April’s Blizzard: (Part 2)

After my neighbors (I thank God for them!) helped me dig out, I went to the grocery store and restocked my food supply and spent a lot of time on the computer looking at pictures of the snow on social media and watching the weather to get snow totals. (We ended up with about 36 inches!) I saw a post on Facebook from the Raptor Education Group in Antigo, Wisconsin, that explained what was happening to migratory songbirds that had returned to the Midwest before the blizzard struck.

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The Group advised readers that birds which allowed people to approach them were in trouble. They were freezing to death and had nothing to eat. I immediately filled our feeders with sunflower seeds, thistle seeds, and suet for the variety of birds we get here and put out frozen fruit for the robins and other fruit eaters. The hardiest of birds ate and survived, but some didn’t as I was soon to find out.

As Stella and I took our daily walk, I kept my eyes open for animals of all kinds in distress. About a mile from home, I saw a bird sitting atop a snowbank on the side of the road. I took a couple of steps toward it, but it didn’t fly away. Stella bounded over to it to make friends. It didn’t move, even when she was nose to beak with it. It was in trouble. I couldn’t let it die there, so decided to pick it up. When I cupped my hands around it, it tried to hop away but was too weak. I rested my thumb over its feet to keep it still, unzipped my parka, and nestled it against my stomach to keep it warm, then zipped the jacket up as far as I could.

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I hoofed it back home and called the Raptor Group. The lady I spoke with asked me to take a picture of the bird. She identified it as a hermit thrush, an insect eater whose song I’d often heard on my long, country walks.

She instructed me to gather a small box, a towel, and a heating pad to make a warm place for the bird to rest. The lady also told me to give the thrush water if I could coax it to take some. She said someone in Wisconsin Rapids could bring the bird to Antigo the next day if it survived the night. All I had to do was to keep the bird alive until then.

Thrush side view

I did as the woman said and tried to give the bird some water, which it wouldn’t take. I turned the heating pad on low and set it in a box covered with a towel to make a warm little home for the thrush. I carefully put the bird in the box and closed the lid so it remained calm and warm. When I checked on it a couple of hours later, however, it had died. I called the Raptor Center again and let the woman I had spoken to know what had happened. She said it must have been too far gone to survive.

That little bird’s death pained me more than I thought it would. It seemed a symbol of more than just the cruelty of nature. I felt a kinship with that tiny creature. We both were trying to survive in an inhospitable place, where unwanted snow, instead of flowers and leaves, arrives in the middle of April. Just as I did during that  unexpected blast of winter, I’m sure that sweet-voiced creature wished for the warmth of its southern home.

The Blizzard of April 2018 (Part 1)

By mid-April in the South, temperatures routinely reach the 70s and 80s. Dogwoods, red buds, and azaleas bloom, grass turns green, and leaves green up the spectral branches of trees. To get my fill of warm weather that is still to come in Wisconsin, I usually watch the season in its glory as I watch the Master’s on TV. Living in the Midwest, I miss that slow unfolding of the spring every year, and here in Wisconsin I wear wool sweaters and pour over seed catalogs dreaming of warmer days.

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Bumblebee on a Red Bud tree blossom

Even after 20 years in the Midwest, I remain an eternal optimist that spring will reach Wisconsin before May, but that’s rare. This year, like last year, we had an April snowstorm, though not nearly as bad in Wisconsin as it was in the plains. The threat of a snowstorm this year brought back vivid flashbacks of last year’s blizzard. You’ll see why when I share the pictures. Today is the one year anniversary of that epic storm.

Beginning at night on Friday, April 13, 2018 (how appropriate) and ending on April 15, a blizzard vanquished our spring in one weekend. Mother Nature showed off by dropping every kind of precipitation on us, beginning with rain and ending with a blizzard. Snow on snow on snow. So much snow fell for so long it felt apocalyptic.

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What I saw after the blizzard when I opened my front door.

On Sunday evening after the snow had stopped, the weather in Green Bay recorded 33 inches of snow on the ground. At my house six foot drifts covered everything. I’ve never seen so much snow. It piled up so high I couldn’t leave my house. And except for my Stella, my loyal Labrador, I was alone. My husband was in South Korea for the entire month on his last deployment there. Before he left at the end of March, we had a six inch snowfall, and while he was clearing that away, our snow blower broke. He parked it in the garage and said, “You won’t need that while I’m gone.” Right.

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Hubby’s car is under here somewhere!

The world was white and cold, the snow too deep to walk through. I tried and sank to my thighs in the backyard. I shoveled the back patio so Stella could go out and use the bathroom. She sank to her chest where there were no drifts.

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Stella exploring the drifts.

I tried to shovel the path out my front door, but the snow was too heavy. I ended up paying a neighbor kid fifty dollars to shovel my front porch and a path from my back door to the garage entrance. I waited for help. Before my husband left, he’d talked to our neighbors and asked them to help me if I needed it while he was gone. They called and let me know they help as soon as they dug themselves out. Then my closest neighbor’s snowblower broke. Keith, our further away neighbor, tried to use his machine, but it wouldn’t even make a dent in the huge amounts of snow in his driveway. We were all stuck.

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Finally, when I thought I might be stuck there until it melted, one of the neighbors from further away show up with a skid steer.

Skid steer to the rescue
Skid steer to the rescue!

It took awhile but I finally could see the driveway. I could finally get out of the house and walk around the neighborhood. But I had no idea what I would find a couple of days later.

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“Profusion” Zinnia

This Friday Flowers edition is from my vegetable garden where I planted zinnias, petunias, and marigolds to bring beneficial insects to the garden. The butterflies love them the zinnias! Here is a Pearl Crescent, one of the most common butterflies, but I had never looked closely at it until I took this picture. Just look at those lacy markings!

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Phosphate Mining at River Oaks

This is the first Wednesday’s Words post I’ve written in a long time. I’ve been busy revising my first novel called FAITH CAN MOVE MOUNTAINS and drafting my second.

Most people who’ve read my pages aren’t familiar with Charleston, South Carolina’s phosphate mining past. During the late 1800s after the Civil War, rich deposits of phosphate rock provided those who owned land on the area’s rivers with much needed money after the Civil War beginning in about 1867-1868. The rocks were mined and processed into a relatively cheap fertilizer. In my book, the main character is convinced mining will save her home from bankruptcy,but it comes with a cost to the land.

This brief excerpt comes from chapter 6. The image is from Robert Boessenecker’s blog The Coastal Paleontologist, Atlantic Edition

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“Mining was backbreaking, dirty work, but already one section of the pit was fairly deep and wide. The men had exposed a variety of sizes of tan phosphate stones along with coarse grained sand and the rounded bones and teeth of strange animals from some long ago age.”

Early Fall Wildflower

This may be my last Friday Flower post until next year because our weather is rapidly growing cooler. Most of my cultivated flowers are gone. Even my pots and hanging baskets look pretty shabby, but about a week ago, I found this flower when I was walking Stella. It was nearly the color of the sky next to early fall foliage. If anyone knows what it is, please let me know!

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Love at First Sight

How love begins fascinates me, probably because of the way I fell in love. Sometimes people know each other for only a short time before they find they can’t live without each other. Sometimes they know each other for most of their lives and slip into life together seamlessly. Sometimes people meet and know almost immediately that they were meant to be together. That’s what happened to me. I fell in love with my husband the first time I saw him. I have no idea why, but something about him resonated with me, long before I ever spoke to him. He was my fairy tale, my Prince Charming, my knight in shining armor.

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I remember the moment I saw him like it was yesterday. I was in summer school, my last quarter of college, finishing the last two classes I needed for graduation. My friend Laura wanted me to go to O’Malley’s bar with her, but I didn’t want to go out that night. Laura could be very persuasive, and I went. I’m awfully glad I did. (Thanks again, Laura!)

O'Malley's

O’Malley’s on the Oconee 

Located on the Oconee River, O’Malley’s was a bar with a split personality. Inside a dance bar throbbed with music and crowds of people. Outside, young men and women enjoyed fine summer weather on the deck overhanging the Oconee. The first time I saw my husband, I was walking out to the deck from inside. I looked across the wooden expanse of deck filled with people and saw a man in a sky blue polo shirt sitting on the top rail talking to his friend. He had a beautiful smile and an honest face. When I saw him, I nudged Laura and said, “You see that guy over there in the blue shirt? That’s my husband.”

I can’t tell you why I knew that, but I did, as surely as I knew my own name. Only a few times in my life have I been struck with absolute certainty of the outcome of events, but each time I’ve had that feeling, what I’ve foreseen has come true. I was certain about him.

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Engagement photo: We were so young!

During the course of the night, I literally ran smack into him inside the crowded bar area. He said hi, and I said hi. Then he said he was going to get a drink, and I thought my chance was over. Later that night, the man I thought I liked asked me why the guys I was talking to were all guys he knew, which really meant I shouldn’t hit on his friends, I suppose. (I wasn’t.) I saw my future hubby sitting close by, and worked up some courage. I walked over to him, and the first thing he said was, “There you are,” like he had been looking for me. I was smitten.

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Six Flags AstroWorld in Houston

We talked the rest of the night. I found out he was only in Athens for three weeks. (the horror!) He was there for a class at the Navy Supply Corps School. Thank goodness I met him the second night he was there! He asked me for my phone number, and I gave it to him. But with drunken helpfulness, I tried to help him memorize it. Three days later, my friend and I were “laying out” by the pool at my apartment complex, and I wondered out loud why he hadn’t called. “He was so sincere, ” I said. “He just didn’t seem like the kind of guy who would ask for my number and not call.” Then I recalled our conversation and my “helpfulness.”

Once again, I worked up some courage, but this time no alcohol was involved. I called the Navy school and asked for him. The person who answered took my message. It was simply my name and the correct phone number. He called about 20 minutes later to ask me out for a date. That was in July. I proceeded to skip two weeks of summer school to spend time with him. I even missed an exam. When i went to plead my case to the professor, I told him the truth. I said I had met the man I was going to marry and had spent all my time with him. He allowed me to make up the exam. We became engaged the following January and married the following October.

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Marine Corps Ball 1986

Today, October 3rd, we have been married for 30 years, but it feels like we’ve known each other forever. He’s my best friend, the love of my life, and the man I will always follow wherever life takes us. We are living our happily ever after!

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Happily Ever After!

 

A Red Hot Sin

It’s early in the morning, and Faith is leaving for Charleston to meet with Josiah Hamilton about mining phosphate rock at River Oaks. She feels guilty about having written a letter  pretending to be her father, but not guilty enough not to go through with her plan. #WIP #1linewed #amwriting #amediting

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“The sound of trickling water from the spring house rose from the floorboards, the smell of the mossy darkness below permeating the air. Faith’s spirits lifted as she knelt before the cross. She loved the liquid quiet of this place, the peace it offered. The letter to Josiah Hamilton tucked into her skirt pocket felt as conspicuous as a glowing ember, a red-hot sin barely hidden.”

Wednesday’s Words from Faith Can Move Mountains

In this excerpt Faith is waiting for the sun to rise before she goes to Charleston to see Josiah Hamilton about mining phosphate at River Oaks.

“The sky and the river shone quicksilver in the twilight, the clouds pink and lavender above their gunmetal undersides. The weak light washed the sky and burnished the spartina grass of the marsh.”

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Real life vs. Social Media

For awhile now, I’ve been contemplating giving up Facebook, Twitter, and other social media, or at least curtailing the time I spend on it. I started participating in these platforms because I wanted to stay in touch with friends, and I’ve done that. I’ve reconnected with childhood friends, my friends from college and my time as a military wife. I’ve also remained connected to others I’ve met more recently, especially my writer friends. I’ve joined quite a few online groups to connect with other writers through Facebook and on Twitter, too. Writing is such a solitary occupation (especially when you practice it in a rural setting) that connecting through the internet is invaluable and validating. There really are others out in the world who write!

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A secondary reason I became involved in social media was to build an audience for my book(s) when I am published one day. I don’t really know if I’ve managed to build an audience, (perhaps a small one) and my books aren’t on the market yet. Though I still like being on social media, I spend far too much time following my interests down the rabbit home of information and curiosity. I will intend to spend only a moment checking updates but find that an hour and a half has passed before I realize it. I no  longer have much time to do other things!

Also, I’ve noticed something about myself and the time I spend on social media. I feel scattered. I struggle to concentrate. I am disconnected from life rather than connected to it. I don’t engage with my writing as readily as I once did.  I have trouble concentrating on long passages of reading or writing for extended periods of time; whereas, I used to read and write for hours. I also used to draw, sew, garden, watch birds and myriad other pursuits. Ironically, my world and my interests have narrowed even as the internet has brought the world to my fingertips.

Once I wrote from a place of deep introspection. When I sat down to write, the words bubbled up from deep within. Not at first, but it didn’t take long to enter the mindset necessary for the magic to happen. Sometimes hours would pass, but it only felt like minutes. Characters appeared seemingly from the ether. Experiences, voices, descriptions, scenes, dialogue, all these passed through me. I was the conduit for the story. I didn’t think it up. I simply waited for it to come to me, and I wrote it down. It was glorious, like a runner’s high, endorphins exploding inside me and filling me with deep satisfaction. When I found that I could disappear into the words and rhythms of the story I was writing, I knew I had found my release, my meditation, my art. I want that back.

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Now I struggle to write because I inhabit a place of frenetic activity, sound bites, and frequent interruptions. I think my characters into being rather than being open to the muse and letting the action and the characters appear as they once did.

If the creative act of writing is a meditative, relaxed, art-minded state of being, taking part in social media is the farthest thing from it. When I have written, I usually discover something about myself or gain some insight into the writing process or human nature. But on social media those moments of insight are rare. When I hop on Facebook or Twitter or Instagram, I tell myself I will only scroll down my feed (disgusting term, that) for a few minutes, but I so easily succumb to the seduction of reading articles, looking at pictures of cute puppies, watching videos–you name it–that I often spend far too long there and come away feeling less happy, less settled, less satisfied with life than when I began. I should have more will power, but I know that social media sites do a lot of research to keep me clicking.

I have decided to conduct an experiment. Starting today, I am going to limit my time on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Oh, and definitely Pinterest, that black hole of a time suck where I tend to dawdle! From now until further notice–at least a month or longer–I plan to be on social media only AFTER I have worked, written, read, cooked, gardened, walked Stella, visited with friends, and generally enjoyed my life.

I am going to live my life, rather than share an edited-for-media version of it. I want face-to-face conversations with my friends at dinner parties over good food and wine. I want to float down the river with my husband and walk with him in the forest to pick berries or see the leaves change. I want to visit with my children and really hear what is going on in their lives. I want live music, art, and travel. No more distractions, no more staring at a phone or a computer screen.

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I’m making a change today to save my brain from the constant barrage of ads and negativity I find on social media. I will continue to write this blog, and I hope you’ll follow me here, but I am limiting myself to an hour each day of activity on all media. I know it will take a lot of willpower to make this happen. All habits are hard to break, but I hope to be a happier, more productive person, a better writer, a more attentive wife, and a more loving mother, sister, daughter, and friend. I’ll check in and let you know how it’s going. You’ll still find me on my social media platforms, but not as often as before. If you feel compelled join me in sharply curtailing your involvement in social media or have done so already, leave me a note and tell me how your life was changed (or not). I’d love to hear your story!