Archive for local news

Unnatural Fireworks

Unnatural Fireworks

July 5, 2013 | Leave a comment


The noisy booms from the sky, streaks of color lighting the clouds,

Yes, it’s the fourth of July, but Mother natures rules this year.

The tiny creek is a raging river, littered with trees, bird feeders, toys.

Our grave driveway is underneath the water that blocks the road.

My dad worked at the Tennessee Valley Authority when I was a kid.

Their job was to try to manage flood control. Where there were floods,

We went to photograph, special phone numbers told river levels.

We filled out charts in the days when a main frame took up a room-did one thing.

It’s in my blood. Two of my sons son and two friends sloshed up the road.

The water running down what used to be roads, way to deep to be safe.

Taking videos, pictures, laughing, giving up on umbrellas, soaked to the skin.

Though we laughed, it was muted, somber. We knew why the yards of mud came.

Our mountain city is obsessed with getting rich people from other places to come here.

Strip the vegetation so they can “see” from houses we couldn’t dream of.

We shout to no one, “GO HOME!” CLEAN UP THIS MESS!” But they keep coming.

The collapsed retaining wall and 8 feet of lost land are somehow “our” problem.

I know how the native Americans felt. For “white folks” we’ve been here a long time.

The 1780 US Census lists us in this county, by 1840, we were on this road.

We have lived in this house 5 generations and now my kids can’t afford to live her.

Something is really wrong with this. It used to be a quiet farming community.

I can’t help it, I am mad. I know good people have come here too.

For all the greedy developers, mostly bankrupt before to long, I have one message,”Go the heck home, glare down on your “lessers”, ruin their land, build mansions, ruin the land,

and don’t forget to take pictures of w=what life was like before you ruined it for them.

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Earth Day, 1969-2013

I remember the first Earth Day. I was in Junior High, in the downtown area of my city for the first time, my generations first step away from our neighborhood elementary schools. It was the year schools were integrated in my town. How excited we were, to be part of this first Earth Day, we were the “babies” of the “hippie” culture and were anxious to be considered part of the idea behind Earth Day-cleaning up the environment, getting back to home gardens and self-sustaining ideas. Of course at our age, our ideas were limited, as the concept of waste and growing up in a throw away society was our world.

We had just begun to think like adults, have our own ideas and concepts. This is one of the very first days I remember with my mind in an “adult” format. I will never forget it. In celebration of Earth Day, our art class went out and sat on a grassy bank in front of our school and were told to draw pictures of what downtown looked like. I am sure there were kids who were just glad to be outside, but for me, sitting on that hill drawing a picture my perception of the small city was eye-opening. I had lived there all my life, but for the first time, I REALLY looked at my city. I noticed the huge church next door with the domed roof, I looked out at the dogwood trees blooming on down the hill on our school grounds I looked back at the small chipped-rock playground where “recess” and P.E. were held.

Suddenly” my city” became more than simply “my neighborhood. There were still rows of 20’s era building lining the streets beyond the school. There were woods and grassy areas behind the area where the old brick school building set. A red brick wall divided our school grounds from the street below. s I took this all in, the world seemed like a much larger place for the first time in my 14 years of life. i noticed a possibly homeless man wandering the sidewalk beyond the school. His clothes were old and tattered and he appeared to be rather unaware of where he was or in what direction he was going. Having grown up a protected only child who spent her time shopping uptown with my mother, I had given little though to life outside my safe urban world. There were no real “malls” in my town, a few “shopping centers”. No drunks staggered down the streets where I lived. Being “Homeless” was something that happened “somewhere else”, not in my town.

We had a speaker on that first “Earth Day” that introduced us to the concepts of taking care of the world we lived in. In 1969, the world was beginning to seem much smaller and it was happening very quickly. I could not imagine, at that time, how quickly those changes would take place. There were three black and white channels on TV, huge, unsightly receptor antennas stood on top of our homes to bring them to us. Telephones had dials and curly cords. No one that I knew had a microwave, although, I imagine some of the “rich” kids” did. Most moms didn’t work unless they “had to” or at least until their kids were old enough to get off the bus and stay home alone until she got there. Now, letting even a 14 year-old come home to an empty house gives moms an uneasy feeling. I lived in a very innocent world.

There were many more Earth day celebrations in my future, all in an increasingly frightening, yet more aware world. We planted trees, cleaned up river banks, volunteered in homeless shelters. We became aware of the world around us. Sadly, the opening of the door to the fact that we MUST start taking care of our world, was the beginning of the end of the innocent world I grew up in. The old brick Junior High was torn down the next year. The hill was leveled, along with the woods and playground. An interstate now “by-passes” the tunnel through the mountain, which long separated my side of town just as the high bridge across the river separated us from the other side of town.

Integration was the rule and we were at its inception. The concept of Middle School replaced Junior High. There were several big race” riots in the remaining years old my secondary education. Surprisingly, I don’t remember having problems with people with different colored skin. I do, however, remember that though we went to “same” schools, we rarely did things with children who were of a different color form u, or from a different part of town. Earth Day songs played by John Denver Appeared. The whole concept of saving our world from pollution and saving our poor from deprivation became a project for various civic groups.

Earth Day, in 2013 is very different from the first Earth Day. The focus, has ironically returned to its roots, but it is now organized, with special events, a more modern focus. As I talk to my grandchildren, who are still young, and to my teen, who is the age I was at earth Days inception, their world is already a much bigger place. News spreads fast, violence is everywhere, most moms have to work, cable TV, cell phones, technology in general are a part of their world from the time of their birth.

Still, I feel something very important is missing from their more protected, more violent, more technological world. There is an expectation of “things”, there are less moms fixing dinner for the family as they talk about how their day went. The is a lack of innocence, a lack of closeness and dependence among each other in families that to me is simply sad. Everyone is in their room playing with their ipods, ipads, computer games or watching recorded programs from Cable TV. They are not together, not reading books to the little ones at bedtime, not growing up appreciating the bonds of family or the importance of relationships with real people.

I would like to see Earth Day become part of a new trend towards family, community, doing things because they are right or good, rather that to get extra credit in school or bragging rights at the office. I would love to spend a day, heck a lifetime with my children and grandchildren able to savor the simple things in life, like sitting on a hillside drawing pictures with a pencil and table. My daughter, now the mother of two, won a regional prize or a report with the topic, “We must learn to ‘baby’ “Mother Earth”.

Today, I feel a good topic would be, “We must learn that ‘family life’ exists beyond electronics”.

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Meeting the President

President Barak Obama speaks about jobs and manufacturing while visiting the Linamar Corporation plant in South Asheville Wednesday afternoon. (John Fletcher 2-12-13)

We live in Western North Carolina, and it seems that President Obama has fallen in love with our beautiful area and it’s tasty Barbeque.  Last week President Obama made a visit to the new manufacturing plant where my son works.  When the Secret Service rushed the employees though a surprise question of “Do you want to bring a guest?” and my son, caught off guard said, “I don’t guess so..” and the Secret Service had moved on before he had time to think of how much it would mean to “old Mom” to meet the President. I didn’t get to go.

My son works at Linamar, a new Canadian based plant that makes engines for various companies. Last spring, he heard about a new plant moving here that was looking for machinist.  The local community college offered a course,in order to train prospective workers.  My son quickly signed u for the 3-month course,applied fro the job, and since he already had an Associates Degree, he was hired the next day!  When Obama chose Linamar as an example of new companies, even from other countries, beginning to take an interest in coming to the US where there were well trained workers looking for jobs, he chose Linamar as a great example of what determination to get a job , willingness to work and take classes to get the job and dedication to your career could do.

My son (with our family’s help in babysitting) made sure to take advantage of an opportunity to further his eduction,never missed a class, filled out an application and was hired quickly and has worked 6-7 days a week , 2nd shift to get his machinist job with good pay and benefits. There are opportunities out there for jobs that pay a living wage if you are willing to go back to school and possibly work something other than second shift, at least to start with.  My son’s experience gives us hope in knowing that showing up a at work, having a good attitude and  working hard to learn everything you can still pays off in this country.

My son appeared in the local newspaper right behind President Obama.  It wasn’t a great photo of my son, but if you know him, you could tell it was him.  His kindergarten-aged son got to show off a picture of his daddy with the president.  My son got to shake the president’s hand, and even though he isn’t “Obama fan” like I am, he was honored to meet the current President of our country.

Our newspapers website is:  His photo appeared on the front page on Thursday, February 14, 2012, if you would like to see it.

Though a politician often takes some flack for “spending tax payers money” on such trips. That has some validity. still, I think it helps to highlight the opportunity our country still has to get an education, work hard and move up in life. Most do not, have this opportunity and few ever will . I am proud of my son and thankful to have been given the good fortune of being born here and living in freedom.

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Flowers in Winter

It has been another mild winter here in the Southern Appalachians. The weather has been fickle-as it always I. Listening to the weather report is a bit like reading your horoscope. Still as I walk through my garden, through yards and fields, I have seen many blooming flowers and budding trees. I am afraid that we are heard for another year of an early spring an a late frost, which often damages some crops beyond repair.

This week, I n clumps of tiny bluets growing in my son’s yard, along with patches of small white flowers. In my own yard I ha e seen a dandelion,yellow crocus and paperwhites in full bloom. shes us when we somehow manage to skip it!My bridal veil bush has swollen buds as do many other early blooming bushes.

I don’t have many strawberries this year, my health prevented me from doing a lot of gardening, but last year, their blossoms were killed by a late frost, along with apple blossoms and many flowering scrubs.

As much as I look forward to spring, I know that mother nature expects us to have winter first and often punished.

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How do I reblog an article?

I would like to reblog an article I wrote previously about an organization that helps save the lives of young athletes. How do I do this?

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Vance Birthplace, Weaverville, North carolina


Inside Vance Birthplace Historical Site, near Weaverville, N.C.

Zebulon Vance was the Civil War Governor of North Carolina


The slave cabin at Vance Birthplace, near Weaverville, North Carolina


Inside the upstairs bedrooms at the restored Vance Cabin,

Weaverville, North Carolina

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Grafitti Match

Grafitti Match

On what was once a beautiful overlook near the Blue Ridge Parkway, the rock outcroppings have given way to psychedelic graffiti.This is such a shame, but my young friend make the best of it by blending in with her multicolored outfit!

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Late Summer at Fowler Farm


I reluctantly went skeet shooting with my husband and son today.  Not to shoot-just to observe. Sitting alone at home when I want so much to spend every minute I can with him before school starts was just too dismal.

We drove to the next county, which borders with Tennessee to a place called Fowler Farm, to skeet shoot.  I was promised beautiful views and possibly a stop at a summer tomato festival somewhere.  Instead,  after quite a long drive through typical Western North Carolina rural areas, we arrived at a modular house where the skeet shooters pay, and pick up their shotgun shells and earplugs.

I was more interested in the wildflowers and mushrooms on the trails between the eleven “stations”, where participants shoot at four or five psychedelic ceramic skeets from
Different angles. My son showed me several beautiful mushrooms, red, yellow, clusters of creamy white, as we walked along. I was nearing the edge of the four-wheeler type path, looking at flowers, when my husband whispered, “Stop, I see a snake.”

Of course, I immediately stopped. He pointed to the edge of the path, not a yard from where I was standing, and a snake was holding up it’s head, as if sniffing the air.  My son was beside me, holding my sleeve, when my husband whispered, “It’s a Copperhead, be still.”

He got a shell, put it in his shotgun and started to aim at the snake. Me, ever the photographer, especially a nature photographer, said, “Wait-let me take a picture before you kill it.” He looked at me as if I was crazy as I angled into position and took several pictures. “Okay, “ I said, “Go ahead.” He did-perfect head shot-the thing didn’t make another move. It was about 30” long, large for our native copperheads. I took several more shots, and we went on.

My husband told a man who worked there where the snake was, and he went to collect it. Believe me I didn’t look for near as many mushrooms and wildflowers at the edge of the trail for the rest of the “adventure. When we got back to the registration building, the owner had the snake in a cardboard box.  Someone wanted to skin it and tack it to his shed. Its tail was still moving, although the head was not.  I took another shot with my camera.

We didn’t stop anywhere but a gun store on the way home, but the copperhead gave us plenty to talk about.  I did manage to sneak in a few butterfly shots at the registration building, looking very carefully at where I stepped. What a mother will do to spend time with her son before school starts!

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French Broad Chocolates hosts an Open House


As someone who doesn’t go downtown a lot, it took  the  grand opening of the French Broad Chocolate’s new Factory at 21 Buxton Ave. in downtown Asheville, North Carolina to change my mind! I read about it in the Asheville Citizen-Times Newspaper and decided to take my teenaged son to the grand opening on Friday, June 29th, 2012.

It was a wonderful introduction to how everyone’s favorite  food is made.  After a brief speech and introduction of owners, Jael and Dan Rattigan, by an officer of Home Trust Bank, a ribbon cutting ceremony was held.  The crowd was then led inside the 4,000 foot factory recently opened by the owners of French Broad Chocolates ( located within walking distance at 10 S.Lexington Ave.) There were free samples of many of the different chocolate bars they create, as well as samples of beers flavored with cacao products made at a local micro brewery and bar which operates next door. Other free snacks and drinks were offered and chocolate bars made at the factory could be purchased.

The owner, Dan Rattigan, took visitors on a tour of the factory, which literally takes the chocolate from cacao bean to chocolate confections right in the factory. This is a first in Western North Carolina, and one of only a few in the country.  I took pictures of Dan as he lead us through the factory and showed us each step in how the cacao beans were processed. The Rattigans get most of their cacao from Free Trade” Cacao farms in Peru. They also own a cacao farm in Costa Rica, which will supply some of the beans.

During the presentation,  Home Trust Bank offered to purchase a piece of equipment needed to make processing go a bit quicker. The walls of the Factory were lined with beautiful photos of the place the cacao is grown, the farm owned by the family and the processes the beans go through on their way to becoming  the product used to make their delicious chocolates. If you are in Western North Carolina, going to taste the treats at  French Broad Chocolates Lounge is a must! Tours of the factory can be scheduled as well as special orders for holidays, wedding, parties and such.

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Parent Heart Watch-How to Help Save the Life of a Young Athlete


My son, age 15

Knowledge and prompt response are the keys to saving anyone with sudden heart arrest.

Parent Heart Watch is a wonderful organization dedicated to preventing the death of young athletes (and youth in general) from Sudden Cardiac Arrest.  I became aware of them after the death of my teenaged son, who died while playing baseball in 2006.  As I searched for a reason why a healthy, active child could die without warning, I found this group and have since supported them.  I ask all of you to do the same. Their website is :  Their phone number is 1-800-717-5828.

I recently became part of a fund raiser “Register to Relax” where supporters simply donate to the organization and encourage others to do so.  It is an on-going fund raiser. Since I get their regular e-mail bulletins, I heard about another campaign to raise awareness of this life or death issue.

I contacted Parent Heart Watch after they informed me of a campaign to give out magnets with information on how to detect symptoms of possible heart failure and steps that could be taken to prevent it.  They sent me 100 magnets, which I hope to give out at schools, churches, and in my neighborhood, along with a letter about what happened to my son. I hope to help them raise money to further their cause and keep other families from going through what our family has endured.

Yesterday, my middle-school student came home and told me that volunteers from a local hospital supported  by Parent Heart Watch had come to his school and given a short (but important) course in CPR/chest compression techniques that anyone could use while waiting on help to arrive.  They told the children how to watch for signs of possible heart issues in their friends. I am proud to support this organization and know that is working across the country to stop these horrific losses.

I can’t help but think that my son would be alive today if I, (or someone there)
had known the information that Parent Heart Watch seeks to teach. Even the information on the tablet-sized magnet could save a life. Parent Heart Watch encourages early detection of possible heart issues and early defibrillation of apparent heart related emergencies.

This is our story. Our son had hit  a great double and  made a steal to 3rd base in the previous inning, but the next player had made the last out of the 6th inning. Our son
had gone to his position in  right field  as the other pitcher and catcher practiced for the last inning. I later heard he had told a team mate after the 6th inning that he didn’t feel good. But, my son’s motto was “What don’t kill ya will make ya stronger,”  He went out for the last inning anyway. That statement has haunted me,

Someone. saw my son grab his head and said, “Is he hurt?”  I looked up and saw him running to me. I began running to meet him.   A few feet from me, he threw up his hands, as if to catch himself, and fell, apparently loosing consciousness. I later found out that his best friend, who was playing second base, had asked him what was wrong, and my son turned to him quickly and said, “I don’t feel good, I’m gonna have to go in”. That was the last thing he said.

It seems that no one on the field knew what to do, even a “nurse” who ran up to us  didn’t immediately recognize that this was a heart issue.  The ambulance, dispatched from a station within sight of the ball field, took a long back road, trying to get the ambulance closer to the field. To my knowledge, the 911 operator didn’t stay on the phone with the parent who made the call. I have seen a lot of kids collapse on ball fields/courts, but have never seen one die, as my son did.  The coaches and parents were most likely in the same category as I was.

I will add that once the ambulance arrived on the scene they worked diligently to save my son. I saw them trying to defibrillate him front the passenger seat of the ambulance.  The emergency room doctors worked on him over an hour.  A chaplain stayed  with us and brought reports from the doctors. The problem was, that time is everything in the case of sudden heart arrest, and it was too late for my son when help arrived.  I had taken CPR many years before, but had no idea that my son  was in arrest.  When he was obviously unresponsive, I am not sure why the “nurse” didn’t think of the possibility of heart issue.
I must continue stressing the importance of early  response in the case of any heart issue. On Parent Heart Watch’s magnet, it lists things you can do to properly respond to cardiac emergencies.  They stress that we must know how to respond to “SCA” (Sudden Cardiac Arrest), which means that a person has collapsed and is unresponsive. Below is a list of symptoms and responses.

(1) The person may have seizure-like activity or gasping and gurgling. (My son developed a “snore-like gurgling as he struggled to breath). This should be recognized a  cardiac emergency.

(2) Always call 911 immediately.

(2) Begin CPR manually immediately. (I have learned that even cardiac compressions to the tune and rhythm of the Bee Gee’s song “Stayin’ Alive” will work in many cases.)

(4) Having a portable defibrillator on site is vital-use it immediately if the symptoms of a cardiac emergency are noted.

My son was 15 years old when he was talked into playing baseball on a league based on groups of friends from different communities in our area.  He had played baseball and basketball for years, but had tired of organized and school related ball and hadn’t played in about a year. Though he had been given “sports physicals” in previous years, he had not planned on playing for school and he asked to wait to have a physical. I agreed.  He was very healthy, rarely getting sick enough to stay out of school.  He used to joke with me about wanting to stay home, Smiling at me and saying, “Can I be absent?”

At the time of my sons death, even national organizations such as the Little League and the YMCA did not require physicals.  They simply had a parent sign a paper that said they knew of no health issue that would keep their child from participating. Even the schools, who did require a “sports physical” did not require an Echocardiogram, which is the only certain way to note heart issues. I do not know if these rules have changed.

After his death, the autopsy revealed my son  had a bicuspid valve, which is relatively common and rarely causes problems until middle age, and may never warrant anything but precautions if one is not athletic. His official cause of death was “viral myocarditis”, which, as the medical examiner explained to mean meant that “an unidentified cold virus got into his heart” and caused the infection which lead to heart failure.

The medical examiner said the bicuspid valve probably didn’t directly cause his death.  People sometimes get virus  and recover within a short time, thinking that perhaps, they had the “flu,“ My cousin had the same condition, but was saved when he had symptoms of bronchitis and an alert emergency room physician noticed his symptoms and was able to get his heart back in rhythm with a defibrillator.  My cousin  also had a bicuspid valve, and though he was in his 50’s at the time, it had never been detected.

The point here is that my son most likely would not have been playing ball if we had known about the bicuspid valve. If he had been allowed to play, we should have been aware of the “Warning Signs and Symptoms of a Heart Condition” as outlined by Parent Heart Watch.

These symptoms are :
(1) Fainting, or seizure during or after physical activity, emotional excitement, distress or startle.
(2) Unusual shortness of breath ,fatigue or tiredness (our son did seem tired, but most teens do not get enough sleep and that, alone, would not alarm us if it wasn’t a lengthy, noticeable tiredness, possibly with the teen saying that they “feel tired all of the time.”)

(3) Chest pain or discomfort or racing heart.

(4) Dizziness during or after physical activity.

Only a year before, a  local 23 year old school teacher that we knew had died in his sleep of “viral myocarditis” after having symptoms of pain in his back and chest the day before. He though he may be getting sick, but had no idea or symptom that caused immediate alarm. To emphasize how common hear issues are in athletic young people, the nephew of my sister-in-law died a day after collapsing on the first during football practice.  He was a 22 year old college senior.

Sudden Cardiac Arrest in youth is not the “one in a million” event that people like to believe it is. It is estimated that around two or three teenagers in every mid-sized high  school have some sort of heart issue which at least should be detected and the parents be made aware of.  Even if heart issues were a “one-in-a-million” crisis, if that one is your one, that is the only one that matters.
Therein becomes the importance of Parent Heart Watch’s other goal-Early Detection of heart issues.

Sometimes, as with our son, there were no early symptoms.  Thus, the importance of early detection of possible problems. The most important test for early detection of possible heart issues is for every teen athlete (possibly every teen period) to get an Echocardiogram, which would show heart abnormalities, such as bicuspid valves, “holes” or weaknesses in the heart muscle, mitral valve prolapse (heart murmur) or other issues.

Please, take the time to learn these symptoms and procedures, whether you are a young student or a retiree.  They  may help save a life. Please support Parent Heart Watch in its efforts to educate the public on this critical issues. Loosing a child has devastated my life, and damaged so many more.  Every day, I think of who my son might have become and of how much he is loved and missed.  You can stop another child from dying.  You can keep another family from going through this hell.  Maybe, in your case, “What don’t kill
ya really will make you strong.  Contact Parent Heart Watch today and get involved!

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