Rebels with a Cause – Heroes All

There are several women whose stories have crossed my path in recent months. I’ve written about Rachel Carson and her pioneering efforts to bring controls over pesticides used indiscriminately in this country after World War II. She didn’t want to write about birds and fish dying, but the more she researched the topics, the more she realized she had no choice. She was vilified by the pesticide manufacturers when Silent Spring was published in 1962, but her book brought awareness and eventual changes and controls over DDT that was killing wildlife and making people sick. She didn’t set out to create a whole governmental agency (EPA) to monitor the poisons and pollution of our new industrial world, but she did, and she did it because she knew someone needed to speak for the voiceless.

Statute of Laura Haviland

Statute of Laura Haviland

In researching my latest release, Civil War Journal of a Union Soldier, I came across some references to a woman I’d known all my life as “Aunt Laura.” Laura S. Haviland lived 1808-1898, and she saw injustices in the way slaves and women were treated. She opened her southeastern Michigan home as a stopping point on the Underground Railroad as she assisted–and sometimes accompanied—runaway slaves to Canada. She opened a school attended by my great grandfather and dedicated its purpose to educating women and African Americans. She didn’t have to open herself up to these causes, but with her Quaker upbringing she saw no other way to live her life. Her life is the blueprint of someone dedicated to fighting for causes that seemed hopeless, but left a lasting legacy. A statute stands in front of the Lenawee County Courthouse in Adrian, Michigan, with the dedication, “A Tribute to a Life Consecrated to the Betterment of Humanity.”

Recently, I watched Erin Brockovich about a single mother of three who fought the huge utility giant, Pacific Gas and Electric. Best of all, she won. It was good to see this movie again. Erin Brockovich— real person—discovered in her job researching for attorney Ed Masry that people living in Hinkley, California, were coming down with mysterious illness and extreme cases of cancer. As Erin continued her research with Masry’s permission and sometimes reluctant participation, she discovered the culprit. PGE was dumping toxic waste into the waters of Hinkley. Erin didn’t want to get embroiled in this ghastly business, but seeing children and mothers suffering so much she had no choice but to become involved. In 1996, PGE was forced to pay out $330 million to more than 600 residents of Hinkley. Erin’s dogged research resulted in the largest payout for this type of lawsuit. Her website states it best, “If you follow your heart, if you listen to your gut, and if you extend your hand to help another, not for any agenda, but for the sake of humanity, you are going to find the truth.”

There are many other women and men out there who heed the call to action. Some of them become famous; yet others are sitting right next to us on the bus, train, or airplane, in the line at the grocery store, or at the PTA meeting. They do their work and follow their heart simply because they feel they have no choice. These are the real rebels with a cause.

When I was younger and much more jaded than I am today, I thought there were no heroes. But now that I’ve mellowed, I’ve taken the time to realize some of my closest friends fit the same mold of Rachel Carson, Laura Haviland, and Ern Brockovich. They are folks living their lives for the betterment of humanity.

These other heroes get up every morning and set out to make the world in which they live a better place.

There’s my very dear friend who’s a nurse. She goes to work each day with one thought in mind, and that’s to put the patients first. She helps them find their way through the red tape of insurance, and she makes sure they leave the office or the phone call with answers. She is their advocate, and after spending the past year in and out of doctor’s offices, I know firsthand how a kind word, or even a smile, goes miles toward easing my troubles. She probably won’t have a movie made of her life, but she’s a hero to many who come under her tender loving care. I know—she’s always been one of my stalwart supports. When I returned to Michigan for the funeral of my mother, I stayed at her house. One night I came home dispirited and depressed. On the table waiting for me was a plate of hot spaghetti, garlic bread, and a glass of my favorite wine. I never forgot that night and the tender loving care she showed me on a night of deep despair. She does that for everyone within her orbit.

Another dear friend brought her older brother into her home to care for him as his MS worsened. He can’t use either his arms or legs, but she ensures he’s showered every day and comes to the table with the family for most meals. She’s led by example in many things she’s done, but perhaps none greater than what she did after her daughter was killed in a drunk driving accident. The daughter, Sara, turned her keys over to her boyfriend that fateful night, and she died while the boyfriend survived. My friend went to court when it came time for sentencing of the young man. She spoke up and said it could have been her daughter driving and that she forgave him and hoped for leniency in his sentencing. She’s remained a support for this young man as he faced life after the accident. Her unselfish actions make her a hero for all time, even though Hollywood probably won’t visit her either.

These women stand as the examples of lives well-spent to benefit us all. They don’t do it for glory or fame; they do it because it’s the right thing to do. I can only sit back in awe and attempt to follow in some very big footsteps. This week of Thanksgiving, I give thanks to all the rebels who fight for causes no matter the cost or the sacrifices. Our world is a better place because of them.

Who are your heroes today?

Two Scores and a Decade Ago – JFK

Third grade with Mrs. Waterstradt – November 22, 1963File:John F Kennedy Official Portrait.jpg

She entered the room of twenty third-grade students looking even sterner than usual. She scared me as did our principal Mrs. Price.

“Gather up your coats, children,” Mrs. Waterstradt instructed on a dreary Friday afternoon the week before Thanksgiving. “School is closing early today.”

Our excitement at being released from school three hours early was subdued by the serious face of our teacher. Somehow we knew to leave as quickly as possible.

As I walked by the principal’s office I could see a black and white television on a tall cart so it could be wheeled into the classrooms for special presentations. On this day, it was broadcasting a news program. I saw the mean Mrs. Price standing with her secretary and the music teacher. Mrs. Price dabbed her eyes often with a white handkerchief.

I was immediately frightened. There had been many dire moments in the past few years, none of which I didn’t understand. No one took the time to explain it to a nine-year-old girl still playing with dolls. A year earlier, President Kennedy was making a speech about something to do with Cuba and missiles. I was bored so I took my doll that wet herself and held her naked butt up to the television screen and the President’s face. My mother slapped at the doll and my hands, telling me I was disrespectful, which I didn’t understand. Now nearly a year later, I walk into my house and my mother is crying in front of the television screen and just like Mrs. Price she’s holding a white hankie to her eyes.

“Those poor, poor children,” she said.

I don’t remember anything else, except all weekend we were all glued to the television. One of my brothers came home from college at Western Michigan University. Another one came home with his wife, and we all stayed in front of that black and white screen during a dreary dark weekend. The only time I left the house was Sunday morning with my parents. I was particularly resentful because all of my brothers were allowed to stay home.

When we came back from church and walked into the living room, my brothers were all on their feet and screaming.

“They shot Oswald,” was all I remember. I saw it replayed many times, but my brothers saw it live.

The world changed for me with the only bright moments occurring in early 1964 when the Beatles came to our country. I boasted the largest collection of Beatles’ bubblegum cards until I gave them to Alvin, a new boy in our class. He was tall and cute and I guess as I turned ten years old and the Beatles came into our lives, I turned my attention from dolls to boys.

It might have been better if I’d stayed with the dolls for a little while longer. By the time, I turned fourteen, the world once again changed never to return to those halcyon days of my youth shattered forever on the first day of summer vacation in 1968 when my mother woke me from a luxurious sleep.

“They shot Bobby,” she yelled up the stairs.

And this time I knew exactly what she meant. Unfortunately.

The Liebster Award

I so appreciate the nomination. I’ve already received this award. And now I’m happy to say I don’t qualify anymore. Thanks to my followers, I’ve exceeded the 200 followers mark and am working toward 300.

What's Green with Betsy?!?

I was nominated for The Liebster Award by Grassfed Mama~ Life among the Growing.  Thank you Grassfed Mama – I’m honored.   I like your blog too!

So when you are nominated for the Liebster Award there are some steps that you must follow:

-Nominees must link back the person who nominated.

-Answer the 10 questions that are given by the nominator.

-Nominate 10 other bloggers for this award who have fewer than 200 followers.

-Create 10 questions for the new nominees to answer.

-Go to the nominee blogs and notify them about their nominations

Here are my answers to Grassfed Mama’s questions.

1. What is your favorite breakfast?

My smoothie, which I have been having for 15 years.  It varies from day-to-day, but basically I start with almond milk (homemade is the best), kefir, and a bit of cider or black cherry juice for the liquid, then add a banana, frozen blueberries, strawberries…

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New Friends, Old Stories, Wonderful Memories

Staci Troilo

I get homesick a lot. I live nearly 1,000 miles from where I grew up, and sometimes it feels like 1,000,000. I knew all my neighbors—heck, I think I was related to half the town. Now I don’t even know my next door neighbors’ names. So I spend a lot of time talking to writers on online.

You can imagine my surprise when I met a woman who lived in Michigan (I lived there before), Florida (I wouldn’t mind living there if I can’t move home), and now lives in Pittsburgh (the city closest to my hometown and the city where I went to college). We immediately hit it off.

PC ZICKP. C. Zick’s writing career began in 1998 with the publication of her first column in a local paper. By day, she was a high school English teacher, but at night and on vacations, she began writing novels and freelance…

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Coffee and a Chat

Good morning,

cropped-dsc01310.jpgI’ve been busy these days. The yard and garden work is nearly finished for the season. We’re eating cabbage, potatoes, and brussel sprouts from the garden but the rest of the yard is covered in snow. I have flower pots scattered around the yard needing attention. And the bird feeders need washing and filled. We don’t put them out when the garden is in full production because the bird seed attracts lots of wild animals to our yard. Instead we plant plenty of sunflowers so the birds feast on those seeds. But now it’s time to give our little feathered friends a bit of a treat.

This morning while my husband and I drank our coffee before starting the work day, he was poring over the seed catalog that came in the mail yesterday. And the cycle begins all over again. I’m spending time revising From Seed to Table and preparing it for a paperback release by January. S2T-6

My busyness these days involves my writing life. Today I stopped by a fellow writer and blogger’s site for a chat and a cup of coffee. Annamaria Bazzi has been hosting these Roundtable chats, and mine is #22.

Check it out to see what’s been occupying my time these days:

What’s going on in your garden as winter makes its sudden approach?


#Bullying and #Football

I like rooting for the home team. I want them to win, but I don’t hate the opposing team and their fans.

We decided to buy last minute tickets to the University of Pittsburgh versus Notre Dame game. Our tickets plucked us right down in the South Bend, Indiana, home base at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh. We didn’t care. It would be fun with good-natured ribbing, we thought. We only hoped it was a game, and that Pitt didn’t lose horribly as they did to Florida State at the last game we attended.

In the first quarter, a Notre Dame player ran into the lowered head of a Pitt player, and the Irish guy was thrown out of the game. While the Pitt player lay on the field, a group of five Fighting Irish fans behind us starting yelling, “Get up off the ground; you deserved that hit.” My husband tried to reason by saying any hit on the head was a bad hit. They yelled back that our player put his head down so he should expect to get hit. They continued their tirade every time a Pitt player was tackled or hit.

The ugly remarks continued behind us as Pitt kept one touchdown behind or tied. My husband tried another time to reason with them, and I told him to stop because they weren’t the reasoning kind.

They made fun of our dancers, cheerleaders, and band. They called anyone who lived in Pittsburgh “stupid.” There was more, but all stayed in the same vein until in the last few minutes of the fourth quarter when Pitt scored the winning touchdown. They became quiet, but we moved into empty seats away from them, just in case. They seemed to be the types who might do something more than hurl insensitive and cruel words. I saw bullying firsthand in those fans.

The story about the Miami Dolphins and team bullying reared its ugly head just before that game. I wondered if the claims could be true, and after our experience, I have a feeling some of the charges against Richie Incognito might have some validity. He says he used racial slurs as a form of love. Sorry, but that’s no love I’ve ever heard of and hope I never experience. It’s abusive behavior.

Has it always been this way or are we becoming a less peaceful and more aggressive society? If we can’t be friendly with our rivals over a stupid and meaningless game, how can we ever expect to live in a peaceful world? Take the behavior of these fans as one snippet from the world in which we live. Take the stone walls in our lawmaking bodies for another. When did we stop listening to one another and leap into a world where only one view—our own—is accepted?

It depressed me on so many levels; I’m still attempting to absorb it all. The worst part was the struggle both my husband and I experienced as we fought not to respond. It felt far too easy to shout back about the “stupid Irish” or some other ridiculous epitaph. Sitting and tuning it out required a great deal of deep breathes and closing of our ears.

Right now, I have no desire to return to a game because of five young folks, both male and female, sitting behind us on a cold night in Pittsburgh. I have to remind myself not to let them represent all people from South Bend or Notre Dame. Next to me sat two lovely young women dressed in the green of the fighting Irish. They said little but clapped when their team did well as we did when Pitt did the same. We were polite to one another, and they did not enter into the nastiness of the folks behind us.

As I write this, I’m trying to figure out the point of this post. An editor once told me my columns didn’t always have to have a point. I disagreed, and I still do. What’s the point of me complaining if I don’t have a solution?

I implore all of us to overlook our differences and concentrate on our similarities. Act with kindness toward others. Don’t lower yourself to the baseness in others. And most of all, save your battles for the big ones in life, which will come at some point when least expected. Make sure you have the energy to fight the important stuff rather than on a football game that really doesn’t matter in the first place.

But maybe most of all, enjoy what you’re doing without venom, without spite, without violence. It can’t be enjoyable to yell angry f-bombs at the field and at the people sitting in front of you just because they’re wearing blue and beige with a Pitt Panther logo on the front. If we don’t start with us, there’s little hope that religions, political divides, and countries can ever pull together for the betterment of humanity.

There’s Gold in that there Yard

Yesterday I read in the newspaper that leaf pickup begins in our area this week. I’m shaking my head in amazement that leaves are raked, put into garbage bags (biodegradable, but still. . .), and left on the curb for the waste management crews to haul away to where we know not.
But there are ways to know where those leaves go and that’s by leaving them in your yard. With that said, here’s my annual (second, no less) installment on the golden opportunity provided by those leaves littering your yard right now. So here goes:

Raking leaves into piles and then burning them was a tradition from my childhood. When I became an adult, I realized this was one tradition that needed to go. We don’t need to send more smoke up into the air. In many townships, municipalities, and regions of the United States, the act of burning leaves is in violation of the law.

The Environmental Protection Agency warns against the burning of leaves because it causes air pollution, health problems, and fire hazards. Sending them to the landfill is no longer an alternative in most communities because of already overburdened landfills. Besides, putting them in plastic trash bags and hauling away organic matter to the landfill makes little or no sense.

It’s still a good idea to get most of the leaves up off the grass. However, leaving a few on the ground will provide some great fertilizer on the soil as they decompose.

We have more than an acre in our backyard where three old maples made themselves at home decades ago.

Right now the yard is beginning to look more gold than green as the leaves begin their descent from the limbs. I wait to do my magic until most of those limbs are bare. Yesterday I mowed  one last time with our tractor. I mowed right over the leaves, chopping them into smaller pieces. I mow carefully making sure to blow the leaves into long piles. Around the trees, I make sure the leaves blow around the base.

With the remaining leaves,we load them either the tractor trailer or wheelbarrows and haul the piles over to the garden We place the chopped up leaves on the almost barren garden. We’ve never had a problem with mold developing as I’ve heard some people say, but maybe it’s because we use chopped up leaves rather than putting them on whole.

The rest of the leaves we put next to our compost bin and use them throughout the winter as layers between our food scraps. If you prefer, you could even bag them and keep them in the shed to use as needed.

If you don’t have a garden or you don’t compost, look for gardeners in your neighborhood. Some of them may be eager to haul away your leaves after you’ve raked them. But if you have shrubs, they make a good protective layer around those as well. Remember, the leaves are organic matter, so it just makes good sense to use them accordingly.

What do you do with your raked leaves?

The Fussy Librarian Wants All #Readers and #Writers


webMy book Trails in the Sand is being featured Saturday, November 9 at The Fussy Librarian, a new website that offers personalized eBook recommendations.

You choose from thirty-two genres and indicate preferences about content in your reading choices. Then the computers work their magic. The Fussy Librarian is a pretty cool site for both readers and writers: I highly recommend checking them out and giving them support to help them get this helpful site up and running successfully.

It’s always wonderful when Indie Authors get a boost.