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Lots of writing, reading, signing, and painting going on around here...

It's Here!

It's here! There are boxes stacked up in my laundry room. Each one has 44 copies of "Mountain Memoirs: An Ashe County Anthology inside. Thank you, Henry, for carrying them in the house. I drove to Mint Hill to pick them up at the publisher this morning. So happy we have books in hand for the big launch next week at the On the Same Page Literary Festival (www.onthesamepagefestival.org).

Wow. It feels tremendous to hold this puppy in my hands. The cover, featuring fellow editor Scot Pope's photo, is really beautiful. And it's got my frickin' name on it and everything.

I am very proud of myself today.

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Small World

Here's a great picture I had a friend take at our Friends of the Library meeting here at the Ashe County Public Library this morning. The awesome lady in the photo with me is Iris Morphew. Iris is a volunteer extraordinaire here in Ashe County and we see each other a good bit a various library and arts events and meetings. Let me tell you the "it's a small world" story that goes along with this photo.

Back in high school I hung out with music kids. We were in all the bands and choirs and we played guitars and pianos in each others' basements and on stages around the area sometimes, too. One of these music buddies was Jim Morphew. Jim went to high school with some of my friends from a local church and played guitar and sang. He was also cute, cute, cute. If I can dig up a picture of him, I'll post it for you. Suffice it to say he was all long white blond hair, big blue eyes, and an incredible smile.

My sister, not being slow on the uptake or anything, was Jim's girlfriend in high school. I think he was her first big heartbreak. When he went off to college, he left my sister in the high school dust. Read More 
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ORDER IT NOW AND GET A DISCOUNT!!!

Mountain Memoirs is an Anthology that I edited with my Word Keepers colleagues Julie E. Townsend and Scot Pope. We're so excited -- it's turned out wonderfully. We've got 20 pieces related to Ashe County somehow, by people who have some kind of relationship with Ashe County. Here's the synopsis that will soon appear on the publisher's website:  Read More 
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It's All Perspective

Yesterday I had the wonderful opportunity to spend the day with an amazing young woman. Patty works for Habitat for Humanity in El Salvador. Back in 2007, on my first building trip there with Habitat Charlotte, Patty had just started working for the organization. She was our "minder" our "handler" for the week.

Even though she'd worked there a only handful of weeks, she did an incredible job with our group of gringos, taking perfect care of all the details, devoting reassuring attention to us, ensuring we had a productive and rewarding time in her country and that in addition to building, we got a chance to learn a little bit about the culture and the wonderful people. She briefed us on appropriate toilet etiquette, made sure we were safely ensconced in our hotel, and fed sufficiently each day. Everyone who has been to El Salvador for a work project, from all over the world, knows some of Patty's rules: 1. Walk around only in groups -- two is not a group! 2. Don't pet the dogs. 3. Don't eat food from street vendors. 4. Don't drink the water from the faucet, etc.

I also met Kendal Stewart that week, another new employee at Habitat El Salvador. Kendal is a North Carolina native and a Davidson College grad who stayed in the country after an internship there. Both Patty and Kendal are taking on ever more professional duties at Habitat El Salvador since back in 2007; it's no surprise. Habitat is lucky to have two such outstanding and inspiring people working with them.

This week, the dynamic duo are visiting North Carolina. It's Patty's first trip here. Having been in town a couple of whirlwind days, we had the chance to hang out, eat a long lunch, and do a little shopping. It was a small breather for Patty, just about the only one she's likely to get on this trip, which is jam-packed with meetings and tours all across the state.

Do you know what this incredible woman said to me? She said that after seeing how beautiful this place is she was more impressed than ever with us -- that we would come to El Salvador and give up all we have here for 10 days to work on houses there.

Whhaaat? I about drove off the road.

It made me think of what I told Henry when I got back from that first trip in 2007. I told him how incredibly nice the people were... how we here in the United States have everything, and we whine about it. Why are they so nice? -- I'm not sure I'd like me if I were them.

Right. And Patty lays on me how impressed she is with US. Makes you think, don't it?
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A small meditation...

The Teacup


I realized this morning that my favorite teacup is just like me.

A crack runs all the way down the side

Still, it doesn’t leak.

The china is bit stained from its many uses.

There’s a lovely floral design on the outside

With a peony – a favorite.

Or maybe it’s a rose.

Fushia wind around the display

In an odd somewhat artificial color combination.

There’s a small repeat of the flower motif on the inside, too.

You can tell that it used to be a very pretty cup. Read More 
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Trip to the Alps - Extraordinary

We have returned from our trip of a lifetime. To celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary we booked a trip with Wilderness Travel for snowshoeing in the Alps. Friends who have been on trips with the company highly recommended them and we were ready to go for it.

Since early November, we worked on, working up to, this trip. Diets and keeping strict track of all food (myfitnesspal.com) kicked off our process. By two months out, we were doing daily workouts or hikes. I even wore my boots on the elliptical. It really paid off. We were in top shape and did very well physically - no injuries, little soreness, etc. By the end of the days, we were tired, but a good tired. Read More 
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El Salvador!

Here's the crew with whom I dug a septic tank all last week.
Another great trip to El Salvador with my Habitat Charlotte buds. Once again I am amazed at the resilience of the Salvadoran people, their generosity of spirit, and good and open hearts. In short, we here in the U.S. have everything and they, by our standards, have little. It's 20 years since the end of a brutal civil war and memories of their personal losses are still fresh and yet they are a positive and hopeful people. It is a pleasure and gift to work together with them for a few short days, helping to make the world a better place if only for a small handful of folks. Showing up there, it feels to me, does matter. And that is reason enough to go. (Click on the Photo Essay tab above for more pictures.) Read More 
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FEBRUARY WORDKEEPERS!

The next Wordkeepers salon is Saturday, February 18, at the Ashe Arts Council, 303 School Street. Henry and Scot will warm the crowd up with their singer-songwriter magic at 3:00 p.m. At 4:00 p.m. writers will begin the open mic readings. Refreshments will be provided. For February's Wordkeepers, writers should email Julie Townsend at finally@skybest.com to reserve your open mic spot. I will miss this month's salon because I'll be in El Salvador with my Charlotte Habitat for Humanity crew. Pictures will follow! Read More 
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Christmas Day

Self portrait, Christmas on the Blue Ridge Parkway.
For Christmas day doings, Henry and I packed up an outdoor dinner. For those of you familiar with the Blue Ridge Parkway, we went to Julian Price Park, hiked the Boone Fork Trail (about 5 miles) and then cooked out our noontime Christmas meal.

Boone Fork is a great trail. It's got a good bit of variety down through a gorge and along river and stream. There's also a high meadow and beaver-made wetlands. Clearly recent heavy rains have done some wash-out damage, but it's still a good trail. When there's no snow like Christmas this year, I recommend gaiters. I got my pants pretty muddy. But then I always seem to manage to do that...

Our menu was a buffalo steak (a "Cowboy" steak, bone-in ribeye, to be precise - from our friends at wildideabuffalo.com), baked potatoes (pre-cooked the night before) and a pop-top can of corn. We also had bright green-iced cupcakes, which we actually ate first because we were too hungry after the hike to wait for the main course to get done! Needless to say, the food was excellent. It was good to cozy up to the cook fire in the grill, too. Temps were in the low 30s so we cooled off from the hike pretty quickly. Read More 
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Wordkeepers!

Anna, Luis & Chris at Wordkeepers.
What a fabulous day today at Wordkeepers in West Jefferson. Fellow writers Scot Pope, Julie Townsend and I started the Wordkeepers salons last year. We thought the annual Night of the Spoken Word, through the Ashe Arts Council was always such a big hit that there was probably an audience and a wide group of writers who would be game more often than once a year. We were right.

So, now, every other month we get together at the Arts Council with local writers and avid listeners to hear the latest work. From a handful of people at last year's first Wordkeepers, we've grown to a dandy crowd.  Read More 
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