Appalachian Thursday – What do diamonds, women who dunk, and stalagmite sitting have in common?

Today is WV Day. But you probably already knew that. My home state is turning 156 and in honor of the day I thought I’d share some unusual facts about the Mountain State. The largest diamond ever found in North America was discovered in Peterson, WV, by the Jones family. They kept it in a cigar box for 14 years before realizing that it wasn’t just a piece of quartz, but rather a 34.5 carat diamond. About 75% of the state is covered by forests with nine state forests and 37 state parks. The New River in WV is actually among the world’s oldest rivers and runs from south to north instead of north to south like most other rivers in the U.S. The first woman to dunk a basketball in a college game was WV University center Georgeann Wells in 1985. In the northern panhandle the city of Weirton touches Ohio on one side and Pennsylvania in the other. In 1972 spelunker Bob Addis set the world record for stalagmite sitting in New World Caverns in WV. He stayed up there for 16 days. When it seceded from the Union, plans were to call the state Kanawha, but they went with a shortened version of Western Virginia since that’s what everyone was already calling it. And cursed natives to hear, “So you’re from Western Virginia–right?” from then on. Happy birthday, Mountain state!

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Memorial Day – Remembering Veterans

Memorial Day is a day set aside for remembering those who have died in the service of our nation. Originally, it was proclaimed in honor of the Civil War dead by General John Logan, national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic. The order became official on May 5, 1868, and was first observed on May 30 of that year. Memorial Day has also been called Decoration Day because it was the tradition to decorate the graves of those who died in the war. The day was moved to the last Monday in May in 1971 to ensure a three-day weekend. In 2000 a resolution was passed to try and help remind Americans of the true meaning of the day. Signed by Pres. Bill Clinton it includes the statement: “Encouraging individual department and agency personnel, and Americans everywhere, to pause for one minute at 3:00 p.m. (local time) on Memorial Day, to remember and reflect on the sacrifices made by so many to provide freedom for all.” So I encourage you at 3 p.m. this afternoon, to stop whatever you’re doing and say a prayer of thanks for those who have died to protect us and for those who are, even now, willing to do so.

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Appalachian Thursday – Decoration Day

Monday is Memorial Day–the unofficial start to summer. And in Appalachia it means time to start planning for Decoration Day. Usually held on a Sunday in June, this is a day when cemeteries would be tidied and flowers placed on the graves. I’m not talking about those silk monstrosities either. I’m talking roses and daisies and mountain laurel. Maybe some […]

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April Fool’s in Appalachia

Just in case you didn’t notice, today is the first day of April. OR April Fool’s Day. I’ve never been a fan of April Fool’s jokes, but there IS a long-standing tradition of natives of the mountains (or most any place) playing tricks on outsiders who aren’t familiar with the local habits. Take Snipe hunting for example. Now, there IS […]

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How to Celebrate the Lenten Season

Okay, so not many folks think of Lent, which starts this Wednesday, as a celebration. This is, after all, a serious time when we’re meant to reflect, repent, and ponder Christ’s sacrifice for us. But I love Lent and, for me, it’s a somber celebration. I relish the notion of having a time set aside to actively anticipate and prepare for the best worst thing that ever happened. It’s the ultimate looking forward to. So, how to celebrate Lent? First, I like to consider whether to give up/sacrifice something or add something. I’ve given up specific foods (French fries!), credit cards, shopping, checking reviews of my books, and one year I even gave up fear. That one was tough! I think I’ve only added something once–it was the fruits of the Spirit. Now that was a good year! If you’re giving something up, it should be a challenge. If it’s not hard, what’s the point? One year I gave up candy. Where I work there’s a candy dish in every office. It was tough not even snagging a mint! On the flip side, this probably isn’t the time to stop smoking if you’ve been a pack-a-day smoker for years. I’ve toyed with giving up sugar, but recognize that would be setting myself up for failure. If you’re adding something, make sure it’s something you can stick to as well. Pray as you drive to work each morning. Read one of the Psalms […]

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