A Look Back at October

October is one of my favorite months. The leaves are at their fall foliage peak, turning those gorgeous shades of red, orange, and yellow. To me, there’s nothing more glorious than a blanket of October maple leaves covering my yard. I find myself delightfully kicking through them like a kid when I walk down my front sidewalk. I’m almost disappointed when someone (not me) clears them away with a leaf blower.

fall leaves

Look at this cotton field not far from my neighborhood. A landscape of October snow. It was so beautiful I had to pull over, get out, and take a picture as traffic zoomed by me on Halifax Road. I love the old buildings in the background too.

cotton fields.JPGUsually October finally brings some relief from the summer heat here in eastern North Carolina. (I say usually because this October has been unusually warm!) We haven’t seen a frost yet, but at least we said goodbye to 90 degree days and high humidity. And a bonus to no frost in October this year: my okra look scraggly, but these sad-looking stalks are still producing.

fall okra

Halloween is fall festival time, too. I went to two in North Carolina this year: one on the coast and one in the mountains. The Swansboro Mullet Festival advertises as the oldest festival on the Crystal Coast. Incidentally, the festival is a celebration of the fish, not the haircut.

Image result for mullet fish"               Image result for mullet haircut"

The other fall festival I attended was the Wooly Worm Festival in the little town of Banner Elk. What does one do at the Wooly Worm Festival? Well, you can buy a worm to enter into the Wooly Worm Race–or simply to give to your grandsons, along with a purchased cage. I wonder what the survival rate is for these poor captive wooly worms. How many ever see their glory days when they change into beautiful tiger moths?

wooly worm

On a happier train of thought, I love October because it brings, on the very last day, Halloween. I embrace the holiday–maybe because I have grandchildren who are still young enough to trick or treat or maybe because Halloween is just plain fun.

Charlie with pumpkin.JPG

Candy for everyone who comes knocking at my door trick-or-treating!

candy

What’s easier or more fun than baking up a couple of batches of those Pillsbury ready-to-bake pre-cut Halloween cookies for the family to enjoy? Full disclosure: my husband and I are probably the biggest fans/consumers of these.

cookies.jpg

Finally, apart from the colorful foliage, the cooler temps, the fall festivals, and Halloween, this year October brought me another treat: the paperback edition of Miss Dee Ann Meets Murder is ready to be released (hardcover and eBook version soon to follow). More about how to order a copy next week!

book cover front

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It Seemed Like a Good Idea…

Sometimes a project goes exactly the way you think it will–but sometimes, not so much. My husband and I were at the Beech Mountain Ski Resort when we saw this repurposed lift chair for sale outside a shop.

finished chair for sale

At $175.00, it was a little pricey, but I decided it was exactly what we needed to go on the front porch of our newly-purchased house on Beech Mountain. I mean, why buy a traditional swing or some type of deck chair when we could have something as authentic as a repurposed ski lift chair? Something that used to take Beech Mountain skiers up the slopes?

ski lift

We didn’t have a vehicle large enough to haul such a chair home that day, but a few weeks later, we arrived at Beech Mountain with the rented U-Haul we were using to move some stuff to the new house. After unloading, we had a big, empty trailer and were ready to go buy a ski lift chair for the porch.

This is when the project became a bit more complicated. We found out the chair isn’t sold the way it looks outside that ski shop. Oh no, we learned we were looking at the finished product. For $175, we could purchase a lift chair minus the legs or any kind of suspension system.

We should have thrown in the towel then, but I had become obsessed with having one of those chairs. We’ll figure something out, I told my husband.

We paid our money and were given directions to the lot where old ski lift chairs go to die. Pick any one you want, we were told. No resort employee went with us. We were on the honor system, I guess, to get only what we paid for.

lift lot.JPG

Believe me, after we struggled to load one of these bad boys, we didn’t want another. Talk about heavy! I pictured the resort employee who sold us the chair back in her office laughing. There’s a sucker born every minute, I imagined her thinking.

Once we got our chosen lift chair home and out of the U-Haul, then we decided to haul it to its new home, the front porch. This involved going up a flight of front porch steps. There our lift chair currently resides (I won’t say “sits”).

chair on porch

I know; it doesn’t look like the one outside the ski shop. But there’s hope. We saw a ski lift chair in the neighborhood that someone has actually fixed and painted. Excuse the fuzzy picture; it was a foggy day on the mountain.

painted chair

Last weekend, we chatted up a guy at the Banner Elk Wooly Worm Festival who does welding. He said for $150, he would come pick up our chair, weld some legs on it, and return it to the porch.

Pick it up, fix it, and bring it back? We’ll pull out the checkbook again. We don’t know how to weld, and we sure don’t want to lift that sucker again. I just won’t think about the original price plus what it’s going to cost to fix the darn thing so we can sit in it.

One day I hope to post a picture of our ski lift chair with legs. It might even be painted–by me. I can save that little bit of money.

 

 

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Ms. Dee Ann And the ERA

With its wholesome sleuthing by an amateur detective, Ms. Dee Ann Meets Murder can be classified as a cozy mystery. But I’ve added more than the solving of a murder.

book cover front

The book takes place over the course of a year, 1979-1980, and I’ve tried to capture the times. The setting is a small town in eastern North Carolina named Narrow Creek (made up; remember, this is fiction).

What isn’t made up is what was happening with the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) in North Carolina at the time. If you’re as old as I am, you may remember the battle over its passage (which, incidentally, never happened).

To refresh your memory: the ERA read “Equality under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.”

It had been approved by Congress in 1972 but needed ratification by 38 states within an initial seven-year deadline to become law. In 1979, the bill was three states short of passing, and North Carolina was a holdout.

How to include this social issue in the book?

I have Dee Ann see a sign in the teacher’s lounge announcing a meeting at the town’s library featuring pro-ERA speakers from Raleigh. She decides to go. Here’s part of what happens:

“Despite what Phyllis Schlafly and her Stop-ERA cronies would have people believe, the Equal Rights Amendment is simply about guaranteeing women the same rights, benefits, and privileges as men, ” Betty began. “To quote Alice Paul, who spearheaded the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment giving women the right to vote, ‘There is nothing complicated about equality.'”

Suddenly a voice came from the back. “Who wants to be equal to men? Most women enjoy being put on a pedestal. I know I do.” I turned to see who’d interrupted the speaker and locked eyes with none other than Tippy Gaylord.

“I’d appreciate the chance to speak before fielding comments from the audience,” Betty replied, unruffled.

“Personally, I’m not going to sit through whatever communist propaganda you intend to spout off. I came only to warn these impressionable young women here tonight not to believe anything they hear from you liberal feminists.” Tippy Gaylord made the word feminists sound like a profanity while glaring at us “impressionable young women.” Her disapproving stare lingered on me. I hoped she didn’t recognize me from her Fourth of July party. Maybe all the wives of the men who worked for her husband looked alike to her….”

Did Tippy Gaylord recognize Dee Ann? Were there repercussions for husband Joe at work since his wife had boldly attended an ERA meeting?

What does this circa 1979 button pictured below have to do with the ERA? These questions will be answered in Ms. Dee Ann Meets Murder, due to be released soon.

59 cents

 

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There Really Is a Book on the Way

More than one person has asked me when that novel I’ve been writing for years will finally appear. Well, good news: Ms. Dee Ann Meets Murder is just a few weeks away from being on the market! You’ll be able to buy several copies for Christmas presents!

No one can say I’ve rushed to print. This book has had I don’t know how many revisions. Here’s a picture I shared months ago showing some of my printed rough drafts.

20170812_081618

Below is evidence of another few rounds of hard-copy editing I’ve added since then. Yes, at least one tree has given its life for my novel even before it’s been published. Of course, I’ve also corrected chapters online scores of times. I’ve looked at Ms. Dee Ann Meets Murder so much I’ve practically memorized all 74,344 words of it.

more revisions.JPG

I’ve had my husband, sisters, and daughters proofread as well as a few friends. My Rocky Mount writers’ group has listened to parts of it over the last few years. The opening paragraphs were read at a state writers’ conference.

I’ve also used five professional editors, thus having five different sets of eyes critique content as well as what we English teachers call mechanics. Things like sentence structure, word choice, repetition, wordiness, capitalization, punctuation–not to mention all that grammar stuff.

I may not have a #1 bestseller on my hands, but I’ve got some daggone clean copy.

Here’s what the front cover will look like. I know: exciting, right? What began as scribbling on a notepad while I watched Oprah’s afternoon talk show–yeah, it’s been that long–will finally be a published book.

book cover front

I’ll be posting more about Ms. Dee Ann Meets Murder in future blogs, hopefully adding a link to Amazon for those of you who want to order a copy (or two or three!) when it’s available. Stay tuned!

 

 

 

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Waiting…and Waiting for Fall

Where is fall, y’all? Today is October 1, and I’m still sitting here in shorts and flip flops with the AC running. I’ve reconciled myself to the fact that September now seems to be a summer month in eastern North Carolina. But October?

I mean, just look at these projected temperatures for the next few days. Thursday, when East Carolina plays a home football game, it’s going to be 96 degrees. In October! Thankfully, game time isn’t until 8 p.m., so maybe it will have cooled down to the 80’s when I’m there by kickoff. It’s sad I’ve come to consider that comfortable.

Inland 7-Day Forecast

I do see in this forecast the promise of a couple of mid 70s degree days on the weekend. But will it be safe to finally buy and plant some of these beautiful pansies from Lowe’s?

pansies at Lowe's

Most of my potted begonias are begging to be replaced. This last round of hot dry weather has done them in. Full disclosure: I’m not always good about watering stuff.

dead begonias

If I’m looking for a silver lining in these never-ending dog days of summer, it’s that my okra crop continues to flourish. I’m even still getting a cucumber or two every other day.

fall okra crop

Of course, my husband and I can eat only so much okra. And I’ve given it away to anyone who’d take it. I guess I’ll freeze a few more bags. Who knew okra could be so prolific? It’s almost like zucchini.

Although the current temperatures don’t feel like fall, I cheer myself up by noting signs that the season is coming. For one thing, the days are getting longer. I took this photo in my backyard at 6:45 this morning when it was still a little dark.

outside early morning

And I’m slowly inviting fall indoors. Harris Teeter has some lovely gourds and pumpkins in all shapes and sizes. So far, I’ve bought small ones for my kitchen windowsill.

gourds in window

I have to hold on maybe a few more days, another week? I have to believe Eastern North Carolina is not the new Florida! WE WILL HAVE FALL with chilly temps, colorful leaves, boiled peanuts, mums …and pansies.

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All Politics Is Local

I think it was former U.S. Speaker of the House Tip O’Neill who once said, “All politics is local.” Well, you can’t get more local in politics than I did Monday, working the 4-6 p.m. shift at an early voting site for the City of Rocky Mount elections.

City of Rocky Mount Election sign

I was at the Nash Ag Center, one of the two locations designated for early voting (the other is Braswell Library). There were three of us soliciting voters: me, another lady, and the candidate running against my choice for Ward 5 City Council, Lige Daughtridge.  Lige’s opponent shall remain unnamed since I’m operating on a policy of no publicity for the opposition. I will say he seemed to be a nice enough person, and I respect him for his decision to run.

The three of us saw maybe a dozen voters in the two hours I was there, but hey, local elections can be decided by a handful of votes. Of course, that’s assuming I changed anybody’s mind. I did my best. Each time voters approached, I got off my chair, grabbed brochures and stickers, and brazenly asked whether they lived in Ward 5. If they didn’t know, no problem. I had a clipboard listing all the Ward 5 streets in alphabetical order. I was a fountain of information.

My post.JPG

I was also hot and plagued by gnats and, near the end of my shift, mosquitoes. I’d been told to take bug spray but in my hurry to show up on time, forgot to do so. I didn’t complain, though, since my two-hour shift paled in comparison to the time served by Ms. Rosa Hankerson, the lady campaigning for Sandy Roberson, candidate for mayor. She’d been there since morning.

Roberson volunteer.JPG

Having some time to look around, I noticed how accommodating the voting process has become. I would assume this concession for curbside voting is for handicapped people and not folks who just don’t want to get out of their cars. After all, this is early voting, not Sonic.

curbside voting.JPG

I love the polls. Even on a slow day, there’s an excitement about the whole business of people showing up to cast ballots for their chosen candidate(s). There’s nothing more American than exercising the right to vote.

Wherever you reside, I hope you vote in your local elections. And if you happen to live within the city limits of Rocky Mount, Ward 5, here’s how I recommend you vote between now and election day, October 8 (see picture below).

My candidates.JPG

Forgive me if I sound pushy; I’m still in a working-the-polls mood.

 

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A Fan of Walmart?

It’s become hip to hate on Walmart. People complain about long checkout lines and  messy stores. They ridicule the shoppers. There are plenty of Walmart jokes, many poking fun at overweight customers with curlers in their hair or those sporting low-slung, butt-revealing pants.

Walmart Store

I admit it: I laugh too when I read stuff online like “Just a reminder: Walmart will be closed on Christmas Day so both cashiers can be with their families.” Or “You know you’re at Walmart when you see a guy wearing a bath towel poncho” with a picture of a guy pushing a cart while wearing what looks like…a poncho made out of a bath towel.

But hey, I’m not here to pile on. I know Walmart isn’t as upscale as its competitor Target, but there is stuff there that I can’t find elsewhere. At least not at Walmart prices.

Take this pretty outdoor pillow in a fall pattern. Only five bucks. I may go back and get another. I’ve had two five-dollar summer outdoor pillows from Walmart that have lasted for two seasons now, so I expect this seasonal pillow will make it through a few falls. And again, only five dollars. Available in a big bin in the garden department.

fall pillow

Speaking of the garden department, another positive about Walmart versus Target (in my town anyway) is that I can pick up plants while I’m there. I bought two lovely small mums for $1.27 each the other day. It was a start to replacing my summer flowers in my backyard pots.

purple mums

The best deal I’ve gotten at Walmart recently, though, was a big-ticket item. My husband and I were shopping for a ROKU television (part of cutting that cable cord business I talked about in last week’s blog). Our son-in-law, wise in all things related to electronics/television/Internet, told us the exact model to buy from Walmart.

TCL - 50" Class - LED - 4 Series - 2160p - Smart - 4K UHD TV with HDR - Roku TV - Front_Zoom. 1 of 12 Images & Videos. Swipe left for next.

Not only did we get a great deal on this TV ( a 50 inch for $268), but the guy who helped us in the electronics department was friendly and knowledgeable. He and my husband even had a nice little chat about college football while he was ringing us up.

I know Walmart isn’t as pretty and yuppified as Target. I don’t catch a whiff of Starbucks coffee when I’m there and the aisles don’t seem as wide and shiny as those at Target.

But I look around my house and see lots of stuff that I’ve bought from Walmart over the years: a favorite set of sheets, toys and games, Corelle dishes, picture albums, candles, workout clothes…. So it would be mean of me to talk too badly about Walmart. I’ve gotten so many good deals there.

And as for those long checkout lines? I’ve discovered self-checkout, where I usually breeze right through.

scanner

Am I alone in liking Walmart? What’s been your experience?

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