Baby & Me

IMG_1257 (2)Who would have thunk it? My new part-time job is babysitting with a curly-headed, energetic 13 month old precious Baby Boy.

My children were born in the 60s and my grandchildren in the 90s and the year 2000. Since then most of my exposure to little ones has been oohing over the grandbabies of friends.

After being interviewed by said Baby Boy, his parents, his dog and six cats, I was hired and reported to work the next day. I remembered to not wear jewelry or leave a cup of coffee unattended. I had forgotten the difficulties of interpreting a pointing finger and uuaghh sound.

This child is very, very active. He walks. He climbs higher and higher each day. He explores everything–the pantry, the shelves of collected glassware, the dog’s water bowl when I forget to put it up out of his reach.

He nods his head in time to Christian music and Fruit Loops commercials. He brings me the books of his choice to be looked at as many times as he wants. He rubs both sides of his curly head when he is really, really tired.

That first day, after waving goodbye to mommy, questions flooded my mind. How big a bite can he manage without getting choked? Did his mother say 2 ounces of warm water plus a scoop of formula into the bottle to then be filled with whole milk? Was that a 4 or 6 oz bottle? And one I never figured out with my own–Does he feel cold when I feel cold for him?

Then there is the new paraphernalia in baby land!  It took me three tries to successfully assemble a four-part baby bottle.

Gerber’s oatmeal and banana cereal?IMG_1362 Replaced by Earth’s Best sweet potato cinnamon quinoa, barley & oat pouch, made with flax, unsweetened & unsalted, vegan with no genetically engineered ingredients in non-BPA packaging.

Snacks are dehydrated puffs of fruits and vegetables. No soda crackers or even a goldfish to be seen.Yogurt is common ground in both our diets.

IMG_1287I love that the household includes pets. Chestnut the dog appears to think of himself as the older brother, one who took kindly to a baby and gladly shares toys. He is ecstatic to receive food dropped from the high chair. He howls in sympathy when Baby Boy gets upset.  Callie the Calico       IMG_1249 doesn’t like for Chestnut to get too close to her and emits a hiss every time that happens. I was holding the boy one day. Callie hissed, Chestnut barked, I jumped, baby clutched, I eeked, baby cried.

Many of yesterday’s toys remain favorites–Fisher Price, dump trucks, wooden puzzles and books. New ones have more bells and whistles, movements, and batteries.

FYI:  Barefoot Books, videos found on YouTube can mesmerize a little one.IMG_1388 Franchising merchandise is represented by a Star Wars sanctioned, stuffed, fluffy Chewbaca.

Three weeks into the job and we are both still standing. My muscles and joints have settled back down to their normal ache level. Ibuprofen, a hot shower and sleep are great restoratives.

What causes aggravation is my aging fingers struggling with those snaps on the legs of sleepers and pants. My lord, it takes me as much time to get them lined up correctly and fastened as it does to convince Baby Boy to take a nap.

Being a sitter is somewhat like being a grandparent. The job carries responsibilities but you can leave at the end of your shift happy to pass the torch back to the parents.

I love that at my age I have been given this amazing opportunity to watch a little one develop.IMG_1244

His eyes take in an action and you can almost see his brain turning it over until it is added to his memory bank.IMG_1304

Words are becoming important to him. Momma, Daddy, ba (for bottle), dog, cat, moo are on the tip of his tongue. When was the first time he heard “no” and turned with a measured look to see if you were serious?

His sense of humor shows as he anticipates the last page of the book where he sees himself in a mirror and starts chortling before we get there.

And that smile….which could be why one day I pranced around the kitchen doing a cheer leading routine, using colorful tights for pom poms, with a too small Spidyman cap on my head.




Atlantic Avenue

IMG_1200Atlantic Avenue is a song written by RB Morris local poet, songwriter and performer. Atlantic Avenue is a street in North Knoxville (not to be confused with Historic Old North Knoxville) where he lived several times.

RB does a good job of describing the familiar, often the scruffy, of our city–streets, venues, people–in both his songs and poetry. Accompanied by his guitar and usually a band, his presentation style is unique.

At first, not exactly sure how I felt about his breaking off a song lyric to recite lines from a poem, I stood back questioning. It didn’t take long to realize this was an honest performer, RB being RB.

I attended a home concert one evening where he performed and was glad to hear this song, a old favorite for many of his fans. After leaving the concert my friend, Karen, and I decided to cruise Atlantic Avenue to see if we could figure out where RB had lived. It was after midnight on a hot summer night. We didn’t have any luck but it was a nice way to hold onto the mood.

Lyrics from Atlantic Avenue

by RB Morris

“Windows in old homes, glowing rosy in the night…..”

“Alley cats and nightbirds playing in the shadows and the machines….”

“ And darkness falls forever on broken wheels and dreams…”

Can you see it?

Note from RB: I wrote all the lyrics to the song, as a song it is a co-write with the late Terry Hill who wrote the music.

More About Books

Here is a “book” report from Cathy Kodra who last year concentrated on reading memoirs:

I read: The Liars’ Club and Lit by Mary Karr
The Planet of the Blind by Stephen Kuusisto
The Nazi Officer’s Wife by Edith H. Beer
Traveling with Pomegranates by Sue Monk Kidd and Ann Kidd
The Winged Seed: A Remembrance by Li-Young Lee
The Things We Carry by Tim O’Brien
Barefoot to Avalon by David Payne
The Opposite of Fate by Amy Tan

My favorites were those memoirs by Amy Tan, David Payne, Tim O’Brien, and Sue Monk Kidd.

The interesting thing that occurred was that as I began reading from my list of memoirs, I started being drawn to various other nonfiction titles–not memoir, but nevertheless nonfiction, which has not been a strong choice for me until 2014 / 2015 (except for writing craft books and some metaphysical publications).

I read:
The Grain Brain by David Perlmutter(not convinced), Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End by Atul Gawande (not to be missed),          
The Age of Miracles by Marianne Williamson,
Better Than Before by Gretchen Rubin,             On Becoming an Artist by Ellen Langer (she’s become one of my favorite authors, and I’m currently reading another book of hers titled Mindfulness),
We Know Nothing by Tim Kreider(best and most honest book of personal essays I’ve ever read),
The Art of Happiness by the Dalai Lama XIV,     Bluebird:Women and the New Psychology of Happiness by Ariel Gore,                                           The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rub,               Happier at Home by Gretchen Rubin, and               One Mind by Larry Dossey.


IMG_9508-001C. Ann Kodra works as an independent editor in Knoxville, TN. Her poetry and short stories have appeared in journals and anthologies including Blueline, Cavalier Literary Couture, Common Ground Review, Cutthroat, drafthorse, MOTIF (vol. 1 & 3), New Millennium Writings, Now & Then, Prime Mincer, RHINO, Still: The Journal, Yemassee, and others. She is a contributing editor for New Millennium Writings and an associate editor for MSI Press, California.    


I do hereby resolve for the year 2016……..

  • to keep in my heart the joy and love I felt during Christmas 2015.
  • to push myself when inertia engulfs me.
  • to use my talents.
  • to squeeze more laughter out.
  • to connect to the positive energy around me.
  • to remind myself that one person’s actions can make a difference.
  • to be ready to listen rather than speak.
  • to spend minimum time wondering why I can’t remember someone’s name.
  • to lie in grass on a spring day.
  • to accept the things I cannot change.
  • to relish my children.
  • to sweat only the big stuff.
  • to practice those exercises so I can remember people’s names.
  • to build on honoring myself as I honor others.
  • to ignore urges to overeat, overdrink, under exercise.
  • to keep a carrot-games, travel, books-in clear sight at all times.
  • After the name remembering exercises move on to “where did I put my…”100_1766

Bless the homeless


“Bless the homeless, this day and everyday,
keep them from physical and emotional harm,
fill their hearts with hope for the future and for today,
comfort the homeless as they walk their difficult paths.
May I know that anyone, even me,can be homeless.”      

Ronald Victor Barton
Robert Best
Leo Blatter
William “Ken” Brockman
Joseph “JoJack” Jackson Cheatham
Cecil Courtney
Robert Cossen
Larry Richard Deboer
Elbert Flowers
Danny Gilkey
Rick Gouch
Lori Jordan
William C. Kimble
Roger King
William C. Kite
Doris Lawson
Tony McKelvey
Rodney Noe
James “Conrad” Payne
Mary Riseden
Charles Ratledge
Michael Shell
Edsel R. Stricklin
Douglas Thomas
Zack Ward
Eacie Welch
Jimmy Williams
Robert Woodrow Williams

These are the people who died homeless in 2015 in Knoxville, Tennessee.

An annual memorial service to remember the individuals known by name as well as those nameless was held at St. John’s Lutheran Church last Thursday evening.

You might think if you are homeless you have no friends, but that isn’t so. Many of those without homes help each other out on the street. They also become involved with social workers  and church goers, getting to know them one-on-one. 

This service is always moving, mostly because of the people who speak. They may be involved with ministries to help the homeless or previously homeless themselves.

Darrell Murrell’s message of hope was meaningful and poignant. He stressed that he was saved from a life on the streets because people in this church “kept loving” on him until he felt God working through them.

Poet John Cantrell read a poem again this year:

Remembering Our Friends                            

You have to us a host of things
From a life of sorrows and woes There were times when you smiled
From knowing you were not alone
In the beauty of the spring
In the cold chilli nights of old man winter
Of a harsh life of homelessness
You endured the stings of alcoholism
Drug addiction mental illness physical abuse
Your world was tainted by experiences
Of that nasty world
Lack of basic needs healthcare
Shelter and last God called you home
To restful nights
And Peaceful Days

“May hope touch each homeless heart, spirit and life,
let the kindness of others bring lasting benefits, bring freedom from addiction,  illness and misery,  open their humanity to include & embrace themselves.”IMG_0662











The entire Blessing for the Homeless can be found by Goggling Interfaith Prayers & Blessings by Abby Willowroot




Looking to the Future

This past weekend I made use of the continued mild weather and planted over 100 flower bulbs in our front yard.

It always feels good to dig…when the digging is easy…and this old yard has plenty of good, dark soil that makes it easy to grub around with your fingers to form the 4″ IMG_0544-001or 5″ holes needed.

Planting bulbs is a way to believe in the future.  I think of them in the frozen dirt during  the winter, inching their way up through the ground. I envision the new green of their stems and the blooms producing colors  bound to elicit oohs and ahhs in early spring.

I needed the thought of life and beauty continuing in my life. I feel overwhelmed by people being killed, by blanket hatred of a race or religion, and by the lack of manners and respect from people who should know better. I feel helpless and dumbfounded at the big picture of my world.

It is a blessing to refocus on a small area of soil accepting future flowers.  I don’t take it for granted.Continue reading “Looking to the Future”

A Lingering Fall

It is December 1 in East Tennessee and today it was warm enough to sit on the front porch without a jacket. I guess it is the lack of freezing weather which keeps the fall colors hanging around.



Has anyone else noticed that the Bradford pear trees, usually one of the first to show fall colors, are still changing?

It’s nice to have color….especially with this rainy week.

Barney Had A Right to be Nervous

This is taken directly from, ” a brief daily email with an excerpt or quote we view as interesting or noteworthy, offered with commentary to provide context.”

Wide variety of subjects. provides daily new facts easily.

Today’s selection — from Andy and Don by Daniel de Visé. 

“Don was fourteen years younger than his next youngest sibling, William Earl, a boy so slender he was called Shadow. Don was an accident, Elsie, thirty-nine and married to a forty-two-year-old invalid, had not planned to bring another child into the world.

“Don’s childhood was bleak, even by the sepia-toned standards of the Depression. The house on University Avenue sat in a crowded row of unkempt wooden colonials set against a steep hill. He slept on a cot in the kitchen, next to the stove. Two of his older brothers, Shadow and Sid, shared a bedroom with a boarder. Willis Vincent ‘Bill’ Knotts, the most ambitious sibling, had already decamped to seek his fortune as a manager at Montgomery Ward. Don’s mother and father slept in the living room, and Jesse Sr. spent most of his waking hours on the sofa, staring into space. Don’s brothers liked to drink and fight; there was little to distinguish them from the vagabonds who paraded in and out of the University Avenue home.

Don Knotts early in his career as a ventriloquist

“Don emerged from infancy with a ghostly pallor, a skeletal frame, and a predisposition to illness, traits he shared with his older brother Shadow. ‘I did not come into the world with a great deal of promise,’ Don recalled. ‘By the time I started grammar school, I was already stoop-shouldered, painfully thin, and forever throwing up due to a nervous stomach.’

“Three decades later, Elsie Knotts would ask Don, ‘Do you remember when you were in nappies, and your father used to hold a knife to your throat?’ Don did not. Only in therapy did the memories come flooding back. Don spent his first years living in fear of the monster on the couch. Jesse Knotts harbored a primal jealousy toward Don, the unexpected baby who drew Elsie’s attention away from her bedridden husband. From the day Don arrived, he competed with his father for his mother’s care.

“The only path out of Don’s kitchen bedroom led through the living room, where his father lay. Don would try to tiptoe by. Sometimes he would pass unnoticed. Other times, the father would emerge from his fever dreams and train his bloodshot eyes on his youngest son. Don would freeze as he heard the ragged growl of an unpracticed voice: ‘Come here, you little son of a bitch.’ Don would slowly retreat from the room. Usually, the summons was an empty threat. But on occasion, Jesse would rise from the couch like a shambling ghoul and stagger into the kitchen to find a blade. Then he would stumble through the house in search of his son; the hunt wouldn’t take long, as there was nowhere for Don to go. Jesse would pin Don against the wall, raise the knife to his throat, and terrorize the child with dark oaths: ‘I’ll kill you, you son of a bitch.’ “

Andy and Don: The Making of a Friendship and a Classic American TV Show

Author: Daniel de Visé
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Copyright 2015 by Daniel de Visé
Pages 4-5

Carpe Diem?

I’ve already acknowledged that isn’t easy to do all the time, at least in a positive way. So if not a day, then try to seize a moment. In times of sorrow, despair or confusion reach for controlling even just a moment.

Bewilderment, fear, questions, tears.      

When hit with unexpected news, especially bad news,everyone reacts differently: slow to take it in, spring to action, and every level of awareness in between.

Make it Yours

Focus on taking in information, accepting offers of help, and talking to those you trust. Prayer and meditation can create a calm that allows your beliefs to provide the answers you need.

Love and healing                                              

Right now I know several people facing serious issues, medical and otherwise, and others who experienced sudden losses in their families.

Then there is our world……

later that evening

i held an atlas in my lap

ran my fingers across the

whole world

and whispered

where does it hurt?

it answered




                 Warsan Shire


All I can do is think love and healing. So I am.




Aussie Anti-Tourists Live it up in East Tennessee

This is a re-posting of an article I wrote for

IMG_9007It is 9,750 miles one way from Melbourne, Australia to Knoxville,Tennessee. It’s a long way to travel to attend a few football games and concerts, but Graham and Debbie Blackley left their lovely home in Bairnsdale, Australia, for an authentic experience in Sevierville, Tennessee.

The Blackleys stayed in Karen Pyne’s Sevierville home for three weeks. Both Pyne and the Blackleys are members of the international Home which allows members to list their home, offering it as private living quarters for visitors. The exchange is a reciprocal agreement with Graham and Debbie using Karen’s home now, and Karen being able to use their home in return, at a time agreeable to both parties.

While Karen has been a member for several years, the Blackleys recently joined. Graham explains, “We are anti-tourists hence we steer away from the tourist meccas. A service such as Home Exchange makes it possible to find places to stay which are different from a standard motel or hotel.” During the Blackleys stay, Karen vacated the premises and enjoyed camping in the mountains and visiting her daughter.

And now the question on everyone’s mind…

How and why did you choose Sevierville?

Graham:  I have a life theory: if the mob all do the same thing, or head in the same direction, that must be the wrong way to go. We don’t like cities or crowds so we immediately eliminated the east and west coasts. The deep south and the flat central states also got the flick. We narrowed it down to here because we had good memories of traveling the south central region of Aquitaine in France, and Tennessee is very similar geographically. Karen’s home appealed to us [with] it being in a quiet spot surrounded by trees with water close by.

The Blackley's enjoying Karen Payne's backyard in Sevierville.

The Blackley’s relax in Karen Pyne’s backyard in Sevierville.

Where do you live in Australia?

Graham: Well, Australia has six states and two territories. Victoria is the state we live in. It’s southeast on the coast. I looked up some figures to check out how it compares to Tennessee and Victoria has 88,000 square miles compared to Tennessee’s 42,000, but close to a million fewer people. We live outside of town on 130 acres that is mostly pasture and woods. The nearest town is Bairnsdale with about 15,000 people.

Used with permission from

Used with permission from

What did you do during your visit?

Graham: When we made the exchange with Karen, I spent lots of time online looking at what things happened in East Tennessee so we had an idea of what we wanted to do before we arrived. I found that the Titans had a game in Nashville, which we went to, and then Karen’s daughter, Beth, and her son, Brock, took us to the UT and Oklahoma game. That was exciting. I know the Volunteers lost, but two overtimes!

I am a cabinetmaker and wood crafter and I found the Tennessee Valley Woodworkers Association and contacted them. We arranged to attend a meeting in Manchester and they gave us a very warm welcome. Then we met friends of Karen’s in Knoxville, the Tevaults, and visited in their home. Don is also a wood carver. I enjoyed sharing stories with him and seeing his workshop.

Graham talks books to Knoxville poet Linda Parsons Marion.

Graham talks books to Knoxville poet Linda Parsons Marion.

We’re really into music, so I looked online for musical events and that took us to Bristol, Virginia, to the Rhythm and Roots Festival. It was outstanding.

Debbie: Yeah, that was a great day. Friendly people all over the place. We even made the evening news! They interviewed us, said we came the longest distance. And we heard music downtown in Knoxville on the Market Square one evening. I got to try fried green tomatoes at the Bistro’s brunch before we went to a play downtown. I like browsing around in antique stores which put us in Clinton one day, looking around the shops.

Graham & Debbie Blackley at a Market Square concert.

Graham & Debbie Blackley at a Market Square concert.

What else do you count as highlights?

Graham: Anytime we spent in the mountains. We enjoyed you taking us to Cades Cove, and hearing the elk bugling at Cataloochee was spectacular. One day we just took off driving and went to Cherokee. Beautiful, beautiful scenery.


Debbie: Yes, the mountains. I got to see a bear at Cades Cove. Graham had seen them before in Canada, but I never had so I was thrilled about that. Let’s see, we saw elk, turkey, deer, the bear and two groundhogs. I was hoping for a skunk. We don’t have skunks or raccoons or squirrels in Australia. Karen has enough squirrels in her backyard that I don’t get excited over them anymore!

Why did you visit Cherokee, NC?

During my time as an educator…I placed considerable energy into improving the educational outcomes of Aboriginal students. I had an opportunity to travel to British Columbia and New Zealand to tour schools and meet with Indigenous teachers, Principals and Administrators. I read quite a bit about Native American history prior to our travels and saw the parallels with other Indigenous peoples as a result of European expansion and settlement. I had no time on our recent trip to engage in any way with the Cherokee…. I was keen however to visit the land of the people…and try to feel just a little of the story.

Tell me about your Australian home and those 130 acres. I understand it is partially underground?

Aussie house

Used with permission from

Graham: Yes, it’s an earth sheltered house. The east and west and roof are covered with soil so it is very heat efficient. We built the house ourselves except for a concrete bunker. A lot of the land is pasture and that’s rented out to a sheep farmer. We’ve got vegetable gardens and orchards with red currants and boysenberries, passion fruit, oranges, avocados, plums, olives and hazelnuts. We’re pretty self-sufficient when it comes to food. Everything harvested is canned, frozen, or dehydrated. I hunt and fish. We use the venison in place of beef, and lots of rabbit and fish. I made my own dehydrators for drying foods and a brick oven for making pizzas.

Used with permission from

Used with permission from

I have to ask. Do you have kangaroos in your yard?

Debbie: Yes, we have kangaroos and wombats and wallabies. The rail fences in Cades Cove gave Graham an idea of a fence to keep the wallabies out of the garden. We also have lots of parrots and cockatoos come to our yard. Australia, particularly in the south, has hundreds of species of birds: eagles, falcons, kites, honeyeaters. Lots of very colorful birds.


Debbie Blackley sees the first hints of fall at the Cataloochee Valley overlook.

Graham, you said you were an anti-tourist, but you love to travel. What are you looking for when experiencing new places?

Graham: In Stuart Wilde’s book, Infinite Self, which I highly recommend, he classifies people as ticktock people, those who are caught up in the drudgery and routine of life, and fringe dwellers. I like the latter. Fringe dwellers take steps to ensure they avoid groupthink mentality. We enjoy seeing the sights when we travel, but most of all we enjoy experiencing the culture. The way others live in their little corner of the world.

We managed to radiate out in all directions from Sevierville, going to Nashville, Bristol, Manchester, and Cherokee. We even went to Brock’s school in Norris one day. A check of the mileage on our rental car put us at almost 2,000 miles at the end of our visit.

Writer Judy S. Blackstock (center) and her family enjoyed a play with Blackley's.

l to r, Maxwell Blackstock, Carole Romeiser, and Writer Judy S. Blackstock (center)  enjoyed a play with the Blackleys.

We ate out more in Tennessee than I think we have in the last 20 years at home. Food was really good quality, we thought, and cheap. At home it is expensive and the cheap stuff is cheap for a reason. So we deliberately ate at pit BBQs and pancake houses. We stopped anywhere that was different to home. At an antique shop in Bell Buckle, Tennessee, the local oatmeal cake was recommended, so we had that and fried pies too. We both came home about 3 KG (6.6 lbs.) heavier!!

Would you come back?

Debbie: Definitely. I would love to take a week and camp in the mountains.

Any last thoughts?Graham: I like the idea of Tennessee because some things about it are everything I am not. For example, it is a Republican state, and I’m at the other end of the political spectrum. This however was even more reason for being here.

We don’t think we have ever seen such a concentration of churches. We have churches here but participation seems far more optional.

One interesting thing to me is something of southern culture I am unable to understand, but I thought of it after visiting in Seattle,Washington, our last stop before returning home.

Washington does not seem to have soul. Tennessee does. I had heard of southern hospitality and to us, this seems very real.

 If you enjoyed this article, you might also enjoy How To Be a Conscientious Traveler. Please look for it on’s site and check out the other articles on the unusual, the wacky, and the strange!

Unless otherwise noted, photographs by Judy S. Blackstock

© Judy S. Blackstock, 2015.

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