Tuesday, May 31, 2016

May Roundup

Contemplating the healed Earth, a place without borders and wars. Such a dreamer am I at times.

I have a vision of Earth, healed ...
All of my life it seems I have heard the phrase "Attitude of Gratitude". I will admit I looked at it as a hackneyed, superficial catch-all phrase many times. It was one of those phrases like "Bless Your Heart" or "I will put you on my prayer list" that on some level I saw as an easy verbal out when people didn't want to be bothered, or had no clue as to what to do to really help someone.
I now see it differently. Each day is a collection of moments, all of which affect us on two levels - environmentally, and internally. For me, appreciating does not mean liking, or approving. It is just as important to appreciate the uncomfortable and painful for the lessons learned. We speak often of "random acts of kindness" and "paying it forward". Take it from one who has been on both sides of the aisle on this one, it is as much an opportunity for gratitude and appreciation to be the giver and it is the recipient, to be in need as to be provided for.

I have a vision of Earth, healed, where we as graceful with one another in our want as we are in our surplus.

I have a vision of Earth, healed ...
... I believe it to be important for each of us to surround ourselves with like minded kind and supportive people...
This is a snippet I just read from a comment on a friend's Timeline. I found myself reading these words again, and contemplating how simple and profound they are.
Often, we do not have a lot of influence over the casual interactions in our day to day life. We do have control in the way we react and interact with others. We can choose to be kind. Kind is not weak, nor malleable. Kind is a sure and deep strength. Kind counts, kind matters, kind costs nothing and is priceless.
I have a vision of Earth, healed.

I have a vision of Earth, healed ...
In the 60's The Fifth Dimension sang of the dawning of the Age of Aquarius.
In the 70's John Lennon sang of the world being one
I grew up with the echoes of these ideals reverberating through my mind, and a belief was born that we can heal the Earth
Each of us can be that one voice, joining into a chorus of brotherhood
Each of us can accept a kindness with grace, and pay it forward
Each of us can smile at a stranger, and make a friend
I have a vision of Earth, healed ...

I have a vision of Earth, healed.
My intent is to be kind, in my interactions and actions.
To be careful, in my word choices.
To smile, more.
To laugh, often.
To want less things.
To like more people.
To watch less television.
To read more books.
To listen, not just hear.
To show the people I love that I love them, and say it as well.
To apologize even when I do not want to.
My intent is to be better at being me.

I just do not understand.
I do not understand the xenophobia.
I do not understand the prejudice.
I do not understand the hate.
I do not understand the bigotry.
I do not understand the intolerance.
I do not understand the elitism.
I just do not understand why we are at this juncture, at this time, in our society.
I just do not understand.

I have a vision of Earth healed.
A world where people matter more than things. and love rather than power is the energy we harness.

A little light verse I wrote - A Monday afternoon lagniappe :
Flickering light
Just out of sight
Dim in the mist
Like will'o'the'wisp
Lost on the mountain
Adrift in the sea
Flow like a fountain
Return love to me
~ Ellen Apple 5/16/2016

I have a vision of Earth, healed.
We - I - can begin my part today by claiming my spark, and acknowledging yours.

I was feeding the cats earlier, and was remembering a time about 4 years ago when we were so strapped for money and Shari Stacy bought us a big bag of cat food. It just showed up, delivered by UPS. That was a kindness and generosity I will never forget. She, along with DeborahDeborah,RachelGeorgenneGratSteveandKathyBrettJonathanShauna,MichaelWendyDovePatriciaLeighAimee, my mother and my sister (and I know I am more than likely forgetting someone) exhibited care, love, concern, support and assistance - they showed us grace. I have a vision of Earth healed, and we work on that healing daily, one kind act, one act of love, one helping hand at a time.

I am sharing this because I have bi friends
I am sharing this because I have lesbian friends
I am sharing this because I have gay friends
I am sharing this because I have asexual friends
I am sharing this because I believe in and support my friends, because they believe in and support me
I have a vision of Earth, healed,  and believe that acceptance is part of the healing

I have a vision of Earth, healed, I mentioned that yesterday. This is the path. This is the answer. I am Ellen. a female human being. That is enough.
Please, please ... if you have ever played a video on Facebook, play this one. Listen. Watch. Listen again.

Impacting in so many ways.

From June 1986 through July 1989, I had a job at Falcon Oil Company in Fort Pierce, FL. We were located on a stretch of Okeechobee Road (SR 70) that was between I-95 and the Florida Turnpike. We were a truckstop, and an Amoco gas stop. I worked the gas pumps, running a cash register from 6 AM until 3 PM, four days on and four days off. Best shift, schedule I ever worked.
There was an Econo Lodge, a Days Inn, a Holiday Inn, a Waffle House, and a McDonalds on the same side (south side) of Okeechobee Road as Falcon Oil. Our clientele ranged from truckers to vacationers to bikers to locals.
There was a man named Sam who was a regular customer. He rented a room by the month at the Econo Lodge, and was in Falcon Oil for hours every day. He was a bit of an odd duck, and decided I was his kind of people when I allowed him to examine the gap on every pair of nail clippers in a plastic tub on the counter, and listened to his rationale for what he was looking for in the clippers he would end up purchasing.
Something happened today that reminded me of Sam today, and I wish I knew how his life went after I left Falcon Oil, and Florida. He was a veteran, and went to VA appointments in Fort Lauderdale frequently. As far as I know, he had no close friends or family. I learned a lot from him, listening to his stories from the military, and his viewpoints on politics and national security. I bet he would have an earful for me this election cycle.

I have a vision of Earth, healed ...

This Day

This day may you live just in this day - not in the regret of yesterday, or the fear of tomorrow.
This day may you take respite for you - a minute here, a relaxing beverage there, a connection with a friend or hobby that will bring you calm.
This day may you see not the mountain to climb but the steps as they come.
This day may you remember that all that brought you to this point was so you could make it to the next.
This day may you heed the words and actions of those who stand with you, and rebuke those who assail you. If not in deed, in word. If not in word, in attitude. If not in attitude, in intent.
This day look at your space, and see the beauty and joy you have fought so hard to gain. Do not let any person or circumstance take from you anything you do not give in trust.
This day, remember - you matter.

Then do the same tomorrow.

I have a vision of Earth, healed ...
One kind word, one whispered plea, one small gesture at a time. There was a movie several years ago with Ashton Kutcher, "The Butterfly Effect". The premise of the movie being that a small action (or non-action) while seemingly insignificant to you, can have life altering effects on another.
Having a vision of Earth healed sounds perhaps trite or hokey - and maybe it is. But here is the thing. We bring healing or harm to ourselves, other people, and our world every day. In large and small ways. I can make a difference by listening, with my heart as well as my head, to the things you are saying to me when you never speak a word. I can think good, and positive, and healing thoughts for and of you and that energy - and I truly believe this - goes directly to you wherever you may be..
The opposite is true as well. Small, greedy, malevolent thoughts and actions have wide ranging consequences.
We are given a gift, the present - and with that gift we can atone for the past where needed, and make course corrections when we have drifted from our path. I know that not a single one of us is always nice and good and right. Actually, that would be rather scary, all that holiness. But when we carry one another in the bad times, and invite one another to share the good times, we are better at being us.
We have different experiences, different challenges, different strengths. But we share one world, one chance, to get things right. That is the impetus that drives my vision of Earth, healed.

Tanka Tuesday

May ends with hot tears
Summer's unofficial start
Mercury soars high
Building to afternoon storms
Heat broken - no - still humid

(hot tears being the afternoon showers on a hot humid day)

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

A Change in Attitude

I have a vision of Earth, healed ...

Hope and gratitude
A change in attitude
Smiles and laughter
Are what I'm after
Lifting my mood
Is all in how life is viewed
Keeping company with kindred souls
Now one of my daily goals

~ Ellen Apple 05/25/2016

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Washing Clean - A Poem of Womanhood

Hands red and wrinkled scrubbing hard
The stains of life stubbornly cling
Dreams lie scattered, lost and charred
Dashed hopes carry vitriols sting

Tears flow freely such loving eyes
Hitching sobs burst from trembling lips
Supplicant pleas heavenward rise
Hope for the future held in grips

Drink deep full that elixir cup
Dance with abandon in moonlight
Hold fast that goal never give up
Always keep your children in sight

Truths of now in your blood does flow
Secrets fertile in barren womb
Poured to your spirit long ago
No longer housed in marble tomb

Strong sure steps imprints in the sand
And birth pangs from deep inside groan
So continue unbroken strand 
Three are one Maiden Mother Crone 

~ Ellen Apple 5/12/2016 

Wednesday, May 11, 2016


I see my grandmothers in me.

When I look in the mirror, when I cook, when I sew, when I eat certain foods, when I gravitate towards a certain color, or flower.

I see my grandmothers in me.

My father's mother was Mattie Mae Ernest Smith.

She was born in the late 1800's and lived her early years in the Sugar Grove area of Smyth County, Virginia. When she was still quite young, she worked as a seamstress in Bluefield, WV, where she met John Robert Smith. He worked for Norfolk and Western Railroad and they took a train trip to Bristol, VA for their marriage. They still lived in the Bluefield area when my father was born in March of 1915. He was one of, let's see .... Zelma, Fay, JT, Poss, Susie, Geraldine, Christine, Norman ... eight children.  The family moved to Richlands when my father was still quite young, and settled in a section of town known as Dalton Addition.

This picture was taken in the 1940's in my grandparents' living room. My father is second from the left, standing. 

Granny was kind, and gentle. She was the undisputed head of the family, the quintessential mother hen who always knew where her chicks were and if they needed her. She passed away when I was in the seventh grade. 

Until she passed away, I lived within walking distance of Granny. I visited with her and learned to weed flowers and enjoy sliced cucumbers and onions with a cup of hot tea in the afternoon. We were at Granny and Granddaddy's as often as we were at home it seemed, and many of my daily recollections of my early years involve one or both of them.

My mother's mother was Ethel Virginia Cundiff Slade.
She was born in the 1910's, one of ... Sam, Guy, Dave, Ethel, Ruby, Macie, Clara ... seven children if I am not forgetting anyone. Her father passed away when she was young, and her mother remarried. She had a rough childhood, not from want of love, for her mother was very loving, but for the sparse nature of life both before and after Mr. Carter became her stepfather. She  met James Roy Slade while still in her teens and after they married they spent all of their married life  the in Bluefield Va  area. She had 4 children, Sonny, Elwood, Janet, and Jack. Sonny died before his first birthday, and she carried the weight of her sorrow from his early death all of her life. 

'Thursday Throwback - My maternal grandmother, age unknown. Ethel Virginia Cundiff Slade. She wore the sorrow of the loss of her firstborn, a son, in his infancy, as a heavy mantle her entire life.'

I am unsure as to when this picture was taken. It does capture her well. 

MawMaw was a farmwife, and she toiled hard. She baked amazing biscuits, and lived without hot water in her kitchen, or indoor plumbing, up until they sold the farm and moved into town around 1970. Her cooking was legendary, and there are several things I make today that are recipes from her collection. She also loved handwork, crocheting and embroidery. 

MawMaw passed away in 1986, the same year that we lost PawPaw, and Daddy. 1986 was a rough year for my mother.

I spent at least a week, sometimes more, with MawMaw and PawPaw every summer. It was at the farmhouse one wet summer that I discovered what a joy books could be, as I read novel after novel by Zane Gray and astounded my grandparents by reading the entirety of Gone With the Wind in 2 days. MawMaw taught me to embroider, and let me practice sewing on her Singer machine when I decided I wanted to learn to make my own clothing. 

The sorrows and triumphs, the laughs and tears, the food and family of these two women are woven so into the woman that I am today. They both lived close enough to me, and were patient enough to have small children around, to have opportunity to pass on knowledge and wisdom to me - even though I was unaware of it at the time. 

They both had birthdays in May, by the way. The eight and the eleventh. So today I honor these two women whose DNA I carry, and whose legacy I am a part of. 

Sunday, May 8, 2016

My Bowl of Spaghetti on Mother's Day

I heard an interview with someone (do not remember who) on a radio program (do not remember which one ) several years ago, at least ten. The men are from Mars women are from Venus theory was being discussed. The guest commented - (I am 57 now and this was ten years ago, so my 'recollection' is of only the talking point that resonated the strongest with me) - that she views men's brains as boxes, everything compartmentalized and concrete. Defined borders and restrictions. Issues dealt with one at a time, able to put aside the personal while dealing with social or business situations. Women's brains were described as being like bowls of spaghetti. Everything intertwined, with emotion and intuition and empathy holding equal space with analytics and concrete and irrefutable facts. On this Mother's Day in the month that I am celebrating the women in my life, I present to you some of my messy bowl of spaghetti. This is where my mind has been today, and some thoughts and beliefs I hold about being a woman, and perhaps a bit about how I came to be who I am as of this day and hour. Who knows what Ellen will be tomorrow? She doesn't! 

I took my mother an everlasting bamboo today for Mother's Day (she also received a bag of sugar free orange candies and a greeting card with butterflies on it.) As is true in many families I have observed, plants, flowers, candy, and cards are the way her children honor her on the second Sunday in May every year. While I was there I assisted her with her noon meal - I got there about 11 AM - and yelled in her right ear for a bit before I came home. Her hearing aid is in her right ear, and you still have to yell. But she is 83 and uses a walker, so she is allowed. 

My younger brother was there when I arrived, it was nice to see him. I have been angry with and disappointed in him for several years. I believe this was the first time I had seen him in quite a while, but we were civil to one another. That was a little bonus gift for Mom. 

I have two friends who are both spending their first Mother's Day without their mother. E's mother passed away about 11 months ago, and S lost her mother just last month. I also have two friends who had just one son. R's son passed away a couple of years ago and C lost her son a month ago. They all four have been in my thoughts all day. I saw R earlier, and she just teared up and fell into my arms. It just ripped my heart when she sobbed, "Ellen, his birthday and Mother's Day are the hardest". I had no words, so I just held onto her for several minutes. Then she helped me choose the card I was getting for Mom. S just spoke to the bulk of her friends and acquaintances of the loss of her mother, and has decided that Mother's Day henceforth will be celebrated and had such beautiful words of her mother's attributes.

M is an amazing young woman who has honored me by remarking once or twice that I am like a second mother to her. She is not a mother, but her niece and nephew could not be loved more that she loves them. R is part of my heart, also childless. She has two cousins that are her heart, and she would give all she is and has to protect them the depth of love she holds for them is so true. 

I know women who have had stressful and anxiety ridden relationships with their mothers and as a result are honest and compassionate and tender in their interactions with all children. And yet I know women who have been unable to escape the patterns and lifestyles they were imprinted with and live adulthood in addiction and abuse because they know no other way. I have seen women who had every traditional advantage who grew to be dispassionate, unable to develop any real emotional connection with their offspring. And yet I know women who had loving, kind, comfortable childhoods and are providing the same to their own children.  

There are wild, fierce, strong women in my life who face storms with resilience yet falter and fold when the storms are spent and their rest is at hand. 

I am not quite sure where I fit in all of this. Much of the time I feel more an observer than a participant, yet every giggle and every tear from the women in my life resonates deep within my own tangled bowl of noodles. I am acutely aware of my failures and shortcomings over the last 57 years, and often shrug off and paste on a smile when I am reaping the results of my past. I cry often, yet few ever see. I take the disregard from people I long to notice me as being my due. But I also rebel and speak loud when those very ones are slighted by others. 

You know, I used to think there would be a mystical age that once I was there all the doubts would be eased, all my questions would be answered, all my efforts would be rewarded. That one day the lessons learned and the travails withstood would bring wisdom. But I now see myself needing to know more, speak less, listen better. 

Today I helped my mother wash her hands. I have her long fingers, and it struck me that the 25 years that separate us in age is not nearly as large a gap as I once thought it was. It made me sad, and scared me. 

And there you have it, a big messy bowl of spaghetti for Mother's Day.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Gaps in Space : Vigil of Love

You see, I have these women in my life that hold vigil for me. These angels that stand in the gap for me. These sisters that keep space for me. 

We have a community, a sisterhood. We call each other Sisters of my heart. The amazing, glorious thing is that we do not all actually know one another. Each of us is a personal friend of at least one of us, but not one of us knows all of the others. And we are one of the most transcendent experiences one could ever imagine.

We do not share a common organized (or disorganized) religion. Our relationship statuses vary, as do our ages, formal education history, place of employment. We are not all mothers, but some of us are grandmothers. 

Some of us are very, very quiet ... mouselike. Some us are loud and brash and out there opinionated. We do not all live in the same country, or on the same continent. But we are sisters.

Illness. New relationship. Death in the family. New family member. Natural disaster. Change of job. Move to a new city. Loss of a beloved pet. Broken relationship. Financial hardship. 

We share. We care.

We hold a sacred space for one another where judgement is suspended and advice freely given. We stand in the gap for one another, giving strength and courage when exhaustion has depleted the spirit. We maintain a vigil of love.

A call will go out, "Sisters ...."

And answers arrive, "I am here" " What can I do"  "Any updates"

We share laughter and tears. We are sisters.

Thank you, each of you, on this day before Mothers Day I celebrate you, my wild and fierce and tender and beautiful sisters. I would be lost without you. 

Friday, May 6, 2016

A Cairn of Courage

Today I honor my wild women, the warriors who walk a rocky path with me, and are leaving cairns for those who will follow. 

I went to town on my day off.

I had to go to the Lost Sock Laundry to wash two loads of laundry. My washing machine went to old appliance limbo last Autumn and I have discovered that in this economy it is more feasible to go do the washing at the laundry than to buy or repair. Yes, it sounds odd, but there it is.  My dryer still works, so I can be in and out in 30 minutes. Two loads will cost 6$.

I try to combine chores when I drive to town, because the 11 mile/25 minute drive is more fuel efficient that way. The trip this week was to the Lost Sock and to Food City for a few supplies. It is odd the way I shop, because even though I work at Wal-Mart I do not buy everything there.

Part of the reason is that Food City has a program that gives you a 15 cent per gallon discount on a maximum 20 gallon purchase of gasoline for every 150$ spent. I can also go to their website and load coupons directly on my shopping card, and match up coupons with sale items for the week. The coupons available are very consistent with the coupon inserts that are in the Sunday papers, and that saves me 2$ a week that I would spend on a newspaper.

I really do not mind going to a laundry because I always find someone to talk to for a few minutes, most of the time complete strangers, but then, everyone is a stranger until we talk to them the first time, aren't they?

This particular trip found me chatting with a lady by the name of Cathy. She is from the Appalachian region originally, but lived in the San Francisco Bay area for about twenty years. Then, like me, she went through a divorce and came home to the mountains. This is indeed a marvelous area to heal your spirit and rediscover your heart.

Being in upstate New York for the first seven months after I left Moe was very healing. I have memories and experiences and friends from that winter that will ever be held in my heart. But the rebirth of Ellen, the reemergence of me, oh how I needed my beloved mountains for that. 

There is a strength to be found here, a resilience and capability and sense of self. Well, for me anyway. Oh, dear one, do not think even for one brief moment that I am complete, or that the 16 years since I last called South Carolina home have been easy, that there have been no trials or tribulations or stumbles. Paths are built of stumbles. We trip on a stone, or a boulder, and we fall face flat or bottom first. Always. Wherever and whenever we are. This is a given, a truth in life, that no woman is immune from. It is what we doing while sitting there with a stone bruise on eye level with the thistles and clover that counts. 

Our memories of lessons learned? Those are the stones and boulders that tripped us up. We carry them with us, sometimes just a few steps, sometimes for almost lifetimes. They go into a cairn. A monument of lessons learned and wounds that may have scarred, but by the Gods they are healed. Maybe riddled with scar tissue, but healed nonetheless. 

Our cairns are scattered along that path we walk. I envision mine as almost a cowpath, worn into the terrain of a hillside. A hillside littered with small and large pieces of limestone, like the rocks and boulders that are the leavings of the glaciers that formed these mountains and ridges and hollows so many, many centuries ago. 

This cairn is in Scotland, but quite fitting. Many of the Scot-Irish who settled here in the Appalachians of southwest  Virginia did so because this area so closely resembled their home. 

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