Heart of a Southern Woman

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Margaret Steptoe Kerse Youngblood, My Mother, 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks, #33

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Kerse, Margaret Steptoe

Margaret Steptoe Kerse Youngblood

Kerse sisters at Nancy's wedding

Five sisters participate in their sister Nancy’s wedding to Bob Guthrie in 1943. He was a pilot and was killed over France in WWII. l to r, Katherine Kerse Buck with husband Roger next to her.The next two adults are Guthries, she is Cilla Guthrie, sister of the Groom. The child is the flower girl, Claudia Burnett Williamson, daughter of Julia Louise Kerse Burnett standing with her. In the middle you see the bride Nancy Langhorne Kerse and her husband Bob Guthrie. Next is Margaret Steptoe Kerse Youngblood, with an unknown man next to her. The last sister shown is Janey Bell Kerse Sommers, and behind her on the end is Cecil Hogue Youngblood, Margaret’s husband, my father.

Kerse Sisters, improved picture

l to r, Katherine Langhorne Kerse Buck, Julia Louise Kerse Burnett, Evelyn L. Kerse Anderson, Janey Bell Kerse Sommers, Nancy Langhorne Kerse Goodell and last is Margaret Steptoe Kerse Youngblood

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My mother, Margaret Steptoe Kerse (pronounced Kearse) was born February 21, 1918.  She was the fourth of seven children born to Thomas (Tom) Philip Kerse and Katherine (Kate) Steptoe Houchins. Kate was a nurse in a time when women traditionally did not have careers. Tom was an Irish Police Officer like his father. Both came from wealthy families at one time.  In the beginning of the marriage, Tom had a gentleman’s gentleman to care for him. The family always had a cook and nanny to care for the children. They had a small yacht called The Lady Jane from which they swam and had their friends over for parties. Their father and grandfather held tours and dinner excursions on the Lady Jane to raise money for charities in the Richmond area where they lived. You might enjoy a blog post about the Lady Jane written earlier, by clicking on this link. 

Lady Jane, boat belonging to Thomas P.Kerse

The Lady Jane

Mom was only four years old when a tragedy, her first (her mother’s fourth or fifth) hit the family! Mom’s older brother Bucky (Thomas Phillip Kerse Jr.) drowned in the James River!  He was only eight years old, and Mom was half his age! She remembered it well however, and talked about it her whole life, so we knew it was a defining moment for her. Because of his drowning, she made sure we were all excellent swimmers, and she never let us go down to the James River, so close to our house, without adult supervision! That was her strictest, and one of her few rules!  You can read the story of  Bucky’s drowning in this blog post if you’d like. Mom’s mother Kate, my grandmother, was only 10 when her own little sister died. She was seven when their family home burned to the ground!  Kate was 17, with five younger living siblings, when her mother, Evaline Langhorne, died in childbirth, and her father deserted the family to create another one. She must have been a strong woman, to have become a nurse while living with relatives, her siblings scattered, living in a city 300 or more miles from her beautiful mountain home where she was reared, in Patrick County, Virginia. These were the life experiences she brought to her own family, my mother and her siblings! 

Mom and her sisters attended Catholic schools and St. Patrick’s Catholic Church where the whole family was involved. Mom used to say that one or the other of the seven of them was often in trouble, and had to kneel and pray for repentance so often that their Mom sewed kneeling pads inside their skirts so that their knees wouldn’t get so sore! 

The depression hit in 1929 and my grandparents lost all their money, yet had to take care of their children!  In January 1930, more tragedy hit the family. My grandmother Kate was shot in the head by one of her patients! He had been in a coma, and upon regaining consciousness, he thought she was the enemy, or that she was going to hurt  him, and he grabbed a gun, one long in the room that no one knew was loaded. He shot my grandmother, then he died a few hours later, not knowing what he had done undoubtedly!  But the family suffered, she didn’t die, but was forever maimed, not quite herself as the inoperable bullet affected her speech and thinking ability. My mother was 12 years old when this happened! Gracious!  If we think of the time line of Mom’s life, age 4 her brother dies, age 11 her family loses money in the depression, and by age 12 her mother is shot and brain damaged. I am not sure just what was going on with her father during all of this, we heard little about him when we were growing up, even under direct questioning! I got the impression that he was pretty much absent, at least emotionally, and the second oldest sister, Katherine, aged 14 when her mother was shot, apparently took over the mothering/management duties for her four younger sisters. With all this adversity, the family could have been totally disrupted, instead, the sisters grew closer! You can see in the pictures above, they were often together. That continued all of their lives, so that their children, us first cousins, grew close also.

With this childhood in mind, what do you think my mother’s adult life might be like? Mother and her sisters were all intelligent women. Three of the five sisters finished college, Mom attended college for two years, She did not finish for various reasons, lack of money, war was looming on the horizon, and it may not have seemed that important at the time, although education was always important to her philosophically. I remember when she died and I was thirty, only a couple months from graduating with my Master’s Degree in Clinical Psychology, I was devastated hat she died before I finished, because I knew how much it meant to her! My sister also earned a Master’s degree in Reading and Education, like Mom and her sisters; we were determined to be able to make a living. 

Mom was 21 when her father died, I’m sure that affected her concentration at school, and probably made her think she needed to be at home taking care of her Mom. I wish I had realized all of this growing up, I’d love to have talked with Mom about it. Somewhere between their father and mother’s deaths, the family sold the yacht to a local judge, and they all left the Catholic Church! Leaving the church must have been a momentous decision! I did ask my mother about this a time or two, and she always said she told my Dad that she would become a Methodist like he was, if he promised to go to church every Sunday and to raise his children in the church! He must have taken that seriously, because that is exactly how we were raised! There is only one question, it just so happens that I realize now that Mom and her sisters left the Catholic Church earlier for the Presbyterian Church just down the street from where they lived. Was this due to the influence of teenaged friends, convenience, a crisis of faith?  (That would certainly be understandable!) Just after her father died in 1939, Mom met and married my father, and my older sister was born in 1942, just before her Mother died in 1943.  One would think she had her new husband for support when her mother died, but unfortunately he had already joined the army preparing for WWII duty. She had a new baby, and shared an apartment with some of her sisters whose husbands were off at war themselves. They were together when their sister Nancy’s husband was shot down in his plane over France and killed. 

Mom showed what a strong woman she was all her years. She went out and got a job, using the typing and business skills she’d learned in college. Mom made sure her daughters could type as well, so that we would be prepared to get a job if need be.  She typed well, fast, and accurately.  She typed her way right into the mortgage business, ended up getting her real estate license, and had a successful career in realty and mortgage. From age 24 to age 37 she had four children, two girls and two boys. We would have run her ragged, except when Dad came home from the war, they moved in with his mother who had recently lost her own husband. Grandma stayed home with us kids once we were in school, so that Mom could work. Mom was a rare breed, a true career woman in the 1940’s, 50’s and 60’s! 

When I was a young child, b. in 1949, Mom always walked about two miles back and forth to catch a bus to work –sometimes we walked with her! When she was 36, my sister was 12, my brother 8, and I was 6. My younger brother had not been born yet! Thirty- six and she finally learned to drive a car! She surprised us all when she bought her own car after passing her driver’s test! I remember, it was an old, rounded, 1954 Chevy, brand new at the time of course! She was so proud of that car, and my older sister was so proud of her!  We lived on a hill, so our driveway was steep. One afternoon, a neighbor named Nancy and I both got in the car to wait for Mom to take us to Brownie Scouts! We must have been playing around and knocked off the emergency brake or something, because suddenly the car was rolling backwards down the hill! At that time, there was nothing across the street but woods and a creek. I remember that Nancy and I both jumped out of the car, and ran into the house screaming, “Momma, Momma, the car is rolling backwards down the hill! Momma, momma…!” LOL By the time we all got outside, of course, it was across the street, in the woods, all the way into the creek! Her new car!  LOL  Mom didn’t fuss at us, didn’t cry, just said something about being more careful and not being in the car without her! 

Mom was very creative and playful when she had the chance. She and my Dad played bridge every week with different friends. She created doll clothes, and played cards with us. My sister remembers how she loved to make special treats for the neighbor children at Halloween! She would dress up in a costume to deliver the treats at the door as well. I have pictures of her in a Halloween costume with my older daughter Ali. Unfortunately, she had passed away before my youngest was born. We loved hanging out with Mom, because she was fun! 

Ali age 4 , 1978, Halloween with Grandma Margaret

Ali Holshouser age 4 with Grandma Margaret Kerse Youngblood, 1978, Halloween

I remember that sometimes we would find Mom up alone, in the middle of the night, just sitting in the dark and quiet. I asked her once why she did this, and she said she was “practicing for when I am an old lady and blind!”–thus walking around in the dark!  I now suspect she was seeking some alone time in a household with 7 people including 4 children, a demanding husband, and a mother-in-law! During my genealogical reseach I have also learned that there was an inherited disease that caused blindness that ran in her side of the family. Retinitis Pigmentosa had blinded 15 people in earlier generations! 

Unfortunately, when Mom was just 50 years old, she had a severe heart attack, I ended up doing the same when I was 50–not the inheritance I wanted! My sister had gotten married a couple years before Mom got sick, my brother one year before, and I was a sophmore in college. My younger brother was only 12. Mom had to quit work, and quit driving, and had her wings severely clipped. It hit my youngest brother the hardest of course since he was still at home! She lived for 12 years however, dying at age 62, after nine more heart attacks! 

Mother was highly respected and liked by her boses, coworkers, neighbors, and those at church. She was friendly and always tried to help others.  She was a natural born leader who taught Sunday school, organized Bible School for the children, and generally took care of everyone and everything. In fact, she served as Superintendant of Sunday Schools at our church for many years! She also had liberal leanings politically, and taught her daughters to follow along through modeling. She worked at the polls because she believed in the right to vote so strongly. She also believed in Civil Rights for people of different races long before it was a popular subject. She believed it was important to take care of those who were poor, who had less than you. She thought it was a sin to have money in your pocket if another person was going hungry. I try to be like that today. Mother put her beliefs into action, cosigning loans for people who needed help buying a house or car. Delivering food and clothes, she was a busy woman. She was a free thinker, very open minded, and almost a bit bohemian.  When she died, the church was full of mourners singing her praises. We heard story after story of how she had helped someone or another, how she had changed their lives for the better! The church even placed a stained glass window in her honor in the women’s Sunday School Class! What an honor! 

Obviously  I loved Mom dearly, she was individualistic and special. We were lucky to have her! 

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Gardener Extraordinaire–Helen Blanche Hogue Youngblood, 1881-1964-52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks

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Could I have inherited my love of gardening from my paternal grandmother? Helen Blanche Hogue Youngblood, 1881 – 1964, was my father’s mother and lived with us until she died when I was 15 years old. She loved to garden so we always had beautiful flowers in our yard.

 

 

Grandma, as we called her, was always a bit distant but kind to me as a child. However, she had a reputation of being a no-nonsense woman. She ruled the roost, and always had for her own four children and her husband, Edwin Spear Youngblood. She was German and Scottish in ancestry, the daughter of Robert Fulton Youngblood, 1850, who fought in the Civil War. After the war her family moved to the South from Pennsylvania.  Settling in Petersburg, Virginia, they were known as carpetbaggers, and her family of six children was generally rejected by the community. There is a story passed down in the family that says when they would attend church at the Methodist church in Petersburg, people near them would rise and move to the other side of the church! Emotions ran high towards “yankees” in the South after the Civil War. Helen’s father and husband were farmers, but she and her husband lost their farm when the Great Depression hit the United States. By that time, Grandma  had four grown children, and her two sons built a house for them in Richmond Virginia. My father Cecil, bought out his brother Fulton’s half of the house after he was married, Dad’s father had died, and he decided to raise his own family of four children in the house he had helped buy for his mother and father. I spent the first 22 years of my life living in that lovely stone house.

 

Every spring and every fall,Grandma had a ritual. She had about 50 plants in pots that she kept in her large bedroom and walk-in closet upstairs in the stone house. Every spring we would form a line and carry every pot outside! The pots had to be lined up exactly right along the edge of the stone front porch. Every fall it was back again—up the stairs onto the tables and garden display racks. This ritual marked the beginning and end of our summers as clearly as Memorial Day and Labor Day.

  I remember the joy also, the joy of having a huge garden full of daffodils in the spring that we were free to pick and carry to our teachers, neighbors, and whoever we chose. I loved doing that. We always had snowball bushes, and grandma told us that when the snowballs fell off the bushes in May, we could begin to go barefooted outside. I can remember clearly shaking those bushes vigorously along with my brother in hopes that the snowballs would fall to the ground and we could run around outside without our shoes.

 Along our back walkway grew Lily of the Valley. They smelled so sweet as you walked from the driveway to the entrance. When I was  about 10 years old, my grandmother was President of the local garden club and they held a contest for children to create and enter a dish garden. I remember Grandma and myself  working together to design a dish garden that illustrated the song, “White Coral Bells”. I remember planting the Lily of the Valley in my dish garden along with little pebbles for the walkway which illustrated the song perfectly. Amazingly, in researching newspaper archives for my genealogical research, I came across a newspaper article about my winning a blue ribbon for that entry. What a surprise!

lily of the valley “White choral bells, upon  a slender stalk. Lily of the Valley grace my garden walk. Oh how I wish, that I could hear them ring. That will happen only when the faires sing.”

 There is so much more I’d like to tell you about this complex woman. Her mother Helen Voelkler was the daughter of German immigrants. They were a musically talented family, with my second great-grandfather Gustavus Voelkler born 1834 in Altenburg, Saxony. Gustavus owned his own music school and was principal of the music department at Dickenson Seminary in Williamsport, Pennsylvania

 Her father Robert Fulton Hogue, however, was Scottish. If he was anything like his son, my great-uncle Robert Clay Hogue, he was quiet, contemplative, and intense. There was abuse in the family and my own grandmother Helen had a history of being abusive to some people. Where did that come from? Who had the uncontrolled  temper? The German Voelklers, Youngbloods, or the Scottish Hogue’s? 

My mother always worked outside of the home as did my dad. Therefore Grandma was in charge of our family life when I was a child. I remember that we went outdoors to play in the morning and were required to be home in time for dinner at 6:00 pm. We always had dinner around the dining room table at 6 pm, you were not allowed to be tardy for fear of corporal punishment. My job was to set the table for the seven of us-Mom, Dad, four children and grandmother. After dinner, my sister and I washed and put away the dishes.  We did this everyday, day in and day out for many years. My sister had a repetitive dream that she was 113 years old, I was 107, and we lived together, and were doing dishes together still! (It makes me laugh.) She always washed and I always dried and put things away. The boys of course were required to do “boy’s work” like mow the grass, empty the trash, and work on the car if need be. With four children in the house, however, there was always fun to be had no matter what else was going on.

 Grandmother had a keen sense of smell. She was almost deaf, and nearsighted. But we all knew she could smell trouble. Since our parents left early for work, we  children would catch the school bus and go to school on our own. I remember one day, when my little brother was in nursery school still, and my older sister was off in high school, but Cecil and I went to the same elementary school. That morning we missed the school bus because we were late getting out to the stop. Instead of walking to school as we could have and should have, we decided to play hooky. Instead of staying outside and playing all day somewhere away from the house, for some reason we sneaked back into the house and hid in our parents’ closet. At lunchtime, after Grandma went upstairs for a nap, we sneaked out to get something to eat. Not thinking about grandma’s keen sense of smell, we cooked some Campbell’s soup! Not only that but we carried our bowls of soup into the closet along with our crackers and drinks. Our parents would have killed us if they had known!. We cleaned up the kitchen but just as we were slipping back into the closet with our soup, down the stairs came grandma! We could hear her searching from room to room as she muttered under her breath, “ I know I smelled something, there was something cooking, what could it possibly have been? It smells like something’s burning.” She was looking behind every chair and curtain . We froze in the closet –sure of imminent discovery. Amazingly grandma did not find us that day. We were very lucky and we knew it. My brother and I agreed that our skipping school days were over, and that it was easier just to go to school! I can only laugh when I remember the trauma/drama of that day.

 Today I love my flowers. In the spring and summer I rush outside every morning anticipating what new bloom I might see! I usually have my camera with me. But it’s also interesting, that while I am quite nearsighted, and slightly hard of hearing, I also have a keen sense of smell. Could I truly have inherited a love of flowers and a strong sense of smell from my grandmother? Better to enjoy the magnolias, the gardenia, and the Lily of the Valley, say I! Thank heavens I do not have an anger issue and have never been abusive. I do believe we have broken that cycle. The  issues of dna, and nature versus nurture are interesting ones, but I already  know, as I explore my own gardens, that I inherited this interest from my paternal grandmother. It is a gift I appreciate greatly. 

 

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The Royal Red Divas Honor their Retiring Queen—Goodbye Queenie Wahine, Queen of Perpetual Joy and Popcorn Peach Pie!

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In May 2014, the Royal Red Divas, a chapter of the International Red Hat Society, crowned their new Queen, Angie Rowe. For their June gathering they honored their retiring Queen. Since I am that retiring Queen, I have to tell you no one’s ever had a better tribute and/or retirement party!

 

First of all, I knew nothing about these plans and was very surprised that they carried it off without my having an inkling! I arrived thinking I was coming to my first meeting as simply a member, ready to enjoy the leadership of our new Queen, Angie Rowe. The Divas had prepared a beautiful, formal tea, with lace tablecloths and china teacups. They had decorated the room to reflect my favorite things! Knowing that I am majorly into gardening and genealogy, the divas had decorated the room like a garden. There was an amazing red and purple arched trellis! Surrounding it and all over the room were a multitude of beautiful flowers. There were pink vincas, purple Angelonia, bright pink and red impatiens, and many others reflecting our colors and my love of flowers. It took my breath away! Displayed prominently was the most incredible piece of art and loving work I have had the pleasure to see in a while. The Divas had collected tiny pictures of Divas who had  been in the group over the last 10 years and decorated a family tree with those pictures!  It is so beautiful, and these people are so meaningful to me, that I will treasure it always.

I wish you could’ve seen the table laden with tea sandwiches: cucumber, cream cheese and olives, egg salad, chicken salad and more. There were fruit, olives, cheese, croissants, and of course a multitude of desserts. There were scones and clotted cream which were delicious. Of course we live in the South, so there was scrumptious pound cake;. and iced and hot tea in china pitchers and pots which graced our tables along with choices of wine. The Divas had out-done themselves for a second month in a row!

 The Divas had already presented me with an incredible gift – the gift of this Dragon voice recognition program that I am using at this moment. They had already said such nice things about my 10 years as their Queen that I certainly never expected to be honored in this way. They gave me two beautiful decorative pins to wear. One says “Founding Queen”, and the other says “Retired Queen”. I just love them!  As you know in Red Hat “you can never have too much bling!”  I think I’ll wear one of them on my hat and one will be pinned proudly to my shoulder for all Red Hat gatherings. DSCF9013480654_10151353032167732_1041515182_n

DSCF9015

Being Queen of the Royal Red Divas has been one of the most fun things I have ever done in my life! Only health concerns could make me step down. However I am looking forward to joining in as a Diva, and enjoying the energy brought to the group by our new Queen Pinkalovagaga!  I think my new name will reflect my genealogical work so now I’ll be Grande Dame Helen of Virginia!   I love that name, but will never lose the perpetual joy brought to me by the Royal Red Divas.  Thank you Divas! Thank you, thank you, thank you! Love and kisses from  your Founding Queen, Helen

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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)


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On the Seventh Day of Christmas, my true love reminded me that I could once swim like a swan!

On the Seventh Day of Christmas my true love Max encouraged me to remember one of my proudest moments…when I could swim like a swan!

Here in 2013 , the seventh day of Christmas falls on New Year’s Day! Happy New Year everyone! Besides eating black-eyed peas and collard greens today, to ensure a lucky and prosperous New Year and that I will quickly recover from this lingering pneumonia, I am using this malaise and inability to talk (!) to enjoy rambling through some memories. I wonder if any of you find it hard to believe sometimes that you have memories—whole periods of your life perhaps –that not a whole lot of people know about! Not that we tried to keep it secret, more that it was an age and place thing, developmental independence and all that…but I digress! LOL

For me, college was one of those times in my life, where I was out-of-state from my parents, and didn’t meet my husband to be until my senior year! So, there are many activities I engaged in, memories I’ve stored, that I’m the only one privy to…LOL, I find that kind of fun! However, I’m getting ready to share one of those memories with you…because…ta da…I was a swimming swan! Actually, I was part of a synchronized swimming team for my college, and we were good! LOL We were the “Aquabelles” of Greensboro College, a small Methodist college in North Carolina. I have vivid pictures in my head of our practicing the ferris wheel movement over and over, spinning around and around, feet hooked to the person below us, and hands holding the ankles of the person above! Sometimes I thought my lungs would burst before my turn came to rise above the water, only to churn back under immediately! It was demanding, the team was greater than any one of us, we were performing for a crowd, and it was quite a rush!  Swimming was a big part of the first 25 years of my life…then I married, had a child, another, worked as a teacher then family therapist, and was busy! Some years however, I swam competitively, synchronized, lifeguarded, and taught swimming classes! Surprised I didn’t grow fins! LOL I didn’t think I had any pictures of this teamwork, but was shocked to find it on ancestry.com in a GC yearbook!  I am in the front row, second from the left, withlong dark hair. Really, that’s me, LOL  Fullscreen capture 112014 55232 PM.bmp

I am also including a video of the Olympic Team performing their routine purely for the pleasure of watching it! I did those moves! It’s very hard for this sick lady of 64 to believe!  Happy New Year my friends and family, enjoy your memories as well! 

 


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Five Generations of Women, Daughters, Mothers, and Grandmothers

 Image          Its been 130 years since my grandmother was born.  Katherine Steptoe Houchins, called Kate, was born in the Southwestern area of Virginia, in Patrick County, a beautiful, mountainous area of  Virginia. She died in 1943, in the city of Richmond,Virginia. She may not have wanted for much in her early years, because her mother was Evalina Langhorne, daughter of James Steptoe Langhorne, a wealthy plantation owner and his wife Elizabeth Rachel Omohundro. However, Kate’s mother Evalina  was only 15 when she married, had seven children, then died in childbirth, along with the twins she was having in October, 1900. One of her other children had died at age 2, while the other six children  ranged in age from 3 to 17, with my Grandmother Kate being the oldest! They had lived with their Grandpa Steptoe as  he was called, but his house burned to the ground sometime shortly before her mother’s death. Her grandfather Steptoe was blind,and died in 1905, so he was unable to help a great deal with these children. Their own father, age  46 at the time of his wife’s death, left the state with another 15-year-old with whom he had two more children. So the six surviving children were farmed out to boarding schools, military schools, and other family members. On the 1910 census, I can find five of them, in school or in a relative’s home. However, as adults, I knew all five of my great aunts and uncles and they seemed very close for having been torn apart for ten to fifteen years. 

          Kate went to live with  Langhorne cousins in Richmond, Virginia, and attended  nursing school. Then she married Thomas Philip Kearse, (Kerse) and had seven children herself, one of whom was my mother, Margaret Steptoe Kearse Youngblood. Kate had a hard adult life I believe.  After losing her mother at age 17, her beloved grandfather shortly thereafter, and losing the home in which she’d lived,  her sense of security must have been battered. Then her only son of seven children drowned! Her husband had a yacht, with which he captained tour groups and parties up and down the James River and across the Chesapeake Bay to Maryland  and the Eastern Shore.   The children all learned to swim and spent many happy occasions on the boat always with friends and family. However, one day in October, 1922, 7 yr. old Thomas Philip Kearse Jr. , called Bucky, was out in a dingy with a 16-year-old boy. A big ship came by and the huge wake caused the boys to capsize! The sixteen year old tried in vain to save his little friend, the big ship even turned around and tried to help, to no avail. It was a few days before they found his body! Young when her mother dies, house burns down, father leaves the family, child dies, what else ? It’s hard to believe, but this wonderful woman, a nurse by profession and by all reports a superb one, met tragedy at the hands of a patient. She was caring for a comatose private duty patient. She had bathed him and went to empty the water, as my mother told the story. When she returned to the room, he yelled out for her to get away and called her by the name of some of our military adversaries in  WWI. He was delirious, but afraid. Unfortunately, there was either a rifle hanging on the wall that was still loaded, or a gun in a table drawer beside the bed. I have heard both versions of the story, no one knew any weapon there was loaded. In his delirious state he shot my grandmother in the head! Within a couple of hours, he was dead of his own illness, just that last semiconscious rousing  turned her whole world upside down and that of her children and husband also! She was shot on January 28, 1930, but not killed. The bullet apparently split in half, half traveling down her neck,and half lodging in her brain, inoperable. She lived,but was unable to talk and walk well for the rest of her life–and she had six children! By then her husband worked for the police department as did his father and grandfather! But they always had the boat! Their stories of adventure were endless! 

In honor of Mother’s Day 2013, I want to write more about these six women/girls in my familly.I would love to hear about your Mom or grandmom, especially unique things about them. Enjoy your Mother’s Day! 

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