Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Rural Living

There are big cities and small towns. And then there are rural communities like mine--Angier, North Carolina. 

We’ve gotten a bit used to the idea that almost all of the restaurants and cafes close at two o’clock in the afternoon. If you’re hungry and want to stop in for a bite at three o’clock, you’re plumb out of luck. Some of the restaurants open again at five o’clock for the dinner crowd, but a lot of them don’t. This is true laid-back country living. Our best guess is that everyone takes a siesta in the afternoon because it’s obvious they aren’t serving food. You want a burger, go to McDonald’s, they’re always open.

Another way we can tell we’re in rural America is that there are fields alongside every road, all of which are in different stages of being plowed in anticipation of the growing season—mostly tobacco. You see John Deere equipment everywhere—on lawns, in fields, on the roads, everywhere. It’s evident no one here uses a push mower to mow their lawn; everyone rides a tractor.

Looks like the field across from our house will be one of the last to get plowed as it’s still a large expanse of green. They raised tobacco last year, what it’ll be this year is anyone’s guess. I’ll keep you updated on the planting progress. 

Rural living really hit home today when we stopped at a drugstore in the little town of Coats just south of Angier. Unlike Angier with a human population of five thousand--horses, cows and goats up the population number considerably--Coats has a population half that size. (But they do have a farm that sells delicious homemade ice cream!) Coats has two stop lights and if you blink, you’ll miss the town entirely. Coming home today from the bigger city of Dunn, (pop. 9500), we needed a product, okay Fixodent for dentures, and since we were driving right by the Coats drugstore, we figured that was as good a place as any to stop.

I entered the store, found what I wanted, and since there was only one tube on the shelf, asked the clerk if she had more in the back. She said, “No, we only stock one tube at a time, but if you want more than one, call us and we’ll order two or three for you and get it shipped here.”

After paying for the one tube, I walked out of the store laughing and shaking my head. What drugstore EVER carries only ONE of a product? Stewart and I laughed all the way home.

We definitely live in the country. Others can have the glitzy cities, I'll take our one-tube town any day.

Quote of the day: The country life is to be preferred, for there we see the works of God; but in cities little else but the works of men. And the one makes a better subject for contemplation than the other.  William Penn


Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Poetry, The Song of the Soul

There are many forms of poetry, but today we’re going to talk about my favorite form, and also a dying art, rhyming poetry.

Some poems tell a story and some poems evoke a feeling. Consider the following poem by Robert Herrick, Upon Julia’s Clothes:

               Whenas in silks my Julia goes
               Then, me thinks, how sweetly flowes
               That liquefaction of her clothes.

               Next, when I cast mine eyes and see
               That brave vibration each way free,
               O how that glittering taketh me!

In just six lines Robert Herrick paints such a vivid picture one can almost hear the rustling and see the billowing of Julia's silk gowns. 

Here's a four-line poem, by Edwin Markham, titled Outwitted:

            He drew a circle that shut me out-
            Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout.
            But love and I had the wit to win:
            We drew a circle and took him in!

This poem has a story, contrast, conflict, and resolution, all in thirty-one words and you can almost skip to its beat.

Feel the rhythm, too, when you read these excerpt lines from What the Choir Sang About the New Bonnet by M. T. Morrison.   

            A foolish little maiden bought a foolish little bonnet
            With a ribbon and a feather and a bit of lace upon it.  
A structured poem rolls right off one's tongue.  The following beautiful poem, Jenny Kissed Me, by Leigh Hunt describes one poignant moment in time:
Jenny kissed me when we met,
Jumping from the chair she sat in.
Time, you thief! Who love to get
Sweets into your list, put that in.
Say I'm weary, say I'm sad;
Say that health and wealth have missed me;
Say I'm growing old, but add-
Jenny kissed me!
Read these lines from Paul Revere’s Ride by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and feel the rhythm:           
            Listen, my children, and you shall hear
Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere
On the eighteenth of April, in Seventy-five,
Hardly a man is now alive
Who remembers that famous day and year.

Another benefit to rhyming poetry is the mnemonic value of making things easy to remember.  How many of us would know how many days there were in July if it weren’t for “Thirty days hath September….?”    

The following excerpt from a poem entitled Memory by Abraham Lincoln shows how words can evoke strong feelings.
My childhood's home I see again,
            And sadden with the view,
            And still, as memory crowds my brain,
            There's pleasure in it, too.

            I range the fields with pensive tread,
            And pace the hollow rooms,
            And feel (companion of the dead)
            I'm living in the tombs.
For a change of pace, using only four lines, John C. Bossidy aptly illustrates the snobbishness of Boston's upper crust in A Boston Toast:
            And this is good old Boston,
            The home of the bean and the cod,
            Where the Lowells talk to the Cabots,
            And the Cabots talk only to God.
 Such poetry, whether humorous or serious, literally sings to the reader and touches one’s soul.  What more can a person ask of a poem?

Quote of the Day: A poem begins in delight and ends in wisdom. Robert Frost 

Thursday, February 28, 2019

Three Kids, Two Books, One Bowl of Jello-O, and a Spine

Two Books. That’s what it took to raise my three children. The first book was a big mistake, the second was a lifesaver.

My girls were born in 1963 and ’64 and the popular book at that time was Baby and Child Care by Dr. Benjamin Spock. Forget my mother’s advice, what did she know? She raised me and my sister to be fine upstanding adults, but she was no Dr. Spock. She only raised children the way her mother and countless mothers before her had. She snapped my lips if I sassed her; Dr. Spock, on the other hand, entreated mothers to listen to their children, understand why they did what they did (even sassing adults) and treat them as unique individuals whose motives needed to be examined and fully understood.

As a child, my hand was slapped if I reached for a hot stove. According to Dr. Spock, one must move the child away from the stove and distract her with a toy. Hence, the child never learned that some things in this world are dangerous.

Baby and Child Care was my bible. I devoured it and lived totally by its precepts, always trying to understand the psyche behind my girls’ motives. My mother swatted my behind first and asked questions later. As a disciple of Dr. Spock, I asked so many questions I never got around to the swatting part. Consequently, I wasn’t a very good mother.

Kids need rules and boundaries and a good sense of right and wrong. They don’t need an adult friend, they need an adult who’s actually a parent.

By the time my son was born in 1972, I still believed in the teachings of Dr. Spock, but learned soon enough that perhaps the good doctor didn’t know everything about rearing children. My mother would have used his book only to sit me up higher at the kitchen table where I would be told to eat what was on my plate. (Thank heavens my father wasn’t as strict about making me eat things I didn’t like!)

When my son was sixteen, he was a handful so along came the second book, Tough Love by Phyllis and David York. Tough Love taught me that I had more power than I ever imagined. That although I couldn’t control his actions, I could control how I responded to them. It told me that I had rights, too. Who knew? It said that I had the right to live in a peaceful house, an intact and clean environment, and have a night’s sleep without worry of where my son was. The concept was simple and I wished I’d learned it when the girls were young instead of letting them twist me into knots wondering how I should respond. Tough Love taught me that I could give my son a curfew of eleven o’clock and if he wasn’t in by then, the doors would be locked and a blanket and pillow placed on the porch for him. What happened? He never missed curfew from the first night the rule went into effect.

Baby and Child Care turned me into a bowl of Jell-O, constantly afraid of making a decision that might harm my children’s psyche.

Tough Love gave me a spine.

The moral of the story is . . . well, I’m not exactly sure. All three kids turned out to be excellent adults, people I’m extremely proud of, not because of, but in spite of, my parenting.

Books can be powerful. Be discriminating in what you read.

Quote of the day: Everybody knows how to raise children, except the people who have them. P.J. O’Rourke

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Keep the Change

I have a special treat for you today. I'm sitting here with a friend and author, Thaabit Hedgepeth. Thaabit has written a book that is probably not the type you normally read and is about a subject you most likely are not familiar with--life behind prison bars. Thaabit went to prison at age 16 for two counts of murder and is here today to show that a person CAN turn his life around, if he chooses to.

Welcome, Thaabit. I'm so happy to have you here. Tell us a little about your life now. 

Thaabit HedgepethI'm from Raleigh, NC. I've been married to my awesome wife for 11 years and we have two very beautiful children, ages 10 and 7. Outside of my writing and speaking career, I've been in the restaurant industry for the past 12 years and am currently a General Manager for Zaxby's.

How long have you been writing?

My infatuation with writing actually began in the first grade, over 30 years ago, writing love letters to various girls in school. While I received many 'no's' to the question, "Will you be my girlfriend?" I received great feedback on the writing itself. I could always see how moved they were by the words. Writing took on a different level of importance at the age of eight when I placed second in a North Carolina Public School poetry contest. 

What type of writing do you normally do?

Non-fiction and poetry.

Give us a brief synopsis of your book.  

Keep the Change: Transformation from the Inside-Out
My book, Keep the Change, is the blueprint for anyone struggling with life's challenges and obstacles, helping them become the person they've always desperately fought to be. 

Tell us what prompted you to write it?

Facing life in prison at the age of 16 for two counts of first degree murder, I was left with only two options. I could either accept responsibility for my actions and change my mindset and behaviors, or I could continue down a path of destruction which would ultimately result in death. I wrote, Keep the Change, for those like myself, who struggle with the idea of changing their thoughts and behaviors, which in turn, helps them change their lives. My goal is to touch and impact as many people as possible.

How long did it take you to write this book?

Nearly nine months.

Do you have a favorite line from the book?

One of my favorite lines is, "On your path to change, commitment is the gift birthed from the womb of discipline and consistency. Its parent is determination."

Is Keep the Change published and, if so, when and by whom?

It was self-published through Amazon's KDP in January, 2019.

How can my readers get a copy?

Readers can get a copy on my website, It can also be purchased on

What do you do besides write?

Outside of writing, I'm also a keynote speaker and mentor, empowering today's youth and shaping tomorrow's leaders.

What is your advice to would-be writers?

I'm sure it's cliche, but no matter what, just write. I also believe it's very important to surround yourself with other writers via a group or just personal connections. This could not have been possible without the support, encouragement, and feedback from the awesome writers I've been blessed to have met and built relationships with. Shout-out to Linda, Barbara, Pam, Christine, and Jim for all of your help along the way!

What do you wish you knew when you started your writing career?

I wish I would've understood the importance of marketing and promotion long before the book is released. If it is to impact others, it must first reach them.

What’s next for Thaabit Hedgepeth?

Now that the weight of publishing my first book has been lifted and I'm officially an 'author', the next step is to continue writing and publishing books. My vision is to inspire and impact people across the world to live lives of greatness and reward!

Friends, I encourage you all to buy this book and read it. You'll get not only an inside look at life behind bars but also at the road that led Thaabit to prison in the first place. Find out what it took for him to turn his life around. 

Quote of the Day:  Two men look out the same prison bars; one sees mud and the other stars. Beck

Sunday, January 6, 2019

Dear Diary

Last week I bought a 2019 diary to have available for January 1st.  It sat at the ready on my nightstand waiting to be opened and have the first words of a new year etched in it.

On a personal note, my diaries are more like Sgt. Friday’s journals--just the facts, ma’am. No deep insights or personal reflections or heartfelt gushing. Just where I went, what I did and occasionally what celebrity died or who won the Superbowl. Period. If you suffer from insomnia and want a sleeping aid, read my diary. It’s boring with a capital B. BUT, it does serve a purpose as I’m able to look back and see when I took a vacation, bought a car, moved, you get the picture. Just don’t ask me how I felt about the vacation, car, or move, because you won’t find it there. I keep my emotions to myself so not even Dear Diary knows how I feel.

What’s the purpose of this? It's to say that we all have a brand-new year ahead of us and how we fill those empty pages is yet to be known. When the year comes to an end and you and I have bought a new 2020 diary, what will this current one be filled with? Will there be events we never could have imagined? Some really amazing thing that happened? Some bad news that took us to the brink?

It’s a good thing we don’t have a crystal ball and can see the future for if we could, we’d just go ahead and fill in all the pages without waiting for the days to arrive on the calendar. As it is, we have to wait and see what each new day brings. And that, my friends, is the beauty of life. Every day is different and, like a book, it has a new beginning, a half-way point, and a finale at day’s end. And the next day we arise to see what that day will bring.

What will you say at the end of this year: What a great ride 2019 was? How glad you are that it’s over?  Only time will tell and it's not telling us, just yet.

Quote of the day: “What a wonderful thought it is that some of the best days of our lives haven’t even happened yet.”  Anne Frank