Monday, December 21, 2009

Winter Weather

I started rolling my eyes on Thursday when reported 1-3 inches of snow on Friday and locals were inflating the numbers to 8-10. People here are forever exaggerating the predictions. (Granted, they don't have the first clue how to drive on snow either. My husband and I are frequently appalled at folks who ride their brakes the whole way down a twisty mountain road so they're sure to go slow -- therefore are more safe.)
There wasn't a flake on the ground anywhere when I got the automated message from the Superintendent of Schools announcing an early release from school on Friday because of forecasted snow. Mind you, I grew up in the snow-belt southeast of Lake Michigan where school wasn't called off unless there were 8 inches of accumulation between 3am and 6am and the plows simply couldn't catch up before the buses had to run.
And here they were, calling an early release almost 16 hours before the first predicted flake. Not only that, Friday was a 1/2 day to begin with... which meant the kids would be in school from 8am to 10am. Ridiculous. But true to form, they cancelled school on Friday morning. (Or maybe it was just a 2-hour delay.)
However, it did start snowing and didn't stop for the next 24 hours.
By Friday afternoon, I'd shoveled a few inches off the drive and salted it so the good Dr. could make it up when he got home. We lost power for a few hours on Friday night, but we just snuggled under some blankets next to our gas logs and read Harry Potter. And it came back on before I went to bed. (Some around here didn't have power for 48 hours.)
By Friday night, snow was heavy on all the branches. There wasn't a bit of wind to blow it off -- it just came straight down--kept coming down.
Saturday Morning was a winter wonderland. The limbs of my Japanese Dogwood were all bent to the ground--a predicament it couldn't seem to get itself out of, so I rescued it by banging the limbs with a broom stick and watching them spring back up. Yes, the avalanche of snow inevitably fell on me.
The overnight accumulation also meant we had a lot of shoveling if we ever wanted to leave our place. We estimated that there were about 12 inches on the drive.
Really, it's not Darth Maul under that hood, he's just sporting his new black ski-mask. Regardless of his acts of kindness, the kids were calling him "Arch Enemy" and pummeling him with snowballs from the fort we built for them. Sometimes the orchestrated simultaneous attacks from opposite sides, but they never came out the victors.
It took us about 2.5 hours (with the two of us) to shovel the drive on Saturday. (Myself spending more time on the fort and picture taking, though.) But then I shoveled another 3-4 inches off the whole thing by myself on Sunday. (Even my toes are sore from clenching them to keep from slipping on the slushy slope. Not to mention my back and glutes.)
All told, most of my neighbors and friends are estimating around 22 inches... and I'd say I fully agree with about 18 of those. Regardless, it is unquestionably the largest snow we've had in the seven winters I've lived here. So I'll try to keep my eye-rolling in check next time.

Football Update

It's hardly an update... being so late, but the MHHS football lost the state game. All reports were that they played their best, though. It's one thing when you know you didn't play up to your potential, and I think it's another thing entirely when you play your best and the opponent simply plays better.

Congrats to the coaches and team, though. Y'all have really given Yancey County a boost of pride.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Mountain Heritage Football -- State Game

There is nothing like a small high school making it to the State Championship to make a community go crazy. Frankly, I think it's great! For one, it's given our little Appalachian town an infusion of pride. The kids and I are even planning to wear green and black today--as, I'm sure, everyone is. There are signs all over town, balloons, people with their faces painted... And school has even been cancelled so that everyone can make it down to the game. Local shops and restaurant are closing too.
Monkey Business Toy Shop supports the Mountain Heritage football team with a sign in front of their shop in downtown Burnsville.
photos by John Fletcher of the Asheville Citizen-Times
read their article here
(FYI, that long gradual hill behind the credit union is the end of the 5K I ran)
The team plays tonight in Chapel Hill. I won't be there, but you can be sure I'll be following updates. Mountain Heritage High School has never won a State Championship in any sport in the history of the school. Seems like it'd be an excellent time to change that!
As an aside: I would have to agree with the woman on FB who commented, it's been great to see so much excitement about middle-aged women.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

God willing and the creeks don't rise

But the creeks do rise. From the house or the car, noting that water is up four feet from normal is a mathematical calculation. It is another thing entirely to watch it seethe, only feet away from its brown currents as I wait for the school bus: It roars, leaving the grass flattened as evidence of its volume. Occasionally a dark limb will show itself among the opaque ripples to be sucked into obscurity again. What else might lurk there is an unspoken threat.
We have a new railroad tie on our bank.
Winter rains are a different beast: with nothing growing to drink the water and the ground already saturated with a week of drizzly days, 16 hours of steady rain just ran down slopes, filled ditches, funneled into branches, poured into creeks... and I can't imagine what the Toe River looks like.
It is a temporary terror this time, though.
They are already falling again, the creeks, sweeping the topsoil and stray twigs to new locales. And this morning a rare sun burned off the mists and reflected in a thousand puddles, brighter for all the darkened earth and wet trees.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Christmas Wanting

In the backlash of finding my Christmas present early, (a not-very-well-hidden vacuum cleaner), I have reverted to childhood wishing. The wanting of things you don't need, might never use, or play with--just wanting to want. I could write a list on a roll of cash-register paper.
From qacreate's etsy shop, these are my current favorites:
Number 8 - Typewriter Key Charm Pendant and Necklace - Black or White Available
Initial Letter B Antique Typewriter Oak Leaf Ring - Black or White Keys - Fully Adjustable
Tell me these aren't cool! They're made from old typewriter keys. I love, love, love them!

Monday, November 30, 2009

Thanksgiving Weekend by the Numbers

Total of people fed at Thanksgiving Dinner: 16
Pies: 5
Turkeys: 2 (one smoked and one deep fried)
Quarts of Soup Stock from boiling the bones: 7
$ raised for the Library Expansion Project in with the group performance of "The Christmas that Almost Wasn't" by Ogden Nash: 500
She was Nell in the reading and I was the Tree.
Volleyball Games: 3 (wins)
New-To-Us Red Vans: 1
Lbs. left until I reach my self-imposed Holiday Weight Limit: 0

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Pumpkin Oatmeal Cookies with Cinnamon Chips

Here's the recipe (with my modifications). The original comes from Esther Shank's Mennonite Country-Style Recipes & Kitchen Secrets. Although I'll just let you in on the Mennonite kitchen secrets right now. First, when in doubt, add dough. Second, Miracle Whip really is a salad dressing. However, that second one should be kept a secret.
Now for baking the cookies I crave every fall and can rarely have because of the elusive cinnamon chips.
Cream together thoroughly.
1 1/2 c margarine
1 cup of sugar (I used 2/3rds)
2 cups of brown sugar (I used about 1 1/2)
Isn't everything better with real butter?
Add, beating until fluffy.
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
Yes, I use half whole wheat and it turns out fine. The pumpkin's added moisture helps to mitigate the crumbly dryness that often accompanies whole wheat cookies.
Sift dry ingredients together (except oatmeal) and add alternately with pumpkin.
(I never sift anything... but I do add it alternately.-- it makes it much easier)
4 cups flour (I used 1/2 whole wheat)
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
2 cups quick oatmeal
1 3/4 cups canned pumpkin (I use an entire small can rather than measuring)

Stir in 1 cup of chocolate chips -- but this
is where I use the cinnamon chips! (and I add more...)
Drop by spoon onto greased baking sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 10 to 12 minutes.
Makes about 7 dozen (She says 10 dozen, but those'd be some tiny cookies.)
We made a double batch and have been eating them like crazy. They're really not so bad for you, as far as cookies go. The plate in the picture is for Darell, the manager of our local Ingles Grocery, who was kind enough to special-order several cases of cinnamon chips when I repeatedly asked him if they were going to get any in this season. THANK YOU!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Book Binge

Um. 750 pages in the last 2 or 3 days. I've had a hard time pulling myself out of the clouds and areal dragon battles enough to write blogs. I'm a new Naomi Novik fan.
Coming soon... the Ingles Grocery here special-ordered cinnamon chips for me and a friend let me know they were in... so I've made my favorite Oatmeal-Pumpkin cookies with cinnamon chips!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Comment Oversight

I realized recently that I had my comment settings set for "only people with a google id." I've changed that now so that more of you can leave comments if you'd like. : ) Oops & Sorry.

Friday, November 20, 2009


The idea rearranged my thinking when I read over the preschool Sunday School materials last month. Our prayers need to match our actions and our actions must match our prayers. In the children’s story, the parents pray every evening with their sick daughter that she will get better. Meanwhile, they help her rest and stay calm, take her to the doctor and give her the prescribed medicine. Their prayers were answered.
Again, last week, reading about Huna and Hawaiian/Polynesian spiritualism, I ran into their concept of prayer which is always hyphenated with action: prayer-action. In their system of thought, through meditation, their thinking-self must communicate the prayer or desire to their physical bodies. Then, through the energy created in their physical selves and with the cooperation of the body, this idea can be sent to their spiritual selves – the part that is connected to the life-force of the universe. Once this is done, the physical self, the thinking self, and the spiritual self all work together in bringing this desire/prayer into reality. (I find some interesting parallels to Parent/Son/Holy Spirit in all this.)
The author of the book postulates that many Christian prayers go unanswered because they are only thoughts without actions. In her view, many Christians “turn it over to God” after only formulating the wish or desire and then wait to see what will happen.
Prayer-action also reminds me of Julia Cameron’s anecdote from The Artist’s Way: You are late for the bus. Pray that you are able to catch it, and run!
The passage from Thessalonians “pray without ceasing” also comes to mind. If our actions are the physical manifestation of our prayers, then indeed, we unwittingly pray all day. We may simply need to be more mindful of what prayers we send into the world through our actions.
But, you may say, might not the daughter have gotten well without the prayers her parents said every night? She had gone to the doctor, was resting, and taking her medicine…
Does it matter how a prayer is answered?

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Much Better Today

I've been taking it easy (thanks to my mother-in-law who took the boys for the day). So, I was able to stay horizontal most of the morning, thus keeping my back relaxed.
Balance seems to be a reoccurring theme for me of late, and I've been working on being balanced and relaxed in my body today. Align my spine and relax my shoulders... and that should keep me from developing compensating knots. Plus ibuprofen and the occasional muscle relaxer.
From what I've heard about whiplash, today and tomorrow are supposed to be my worst days. But I'm not so bad right now -- better than I'd expected.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

New Plans

Everyone is OK. I'm the worst off with side whiplash, because I was turned around, looking at the kids when we got hit. My husband had to come to a sudden stop, enough to make me turn forward and put my hand on the dash, but he stopped in time.
I remember thinking, Whew. He's a good driver. And turned back to look at the kids.
Then bam and the airbags exploded. I recall pushing it down so that I could see... but thankfully I must have removed my hand from the dash when it deployed, or I likely would have broken my wrist or arm. Then I was out of the van, forcing the sliding door open and getting kids (who were all crying and moving (good signs)) out and over the guard rail. I think I've watched too many action movies where vehicles explode after accidents. I just know I saw fluids leaking out of the bottoms of several of the cars involved (there were six) and I wanted everybody O-U-T.
I don't think anyone in the six cars was seriously injured... it was our car that was hit first, and therefore the hardest, and we're fine. The child in the back-right of the van is fine, wasn't even hit with any flying debris from the shattered window. (We did find someone's blinker plastic in the front seat of our van and could not locate our garage door opener anywhere.) Our children did shed a lot of tears, but most of those were motivated by our inability to go bowling after the accident.
Now, it's shopping for a new van, insurance companies, sore ribs, and a stiff neck. Any of which could be contributing to this headache. But there is ibuprofen for that!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Preparing for Winter

My body seems to want to put on 15 lbs. I'm nibbling constantly and craving highly processed starches--namely toast. I figure this is to keep me warm in the winter, but my husband tells me this is flawed logic and 15 lbs. wouldn't be enough.
But I'm preparing for winter in other ways: books. The only thing better than ordering a big batch of used books from is getting them in the mail a weeks or so later. Yes, I'm conflicted about ordering a box of used books because the author receives no royalties, but at least I'm doing it through an independent bookstore, right?
Question of the Day:
What makes me a bigger geek?
a. I ordered 7 dragon books
b. I owned the complete set of Harry Potter books except #2
c. out of all these books, I picked up Radical Pacifists in Antebellum America first
d. I seem to have ordered 2 of the same book
e. this stack of books joins 13 other to-reads on my nightstand

Sunday, November 15, 2009

A Writing Weekend: Do the Work

To answer a question from a commenter, this is what my writing weekends are like:
Some people like to go visit friends or exotic locations, see movies or tour historic sites. All I want is peace and quiet and the chance to have sustained thought. Raising three kids, saying yes to too many other obligations... all of it leaves me little chance for introspection and that's something I need. So occasionally, I take off for a weekend. (This is all pre-arranged with my husband, of course.)
I get a hotel room close to home (so I don't waste time driving someplace) with wifi (so I can use my laptop), and I book through Hotwire (so it's not too expensive - though I realize the ability to do this kind of thing is a real luxury). Then I hole up, meditate, and write.
This is all very "To Room Nineteen" (by Doris Lessing), I know. ("To Room Nineteen" is what Michael Cunningham alludes to in The Hours, in case you were wondering. Aside from Mrs. Dalloway.)
I use this time to knock out a big chunk of writing. It is hard to sustain momentum at home when I pick up an idea or train of thought only to put it right back down to fix another snack or meal, play Uno, unload the dishwasher, sweep the floor, negotiate for three arguing children, or wash sheets. By the evening, I'm drained enough that the thought of sitting down to do some hard thinking and writing... well, it just doesn't happen very often.
I don't really need organized writing retreats or conferences right now... I just need the time to get my ideas down on paper. I'm sure there will come a time and place for such events. Right now, though, I just need to do the work.
Progress report from the weekend, Part 2: I have nearly finished revising the first 30 pages of the book and have renamed all the characters that needed renaming.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

12 Bones on my writing weekend

One of my favorite parts of being "away" on a writing weekend is that I get to eat wherever I want, whenever I want. No negotiating with anyone! My first choice for lunch was 12 Bones. I'd never eaten there before (despite hearing fantastic things), because I'm not often in Asheville during the hours it's open M-F 11-4. But for some reason, I had a mental block about all that when I showed up today, on a Saturday, determined to eat there.
Sweet serendipity! Today was one of the two Saturdays in a given year it is open. (Thanks to the River Arts District tour.) Smoked serendipity, might be more accurate too. I ate every morsel on my plate. Yum.
As for the writing part of the writing weekend: I have completed the "treatment" for the play-in-progress. Now onto revising the first few old-old-old chapters of a book. Current challenge: deciding on names.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

pacifist government leads to overturned stones

I'm doing a little research about pacifist governments-- if they really existed--what they might have looked like, what principles guided them, how such ideas played out in the reality of a war-prone world. Are these governments/groups necessarily religious? Naturally, I'm starting with William Penn and Gandhi.
Reading today, I ran across this quote by Penn:
If you would know God and worship and serve God as you should do, you must come to the means he has ordained and given for their purpose. Some seek it in books, some in learned men; but what they look for is in themselves, though not of themselves, but they overlook it. The voice is too still, the seed too small and the light shineth in darkness; they are abroad and so cannot divide the spoil. But the woman that lost her silver found it at home, after she had lighted her candle and swept her house.
It's the last line in particular that fascinates me. I'd never really considered this interpretation before, for some reason. I always thought about it as the same parable as the shepherd with the 100 sheep who won't rest until he has found the one lost one... I thought of God as the shepherd always searching for us... and appreciated very much that Jesus told a parallel parable featuring a woman as the personification of God searching for us (the lost coin) until we are found.
But Penn turns this on it's head. The idea that we must search for God within us by cleaning house. I like it. I like it very much.
Of course, this calls to mind my favorite Bible verse that's not in the Bible, but from the Apocryphal Book of Thomas. And the Doresse translation is best:
Jesus says: "I am the light which is on them all. I am the All, and the All has gone out from me and the All has come back to me. Cleave the wood: I am there; lift the stone and thou shalt find me there!"
Lifting stones and cleaving wood. That's hard work. But God asserts God's presence is in all things--living or no. The work is my job.
I also ran across this poem today...
Cleave a piece of wood, I am there -- by Tom Hansen (published in Literary Review, Fall 1993)

They decided to take Jesus at his word and got a piece of wood (it happened to be shaped just like a head) and planned to do exactly what he said, but first they sat it on the floor and stared at it for days ... Nothing happened. No God there.

"Well, what the Hell!" they said and got an ax and cleaved it hard and heard it all at once explode. But all they saw inside was splintered wood. Then faint and aromatic, as if from far away: a scent not quite familiar yet not strange ...

Outside they nailed the head together, bored in eyes and tamped them tight with toilet paper soaked in cedar oil. Then touched a match to each and watched. The spiritus snaked up - and after dark they saw them ... Red and staring. Burning blind.

All night long they sat there almost willing to believe: what they saw before them must be true. Above them wheeled the galaxies. Within them atoms hummed. Compacted knots of energy set free by some strange wind.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

World Series of Poker

I'm about to watch the final table of this year's Main Event in the World Series of Poker. These players never fail to amaze me. They must simultaneously input all kinds of mathematical information: odds of catching the cards they need, pot sizes, odds of their opponent catching the card he/she needs based on what the player thinks they have... And then account for all the other social information: how the opponent sits, blinks, bets, shifts... how they played in the last hand... It blows my mind.
Lately, my husband and I have even been getting a pack of beef jerky to nibble on during the Tuesday night airings, since Jack Links is one of the sponsors. We can only watch so many of those Sasquatch commercials before the cravings start up... I'm ready to open the pack now.
My personal fave at the final table: Phil Ivey.
(Though Jennifer Harmon is my all-time favorite. Did you know she's a mother of twins too?)

Monday, November 9, 2009

Swift Kick in the Pants

This is a public thank-you to the editors of WNC Woman Sandi Tomlin-Sutker and Julie Savage Parker. Twice in the last six months they have pushed me to write essays for their publication when I would have thought I was too busy to produce. It's a lesson I'm learning through experience, but not one I would have accomplished without their prompting.
Western North Carolina Woman
The first piece was on The Design Gallery in Burnsville. And the second will appear in their fashion-themed December issue about my daughter's Fashion Birthday Party. Keep your eyes open for it. The publication is free and can be picked up countless places in the Western North Carolina region.
I am also very thankful that I have writer friends who are willing to proof-read at a moment's notice! (I'll confess, too, I suppose I'm begrudgingly appreciative for a grammar-freak brother who loves nothing better than to point out his older sister's errors from half-way around the world. Ha!)

Thursday, November 5, 2009

some VERY basic volleyball passing technique

This is for a former student of mine who is now doing some teaching... and is trying orchestrate a recreational-level volleyball game. HAVE FUN!

First - the HANDS - the most important part is to have the fat part of the thumbs together and the thumbs aligned and parallel. This means that your "platform" for passing is even. If, say, your left thumb is higher or over the right thumb, this will inevitably make your left wrist higher than your right, and your left forearm higher than you right. Subsequently all of the balls you passed will shank off to your right. Having bad hand positioning can make all your anticipation and ability to move fast be for naught.
You can see that my preference is to ball my left hand into a fist and cup my right around it.

Second - the ARMS - hold them straight out in front of you. Hunch your shoulders a little. Believe it or not, you're not really going to swing your arms at all. Whatever you do, don't swing your arms higher than your shoulders.

Third - the FEET - place them just a little wider than your shoulders with your right foot a bit further forward. (If you're left-handed, it'll come naturally to put your left forward.)
Fourth - the LEGS - bend them. Get low to receive the ball and extend your back leg and come up through the ball. The ball should go the direction your hips and shoulders are facing.

Of course... you have to do this each and every time you pass the ball... AND that ball is not going to come right to where you're standing every time. So, you're going to have to move to get yourself into this position so that you can pass it. If you have to run, run with your hands apart and then put them together at the last second. If you have to go to one side, shuffle over there to keep your hips and shoulders facing where you want the ball to go.

Passing is the absolute key to the game. Nothing happens without it. Though sadly, it's the passers on the team who never get enough credit for their skills. They're the ones who start the offense. They're the ones who prevent the other team from getting a kill. It all depends on them.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Barbara Kingsolver reading from *The Lacuna*

She has enough class and clout that when Barbara Kingsolver's editors presented her with her book tour schedule for The Lacuna and asked her if there were any cities they'd missed, she added Asheville. (After all, the latter half of the book takes place there.) Not only did she add Asheville, where I heard her read last night, she added it first, before the release date.
Apparently this caused some consternation and hyperventilation on the part of the marketing department, but it happened, because, really, who is going to argue with Barbara Kingsolver?
She appeared on stage in red boots, and dark clothing accented by a bright red scarf decorated with shiny silver somethings that made it glitter--and all the poise in the world.
Do I have to tell you she is one of my favorites?
She tried not to give too much away reading carefully selected parts of the story, frequently saying things like, It's complicated. You'll figure it out. Though she did call attention to the fact that parts of it are written as journal entries by a boy/man who wants to disappear, so never uses the first person. This feat caused her to rewrite some scenes close to one hundred times she said, trying to find the voice, to make it sound authentic and not contrived or stilted.
She read with a fantastic Spanish accent the parts that happened in Mexico. She no doubt learned that during her years in Tucson, where I first met her at a book signing while I was nannying between college years. And the parts that happened in Asheville were read with an authentic southern Appalachian lilt and sway that she would have learned in her youth and hear now where she lives in Virginia.
She told us we were the only audience she would read the Asheville part to. She wouldn't give that much away at other readings. We clapped and cheered for her and our good fortune.
Though I could have listened to her read the whole novel, I particularly liked the question and answer period.
Unlike some authors who begin with a period of history they're fascinated with, or a voice that starts speaking to them, she begins with a big question. A "big question so compelling that everyone would be compelled by it." Then she begins to write her way to "some sort of illumination" for herself and her readers.
She likened it to taking walk with her "favorite kind of friend" who lets her talk and talk about her problems and then at the end of the walk turns to her and says Good. Now what do you think you should do?
The book, then, should do that for the reader, once they are done. It should be that friend asking the reader, Now what should you do?
For the past 10-20 years, she said, the Big Question that had been getting at her was the tension between art and politics in America and America's discomfort with self-examination (which is what art does -- prompt examination and reflection) of itself as a nation. The idea that self-examination of our country is un-patriotic or un-American seemed absurd to her. "How can you be un-American?" Other countries laud their political-artists. "Have you ever heard of someone being called un-French?" she asked, then laughed. "Well, they do call people un-French, but that has to do with food!"
In the 1950s the US created a committee to examine un-American behavior and subsequently censored artists, so this is where she began to look to answer her Big Question. She also wanted to examine why some people get erased from history, why their contributions are forgotten.
These were the questions that led her through the writing of The Lacuna which means two things. First, it can be a cave, and one that is under the water. The other meaning is more literally "the missing part of a story." While she admits it's not the greatest title for someone who doesn't know the meaning of the word, it really was the right title, so she insisted.
Each novel she writes, she tackles a different Big Question, because, she says, "I wouldn't trouble you if it weren't important." I think that sums it up well, why her work resonates with so many people.
The best part of the evening for me was her insistence that mothering and being a writer were the perfect balance. When she wakes up, she heads first to the coffee pot, takes her daughter out to the school bus (she jokes the school bus is her Muse), and then it's to her office. "When I get to my desk, I don't waste time," she explains. She loves the revision process best, how she can "fabricate" -- make fabric -- by weaving together the sentences so that they are all connected to each other. In fact, she claims never to have had writers block, because she never had any time for it.
Then, after a day of talking to imaginary people she is pulled back from "barely controlled lunacy" by her mothering obligations, namely making dinner. Thus there is a balance that allows for both a grounding in reality and time to lose herself in her imagination.
One more year until the school bus muse visits my house. Until then, I can start re-framing the way I think in a more positive way: motherhood and being an author are the perfect balance.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Restaurant Review - Bonnie & Clyde's

And when I say the middle of nowhere, I mean 15 minutes from my house which is--the middle of nowhere.
Here is where you're headed--or need to be: Loafer's Glory and more specifically Bonnie & Clyde's.
What you're looking for is a unremarkable one-story building with beige vinyl siding and a neon OPEN sign.
Why you're going is for some of the best burgers around. The fries aren't so shabby either.
Like an idiot, I've known about this place the entire six years I've lived here, wanted to go, but just never had--until last night. Let me tell you, the only way they can get away with having a dining area that seats around thirty is their remote location. Otherwise the place would be packed. As it was, our waitress was deftly moving customers she knew by name to other tables to accommodate other regulars.
Burger King's Angry Burger is so named because it's
mad it's not as good as Bonny & Clyde's Very Spicy Burger.
The food is good enough, that were it located in a college town and open until 2am the owners would have already retired in the Bahamas. It's not that the food is refined or gourmet -- it's not. It just lives up to the promise it makes and then some. I was going to take a picture one bite into my burger, but forgot all about that plan until halfway through.
Their burgers aren't thick, but to compensate, you can easily double or triple your patty-to-bun ratio. Besides, the flavor more than compensates for the volume. Next time, I'm trying their Mushroom Swiss Burger and will, once again, get a side of fried okra. (I may have been born in the Midwest, but I love my fried okra!) My husband was all about the chili-cheese fries (a little heavy for me), though they were very tasty.
Mitchell County is still dry (meaning you can't buy alcohol anywhere but Spruce Pine) and you can't get a beer with your meal, but it's still worth it. Other rural mountain stereotypes you can leave at home. Our waitress was chatting up the other diners about leaving to pursue her master's degree. So tip well.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Eve's Night Out

For the past 4 years (when I inherited the position from Mendy Knott), I have hosted a monthly open-mic reading for women. Many of us are poets, but quite a few have written novels, personal essays, and songs in addition to poetry. Each woman is invited to bring her own words, or another woman's words that have inspired her in some way, and share them with the group. We sign up and take turns reading (usually from a podium). There is no critique or evaluation, though when the evening it done, it is quite common for us to engage each other in small conversations about our work or our lives. When a woman is done reading, we applaud her for sharing her creative work. That is enough.
(Pictured here are some of us on "hat night" this spring. We sometimes do themes.)
The message of the evening: Be creative. Share your creativity.
Speaking in public, in the semblance of formality, is good practice for women to exercise their own voices and presence in a public sphere... building our confidence in our own words, our own experience.
The best trait of our group, though, is the quality of our listening. At some open-mics I've attended, I've felt it was all about the person reading showing off, or wanting to be discovered, or to be approached afterward... but that is not the case with us. I truly believe that most of us come each month to listen to each other, to be inspired by others' words, and to continue to be encouraged/nurtured in our own creative ventures.
Right now our home is Main Street Books in Burnsville. We meet on the 4th Friday of each month at 7:30 pm. All women are invited. (Men have attended in the past--they just listen though, and are not invited to read.)
It's not like we're trying to be mean to men, we're not. We've just created this space & time for women who focus on the written expression of their creativity/experiences. Likewise, we're not trying to be mean to potters, it's just that we're not a group of potters... we're women who write seeking kindred spirits. (All levels of education and experience are welcome -- published, unpublished, those working on writing as "craft", and those who simply journal.)
We are very proud of the fact that we have been the first place for many women to get up the courage to read. And if you've ever thought about it, come. It's fine if you just listen for a while to get comfortable -- shoot, bring your knitting with you (several others do too).
Here is a list of the women who either attend currently or have in the past who blog. You can get a sense of us from these. We're a diverse group!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009


The second chrysalis did not open. (See post below.) I have put the branch on which it hangs in my home office where I do my writing.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Books I've Been Reading

First, the animal themed covers--which may be their only similarity.
Mayhem in Mayberry: Misadventues of a P.I. in Southern Appalachia by Brian Lee Knopp
I was curious about this book since it's a self-published book by a PI who lives in my county, and also has an endorsement on its cover by Elizabeth Gilbert of Eat, Pray, Love. (Although juxtapositions abound in this book.) Further, a friend Lucy Doll, raved about it. I am also a frequenter of Malaprop's and know Linda (manager of Malaprops & the author's wife) from working on the literary festival... and I was curious about her husband who I knew next to nothing about.
What's funny is that at the literary festival this year, he came in with Linda in the morning and then left, just as I was walking in to the Town Center Foyer where the books are set up. I can't exactly remember how I suspected he was her husband; maybe he gave her a good-bye kiss or their ease and familiarity tipped me off, but I wondered. He walked right past me on the way out the door and I turned to a friend, "Is that Linda's husband?"
"I think so," the friend said swiveling to get a better look. "I've always been curious about him."
"Me too," I said, not having read his book yet. But I can't for the life of me remember what he was wearing, what he looked like, or any distinguishing features. I think he had a hat on.
Read the book. You'll see why this is funny.
The book itself is wrenching and hilarious in turn, a wry portrait of where I live, and of one man's decade-long job of detailed observation of it. (Maybe it was closer to two.) I don't want to spoil any of the twists and turns. Suffice it to say, he's got a wicked sense of humor, a deft handle on the craft of writing, patience (the like of which I don't understand), and a great & deep love & devotion for the souls in his life. How he didn't end up a jaded wreck after what he did for a living is a great testament to his fortitude and will.
Save the Cat by Blake Snyder
I'm still reading this book, because it is a how-to on writing screenplays. No, I'm not writing a screen play, but writing for the stage is very similar, and since I'm a complete novice at such things I'm reading it. I like the way all the steps (plot-lines, B-story, character development) are broken down and I am finding it easy, informative, useful reading. It is complete with "assignments" and clear tasks for moving a project along.
We'll see if I follow them and move the project along!
The Other Wind by Ursala K. LeGuin
OK. I picked this one up because there was a dragon on the front. However, I also wanted to get back to reading some quality fantasy. LeGuin insists you can write fantasy that doesn't have to be of epic battles, great death, great evil for no reason, or even the typical "hero." I agree. That's what I'd like to shoot for myself, so I'm re-reading her. Her books are not tomes, like so many are, and she uses simple, clear language without a lot of consonants or world-invented words. For example, she uses "miles per hour" and has goats that act like goats that orient us easily. She doesn't have to invent a new kind of animal to make readers feel they are someplace new. Thus she doesn't get caught having to "explain" so much to the reader. Note to self. Many notes to self while reading this one. She's amazing.
Finally, The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield
I've just started this one for book club. So far so good. The main character is utterly devoted to reading and losing herself in books. Hmmm. I think I'll be able to relate!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Metaphor of Metamorphosis

A month ago, I was able to attend my daughter's school field trip to the WNC Nature Center for their presentation on the life cycle of the butterfly. I thought I knew everything there was to know about the metamorphic process, but I didn't.
I knew monarchs laid their eggs on milkweed plants (the only host plant monarch caterpillars eat) and so I always let a few grow in the corner of my garden. We were able to take a few into the kids' class , and I ended up taking a few into the house for myself too.
This photo of a butterfly egg I took at the Nature Center is not a monarch, though, since it is clearly not on a milkweed. I'm not sure what kind it is.
I knew from reading Eric Carle's The Hungry, Hungry Caterpillar that caterpillars eat like mad once they hatch and get very fat -- quickly.

Often they seem to tap a main vein in the leaf and suck out the milk. Then they perch on the edge and gnaw, very methodically, carving a deeper and deeper arc into the leaf. They operate like a typewriter return at the end of a row.
munch-munch-munch - BING -whr-clack
munch-munch-munch - BING - whr-clack
I knew about chrysalises and the two week period. The part I didn't know is the part that nobody knows or really understands: what happens inside the chrysalis. The Nature Center guide put it in 2nd-grader terms that jarred me. Once the chrysalis is formed, the caterpillar turns to complete gush.
At this point my mind leaps to the FruFru song from the "Garden State" soundtrack that's helped me recompose myself countless times:
Let go. Jump in. Oh, what you waiting for? It's all right, 'cause there's Beauty in the break-down.

Complete gush. I couldn't get over it, so I looked it up on the web when I got home to make sure I had it right. Sure enough. Gush.
But then, from their imaginal discs, they reform those raw materials into something completely new: wings, legs, antennae... That's really what they're called: imaginal discs. Something within the caterpillar is encoded so that, when the time is right, they can
call into reality something only imagined previously.
I know the butterfly metaphor is used to the point of triteness, but the whole gush & imaginal discs part really got me. I latched onto the metaphor as I thought about my own writing: from my own imagination and the raw materials present (all the books I've read, experiences in my life, the nuts & bolts of the writing craft) I could create something new. I could create myself new -- as writer -- with wings. I could create -- books.
So, I began scouring the milkweed plants at our house. I sure saw lots of caterpillars, more than 20. But I didn't see any chrysalises. So, any remaining caterpillars got transferred inside where I could watch the process. You can see the ones above. The green chrysalis is only a few days old, whereas it's pretty obvious when they're about to hatch.
One source said that the process of transformation within the chrysalis takes so much energy, that a chrysalis
weighs about one-third less at hatching time than it does when it was first formed. (This also went along nicely with my writer metaphor: I couldn't kid myself that this change was going to be easy.)
The day this guy hatched, I spent the whole afternoon staring at the chrysalis, waiting to capture the moment. I
was going to document this amazing change. Look: it imagined itself into something new.
It's like the seven principles of HUNA (Hawaiian Mysticism):
  • IKE - our ideas create our reality.
  • KALA - there are no limits.
  • MAKIA - energy flows where attention goes.
  • MANAWA - now is the moment of power.
  • ALOHA - to love is to be happy with.
  • MANA - all power comes from within.
  • PONO - effectiveness is the measure of truth.
Once the emerge, they have to pump the fluid from their large bodies into their wings.
I spent all afternoon as slow witness to wet cloth-like folds straightening. His proboscis, or feeding nose-tube, coiled and uncoiled. His claw-like feet hooked into the branch as he let his wings fill and dry.
His hooked feet. Had you noticed? He only has four. All insects have six legs. Even as caterpillars, when it appears they have more, they only have six true (or reticulated) legs. (The others don't have knees that bend and simply drag along.) But this guy does not. He only has four legs.
Suddenly my happy-go-lucky metaphor took a dire turn into a warning. Obviously something went awry. Not enough to keep him from becoming a butterfly, but he was missing two legs. Did he not have sufficient raw material? Did he not use his imagination enough? What was this saying to me?
He's beautiful, though. Yes? He flew off a few hours later and is probably vacationing in Mexico by now. But I've got my eye on the second chrysalis, which has yet to hatch. It is starting to turn dark, but the wings are not becoming orange. I'm worried. I'm worried that this one has turned to gush, but that I didn't provide enough fresh milkweed during the eating phase. I'm worried that bringing into my home might have disrupted it's imaginal process. (No ironic symbolism there for the creative domestic mother.) I'm worried that when I turn to gush, I'll stay that way instead of doing the hard work, and doing all of it.
So, I'm writing about it.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Burnsville 5K Scamper

  • my throat had been sore for a few days, so
  • I hadn't run since Tuesday
  • it was 39 degrees
  • it was drizzling
  • my knee (which had not been bothering me previously) began acting up after mile marker #2
  • it's a hilly course
  • I started too fast (1st mile in 9:14 -- WAY too fast for me)
  • that hill at the end is bruu-tahl
This is me at the top of the hill, about 300 meters from the end of the race. I crossed the finish line at 30 minutes 32 seconds. I'd wanted to be under 30 minutes, but considering the above excuses, I am OK with that time. It gives me something to work for next year, when the weather will be better. I hope.

photo credit to James Harrison of the Asheville Citizen-Times

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Keeping it Together

I turned the house upside down looking for my datebook, but to no avail. I even bought a new one in the hopes that the old one would turn up. And not even that tried and true method worked.
In the end, I resorted to copying everything down by hand, again, from my Google Calendar. It was a good reminder of all that is coming up, and there were more than a few things that would have "sprung up" on me that, really, I had known about well in advance. So, all in all, I count myself quite fortunate to have had this momentary lapse of responsibility.
Also, I would like to take a moment sing the praises of Google Calendar while I'm on the subject.

This service is nothing new, but it has saved me so much time and so many headaches. I can put things on the calendar, and my husband can access it at his office. Likewise, he can add events, conferences, or evening meetings. (When you have three kids, it can be surprising the things you forget to bring up because you get sucked into the parenting vortex.) Each calendar you add can be color coded so you can keep track at a glance. For instance, I know to look for green on my calendar, because those are things my husband has added -- and I can be reasonably sure he's forgotten to mention to me.
I input the preschool calendar for them each month, and it is shared with all the other preschool parents. So, instead of a separate calendar, it gets incorporated into mine. I also share my calendar with my in-laws so they don't miss any recitals, school programs, or sports games.
Just this year, Google added "Sports Calendars" which I think is a particular boon. By "subscribing" to individual sports teams, it adds the time and opponent of each game of their season. Now I can see when Notre Dame and the Steelers play and fully realize the implications of said games on weekend plans. I know, in advance, the days I can't dawdle talking to people after church and what afternoons are free for a hike on the Parkway. It certainly has cut down on my exasperation and eye rolling.
So, here's to me keeping it together (for the time being), new datebook tucked securely in my purse.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Empty Bowls Dinner on Friday, October 16

Friday evening, the 1st Presbyterian Church of Burnsville is having an Empty Bowls dinner to benefit the Reconciliation House. 5:30 to 7:30 Stop in any time and support this cause to help feed the hungry here and around the world.

The premise is this:
Local potters donate bowls. A group (in this case, the mission committee of the church) makes a simple soup supper. People are invited to come, buy a bowl to fill with food and eat communally. Then, each person who has donated money to eat gets to keep their bowl to take home as a reminder of how many empty bowls there are in the world. All proceeds are used to fight hunger.

This summer, the Vacation Bible School I coordinated
(and wrote the curriculum for) helped to make some of the bowls for this meal. The emphasis was to learn to "Step Up to the Plate" and serve others as Jesus' example teaches.

While the Empty Bowls grass-roots movement (begun by Burnsville's own Lisa Blackburn & John Hartom in 1990) is not necessarily a religious one, our event is sparked by our belief in Jesus' charge to feed the hungry and clothe the poor.

In that light, Rolf Holmquist (a church member on the planning committee for this event) asked me to write a poem for Friday's meal. So I did, and was able to present it to John on Sunday.

Empty (vb)

Not empty bowls
like the unbreakable kind stacked inside
each other at the department store.
Not empty bowls
like the ones in the queued
refugees’ outstretched hands.
Not empty bowls
like the pieces just-for-pretty
in the potter’s display case.

But Empty Bowls
as invitation:
Come, join us for this meal.
Empty Bowls
as action:
Eat this food. Clean your plate. Feed another.
Empty Bowls
as consciousness:
Do this in remembrance of Me.

If you live in Asheville, consider attending the MANNA Food Bank's 8th Annual Empty Bowls lunch from 11:00 AM- 2:00 PM at the Biltmore DoubleTree Inn. (Also on the 16th.) For $20 your ticket will gain you a great meal, and your choice of a handmade bowl from over 1,000 pieces donated and created for this event. There will also be a “Collector’s Corner” of pieces donated from some of the finest area potters.

Friday, October 9, 2009

The Plural of Chrysalis

The difference between a new monarch chrysalis and one that is about to open is striking. (And I thought I might not be able to tell.)
More photos and the whole story of this monarch's hatching to come.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Honorable Mention

It began when my mother told me I should enter a poetry contest a publication she received was having. So, I wrote a poem based on a metaphor my she used in a sermon and entered it. This summer, I was notified that I received an honorable mention in the contest and that at some point this year Spiritual Directors International would use it in a publication. But I didn't know when or in what publication it would appear.
Then I got an email from Mom, forwarded to her by a friend, who had come across it on her own. It appeared in their October e-newsletter and online. What I particularly like is the context in which the poem appears -- with the opening reflection and the closing thoughts.

But here is the poem on its own.

When You Are Weary of Circles

Even when the map is gone, when
you’ve noted again that same patch of field lilies---
Still, you are not without means:

Choose a nearby tree to lean on while you
turn back to mark one behind you,
and one before, thus align yourself,

like Orion’s belt, in the middle of three
landmarks. In this way go
around mossy boulders or through creeks,

walking ever in a steady course
out of the pathless wild.
For when you gain the outmost tree,

look back at what had been the middle,
then look ahead, set some new goal in that line,
and begin again, narrowing the distance

to the place you will rest next.
From tree to tree, ever in threes,
you can continue, making your way forward

believing what is within your grasp is enough
to lead you to the unknowable all.
You may miss the shortest route to comfort,

may pass by a summer cabin in the wood.
But in time, you will find a paved road, see
a barn in the distance, or hear your name being called.

And while you go, you will attend
the land you traverse, intend
the path you take in your journey to be found.