Report Card from Grandma Patsy’s School for a Displaced Third Grader

Does banging out the same song over and over and over on the piano count for music class? It does in Grandma Patsy’s School for a Displaced Third Grader. I’m close to the point of anything goes.

music lesson

We’ve just finished our second full week of home schooling, this eight-year-old grandson and I. It’s been a roller coaster ride as I try to keep the attention of a boy who’d much rather be playing Fortnite than doing worksheets.

In a former life, I taught English in the community college. To adults. I was the mother of three girls who liked to read and usually did their homework without too much prompting. Teaching a third grade boy who prefers fishing and computer games has been, let us say, an adjustment.

I’m pulling out every trick I can think of. He enjoys striking a match to light a candle each morning before we start the day’s work. (Boys like fire, I’ve learned.) I dug up an old Beanie Baby for him to squeeze when he feels frustrated or finds his attention wandering (which happens like, every other minute). We ask Alexa to play songs, taking turns. I don’t know whether to be impressed or alarmed when he picks Black Sabbath.

And I let him put his head down, something I’m pretty sure isn’t allowed at school. I pick my battles. Besides, I feel like putting my head down too.

head down

Even though he’s not a big reader, I’ve learned he’s a decent speller. And he can whip through some math. While I was still poring over the textbook, he was already converting liters into milliliters (or is it the other way around?).

The day before we did centimeters and meters, and another day we worked with grams and kilograms. Just take me out and shoot me.third grade math

I do try to make learning interesting. A STEM (whatever that is) project involved going outside and collecting leaves. I picked a pretty morning, grabbed a sandwich bag, and we toured the yard. He plucked leaves for a while before I lost him to tree climbing. Oh well, I decided that counted for P.E.

charlie in the tree

Back inside, I did manage to get him to tape the leaves onto a sheet of paper as I quizzed him about the names of the different trees.

STEM project

Truth be told, he was more interested in pricking himself with the holly leaf than in learning the difference between the crape myrtle leaf and wax myrtle leaf.

Still, we’d gone outside and enjoyed nature. The dogwoods and azaleas aren’t affected by a virus that’s virtually shut down our country and thrown our children out of school. This year, their blooms seem especially pretty.

dogwood

Charlie and I will make it somehow, some way.

 

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I Go Out Walking

As part of my new social-distancing, sheltering-at-home routine, I take a walk every afternoon. Getting outside helps me burn a few calories and, even more important, keeps me from going absolutely stir-crazy.

Most days, I walk around the neighborhood, greeting at a safe distance any fellow exiles who are also strolling. But on Sunday afternoon, I took a road trip to get in my walk on a piece of land in Edgecombe County. It’s roughly 250 acres of fields and woods that my husband has hunted since he was a boy. He served as my guide so I didn’t have to drop bread crumbs to find my way out.

 

my guide

We parked the jeep just beyond this dilapidated barn. I ventured inside, hoping to find one of those big old tobacco baskets like I remember from my granddaddy’s pack house (if you were ever involved in grading tobacco, you know what I’m talking about and understand the tobacco jargon I just used; if not, just keep reading).

No luck. Just a bunch of junk. As it’s falling down, though, this barn speaks to me of days gone by.

the barn

We walked past fields that will soon be planted. Right now they’ve been fertilized with chicken manure. I’m glad you can’t smell through the printed word. Let’s just say passing by was the least enjoyable part of my walk.

fields

Soon we came to a path in the woods. Robert Frost popped in my head: “Two roads diverged in a yellow wood….”

I know: there’s only one road and it’s not autumn. Still, there’s something about a road in the woods, isn’t there? You just have to follow it.

the path

And follow it we did. For almost four miles. We passed all kinds of cool nature stuff, like these fungi growing on a log. Notice the symmetry here in the two groupings of three. How did that happen?

mushrooms

Even prettier were these dogwood blossoms. I love a dogwood tree in the spring. Not only are its delicate white flowers a pretty sight, but there is also the legend that is of particular significance this time of the year.

The story goes that Jesus’ cross was made from the dogwood tree. As a result, God decided that the dogwood would from that time on never grow large enough to be used for a cross. Thus, the dogwood is a small tree that often grows beneath larger ones. Also, the flower of the dogwood has four petals, making the shape of the cross. Sometimes these petals are tinged with red, signifying the blood of Christ.

When you’re in the woods, you have time to remember stories like this.

dogwood blossoms

I’ve never been to the Great Dismal Swamp, that vast wetland in northeastern North Carolina and southeastern Virginia, but I imagine it would look something like this swamp I passed during my walk in these Edgecombe County woods.

dismal swamp

Of course, no trip to the farm would be complete without checking out a tree stand used by my deer-hunting husband and his extended deer-hunting family. Once in a while, I do get a nice piece of venison from all that deer hunting.

tree stand

Out here in the peaceful woods and still-sleeping fields, the coronavirus seemed far, far away.

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Atlanta Has Lots of Hotspots

What was there to do in Atlanta, Georgia over a four-day trip other than watch my youngest daughter run a marathon in 2 hours, 44 minutes, and 25 seconds? Well, in addition to hanging out in Centennial Park, the site of the Olympic Marathon Trials, I visited some other Atlanta hotspots.

Atlanta History Center

I love history, especially American history, and the Atlanta History Center specializes in Civil War stuff. The Battle of Atlanta is a restored cyclorama painting that is worth the price of admission all by itself.

What is a cyclorama, you may ask? (I didn’t know either.) It’s a circular picture of a 360 degree scene. You view it standing inside. At 49 feet tall and 10,000 pounds,  The Battle of Atlanta is HUGE. Longer than a football field, it wraps around the walls. Below is just one small segment.

cyclorama scene

The story goes that Clark Gable, viewing the cyclorama, pronounced it wonderful except for the fact that he wasn’t in it. After all, he argued, he had portrayed Rhett Butler in Gone with the Wind, and who can forget that scene of the burning of Atlanta? So, the Atlanta power brokers of the time had Rhett Butler added to The Battle of Atlanta. So much for historical accuracy.

rhett butler

There were other attractions at the Atlanta History Center: one of the country’s largest Civil War exhibitions (lots of artifacts), an old-timey locomotive, the 1930s Swan House, and walking trails. But I must move on.

Margaret Mitchell House

The ticket we bought for the Atlanta History Center also got us into the Margaret Mitchell House, which was a few miles away but worth the trip for me, a lover of Gone with the Wind (both the book and the movie).

Actually, Margaret Mitchell and her husband didn’t live in the entire house but only an apartment within the house. Still, I got to see the exact spot where she wrote most of Gone with the Wind. Yeah, I know it’s kinda staged, but still…

MM house

Across from the house in another building were items relating to the movie. Look at this spectacular portrait of Vivien Leigh as Scarlett O’Hara. This is the painting that hung in Rhett Butler’s bedroom in the movie. Doesn’t he hurl his whiskey glass at it at some point?

scarlett

World of Coca-Cola

As you may know, some pharmacist in Atlanta invented Coca-Cola. The city has capitalized on this fact, and a museum called the World of Coca-Cola is a popular tourist destination.

I probably would have passed on this Disney World sort of attraction, but I was in the company of a granddaughter who was keen on going. I’m not a huge lover of soft drinks (unless there’s something a little more interesting mixed in), but I did find the visit to the museum entertaining. Lots of Coke memorabilia!

coke signs

The Georgia Aquarium

Another popular Atlanta attraction I would probably have skipped is the Georgia Aquarium. I’m not a huge fish fan, and I’ve been to aquariums in other cities. But again, I had grandchildren who wanted to go.

I’m glad I went. I learned the Georgia Aquarium is the largest aquarium in the world. IN THE WORLD. Yes, I needed to visit such a place. Don’t ask me to name all the sea creatures I saw, small and large, but from seahorses to porpoises, it was pretty amazing.

I also got a kick out of watching my grandsons experience the sights of the aquatic world. Here’s the younger one with his mom.

the aquarium

I still have Atlanta walking tours I want to do one day to see the birthplace of Dr. Martin Luther King and Ebenezer Baptist Church. There are historic neighborhoods, parks, and cemeteries to explore. The Jimmy Carter Presidential Library and Museum is in Atlanta, too, and I’m sure that would be worth a visit.

Atlanta, I’ll see you again.

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Mother Nature Doesn’t Mind Fooling Us

Remember that TV margarine ad with the line “It’s not nice to fool Mother Nature”? Well, she sure doesn’t mind fooling us. I wrote a recent column for the Sunday edition of The Rocky Mount Telegram about how crazy warm our Eastern North Carolina February has been.  “Instead of a few snow days or at least the usual cold,” I penned, “we’ve had a big dose of spring. …Is winter already over?”

Two days after I clicked SEND, it snowed. Fortunately, my totally wrong forecast was only a paragraph in the middle of a piece about all the contradictions in life, but I could still picture people glancing out their windows as they read my words and asking, “Did it not snow in her part of town?”

Well, yes, it did. Looking at my beautiful backyard, I almost didn’t mind my foolish paragraph. My husband, a much better photographer than I, captured part of our winter wonderland.

our snowy yardAnticipating the snow (unlike me), my better half stocked our bird feeders before the first flakes. We enjoyed watching a variety of birds flock to the food. I love the cardinal on the feeder to the left. He matches the two on the outdoor pillow.

snow birds A few days before it snowed, I swapped out my snowflake garden flag for the “It’s five o’clock somewhere” one pictured above. Yep, Mother Nature had me fooled!

Apart from my botched column, I had one other mishap due to the snow. My daffodils! With the warm February temperatures, these early blooms had busted out big-time.presnow daffodils

Here’s what the snow did to them.

snow daffodilsAs you can see, the flowers are pretty much on the ground. Once the snow melted enough for me to check, I was relieved to see the blooms were at least still there. From my kitchen window, I had seen only stalks.

Slowly, slowly, these little beauties are raising their delicate faces to the sun again. I don’t know whether they’ll regain their former posture, though.

today's daffodilsMother Nature can be a tricky ol’ gal, that’s for sure. But I guess with hurricanes, tornadoes, and other natural disasters up her sleeve, a nice, gentle snowfall isn’t such a bad prank.

peaceful snow pic

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Invite Me to Your Book Club?

Thrilling news! (For me, anyway.) I’ve received my first invitation to talk about Ms. Dee Ann Meets Murder at a book club–well, not counting the club I’m in myself whose members, of course, HAD to pick my book for our January meeting. book cover front

St. Andrews Book Club here in Rocky Mount has invited me to its March meeting. “We would love for you to join us and talk about your book,” the email read. You don’t have to ask me twice, ladies. Your wish is my command.

Why would a book club want to read Ms. Dee Ann Meets Murder? some may ask. Oh, let me count the ways:

  1. It’s a fun, semi-easy read.
  2. It’s a cozy mystery (nothing rated R; the worst cussing is “hell”).
  3. The setting is a small town where everybody knows everybody.
  4. It has a feisty female protagonist (you guessed it–Ms. Dee Ann).
  5. It’s Southern fiction with quite a few eccentric characters (for example, the Chief of Police, Dee Ann’s babysitter, her landlady).
  6. It addresses late 1970s social issues such as women’s rights and race relations.
  7.  It depicts what it was like to be a young wife and mother during this time. Maybe book club members would remember the late 1970s themselves and enjoy a trip down memory lane.

1970s picture

Yes, I know, I look absolutely crazy-eyed in this picture, circa 1979. But don’t you love my curly perm?

Oh, I almost forgot: perfect for book clubs, there are discussion questions at the end of Ms. Dee Ann Meets Murder. Nobody has to jump-start the conversation.

questions

Sooo, if you are a member of a book club within roughly an hour’s drive of Rocky Mount, North Carolina, and would like to have a real live author come talk about her cozy mystery set in a small town in eastern North Carolina, let me know.

Send me an email at patsy.pridgen@gmail. com. and I will be happy to accommodate your club if at all possible. Hope to hear from you!

 

 

 

 

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Welcome to the Hotel California

Remember the heyday of rock and roll when many of the songs had lyrics that, like poetry, were subject to different interpretations?

Why am I thinking about rock and roll at 6:30 on a Saturday morning instead of working today’s crossword puzzle in the newspaper?

Well, last night I went to hear On the Border, an Eagles tribute band. I busted out my new wide-legged jeans for the occasion. I distinctly recall having a similar pair back in 1973, my sophomore year in college.

bell bottoms

Being a tribute band meant On the Border played only Eagles music, which sounded to my amateur ear just like the Eagles back in the day. Although I didn’t recall every single lyric, I recognized every single song. Classics like Take It Easy, Lyin’ Eyes, New Kid in Town, Take It to the Limit.  I’d forgotten just how good the Eagles were. And how much I loved them.

The Eagles, not the tribute band

One song especially caught my attention. Hotel California. It is actually the name of an Eagles album as well.

Hotel California: 40th Anniversary Expanded Edition (CD)

If you were ever an Eagles fan–or were alive in the 70s–you probably remember the refrain, “Welcome to the Hotel California.” You might also recall snatches of lyrics: “We’re living it up at the Hotel California,” or the more ominous “We are all just prisoners here of our own device.”

Like many good fans of rock and roll, I always wanted to know what the song is all about. What did the Eagles want us to get, other than catchy lyrics and a cool way to say the name of a hotel?

Well, here in 2020, we have Google, so I did just that. Here’s a smattering of some theories I found:

  • Hotel California is a song about the jaded, hedonistic lifestyle of southern California (particularly Los Angeles) in the 1970s. Phrases such as “mirrors on the ceiling, pink champagne on ice, Tiffany-twisted” could support this interpretation.
  • Hotel California is a metaphor for a drug trip. “The smell of colitis rising up through the air” could be code for marijuana. “This could be heaven or this could be hell” could signal an initiation into drugs.
  • Hotel California is about the Eagles’ association with the Church of Satan, established in California in 1969. The lyrics “You can check out anytime you like, but you can never leave” could refer to the fact that once you make a pact with Satan, it’s unbreakable. Also, these lines could support this theory: “So I called up the Captain, ‘Please bring me my wine.’ He said, ‘We haven’t had that spirit here since 1969.'”  The spirit of Jesus, symbolized by the wine, left when the Church of Satan was established…in 1969.

Okay, then. What does the song mean? Who really knows? Maybe the Eagles intended for us to think about it. Great art is like that.

the concert

The tribute band, not the Eagles

 

 

 

 

 

 

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It’s January!

Wow, it’s been almost a month since I last posted. (Did you even notice?) I can blame my laziness on only one thing: my Christmas hangover. Not the alcohol-induced type but the stupor brought on by too much rich food and holiday fun.

Yep, my twelve days of Christmas seemed to have lasted quite a bit longer. I’m just now getting the tree out of the house and the decorations back in the attic. Bare Christmas tree

Is there anything more depressing than cleaning up after Christmas?

the attic

But hey, I tell myself, it’s a new year, in fact, a new decade. 2020. I can hardly believe it’s been twenty years since we were all worried about Y2K. Remember the dire predictions about how computers were supposed to go haywire when the new century rolled in, and all our online information would be lost? Didn’t happen, did it? Thank goodness.

So what will I do with this new year in a new decade?

Well, I can figure out how to use one of my holiday presents, an Instapot. I’ve not yet taken it out of the box (see Christmas hangover above). I’ve heard great things about this gadget, raves about how it can change the way you cook. But I understand there’s a learning curve, much like the early days of using the microwave.

It also looks a little bit like that scary pressure cooker my mother and grandmother loved. I was always a little nervous when that pot whistled and the dial thingie on the top started to do a little dance.

Figuring out how to cook in an Instapot may be a project. But since it’s now January, I’ve got time.instapot.JPG

Another Christmas gift was a waterpick. (In case you’re wondering, I asked for practical stuff this year.) One of the many indignities of getting older is that you have to work harder on maintenance. To put it bluntly, according to my dentist, I could use a water dental flosser.

Like the Instapot, this is another gift that hasn’t yet seen the light of day. I opened the box just long enough to spot the detailed instructions and decided I would learn to use my waterpik after the holidays. Something else on my January to-do list.

waterpick

In addition to figuring out my new gadgets in January,  I’m also continuing to market my debut novel Ms. Dee Ann Meets Murder.

book cover front

Thanks to all who’ve bought copies either locally at Almand’s Drug in Rocky Mount or through Amazon. It’s tough being an author, especially an independent one like me who doesn’t have the help of a publicist with one of the big four publishers.

But in January 2020, I persevere. As my brain recovers from its holiday sugar overdose, I’ve started revising the sequel to Ms. Dee Ann Meets Murder. Here’s a summary of a little of the action in what I’ve titled Life and Death in Narrow Creek:

It’s 1982 and Dee Ann Bulluck has enjoyed almost three peaceful years as a young wife, mother, and technical college instructor since moving to a backyard apartment in small-town Narrow Creek, North Carolina. Then her landlord suddenly dies sitting in his recliner on a calm Saturday morning. Turns out, his cause of death is something even more sinister than his diet of honey buns and Pepsi Colas, and the major suspect is Miss Josie, his wife of 35 years….

December was fun, but now it’s January and there’s work to be done.

 

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A Rocky Mount Christmas

Just about everywhere in America this time of the year, you see Christmas lights and Santa Claus, Christmas trees and nativity scenes. But just about everywhere also has its own spin on the holiday season. Here in Rocky Mount, NC, the restored Mill Village has celebrated Christmas with a couple of special events.power house

A short history lesson: Rocky Mount Mills, built in 1816, was the second cotton mill built in the state. It thrived for well over a century and a half, but when textile manufacturing moved overseas, the mill began to decline, closing in 1996.

The mill and the surrounding campus sat idle and decaying until the whole kit and caboodle was bought by Capitol Broadcasting Company in 2007. Since then, the buildings have been reclaimed, restored, and repurposed into craft breweries, restaurants, offices, and lofts. As a bonus, the cutest tiny houses were brought in for overnight visitors.

tiny house

Back to Christmas at the Mill Village, as the folks in Rocky Mount call it. The Chamber held its 115th Anniversary Christmas Ball in the Power House. That night, my husband and I wandered through the old cotton plant with its refinished wood floors and exposed brick walls and pipes. It was magical.

The next evening, the Mill Village hosted a family event, The Lighting of the Tower.

tower lighting.jpeg

Before witnessing the grand finale when the lights came on, my grandson and I enjoyed a horse-drawn wagon ride around the campus. It was free, as was the whole evening–well, not counting the one holiday craft beer purchased by Grandma.

carriage ride

Another unique local Christmas experience can be found right outside the Rocky Mount city limits. Smith’s Red and White Grocery hires talented artist Jimmy Craig Womble each year to paint Christmas scenes on the store windows. They’re so beautiful I hate to think they’ll be scraped off after Christmas.

smith's window.JPG

Inside the store is equally festive. Yes, this is a giant Santa next to a fully decorated Christmas tree and, yes again, there’s a train circling on a track. And this is not the only Christmas display–or train–in the store. I’m on sensory overload–in a good way, of course–when I go in to shop and find myself buying all sorts of Christmas candy like those double-dipped chocolate covered peanuts in the display case below.

smith's inside.JPG

If you’re from the Rocky Mount area, I hope you’ve experienced  some of what makes Christmas special here. If you live somewhere else, I’m sure your hometown has a unique holiday celebration or tradition. Let me know what it is. I love to hear about all the different ways to celebrate Christmas!

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Who Knew the Rocky Mount Christmas Parade Could Be So Much Fun?

What’s there to do on the first Sunday in December after you’ve had your Thanksgiving turkey leftovers for lunch and taken a nap?

Go to a Christmas parade! I hadn’t been to the one in my hometown in years and realized yesterday what I’ve been missing. The Rocky Mount Christmas Parade was a dose of  wholesome fun and a great way to usher in the holiday season!

parade start

So what made me decide to go this year when I haven’t been in the last fifteen (maybe longer)? I went to see my grandson, the cute little Boy Scout with the yellow tie in the picture below waving at the crowd. His troop was on the Barnhill Farms antique fire truck.

Charlie on the float

But here’s the thing. After he rode by fairly early in the parade, I could have left and gone on about my Sunday afternoon business. But I was enjoying the spectacle of bands, floats, and local dignitaries cruising by. I stayed put. Here’s some of what I saw (and heard).

Southern Nash band

Who doesn’t love a marching band? Southern Nash Senior High School is stepping along.

NN band

The Northern Nash Senior High School Band sported Santa hats!

 

Boys and Girls Club Float

Somebody spent some time decorating this float.

 

ECC float.JPG

Check out the tree and the poinsettias on the Edgecombe Community College float.

 

balloon float

Okay, we’ll go with balloons here.

moose head

Hey, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade isn’t the only one with blow-ups!

Mayor Pro

Want to see a smiling councilman? Go to the Rocky Mount Christmas parade!

These little fellows stood beside me on the sidewalk in front of First United Methodist Church. I enjoyed watching them watch the parade.

little boys.JPG

Loving the candy thrown from the floats.

I took so many pictures my phone died before the grand finale arrival of Santa. Fortunately, my twelve-year-old grandson was standing by. I had him text me his photo of the last float of the Rocky Mount Christmas parade.

Santa at last

Is this the real Santa? Photo credit to Sammy Bowles

Will I go to the Rocky Mount Christmas Parade next year even if I don’t have a cute little grandson to lure me there? I’m thinking yes. It’s an opportunity for a feel-good day about my hometown. I love being proud of my city.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Write a Review? Please?

Thanks to all who’ve purchased a copy of my debut novel Ms. Dee Ann Meets Murder from Amazon or locally at Bailey’s Jewelry or Almand’s Drug. I appreciate your support.

Alamnds display

My novel for sale at Almand’s Drug Store in Westridge Village, Rocky Mount, NC

But now I’m asking another favor. If you’ve finished the book (and if you haven’t, why not? :), could you please take a few minutes and write a review on Amazon? It doesn’t have to be anything long or book reportish. You don’t need to summarize what happens. In fact, don’t tell the reader whodunit!

Just talk about how you feel about Ms. Dee Ann Meets Murder. Could you relate to the book in any way? Did you like the characters, the setting, the story? Would you recommend it? (I’m holding my breath that the answer here is “yes.”)

It’s easy to post a review on Amazon. Simply find Ms. Dee Ann Meets Murder on Amazon.com (you can use the link above). Click on the number/ratings beside the stars which takes you to customer reviews. Scroll to the bottom, and click Write a customer review. And then write something.

Here’s part of what alert reader Debra F. Lee wrote in a review:

“Being from Eastern North Carolina myself, I enjoyed this intriguing “whodunit” page-turner from page one all the way to the surprising twist of the ending. One of the many things I enjoyed about the book is its down-home language and feel. I’ve heard this kind of story called a “cozy” mystery, and it lives up to that name. The author not only makes references to the Eastern North Carolina setting that takes me back to the late 70’s and early 80’s, but also to the national issues of the time, such as the women’s movement and surreptitious racism. The story had me laughing one minute and appalled the next….”

Thank you, Debra F. Lee. Thanks also to Sunshine, Linda, and DPB, my other three reviewers so far.

Reviews are important for the success of a book, I’ve been told by those in the book-selling business. So if you’re not one of the above four people and you’ve read Ms. Dee Ann Meets Murder, please, pretty please, post a review.

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