July 24, 2021

STYLIN’ THROUGH THE YEARS

One of the fun things about looking at old photos is seeing how styles keep changing!  I like this photo from the late 1980s because of my wild glasses and curly hairstyle—not to mention the dashboard of Mother’s 1962 Plymouth Fury.  Some friends had gone with me from Columbia to Athens to bring it back to be Patrick’s “starter car” now that he was old enough to drive. 

We had a grand time on the trip over and back, with frequent stops at gas stations on the way back to add water to the overheating Fury. Those mountain roads were like a stress test for the old car, I suppose. It was a hard pull, but the old girl made it!

Now, back to my hair.  Premature gray hair was in my genes.  My father said he had gray hair in his twenties and I followed suit.  At first just a shock of hair in the front turned gray. In college, people were always commenting, “Did you know you have gray hair?”  Of course I knew.  When I grew tired of the remarks I began using a brunette rinse on my hair—not too dark, but covering the gray.  At first, it was just a temporary rinse I used every few weeks.

When I went back to work after my divorce, my Columbia hairdresser recommend shorter haircut and a blonde rinse.  Curly perms were all the rage, so of course that’s what I had.

This second photo was made on the same trip—probably at a Bojangles drive-through.  Notice the hairstyle from the back.  My hair stylist Susan explained that I have cowlicks at the nape of my neck and to disguise that she left a border of straight hair at the bottom.  It’s obvious that I was due for a new “coloring” appointment. 

After moving to Nashville, I continued with the blonde look, but with little curl.  At some point, it no longer seemed like me and I went “all natural.” By that point, my hair was very gray indeed—and no longer prematurely!  Somehow I feel like I’ve earned my gray hair.

July 23, 2021

LOOKING IN THE MIRROR

This was a staged photo of Fletcher and me that was used in our Lipscomb yearbook (Backlog) and later on a college student recruitment brochure. I have always liked this black and white photo’s composition.  We were both on the Backlog staff (Fletcher was Business Manager, I was Copy Editor) and happily obliged to pose in graduation caps and gowns for the picture.

Somehow when we looked into that mirror, our college graduation suddenly seemed real.  Being seniors had been a wonderful experience, and we were feeling confident and certain that the friendships we’d made in college would last. 

For me, mirrors have always been like magnets.  It began with my father.  When he built a new home for us, the long narrow entrance hall had a floor to ceiling mirror on one wall, and there was another large mirror on the wall next to the dining table.  Sitting at the table, I just couldn’t seem to resist watching myself in the mirror while eating and talking. I always told him I liked seeing myself the way he was seeing me. 

Looking into a mirror is very revealing. The mirror image is totally present, but often causes you to reflect on the past or look forward to the future.  In this picture, I felt that the mirror was giving me a glimpse of the future.  There was satisfaction and happiness in finishing college, and great anticipation of going to graduate school in the fall.  

When we graduated that June morning, the sudden realization that this marked the end of our undergraduate life finally hit me.  Yes, we’d always gone home for the summer but we knew we’d be coming back in the fall.  Not this time.  There were hugs and tears and promises to stay in touch. And then it was over. Another chapter was beginning.

Mirrors are less fascinating to me now. A friend commented a few years ago that my bathroom mirror was “very forgiving.”  If so, I’m grateful! 

July 22, 2021

FIRST DAY ISSUE STAMPS AT NIOTA

Niota is a tiny town just a few miles up the road from Athens. It was always best known as the home of the Springbrook Country Club with the area’s premier golf course and swimming pool. My brother Monte was a key member and golfing was his passion. And in later years, Jerry and Marilyn were members and loved playing golf there. 

 Niota gained national attention when its entire local government was made up of women!  They claimed it was the only town in America completely (and officially) run by women. Perhaps they had elected a few men by the time this photo was made. The old town depot had been converted into City Hall and also contained the town post office.

After Jerry and Marilyn’s beautiful daughter Kim died from breast cancer, they worked tirelessly for research and early diagnosis.  When the US Postal Service planned a Breast Cancer Awareness stamp, the Niota postmaster (who of course was a woman) requested that Niota be a site for the first day issue in honor of Kim.  She got the necessary approval and I drove over to join in the festivities.  Area media coverage was excellent and Jerry and Marilyn were presented a large replica of the stamp. One of Kim’s UT doctors (also a woman) spoke and announced a new research foundation named for Kim. It seemed a perfect way to remember Kim.

While there, I browsed around the post office and was delighted to see that a year or so earlier they had another first day issue stamp in Niota.  That one was in recognition of the 75th anniversary of the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment which gave women the vote. Why would that stamp be introduced in little Niota?  Because that was the home of Harry T. Burn, the young Tennessee representative who cast the tie-breaking vote for ratification.  That made Tennessee the required 36th state to ratify and the amendment finally became law.

Seeing that stamp reminded me of my family connection to Harry T. Burn, and there began my ongoing fascination with learning more details about this historic story.  This photo shows me with the grandkids in 2016 at the historic marker for Burn, next to the Niota cemetery where he was buried. 

Niota has some fascinating stories!  That’s what happens when women can vote and when they are elected.  

July 21, 2021

CHANGING FOR VITALITY

This photo was at a small surprise “going away” party the office staff at CENTA Medical Group had for me. I’ve just opened a lovely Waterford crystal hurricane lamp that was one of their gifts.  I appreciated the kind send off and knew it was time to leave.

Being administrator for this growing otolaryngology practice for a decade or so had been challenging and frustrating.  The constant back and forth between the “front office” and “back office” staff wasn’t easy to manage.  And the women in the office often preferred to go to the doctors if they had any issues.  Eventually I convinced the doctors they needed to refer them back to me if they really wanted to have an administrator but habits of many years were hard to break. 

Yet it was in many ways the perfect job for me during this phase of my life.  The doctors were very supportive during the years of Tom’s illness and death and also my mother’s.  They gave me such compassionate and practical advice during hard times. It was also here that I got my first Macintosh computer—and I’ve never looked back!  I oversaw several big projects such as relocating the practice from its longtime office building across from Providence Hospital to a new space affiliated with Richland Memorial Hospital, changing to a color-coded medical record filing system, opening a satellite office, changing the practice name and logo, and developing marketing materials. 

By the late 1990s, I was having some stress-related health issues and experiencing burnout.  The climax was when a consultant friend gave me an executive skills assessment.  When he came to discuss the findings with me, he was very concerned because of my score in one particular category.  My vitality score was ZERO!  Clearly, change was necessary!

With that impetus, I explored other options and took a job (at half the salary I was making) with Pete Cannon.  Working downtown with him on developing a central business improvement district for about two years led me to a wonderful new career in Nashville. When starting the new job, I drove with Steve Gibson to Nashville for our first meeting with the Board there.  I wore the dress that I have on in this “farewell party” photo!  I like the idea of the same dress marking an ending and a beginning.

This second photo was taken on a visit to Columbia a few years later, when I went out to lunch with some of the CENTA “back office” staff.  They’re a great group of women—and I was privileged to work with everyone at CENTA, burnout or not!

July 20, 2021

FIRST TRIP TO DISNEYWORLD

What a birthday these two had in March, 1975!  Three weeks after Patrick turned four and just days before Heather turned seven, we three made our first trip to Disney World.  We’d just gone through an unbelievably difficult year.  We’d celebrated Patrick’s third birthday at Mays Park just a few weeks after Tom had moved out, and since then we had been adjusting to all the changes in our life together.  

I came up with a plan for the three of us to spend a week at Disney World.  I talked to friends who had been there and got some tips.  We would go on Amtrak and I made hotel reservations at a Hilton in Kissimmee. For the night trip to Florida, I reserved a sleeping compartment on the train.  Our friend Jim Buckley drove us to the train which left Columbia at about 10 p.m.  It was shockingly small, with bunk beds.  Heather was sleeping on the upper bunk and Patrick and I below.  By the time we got settled into bed, a terrific thunderstorm began, which terrified Patrick.  We were all somewhat claustrophobic. Patrick cried for hours.

When we got to the Orlando train station the next morning, I found a young man who said he had a bus to drop passengers off at the area hotels for $20.  It sounded like a great deal!  The bus turned out to be a school bus (probably freed up because of spring break), but it was packed and we made the 20-mile trek to our hotel without incident.  On our way, we noticed long lines of cars on the right.  Our driver said they were all waiting to get into Disney World!  We soon learned that there were record-breaking crowds there that week, the biggest spring break attendance they’d ever had.  

Fortunately, our hotel had shuttle buses (which Patrick loudly referred to as “shittle” buses) that dropped us off inside the park.  Otherwise, we would never have been able to get in.

The lines for rides were unbelievably long but we rode those that were age appropriate for Heather and Patrick.  My proudest achievement was successfully navigating the monorail with two little ones!

This picture makes me laugh!  I have no idea why Patrick’s mouth is wide open.  Hopefully he was laughing and not crying.  We enjoyed all the sculpted shrubbery animals like the rhinoceros in the picture.  Perhaps Heather’s continued fascination with rhinos started right here!

When it was time to leave, I went to the hotel office to ask how I could contact my friendly school bus shuttle to the Orlando train station.  They laughed at me and said he was probably just an entrepreneur illegally using a school bus to make some money during spring break.  My only option was to get an expensive cab.  At least we got a deal when we arrived!

The train ride home was much happier!  No sleeping compartment this time.  Sitting up was much more agreeable all the way around.  Eeyore stayed on the pages of Heather’s book—no crying on the way home. Mission accomplished.

July 19, 2021

THE JOY OF SUNFLOWERS

This photo shows Heather and Stacey—two young women from Irmo, South Carolina—smiling in a field of beautiful sunflowers in Tuscany.  It’s one of my favorite pictures from the trip Heather and Patrick made to Italy with a group of friends—including Julia (later to marry Patrick!), Stacey, Dave and others. I was reminded of this photo recently when a straggly plant beside a neighborhood’s mailbox kept growing like Jack’s beanstalk.  Week after week I drove past it and wondered what it was.  A few days ago two sunflower blooms appeared—mystery solved.  However, it’s an image of scarcity—whereas this field in Tuscany has an abundance of sunflowers.  I’m sure Heather and Stacey were very hot standing in that field of sticky plants with insects swarming. Ah, but it’s a lovely shot!

On August 21, 2017, Nashville was in the path of totality for the total solar eclipse. To celebrate with all the grandchildren, I got a galaxy patterned tablecloth, a vase of sunflowers and made special eclipse cupcakes.  This photo taken that morning picked up a bright reflection from a glass platter on the table which eerily resembled the eclipse!  

My favorite artist is Vincent Van Gogh and he certainly had an affinity for sunflowers.  He created at least five versions of his famous Sunflowers painting. These bright flowers seem to be heralds of joy and warmth.

July 18, 2021

WHAT MAKES YOU SMILE?

I like this photo of Rick Perrin and his Cavalier King Charles Spaniel for several reasons. First, it’s special to remember Rick today, which would be his birthday. Also, I like to see him smiling and relaxing in casual clothes at home—a welcome relief for a pastor who usually wore a suit and tie (as was customary back in the 1990s).  Nowadays a pastor is just as likely to preach in a t-shirt, torn jeans and $5,000 sneakers (see PreachersNSneakers on Instagram). The bonus in this photo is the object of Rick’s smile—his beloved Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, in festive attire for the Christmas season.

The Perrin family fell in love with this breed of dog years before and always had one or two of the lovable spaniels as pets. Rick and Barb enjoyed taking the dogs on long walks every morning and they were usually happily underfoot whenever the Perrins entertained (which was often). Somehow their home seemed especially warm and welcoming because of their pets. 

Rick had a great appreciation for his family history, and I always enjoyed his stories.  One I remember was about a great-grandfather who settled in the northwest. After a few years, he walked out on his wife and several young children.  Rick’s grandfather was just a young boy, and in his anger and despair, vowed if he ever saw his father again he would kill him.  When the son grew up, he became a pastor and had a family of his own.  One night during a blizzard, someone knocked on his door and there stood his father.  By that time, the father was a broken man and close to death.  His son and his wife took him into their home and cared for him until he died.  Rick said that by God’s grace, this wounded son who had once vowed to kill his father for walking out on his family was now able to forgive him and to share God’s love with him.  

I hope his sons Tim, Chris and Scott and their children are continuing to share these great family stories—as well as so many good memories they have of their dad Rick. I wonder if any of them has a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel.

July 17,2021

NASHVILLE HONORS JOHN LEWIS

This photo from today’s newspaper shows Nashville Mayor John Cooper greeting Rev. James Lawson today as the city honored the late Rep. John Lewis on the first anniversary of his death.

Last summer we were in the midst of the pandemic and a national climate of protest and anger after the murder of George Floyd by a policeman in Minneapolis in May. So much that was happening seemed to be undoing so much that had been accomplished during the civil rights movement in the 1960s. Rep. John Lewis was battling pancreatic cancer and his frail body was a powerful reminder of all the “good trouble” he had gotten into for the sake of justice.

His first arrest was in Nashville when he (a student at American Baptist College) was one of the student group trying to desegregate downtown lunch counters.  Rev. James Lawson led student workshops on nonviolent protest at First Baptist Church Capitol Hill. From February 13 to May 10, 1960, these students maintained their nonviolent demeanor as they faced verbal and physical attacks and then were arrested. The sit ins worked—and these students kept going as Freedom Riders throughout the South.

Last summer we watched the Good Trouble documentary about Lewis and then a few weeks later watched his funeral at Atlanta’s Ebenezer Baptist Church.  Rev. James Lawson spoke powerfully of those early days of the movement and connected it to the current environment.

“If we would honor and celebrate John Lewis’ life, let us then re-commit our souls, our hearts, our minds, our bodies and our strength to the continuing journey to dismantle the wrong in our midst and to allow the space for the new earth and new heaven to emerge,” he said.

At almost 93, he was back in Nashville today with the same strong message.  He even took time to say that our governor seems to have “a hole down the middle of his soul.” I’m grateful that the very downtown street in Nashville where young John Lewis and those other students trained so well by Rev. Lawson were beaten and arrested in 1960 is now Rep. John Lewis Way.  

In an essay Rep. Lewis wrote shortly before his death to be published in The New York Times on the day of his funeral, he said: “Ordinary people with extraordinary vision can redeem the soul of America by getting in what I call good trouble, necessary trouble. Voting and participating in the democratic process are key. The vote is the most powerful nonviolent change agent you have in a democratic society. You must use it because it is not guaranteed. You can lose it.”

July 16, 2021

ABC’S WITH A STORY

This poster-sized print has a very special story.  Created by an artist who grew up on Trenholm Road in Columbia—just a couple of blocks from the house we lived in when Patrick was born—the whimsical alphabet of angels is “dedicated to all our Angels. . . especially Marian and Daisy.”

Lucy Geiger Stackpole created this poster in 1995, shortly after our mutual friend Marian Westbrook died. Daisy was Lucy’s baby daughter, whom Marian was delighted to rejoice over in her final months. Lucy had a wonderful little shop called ABCs by Lucy in Charleston where she sold a series of her alphabet posters.  Each was sold in a long plastic tube with a supply of colored pencils so that you could add your favorite colors to your poster.  Lucy let me know when this one was ready, and I stopped by her mother’s home to get mine.  I spent a weekend choosing the colors and filling in all the designs—all the while thinking about our friend Marian—and baby Daisy!

Lucy’s mother, Mrs. Geiger, was a remarkable woman herself.  She was instrumental in getting Trenholm Road paved in the 1940s and in establishing Mays Park, which was just across the street from her home!  That lovely park was such a central part of our family’s early years in Columbia, and Heather went to kindergarten there.  

The alphabetical text reads “Angels Behind every Cloud Drifting Endlessly, Following and Guiding, Helping In Joyous Ways, Kindling Love, Making New Opportunities Possible, Quietly Running beside us, Steering us To many Unbelievable Places and Watching over us.” And the beautiful figures of Marian as the angel in the center is holding aloft a sweet Daisy. 

This artistic piece was a beautiful tribute to a lifelong friend.  I had met Lucy about ten years earlier almost by chance. She had come to the hospital where I worked for a job interview. In our conversation that day, we seemed to have a “soul connection” on so many levels. And before we finished talking, we realized we both were friends of Marian!

Looking at this print today, I wondered about Daisy Stackpole.  It seems that she graduated from Belmont University in 2017. A costume designer, stylist, and visual artist, she works in film and photography.  That she is an artist is no surprise!

July 15, 2021

SOMETIMES A GIRL NEEDS A BIG BROTHER

As the eldest of the four Cate siblings, Clifford held a special place in the family.  Della and Harriett, his younger sisters, thought he was the finest, handsomest boy anywhere around and always looked to him for “big brotherly” advice. This is a favorite photo of Clifford with his wife Abbie (left) and sister Harriett (right).  They look so relaxed, happy and young. 

Abbie and Clifford were a real “power couple” in their local farm community.  She was petite but worked just as hard as he did to make their dairy farm successful.  Their days were long and exhausting but together they kept acquiring land and cattle.  All that in addition to raising three sons and a daughter—and then in their forties, twin sons.  

As a young widow with a son, Harriett also worked hard—but in a different area.  She was in retail sales at a downtown department store. But she also found time to sew and help her parents with gardening and canning. 

The energy and determination of these sisters-in-law were phenomenal. Abbie cooked for her family and the “farm hands,” had a huge garden, canned vegetables and fruit, and found time to turn out original oil paintings.  Initially she painted on the reverse side of oilcloth tablecloths. 

Their two households were very different—although they lived on adjacent property. Harriett struggled to make ends meet, while the Cates were more prosperous.  The Cates had a busy home filled with their growing family, Harriett just had her one son. She often turned to Clifford for advice and encouragement.

Years later, Harriett had a most important issue about which to ask her big brother’s advice. A certain widower had paid several visits to her church. His late wife had been a member there and it probably seemed like a good place to meet someone else. Harriett had known his late wife and several of his children had been in high school with Glenn.  When he asked her for a date, she hesitated and told him she would let him know in a few days.  She had been a widow for about 15 years and had really not dated during that time.

She went to see her brother and asked him what his opinion was about this prospect.  “He’s a fine man,” Clifford assured her. “You need to give him a chance.”  Thankfully, she did.  Within another year, she and Arley Eaves married, and two years later, I was born!