Andy Adams – Kentucky Coal


The above video of an interview with my brother Andy Adams of Hazard, Kentucky in Appalachia took place twenty-seven years ago when he was fifty years old, and had achieved the American Dream.

His photo on the cover of my family book Stories of a Kentucky Mountain Family was taken when he was just sixteen, with our youngest brother Hale, who was six. When our dad died, leaving eight children, Andy quit school and went to work in the coal mines of eastern Kentucky to support his mother and siblings.

Later, after being injured at the mines during a dynamite blast, he forged a birth certificate to prove he was eighteen and drove semi-trailers across the country. He also worked in the factories in Detroit, and when he came home he paid our debt at the general store.

Andy was my hero. Hale and I, the two youngest, often watched for him to come home. Memories still linger in my mind of him coming up the path on crutches after the blast at the mines, smiling at us through his pain as we waited on the front porch, and later, watching him swing down from the giant cab of a truck as he came home to check on us.

In the video he tells you himself that he achieved the American Dream, a man who only finished the eighth grade and was self-educated. He was also self-directed, with a can-do, positive attitude towards life and work that he passed along to all of us.

When he passed away on March 14 2001, I was with him. A few hours before, he had pointed over my shoulders and said “Your brothers.” I turned automatically towards the wall and said “Where?” He had a disappointed look on his face, realizing I hadn’t seen them. It was the only time I remember disappointing him. But I knew at that moment that the three brothers who had already passed on were waiting to greet him.

Andy was a hero for our times. A young man of sixteen who became a substitute father to his siblings. He set an example for all of us. I hope he knows how much he was loved.

For All the Women Who Feel Trodden On

If a woman makes herself a worm she must not complain when she is trodden on. — Immanuel Kant, German Philosopher 

Of course I changed the gender. Kant may have been one of the foremost thinkers of the Enlightenment but since he spoke during the Eighteenth Century I’m not sure he meant to include women.

As for myself, I gave up worm-hood a number of years ago. I started working on it when I realized one day that, in order to be walked on, I had to acquiesce by lying down. If you’re standing tall, they have to knock you down first (so you should also learn self-defense).

After lying prone for so many years (I exaggerate, of course) I found it took awhile to get back up. But I finally made it because I had to be a role model for my daughters and granddaughters, and even for my son and grandsons, because I wanted them to respect me and thus, to respect women.

So I was delighted recently by my granddaughter Emily’s reaction after her motorcycle accident (which of course I was not delighted about as she had a broken leg). After Emily’s surgery I asked Cathy how she was doing and her Mom replied “She’s really p-ssed!”  “That’s my girl!” I said. “When life hands you a lemon, don’t make lemonade, spit it out!”

Now that may not be the way a grandmother should respond but I had asked the question solicitously as I was concerned about Emily’s low spirits. So I was pleased to hear that, instead of moping, she was mad. Emily definitely does not embrace worm-hood. Although in this instance she may have come close. She had just gotten her motorcycle operating license and was feeling pressured, by the line of cars waiting behind her, to pull out into heavy traffic. Thus she hugged the curb too closely and hit it. (You’re learning, Emily, but next time let’em wait).

I agree with Kant that I can’t complain about my days of worm-hood, especially since it was my own self who let the trodders trod on me. But no more! So this is for all the women out there who feel trodden on. It’s time to stand upright! Shock the heck out of the trodders. They will really flip!

One Month Later: the Cedar Rapids Flood

Once the city’s hold on building permits was released a few days ago for those of us living in the 500 year flood plain, I finally quit holding my breath (which is good as I was turning blue) and realized I had been up to my old tricks again, balking every time I heard the words “flood victim“.

I blame my mother, because she taught me that although everything had a reason, only God knew what it was, and that it was all good even when it was bad. God never makes a mistake. Thus she espoused throughout a lifetime of poverty, having been left a widow with eight children at the age of forty-two. And although I’ve often felt guilty for having so much when she had so little yet I also remember our family prayers and how she thanked God every day for what little she had. She never owned a home of her own and lost most of her material possessions after our dad died.

While I was growing up, my mother’s early teaching made it hard for me to complain, and I still guiltily reprimand myself when I grouch, although it happens less and less as I grow older, since, like my mother, I realize how much I have to be grateful for. “God lets mothers grow old so they can pray for their children,” she told me not long before she died, “always remember to pray for your children.” And I do, and I also give thanks every day. As I’ve said before, my children are truly my Blessings from the Universe, and if they hadn’t taken charge after the flood as soon as they were allowed to get into the house, I would’ve floundered.

Unlike Candide, I do not believe this is the best of all possible worlds. Heaven knows it could be much better than it is (although that is a subject too broad to broach) but most of our problems are caused by our own decisions and indecisions and their consequences. Many consequences, however, cannot be foreseen. How was I to know when I bought my house that the “500 year flood” was only eight years away and my house was in its path? And who would’ve dreamed the river could be so horribly destructive?

But I refused to be a victim. If I blamed the river, the fates as it were, or whatever else was at hand to blame, I would’ve been accepting victimhood. So (in my own mind) I took charge by seeing the flood personally as a sign for another change in my life. Not that it wasn’t true, but it changed my attitude, which is where everything begins. (Naturally I also had the luxury of doing this because my children were dealing with the awful mess the river left behind). It’s also true there were astrological signs in my progressed chart and transits which fit but they could’ve been manifested in a number of different ways. Even Astrology, which has been most helpful in my life, did not help me foresee this disaster.

What use, then, is Astrology? It’s useful because, along with what I learned from my mother I also learned from Astrology a very different way of looking at my life than at what is most obvious.

Many times we get in a rut and it takes something earthshaking to snap us out of it. Yet, once we get past the necessary actions and the grief for what is lost, we often see something new emerge. For some of us this may take years, but some day we will look back and see the flood as a turning point.

In my last post I was thinking of simply repairing the house, selling it and moving to an apartment–wondering out loud if I should. Later I saw that my anti-victimhood had taken hold, making me a victim of my aversion. I had also described how much I loved the house.

After reading the post, Cathy said to me–cautiously, in case I’m living in LaLa Land–that with the newness of everything we have to replace, the house won’t be the same. The same old house, I said, just with new stuff in it. Sort of like me.

The worry lines left her brow.

After the Cedar Rapids Flood: Making A New Choice

Last night we went to my daughter Cathy’s for a family gathering and a spaghetti dinner. In the living room she showed me my curio cabinet, cleaned up but empty since, after washing everything carefully, she had wrapped each treasured item and stored it for me–except for the beautiful clock her brother had brought me from Germany several years ago, which graced a place of honor high on a bookshelf nearby.

My youngest grandchild, Teresa’s son, who is four, pointed to the clock with excitement. “Grandma! Your clock!” He had always enjoyed watching it through the glass doors of the cabinet as the small balls, swinging from delicate chains, moved in a circle beneath the clock’s face. It was one of the few things in my house he couldn’t touch, although I would sometimes take the clock out of the cabinet so he and his five year old sister could watch the movement reflect the light on the mirror below the balls.

My military son, his wife, son and daughter, were with us as we celebrated being together again. This morning they headed back to Florida where he is stationed, and later Cathy called me to say the city has finally relented and will be issuing structural permits so we can fix the basement in order to proceed with other repairs to the house.

For several weeks I’ve been full of questions–for myself. I must, of course, repair the house and FEMA has, thankfully, provided some money towards that. But afterwards–is the destruction to my house a “sign” that it’s time to make another major change in my life? Fix the house and then sell it? Move to an apartment? Where I won’t have to buy new appliances? After all, I turned sixty-five four years ago. My children worry about the stairs. But I love the house and can be quite sentimental about the things I love. I love older homes, the taller than average ceilings, the sense of other lives that have been lived in those same surroundings–perhaps giving me a sense of times past. One might call it an aura that surrounds old structures.

Maybe it’s because my fourth house of home in my natal chart is ruled by Saturn and as a Capricorn I am very familiar with Saturn. In many ways its astrological significance has guided my life until now. On the phone a month before the flood I said to my son that sometimes I felt as if I had already lived three lives. I reassured him I felt no premonition my life was soon to end, although, let’s face it, the road has grown much shorter, but only that I was picking up vibes about a possible new direction, also shown by transits to my chart. My children are used to such comments from me.

So I wonder now, since the flood, if it is decision time again. Many things from the past have been cleared away including much of my genealogical research. Some of it I could reclaim if I was motivated to do the mind-boggling work. But I’m almost relieved to let it go. When did it all become a burden and why didn’t I recognize this and move on? Of course much of the research went into my family book. But many of my Astrology books are also gone. Had I already gleaned what insight they held for me?

I wonder if others who suffered losses from the flood question its meaning in their lives. If for them too, a new choice lies on the horizon, one that will fit with what was left. After the flood.

The Cedar Rapids Flood and Winston the Pooh-Chon

Having recently noticed that someone else has named their blog Walking Winston for their pug, I decided to change the name of my blog to glorify my own Winston’s mixed breed.  He is half poodle, half bichon and known to my grandchildren as Winnie the Pooh-Chon. He weighs nineteen pounds, which is seven pounds more than the breeder said he was supposed to grow to but I love every ounce of him.

When I ask for a kiss he gives me a quick smack as though to appease me but also letting me know he’s not easy. He’s a little Scorpio, born on the same day as one of my granddaughters and both are strong, independent and brave, except Winston is afraid of the vacumn sweeper, from which he runs and hides under the bed.

He will walk on his hind legs for a treat but will only come when he’s called after slow deliberation.  If he’s in his hidey hole under the bed a treat is not enough to bring him out. Say the word “walk” a few times and he runs out with a big grin, tail wagging, looking for his leash. 

When we arrived at my daughter Teresa’s house on June 11th ahead of the flood that later entered my house Winston was ecstatic, but as time moved on he began giving me that questioning look, like “I like to visit but this is ridiculous, when do we go home?”  How do I tell him that his favorite resting place on the back of the sofa by the window, from which he viewed the old neighborhood, now rests at the city dump?

Since the flood Winston and I have been welcomed into my daughter’s guest room, where I have my own microwave, a small coffee pot and my computer.  When Robert’s parents came for an overnight his dad also brought his power washer and a generator so he and Robert could go to Cedar Rapids to clean mud out of my house. While they thus labored, Robert’s mother and I caught up on woman talk.

It’s great to have caring, sympathetic in-laws along with family. They didn’t even mind that my Squatter’s Rights meant they had to sleep on the sofa-bed.

Winston and I are both blessed.

 

After the Flood: Grateful in Cedar Rapids

I recently experienced the one thing that would make me forget–and care even less about–the latest political claptrap. In fact, I haven’t watched Fox News or CNN for at least ten days. My focus has been captured by our local news in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

My new focus began the morning of June 11th when my sister-in-law called from Detroit to see if I was okay. “I’m fine,” I said, surprised. I had awakened that morning without the enticing smell of coffee wafting through the house since I was fasting until after the routine drawing of blood for “my numbers.” So my doctor could tell me if, in fact, I’d been behaving as I ought to — starving to death and walking Winston every day for the past three months (for my own exercise, of course).

Pauline had seen on the national news that downtown Cedar Rapids was flooded. Oh no, I said, they must’ve been talking about Cedar Falls, which was recently flooded. Of course sandbagging had been going on locally but that happens when it rains a lot, just as a precaution. I had listened to the news with only one ear — it’s like that siren that goes off periodically where they say don’t be alarmed, it is only a test.

I blame my inattention that morning on the lack of coffee as it takes at least two cups to get my brain working, but within a few hours after Pauline’s call I was headed for Teresa’s home in Coralville. It was my day to spend time with my darling grandchildren. I also took along a couple of changes of clothes, just in case the flooding river reached a street I had to cross on the way home and I had to stay a couple of days.

But I forgot to wear my hearing aids.

I still didn’t think the water would reach my house because I live in the 500 year flood zone. Doesn’t that mean a flood only happens in that area once every 500 years? My insurance agent told me they don’t even suggest flood insurance for people there. Why should I worry?

Within a couple of days my street, near Czech Village, came under mandatory evacuation.  My wonderful, amazing granddaughter Jessie, and a friend, broke into my house (her Mom couldn’t find her key) to retrieve my hearing aids. And that thoughtful young woman also retrieved my computer for me! My computer would’ve been a terrrible loss; it holds so many family pictures I scanned in, along with other irreplaceable records.

The only furniture saved on the first floor was, miraculously, my glass curio cabinet (six feet tall) containing treasures my children have given me over the years.  On the other side of the same wall my fridge had fallen against the kitchen stove. Yet,  when my daughter Cathy took the mud-encased cabinet home and washed it and the contents up, not one of the glass shelves or other treasured items were broken.  They were also able to save the framed family portraits and other sentimental treasures on my walls, including a mother’s day card they had made for me when they were small. The water (which reached a level about two inches above my kitchen countertops) had stopped before it reached them. I am eternally grateful.

Many people had it worse than I did, losing everything, whereas my second floor was spared any damage, so I still have my bedroom furniture and most of my clothes and linens. Although many things were lost that I valued and I will have to replace the furnace, stove, refrigerator, washer, dryer, television set, living room and dining room furniture, my desk and bookcases (although I now have only a few books to fill them) these are only utilitarian things.

My children and their mates and even my grown grandchildren pitched in to clean up as soon as they could get into the house, hopefully before the mold could set in.  They tore out the wet stuff: walls, sodden carpeting, ruined furniture, as well as the furnace, water heater and appliances–the rudiments of living. A huge heap of trash waits in front of the house for the truck to take it to the dump.

Teresa has been keeping a running reportage on their progress on her blog Flesh and Spirit if you want to see pictures of a flooded house and its aftermath. It’s not pretty and I cannot even imagine the shape I’d be in right now without their long hard labors  So my heart goes out to those who have suffered through this disaster, and especially if they don’t have family members with the dedication and energy, and time from their own needs, to help.

As you know I study Astrology and I also believe that everything happens for a reason. Not that I know what the reason is but perhaps more understanding still waits in my future. Was there a sign in my natal and progressed charts and the transits? Yes, but who would’ve known that it would manifest in this way? All I could tell was that a major change was coming involving my home. I thought of all kinds of possibilities, some of them much scarier than what manifested. So, I have to be honest and admit that I feel a sense of relief that it was only material things. My children and their families are all safe and have proven, once again, that they are, as they’ve always been, my Blessings from the Universe.

Midlife Crisis: Retrieving Your Soul

The midlife crisis is no joke, although it may look that way, to people my age who find it endearing that young people over forty are horrified when they find a gray hair. I try to remember the time when I thought forty was old, but I must’ve changed as I now consider myself to be young at sixty-nine.  And the loveliest thing about my gray hair is the ability of my beautician to make it any color I like.

I don’t mean to belittle the point here. The midlife crisis really is a once-in-a-lifetime deal and it really is serious. When I say you are on a journey to retrieve your soul, even though you didn’t know until now it had been misplaced, I’m not just speaking metaphorically. This is a crucial time in your life.

Have you been jogging along the right path lately? That’s the question that comes up when you reach your late thirties to early forties, a period of about four to six years. It’s been ten to fourteen years since you experienced your first Saturn Return and faced the first big milestone on your soul’s journey. But maturity is not an overnight process. Along with the new insights you gained back then you most likely had a job to maintain, a family to provide for, and all that goes along with being a responsible member of society.

Now transiting Saturn will enter the picture again when you’re about 42, but this time only as part of a complex series of transits that have already begun, to bring the new results to light.  By opposing its position in your chart, it’s asking “How are you doing so far on the halfway mark to your second Saturn Return?” And your cranky reply may well be “Would you quit being so serious for awhile? I’ve got all these other issues to deal with so you can just wait your turn!”

The other three transits just passing are Uranus opposing Uranus, called your “Uranus Opposition”, Neptune square Neptune, and Pluto square Pluto. All of these transits represent a complex of self-evaluations and choices you are making about your life. It is a process. Although I experienced my Uranus opposition first, many of you are experiencing your Pluto square first, as Pluto has been traveling faster recently.

Pluto is associated with psychology and some believe he even represents the soul. Since this is a one-time transit, it represents a life-changing crisis in action on a deep emotional and psychological level. It often begins with a growing awareness of our mortality. We become obsessed with the loss of youth and other signs of aging, and feel a deep sense of loss along with other intense feelings: of grief, depression, rage, jealousy, betrayal, isolation and disempowerment.

What’s really triggering these feelings is an internal process in which the unconscious is awakening, and something within us is crying out for greater depth of meaning in our lives. In Jungian terms, this phase represents the confrontation with our “shadow” and we are faced with the “demons” of the past. Through internal and external experiences we become more aware of those parts of ourselves we have repressed, buried, rejected, denied, projected and ignored.

It’s time to begin recognizing, owning and integrating these unlived parts of ourselves. In order to heal our wounded child it is also time for us to endure the pain and face the past, allowing ourselves to be vulnerable. This phase is not just about death, it is about birth and renewal.

For most people, the Uranus opposition follows and occurs between the age of 40 and 42 (others nearer to 38 or 39) which is at the midpoint of its 84 year cycle, the amount of time it takes to travel around the zodiac. Since an opposition is much like a full moon this transit of Uranus reveals what we have become in the first half of our lives. As we begin to see ourselves more clearly we also begin to feel an urge to free ourselves of attachments to the past in order to build a new identity. We want to explore new possibilities, do things we’ve never done before.

We want to reconnect with the parts of ourselves we’ve repressed. According to Jung, if we successfully navigate this midlife transition “Above all we will have achieved a real independence and with it, to be sure, a certain isolation. In a sense we are alone, for our “inner freedom” means that a love relation can no longer fetter us, the other sex has lost its magic power over us, for we have come to know its essential traits in our own psyche.”

The time of the Uranus opposition is exciting because we now have the impetus to make changes necessary for our growth, and can find ourselves inspired to follow our dream. However, our dream is undergoing a revamping by our Neptune square during this midlife experience.

We are faced with a crisis of ideals. During the Neptune square we may feel terribly disillusioned and depressed as we begin to see a gulf between what we once idealized and the reality in our lives, also reflected through our interaction with society. Now is the time we  face whether what we have become matches our ideal self. And, even if it does, we need a new dream to guide us in the second half of our life. What shall it be? This is a time many of us begin to question our religion as well as our spiritual and philosophical beliefs and whether they are still valid. We may feel an absence of meaning, the lack of a sense of purpose, or find ourselves in a state of mourning for the lost dreams of youth. By studying Astrology during this time in my life I experienced an entirely new awareness of the Divine Order of the Universe, God’s creation.

The importance of this journey through uncertainty is that it gives us the ability to connect with a larger spiritual purpose. Formal religion has its place but how many of us drop our spirituality in the collection plate every Sunday and forget about it the rest of the week? Religion is no substitute for spirituality. That sounds suspiciously like something my eldest daughter says, that “school is no place for children”, which is why she home schools. But that’s a decision she made after she had two more children near the time of her midlife crisis.

At this time of our life we have the opportunity to connect with the core of our being more than ever before, to help us make decisions about what we really want to do with the rest of our lives. All these values are activated following closure of the transits, not during the transits themselves. At last we feel free to express our gifts, unhampered by the restrictions of the past. At last we can retrieve our souls from obscurity.