Saturday, April 30, 2022

B166. Childress Cousins: The Book


Coming Fall 2022!

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.

The book will be available this Fall through Amazon or your favorite bookstores. If you want to stay updated on the progress toward publication, you're invited to join the Facebook Group Childress Cousins: The Book | Facebook.

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.

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

Monday, September 6, 2021

B164. Fundies and Liberals: A Seminary Lesson

One of the most important life truths I learned in seminary didn’t come from a book. I unintentionally attended Baptist seminary at exactly the time the conservative Baptist faction was taking over the denomination. I was blindsided and clueless. I was aware there was some kind of battle going on in the denomination, but I had no understanding of it, nor interest in it. It had nothing to do with me or my reasons for going to seminary.

Yet, I was on the battleground, so, understand it or not, I was living it. Every student was on one side or the other, and if not, others would put a label on them anyway. The moderates called the conservatives “fundies,” and the conservatives called the moderates “liberals.” Although 30 years later people proudly wear the “fundamentalist” and “liberal” labels, in those early warring days, I don’t recall anyone referring to themselves by those terms.

It was a confusing time for me. Not only did I not know where I fit into this war, I couldn’t seem to get a grasp on what the war was even about. In retrospect, I think that was because I was hearing incompatible stories from each side. The root seemed to be about “believing the Bible,” which the conservatives said the liberals didn’t do, so I decided I must be conservative. But the hateful accusations the conservatives made about “liberals” didn’t fit anybody I knew on either side.

Since those years, I’ve done a lot of praying, reading, and processing, and I no longer wonder (though I’m still gravely concerned) about that denominational war. Likewise about the related ones that inflame our politics. What I want to share with you from those years of processing is this: When all we know about the other side is what our own side tells us, we know nothing, and we will never ever grow in understanding. Whether the battle is about the Bible, or abortion, or racism, or patriotism, or women, or LGBTQ . . ., we do not begin the lifelong process toward understanding until we begin listening openly to those on the other side.

If I want to know how Domino’s pizza tastes, should I just ask Pizza Hut, or should I go to the source? If I want to know why “liberals” fight against abortion laws, should I just ask my conservative network, or should I ask my “liberal” cousin and my “liberal” co-worker? Listening openly to both sides of an issue, from the sources themselves, can lead us to deeper understanding, wider wisdom, and genuine love and appreciation for all our family members and neighbors, no matter what labels they or someone else has attached to them.

Friday, July 23, 2021

B163. Displaced Anger at Jeff Bezos?

Is our anger toward Jeff Bezos displaced? "If I were a billionaire," we say, "I would stamp out world hunger, not fly into space for 10 minutes." Three thoughts to ponder:

1. There is no "either or." If Bezos wants to end world hunger, he still has the means to do it. Eating my green peas as a child never did help or hurt the starving children in China.

2. Am I willing to judge myself as I judge Bezos? Could I set up a scholarship to give someone an educational start instead of taking a summer vacation? Could you donate to the homeless shelter instead of driving through Starbucks 150 times a year, or skydiving just for the thrill? Can we glimpse how we would spend our billions by looking at how we spend our thousands?

3. Are we really angry at the billionaire who spends his own money as he chooses, or are we angry at a system intentionally designed to create multi-billionaires while much of the world is left to starve? Are we angry enough to fix the system?

Saturday, June 26, 2021

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Sunday, February 21, 2021

B162. Tobacco Barn Memories

My Grandpa Vestal was a farmer. He inherited a portion of his father’s land, who inherited a portion of his father’s land. In 1939, about six years after he and Grandma married, they built their one-story white frame farmhouse, and gradually added all kinds of farm buildings. A traditional barn with a hayloft, where the milk cow and Kate the mule were sheltered. A stretched oblong chicken house where Grandma would collect eggs* every morning. A shed that sheltered Grandpa’s tractor and yellow Ford pick-up truck. A small shelter in the pig sty. A pack house where the tobacco was hung, and the hams cured. And at the bottom of the hill, just before the creek, two tobacco barns.

Until I was three and a half years old, I stayed with my grandparents all day while my parents worked; and after that, still often throughout my childhood and beyond; so many of my earliest and fondest memories are on those  grounds, sacred to my soul. I jumped into raked piles of leaves with cousins, snapped peas and green beans on the wrap-around front porch with my grandma, ate apples that had fallen from the apple trees and grapes off the small vine in the backyard, found “treasures” with my grandma on the walk to the barns (broken shards of pottery, pop bottle caps, and other items of immense childhood value), screamed hysterically when the rooster flogged my little sister, and held my grandma’s hand in amazement when she would walk me down to the pig sty to see the new baby piglets and warn me not to get close enough to the fence to threaten the sow.

In the vegetable garden, there were corn, tomatoes, potatoes, beans, peas, squash, cucumbers, beets, onions, cabbage, lettuce, and who knows what that I’ve forgotten. Grandma’s cream corn, fried squash, and blackberry pie are still some of my most delicious memories. Grandma always had a flower garden too, near the house. And the cash crops on the farm were soybeans and tobacco.

The first tobacco barn at the bottom of the hill is central in my early summertime memories. Early in the morning the men and boys would go to the field, and the women and girls to the barn. The men primed the tobacco, removing the large gummy tobacco leaves from the stalk and placing them into sleds, long wooden crates pulled behind the tractor, two at a time, from the field to the barn. At the barn, the men would quickly pile the leaves onto the rustic table-like structure, then head back to the field for more. The  women would then tie the leaves quickly and methodically to specially crafted wooden sticks by which they would be hung from the barn rafters to cure, to dry out. 

All morning the men would work in the hot field, and the women would work at the barn. Then around noon, everyone would go to the house, wash up using homemade lye soap to scrub the stubborn tobacco gum from our hands, and hungrily devour a huge dinner (the meals were called breakfast, dinner, and supper), prepared by Grandma, all from scratch. Far too incredible to be imagined unless you’ve had the experience. Then the workers returned to the sweltering hot work for the afternoon. Mid-morning and mid-afternoon Grandpa would show up in the field and at the barn with nabs, bottled pop, and other break snacks from Joe Reece’s little store across the road.

My earliest memories at the barn are twofold. One, grandma would spread a “pallet” within her sight but out of the way of the workers, for me to sit and play. A “pallet” was usually one of her handmade quilts, given in those days no special honor but used for anything from sitting in the grass, to covering a load of something being hauled in the back of the pick-up, to piling on the bed for warmth in days before indoor heat.

Second, I must have been about three years old when Grandpa gave me my first paying job. Most likely to entertain me and keep me within eyeshot, more than for the actual help. I think I was paid 10c a day for laying a new stick across the wooden stringer every time either of the stringers completed a string of leaves.

The excitement to the hard and hot work was the not so unusual big fat green tobacco worm on the leaves, and the thankfully less usual black snake found hanging in the rafters of the barn as the men hung the tobacco, probably there to prey on birds, owls, or rats.

Maybe a couple of years later, after my sister was born and my mom had quit work to stay home with us, she would go to work at the barn and take us along. I slowly graduated to handing. Handing meant quickly gathering a bundle of tobacco leaves by their stems, and handing them, one handful after another, to the stringer, the person tying the bundles together on the stick. To my memory, I never got fast enough to be a regular hand, but filled in occasionally if we were short handed. I’m not sure my memory is correct, but I’m thinking 50c an hour might have been the pay for handing, or maybe that was my lesser pay?

Neighbors and extended family would come together to get the work done, including what they called “swapping.” My grandpa’s brother-in-law, Aldon Brown, also raised tobacco, and the two families “swapped,” meaning three days a week they all worked Grandpa’s tobacco, and the alternating three days they all worked Aldon’s tobacco, with no pay.

This was the generation before me, when the tobacco land was still owned by my great grandpa. At that time, Grandpa rented about five acres of land from my great grandpa, with my great grandpa getting one third of the profits. Another three or four acres were rented to Will Boles, with my great grandpa getting 50% of the profits because he also provided the farm equipment and the fertilizer.

Over the years, Grandpa “swapped” with several black families - Boles, Scales, Cundiff . . . sometimes more than one at a time, depending on the number of family members being swapped. In the Boles family, there was only Will and his son, so only two family members were needed for that “swap.” My mom has a memory of helping at a black family’s barn and one of the men offering everybody homemade peach brandy. This would’ve been in the 1960s.

In addition to the “swapping,” other hands would be hired for pay. I remember as an elementary age child, many boys my age and several stay-at-home moms would work in tobacco for daily hire.

Tobacco setting time was around the end of April or the first of May, after the threat of frost was past. Setting, which is tobacco language for planting, only required two people to sit in the setter, pulled by the tractor and facing the field behind, and one to drive the tractor. I remember doing this at least once, setting with Grandma as Grandpa drove. I must have been about three, so maybe was again less helpful than I imagined myself then.

Tobacco priming started with the bottom leaves,  gradually working upward until at the end of the season all the leaves had been removed. Besides priming, field work included topping, which meant taking the bloom off the top of the stalk, as the bloom would take the nutrients needed for the healthy growth of the leaves. Then suckering, for the same purpose. Sometimes the job was worming. If not removed, the fat green worms would grow long and quickly devour all the leaves. 

My daddy tells the childhood story of Grandpa one day offering him a penny for every tobacco worm he could bring him from the field. Daddy set out with a peck basket and returned with hundreds of worms. Grandpa was astonished but gave him his dollars. Worms were then fed to the chickens.

Another of my daddy’s tobacco worm stories is that they usually pinched the worms’ heads off to kill them, and that sometimes to prove their toughness, boys would bite the heads off. “I wouldn’t have married someone who did that,” my mom responded, to which my daddy said, “You did.”

Tobacco had to hang in the barn to dry out and cure, because moisture would cause mold. Then five or six times a year, the soft brown cured tobacco would be bundled and taken to sell, most often to Winston-Salem, sometimes to Mt. Airy, or occasionally when cash was needed earlier, to Fairmont or Lumberton. At these warehouses, various buyers, like RJ Reynolds, would be present to bid on the piles. “Piles” could be up to 300 pounds. Transporting to sell was another opportunity for neighbors to make a little money, if they had a truck big enough to transport the tobacco. Grandpa would ride along. Tobacco priming usually ended about September, and the final selling then.

I asked my daddy about the sleds that were pulled by the tractor from the fields to the barns. I knew they didn’t have wheels. Did they have runners? They were tapered like runners, he said, so when they hit something they could keep going. And they were also hand made - remade or at least repaired every year, so there were six to eight ready for the season.

Daddy says today tobacco farming is not done by small-time farmers but as larger industrial operations, and no one uses these old methods anymore. Thus my tobacco barn memories from the 1960s are a gummy leaf of history.


*In the generation before mine, when my daddy was a boy, he got the egg money. He would walk to Fred Key's store where he could sell a cake of butter or a half dozen eggs for 25c. Then he would walk to the movie theatre where he could get a movie and popcorn. Popcorn was 10c, and a movie was 15c except on Wednesday nights when the movie was 9c. This would've been the 1940s-1950s.

photo credit: my own photo close-up of Cotton Ketchie's "Tobacco Row"

Thursday, January 7, 2021

B161. Personal Inventory 2020


2020: Pandemic Life

March 11 just before midnight I was packed to leave the next morning for a mini-vacation in Hillsborough NC. We had been hearing of the Coronavirus, but on this night the news seemed to hit far more seriously and personally. I unpacked my suitcase and began an isolation that I carried throughout the rest of the year, and who knows how far into 2021.

I carefully followed the directives to stay at home, and, when necessary to go out, to wear a mask, sanitize hands often, and stay at least six feet apart from everyone else.

March 13 we had a called Session meeting at church and voted to close the doors to in-person activity until further notice. To date, this was the last time I was personally inside the church building, although later it was reopened with extreme protocol in place for those who wanted to gather, only to be closed again about two months later as the local, state, and national virus numbers again surged higher than ever.

Restaurants, gyms, churches, stores, and even schools closed and reopen with safety measures in place, often later to close again, or to tighten the restrictions. Hospital employees remained on the front line, risking their lives daily to care for the sickest. Residential care facilities closed to all visitors, isolating the residents from their loved ones, except through window visits, phone calls, or Zoom. "Zoom," the now most popular on-line face-to-face meeting portal, became a household word. 

On March 12 I made a grocery run before settling into isolation, and that was the last time I went inside any store the entire year. Food Lion To Go became my means of shopping. I ordered online twice a month, drove to Food Lion, and an employee would put the groceries in my trunk without me ever getting out of the car. Other shopping I did by ordering on-line. There were a couple of months I never even bought gas. 

I learned to cut my own hair (well, "learned" might be an exaggeration). In this photo I was getting an outdoor haircut.

Four times since that March date I picked up restaurant takeout via curb service or food truck, all pre-ordered. Two of those times were for my parents. Once I picked up gift cards via drive-thru. Twice I attended an outdoor Vespers service at church. 

In addition I had occasional outside, masked, and distanced (more like 10-20 feet instead of 6) visits with my parents, two with C, one each with L, R, B, and J&S, and one with family at Christmas. I worked out a regular schedule to "double bubble" with D. We would isolate 2 weeks before getting together, then isolate another 2 weeks before being near anyone else. And I walked almost daily, sometimes stopping to chat at a distance with neighbors. Seeing less of each other than usual, my parents and I established a particular Sunday time to call, and my daddy added FaceTime to his skills.

Most of my people time though has been through Zoom. I have averaged a Zoom meeting a day, sometimes none, sometimes three, mostly church related, also Literacy Council tutoring. On Sunday mornings I "attended" church in my pajamas via live stream. Likewise I "attended" multiple concerts and other entertainment productions, live streamed because live audiences were not possible. Some at ticket price, some for donation, some free. It's amazing how much of life can be experienced in front of a computer screen when necessary. It's not like being there, but how different these 9 1/2 months would've been without social technology.

For others the pandemic year has been tragic. Many have lost loved ones. Others have been isolated from loved ones. Many have continued to work daily, putting their own wellbeing, and their family's, in danger. Some have lost businesses and jobs and suffered great financial loss. For me, the most difficult part of the pandemic has been the sadness and guilt of disappointing my parents with outdoor-only visits and no family meals. I've heard others describe similar situations as "cruel." It has been an emotionally difficult time for families, in so many ways.

In April the federal government mailed $1200 "stimulus" checks indiscriminately to most Americans, in compensation for COVID-related financial losses. Because my personal income was not affected by COVID, I donated my $1200, and encouraged others in similar circumstances to consider doing the same. Mine went to Rowan Helping Ministries, The Rowan County United Way COVID relief fund, my church to open a phone line for distance worship access by those with internet, and a few smaller helping funds. I am grateful there are agencies physically helping those most severely affected by the pandemic.

Politically and philosophically, this has a year of widespread awakening to the white supremacist foundations of our nation, and backlash to the awakening. It has been a season of bombarded misinformation and political corruption like never before, including the kidnapping, encaging, selling, and trafficking of immigrant children at the Mexican border. We have all lived as characters in Orwellian and Huxley novels.

In November the country elected a new president, Joe Biden, and the first ever female and first ever African-American vice president, Kamala Harris, to be inaugurated in January of 2021, and COVID vaccinations have begun to arrive for the front line workers, expected to be available to everyone maybe about April 2021. The New Year brings hope.



Despite that FPC church activities were severely altered for COVID-19 safety from March through the year's end, a great deal of my time was spent in church-related activities. I mostly attended services via live stream and meetings via Zoom, but thanks to technology church life continued throughout the year. In addition to the list below, I guest taught the Women's Sunday School class once in February, read the Scripture in Spanish (via video) for the Pentecost Sunday service, and regularly called five 80+yr-old members to check on them throughout the pandemic.

Ruling Elder (began third year of three)
Worship & Music Committee Chair 
Coronavirus Response Team (May to present)
Stephen Ministry Leader
Ordained as a Stephen Minister (caregiving role, as opposed to the training role of the SML)
Race Task Force
Member of Sojourners Class and Presbyterian Women's Bible Study


Other Volunteer Work

Lee St. Theatre: served as greeter only twice before the pandemic hit

Rowan County Literacy Council: weekly literacy tutoring on Zoom, July to present; also initiated a fundraiser on RCLC's behalf, on Facebook for my birthday, raising $400+ to help compensate for pandemic losses.


52 Books I Read (or listened to; listed in order of publication year)

Pippi Longstocking (Astrid Lindgren, 1945, audio) classic children’s fiction 

Sappho (Trans. Mary Barnard, 1958) poems translated from Greek, 7th-6th cen. BCE

Jubilee (Margaret Walker, 1966) historical novel; life of Vyry; pre Civil War to Reconstruction

The Grange: 1867-1967 First Century of Service and Evolution (W.L. Robinson, 1966) history of org.

Diving into the Wreck (Adrienne Rich, 1973) poems written 1971-1972

The One Minute Manager (Ken Blanchard, 1981) basic managerial philosophy

An American Life (Ronald Reagan, 1990, audio) autobiography

Jazz (Toni Morrison, 1992, audio) a marriage, an affair, a murder; fiction

The Message: New Testament (Eugene Peterson,1993, audio) in contemporary language

Redneck Heaven (Bethany Bultman, 1996) history and stories of the American “redneck” culture

The World According to Mister Rogers (Fred Rogers, 2003) collection of Mr Rogers’ wisdom

Wishful Drinking (Carrie Fisher, 2008, audio) autobiography

Half Broke Horses (Jeannette Walls, 2009, audio) biog novel, similar to “Little House on the Prairie”

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter & Sweet (Jamie Ford, 2009, audio) WWII-era Asian-Amer; fic

The Other Half of My Heart (Sundee T. Frazier, 2010, audio) biracial twins, one light, one dark; fic

The Best of Me (Nicholas Sparks, 2010, audio) romance novel

An Invisible Thread (Laura Schroff, 2011, audio) an unlikely friendship, based on true story

The Bluest Eyes (Toni Morrison, 2011, audio) African-American fiction

Burnt Mountain (Anne Rivers Siddons, 2011, audio) fiction, romance

America Again (Stephen Colbert, 2012, audio) political satire

Time Keeper (Mitch Albom, 2012, audio) fantasy fiction, Father Time

The Librarian of Auschwitz (Antonio Iturbe, 2012, audio) 14yo Holocaust prisoner Dita Kraus

Sum It Up (Pat Summitt, 2013, audio) autobiography, TN Lady Vols Basketball & alzheimer’s

And Every Morning the Way Home Gets . . . (Fredrik Backman, 2016, audio) novella, dementia

Wolf Hollow (Lauren Wolk, 2016, audio) young adult fiction

Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the (Beverly D Tatum, 2017, audio) nonfic

The Orphan’s Tale (Pam Jenoff, 2017, audio) Circus, Holocaust, Friendship; novel

This Is How It Always Is (Laurie Frankel, 2017, audio) family’s story of trans child; novel

Tony Brown: Elvis, Strait, To Jesus (Tony Brown, 2018) country music record producer autobio

Girl, Wash Your Face (Rachel Hollis, 2018, audio) nonfiction, lies women tell themselves

In Pieces (Sally Fields, 2018, audio) autobiography; family background and acting career

The Tattooist of Auschwitz (Heather Morris, 2018, audio) a Holocaust bio and romance

White Fragility (Robin DiAngelo, 2018, audio) examine own racial tensions; nonfiction

Educated (Tara Westover, 2018, audio) an unforgettable & mind-altering memoir 

Where the Crawdads Sing (Delia Owens, 2018, audio) storytelling at its best; fiction

The Great Believers (Rebecca Makkai, 2018, audio) novel set in the 1980s gay AIDS culture

The Seminarian (Patrick Parr, 2018) MLK Jr’s seminary years, biography

Anxious People (Fredrik Backman, 2019, audio) novel about  a crime, an apt. showing, a bridge

Love Carved in Stone (Eugenia Gamble, 2019) Presbyterian Women’s Bible Study

The Dutch House (Ann Patchett, 2019, audio) a house and its people; great story-telling; fiction

The Nickel Boys (Colson Whitehead, 2019) novel based on story of real reform school; 1960s

The Second Mountain: The Quest for a Moral Life (David Brooks, 2019, audio) nonfiction

The Path Made Clear (Oprah Winfrey, 2019, audio) inspiration from many well-known voices 

Calling All Witches (Laurie Calkhoven, 2019) bios of the females of the H Potter series

The Craft (John Dickie, 2020) world history stories of freemasonry

The Book of Longings (Sue Monk Kidd, 2020, audio) “Red Tent”-like novel

White Too Long (Robert P. Jones, 2020) nonfiction; white supremacy & Christianity

American Dirt (Jeanine Cummins, 2020, audio) a Mex woman & young son flee to the US; fic

Too Much and Never Enough (Mary Trump, 2020, audio) family background of Donald Trump

Hill Women (Cassie Chambers, 2020, audio) family memoir of a woman of Appalachia

Caste (Isabel Wilkerson, 2020, audio) nonfiction; American social structure

A Promised Land (Barack Obama, 2020, audio) bio, presidential memoir part 1

Color code: *must read *also highly recommended


25 Movies I Watched (listed in order of release year)

Miracle on 34th St (1947, repeat) a heart-warming Santa story

White Christmas (1954, repeat) classic musical set post-WWII; romance and military

Star Wars: Episode IV: A New Hope (1977) classic sci-fi

Tootsie (1982, repeat) romantic comedy; Dustin Hoffman, Jessica Lange

Groundhog Day (1993) stuck reliving same day over and over

Sordid Lives (2000) a feel-good morbid comedy

The Count of Monte Cristo (2002) based on the classic novel of betrayal and revenge

The Maldonado Miracle (2003) a miracle in a border town church

The Bucket List (2007) starring Jack Nicholson & Morgan Freeman

Those People (2015) drama, romance

The Syndrome (2016) documentary challenging the validity of “shaken baby syndrome”

13th (2016) documentary of systemic racism intricately woven into the criminal justice system

The Christmas Chronicles (2018) 2 kids fly with Santa on Christmas Eve

The Man Who Invented Christmas (2017, repeat) Charles Dickens, biography

The NIghtingale (2018) drama set in 1825; violence, war, a young woman’s revenge

Vita & Virginia (2018) Virginia Woolf and Vita Sackville-West, biography

If Beale Street Could Talk (2018) based on novel by James Baldwin

Little Women (2019) based on Louisa May Alcott novel

Just Mercy (2019) true story of lawyer working for justice of wrongly accused

Portrait of a Lady on Fire (2020) forbidden love set in 18th century; French w/ Eng subtitles

Da 5 Bloods (2020, Netflix) Black war vets return to Vietnam; Spike Lee director

Hamilton (2020, Disney+) movie version of hit Broadway musical

Hillbilly Elegy (2020) based on 2016 novel by JD Vance; family memoir

The Social Dilemma (2020) alarming documentary of social media's manipulation of us all

The Prom (2020) Glee-style musical of inclusive prom

Color code: *must see *also highly recommended


The next two categories, TV and On Stage, are a bit blurred because of the pandemic, as most stage events after mid-March were available only in TV-like fashion.


That 70’s Show Season 1 (1998) sitcom set in the 1970’s

Race: The Power of an Illusion (2003, PBS) 3-part documentary of America’s culture of “race”

Community Seasons 1&2 (2009, 2010) sitcom centered on a Community College campus

The Crown Seasons 1, 2, &3 (2016, 2017, 2018 Netflix)) bio, drama; Queen Elizabeth II

The Handmaid’s Tale Season 1 (2017, Hulu) based on Margaret Atwood’s novel

Reconstruction (2019 PBS miniseries) documentary of period following Civil War

Hillary (2020 Hulu miniseries) autobiographical documentary of Hillary Rodham Chinton

Mrs. America (2020 Hulu miniseries) 1970s ERA fight - P Schlafly, G Steinam, Chisholm

A Secret Love (2020, Netflix documentary) 72-yr secret relationship 1947-2019; biography

Becoming (2020, Netflix documentary) Michelle Obama, biography

Race Matters: America In Crisis (2020, PBS NewsHour) conversations on American racism

Love, Victor Season 1 (2020 Hulu) a coming out drama

The Vote (2020 PBS documentary miniseries) the fight for women’s suffrage

Crip Camp: A Disability Revolution  (2020 Netflix) a 1950s-1970s camp for disabled

Beyonce: Black Is King (2020, Disney+) penetrating black empowering musical

What You Don’t Know (But Should) About Appalachian Slavery (2020, Internat'l Storytelling Center)

On Stage

Deathtrap (Lee St. Theatre, Jan) farcical play within a play

Trip To Bountiful (LST, Feb) elderly woman runs away to the home of her memories

Grapes of Wrath (Amer Shakespeare Center, April, streaming) based on Steinbeck novel, dust bowl

Motherhood Out Loud (LST, May, streaming) Multiple Stories of Mothering

Jesus Christ Superstar (Broadway Live stream)

Multiple streamed concerts (some weekly or monthly): Susan Werner, Cris Williamson, Maroon Corey, Kruger Brothers

Color code: *must see *also highly recommended


Speaking and Writing

I spoke once this year, in November, at James Madison University, my first time via Zoom.

I have posted a few blogs, listed and linked here:

About Wisdom:

B153. The Third Rung

B157: How College Made Me Smarter

B158. Simple Views and Ponderings from a Morning Walk

About Coronavirus:

B155. Coronavirus: Emotional Care Across Social Distance

B156: Staying at Home: And That's an Order

B160. Six Ideas for COVID Thanksgiving

About Power:

B159. White Man Secrets

And finally: I have seen more death this year than in any other; including in January, my Great Aunt Nell, the last of my grandparents' generation. This final blog, my most popular post of the year, is about another special person:

B154. Shine Bright, Pink Moon



Not much new this year, except that I have a paid Zoom account so I can host meetings beyond the free 40 minutes.

I continue to use my HP laptop and my iPhone every waking moment - for meetings, socialization, business, entertainment, music, audiobooks, and gaming. A continue to use "Alexa," mostly for weather, timers, quick look-up answers or math calculations, and music.

I was a Hulu member all year, and Netlix a couple of months when there was something I especially wanted to see. TV is not my usual leisure go-to.

My laptop hard drive crashed Dec 30, which explains the late post date of this inventory. I'm finally up and running again!



I have always loved puzzles of various kinds. This year I worked 1000-piece jigsaw puzzles of NC, Frida Kahlo, and board games. I entertained myself with the Puzzle Page and Words With Friends apps.

I was introduced to WWF in 2019 to participate in the Rowan County Literacy Council's WWF fundraiser tournament. I was ousted in an early round by the competitor who went on to win. This past June, I returned to become the 2020 tournament champion, winning an RCLC T-shirt, and $100 that I donated back to the organization.



15 hours of exercise per month - mostly resistance machines and stationary bike at the gym until the pandemic hit. Then mostly walking - parks, tracks, neighborhood. I continue to wear my leg brace on most of my walks. In June I participated in the COVID-style (individual) 19 miles in 19 days walk/run for Rowan Helping Ministries.

Torticollis continues. Botox shots every 4 months; and in July I started seeing an OMT whose holistic technique gives me hope.

I continue using MyFitnessPal for months at a time as needed to monitor my calories/weight. It's a great tool, and free!


Past inventories: