Blog, Home

I’m a Little Bit Country

Day 119

I am so proud of my country roots. I grew up in a small valley tucked away in the mountains of southwestern Virginia. It was the place my ancestors settled when they left Ashe County, North Carolina and the place I called home most of my life. It’s not my home now, but it is the place where my core beliefs were formed.


As kids, we had the freedom to roam anywhere just about anywhere. We usually had a pair of shoes for the school year, a pair of shoes for church, and a pair of tennis shoes for summer. We went barefoot most of the time because wearing shoes was so restricting. I can remember being about 7 years old, sitting on the walkway that led up to my grandmother’s house, waiting for the dew to dry so I could play in the grass.

I read a lot now about how children need to have the opportunity to explore outside to develop a sense of curiosity about science. Boy, oh, boy did we have the opportunity. We left the house in the morning and did not come back until dinner time. (I honestly do not remember going home to eat lunch, but we must have had peanut butter and jelly at some point during the day.)

It was nothing for us to strike out and walk the railroad tracks to go swimming or just go for a walk. We swam in the creeks, caught crawdads and night-crawlers, went fishing and swung from huge grapevines wrapped around the branches of trees. We crossed the creeks by jumping rocks. We knew where to watch for snakes and what to do if we encountered one. We learned to look at the leaves on the trees or the clouds crossing the mountains as a sign of coming rain.

My grandfather took me into the woods when he gathered mayapple and ginseng constantly teaching me to watch out for the stinging nettle or poison ivy along the way. He would show me the hidden Jack-in-the-Pulpits and sing me old-timey songs. It was a wonderful way to grow up.

We had very few toys. Instead, we played games outside. Some familiar and some we made up. Tin Can Alley (kick-the-can) was a community favorite. We also had a game similar to hide-and-seek called No Bears Are Out Tonight which had its own original song to go along with it.

We walked everywhere we went. Along the way, we broke milkweed stalks to discover if our love was true. We popped the seed pods on touch-me-nots. We gathered glass pop-bottles to turn in for the 2-cent deposit in hopes of having enough money to buy bubble gum or candy at the small local store.

It was a great way to grow up.

I sat down tonight to write about some of our country traditions, but that may need to wait until tomorrow. For now, I am happy to be doing a little mental time-travel.



Blog, Writing

Cutting the Digital Apron Strings

Day 118

It is a gorgeous day here in the foothills. The sun is shining enough to warm up the house and take the edge off our 36° F morning walk. Days like this remind me how grateful I am to be alive. Our brisk walk has become the time we chat about the upcoming day and anything weighing heavy on our minds. It is a nice release.

I have slowly been reducing my time on Facebook and it has been healthy for me. When I do visit, I am reminded how blindly we have given our trust to the unknown people, faces, and companies that manage all the data we so willingly hand over. As bloggers, I suppose we make a decision to open our lives to the world, but social media can be a different animal.

Last night I checked in when I posted the link to my blog. There it was — an ugly discriminating and completely false story. These things used to rile me up and get me on the defensive. I have learned to walk away and discharge the emotion this junk is designed to stir up. I have evolved. 😉

My mind went back to the 1980’s movie TRON. A bit cheesy perhaps, but for 1982 when Pong and Pac-Man were major influences in early gaming, it made its mark. I went back and watched a few of the trailers and the PacMan and Pong references are very present. For me, however, the cautionary undertone of the movie was telling. “…the ultimate tool will become the ultimate enemy.”

So, I spend my time reading and writing and weening myself from the social giants. I am absorbing the sunshine and watching the birds and slowly cutting these digital apron strings by which we all seem to be tethered.


Cold Weather Memories

Day 117

chiliWe were anticipating snow tonight, but it went north of us. We have wind and colder temperatures, but nothing like the areas north. It was a good day to make a big pot of homemade chili and just stay home. As much of our country is preparing for the Polar Vortex, I cannot help but remember some of my own experiences in cold weather.

When I was very young, we grew up in a house with a single stove in the dining room. It was a Siegler oil heater with a round vent at the bottom that blew out warm air. This was where we got dressed, dried our hair and just huddled around to keep warm. (There is a picture of our exact stove here.) There was no heat in the house at night, but when we went to bed, the upstairs bedrooms were toasty warm because of the rise of the heat throughout the evening. I can even remember my grandfather fashioning a piece of tin that he clipped to the round blower in an attempt to push warm air into other rooms.

Later in life, I lived in a very old house in Virginia. It was a two-story house that had suffered from neglect over the years. This, again, was a house in which there was no heat at night. The house was heated by a coal stove in the living room and a cast iron pot-bellied stove in the kitchen. The coals would be banked at night so starting a fire the next morning with a little luck and some dry kindling would be easier.

On one particularly cold and snowy night, I remember lying in bed and watching the snow blow into the bedroom between the old weathered clapboards of the house. At one time the seams between the boards had been covered with old newspapers and wallpaper that had long since deteriorated. I think those cold nights buried under heavy hand-made quilts are the reason I love heavy blankets covering me when I sleep. It brings me a sense of comfort.

I am also reminded of a few times when I was staying with my step-mother that we ran out of fuel oil and it was extremely cold! We gathered all the quilts we could find and hung them across the doorways so people stayed in the kitchen to try and stay warm. We all pulled up a chair and sat in front of the open oven on the stove in an effort to get warm.

Then there was the time I lived in Alaska in a mobile home. Talk about cold. There was not a lot of insulation in the walls and I can still remember going into the closet and finding my clothes frozen to the exterior walls of the closet.

I had several cold weather days in Alaska when it dipped well below zero. However, in the 11 years I lived there, there was only one day my car would not start and I had to miss work. Every house and apartment complex had outdoor outlets so you could plug in the headbolt heater that almost everyone had on their car.

My thoughts are with those people in the path of this extremely cold weather. Stay in and REALLY bundle up if you must go out. This anticipated windchill is brutal. Keep your animals, your children, and yourself safe and warm.



It Started with the Coffee

Day 116

Hubby and I are down to two cups of coffee in the morning. Of course, it would be easy if we liked the same kind, but we don’t. He loves a strong French Roast and I am strictly decaf now – my preference is a decaffeinated Kona coffee from Fresh Market.

We have a small hand grinder and we take turns grinding our own beans. It is nice because when we travel it is compact and easy to take along with us. 20 years ago we made a pot of coffee, then we went to a Keurig but put that aside because of the landfill impacts. Now we do pour overs. The smell is alluring. Being retired, we can ease into the morning with all the necessary slow steps and the end result is a divine cup of coffee.

After the beans are ground you must wet the coffee and let it bloom for 30 seconds before continuing to pour the coffee. (I usually rush this step.) On a cold morning like this morning, I like to heat my cup with hot water first. The only problem is that this morning I forgot to pour the water out of the cup and needless to say my first cup of coffee ended up all over the kitchen counter. Not the best way to start the day.

The rest of the day wasn’t bad, but all day long I felt ‘off’. You know, when nothing seems quite right. My car has been in the shop since last Thursday and I was growing tired of not having the ability to go when I want to go. I finally got a call about 12:30 pm saying the car was ready.

We received some sad news from a good friend of ours this afternoon which occupied most of our conversation on the way to pick up the car. It is a helpless feeling when someone is in dire straights and there is nothing you can do to help the situation.

We did get some good news late in the afternoon which helped balance out the mood of the day. It was just one of those days. Not bad. Not good. Just a little ‘off’.

Hopefully, tomorrow will be better. I plan to make a pot of chili and continue to ‘Kondo’ my closets.