Letting Go . . .Again

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Seven years ago we took our youngest daughter to college about three hours away. Our other two daughters had stayed in town for college. We helped Katie unload her things into her dorm room. We hung around until we knew it was time to let go. We had promised her that we wouldn’t cry, so we gave her silent hugs.

Katie has the most beautiful green eyes. When she was a child, I would see tears pool around the bottom of her eyes before she would cry. After our hugs, she took my face in her hands and said, “Mom, this is the hardest thing I have ever done.” Those green eyes were pooling with tears. I hugged her again, and left the room. I did not cry until I was in the stairwell.

We adjusted to the new situation. Katie was hired at at a hospital in Indianapolis, and she has lived there since.

Katie likes a challenge. She took work right away in the ICU doing a night shift. It has been pretty easy for us to connect with each other, as she has lived only two hours away. Katie loves my big, crazy family, and she would drive down for almost any family gathering.

Katie called me a few weeks ago and told me that she had been offered a job in Denver, Colorado with Donor Alliance in organ procurement. I was listening to the job description, that they would pay Katie to fly out for the the interview, and that they would pay moving expenses if she accepted the position. Katie has wanted to do this for a long time.

Things moved quickly. Katie and I flew out for two apartment hunting days. I was honored that she chose me to come out. Real estate is expensive and there are not many apartments to choose from. Katie found a cute apartment in an old building close to her work. She loves urban living.

It became a whirlwind. Katie packed and had her things sent ahead. She loaded her SUV with everything else, including Molly (Molly and the Dog Bakery) and a friend who wanted to go to Denver. She drove over 1,000 miles in two days. She texted us when she had safely arrived.

Today she texted that there is an IKEA only twenty minutes from her house! She was headed out to find some furniture. She will start work this coming week.

Katie will have a wonderful experience in this job. She will watch the computer for donor matches. When there is a donor from Colorado or part of Wyoming, she will go in an ambulance and bring the donor’s body back to their center, where the transplants take place. If the donor is too far away, the recipient has to be flown to the donor site. She is responsible for biopsying the organs to check for any cancer or defect that would make the organ a bad choice for a transplant.

This is such a great opportunity for Katie. She has managed this long-distance move on her own.  Katie loves adventure, and she will be able to kayak, hike, snow ski, with many other exciting things to do.

I am so proud of Katie, and amazed at how she can make difficult situations look almost easy.

But within the heart of this mother I am saying, “This is one of the hardest things I have ever done.”

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Under the Weather

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Brooklyn_Museum_-_The_Invalid_-_Louis_Lang_-_overallThere has been much activity in our large family and at my school as I finish the year.

In the middle of all the busyness, I have managed to get a pretty nasty cold. I am attempting to rest all day and drink lots of fluid. I even missed an opportunity to see my grand baby, Charlotte, today. That’s when you know it is bad!

I have a few blog ideas spinning in my head (today they actually are spinning!). I don’t have the physical or mental ability to put them down in words today. Thanks for checking into the blog periodically to see what is happening.

I know it’s a while since I wrote a fresh post. I will be back next week. See you then, Grammy Jan

Molly and the Dog Bakery

My youngest, Katie, is moving to Denver, Colorado along with Molly, her dog. She and I are going out this coming week to look at apartments. Katie has accepted a job that she has wanted for a long time. In honor of Katie and Molly, I am reblogging  this post.

Grammy's Life . . . So Far!™ Dedicated to the seasons of a woman's life.

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This is Molly.

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And this is Molly, too.

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This is Katie, playing in the snow one day with Molly.

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And this is also Katie, looking very serious in the British Museum in London. This picture has nothing to do with Molly, but I thought it was a cool picture of Katie.

Molly and Katie have been almost inseparable since the day the Katie brought Molly to her home. Molly’s full name is The Unsinkable Molly Brown, and it suits her well. 

We have all had so much fun with Molly. At the house, she would bark at the broom or the vacuum cleaner. We would take her to the waterfront in Louisville or to the lake in Tennessee, and she would bark at the waves. She could be very cuddly if she was tired enough.

My five-year-old niece calls the pair “Molly and her mother”.

A while back we went…

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Spring Break and the FBI

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Almost thirty years ago, my mom and I were headed to Daytona Beach for Spring Break with my two-year-old daughter, my teen sister and her best friend. We checked in at Treasure Island, a high-rise hotel. When we went back down, we discovered that someone had broken the back window out of my mom’s car. The hotel arranged a rental car for us, and we took Mom’s car to an auto-body shop.

The next day was great. We decided to go over to DisneyWorld for a day before we went to the beach. We were all having fun, but as the afternoon wore on,  Sarah, my daughter, began to run a fairly high fever and we decided to take her to the local emergency room.

Sarah had an ear infection. We picked up the antibiotic and headed back to our hotel.

We were getting settled in; the others were going to eat while I stayed with Sarah and then they would bring me dinner.

Mom and the girls were headed toward the door when we heard a couple stern knocks. Mom cautiously opened the door and we found ourselves facing two FBI agents. Really.

Needless to say, we were petrified. We had no idea what we had done.

The FBI agents questioned my mom about my sister and her friend. They did not believe that either girl belonged to my mother, and they had evidence. To top things off, Sarah was laid out on the bed obviously in a very sound sleep. I told them that she was my daughter and that she was sleeping soundly because of some medicine she had taken. They looked at each other and their faces showed that they did not believe me.

The agents told us that the man from the auto-body shop had called with some concerns. He had found a notebook in the back seat of mom’s car.

Evidently, Jennifer and her friend had gotten bored on the trip, and they began to write this dialogue.

Jennifer began,”She is not my real mom, but you will really like her. She kidnapped me a few years ago, and she has been very nice.”

The other girl responded to this comment without fear, and she wrote back to Jennifer, curious to know how this would proceed.

The notebook contained several pages of dialogue between the two.

In addition, they had both made signs that said, “Help Me”, and they waved them to cars along the way. They left their signs in the back seat of the car when we unpacked.

We were all embarrassed, to say the least. This was before the age of faxes, computers, iPhones, tablets – you get the idea. We were told that we were to stay here until the agents had contacted Jennifer’s friend’s mother to corroborate our story and to get her permission for the FBI to get her daughter’s records from Frankfort, KY. They would also need records for Mom, Jennifer, Sarah, and me. This was going to take several days.

We were allowed to go to the beach, but only directly in front of our hotel, and the agents told us that we were being watched. We were not allowed to drive or to leave the premises.

Being able to be at the beach made the time pass more quickly; however, we were on pins and needles until the FBI agents visited our room several days later and cleared us.

This is one beach trip I will never forget!

Wilmer McLean

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This past April 9th was the 150th anniversary of the signing of the surrender to end the Civil War.

This date brought to mind the unluckiest civilian in the Civil War.

Wilmer-McLean

Wilmer McLean lived with his family in Bull Run, Virginia with his wife and his two daughters. Life was peaceful on the large plantation, until the start of the Civil War.

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Wilmer was a retired military man, and he was a Southern sympathizer. He invited P.G.T. Beauregard to stay at his house and to use it as as a headquarters.

Then came the 1st Battle of Bull Run. Wilmer’s property sat right in the middle of the battlefield. His home was used as a Confederate hospital, and a prison for captured Union soldiers.

When the 2nd Battle of Bull Run started in 1862, McLean decided it was time to get his family out of the area. He wanted to be as away from the war as possible.

He left his home in Bull Run, which was basically in ruins.

He moved his family to Southern Virginia, and he chose a small out of the way town named Appomattox Courthouse.

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His family lived in peace for four years.

Imagine his surprise when a messenger asked if his home could be used for the surrender. On the afternoon of April 9th, General Lee and General Grant sat in his parlor  to officially sign the terms of surrender.

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This time, his house wasn’t in danger in the middle of the battle field.

Instead, Union soldiers took his furniture and household items to have a souvenir of the surrender. His home was in ruins.  He was compensated for the damage to his home with Confederate money, which was now useless.

Wilmer eventually lost his home. He took his family to Alexandria, Virginia, where he lived out his life in peace.

Wilmer was quoted as saying, “The war began in my front yard and ended in my parlor.

He Made It?!?

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My parents’ 57th anniversary is today. Our family has been excited about this anniversary for a couple of weeks. Each anniversary our parents share is so special now.

Well, my dad’s health is fragile, although you wouldn’t know it by some of the things he still does.

He was extremely ill about two weeks ago on a Monday night. Mom took him to the emergency room, where they waited for several hours to be seen and arrived home about 2:00 AM.

The emergency room staff gave him some antibiotic, but declined to admit him because his immune system is compromised, and there are many infectious diseases transmitted in the hospital. They told him to see his doctor the next day.

The next morning, Mom drove Dad to see his doctor, who diagnosed him with a sinus infection. Dad was sent home with more antibiotics.

That evening Dad started to feel better. He told Mom that earlier, when he was so sick, he really thought he might die. He said that he had been so sick that he didn’t think he was going to make it to …… now at this point Mom is expecting some talk of their upcoming anniversary.

But my Dad said that he had been so sick, he didn’t think he was going to make it to watch the next UK game.

Now there’s a fan!

The Winds of Change

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“She stood in the storm, and when the wind did not blow her way, she adjusted her sails.” Elizabeth Edwards.

I love this quote written by the late wife of John Edwards.

Elizabeth certainly had her share of changes, some of them unpleasant. Battling cancer until she lost her life to the disease. An unfaithful husband. Her oldest son, Wade, killed in a car accident.

Louisa May Alcott, a young writer, had a very difficult life. The family was impoverished, and Mr. Alcott had trouble keeping jobs and providing for the family.

Louisa’s quote is this: “I am not afraid of storms, for I am learning how to sail my ship.

We all have change after change in our lives. It is unavoidable. Someone dies, someone moves away. Someone loses a child. Someone grieves that she can’t have a child. Some financial crisis can cause a family to have to lose their home, and maybe they become homeless. Someone gets a diagnosis of cancer or some other serious disease and realizes that they may not make it through.

Although our changes are usually not that dramatic, we still need to learn to grieve something that is changing, and then move in the new direction.

The Bible says in Proverbs 19:21, “You can make many plans, but the Lord’s purpose will prevail.

So, if it is time, adjust your sails in the right direction until the next wind causes you to go another way.

A New Season in This Woman’s Life

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Almost two weeks ago, I turned in my resignation as a teacher. I did not want to, but my health dictated it. I can no longer manage to teach even one full day. This September will be the first in thirty years (other than four years off) that I won’t prepare a room, plan a curriculum, and welcome students.

I will miss the August teacher meetings, when we come together and catch up with each other. I will miss faculty meetings and just socializing during the course of the day with the adults in the building. I will miss the many good friends that I have made. I will miss reuniting with students and hearing about their summers. I will miss chapel and all the special events we have at the school.

The issue is that I still love teaching as much as I did 30 years ago. I love to see children  enjoy learning, to see a child’s eyes light up when he or she “gets it”, and when we have educational fun that everyone loves. I am thinking of history “Jeopardy” as an example. I love hands-on projects. My favorite was mummifying cornish hens when we studied Ancient Egypt.

I find so much satisfaction in a lesson well-taught.

I find myself retired from teaching much earlier than I had hoped.

I am brokenhearted over this change in my life, but I feel like the door to teaching has closed for me. A friend reminds me that He will open a window.

It seems like my life has been changed forever since I had cancer. My future, from my perspective, looks pretty bleak at this point. However, I know that God has, for some reason, allowed my life to be like this. And even though I think it is a mess, He is orchestrating something with my fatigue, pain, and inability to do so many things I used to do. I may never understand until I get to heaven. But I DO believe with all my heart that God’s plan is always best and I am trusting Him in this.

My doctors are telling me to strip away everything but what is helpful to me. I need to get to the pool for therapy three times a week, which I am not able to do because of other activities. At this point, I am only keeping two activities that are simple, (mandolin and Bible study classes) in addition to the many medical visits, PT appointments and water therapy that I need. I will add activities if or when I can. I plan to thrive even though I have a new “normal”. I have some other writing to work on, and I love to sew and craft when I can.

That brings me to this blog. I know that I have been wishy-washy over my blog in the recent past, because I did not want to let “Grammy’s Life…So Far!” go. It takes some time to write a blog, publicize it, and develop a Pinterest board that relates to the topic. I  spend three to four hours a week doing this. I love writing, but I think that I am a better storyteller than a blogger. There may be another medium that would be better for what I want to write. I don’t want to follow all the rules that make for a successful blog; I just want to tell (hopefully) interesting stories and events about women’s lives.

I will not be blogging in the foreseeable future. My blog will stay open, so that posts I have already written can be read or reread. I have enjoyed meeting new people and sharing my life with you.

I am going to make my health my “job” right now and see if I can regain some energy  and reduce the level of my pain.

Thanks for reading and supporting “Grammy’s Life … So Far!” as a follower, visitor, or just an occasional reader. I have had a great time being a blogger!

Blessings to each of you!

Jan Veal “Grammy”

A Copperhead, A Feud, and a Guitar

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Jenny Wiley Park

In my last post I talked about my ancestor, Jenny Wiley.

Well, you can imagine the excitement that my mom felt when they opened Jenny Wiley State Park. Becky and I were about 4 and 6 years old.

We went to camp there. The State Park was very underdeveloped, with only one simple marina and a little stretch of beach for swimming.

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My dad had built a wonderful little white cabin cruiser. We made camp on land with a simple tent for changing, a lantern, a cookstove and lawn chairs around a campfire site. At night we slept in the cabin cruiser. The front of the boat was completely covered in mahogany, with windows that could be opened or closed with curtains.

One evening we returned to camp. We stayed in the boat and my mom went up to get our pajamas. On her way, she saw a copperhead snake. She ran back to Dad and told him we could not spend the night here.

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Dad packed up camp and we moved to sleep at the marina.

We spent the next day there on the water, and in the evening Dad got the boat out of the water, on the trailer, hitched up and ready to go. We were leaving early in the morning. We were sleeping in the cabin cruiser, on the trailer, attached to the car. Dad snapped down the tarp so the the cabin cruiser was protected from the weather.

About 3:00 am, Mom hears noises. She pulls back the curtains to see two drunk men, one climbing into the driver’s seat of our Volvo and the other attempting to get in with his guitar.

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Mom couldn’t get Dad awake. She shook him and whispered, “Where are the car keys”? He mumbled, “On the dash.”

Mom knew she had to take action. “She yelled, “Get out of there!” The men heard her and got out and came back to the boat. Dad opened a small part of the tarp. The men  told Mom that there were men coming after them to kill them. They asked if we would trade our flashlight for a guitar, and Dad said no. Then they asked Dad if he had a gun. “Yes I do,” he replied, although we did not have a gun. The men wanted to trade the guitar for the gun. Dad closed the tarp. End of conversation.

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Mom yelled, “If you don’t get out of here, we’re going to send our dog out there.” Our dog, Cleo, was a basset hound. Her knees were knocking and she had her head up under the back of my mom’s top. Mom told them that there were hunters up at the next campsite, and maybe they could help. Dad whispered, “I think they are going to kill us.”

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As the drunks sauntered up to the next site, Dad opened the tarp and pulled each of us quickly to the ground. He told Becky and me to lie in the the floorboard of the backseat of the old Volvo. He, my mom and Cleo got in the front seat and locked all the doors.

When my dad turned on the headlights, there were a whole group of men crawling on their knees in front of our Volvo. They quickly scattered in all directions.

Dad said, “Hold on. I am going to gun this engine and we are getting out of here.” As Dad began driving, the men formed a chain that went across the road. Dad told Mom that we were going through that line. He sped up and went right through the middle of the men. They jumped back, and no one was hurt.

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Dad drove to the marina to report what had happened. The guard at the marina said, “Around here, we don’t have no law. If I call the sheriff, he’s probably drunk, and many of these guys may be related to him. There’s a feud goin’ on, and we live by the rifle.”

We pulled up close to the marina, slept the rest of the night, and headed out in the early morning. It was a long time before Mom could be convinced to go back to Jenny Wiley State Park!

Jenny Wiley

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jenny Growing up, I listened to the story of Jenny Wiley as told by my Grandmother Lowther.

Jenny lived with her husband, Thomas Wiley, a native of Ireland, who had emigrated and settled on Walker’s Creek, in Wythe, which is now Tazewell County, Virginia. This was where she lived when her capture took place in 1790.

Jenny’s cabin was never supposed to be targeted by the Indians in the first place. She and her family were victims of a tragic mistake.

Tom, Jenny’s husband, was away digging ginseng. A few days previously, the Harmon men had attacked a group of Cherokees and killed two or three of them, not knowing that one of the dead was the son of the Cherokee chief. A party of five Cherokees set out to find the Harmon cabin and destroy it, but they did not know exactly where the cabin stood and they came upon the Wiley cabin instead.

Jenny had been warned earlier in the day by her brother-in-law, John Borders, that Indians were in the vicinity, and that he would like for her and her brother and children to come stay with him and his wife, Catherine. Jenny was a great weaver, and as she had a piece in the loom, she told John that she would finish it and then they would come. Her delay proved to be fatal.

As darkness came over the area, the Indians attacked the cabin, tomahawking and scalping three of Jenny’s children, and her young brother, Batt. The Indians caught the cabin on fire and destroyed everything.

They took Jenny, her 18 month old baby boy, and Tom’s hunting dog. They headed for the Ohio River. They followed Jennie’s Creek and the fork of the Tug to  the river. As soon as the others heard, a rescue party was sent, headed by Matthias Harmon. They followed tracks for three days, but had to turn back when there was a thunder storm that blinded them and the Indians began to travel in the water, leaving no tracks.

Jenny’s young baby became trouble for the Indians, and they killed him by dashing out his brains against a beech tree.

The Indians traveled along waterways until they reached the Cherokee Fork of Big Blaine Creek, and they sheltered under a ledge of rocks. They stayed here for several months.

It was here that Jenny Wiley gave birth to a baby boy. The Indians were very kind to her, but when the boy was three weeks old, the Indians wanted to test him to see if he would be a brave warrior. They tied him to a flat piece of wood, and slipped him into the water to see if he would cry. When he screamed, they took the newborn and dashed his brains out against an oak tree.

The Indians traveled on with Jenny, to the waters of Mud Lick, down its mouth, where they formed an encampment. Several settlements were being made on the headwaters of the Big Sandy (the river that crosses between Kentucky and West Virginia on I-64 today).

The Indians decided that it was time to kill Jenny Wiley. One night they tortured and burned to death a male captive, and they were in a frenzy to burn Jenny at the stake. All preparations were made and a fire was lit, but in a few minutes the Cherokee chief stopped the fire because of Jenny’s bravery.

The Cherokee chief offered to buy her to teach his children how to weave. Up until this time she was slated to marry an old Shawnee chief to be his “White Squaw”, but he deferred to the Cherokee chief and Jenny’s life was saved.

She was reduced to the most abject slavery, carrying wood, water, and building fires. They kept her bound with deer leather when they were away, but sometimes allowed her to stay without being bound.

mapofjenniewiley'strail One evening, when all the Indians were away from camp, they were late and did not return by nightfall. The rain was falling and the night was intensely dark, but Jenny made her way and set out to escape and return to her family. Her dog, who had followed Jenny from the beginning of the trip, joined her, but she waved him back, fearing that his bark might attract the attention of the Indians.

Jenny traveled to  the Levisa Fork of the Big Sandy River. She reached the mouth of the fork at dawn, and could see some men working near John’s Creek. She called to them for help. They did not have a boat, but rolled some logs into the river and tied them with grapevine. They crossed to get her, and as they were about halfway back, the Cherokee chief appeared at the bank with her dog. He called out, “Honor, Jenny, Honor” while striking his chest, and then he and Jenny’s dog disappeared into the forest, not to be seen again.

She had been away eleven months, and her husband assumed she was dead. But she returned to him after a couple days’ rest.

They were reunited and had five more children. They moved to the mouth of Tom’s creek and settled near the Levisa Fork of the Big Sandy.

I am related to Jenny Wiley: she is my sixth-generation grandmother. Jenny had Jane (Williamson) , who had Isabelle (Perry), who had Amanda (Cobb) who had Lucy(Roberts) who had Velma (Lowther) who had JoAnn (Speas) who had Jan (Veal). Me.

White Squaw, the Story of Jenny Wiley by Arville Wheeler, is a book for upper elementary children. White Squaw Dark Hills to Westward, by Harry Caudill, is a detailed account for adults. It does contain some disturbing descriptions of Indian torture.DarkHillstoWestward