Heart of a Southern Woman

A snapshot of life one blog post at a time.

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Gardening Interests, Habits, and Skills Change

Gardening Interests, Habits and Skills Change Over the Years
Yes, it’s March and Spring should only be a couple weeks away! I say should, because there’s a huge snow storm raging on the East Coast today, right next to us in Virginia they’re getting like five to ten or more inches of snow! That’s where all my family is, where I was born and raised, but here in North Carolina we’re only getting a few flurries!  Stuck inside, looking out, gardening is on my mind! Come on Spring!

When I was a young woman, before heart disease stole my breath and energy from me, when Fall came, I’d root any cuttings I wanted to take, repot things if necessary, bring them in and set my plants up in an ideal situation, as much as possible. I installed a huge tray of gravel, made of cookie sheets clipped together, like nine of them at least!  I’d set the flower pots on top of the gravel, voila, instant humidity for the winter house and great drainage for the plants! The cookie pans didn’t show by the way, and I put a thick piece of plastic under them to protect the tile floor from any leaks. Then my sweet husband installed grow lights for me, and even put them on a timer and a remote control! I fed or didn’t feed the plants based on the best research I could find. Pruned, rotated, did whatever my plants needed as I was a passionate gardener!  I used this set up for years, and felt so proud of myself! 

Of course, you know the story:  one child is born, second child born, parents get sick and need help, die, church involvement grows, kids grow, PTA and band boosters call!  We call it life. (I wouldn’t be so cavalier about the grief of my parents’ deaths, but it has been 33 years, and eventually you realize it’s part of life, but you miss them.) Plants, or our own interests, tend to take a back seat.

Suddenly, it seems, your kids are grown and independent; you retire, or have time to pursue you own passions again. Or in my case, you become disabled with a health condition, and after the initial shock and depression, you pick your head up and think, hmm…I can still do some of the things I love, with help! My help comes from my stellar husband Max, my daughters who are wonderful to me, and from friends and extended family whom I live and cherish for their support and help, although I hate needing it! See the wonderful wheelchair ramp Max built for me , and I use it everyday! Not being independent is a whole other post! However, as life changes, abilities change, and we have to adapt. The indoor garden was just too much to maintain and went by the wayside years ago! 

In 2003, we moved into the house where we live now, into a diverse neighborhood, diverse in ages, races, and faiths. I love it! Who can be bored with so many interesting people around! And lo and behold, there were gardeners here! Wow! Wise, experienced and skilled gardeners!  They lit a fire under me again!

 The most wonderful thing about the gardeners I found in my new neighborhood was that they shared! They shared their knowledge, “this is how you prune a cle-ma’-tis Helen”. They shared their plants, “here’s a cutting of a double red knock-out rose—take all you want!” They shared their philosophies, “gardening is a process…just let it unfold over the years…” Wow! I was in heaven! 

    I remember meeting a neighbor from a nearby street, one of my best friends now, but who, at the time, became named my “daylily buddy”! She had a yard full of the most gorgeous daylilies I had ever seen! She shared with me, and took me, wheelchair and all, to daylily shows and sales! Oh my gracious,  I fell in love with daylilies! Unfortunately, I was operating only on emotion… “oh, I love this color, oh look at these ruffles,  oh smell that fragrance!”  And I planted that way..with love and enthusiasm, not science or forethought! LOL  The bottom line is that I do not know the names of many of my daylilies, I just know I love them!  So, I am not the scientific gardener that I once was, oh I do a little research, but I am a happy gardener.  


Wheelchair Users at the N,C State Fair, 2012

Wheelchair Users at the NC State Fair

      Wheelchairs, they are a fact of life for many of us. Some are born with cerebral palsy, some come down with multiple sclerosis, some have heart conditions or a myriad of other conditions that prevent them from being able to breath well enough to walk far or stand long. That last statement describes me. I’ve been using a wheelchair to go further than 20 to 40 feet, for almost 12 years now. Additionally, due to a bout of myopathy from my statin drug, I went 8 months this year unable to go 2 or 3 feet without falling! At the Fair this year, with this new position of “Street Team 2012”, I decided I should pay attention to handicapped accessibility conditions, and meet some of the other disabled, wheelchair users at the Fair. Its been very interesting!
     I’ve been coming to the Fair using a wheelchair for like I said, almost 12 years now. I can honestly say, that I ‘ve had pretty much no trouble with accessibility, only getting in trouble due to my own poor planning. like not watching  the power level of my chair, so that I ran out of power and got stranded somewhere on the Fairgrounds! While that was frightening the first time, I soon learned how friendly everybody is when you’re in trouble, and I always had my family, or a police officer, or a food booth owner offer to help in any way they could. Sometimes we’ve gone to dinner and plugged my chair up to recharge, while we ate and rested, having enough power afterwards to either get to the car and go home, or get to one of the places that rent chairs! I’ve done both actually.  Its kind of like running out of gas in your car, and having somebody give you a ride to where you can buy some.  This year I had some different adventures, its always something. 
      First however, I’d like to tell you about some of the services the Fair has to help those of us who need wheelchairs, or strollers, etc. for that matter. 

 At gates 1, 8,9, and 10 there are wheelchair/stroller rental tents, like the Fun Rider Rentals tent pictured above.

                                            This is Thomas Cook, 


who rented an electric scooter from Fun Rider Rentals. We met in the “It’s Got to be N.C.” tent in front of the Kerr Scott building. Thomas is from Garner, the hometown of Scotty McCreery!  🙂  Thomas likes the scooter, says it is comfortable, runs well, and  turns easily. He says that without it he would not be able to go all around the Fair and is grateful for the service.
                                 On Thursday night, October 11, 2012 Ali, Annie, and I attended the Varsity Vocal Showcase, in the handicapped section of Dorton Arena, where I sat in my chair with no fanfare, and no problems. I met a friendly woman, also using a scooter. Her name was Catherine Noblitt and she was there from Asheville,NC. Her two daughters were with her, as were mine.  Furthermore, we got along and chatted like old friends, even though her two daughters went to Carolina, and mine went to State and ASU !  All of our daughters sang in
a capella groups at their own schools also! We were comfortable and enjoyed the great view, one plus for being handicapped.

     One late night, just after fireworks, your Deep Fried Grits Street Team, was wandering the streets of the Fair talking to people and hunting for hot chocolate! We found the BEST hot chocolate along with gigantic eclairs and cream puffs at the Gingerbread House, down the midway towards gate 9! Gracious! While ordering our hot chocolate 🙂 another day we got the eclairs!) we met another wonderfully friendly lady named Burline Thompson.

 We chatted and met her daughters also! Burline was riding what appeared to be a scooter, but so much more. She disclosed to us that she had Lou Gerig’s disease, ALS, and that the chair she was riding in had a lot of special support features and cost $33,000! Since my power wheelchair cost about $8,000, I was very interested in the cost and design! Wow, getting sick is expensive, can take your house, your job, and your family sometimes!   She explained how they would have to add more support items to her chair as she needed them.  She could not have been friendlier! I felt I’d met a kindred soul, when she said that she’d wanted to come to the Fair to have fun with her family  everyday that she could! I was so proud of her, and so happy for her!
      I did ask Burline if she had had any trouble getting around the Fair, and she said honestly there was only one place she’d been worried about her safety. She went on to explain that it was on a fairly steep hill on the road outside of the Village of Yesteryear, leading down to Heritage Circle. She said she was very afraid she would fall, and I remembered feeling that very same way there. In fact, I had slowed down my speed, and had one daughter hold the back of my chair just to put some extra weight back there. I really don’t know how the route could be fixed unless a criss/cross ramp were installed somewhere for wheelchairs to descend at the recommended 5 degree angles!  Otherwise, wheelchair users must travel at their own risk, and be aware of how to handle their own chairs or scooters. I know that the instructions for my own chair say to steer directly down a steep incline, not to try to go sideways, as this leads to turning over too easily. The directions say to go straight down, not at a diagonal or anything,just straight. It can be scary, and I have turned over! Not at the Fair, and I was not hurt, but was thrown off! Now, that’s embarrassing!

     I rode my own power chair all over the Fairgrounds and almost everything and everyone was wonderful, easy to access, and very accommodating!  I loved the gardens, and for the first time, this year I went all the way to the bottom and back up the steep incline in the back of the garden.  Even though the garden paths are paved, and there are handrails throughout most of it, I probably shouldn’t have gone so far, the trails are really steep, and although I was enjoying the beautiful gardens and fanciful decorations, the inclines going up and down were steeper than a lone wheelchair user should have attempted probably. But I have a bit of daredevil in me, only a bit, and the beauty of the gardens was too much to resist!  I did talk to one couple where a woman of 83 was pushing her husband of 86 in a push wheelchair in the garden, but on the flat part. Since I was worried about the lady’s exertion, I asked them if they knew about the rental place, and they said they did. We also discussed purchase issues, and I found them well informed.

        One of the worst things about being handicapped is the lack of independence! Most of us want to be self sufficient, and we hate being so dependant on our loved ones,who work extra hard to go anywhere…loading and unloading chairs, helping in one million different ways! Lord bless them for helping us live our lives as fully as possible like having fun at the NC State Fair! When you see us tooling around, you might say an encouraging word to the caretaker: husband, wife, child, or friend! They need to know you know how hard they work to help us!

     These last seven days, I’ve eaten in tents and in buildings. There were rarely any problems negotiating the terrain. One time however, some friends we’d met bought their food first and meandered over to a tent behind the vendor under those old beautiful oak trees, behind the “pig butt on a stick” booth! I thought there was probably an entrance for handicapped folks on the other side, so I bought my scrumptious potato soup, and found myself riding around and around, there was no way to get a wheelchair up to that tent! So I used my cell phone to call, and my friends and daughter came to meet me and we went elsewhere to eat. Of course we felt we had to buy that fantastic peach cobbler from the Shriners on the corner who sheltered us so comfortably! A great sacrifice! 🙂

    In that same area were the “deep fried girl scout cookies”, yum!, and the wonderful cheerwine slushies as well as other flavors! There was only one trouble! The booths were set up on the median, so that there was a hefty ledge above the curb for patrons to step up on to order.               Of course  that meant no independence for us wheelchair users! We couldnt’ just roll up and get what we wanted, we had to have our helper do it for us, or the kindest vendors watched for us and left their booths to come to us, take our orders and deliver the goods! That’s a lot to ask in a crowed State Fair!   Right below the curb in front of the Girl Scout Cookie booth, was a huge drainage hole with a grate covering it that had space between the bars big enough for a wheelchair tire to slip right into, or a two or three year old’s leg to slip right through! the vendor said he’d made a temporary cover for it, being afraid someone would fall, but it was removed overnight. I reported it, and maybe there will be some improvement by next year, but I saw it as a great danger zone right in front of one of the most popular new featured food items!

     The biggest problem I ran into this year due to my using a wheelchair, was attending Scotty McCreery’s concert in Dorton Arena!  Don’t get me wrong! Scotty McCreery did an awesome job! The concert was great!

Furthermore, I have been in Dorton Arena many, many times for concerts and other things! So, I never considered that there might be a problem.  Part of the problem, was the weather this Monday night, October 15. It stormed off and on, poured rain, and about 20 minutes before the concert it looked like it was going to pour again any minute! We rushed to the arena to get inside before the storm broke and arrived at the North Entrance just as the rain started. We had our tickets out, ones we’d purchased almost a year earlier! We’d been told that they didn’t sell handicapped seats, but that when we arrived we’d be shown to a handicapped area, where one family member could sit with me, unless there were more seats available when the show started then more family could join us. There were four of us there  that night.  The officials at the door, took a look at our tickets,saw they were for section”apple”on the floor, and wouldn’t let us in! They said that since our tickets were on the floor, that I had to sit on the floor, and that meant we had to go around to the dock entrance, the large doors where trucks enter I believe. The lady pointed towards our right so we went out in the rain to find the dock entrance! We were routed towards the Waterfall Stage, and I had loved the group that played there, the Reality Show Band, but had already discovered it was not handicapped accessible, at least not friendly. I knew the rain would make the grounds soft and my wheelchair would get stuck easily. It was dark, I was wet, because my rain coat had lost its rain resistance or something! Poor Annie my daughter was trying her best to find our way when we didn’t know where we were going. We made our way to a curb on the west side of the Arena, but it was too steep for us to navigate. The only choice was to retrace our path, hope not to get stuck,and go around the east side! Hopefully my power would hold up! I was feeling sorry for myself, and Annie, and kind of mad at the ladies who wouldn’t let me in out of the rain, and sent me on this wild goose chase in search of the docking entrance! Well, like a guardian angel, who should appear, but our new friend, Marc Dobson, the One Man Band himself!

He was trying to get out of the storm himself when he saw us! He offered to help us get down the steep curb and I stood unsteadily, while he and Annie backed and lifted the 225 lb. chair down the embankment! Then they both had to take me by the arms and help me get down the same steep embankment! Another person came up to help, and we made it! What a precious thing they did, how embarrassing to me, but how thankful I was. So, after saying goodbye and thanks,Annie and I hurried through the rain and dark to the docking station . We could see it lighted and open,but when we got to the path, a closed gate blocked our way, as well as a truck! Annie simply went to the other end and moved the gate so that we could squeeze in! At the entrance we met four or five policemen, who seemed surprised to see us, but said come on it!   We hurried to where our seats were to find the rest of our family! I knew I couldn’t stay in the aisle, but I wanted to talk to them about where we’d be and see if anyone wanted to come with me. I was soaking wet, and cold!   Annie went to be with media folks taking pictures, and after the third person, a female fire marshall, named Robin, who was extremely considerate, came to tell me I had to move, I said goodbye and went to sit alone against the wall and feel  lonely, cold and offended again! LOL  But Robin heard my tale of woe, and was determined to improve our situation, bless her!

 She could see that the upper level handicapped seats were not full, and said if they were not full after the concert started, she would move us up there herself and she did! The rain had slowed thank heavens, and some of our group could go up the stairs inside the arena, I on the other hand, had to go outside and around to the south entrance! But Robin the firefighter and Lisa Geist who had met Annie before, walked us all the way to the entrance, made sure we had no trouble getting in, and found chairs for my family to join me!  They were remarkably kind and talk about hospitality, they embodied the spirit of it!  I feel very thankful to them! The concert was great, a highlight of my year! Thanks Robin, Lisa, Marc the One Man Band, Annie, Ali, Max, Lisa, and all who help make my life so fulfilling! God bless you all. It takes a village!

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Please, oh please, let us be your 2012, NC State Fair Street Team!

In response to the contest/question “Do you Want to be part of the 2012 N.C. State Fair Street Team”?

This is what Ali, Annie and I replied:

Deep Fried GRITS!

(Girls Raised In The South)

The State Fair Street Team
for the 2012

North Carolina State Fair

Bumper Crop of Fun
Team members:
Mom: Helen H.
Daughters: Annie H. and Ali H.
Team name:

Deep Fried GRITS
(Girls Raised In The South)

Team Creed: Our family moved to Raleigh in 1980. Ali was six years old, and Annie was born here in 1982. Their father, my husband of 40 years, went to NC State University, as did Ali. I taught there as a visiting lecturer. Annie brought the mountains into our family by attending school at Appalachian State University. We have attended the fair every single year in those 32 years since we moved here. We have worked at the fair as volunteers, we have entertained guests, seen shows, ridden rides, petted animals, and eaten enough food to last until the next year! We love the NC State Fair because it showcases our state! But even more so, we see all of our communities there, our friends and family! We have cousins showing cows, ancestors in the Village of Yesteryear. coworkers and friends working in the gardens. We along with others of our friends, can be found working in the education building- in the peace booth, eating pickles, waiting in line for hush puppies, stocking up on Moravian cookies from Old Salem, and pouring over the cakes, crafts , and quilts! We have moved through the years riding rides, cheering the pig races, and oohing and aahing over the fireworks! From a young single woman, a mother with young children, to a mature woman and wheelchair user, with grown daughters and grandchildren, you’ll get different perspectives on the fair. Our circle of life keeps expanding…marked by a common love and joy of the October State Fair!

If our team were selected as your new State Fair Street Team, I cannot imagine our not covering pretty much everything! Ali is a mother of two young children, and as such she’ll be riding the kiddie rides, petting animals in the petting zoo, visiting the policemen and climbing aboard the ambulances and 18 wheelers! Of course they have to see the “most giant” pumpkin, and other amazing agricultural feats. They will be eating and drinking as well. We will be with them to watch the kids’ puppet shows, dog shows, whatever and all that is available! We’ll be wandering through the fun houses, and laughing and singing! Ali’s degree from NCSU is in communication. She has written and edited websites and newsletters for nonprofit agencies professionally. Ali is a forum moderator of a large and active online and in- person group called Triangle Mommies. Through them she can reach several thousand local mothers with information on what she thinks is fun for the family to do in the Triangle. Their forum would be full to running over with her colorful and enthusiastic recommendations. Ali is also a member of the national group The Mommies Network, and through their forum she can share things with mommies across the State and more. She is also active on facebook, pinterest, and You Tube and has recently started tweeting.

Annie likes the nightlife with her friends as a young single woman as well as traveling by day with her family. We’ve had tickets to see Scotty McCreery at the fair for about a year already I think. Annie manages Palsie’s Gourmet Popcorn Store in Wakefield Commons shopping center, and sees members of that community daily! Her father, my husband, teaches at the high school there. The families there love their popcorn: barbecue, dill pickle, and strawberry cheesecake!    Annie was born in Raleigh, grew up here, but moved with us to the coast of North Carolina where she attended high school. College took her to the mountains, giving her the broadest experience of living in all sections of our beautiful state. Her major at ASU was hospitality and tourism, and she knows the importance of both of those fields for our State Fair. She also posts daily on facebook and uses You Tube extensively.

Finally, I am Helen, mom, wheelchair user, and I will let you know about my experiences with accessibility. I’ve been at the Fair with my chair for the last 12 years now, so I can tell you it’s wonderfully accessible! Anytime I have had a problem with my wheelchair, like running out of power because I stayed all day and all night and rounded the grounds three or four times or more—there has always been someone special to rescue me. From renting me a chair from your entrance providers, to allowing me to plug up my chair while I enjoy a meal in a tent or on restaurant row, to even helping me tow the disabled chair to the exit where my husband was escorted by police to drive right up to get me! North Carolinians are wonderful, caring people, and it shows at the State Fair! I have a great deal of fun at the Fair every year. I may mostly watch the grandkids and kids ride the rides, but I enjoy collecting all the stickers my jacket can hold! I eat pickles, hushpuppies, ice cream, corn dogs, roasted corn on the cob, deep fried oreos and funnel cakes of course. You have to take candy apples home. And, you have to come multiple days, because you’d get sick if you ate all that on one day! I play games,  cheer on piggies,  attend great concerts, and watch fireworks. Of course I always get over to see my favorite weather man/woman and newscasters! They feel like part of our family also! I never miss seeing the crafts, and the gardens, and I spend my share of money everywhere! We have to have sweatshirts, hats, wigs (purple), and Spiderman balloons! We take many, many pictures—like of Elvis hugging me and my grandson for instance! Now where else can you introduce your 4 year old grandson to Elvis Presley, let him watch him sing, then get a hug from the MAN himself! LOL!
As the fair fades off until next year, I try not to be sad, but to focus on the fun memories we’ve built as a family and with our friends. I have a blog now, so of course I’ll be writing about the
 fun. Check it out

I am the Queen of a Red Hat Society group in the area, named the Royal Red Divas. As well as posting to them, I can sometimes reach a thousand Red Hatters in the Triangle, and many more state wide and nationally. I also am active on facebook daily.

So, the three of us have many years experience, as North Carolina natives and from out of State, grandmother, mother, single young adult, and grandchildren (who may not be part of the team officially, but make us look good!)—all who share on blogs, in organizations and communities, facebook and other social media contacts..how could you ask for more than our team, the Deep Fried GRITS! Girls Raised In The South. Please choose us, we will do you proud!


Holshouser”, since we are kin to our former governor for whom your Village of Yesteryear building is named. )

Major outlets for promotion:

–Facebook, daily entries, multiples, three accounts plus family and group pages.

–Twitter @mamakat07

–Blog: https://heartofasouthernwoman.blogspot.com


–Triangle Mommies and The Mommies Network online forums

–Red Hat Society of North Carolina, national, state, and local chapter.

–You Tube, Ali has posted many times, Helen uses in blog, and Annie uses extensively for multiple reasons.

–NCSU Alumni Association, newsletters and online forums

–ASU Alumni Association, newsletters, and online forums

–Greensboro College AlumniAssociation, newsletters and online forums

And other organizations…

 So…what happened?  I’ll tell you in the next post!   Love you, Helen