#SoCS – 5/26/18 – Appalachia: Memorial Day

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It’s Memorial Day weekend and that’s an important holiday in Appalachia. It’s a holiday that honors lost loved ones, whether they were lost in war or died of natural causes, in this region of the U.S. In Appalachia, it’s a weekend where families reunite, have large meals together, and decorate the graves of their deceased relatives with flowers. Across Appalachia, Memorial Day is most often called Decoration Day.

When I was growing up, and even now, the family would congregate where most of the relatives were buried. In my case, that was at my grandparent’s home in Magoffin County, Kentucky. Every nuclear family within the extended family would bring beautiful flowers to decorate each grave. Often, that would involve going to three or four cemeteries.

Memorial Day at the cemetery was also a social occasion. Families who seldom saw each other would have a chance to talk and catch up while decorating the graves.

After decorating the graves, everyone would go to my grandmother’s house for a large meal and a visit with each other afterward. It was one of the most important family holidays of the year.

We still honor our lost loved ones in Appalachia in much the same way. Families are smaller. There are fewer large family meals. Instead of meals in grandma’s kitchen, they are often prepared on the grill. You will still find people hunting flowers a few days before the Memorial Day weekend to decorate gravesites. They will still enjoy visiting with family and friends in the cemeteries. It’s getting more difficult to find children who know what “Decoration Day” really means and who it honors.

#SoCS – 5/19/18 – Stories of #Appalachia – The Postman and the Dog

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Up until I was in my 20s, my uncle lived deep into the Birch Branch hollow  (pronounced “holler” in the eastern Kentucky dialect). He lived in a cabin and with him lived his female Doberman Pinscher, Gertrude. For awhile, he also had a male Doberman Pinscher named Sue, after Roger Miller’s song, “A Boy Named Sue.”

But this story is about Gertrude. My uncle was a postal service worker in Magoffin County, Kentucky. He delivered mail and Gertrude accompanied him. Mail carriers in rural areas tend to drive slowly between stops and my uncle certainly did. One reason he drove slowly is because of where Gertrude rode in/on the station wagon that he drove. She rode on top of it. My uncle and Gertrude were something of a legend in Magoffin County because this was quite a sight to passers-by.

My uncle passed away in 1974 and left poor Gertrude behind. She was old then and very bonded to him. She lived the last years of her life on my cousin’s porch, in a cushy dog house, undoubtedly grieving for my uncle. She was bonded and there was little to do for her although my cousin certainly tried.

A man and his dog.

Stories of #Appalachia – Birch Branch Today

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My grandfather’s farm, in Magoffin County, KY, USA, located in the heart of Appalachia, is no more now in 2018. It was located at the intersection of the small dirt road, Birch Branch, and a county road that was only a little more well-traveled, Burning Fork. My grandparents have been gone now for many years and the farm sold off. I only have one reason now to go back to Birch Branch and that is a much-loved cousin who still lives in the area. I guess a second reason is to gaze longingly at what used to be the farm and wish for things that used to be. I feel less and less able to do that and more likely just to remember it in my heart and mind.

Today, unless you can remember Birch Branch and my grandfather’s farm in what used to be lovely eastern Kentucky, you wouldn’t recognize it. The road is the same, dirt and some gravel. But where my grandfather’s and great uncle’s farms were beside it, now there is a trailer park. Not a well-maintained trailer park, but trailers with neglected little children running around in dirt yards and dogs tied out in the heat on chains. Usually, there are men sitting on the steps of the trailers, during the day when they should be working. There are no jobs. The unemployment rate in the county is upwards of 33 percent. They either don’t think of it or don’t have the means to travel to find a job like generations before them did.

You’ve heard of the opioid problem in the U.S.? You’re looking at it when you view what is now where my grandfather’s farm used to be. Instead of working, these men are taking pain pills. OxyContin, Percocet, Hydrocodone, any of the codeine or morphine=based drugs they can get. Most of them aren’t just temporarily high because of some sort of problem. They are the long-term addicted. If they ever had job skills, they lost them long ago. Generations of men just like them lost them long ago. It is the cycle of poverty and drug abuse.

Such things had never been heard of when my grandfather farmed this land. If you couldn’t find a job around home, you joined the military or you left home and worked away. You didn’t give up and sit on the steps of a trailer stoned out of your mind day after day after day. I find these people and this lifestyle disgusting.

The creek is still there, filled with trash. I can still envision the part of the land that was my great-uncle’s. He had a beautiful collie dog named Lassie who I played with as a child in the green pasture land. The horrible drug trailers populate that land now.

Some of you may think that the loss of coal mining is responsible for this problem. Not so. Magoffin County is not a coal mining county. The loss of self-respect and the availability of drugs is responsible for the problem. When I visit, I want to scream at these people to get in their cars and find a job. It wouldn’t help.

Politicians can discuss the opioid problem, but until they can find jobs for these people, the opioid problem will remain. It may, right now, be too late. I hate to sound cynical about an area that I loved so much, but I don’t expect this social and cultural problem to be solved in my lifetime. Magoffin County, KY is certainly not the only county in an area as big as Appalachia to have exactly the same problem.

Stories of Appalachia: Birch Branch

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There is a little creek that runs up a hollow (pronounced “holler” in eastern Kentucky) called Birch Branch. Now in case you don’t know what a holler is, I’ll tell you. It is the very narrow valley between two mountains. I’m not sure if that term is specific to Appalachia, but that’s the only place I’ve ever heard it used. Birch Branch is the creek that was beside the farms and houses where my family, for many generations back, lived and thrived. The name came from the Native Americans. I assume it was named because of the slight river birch trees that grow by the creek.

I didn’t live there. I grew up in northeastern Kentucky which is still Appalachia, but it isn’t the heart of the region. Birch Branch and the area around it, which is in Magoffin County, Kentucky, is in the heart of Appalachia.

When I was growing up, we used to visit my grandparents and other relatives in and around Birch Branch very frequently. That area was originally where my maternal grandmother’s people lived and, when I was a girl, most of them still lived there. My mother, dad, and I were often there every weekend. I developed an understanding of Appalachia and its people because I am one of its people. My mother grew up there. I have deep Appalachian roots through her that extend back to the Revolutionary War.

Back to Birch Branch. It was a beautiful place back in those days. Heavily wooded. Mountainous. A few homes miles apart. The road was dirt and gravel. My grandfather and grandmother married and bought a house on that road in 1901 along with a beautiful farm. They raised eight children in that farmhouse, including my mother.

By the time I came along, they had moved to another farm house on what they called the main road, an intersecting road with Birch Branch. All of my childhood, my cousins and I would play up and down the Birch Branch road and in that creek. We heard stories of what had happened there in the past. One story was that one of my great-grandfather’s wives had gotten angry with him and thrown herself into the creek. I’ll have to tell you that it would be very hard to drown yourself in that creek since the water level is usually low. That story is part of the family legend.

One particularly poignant memory for me is a trip I took up Birch Branch with my grandfather in his cart pulled by his mules. We went to his family’s homeplace, which was farther on from Birch Branch. I remember that, even as a child, the beauty of that place struck me. Green, lush, pure, clean. Not like it is today. The remains of the log cabin in which my grandfather had grown up were in the wonderous meadow to which he took me. I’ll never forget that special day. Circa 1960s.

Birch Branch is part of my heritage. Stay tuned for Part 2. Birch Branch today.

#Core – #MothersDay

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On this Mother’s Day, I find myself thinking about my mother and what her passing meant to me. She’s been gone for eighteen years now. My dad died when I was comparatively young – only 30. I had my mother for many years after he passed away. After she died, I felt a keen since of mortality at my core. There was no one left older than me. That meant I would, at some point, be next. You really feel that when both parents are gone as they were in my case after my mother died.

When your mother dies, you feel quite alone. Even though I was closer to my father than to my mother, I felt more alone after she died. You never quite get over losing your parents and I think I can safely say, your mother. I think that may be because your mother nurtured you before you were born and immediately thereafter.

Mother’s Day also revers the maternal bonds as well as being a celebration of Mothers. I don’t know a lot about maternal bonds. My mother did her best, even though she was plagued by serious illness all of her life or the portion of her life in which I knew her. We didn’t have the strong bonds many daughter’s and mother’s have.

I hope every Mother out there has a wonderful Mother’s Day today and that you get to spend it with your children!

#weekendcoffeeshare – 5/12/18

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Good morning! Please pull up a chair here on my patio for #weekendcoffeeshare. I’m so glad to see all of you. On the bar, you’ll find a selection of coffees and teas. I hope one of them will strike your fancy this morning. The guy from the local bakery delivered two dozen scones since he knew I was having guests. Please help yourself!

First, I’m anxious to read your #weekendcoffeeshare posts. I’d love to know what all of you are doing and how your week has been. How is your writing coming along? Life in general?

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that I’ve spent the weekend doing many things. I’ve used this week to try to wrap up some writing projects. I’ve been pretty successful with completing them. I knew that, beginning yesterday, my time would be taken up by other things.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you about those “other things.” I have been wanting and looking for a Cardigan Welsh Corgi puppy for 10 months now. I wanted one from a specific breeder, or at least one that had her blood lines. Finally, the little fellow came home with me yesterday! His name is Tucker and you can see his picture above. It’s hard to take a picture of a nine-month old puppy because they are constantly on the move. For his young age, he is doing amazingly well when you consider that he was just taken from his littermates and mother. This is such a good breed for a family dog that I’m just overwhelmed that I have the privilege of having this young fellow. He will be such a wonderful companion. At this age, a lot of training is required, so I’ll be busy!

If we were having coffee, I would tell you about our very strange weather. Two weeks ago, it still felt like the dead of winter here in the Ohio Valley. I live on a mountain only forty miles south of the river. We had about three days of spring and now it is full-blown summer. Yesterday was 90F degrees here!

Thanks so much for having coffee with me this morning. I have to get back to the puppy!

 

Thanks to  electricali. for hosting #weekendcoffeeshare!

#Rebel – #dailyprompt

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George Washington was a rebel. Martin Luther King was a rebel. Abraham Lincoln was a rebel. Susan B. Anthony was a rebel. Harriet Tubman was a rebel. Rosa Parks was a rebel. The rebels I’ve listed are specific to America and are historical figures. There are thousands more across the world, as well as in America.

Rebels facilitate social and political change. Without people like George Washington, new nations would never be born. Without individuals like Martin Luther King and Susan B. Anthony, social change like the civil rights and women’s rights movement in America would not have happened. Without Rosa Parks, the seed of the civil rights movement would not have been planted.

To effect societal or political change, there has to be a brave individual or group of individuals within the society who will step outside the boundaries of the society and support a different way. These individuals are considered rebellious initially and are then considered heroes by most later, possibly much later, for their part in positive societal change.

Do I consider Donald Trump a modern day rebel for his efforts to effect political and societal change in the United States? The answer is no. I consider Donald Trump a man with his own corrupt agenda who is using a segment of the American population to accomplish it.

#Laughter – #dailypost

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Laughter is the best medicine. That’s what I’ve always heard, haven’t you? It’s certainly true. The more you laugh, the better your outlook on the world and your own situation within it. When I’m around laughter, my own spirits soar.

I’ve had a hard year without much laughter, so I decided to do something about that. I’ve always been a dog person and have seldom been without a dog in my life. Usually more than one. My last dog passed away in July of 2017. Since then, I have tried to adopt a couple of dogs, but neither worked out. Those experiences lasted a very short period of time. They were sad experiences for me, but they taught me a lesson. Adopt a puppy that can bond with just me. Since I miss having a dog more than I can say, I decided to take some action.

There is nothing, you know, that can make you laugh like a new puppy in the house. A new roly-poly puppy bounding around through the house performing its antics is the funniest thing in the world. It requires a lot of training, but even that is fun. You’re developing a companion that will be with you for years to come and giving a puppy a forever home.

My new puppy arrives in two days. I’m very excited and can’t wait to hear all the laughter that will ring out in my house. Puppy will be very good for us.

#weekendcoffeeshare – 5/5/18

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I want to welcome all of you to #weekendcoffeeshare! If you were having coffee with me, I would ask you to please pull up a chair. I have a selection of coffees for you, from a traditional breakfast mix to more exotic coffees. Try my hot cinnamon spice tea or just plain black or green tea if you wish. I’m very glad you’re here!

If you were having coffee with me, I would ask how your week has been? Has your weather been as crazy as ours here in the Ohio Valley in the U.S.? It seems like we went from the dead of winter to July within the space of a few days! We had a freeze one night and within a couple of days, it was 88 degrees. There were no green leaves on the trees and everything burst out in buds and leaves all at once. I’m sure the plants don’t quite know what’s going on. One of my tasks for today, in between rain showers, is to take a look at my flower bed and see what made it through our very long, cold, and snowy winter. It snowed more here than in the city less than 100 miles west of us.

If you were having coffee with me, I would tell you that today is the Kentucky Derby, the most famous horse race of them all. Those of us here in Kentucky really enjoy it and I usually keep up with the horses. This year, life has gotten in the way and I’m not as schooled on the horses as usual. I will still enjoy the race and hope to get up-to-date before the race begins in the late afternoon.

If you were having coffee with me, I would tell you that I have started writing on my novel again after a long break and I’m really enjoying it. I gained some perspective about it during my break after doing some reading and thinking. I’m changing some things, improving other things, and I’m more satisfied with the direction it’s taking now. I hope your writing is going well.

If you were having coffee with me, I would tell you that my exciting news is that I’m waiting on my new puppy. I won’t yet have he/she when I write the next #weekendcoffeeshare, but two weeks from now, he/she should be home with me and will be about 10 or 11 weeks old. I’m very excited!

Thanks for having coffee with me and I look forward to seeing you next weekend!

The Plight of Honey Bees and the Effect on our World

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Time Magazine reports that if you take away the honey bees from pollinating the crops grown by farmers, 237 out of 453 food items will disappear from grocery store shelves. That is a shocking statistic. But, the demise of the honey bee doesn’t only affect food items. It is much more far-reaching than that.

Honey bees are dying off at an unprecedented rate. Parasites and disease in the hives, pesticides in the fields, stress, and poor weather are factors in killing the honey bee population. Business Insider reports that one-third of the world’s crops are dependent on the honey bee population for pollination. A world without honey bees is a world without fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds.

Without honey bees, we would not have leafy greens, broccoli, pumpkins, cucumbers, avocados, apples, cherries, blueberries, and almonds. The effect on almonds is particularly serious. Almonds are used for many things. The shells are often ground up and used for feed for cows. If cows don’t have the proper nutrients, they can’t produce milk which affects dairy products. Alfalfa will also perish, which will affect both beef and dairy cattle. There will be no milk, butter, yogurt, cheese, or ice cream if we cannot provide feed for cattle. There will also be no beef.

Honey bees pollinate the oilseeds, like cotton seeds, sunflower seeds, and coconut. Without them, more than half of the world’s supply of fat and oil would disappear. The lack of cotton would eliminate 35% of the world’s clothing and many household products.

Fortunately, staple grain products won’t be affected. Neither will pigs since they aren’t dependent on crops like alfalfa to eat.

If honey bees disappear, our diets will be devoid of fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, dairy products, and beef. There may be some chicken and there will be fish near the coastlines. On a daily basis, how would you like your diet to consist of high fat pork and bread, plus some chicken and fish when you can get it?

Get involved in the movement to save the honey bees. Buy organic to encourage organic farming without pesticide use.

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