FIGHT THE FEAR WITH KINDNESS

IMG_0671I’m starting to pull out of the worst hangover of my life. It didn’t come from alcohol. It came from my recent addiction to the news and the results of the 2016 Election. Since last Tuesday night, I stopped watching television. Yesterday, I finally forced myself to listen to NPR and to read the newspaper. But that’s it. I can’t listen to George, Anderson, Lester, or Scott say one more word. I feel betrayed, and I’m in deep mourning.

I know I have to pull myself out of this funk, but it’s difficult. The person who will soon be president of my country does not represent me. And I hate that feeling. Even when my candidates lost (or had the election stolen) in the past, I still felt respect for the highest elected office in my country. Why can’t I do it this time?

Because whenever I try to wrap my head around it, I hear the words–the hurtful, full of rocks and stones words–hurtled by the man who will soon occupy the Oval Office. I hear him referring to “the blacks,” “the Hispanics,” “the Muslims” without any recognition of why that is such divisive and fearful rhetoric. I implore others never to lump me in the category of “the whites” because that means you’ve just lumped me with Adolf Hitler, Charles Manson, and David Dukes. No, thank you very much. Do not judge me by the color of skin I share with such deplorables.

Those who supported the candidacy of the president-elect tell the rest of us to get over it. I’ve heard them say they didn’t do this when Barrack Obama was elected in 2008 and 2012. No? First, did President Obama ever threaten to deport them? Did he ever call them rapists and murderers? Did he ever implore them to turn in their neighbors or risk punishment themselves? Did he ever threaten to take away their rights? Did he ever threaten to take away their health insurance? Did he ever suggest he would date his daughter? And did he ever indicate that sexually aggressive behavior was the privilege of the famous?

I argue they did protest by blocking the President’s attempts to appoint a Supreme Court justice and to strengthen our gun laws, just to mention a few ways the other side protested.

Fear rules now that a man who has declared that sexual harassment in the workplace can be avoided by a woman simply leaving a job where she feels it’s occurring, who wants to abolish health care for millions who can’t afford it otherwise or who have preexisting conditions (although he may be softening on that), and who has a vice-president eager to do away the any rights gained for our LGBT community. Fear reigns in the lives of anyone who is an immigrant.

Yesterday, I saw it displayed at the post office. A young woman from China was behind me in line. She spoke broken English when she asked me some questions about mailing her package. Before I was called to the window for my business, I tried my best to advise her. She went to the clerk right next to me. He didn’t understand her English and was becoming annoyed with her. She turned to me, and what I saw in her eyes devastated me. She was afraid. Fear poured out of her, and she looked to me to help her. I told the clerk I’d take care of it, and he immediately called the next person in line, eager to be rid of the problem. I pulled her over to a counter and went through what she wanted to do and told her what to say to the clerk when she spoke to him again. She smiled and thanked me profusely as she touched my shoulder.

I walked away feeling better. I’ve been listening to those who say we must go on living our lives with more kindness to counterbalance the hatred running rampant in this country right now. It worked for me because for the rest of the day, I felt as if the hangover that had been hanging over my head for a week, lifted.

I’ve blocked and unfriended several folks on Facebook this past week. When a twenty-something relative who only works sporadically and then sponges off other relatives and the government while she finds herself told those of us who didn’t like the election results to leave the country, I blocked her posts from my newsfeed. When a friend from high school posted that anyone who voted for Hillary was insane, I unfriended him. And when another relative posted about her grief and was attacked by another relative for that grief, I cried.

We have the results. This is the reality. If we’re happy about last Tuesday’s election or if we’re struggling with accepting the results, let’s all vow to be kinder. Let’s fight the fear and hatred with love and compassion for all people. It’s going to be difficult some days. Fighting the bullies who have been given permission to act like bullies in public will take stamina, especially when the president-elect doesn’t recognize that he threw this coming-out party for jerks. Hope is difficult to keep when I hear him asked if he thinks his rhetoric went too far in the election process, and he answers, “No because I won.”

But I’m working on it, one day at a time, one act at a time, one person at a time.

Secretary Clinton and President Obama have set our bars very high for graciousness in a time of despair for many of us. Let’s reach their bars and go beyond.

And then pray.

Florida Setting 2

 

 

AUMTUMN IN THE MOUNTAINS

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Santeetlah Gap – Cherohala Skyway, Smoky Mountains, on October 25, 2016

We took a drive on the Cherohala Skyway last week. We hoped to catch the colors at their peak. The trip on the Skyway is always interesting, but the colors didn’t quite match our expectations. A dry summer with record-breaking temperatures must have stymied the production of color. The areas that were in color seemed muted and exhausted. And at the peak of the Skyway, the leaves were all gone. We were driving along, stopping at many of the pull off spots to search for bits of color, when suddenly, we reached 5,000 feet in elevation and the trees were bare as if it was winter already.

Still, we enjoyed taking a few detours, even though the creeks and waterfalls barely flowed. We picnicked on Citico Creek, about five miles down from the Skyway. Citico is a former Cherokee community that was destroyed when the Little Tennessee River was dammed. Now Tellico Lake covers the former community. We managed to find a secluded spot. The Skyway had become crowded with other color seekers, so we left them up on the Skyway.

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Later, after coming down off the peak of the Skyway, the colors returned on the Tennessee side.

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Beautiful day with my hubby that still lingers in our memory as we prepare to begin the next phase of our new life. We’re Florida bound for six months, but the Smoky Mountains remain in our hearts.

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Happy fall! I hope you’re enjoying the season. May the color of your life always be bright and filled with life. ❤

 

CONFESSION TIME – HOPPY TALES

img_0829All right. I have a confession to make. I love beer.

Now that it’s out in the open, I can confess that not only do my husband Robert and I share a love of the suds, but we’re also homebrewers and seekers of other homebrewers turned into craft brew entreprenuers.

Let me clarify our love of beer. For us to love, truly love, a beer it must be robust and ‘hopping’ with flavor. India Pale Ale (IPA) that is strong in hops and in bitterness tops our list. But there’s nothing like a true Belgian with its high sugary notes in its finish. And then, finally, for my choice for dessert? A chocolatey, coffee-infused imperial stout. Yummy.

Craft breweries have become popular in recent years. One of the first, Sierra Nevada, began in Chico, California. I visited their restaurant and brewery in 1998–my first venture into the world of craft brewing. It was a nice site with the copper brew pots within view of our table. A tour followed lunch. I fell in love with their beers–always a good choice. Until the past ten years or so when other craft breweries began popping up all over the country.

Our home state of Michigan is becoming famous for their breweries in Marshall, Kalamazoo, Grand Rapids, and Holland. A few began popping up around the Pittsburgh area while I lived there. We even have a few recent start-ups in our small area in North Carolina.

 

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Andrews Brewing Company and Calaboose Wine Cellars

Hoppy Trout and Andrews Brewing Company are our favorites. Hoppy Trout was opened by a homebrewer, and everything we’ve sampled there is outstanding. Andrews Brewing Company – same thing. Plus they also make their own wine at Calaboose Wine Cellars. The setting is spectacular for listening to music and watching the sun set over the mountains and small vineyard on site.

 

It was only natural for us to seek out some other craft brewers on a recent trip to Blacksburg, Virginia. When we learned Sierra Nevada had opened a brewery two hours from us, we had to visit. We stopped at three breweries on our journey. First, near Hendersonville, North Carolina, in Mills River, we went to the recently opened Sierra Nevada brewery.

We drove up a long windy road, loving the scenery and the rural setting. At the top of the hill we looked down at the largest brewery–I’m not counting Anheuser Busch here–I’ve ever seen. Rows of buildings with smoke stacks spewed forth white clouds of steam and gleaming copper pots dominated the glass fronts.

At the end of the ‘mall,’ sat a restaurant and gift shop. A separate entrace swarmed with visitors lining up for the tours which required reservations. We searched for a parking space and finally found one in the furtherest parking lot from the restaurant entrance. I desperately tried to put this Disney-esque place in the same category as the restaurant/brewery I visited eighteen years earlier. The bustling restaurant with two bars, outside terraces, and a cavernous room with tables provided good food and outstanding beer, but it sure didn’t feel like a craft brewery any longer.

Then we visited the other craft brewer in town–Mills River Brewery. This place sat in a strip mall and was a simple tap room serving a few of their own brews, but also the brews of other craft brewers in North Carolina. They are small and new–opened ten months ago–and made a decent IPA, but they have a ways to go to compete with the more established places. We wish them good fortune.

The next day we landed in Boone, North Carolina, at Appalachain Mountain Brewery. There are several breweries in this college town, but we chose this one because their porter, served to us at Parsons Pub in Murphy, North Carolina, really impressed us. When I read about them on their website, my admiration grew.

Here’s their motto:

Appalachian Mountain Brewery’s mission is to sustainably brew high quality beer, support local non-profits and help our community prosper. Our mission is simple: sustainability, community and philanthropy.

The tap room is unpretentious and simple, but that’s not how I would describe the beer brewed there. I did a sampler and can attest to the high quality of product. The pub doesn’t serve food, but a food truck sits outside waiting to serve up a delicious snack. We ordered black bean tacos and cheese bread–perfect accompaniments to all that we tasted.

And best of all, we met the folks who work there and discovered they work there because of the values set forth by the owners. We chatted with Danny Wilcox, the director of retail operations, and he told us that the publicly traded company stands by their mission statement of sustainability, community, and philanthropy. In our troubled times, it is refreshing, and hopeful, to find a small business doing their part to help their community.

Appalachain Mountain Brewery sets a tone and a mood that inspires others to do more and reach higher. We raise our mugs and say, “Salud.” And also, filler up.

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We’ve taken a break from our homebrewing adventure while we moved and settled into our new routine. All of our brewing equipment is now in one place and very soon we’ll start up the boiling pots and fermenting pails. I’ll be sure to report on our first batch from Florida very soon. We need to get our holiday brews a’ bubblin’.

New Release: “Mountain Miracles” by P.C. Zick and guest post “A Canvas for the story”

I wanted to share with you this piece posted my colleague’s blog about the setting of my latest romances. I hope you enjoy reading about why I chose the Smoky Mountains as the setting for my sweet romances.

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mountainmiraclesnewI’m a devoted fan of P.C. Zick’s novels and have invited her over to my blog several times. So for her new release, which I haven’t been able to read just yet, here is a post written by her about the setting. This is particularly interesting to me, because, like P.C.Zick, I’ve moved recently and have chosen the new environment as the setting for my next novel. Great minds think and work alike…

A MOUNTAIN SETTING – A CANVAS FOR THE STORY

By P.C. Zick

Setting plays the role of parent in the fiction I write. It creates, nurtures, and supports the plot, conflicts, characters, dialogue, and actions. It serves as the canvas on which I create a verbal painting.

From the beach to the mountains, from hurricanes to snowstorms, from southern drawls to Yankee nasal tones, setting defines what I write.

When I moved to a cabin in…

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SUMMER LINGERS WHILE FALL BECKONS

 

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Wild turkeys outside my office window in the winter.

The wild turkeys gather together as summer wanes forming their “gangs” to wander the mountains surrounding our cabin. Last night we heard a rustling outside our front door. When we went to look, a large turkey flapped its wings and flew into a tree in front of our porch, settling on a branch precariously. We watched as it moved around on the bouncing branch. Finally, it quieted and went to sleep for the night. The turkeys have come home to roost.

 

As always, the summer flew by and our days are numbered in the mountains, although we hope to see much of the color burst forth on the still-green trees. Yet, signs are everywhere as berries form on the holly tree and the sumac leaves begin to turn red.

dsc03660Our first full summer in North Carolina satisfied us. The garden grew and grew, providing the pantry and freezer with plenty of vegetables and sauces for the winter. We froze peas, beans, cole slaw, soup starter vegetable sauce, and zucchini bread. I pickled dills, chips, and relish. We put up pasta sauce and salsa. And if that wasn’t enough, my husband went out and bought local corn from a roadside pick-up truck because that’s one thing he doesn’t grow. He froze twenty bags of corn kernels. When his lima beans only produced enough for the table, he bought a bushel from a local farmer of “butter beans” and froze seventeen bags of those. If you’ve never tasted fresh lima or butter (same thing) beans, then you have no idea of the soft buttery vegetable’s virtue. Try it sometime.

 

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Tomatoes waiting to become pasta sauce or salsa.

Our kayaks provided transportation on local rivers and lakes and gave us moments of serenity and inspiration. We’ve only begun to explore all the places of watery beauty in our area. We are the beneficiaries of the Tennessee Valley Authority’s damming of the rivers. The lakes that are formed as a result–Chatuge, Nottley, and Hiwassee–are deep and long. Plenty of boat ramps make them easy to access and give us a multitude of landscapes to explore.

 

Drives brought us to waterfalls with plenty more to explore and enjoy.

The only complaint I have is the weather. It’s been an unusual summer here in the mountains. We came here to escape the heat and humidity of Florida’s summer, but it followed us here but without the rain. Temperatures near ninety, humidity as high without even the relief of afternoon showers. The storms I love to watch moving across the mountains have been few and always bring us running to the front porch to catch a rare glimpse of darkening clouds and rain hitting the metal roof. Who knows what is normal anymore as far as weather goes? Maybe the winter will be sunny and warm in Florida all winter.

How did your summer shape up?