book, Hoop Hike, and I asked her to do this one too. She had to do a lot of research, just like I did, because she wanted to be exact in her drawings. I did not tell her what to draw because I wanted her to come up with her own story through the art work. She is working on a third book with me, but this one is completely different. It's about a girl picking peas in a garden. Thank you for asking about the illustrator. She will be happy to know someone noticed her work.

I love questions. Good, deep, thought provoking questions. Superficial fun questions. Being a visiting author in elementary schools has set me up for some dillies, but at least I know the children are listening.

Questions anyone? Bring them on!

Catch of the day,

Gretchen

Friday, March 29, 2019

Fourth Grade Little Read Rocks!

In this age of constant blasting technology and interfering distractions, for one brief interlude of time, every fourth grade child in our western North Carolina Caldwell County puts all else aside and reads the same book, works on similar activities and then meets the author. What a concept! It's called the Little Read. Here's how the superintendent of schools explains it:

  • “The Caldwell County Schools Little Read is a unique and insightful program that celebrates outstanding literary works written by North Carolina authors,” said Superintendent Dr. Donald Phipps. “Many universities hold similar events, but we offer this experience to our fourth-graders. We want them to believe in the possibilities of writing their own book and to begin to understand the beauty of literature at an early age.” 

For the second year in a row, I was fortunate enough to be that author. Last year it was with my When Christmas Feels Like Home, this year with my Back on Earth: When Men First Landed on the Moon.
I equate my recent author visits with fourth graders to being a grandmother. You get to enjoy all the good things about children, and then pass them back! Enjoy I did. The children were engaged. They asked appropriate, thought provoking questions. They responded to my cues.
I almost wanted to be their forever teacher. Almost, except that I do love what I am doing now, writing. Yet during those brief encounters I remembered the joy of children in the act of learning. I met exciting teacher who tapped into that joy. I met energetic principals who beamed when their students responded to me in polite, sometimes humorous ways. I watched children file into the gym, or media center, or commons area, whichever spot these schools offered to collect children ready to learn. I watched them file out, orderly, well mannered, where invariably, a few dared to break rank and hug me or ask me a one-on-one question. Those are the moments a former teacher lives for. Thank you, Caldwell County, for entrusting me with the minds of your precious children.
Most of all, I got my message across: Learn about the past (in this case, Apollo Eleven) by reading about it, writing about it, and talking to those of us in a different generation who were witnesses. We have stories to tell.

Catch of the day,

Gretchen

Saturday, March 2, 2019

Adding a New Person to the Household

My husband and I have been blessed these past two weeks to have a special guest living with us, temporarily, if she has anything to say about it. She is my mother's ninety-two year old cousin, the last of my family's greatest generation, and is taking a respite from a recent hospitalization. She is also the main character of one of my books, Called to the Mountain: The Story of Jean L. Frese. Here Lorraine is about fifty years ago, when she first joined the Salvation Army.


Adapting to living with an extra person in our home has been a challenge and a blessing both. Odd thing, the Old Testament reading for tomorrow at the church we attend, Littlejohn United Methodist, comes from Isaiah 55. Verse eight, I can relate to:

  • "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways," declares the Lord.
We've adjusted, even though her ways are not always my ways. Lorraine was raised by my grandmother, who also raised my mother, so logically, many of her ways were also my mother's ways. And also a few of my ways, like doing the dishes a certain way. Like serving particular meals that, like her, I grew up also eating. 

I've enjoyed having her here and will miss her when, if things go as planned, she returns to her own home next Monday afternoon. She has entertained me with story after story of the way things were in the mountains of western North Carolina back when she first arrived from downtown Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania as a new recruit to the Mountain Mission of the Salvation Army. Many of those stories she had told me before when we wrote the book of her memoirs. Others were new to me, and I admonished her for not telling them in time for publication.

She had a hard time adjusting to Appalachian/Smoky Mountain culture and speech. She had moved to a foreign land, at least she thought. She couldn't understand their ways or their thoughts. They couldn't understand hers. She said they did a lot of hand signs at first.

Like when she visited a lady in the hospital who said she couldn't wait to get home to sleep in her own tick. She asked around. Straw ticking mattresses were standard for mountain homes of the time.

Like when another lady ran to get her camera to "strike a picture" of her since she was so different.

Like when they talked about people being lawed rather than sued.

Like when they dropped the endings of their verbs and went goin, or doin, or sleepin.

Like when the went to a far, but really were going to a fire. Or a county fair.

Or like when people told her things were up air, but actually up there.

We had no issues like that. We've had a wonderful time, cousin to first cousin once removed. Age gap or not, we've had laughs and frets when her illness set her back a time or two. And when the time comes to take her home, I'll be sad. Adding this new (old) person to our household has been some fun time!

Catch of the day, 

Gretchen