Friday, December 30, 2022

B168. Personal Inventory 2022

The headline story of my 2022 was the publication of my book, Childress Cousins: From the Hills and Hollows of Southern Virginia. It's a collection of stories about the 19 children of my great-grandfather William "Bill" Osborne Childress and his brother, the Rev. Robert "Bob" Walter Childress: WWII memoirs, biographies, letters, poems, more than 100 photos, and so much more.

I began writing it in May 2021, and it published in July 2022, after which time my focus shifted from writing to marketing: mailings, newspaper and magazine features, book talk and book signing events, etc, and a YouTube travelogue video: Childress Cousins | The Hills & Hollows of Southwest Virginia | Floyd, Patrick, and Carroll Counties - YouTube

COVID update

COVID-19 hit here in March 2020, shutting down most of what we knew as normal life. 2021 brought vaccines and as many variables of reopenings as levels of personal caution. 2022 was a progressive continuation of this, with the reopening of the businesses, churches, restaurants, etc. that survived - still, often understaffed (with unexpected closings not unusual) and with public participation at less than pre-pandemic. Some people are fully back to their pre-pandemic activity, while others are still wearing masks in public and avoiding enclosed crowded spaces. COVID is still rampant, but with much fewer deaths, presumably due to vaccinations, which apparently will need to be boosted regularly for years to come. "Long COVID," often serious symptoms that linger for months, possibly far longer, is also an as-of-yet-not-understood reality - affecting the heart, brain, blood flow, digestion, or breathing.

I have remained on the cautious end of the spectrum, beginning to brave crowds a little more in the last couple of months. Most of the year I continued to "attend" church services on-line, avoided all crowded entertainment venues, and wore a mask when in a public indoor space. To my knowledge, I have not yet contracted the virus, although I cannot be certain. I had a second booster vaccination in November.


As with other public activities, this year was a transitional one for church activity. Although my church has been open all year, I have cautiously continued to "attend" services online and participate in a few other church activities via Zoom. During the last couple of months, however, I have begun to slowly transition back into face-to-face activity.

Credit for that push goes to the new discussion-based Outlook Sunday School class in which five of us are sharing leadership. We're using the Presbyterian Outlook magazine as our curriculum, and we're sharing some good discussions and fellowship.

Also, in the Spring I was an All-In small group leader (via Zoom). I began "shepherding" a new couple in the church in December. And I have continued my role as a Stephen Ministry Leader.


In addition to regular travels to VA, including the annual Queen City Mischief & Magic (Harry Potter) festival in September, I went to the Carolina coast in January, February, March, April, and December; and in September made a 3-day book-related trip through Floyd, Carroll, and Patrick Counties, VA. Travelogue video here: Childress Cousins | The Hills & Hollows of Southwest Virginia | Floyd, Patrick, and Carroll Counties - YouTube

Other Highlights

January to March, I hosted the third My Writing Circle via Zoom with six participants meeting weekly to share writings.

I spoke at JMU in November, and had book events at Trinity Oaks, Carroll County Public Library, Staunton Public Library, and South Main Book Company.

Due to COVID precautions and to working on my book, I did little volunteering this year, but did tutor with the Literacy Council at the beginning of the year, mostly via Zoom, and greeted at Lee St. Theatre a couple of times at the end of the year.

The only stage show I saw live was Godspell in December at Lee St., and I saw no movies except streaming from home. I also streamed a few live Cris Williamson concerts.

My wind-down activities included the Puzzle Page and Words With Friends apps, and I stepped into the Wordle craze when it was new. My book research also led me to the Find a Grave website, where I became a manager for a few family memorials.


I read or listened to 57 books this year, listed here in the order of their publication dates. Those listed in bold print are especially recommended, and those in red, even more so. Libby, through which I listen to audiobooks free through the public library system, is my favorite app.

Up from Slavery (Booker T. Washington, 1901, audio) autobiography
The Metamorphosis (Franz Kafka, 1915, audio) man becomes bug; novella
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (Betty Smith, 1943, audio, repeat) novel similar to Little House books
Fahrenheit 451 (Ray Bradbury, 1953, audio) dystopian novel of a fireman
Beezus and Ramona (Beverly Cleary, 1955, audio, repeat) children’s fiction

A Separate Peace (John Knowles, 1959, audio, repeat) coming of age during WWII; novel
The Man Who Moved a Mountain (Richard C. Davids, 1970, repeat) Bob Childress biography
Coal Miner’s Daughter (Loretta Lynn, 1976, audio) autobiography
A Long and Winding Road (John Hassell Yeatts, 1989) stories around Mayberry VA, nonfiction
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (JK Rowling, 1997, audio, repeat) first in series

Red Scarf Girl (Ji-Li Jiang, 1997, audio) memoir of Chinese Revolution
Harry Potter & the Chamber of Secrets (JK Rowling, 1998, audio, repeat) 2nd in series: Tom Riddle, basilisk
Harry Potter & the Prisoner of Azkaban (JK Rowling, 1999, audio) 3rd in series: Sirius Black
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (JK Rowling, 2000, audio) 4th in Series - triwizard tournament
Esperanza Rising (Pam Munoz Ryan, 2000, audio) youth historical fiction; Mexican immigrant girl

The Children’s Blizzard (Melanie Benjamin, 2004, audio) historical fiction, blizzard of 1888
A Time To Grieve (Kenneth C. Hauck, 2004) book 1 of 4; for 3 weeks after loss
Experiencing Grief (Kenneth C. Hauck, 2004) book 2 of 4, for 3 month after loss
Finding Hope and Healing (Kenneth C. Hauck, 2004) book 3 of 4, for 6 months after loss
Rebuilding and Remembering (Kenneth C. Hauck, 2004) book 4 of 4, for 11 months after loss

The Book Thief (Marcus Zusak, 2005) Holocaust novel narrated by Death who is kind & caring
Any Second Now (Mark Smith-Soto, 2006) poetry
Time Will Tell (Doris Abramson, 2007) poetry and interviews
Mudbound (Hillary Jordan, 2008, audio) 1940s Mississippi; racism, PTSD; novel; powerful, raw
The Cross and the Lynching Tree (James H. Cone, 2011, audio) nonfiction; Lynching & Christ’s crucifixion

Hamilton: The Revolution (Lin-Manuel Miranda & Jeremy McCarter, 2016, audio) making the musical
My Name Is Lucy Barton (Elizabeth Strout, 2016, audio) novel; poverty & distanced family dynamics
Anxious for Nothing (Max Lucado, 2017, audio) nonfiction; giving anxiety to God
Braving the Wilderness (Brene Brown, 2017, audio) nonfiction
The Great Alone (Kristin Hannah, 2018, audio) historical fiction: damaged Vietnam vet moves family to AK

So You Want To Talk about Race (Ijeoma Oluo, 2018, audio) nonfiction
Summary: The Warmth of Other Suns (2019, audio) summary of Isabel Wilkerson’s bestseller
Call Your Daughter Home (Deb Spera, 2019, audio) novel of 3 women in 1924 SC
The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek (Kim Michele Richardson, 2019, audio) 1940s KY blue people
Resistance Women (Jennifer Chiaverini, 2019, audio) based on true story; Nazi Germany; novel

The Huntress (Kate Quinn, 2019, audio) hunting down a WWII war criminal; Night Witches; novel
Wilmington’s Lie (David Zucchino, 2020, audio) history & strategy of white supremacy in W’ton & beyond
Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man (Emmanuel Acho, 2020, audio) nonfiction; race intro
The Winemaker’s Wife (Kristin Harmel, 2020, audio) novel set in WWII France
Furia (Yamile Saied Mendez, 2020, audio) young female Argentine soccer player; fiction

All Boys Aren’t Blue (George M. Johnson, 2020, audio) memoir - black & gay
What My Grandmothers Taught Me (Merryl Blair, 2021) Presbyterian Women’s Bible Study
Atlas of the Heart (Brene Brown, 2021, audio) nonfiction; understanding emotions
Lent of Liberation (Cheri L. Mills, 2021) Lent devotional about American slavery
The 1619 Project (Nikole Hannah-Jones, 2021, audio) US History that some of us missed

Hell of a Book (Jason Mott, 2021, audio) novel of a black life
Three Sisters (Heather Morris, 2021, audio) novel
How the Word Is Passed (Clint Smith, 2021, audio) understanding our slave narratives
How Y’all Doing? (Leslie Jordan, 2021, audio) honest & entertaining memoir
‘Tis the Season with Belle and Chuck (Margaret Basinger, 2021) Christmas memories

Struck at the Crossroads in Boonville (Allen Paul Speer III, 2022) Speer family and Boonville history
Growing Up Biden (Valerie Biden, 2022, audio) memoir by President Biden’s sister
Childress Cousins: From the Hills & Hollows of Southern Virginia (Katherine R Vestal, 2022) biographies
The Diamond Eye (Kate Quinn 2022, audio) WWII historical fiction, female Russian sniper
This Time Tomorrow (Emma Straub, 2022, audio) fiction, time travel

Book Lovers (Emily Henry, 2022) fiction, romance
Why We Did It (Tim Miller, 2022, audio) GOP strategist tells all, nonfiction


My torticollis (involuntary neck turn) continues. I stopped the botox treatments, not seeing improvement, and fearing what other harm it might be doing. I continue OMT treatments.

Not ready to return to a crowded gym, but missing my pre-pandemic workouts, I started working out in the Rufty Holmes exercise room, and taking a yoga class there, and I love it. I think the yoga is helping my neck more than anything else I've tried, and it feels so good to be working out again, in addition to walking. I averaged more than 31 minutes per day of intentional exercise throughout the year.

I did add a new health concern this year - a digestive one. With no apparent reason, I found myself vomiting about every two weeks, for months. A digestive specialist put me through four different tests but finally said she knew nothing else to try. She concluded it could possibly be my gall bladder, but that the only way to be sure would be to have it removed and see if it helps. I started keeping a food diary and monitoring for myself what foods seemed to be triggers. Currently I am avoiding all dairy and anything with additives or preservatives, and I eat little sugar. I eat a lot of fruits, vegetables, and organic products. I'm having far fewer episodes now and have unintentionally lost 10 pounds since the first of the year. I wonder if this new problem might be related to my COVID vaccines (or maybe I had the virus and didn't know it) or to the botox treatments.


I saw no movies in the theatre this year but streamed 19 from home, listed here in order of release year. The two in bold print are especially recommended.

Sergeant York (1941) WWI story starring Gary Cooper
The Three Faces of Eve (1957) multiple personalities
Lilies of the Field (1963) light & feel-good; Sidney Poitier
Coal Miner’s Daughter (1980, repeat) Loretta Lynn’s story
Peggy Sue Got Married (1986) romantic comedy, time travel

A River Runs Through It (1992) based on true story - memoir of brother
Amistad (1997) slave ship uprising, based on true story
The Simple LIfe of Noah Dearborn (1999) Sidney Portier
Harry Potter & the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004, repeat) 3rd n series; Sirius Black
A Man Called Ove (2016) in Swedish; sad, sweet, emotionally heavy

The Hate U Give (2018) based on novel; race, cops, violence; powerful
Uncle Frank (2020) gay man in 1974 SC
Coda (2020) aging concert pianist
A Secret Love (2020, repeat) 70+ year relationship of League of Their Own player
My Name Is Pauli Murray (2021, Prime) biography, documentary

The Eyes of Tammy Faye (2021) bio of Jim & Tammy Baker
As They Made Us (2022) written, produced & directed by Mayim Bialik
God Forbid: The Sex Scandal That Brought Down a Dynasty (2022) Jerry Falwell, Jr.
Downton Abbey: A New Era (2022)


I rarely watch TV but did have Hulu access and a month of Netflix. I saw:

The Wonder Years Season 1 (2021)
Call Me Kat Season 2 (2022)
High On the Hog Season 1 (2022) Netflix

1. book cover
2. Queen City Mischief & Magic
3. shells
4. sunrise over the Atlantic
5. Mabry Mill
6. book talk

Saturday, April 30, 2022

B166. Childress Cousins: The Book


Bill Osborne Childress and Rev. Bob Childress were born in the late 1800s in "The Hollow" of the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. They were brothers. This book is filled with stories about their nineteen children. Stories of mountain life, stories of WWII, letters between cousins, Hattie's poems, a story of the Childress rock churches, and an unfinished autobiography written by Rev. Bob . . . plus more than 100 photos. Told and shared by children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, and cousins of the nineteen.

Editor Katherine R. Vestal is a retired educator of Rowan-Cabarrus Community College. She has a Master's of Education and a Master's of Divinity and is an active member of First Presbyterian Church in Salisbury, NC. This book is a labor of love, as these Childress "cousins" are her heritage. She is the great-great-granddaughter of James "Babe" Childress, the great-granddaughter of William "Bill" Osborne Childress, and the granddaughter of Bonnie Childress Pike.

The book is available from bookshop.orgAmazonBooks-a-Million, Barnes & Noble or your favorite bookstore or library.

ISBN 979-8839269927

copyright 2022

If you want to communicate with the editor and others who have read the book, you're invited to join the Facebook Group Childress Cousins: The Book | Facebook.

Video travelogue companion to book: Childress Cousins | The Hills & Hollows of Southwest Virginia | Floyd, Patrick, and Carroll Counties - YouTube

Thursday, December 30, 2021

B165. Personal Inventory 2021

This was the second year of the COVID-19 pandemic, which hit here in March 2020. This year could be partially defined as the year of the vaccinations. I got my two-part (Moderna) vaccination in March and April, and a booster in November. Because of vaccination availability, restaurants, churches, schools, entertainment venues, etc. have been slowly reopening, often to only half capacity for social distancing. It seems about half the population remains cautious, wearing masks in public, avoiding indoor crowds, having meetings via Zoom . . . Everyone seems to have their own level of comfort, a little different from everyone else's. I've stayed on the cautious side: streaming church on-line, visiting with friends and family almost exclusively outdoors . . . venturing out toward a little more normalcy the final few months of the year, most notably attending a Wicked production in Charlotte (masks mandated) and traveling to the beach and to Williamsburg.

While I have yet to attend a service in person since March 2020, I have remained active through on-line streaming and Zoom, and have attended 4-5 mostly small gatherings. In June I rotated off as Ruling Elder and Chair of the Worship Committee, and in May from the COVID Response Team (all meeting via Zoom to then).  I continue as a Stephen Ministry Leader (Zoom). Also via Zoom, my small group read Caste, and the Race Task Force hosted reading groups that read books by Ta-Nehisi Coates and Jemar Tisby. I attended a couple of in-person Race Task Force events. And in February, also via Zoom, I taught the Everyman's Sunday School class one week.

Besides a December trip to Williamsburg, November and December trips to the coast, and attending a Wicked production in Charlotte, I took several interesting hikes including Natural Bridge and a couple of nature preserves in and near Salisbury.

January to April I hosted the first "My Writing Circle" with ten participants via Zoom, writing mostly memoirs and meeting weekly for ten weeks to share our writings; then August to November, a second group of seven.

In May I began working on a book about my grandma's siblings and first cousins. The working title is Childress Cousins: A Collection of Stories, and it will hopefully be ready for publication in late 2022.

Leading to the November municipal elections, I campaigned in multiple ways (at the polls, in a caravan event, writing postcards, wearing t-shirts, posting on Facebook . . .) for Mayoral candidate Heggins and City Council candidates Sheffield and Smith.

In November I spoke at James Madison University (in person and masked). In December I completed several months' work on my end of life and estate planning documents. I continued tutoring through the Literacy Council (mostly on Zoom), and greeted/ushered a few times at Lee St. Theatre. My normal winding down activities continue to be puzzles and word games: Words With Friends app, Puzzle Page app, and a couple of jigsaw puzzles.

Aside from COVID vaccines and boosters: I continue getting botox shots in my neck every 4 months for torticollis. I enjoy OMT treatments about monthly.  In August I had an ingrown toenail cut out. I had a breast biopsy in July which came out benign but was wrongly coded to start an insurance struggle that still hasn't ended.

I have exercised, mostly walked, an average of 30 minutes a day. I often wear a leg brace when I go walking, to help control my foot drop. My weight has stayed between 115-120 with the on and off help of the My Fitness Pal app.

No major technology changes for me this year. I continue to use my HP laptop and my 6s iPhone which is getting a little tired in this iPhone 13 age. I use my Canon camera when I want a closer clearer zoom than my phone gives. I have a paid Zoom account (not related to the camera zoom) and a rarely used Hulu account.

I've read and/or listened to 60 books this year, listed here in order of their publication year:

New Testament (audio, repeat)

A Doll’s House (Henrik Ibsen, 1879, audio, repeat)

On the Banks of Plum Creek (Laura Ingalls Wilder, 1937, audio) 4th in Little House series

Their Eyes Were Watching God (Zora Neale Hurston, 1937, audio) Afr Amer novel

By the Shores of Silver Lake (Laura Ingalls Wilder, 1939, audio) 5th in Little House series

The Long Winter (Laura Ingalls Wilder, 1940, audio) 6th in Little House series

Little Town on the Prairie (Laura Ingalls Wilder, 1941, audio) 7th in Little House series

These Happy Golden Years (Laura Ingalls Wilder, 1943, audio) 8th in Little House series

The Phantom Tollbooth (1961, Norton Juster, audio) youth fantasy novel

Return to Sender (Julia Alvarez, 1969, audio, repeat) novel, migrant farmworkers

The Man Who Moved a Mountain (Richard C. Davids, 1970, repeat) Bob Childress bio

The First Four Years (Laura Ingalls Wilder, 1971, audio) 9th in Little House series

A Song Flung to Heaven (Maya Angelou, 2002) autobiography

The Meaning of Matthew (Judy Shepard, 2009, audio) by Matthew Shepard's mom

If There’s Anything I Can Do (Josephine Hicks, 2011) how to be there for friends in crisis

Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend (Matthew Dicks, 2012, audio) novel; Asperger

The Chaperone (Laura Moriarty, 2012, audio) novel set in early 20th century

The Twelve Tribes of Hattie (Ayana Mathis, 2021, audio) novel, Hattie's children

The House Girl (Tara Conklin, 2013, audio) slave woman & modern lawyer; fiction

Papadaddy’s Book for New Fathers (Clyde Edgerton, 2013, audio) lighthearted child psychology

We Were Liars (E. Lockhart, 2014, audio) young adult novel

Between the World and Me (Ta-Nehisi Coates, 2015) African American man's letter to his son

Ghost (Jason Reynolds, 2016, audio) youth fiction at its best

Homegoing (Yaa Gyasi, 2016, audio) one family from pre-slavery Africa to present, fiction

My Own Words (Ruth Bader Ginsburg, 2016, audio) autobio, court history

Long Way Down (Jason Reynolds, 2017) elevator ride on the way to avenge

The Alice Network (Kate Quinn, 2017, audio) historical fiction, WWi & WWII espionage

A Book that Takes Its Time (Irene Smit, 2017) mindfulness readings & activities

Hallelujah Anyway (Anne Lamont, 2017, audio) nonfiction

We Were the Lucky Ones (Georgia Hunter, 2017, audio) Jewish family WWII

Clock Dance (Anne Tyler, 2018, audio) novel; superficial existence

Ghost Boys (Jewell Parker Rhoades, 2018, audio) juvenile fiction, race & death

The Beagle and His Boy (Cathy Cook, 2018, repeat) autobiography, grief

Black Is the Body (Emily Bernard, 2019, audio) autobiography

This Tender Land (William Kent Krueger, 2019, audio) historical fiction, 1930s

The Color of Compromise (Jemar Tisby, 2019) racism & Amer church, nonfiction

Southern Lady Code (Helen Ellis, 2019, audio) humorous essays on life

Inside Out (Demi Moore, 2019, audio) autobio - relationships, substance abuse

One Life (Megan Rapinoe, 2020, audio) autobiography

The Truths We Hold (Kamala Harris, 2020) autobiography

Dolly Parton, Songteller (D. Parton & RK Oermann, 2020, audio) autobio

Caste (Isabel Wilkerson, 2020, repeat) systemic racism in America

The Book of Lost Friends (Lisa Wingate, 2020, audio) historical fiction, slavery to now

Me and White Supremacy (Layla F. Saad, 2020, audio) good for group discussion

Catoctin SlaveSpeak (Elayne Bond Hyman, 2020) poems giving voice to Catoctin slaves

The Making of Biblical Womanhood (Beth A Barr, 2020, audio) misogyny

Jesus and John Wayne (Kristen Kobes Du Mez, 2020, audio) evangelicalism, patriarchy, politics, nonfic

The Devil You Know (Charles M. Blow, 2021, audio) manifesto for backwards migration

By His Scars (Sharon Worrell Beshears, 2021) human scars and God's healing

The Four Winds (Kristin Hannah, 2021, audio) novel set in Dust Bowl

Under the Southern Sky (Kristy Woodson Harvey, 2021, audio) romance novel 

On Juneteenth (Annette Gordon-Reed, 2021, audio) Texas black history we missed in school

White Evangelical Racism (Anthea Butler, 2021, audio) nonfiction

Broken Horses (Brandi Carlile, 2021, audio) Brandi Carlile memoir

The Rose Code (Kate Quinn, 2021, audio) historical fiction, 3 women, WWII code breakers

Think Again (Adam Grant, 2021, audio) changing how we think, nonfiction

All In (Billie Jean King, 2021, audio) autobiography: tennis, women’s sports, human rights

The Personal Librarian (VC Murray & M Benedict, 2021, audio) historical, she passed for white

Everything Is Possible with God (Donna Fargo, 2021) inspirational poems

Dusk, Night, Dawn (Anne Lamont 2021, audio) nonfiction, lighthearted look at life's dark moments

bold = recommended; red = highly recommended

25, listed in order of release year:

The Wizard of Oz (1939, repeat) classic

White Christmas (1954, repeat) WWII feel good musical

The Pajama Game (1957) Doris Day musical

Imitation of Life (1959) drama, romance, race, motherhood

Young Frankenstein (1974) Mel Brooks comedy

Battle for the Minds (1997, PBS, twice) documentary about SBC fundamentalist takeover

Frida (2002, repeat) Frida Kahlo & Diego Rivera

Frankie & Alice (2010) multiple personalities, Halle Berry

Battle of the Sexes (2017, repeat) Billie Jean King bio

The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society (2018) post WWII

Love, Simon (2018, Hulu) high school coming out romantic comedy

Judy (2019) Judy Garland biography

Vita & Virginia (2019, repeat) Virginia Woolf’s writing of Orlando

The Best of Enemies (2019) based on true NC story, civil rights

To the Stars (2019) high school drama set in 1960s Oklahoma

The World To Come (2020, Hulu) drama of 1800s forbidden love

Ammonite (2020, BBC) forbidden romance set in 1840s England

The Christmas Edition (2020) feel-good movie of a newspaper journalist

Happiest Season (2020, Hulu) holiday romantic comedy

Joe Bell (2021, Prime) so powerful but so sad; bullying

Nomadland (2021) community of van dwellers

The United States vs. Billie Holiday (2021) biography

Mayor Pete (2021, Prime) documentary about Pete Buttigieg
Jesus Music (2021, Prime) music history
Being the Ricardos (2021, Prime) Lucille Ball & Desi Arnaz

bold = recommended; red = highly recommended

I watch little TV. What little I watch I mostly stream on Hulu or Youtube. Listed in order of what year it was first aired, this year I watched:

Room 222 Season 1 (1969-70) sit-com featuring teachers in a high school

Family Seasons 1-5 (1976-1980) drama series

Wicked  recorded Broadway version (twice)

Amazing Grace (2018) making of Aretha Franklin’s gospel album

The Chosen Seasons 1-2 (2019, 2021) story of Jesus’ life & ministry

The Crown  Season 4 (2020) bio Queen Elizabeth II

The Queen’s Gambit  (Miniseries, 2020) chess, addiction

Call Me Kat Season 1 (2020-21) Mayim Bailik sitcom

Genius: Aretha (miniseries, 2021) Aretha Franklin

bold = recommended; red = highly recommended

I hope to publish the Childress Cousins book by the end of the year.
I plan to continue leading My Writing Circle groups as long as there is interest.
I haven't worked out at the gym since March 2020 and hope to start back soon.
I look forward to feeling comfortable enough to return to church soon.

2. drive-thru COVID vaccine
3. Colonial Williamsburg
4. Busch Gardens, Williamsburg
5. Carolina coast
6. Wicked
7. campaigning