Heart of a Southern Woman

A snapshot of life one blog post at a time.


My Reputation?—Zero to Hero Challenge—Day 16

Unfortunately, it does seem that reputation matters. I say unfortunately because I have just enough “flower child” in me to want to say “Let it all hang out!” “Do what you want!” “Live for today, for the moment!” I did come of age in the sixties! Lol

However, I also went to church, and was raised by a Catholic mother. I was very responsible,  and worked early on– age 15 as a candy striper—helping sick people, ages 16-23 as a lifeguard–where my reputation as vigilant, an excellent swimmer, and observant of details meant a job for me! In high school no less, I was very cognizant of my reputation! I served as President of a couple of clubs—including the Future Teachers of America, and the Photography Club…and my teachers were proud of me, so I minded my reputation.

But, that got tiresome…always doing what others expected! So…when I went off to college—out of state where nobody knew me, and Mom and Dad were far away….I decided to hell with reputation!  I decided my freshman year, age 18, to throw caution to the wind! I chose not to join any clubs, not to be an officer anywhere, anyhow! I ran, played, dated, danced, cut classes and had a blast! Oh yes, and I almost flunked right out of college by my sophomore year! I was doing at age 18 and 19, what I should have done at ages 15 and 16—rebelling against the “system”!  I’d gotten it backwards! LOLDSCF7921 When I was told by the registrar, that I couldn’t come back my junior year unless I went to summer school and got two “A’s, I was shocked! I had partied myself into quite a pickle! After crying hysterically for an hour or so, I had to figure out what I was going to do. My parents were on the way to pick me up, and they were not going to be happy! Oh,my Dad wouldn’t care—he’d just say “I told you so—told you girls should be barefoot and pregnant—not in college!” No way was I going to let that happen! So, I dried my eyes, and called my favorite Aunt—who happened to have no children of her own—I needed her to adopt me at the moment! And she saved my college career and future! She gave me money for summer school—and I earned those two “A’s” by damn! That was my wakeup call! I vowed to myself I’d get serious…and pretty much, I did! In two more years, I graduated, and started teaching emotionally disturbed children. I married and had a child by age 25. By 28 I was in graduate school and getting straight “A’s”—me! Nobody was more surprised! I remember deciding, within myself, that I would have a reputation of dependability. That I would be the professional people needed me to be, after all, I had become a family therapist—I had to earn and deserve my clients’ trust! And I did! I’m not saying I never made a mistake…surely I did. But I tried very hard to be trustworthy and good at what I did—I studied, researched, lectured…it was great. And I hope I helped people, I believe I did—was told I did. I won some acknowledgement from my peers that I was doing a good job–plaques that symbolized awards and achievements. I was elected president of PTA’s and VP of the Mental Health Association, was made an elder in my church—and yes, it seemed that my good reputation was intact! I intended to work forever…I loved my life! 

Neuse Mental Health Center, new Bern, NC

Neuse Mental Health Center, New Bern, NC

Then I got sick….like wham! I began to faint before I could get around the grocery store.  I would feel faint as I headed out the door to take my daughter to school and go to work! I chalked it up to blood sugar issues and ignored it! I was a mild diabetic, but rarely had trouble. I would eat better I swore! And…I would test my blood sugar more regularly…just as soon as I could find where I put that darn little machine!

Unfortunately, in a matter of a couple of weeks, it got so bad, I couldn’t ignore it—so on the way home from work one night—I pulled into an urgent care center. The doctor heard me out, hooked me up to an EKG machine…and that ended my life as I knew it! When he said I had to go right to the hospital, that I couldn’t drive the five minutes home to pack a bag or get my husband, that he was calling an ambulance because I was having a heart attack, well—I was in complete denial! I looked at him with my mouth falling open—and said “You’ve got to be kidding!”

EKG showing heart attack

This is an example, not my personal EKG

The news just kept on getting worse—I was to be air flighted to Duke Hospital—a couple hours away and one of the big guns of hospitals! “You’ve got to be kidding!”—I was very erudite! I was also only 50 years old! My youngest was a senior in high school—going to college next year—I could not be sick! But I was!

The reputation I’d worked so hard to build…dissolved in front of my eyes! I became instead of a vibrant lecturer and therapist– a sick person! I was in and out of the hospital for a year, and diagnosed with inoperable, stage four, coronary artery disease! They said I’d only live about five years without a heart transplant! I couldn’t do it! I couldn’t stand the thought that I would live because someone else had died! No way! The week they told me that I needed a transplant, a man in my church–eight years my junior, father of three young children, and soccer coach had died suddenly of a heart attack! Would it be right, fair, for me to live, and him to die!? I had to say no. I knew all the psychological ramifications and meanings that went with that decision…but there it was.

As it turns out, I was allowed to have some experimental surgery at Duke…open heart, where they shot 18 laser holes in my heart—in hopes of creating new channels to carry oxygen around my heart—kind of like creating new blood vessels! A few years after having that surgery, called TMR or Transmyocardial Revascularization…the researchers said it was not helpful..hadn’t done what they’d hoped, and they stopped performing the procedure. I expected to die. But hey…I didn’t!

Royal Red Divas in the Youngsville Christmas Parade, 2012. Lorna Harris in back foreground, Monica Richardson i back waving Annie Holshouser driving, Helen Holshouser beside her in front.

Royal Red Divas in the Youngsville Christmas Parade, 2012

For a long time I wouldn’t go to church. Church had always been a place I liked…but I couldn’t stand to be seen as that old lady in the wheelchair with the heart condition!  I didn’t want that reputation! Recently however, I joined a church with my husband. It was a major milestone regarding my self-esteem. I knew some people would look at me and think…that old lady in the wheelchair. But I knew better—I was a heart patient with chronic disease yes, but I was so much more! My red hat sisters had taught me I could still have fun—be silly—laugh and love life! My facebook friends, and my ancestry.com fellow researchers challenged me intellectually and gave me love! My family, oh my family…they all deserve medals! They loved me, sacrificed for me, supported me…and allowed me to grow into a different, but happy and productive person. Thank you!

 I’m alive, I’m thrilled—reputation—who needs it—it only leads to judgments, from self and others, and I just want to live and enjoy each moment! So it seems I’ve come full circle–from believing reputation is important–to being relieved it is no more! I acknowledge that young people have to mind their reputation, to be respected professionally and personally. Well…would you look at that…one of the major blessings and freedoms of growing older–no one to answer to but yourself! Helen    (this article was written in response to Day 16 assignment from the Zero to Hero Challenge–http://dailypost.wordpress.com/zero-to-hero/#16)


CHALLENGES!– 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks Challenge –and the Zero to Hero Challenge!



I never knew I was a person who responded to challenges so strongly! LOL I’m trying to remember if, when I was a child, one of my friends would say “I betcha won’t do this Helen!” –well, would I, did I? If my memory serves me well, I have to admit that I did dare very easily, and now I haven’t changed much apparently!

I joined two challenges just a week ago to improve my blog and my understanding of the word press community.  The Zero to Hero Challenge gives us a daily assignment that varies between tasks like putting new widgets in our blogs, to reading and commenting on other blogs! That brings me to today’s blog post, one I hope will satisfy my Zero to Hero Challenge. We were assigned yesterday, on “DAY 11: BE A GOOD NEIGHBOR — LEAVE COMMENTS ON THREE NEW BLOGS

The best thing you can do to connect with others and build a community around your site is to, well, engage. You’ve already been following topics and blogs, and chatting with other Zero to Hero participants — let’s take that up a notch.

Today’s assignment: leave comments on at least three blogs that you’ve never commented on before.”


  In completing that assignment, I discovered a blog written by Amy Johnson Crow on genealogy. Amy was issuing another  challenge:  52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks  in her blog, “No Story Too Small”.  http://www.nostorytoosmall.com/posts/52-ancestors-challenge-week-1-recap/

The title of her blog resonated with my desire to tell the stories of the ancestors, cousins, and descendants in my own family tree! I love the family tree work I have done, but even more, I love the stories! I love feeling like I am getting to know my family! Joining her challenge encourages me to do what I love. Not only will I be blogging more consistently this year, I hope, but look at all the kindred spirits I have the opportunity to get to know—a whole new community! Thank you for thinking of this challenge Amy Johnson Crow, and thank you for administering it! The huge response you got shows how hungry we all are to connect with our families, our history and each other I believe! I am very excited to participate!

Now, while all of the above is true, I want you to know, that it also fulfills the challenge assigned us for Day 12 of our “Zero to Hero Challenge”! The assignment read “DAY 12: FROM COMMENT TO BLOG POST — BE INSPIRED BY THE COMMUNITY

Yesterday, you left comments on three different blogs. (Or more, if you found more great posts that made you think or pushed you to respond, you overacheiver, you.) Lots of you shared the blogs you found in posts or in yesterday’s forum thread. We also advised you to remember where you left your comments — you’ll need one of those comments today.:

Today’s assignment: write a post that builds on one of the comments you left yesterday. Don’t forget to link to the other blog!”

 So this assignment I did for today, but more importantly I did for the year–I joined her challenge to write about  52 ancestors in 52 weeks and I am so excited! But thinking back about how challenges have always played a part in my life..I couldn’t help but think about my very first friend on this earth–and oh, how he challenged me!

I remember that, even though I lived in a rural area just outside of Richmond, Virginia as a child– my best friend, a boy, exactly my age, lived right next door.

Child riding stickhorseDavis and I were best friends and mortal enemies depending on the day. We spent somewhat of an idyllic childhood playing Roy Rogers and Dale Evans together. We both had older siblings in school, but with no kindergarten, we had each other at home until we were six! Davis always challenged me! And I always let myself be dared! Both our Dad’s smoked back then– in the fifties! One of the challenges Davis used to throw at me was to eat the ends off of burnt matches lying in the ashtrays liberally scattered throughout our houses in those days! And I did it! And while his Mom taught piano lessons in the other room, we raided their refrigerator and pantry and dared each other to eat the vilest things: like pickles and peanut butter, LOL, sardines and grape jelly! What must his mother have thought of the debris! She probably thought I was a terrible influence on her son…little did she know! After we’d gorged ourselves on disgusting stuff, we would strap on our cap guns and run down to hold up the school bus and demand that the driver let our big brother and sister off the bus! LOLgirl in cowgirl outfit Today we’d be in jail as terrorists, or reform school—we were five years old! Free as birds! Today that boy is a superior court judge! I was a psychologist…we turned out okay.

Now that’s a story for my own descendants—I hope it is not the only one they will hear, LOL, but I want them to know as many in the family as I know, so writing these blog posts about ancestors and family members will be so much fun!

Hope you have a great day and come back to talk with me!  Helen

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Zero to Hero Challenge


Hello my fellow bloggers on WordPress! I am excited about joining you in this “Zero to Hero” challenge, even though as usual, I am late in joining the party!! I just jumped right in and started blogging a little over a year ago, and realize now that as much as I’ve enjoyed it, I have a lot to learn! I’d like to improve the look of my overall blog, learn some of the nitty-gritty techniques that can add great jazz and pizazz…just plain interest….to our posts. So here I am, looking for help! 

I started out wanting to build a community of followers and talkers on my blog. Well, that hasn’t happened! LOL  So, now I’m trying to blog because I love to write, I’m retired, disabled, and feel blessed to have this outlet so that I don’t go stir crazy! I think perhaps I’ve written about too many different things…neighbors, red hatters, abuse, gardening, genealogy…just to name a few, and some readers are just turned off. I also write sporadically, so that keeps people from knowing when to tune in. For those who are following me already, I cannot tell you how much I appreciate it. I might be embarrassed for you to now see how little I really know about blogging, but your feedback is still welcome. In fact, maybe this would be a good time for some of you, Linda M, Anne P., Sharon Lynn, Beverly B W, to name a few, to decide to take this challenge with me and start your own blog! Wouldn’t that be fun to do together!  I don’t think I’ll be sharing this little series on  facebook however! We’ll see.

So, I’d like to decide whether to start different blogs for different subject matters, or whether to keep one big blog that is “me”, and perhaps go to a different theme or style of presenting the blog that will make the different topics more logical. 

There are some mechanics, very simple even, that I need to learn as well. Like, I cannot get the different fonts to”hold” even if I can figure out how to choose them! I also cannot get my spacing or placement of words on my drafts, to hold and be the same when I publish my post. The words are sometimes placed differently, no matter how many times i try to arrange them a certain way and save the look–color, size…I need more control! Help! 

I am so looking forward to this challenge! 


From the Heart of a Southern Woman

 An Introduction to a Series of Blogs

       Hi, I’m Helen  and I’ve been enjoying blogging for almost a year now!  I have so much I want to write about, that I couldn’t choose just one area.. I understand that one of the most important things for a successful blogger to do, is to build a sense of community. Well, I’d love that! I am blessed to live in a wonderful neighborhood, middle class, diverse population, with myriad ages and skills! We are a great little community! Professionally I used to be a master’s level psychologist, and in that capacity I had the opportunity to work with a lot of families and groups struggling with very stressful issues. I’m no stranger to that struggle in my own life either. But group therapy is one of the neatest things I’ve ever had the honor to be a part of or conduct. In group, a community builds very quickly. so perhaps doing that for 20 years makes me realize how important and wonderful it is. Hopefully you will enjoy what you read here, or learn from it, or just agree to disagree! Anyway, I hope you will come back and suggest that some of your friends look me up. I look forward to your comments and hope we can begin a good forum.
        Because I’m hoping for a diverse group of readers,  I intend to write about several different subject matters, in hopes of posting something you might be interested in. But I will try to return to each topic often enough for you to realize the continuity. If you have topics you want me to include, or think would be helpful, I would love to hear your suggestions.   The first couple of blog entries will talk about the joys of my own neighborhood.  Along with that, I’ll begin to introduce you to my Red Hat Society group- the Royal Red Divas. I have the total joy of serving as Queen of this group!   You have to laugh just seeing us all dressed in our regalia!   Next I want to blog about abuse and abusers– what happens when you grow up in an abusive family, as I did. Domestic Violence awareness month is coming up, and I want to talk about it!   Other subjects I’d like to share are my thoughts on  gardening; disabilities;  prayer, angels, and blessings.  . Hope you have a great day and let me hear from you. Helen