Thursday, December 21, 2006

"I bring you good news of great joy for everyone! The Savior- yes, the Messiah, the Lord- has been born tonight in Bethlehem, the city of David!" Luke 2:10-11

On Christmas day of 2001, I was in a hospital, deep in labor with my son. It was the year of 9/11 and the war in Afghanistan. The months leading up to giving birth were spent in contemplation, anticipation, and even some great anxiety at the state of the world...and bringing a life into it. The world seemed like a very dangerous and dark place that year.

On a similar day, over 2000 years ago, a very young mother, heavy with child, gave birth in a small barn... in a dangerous and dark time. A time when a King decreed that all baby boys must be killed. The events of this birth had been prohecied about for generations......a humble and lowly birth for such an anticipated arrival.

I remember feeling a deep kinship with Mary, mother of Jesus, in those months leading up to my son's birth. I waddled around the campus of the university I was attending, heavy with child, in the snow and ice....thinking about her having to ride a donkey in the winter for hundreds of miles, on the verge of giving birth to God incarnate. And then giving birth in a crude stable with no help or encouragement. What a way for the Son of God to come into this world. And then Mary "pondering all of these things in her heart".......

There was much need for this babe and the hope He brought 2000 years ago, just as there is today. And I felt it very keenly that year of my pregnancy. Such a magical and awesome event in history..... the Hope and Light of the world leaving His throne on high to come and dwell in our midst...among the darkness and strife. And because of Jesus' humble birth and, ultimately, death, I don't have to fear the darkness or the future of this world that I brought life into, because "Light came into the darkness and the darkness could not overcome it". And I am very grateful and will ponder these things in my heart for years to come......

"Come, thou long expected Jesus, born to set thy people free;
from our fears and sins release us, let us find our rest in thee.
Israel’s strength and consolation, hope of all the earth thou art;
dear desire of every nation, joy of every longing heart.

Born thy people to deliver, born a child and yet a King,
born to reign in us forever, now thy gracious kingdom bring.
By thine own eternal spirit rule in all our hearts alone;
by thine all sufficient merit, raise us to thy glorious throne."

(There is a beautiful song written from the perspective of Mary called "Breath of Heaven". You can listen to Sara Groves sing it Here. )

Monday, December 18, 2006

Christmas traditions........ Hoedowns.....





And even a little "homemade" mountain liquid refreshment filled the evenings
at my parents annual Christmas jams. All their old-time musician friends came down from the mountains and hollers and gathered at my parents log home for an evening of playing Appalachian music around the stone hearth......fires lit, hearts warm. Even us young 'uns enjoyed the evenings, dancing and singing along. One tradition I love and miss now that I am far from home.....

Sunday, December 17, 2006

I just switched over to Blogger Beta a couple of days ago after numerous problems posting and leaving comments on other sites. Has anyone had problems viewing my blog or leaving comments on it? I'm trying to make sure everything is as it should be..... you can e-mail me via my profile if it doesn't allow you to leave a comment. Thanks!

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Songwriter's Circle.......... There's a quote by Anne Morrow
Lindbergh that says, "Good communication is as stimulating as black coffee, and just as hard to sleep after."

I think I would add good music, too.

My lovely friend Patti hosted a songwriter's circle at her downtown restaurant Wednesday night. It was a great opportunity for local singer/songwriter's to showcase their a cozy, laid-back, and supportive environment.

I arrived just as the evening got under way, and walked into a standing-room only crowd. Fortunately, a fellow musician friend already had a table and offered me the extra seat he had. We sat back, sipped coffee, and soaked up the good music and "creative vibes" that events like this put forth.
For a rural Appalachian town, our area actually has quite the little music and art scene, which is a necessity for me. I thrive in creative environments and like to be in an area with a "pulse", as I call it. I was sad when the evening ended, and vowed to go home and practice so that I'd feel comfortable enough to participate in the next one. We'll see if those "good vibes" keep me motivated!
And, I wonder, was it the good music or coffee that kept me up that night.......

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

"The Church In The Wildwood"..........
Words & Music: Dr. William S. Pitts, 1857
(words tweaked by bmm...)

"There's a church in the valley by the wildwood
No lovelier spot in the dale
No place is so dear to my childhood
As the little white church in the vale

How sweet on a clear Sabbath morning
To listen to the clear ringing bells
Its tones so sweetly are calling
Oh come to the church in the vale

There, close by the church in the valley

Lies one that I loved so well
He sleeps, sweetly sleeps, 'neath the willow
Disturb not his rest in the vale

There, close by the side of that loved one
'Neath the tree where the wild flowers bloom
When farewell hymns shall be chanted
I shall rest by his side in the tomb

(Oh, come, come, come, come)
Come to the church by the wildwood
Oh, come to the church in the vale
No spot is so dear to my childhood
As the little white church in the vale "

- The photos are of the church Aunt Sarah and Uncle Curtis (see prev. post) attended. It lies on a hill across from their farm...Sarah's childhood church. And they are both buried in the churchyard, under a grove of trees. Sarah lying just feet from her childhood home.....

Monday, December 11, 2006


Through fate and serendipity, my husband's job has landed us within an afternoon's drive of a county that has deep family roots for me. My great-grandfather settled here and raised his family in the deep hills of Appalachia. The above farm belonged to my Great Uncle Curtis and his wife Sarah. Sarah was raised in this farmhouse, which was originally a log home (the logs can still be seen inside). She and Uncle Curtis inherited the farm and lived out their lives here- Aunt Sarah never leaving her childhood home.

Aunt Sarah and Uncle Curtis were very resourceful, as the isolation of the mountains necessitated: growing most of their food, making their own clothes, and raising animals. Sarah taught school and Curtis was a carpenter. They never had children, but raised a local orphaned boy as their own. Sarah always had homemade bread and fresh-churned butter waiting for any visitors that stopped by, visitors that included some of her students- some of whom I have run into, living close by, and they have related what a treat it was to be invited into their teacher's home.

My Uncle Curtis died in a tragic accident when I was two- felling a tree on his property, something he had done hundreds of times I never knew him. But Aunt Sarah continued to live there on the farm and teach and we visited her numerous times growing up. I remember her wood cookstove that she would bake fresh bread in, her sparkling eyes that would light up when we came to visit, and playing in the creek running along side of the house. Memories cherished..... and now passed along in the retelling to my son, who gets to relive them vicariously through our afternoon drives to the land of his ancestor's.....

Friday, December 08, 2006

Fertile River Valleys.........

these were taken on
a drive down a winding backroad to where my husband works. I take this route often even though it's a little longer...... you can see why.

Part of this river snakes through a narrow, mountainous trough area that you can't see from the road, and is only accessible by canoe/kayak or by a local scenic excursion train.

There are many bald eagles that nest in the trough and they say you see them 90% of the time when you go through it...... hopefully a summer excursion for us in the coming

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Echos of the past are whispered in the wind....
gently lulling me.....

Lulling me......This is what happens when I see old farms and old
buildings. I'm drawn to them and their timelessness. I imagine what went on within their walls, all the joy, tragedy, heartbreak- mountain life was hard in the Appalachians back when these places were in their prime and every home had it's share of both pain and sorrow. But I also picture the family sitting on the porch in the evening, telling tales, playing the fiddle, banjo, or dulcimer, singing the old mountain ballads- as that was their sole form of entertainment and a respite from the hard life they lived.

I grew up in an an old farmhouse with lots of history. It was, in fact, the oldest house in our county. I always believed there were "good ghosts" there- not literal ghosts, but echos and memories of all its former inhabitants. And maybe that is why I still feel so connected to places with history.

When I see an old farmhouse, church, or school building set against the backdrop of the mountains, I feel a stirring inside my soul, a connection with the mountain people who once inhabited it. So you'll see this theme in a lot of the photos I take. And I hope to soon post pictures of my grandfather's homeplace that he and his brothers built. I am so proud to have roots in Appalachia and am grateful that I get to raise my son in the mountains. I hope he will feel that deep connection to the land where he is growing up, also.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

I have had a very busy weekend and Monday and haven't had time to put together a post for a couple of days. As I'm not one to write if I don't really have anything to say, I'll refer you to a beautiful post written by my sister on her blog. It's about the age old question that is asked by children, "How do you really know that God exists?" My sister is a very wise woman and an incredibly gifted writer and as always, came up with a creative way to answer. You can read the post here. And Happy Tuesday!!

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Raking Leaves...... we still haven't finished raking all the leaves from our yard and it is now December. We have the only yard on the block with trees, so we feel the neighborly duty to rake so the leaves don't blow into everyone's yard. But we tend to rake up one bagful here, one bagful there. And we get plenty of "help"- the kind of help that makes it "one step forward, one step back". But that's the best kind, isn't it?

Saturday, December 02, 2006


“We wake, if we ever wake at all, to mystery, rumors of death, beauty, violence…” -Annie Dillard

The above artwork is a work by my friend, Faryn Davis. Although she originally hails from the mountains of western NC, she now resides in Seattle. Faryn is an incredibly talented artist and uses a lot of mixed media, including natural objects, resin, wood, clay, and paint to make wonderfully unique, organic art. Her resin ornaments and paintings are my favorite and she will even personalize text in them.

Faryn also makes jewelry and sculptures. You won't be able to see the full scope of what she does until you browse her site, which is here. Enjoy!!!

Thursday, November 30, 2006


"IF you live in or long for the southern mountains-- IF you find yourself drawn toward the pace and pleasures of unhurried, out-of-the-way places-- IF you hope for a home you are waiting to find, then you will feel at home in the pages of this "memoir of place", Slow Road Home ~ a Blue Ridge Book of Days."

I just finished this book by Fred First, a fellow blogger friend. For anyone who lives in, loves, or longs for the Blue Ridge mountains or just enjoys nature and a slower pace of life, this is a must-read! Fred has an incredible gift with words and an eye for the ordinary and small things that most of us pass by and take for granted. The book is made up of short essays and vignettes about his life on his farm in a little narrow valley of southwest Virginia. He takes the reader along with him as he discovers the wonders that are just outside his back door.

I loved the book, which is best read slowly, one essay at a time, to take in the thoughts and imagery of each entry. It would make a wonderful winter read and a wonderful gift- and I'm sure Fred would be more than happy to personalize each copy. For more info on "Slow Road Home" and Fred First, click here. And while you're there, check out his blog- it is my daily must read blog and he posts wonderful photographs along with it.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006


For those who love traditional Appalachian music, or who know people who do, I want to introduce you to
Anne Lough...... also known as "Mom". Yes, I am blessed to have a wonderful musician as a mother and grew up with a childhood full of music...........

My mom has several wonderful albums..... I am currently listening to "Leading of the Star", her instrumental Christmas album. She teamed up with her friend, Karin Lyle, who plays harp, and the album is made up of traditional Christmas carols and hymns on hammered and lap dulcimer, and harp. It's the one Christmas album I allow myself to start playing before Christmas because it is so beautiful and relaxing. A great CD to play on a cold, dark winter's night.

She will also have a new traditional album coming out soon with friends who play banjo and fiddle. I'll post about that when it is released. To check out all her recordings, go here. Then you can click on the "recordings" link. Any of the CD's would make a good gift for friends or family who love traditional Appalachian music. My mom specializes in the old mountain ballads and folk songs, so don't expect bluegrass music (just wanted to put in that disclaimer). I think she is one of the best dulcimer and traditional artists out there- but, of course, I could be a little biased :) . So go check out her site and tell her I sent you!

Sunday, November 26, 2006

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas, everywhere you go........ here's some photos I took during an evening stroll in a nearby downtown.... (they're not the greatest as I don't have a good camera for nightshots). It's a lovely "oldtown" area with brick streets for pedestrians only and quaint stores, restaurants and coffeeshops. I wanted to post these to get everyone in Christmas mode as I'm going to plug some friends and family who are musicians and artisans in the coming week :) . For those who like to stay away from all the big box stores and buy more personal gifts, tune in over the next several days......

Friday, November 24, 2006

MAKING PIES.................

Pumpkin pie is Sir Laughsalot's FAVORITE kind of pie. I think he would eat a whole one if I let him. This year he wanted to make one from scratch. And not from the can, scratch.......fom a pumpkin. He begged and begged at Halloween to make one from our Jack-o-lanterns innards, but I explained that you had to use a special kind of pie pumpkin and we would make one for Thanksgiving. And, of course, I saw plenty of pie pumpkins for sale during October, but when we tried to find one for Thanksgiving, none could be found. We tried farmer's markets, fruit stands, grocery stores, etc. to no avail. I held out until Thanksgiving Eve and went to one last grocery store, but no luck!!! So Sir Laughsalot, much to his disappointment, had to make one from canned pumpkin. We actually made two, one to share and one to have all to himself! :) He was a very good pie maker and was very excited about the outcome, as you can see. I also learned that next year, we need to buy the pie pumpkin early. Any tips on preserving it until Thanksgiving time? Or any advice on where to get a pie pumpkin closer to Thanksgiving?

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

HAPPY THANKSGIVING.................... (I probably won't post the next couple of days with all the preparations and activities. Have a wonderful time with family and friends!)


The year has turned its circle,
The seasons come and go.
The harvest all is gathered in
And chilly north winds blow.
Orchards have shared their treasures,

The fields, their yellow grain,
So open wide the doorway ---Thanksgiving comes again!
~~Old Rhyme.~~

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Heeeeere's Joooohnny.............

Johnny Staats that is! He came to our little town last night and all I can say is WOW!!

He is a mandolin phenomenon! He brought along a guitar player and bass player, all incredible musicians. Both Johnny and his guitar player are flatpicking champions on their respective instruments. The crowd loved them and they received a standing ovation and came back on stage for an encore. And bluegrass fan or not, he is worth going to hear- his playing is so unique you don't have to like bluegrass to enjoy it- the musicianship alone is worth going to see.

The cool thing is Johnny drives an UPS truck full-time to support his family- he even wrote a song about "the big brown truck". So that makes his accomplishment on the mandolin even more incredible. And he still lives in a small town in his native West Virginia even though he's been offered the opportunity to go to Nashville. So I highly recommend checking out his tour schedule and going to hear him if he comes near you. And that's my plug- more to come on other musicians and friends of mine ! :)

Click here for a sound bite..

Thursday, November 16, 2006

The B. Street Band.........

Here's some summer photos of sir laughsalot and his neighborhood buddies doing some pickin' and grinnin' of their own. The girls' dad and I were practicing on our front porch and the kids decided to start up their own band. They even put a hat out for passersby to drop a coin in. I guess you can't start too young!

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Winter Gardening

The garden is dead.
Not one leaf shows life.
Not a single blossom survives the winter chill.

You are tempted to simply wait
for the warmth of spring
to begin the garden anew,

but you know the soulful work of gardening
done in these lonely hours of winter
spell the difference between a few spring flowers

and the rich abundance of June's brightest promise,
and so you step into the cold,
shovel in hand,

seeing not the frosted frozen soil of now,
but the passionate flowers of tomorrow.

This is a poem by
Tom Atkins that was posted on his site a couple of days ago. When I read it, I immediately associated it with the children I have worked with for the past 8 years- children with severe behavior and emotional problems due to the trauma of abuse and neglect. That's what I love about poetry- it's like beauty, the meaning is in the eye of the beholder (or reader, in this case). Instead of a physical garden, I thought about the frozen and deadened hearts I see in the children; children most other people have given up on and don't see any potential in. But using God's vision, I can see in them the potential and hope for the future: "the passionate flowers of tomorrow". Without seeing that, I wouldn't be able to do what I do. I have to continue to pray for God to help me see them through His eyes, as many of them do everything possible to be unlovable and to push people away. So it's the type of work where again and again during "these lonely hours of step into the cold, shovel in hand." So thanks Tom! This will be a poem I'll go to over and over as I work with "the passionate flowers of tomorrow"! And a big "Hurrah!!!" for the other people I so admire, working in the trenches, doing the very same thing!

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

The Orphan Crisis .....
"143 million children worldwide have lost one or both parents ... ... from AIDS, war, ethnic cleansing, natural disasters ... ... and now many are condemned to lives of crime, prostitution, and killing in order to survive."
This quote is from an e-mail I received recently from Focus on the Family. For those who know me, it is an issue that is close to my heart, and also an issue that is close to God's heart: "... You are the defender of orphans ... LORD, you know the hopes of the helpless. Surely you will listen to their cries and comfort them. You will bring justice to the orphans and the oppressed, so people can no longer terrify them.- Psalm 10:14, 17-18
The case of orphans is a global epidemic that will only continue to get worse, especially with the AIDS epidemic. It is estimated that by the year 2010, there wil be over 25 million children orphaned by AIDS. And statistically, kids that grow up as orphans, even in the states, have little chance for a decent life. Several Christian organizations are teaming up to bring awareness to this issue, help people learn more about this crisis, and offer ways that the average person can help. It is an issue that affects all of us, so if you have time, please visit this site and learn more: .

Monday, November 13, 2006

November in Appalachia........the last installment :)
(again, you can click on a photo to enlarge)

Sunday, November 12, 2006

November in Appalachia continued...............