Saturday, December 8, 2018

Military Service

As often as I could this week, I tuned in and watched bits of the tributes to former President George H. W. Bush. I was reminded yet again the impact of this greatest generation, and of the diminishing number of those who can claim the title.

As if that weren't enough, this week I also saw coverage of the recognition of  Pearl Harbor Day where a contingent of only twenty survivors were able to attend. I wonder what went through their minds sitting there, knowing what they know firsthand about the horrors of war, knowing they went on to lead full lives while others remained with their sunken battleship in a watery grave.

Since this time last year I've worked on a couple projects involving women who were children on that day that lives in infamy. One wrote in a letter that she remembers that December Sunday when the congregation at church sat hushed in pews. As a nine year old, she had no concept of what the silence meant, only that people cried and that in the following months the fathers and brothers of her friends left home to join the service. Operative word: service. She did her part a year later by being a king in the Christmas pageant. There were no men available. Her mother accomplished her own version of service by writing weekly to those men while they were abroad. Her father served the community left behind by ministering to them from the pulpit and in a few cases, from the gravesides of fallen soldiers. All that comes from chapter two in my biography, Dr. Jane Carswell: Family Physician, Humanitarian, Friend where I quote from her own recollections about growing up in war time.

My current project also involves a lady who was a child during that era, this one thirteen years old at the time of the Pearl Harbor attack. Unlike Jane, however, she was so isolated from the rest of the world, she knew nothing. Her whole life from birth until she graduated from high school spread less than a mile on one street filled with a corner grocery, church, school, barber shop, local grill and a drug store with a dinette corner to hang out. What more could a girl of the thirties and forties need! She doesn't remember the Great Depression, although her childhood years coincided with it. Her family sheltered her from hardships with love and food on the table. She doesn't remember gas rationing because they had no car. She doesn't remember food rationing because they had their own beyond what was at the store on the corner. Her own father died in 1939. That she remembered. Every minute detail. Which is probably why she paid no attention to a war waging on the other side of the globe. Her personal war was closer.

When I found the graduating classes for the years from her high school, I pointed out to her the odd list for 1943. Only one boy among more than a dozen girls. We only speculated, but maybe, just maybe, this war reached down into the available young men and pulled them away.

To serve.

We can't say it enough. "Thank you for your service."

Catch of the day,

Gretchen


Sunday, November 11, 2018

Eleven

I'm not at all into numerology, but I have noticed a few coincidences lately involving numbers. The concept of numerology has to do with the study of numbers in a person's life. Numbers make up a universal language, after all, so no one is exempt here. I've never connected with this science and I don't plan to have a "reading" or anything, but I am open to the "what if" of numbers as an interesting thought. After all, one of the books of the Bible is "Numbers." Is that significant...or not?

When I was debating whether to use numerals or letters in writing on the back flap of my newest picture book, Back on Earth: When Men First Landed on the Moon, I looked through literature to see how the space mission was labeled, Apollo 11 or Apollo Eleven or even Apollo XI. It was split about half and half between the first two, with a few in Roman numerals, but my decision was based on ease of reading:
Later when I uploaded the book to my author page, this came up:
11

Publications


That seemed a little strange to me, but isn't that a delightful coincidence! Here I had been spending months keying in on the number eleven, and rather than it just being significant because of the Apollo mission number, it also is the number of books I have published. Eleven is the eleventh. Weird.

Even more strange, 11 is a master number in numerology, signifying "the potential to push the limitations of the human experience into the stratosphere of the highest spiritual perception," according to a website I found. [Cue lead-in music to Twilight Zone]

Plus, my granddaughter turned eleven this past September eleventh. Power to the elevens in my world!

Before this, all I really knew about eleven was that it was a prime number hard to rhyme. And it was the pipers piping in the Twelve Days of Christmas. And it was the last ditch effort of the Eleventh Hour. I've added to my universe today!

Today is also November 11, 2018 or in other "words," 11-11-18. But look at that last date. It could also represent November 11, 1918, a significant date in the history of the world, the day the war to end all wars ended with the signing of an armistice, hence Armistice Day, or as it is now known, Veteran's Day. I once interviewed a lady who remembered that day. She was four years old and she was with her father in the fields when church bells rang out from many directions. He loaded her on his shoulders and told her to always remember that moment because war was finally over and peace was ahead. She never forgot. Unfortunately, the rest of the world forgot about peace in the face of tyranny, and once again world war spread across the globe...in time for her generation to fight.
The sun hitting at that just awesome moment
at yesterday's Veteran's Breakfast in my community.
The significance of eleven comes alive once a year on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. It is a hopeful omen for peace. On this day, a hundred years after the original date, I salute all you who serve(d) in the United States military. I am free to write this blog because you stood up for our country. Thank you for your service.

Catch of the day,

Gretchen





Saturday, November 3, 2018

A Milestone

Milestone this week: 100,000 (plus) hits I've had on this blog since I first began. I realized the number was coming and checked frequently these last few days.

Last Wednesday night's stat page:
Thursday morning's stat page:
(Remember the monthly report starts over daily going back I assume thirty days, well, you know how that word "assume" works, so therein lies the discrepancy in that particular statistic that resets each day.)

My goal for this blog has been to catch stories and facts about daily life in western North Carolina, past and present. I want the rest of the world to notice those seemingly insignificant bits and pieces of rural life, that turn out to be greatly significant to the make up of this grand experiment called the United States of America.

What the hundred thousand really means is that someone out there in the stratosphere is connecting with me. And it's YOU, so thank you very much for hanging in there with me through all these posts. I've enjoyed sharing with you, and plan to keep on keeping on. So, until next time,

Catch of the day,

Gretchen

Monday, October 29, 2018

From the Moon to Back on Earth

Finding a post about my Apollo Eleven picture book woke me up for sure on today's sleepy Monday morning. A big thank you to Carol Baldwin for reviewing it on her blog. Please click over to it and see what she said. Make a comment there to put your name in the drawing for a free autographed copy from me.

Carol Baldwin's Blog: Back on Earth: A Review and Giveaway

Special recognition from me to my illustrator, Bobbie Gumbert: Carol specifically requested this picture of Neil Armstrong walking on the moon along with the others I sent for her to include.

Bobbie researched newspaper and magazine articles and old television news reports to make her illustrations accurate. She used her imagination and remembrances to add flavor to those about us back on earth.

My intention is for this book to begin the dialogue between generations about this remarkable event in American history when we all were united in astonishment and pride. I was glued to the television set at my in-law's home, watching just in case some creature crawled out from under one of those rocks. Didn't happen, but I wasn't disappointed. I knew then I was watching history being made.

So what were you doing on July 20, 1969? Okay, so maybe the question should be, What were your parents doing on July 20, 1969? Have you had that discussion? No? Maybe it's time for it.

Catch of the day,

Gretchen


Tuesday, October 2, 2018

October First

Fog shrouded the eastern United States on the first day of October in 1944, an evil, threatening fog that caused the downing of eight military flights. In only one of the crashes were there survivors, the one that slammed into a pig farm in western Virginia. While the pigs remained untouched, unscathed and unharmed by an element of chance, all the crew survived by following a command of the captain and bailing out moments earlier. They each had their own story of rescue, of showing up on the porch of isolated mountain farm houses, or of finding each other in the predawn gray surrounding them. These stories were captured in a book by my friend and critique partner, Sandra Warren. On the seventy-fourth October first following the crash (yesterday), there was a celebration of sorts. Read the labels on these water bottles:

The first half of We Bought a WWII Bomber narrates the story of the bomber before it met its doom in the Blue Ridge Mountains, a unique moment in the history of our country at war and the war effort made on the home front. South High School in Grand Rapids, Michigan raised the money to purchase this B-17.
They had no idea what happened to their bomber until recently when Sandra made the connection between the crash and the bomber. Her interviewing and detecting on both halves of the story collided yesterday at a dedication of a commemorative historical marker on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Former students from the Michigan high school (unfortunately none who helped with raising the funds were able to come) drove to Virginia to shake hands with those who played some part in this remarkable story.

These Virginians told about hearing the crash that morning in 1944, about rushing away from milking the cows to be the first on the scene. Others told about their fathers helping the crew or about their mothers offering a cup of precious rationed coffee to the few who appeared at their doors.

Sandra in center, surrounded by the Virginia half of the story as they presented the marker.
The marker unveiled
This October 1, 2018 was quite different than seventy-four years ago. The sun shone almost too brightly, making those of us present relieved when a pesky little cloud blotted out the sun and did its best to cool us as we stood just off the Blue Ridge Parkway. The site is not all that far from Mabry Mill that served the community there in Meadows of Dan, Virginia. Supposedly this mill is the most photographed spot on the parkway. I couldn't resist:
A selfie on a beautiful day at Mabry Mill.
In the crowd were park officials and rangers representing the role the federal government will take in maintaining the marker.
There were also TV crews from Michigan and Virginia.
There were blue and red (school colors) beaded necklaces to identify the South High alumni present, and silver ones for those from Virginia.
That's me helping Sandra by passing out the beads.
A reception followed in the Meadows of Dan Community Center. The crowd was so large, the historical society who hosted it ran out of paper plates and I made a quick trip to the village grocery. What a wonderful problem to have!!! 

All in all, October first turned out to be a tremendous celebration of the past and what two communities could do when called upon to help the nation during the dark days of war. Markers such as this one will let us never forget the sacrifices made. Thank you to everyone involved!

Catch of the day,

Gretchen

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Outlander and Me

There's nothing quite like an author being surrounded by mobs of passionate readers, even if those said readers are present because of a series of books not associated with said author (me). Yesterday I attended (and worked) one portion of an Outlander weekend, a Scottish festival at Whippoorwill Village in Ferguson, North Carolina.
At the opening ceremony, various clans lit a torch on the torch tower honoring their branch of the greater Scottish family. These people gathered together not only to visit with each other, but to appreciate their heritage brought out in the Outlander book series by Diana Gabaldon. They had read every single page of eight books, soaked up every word, breathed them, mulled over them and wanted to discuss them with others just as passionate. Perhaps they held a slight jealousy of the heroine's ability to walk before a standing stone in 1946 Scotland and be sucked back into the Scotland of their eighteenth century ancestors. By book four, this heroine appeared in the Carolina's colony in time to fight the revolution against the crown. What a concept!

Disclaimer, here. I have read only the first in the series, but after yesterday I'm determined to start book two. Another disclaimer. I'm not Scottish. German actually. An Irish friend once gave me a pin to wear on St. Patrick's Day that proclaims, "Everyone's Irish Once a Year!" Yesterday was my "Everyone's Scottish" experience. I know which clan I wanted to join:
The one with cousins from various states wearing shirts identifying them as "Trouble." Wouldn't that be a fun clan to be a member of?
But then again, wouldn't it be joy to be a member of any Scottish family and watch with pride as they remembered the people before them who made them what they are today.
There's just something about a man in a skirt...excuse me, kilt, even when he has a bagpipe over his shoulder:
Yes, that's me with the piper. Even his version of "The Campbells Are Coming" brought tears to my eyes. I'm decked out in period clothes because I was a volunteer there at the village. I ran the village store for the first three hours, the store by the way, that is in chapter one of my Wheels and Moonshine book. The last couple of hours I was a docent in the schoolhouse where I shared life in the not-so good old days of one room schoolhouses.

In between my duties I was able to partake of an authentic (and super delicious) Scottish, cooked over the open fire, meal prepared by Dawn Mathews. Chicken stew, bannocks (an oat cake bread common in Scottish homes), and the best apple crisp I've tasted in ages. Oh, and the goat cheese...yum!
That's my husband, Van, enjoying his portion under my booth's tent. He sold my books as I flitted about enjoying my Scottish moment under the Carolina sun.

I do have a book with a Scottish connection. Chapter three in Dr. Jane Carswell takes the reader to Flora Macdonald College and to the required physical education class on the Highland Fling.
This photograph was on the back of a 1946 booklet detailing the college and its Scottish roots. No, Dr. Carswell isn't in the photograph, but she had a kilt sewn by her mother to regulations for freshmen entering their first year. Color and patterns were individual to classes and unique to them through the entire four years (in an all-girl school, by the way). Once when Dr. Carswell was in her seventies, she amazed on-lookers when she broke into a full flung Highland Fling!

Now to read the rest of the Outlander story. I can't wait.

Catch of the day,

Gretchen