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You Can’t Take The Hills Out Of The Girl

The life of an author can be lonely and frustrating but occasionally something comes along to add a little excitement to the day. Today is that day.

This summer my nephew, Kenny Harrah, sent me an email about a Writer Residency program for the New River Gorge in Fayetteville, WV. He said Fayetteville was a cool and happening place to be and thought I might be interested. He said he sent it on a lark and on that same lark I decided to enter the competition.

Today I got word I am a finalist and they are coming to Columbus to interview me this weekend. It will be an opportunity to be a voice for the people and the state. The New River Gorge is known not only for its majestic mountains and white-water rafting but also for the area’s artists and craftsmen. If fortunate enough to be selected as the winner, I look forward to returning to my native state and spending an extended amount of time among the mountains. I also relish the opportunity to be with fellow artists and to promote their work. But, more than that, I look forward to being with the good people of West Virginia.

You might say West Virginians never knew a stranger. They are open, warm, and welcoming and will do anything for you. The famous movie star, Will Ferrell, experienced some of the state’s hospitality this summer when his rented car broke down. He was pulled to the side of the road when two men stopped to help. One had a brother who owned a tow truck and while Ferrell’s car was towed to the shop and being repaired they took him to lunch where he had a friend bologna sandwich. Ferrell said this would never have happened in LA.

I love this story for a couple of reasons. First it shows the genuine helpfulness of the people and, secondly, where else would you be treated to a fried bologna sandwich? I think that should be the official sandwich of the state. My father used to eat them all the time. Ferrell said the people had no idea who he was, they were just out to help a stranger.

I want to thank several people who enabled me to get to this point and first is my publisher Rick Lakin of iCrew Publishing. It is hard to believe I have known Rick for five years and during that time he has been my web designer, agent, publisher, and friend. Without his belief in me, and occasional prodding, none of this would be possible. Ironically, Rick and I took a trip this summer through this very area retracing the steps of his great grandfather during the Civil War. Letters to Sallie: the Civil War Letters of A.C. McClure, is my next book and if I am named the Writer in Residence it will enable me to delve into more research on the book. Rick and my neighbor Martha Smith both wrote letters of recommendation for me so I also want to thank Martha for her encouragements. It feels a little like home with two West Virginians next door to each other in the big city of Columbus, Ohio. We also have our friendly rivalries on football Saturdays in the fall.

I also need to thank my family, friends, neighbors and all those who have followed my blog and bought my book, Peach Cobbler for Breakfast—surviving a life-altering event.

So, to all those reading this, please send positive vibes my way. I would love the opportunity for a new adventure. I am now at a place in my life where I have no responsibilities—no husband, no kids, no pets—and would like to make up for lost time where life got in the way. It would be “Almost Heaven” to return to my native state and work among those beautiful West Virginia hills.

As they say—you can take the girl out of the hills but you can’t take the hills out of the girl.

 

Hey Mister, My Eyes Are Up Here!

A lot has come out recently about women being sexually exploited in and out of the workplace. The incidents involving Roger Ailes, Bill O’Reilly, Bill Cosby, Donald Trump, and Harvey Weinstein have grabbed the headlines. Although these all involved the news or entertainment industry, almost any woman can tell you, you don’t have to be rich or famous or even attractive to undergo the same humiliation.

Over the course of my careers I have been groped, harassed, embarrassed, discriminated against, and patronized; all because I am a woman. As a young college grad teaching in high school I was only a few years older than my students and whenever I had a parent/teacher conference involving the dad some comment was usually made regarding my youth or appearance. Perhaps these were intended as complements but they also instantly downgraded my position to something less respectable. When a man called in the parents of a problem student, I’m sure the mother or father never commented on the man’s attractiveness, attire, or his ability to teach and manage a class. In a profession dominated by women for years the male teachers received more respect than the women, at least in my environment.

I went from a female dominated profession to an almost all male world of construction. I was a construction reporter and my duties were to interview architects, engineers, and contractors. One of the most important aspects of my job was to gain credibility. The men seemed to think a woman couldn’t understand the design, bidding, and construction process, therefore, many of the professionals decided to give me a crash course in Construction 101, even after I told them I knew it well. They would arrogantly lecture me until I would ask a question involving the knowledge they were patronizingly passing on to me. I would ask a technical question that was more of grad school quality which showed them I really knew what I was talking about. This approach usually shocked them into silence and it gained me the respect I needed to do the job.

Although this approach worked on an intellectual level it did not get passed the sexual innuendos and awkward proposals. One man didn’t want to be interviewed at his office but wanted to take a stroll through a park. I refused. Another greeted me with a very strange handshake which I’m sure had some kind of sexual intent which I’m still trying to figure out. I couldn’t get out of his office fast enough.

It was difficult walking the fine line of creating good rapport with these men but at the same time refusing their advances. However, my boss was another story. He was the only male in an office of eight women and he made crude and rude advances to all of us. I made it known I wasn’t playing his games and I was the only one he did not lean on, lean over, or rub against; but I paid the price. My work hours were changed so I had to work late into the evening—with the state parole board offices across the hall. I was given impossible workloads, especially just before the weekend or a vacation, causing me to work late in the night or during the weekend. I was told that while on vacation he double checked all of my reports and sources trying to find a slip-up. He didn’t find any.

He pleasured himself in the office and even had sex with a coworker during a Christmas party, in his office with very thin walls. I finally quit because of all the pressure and even took a lawyer to my exit interview with the district manager. At the interview the district manager told me I was, “a hell of a reporter,” and he would be glad to give me a letter of recommendation anytime. I asked for the letter right then and he said he would mail it to my house. It never came. I inquired about it and even went through HR at our headquarters in New York but the only thing I got was a run around. Six years of hard work and good reporting and in the end, I got nothing because I wouldn’t play along with the boss’s games and become a member of his harem.

After these incidents I began freelancing where I could set my own rules. I still encountered difficulties but the consequences weren’t as drastic. If I didn’t like a situation I could walk away. One of the most shocking incidents occurred at a state-wide church conference. I was sitting next to a judge and when we broke into discussion groups he suddenly slipped his hand under my skirt and right up my thigh. This happened very quickly and it took a moment for me to process what had happened; in addition, I had had back surgery which left some nerve damage and numbness in that leg and I didn’t immediately feel it. I was shocked and didn’t know how to react so I ignored it and did nothing. A few months later I was at a national conference and, much to my chagrin,  he and his wife were there and even on the same tour bus as mine. I was vigilant but there were no more problems. I was embarrassed and confused and very uncomfortable on the trip.

I can’t tell you how many times I have been in a discussion with a man and the whole time he talked to my chest. I have always wanted to say, “Mister, my eyes are up here,” but I haven’t had the nerve. No one ever taught us how to handle these situations. My generation usually ignored it and continued on in awkward silence. I’m glad the world is changing to the point that more women are approaching this topic and finding the nerve to publicly condemn their molesters.

It takes courage to bring this to light because society usually blames the woman. Were her clothes or actions provocative? Was she not capable of doing the job? Was she too emotional? Was she not respectful? Society wants to turn the situation around and make the woman the aggressor. She must have done something to invite the sexual advances or punishment she received after her refusals. Surely, she did something to invite these reactions from the men. After all, “boys will be boys. It’s just locker room talk.”

How many women’s careers have been ruined or derailed by refusing men’s advances? Women ask themselves when in these situations, “Are the consequences worth exposing their harassers?

It is time for the women to band together and report such transgressions. We then need to support the brave women who come forward. And, we need to teach our young girls it is not alright for men to talk about us in a sexual way. It is not alright for men to touch our bodies without permission. It is not alright to think of women as inferior. It is not alright to retaliate for rejected advances.

I am strong. I am woman.

 

 

 

 

 

Do You Know Proper Flag Etiquette?

United We Stand; Divided We Fall

A lot of tweets, Facebook posts, and memes have been flying back and forth regarding the controversy over the NFL teams kneeling, linking arms, or staying in the locker rooms during the national anthem. It appears this might even filter down to the colleges and high schools. But if you ask the average citizen what is proper flag etiquette, I bet few people know.

I thought I knew the answers, after all I was a Girl Scout, until I decided to do some research. Even the most self-righteous of those weighing in on the kneeling controversy probably have broken some of the flag codes. Why, even our own president is at fault. He has been photographed standing during the national anthem but not putting his hand over his heart. The first lady, an immigrant, had to remind him to do this.

According to military.com, “Flag Ettiquette Dos and Donts,” the following should be observed:

    • All persons present in uniform (military, police, fire, etc.) should render the military salute. Members of the armed forces and veterans who are present but not in uniform may render the military salute.

    • All other persons present should face the flag and stand at attention with their right hand over the heart, or if applicable, remove their headdress with their right hand and hold it at the left shoulder, the hand being over the heart.

How many men stand and remove their hats and hold it with their right hands at shoulder level while placing that hand over their hearts? I have seen many people stand but continue to talk during the anthem. Men and boys sometimes must be reminded to remove their hats and many fail to face in the direction of the flag. So, while we are on the topic of the NFL and flag etiquette, many players do not place their hands over their hearts nor do they remove their helmets.

The same web site goes on to list many more Do’s and Don’ts but some of the most commonly violated which I have observed are:

  • Don’t let the flag touch the ground.
  • Don’t fly the flag upside down unless there is an emergency.
  • Don’t store the flag where it can get dirty.
  • Don’t use the flag as decoration.

Traditionally, the flag should be displayed only from sunrise to sundown and if it is left up after sunset it should be illuminated. I have seen many flags flown from houses and not taken down at sunset or during inclement weather. I have also seen flags drooping to the ground or rolled up and stuffed in the corner of the porch when not in use; all of which is a, “No, no.”

I once rescued a flag from the trash. It had been wadded up and thrown to the curb along with the other trash. I took it to the fire department which routinely ceremoniously burns flags according to the flag code.

The web site USA.gov, The American Flag and Its Protocol, states that the flag is a symbol of freedom and liberty to which Americans pledge their allegiance by standing at attention and facing the flag with their right hand over the heart.

The most interesting and insightful web site which I found is Senate.gov, CRS Report for Congress. The CRS is the Congressional Research Service and its report can be summed up in the first paragraph.

                No disrespect should be shown to the flag of the United States of America.

The most interesting statement of the 17 page report is:

Thus, the Flag Code does not prescribe any penalties for non-compliance nor does it include enforcement provisions; rather the Code functions simply as a guide to be voluntarily followed by civilians and civilian groups.

Yes, there are no laws and therefore no punishments for failing to follow protocol. Therefore, the teams have the freedom to do as they wish. This is called freedom of speech and freedom of expression which is what this country was founded on. This means that if one wants to kneel rather than the standard traditional salute we have the freedom to do so.

This movement began as a peaceful way of bringing attention to the racial inequalities in this country. There are many forms of protest which are much more disrespectful but kneeling is a sign of respect. We kneel at church and in prayer so why not kneel during the anthem?

When players are injured on the field the teams will take a knee, which is a way of showing respect for the injured player. Considering this country’s current state of affairs, you might say that taking a knee is showing respect for the flag and the country for which it stands, just in a different way.

This country is facing many serious problems, most much more important than what the NFL does during the national anthem. Experts say we are the closet to nuclear war than we have ever been. The states and the American territory of Puerto Rico devastated by the recent hurricanes are facing billions of dollars and years of rebuilding. And, as if this isn’t enough, the Russians are quietly laughing at us as they create chaos within our government.

Before we begin throwing stones let us look inward and analyze our own actions measured against the Federal Flag Code. We shouldn’t let this dog whistle divide us but, rather, let us link arms in the brotherhood of humanity. In 1986 Hands Across America was held to raise money for the homeless in which a human chain was formed reaching from one coast to another. Why not a link chain stretching across the country where people of all races, religions and countries of origin can stand shoulder to shoulder, linked arm in arm. A way of showing our strength and commitment to what this country has always stood for—liberty and justice for ALL.

Remember: United we stand; divided we fall.

 

 

There are many other Do’s and Don’ts besides those I have discussed. For those wanting more information I recommend the following sites:

https://www.senate.gov/reference/resources/pdf/RL30243.pdf

https://www.usa.gov/flag

https://www.va.gov/opa/publications/celebrate/flagdisplay.pdf

http://www.military.com/flag-day/flag-ettiquette-dos-and-donts.html

 

What is better than free?

Product Details

To quote the famous Yogi Berra, “It was déjà vu all over again.”

Soon after publication of my first book, Peach Cobbler for Breakfast—surviving a life-altering event, I was forced to take my own advice. It is the story of my journey from discovery to recovery after the death of seven family members within a two-year period, including my father and husband, and how I found a new life. I was excited over seeing my book published but never thought I would have to take my own advice so soon.

Just six weeks after publication my mother died suddenly and the following year my second husband died. I was once again suffering the physical, mental, and emotional pains of grieving a loved one.  I turned to my book for comfort.

Fortunately, this time the grieving process was not as devastating because I was armed with knowledge of what to expect and how to cope. Knowledge I had gained from research which led to my book, Peach Cobbler for Breakfast. My world was turned upside down when I lost the two men who were the center of my universe, both to cancer just six months apart. I was overwhelmed with grief and didn’t know where to turn for help so I did what my background as an English teacher and journalist had trained me to do—I turned to books for answers.

Fast forward 20 plus years and when I lost my mother and husband I knew what to expect. I knew that when I couldn’t concentrate, or I sighed for no reason, or I couldn’t remember what I was doing, I knew it was part of the grieving process and to just relax for a moment and I could carry on. I reread my book and took my own advice. This new journey is documented in the updated version of Peach Cobbler for Breakfast 2017.

The book is completely revised with fresh editing, new pictures, and a new ending. I am very proud of this new version and feel it is a good summary of what grief is, the different kinds of grief, and how to cope. My life hasn’t been easy and, in truth, almost everything I have done has been difficult; but I have pushed myself and refused to give up, no matter the challenge. My hope is that my story, with its ups and downs, can be a light for those finding their way in their own dark tunnel.

Many ask why the title, Peach Cobbler for Breakfast, and my answer is:

it was a moment of epiphany when I realized I was master of my own world and I could have anything I wanted out of life, even if it was peach cobbler for breakfast that morning long ago, and that has made all the difference.

To celebrate this new release my publisher, iCrew Publishing, is graciously offering the e-book for FREE Tuesday, September 18, through Friday, September 22 at https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=node%3D154606011&field-keywords=Peach+Cobbler+for+Breakfast.

Be sure to order the 2017 version. You can also order the book version from this site but only the e-book is free. For those who don’t have a Kindle, it can be downloaded to your computer or phone.

 

 

 

The Free Press Versus Fake News: Should We Be Worried?

Several times over the past year I have posted something on Facebook and someone replied, “Fake news.” We are hearing this term more and more every day and this seems to be Trump’s favorite phrase.

Although the term may be new, the intent behind it isn’t. There has been an on-going effort by the Communist party to undermine our society by creating doubts, distrust in authority, and chaos to make it easier for them to then take control. It was all spelled out in a file titled Communist Rules for Revolution published in 1919 and obtained by our armed forces in Dusseldorf, Germany. Here are the instructions issued to those who would bring about revolution:

  1. Corrupt the young, get them away from religion. Get them interested in sex. Make them superficial, destroy their ruggedness.
  2. Get control of all means of publicity and thereby:
  3. Get people’s minds off their government by focusing attention on athletics, sexy books and plays, and other trivialitie

    s.

  4. Divide the people into hostile groups by constantly harping on controversial matters of no importance.
  5. Destroy the people’s faith in their natural leaders by holding the latter up to contempt, ridicule and obloguy (strong public criticism or verbal abuse).
  6. Always preach true democracy but seize power as fast and ruthlessly as possible.
  7. By encouraging government extravagance, destroy its credit, produce fear of inflation with rising prices and general discontent.
  8. Foment unnecessary strikes in vital industries, encourage civil disorders, and foster a lenient and soft attitude on the part of government toward such disorders.
  9. By spacious argument cause the breakdown of the old moral virtues: honesty, sobriety, faith in the pledged word, ruggedness.
  10. Cause the registration of all firearms on some pretext with the view of confiscation of them and leaving the population helpless.

Although this was published nearly a hundred years ago, it is very current today. Each point has been endlessly discussed in social circles and on cable news. We see examples of these points happening everyday but the one I’m most concerned about is item #2—get control of all means of publicity. Coming from a journalistic background I know words are important. What we say and how we say it can influence people’s minds and opinions. To quote an old saying, “The pen is mightier than the sword.”

It has now been revealed that during the election cycle people were making up fantastic stories and publishing them on the web. I will call these people word factories because that is what they were. They were mindlessly putting together a string of words and making up ridiculous stories to bash a particular candidate or party. What this has done is create a great mistrust in all media. We don’t know what is the truth and what came from the word factories—or—fake news. Therefore, since we can’t trust the media we don’t know if what was reported about a political figure is true or not.

Or, at least, that is the plan from various nefarious groups. How can we combat this trend and defeat the perpetrators? By educating ourselves.

Don’t believe the lies being spread that reporters and news organizations are evil, nasty, bad guys. Being a reporter is a difficult job. Reporters do what their name implies, they report the news, they don’t manufacture it. Reputable reporters and news organizations dig, and dig, and dig to find the facts. Many times, public figures don’t want the facts, or whole truth, out for one reason or another. After the reporter writes the news story it goes to an editor who double and sometimes triple checks the facts. This is why government and public officials are wary of reporters. They know they can’t hide the truth from them. This is why reporters aren’t the most popular people in the room.

So how do we, the consumer, know if our news source is reliable or not? First check the source or news organization reporting it. If it comes from Joe Blow News then disregard immediately. If it comes from a known source such as Reuters, AP (Associated Press), a network news station or cable station such as CNN, Fox, MSNBC, etc. then it is fairly safe; but, beware that there might be a left or right slant to the presentation.

The current president and attorney general are even threatening to begin jailing reporters and loosening the libel laws. This is a very dangerous move. The initiative comes about because reporters are doing stories on information the administration does not want out and the reporters won’t reveal their sources.

Reporters never reveal their sources. Reporters give their word to protect their sources and many have gone to prison rather than renege on that promise. If they are hit with a libel suit the defense for libel is truth. If it can be proven in court that the information revealed in the reporter’s story is true that is all the defense needed.

The press is the watch dog over our three branches of government, that is why it is called The Fourth Estate. To protect this unofficial fourth leg of the foundation of our society, our founding fathers established the first amendment to the Constitution under the Bill of Rights—Freedom of the Press.

Now that there are attacks to this freedom we must be vigilante and educated and support the work the responsible news services are giving us. Let us respect, honor, and thank these hard-working people rather than ridicule them. What the public doesn’t see is that members of the press know their responsibilities. Along with freedom of the press comes responsibilities and reliability. Good reporters know this and constantly strive to report the news fairly and accurately.

If you think these discussions are new, this blog post is based on a newspaper clipping dated May 1, 1970. It begins:

                If you think most of the problems that beset the world and our nation today just happened that way; if you think it is a natural trend born of the modern age; if you think that it will suddenly all dissolve when we, the people, get tired of being bothered, then read an excerpt from a file on Communist Rules for Revolution….these were the instructions issued to those who were to bring about world revolution.

Yes, this was 47 years ago; before cell phones, computers, HDTV, fitbits, iPads, etc. The modern age of 47 years ago was just as worried about world affairs as we are today. The Communist Rules for Revolution was written in 1919 as instructions for those who were to bring about world revolution. The newspaper article ends with words that are just as relevant today as they were in 1970:

                Just fifty-one years later those who were given the plan of attack can check full 100 per cent success in their efforts. We are sure there is now another such set of instructions, going on from where these left off. This time past history presents full reason to be concerned, if not completely frightened. Your enemies are patient but thorough. Your greatest enemy, however is your disregard of the danger signs.

Here is a list of generally accepted top reliable news sources. The Associated Press is viewed as the most trustworthy:

BBC

C-SPAN

New York Times

NPR

Reuters

Snopes

The Associated Press

The Economist

Wall Street Journal

 

If you didn’t find your favorite news source there, here is another compiled by compiled by Business Insider in 2014 from the most trusted to the least:

 

THE ECONOMIST

BBC

NPR

PBS

THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

ABC NEWS

CBS NEWS

NBC NEWS

CNN

USA TODAY

GOOGLE NEWS

THE BLAZE

THE NEW YORK TIMES

THE WASHINGTON POST

MSNBC

THE GUARDIAN

BLOOMBERG

THE NEW YORKER

POLITICO

YAHOO NEWS

FOX NEWS

MOTHER JONES

SLATE

BREITBART

THE HUFFINGTON POST

THE COLBERT REPORT

THINK PROGRESS

THE DAILY SHOW

DRUDGE REPORT

DAILY KOS

THE SEAN HANNITY SHOW

AL JAZEERA AMERICA

THE ED SCHULTS SHOW

THE GLENN BECK PROGRAM

THE RUSH LIMBAUGH SHOW

BUZZFEED