Lack of sleep and Eternal Rest

Today has been a long day. This morning I went to the viewing of a dear mentor and friend. She passed away on Wednesday and I don’t think I have slept well since. I don’t really understand why I have been having trouble sleeping. I haven’t been racked with grief or guilt or anything. I just haven’t been able to turn my brain off. I’ve been having some trouble keeping up with school too. I am just so tired.

I have been thinking a lot about my friend these past few days. She was my teacher, then my friend. I learned so much; more than I realized. I have been reminiscing and sharing antidotes to other friends and family ever since I learn of her death. Some of them made me laugh others made me cry harder because such a wonderful person was no longer on this Earth.

I didn’t stay long at the viewing and I didn’t attend the funeral afterwards, even though we drove over an hour to do just that. They buried her in her uniform from her time as a volunteer and I can’t imagine anything more perfect. After I paid my respects to her family and saw her laying there I suddenly just wanted to go. I felt sad but at peace.

The funeral home was a crowded place too. She had touched a lot of lives and was a personality not soon forgotten. I felt like getting out of the way so others could have their turn to say goodbye.

Now I have to encourage my tired to brain to concentrate long enough to write a paper for one of my classes and then I can try to go to bed. Right now I feel like I could sleep for days. I hope my brain doesn’t decided to go into over drive again after I lay down.

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Chasing Tall Tales

A week ago my mom bought a booklet of local ghost stories a thrift store for a quarter. Just twenty-two pages long, bound with staples and orange card stock, it really doesn’t look like much. However, the first story in this book has been driving me to distraction. Short enough to be considered flash fiction, the story is only two paragraphs long and is a reprint of something that appeared in a local paper nearly 20 years ago.

Roughly it states that, while working on widening a rural road, a road crew dug up a body of an adult woman. She was buried in the middle of the road with a wooded stake through her heart. Both the stake and the body had been petrified.

The lack of information immediately intrigued my curiosity. I am well aware that this a toothless gifwork of fiction. Sort of a local legend. It’s the kind of thing my older cousins used to make up to scare me when we took walks in the woods near my grandparents house. However, whatever it is inside that makes me a writer started whispering, “What if?”

It is plausible that a woman could have been killed and buried in an unmarked grave. Depending on when she was buried, maybe there wasn’t a road there at the time. Or maybe it was the only convenient spot. The story wouldn’t leave me alone. It claimed to have happened less than thirty minutes away, so I began digging. (Figuratively. I am pretty sure I would be writing this on the walls of the local jail if I actually tried digging up the road.)

Armed with just the name of the road I searched and found out that they did widen the road back in 1917. I also discover there has been precedence set for the petrification of human remains, if under the right conditions. The part of the road were the story claims the woman was buried runs close to the Hiwassee river. This is important because not only would the soil need the right minerals but it would also need the right amount of moisture.

In 1867 there was a great flood that decimated the area. It took out bridges and caused a train wreck where many died. There are even claims that the streets of Chattanooga were so flooded, that a man living on Lookout Mountain watched bodies float down them.

background-313572_1280So if the mythical woman had been killed and buried before the flood, then it is even plausible that she could have been petrified. If she existed. But if so, what happened to the body? Why was she buried in the road? Did whomever it was that killed her think they were slaying a vampire or a witch?

These are questions I don’t have answers to yet. I did find a similar story in a book called The Granny Curse and Other legends from East Tennessee by Randy Russell and Janet Barnett. It is about a chair haunted by the ghost of a vampire. (I didn’t know vampires could have ghosts but stranger things have become local legends.)

I am still investigating. Some people will probably laugh at me for chasing ghost stories and say I am on a snipe hunt or a wild goose chase. Just because it may not turn out to be true, doesn’t mean it isn’t teaching me a lot about the past. I had no knowledge of the flood of 1867 or of body petrification until now. I am sure it will end up being useful at some point, even if it is only in fiction.

Chattanooga, Where Heroes Fell

On Monday I said I would update my blog later in the week. This is not the update I planned on. Thursday morning at 10:45, I was encouraging my son to get his shoes on because we had errands to run. Thirty minutes to the South, a man in a silver convertible was firing shots and killing people.

flag at half mastYesterday in Chattanooga a 24 year old man, named Mohammad Youssuf Abdulazeez, killed four Marines and injured three others in what is being called an act domestic terror. This young man grew up in Chattanooga. He went to school in Chattanooga from primary school through University. He graduated from the University of Tennessee in Chattanooga just three years ago with a degree in electrical engineering.

My errands kept me local but this is still right in my back yard. As I was buckling my son’s seat belt, this man was driving down the road in his ford mustang and firing shots into a recruitment center. As I was waiting for a red light to change and laughing at something my son said, four United States Marines lost their lives at the Naval Reserve Center.

Right now a Marine Recruiter has a bullet wound in his leg while four of his brothers lie in marinesbody bags. A Chattanooga Police officer is recovering from surgery and a Navy Sailor is fighting for his life. This happened on American soil. This happened in the heart of the South.

I am deeply saddened and my own heart is broken for the families of these brave people. When you sign up for military service, you are essentially writing a blank check to your government. You never expect that check to be cashed at home. I have cousins who are Marines. I have Navy Sailors as relatives and friends. My grandfather and my Uncle served in the Army. My ex-husband was in the Air Force and so were his parents.

Americans died and Americans were wounded here on American soil. These are People who stood up when the questions were asked: “Who will defend our country? Who will give their all for their fellow Americans? Who will serve? Who will protect?”

Brothers, Fathers, Sons,….Americans. These are members of our extended family even though we may never have met them. These are our Heroes. Today I mourn our fallen heroes.

Literature In School or How The Dog Dies

My daughter is in the 6th grade. She has enjoyed most of her class, as much as a 12 year old can anyway. She does have a reoccurring complaint about the curriculum however.

It is a complaint that I echoed at her age and still ponder to day. The friends I have spoken with about it have the same issues. We can all agree, that while well written, they could have chosen better books for required reading.

I am not a dog person. I like dogs. I like most animals. I will happily play with and pet a dog. I had an absolutely amazing terrier mix as a kid who would go fishing with me and was smart enough to know when I had a fish hooked.  However, I am not really a dog person. As in I don’t think I am a good dog owner. They deserve more love and attention.  Cats on the other hand never ask for love or attention. If they want it, they take it and it doesn’t matter what you are doing at the time.

My cats are one of the reasons it is important for me to reread things I have written. Not only are there my own mistakes to look out for, but the keyboard sometimes gets walked on when I get up to get coffee. There won’t be a cat insight when I get back, but the evidence remains.

Some of you are wondering what that has to do with books and school. Well, when I was in middle school the preferred reading was every well written book where an animal dies at the end. Most of those books were dogs. Yes, they were heroes first but they still died.

Old Yeller, Where the Red Fern Grows, Black Beauty, Frankenstein, Animal Farm. These are all bloody death books from when I was in school. Good books from the vantage point of adulthood but when I was a kid I wasn’t so pleased.

Like my daughter said: “Why do they make us read books where everything dies? Isn’t life depressing enough? Are they trying to drive up the suicide rate?”

The thing is she has a whole new batch of books. They are ones I have never heard of but the theme remains the same. Someone or something dies at the end. I have to wonder if all of these authors read Romeo and Juliet and thought “Yep that is the way to go. Kill them at the end.”

If they want kids to read about death and such at least give them something else to focus on than a mom dying of cancer or a dog with rabies. How about some science fiction? How about the Hobbit? Yeah, some of the kids wouldn’t like it and a lot of parents don’t like their children getting wrapped up in fiction “nonsense”. But good heavens, Stephen King has happier endings than some of these things.

I am fortunate that both of my children like to read. The library is a fun place for us. Some kids don’t and the only exposure to books that they get is the enforced reading in schools. It would be nice if they got a chance to read something where, just once, everyone lives.

Another Hero Gone

Yesterday on Facebook, I saw that a friend posted about the death of Sir Terry Pratchett. I was on my phone waiting in line for school to let out so I didn’t investigate. I simply posted a question back and then made a mental note to look it up later, because surely it was some kind of mistake.

There are websites out there who go around posting fake celebrity deaths, so I thought she must have fallen for one of those.  We just lost Leonard Nimoy, surely Death wouldn’t take Sir Terry from us on the heels of losing Spock.  It turns out I was wrong.

This morning I found that mental note, among the rest of the detritus in my head, and investigated. We did indeed lose Sir Terry Pratchett and another piece of my heart has traveled to the other side with him.

I never met Sir Terry, but I read his books. I loved them. I still do.

If someone came to me with a magic pen and said: “This will let you write in your own voice but with the genius of another writer, but you can only pick one…”   I wouldn’t have used the pen because there is always a catch with those things; but if I had been foolish enough to give it a go, Sir Terry would have been the writer I picked.  His talent is something I will always look up to.

Another one of my heroes has passed and left me with only memories. Funny how that works. Robin Williams, Leonard Nimoy, Sir Terry Pratchett…I never met any of them but some how my world has been brighter with an extra dose of hope and magic in it because they lived.terrypratchett1

Footsteps to Follow

The footsteps of great men have lead the way and we are left alone to follow them. Some have left prints so deep in the sand that they look like mini lakes to those of us standing on the shore and looking forward. How can anyone possibly fill the shoes that left steps imprinted so deep?

The answer is, no one can. Great men never intended for someone to walk directly in their footsteps. They merely hoped that by leaving a mark behind, others may head in the same direction and forge their own paths somewhat parallel.

This does not mean great men never had faults, doubts, or struggles. It just means even when they were brought to their knees they still moved forward. Grief can be strong enough, even for a stranger, that it may feel as if your feet were cut from underneath you. Keep moving forward anyway. It is what those we grieve for did, and what we must do if we want our paths to remain parallel.

Leonard Nimoy, you will be missed.

Leonard Nimoy

Labor Day

gear-408364_640This Monday begins a new month and also marks a turning point in history. In the United States, during the industrial revolution, work weeks were often 12 hours shifts, 7 days a week. Children, barely more than toddlers, were working in factories and mines instead of playing games. No kindergarten for these kiddies. The whole family had to work to make sure mouths were fed. Working conditions, especially if you were poor or new to the country, surpassed dangerous and sometimes were just plain deadly.

Labor Unions began to form and began protesting the poor working conditions. In 1867 the government signed into effect a law regulating working hours for federal employees and Illinois workers, changing their shifts to an 8 hour day.  May 1, 1886 there was a movement to include the rest of the nation.

The thing is, they never actually enforced the law. A shorter work day and better pay work-384745_640sounded great to overworked, underpaid employees. So union banners were taken up and the peaceful protest marches began.  Some employers feared a “workers revolution” so they quickly signed on for shorter work days.

May 4, 1886 a rally was organized in Haymarket Square to protest the shooting of striking workers by the Chicago police the day before. The turn out was less than what was expected and the speakers either didn’t arrive or were late. Rain began falling toward the end of the rally which sent some of those who had hung around scurrying for home.That was when the police showed up to disperse the rest and chaos erupted. Someone from the crowd threw a bomb, shooting began which led to the deaths of seven policemen and four workers.

No one was sure who brought a bomb to a peaceful rally, but blood had been spilled so someone had to answer for it. Eight men, (*Cough, Cough, scapegoats) were rounded up and charged. Seven of the men were sentenced to death and the last one was give 15 years in prison.

matchstick-20237_640More strikes and more rallies happened over the next eight years, but it wasn’t until the American Railway Union began a boycott of Pullman railway cars and brought the nation to a stand still, that notice was finally taken.  Pullman Palace Car Company, maker of railway cars, had cut hours and fire union representatives. The workers went on strike and the boycott began. Things got so bad, troops had to be brought in. Which, of course, outraged many and started a wave of riots in Chicago.

In 1894 Labor Day became a Federal Holiday.  So now, on the first Monday in September, we sit around the barbeque with our friends and family enjoying the holiday.  Kids don’t have to go to school and the banks are closed so everyone can have a day off.  (If we aren’t scheduled to work.)