The Reluctant Writer

It all seemed so simple when I first retired. At last! I had time to write! Oh what plans I had—

Short story about Dixie Carter’s wedding in McLemoresville, TN. Wasn’t sure what else I might construct a story around, but I started on that one.

A local writer’s group sponsored The Valley Voices writing contest, and I was determined to submit to that group’s competition. Now what could I write that would impress the judges?

And yes, I must start journaling—writing down stories about my experiences as the Public Information Director for a North Carolina Sheriff’s Office. There was this time when a citizen 

Working with Jim Sughrue, Raleigh Police, & Amanda Lamb, WRAL
as Wake County Sheriff’s Office Public Information Director

insisted on telling me about how ticks had infested her yard, her house, her body. And just what did that have to do with crime in our county? I couldn’t wait to tell that story. 

And then there was the time that a grieving mother picketed outside my office window. A sad tale filled with murder, twins being born with the veil, fake detectives, and mug shots drawn in pencil on paper plates. That story needed to be told to emphasize the need for mental health assistance. That mother’s experience lives on in my heart—her story and its effect on me would make for good reading.

But I was new to Blacksburg. My husband had lived here since 1996, but my residency didn’t begin until 2013. So it was off to the Blacksburg Newcomers Club (BBNC) that welcomed me warmly. Oh what Interest Groups they had for me to explore—Wine Group, Book Club (not 1 but 2), Lunch Bunch, eventually Crochet, Walking, and of course, a Writers’ Group, and our Circle Supper where the dearest and truest friends lay in wait for me.

My Circle Supper Co-horts–Me, Bonnie Bunger, Cheryl Green, & Linda Moll

Naturally, I went head first into all the activities, serving on the Board as its Corresponding/Recording Secretary.  Even though the Dixie Carter story sat unfinished on my lap top and the Grieving Mother story rattled around in my brain but not on paper or disc, I told myself that I was writing—writing letters and notes and minutes for BBNC. 

Then my parents fell ill. Literally, my father fell and broke his hip which meant no one to care for our mother plagued with Alzheimer’s.

Ten hour trips to Tennessee with my sister and sometimes alone to care for them, to helplessly witness their decline, their death, occupied my time although journalling about this experience helped. Ok, I was writing. I ended up with some very cathartic memoirs about this time in my life, but who would want to read them?

Here lately, I notice that any time I sit down to write, I find an excuse to do something else. Some days my house is spotless as I clean out pantries, clean bathrooms, read that book for our next book club meeting, clean my jewelry, empty the dishwasher, read FlipBoard—do anything but write. I spend my time chasing butterflies but not writing.

And if I have written the rare story or essay, I am afraid to let it go. It must be perfect! I will delete a the and add a this; insert a comma or rarely delete one (I love the Oxford comma). I move paragraphs, change character names, switch between passive voice (usually a no-no) and active voice (a yes-yes). l am afraid to have anyone read it until I think it is perfect.

But why would anyone want to read what I have written? 

Since I wrote that last sentence, I have continued to procrastinate about writing. Why not take a ride to Paint Bank, VA to see the buffalo at Hollow Hill Farms? Why not make a Texas Trash Pie for my neighbor’s father? Why not organize my greeting cards or prune my daffodils?

But look—words not on paper but on a screen, on a disc! Thanks to my writing friend and blog mentor who encouraged me to examine the reasons for my procrastination, I wrote. You see the results in the text above. Basically, I think, I am afraid, worried I have nothing to say that is meaningful, and no routine. Maybe I need a supervisor, someone with assignments for me. I don’t have writer’s block—I have lots of ideas but no reason to follow through with them.

What motivates you to write, paint, crochet, knit, do anything creative? Am I the only one with these issues? Maybe I’m just lazy.

Friends are essential–my life lesson

I wish I knew who created this poster for it speaks of a life lesson I learned in 1989. I was 39 years old and during a routine physical, the doctor announced I had two heart murmurs. Those murmurs meant open heart surgery, weeks out of work, and out of the kitchen (the least of my worries as “cook” has always been a four letter word for me).  But I would need help. My then husband Danny and my now and forever son took excellent care of me. They loved me, and I soon discovered so many others did also.

My sister, my best friend, Valerie, flew in from Florida to cook (not a four-letter word for her), grocery shop for Pinwheels for my husband, rescue Gershwin (my rescue cat) from hanging on ferns and being gently run over. Never has a sister shown such love and kindness to an older sister, who according to her, had made her wash dishes and clean house as a six year old.

Ok, I was suppose to be baby sitting her, but my friends were calling, my boyfriend was calling, what was a teenager to do? Find a foot stool so she could reach the sink and wash those dishes before mother came home from work.

(Val is in the red dress at the left. Photo courtesy of Phil Williams)

Now that didn’t happen a lot, and I’m thinking there was some embellishment on her part, but bottom line–my sister was there for me when I needed her, always has been, and is my best friend. Val is a keeper. I didn’t realize how much I loved her until that year when she sacrificed so much to help me. Kisses and hugs dearest sister, dearest friend.

Celia Kay Dean Smith, whose name I can rarely even think of without tears welling in my eyes, another keeper. Celia and I have been friends since 1973 when she substituted for me in my 7th and 8th grade English classes. That was my first year to teach, and I caught every cold, every virus, even German measles, thus Celia stepping in to fill my shoes.

And in 1989, she stepped in again. Since our first meeting, we had learned to really like  Riunete wine(our tastes improved with the years), Planters’ Punch, Cosmopolitans; we had browsed art museums, picked strawberries, cried on each other’s shoulders, laughed until we almost wet our pants, and remained close even though she had moved from Milan, TN to Raleigh, NC to Toronto to Barbados to Danville, CA to Atlanta and back almost home to Jackson, Mississippi.

Celia is the beautiful woman on the left. Last photo I had with her.

She, too, had rescued Gershwin from being Tarzan and swinging from hanging ferns but never from being run over. That heroic act we reserved for Valerie. She also cooked, cleaned, and flew miles across the country from Danville just to help me.

Celia was an artist, a realtor, a World Book saleswoman, a mom, the oldest of five sisters, a Grancee, a brain cancer victim. When she needed help, she didn’t want me to come or that’s what I kept telling myself. At the time, my father was ill, and when she was on her death bed, he was recovering from surgery. No way could I go to her. I will never forget the night I received the text from her husband, “Celia is with Jesus.” 

But she was not with me and never would be again, except in my heart and soul.

In addition to Valerie and Celia, my friends with whom I worked at the North Carolina legislature and the NC Banking Commission overwhelmed me with visits, with meals, with fragrant powders and lotions, and lavished me with kindness, with unadulterated love and compassion. Never had I felt such an outpouring of friendship and companionship. 

A cliche but true–no man is an island. All my friends were like Carole King singing “You’ve got a friend.” I have never forgotten those two months of surgery and recuperation. I finally understood how important friends were and how important it was to be a friend. 

I know that family and true friends are really one and the same.


My family, my sister Valerie, and my friend Celia are rare people. They showed up at just the right time, and stayed by my side through the rough times and through the good times. 

And even though Celia no longer walks this earth, she is in my heart and gently reminds me–“Be a Keeper.” May you find your own Keepers and be one as well.