#SoCS – 9/1/2018

 

I’m always ranting about property development around where I live here in the Daniel Boone National Forest. I think it should be much more limited than it is. I tire of hearing heavy equipment instead of the birds singing. Increasing numbers of houses and people drive away the birds and wildlife.

I wrote a post a few months ago in which I mentioned that I had not seen two of my favorite specimens of wildlife this year and I was afraid they were gone forever from my little corner of the world. One was the fawn. Since I’ve lived here, I’ve seen single fawns with their mothers or sets of twin fawns every summer. The other was really a favorite – the pileated woodpecker. It is an increasing rare and rather large woodpecker. You don’t see them everywhere, We were lucky enough to have a few here.

I’m happy to report that I finally saw a fawn. Not until late in August, which is very late for fawns to be around, but at least I saw one. The same day, I saw a large pileated woodpecker. Again, I saw just one, but at least I know they are still around, even if they are smaller in number. PIctures of both are at the top of the page.

Years ago, I had my property designated as a wildlife sanctuary through the National Wildlife Federation. Here are some of the beautiful animals that I have seen since then. Enjoy!

 

 

*Thanks to Linda G. Hill for providing the #SoCS writing prompt!

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#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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Hemingway and the Sea – #SoCS

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The “Old Man and the Sea.” One of my favorite books by my favorite classical author.

This isn’t a book review. Far from it. Who could review Hemingway? I wouldn’t presume to do so. I’ve re-read “The Old Man and the Sea” recently and I just want to make a few comments about the book and about Hemingway.

One reason I like Hemingway as a classical author is because of his writing style. It is concise, succinct, and spare. He writes in short, declarative sentences. There is nothing flowery about his writing, unlike some of his contemporaries. He keeps many of the adverbs and a large number of the adjectives out of his writing. That lets the reader see the real story. The succinct story.

The book is, quite simply, about an old fisherman and his struggle with his last big fish. Most readers will draw the conclusion that the book is about a man’s struggle to prove himself one last time, in his old age. Hemingway didn’t feel the need to clutter up his story with descriptive adverbs and adjectives. He just wrote the story clearly and sparely. It’s classified as a novella, a form of literature which is back in style in publishing today.

His writing style must have worked. Hemingway won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1954 for the “Old Man and the Sea.”

#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!

#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.

#SoCS – 04/21/2018

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My writing muse spoke to me today for the first time in weeks. When I’m dealing with the intricacies of life, I’ve found that the muse escapes me. If there are situations in my life that demand my attention, I feel my creativity slipping away. Those mundane situations sap any creative impulses that normally motivate me to write. When I realize that is happening, it’s very disturbing to me. I’ve been writing since I was nine years old. It’s how I’ve always dealt with stress and stretched my mind.

Recently, I’ve been juggling a lot of balls in my non-writing life. I’ve been too busy to write. My day doesn’t seem complete unless I can write, but there haven’t been enough hours in the day. I’ve ended my days very frustrated because I haven’t written a word.

When I feel like this, I try to take a few minutes to do some writing-related tasks. I’m in the middle of a novel, so I do some editing. I also read. I try to pick books that, for example, are good character studies or have excellent plot lines so I can get better at both techniques. I want to write some short stories, so I’m reading the latest collection of short stories compiled by the “Pushcart” collection. I also read the Writer’s Digest magazine and other publications on writing techniques.

What do you do when the writing muse isn’t with you?

#SoCS – 02/03/2018

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Dogs are not dollar signs. This is both a personal stream of consciousness post and a sort of public service announcement/op-ed piece. In other words, you have found me up on my soap box today.

Yesterday, I had to have my beautiful little dog, Hanna, put down. Hanna was not yet a year old. A little more than a year ago, I had to have my sweet Cavalier King Charles Spaniel put down. Betsy was only four and a half years old. Why did Betsy and Hanna have to die so young? Because of poor breeding practices by the purebred breeders from which they came. Neither did any sort of genetic testing. Both were irresponsible.

Hanna’s breeder decided to develop a “designer” dog and mixed two purebred breeds. To my knowledge, they did no genetic testing. In doing that, they created puppies with extreme fear aggression who couldn’t learn and who were fear biters and worse. They didn’t know what they were doing. It wasn’t Hanna’s fault. She should never have been born.

In Betsy’s case, she developed a fatal genetic disease called syringomyelia that was incredibly painful. It could have been avoided by genetic testing and Betsy would never have been born and would never had to endure the pain she endured.

Both breeders saw dollar signs instead of sweet puppies.

I don’t pretend to know the answer to this problem since breeders of purebred dogs are not subject to any sort of controls by any governing body except the American Kennel Club and various regional clubs that set the breed standard and govern showing purebred dogs. Unless the various breed-specific clubs impose some sort of rules and sanctions, there are purebred dogs that are going to become extinct. The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, for example, is thought to have about fifty percent of dogs carrying the gene for syringomyelia, the condition that killed Betsy. Many breeds are known to be fear aggressive, like Hanna, and the condition is almost impossible to treat. The dogs have to be put down. I could cite many more examples.

Be very careful if you buy a purebred dog. Question the breeder about their breeding practices. Ask about genetic testing. Ask if they offer a health guarantee. Don’t just fall in love with a puppy, pay a huge price, and walk away. Ask questions. Get guarantees. Otherwise, you’ll end up with a lot of vet bills and a broken heart.

Recover – #SoCS – 01/06/2017 and #JusJoJan 2018

She sits and wonders if she can ever financially recover from the devastation he has caused due to this fraud of a second marriage. That’s what it had been. A fraud. A marriage for financial gain under false pretenses. She was so stupid. She had fallen for all the old, “I’ve changed,” clichés. She’s not even thinking about the emotional damage he’s inflicted. That’s a given. The financial impact is huge and will be worse.

He was a gambler but he had quit before they reunited. He had also quit drinking. She knew both had been hard for him. She had watched him struggle. Now she knew why he had done it. He was looking for a bigger payoff. Except he couldn’t wait. He’d thought that her illness was so severe when he had learned about it before they remarried that she surely would not survive very long. It only goes to show you that he didn’t know her very well. After all the years he had known her, he knew so little about her.

He didn’t know that she was already in the process, before they got together again, of grabbing that illness and wrestling it to the ground, getting it under control. It had been the hardest thing she’d ever done, but it was still under control and she would keep it under control. He knew it. He grew tired of waiting for her to slip up, for her to let it get the best of her, for her to die.

He decided to give that illness a little nudge. He was still nudging it, even from afar. Still hoping for that ultimate financial payoff. But, this time, she would win.

 

This post is part of Linda Hill’s JusJoJan and Stream of Consciousness challenges.

#SoCS – 12/30/2017 – Resolution

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When Linda asked us to respond to the prompt “resolution” for this weekend’s #StreamofConsciousness challenge, it was easy for me to instantly know what I would write about and I decided to let my consciousness just go ahead and stream.

For the first time in over nine years, I will spend 2018 living alone, except for my little dog, Hanna. This coming year, in fact, will be only the second time in my life I’ve ever lived alone, the other time being from 2000-2007. It’s been a long time and, in the month I’ve lived alone so far, it’s been a big adjustment. Just finding out I would be alone was the result of a shocking turn of events in my life. I doubt that I’m over that shock yet. I don’t think we know when shock goes away, do we? I think it ebbs away from our subconscious minds, and perhaps our conscious minds as well, very gradually.

Since I lived alone for a few years in the past, I do know a bit of what to expect. From a practical point of view, I have to get back to taking care of my home on my own again which is no small feat. I’m used to sharing chores and now all the chores are mine, both indoor and outdoor. The first week was hard. Then, I remembered how I’d done everything in the past and, since then, it has become easier by the day. I still have a lot to remember. Things that just haven’t come up yet.

I have business I’ve had to take care of and, of course, I want to continue writing. Blogging, magazine articles, website articles and copy, and finishing up some long form writing projects I have going. A novella. Two actually. Maybe another novel. I want to also work on a serial. I may go back to online teaching in a semester or two.

Besides the practical side of life, there is the emotional aspects of living alone. I don’t really get lonely, so that’s not much of a problem for me. As an only child, I learned to entertain myself and those skills carried over to adulthood. I work from home a lot. It takes time to take care of my home, both inside and out. The business aspect of life takes time. I also have excellent friends. Then there is Hanna, my dog, who definitely takes time. I’m training her to be a good companion dog. By the time I accomplish all this in a day, the day is done.

I do still have to deal with the shock and emotional trauma that precipitated my change in living circumstances. That’s not going to be accomplished overnight. In fact, it will take a long time, if I ever feel free of the events of the past two months.

So, my resolution for 2018? Quite simply, survival. I don’t think it’s a resolution that will be forgotten the first couple of weeks of the year.