Take a Mountain Retreat to a Literary Festival

ARE YOU INSPIRED BY BREATHTAKING SCENERY? Do you like books? Do you enjoy conversations on intellectually stimulating topics? Do you need a vacation? If the answer is yes, and you are in the regional vicinity of the North Carolina mountains, I have a splendid suggestion: make plans to attend this year’s Carolina Mountain Literary Festival. Or plan long range for next year’s – it’s usually in September.

THE 2013 ANNUAL CAROLINA MOUNTAIN LITERARY FESTIVAL is scheduled for September 12-14. Now in its 8th year, the festival is held in the mountain town of Burnsville, North Carolina. Burnsville is a small town nestled in the beautiful NC mountains, near Mt. Mitchell – the tallest mountain east of the Mississippi, near the Blue Ridge Parkway, 30 minutes from Asheville, NC and 2 hours from Charlotte, NC. The town is charming, organized around a town square that hosts many festivals and community events throughout the year. The largest is the Mt. Mitchell Festival held the first weekend in August every year.

THIS YEAR, ELIZABETH KOSTOVA is the keynote speaker at the banquet on Saturday evening at the conclusion of the Thursday-Saturday event. Kostova is author if the bestseller “The Historian” and her new novel, “The Swan Thieves”. Over 40 authors are scheduled for the conference this year. This literary festival has the flavor of the mountains – easy paced, nourishing, engaging – focused only on authors and readers who love books in common – with time to chat, question, learn and share in small groups.

MULTIPLE SESSIONS ARE HELD in various venues throughout the town. Walking a few steps, or a block, in the warm September air, with views of the mountains always in sight, is part of the magic. Some sessions are held in the new town hall; or upstairs at the JAVA Café; or the historic brick library, lovingly restored from an old high school; or Mary Jane’s bakery and cafe with organic foods, fresh baked bread and live music at noon; or the tea lounge over the sisters shop where they create lovely stationery with the paper they create.

ARTISTIC DIVERSITY REINS AT THE FESTIVAL – authors of fiction, non-fiction, graphic novels, and writers of songs, plays and poetry are here. I have been to six of the festivals and have enjoyed each one – always learning something. When my sister attends with me, we choose one session that we know nothing about, so we are stimulated to learn something new – and it has always been rewarding.

SO, I AM HAPPY TO BE HERE in this special place, with time to spend with others talking about stories and books – for the whole weekend! There are dozens of small literary festivals in the country that do not get national advertising attention. Most small ones are held in out of the way amazing places. I recommend seeking them out and planning a visit in the coming year. You will be rewarded in unexpected ways.

IT IS THE END OF SUMMER, but the leaves are just starting to drift to the ground. I will share some pictures of this beautiful place – in Burnsville, North Carolina.

Website at cmlitfest.org

The Pie That Made My Dad Propose

PIE-PIC
Photo and pie by SMB

WHEN DAD MENTIONED AN OLD GIRLFRIEND’S PIE, MOTHER SURPRISED HIM WITH ONE OF HER OWN.

MOTHER PREPARED A FORMAL DINNER WITH DESSERT every night of the week for her husband and four children, and the six of us ate together, at the table in the dining room, Dad at one end and Mom at the other. Whenever the dessert was cream pie, Dad would ask, “Did you know I married your mom because she made the best pie I ever ate?” Then he would pause and chuckle. “Even better than Josephine’s pies,” he would add with a wink in mom’s direction. Then he’d retell the Marquis family story.

MY PARENTS MET ON A BLIND DATE IN Charleston, West Virginia, in the spring of 1938. She said he arrived at the door in a brown checkered suit with a fashionable belt in the back and brown and white shoes. His first words were, “Hi, I’m Harold Marquis. Do you want to go dancing?”

HE NOTICED HER BIG BLUE EYES AND NATURALLY CURLY HAIR. She thought he was handsome and polite. They soon discovered they had something unusual in common before the night was over when he asked, “I would like for you to meet my twin sister,” and she replied, “And I would like for you to meet my twin sister too.”

ON THE DATES THAT FOLLOWED, they frequently went dancing, as this was the big band era. After dancing, they would often stop at a diner for some pie and coffee. Dad loved pie and had a unique way of eating it. He’d always tell the waitress to “Put the pie in a bowl and pour milk over it”. One night he happened to mention that his old girlfriend Josephine had made him a pie. Mom didn’t answer, but the next time he picked her up for a date, she had her old-fashioned cream pie waiting for him.

“THAT WAS THE BEST PIE I EVER ATE”, Dad always said. “I decided right then that I was going to marry this girl.” In December, 1938, Ina and Harold eloped and were married in Ashland, Kentucky. They were each 21 years old.

MY PARENTS HAD A LONG LIFE together filled with many blessings. They were graceful ballroom dancers and enjoyed dancing well into their 80’s. They both arrived in the world in 1917 and they both died in the same year – 2008 – after 70 years of marriage. I miss them every day.

OUR EXTENDED FAMILY of children, spouses, grandchildren and great grandchildren now number 22. All the Marquises know the story of the cream pie that started our family. We still make it sometimes and whenever we do, we retell the story, as we eat every bite of this delicious dessert and lick our forks.

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Original photo appeared in MADISION COURIER, Madison, Indiana

MARQUIS OLD-FASHIONED CREAM PIE

Preparation: 30 min Refrigerate: 4 house to overnight

CRUST:
12 graham crackers, broken in pieces
2 tbsp. sugar
6 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted

FILLING:
2/3 cup sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup cornstarch
2 1/2 cups cold milk
4 large egg yolks
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tbsp. unsalted butter
Raspberries (optional)

PREPARE CRUST:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Blend graham crackers in food processor or a few at a time in blender. Add sugar and mix until finely ground. Add melted butter and combine well. Reserve 1/4 cup of graham mixture. Press remaining crumb mixture into bottom and sides of 9-inch pie pan. Bake about 7 minutes until lightly browned. Cool while preparing filling.

PREPARE FILLING:
In large saucepan, whisk sugar, salt and cornstarch. Add milk and egg yolks and whisk well. Heat mixture over medium heat, whisking constantly until mixture begins to bubble, then cook one (1) minute longer.

Remove from heat and stir in vanilla, nutmeg and butter. Cool filling by placing pan in ice water, taking care not to let any water spill into filling. When filling is just warm, pour into baked crust. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for four hours or overnight. Before serving, sprinkle with reserved graham cracker crumbs. Add a few raspberries on side of plate when serving pieces if desired.

THIS PIE IS SO SCRUMPTIOUS THAT MY FAMILY OFTEN EATS IT STILL WARM WITH A SPOON, NOT WAITING UNTIL IT FIRMS UP TO SLICE. I also sometimes just make the filling and layer with angel food cake in a stemmed glass with fresh fruit – an impressive and delicious dessert for a dinner party.

A version of our family story and mom’s pie recipe was originally published in the June 2013 issue of LADIES HOME JOURNAL, and reprinted in savvydad.com

Sue Marquis Bishop 2013

WORDS

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Photo by SMB

When I was a wee one, mother weaned me from her breast by reading, my back propped against her chest and a magical picture book in front of us.
WORDS ARE ABSORBING.

When I was a toddler, so I was told, trashing a scrap of paper with writing on it brought on tears of anguish.
WORDS ARE TREASURES TO BE KEPT.

When I was three, my mother read the “Night Before Christmas” so often,that I could say it by heart – for all of my life, and her 92 years.
WORDS STRUNG TOGETHER IN PLEASING RHYTHM FEEL GOOD ROLLING OFF THE TONGUE.

When I was young, I sometimes used words to let out my anger.
WORDS CAN HURT.

When I could read, I had my own library card.
WORDS BECAME STORIES AND BOOKS THAT FOSTERED IMAGINATION.

When I went to bed at night, my family said “I love you”, and I was lulled to sleep,
with the softly droning voices of adults, in low conversation.
WORDS CAN COMFORT.

When I was in junior high with awakening hormones,I wrote poems and stories of adventure and romance.
WORDS CAN EXPRESS INNER FEELINGS AND CREATIVITY.

When I listened to lyrics and song, images of love blossomed.
WORDS SET TO MUSIC STIR PASSIONS AND MEMORIES.

When I was in college, written and spoken words introduced me to science and art.
WORDS HAVE POWER TO INFORM AND TRANSFORM.

When I married, I said, “I do”.
WORDS CAN BIND LIVES.

When I was knee deep in my career, words enabled me to maneuver, lead, negotiate, compromise, propose, manage and teach.
WRITTEN AND SPOKEN WORDS ARE TOOLS TO AN END.

When I retired, words in books were my companions in leisure.
WORDS IN THE HANDS OF A MASTER WRITER CAN FILL THE MIND AND HEART.

In the afternoon of my life – if I could – I would take back any words that diminished another, and
SPEAK MORE WORDS THAT ENHANCED ANOTHER.

“Thank you.”
“It’s your turn.”
“I’m sorry.”
“You are right.”
“You are so talented.”
“I value our friendship.”
“I am so proud of you.”
“I love you.”

Sue Marquis Bishop 2012

A Home Without Books? Impossible

I AGREE WITH THOMAS JEFFERSON when he said, “I can’t imagine a life without books.” My mother read to me and her three other children from the time we were babies. I consider it the greatest gift a mother can give her children. It has made a difference in my life and my love of learning.

MY LOVE AFFAIR WITH BOOKS really began in earnest when I received my first library card as a preschooler. As I looked up at the rows and rows of books in tall bookshelves, I felt a thrill of wonder and adventure that has never really left me when I visit a library or bookstore.

ADVENTURE AND ANIMAL STORIES AND FAIRY TALES fueled my imagination as a child. As a pre-teen, I loved books with strong female characters creating, exploring or solving mysteries like “Nancy Drew” or “Peggy Parker: Girl Inventor” (although Peggy Parker has too much racial stereotyping to recommend it to young girls today). When we wanted to know more about a topic, we consulted our encyclopedias. Today, we consult the internet – a vista on the world.

AS A TEEN, I was introduced to so many new books on classical literature, biographies, history and poetry. IN COLLEGE, the world of science, clinical practice and research appeared in books. I have kept a few books that were important to me in my life’s journey – books that opened new ways of thinking or feeling, promoted understanding myself or the world, or focused my appreciation for nature and humanity. As I chose a career in nursing and then the academic world of teaching, practice and research, books have been companions in my chosen work, and not just for leisure.

I associate a COMFORTABLE HOME WITH THE PRESENCE OF FLOWERS, CANDLES AND BOOKS. Books can be found in several places in our home – bookshelves in the family room, home office, guestroom and a cookbook shelf in the kitchen. Just one or two books can be found here and there, near comfortable and well-lit reading nooks, and on bedside tables. One of my favorite places to read in the Summer is in the rocking chair on the screened porch overlooking the mountains. In winter, I prefer to read in a cushy, jade green, Queen Anne chair near the fireplace in the living room.

I AM PUZZLING OVER an article in a home décor magazine suggesting ways to decorate with books. The author recommended buying books from a flea market that were all of one color, so the bookshelves would look color-coordinated with the room. SHE’S KIDDING, RIGHT? Another idea I heard on a TV segment was to turn all the books backwards in the bookshelf so the white was showing and the colored backs wouldn’t show. GOOD LUCK WITH FINDING A BOOK ON THOSE SHELVES.

OTHER DECORATING IDEAS I have heard include making lamps of books, or tearing the backs off books to frame as a picture. The most astounding idea I read once, in a marketing campaign for a bookseller, was to purchase books that would impress others. As someone who values books for learning and leisure, I can’t envision finding any of these suggestions acceptable.

Two years ago, my son bought a KINDLE for me. I love it.! Mine is in a snazzy red fabric cover that looks like a book (of course!). My KINDLE can store 3,000 books, is convenient for traveling and easy and quick to upload new books (less than one minute). When I am at home, I keep the KINDLE beside my bed to read a few minutes before sleep. Although I am enjoying e-books, I still purchase other books that are in various places in my home. If I am in another room with time to read, I may pick up the book and read for a few minutes. A few of my favorite books I read this year include: “Personal History” by Katherine Graham, “The Physician” by Noah Gordon and “Unbroken” by Laura Hillenbrand.

Booksellers are losing market share and publishers are transforming operations, as we navigate through the transition of how we are to store, access and use information. One thing we can agree on, THE FUTURE WILL LIKELY NOT LOOK LIKE THE PRESENT.

WHAT DO BOOKS MEAN IN YOUR LIFE? WHAT DO YOU SEE AS THE FUTURE OF BOOKS AS WE KNOW THEM?

Sue Marquis Bishop 2013

The Unexpected Things We Learn in School!

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Photo of (1950’s) painting of “Bishop Bhend School”,
a one-room school in Kentucky, by Nora Young Bishop,
beloved first grade teacher, who taught school for 52 years.

BACK TO SCHOOL SALES ARE IN FULL SWING. As a child, I looked forward to the beginning of a new school year – new shoes and treasured school supplies – 64 crayons with sharp points, new pencils in a colorful pencil box, a sharpener and tablets. I packed and re-packed my book bag many times. The required supplies for children today are well beyond the simple supplies we had to bring.

I HAD MIXED FEELINGS when I escorted my own children to the first day of school. They seemed so young, yet grown up somehow, and I knew they were beginning a transforming adventure – as was I.

WHEN I WAS IN FIRST GRADE, I walked six blocks, with a neighbor in sixth grade, to Robbins School in Charleston, WVa. Mother assured me there would be lots of books and I was eager to find out. Unfortunately, my first grade teacher was not a candidate for teacher of the year. I told mother one day, “Miss Brown must not have any kids because she doesn’t know how to talk to them.” MAYBE NOT ALL ADULTS LIKE CHILDREN. I must have learned to get along with her, As it didn’t dim my enthusiasm for school.

IN THIRD GRADE, my school gave extra attention to music education. We performed skits and sang “Turkey in the Straw”, and I learned the stories behind classical music. I LEARNED TO APPRECIATE THE VARIETY IN MUSIC.

THIS WAS THE FIRST TIME POVERTY AND NEGLECT HAD A FAMILIAR FACE. I noticed that Maryelle, who sat qcross the aisle from me, was trying to use a stub of a pencil, with no eraser, so I gave her one of my new pencils. She smiled at me with a happy smile, as if I had given her something really big. Maryelle wore the same soiled dress every day – brown with three rows of white rickrack on the bodice. One of her brown shoes had a broken strap. Her hair was cut short in a choppy cut and it looked uncombed. Her arms were encrusted with dirt. I had never seen anyone so dirty and I was uncomfortable touching her, although I tried not to show it. She didn’t get a star when the dentist came to school for preventive dental exams.

IN FOURTH GRADE, I entered another school that scheduled TWO lengthy recesses every day. Whoa! We loved it. My skills in jump roping, tumbling, jacks and running relay games improved that year. The principal taught us to do the back flip. Most important, in free play at recess, I LEARNED ABOUT COMPETING AND COORPERATING with classmates who had different personalities and physical abilities.

WE MOVED TO A SMALL TOWN in WVa when I was in the sixth grade. The principal, Miss Berry, was the teacher. some OF her teaching methods would not pass muster today, as she liked to take the line of least resistance. We had spelling bees several times a week and I was thankfully, able to stand up for several rounds. I felt embarrassed for Billy and Joanne who missed most every word, and usually had to sit down first – ducking their heads as they made their way to their seats. A LIFE LESSON IN WINNING AND LOSING.

SHE READ TO US EVERY DAY – wonderful stories like “Treasure island”, “The Hardy Boys” and “Nancy Drew”. She seemed to enjoy them as much as we did. While she read, she had one of her favorite girls to rub her back. I noticed her dandruff and was glad I wasn’t one of her favorites. She also sent a favorite girl to her house on Thursdays to change the sheets of her boarders. She couldn’t get away with that today. MAYBE IT’s GOOD NOT TO BE TEACHER’S PET.

ONE DAY, MISS BERRY DECIDED we needed a fund raising project for the school. She had the cooks make enormous amounts of vegetable soup and fill dozens of mason jars. We were let out of school early for one week to try to sell the soup door to door. We pulled the heavy jars in a wagon – the jars sloshing as we went. I often came home with soup running down my arms. I only sold two jars – one to mom (who poured it out). SO MUCH FOR MAKING SELLING A CAREER.

Miss Berry assigned us reading and math story problems while she read to herself. We also had 8-10 hours a week to read books of our choosing. That was OK with me – and I FELL IN LOVE WITH BOOKS OF ADVENTURE AND MYSTERY THAT YEAR.

SHE FREQUENTLY LED US IN SINGING and she had a loud and lusty style. During the Christmas season we sang carols. I especially remember “Joy to the World”. She had a large bust and when she sang, “and heaven and nature sing”, she raised her shoulders up and down in a bouncing fashion with her chest moving in rhythm to the music. My sister was in her class three years later. All we have to do to break down in peals of laughter is to sing the even refrain,”and heaven and nature sing”, and raise our shoulders up and down. SO MANY FUNNY MEMORIES TO SAVOR.

SOME SCHOOL EXPERIENCES MAKE ME SMILE NOW – some contributed to my awakening to the world around me, while others tested my abilities. The most difficult aspect of my early school years involved our family’s frequent moves, requiring adjustment to new schools and classmates. I attended new schools in first grade – then third, fourth, sixth and seventh grades. When I was in tenth grade, we moved once again to Madison, Indiana for my dad’s work, where my parents lived for over 50 years. My younger siblings experienced fewer moves – my brother attended school for all 12 years in one school system.

FREQUENT MOVES TO NEW SCHOOLS during my elementary school years may have influenced my early shyness in new situations – and to be honest, I sometimes still feel a small buzz of uncertainty inside, when entering a new environment with a new group. The feeling is similar to the feeling that put me on alert as a child going to a new school. As an adult, I know now that this feeling of angst will pass quickly, as soon as I engage in the new situation.

ALTHOUGH I FREQUENTLY CHANGED SCHOOLS in my early years of education, I was blessed with a stable family life that surely facilitated my confidence in adapting to change. These early experiences of frequent change and adaptation may have enabled me to learn useful life lessons – how to check out new settings and individuals – and feel comfortable in a variety of environments and with diverse individuals and groups.

Did you learn an important lesson outside the formal course syllabus in your early years of school?

Sue Marquis Bishop 2013

Some Days I Want to Run

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“Possibilities” Photo by SMB

RETIREMENT BRINGS OPPORTUNITIES to chart a new life course and to set a new path – and I am loving this time of life to do just that. I have never had so much time at my command for what I really want to do – blocks of time, not just snippets. On occasion, however, I get so excited about possibilities and new challenges that interest me, that I am overwhelmed.

IT HELPS TO SIT DOWN AND GET ORGANIZED by making specific lists – setting priorities for what I am going to do today, this week or month – or even this year. Tackling my desires in this way presents reality to me, as there are only so many hours in any one day or week. More important, it turns maybes into goals. I have always used list-making as a way of focusing my priorities into action plans. As a wife, mother and career woman, and later a caregiver for my parents, I juggled multiple responsibilities. Staying organized was the secret to helping me to give attention where it was needed and to move forward to achieve goals.

SURPRISE – CREATING SOME ORGANIZATION IN MY LIFE TRANSITION POST-RETIREMENT is still a useful strategy. There is no more rewarding feeling of satisfaction and pride then accomplishing something we really want to do. On days when I feel I have so much I want to do and so little time to do it all, I remind myself to focus on the blessings of my life and the journey of adventure I am on.

I SHARED MY THOUGHTS WITH SOME OF MY WOMEN FRIENDS and learned we had a common perception. We agreed that this stage of life ushers in:

(1) A TIME OF VAST NEW POSSIBILITIES for our lives (including a few loose ends we want to address), and
(2) A GROWING AWARENESS OF FINITE TIME AVAILABLE.

This is vastly different from the age of early adulthood when we perceived unlimited possibilities – and all the time in the world to accomplish them.

In reflecting on our discussion, I wrote a poem, with tongue in cheek, to express the perception of fleeting time that occurs to women over 50 from time to time – and some of the varied items on our “want to do” list.

I WANT TO RUN

I just want to run.
Full out.
Life is shorter
in the afternoon of my life.
I know it well now – Still,
so much I want to do:
explore the small towns of Ireland,
master the flute,
make a quilt,
organize family pictures on CD’s,
simplify my life,
reconnect with an old friend,
search out my ancestors,
write our family’s story for my children,
publish a book of my poems,
take a class in seafood cuisine,
keep a blog, commune with nature,
improve my piano playing,
learn to play chess,
launch a new career,
plant a rose garden,
learn to meditate,
watch the Fall
arrive in inches.
I need to run faster,
reach farther, focus,
organize, hurry, scurry.
Lord, there is so much more
to do on my fleeting path,
I want to run sometimes –
but – don’t let me run so fast,
I miss what’s on the way.

Sue Marquis Bishop 2013

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