Appalachian Thursday–Home Remedies

HelvetiaI’ve been doing battle with an awful, lingering cold. I pretended I was getting better for ten days, then succumbed and spent a day laying around drinking lots of tea and taking cold remedies in hopes of shaking it.

Which got me thinking about what folks did in the days before Tylenol Cold and Mucinex.

I have a handy little book titled “Oppis Guet’s Vo Helvetia” that’s a collection of recipes and household hints from the Swiss village of Helvetia in West Virginia. There are several recipes for cold cures there including:

  1. Onion Syrup – Good for croups and colds. Slice onions very thing and layer in a pan with sugar. Sit the pan in a warm oven with the door open and sweat syrup out of the onions. Take it by the teaspoon.
  2. Horehound Candy – For coughs. Boil one handful of fresh horehound leaves in water and strain. To each pint of tea, had a half pound of brown sugar, and boil on the stove until it reaches the hard ball stage. Pour into a greased pan and cut into squares once it’s almost cool.
  3. Cure-All – (This is my favorite.) Add a drop of lamp oil to a teaspoon of sugar. The book says, “If this didn’t work, you got well on your own.”

Based on these, sounds like I’d do fairly well to just take a teaspoonful of sugar and go to bed!

How about you–do you have any tried and true remedies for a cold?

 

Goals: When Dreams Meet Reality

Reading glassesLast week I came within two pounds of reaching what I have long thought of as my ideal weight. And I realized something . . .

. . . losing those last two pounds probably isn’t going to make an actual difference in my life. I had this sort of vague idea that once I got to this magic number my body would be different. And it is. Just not in the ways I imagined. I’m still what you might call pear-shaped. I still have that softening flesh on the undersides of my arms. I still don’t want to be seen in a bathing suit–unless it’s one of those Victorian dress things.

Reaching my goal is a good thing–but it hasn’t transformed me into a swimsuit model. MAYBE, my body just isn’t built for modeling swimsuits. Maybe I’m just the same ole ME, only a few pounds lighter.

And isn’t that the way with goals?

All too often, I think once I meet X goal, my life will be different. And by different I mean better. Much, much better. Once I get married. Once I get the perfect job. Once I move into the perfect house. Once I win a writing contest, get an agent, find a publisher, have a book in print, have five books in print, win that award . . . and on and on.

There are two problems with pinning your hopes and dreams on meeting a specific goal. 1) When you meet it, it isn’t quite what you expected. It’s good–but it’s not magic. 2) Turns out there’s another goal just beyond it. It’s good to meet my goal weight, but now I need to work on fitness. It’s good to have multiple books in print, but now I wonder if it’s something I could ever earn a living at.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t have goals. But I am suggesting that goals are simply checkpoints along life’s highway. They aren’t a destination so much as an overlook where you stop, take in the view, and decide where to head off to next.

So how about you? What goal are you currently working toward and what do you think will happen when you get there?

Appalachian Thursday–7 Spring Favorites

Spring is technically still a ways off, but we have daffodils, forsythia peeking out, warmer days (followed by COLD ones), and last night I heard the first peepers of the season. So I’m indulging my spring fever with seven things I love about this time of year.

1) Snow on daffodils. In spite of warmer days, we’ll occasionally wake to a fluffy dusting of snow that clings to branches and flower petals without making a mess of the roads. Pretty then gone. Just the way I like my snow! Growing up, snows like that were called “poor man’s fertilize” and farmers would hurry to plow it under in the garden before it melted.

2) Peepers. I love to wake to the song of the little frogs singing and then walk with them at dusk. It’s the music of spring!

3) Fresh asparagus. I think it’s kind of a shame that you can get just about any produce any time of year these days. I remember how Mom treasured those first asparagus shoots poking up through the warming soil. Thank goodness for farmer’s markets where you can still find the real thing! Of course, my great-grandmother wouldn’t have had such fancy fixins–she would probably have enjoyed poke sallat or dandelion greens.

4) Fiddleheads. There’s just something about those tightly furled fronds that’s gorgeous to me. When hiking with my husband year round, I love to point out flowers and plants. He calls them ALL “fiddleheads.”

5) Lambs. When I was a kid, spring was all about the new calves. Dad and would walk out to check on the mothers about to give birth. Now I get to drive past a local farm college’s lambing pasture every morning and evening. And yes, I will pull over to watch lambs frolic. I mean, how can you not?!?

6) Seed catalogs. I don’t grow many vegetables anymore (even when I try, I don’t grow many!), but I still love flipping through the pages of those colorful catalogs. Giant tomatoes, golden corn, plump strawberries, crookneck squash, new potatoes, baby lettuces . . . Oh, shoot. Maybe I will plant something this year!

7) Open windows. It’s a bit early yet, but any time the temperature creeps upwards of 65 I sneak a window open at least for a little while. The day I can leave them open all night listening to the peepers will be perfection!

What do you love about spring?

Appalachian Thursday–Signs of Spring?

GE DIGITAL CAMERAEvery year a few hardy daffodils jump the gun and bloom in February.

Every year we act surprised.

Somehow it seems too soon, but I’ve looked back at notes from five years ago and this is nothing new. Every February the daffodils unfurl seemingly fragile yellow petals. My hostas send tightly furled leaves poking up through the soil and sometimes there’s even a buttercup  or dandelion smiling up at me from the dead lawn. I can’t help but think about how we often have at least one snow in April and I want to warn my flowers to take a steadying breath and wait.

At the same time, I love seeing signs of spring. I love getting hints that soft, warm days are right around the corner. Soon enough, I’ll be getting my daily dose of Vitamin D from the sun again. Of course, there can still be icy, wintry, northern days as well. More than once I’ve seen apple blossom bitten back by a late frost. The old timers look at the daffodils and shake their heads. “We’ll have winter, yet,” they say.

I have a terrible habit of looking for “signs” in every area of my life. All green lights on my way downtown? Good sign. A rainbow as I’m on my way home to the farm? Great sign! Dead bird in the road when I walk Thistle? Bad sign.

The catch is, I spend too much time looking for signs and not nearly enough living in the moment. I’m too busy trying to guess what comes next. Planning and anticipating can be good things, but they can also become debilitating. Spring and the future will both come when they’re ready.

In God’s own, good time.

Appalachian Thursday – Cover Reveal

While my fourth novel–The Sound of Rain–won’t officially release until early November, I can now share the cover with you. And I’m head over heels for it!

The designers said they wanted to do something a little different this time and I offered lots of suggestions and samples of covers I thought conveyed the “feel” of this story . . . which probably didn’t help them at all.

But that’s okay because Bethany House designers are some of the best in the business and they can be trusted! So here it is . . .

THOMAS_SOUNDOFRAIN_FR&SP.indd

Sigh.

I love the antique, nostalgic feel which is my BRAND y’all! And then those raindrops. And the e.e. cummings lack of capital letters in the title. Lovely!

And, as you can see, Larkin is NOT blonde, but has brown to auburn hair. Well of course she does. As soon as I saw the dress, I wrote it into the story (I was working on edits at the time). It makes me happy to “find” the cover when I’m reading, so I assume others like that, too.

Here’s one version of the back cover copy:

Judd Markley is a hard working coal miner who rarely thinks much past tomorrow until he loses his brother—and nearly his own life—in a mine cave-in. Vowing never to enter the darkness of a mine again, he leaves all he knows in West Virginia to escape to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. It’s 1954, the seaside community is thriving, and Judd soon hires on with a timber company.

Larkin Heyward’s life in Myrtle Beach is uncomplicated, mostly doing volunteer work and dancing at the Pavilion. But she dreams of one day doing more—maybe moving to the hollers of Kentucky to help the poor children of Appalachia. But she’s never even met someone who’s lived there—until she encounters Judd, the newest employee at her father’s timber company.

Drawn together in the wake of a devastating hurricane, Judd and Larkin each seek answers to what tomorrow will bring. As opposition rises against following their divergent dreams, they realize that it may take a miracle for them to be together.

Appalachian Thursday–The Outhouse at My Wedding

Dad at church
When we say it’s a one-room church, we’re serious.

We celebrated our 20th anniversary yesterday, which seems impossible since we only just met, fell in love, and decided to spend our lives together! But here we are, a chunk of LIFE under our belts. I think you could say our wedding was pretty uniquely Appalachian with some special, “rural” touches. I say it was perfect.

We got married at Laurel Fork United Methodist Church in West Virginia. I’m the fourth or fifth generation in my family to attend the little, white church on the hill and it was where I wanted to pledge my heart to my husband for life.

We invited our friends and family, but didn’t expect many to make the trek to Nowhere, WV, for the nuptials. Those who did travel from SC (where we lived then) were encouraged to use the facilities at their hotel before coming to the church 30 minutes away in Laurel Fork.

Ha-ha, they thought, a West Virginia joke. Nope. Even today the only bathroom is an outhouse. Of course, some adventurous souls might have enjoyed the experience, but I’m pretty sure everyone held it until the reception back in town.

When I was a kid, we actually had TWO outhouses at church. One for the ladies and one for the gentlemen. The ladies had two stalls (fancy) each with a separate door for privacy. It was painted white and tucked back in the trees behind the church for discretion. Unfortunately, it’s leafy, protected eaves seemed to be prime spots for wasps to build their nests, but you often have to sacrifice something for the sake of your dignity.

The men’s outhouse was a much roomier one-seater with an open end that served as an, ahhh, urinal. It was closer to the doors of the church, which often made it preferable when I was young. The wooden seat was worn remarkably smooth and there was always a stack of church bulletins in place of toilet paper. Waste not, want not.

And honestly? It wasn’t unpleasant to use. Oh, it wasn’t great on a January morning, but in general, it served just fine. It smelled of worn wood as much as, well, what you’d expect, and members of the church maintained both outhouses well. MUCH nicer than any port-o-let I’ve ever been in.

Outhouses have become something of a redneck or hillbilly joke, but I’ve used them and they’re no joke. They’re just the best way to deal with a necessity in a place with no running water. And trust me, if your power went out (along with the well pump), you’d be glad to have one.wedding day

Because we need reminders . . .

Reach outIf you read last Monday’s post, you know I shared my experience of having a minor stroke. I’m ten days out now, and doing remarkably well. The only lingering effects seem to be some bruised ribs from falling and continued numbness in two finger of my left hand.

But I think the numbness is fading.

And as weird as it sounds, losing the numbness makes me a little sad.

Because something happened to me. Something significant. And I know it happened and wasn’t just a crazy dream because these two fingers feel odd. I know it because my left hand doesn’t work quite as well when I’m tired.

You know how it can be when something dramatic happens. You lose your job. You fall in love. You wreck your car. You inherit some money. Something unexpected happens and it changes your life.

But then . . .

You get used to the new thing. You find a new job. You take love for granted. You buy a new car. You tuck the money in the bank for a rainy day. It’s not a big deal anymore, it’s just your new normal.

The Israelites were chased by the Egyptians right up to the edge of the Red Sea. They were done for and they knew it. Then God parted the sea and destroyed the army chasing them. Talk about dramatic. Talk about life-changing.

But what did the Israelites do just three days later? They grumbled because there was no water to drink. I’m not saying it wasn’t scary, not having good water, but they’d seen God part a sea three days earlier. And then they thought he’d let them die of thirst.

How quickly we forget.

I don’t want to forget. I don’t want to forget the way God has been oh-so-present with me throughout this stroke experience. I don’t want to forget the lessons he’s taught me. I don’t want to forget how blessed I am. How beloved.

And each time I brush my hair back and notice the strangeness of my fingers; each time I rub my dog’s ears and fail to feel their silkiness; each time I sit down to type and have to trust my hands to find the way without the fine brush of fingertips against keys . . .

. . . then I remember. God is with me. And this, too, is part of his plan. I need reminding and so, am grateful for it.