The Literary Corner: Renegade Writer’s Guild

Published 10:06 am Thursday, June 25, 2020

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“Is It What It Is or Something Else?”

By Kevin F. Wishon

It’s been years since I first heard the phrase, “It is what it is.” However, when I initially heard this comment, it troubled me. While I accepted that there were situations where this phrase could be reasonably applied, something bothered me about this expression, and I couldn’t put a proverbial finger on it at that time. Over the years, the phrase made its way into my mental collection of automatic expressions. Although I rarely used the saying, when I did a week ago, I realized what was troubling me about it.

     At the time, I was thinking about a personal setback and how it was limiting and preventing me from enjoying life more. Then, just like that, I thought, “It is what it is.” Thankfully though, my brain didn’t stop there. The next thought came in the form of a question, “Is this true?” The phrase “It is what it is,” suggests that there is very little if anything that can improve or correct a situation. That was when I realized what was bothering me about that phrase. When used thoughtlessly, the expression was a white flag of surrender veiled in an easy to remember sequence of words.

     On first consideration, it may seem that I’m making a big deal out of nothing. Yet, I’ve read enough on psychology, mood, and the brain to know this: the mental dialogue occurring in each of our minds affects our attitude and actions. For many people, this disguised negativity is part of the myriad of thoughts that flow through our minds each day. Until we stop, listen, and examine what we are saying to ourselves, we won’t realize why we are so unmotivated or have such poor, cynical attitudes.

     Does a sports team turn to their coach and say, “Certainly, it’s a guaranteed loss. Let’s head back to the locker room,” when another team takes the field exhibiting greater strength, size, and ego? No, the team of lesser strength just realizes that they will have to work harder to win. Despite that team’s best effort, they may still lose, but amid that defeat, they will grow, learn, and build confidence. This is what we are robbing ourselves of when we say, “It is what it is,” carelessly. As I stated earlier, there are many situations where the comment is appropriate. In these cases, I feel it’s an honest admission that there are larger situations in this world than one person can handle. But, when we use, “It is what it is,” improperly, it permits us to give up before we have tried. Let us not accept defeat where there is an opportunity to grow.

“Every Man’s Man”

By Stephanie Williams Dean

With Father’s Day approaching, I was considering what I had learned from my father.  My mother was more outspoken than my dad, so etiquette and simple life truths seasoned much of her dialogue – and she walked that walk, too.  But, I had to dig a little deeper into my mind to conclude the takeaways from my father.

Dad was a man who demonstrated his thoughts primarily through action. Dad rarely talked the talk but always walked the walk. He was a good role model for what I considered a “good man.” One of dad’s strengths was being an “everyman’s man.”

First, he was a dutiful son who looked after his elderly parents often. They lived just a few miles from us, and as a family, we visited and watched Lawrence Welk with them every Sunday night.

He worked hard to support our family. Dad owned a hardware business. My mother was a homemaker, so dad single handedly earned the family income, which later paid for private schools and three children’s college educations. He often left the house long before sunrise, working hard to be successful.

But, Dad never failed to be home by 5:30 in the afternoon when he sat down with us at the dinner table. Nor did he fail to regularly attend Sunday school with our mother and church with his children on Sunday mornings. He worked long hours to provide for his family so we could have the best in life.

His easy-going personality made him well liked by both men and women. A faithful friend, Dad’s besties were other hardware dealers, a few long-time friends, and other men in our church. He was a close friend to all his brothers-in-law – my uncles – as my mother was one of 13 children, so he had many. I remember him going to pick up my uncles when they were old and homebound. He’d take them to lunch to get them out of the house. This care of the elderly has always stuck with me.

Dad was a ladies man – in a good way. I never heard a disrespectful tone or words spoken to my mother. Good manners, polite, kind, and handsome – he had it all.  And I never witnessed a trace of arrogance. Simply put, Dad was a good guy.

His tight circle was small but significant. Much of my “value” system came from being a witness to the life my father led. He knew to what and to whom he devoted quality time.

Our circle need not be big, but instead, of great value and significance.

Never words.

Always action.

“Which Hartley are you?”


Linda H. Barnette

When I was a teenager, my parents took me to an ophthalmologist in Winston-Salem to get contact lenses.  As the doctor was checking my eyes, he asked me if I were related to the Hartley family of Davidson County.  After I told him that that was true, he shared with me that his great-grandfather was from that same area and that he had been the governor of North Carolina in the early 20th century and was a friend of some Hartley families in the area around Horseshoe Neck, which is where my ancestors settled.  As a teenager, that was merely a passing conversation.

I finished my education, got married, had a child, and taught school.  There was not time nor interest in genealogy during those years. Yet it was meant to be. Several events happened that propelled me towards that study.

One day when I was in my mid 30’s, I visited my grandmother Smith, my mother’s mother, who was herself a lover of history.  She often shared information about her family with me, but on that day she gave me a daguerreotype of one of her Leach relatives who had fought in the Civil War.  Although I kept it in a safe place, I didn’t think much about it for years.

Then in the early 1980’s I was hired to teach Academically Gifted students and went back to Catawba College in order to get my certification in that field.  One of our assignments was to complete an independent study on a subject of our choice. That was a time for me to do some family research, not because I necessarily wanted to but because that’s what came to mind.  Daddy was still alive then, so he took me to the cemetery where many of the Hartleys are buried, and to the Lexington Public Library where a very nice gentleman copied some files for me and then sent us on to the Register of Deeds office to get more material.  I wrote my paper, got a good grade, and did not think further about it.

Within the next year or so my dad was diagnosed with lung cancer.  As he began to weaken as a result of surgery and chemo, he had what seemed to me then a rather strange request at the time.  He asked me to take him to the old home place in a remote area of Davidson County near the river, where his father had been born.  He said that they used to have family reunions there, and that it was just something he’d like to see. At 43 I had no clue why. Thankfully, I drove him there for what would be the last time he would ever see it.  I am so grateful that I did.

With all of these promptings now in retrospect, I felt called to research and write the story of my family.  Thanks to the help of several volunteers and some good library collections as well as some good digital sites, I have written not 1 but 7 family history narratives.  Every tree has many branches, so that is the work of my old age.  As I write, I honor all of them by telling their stories.  I’m proud to tell folks, as we Southerners are apt to do, that I’m a Hartley from Davidson County, North Carolina.

Finally, in my ongoing research, I recently discovered who the face in the daguerreotype belongs to.  His name was John Leach, and he was my grandmother’s great-uncle who died at age 22 in Virginia after the Battle of Chancellorsville.  I would love to be able to share that information with my grandmother, Blanche Dwiggins Smith, who planted the seed of history in my soul.

RWG Literary Corner

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