It’s hard to believe I’ve been at Consolidated Publishing since May 10, 2006. In that time I’ve served as a reporter at the Jacksonville News and publisher of Jacksonville, The Piedmont Journal and The Cleburne News.

In those 11-plus years I’ve seen many changes. All have been good for the readers and the publications. Now we are about to embark on another change that I know will help the subscribers of The Jacksonville News and The Piedmont Journal.

Lately, within a period of only a couple of weeks, I have been reminded of the importance of civic groups. While attending the recent auction of the Habitat for Humanity program, I became re-acquainted with several friends and made new ones. I placed a modest bid on an item and actually won …

I went shopping at a thrift store last week and found a gem, a book by Robert Morgan, This Rock. Finding it reminded me of the enjoyment I had in reading another of his books, The Truest Pleasure. As with it, The Rock pulled me into Morgan’s world in the first chapter. I am reading it slowly in order to make it last and will try to limit myself to one chapter a day. Doing so takes discipline.

Morgan writes about my world, that of Appalachia. It is the world of many of the readers of this column. Most, if not all, of Morgan’s novels are about our people and their raw, conflicted lives.

Recently I heard Annie Gaspard Lindor speak. She is from Haiti, and her bright personality enhanced her interaction with a group of high school students. A language teacher at the school invited her because of Lindor’s ability to speak three languages: French, Creole, and English.

Something went terribly wrong when art teacher Becky Guinn of Valley High School underwent heart surgery for a valve replacement at age 54. Her body reacted adversely to the once-commonly used blood thinner, Heparin. Instead of preventing blood clots, the use of the drug created a giant one that broke apart and clogged the capillaries throughout her circulatory system. Called heparin-induced thrombocytopenia, the condition often causes death. Guinn’s medical incident led to the loss of her lower arms and legs.

I have a sister, Carol Newborn, who often “does crafts.” She draws, paints, sews, cuts, and drills as she creates things she usually gives away as gifts. Her basement is a warehouse of supplies, and her job at Walmart — where she has worked for 35 years — gives her easy access and a 10 percent discount to almost everything she needs.

The recent cold weather has forced me to take in more movies than usual—seven during the last six weeks. I watched a tear-jerker, “Wonder;” a musical,” The Greatest Showman;” a historical story, “The Darkest Hour;” a raw mystery, “Three Billboards from Billings, Mo.;”, a comedy, “Jumanju,” science fiction, “Downsizing,” and a movie about journalism, “The Post.”

Through my daughter’s volunteer work with overseas missions, I learned that the goal of some countries is to have no children without a loving family. That ideal is far from being reached, but many leaders of third-world countries and the charities in those countries try to rehabilitate families so children can be returned to their family of origin. It is important for children to be raised in a permanent family situation.

Anneli Dotson grew up in Finland and, afterward, extended her nursing studies to include counseling, community outreach, and education. Her teachers encouraged her to live and work among them, but she longed to help the sick and carry the gospel to others. Fortunately, her parents understood her desire to become a missionary and supported her decision to go, first, to Africa and, later, to other parts of the world.

Imagine a tourist town near to us that is similar in atmosphere to Dahlonega and Helen, Ga. or Gatlinburg, Tenn. Imagine decorated streets, great places to eat, and interesting historical sites and stories. Cave Spring is such a place and only a short distance away from Calhoun and Cleburne counties. When saying “Cave Spring,” don’t add an “s.” In this town, there is only one spring; and it is an important one because it supplies sweet, clean water to area residents even during droughts.

Recently I stumbled into an informative event when I drove to Mt. Cheaha to sample chili at the annual cook-off. I had arrived early, so I decided to walk down the boardwalk. Lo and behold, Smokey Bear was standing near the boardwalk entrance, all seven feet of him. Smokey gave me a hug.

I saw two new neighbors walking their two dogs recently. They made a wholesome scene as they exercised with their two large dogs. Suddenly, I noticed the white dog had only three legs. He was keeping up with and even walking ahead of the second dog, in spite of having to hop a bit. I approached the couple and introduced myself. I learned that they are Chelsey Randle and Wade Daus. I asked how they came to have a three-legged pet. We set up an interview, and I visited in their living room, except that Wade was at work.

The life of Clyde and Lorene Braxton reminds everyone who knew them of the couple from the movie “The Notebook.” They were close in love and devotion to each other and their family for more than 63 years. Also, like the couple in the movie, the Braxtons died a day apart.

Someone recently recommended a book to me with interesting concepts for dealing with pain. The book is called “Pain Free: A Revolutionary Method for Stopping Chronic Pain.” It is co-written by Pete Egoscue with Roger Gittines. Egoscue is a physiologist who franchises clinics throughout the nation and teaches how to manage pain without medications or surgeries.

In 1967, an egg’s life was simpler. This was the days before plastic eggs. There were no attacks from the animal activist groups, and no one was accusing an egg of being too high in bad cholesterol.