Appalachian Thursday – Family Stories

family treeThere’s no shortage of great story ideas in the hills and hollers of Appalachia. But my favorite place to mine for stories is my own family.

A few years ago, I used Ancestry.com to research Dad’s side of the family. We knew our farm had come down through the Phillips line, but I hadn’t realized just how STRONG that line is. While we were surprised to find some Dutch and German ancestry, we also learned that we’re pretty solidly English on my great-grandfather’s side. And as much a Phillips as you can be.

Why? Because if I go back seven greats, two Phillips brothers (John and Joshua) married two Drake sisters (Elizabeth and Amy) making my eighth-great grandparents the SAME on both sides of the family. THEN, those two couples’ grandchildren, Phillip Phillips and Mercy Phillips got married (I know, I know!) and had David Phillips who left Massachusetts to settle on the property we now own.

Scandalous!

Or maybe not. It does cut down on ancestors.

And while I may not decide to go all the way back to the 1670s to write a family saga about brothers marrying sisters whose grandchildren then marry (oh, the possibilities for how that might happen!!), it is an intriguing story that could be plopped into another century . . .

Yup, no shortage of great ideas!

Enough Bingeing Already!

grantchester-s3-what-to-expect-sfv-3200x1800-1920x1080My husband and I have discovered the joy of watching programs available through Amazon Prime. We made our way through Endeavour and are now enjoying Grantchester. (FYI – I think I have a bigger crush on Geordie than on Sidney.)

But I feel like we just might be the only people left who are watching ONE episode at a time!

All around me I hear people talking about binging shows. Programs are advertised as “binge-worthy.” And I just don’t get it.

Okay, I did get pulled into watching multiple episodes of Downtown Abbey in one day when I discovered it in the middle of season two, but I didn’t watch them all.

First, who has the TIME to binge-watch anything?!? In my free time I want to hike, read, write, talk to friends and family, cook, eat . . . well there’s lots of stuff. Not to mention the things I should be doing like laundry and house cleaning. Even a two-hour movie feels like a big commitment to me!

Second, whatever happened to anticipation? I LIKE watching an episode, thinking about it, and then anticipating the next one. If you watch them all in one day, what’s to look forward to? I love finding a series with several seasons and lots of episodes that means weeks of contented viewing.

So how about you? Do you binge-watch programs? If so, what have been your favorites? Maybe I’ll try them and see how long I can make them last . . . 😉

 

 

Appalachian Thursday – Maple Syrup Season

maple-syrup-set-4734523Vermont gets most of the maple syrup press, but Appalachia produces it’s fair share of the sticky, sweet stuff. West Virginia has 75 or so farms producing more than 2,500 gallons of syrup in a given year. And February into March is harvest season.

The trick is to tap maple trees when the days are getting warmer and the nights are still cold. This makes the sap rise and you can literally drill a hole in the tree, stick in a spout (spile), and let the sugar water run out into a bucket. Then the water is reduced into a syrup (or even further into maple sugar).

Of course, if you’re thinking about drilling a hole in the maple tree in your backyard you should know that it takes 40 to 50 gallons of sugar water to make one gallon of syrup.

My home was far enough north that folks in the area made syrup and celebrated at the Maple Syrup Festival in Pickens, WV. The event has been happening for decades and will be held March 16 and 17 this year. The festival includes crafters, music, a quilt show, wood chopping, ax throwing, and–of course–pancakes, pancakes, pancakes!

There are pancake “feeds” at various locations from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. both days. Of course, there’s also a bean supper (it IS West Virginia) on Saturday evening. And you can buy West Virginia hot dogs all the time. Even for breakfast if you get tired of pancakes with maple syrup.

If you can’t make it to Pickens in March and you’d like some West Virginia maple syrup, here are a few links:

Mustard Seed Faith – At Last!

mustard seedFor a long time now I’ve assumed, based on Matthew 17:20, that my faith is pretty pitiful. Not even a mustard seed’s worth. That scripture suggests that if my faith were as much as even a BB-sized seed, I could move mountains or cast mulberry bushes into the sea. And I can’t. Goodness knows I’ve tried.

It’s long been a discouragement.

And then I heard Susie Larson talking about planting apple seeds. She talked about how one seed produces a tree with, say, 100 apples. And each of those apples has multiple seeds with the capacity to produce another 100 apples. And so on and so on until you have millions of apples.

And just like that the light bulb lit! I had been focused on the SIZE of the mustard seed and had overlooked the fact that it’s a SEED. What do you do with seeds? You plant them.

In other scripture Jesus compares the kingdom of heaven to a mustard seed. It’s something tiny that grows into a tree as much as 20-feet tall and almost that wide.

So, in order to move mountains, it’s not about summoning up a tiny seed’s worth of faith. It’s a question of where I plant what faith I have. Jesus didn’t say the mountain and the mulberry tree would move TODAY.

I do have a seed’s worth of faith. Lots of seed’s worth of faith. And I can plant them wherever I go. At work, in the community, among friends and family. And some of those seeds will take root and eventually produce fruit. And then their seeds will do the same. And so on until mountains have shifted and entire forests have been cast into the sea.

Like so much of what I learn on this journey, it’s not about me. My role is small and often goes unnoticed. But taken as part of God’s glorious, intricate whole—it’s integral. Planting seeds matters.

Come sow with me. Nothing is impossible.

He replied, Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” – Matthew 17:20

Appalachian Thursday – Cover Reveal

Earlier this week I sent out an e-mail with the cover of my next novel. It’s a sweet sort of torture to see the cover and then not be able to share it until the book is available for pre-order. But as of Tuesday this week, readers can add When Silence Sings to their shopping carts. Yippee!

And I can show the cover, which I pretty much ADORE!

silence sings final

Evocative is the word that sprang to mind when I first saw it. I know I’m biased, but I think it’s pretty terrific!

Here’s the back cover copy:

Colman Harpe works for the C&O in the Appalachian rail town of Thurmond, West Virginia, but he’d rather be a preacher and lead his own congregation. When a member of the rival McLean clan guns down his cousin and the clan matriarch, Serepta McLean, taunts the Harpes by coming to a tent revival in their territory, Colman chooses peace over seeking revenge with the rest of his family.

Colman, known for an unnaturally keen sense of hearing, is shocked when he hears God tell him to preach to the McLeans. A failed attempt to run away leaves Colman sick and suffering in the last place he wanted to be–McLean territory. Nursed by herbalist Ivy Gordon–a woman whose unusual appearance has made her an outcast–he’s hindered in his calling by Serepta’s iron grip on the region and his uncle’s desire to break that grip. But appearances can be deceiving, and he soon learns that the face of evil doesn’t look like he expected.

Coming soon to a bookstore near you! (And by soon, I mean November 5, which isn’t that soon at all, but it’ll get here!)

Spreading the Love!

valentines _day_clip_art_heart_love (1)Just in case you didn’t know . . . Valentine’s Day is this Thursday. I’m generally opposed to the holiday as an adult. It feels to me like a marketing ploy to sell cards, flowers, and candy. That said, I have fond memories of the day when I was a kid.

At Adrian Elementary School, every child would make a “mailbox” out of cardboard box and bring it to school on Valentine’s Day so all the other kids could deliver cards. I vaguely remember the actual Valentines–slips of shiny paper with cartoon characters and silly sayings. But what I really remember is that marvelous box covered in paper with a slit cut in the top.

For some reason, I thought the Valentine’s delivery box was one of the world’s greatest inventions. And I remember the year I had a perfectly square box (I’d gotten a stuffed cat in it for Christmas). Mom covered it in paper–pink I seem to remember–and cut that slit in the top. It was exquisite.

We’d place our boxes on our desktops and everyone would deliver their Valentines. I guess it could seem like a popularity contest, but I don’t remember ever feeling left out or being jealous because someone got more cards than I did. I just remember crackly thin envelopes and conversation hearts.

It was WAY better than that goofy bud vase with a single rose or carnation that we hoped for in high school. Better than going out to dinner in an over-crowded restaurant with mediocre food as an adult. Better than a box of chocolates . . . well, I DO like chocolate. Okay, better than a goofy stuffed animal holding a heart.

Anyway, I was thinking it’s kind of a shame we let this tradition fade as we become “adults.” What if, this week, you delivered a Valentine to everyone in your office? Maybe gave one to every member of your Sunday School class or book club or civic organization?

What if you paused to say “I love you” to the people you encounter every day? Seems like I read something about that once . . .

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:34-35

Yes. Happy Valentine’s Day.

Appalachian Thursday – Weeeeeelllll

Grandmas and me

Grandmothers are masters of taking a single word and imbuing it with a world of meaning.

A friend and I were talking recently about our families–mostly the senior ladies in our Appalachian families–and how they can take a single word and communicate a wide range of meanings. The perfect example is the word, “well.”

Depending on the accompanying tone and expression, “well” can express a variety of messages. Here are a few:

  • Well. (Short, clipped, with lips pinched.) An expression of disdain suggesting that you can think that if you like but you’re completely wrong.
  • Weeellll. (Smiling, drawn out, sly sideways look.) I know what you’re getting at you devil, you!
  • Well. (Blank expression, flat tone.) I never would have thought it of you, but there you have it.
  • Well-ell-ell. (Laughing with a jolly expression.) Aren’t you the cutest thing I’ve ever seen?
  • Well. (Downcast eyes, soft voice, a little breathy.) I guess that’s all there is to say about that.

I don’t suppose this is exclusive to natives of our mountain region, but it’s surely been perfected here. And it’s one of my frustrations in writing. It’s so hard to share the full range of meanings on the printed page. I often end up editing out a slew of “wells” that really don’t convey what I’m after without the finer nuances of body language.

Which is frustrating.

But oh well.