Reflections on America’s Thanksgiving Day

There are many things that make the United States of America a special place. One of those is the Thanksgiving holiday we celebrated last Thursday.

Thanksgiving Day is a wonderful concept. It’s a holiday most workers get to enjoy as businesses close for the day. It’s a day set aside to reflect on the things you’re thankful for. It’s a day to gather with friends and relatives. It’s a day on which many of us eat more than we should.

Photo by Diliara Garifullina on Unsplash

It’s a day most of us think back on the Thanksgiving Days in the past. We remember loved ones who are no longer here. We remember the aromas in the kitchens of our childhoods.

Even in the chaos that sometimes accompanies large family gatherings on Thanksgiving Day, most of us are prompted to take a moment to think about our blessings.

Life is hard. Things – good and bad – happen. Illness and loss set us back, change our plans, and sometimes change the trajectory of our lives. The life we envisioned isn’t how things turned out.

One of the things I was thankful for on Thanksgiving Day last Thursday was the opportunity life has given me to pursue whatever interests I’ve had. Illness derailed my professional life when I was a young adult, but God has continued to open doors for me. I’ve learned from every experience.

There’s an old adage that says “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks,” but I’m living proof that you can.

I’ve heard it’s good for one’s brain to learn new skills. My brain must be about to explode. I’ve really been stretching its limits lately.

Photo by Diliara Garifullina on Unsplash

Since my blog post last week, I created a cover for a paperback nonfiction book. And it’s not just any old cover. The back cover sports a QR Code I created for my website! Not bad for this 69-year-old non-techy person.

Those of us fortunate to reach that age need to keep reinventing ourselves for as long as physical and mental health and our life circumstances permit. It’s easy to take those things for granted until they aren’t there.

Since my last blog post

I continued to work toward the publication of Harrisburg, Did You Know? Cabarrus History, Book 1. I continued to format and proofread Harrisburg, Did You Know? Cabarrus History, Book 2.

I revisited a short story I wrote several months ago. It’s beneficial to let a piece of writing rest for a while and then read it with fresh eyes and tweak it where it can be improved. I hope to publish a collection of short stories in 2023.

Until my next blog post

I hope you have a good book to read. If I finish reading a book in November, I’ll blog about it next Monday. Writing and learning technology left little time for reading this month.

Remember the brave, freezing people of Ukraine.

Photo by Blake Dunn on Unsplash

Janet

Did You Know Cabarrus County, NC Survived a Meteorite on Halloween 1849?

Can you imagine hearing and then seeing meteor blazing across the sky and then crashing through a tree before plunging several feet into the dirt? That’s what happened on Hiram Bost’s farm on October 31, 1849.

Photo by Juskteez Vu on Unsplash

I grew up in Cabarrus County, but I’d not heard of the meteorite until I happened upon a newspaper article about it while doing research on another topic for a local history column I was writing in 2009 for Harrisburg Horizons weekly newspaper. Last week while I was formatting those newspaper articles for two planned books in 2023, I thought the highlights of the seven-part series I wrote about Mr. Bost’s meteorite would make an interesting blog post on this Halloween.

Although the meteorite landed near Midland in Cabarrus County, it was mistakenly named “Monroe.” Meteorites are usually named for where they land. The town of Monroe is actually in the adjoining county and not where the 1849 meteorite crashed to the Earth.

I’ve never heard a meteor or seen one up close. The closest I’ve come is seeing an occasional “shooting star.” The witnesses of the 1849 meteorite described explosions and rumblings They saw a white-hot object in the sky even though it was broad daylight.

Word of the meteorite spread by the proverbial grapevine and in newspapers in Charlotte and Concord. When word reached the Charlotte Branch of the United States Mint, a Mint employee and a Charlotte doctor headed some 20 to 25 miles to the site by horse-drawn wagon.

Knowing he had an item of interest and unknown value on his hands, Mr. Bost displayed the meteorite on top of a pole for all to come and see. It was accompanied by a sign warning people not to touch or break the rock.

I was naïve enough to think that perhaps the Monroe meteorite had ended up intact at the North Carolina Museum of Natural History, but I soon found out that the meteorite has been chopped and sliced into countless pieces and the museum in Raleigh doesn’t even have a piece of it.

One thing led to another, as is always the case when I do historical research, and I went down the rabbit hole of searching for the locations that own part of the meteorite. What I discovered is that pieces and slivers of the meteorite are owned by universities, museums, The Vatican, and private companies and individuals around the world.

I learned that bits and pieces of the Monroe meteorite are for sale by rock and mineral dealers and are sometimes available through rock and mineral auctions. Those pieces and slivers are priced by the gram and aren’t cheap.

To learn more, be on the lookout for my book, Harrisburg, Did You Know? – Book 2 on Amazon in 2023.

I expect to publish Harrisburg, Did You Know? – Book 1 on Amazon in January 2023. I’ll give progress reports in future blog posts. Even if you don’t live in the Harrisburg, North Carolina area, I think you’ll find something of interest in both my local history books.

Since my last blog

I continue to write my first historical novel, The Heirloom.

I hired a company to completely redesign my outdated website, JanetMorrisonBooks.com. My writing is taking a new path and I need a new website to reflect that. With numerous decisions to be made and the holiday season approaching, it might be January before I can unveil the new site.

My sister and I continue to proofread Harrisburg, Did You Know?—Book 1. When I blogged last week, I thought the books would only be available for Kindle, but I now hope to also have them published in paperback.

A word about my blog

Last week’s blog post included a note about a change in my follower count on my blog and the reason I was given for the widget policy change. Apparently, I wasn’t the only blogger to complain, for this week the count once again includes the 1,000+ followers that were dropped last week. I’m happy again!

Until my next blog

I hope you have a good book to read.

Remember the brave people of Ukraine who face freezing to death this winter.

Janet

One Historical Fiction Misconception that Keeps You from Reading It

Not everyone wants to read historical fiction. I understand that. There are several fiction genres that I don’t enjoy, so I avoid them. There are too many books I want to read to take time to read genres that don’t appeal to me. For instance, horror.

I happen to like historical fiction, but there is one big misconception that might be keeping you from reading novels that fall in that category.

Okay, what is that misconception?

Since the word “fiction” is part of the name of the historical fiction genre, there is a misconception that novels in the genre are not historically accurate. If you read reputable historical fiction writers, you know that couldn’t be further from the truth.

The Ballad of Tom Dooley: A Ballad Novel, by Sharyn McCrumb

I had the privilege of hearing Sharyn McCrumb speak in conjunction with the publication of the ninth novel in her ballad series, The Ballad of Tom Dooley. Ms. McCrumb is a meticulous historical researcher. In her speech that day, she adamantly pointed out that some historical fiction books are better researched than history books.

That has really stayed with me more than a decade after hearing Ms. McCrumb speak.

When considering to read a historical novel, I suggest you turn to the back of the book and read the Author Notes. Very often there are several pages after the last chapter in the book in which the author explains her inspiration for the book and a bit of the research involved in writing the book.

The topic of literary license is often addressed in the Author Notes. Good historical fiction writers are transparent and quick to point out any instances in which they adjusted the time or place of an event to make the story flow more smoothly.

You might not be convinced yet to read historical fiction. You might think that just because historical novels contain conversations that cannot be documented, the book cannot be trusted as being true. If written by a conscientious writer, conversations and narrative in the novel will be true to the time and place to the best of the author’s ability. Keep in mind that it’s a work of fiction, and don’t get bent out of shape if some of the dialogue doesn’t ring true to you.

I write history and I write historical fiction. The research I do for the writing of historical fiction is just as detailed and important as the research I do for the writing of history.

English Through the Ages, by William Brohaugh

You might be surprised to know that in the 1760s historical fiction I’m writing, I’m careful not to use words that were not in general use during that time. I keep English Through the Ages, by William Brohaugh within arm’s reach while I’m writing. Sometimes there is a perfect word I want a character to say but then I discover it wasn’t in general usage until later. I have to find another word.

And you thought I spent all my time just gazing out the window and eating bonbons!

Next week’s blog post topic

Next week I plan to blog about something that happened on October 31, 1849 in Cabarrus County, North Carolina. I wrote about it for a newspaper article a few years ago. I look forward to sharing a bit of that well-researched article with you on my blog.

Since my last blog

I’ve worked on my novel, The Heirloom, every day except yesterday. (I really try to set aside Sunday as a day of rest.) I feel great about how the manuscript is coming along. I’m really having fun with it, imagining myself on The Great Wagon Road in 1766.

I’ve made progress toward getting my website redesigned. I’m excited about that and will keep you posted.

I finished formatting Harrisburg, Did You Know?—Book 1 on Saturday. The proofreading will take another couple of weeks. By then, I hope to have a photograph to use for the cover. Everything seems to be falling in place within the publication schedule I set for myself. By this time next month, I hope to be close to it being available as an e-book.

A word about my blog

You might have noticed on my blog where it says “Join ___ other followers,” the number plummeted this week. I spent the better part of an hour in chat with WordPress tech support before they identified the cause.

The verdict was that the widget that enables me to show the number of followers on my blog changed last week without bloggers (or apparently tech support) being told.

On Wednesday it said, “Join 2,104 other followers,” but on Thursday night it said, “Join 988 other followers.” My heart sank! Tech support stayed on the case until it was determined that now the widget only displays the number of email and WordPress bloggers who follow me. It no longer includes the 1,000+ people who follow my blog on social media.

If you have a WordPress blog, did you notice this change?

Until my next blog

I hope you have a good book to read – and time to read it!

Remember the brave people of Ukraine.

Janet

This Week: An Additional 5 Book Bloggers

Last week my blog was about five book bloggers I follow. I promised to highlight more such book reviewers in the coming weeks. Today’s blog post is about five other online book reviewers.

As with last week’s list, I selected these five in random order. I hope at least one of them will appeal to you enough that you’ll start following it.


Photo by Florencia Viadana on Unsplash

LizGauffreau.com

At https://lizgauffreau.com/, you will find book reviews as well as a variety of other blog posts and information. Liz is a writer and blogger who lives in New Hampshire. As you can tell from her blog topics, she’s not a full-time book review blogger. I’ve included her on this list, though, because she sometimes reviews fiction, nonfiction, and poetry.

Her website is well-organized. You can click on her blog posts by month, or you can click on her Fiction Book Reviews, her Nonfiction Book Reviews, or her Poetry Reviews.

Here’s the link to one of her recent book reviews: #bookreview: Village Teacher – Elizabeth Gauffreau (lizgauffreau.com), in which she reviewed Village Teacher, by neihtn (Nguyen Trong Hien).

If you’re a fan of short stories, here’s a head’s up. Two of Liz’s short stories will be in the new anthology, Distant Flickers: Stories of Identity and Loss. It’s set for release on October 1. Look for it wherever you buy your books. If your local independent bookstore and public library haven’t ordered copies, ask them to consider doing so.


Photo by John-Mark Smith on Unsplash

Smorgasbord Blog Magazine

As you can guess from the name, Smorgasbord Blog Magazine is an online magazine that covers just about everything. It also covers just about everything very well.

Sally Cronin is the powerhouse behind this online magazine. I marvel at the variety of topics Sally tackles. She not only reviews books. She also reviews music and does excellent posts about popular music from different decades. She also has a post once a week that offers four or five cartoons. As you can see, there’s something for everyone in Smorgasbord Blog Magazine.

You’re reading this, though, because my post today is supposed to be about book bloggers. Here’s the link to one of Sally’s recent book reviews: Smorgasbord Book Reviews – #Historical #1920s Jazz Baby by Beem Weeks , in which she reviewed Jazz Baby, by Beem Weeks.

Sally blogs from Ireland. Her almost daily blog posts are always entertaining.


Photo by Henry Be on Unsplash

Amorina Rose’s Blog

Barbara Strickland is the voice behind Amorina Rose’s Blog. Barbara’s website address is https://brstrickland.com/. She is an author as well as a blogger. Through her website you can access her blog archives.

May, June, and July Chilling with Books Corner 2022, being real and finding inspiration – Barbara Strickland – Author & Blogger (brstrickland.com) is a good example of one of her blogs about books and other things, such as movies she’d been watching. In it, she also reviews the historical novel, The Wedding Dress Sewing Circle, by Jennifer Ryan.

Barbara is of Italian and Australian ancestry. She holds a Bachelor of Education degree with TESOL (English as a Second Language) qualifications. She’s had a varied career and enjoys music, dance, art, and literature. She’s in the editing stages of her second novel.


Photo by Gülfer ERGİN on Unsplash

Linda’s Book Obsession

Linda Zagon is the book reviewer behind Linda’s Book Obcession. She is a retired teacher with a massive book collection, including signed first editions.

Reviewing books is Linda’s hobby. She is a Top Reviewer on NetGalley and has also reviewed books on Facebook, Goodreads, LibraryThing, Twitter (as @peachyteach), Amazon (as teachlz) and BookBrowse.

You can find her current and past book reviews on her website, https://lindasbookobsession.blog/. She has been known to blog twice in one day about two different books.

Go to her website and click on her September 22, 2022 blog post in which she gives a rave review of The Child Between Us, by Alison Ragsdale.


Photo by Ed Robertson on Unsplash

Portobello Book Blog

Joanne is passionate about books, and it shows in her book reviews on https://portobellobookblog.com/. She especially likes contemporary fiction and historical fiction but also enjoys a good love story, according to the bio on her website.

There, you can easily scroll down through a list of her recent blog posts. Each one includes an opening paragraph or two from the post. Just click on “more” if you want to continue reading one of them. You can also click on any of give option at the top of her landing page. One of them is “Book Reviews, A to Z.” That will give you a drop-down menu where you can click on her book reviews from any year back to 2015 and get a list of the books she reviewed that year in alphabetical order by the authors’ last names. You can tell by the lengthy lists that Joanne is a voracious reader.

Her site also includes author interviews.

Go to Joanne’s website, https://portobellobookblog.com/, and I suggest you click on her September 20, 2022 blog post in which she reviewed The Dead Romantics, by Ashley Poston. I suggest you click on that one because through it you can read the first chapter of Ashley Poston’s novel. What can beat that in a book review?


Since my last blog post

Last week I mentioned that I’d run into a bit of a roadblock on the cover I wanted for the cover of the e-book I’m working on. I was discouraged, but things opened up this past week. I was contacted by the son of the deceased artist whose painting I wanted for the book cover. He couldn’t have been more accommodating! What a relief! I literally cried tears of joy after talking to him.

I’m still formatting my local history newspaper column articles for that book, Harrisburg, Did You Know? – Book 1. I’ll keep you posted as I reach publication.


Until my next blog post

I hope you have a good book to read and an enjoyable hobby.

Find the good in the coming week. I’ll look for you back here next Monday. Please tell your friends about my blog.

Don’t forget the courageous people of Ukraine and the grieving people of Uvalde.

Janet

Do you know about these 5 book bloggers?

There are some book bloggers whose posts I read regularly to get ideas for books to read. Sometimes they review books I’ve read and it’s interesting to see if I agree with their reviews or what they picked up on that I missed. Usually, they review books I haven’t read, for many professional book reviewers receive advance copies before a book is released to the public. This isn’t the case for all book bloggers.

Today I’m writing about five of the book bloggers I follow. Perhaps some of them will be new to you. In the coming weeks, I’ll blog about other book bloggers I follow. I’ve chosen these in random order.


Photo by Susan Q Yin on Unsplash.

Jennifer Tar Heel Reader

Going to Jennifer’s website, you can peruse her blog topics and get a feel for the type books she reviews. Although I haven’t heard her say, she is obviously a creative and talented person in her own right. The photographs she includes with her book reviews are always elegant and inviting. Take a look for yourself on her website where you can read any of her past blog posts/reviews simply with a click. She’s been blogging book reviews since May 4, 2018. From the title of her blog, I believe she lives in the same state where I’ve lived my entire life – North Carolina.

Here’s a link to one of her recent book reviews: https://jennifertarheelreader.com/2022/06/30/dragonfly-escaping-by-raya-khedker-bookreview-tarheelreader-thrdragonflyescaping-rayakhedker-suzyapbooktours-dragonflyescaping-blogtour/. After reading Jennifer’s review, I added Dragon Fly Escaping to my TBR (To Be Read) list.

Jennifer’s website is https://jennifertarheelreader.com/.


Photo by hannah grace on Unsplash

Sandy’s Book a Day Blog

Sandy is a top reviewer on Goodreads and reviews as Sandyj21 on Amazon. As you can tell from the title of her blog, she’s a voracious reader. To give you an example, she read or listened to 22 books in July! (I do well to read that many books in six months!) Here’s a link to one of her recent blog posts: The Lost Girls of Willowbrook by Ellen Marie Wiseman – Sandy’s Book a Day Blog (wordpress.com).

Sandy, like the other book bloggers I follow, offers honest assessments of the books she reviews. In this particular one, she explains why she had trouble getting her head around the abuse at Willowbrook because, thankfully, her own experience working in such a facility was nothing like that portrayed in the book. The Lost Girls of Willowbrook is also on my TBR.


Photo by Ed Robertson on Unsplash

What Cathy Read Next

Cathy amazes me with the number of books she reads and reviews. Last time I looked, she’d read 122 books so far in 2022.  She has a great website and book review blog. You can go to her website, What Cathy Read 2022 – What Cathy Read Next… (wordpress.com) and click on a number of choices, such as “What Cathy Read in 2022” or “What Cathy read in 2016” and every year in between.  Then, each book title is clickable and you can read her review of it.

Occasionally, Cathy attacks her TBR (To Be Read List) and blogs about a few books on her list. She goes through a process to decide which ones to leave on her TBR and which ones to delete. I need to do that myself! Here’s an example of one of her “Down the TBR Hole” blog posts: Down the TBR Hole #25 – What Cathy Read Next… (wordpress.com).

Cathy has an MA in English and appreciates good fiction, especially historical fiction and literary fiction.


Photo by hannah grace on Unsplash

Emma B Books

Emma reviews lots of thrillers and mysteries, but she also is known to have reviewed memoirs and other genres. By going to her home page, EmmabBooks.com – Book Reviews by Emma b Books, you can click on the image of any one of 18 books she’s recently reviewed.

Emma’s website is well-organized. You can click on “Home,” “Nonfiction,” “Fiction,” “Audiobooks,” “5*Related Books,” “Blog,” “About,” and “Contact.”

Each of those buttons has a drop-down menu to make any search easy. If you’d like to receive email notices when Emma posts a new review on her blog, there’s a fill-in format form on her website. If you’re a WordPress blogger, you can opt to receive her posts on your feed.

Emma is British by birth and now lives in the beautiful Austrian Alps.


Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash.

FictionFan’s Book Reviews

This reviewer reads a wide range of genres and blogs about books she likes and books she didn’t like so much. Her interests run the gamut from politics and history to vintage horror. (Come to think of it, maybe those aren’t actually on two ends of the spectrum!) Here’s the link: http://FictionFan’s Book Reviews – Reviews of books…and occasional other stuff. (wordpress.com).

The website is well-organized, with 15 categories at the top for you to choose from. Each one has a drop-down menu to assist you in your search. There’s even a “Movie of the Book” button. Other buttons have drop-down menus in which you can search by book title or author.

This reviewer is from Scotland and is one of Amazon UK’s Top 500 Reviewers.


Since my last blog post

I’ve been working on genealogy and reading books. I listen to books on CD and read print books as well as e-books.

Speaking of e-books… I’m formatting the local history columns I wrote for Harrisburg Horizons newspaper from 2006 through 2012 in preparation for putting them into two e-books. I’ve run into a bit of a roadblock on the cover I wanted, so it’s time to figure out Plan B.


Until my next blog post

I hope you have a good book to read. I hope you’ll check out the book bloggers I blogged about today.

Don’t work all the time. Take time out for family and friends.

Remember the people of Ukraine and Uvalde, and count your blessings.

Janet

Did I Find Contentment and Peace in 2020?

I’m glad we don’t know what the future holds. If we did, most of us would have approached the year 2020 with uncommon dread. I entered the year with what I thought was reasonable positivity. My last blog post in 2019 was one in which I stated a goal of finding contentment and peace in 2020. Here’s the link to that post: Contentment and Peace in 2020.

After writing that post for December 30, 2019, I typed the title for today’s post in my editorial calendar to remind myself to evaluate the progress I made in 2020 in finding contentment and peace.

Could it be I picked the wrong year to seek contentment and peace?

Photo Credit: Kelly Sikkema on unsplash.com

Did I Find Contentment in 2020?

Am I content? That’s a loaded question. Am I content with my life? If so, does that mean I’ve settled for whatever my life looks like? That’s not how I choose to look at it. Writing to the Philippians, the Apostle Paul wrote (Phil. 4:12-13), he encouraged the Christians there to rejoice in the Lord no matter their circumstances.

It has been a stressful year in many respects – the broken leg in January, the pulmonary embolism in February, the death of a high school classmate and friend in Belgium that same day, 13 weeks of not being able to put any weight on my right leg followed by months of rehabilitation and recovery, the death of a dear lifelong friend in July, my dog’s diabetes diagnosis in August, a planned beach trip in September had to be cancelled due to the pandemic, the tendon problem in my wrist (ongoing), my fibromyalgia flared big time in October when summer transitioned into fall, a dear cousin’s cancer diagnosis in November, a US presidential election in November that seems to never end, and tooth sensitivity that led to a root canal in November.

Oh, and there was a pandemic. There was and is the Covid-19 pandemic. When history books are written, 2020 will stand out as a troubling year in the entire world.

I have a good life, though. In 2020, I never wondered where my next meal was coming from. I had a roof over my head every day. I had access to the medical attention I needed. I have friends. I have the world’s best sister and wonderful family a couple of hundred miles away. How could I be anything but content?

Looking back over my December 30, 2019, blog post, did I get my To-Be-Read List under control? No. In fact, that list on my Goodreads.com account has grown from 302 to 318.

Did I cut back on my weekly blog? No. I considered decreasing the number of blog posts, but I couldn’t get excited about doing that. For now, it’s still every Monday.

Did I “get my novel on the road to publication” in 2020? No. I’m afraid it has been neglected in 2020 as I pursued other writing opportunities. Neglected, but not forgotten.

Did I make time for all my hobbies? No. I made a little time to work on genealogy but my other hobbies fell by the wayside. I thought on December 30, 2019, that making time for my hobbies would lead to peace and contentment in 2020.

Motivation was harder to come by in 2020 than I anticipated.

Did I Find Peace in 2020?

For purposes of this goal and its evaluation I’m referring to inner peace.

I broke my leg, but it has almost completely healed. Thanks to modern medicine and an on-the-ball hospital emergency room doctor, my pulmonary embolism dissolved. Even though I could only get around with the use of a walker for 13 weeks, I did have access to a walker and my left leg was good and strong. I’m retired, so I could stay at home. I share a home with my sister, and she and our dog took great care of me.

I will forever miss the two friends I lost, but I know they’re both in a better place and I’ll see them again.

Our dog has access to some of the best animal veterinary care on the planet. He is doing splendidly again!

I took advantage of my fibromyalgia flare in October to get back into one of my favorite hobbies – genealogy.

On Christmas Eve, my cousin received the best report possible following her cancer surgery. She is a very strong and determined person. She will beat cancer.

Another cousin’s first baby was due last week in California but, apparently, it’s heard about this year and doesn’t want to have anything to do with 2020. I can’t blame it. I am excited beyond words over this much-anticipated event!

The last four years have been a contentious time in our country. November 3 finally came and it was Election Day! There were several nail-biter days. Really. I chewed off three fingernails. We are more polarized politically than any other time in my life. It has been an ugly time that I hope never to experience again. The election continues to be a source of ugliness from the man who lost the presidential election. How embarrassing for the US! Better days and years lie ahead of us, though, starting on January 20, 2021 – Inauguration Day in Washington, DC.

December came with the Covid-19 pandemic still growing daily in the US and other countries around the world, so I continued to stay at home as much as possible. However, scientists worked around-the-clock in 2020 and developed more than one Covid-19 vaccine in record time! In the coming year, it is hoped that these vaccines will get the pandemic under control. I will patiently await my turn.

Photo Credit: Daniel Schludi on unsplash.com

My fractured leg in January caused me to miss a haircut appointment. Ditto for the blood clot in my lung in February. In March, the pandemic closed the beauty shops. I decided to take this opportunity to let my hair grow longer to see how I liked it. My experiment lasted until the day before yesterday, when I finally raised the white flag and got my hair cut. It’s very short again – and I love it! I won’t have to do that experiment again.

My sister and I went to the church one day and the pastor videoed our lighting the third Advent candle. The video was incorporated into the Facebook Live broadcast of the December 13 worship service. It was a joy to be in the sanctuary again and to see it decorated with greenery and poinsettias for the Advent Season. Due to my broken leg, I hadn’t been in the sanctuary since January 26. It was wonderful to be included in the worship service, even if on video.

I’ve enjoyed listening to the music of the Christmas Season, and the lights and ornaments on our Christmas tree have lifted my spirits. We might just leave it up until next Christmas. And I will continue to listen to Christmas music for a while.

This year of hibernation allowed me to plunge into the world of self-publishing. I learned how to format an e-book and I anticipate publishing the 174 local history columns from 2006 through 2012 in the coming months. I started writing historical short stories with another self-published book in mind.

I have a renewed purpose in life through my writing, and that has truly brought me joy during an otherwise dark and daunting year. I found that I’m happiest when I’m writing.

Okay. What’s the verdict? Did I find peace and contentment in 2020?

Photo Credit: Mar Cerdeira on unsplash.com

In many ways, I did. I’m fairly content with my life, but I’m not settling for the way it is. I’m not giving up on my dreams. I want to publish my Harrisburg, Did You Know? book of history columns. I want to publish a collection of my historical short stories. I want to see my historical novel in print. I want to quilt. I want to get all our genealogy notes together in a form that my niece’s and nephew’s descendants can make sense of their family history. I want to play the dulcimer. I want to read more books. If only I had the energy to pursue all my interests!

I think I learned some patience in 2020. I have a new appreciation for peace and quiet. I’m fortunate to have a slower pace of life now. Except for feeding the dog and administering his shots every 12 hours, I’m not on much of a schedule. Most days I get to do what I want to do, and most people in the world don’t have that luxury. Of course, it helps that I prefer to spend time at home, and retirement makes that possible.

In spite of all the mishaps in my life and the sadness that accompanies the pandemic, 2020 wasn’t such a bad year after all. My sister and I have not had Covid-19 or any other life-threatening medical diagnoses, except for my blood clot. We still have the love of family and friends. I have truly been blessed this year and throughout my life.

I know, more than ever before in my life that, as the Apostle Paul wrote to the Christians in Rome in Romans 8:38-39, “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

What do I want in 2021?

I want to be a better person in 2021. I want to remember the words of Romans 8:38-39 every day. I want to take Micah 6:8 to heart and “act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with [my] God.”

I want the same things I wanted in 2020: peace and contentment. And that’s my wish for you in the coming year, too.

Janet

Happy Birthday, Mark Twain!

Today marks the 185th anniversary of the birth of Samuel Longhorn Clemens, who wrote under the pen name Mark Twain.

Mark Twain has been a favorite author of mine since my first introduction to Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn in elementary school. I loved the humor. I loved the honesty. I loved the way he wrote like people talked. Decades later, those are still the things I love about his writing. A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court is another favorite novel of his.

A selection of Mark Twain books

Years ago, I enjoyed how actor Hal Holbrook brought Mark Twain alive on the stage and TV. When vacationing in New York a few years ago, I enjoyed visiting Elmira, where Twain lived. There was a live portrayal of him there, which was excellent. I still have those memories and the plastic souvenir cup from my visit.

Perhaps even more than his novels, I like many of Mark Twain’s quotes. It was through his little snippets or sayings that his humor really came through. Here are a few of my favorites:

“It is better to keep your mouth closed and let people think you are a fool than to open it and remove all doubt.”

“The secret of getting ahead is getting started.”

“A man who carries a cat by the tail learns something he can learn in no other way.”

“If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything.”

“A person who won’t read has no advantage over the person who can’t read.”

“Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see.”

“When your friends begin to flatter you on how young you look, it’s a sure sign you’re getting old.”

Since my last blog post

The Covid-19 pandemic has worsened here in the United States. I’m thankful for all the people who work in healthcare facilities and other essential workers who risk exposure to the virus every day so the rest of us can have the services we need. I’m fortunate that I can stay home most of the time.

I finished reading a splendid new historical novel by Vicki Lane. Get your hands on a copy of And the Crows Took Their Eyes. Don’t let the title scare you off, but be aware that the book is not about a pleasant subject. It is, however, masterfully written. It sheds light on a part of North Carolina history that has received too little attention in the history books. It brings to life the horrors of neighbors taking opposite sides in the American Civil War. I read it slowly and savored the writing. Look for more about this book in my blog post on December 7, 2020.

My sister and I had some productive time one day as we continued to proofread my manuscript for Harrisburg, Did You Know? Stay tuned for progress reports.

My root canal went well last Monday, and I was able to enjoy turkey, dressing, and gravy on Thanksgiving Day.

Until my next blog post

I hope you have a good book to read and a challenging one to write, if you’re a writer.

Be creative. Find what you’re passionate about and make time to do it. Find a way to make a living doing it. I wish I had.

Wear a mask.

Janet

Autumn in North Carolina

My blog last Monday started out in the fairly safe area of my take on three books I read (or attempted to read) in October, but then it migrated into the dangerous territory of the 2020 Presidential election in the United States. I probably lost a few readers over my comments, but maybe I gained some new ones. I said what was on my heart.

Today’s topic takes a lighter and less divisive turn. I had trouble settling on a subject for today’s blog post, so I turned to my friend Google for ideas. Among them were politics, religion, recipes, book reviews, inspiration, bacon, pets, self-help, and marital advice.

Since I wrote about politics and touched on religion last week, I immediately marked those items off the list. Even though I like to cook and love to eat, I’m trying to steer away from turning this into a recipe blog. I’m not a book reviewer; I just write my thoughts about the books I read. (Yes, there’s a difference. Book reviews should follow some rules; my comments never follow any rules.) I’m holding “inspiration” in reserve for a few more minutes. Next on the list is bacon. Now there’s a topic I could sink my teeth into. <groan!> Pets are near and dear to my heart, but I’m not sure you want to know that much about my dog. I’m not qualified to write a self-help article, and I’m certainly not qualified to offer marital advice.

That leaves inspiration.

<Crickets…..>

Oh, I know! It’s autumn here in North Carolina. I hope you enjoy some photographs I took last week before several days of rain and flash flooding (thanks to Tropical Storm and formerly Hurricane Eta.)

The maple, hickory, sweet gum, and dogwood trees, and the sassafras sprouts in my yard have been gorgeous this fall! Maple trees are my favorite, but I also love the unique color that sassafras leaves turn this time of year.

Sassafras

This has been a year of way more than average rainfall here, and most of us have lost count of the tropical storms. So far, it’s been one of the warmest Novembers on record but, if the abundance of acorns on and under the oak trees are any indication, we’re in for a cold winter. Among the surprises this November have been four blooms on one of our Buttered Popcorn Daylilies and one of our camellias is blooming. The daylilies usually stop blooming by August and the camellias usually bloom in February or March. Here are photos I took on November 13!

Since my last blog post

The pain in my left wrist has been diagnosed. It will be in a brace for six weeks in an effort to avoid surgery. It’s 2020, so I couldn’t have expected anything less. On the bright side, it’s not my dominant hand.

I’ve worked for hours on a genealogy project. It mainly consisted of writing creatively about some relatives I knew and some I didn’t know. All writing is good practice for me, even if it’s not fiction. The brace slows down my writing and greatly increases my typing errors.

With the drama of the US Presidential election sort of behind us (well, not really, but enough is enough!), my sister and I got back to proofreading my Harrisburg, Did You Know? book manuscript. Proofreading 350 pages is tedious work. (Spell-check will catch only a fraction of your mistakes and can actually lead you astray.)

I spent several happy hours reading some old newspapers online and looking for tidbits about local history.

I enjoyed reading when I could catch time here and there, and I spent more time than I should have doing jigsaw puzzles on my tablet. I tell myself it’s good for my brain and hand-eye coordination. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

I listened to some uplifting music by Pentatonix, Peter Holmes, the Avett Brothers (from here in Cabarrus County!), Natalie Grant, and Whitney Houston.

Until my next blog post

Keep calm and carry on.

I hope you have a good book to read.

I hope you have creative time that brings you and others joy.

Thank you for wearing a mask to protect others during this Covid-19 pandemic.

Janet

#OnThisDay: Erie Canal Opened, 1817

This may be the most unlikely topic addressed yet on my blog. Reading that the Erie Canal opened on this date in 1817 triggered a childhood memory of mine, and perhaps it will do the same for you.

One of the memories I have from elementary school is our class singing a song called “Erie Canal.” If you aren’t familiar with this folk song, you can go to YouTube and listen to Bruce Springsteen singing it. Yes! The Boss! It’s just a fun song about a man and his “mule named Sal” and their “fifteen miles on the Erie Canal.” It has a catchy chorus that we children liked to animate when we sang it.

As a child in North Carolina, I didn’t understand the importance of the Erie Canal. The canal was hundreds of miles away in New York. I’d never been to New York, and I didn’t have much of a concept of it at the time.

If you’re like me, you don’t know the history of the Erie Canal. Never fear. Today’s blog post isn’t going to give a detailed history of the canal, but it will hit the high points. I learned some interesting things about its current use and wanted to share that with you. Some of my readers live in New York or used to, so you probably already know all this. Let me know if you find any glaring errors.

When the concept of the Erie Canal formed

As early 1768 there was talk in New York of connecting the Hudson River to Lake Erie via a canal. The American Revolution delayed any such project.

In 1792, the New York legislature chartered a company to start the canal, but financial problems stymied most of the 363-mile project.

Fast forward to 1817. A study revealed that the Erie Canal would cost nearly $5 million. It would include 77 locks to accommodate the 661-foot rise and fall of the land over that 363 miles.

Ground was broken on July 4, 1817, for the section between Rome and Utica. It wasn’t until that central New York section of the canal was completed in 1819 that the state legislature approved funding for the rest of the canal.

The state was expecting funds from the federal government to make the whole canal possible. President James Madison vetoed the Bonus Bill, which would have given New York funds for internal improvements, on March 3, 1817. With that source of money gone, investors were sought to make up the gap.

The completed Erie Canal opened on October 26, 1825 – 195 years ago today. It opened up commerce from Lake Ontario and Lake Erie to the Hudson River and, therefore, to the Atlantic Ocean. It did wonders for the New York economy until the advent of the railroad. The St. Lawrence Seaway’s creation in 1959 further decreased the commercial need for the canal.

Is the Erie Canal obsolete?

My next question was, “Is the Erie Canal obsolete?” That led me to dig a little deeper.

That’s when I learned that the Erie Canal is still in operation, but only in the warm months. For instance, https://www.cruisingodyssey.com reported the following in an article on May 19, 2020: “The New York State Canal Corporation just announced the schedule for reopening the locks on the historic – and much-travelled – Erie Canal and the system’s other canals in the state. The corporation said it planned to have most of the locks open by July 4, but some may not open until much later.”

That online article continues, “The locks had been scheduled to open on May 15, but maintenance and repair work was stopped a month earlier due to the COVID-19 pandemic and shutdown. That work included seven locks on the Erie Canal and one of the Champlain Canal.”

How can you enjoy the Erie Canal?

I gather from the information gleaned from the Internet that it is primarily used in the summer months today (the months when the water isn’t frozen) by people who enjoy cruising in their boats.

The website https://www.nps.gov/erie/index.htm is a good source of information about the Erie Canal’s history as well as the opportunities for enjoyment offered today by the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor.

According to the May 19, 2020 report on https://www.niagara-gazette.com/, the Erie Canal bike tour was cancelled in 2020 but the annual ride is expected to return next July.

That led me to search for information about the Erie Canalway Bike Trail. A bike trail more than 350 miles long sounds wonderful! It goes from Buffalo to Albany, New York.

Photo source: Ryan Thorpe on Unsplash.com.

The website https://bikeeriecanal.com/ appears to be a good source of information for those of you who wish to add it to your “bucket list.”

Since my last blog post

My sister, Marie, is graciously helping me proofread my nonfiction book, Harrisburg, Did You Know? All 350 pages. I don’t even have to pay her!

I’m reading several books and taking notes for my November blog posts about them.

I’m counting the days until the 2020 political campaign ads disappear from our mail boxes, TV screens, phones, and all social media. Anyone with me on that?

Until my next blog post

I hope you have more good books to read than you can possibly read.

I hope you have satisfying creative time this week.

Continue to wear a mask and stay safe and well during this pandemic. For the sake of all of us, follow the science.

Janet

#OnThisDay: Yorktown, 1781

The American Revolution is akin to the story of David and Goliath. Who would have thought the 13 colonies on the edge of the American wilderness could defeat the most powerful country in the world?

Photo credit: James Giddins on Unsplash.com.

After a hard-fought war of more than five years, Great Britain had to admit defeat. It must have been a bitter pill to swallow 239 years ago today.

Although the British, under the command of Lieutenant General Lord Charles Cornwallis, won the Battle of Guilford Court House in North Carolina in March 1781, they suffered 25% casualties. Leaving Guilford County, Cornwallis led his beleaguered troops to Wilmington, NC to recover and regroup. While there, he decided to head for the coast of southeastern Virginia. Upon arriving there, Cornwallis established a base on the York River at Yorktown.

American General George Washington instructed the Marquis de Lafayette, who was in Virginia, to take his Continental Army troops and contain Cornwallis’ troops on the Yorktown Peninsula until Washington could get there from New York with additional troops.

Various American and French troops began to converge on the Yorktown Peninsula, some defeating British troops in engagements along the Chesapeake coast on their way from points north. By October 6, 1781, American and French forces were in place and ready to attack the British troops encamped at Yorktown and on ships there.

The siege of Yorktown began under the cover of darkness on the night of October 15, 1781. Cornwallis requested terms of surrender on October 17.

Photo credit: Jackson Simmer on Unsplash.com

On Friday afternoon, October 19, 1781, Lieutenant General Lord Charles Cornwallis led 7,000 British and Hessian troops down Hampton Road to Yorktown, Virginia to surrender to General George Washington, commander of the American and French troops.

Photo credit: Michael Barlow on Unsplash.com.

The peace treaty officially ending the war and recognizing American independence would be nearly two more years in coming, but the war was over and the difficult work of establishing the United States of America as a free and independent nation could begin.

Since my last blog post

My writing was derailed by a computer issue that lasted five days. Proofreading Harrisburg, Did You Know? was not quite 25% complete when all my documents and email disappeared. I’m trying to learn not to panic when such things happen. I know everything is backed up somewhere. Proofreading the manuscript for the e-book will pick by up today. I have one more photograph to track down for the book, and I haven’t done the cover yet. I’ll keep you posted.

On a happy note, I voted last week. What a privilege! 

Until my next blog post

I hope you have at least one good book to read for pleasure.

No matter what your vocation or hobby, I hope you have a productive week.

The Covid-19 pandemic continues to worsen in many parts of the world and the flu season has started here in North Carolina. Please wear a mask out of respect for other people, and please take all possible precautions to avoid catching the virus and passing it on to others. We’re all in this together!

Janet