Normantown/Stumptown News – Week of Thanksgiving

I have been asked by some folks affiliated with the Normantown Historical Community Center if I would report on our community’s news and events for the local media outlets, and I am more than happy to do so. I hope everyone in the 25267 region will feel free to send me their announcements, news, prayer requests, community questions, whatever to share. You can send your information to me via Facebook messenger, to my email at ‘hayesminney@gmail.com’, or leave a message on our machine at 304.354.9132.

I am reluctant to suggest calling, because our phone service was a bit wonky this past month. We were unable to receive incoming calls from long-distance phone numbers or cell phone numbers. When someone outside 354 tried to call, our phone would ring about half a normal ring, and then disconnect. If I was lucky and caught the phone right after the half-ring, I could catch the call before it disconnected. Since so many of our friends are 462 or 655 and all my family is long-distance, this was quite frustrating for me. Also, this is not the first time this has happened over the past several years. I was once told by a previous Frontier Communications repair man that the problem is at the hub at the end of Rosedale Road. I’m prone to believe him, since the last two times this issue was corrected, a repair man never came near our house.

Since trapping season started, a local fellow has caught five coyote and one red fox on property on the town side of Normantown Hill, and two coyote and one red fox in the Stumptown area. We have had trouble with coyotes here on the farm in the last few years, and I’ve come to believe we have a pair who mate and train their pups here. Two years ago, I was walking with Daisy (our beagle) and we came upon two full size coyotes and five young. That was the year I began making sure I was prepared for anything when Daisy and I go off for a walk.

Last week, during our walk, I heard a rushing of air over my head, and turned to see a bald eagle fly over. An adult bald eagle is 2½ feet in length and has a wingspan of 6½ -7 feet, and this one was beautiful, wings spread as he flew through the treetops on the hillside, rising and rising until he circled over the hay fields. After surveying the farm, he rode the wind even higher, and within minutes was out of sight towards Russett. I have heard folks say they have seen eagles around Cedar Creek State Park, and since that’s not too far from us “as the crow flies” and the eagle came from that direction, I assume there’s a relation somehow. This is not the first time I have spotted eagles here. This summer, I saw a pair in the treetop on the island in the lake here on the farm. The local heron was quite upset by their presence and raised a ruckus, and within a few minutes, they flew away.

It’s that time of year, and Log Cabin Crafts will be having their annual Christmas Open House Saturday, November 30, 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. This is Deloris’ 30th year of business and she will be open this holiday season Monday-Saturday 10 a.m.-6 p.m. unless appointments take her away for the day. Feel free to call ahead if traveling long distance: 304.462.8341.

In December, Zumba starts again at Normantown Historical Community Center! Mondays and Thursdays from 6-7 p.m., the suggested $5 donation per class goes directly to supporting the center. On December 03 from 6-8 p.m. NHCC is hosting a Winter Paint Party, where attendees can paint a lovely winter scene. The cost is $35 per person and includes art supplies and instruction. There must be 20 people minimum present to hold the event, but there is only room for 30 seats total. A large portion of the profits will support the center.

The Little Free Library at Fred’s Store was recently stocked with books. The mini library is nearly overflowing with adult fiction, young adult fiction, westerns, romances, and kid’s books. Many of the new additions are hard back books, and as of Friday of last week, two Bibles were available. All the books in the mini library are free for the taking, and you can add books as well!

Also, Michael Moore is offering a $500 cash reward to anyone with information that leads to the arrest and conviction of the person(s) who stole a 700 Artic Cat ATV (camo) from the Moore Camp at the head of Wolf Pen Run between September 01 and 20. If you have information for Mr. Moore, call 304.549.4025.

This Thanksgiving, I’m grateful that I have been selected to write for our community. I assume most folks ‘round here know who I am, but if you need to know more, visit Lhayesminney.com. Again, please feel free to contact me with any news or announcements you would like to share.

Back in the Groove

After finishing my graduate work in Creative Writing, I was completely sapped, and didn’t write anything for a good long while. (Except personal letters, I’m a dedicated pen pal.) I share this because several others who have graduated from the low-residency program at WVWC I attended have had similar dry spells.

My personal “writer’s block” was compounded when ten months after graduating, I relinquished a dedicated audience of an average 40,000 readers a month that took me ten years to build. Who is my audience now? Three hundred facebook page followers? Ouch. What next for Stumptown Publishing? What next for me as a creative? As a writer? I had, by giving up the magazine and trimming my personal friends list to develop a professional page following–pretty much wiped the audience slate clean. All I can say is, “It had to be done.”

Three years. Three. Years. Three years I’ve been stuck in a creative impasse. Three years of adult coloring books, crappy writing prompt responses, bullet journal work to prompt something… anything. No sewing, no writing, no physical response to minute flashes of inspiration.

I rearranged furniture. Got a new laptop. New pens, new notebooks, new nail polish, new hair color, new hair cut. New clothes. Three years seeking any method that would crack the dam and open the flow again. I’m a project person who had no creative projects or output for 1095 days.

I asked questions. Am I good enough? Am I an academic? Have I written myself out? Is the well dry? What to do with my business? What to do with what I’ve done? Should I teach? Seek a publisher? Self-publish? What to do with what sits unfinished? What now?

Damn. It’s been a long three years.

Last month, the block cracked. I updated my web site and relaunched my quarterly email newsletter. (You can sign up for that on here on this web site.) Behind the scenes I began working on a book–a collection of my favorite columns from ten years of Two-Lane Livin’. I expect to have it available before Christmas.

I also have a book previously published that I’ll be reissuing–a collection of my columns from four years as a small-town newspaper reporter and columnist. I’ll be adding thoughts and reflections to those for this issue. I expect that to be completed by spring.

I have two other books (a poetry collection and a photo book) I will also be reissuing at some point, and I’m drafting a non-fiction how-to book I had outlined before entering graduate school.

In the background, the long piece from my thesis sits. It’s been through two revisions, and has been presented to three editors/reviewers for feedback. It’s percolating right now, and I’m okay with that.

And–I’m at the early, early phase of a multimedia project. A gonna-take-me-all-winter project. A gonna-have-to-do-some-research project. But I’m totally lit about it. It’s a new creative/career direction I’ve been presented little hints about over the last few years when nothing else was happening.

This project-driven person has got some projects going! W00t! I finally got my groove back.

You have no idea how good it feels to be working (creatively) again.

How I got Control of my Facebook Addiction

(Originally posted on Facebook, with a different summation.)

Two years ago, about this time, we made the decision to “kill da wabbit” and end the ten-year run of Two-Lane Livin’ Magazine. At that time, I had over two thousand followers of my personal facebook profile. Up until that moment, I had an “I’ll friend anybody” attitude about it. I also had a terrible facebook addiction.

If you’ve been following along, then you know I began cutting folks from my friends list then. (And before folks get outta joint, I did have a method to this madness. Some might take it personally, but I’m here to tell ya, it had more to do with me than anyone else.)

First, I removed the Facebook app from my cell phone. When you work from home, it’s over the internet, but when you have to go out into the world again, it costs data. So, only the facebook messenger app travels with me.

Second, I spent MONTHS urging people to head over to my “professional” page at https://www.facebook.com/LHayesMinney/. I also set up a public Instagram profile, which is tied to my facebook page. (Instagram, IMHO, is a kindler, gentler place where people have to use photos and can’t go on angry or political rants. It also forces me to use photographs and limits my angry and political rants. While my page isn’t entirely “professional” I am less likely to “show my ass” there. There’s a side to me that the world doesn’t need to see, there’s a side that you “friends” see, then there’s the side that sends memes by private message because only people who know and love me need to know that side.)

Third, I started cutting complete strangers from the personal friends list. I spent much time going, “Who are you?” Looking at profiles to see if they were someone I could recognize. If not, cut. I also started building a friend list on Instagram, and if someone was posting the same to both — I unfriended from facebook and friended them on Instagram instead.

Fourth, I completely stopped taking new friend requests. If I did friend someone, I sent them a message to go like my page, then often, unfriended them again.

Then, I started culling lurkers. Politicos. Haters, Drama Queens, Trolls, Negative Nannies. Whiners. People who post pictures of abused animals. High school friends who didn’t speak to me then and wouldn’t speak to me now. I started unfollowing Pages I really didn’t care about and unfollowing certain friends to see if I actually missed seeing their posts.

At that point, I had trimmed my friends list to about 500. My time spent scrolling down the Facebook feed was also significantly diminished. I had removed the wheat from the chaff.

Then, my Aunt Sybil died. I have always tried (not always successfully) to behave myself on facebook because Aunt Sybil and Mother were watching. Now, I do have a post setting that is “Friends Except Mother and Sybil,” but very rarely did I use it. But knowing that Mother and Sybil are watching is the main reason for the PG setting of all my posts. (I also don’t post many political posts because the family I love is divided on many issues. And I still love them, of course.)

I started thinking more about watching who was friending me and why. Who watches? Who likes all my posts? Who likes only the really good posts? Who is stirring pots IRL because of my posts? Who, among my friend list, was actually interacting? Who was following me, supporting me? (All writers must consider their audience.)

I unfriended (nearly all of) my library board members. Not because of any real issue or event, but because I think that just makes a healthier workplace. They are welcome to follow my facebook page where I maintain some personal control, but I don’t want them to witness me when I rant. I don’t want to know their politics, they don’t need to know mine. (This is healthy for a work environment, this is necessary for a good library environment.)

I friend very few, if any, library patrons. Same reason I unfriended my library board members, but also–friending library patrons on facebook gives them 24/7 access to the librarian. This, my dearies, is a privilege I am not about to toss out willy-nilly. The library has a facebook page, I check it when I’m at work. If you don’t get the answer you want at 2 a.m., then you’ll have to just wait.

At this point, the Facebook algorithm got interesting. I was seeing posts I was interested in. Pictures of faces I love, posts about issues I’m interested in, people I know. I worried for a while that I might only be selecting folks who see the world the way I do, but that didn’t happen. Yes, there’s a good selection of like-minded folks on the list, but I will not go so far as to say my list is all people who have the same opinions I do.

I got to a point after that, where I made actual, personal choices on my friend list. Did I miss the ones I unfollowed? For several, I followed them again. Some, I unfriended. Who do I enjoy following? Who is funny? Interesting? Educational? Who are my storytellers? Who am I investing my time and energy in?

Who, of those who I unfriended, asked to be friended again? (Answer=3)

So today, nearly two years later, there are 95 of you left. My goal was always to get below 100. One hundred people I follow or check in on regularly. I can manage that. Less than a hundred people who get to witness that I’m kinda weird, and a little dark, and occasionally snarky.

There are days when I get on facebook and spend far too much time (like today). And I still check facebook daily, but sometimes I don’t. I don’t jump and run to respond to notifications anymore, I don’t gauge my post success by the number of likes (the record was 374) and I rarely spend more than 30 minutes total on any given day.

I’m blogging more (not much, but more), I’m writing more, and I’m working on a collection of my work as a book. I spend more time with family and enjoy more beauty on Instagram and less attitude on Facebook. I haven’t gone cold turkey, but it has changed my life.

 

Indian Summer (a poem)

To the casual driver passing through,
the hills might still look green.
But I see yellow in the poplar,
brown in the sumac,
tinges of rust around the oak.
The chestnut and ash are absent.

There used to be music,
but the summer songbirds
have all gone.
The cacophony now of
cricket chirps and katydid trills,
the fluttering wings of
dragon and horse fly.

Calendars claim it is summer still,
Indian Summer they say,
those warm days and cool nights.
Nothing blooms now but goldenrod,
ragweed, and untrained morning glories
the hummingbird no longer visits.

A crow calls out what’s coming in
the distance, and several friends reply.
The breezes are far too slight
to make the wind chime sing,
but plenty powerful enough to
loosen withered leaves who,
falling,
dance their way to death.

Me and the Zero-Turn Mower

(Not our actual mower, but very similar.)

This spring, Frank went out and purchased a new zero-turn riding mower. Mind you, he’s not the one who mows around here. But with that male “bigger is better” mentality, he wanted to purchase something that would cut down on the time his mom and I spend mowing. We mow acres every week.

The first day I attempted to use the zero-turn, I was livid. This new contraption had turned one of my Zen processes into a challenging new game I was not familiar or comfortable with. I ran over rocks, broke a flower pot, damaged things just trying to get the thing in and out of its storage space.

Because the zero-turn has no steering wheel and instead has… What to call them? Toggles? Steering arms? Handlebars? I don’t know. At any rate, after mowing this land for more than 20 years and knowing I could do it with a drink in one hand and the steering wheel in the other — the zero-turn mower created a whole new ball game.  Mowing was no longer an automatic thoughtless process.

I don’t like change. Especially in routines I have down-pat and can accomplish without thinking. One reason I like mowing is because my mind can wander without having to give the task at hand very much thought.  The zero-turn steers differently, turns differently, rides and handles differently. I have to pay attention. Focus. Concentrate on what I’m doing.

In other words, it wiped out all that I love about mowing.

The wider mower deck is nice, yes. Very nice. It seems as though I can cover twice as much ground in half the time. Less time out of the house in the sunshine, away from housework, ringing phones, internet notifications. I might just be riding around the yard, but mowing is often the closest I can get to running away from my life. Mowing was my excuse to just sit and let my mind muddle, a time-out disguised as work.

The zero-turn cut down the time spent, but turned mowing into work again. I pouted about it. Fiercely complained. This financed man’s mower and I were not going to be friends. No sir. I spent the first month of the summer doing all the lawn and yard edges with my old steering-wheel mower, and only mowing the middle of the yard with the zero-turn.

And then the mower belt on my old mower broke, and Frank didn’t fix it.

Gah. Well, I’m not about to replace a mower belt myself.

So I have spent the last two months of this summer getting accustomed to that zero-turn lawn tractor.

Frank did make adjustments to the handlebars so I could manage it better, and I have learned since how to mow very slowly to handle the trimming around the edges. But I can’t quite set in my mind where the exact pivot point of the zero-turn is beneath me. I’m often pivoting too early, or worse yet, too late.

I googled how to drive a zero-turn. Most of them simply stated the obvious.

And reverse? Frankly, I’ve never been that good at reverse even with a steering wheel.  I’m not good at reverse on my own two feet. With the zero-turn, if I just need to back straight up, I’m okay. But maneuvering or turning in reverse still causes me to curse under my breath. I have to do it at the slowest possible speed just to make sure I’m not flailing around like a landed fish.

So, I am growing a relationship with this zero-turn contraption that I cursed in May and bitched about on social media. It’s a fine machine, but we’re not friends yet. It’s damn near impossible to drive it one-handed, which means I have to actually slow down or stop to take a drink, slap a fly, or wipe sweat from my brow. That frustrates me. It breaks the groove.

I also have not yet come to grasp how a “lawn tractor” could or would have bald wheels in the front. Bald. Zero tread. Are they even tires? I don’t know. Hard, slippery things that they are. Because our yard is nowhere near perfectly flat, those tiny smooth front wheels are often spinning in the air. I can see where tread on the front might tear up the lawn in certain zero-turn situations, but come on! This girl needs tread. Uphill, downhill, across ditches, dimples, and pockets. How can you have two treadless tires on a lawn tractor? What’s up with that? Even if it’s just for some kind of show to make me feel better, something decorative if there’s some sane reason for having none. Smooth tires in the country are just — wrong.

There are two places in the yard where the new wider mower deck won’t fit. Spaces which I now have to weed-eat in addition to all the other weed-eating we do. Frank got me a new weedeater this year as well–a man-size, gas-powered creature to supplement my small battery-powered baby I’ve been working with for nearly a decade now.

We aren’t friends yet either.