Thursday, May 5, 2016

Feliz Cinco de Mayo from Appalachia to Oz

I can see the quizzical looks on faces already. What in the world do Cinco de Mayo, Appalachia and Oz (Australia) have in common? And how do they fit into Ellen's theme of the women in her life for the blog this month? I want to tell a story today, a story of a friendship that travels from the mountains of southwest Virginia, to Australia, and to the limits of human imagination and technology. A friendship that embraces the esoteric, the mystical, the mundane, the creative, the depths and heights to which women can aspire and descend.

I started working at an AT&T call center in Lebanon, Virginia, in July of 2006. We had what was at the time one of the largest training classes to date at the center. I do not remember the exact number, but there were more than 60 of us I believe. Have you ever been in a group of strangers and someone just stood out because their energy and aura were so sparkling, their laugh so infectious? That was Dove. Her full name is Wynonah Dove Bush. I am about old enough to be her mother, but that is neither here nor there. I liked her. She was fun, and smart, and infectious. She was a singer, and could - and can - out-Dolly Dolly. A powerful voice in a short thing with one of the biggest personalities I have ever seen. 

We became friends, and this is where Cinco de Mayo comes in. She had a Cinco de Mayo party at her house and Roger and I went. Good Lord, we had fun. We drank too much Sangria, feasted on Grilled Shrimp, and I made pico de gallo, guacamole, and Mexican restaurant style rice. We sang Karaoke, and laughed and cried and talked about stars and souls and spirits and reaching beyond here to whatever is there.

This was not the last time we partied together, not the only time we sat and talked by flickering firelight. Her path went her way, and my path went my way. In the ten years give or take that I have known her, she has been on such a journey, and oh how I have loved watching her and being a small part of it. She went to Australia as a tribute artist (she does Dolly, and is awesome) and met the love of her life, Mauricio. She now lives in Sydney and works at Macquarle University as the FIRST Robotics Programme Administrator . She still sings, and her current business card is shown here. 

I love and admire Dove for many reasons, but mainly because, well, she is Dove. My friend, a fighter and dreamer who goes after her dreams with a determination that is beyond belief. She absolutely forges her destiny through grit and determination. And has one of the biggest, most generous souls you will ever encounter. 

So Feliz Cinco de Mayo, my lovely Turtledove. May your fiesta of life never end. 

Wednesday, May 4, 2016


when I drop a pebble into a pond

ripples spread out in concentric circles

undulating and widening and melding into the water

becoming one with the whole

yet still apart from 

when I drop another pebble

soon after the first 

but in a separate area

the ripples cross one another 

shared space

like mother nature's very own venn diagram 

today I see this in my life 

circles of people 

crossing paths

shared yet separate 

experiences that touch us 

individually and collectively

"No Man Is An Island" 

wrote John Donne centuries ago 

there is such beauty in the 

connections we experience in life 

the venn diagram aspect of 

our individual lives 

connections and 

overlapping experiences that are gifts 


today I find myself experiencing an overwhelming 




for each of you who are 

a part of the ripples 

my tiny pebble is

creating in this pond of life

~ Ellen Apple 5/4/2016

May the 4th Be With You!

May 4. 
Star Wars day ( May the 4th be with you!)
Occasionally Derby Day.
And is evidenced by the posts on Facebook and on this blog over the past few years, most importantly my sister's birthday.

I do not know what it like to not have a sister, and most of my early childhood memories are entwined with her. We shared a bedroom until she went off to college. We fought, and laughed, and were united and divided in skirmishes with family and neighbors and schoolmates. I resisted the inevitable comparisons in school, because she set the standard by which I was judged, and left expectations of aptitude and skill that were mine to meet or fall short of. 

My mother grew up without a sister, and she used to tell us constantly how blessed we were to have one another. An ally and friend for life, that we would never be alone because we had a sister. My voice sounds like hers, though I do not resemble her as much physically as I do the females on my father's side of the family. 

Of all of the women in my life, next to my mother I am sure she has had the most impact on me through the years. If anything happens to her, or her family, the visceral reaction in the depths of me is had to put into words. I have felt as though I fall short of expectations so many times in life, and that I am not the sister/daughter/wife/friend that others deserve or need. She more than anyone else is capable of providing just the right mixture of compassion and rebuke when interacting with me.

She knows me. 

And I love her. 

Happy Birthday for the 59th time, Sissy. I am glad I have you. 

2014 - from Facebook 

Today is May 4, my only blood sister's birthday. She is 19 months older than me, and as opposite from me as you could ever imagine. I love her, and admire her so much. She does not "do" Facebook, but her two well-reared children, Kyle Hart and Matthew Ryan Hart do, so perhaps they will show her these three pictures. In the first we are preschool age, in the second we are just out of high school, and the third is from just over a year ago.

2013 - From Facebook 

May 4
Derby Day
It was Derby Day in 1957 as well
That is the day my older by 18 months sister, Virginia Carol Smith Hart was born. I love my sister dearly, and am proud of the life she has made, and the sons she has raised. I am also not one bit sorry for tormenting her for the past 50 years or so. That is what sisters do.
And my cousin Richard Gilpin has a birthday today as well

2012 - From Facebook 
Fifty-five years ago today was a Saturday, and the Kentucky Derby was to be run ... how do I know this? Because my sister was born that day. Happy Birthday to my sister by blood, Virginia Carol Smith Hart. You are a good daughter, sister, wife and mother. Have a blessed day! {She is not on Facebook but maybe someone will tell her they saw this!}

2012 (from this blog)

May 4

Today is my sister's birthday. She is 55. Hard to imagine. It seems like only yesterday she was a sophomore in high school and I was putting on her knee-socks and stretching the tops because my calves have always been bigger than hers. I have always been bigger than her, taller, weigh more, talk more too!
We used to fight so bad, as only sisters can. I love her though, cannot imagine life without her in it. She is eighteen months older than I am. When we were small, Mom would get all upset when we argued, say she was so glad when I was a girl because Virginia Carol would not have to grow up without a sister. I understand.
I could not say Carol when I was small, and called her "Caugie" (I know!). Later it became Carr-ey, and I called her that until I was in my teens. Our younger brother always called her Sissy.
She and I were both married (my first, her only) in 1986, the year our father passed away. I always thought we subconsciously waited until after Daddy was gone before we married because he was THE man in our lives up until that point.
Two women could not be more different. She became a school teacher, and taught until she was able to retire from public schools. Now she works for Old Dominion University in their Distance Education program at our local community college. She never smoked or drank, has two exceptionally intelligent and well-mannered sons, and is well-respected in our hometown. She is blonde, and slender. She struggled with weight as did I, she won her battle.
Me? I have quit college, several times. Never held a job longer than 4 years, smoke, drink when the mood hits, have always been heavy.
She has been there for me when I needed her, every time. I have done my best to be here for her. I appreciate and admire the woman she has become.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Carroll Lee and Sia

As I mentioned in my previous blog post, May is going to be a focus on the women in my life. 

I read earlier that today is National Teacher Appreciation Day.  It really seems as though there is a "national day - week - month" for just about everything, doesn't it? I attended school in Richlands, Virginia from first grade until I graduated in 1977. 

My first grade teacher was Bess Buskill, second grade Kathleen Nolley, third grade Ann Jackson, fourth grade Janice Humphrey, fifth grade Edith Horton, sixth grade Claude Reedy and Nancy Kimball, seventh grade ... I do not remember exactly all the teachers from seventh through twelfth. There were 5 or 6 instructors each year. I always enjoyed school, and other than admonitions about talking too much from time to time was really never in very much trouble. I guess I was pretty social, participating in clubs and organizations when able. I did not play sports, and physical education was definitely my least favorite part of public school. PhysEd was no longer a requirement after my sophomore year in high school, and I was not saddened in the least to leave that behind me. 

I never actually had Carroll Lee Wolfe as a teacher. She taught English at Richlands High School. However, her daughter Leesa was one of my best friends all the way through school, and thier house was within eyesight of mine. Leesa and I were in many classes together throughout school, and spent a great deal of time with one another both at school and in our free time. So I guess you could say Carroll Lee was my favorite non-teacher. Her presence in my life definitely had an impact, and while she could be stern, I always liked and respected her. The photo you see here was taken this year for her birthday. I am not sure how old she is, though I would think in the same age range as my own mother who was 83 in January.  

Aspasia Bishara was my French teacher for four years, In this photo you can see her with a group of foreign language students that performed a compilation of songs and dances attired in various culturally appropriate clothing. I am on the back row, far left. Sia is standing on the far right. She speaks seven languages, was born in Greece, married an Egyptian, and emigrated to America when her engineer husband came here to work. She was such a strong influence in my life. She helped all of us see that the people are people, and that tolerance and understanding can and should be a path for peace and cooperation. She educated us, in so many ways. About foods, religion, war, the need to continually expand your worldview, the vital part humor plays in living a meaningful life. To the best of my knowledge, she still lives in the area. 

Being an educator is  a scared calling. 

Monday, May 2, 2016

ahhhh .... May

I took a day off yesterday, after an intense April. 30 poems in 30 days. And of course, I challenged myself even more than the NaPoWriMo guidelines by taking the opportunity to experiment with some new forms, and delving deep into me on a couple of my offerings. You see, that is the thing. Time after time over the years I keep coming back to the poetry. I can spend hours immersed in the words, finding rhymes, working on meter and syllable count. Discovering antonyms and synonyms and arcane usage that speaks to me. 

I began pulling together poems with the vague idea of self publishing a collection. I thought I may have about 100 poems, then I could add a few of my personal favorites of photographs from the past few years and have something that looked decent. 

I have 12000 words already, and half of April has not been added yet. And this is the picture I want for the cover:

So, it may really end up being a thing.

Onward then. May is going to be a focus on the women in my life, and the first post will feature my one biological sister. Her birthday is May 4, she will be 59. I will share what I can of my memories of her, and the complicated relationship that results from being so close genetically, yet so very very different in myriad ways. She was Mom's Kentucky Derby baby. Born on Derby Day in  1957. 

For now, it is almost three in the morning, and time for me to get ready for work. Blessings!

Saturday, April 30, 2016

NaPoWriMo 2016 Day 30


I am a writer

weaver of dreams

poet of mysteries

crosser of streams

occasional wayfarer  

hatching my schemes

sojourner yet earthbound

stuck in the sky

deep rooted in whimsy

my soul can fly

maker of magic

conventions decry

I am a cloud walker

wandering along

words without music

dance without song

~ Ellen Apple 4/30/2016

Thus my National Poetry Writing Month 2016 adventure comes to a close. 

Friday, April 29, 2016

NaPoWriMo 2016 Day 29

I remember
backyard tents
and "camping" 
I remember
peach ice cream
I remember
playing hopscotch
and four-square
I remember 
falling asleep
to the sound of my parents talking
I remember
where all the trains were going
I remember
being scared
at the funeral home 
I do not ever remember
feeling smart
But here I am 
so I must have been

~ Ellen Apple 4/29/2016