Friday, March 28, 2014

Life As It Is This Day

Today I went into town and performed a task I had not had the ability to perform for almost four years. I picked up a paycheck, and went to the bank.
That is right, I now have a job. I am working part time hours at a local convenience store. I am so happy, so grateful. Now begins a slow, steep climb to solvency once again. It is hard to express the myriad emotions that have been whirling through my mind over the past week.
On Tuesday March 18 I stopped for gas (I could afford about 3 gallons) and there was a sign in the window, Hiring Cashier Apply Inside. I filled out an application and had an interview on the spot. On Thursday I received a phone call about the job, and went to work last Friday. Oh, how my feet and back protested. The last time I worked a job at which I was required to be on my feet all day was WalMart and I left there in July 2006.
I am so grateful.
I have learned many hard lessons over this extended period of unemployment, been shown mercy and generosity, and judged and criticized as well. I have had to ask for help, and have a long road ahead to get out of the financial hole I am in at this time. 
More than anything I pray that I have been able to absorb the lessons and will be able to be more compassionate, more frugal, more forgiving and understanding of my fellow humans.
I am fully intending to continue my writing, and desire to continue to cultivate a readership of this blog and my Facebook presence as well.
I splurged a bit today - I bought a pizza for our evening meal.
There is more I want to share, I am weighing the manner in which to do so. I have the second part of Adventures in Goat Farming to write yet, and after that I am considering putting some of my struggles to paper in the form of more Appalachian Tale stories.
Blessed day to all!

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Attitude of Gratitude

In the mid- to late 1980's I lived in south Florida, on the east coast, my mailing address was Fort Pierce though I actually lived outside of a small community known as White City. The house I lived in had been a bachelors officers quarters during WWII. After the war, the quarters were sold to members of the community. This particular house was moved to a site that sat at the center of an acre of an old orange grove. I had neighbors on either side, the neighbors to the east is a tale for another day. Still working on that one, it is a hard story to bring to paper. Today I shall share a story about the people on the west side.
Bill and Sheila. Quirky couple. Husband and wife driving team for a local produce trucking firm, mainly oranges and tomatoes. Around 1987 tough times hit the trucking industry, and the driver pay took a real hard hit. Brokers started coming up with runs and hauls that were more suited to single drivers than teams and Sheila opted to stay home for a while and try to find a regular job. Bill was out for weeks on end, at times stuck waiting for a trip to take him further from home and wife. Money was very tight for them, and she would share with me from time to time how discouraging her life had become, having been unsuccessful in finding employment.

I was working a regular job, and my first husband was as well. We were not wealthy, but we were not in want. I knew that Sheila was in need of supplies, and double purchased on my weekly grocery trip. When I went to Winn Dixie, I bought in twos, for each item I placed in the cart for us, I placed the same item for her. Bread, eggs, coffee, milk, butter, vegetables, proteins, paper supplies, cleaning items, everything.

When I arrived home, I sorted the items and traipsed through the back yard over to her trailer. I knocked on the door, handed her the bags, and said, "Thought you might need a few things."

This gesture was well received, at first ... until the next week or so later when she told me that if I felt the need to make her a pet charity again to not buy "x" brand that she preferred "y" and that she would really rather me give her cash.

I was 28 years old, and her reaction crushed me. I had not intended to be perceived as taking her on as a pet charity. She was my neighbor, a friend. She had a need and I had a means to fulfill at least a part of it.

Why, you may be wondering, is Ellen telling us about something that happened almost 30 years ago?

Over the past 3+ years, I have been in a position of having less than I was accustomed to in the past. Friends, family, and strangers have stood in the gap for us time and time again. Food, supplies, money, gifts large and small have been graciously extended, and very gratefully received.

Not everyone eats the same brand of vegetables, shops at the same stores, uses the same brand of toilet paper or drinks the same beverages. I have had no problem whatsoever trying new and different brands and items, I have been challenged to discover new means and methods of meal preparation, and I am not complaining. Because people cared enough to share.

I made a comment to someone yesterday about having an attitude of gratitude, and this is what came to mind. Sheila's reaction was hurtful to me, and I had trouble letting that hurt go for a long time. I do not always know what to say when people extend grace to me, I fumble for words and get all flushed and bothered. I am an emotional person, and often get teary eyed and choked up. I do not want to be overly effusive, nor do I want to give the impression that in some way I feel entitled.

I am not really sure where the balance lies in this matter. What is a proper attitude of gratitude? I suppose the answer would have to be the attitude that is the most real and authentic for you. I am humbled and grateful for every can of peas, every bag of pasta, every roll of toilet paper, every tea bag, every tangible expression of love and concern that has come our way. I look forward to the day that I can be the one who gives once again, and if the next recipient of my sharing is another "Sheila", I will do my darnedest to not take such offense.

Who knows? My response to some of our angels may not have been well perceived or received.

That is all.

The Knob

The Knob
I have a tale to share here
Of a stalwart mountain woman
Who lived with her man nigh on forty years
In a ramshackle clapboard house
Chicken coops, a ramshackle barn
A straggly vegetable patch
Hogwire fencing on gray cedar posts
Front door painted haint blue
Rickety steps with no handrail
Lace curtains blow in the breeze
Clothesline strung from house to shed
An old coon dog and a stray tomcat
Now she was known to be moody
Some days barely spoke a word
He was called a mean 'un around these parts
And got liquored up more often than not
The house sat halfway up a hill
Of the sort you see hereabouts
A hill so steep and daunting
Only goats and sheep would climb it
Through time and season
Pathways will wear at random
As the livestock traipse to and fro
Amidst stones and briars and clover beds
At the top of the hill was a flat top rock
That stood about two feet tall
A perfect place to sit a spell
And take the scenery in
Now this woman was one rather deep
And would brood for days at her plight
Barren of child and bound to her man
Almost drove her insane
From time to time she would go out
And stand in her yard
Staring hard and long towards that rock
Jaw clenched tight in apron and dress
Off up that hill she would start
Slow at first planting her feet firm
Always looking ahead
Then faster still in a steep straight climb
No zigzag paths for her trail were taken
She was a woman on a mission
If one were close enough to see her face
Tear streaked dirt tracks would be there
And trembling lower lip
What put her in such a state might vary
Depending on the day or time
But oh she knew with no doubt at all
Exactly what her day would bring
So off she strode slow at first
Then faster as she went
The last few yards would be at a trot
Until she reached that flat top rock
Then there she would sit in the healing sun
Her face turned to the sky
And bit by bit her rage and pain
Would drift away to the clouds
It is said were it not for the knob
At the top of that hill so steep
Her rage would have grown so hard and hot
No man could have stood in her way
Her life was hard
Her pleasures few
I am sure glad she had the knob
~Ellen Apple 03/20/2014
~Mary Brown, Photographer

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Fighting Sea Monsters-A poem

Fighting Sea Monsters
The sky awash in roiling grey clouds
Rumbles of thunder vibrate the leaves
Electricity crackles in the air
As lightening dances along the ground
We are transported
The porch is now a storm tossed ocean
The swing a pirate ship at full sail
Look ahead!
Man the wheel!
Leviathans are on the move
They threaten the lives of all aboard
Ready the cannon
Harpoons at hand
Brought to bay we have
No recourse but fight
Each to their task
Hesitate? Never 
Yet the adventure ends
Life pulls us back
With the lure of snacks
Peanut Butter sandwiches with Grape Jelly
Cherry Kool-Aid
Chocolate Chip cookies
Oh to be
Ten years old again
On a stormy Summer afternoon
When the porch was an ocean
The Swing was a ship
And the street light poles
Were the only monsters we knew
~Ellen Apple 03/18/2014

Monday, March 17, 2014

Adventures in Goat Farming - Part 1

My first husband was 25 years my senior, and had 2 adult children when we first met. He became a grandfather within a year of our meeting, and for about 15 years I was a stepmother and step grandmother. When we divorced, just prior to his death, (long story) the granddaughters were 11 and 15. We moved from Florida to North Carolina in 1989 and set up residence on property that had been in his family (maternal side) for almost 100 years.

The once large farm had through the years been divided through inheritance and was at that time reduced to about 17 acres of mostly pine trees, rocks and gullies. He had an aunt that lived in South Carolina who actually owned the house and had rented it to us for a very reasonable amount. While most of the land was not usable, there was a sizable yard, a few derelict out buildings, an area that had been fenced off previously with hog wire when his family had kept hogs and chickens and milk cows,  and a beautiful spot to have a good size vegetable garden.
One excellent benefit to living in his hometown was the opportunity he had to rebuild relationships within his family, and to get to know his grandchildren. My stepson and his wife and daughters lived about 90 minutes away and visited often.
One February, I think it was probably about 1991, Eric and his family showed up early one Sunday morning with a gift for Moe. A female (nanny) goat. I know that this was Eric's was of indulging the girls desire for livestock without having to be responsible for the livestock, and it was brilliant. We named her Sally and were quite pleased to put her in the lot and laugh at her antics. Two weeks later, the reason for her low cost to Eric were evident - she was pregnant. As happenstance and whimsy would have it, Sally delivered her kid early one Sunday morning and Eric and the family arrived soon after, with the girls running to the barn to see the goats as soon as they arrived.
Many humorous things occurred connected to the goats, so I am just going to hit on a few of the highlights. We started out with Sally, then acquired Jenny and Arnie (male, or billy, goat - BIG mistake - goats breed like rabbits so to speak). At one point we had almost 20 African pygmy goats. Now that is important, because they are small, and not the breed usually kept for milk, which I believe are Nubian or Milch goats. At any rate any milk produced by the females went into the bellies of the seemingly endless supply of baby goats. We did not milk our goats, or slaughter them for food.
Goats will eat anything:
  • The labels off of cans (though not the can itself - that is a myth)

  • Privet hedges

  • Tree bark in a circle around the tree, killing it. Especially fruit and nut trees, though pines and cedar seem to be safer from the vociferous appetites.

  • Particle or OSB board, fiber board, any type of wood used for shelter walls and roof sheeting

  • Tobacco, including but not limited to cigarettes, cigarette butts and cigars

  • Newspapers, cardboard, magazines, the mail out of the mailbox if the door is not closed

  • Wreaths on doors, plastic-grapevine-live it doesn't matter the material, and they eat the ribbons, bows and embellishments as well

  • If you wear nail polish they will try to eat your fingertips

  • Their absolute favorite thing to eat is sweet feed from the feed store, so if you buy it you have to keep it locked up and well hidden and secured

Goats apparently really are social creatures, and do best when they are around other goats or animals. The first few weeks we had only the one goat, Sally. Goats are also very adept at escaping any type of enclosure devised by man and she was constantly leaving her ample lot to explore our mostly rural neighborhood. There was a pasture at the end of our road where show horses were often grazing and we had to retrieve her from there several times. Things got marginally better after we obtained our second adult female, Jenny, but then they came to an understanding that they could both escape and head in opposite directions. I was not working at the time, and was awakened one morning by a call from a local pastor's wife. Our goats were in the church cemetery eating the floral tributes off the gravesites. I placed an urgent call to my husband at work, got semi-decently dressed and headed across the road to the scene of the crime.

Well. Sally and Jenny saw me coming, and the pastor's wife was waving a towel around saying "Shoo!" and they bolted in no time flat. The pastor had been to a prayer breakfast and drove up in his vintage VW bus (I swear I am not embellishing on any of this) and joined the chase. So there we were, the preacher in a three piece suit, his wife in a housecoat waving a towel, and me wearing ratty sweats and a t-shirt, chasing a goat down the middle of a two lane road. Meanwhile, my husband arrived, went to the barn, retrieved a coffee can with a few handfuls of sweet feed thrown in, and lured first one then the other back to their lot.

I shall pause at this point, and share further adventures and the sad tale of how our goat farming came to an end later, but I promise-the goats were not killed, they were just re-homed!

Monday Musing

A stream of my consciousness

My mind dwelt in the past yesterday
Now yesterday is the past
One of the oddities of life,
It never stays still but is indeed
That perpetual motion machine
We heard about in schooldays

I found an interesting consistency
In the impermanence of life
As my recent past visited my past distant
Concerning playmates and friends
Regarding personality and traits

We all want to be correct as we go about
Our day to day life
The SAT scores and academic accolades
Having left a standard we use to measure
Ourselves and others for decades
For lifetimes

I read a book once where the author
His life knowledge was from
I believe this was true

Having contemplated ruminated and meditated
My conclusion is as follows
As long as we try put adults into
The same molds they fit as 15 year olds
We will continue to be dismayed
And hopefully amazed ?
When they just will not stay in stasis

~Ellen Apple
17 March

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Silent Memorial

Silent Memorial

Two tall brick chimneys stand

Silent sentinels among the weeds

Debris of days at end

The dead still among us

A monument to youth

Facing one another straight and square

Ever fixed in time yet infinity looms

In the firebox

Now but gaping jaws

Devouring light and joy

Flames once roared

Warmth became inferno

Hearth no more a refuge

No comfort there found

As walls fell in agony

Lives not yet lived

Hopes consumed

Dreams to terror and rage

Breath sucked from the breast

As smoke poured in

Each time I pass my eyes scour

Searching for the wildflower

The fledgling bird in nest

Craving mute testimony

For reason in the chaos

Forty years since passed

Yet still they stand

Through winter's gloom

In autumns tapestry

Unwavering in resolve

~ Ellen Apple

16 March 2014

There was a house fire when I was in 12th grade. Sisters perished in the old 2-story white house, and the chimneys are still there, at the junction of Middle Creek and the Cedar Bluff Road, across from the Perry farm. Up on a hill, surrounded by overgrowth. The family name was Osborne. I remember the tragedy every time I go to Mom's and see those chimneys, a silent memorial to lives lost so young.... They perished Feb 18, 1977. They were one year apart in age, Nancy was born in 1960, Carolyn in 1961. Juanita also perished, she was born around 1966 and was in the fifth grade.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Facebook Excerpts

On Priorities

There was a horrible mix-up in the breakfast program where I live this winter one day when schools were on late schedule. As a result, the breakfast was not available. There were some very hungry children, needing to eat because they were getting physically ill from hunger. I have a friend who teaches here and she and other teachers were scrambling through their personal goody stashes to hand out Cheezits and other goodies. The issue has been resolved, thankfully. There are bookbag programs at the community colleges, many churches and service organizations to provide food for children who have no access to reliable nutrition on the weekend. Puddings, Fruit Cups, Juice Boxes, Snack Crackers. Dammit, people, children need to eat. What in the name of all that is holy is wrong with our society?

I have nothing against animals, handicapped children, bullied children, missing adults, children with ADHD, Autism, Aspergers or anything else. But it puzzles me the way people will jump on the bandwagon of a "trending" issue and get all frothing at the mouth and sit back and blame the children by default by disparaging the fact that they are in a position of need and receive free/reduced lunches or have to depend on adults who receive government benefits.

There were over 2 million people that liked a Facebook Page for a little boy who felt othered at school, he received dozens of gifts, thousands of cards, went on GMA, was given a trip to Disney World. That is great, I am happy for him. Why not pay this type of care and attention to the children in every school system in this country who depend on schools who are closed on weekends and during breaks and vacation as the primary source of their nutrition?

Do we not draw a correlation between poor test scores and nutritional deficiencies? We should be doing so. If you are hungry you get headaches, you cannot concentrate, your blood sugar levels will spike and drop. School funding is tied to test scores, teachers are punished because the children perform poorly. Look in the cafeteria!

Look at your priorities, people. Personally, I think people pay attention to and give towards big stories as a way of avoiding the bigger problems. That is why we are so concerned about Justin Bieber and Kim Kardashian and Lindsey Lohan.

On Life and Loss

One thing that happens with increasing frequency as you grow older is the passing away of people who are a part of the weaving of the fabric of your life. Our parents, relatives, friends, neighbors. Growing up in a small town, as I did, and having a large family and an even larger 'almost family', as I have, these losses are coming faster and faster for me.

My father, who was born in 1915, lived...
most of his life in the same neighborhood. There was a family that lived across from my grandparents by the name of Shook. They had a son, Bill, who had 3 daughters and a son. His oldest daughter Kathy is the same age as my sister. They had a daughter, Helen, who had 3 daughters and a son. Her two oldest daughters are the same age as my sister and me. They had a daughter, Margie, who has (I think!) two sons and a daughter. There was a blind gentleman, Willard, who was a relative of the Shooks that lived with them that I remember giving us sticks of Juicy Fruit gum. Mrs. Shook still lives in the same house.

At various times, we (Ed, Carol, Mom, and myself) delivered the Bluefield Daily Telegraph to the Shooks, Margie's family, and Helen's family. (Bill did not live in Dalton Addition) Bill became a well known and much loved minister in our little community.

Word has reached me this morning that he passed away yesterday, and thus the fabric of my past has another broken thread. He may not have remembered me if I had encountered him these past years, and I doubt that any of his children other than Kathy would know who I am. I feel very badly for them, losing a father is a hard thing to go through. He lived well, was well loved, and will be well remembered. That is a wonderful legacy. They will be surrounded by family and friends, looked after with care and concern. Because that is what we do for each other.

When people are hurting, we look after them with care and concern. That is the good, and fine, and noble part of being a human. Love, care and concern for one another. And when we do it well, we can become a thread in the fabric that makes up another young person's life that is woven in a distinct manner that will be missed when it breaks, as all threads eventually do. (From March 15)
My Husband
Hello, Owl here. Today is a very special day, it is Apple's birthday. Join me in wishing him a big Happy Birthday in appreciation for the creativity, vision and talent he shares with the world. He is the embodiment of the term "gentle giant", standing tall at 6'6" and having a heart that is as big as the outdoors he prefers to spend his time in. ( From March 14)
A Poem
There may have been unicorns
In the wee hours of this day
Mist hung in the air
Dripping from the bare branches
Almost indiscernible buds beginning to form
On the tips of the trees
Wild violets are out
Soon to carpet the yard
Followed by dandelion
And clover...

The creek has been singing all winter
Ever on the move
That is why I think there may have been
Unicorns in the wee hours
They daintily snack on
Tender young violets
Sip from the cold creek pools
Slip away in the mist
Seen only by sharp eyed cats
And the fairies of the land

~Roberta Ellen Apple 03/15/2014


Saturday, March 1, 2014

Things that made me smile this week

Roger's view on life, tolerance and playing well with others:
    Apple Speaks:

    There is one thing every human has in common.
    No matter what country, what religion, what gender, what sexual orientation, what political views,

    What everybody has in common in their lifetime they all have to go to the grocery store/marketplace/bazaar/fields for food, shelter, clothing.

    There will always be a clean up on aisle three.

    When you look at different people they reall...y are not that different after all.

    Everybody has one favorite thing that they want the most, one favorite thing they love to eat. That means that we all have to see the thing that is the same in us and quit looking for the difference because we do not all have the same favorite thing.

    My favorite thing is homemade ice cream with fresh, fresh peaches.

    Just pay attention the next time you are out around other people. You will see what I mean.

A Poem I wrote:

Take my wagon to the woods

That is what I should do

Dig some 'seng

Find some ramps

Search out those dry-land fish

Take my wagon to the meadow

That is what I should do

Gather dandelions and clover

Cut some lavender

Brew me some thistle tea

Take my wagon to the fair

That is what I should do

Read some cards

Dance and twirl

Sing the Moon to sleep

- Roberta Ellen Smith Apple, 02/27/2014

This was our sky on Thursday.

Roger is making a crescent moon from a piece of cedar he found in our creek.

My babies.