Saturday, December 31, 2016

Thoughts - December 31, 2016

“Tomorrow, is the first blank page of a 365 page book. Write a good one.”
― Brad Paisley.
I've no doubt many folks have written such a quote as above. I'm not a country music fan and only know Brad P. was born and raised near Wheeling and has done well. I do like the image his words bring forth: I picture one of those daily calendar squares, pen sitting beside it, hand poised above it. Write a good much as you can, I reckon. Things come at us. Other people throw stones or bring gifts. Ultimately, it is about attitude. And a new page each day, yes, but also a story that binds those pages together. It is exciting, a journey, an adventure...a life. - Beth Almond Ford

Friday, December 30, 2016

Thoughts - December 30, 2016

“Age has no reality except in the physical world. The essence of a human being is resistant to the passage of time. Our inner lives are eternal, which is to say that our spirits remain as youthful and vigorous as when we were in full bloom.
 ― Gabriel Garcí­a Márquez, Love in the Time of Cholera.
Working as a geriatric nurse, I found most helpful, and interesting, photographs of patients throughout their lives. Many families would make a collage of pictures and put it on the patients' doors or above their beds. If you have any doubts about the above quote (which is one of the truest things I've ever read!), just ask an older person about 'falling in love' the first time. Or their first job. Or their school days. Once I asked Marie, a 93 y.o. resident of a facility where I was working, about her 'most favorite trip'. Suddenly, her eyes flashed and she smiled a big smile - revealing the beauty and depth of her spirit from decades ago -- "Oh," she said, "that would be Havannah, 1938. What a place -- hotels, dancing, music, romance...." How I wanted to go with her to that spot in time! - Beth Almond Ford

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Thoughts - December 29, 2016

In the case of good books, the point is not how many of them you can get through, but rather how many can get through to you. -Mortimer J. Adler, philosopher, educator, and author (28 Dec 1902-2001)
We talk about things that shape us - our families, our successes and failures, the places we've lived, our friends and lovers, health, religion, etc. I heard something just the other day about the mate we choose has a 90% influence on every aspect of our life. (hmmm). I have no doubts my greatest influencer has been books, all kinds of books. They have allowed me to experience those things I would never know otherwise....scientist, traveler, musician, astronaut, African lady detective, jet-setter, in the ashes of Ireland, bullfighter, time traveler...I could go on all day and into the night. Some, of course, got through to my very soul and changed who I am. That is why some people are scared of books and ban certain titles. (Obviously that makes me shudder) What they don't realize is a certain book will speak to a certain person. It is rare for one title to change the world...except for the classics and religious texts. Or encyclopedias. Remember them?! - Beth Almond Ford

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Book Review - Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J. D. Vance

Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance
Hillbilly Elegy by J. D. Vance

The young writer brought up some very interesting points about the economic and social situation in America's Rust Belt but very few answers as to how to deal with the enormous problems in the area. Like the author, I'm not sure there are any easy answers. One of the many points I found interesting was in the last chapter, where he acknowledges the enormous amount of help he received through his life from many people, especially the support of his grandparents. I often hear people that consider themselves self-made claim that they never received help from anyone. I suppose it depends on if you think help is only financial.  Branching out from this was the question of how to offer support to a social group that is isolated in poverty with few examples of success as inspiration and few mentors to show the way out of the crippling situation. Vance points out how little he knew about the world how to succeed, even after a stint in the military and four years of college. He also mentions how helpful knowing the right people can be in career and life choices.

The constant message that Vance received as a child was that he and his culture weren't good enough and that the choices of the white working class don't matter. His grandmother, an amazing woman who did her best despite struggling with an alcoholic husband and children with enormous issues,  tried to counteract this idea but was only partly successful. Vance's time in the Marine Corps did the most to change his attitude, although he constantly reinforces that he felt himself lucky to have had the support of his grandparents and I think he is right. Their support, along with the many other people that helped him throughout his life, helped him overcome a childhood of trauma due to an absent father and a mother who never overcame drug addiction.

This is not a book with answers to the problems of the working poor in America, but I think the book gives a fairly accurate portrayal of the complicated attitudes and issues. There are some valid criticisms of the book; some think he blames the poor for their own misfortunes and he does have a pessimistic view of how much the government can help. What stands out to me is the despair of the families and town, the struggles with addiction and hopelessness. At the end of the book things have deteriorated, both in the town and in his mother's personal life. To me, doing something to help has got to be better than standing by and doing nothing. - Leslie Shelor

Thoughts - December 28, 2016

"If instead of a gem, or even a flower, we should cast the gift of a loving thought into the heart of a friend, that would be giving as the angels give." George MacDonald.
The gift of a " loving thought." The very simplicity of the idea gives me shivers, especially that someone, Mr. MacDonald, could envision such and write about it so beautifully. Sometimes we may seem flippant about it ("sending good thoughts your way..."), yet the very power of those words can make a difference in a person's outlook. Ponder when someone has sent even a quick email or message or Christmas card once a year...."I am thinking of you. Sending love and hugs." There may be even more of an impact than we realize, when we follow up on that little nudge that urges us or stirs us to act. That's the angel part! It reminds me of a time when one of my mom's friends died Unexpectedly. They found on her kitchen table a month's worth of birthday cards addressed to her friends, with a personal note inside each. I can remember my mom saying at the time, "How like sweet Helen to keep spreading her love, even after her death." - Beth Almond Ford

Thoughts - December 27, 2016

Things don't so much end as disappear. They don't so much begin as turn up. You think there will be a time to say goodbye, but people have often gone before you know about it. And I don't just mean the dying.”
― Rachel Joyce, The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy.
As I neared the end of this book one night, curled up under a soft blanket and a purring cat, the words above jumped out and gently grabbed me. How many people have slipped away into the mist of memory, elusive and sometimes resistant to pleas and hands reaching out - or, more likely, without us even realizing. Often it is simply a matter of our fluid world. We move on, change jobs, finish school. Yet there are those who are forever imprinted on our minds and hearts. We want one more time to hold their hands, exchange hugs, laugh and converse, ask their forgiveness, tell them how much we love them. Let them know they made a difference in our lives. - Beth Almond Ford

Monday, December 26, 2016

Thoughts - December 26, 2016

“Like most people who are freefalling, I’ve always clung to routine.” 
― Rachel Joyce, The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy: A Novel.

Have you ever been told you are a "free spirit"? I'm not sure that is the same thing as "freefalling" but they are similar. I remember the first time this description came my way. By a psychiatrist. No, I wasn't seeing him as a patient, but working for him as a nurse. He had come to our little town in the middle of WV, filling in for the regular doctor who was on an extended vacation. The visiting doc was in a horrid accident and I went to sit with him in the ICU. He grabbed my hand and squeezed it. "Don't ever stop being a free spirit, Beth, it is who you are. It will not be an easy life." This was decades ago, before it was a common saying, and I felt both relief that someone of his caliber recognized what I felt so deeply in my soul..and fear that it would be a hard life. I grabbed on to routines as though they were life lines thrown to the drowning. Just a few, but enough to keep me grounded. I share this thought on this rainy Boxing Day after Christmas just because...Maybe someone needs to hear it. Maybe to honor my doctor friend who was paralyzed in the prime of life. Maybe because Spirit, the Spirit, did a whole lot of work to make Christmas happen! - Beth Almond Ford

Friday, December 23, 2016

Thoughts - December 23, 2016

"The here and now is all we have,
and if we play it right it's all we'll need."
Ann Richards

Ah, living in the present. That is difficult for some of us. Memories are sometimes more real than the moment. The future may appear brighter and more exciting. What generally brings me back to the present is the enjoyment of my morning coffee. With the simple act of filling a beautiful bone China mug, sniffing the steam, twirling the cream, taking a sip - I am completely in the moment. There are not many other acts that do this...except maybe playing ping-pong. - Beth Almond Ford

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Thoughts - December 22, 2016

“Those who dream by day are cognizant of many things which escape those who dream only by night.”
― Edgar Allan Poe, Eleonora.
It was years before I grew up and realized everyone didn't 'day dream' - or at least some not as much as others. For a writer, is the line between dreaming and action simply in the act of putting the story down on paper? What about a scientist who imagines the paths of cells and DNA going one way and another before starting an experiment? Surely musicians are often imagining new tunes in their minds. Or romantics - visualizing the possibilities of relationships. Explorers? Even the practical business person must have dreamed big dreams before taking the first step. But then do they stop their daydreams and put all their energy into making their dreams come true? How much we don't know about how and what others are thinking! - Beth Almond Ford

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Thoughts - December 21, 2016

"The world is a looking-glass and gives back to every man the reflection of his own face. Frown at it, and it will in turn look sourly upon you; laugh at it and with it, and it is a jolly kind companion."
William Makepeace Thackeray, Vanity Fair.

Trite as these words may be to some, I find them to be true. But it's not always a good thing. There are times when we are sad/upset/mad and these are the reflections that come back to further complicate our lives. The one exception, I have found, is when we are truly grieving. Then what seems like 'grace' enters the world and we are surrounded by the love and understanding of others. - Beth Almond Ford

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Thoughts - December 20, 2016

“Really, for a man who had been out of practice for so many years it was a splendid laugh!”
― Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol.
I don't think there's anyone out there who doesn't know of the value of laughter - even for healing (so the studies show). But I always loved the part in A Christmas Carol when Dickens goes nuts with laughter. Suddenly, life was filled with light. He truly saw the beauty and connectedness of it all. I once dated a man simply because he made me laugh (not reason enough, but I do appreciate those memories at a time when laughter was much needed). I'm from a family who laughs loud and often (anyone who knows my brother can appreciate this!). So, here's a big Ho Ho Ho to all of you (I think that's how Santa laughs....)! - Beth Almond Ford

Monday, December 19, 2016

Thoughts - December 19, 2016

“Clutter is the physical manifestation of unmade decisions fueled by procrastination” 
― Christina Scalise, Organize Your Life and More.

Ms. Scalise may have this right (okay, she probably has this right!), but as a life-long cluttered person, I've always thought it must be something else, like a sickness? From as long as I can remember, my family called me "Messy Bessy" and I related immediately to Pig Pen in the Charlie Brown comics. It was as if Charles Schwartz actually knew some of us when he invented that character. It was reassuring as a small child to know there were 'others' out there. I have to purposefully keep a "preacher-ready" room (living room) and the guest room doors closed so that I don't mess them up. My name is Beth and I am a clutterer. - Beth Almond Ford

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Thoughts - December 18, 2016

“Raindrops blossom brilliantly in the rainbow, and change to flowers in the sod, but snow comes in full flower direct from the dark, frozen sky.”
― John Muir.
What a beautiful sentence. I was contemplating 'wildness' and 'wilderness' this morning and who better to aid in those thoughts than John Muir. I choose to live where wilderness is but a walk away from my door. I have seen a coyote and bears and baby foxes - and heard the songs of birds and bubbling streams. The forest sends messages about life and living a full existence. I look forward to walking those paths with the flowers of snow lightly showering down from the heavens. In the wilderness one reaches a certain freedom to simply be. Scary or exhilarating? It depends upon the wanderer. - Beth Almond Ford

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Thoughts - December 17, 2016

“How different would your world be if you looked in the mirror and saw your best friend looking back at you?” 
― Janet Dunnagan.

Much as I hate to say it, I would treat them much better than I do myself....'let me fix you breakfast' (and the like) would be the first response. I would feel a greater responsibility. I would clean house (at least a bit!) for their arrival. I would smile more (my best friends make me feel light-hearted and full of positive emotions...yes, often giggles...giggles!). We would have good discussions - we would share our love of a favorite book. I would wish for them success and urge them to always follow their aspirations. This reminds me of the third part of what I consider Jesus' great command: Love God,love your neighbors - as you love yourself. Best friends show us how to love ourselves. - Beth Almond ford

Friday, December 16, 2016

Thoughts - December 16, 2016

“He was swimming in a sea of other people’s expectations. Men had drowned in seas like that.”
― Robert Jordan, New Spring.
I think I, like most people, have a love/hate relationship with "expectations." There is an excitement in anticipation (that new job, a date for a play or concert - or in this season of Advent - "Come Thou Long Expected Jesus"...). Yet we live in a world where some folks say, "Expect nothing and you will never be disappointed." And then there are the expectations from others - to provide the best holiday celebration ever, to fulfill your work obligations beyond perfection, to be the best lover/best friend/best child/best teacher/best anything.....It is a tricky balance to do one's best, to let others simply be and to learn to appreciate the unexpected. - Bh Almond Ford

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Thoughts - December 15, 2016

“Every life deserves a certain amount of dignity, no matter how poor or damaged the shell that carries it.”
― Rick Bragg, All Over But the Shoutin'
So, what is meant by 'dignity'? I find myself looking up the definition in Mr. Webster's handy book. The first entry is 'worthiness' and I think I'll simply stop with that one. Until proven otherwise (and even if proven otherwise?!), I believe it wise to quit judging and bellyaching about 'others'. This is the time of year when we actually put little barns on our coffee tables and give dignity to a baby who was born in a stable and placed in a feeding trough - yet worthy of the finest of gifts brought by kings. My goodness, what point was being made - and by Whom?! - Beth Almond Ford

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Episode 28 - Photographs and Memories

Adopting pound dogs.
Spay and neuter

Farm Dogs: A Comprehensive Breed Guide to 93 Guardians, Herders, Terriers and Other Canine Working Partners by Janet Vorwald Dohner

Reynolds Homestead Victorian Christmas

Mayberry Church Live Nativity, December 16 & 17, 2016

Singles Dinner and Bingo

A Little Sweet...

Cheerful Gift Guide for Knitters from Mason Dixon Knitting

Stacey's Bun Hat by Stacey Thorngren

A Little Unexpected by Elena Nodel

A Little Tart...

Different types of photographs:

Carte de Visite  

Cabinet Cards   


Leslie's photographs for sale at Scraps of American History

Real photo postcards

Beth's eBay ID: hemlockwv

Modern photography

Prom pictures

Christmas photos

A Little Unexpected...

Author Ibby Greer


"There are no bad pictures; that's just how your face looks sometimes." - Abraham Lincoln

"Your first 10,000 photographs are your worst." - Henri Cartier-Bresson

"Today everything exists to end in a photograph." - Susan Sontag

Download this episode (right click and save)

Thoughts - December 14, 2016

“If you treat people right they will treat you right ... ninety percent of the time.”
― Franklin D. Roosevelt.
You do know, folks, that 90% odds are darn good. Chances are we'll run into a cranky person or situation most days. And, truth be told, it's often when I'm the one running late, in a hurry, feeling impatient, have an ache. But lest I be accused of pollyanna tendencies, there are those days when meanness and bad drivers and even evil cross over our paths or those of our friends and family. That is the purpose of community, neighbors, church family, positive work relationships. It is a call to listen to our lives and observe those around us and be ready to reach out a hand - or be ready to take one extended to you. - Beth Almond Ford

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Thoughts - December 13, 2016

“The pencil is mightier than the pen.”
― Robert M. Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values.
I am going to assume Mr. Pirsig is referring to erasers here. Or maybe he is talking about the inner child, the one who first grasped that fat pencil and realized these marks on paper mean everything there is to know and learn. As for erasers, or rubbers as my Aussie friends call them, I have a love/hate relationship with them when I am writing. I tell my writing students not to cross out or erase when they are putting their first thoughts down on paper. Let it flow, don't censor, dive right in. I remind them there is a time for editing and erasing, but not in the beginning. Then there are those who proudly complete crossword puzzles in pen. They are my heroes. I erase until there are holes on the page. - Beth Almond Ford

Monday, December 12, 2016

Thoughts - December 12, 2016

“Health is the greatest possession. Contentment is the greatest treasure. Confidence is the greatest friend.”
― Lao Tzu.
What more could we wish for each other -- health, contentment, and confidence? I don't often think about 'confidence', nor as it being the 'greatest friend', but as I watch people who perform, or doctors and other professionals who are self-assured, or anyone who is passionate about anything and willing to share it, I can see a glow, a confidence, an enthusiasm for life. Most the time confidence comes from hard work, but sometimes it is simply recognizing our own unique gifts, a willingness to share, and a level of Trust. - Beth Almond Ford

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Thoughts - December 11, 2016

"The luck of having talent is not enough; one must also have a talent for luck." -Hector Berlioz, composer (1803-1869).
Ah - this is a topic that has raised many a conversation! If we dismiss the 'hard work = luck' view point right from the start and look at the role 'luck' has played in our lives, I find there are people who seem to attract bad luck or attract good luck or 'have a talent for luck', as this 19th century composer noted. So, my question is, can this talent be cultivated, nurtured; is it a matter of positive thoughts and actions; is it simply grace or blessings? Are there periods in our life when we're more lucky than not? I, for one, have been lucky in family and friends and downright unlucky in love and money. There are many phrases that surround this four letter word (lucky in love, down on one's luck, the luck of the Irish, etc). A 'talent for luck'...a thought worth pondering. Good luck! - Beth Almond Ford

Friday, December 9, 2016

Thoughts - December 9, 2016

“The mind can be trained to relieve itself on paper.”
― Billy Collins.
I love this poet's (Laureate) sense of humor and dry observations of our human condition. This morning's quote reminds me of how I get too busy from October through December and don't have the time to 'relieve my mind' on paper. Stories bubble up and then fizzle out as I drive from place to work. I used to look forward to writing the 'perfect' holiday letter (whatever you think of mother sent out over 500 each year, along with the obligatory photo of us Almond five, and I still have folks tell me how much they miss it). I would sum up the year, throw in some observations about landscape, include a quote, brag on the boy, mention the wonder of the current pet(s), a bit about the workplace. It was a diary - a page per year. I've already received two such letters this year and I feel myself smiling, remembering our friendships. Perhaps it is time to add a page to the journal of life. - Beth Almond Ford

Thoughts - December 8, 2016

"No memory is ever alone, it’s at the end of a trail of memories, a dozen trails that each have their own associations." Louis L'Amour.
I've never quite had the nerve in my memoir writing classes to ask the question, "what is the worst memory you have of Christmas?" I don't always shy away from asking hard questions (some amazing stories come from them), but there is something sacrosanct about the holidays. It seems almost cruel to dig around those deep-in-the-soul memories. It's not that some of us didn't have some rather horrible times (the first holiday after a divorce; my own grandfather died in our house one Christmas morning when I was a youngster....), but we tend to save these stories for the parties, make a joke about them, lubricate our throats with eggnog - saving our fingers for putting down the squeals and smells of the happy times. There are dozens of trails to follow. - Beth Almond Ford

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Thoughts - December 7, 2016

To like many people spontaneously and without effort is perhaps the greatest of all sources of personal happiness.”
― Bertrand Russell.
What a fine definition of the "Christmas Spirit"! When that Spirit resides inside one's heart - even for a moment, then a Season, hopefully a lifetime - there is no 'effort' involved in seeing everyone as a Child of that Spirit. Even when we don't go looking for it, there will be those moments during the Season when we are likely to feel it - a love for the community and the folks standing beside and in front of you. It's a touch of magic, divine magic! - Beth Almond Ford

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Thoughts - December 6, 2016

“For outlandish creatures like us, on our way to a heart, a brain, and courage, Bethlehem is not the end of our journey but only the beginning - not home but the place through which we must pass if ever we are to reach home at last.”
― Frederick Buechner.
I, for one, am grateful the journey of "Christmas" comes along every year. I never can seem to get it right and all the components together at the same time: a heart, a brain, and courage. But passing through Bethlehem renews the vigor, gives impetus to the sojourn - and provides rest and thoughtful ponderings for the walk toward home. - Beth Almond Ford

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Thoughts - December 4, 2016

“Child, it's a very bad thing for a woman to face the worst that can happen to her, because after she's faced the worst she can't ever really fear anything again. ...Scarlett, always save something to fear— even as you save something to love...”
― Margaret Mitchell, Gone with the Wind.
What would it be like to never fear anything again? At first glance, yes indeedy, it almost seems like a super power. Walk through crocodiles, cross high swinging bridges..all the theatrics. What I do know is if I had no fear, I would be irresponsibly reckless, at least in some ways. We see that behavior in folks who feel they have no reason to live...a self-destructive bent. Fear has its place in our lives, a small dose keeps us watchful and thoughtful and appreciative. - Beth Almond Ford

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Thoughts - December 3, 2016

"We do know that no one gets wise enough to really understand the heart of another, though it is the task of our life to try." Louise Erdrich
So often we all say, "I understand how you feel/think/act....", when, in fact, it is almost impossible to truly know. Love is sharing those moments and our willingness to try and understand. Empathy and sympathy are two concepts which need to be visited once in awhile. I must say, the closest I've been able to understand someone is when we write together -- not 'published works', but those deep, heartfelt moments of remembrance. There is a rawness to the stories and tales that emerge around the table, opening up each of our hearts in a way that is scary and wonderful. It has nothing to do with being a "good" writer, but everything to do with a willingness to share one's life. - Beth Almond Ford

Friday, December 2, 2016

Thoughts - December 2, 2016

"Some people become so expert at reading between the lines they don't read the lines." -Margaret Millar, novelist (1915-1994).
I'm not even sure how much I should write or think about this quote, but simply take it at face value. Of course it does remind me to quit weaving a story around everything and be a tad more realistic about the day to day. And to be more trusting that what someone says is what they mean. On the other hand, it does take a certain talent to read between the lines and one certainly doesn't want to be hoodwinked. Politics, romance, business deals..... Maybe it is why we respect the words of children, "out of the mouths of babes." The one reliable true thing! - Beth Almond Ford

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Thoughts - December 1, 2016

“Here sat Marilla Cuthbert, when she sat at all, slightly distrustful of sunshine, which seemed to her too dancing and irresponsible a thing for a world which was meant to be taken seriously…”
― L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables.
Oh, dear Marilla Cuthbert....a character from one of my favorite 'youth' books - a hard-working, serious, Canadian farm woman who takes on the raising of an inquisitive young girl. Aren't you so glad that Anne taught you to see the joy in sunshine? She helped me to see it, too. It is a sparkling day! - Beth Almond Ford