Happy Birthday Camellia’s Cottage!

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Well, you won’t believe this but I’ve been writing about Camellia’s Cottage for a year now! I looked at the first time I wrote y’all and …well, we stumbled and bumbled along, but managed to write over 200 letters to you- won a couple of awards, img_2305-edited

…gained a wider audience than I would have ever believed -and hope to reach even more.  I’m still excited about writing to you, with hopefully better content and better writing in the coming year; perhaps without too many danglin’ participles or obtuse grammar!  Jeremy Miniard’s photographs have made us look good when we weren’t all that good, then Sally Smith shared some of her photography too! Your comments always make my day and get me tickled, some make me laugh my sides off! The Word Press Happiness Engineers were so patient when we were getting started. Questions like- ‘Ok, now what is a widget, darlin’? You know, I’m tech challenged- really have no business trying to do this…’ were graciously answered and were a huge help for someone like me, whose hands shook every time I hit publish for months on end- the amazing ‘ edit’ feature is a treasure. I found out I really enjoy writing humor, sharing what’s growing, what we’re readin’ or where we’re goin’ , what we’re doin’ and of course describing mouth watering southern food. I continue to enjoy struggling to find a photograph to go with what I’m writing even if I have to get creative about it- here are a few early attempts- don’t you just love those sweet Easter Eggs? img_1453-editedimg_1779image

It’s always a joy to find words to describe our people, who, contrary to popular belief are not all the same. We might talk funny but even the way we drawl varies. Perhaps my deepest joy is writing a Sunday inspiration; and I completely adore showing off this beautiful state, Alabama. Some of our folks might be nutty as fruitcakes- but as Eudora Welty once put it, ‘The South takes care of our eccentrics’.  I know this to be true, the South takes care of me! I have more to tell you about how Camellia’s Cottage began, but now is the time to  celebrate! You won’t believe some of the new stuff we have in the works for you!  If you decide to hang around a while longer, invite your friends, I’d love to meet them.  In the meantime, I hope you laugh, I hope you dance, I hope life treats you kindly, I hope all your dreams are coming true… ok, I’m starting to sound like the lyrics to a country music song. Drop by Camellia’s Cottage every chance you get, linger a while -maybe sip a tall glass of sweet tea, nibble on some cheese straws, extol the value of living close to a tomato vine, chew the fat- whisper a bit of gossip and share a bit of wisdom and  inspiration…I truly look forward to visiting with all of you…

Love y’all, Camellia

visit Jeremy miniard’s work at Jeremy.miniard.fineartamerica.com or in our search engine- look for Porches of Alabama, Doors of Alabama, Backroads of Alabama and more!

visit Sally Smith at www.CampCreekCreations.com   *all of the photographs in this post are obviously mine!

Champions…

barbaro statue at nightWe all love champions. The Olympics brings out our love for champions. We love to see how honed skill, willpower and flesh meld together into a champion. And there is one quality that I particularly thrill to see in a champion- joy. No, not the joy of winning, the joy in the doing- the sheer joy of running the race. The- ‘I would do this if no one was watching’ kind of joy; now to me that is a real champion. I’ve been watching for that joy in the 2016 Olympics, some have won and others have lost but to me? When I’ve seen it- I’ve seen a champion. It’s a rare quality. Several years ago, we were in Louisville Kentucky, I remember it well- it was the week after the Kentucky Derby…Louisville was still decked out- we stayed at the famous Brown’s Hotel, we took a tour out to Churchill Downs…it was very impressive; it was the first time I had ever heard about the champion racehorses who were buried on the grounds- the guide said the head, the heart and the hooves of the horses were buried along with the cremated remains. The head for determination- the will to win; the heart for courage; the hooves for speed to run the race. barbaro wins!Barbaros wins the 2006 Kentucky Derby!

Only one horse is actually buried at the racetrack- Barbaros. His story is one of great promise- after winning  the 2006 Kentucky Derby, he was considered a shew in for the Triple Crown. He did not- at the Preakness, something terrible happened and he had to be pulled out of the race. I know nothing about veterinary medicine, but the bones in one of his hind legs had to be repaired in more than 20 places, then became infected- the condition he had was a death knell.  His surgery is still groundbreaking and provides useful information for those who care for horses. Barbaros lived for 8 months afterwards- his head and his heart- his joy, courage and determination never flagged, until  the last two days of his life. When that light went out, his owners and veterinarian knew he was suffering terribly and could not be saved. His grieving owners gained permission to bury Barbaros at Churchill Downs and commissioned Alexa King of Lexington, Kentucky to create a life-size bronze of Barbaros. Look at the above photograph of Barbaros winning the Kentucky Derby! All four of his hooves are off the ground! The bronze that Alexa King created is a gorgeous engineering marvel! Look at the opening photograph and you will see the 1500 pound lifesize horse has all four feet off the ground! The sculptor also managed to capture Barbaros in action, in spirit and as the guide pointed out- even the determination and joy!

alexa king-artist of barbaro bronze statue‘When I mold clay in my hand I sense the movement of a horse!’ Alexa King

At the base of the statue is a quote-

God made me fast. And when I run, I feel His Pleasure’

Eric Liddell

Eric Liddell was a gold medal winner in the 1924 Paris Olympiad. He was dubbed the ‘Flying Scotsman’. He won the 400 meter, which he had not trained to run; against all odds- he won over the highly favored Americans. Like Barbaros, he could practically fly! Eric Liddel was of Scottish descent but was born in China to missionary parents.

While he was being educated in Great Britain, he developed a love of running. God had indeed made him fast. He also loved education and science- he became a teacher and a devout follower of the teachings of the Church of Scotland, with the intention of returning to China, to join his parents in their missionary work. Eric Liddell ran to honor God…eric liddell the runner


‘Seeing we are encompassed by so a great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight and the sin which so easily besets us; and let us run with patience the race that is set before us. Looking unto Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our Faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross…’ Hebrew 12:1-2

to be continued…

You won’t want to miss Part 2! Love y’all, Camellia

www.derbymuseum.org  www.equinebronze.com www.ericliddell.org

Crowning Glory…

 

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To Southern women, our hair is our Crowning Glory…So, it’s a big decision whenever we start to go grey…for redheads or blondes, the decision is not so dramatic- it’s just silver threads among the gold or copper! For brunettes, it can be quite traumatic. Take me for instance…from childhood, my hair was as close to black as you could get and my eyes are this weird shade of green- very light, sort of chartreuse or lizard green…My great aunt Trix- exclaimed regularly…‘Isn’t she unusual?‘ and I never ever thought she meant that in a good way.

When the grey hairs started coming in more regularly than I thought was necessary…a decision had to be made.  Dark hair and dark eyes are a better aging combo than dark hair and light eyeswe start looking washed out. And who wants to look washed out?  That’s tantamount to looking washed up. In the South- looking washed out is almost as scary as that Ptomaine Poisoning our mothers were always telling us we would get if we ate at uninspected places. First, I followed my grandmother’s ancient advice- ‘If you look bad, get a permanent wave.’ I guess I thought if the grey hairs were coiled up tight with the others they wouldn’t be so noticeable- not true.

So amid the unsolicited advice- ‘Get that hair dyed’…and solicited advice from my beauty operator- ‘let’s put a few streaks in it’; I began the transition. I went lighter, had a few streaks put in, I looked like a blonde polecat. Back to the bottle again. When my book was published I was in the frame of mind to look as young as I could. I told the hairdresser to just do it a little lighter than my natural color which was dark brown. Dyed dark brown hair color was a pure vanity decision for the book cover.  Soon, reality sank in, I was dealing with roots. Now, Southerners have an unnatural fascination with our ancestors- our roots…however roots near your scalp isn’t pretty. We may want to know who your people are, but we don’t care whether your string of pearls is real or cultured; nor whether your hair is natural or dyed. The main thing is, Southern girls want to be cultured and real pretty, especially when it comes to our Crowning Glory.

Next- I had a semi-permanent wrench put on it, and I sat for hours with R2D2 foil squares, the pole cat look returned. I started looking in magazines and online, a good many famous people- namely movie stars of a certain age…were going naturally grey. Emmie Lou Harris, Linda Evans, Pierce Brosnan, Jamie Lee Curtis, Helen Mirren, Anderson Cooper, Diane Keaton, Ali MacGraw and who can forget Meryl Streep’s silver locks?

Of course we all know that men get ‘distinguished looking’ with grey hair- I don’t hear those same sentiments about women’s grey hair. To my surprise, there were articles written about ‘grey being the new black’ with stunning examples.

Then, a blogger I truly admire- Vicki Archer, of French Essence-beautifully let her readers know of her decision to go grey. Something clicked when I read her article. I too, was going to go grey. Now, I certainly didn’t want folks to say- ‘well, she’s really let herself go’ or ‘bless her heart she sure has aged’ or ‘she needs to dye that hair’…after all a woman’s hair is her Crowning Glory- it’s biblical. Following the hairdresser’s suggestions, she warned me it would take a long time, I said I was prepared or thought I was. imageA local magazine called and wanted to do a story on my book- I could hardly have a photograph done with ‘roots’ showing! I listened to the ancient voices in my head…‘Once a woman gets a certain age- she can’t wear long stringy hair’…I had a semi-permanent wrench put on and as you can see, I had my hair cut it as short as possible! After over two years…I am finally natural again, I also decided that I missed my hair having a little length to it. When I started blogging the advice was to use a professional photograph, the book cover photograph was the only one I had…but really Darlin’ I need to update-morton tims event 1 004

It’s not a professional photograph and who knows if I will ever figure out how to change it across all media- but I’m going for ‘truth in advertising’.  And I’m gon’ try to keep some color on my face, lipstick on my lips and remember that a smile is the best face-lift. I may be too old to successfully flirt, but can always flatter. I know I’ll never get tired of hearing or telling funny stories. The pearls might not always be real, but you can never have too much culture. No matter what color it is or how it got that way-A woman’s hair truly is her Crowning Glory. For me- Salt and Pepper is the Spice of Life!

Love y’all, Camellia

Mr. Guitar…

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I’m blogging ‘live’ from The CAAS- in Nashville, Tennessee! We’ve been Chet Atkins fans for many years- the smoothest, most talented guitar picker, possibly the world has even known- at least in the country music industry. It is being held at the Music City Sheraton, I have probably seen only 5-6 cars unloaded which do not have guitars! There are 1000 people in attendance for four days of non-stop picking! They call themselves either ‘fingerstyle’ pickers or ‘thumbpickers’– which are styles Chet Atkins made popular. The sessions start at 9 a.m. and go until midnite- without stopping! At any moment- guitarists may start playing, in hallways or stages or meeting rooms! Some are amateur, of course but others are recording artists- who either played with Chet Atkins or recorded with him or that Chet Atkins produced their sounds with RCA. And the folks who attend are not locals, they have come from as far as Australia, Great Britain, Eastern Europe and Asia. There are workshops, collaborations, lectures and of course performances. Gretsch Guitars has a wonderful room, where a team is on hand to sell, adjust or repair and answer questions. Chet Atkins made several guitars famous, but his ‘Country Gentleman Guitar in Gretsch Orange’…is wildly popular to this day.

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You can see Gretsch Orange below and between the black and white Gretsch guitars– I don’t know all of the names- but I do know the ‘White Falcon’ is also very famous. Wallace Guitars has a presence here as do other guitar makers- there is even a prototype of a Gretsch guitar, that is said to be worth over $75,000- you can still see the marks on it where Chet had them make modifications; along with other vintage guitars.

Chet Atkins, also known as ‘Mr. Guitar’, died about 15 years ago- however, one of the highlights for me- was watching Meagan Taylor perform- Chet Atkins was her great uncle and the family resemblance and talent is uncanny. Chet usually told an ‘old corny joke’ when he performed; these live performers are keeping that tradition alive. Now, I am going to share a few of them, but don’t leave Camellia’s Cottage without listening to the song that made Chet Atkins famous… ‘Mr. Sandman’. One of my personal favorites! *at the end of the post.

Here’s two of the corny jokes- One performer said he grew up ‘pore‘ like Chet, but that farmers in his hometown are getting more prosperous now- he told of a farmer that had saved enough to buy one of those fancy tractors- the salesman said- ‘It’ll cut your work in half’– the old farmer said, ‘Well, then…I’ll just take two of ’em’…. Another said when he first started out as a guitar picker, he would play wherever he could, whenever he got the chance- one night he was playing a club and he was real nervous. He ran to the men’s room before he went onstage. When he got on stage he began playing a few tunes but the audience was not even listening, much less clapping…so he opened it up for requests. He saw a man near the stage writing fast and furiously, the waitress handed the guitarist the paper- he hoped he knew the requested song…The paper said – ‘Do you know- Your Fly is Open?’ Nervously, he said ‘No sir, I don’t know that song!’ So, instead he played a familiar Chet Atkins tune… This time he got some applause…he leaned over low and took a bow. Emboldened by the applause, he stood and continued to play another Chet tune…the same man at the same table was writing out another ‘request’… Now, the guitarist was really worried…another tune he didn’t know?? He took the paper from the waitress- this time- not one but two songs on it…the paper read-

‘Your Barn Door is Open!’ and ‘The Horse has Gotten Out of the Barn!??

The guitarist paused and  said, ‘Where do people come up with these songs?’

Oh lordie, we laughed and laughed…Love y’all, Camellia

 

The Pocketbook Project…

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Domestic Violence is real- it is happening in your hometown, your community, even your neighborhood. The statistics are alarming. The truth is, you either know someone, are related to someone, or are someone who is the victim of domestic violence. There are women and children who are living in fear and you may not realize it. Look at the vintage drawing above.

  • has no color, ethnic or religious background
  • the face tells you nothing
  • the price is not shown
  • the level of education is not a factor
  • the clothing may hide the bruises
  •  the pocketbook is partially hidden.

Domestic Violence has no economic boundaries, does not favor a race or color, age range, level of education or neighborhood. You may not see the bruises or know the types of abuse-most suffer from one or more, even all of these:

  • some are mental
  • some are financial
  • some are emotional
  • some are physicalimage

The drawing is a Chanel suit, accessories and handbag from 1926 from a vintage history book of fashion. I was drawn to this particular sketch, it speaks to me. I have known victims of domestic violence. They don’t look different, they look the same maybe even better than most. Know a victim long enough and you will sense or feel-

  •  the fear
  • the dread to go home at the end of a workday
  • the isolation
  • the excuses
  • the entrapment

A victim of domestic violence lives in CHAOS- ‘Can’t Have Anyone Over Syndrome’

As you read this-let me offer a piece of advice – please don’t ask, ‘Why don’t they just leave?’ It’s never that simple, especially if there are children involved. When violence escalates, the abuser blames the victim; or promises the victim ‘it won’t happen again’-shame and fear often drives the victim back to the place of violence. This vicious cycle needs to be interrupted by hope that help is out there waiting.

I am honored to serve on the Steering Committee for The YWCA Purse and Passion Luncheon held in my hometown, which offers shelter, counselling, legal services, relocation and job placements for  victims of domestic violence. I wish there was no need to be on this committee; unfortunately, the needs are great. Most  women who escape do so with just the clothes on their backs, they are in emotional turmoil- often gravely injured, broken and scarred; without doubt these victims are at the lowest moments in their lives.

Hopefully you are asking yourself, what can I do to help? First of all, assess the safety factor for yourself, instead of trying to rescue. Find a certified domestic violence shelter closest to your area. Keep the hotline number with you- or programmed into your phone. If the victim is a close friend or relative, encourage them-

  • to develop a plan by talking to a person they can trust
  • call 911 for help as soon as possible
  • *keep important papers, social security cards, insurance documents, ID, driver license, birth certificates and passports
  • arrange a signal with a neighbor to let them know you need help, ask them to be ready to call 911
  • if a situation seems unavoidable, try to be near an exit and away from weapons
  • teach your children to go to another room, how to call 911, and make sure they know a safe place to go
  • ask your healthcare provider, beautician, co-worker or friend to take photos of your injuries and make sure the photographs are in a safe place

Some victims are so overwhelmed- even the above suggestions are too much to handle. However, just making a plan is often empowering. Ask them to write out:

  • If I need help I can talk to:  add name and phone number
  • If they are not available I’ll go to:   add name and phone number
  • In an emergency I can go to:  put emergency numbers here with 911 in bold numbers
  • The hotline or number for local shelter or safe house
  • Keep this information on hand.

Making a plan is often the first step a victim takes toward escape. If you do not know a victim of domestic violence- you still can help.  Here is the Pocketbook Project:

What’s in your handbag?

  • Wallet?  Donate as much as you can to a local certified shelter, regardless of the size of the donation every bit helps. If you shop on Amazon- look for the banner, Amazon Smile– which donates a portion of every purchase you make to the charity of your choice- Mine is YWCA Central Alabama!!!
  • Tissues? Every shelter needs paper products! It is amazing the amount of paper products women and children need
  • Comb or Hairbrush? The next time you go to your beautician, give her the hotline number for your local shelter- so that she can have it on hand. Beauticians are often the first to know if a woman is being abused.
  • Medications? Let this be a reminder that your healthcare provider is also a resource for identifying victims of domestic violence- again, ask them to display or have on hand- the names of local shelters and a plan of action. Healthcare providers take seriously their responsibility to report suspected abuse.
  • Cosmetics? Women leave home with the clothes on their backs- sample or full size cosmetics could mean the world to a person trying to regain her balance. Cosmetics are vital to self esteem and when it is time to go for an interview- indispensable.
  • Paperback? Volunteer to read to a child in a shelter while their parent receives counselling and legal services
  • Cellphone? Call your local shelter or Certified Organization and ask how you can help.. Even cellphones which are no longer in use, can be re-furbished; with a gift card or phone card- these cellphones can be the difference between life, injury or death for victims of domestic violence!

Your very own Pocketbook Project can mean more than you could ever believe…


‘Every woman deserves a purse of her own.’    Susan B. Anthony

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Let me tell you about Purse and Passion’s- Our Place, since it was founded in our small county in 2009, we have been able to provide legal assistance, court advocacy for more than 5000 victims! And we have provided safe shelter for close to 500 women and children. In 2015, Our Place, the only certified shelter for victims of domestic violence in our county provided:

  • shelter for 86 women and children who were no longer safe in their homes
  • provided legal services to 66 victims
  • guided 449 victims through the complex legal system with our court advocacy program
  • provided support groups for 18 women and children
  • as a bonus program-Prom Dress Giveaway which often helps identify at-risk teens we provided free prom dresses for 20 high school girls in need.

All funds raised at our Purse and Passion Luncheon remain here- in our hometowns! We provide:

  • case management and crisis counselling
  • food and re-housing assistance
  • financial literacy programs (this is different from not knowing how to read- it is knowing how to manage money)
  • community outreach
  • healthy relationship education
  • and free legal assistance.

Wow! That’s a lot! Right now, we are working very hard to raise funds for our Annual Purse and Passion/St.Clair Luncheon which is our only fundraiser. The needs are great, our people are so generous and amazing. If you do not have a local organization- Go to: ywcabham.org to find out more! We simply could not do this without the ongoing support of YWCA Central Alabama! You do not have to live in our area to help. A special thank you to my dear friend Elizabeth, who lives in New York- yet donates to Our Place! Her help and your help saves lives. Please remember –

 A house is not a home unless everyone inside is safe.

Love y’all, Camellia

*This is Camellia’s Cottage- post #100, the longest post offered thus far. To honor that milestone- it had to be something worth reading, thank you for stopping by. If you or a loved one is a victim of domestic violence please know our hearts are with you and that there is help, you can start a new life. The blogging community is doing a wonderful job on highlighting emotional and mental health issues, we honor them, as well as WordPress, who gives the space, the platform to bloggers to speak their minds and hearts..

*C.H.A.O.S – is a phrase I first heard on a wonderful website for homemakers- flylady.com

* ‘Fashion in History- Apparel in the Western World’, 1970 by Marybelle’s Bigelow- San Diego State College.

Amazon Smile – with every purchase you make from Amazon.com, a portion of your purchase will go toward the charity of your choice!

Funny Habits…

Today is my mother’s birthday-you’re not supposed to tell a lady’s age but she was  born in 1929, the year of the Great Depression. Her name is Betty Gene– after Dora Eugenia Holmes, my great-grandmother that suffered from melancholia and my grandmother, Betty Jo, who was one of the funniest women I’ve ever known, not to mention a formidable cook and housekeeper. Mother was a darling child- green eyes, one a shade darker than the other with light brown curly hair. She’s had a dramatic flair ever since she was entered into a ‘Shirley Temple Lookalike Contest’ and actually won 5 Shirley Temple Dresses! Mother is funny- she inherited the funny bone from both of her parents, yet I would say her humor is very much like my granddaddy’s. The truth is, we all like to laugh. This is Mother with one of her granddaughters and my beautiful and funny sister. Aren’t they darling?IMG_0660

A few years ago, for a Christmas party- we got up the program, as we like to say…That year, my husband agreed to play select tunes on his guitar and as a surprise for the guests, we planned to dress up in some sort of costumes. We  knew the leader of a local drama club who would loan us some costumes. Turns out all she had were the nun’s outfits or habits from a play she directed- ‘Sister Act’– which was widely acclaimed here in town then resulted in a special performance at the Ritz Theatre. Our long tall brunette friend Vandella, who can sing like an angel with a blue dress on- wanted to sing back up for my husband. She recruited me to join her. Vandella said we would be his backup singers called- the ‘Two Bad Habits’. We had a big laugh over that one, since his personality is like Andy Griffith-he just doesn’t look like him. IMG_0596

Unbeknownst to us, two other Bad Habits would be joining us, live and in costume. While the guests were milling around the buffet table and swinging around the punch bowl, one of the hostesses was gathering everyone up for the entertainment. They had been told to be prepared for some Chet Atkins style Christmas carols with a reading of the Christmas story at the end if someone would volunteer. Softly the guitar music began to play- ooh’s and aah’s all around…Vandella and I were hovering in the wings waiting for our dramatic  entrance. Vandella was saying- ‘You go first Camellia and I said ‘no’.  When our musical cue, ‘Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree’, started up- we walked out- to quite a good reception, I have to say. We announced ourselves as the Two Bad Habits, then rocked around the room in our nun’s habits… Vandella can carry off almost any style because of her height- I looked like one of the Von Trapp nuns…not the cute ones either. Vandella could put Patsy Cline in the shade. We did another number and right in the middle of the tune, a third Bad Habit eased out- this time it was funny ol’ Will aka Mother Superior Willa Deen– who continued rocking on with us- to bursts of laughter.

The guitarist was in full mode- barely paying attention to anything except his music; though when he heard a commotion behind him- he turned, didn’t miss a note, just raised an expressive eyebrow and nodded at the New Bad Habit, Mother Superior Willa Deen in horn rimmed glasses, singing and shaking the mistletoe in the rafters, off key. Howard, an ex of Vandella’s had been circling the eggnog bowl one time too many, though we now think he had arrived slightly imbibed, but hey it was Christmas! Howard joined the music- just about the time another Bad Habit came out dressed as a novice in all white- I looked around and it was my. Mother. !!! Looking as innocent as a jaybird.

She had her hands stuffed in the middle section of the novice outfit. Mother Willa Deen cleared his throat and said ‘Now, before we sing ‘Away in a Manger’- I’d like to introduce a new member of the Abbey, Sister Magdelena…she came to us in a time of great need.’ He turned to my elderly Mother. She bowed her head and said- ‘I’m so thankful they’ve let me in…I’m pregnant.’; she pulled her hands out of her habit and made like she was rocking an invisible baby.

Vandella and I missed more than a beat…we missed whole chords! The crowd was laughing and my Mother was beaming like one of the angels on high. Right up there with Howard, high as a kite by now, from that weak eggnog I guess.  Mother stole the show! Unforgettable…

On into the summer- we planned another, more sedate gathering… loads of people were there. We were all going to be on our best behavior. Even Vandella’s  ex-Howard,  arrived in a starched suit and tie. Over by the peach and apple fried pies, Alabama home grown figs and cheeses, tea sandwiches fit for a king-Howard sidled up to Mother. She greeted him in her own gracious manner- so sweetly, so lightly, saying ‘Now, do I know you?‘ Howard had  a bad habit of falling in love with the wrong women, and he had fallen in love with my mother at the Christmas party….he said ‘You don’t recognize me do you?’ looking crest fallen. Someone said ‘Now, Betty, you remember Howard- from the Christmas party don’t you?’ I was unaware this was transpiring- all the way in another room. I heard an outburst of laughter…Vandella came around and said ‘Your mother is a hoot! She just said, Howard, I  guess I didn’t recognize you, sober!’ Oh lordie… what would she think of next?? Mother went on to do a bit part in a commercial, she marched across a field of hay with her pocketbook.

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We’re all thrilled she’s doing very well after hip surgery in the winter, a short bout with anemia recently, but has bounced back and says she can’t believe how good she feels! She has a habit of being cheerful and getting into some ridiculous situations too! So- to honor my beautiful and very humorous Southern Mother’s Birthday- please- share a link to a funny post you have written or a photograph you think she’d love– for Make Me Laugh Monday! I promise I’ll share them with the birthday girl!

Love y’all, Camellia

*post your links in the comment section! thanks!

A Doctor’s Excuse…

Today’s WordPress assignment on ‘Everyday Inspiration’ is to write a letter to anyone living or dead- my choice.  For several hours I suffered writer’s block- there are so many notes of all kinds that need to be written, right here from my desk- not the blogging kind, the real- handwritten-signed-sealed-stamped-taken to the post office kind! As often happens when I am stuck- something weird keeps running around in my head, if I can’t get away from it- I just go with it. What I need for today’s assignment is a doctor’s excuse! Then I remembered Winston Churchill’s Doctor’s Excuse- in Prohibition America circa 1932. He had been hit by a car near 5th Avenue in New York City- ‘very near squashed like a gooseberry’ as he put it.  He was taken to the hospital and bitterly complained that he needed ‘chloroform or something’… the something resulted in this note, which he carried with him… You have to love a guy who always gets what he wants…by whatever means necessary…

churchill alcohol letter


I don’t need the same Doctor’s Excuse Mr. Churchill apparently wanted- however I sure could use a good letter for my assignment today!



If you would like to read more about Winston Churchill’s Doctor’s Excuse-

Go to – Open Culture  – one of my favorite sites!

I hope you get a good laugh or at least learn a little something fun! Then look at the edit below!

Love y’all, Camellia

PS- just so the Happiness Engineers won’t get upset with me- here’s my letter to all of you millions of bloggers out there- who suffer occasionally from writer’s block like I did today (my excuse is that I have cucumbers running out my ears that need to be pickled or something- and a young lady and her truck drivin’ man wanted my husband to perform a marriage ceremony for them in our living room today- but the trucker got called in on a long haul trucking job so they’re going to have to wait a few days or weeks to get married!( We have folks stopping by to get married from time to time since my husband retired) Anyway, here’s your ‘Excuse’ Letter should you find yourself in need:

‘Camellia’s Cottage Writer’s Block Clinic’ 

‘Dear Readers, Due to a severe case of Writer’s Block- (insert your name) needs an occasional jolt of real life, away from the desk and laptop. Naturally the amount of time is unspecified, however the minimum requirement will be 1-2 days of rest, rehabilitation and reading.  However, (insert your name) should be restored to normal duties very soon. Your understanding and patience is greatly appreciated.

Signed: Camellia,

Director of Writer’s Block Clinic.

Tweet tweet…

EJ Koh@thisisEJKoh 6 Jan 2014

You study, study, study, and at the end, you are lucky enough to discover the greatest gift of education: that you know nothing at all.


This quote- found on Twitter- inspires me. I love to study. I think education is the way out of many of life’s dilemmas. And-I love books. Recently after reading Marie Kondo’s book- ‘The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up ‘. I was doing a fine job of clearing out clothing and shoes. I was even good with getting rid of home décor items, no longer used, no longer wanted, no longer beautiful to me. Then I was directed to clear out books and magazines.

I have an entire wall of books floor to ceiling. Marie Kondo says to bring every book into the same room, then take every book off the shelves, put them on the floor and go through them. Touch each book to see if you feel anything- if any of the books ‘spark joy’. If they don’t? Discard. Honestly I did find some that I no longer need or want, but not many. I went back to the book and re-read her instructions. Ms. Kondo says, no one needs that many books. True. But what I had missed was this- ‘only scholars and authors’. What a relief! I am certainly not fully in either category, certainly not at the level of EJ Koh, Korean poet and translator!

However, Ms. Kondo’s test beyond keeping or discarding is this: keep only the ones that ‘spark joy’ or that you re-read. It is amazing how many I re-read.  I am a lifelong learner. If I am interested in a subject – I study up on it . I am educated but I don’t have the degrees of an educator, unfortunately.

Nowadays, with search engines- anyone, scholars or humble learners like me, can quickly reference any subject known to mankind. Yet with all of my reading and the joy it brings, I have come to the same conclusion as EJ Koh- The greatest gift of education is the knowledge that I know nothing at all.

What I know for sure, is from the oft repeated phrase:

‘We are human beings, not human doings.’

What we do with our lives is not even half as important as what we become.


Love y’all, Camellia

Product Details

The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo

*This post is for Day 7 of Everyday Inspiration- WordPress Blogging University

And this song speaks to the heart and soul of this post! By Alison Krauss- ‘You Say it Best, When You Say Nothing at All’…

My Space to Write Among the Ghosts…

“All Southerners are the great-grandchildren of ghosts.”    William Faulkner

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About a week ago, I started a new Word Press Challenge- Everyday Inspiration. Today’s challenge is entitled ‘A Space to Write’- asking me to write about where I write. When I cleared the space a bit to take a photograph, I was struck by William Faulkner’s quote-

‘All Southerners are the great-grandchildren of ghosts.’

I should frame it, because where I write- I have ancestors looking over me- most prominently- my very handsome great grandfather. I never knew him, he died very young. But every time I made a phone call from my grandmother’s house, Granddaddy Holmes was listening, he was hanging beside the phone, in his suit and bowtie and slickened hair.

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His name was Charles Richmond Holmes, a very distinguished name. He doesn’t haunt me too much, but apparently his arm was cut off when he was run over by a train- he bled out and died on a wagon. They left his arm, not sure if it was the right arm or the left arm, but it was placed on his front porch for some reason. I know it sounds like a bad country music song, but my mother swears it happened. His wife, Granny Holmes suffered from attacks of Melancholia, ever afterward.  Mimi said that you could always tell when a spell of Melancholia was coming on…Granny Holmes would sit on the front porch rocking to and fro- reading her Bible out loud, the faster she rocked, the louder she read- the more melancholy she got. So I guess Charles haunted my great grandmother from time to time. I only knew her briefly, she was really ancient- but I do recall her funeral, folks seemed relieved to see her go. But she did leave me as the ‘southern great-grandchild of a ghost’.Any time my sister and I acted up, or anyone acted down or depressed, Mimi would say- ‘you’re acting just like Granny Holmes.’

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Underneath my great grandfather is a collage of pen and ink drawings with the St. Clair County Courthouse in the middle, surrounded by some of the old homes around or near the courthouse. One is a Bed and Breakfast now and was built by a Probate Judge for his bride when he returned from the War Between the States. He had just one foot- the other one was lost in battle. (This wall seems to have an underlying theme of lost appendages.) There are many stories to be told about the homes and how this collage of drawings came into our possession, but I shall leave that for another time. Suffice it to say, my father in law was Judge of Probate for 14 years and my husband succeeded him in office, after a hotly contest primary, runoff and general election, he served for 20 years and is now retired. The two of them are in the very Courthouse immortalized in the ink drawing.

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My father in law had notecards made from the original drawing and we continue to use them for ‘official’ thank you notes, congratulatory or sympathy cards; so that drawing haunts me, knowing how many I need to write in any given day. I also have a great longing to see that courthouse and the surrounding homes more often- but Backbone Mountain and several miles separate me from seeing it on a regular basis. We are one of the few counties in Alabama which have two courthouses, here because of that big mountain at the tail end of the Appalachian Mountains. The courthouse is said to be haunted, I’m sure it is- a hanging took place there I think; that is one of the hauntings…Anyway, our courthouse has been in continuous use longer than any other in the state of Alabama. It has a long and colorful history- St.Clair County is older than the state. Ashville is the county seat; the courthouse does face south as most old southern courthouses do.

Below the drawings, my Grandmother looks straight at me from a handmade bowl. Her expression is very intense-and it should be, since she was seriously funny.  Most southern women love talking about food. She was no exception- she was an exceptional cook. She is my Wisdom and Food Muse, I can still hear her wise, witty comments. For instance sometimes she says to me: ‘Get in that kitchen and see if you can fix something fit to eat.’ She said that, at the end of almost every conversation I ever had with her- before she hung up- ‘I need to see if I can fix us something fit to eat.’  Mimi is her younger self in the photo-she told me that she always thought she was 18 years old until she looked in the mirror. Next to the bowl with Mimi in it, there is an iron cross which always inspires but particularly on Saturday nights or Sunday mornings when I write my ‘Sunday Inspiration’ posts and was my constant companion as I wrote the four year Bible study which led to the publication of my book, ‘Four Days- the Lazarus Principle’image

My author’s copy sits beside my laptop. The book has many travel stories and other things that inspire me still; number one is: ‘If you can write a book- maybe you can write a blog.’

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Off to the side are two mirrors, one is slightly below desk level- I like a sense of mystery in home design- that’s how the wall ended up before I decided to push the desk in front of it. Above that mirror is my grandmother’s mirror; it is not a mirror to look into unless you want waves and streaks distorting your image, which I don’t. Above that mirror is a silhouette of myself as a child, my hair shape hasn’t changed too much.

The desk I write on- came from a local antique dealer but it’s been at my house so long, it has probably gotten more valuable- or not. The chair I sit in, is shared from time to time with Walter. I don’t think he particularly likes to sit in it but it is a deterrent to my writing when he wants to be brushed, watered or fed. And under the table, on the quirky wall is an empty antique printer’s drawer with tiny spaces for letters to typeset copy. Maybe it is the perfect writer’s wall, now that I think about it. That fat red notebook is stuffed with ideas and things I need to remember if my laptop expires as it is wont to do occasionally. The lamp is a thrift store find, the base turned out to be real pewter; it sheds good soft light. I sit facing East, a very pleasing direction for me, and the ghosts of this Southern girl- face West and gaze at the sunset every afternoon, I hope it keeps them calm and happy. I don’t need them rattling around too often. But I am not lonesome when I write:image

                                                        Walter, our Chief Feline Officer

Now, if you are not snoring or passed out from boredom– I need a favor. Part of my assignment is to ask you, the reader- for writing prompts. Did you hear that?? You are supposed to inspire me! (and you do! just need a little written prompt from you!) I will record your ideas and the inspirations in that fat red notebook – then perhaps I can pass this WordPress Course I am taking. I wouldn’t want to make the Happiness Engineers unhappy.

Seriously, post in the comment section on any media that you find this on -or go to my ‘About’ page and email me through my contact information, I’m on a time frame here- 10 days to go for this!  Your Ideas or what you most want to know about Camellia’s Cottage, as if I haven’t hung out enough family ghosts and craziness since I’ve been writing this! I also don’t want to fall victim to Great Granny Holmes’ Melancholia. I won’t send any family ghosts to haunt you, and your name will not be used unless you want me to publicize you to high heaven- And don’t ever forget this-

I love y’all, Camellia

*All of those less than perfect photographs were taken by me.

 

The Mystery Vacation…

I have been writing personal ‘travelogues’ for over 15 years, hardly anyone has ever read them- so why would I openly blog about a vacation? Most travel pieces are either boring or overhyped. I am not an expert traveler, I will not advise you to ‘vacate your life’. I don’t like the phrase- ‘to go on vacation is to vacate your life’… Vacate sounds like an eviction notice‘you must vacate the premises for 5 days and 4 nights.’ Awful and empty, really. The answer to why I write travelogues or any other writing is because my left hand has loved to form letters and words since I was 4 years old and my right handed 6 year old sister taught me to write; I love to tell a good story and my travelogues help me remember the wonderful, aggravating and goofy things that made life larger not vacated.

This one started out as a ‘mystery vacation’ for our family of 5 adults. We have been taking two family vacations a year for over 10 years. For a good many vacations we would designate the family member to choose, because it was ‘their turn’.Some of the excitement seemed to have gone out of the planning phase. I had narrowed it down to several cities- the replies were- ‘It doesn’t matter, you decide’, ‘whatever you decide will be fine with me’, ‘we have a good time wherever we go’. Answers as breezy and nice as organdy curtains, but with no substance. So… I decided. I booked. Two months in advance-flights, hotel and rental car. Then, rather than tell them where we were going- I began sending out ‘hints’.

  • We will be flying southwest.
  • Our first stop will be Orlando.

No one was guessing, I’m guessing they weren’t that interested.

  • A rental car has been reserved.

First response- ‘I am not sitting on the hump.’ from an adult.

  • Designated Driver has been selected.
  • Board, ski and luggage rack has been declined.
  • We will be staying at a resort and spa.

Second response- ‘Oh good, maybe Dad will give us time to get a massage.’ Did I detect a negative? About 10 more hints, barely a response. I sent this one out-

  • Think ‘Game of Thrones’.

‘Well, I thought I had it figured out until you threw that in’. I was having  a ball, they were yawning…probably thinking …’whatever’. Until. that. clue. Plaintively came the cry? ‘When will we find out what to pack?’

  • Your Dad will be wearing his ‘summer travel outfit’.

They all know what that is- Golf Shirt, with white undershirt, ‘short pants’, tennis shoes and tube socks pulled up to his knees. We did go to Orlando- even had to spend the night, because our flight was seriously delayed and we were going to miss the connecting flight. We decided at the Birmingham Airport that we were not going to allow one day of our vacation to be ruined because of something out of our control. We did make it to the southwest the next day, to a city where the author of ‘Game of Thrones’ lives. No one had to sit on the hump. The offer of massages was declined. Dad wore his summer travel outfit every day.image

A good time was had by all…stay tuned.  Love y’all, Camellia

Find ‘Game of Thrones’ on  Amazon.com