An Anniversary Reflection

anniversaryOn Saturday, my husband and I celebrated 23 years of marriage. That means, as of next year, I will have been married for half my life.

My wedding day feels like yesterday AND a lifetime ago. It wasn’t fancy–shoot, it was in the (literally) one-room country church I grew up attending. And if you want to know about the, ahem, restroom facilities, read this post (The Outhouse at My Wedding).

Like most brides, there are things I simply cannot recall (WHAT song did we dance to??) as well as things seared into my memory (Dad stranding us at the reception hall). But one of the things my husband and I both thought was perfect was the wedding cake.

I was NOT one of those brides who didn’t eat at her wedding. I was first in line for food and thoroughly enjoyed a slice of cake. Mom made it–chocolate cake with a ganache filling and fudge frosting. Holy cow, was it good! On the long drive home from WV to SC we pulled over at a rest stop and ate some out of the box with plastic forks. Delicious.

I told Mom I didn’t want a little bride and groom on top, but left the rest of the decorations up to her. She wrapped the layers in wide ribbon and placed a single, artificial Magnolia blossom on top (with an itty bitty mouse couple hiding under a petal). It was gorgeous. And now I can’t see Magnolia without thinking about my wedding day.

Which is kind of perfect. Did you know Magnolia trees can live 100 years+? And they can’t pollinate without the help of beetles attracted by the flowers’ sweet smell.

So, a flower that makes me think of my wedding day (and cake–I do like to think about cake) has incredible longevity and can’t succeed on its own. Kind of like marriage if we do it right.

Here’s hoping for at least another 23 years of growing through the seasons as Jim and I work together to nurture our love.

(And eat cake. I hope we always eat cake together.)

Appalachian Thursday – Legend of the Dogwood

dogwoodI’ve always loved to bring wildflowers in the house. As kids we’d pick daffodils and forsythia, then wild azalea and lilacs, then daisies and black-eyed Susans. I even got in trouble for breaking off a branch from my mother’s redbud tree!

But we never cut dogwood. It’s a holy flower–especially around Easter.

I worked the legend of the dogwood into my upcoming novel, When Silence Sings. Here’s a short excerpt for you on this week after Easter. Colman Harpe is an itinerant preacher tasked with sharing the Gospel with a feuding clan. He finds his way through stories like this one . . .

“Dogwood tea,” a woman said, leaping to her feet and touching a flowery branch. She spoke to the woman to her right. “Ivy says it’s good for easing sore muscles if you use it externally. But taken by mouth, it can break a fever. I just remembered. Try that for Avery next time he takes a fever.” She snapped off a flower and resumed her seat, examining the creamy petals.

“Can I see that?” Colman asked while seeing a way out of the conversation about Ivy.

She nodded and handed him the flower. He looked at it closely, remembering what his grandmother told him when he was a boy. “I guess you all know the legend of the dogwood?”

All eyes turned to him with expectant looks. He supposed at least some of them knew the legend but didn’t want to get in the way of hearing a good story. He smiled.

“Dogwood trees used to grow big as oaks,” he began. As a matter of fact, they were so big and strong and had such good wood, the Romans used one to make the cross they crucified Jesus on.” The ladies were still now, almost reverent in their attention. “But after His resurrection, Jesus took pity on the tree and said that never again would it be used for such a purpose. From that day to this, dogwoods don’t get much bigger than this one here.” He stood and patted the trunk he could easily circle with both hands. “And this”—he held up the flower—“is shaped like a cross with two short petals and two long. And at the tip of each petal is a nail scar.” He showed them the crimped pink-stained petals. “While in the center rests a crown of thorns. I guess, if we take the time to look around, reminders of God’s gifts and graces are all around us, just waiting for someone to notice them.”

A gentle breeze wafted through the trees and set the branches of the dogwood to stirring as if in approval. Colman looked around the group and saw smiles softening faces that likely saw more than their share of grief as the women struggled to raise families and support their husbands in this hardscrabble mountain land.

Nell dimpled at him. “That’s the nicest sermon I’ve heard from a preacher in a long time.”

Colman felt a surge of pride and noticed Nell had soft brown eyes to go with her golden hair. He looked through the branches of the tree to the cloud-dotted sky beyond and thought maybe it was the nicest sermon he’d preached ever.

My Annual Suffering Inoculation

The summer after I turned 30 I was stung by a couple of yellow jackets. And ended up in the emergency room with full-blown anaphylaxis. After seven years of allergy shots my doctor decreed that my resistance was, “as good as it gets.”

Turns out they don’t give you a card that says, “CURED.”

So, “good” or not, I still get a little nervous when I’m stung. As I was last Wednesday.

It was just one, grumpy spring wasp. But still.

Several co-workers hovered, watching to make sure I wasn’t reacting (much appreciated!). I took my Benadryl, grabbed an ice pack for the sting, and waited the requisite 30 minutes–the likeliest window for a reaction.

That is a LONG 30 minutes. And I joked about how I try to see getting stung as God’s way of keeping my allergy shots up-to-date. Because during those seven years of shots? I was getting shot-up with venom every six weeks. And apparently my schedule now is to get stung every 12-18 months.

Which made me think about how we learn to stand strong in the face of suffering. It’s usually by suffering. 

I’ll confess that my goal in life is most often to be comfortable. Happy is good, joyful is better, but I’ll take comfortable any day. And when I’ve been stung by a wasp I am NOT comfortable. My first reaction is to reassure myself that I’ll be fine (as I swallow a Benadryl). My second reaction is to wonder if I’m having trouble swallowing (this has NEVER happened, not even the first time). My third reaction is to look at my watch and see how much longer until it’s been 30 minutes.

And then I get a little bit angry. WHY do I have to deal with this? WHY did God make stinging insects in the first place? WHY didn’t I do x or y or z and avoid all this silliness? WHY hasn’t 30 minutes passed yet?!?

Well, what if there really is a perfectly good answer to why? Because God is giving me just a little dose of suffering. A smidge of enduring. A taste of patience. Because I need to build up my resistance to the trials of this world.

This notion doesn’t make me GLAD to get stung. But it does remind me that God doesn’t let anything go to waste. Not even wasp and hornet stings.

 

Appalachian Thursday – Turkeys, a dog, and poetry month

April is National Poetry Month. You probably knew that 😉 I think MOST of my poems fall into the Appalachian category in some form or fashion. Here’s one inspired by a walk in the woods with a dog and some turkeys . . . Sure do miss my Sammy . . .

Sammy

HOLDING BACK

He’s an old dog.
So, when he spies the turkeys
he tries to run like a nightmare
of running with leaden feet
and his goal fast receding.

I hold him, make him sit
and watch the turkeys fade
into the forest with a rustle of leaves
and soft calls of indignation.
I rub his head, massage aching hips,
scratch his panting, heaving side.
But his bright eyes are on the trees
and he would gladly give chase
if only I would let him.

I call him to my side
and head home.
He limps beside me
because it’s what I ask.
But he does not choose,
would never choose,
this holding back.

Close the Laptop and Enjoy Some Family Time

My older brother and his family came to the mountains from their home on the coast of South Carolina for spring break. Of course, dogwood winter showed up to greet them with a blast of cold air that pretty well froze their thin, southern blood! Nevertheless, we got out to enjoy a hike with some spectacular views.

Then, having earned our lunch, we went to Wild Thyme Gourmet Restaurant in Highlands followed by a trip to Kilwin’s, because fudge and ice cream are delicious no matter how cold it is outside!

Some days you just need to put the laptop down, put the “out of office” sign on the door, and enjoy some family time!

 

Appalachian Thursday – Ramp Recipes

ramp omeletteIt’s ramp season once again! The patch on my neighbor’s property is flourishing. I dug a few ramps Sunday and added a few to a tomato and avocado relish last night in place of green onions.

That’s my preferred way to use them–as a seasoning or embellishment. But there are plenty of other ways to use them to add some zing to your spring menu. Goodness knows all the trendy restaurants are doing it!

Which put me in mind of that scene in the movie Forest Gump where Bubba is listing all the ways you can eat shrimp. So I thought I’d compile a ramp recipe list for your Appalachian edification!

  • Ramp pesto
  • Ramp carbonara
  • Ramp omelet (one of my favorites–see picture)
  • Ramp focaccia
  • Pickled ramps
  • Ramp-aroni rolls (see Fish Hawk Acres in Buckhannon for these!)
  • Ramp dip
  • Creamed ramps
  • Ramp kimchi (hmmmm)
  • Fried eggs and ramps
  • Buttermilk-fried ramps (yes, please!)
  • Ramp chimichurri
  • Potato ramp soup
  • Ramp jam
  • Ramp pizza
  • Bacon and ramp vinaigrette
  • Ramp aioli
  • Fried ramps and potatoes
  • And, of course, boiled ramps with a splash of vinegar

There’s more, but I expect you’ve got the idea. Suffice it to say ramps are almighty versatile! (And if you want to see a menu that weaves ramps throughout, check out this one for a ramp dinner to benefit the library in my home town.)

What’s your favorite way to enjoy them?

Stepping Into Another Time

frying chicken - CopyThis past Saturday I had a chance to travel to the 1700s French & Indian War at Ft. Dobbs near Statesville, NC. Friends of mine are reenactors who planned to attend the War for Empire weekend with their Dragonfly Traders tent. Lorraine offered to outfit me.

Well, YES.

I’ve been to living history events before, but always as a visitor. This time I got to don period attire and walk around in the 18th century. It was SUCH fun!

I think the main difference is that I got more of a look behind the scenes into the life of a reenactor and while I realize it’s not for everyone, I definitely get the appeal! These folks aren’t just putting on a show for a weekend, they actually live as if it were the 1700s for several days. Well, mostly.

Many of them sleep on cots or pallets in their tents. They eat food cooked over open fires (see frying chicken in a spider above). There were woodworkers, seamstresses, a stone cutter, women doing laundry, a shoe maker, and soldiers conducting drills and demonstrating artillery. The camp was abuzz with activity! And there I was, walking among them like I belonged.

Which is just how I felt. I hadn’t anticipated the sense of community among the reenactors (although I should have!). These are people who are passionate about history and want to get it right.

As someone who reads and writes historical fiction, it was like stepping into a book. It was a heady experience and one I hope I’ll get to try again.

So, I know the #1 question is, what did I wear? Here’s an overview of my mostly accurate period attire. (No stays is the main departure–I stuck with my modern undergarments! The stays would go on OVER the shift.)

  1. Don a shift. The idea here is two-fold. The garment next to the skin protects your clothing from sweat (and would have been washed more often) plus it’s soft and comfortable (like REALLY comfortable!).
  2. Add pockets. Women’s clothing didn’t have pockets so these flat pouches with slits were tied on under skirts which also had access slits. The trick is to not stick your hand in there and miss the pocket!
  3. Add a skirt and a short gown. The skirt tied front to back AND back to front so it fits really well. The short gown is the jacket or shirt that is pinned closed. No buttons or snaps, although you might have had hooks and eyes.
  4. Top it off with an apron to keep your clothes a smidge cleaner.
  5. Fichus were worn over the shoulders and neck area for modesty and to protect skin from the sun. Pale was in. Hair was tucked into a cap with a ribbon to keep it in place and the flat, straw hat was pinned over it all. Works almost as well as sunglasses and you don’t have to fuss with your hair!