Favorite #113: Coach McCullough

Coach McCullough doing what he loved, coaching football.

Coach McCullough doing what he loved, coaching football.

Always Thinking of Others

Michael McCullough, the love of my life and my best friend passed away Monday Sept. 15th from a massive heart attack, leaving a big whole in my heart as well as the community. A lover of all things football, one of his favorite things to do was coach.

Michael was one of the founding members of the Rowan County Youth Football League (YFL) in Salisbury, NC. Proud of that accomplishment, he spent almost thirty years of his forty year career coaching boys and a few girls in that league, overseeing the West Rowan area in which we lived.

Although good enough to coach at the high school level, Michael saw the arena of the younger players as his calling, not only teaching young men about football, but also about life. His lessons instilled morals and values, encouraging hard work both off and on the field.

Although a “softie” at heart, he could be a disciplinarian when necessary, using the philosophy of tough love at home with our daughters growing up, as well as on the field with his players. If school work was incomplete, they often found themselves sitting out a game on a Saturday afternoon.

Pat Phifer, a past player who later coached with Michael summed up the sentiment best when he said, “The community has lost one of the most dedicated individuals that has ever spent time with our youth. Mike gave infinite amounts of his time to the kids and the game he loved. I was fortunate to help him coach a group of young men that later won three NC State Championships playing for West Rowan High School.

Mike always did things right like making sure everyone on his teams had good grades. He made that a priority. We as a community will surely miss him. He put his family first and for them there will always be a void. I hope and pray they can stand proud knowing their father and husband was such an asset to and caretaker of the kids’ lives he touched.

I have tears in my eyes while writing this and fond memories in my heart of a man for which I have so much respect. He gave his life tirelessly to help our youth when he had no children involved in the game. Mike rest in peace. Your family of hundreds of children and people you touched will miss you deeply.

Michael would be honored to know the West Rowan YFL teams, West Rowan Middle School and West Rowan High School are recognizing him in different ways this season. The West Rowan YFL teams are wearing stickers with his name on their helmets, while West Rowan Middle School is dedicating the season to him. West Rowan High presented the family with a game ball at the memorial service and ran several posts on the West Rowan Athletic Boosters Facebook page, with many adding personal comments.

Although Michael never looked for the praise of men, he would humbly enjoy this moment. Words cannot express how much the love and support of the community has meant to our family. Please feel free to leave comments below, Facebook or email dicysm@yahoo.com.

Thanks to all and God bless.

Dicy McCullough

Kristin Saine (daughter)

Kelly Key (daughter)



Favorite #112: Tweetsie Railroad

A fun day at Tweetsie in Boone, NC.

A fun day at Tweetsie in Boone, NC.

Riding the Rails

Labor Day weekend my husband, Michael and I made a trip to Tweetsie Railroad in Boone, NC with our daughter, Kristin, her husband, Brian, and their two sons, Carson and Garrett. Both Michael and I grew up going to Tweetsie as children, so when our daughters were small it was only natural we share that experience with them, too.  Continuing that tradition, Kristin invited us along for a day of fun with our grandsons last month. Everyone was laughing while boarding the train, anticipating what was ahead. When the train began to move, we wondered if the good guys could save the day and the gold like years before.

Although I can’t remember the first time I went to Tweetsie, I do remember Fred Kirby greeting visitors as the singing cowboy. For those thirty-some-things and under, you’re probably thinking, “Who?” Fred Kirby became a celebrity in Charlotte during the 50′s as the star of his own television show on WBTV. Often singing and playing his guitar, he also featured local talent. During the summer months, he enjoyed entertaining at the park, always willing to sign autographs in-between singing cowboy songs.

Many years have passed since Fred Kirby sang at Tweetsie, but since then new attractions have been added, drawing in and captivating the next generation. Some of the attractions include a chair lift to the top of the mountain, rides for children and adults, magic shows, race cars, food and a petting zoo. Carson and Garrett especially loved petting the deer.

Some visitors enjoy the family-friendly atmosphere so much they get season passes. My sister-in-law, Hope Cline, is one of those, explaining young moms never tire of the theme park because it is family-friendly with lots to do. While it’s true there’s lots to do the favorite activity of most seems to be riding the train. Hope says the ride is even more fun when playing the part dressed in western attire.

Our September day at Tweetsie ended at the shops looking for just the right souvenir to take home. Although when we first arrived the whistle seemed a little loud to Carson and Garrett, just like all little boys, they couldn’t wait to ride again. If truth be known, neither could I. Maybe next year we’ll even get season passes.

This favorite memory is more special now because it was Michael’s last trip with the family. He passed away September 15th, 2014 from a massive heart attack. While he left a tremendous hole in our hearts as husband, father, grandfather, friend and coach, it’s comforting to know he’s in a better place.

I’d like to thank everyone for their kindness during this difficult time. Your thoughts, prayers and love have lifted our spirits, giving us strength for each day. If you’d like to message the family, leave a comment below, Facebook, or email dicysm@yahoo.com.

Thanks again and God bless.






Favorite #111: Music Teachers

Nancy playing the piano for a program.

Nancy playing the piano for a program.

     A Love for Music

September means not only the end of summer for many, but the beginning of an exciting new school year. As a retired music teacher, even though I may not be standing at the door on the first day of school, I still get butterflies knowing school’s about to start.

While much is changing in education, it’s comforting to know music still offers children a way to escape from the stresses of everyday life, if only for a few minutes each week. Helping not only with the emotional well-being of a child, research has shown music also benefits in other areas of learning, including language and math.

I didn’t have the good fortune of a music teacher as a child growing up in the sixties, but did have wonderful classroom teachers who would pull out music books at least once a week and sing with us. I also had experiences at church through choir, singing hymns and playing the piano. Developing a love for music at an early age played a role in my career choice, just as it did a friend of mine, Nancy Sloop.

Nancy grew up in Kannapolis, NC, also during the sixties, wanting to play the piano. Since both of her parents were employed at Cannon Mills, there was only enough money to pay the bills with very little left for unnecessary things like piano lessons. Realizing at about the age of eleven or twelve if she would ever have the opportunity to take piano lessons, she would have to help pay for a piano herself, she began babysitting for that purpose. With the help of her mother and grandmother, it didn’t take long until Nancy had enough money to buy a used one.

Getting a late start taking piano lessons, it took longer than expected to get her music degree, but not letting hardships or a lack of money stop her, after receiving teacher certification from UNC-Charlotte, Nancy began teaching at the age of 26. Never looking back, Nancy has loved every minute of it, passing not only a love for music on to her students, but also lessons of determination and perseverance.

Understanding and seeing first-hand the influence music teachers can have in a child’s life, Nancy offers advice for beginning music teachers. She says, “Offer your students a variety of learning opportunities as you teach them to sing and enjoy music. Even though children are bombarded with technology and all that goes with it, there’s nothing that can take the place of a child learning a song. They will remember not only the song, but the memories attached to it for the rest of their lives. There’s no doubt, one of the most important things a music teacher can do is facilitate a love of singing.”

It’s been a long journey for Nancy from growing up in the textile village of Cannon Mills as a little girl, to music teacher and performer. Now in retirement, but not retired, playing for various churches, groups and organizations, while Nancy’s early years of struggles seem so far away, they will forever be a part of who she is, stored within her memory bank to be retrieved when needed. Influenced by music teachers in her life, she in turn has been and will continue to be an inspiration to many with her determination and uplifting spirit.

To read more about Nancy’s story, check out the Salisbury Post article here.

Do you know someone who was inspired by a music teacher? Did that turn into a career? Leave a comment below, message on Facebook or email dicysm@yahoo.com



Favorite #110: Summer Camp

Experiencing colonial life at summer camp.

Experiencing colonial life at summer camp.

Having Fun While Learning

Traditionally, summer camp is a time to learn a new skill in a safe and structured environment. The variety of activities offered is as varied as the imagination, including camping, hiking, swimming, crafts and organized sports.

Elementary and middle school students in Salisbury, North Carolina have the opportunity to learn about colonial and Civil War days through history camps at the Rowan Museum. Each summer four weeks of camp are scheduled with two for elementary and two for middle school students. Education Coordinator, Tricia Creel is the perfect person to lead and direct the camps having found a love for history when a student at Catawba College. To fulfill part of the requirements for graduation, she became an intern at the museum her senior year, loving it so much she never left.

The day I stopped by the museum, students were learning about life in colonial days. After observing, I finally sat down beside a student who was weaving on a small loom. Amazed at the process, I asked if I could try.

One lesson I soon learned was it didn’t pay to be in a hurry because shortcuts only produce mistakes. I suppose the over-all lesson was that life during colonial days moved a little slower than today.

By mid-morning groups of children were on the floor and at tables playing games such as pick up sticks, dominoes and marbles. Not having played pick-up sticks in a while, I forgot just how much fun it could be. It’s amazing how a few sticks thrown on a table can provide fun even in this day of technology and electronics such as video games, cell phones and computers.

After about a half-hour of games, Tricia said it was time for crafts. Some of those were making bricks, homemade paper, a necklace and soap. I couldn’t pick a favorite because I liked them all. Enjoying the experience of making something useful from scratch, I felt deep down in my DNA there must be a pioneer spirit, and yet comfortable with modern appliances and gizmos, it would be hard for me to “rough it.”

Learning other activities later in the week were gardening, making marble paper with a painting technique, tombstone rubbings in the Old English Cemetery and a tour of the historical Utzman Chambers House, I hope next year to attend more than just one day.

If interested in learning more about history camp at the Rowan Museum, click here.

What summer camps in your area inspire children to think outside the box and maybe try something new?  Leave a comment below, message on Facebook or email dicysm@yahoo.com.





Favorite #109: Writing Workshops

             Freelance Writer: Jodi Helmer

Jodi, relaxing with her rescue dogs.

Jodi, relaxing with her rescue dogs.

Where do writers go when they want to refuel or learn something new to improve their craft? Well, possibly college, a class online, a conference or maybe a workshop. This summer I took a workshop with freelance writer, Jodi Helmer as clinician.

Sponsored by the Writers’ Workshop in Asheville, NC, her topic was writing for magazines. Packed full of information, it was both interesting and understandable, giving participants a chance to ask questions and exchange ideas.

Jodi is constantly searching for new ideas and through her thirst for a story, has turned some of them into articles that have graced the pages of national magazines such as Family Circle, Parents, AARP and National Geographic Traveler.

During the six-hour workshop in August, Jodi explained the procedures of how to submit, write bylines, approach editors, network and transform the art of writing into a business. The one thing that surprised me most was the sequence of the process. Jodi explained once a writer has an idea, he/she should query or pitch that idea before writing the story. She said even though an idea may be great, the magazine may reject it because it’s too long or too short. When that happens, a writer has wasted precious time that could have been spent on something totally different.

Jodi not only explained step by step the process, but also included resources for possible ideas such as what’s trending. At the end of the day, everyone left with a wealth of knowledge, inspired to get started with their own journey of writing for magazines.

If interested in learning more about Jodi, check out her website. To learn more about the Writers’ Workshop in Asheville, click here.

What workshops have you found helpful in your pursuit of writing? Leave a comment below, message on Facebook or email dicysm@yahoo.com






Favorite #108: Teachers

Educators, making a difference for the future.

Educators, making a difference for the future.

         Making a Difference

Teachers touch the future and generally go into the profession because they want to make a difference. As a retired music teacher, I understand the pressures they face, even more so now than when I retired eight years ago. Testing, accountability, constant curriculum changes, low pay and long hours only begin to scratch the surface. Yet, in order to be a good teacher, one must be determined not to let those things distract from the ultimate goal.

With most schools starting this week, I wondered what advice veteran teachers might have for new teachers. Having the opportunity to talk with China Grove Middle School teachers, Teri and Adrian Mills, I  wasn’t surprised their advice was to always communicate and make sure to care.

Teri elaborated, “Yours may be the only positive words a child hears in a day or a week. That doesn’t mean not to hold a student accountable, it just means to care in a way they know you care. I became a middle school teacher because I was one of those kids who needed a hug and was lucky I had a great teacher who helped me find myself. Now I want to do that for my students.”

Asking what the biggest change they’ve seen over the last ten years, Adrian said, “Attitude.” Then, pausing for a minute, he added, “It’s hard to put into words, but as a P.E. teacher, having students all three years, I know what they looked like in 6th gr. and what they look like in 8th. Some students look so different there’s no doubt in my mind something happened to change them. It’s as if the light leaves their eyes. Feeling like no one cares about them, they have a hard time caring about school or grades”

Agreeing, Teri said, “We see that more and more and for whatever reason it seems to be especially true with girls. Sometimes it’s because they have no one to parent them and no stability. Other times it’s because a tragic event happened in their lives. It’s really sad, but I find when I take the time to get to know them, building a relationship, they feel I care and will try harder.”

Even good teachers get burned out from time to time and that almost happened to Teri this past year. A difficult year on so many levels, she admits her light almost went out, but after rest, encouragement and inspiring workshops this summer, a faint flicker began to ignite, gradually bringing that light back full and bright.

Another contributing factor to that renewed spirit was seeing a past student from twelve years ago. Amazed the student still recognized her, Teri was touched when the student, smiling, said,  “I always remember my good teachers.

While it’s true students need to know someone cares, it’s also true teachers do as well. This year, if you have children or grandchildren in school, go out of your way to show appreciation for their teachers. Sometimes just a note stuck in a bookbag to say, “thanks,” can boost their spirit, lifting a heavy load just a little. No matter how many times we say thank-you, it will never be enough, but it’s a start.

To read more about Teri and Adrian’s journey as teachers, check out their story in the Salisbury Post here.

Who was your favorite teacher? How did they make a difference in your life? Leave a comment below, message on Facebook, twitter or email dicysm@yahoo.com.





Favorite #107: Childhood Play

Playing a game of sorting bottle caps.

Playing a game of sorting bottle caps.

Creative and Fun

Years ago as a kindergarten teacher, I wanted to make learning fun for my students, discovering rather quickly one way was through games and play. Now years later as a grandmother of three grandkids under the age of four, it’s fun to see them grow and develop, learning through their play.

My oldest grandson, Carson, visits on Wednesdays and some Thursdays, so I’m always trying to think of new things for him to do. By lunchtime this Thursday, I had exhausted all of my ideas, when Carson said, “Will you play with me?” Saying I would, but not sure what we would play, I remembered an assortment of bottle caps I had been saving in a box.

Soon they were being sorted by color, size and shape, even turning into a fort, stacked one on top of the other. Before long Carson came up with his own game of hiding the smaller ones under the larger ones, asking me what color. I had as much fun as Carson playing this game, amazed that something as simple as bottle caps could lead to a higher order thinking skill for a three-year-old.

It never ceases to amaze me how creative kids can be, making games or toys out of found objects while ignoring games or toys from the store that may have cost a small fortune. I’m sure like me you’ve seen a child push a toy aside, wanting the cardboard box instead.  Since play is a child’s work, we need to encourage it more, not less.

To learn about the benefits of play, check out the Live Science website. Their health page lists five benefits, including “play helps children develop crucial skills for life.”

If you’re in need of new ideas for play, don’t forget to check out Pinterest.

What was your favorite game as a child? Leave a comment below, message on Facebook or email dicysm@yahoo.com.





Favorite #106: Kids Recycling

Jared is only 6, but one of his favorite things to do is recycle.

Although Jared is only 6, one of his favorite things to do is recycle.

What a Great Example

I love to recycle and try to encourage everyone I know to do the same, but even I was amazed recently to discover the passion six-year-old Jared Morris has for recycling.

Jared’s mom, Stasea Morris and I became friends when their family lived near me in Cleveland, NC. Even though they moved to SC last year, we still keep in touch from time to time, mostly on Facebook.

Last week as I was looking at Stasea’s news feed, I noticed photos of Jared with a trash can. Reading the caption, I was totally impressed. It seems ever since Jared was a little fellow he has enjoyed cleaning up, at first starting with items in his room and later expanding to trash. To make this even more impressive, discovering at an early age what it meant to recycle, he began sorting out items, encouraging family and friends to do the same.

Stasea says he’s fascinated by the garbage truck and not only loves the slogan, “Don’t trash our future,” but has solutions to make that happen. She also said a trip to the recycling center is like a reward for him each week.

Inspired by Jared’s passion to recycle, I checked online for more ideas and found the website, A Recycling Revolution. This website not only has info about what to recycle and how, but also has info on the amount wasted from products that could be recycled. For example, “an aluminum can thrown away will still be an aluminum can 500 years from now.” With many schools having aluminum can bins outside of them, this would be such an easy thing to recycle. All you have to do is drive up and drop your aluminum cans in the bin. Not only will your efforts help the earth, but also help local schools make extra money.

Although I live in a rural community without assess to automatic pick-up like in a city or town, last year my recycling efforts were made easier when a local company began collecting our recyclables for a small fee. What makes this especially sweet is they separate everything, too. Believe you me, the few extra dollars spent a month is so worth it. The bottom line is no more excuses.

As a retired teacher, I know the importance of educating our youth for a better and brighter tomorrow. Part of that education includes community awareness and involvement. Jared’s a perfect example of how even a child can make a difference.

Congratulations, Jared Morris! For your efforts in cleaning up the world one trash can at a time, you are my favorite person of the week.

Do you know someone like Jared who is passionate about recycling? Leave a comment below, message on Facebook or email dicysm@yahoo.com.





Favorite #105: Spencer Food Lion


            Friendly and Convenient

Spencer Food Lion

Spencer Food Lion

If you’re like most people I know, then you have a favorite grocery store where you do most of your shopping. My mom lives in North Carolina  near the Spencer Food Lion (originally known as Food Town) and has been shopping there for over 30 years.

Although Mom has enjoyed shopping at other Food Lion stores from time to time, now in her 90′s, she finds it harder to get around, so she especially likes the ease of finding what she wants in a smaller store. While the Spencer store may be smaller than other local Food Lions, it still is large enough to stock a wide variety of items. If something Mom needs is not on the shelf, she can ask and the store manager will put in a request.

There are many others in the community besides Mom who enjoy shopping at the Spencer store such as Judy Pesco. Judy especially likes the friendly atmosphere and says she’s been shopping at the Spencer Food Lion for so long the employees even know her by name. She also likes the convenience and that someone’s always willing to help, even walking her to her car to load groceries when needed.

Perhaps you’re not familiar with Food Lion, but if you live in or near Salisbury, NC, (Spencer is just outside of Salisbury) you most likely are familiar with the history of this innovative grocery store. Marking the spot of the original store is a sign in Salisbury on the corner of W. Innes St. and Mahaley Ave., explaining how the first store opened in the Ketner Center just a few hundred feet away in 1957. While I was too little to remember that opening, I do remember later as a little girl going with my mom to shop there.

One of the co-founders, Mr. Ralph Ketner also in his 90′s, can still be seen about town at various functions and places, including College Bar-B-Que across the street from the site of the original Food Lion store. Although I’ve seen Mr. Ketner out and about, I’ve never had the privilege of hearing him speak and consider those who have lucky. Brilliant in the realm of numbers and math, Mr. Ketner often shares his expertise on marketing and finance at Catawba College in Salisbury.

What an inspiration to think a dream from over fifty years ago of a grocery store with low prices and a friendly atmosphere turned into a chain of stores serving the Southeast even today. Although the world seems to be moving at a faster speed with computers, smart phones and all kinds of gadgets, there’s always a place for a kind word and a caring attitude. Oh, and oh yes, low prices. Thanks, Spencer Food Lion. Mom and Judy say thanks, too.

Where do you like to shop for groceries and why? Leave a comment, message on Facebook or email dicysm@yahoo.com.










Favorite #104: Recreational Vehicles

Snack time in the RV.

Snack time in the RV.

Making Friends and Memories

Several weeks ago I had the opportunity to take a trip to Orlando, Fla. in an RV with my daughter, Kristin and her husband, Brian. Making the trip with us were Kristin and Brian’s two little boys, Carson and Garrett (seen in the photo) and Brian’s parents who own the RV. As this was my first time, I was a little nervous, but once the trip began everything was good.

Since my final destination was different than my daughter’s, I only spent one night in the RV, but that gave me enough time to wonder about the experiences others have had. Posting a question on Facebook, I was excited to see the responses and thought you might enjoy reading them, too.

Sue Richardson: We’ve met so many wonderful friends in our travels. There’s nothing like going all over the US in your motel on wheels. Wouldn’t stay in a motel/hotel ever again. I have everything I need to live easily the rest of my life. We belong to a small club and each person has so much respect and love for the other. We have been to so many places together, shared so many meals, seen so many places we wouldn’t have thought about without the club. We have been to St. Louis together and went up on the arch which scared me to death – I don’t like enclosed places-but got talked into it anyway. There were 5 of us in one small elevator with seats and I’m moaning all the way up and the others are reassuring me that all would be well. We made it!!! and it was spectacular and then we had to come down!!! I closed my eyes and prayed all the way down. Won’t try it again, but glad I did it that one time. We’re scheduled to go to Pigeon Forge this fall for the National Quartet Convention and of course we have someone setting up the activities that we will be going to. Then, spring of next year we’re going to Paducah, Kentucky.

Peg Roberchek: I’ve never RVd, but spent a year living in a Ford Econoline van traveling all over the U.S.

Linda Morgan Bost: I could write a book on my experiences in my camper. I love sleeping on MY bed, putting my clothes directly into MY closet, and using MY dishes. I love being able to take my dog with me on vacation. I have experienced a hurricane, a flood, numerous lightning storms, and many other experiences. During a hurricane we had to move our camper six or seven times. After the flood waters passed all the campers came together to put the campground back into shape for the owners. The owners took us all out to eat at a nice restaurant. I cannot imagine how scary it was for the victims of Cherrystone Camping Resort during the tornado where three people were killed. We have stayed in that campground three times. I would love to go back. Can you imagine 725 sites in the middle of the summer when it was probably packed and a tornado comes through? The best memories of my life have happened while camping, with families coming together, eating a lot of food, biking, hiking, kayaking, shopping, celebrating holidays, birthdays, swimming and best of all the time spent with my husband. I LOVE CAMPING!!!

Stasea Morris: My fondest memory of riding in an RV was when I was about 7 years of age in1981. That is when my parents drove us from Oregon to Idaho. The best seat in the house was above the driver’s seat on the top bunk. We would pretend to be floating angels flying above our parents and would guide them by what obstacles we could see ahead! (Because they needed our help … right?)

Cyndi Allison: I’d rather have a root canal than camp. I do like everything except sleeping outside in a camper or tent.

Evelyn Looney: On our very first camping trip to Dan Nicholas Park, we were in an old green pop-up camper. There were 6 of us and it was a bit crowded. Matthew was maybe 7 years old. His sleeping bag was slick and he wedged into the side next to the canvas. We had locked the door and thought we were snug for the night. In the wee hours of morning, I heard a small voice pleading with me to let him in! I felt around in the dark and counted bodies twice.  Each time one little boy was missing. How could it be??? Matthew had slid out the side while sleeping and the elastic closed back up after dropping him out. Nice that no bears were roaming around.

Sue White: Camping is a great family time. Our two children grew up with us camping for family vacation or just getting away for a few days. It is a way to stay connected and enjoy the small/big things in God’s world. Now that our children have children, we enjoy just getting together, meeting new friends. We are not ones to go on long trips. NC has a lot of wonderful and beautiful places to see. Being grandparents and watching our grandchildren enjoy camping makes it that much more enjoyable as a family.

Sue Richardson said after reading the other stories, it reminded her of more adventures, so that’s why she’s included twice …

Sue Richardson: Our first RV was a pop-up camper. We went to Myrtle Beach, SC and it rained the first 3 days we were there, we were scheduled for 7 days. We packed up to head home, by the time we got to Conway, SC the sun came out, so we turned around and went back to the campground. When we got there we found out that a new RV had been drenched inside with water and our little pop-up had not let one drop in. Boy we felt superior!!!! We kept that pop-up for years and then graduated to a tag-a-long and now have a motor home. Nothing like camping and getting away from home and seeing the sights in your own hotel on wheels.

I hope you enjoyed reading these as much as I did and maybe they will inspire you to take a trip soon. Thanks everyone for sharing beautiful memories.

If you’d like to share your memories, leave a comment, message on Facebook or email dicysm@yahoo.com.