SoCS – 8/18/2018

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A few days ago, I got in my attic and started sorting through my mother’s things. She’s been gone eighteen years, so I thought it time, and past time, to dispose of her belongings. I should tell you that it was, perhaps, the worst decision I’ve ever made! If you’re wondering why, let me tell you my story.

It’s always emotional, I’m sure, to have to dispose of your parents’ things when they are gone. My mother clearly kept every piece of paper, card, picture, and letter that she had ever had. All the way back to before World War II. What I found was actually a treasure trove for a writer. Letters between she and my dad when he was fighting in WWII. A scrapbook she kept with newspaper clippings about the war. Letters from all my family, both sides, during wartime. The newspaper from the day the war was over. I’m currently writing a little historical fiction and now I have at least some of my primary research, but it was tough to read about that young, wartime couple who later became my mom and dad.

Then there were the pictures. Thousands of pictures. My mother had seven siblings, so on my maternal side, I have a lot of cousins. Most of the pictures that were not of me were of her brothers and sisters and my cousins, up to about the age of ten. It was a huge job, and an emotional one, to go through all those pictures and separate them cousin by cousin. I’m not yet finished. I’m determined to return those pictures to my cousins so they can share them with their own children, even though I’m not in touch with most of them any more.

Next was the really hard stuff. I think my mother had saved every drawing I’d ever made as a child, every report card, every single thing relevant to me as I”d gone through school. It broke my heart and made me cry.

I still have two large boxes to go through. No idea yet what’s in them and I’m almost afraid to open them. I hope to finish this task this week. I feel like I’ve just viewed my mother’s entire life, a little like a Peeping Tom, and have seen her most private possessions.

Getting old ain’t for sissies.

*The picture above is of my grandparents house and farm in Appalachia. I found it in my mother’s pictures.

**Thanks to Linda Hill for the Stream of Consciousness prompt!

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Jonathan Livingston Seagull(s)…Perhaps?

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A comment. Seagulls remind me of my mother. Even though most people see them as the birds who clean up garbage on the beach, my mother saw their beauty. When I was a very young adult, she showed me their beauty in the series of short stories published by Richard Bach about a seagull who seeks life outside the typical and flies off to seek self-actualization.

Our family took a trip shortly after that to Isle Royale National Park in the northern part of Lake Superior in Michigan. A seagull spent the week we were there sitting on the window seal of my mother’s motel room. No one else’s room. Just her’s. It was the time she was heavy into reading the “Jonathan” stories and books. Coincidence? Perhaps. I’ll let you decide.

I read the Jonathan stories even now. They help a non-conformist like me. Try them on for yourself! You can read about them here,

 

Thank you Priceless Joy for the wonderful prompt!

Photo Credit to wildverbs

#SoCS – 7/7/2018

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A COMMENT ON GENEALOGY RESEARCH

Off and on for a lot of years, I’ve been studying my family’s genealogy. Back in my 20s, I did a rough genealogy of my father’s family. One side of his family was from Sweden and I had to actually write the priest from the parish from which my family came and ask for family records. It took a long time, but I finally received some records from that priest. I felt like I had struck gold. I was able to put together some semblance of a genealogy of my dad’s family.

After that, life happened and it took me years to get back to studying genealogy. I’ve been playing with it for a year or so now. Since my first feeble attempts all those years ago, websites like Ancestry happened and the vast databases of information that you can access through them, not just for America but all across the world. I’m still learning to use Ancestry and similar sites, but I have some of my paternal grandfather’s information in place. Since he was first-generation in the U.S., it’s been fascinating to trace him back to Sweden. I’m almost ready to start on my paternal grandmother’s line.

Genealogy got more interesting when DNA testing came about. Not only can you trace your family tree, you can actually find DNA matches amidst your family tree if you and others have tested your DNA. I have made contact with several third and fourth cousins using this feature.

It has been a superb experience to not only see my family tree on the computer screen but also to get to talk with cousins I didn’t even know existed. Coincidentally, at the same time, a long-lost first cousin found and contacted me and that prompted the first cousins on my dad’s side of the family to get in touch with each other and even discuss planning a reunion at the place from which we all came.

In these days of social media and so many of us being relatively isolated from family members, I think this is a wonderful thing. I know I am so enjoying getting reacquainted with my close cousins and getting to know more distant cousins. We’re putting together quite a family story!

Why the Donald Trump Presidency is Dangerous

A friend recently pointed out to me that I am irrational about my vehement dislike of the Donald Trump Presidency. I don’t think I’m irrational, but I am afraid. Allow me to explain my reasons,

I can remember presidencies since the John F. Kennedy Presidency beginning in 1960. I have studied many other presidencies. This is the first U.S. Presidency that I can remember or know of where the people who support Trump, his base, take his position on issues whether they believe in that position or not. For example, the issue of family separation that has been happening at the U.S. southern border. Good people who never would have been in favor of any child being taken away from its mother support that Trump policy (which has since been repealed) even though they would never have thought of such a thing before Donald Trump.

Other examples are farmers in the midwest who supported and still support Trump even though he is imposing tariffs affecting their own products and individuals in poverty-stricken in Appalachia supporting Trump even while his policies lean toward reducing benefits such as Medicaid.

Such blind loyalty to a President is a dangerous thing. We can’t just say that Donald Trump is all-knowing and will do the best thing for us. We have to think for ourselves. Once we turn over our free will to a mere man, we are lost. We are lost to our democracy becoming an authoritarian regime and all the corruption that goes with it. We are lost because our votes will no longer count. We are lost because no one man knows what is best for us.

America is lost.

#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!