Don’t Mess with the Brunswick Stew!

Are you a fan of Brunswick Stew? I’ve been eating Brunswick Stew since I was a small child. The first Brunswick Stew I ate was at Robinson Presbyterian Church in Charlotte, North Carolina.

A few years later, the Men of the Church at Rocky River Presbyterian in Concord, North Carolina started making Brunswick Stew for our congregation every October. In the beginning, we’d say, “It’s good, but not as good as Robinson’s.” Gradually, the recipe or technique of stirring it for hours in a cast iron pot over an open fire improved and we started saying, “This is as good as Robinson’s.”

Times have changed since I was a child. A year or two ago, barbecue was added for those who don’t like Brunswick Stew. Desserts are included now. Everything is free, unless you want to purchase additional stew or barbecue to take home.

Rocky River Presbyterian Church
Rocky River Presbyterian Church, 7940 Rocky River Road, Concord, NC 28025

Saturday was the annual Brunswick Stew at Rocky River Presbyterian. It used to just be something the Men of the Church did for the congregation.  The event has evolved into a fall festival for the community with games and other activities for the children. I assisted my sister in giving tours of our 157-year-old sanctuary.

Attendance was great this year (estimated at 300-400) and the weather was beautiful. After the rain and wind on Thursday from the remains of Hurricane Michael, everyone enjoyed a chance to get outside and do something besides pick up limbs. There were children and families all over the church grove playing games and painting pumpkins.

The stew this year was perhaps the best it’s ever been. Sometimes I think someone thinks black pepper has not been added to the pot, so that someone adds black pepper. Once it’s been added twice, it’s too much for my taste. One year it tasted like someone had veered off the recipe and sneaked some cumin in the pot. That was worse than the time there was too much pepper. This year it was delicious! This year it was perfect!

Don’t mess with the Brunswick Stew, guys! Don’t mess with the Brunswick Stew!

I wanted to include the recipe for Rocky River Presbyterian Brunswick Stew, but it got skewed no matter what I did. Suffice it to say it contains beef, chicken, chicken broth, corn, lima beans, tomatoes, salt, and pepper.

If you’d like to have the exact recipe, leave a comment below and I’ll gladly give you the details. The stew freezes well.

The Men of the Church hold the secret to the method of cooking the stew. It is cooked in a cast iron stew pot over a fire in the parking lot behind the fellowship hall.

Since my last blog post

I’ve worked a little on genealogy. Finding that the original handwritten deeds for the land one of my ancestors purchased in the 1760s have been digitized was a wonderful find because the originals had faded to the point that they couldn’t be read at all. It is amazing how technology makes history come alive.

Until my next blog post

I hope you have a good book or two to read. I’m still reading My Dear Hamilton:  A Novel of Eliza Schuyler Hamilton, by Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie. (Give me a break. It’s 642 pages!)

If you’re a writer, I hope you have quality writing time.

Thank you for reading my blog. You could have spent the last few minutes doing something else, but you chose to read my blog. I appreciate it! I welcome your comments.

Let’s continue the conversation. Does Brunswick Stew sound like something you would eat? Have you eaten it? Does the community or culture you were raised in or have lived in have a dish similar to the one I’ve described?

Janet

Some Good Summer Reading

The first Monday of August has suddenly arrived, so it’s time for me to tell you about the books I read in July. I read a variety of books, including fiction and nonfiction.

Under the Skin, by Vicki Lane

Under The Skin
Under the Skin, by Vicki Lane

I purchased this book a couple of years ago after reading Vicki Lane’s first four books in her Elizabeth Goodweather Appalachian Mysteries. If you follow my blog, you know I get my books almost exclusively from the public library. Library books keep piling up and causing me to postpone reading the books I own. I bought the paperback edition of Under the Skin at a wonderful independent bookstore in Asheville, NC. I dare you to go into Malaprop’s Bookstore & Cafe and leave without buying at least one book. It’s a great bookstore, but I digress.

When July came, I decided I was going to read Under the Skin, even if it meant returning a library book unread. In this book, Elizabeth Goodweather is visited by her sister who convinces her to attend séances at a nearby spa. The sister is hoping to make contact with her deceased husband. All sorts of problems pop up as it becomes clear that the sister is being stalked.

Chapters more or less alternate between this present-day tale and a story about two sisters at the same historic spa in the mountains of North Carolina in the 1880s. The present-day story held my interest more than the 19th century tale, but that’s just my personal observation.

You can read all about Vicki Lane’s books on her website, http://www.vickilanemysteries.com/ and you can follow her on https://www.goodreads.com/.

 My Beautiful Broken Shell, by Carol Hamblet Adams

My Beautiful Broken Shell
My Beautiful Broken Shell: Words of Hope to Refresh the Soul, by Carol Hamblet Adams

My Beautiful Broken Shell was recommended to me by my librarian sister. It is a small book about how most seashells get tossed about and broken, but so do we humans. The author encourages us to embrace our brokenness.

I’m broken in many ways and sometimes I’m more than a little rough around the edges.

Educated:  A Memoir, by Tara Westover

Educated
Educated: A Memoir, by Tara Westover

This is an entertaining memoir of a woman who was raised by strict Mormon parents in the middle of nowhere in Idaho. Her father is bipolar, and Ms. Westover does an excellent job of getting across to the reader just how unnerving being the child of a person with that malady can be. Tara’s mother reluctantly becomes a midwife at her husband’s insistence. The occupation gradually “grows on her” and she seems to like it.

I don’t want to give away too much of this true story. Suffice it to say that Tara goes from being “no-schooled” at home to attain amazing things in education.

Words We Carry:  Essays of Obsession and Self-Esteem, by D.G. Kaye

Words We Carry
Words We Carry: Essays of Obsession and Self-Esteem, by D.G. Kaye

I referred to this little book in my July 16, 2018 blog post, Words We Carry and White Privilege. That post probably left you with an overall good impression of the book. Although I liked the premise of the book, the latter part of the book came across to me as bordering on being Pollyanna while also being conflicting. The author writes about the importance of being your authentic self while recommending that you just put on some make up and act like everything is just fine.

Her parting message struck me as being akin put a smile on your face and a have positive outlook. That takes an enormous amount of energy for people with a chronic physical illness or depression.

Mysterious Tales of Coastal North Carolina, by Sherman Carmichael

Mysterious Tales of Coastal North Carolina
Mysterious Tales of Coastal North Carolina, by Sherman Carmichael

This is a newly-published book from The History Press. I found it in the New Books Section at the public library.

The 170-page book is a collection of ghost stories from the 200-mile coast of the state along with a number of true accounts of ships being torpedoed and sunk by German U-boats during World War II.

I was familiar with a few of the ghost stories but most were new to me. The author did a good job of including just enough historical background about most of the places and stories. Each of the stories is one to three pages, making this a book that’s easy to pick up when you only have a few minutes to read.

I think I’ll purchase a copy to take along with me on my next trip to the coast.

A Bigger Table:  Building Messy, Authentic, and Hopeful Spiritual Community, by John Pavlovitz

A Bigger Table
A Bigger Table: Building Messy, Authentic, and Hopeful Spiritual Community, by John Pavlovitz

Whether or not you agree with John Pavlovitz’s politics or his ideas for how to make church more responsive and Christ-like, I think you’ll find that his writing makes you think outside the box.

That said, Mr. Pavlovitz says a lot of things in his book, A Bigger Table:  Building Messy, Authentic, and Hopeful Spiritual Community, that I needed to hear and ponder. Much of what Mr. Pavlovitz said in this book brought to mind the recent capital campaign at Rocky River Presbyterian Church. That campaign was called “Growing God’s Table.”

We already had a sanctuary. We already had a building housing Sunday School rooms, offices, and an inadequate fellowship hall. What we needed was an expansion of our building that would incorporate more classrooms, an elevator to serve the old building as well as the expansion, and most of all — a much larger fellowship hall.

The new fellowship hall has made it possible for us to have monthly community free meals and other activities to which the public is invited. We’re growing God’s table at Rocky River Presbyterian Church, but we still have a long way to go. We are a work in progress. Mr. Pavlovitz’s book opened my eyes to even more possibilities.

Mr. Pavlovitz calls out Christians who are so busy “doing church” activities that they sometimes forget that forming relationships with people is the most important thing we should be doing. Sometimes we treat one another badly and sometimes we fail to treat strangers with the love and compassion demonstrated by Jesus Christ. We all need to make the table bigger. God’s table is big enough for everyone.

I purchased this ebook several months ago after following the author’s blog for quite some time. His blog, Stuff That Needs To Be Said (https://johnpavlovitz.com/,) is always thought-provoking.

Since my last blog post

I spent some time with long-time friends who were celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary in Raleigh, NC. It was good to get away for several days, make some new friends, and reconnect with some people I hadn’t seen in a long time.

Until my next blog post

I hope you have a good book to read. I’m trying to finish reading several books I started in July. You’ll find out in my September 3 blog post how that went.

If you’re a writer, I hope you have productive writing time.

Thank you for reading my blog. You could have spent the last few minutes doing something else, but you chose to read my blog. I appreciate it! I welcome your comments

Have you read any good books lately?

Janet

Books I Read in June 2018

A couple of weeks ago, it looked as if I would have no books to write about from my reading in June. As I blogged last week in Reading is not a contest!, reading is not a contest, but it was a competition of sorts I’d inflicted upon myself.

Every year I wanted to read more books than the one before. I was signing up for more annual reading challenges than I could easily complete. The good thing about reading challenges is that they prompt me to read books I wouldn’t otherwise read; however, the flip side is I don’t have time to read all the books I want to read.

The second half of June I got my reading juices going again, so today I will blog about the five books I read. (Don’t be too impressed; one of them was a small book of very easy reading.)

The Hellfire Club, by Jake Tapper

97803164723191
The Hellfire Club, by Jake Tapper

Jake Tapper is a well-known journalist and anchor for CNN. The Hellfire Club is his debut novel. Although I thought the first half of the book got too bogged down in the details of Washington, DC politics in 1954, the second half of the novel exploded and kept me turning the pages to see what would happen next.

Mr. Tapper did a marvelous job of giving 11 pages of his sources at the end of the book. A sign of a good historical novel is proof of research. In this list of sources Mr. Tapper is quick to remind the reader that the book is a work of fiction.

I couldn’t help but draw parallels in my mind between the ugly underbelly of politics in Washington, DC in 1954 and the mess we find ourselves in today. I don’t know if there is currently a hellfire club in the nation’s capital, but there is an alarming reticence on the part of members of Congress to speak up against the current barrage of lies coming from a house on Pennsylvania Avenue.

All-in-all, the subject matter of The Hellfire Club was a good read for me considering my background in political science and history.

Note to Self:  Inspiring Words from Inspiring People, collected and introduced by Gayle King

note-to-self-9781982102081_lg
Note to Self: Inspiring Words from Inspiring People, collected & introduced by Gayle King

This is a delightful collection of letters from the “CBS This Morning” TV show’s “Note to Self” project. Twenty-six of those letters are included in the book. Most of the contributors are famous people, but some were unknown to me.

It’s a great book choice for those times when you just have a few minutes to read, or when you don’t have the energy to remember the threads of an ongoing story. You can read each of the 26 letters in just several minutes.

The idea behind the project and this book is to have the adult you write a letter to your younger self. Anyone can do this. Why don’t you give it a try?

Summer Hours at the Robbers Library, by Sue Halpern

SummerAtTheRobbersLibrary
Summer Hours at the Robbers Library, by Sue Halpern

Sue Halpern is a journalist and novelist. This was the first of her books that I’ve read.

The title piqued my interest, since I’m an avid supporter of libraries. It is a story about a collection of unrelated people in a small town in New Hampshire who form bonds tighter than some people do with their parents and siblings.

The friends they all have in common are Kit (the librarian) and Sunny, who has been ordered to do community service at the library over the summer. Sunny is the “no-schooled” daughter of two free spirits, and this plays heavily in the book. Others in the book are primarily a group of retired men who pass their time at the library before going the cafeteria at the hospital for lunch. As the story develops, most of the characters are surprised by how close they’ve become.

This is not a gripping story, but if you’re looking for something light to read, you might consider checking it out at your local public library. Curious about the reviews it has received, I found that it averages three stars because readers have either given it five stars or one or two stars. Few people actually give it a solid three-star rating.

That made me realize that sometimes I’ll pick a book that has a three-star rating without looking more closely to see how that rating was determined.

Flat Broke with Two Goats:  A Memoir of Appalachia, by Jennifer McGaha

FlatBrokeWithTwoGoats
Flat Broke with Two Goats: A Memoir of Appalachia, by Jennifer McGaha

At first I wasn’t sure I wanted to check out this book, but curiosity got the better of me. Once I started reading it, I wasn’t sure I would finish it. I like reading about strong, independent women – real or fictional. The author did not strike me as strong or independent early in this memoir, but I kept reading to see if she would become either.

I read the first five chapters. Jennifer and David lose their house to foreclosure and thousands of dollars in back taxes. Jennifer has no clue because David “handled” their finances. That’s when I started not liking the book.

Then Jennifer and David buy a 100-year-old mountain cabin. While Jennifer is back at the house packing some last minute things, a sheriff’s deputy arrives with a subpoena for David to appear in court. It turns out that David, unbeknownst to Jennifer (again), has borrowed thousands of dollars and failed to report the loan. That’s when I lost interest in the book. I also don’t particularly like books that portray Appalachia as a place on the back side of beyond.

I just got around to reading its reviews on https://www.goodreads.com and discovered that the book has received many one- and two-star ratings, so I’m in good company.

Look for Me, by Lisa Gardner

LookForMe
Look For Me, by Lisa Gardner

I started reading this book a couple of months ago but had to return it to the library before I had time to get very far into it. It is the second book I’ve read by Lisa Gardner. Look for Me is the latest book in her Detective D.D. Warren Series.

Look for Me is about a family that’s killed except for the 15-year-old daughter. She is missing. Did she escape? Was she kidnapped by the killer? Or is she the murderer?

The book delves into the foster child system in Massachusetts, as the Det. Warren works to try to find the missing teen and determine who murdered the girl’s family. When alcohol temporarily got the best of the mother a few years ago, Roxy and her younger siblings were placed in foster homes. The treatment they received in those homes and the gang activity they were exposed to at school enter into the investigation.

There are many twists and turns in this story, and you might be surprised when the murderer is revealed near the end of the book.

Look for Me did not hold my attention as much as the other novel I read by Lisa Gardner, Right Behind You from her FBI Profiler Series.

 

Since my last blog post

I’ve tried to lighten up on the demands I was making on myself. I returned a book to the library after only reading the first five chapters. That’s a big deal for someone who until recently thought she had to finish any book she started reading.

I’ve barely spent any time on Pinterest, and I’ve enjoyed the break.

I continue to declutter my life, letting go of lots of knitting, crocheting, and sundry handcraft instructions for projects that I no longer desire to make. Let’s face it. If the fashions from the 1960s-1980s come back in style, I really have no desire to learn how to make macrame plant hangers and belts or broomstick lace shawls.

Just for fun, I just searched for “macrame” on Google and the first image that came up was an $895 macrame dress that can be purchased at Saks Fifth Avenue. Perhaps I was too hasty in putting those instructions in the recycle bin! The odds of my making a macrame dress are less than slim to none, so I can only hope those instructions will get new lives as recycled paper.

I’ve done some additional research on several of the slaves who were members of Rocky River Presbyterian Church in Cabarrus County, North Carolina prior to and during the Civil War. More on that in a future blog post.

I also, in a roundabout way, got into the records of some local people who had to request a pardon from US President Andrew Johnson after the Civil War ended in 1865 and had to pledge their allegiance to the United States Government. More on that later, too. Interesting stuff with some surprising details.

The other day I revisited the 10-cents-per-item used book sale at the Harrisburg Branch of the Cabarrus County Public Library. I purchased several books I probably won’t ever read as well as a music CD that was apparently produced by First Union National Bank, which was my beloved bank until it was bought by Wachovia which was subsequently purchased by Wells Fargo. (Don’t get me started!) Anyway… This 10-cent CD is a fantastic collection of familiar works by Beethoven, Bach, Handel, Dubussy, Haydn, and Mozart.

Until my next blog post

I hope you have a good book to read and some interesting research to do. Stay tuned. I can’t wait to see what I get to read and learn in July!

If you’re a writer, I hope you have quality writing time.

Visit your local public library this week. You never know what you can walk out of there with just by showing your free library card or what music CD you might get to buy for just 10 cents!

Thank you for reading my blog. You could have spent the last few minutes doing something else, but you chose to read my blog. I appreciate it!

Janet

How Can a Writer Use Pinterest?

I love to make plans. Ask me to plan a trip, and I’ll get into the minutiae of where you’ll be and what you’ll be doing every minute of the day.

My sister is my traveling buddy, and sometimes my attention to detail drives her crazy! On the other hand, she doesn’t enjoy planning trips so she doesn’t complain too much.

In my Reading Like a Writer blog post (“Reading Like a Writer”) on April 9, 2018, I told you that I had developed a social media plan. Making the plan was easy. The hard part came when I entered the implementation phase. Today’s blog post is about the Pinterest aspect of my plan.

Pinterest Best Practices

In the process of developing the plan, I learned the following from Amy Lynn Andrews’ Userletter Issue No. 234 (https://madmimi.com/p/9af10c/):

Kate Ahl recently noted an addition to Pinterest’s own best practices for success: ‘The first 5 Pins you save each day will be prioritized for distribution. Save to the most relevant board first…that Pin will get distribution priority.’”

That was a revelation for me. No more willy-nilly saving pins to my Recipes: Cheesecake Board! Since reading Amy Lynn Andrews’ Userletter, I’ve made myself save five pins to my writing-related Pinterest boards every day before pinning any recipes, quilts, or Maxine-isms.

Old habits are hard to break, so there is definitely a learning curve involved in this.

Advice from Janice Wald

Along the same lines, I learned the following from Janice Wald’s April 7, 2018, Mostly Blogging blog (https://www.mostlyblogging.com/social-media-manager/):

“When I started deleting my boards, Pinterest’s algorithms better learned the content of my niche, and my traffic grew.”

and

“I deleted my boards about food and entertainment, for example. Pinterest will be more likely to show your pins to people if the algorithms know what your site is about.”

and

“I read you’ll get better visibility at Pinterest if it’s clear to the site what your niche is. This makes sense. Search engines show your blog to people when they’re clear what you specialize in.”

That second quote from Janice Wald is a hard pill for me to swallow. I don’t want to give up my recipe and quilting boards. I could make them secret board that only I can see, but I had hoped that when someone looked at one of those boards they’d also notice I wrote a vintage postcard book (The Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina) and I’m writing a historical novel (The Spanish Coin) set in the Carolinas in the 1760s.

I’ll have to give that some thought. For the time being, I have 80 boards on Pinterest.

What I’ve Accomplished on Pinterest since Last Monday

I’ve learned how to create my own pins for Pinterest on Canva.com. Those of you who know me, know that I am technologically challenged, so this was no minor feat for me. I am not getting compensated for mentioning Canva; however, I’ve been able to create some pretty cool graphics for free using that website, http://www.canva.com.

How to move graphics from Canva.com to Pinterest

I soon discovered that I didn’t know how to move the graphics I created on Canva.com and saved to my hard drive. A search on Google quickly brought up the instructions. You simply go to the Pinterest toolbar, click on the red “+” sign, and then click on “Upload an image.” (This just might be the first time I’ve been able to give any technology advice to anyone!)

Want to see what I’ve done on Pinterest?

Please go to my Pinterest page (https://www.pinterest.com/janet5049) and look at the graphics I created this past week for the following boards:  The Spanish Coin – My Novel in Progress; Blue Ridge Mountains; Great Smoky Mountains; Books & Authors; and Rocky River Presbyterian Church.

Here’s a graphic I created about my vintage postcard book, The Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, for my Great Smoky Mountains board on Pinterest:

Cherokee Basket Weaving
One of the first graphics I made on Canva.com.

My mistakes

There are lots of things to keep in mind when making a graphic for social media. Looking at the one shown above, I realize using a color background would have made it more eye-catchy, although I think it shows up better on Pinterest than on my blog.

Also, at the bottom of the graphic, I should have included my blog’s URL, my website’s URL, and my handle on Twitter. I have edited it in light of that, in case I decide to reuse it at a later date.

My social media plan for Pinterest

  • Mondays: Pin link to my weekly blog post to Janet’s Writing Blog board (set up to post automatically by WordPress.com) and a colonial history factoid or A Spanish Coin teaser to The Spanish Coin – My Novel in Progress;
  • Tuesdays: Pin a factoid from my vintage postcard book to my Great Smoky Mountains;
  • Wednesdays: Pin a Rocky River Presbyterian Church history factoid from one of my church history booklets to my Rocky River Presbyterian Church;
  • Thursdays: Pin a factoid from my vintage postcard book to my Blue Ridge Mountains;
  • Fridays: Pin a Rocky River Presbyterian Church women’s history factoid to my Rocky River Presbyterian Church & Cabarrus-Mecklenburg boards; OR Pin a Rocky River Presbyterian Church history factoid to my Rocky River Presbyterian Church & Cabarrus-Mecklenburg boards with a link to the church’s website where a copy of Dr. Thomas Hugh Spence, Jr.’s book, The Presbyterian Congregation on Rocky River, can be ordered.
  • Saturdays: Create factoids/infographics for the following week(s).

This is a grand plan for someone with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, so I know I will not accomplish this every week. I fell short last week even though I was enthusiastic about starting this new plan. I might miss some weeks altogether. The schedule gives me something to aim for, though.

80/20 Rule of Social Media Marketing

I have read in various sources that 80% of your posts on social media should inform, educate, or entertain and only 20% should promote your business. That rule prompted me to strive to shine a light on a book about the history of Presbyterian Women at Rocky River Presbyterian Church or Dr. Spence’s church history book on Pinterest on Fridays.

I wrote neither of the books, and the proceeds from their sales benefit the ongoing work of the Presbyterian Women at Rocky River and the church’s cemetery fund. (The church dates back to 1751 and has several very old cemeteries that have to be maintained.)

My social media plan for Pinterest looks a little out of whack in light of the 80/20 Rule; however, I hope all the pins I create will fall into the “inform, educate, or entertain” categories.

Since my last blog post

In addition to learning how to create my own Pinterest pins and pinning my creations last week, I have continued to work on the rewrite of my historical novel, The Spanish Coin.

Until my next blog

I hope you have a good book to read.

If you’re an avid reader who has never considered the possibilities of using Pinterest, you might want to check it out. You just might find that your favorite authors have pages there and boards about their books. After looking for your favorite authors on Pinterest, please let me know if this was an enjoyable experience for you and specifically what you liked about it.

If you’re a writer, I hope you have productive writing time. Please let me know what your experience has been on Pinterest. If you haven’t thought about using it as part of your writer’s platform, perhaps you’ll consider it after reading this blog post.

Don’t be shy about spreading the word about my blog. Feel free to use the buttons below to put today’s post on Facebook, Tweet about it, reblog it on your blog, or Pin it on Pinterest. Thank you!

Janet

No Place for Preacher’s Son?

Today’s blog post is an edited local history newspaper column I wrote for the August 23, 2006 edition of Harrisburg Horizons newspaper, Harrisburg, North Carolina. Appearing in the newspaper as “Pioneer Mills:  No Place for a Preacher’s Son,” it paints a picture of the Rocky River and Pioneer Mills communities in Cabarrus County in the 1870s.

Manse wasn’t ready!

The Rev. Joseph B. Mack came from Charleston, South Carolina in 1871 to be the pastor of Rocky River Presbyterian Church. When he and his family arrived, the manse the congregation was building for his family to live in was not completed.

Church members Robert Harvey Morrison and his wife, the former Mary Ann Stuart, moved their family into a tenant house and gave the new minister’s family their home in the Pioneer Mills community. This was no small sacrifice because the manse was not completed until 1873! The Morrisons’s two youngest children, an 18-year-old daughter and a 16-year-old son were still in the household, and Mr. and Mrs. Morrison were in their 50s.

Robert Harvey Morrison House
Robert Harvey Morrison Home, built circa 1846. (Photograph taken by Janet Morrison, May 3, 2008.)

The Robert Harvey Morrison home was built as early as 1846 when he inherited the land from his father. The house and its numerous out-buildings have been on the National Register of Historic Places since 1990.

In case you’re wondering

Robert Harvey Morrison was a relative of mine but not a direct ancestor. In the 1800s my part of the family didn’t live in grand houses like the one pictured. Gold was never found on the property my part of the family owned. There was a gold mine on the land that Robert Harvey Morrison inherited from his father.

Pioneer Mills was a gold-mining boom town in the early- to mid-19th century. It was apparently still a rip-roarin’ place in 1871.

Dr. William Mack’s memories in 1912

A special homecoming was held at the church on August 12, 1912. Rev. Mack’s son, Dr. William Mack, was unable to attend. He sent his regrets from New York and put some of his childhood memories on paper. Fortunately for us, his letter to homecoming master of ceremonies Mr. Morrison Caldwell was printed in the Concord newspapers the following week.

Dr. Mack wrote, “My first Rocky River recollection is of getting off the train at Harris Depot [now, Harrisburg, NC] and going in the dark to the home of Uncle Solomon Harris.” I don’t believe Dr. Mack was related to Mr. Harris. This was probably a term of endearment and respect.

He continued, “There we met Ed and ‘Little Jim’ (to distinguish him from ‘Big Jim,’ the son of Mr. McKamie Harris.) Uncle Solomon had the biggest fire-place I ever saw; it seemed as big as a barn door.

“Shortly afterwards we went to Pioneer Mills….  There… was the old Gold mine, Barnhardt’s store and McAnulty’s shoemaker shop…. While there I decided to become either a merchant or shoemaker, for Barnhardt’s store and McAnulty’s shop kindled young ambitions; better to ‘keep store’ or ‘mend shoes,’ than as a preacher’s son to be moving around from place to place.

“But Pioneer Mills was ‘no place for a preacher’s son.’ Soon we moved again; this time to the brand new brick parsonage, close by the church. We used to go to church in a big closed carriage drawn by two mules; now, every Sunday, we walked to church, going down a steep hill, across a branch, and through the grove to the famous old house of worship.”

Dr. Mack’s letter also read, “Those were happy years; happy in springtime with its apple blossoms, song birds, morning-glories and Tish McKinley’s Sassafras tea; happy in the summertime, with its blackberries and plums, its bob-whites in the wheat fields, its lightning and thunder storms, its bare-footed boys and girls, and its bitter quinine to keep off third-day chills; happy in the autumn time, with its white fields of unpicked cotton and its beautiful trees with leaves of myriad hues; and happy in the wintertime, with its snows, its big hickory back-logs, its boys in boots red-topped and toes brass-tipped, its red-cheeked girls in wraps and ‘choke rags,’ and its Christmas Holidays and turkeys.”

Dr. Mack’s colorful memories paint an idyllic picture of life in Township One in Cabarrus County in the early 1870s. I hope the children growing up here in the 21st century will have equally-as-fond memories of this place.

My sources

My sources for this blog post were the following:  The Presbyterian Congregation on Rocky River, by Thomas Hugh Spence, Jr, 1954; The Concord Daily Tribune, August 16, 1912; The Concord Times, August 19, 1912; http://www.hpo.ncdcr.gov/nr/CA0498.pdf (photocopy of the National Register of Historic Places Registration Form for Robert Harvey Morrison Farm and Pioneer Mills Gold Mine); and Descendants of James & Jennet Morrison of Rocky River, by Alice Marie Morrison and Janet Sue Morrison.

Until my next blog post

Please share this or any of my other blog posts on social media by using the buttons below. Thank you!

I hope you have a good book to read. If you’re a writer, I hope you have productive writing time.

Janet

 

What is a Conversion Habit and Do I Need One?

I received an e-mail on May 4 from ProBlogger.com with a link to a blog post about conversion habits. I’m not a theology student. I didn’t have a clue what “conversion habits” were or if I needed to try to work them into my life. I didn’t know if a conversion habit was a good habit or a bad habit. ProBlogger.com is a trusted source, so I clicked on the link to learn more.

https://problogger.com/the-9-conversion-habits-of-the-worlds-most-successful-bloggers/

The blog was written by a guest blogger, John Stevens. Mr. Stevens, according to the blog, “is the CEO of Hosting Facts, a startup that helps consumers make data-backed decisions when choosing web hosts. He is also a frequent contributor to WebsiteSetup where he helps businesses set up their website.”

Used by the world’s greatest bloggers

The best I could tell, conversion habits are practices the world’s greatest bloggers use to convert a blog reader into a customer. Since I have nothing to sell at the moment, other than copies of my vintage postcard book, The Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, three Morrison genealogies compiled by my sister and me, and several privately-printed-on-demand booklets I wrote about Rocky River Presbyterian Church history, I don’t think I need to expend my limited energy working on conversion habits. It’s not like I’m trying to get my books on the New York Times Bestseller List!

I didn’t really need anything to add to my “to-do” list, so I was relieved that I don’t need to be bothered with conversion habits – at least for now.

(Warning:  shameless plug — Incidentally, if you’re interested in purchasing one of my books, visit https://www.janetmorrisonbooks.com or visit your favorite independent bookstore.)

Mt. trip Dec.11-14,2014 031
The Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina on the shelf at Lake Junaluska Bookstore.

That didn’t mean I didn’t keep reading the blog post, though. I am a curious person, and the post’s title promised me nine conversion habits. I got down to the ninth habit, thinking I was almost finished. I could delete the e-mail and go to bed. But no. The ninth conversion habit was, “They use prominent CTAs.”

What the heck is a prominent CTA?

Turn the light back on. There will be no sleeping tonight until I figure out what a prominent CTA is. I read on. The first sentence asked me what color my CTAs were. That sounded like a personal question to me, and I felt myself blush. Never fear! I surmised that you want your CTA to be a contrasting color to that of your logo.

The blog post went on to talk about the Von Restorff effect, which is also called the “isolation effect.” Not being a student of marketing, I wasn’t familiar with that effect. Mr. Stevens explained it as follows:  “this principle states that when confronted with multiple stimuli (in our case, CTAs), the stimuli that stand out the most wins our attention.”

Regaining my composure, I kept reading. The next sentence informed me that “your CTAs have a big impact on your conversion rates.” Since I don’t feel the need for conversion rates, I’m once again tempted to delete the e-mail and call it a night. I keep reading, though, because I still don’t have a clue what a CTA is, and I try to learn something new every day – even if it appears to be useless information. I read on.

Higher CTR

Mr. Stevens continued with, “Since your CTAs lead visitors to subscribe to your newsletter, download your eBooks or buy your courses, it makes sense to optimize it for higher CTR.” I don’t know what a CTR is, but it’s far too late in the evening to chase after that rabbit. After all, I need something to do tomorrow, right? (No – I’m too curious. Google search. CTR is currency transaction report. That’s all I need to know about that.)

Study results

I learned that a study revealed that changing the color of CTAs resulted in an increase of 21% in a blog’s conversion rate. That sounded impressive, so I looked at the illustrations. The best I could tell, a CTA is a clickable button that says something like, “Get started now!”

But what is a CTA?

A search on Google, “What is a CTA?” brought up the definition of a computed tomography angiography. I wasn’t just in the wrong pew, I was in the wrong church! Another search choice was “What is a CTA on a website?” Bingo!

The answer that popped up when I clicked on that option was, “In web design, a CTA may be a banner, button, or some type of graphic or text on a website meant to prompt a user to click it, and continue down a conversion funnel.”

That’s all?

My response to that explanation was, “That’s all?” (Peggy Lee should be singing, “Is That All There Is?” right about now! For those of you who don’t know who Peggy Lee was, that song was a big hit for her in 1969.) I just spent 10 minutes trying to learn what a CTA is and it’s just a button? I can see why they call it a CTA. That’s a lot more impressive than “button.”

The letdown

I feel like I’ve been on a wild goose chase. Tomorrow will I still remember what conversion habits and CTAs are? It makes me wonder if universities now offer a Bachelor of Science degree in Blogging. Are such courses as Conversion Habits 101 and CTAs 101 included in the required curriculum? Can one minor in CTR?

This stuff gives me a headache. All I want to do is write my novel and finish reading my current library book so I can start reading the next one.

All jokes aside, Mr. Stevens received wonderful comments and praise for his blog post. It was well-written, well-illustrated, and apparently contained useful information for people who are in the business of selling a product through their blog. I’m just not there yet. I highly recommend the blog post to anyone who is marketing a tangible product or something intangible such as a writing course.

Until my next blog post

I hope you have a good book to read. If you’re a writer, I hope you have productive writing time.

Janet

Early X-ray and a Thimble

Did you know that a girl from the Rocky River community in Cabarrus County, North Carolina was the first person whose life was saved in the United States with the aid of the X-ray? Today’s blog post is an edited version of a local history newspaper column I wrote in 2006 for Harrisburg Horizons, a short-lived weekly newspaper. I usually blog about writing fiction, but this is an example of my nonfiction writing.

Discovery of the X-ray

Just three months after Wilhelm Conrad Roentgen of Bavaria discovered the X-ray, a scientist from Davidson, North Carolina used it in a Rocky River home to help save Ellen Harris’ life. It was a February day in 1896.

Dr. Henry Louis Smith of Davidson read about Roentgen’s discovery of the X-ray. He went to Dr. J.P. Munroe’s laboratory in the small medical school on the campus of Davidson College. The laboratory had the same equipment as that used by Mr. Roentgen.

Dr. Smith fired a bullet into the palm of a corpse’s hand. He then made a successful X-ray of the hand.

Ellen Harris Swallows Thimble

Soon thereafter, Mr. and Mrs. William Edwin Harris’ twelve-year-old daughter, Ellen, swallowed a tailor’s thimble. The open-ended thimble lodged in her throat and made it increasingly difficult for her to breathe or eat over the following days.

Tailor's Thimble
Tailor’s Thimble

Area physicians did not agree on a diagnosis. Three doctors thought she coughed up the thimble and damaged her throat in the process. One doctor speculated that the thimble hurt her throat as it passed to her stomach. Only one of the five doctors consulted thought the thimble was still in Ellen’s throat.

A man in Charlotte, the largest town in the area, told Dr. Smith about Ellen’s predicament. Dr. Smith asked the man to convey to Ellen’s parents his willingness to help them.

Ellen’s frantic father and mother believed that Dr. Smith could help their daughter. Mr. Harris traveled to Davidson in a wagon (a distance of about 30 miles — perhaps more in those days) and brought Dr. Smith and his X-ray equipment to his home near Rocky River Presbyterian Church on Rocky River Road.

Mr. and Mrs. Harris placed Ellen on a sheet fashioned into a hammock. Dr. Smith set up his crude X-ray apparatus. A large and heavy battery and induction coil powered the equipment.

According to a letter that Dr. Smith wrote to Dr. Robert M. Lafferty, he crouched on the floor under the girl. After an hour’s work with a fluoroscope, he got a fleeting glimpse of the thimble in the child’s windpipe. There was no lasting image on film like in X-rays today.

Dr. Smith returned to Davidson and the Harris family set out for a hospital in Charlotte. The doctors there refused to operate on Ellen. They wanted to see exactly where the thimble rested before they made an incision.

The Charlotte surgeons wired Dr. Smith their concerns. Surgery was Ellen’s only hope for survival. Without knowing the exact location of the thimble, though, the surgeons feared they would lose their patient on the operating table.

Dr. Smith immediately brought his X-ray equipment from Davidson to the hospital. Once more, the apparatus pinpointed the location of the thimble in Ellen’s trachea. The image paved the way for the operation.

The surgeons soon discovered that Ellen’s flesh partially grew over the rusting thimble. This made the thimble’s removal difficult and challenging. The arduous two-hour surgery saved Ellen’s life and put the Rocky River community on the medical history map!

My sources:

Early Medicine in Cabarrus, primary data collected by Eugenia W. Lore and edited by Jane Harris Nierenberg, 1990.  (Includes newspaper articles from The Concord Tribune, November 9, 1945, and December 10, 1945.)

Open the Gate and Roam Cabarrus With Us, by Adelaide and Eugenia Lore, 1971.

The Historic Architecture of Cabarrus County, North Carolina, by Peter R. Kaplan, 1981.

Hornets’ Nest:  The Story of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County, by LeGette Blythe and Charles R. Brockmann, 1961.

Until my next blog post

I hope you have a good book to read. (I finished Right Behind You, by Lisa Gardner and have started reading Chasing the North Star, by Robert Morgan.) If you are a writer, I hope you have quality writing time.

Janet

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