Making Memories in the Mountains…

Hello from the mountains of Kentucky! We’ve had a couple of beautiful fall-like days in Appalachia. It almost feels like fall with temperatures in the upper seventies! I’m not complaining, this is perfect weather for outdoor activities, porch sitting, and for picking and canning beans.

Fourteen quarts of green beans picked and canned this morning!

I enjoyed the morning yesterday with our oldest granddaughter working up beans that we had picked from the garden. It was a memorable morning for both of us. We enjoyed small talk, reflecting on different things going on our lives, sharing fun-filled memories, and also our dreams and some of our future plans. I love days like this. It reminds me of my days as a young girl sitting on the front porch of my mamaw’s little grocery store. We would string green beans to hang dry for shuck beans, or as some prefer to call them, leather britches. We also sat countless hours breaking freshly picked beans for canning. These were experiences that helped mold me into who I am today and memories that I will forever cherish.

Rows of vining beans on fence from our garden last year.

As we sat working up the beans yesterday, i couldn’t help but allow my mind to drift back to a much simpler time…a time when days seemed to be forever long, summer vacations were the best, hard work was appreciated, porch sitting was welcomed, and families actually talked to each other… face to face! Those were the days prior to personal technology (AKA cell phones) and also days that make me long for those simpler times! I recall sitting for hours on the old bus seat or wooden ladder-back chairs helping my mamaw work up her beans. I never remember saying I was bored or complaining about helping. I enjoyed helping and also working the produce from our garden, even as a kid.

I loved spending time with my mamaw, and also hearing the stories of her youth, and when her kids were growing up. She would talk about the importance of putting away/canning enough food for winter and for what she called, hard-times.

I also thought about the days we spent on our back porch with our mom working in freshly picked cabbage. She would divide the big heads of white cabbage and place a half in a large bowl for me to chop. I loved having the job of chopping cabbage with the sterilized open ring of the empty cream can, and then gradually graduating to using a grater, only after she was sure I wouldn’t lose a knuckle.

I worked along side my mom as she would fill the sterilized jars with beautiful white shredded cabbage to be pickled into delicious sour kraut. We enjoyed the fresh kraut immensely with soup beans, AkA pinto beans. The heat from working outside didn’t bother us or deter us from our mission whether it was work or play. We were not accustomed to air conditioning and often went outside to seek refuge from the heat inside our house. Some of my fondest memories of summer and summer vacation are playing outside, playing hide and seek in our papaw’s corn field, making club houses in the barn, and playing in the creek. Regardless the heat index or what the thermometer read, we enjoyed playing and having fun outside!

Our youngest grandson running through the rows of young corn.

I can also remember as a kid pondering on the words that I had heard my mom and both grandparents speak of. Hard-times, I wondered what they were, when they would arrive, and why would canning hundreds of jars of beans, cabbage, and corn help us when hard-times arrived. I thought canning, drying, and preserving was just something that everyone did, what we were supposed to do.

I didn’t realize that many times in my youth we were actually living in those hard-times that my mamaw and papaw spoke about. We always had plenty to eat, a full root cellar or pantry of canned goods, which included fried apples, peaches, beans, corn, jams, apple butter and more. Today, I am thankful that I learned from my mom and grandparents how to garden, can, preserve, and how to plan for and also to survive and make it through real-life hard-times.

I recall in our youth, and in our own children’s youth relying on our pantry of dried beans, canned beans, baskets of potatoes we dug from our garden, corn from the freezer, and many other goodies we put away. I learned early on in our marriage that when the primary source of income comes from coal mining, pink slips and lay offs were inevitable. Unfortunately, we also learned that unemployment insurance barely met the bills. This was when I truly learned that having a well-stocked pantry of preserved and canned food helped families to survive those real-life hard-times.

Our garden early in early spring.

But, more than anything, I learned from my mom, grandparents, and experience that God will always provide, and He honors hard work. I’ve also learned that planting and working the garden as a family creates many cherished memories, provides nourishing healthy food for our entire family, supplements the weekly grocery bill, and also ensures that an Appalachian tradition of gardening and preserving is still handed down from generation to generation and remains a way of life.

Our oldest grandson hoeing young tomatoes in late spring.

I hope you have enjoyed my Appalachian memory and a small part of my heritage. Feel free to leave feedback. I enjoy hearing from my readers. For now, God bless from the mountains of Kentucky!

Moments in Time…

Hello from the mountains of Kentucky! I hope you’re having a wonderful summer wherever you may be. Summer time should be a time for relaxation, reading, and also for road trip adventures! I feel inspired to share an adventure that my sister and I encountered several years ago. Grab yourself a cup of coffee or a cold beverage and relax while you read about a moment in time that forever changed my life.

Morning in the mountains of Kentucky!

First, let me say that I am a firm believer that the Lord places people in our lives when we need them the most. I like to refer to them as divine appointments. Just like the divine appointment my sister and I encountered while we were on our weekend get away. I’m excited to share our unforgettable weekend with you!

Summer vacation had arrived, and it was truly a much needed one for both my sister and myself. At the time I was an elementary school teacher who had been under a tremendous amount of stress due to state tests, overcrowded classrooms, and stress from dealing with the 157 students that passed through my classroom on a daily basis! My sister also needed a break as much as I did for other reasons…so, we did what any sisters would do! We hit the road for a weekend trip for just the two of us.

After much deliberation, we decided that we would spend the weekend at Mammoth Cave National Park. We enjoyed spending time at Gun Town Mountain, an old western town that required us to ride a sky lift up the mountain, which was a blast, especially considering that my sister is afraid of heights. We enjoyed many of the sights in Cave City, which consisted of Dinosaur World, nature walks on beautiful trails, museums, and a fun house. I was super excited to stop at a local tourist attraction called, Big Mike’s Rock Shop. I have been an avid rock collector for many years and was looking forward to adding to my collection. Of all of the gift shops we browsed, this was my favorite shop.

Gun Town Mountain

The store was buzzing with tourists, small talk, and anxious kids awaiting an arrow head or a different rare stone. After browsing the many shelves of different stones I carefully selected my treasures. The checkout line was a bit crowded, but we finally made our purchases and exited the store.

Big Mike’s Rock Shop

The remainder of our evening consisted of more shopping, browsing, scenic walks, and dinner, then we returned to our room to relax our tired feet. While I enjoyed a cup of coffee and browsing my small bags of treasures, I discovered my purchase from the rock shop was missing.

After searching our room and the Jeep, we found the receipt but the bag was no where to be found. I hoped that maybe I had left them at the shop and not the restaurant. We had planned to leave the next morning after breakfast, but decided to stop by the rock shop first. I decided if the bag of rocks from yesterday hadn’t been left behind, I would just purchase more rocks!

Things got really interesting upon entering the rock shop! The same lady who was behind the counter the day before was working the register again, and was bold in praising the Lord as we entered the small crowded shop. We waited anxiously in line to speak with her. We slowly made our way to the counter with several people lined up behind us anxious to checkout and leave with their newfound treasures. I explained my situation to the kind lady. I was eager to learn the whereabouts of the bag of stones that I had so carefully selected the day before.

As she retrieved my bag of stones from beneath the counter she asked us if we were Christians. After answering her she explained with tears in her eyes that she had felt the need to pray for my sister and I the day before. But she wasn’t sure how to approach us or how we would perceive her request to pray for us. She also explained how she questioned her feelings yesterday evening after we had left. She asked the Lord for a sign. She said she prayed we would come back to the shop. If we returned, it would prove to her that it had been meant for her to pray for us. She also said she had no idea that the rocks that had been left behind were mine.

With tears in our eyes we assured her that we would be happy for her to pray for us. Quickly she asked for my hand and began praying for me. She gave me prophetic words of wisdom and handed me a small smooth stone that she told me to carry with me. She added that when I felt alone, unsure of a situation, or had a need to rub the smooth prayer stone and remember the words she spoke. She said it would also remind me that the Lord heard my prayers. She did the same for my sister, only with different prophetic words.

I have recalled that day in the rock shop many times since then. I have also wondered what would have happened if I hadn’t gone back to the small shop, and also been very thankful that I did. As I stated earlier, I am a firm believer that God uses people in the places and at the time that we need them the most to lift us up, encourage, and also to pray for us. My prayer stone is never far from me as is the memories of the elderly lady who gave me the stone and words of wisdom that helped me in a very difficult time in both my life and my sisters’ life.

I hope my encounter with one of God’s divine appointments brings you encouragement and inspires you to believe, or to be that person that helps someone else in their time of need. Will you be the voice in the wilderness that encourages others?

I hope you enjoyed my special moment in time. For now, God bless from the mountains of Kentucky! Feel free to leave comments…your feedback is always welcome!

Rainy Days in the Mountains…

Happy Independence weekend from the mountains of Kentucky! The rainy season has made its way to our small corner of the world and continues to linger over the mountains. Without a doubt this is the rainiest spring and summer that I can remember. I love an occasional slow summer rain, frogs peeping from the trees, and the peace and tranquility of reading and relaxing with a hot cup of coffee while the rain falls softly. However, too much rain for a farmer means a lot of extra work, some disappointments, and making changes when necessary.

Rain clouds gathering over the mountains…

With all the rain also comes lots of weeds in the garden that have to be hoed, tilled, and pulled. We’ve definitely had our fair share of weeds this summer but limited dry time to remove them. All hands were on deck this week as we used the one evening without rain to till our corn, and hoe between and around all the veggies. Talk about a great workout for the upper body and a great workout for the garden. It looked renewed and revived after the working was complete. The rain has actually proven to be a blessing for our cucumbers, squash, and zucchini.

Squash is one our favorite summer veggies!

We’ve been able to pick an abundance of zucchini, squash and cucumbers between the random showers of rain. We’re not complaining…we’ve enjoyed baked, fried, and sautéed zucchini and squash, and delicious vegan zucchini bread. Eating what we’ve grown brings a sense of completion, but sharing the fruits of our labor with neighbors, friends, and family is one of the most satisfying and fulfilling labors a farmer can experience.

Despite the weather and rescuing and reviving and re-staking our forty-five tomato plants that were riddled due to high winds and heavy rains…our tomato plants are still standing with lots of green tomatoes and some that are slowly ripening. Our entire family loves tomatoes ripe or fried green! Fried green tomatoes is a dish that never gets old! Its also healthy, clean, and vegan!

I was also able to check an item off of my ever-growing to do list this week, which always makes me happy! However, happy does not quite describe the emotion I felt as I clicked send on the email containing the attachment of the final revisions and edits of edition II of the textbook that I wrote. It has been long tiring journey, but a rewarding one that I’m glad I embarked on! I’m super excited to teach with and for my students to use the new textbook in the fall!

Summer II classes began Wednesday, which means the fall term is only a few weeks away and also lots of early morning grading and planning. I fully intend to make time for my favorite early morning walks where I love to take pictures capturing the beauty of our mountains. I also look forward to reading on the porch for a few more weeks before the fall term begins when things get a bit crazy…but it’s a good kind of crazy!

Random picture I took on an early morning walk after the rain!

I’ve also enjoyed time in the kitchen this week and working to perfect my vegan lemon bread recipe. No worries…that tasty recipe is coming soon! I must say it is delicious, but I want to try one more tweak before posting the recipe! I’m loving the use of tofu in vegan recipes and am anxious to share new ideas and recipes with you soon.

My first attempt at clean vegan lemon bread!

Despite all of the rain…it’s been a blessed week. Feel free to follow my blog and also leave comments. I enjoy hearing from each of you. God bless for now from the mountains of Kentucky!

A Walk Through the Garden…

Good evening from the mountains of Kentucky. What a beautiful morning we were blessed with today! Thunderstorms appeared this evening, but has since passed and the sky is clearing! Hopefully, we’ll be blessed with more sunshine in the days ahead. It’s been a busy day of editing, planning, and creating the course shell for the upcoming class that I’m teaching this summer. The day also consisted of finding an unexpected treasure…in an unexpected place. The best kind of treasures!

This crane has become a regular visitor on our farm.

First, let me say that what I consider a treasure…others might consider to just be an object or even still, junk. So what constitutes a treasure to me? An unexpected visitor in the garden like the crane pictured above who makes regular visits to our small farm. Some tribes of Native Americans believed that a crane visiting is a sign of a blessing and good fortune for those it chooses to visit. I also enjoy the silent visit of the deer standing cautiously in the field, or even lingering in the safety of the tree lines. As long as they stay away from the garden…I enjoy their random visits.

An unexpected visitor.

I also find pleasure in finding unusual rocks or an occasional arrow head. Finding an arrow head fills me with wonders and feeling of being a part of another day or era of time, if only in my thoughts. I like to whisper a quiet thank you for the discovery. Finding arrow heads allows me to make a small connection to my Cherokee ancestors. And then… there’s simple objects like the one that I found this morning. Although, I don’t think they’re really that simple. I believe every little unexpected treasure that I find has a story of its own.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve bent to pick ripe cucumbers from their vines this year or how many times we’ve hoed between the plants. However today just on a casual stroll in the garden an unusual object caught my attention. How had I missed this mysterious object? Was this a hidden treasure? There it was awaiting me…half-buried in the soil among the cucumber vines. I carefully unearthed the object to discover some sort of an old and unusual key. A skeleton key…maybe.

I carefully removed the mud left behind from the rain to discover my suspicions were correct, it was a very old key. I had found an antique skeleton key! My imagination soared and questions whirled through my mind. What did this old key once unlock? Who had originally owned the old key? I carefully tucked the key in my pocket and finished my stroll through the garden with my imagination running rapid. Words flowed through my thoughts. I felt the words of a poem stirring deep within my being. I couldn’t wait to add this newly inspired poem to the anthology that I am working on.

What a beautiful treasure!

I shared the small treasure with my husband and our grandson. Of course our grandson was as intrigued as I was, my husband’s curiosity was intrigued as well, just not as much as ours. Our grandson has a vivid imagination and also loves to discover hidden treasures, and tell stories… much like his nanny.

It was an eventful day indeed. I also placed our first batch of dried herbs of the season in labeled clear glass jars. Dried herbs are great for the winter season when fresh herbs may not be available. They also make a great addition to dishes while they’re cooking. Fresh herbs are better added during the last minutes of cooking or even after the dish is complete. I was also excited to fill white envelopes with seeds saved from the dried blooms of basil, lavender and chives! Saving seeds ensures that future herb plants are not genetically altered or modified like many that are unknowingly purchased, but rather from organically grown plants that we nurture from the seed to the harvest.

Dried herbs ready for cooking!

I hope you’ve enjoyed stopping by and visiting our small corner of the world. Feel free to follow or leave feedback. I enjoy reading comments from all of my readers. I also look forward to sharing my recipe for vegan lemon bread that is coming soon. For now, God bless from the mountains of Kentucky!

Sunday Morning in the Mountains…

I love quiet Sunday mornings in the mountains. I like to refer to them as “my me time.” I enjoy early morning coffee on the porch, listening to the chickens crow their good mornings crows to all, and watching daylight break through the mountains. Quiet mornings like this are also a perfect time to catch up on a little reading, have devotion, prayer time, and to soak up the wonderful atmosphere in our little corner of the world…deep in the mountains of Kentucky.

I love mornings in the mountains…

The simplicity of living in the mountains, along with good role models still inspires me even today! The mountains today are just as rich and lush as they were in the days of our youth. My husband and I live within three miles of where we both grew up. Some might find this boring, dull, or bleak…but we’ve found it to be a place that we loved raising our children and now watching our grandchildren grow and appreciate the mountains as much as we do. Visiting other places is always a fun learning experience and often a fun adventure, but returning home is always welcomed. 

With the cool of the morning still lingering in the air and the dew still beaded on the grass, the garden is beckoning me to come and take a stroll. I value this time as the quiet steps in the rich soil between the rows of beautiful vegetables allows me to reflect on memories of the past, meditate on the blessings of today, and plan for tomorrow. This morning in particular I felt a strong connection to my past as I thought of my Papaw walking along the rows of his garden in the early morning hours. As a child I wondered why he enjoyed this morning stroll so much. I now know. It’s a time to draw strength, relax, and soak up all that the land has to offer, enjoy time in deep thought, reflect, and relax and unwind. The lonesome call of a dove allows my thoughts to return to the present time. Wiping a tear from my cheek…I continue my stroll through the garden enjoying the progress of our labor.

Enjoying a stroll through the veggies.

As I stroll between the broccoli and squash a beautiful vibrant yellow color catches my eye. With a smile on my face I bend to pick our first summer squash of the season. With a closer examination, I find several squash and also some rich green zucchini…ready for the picking. I love this time of year as the fresh veggies are always great for Sunday morning breakfasts. 

First squash and zucchini of the season…yummy!

Today, our veggies will allow me to prepare a veggie tofu omelet for myself and it’s eggs and sausage as usual for my husband, who supports my love for veggies and a vegan diet but who also still loves his portion of meat along side the veggies. We share a mutual respect for each other’s food preferences. With that in mind, God bless and happy Father’s Day from the Mountains of Kentucky! I’m off to prepare Sunday breakfast. Thank you for stopping by my little corner of the world. Feedback is always welcomed! I’ll be posting a new and tasty treat in upcoming days. God bless…

Breathing in Life

With each breath we take we experience a grand opportunity. We are given the grand opportunity to experience life to the fullest. It’s up to us whether we allow negative circumstances to impede and rob of us of our joy, zeal for happiness, creativity, faith, our day at hand, and our days ahead. We have the choice to either get up and live…or sit idle and watch life pass us by.

After receiving a less than desirable report from my doctor several years ago I decided that I had let enough time pass me by. I was tired of sitting idle on the outskirts of life and literally watching it pass me by. I was tired of feeling tired all of the time, lacking energy, waking with aching bones, tired of being overweight, and tired of taking medications that could have serious side-effects.  I wanted to feel good and be healthy. I wanted to live, and I wanted to live life to its fullest.

I began my journey to live a healthier life, a more simple life, a clean life of eating more abundantly from the earth than consuming man-made processed foods. I became more dedicated to myself, my well-being, my faith, and also to my future through making better choices about what I consumed, relaxing more, exercising more, and removing myself from negative situations and negative people. Slowly, one step at a time, one day at a time…my life began to turn around. The weight began to dissipate, my energy level increased, my outlook on life became more positive, my vitality began to emerge from a place where it had lurked deep in the mires of captivity within myself for far too long.

God's beautiful morning

God’s beauty abounds in the mountains of Kentucky.

Fast forward eight years and I am now 77 pounds lighter and only ten pounds from my goal weight. I am actually wearing sizes and styles of clothes that I never thought I would wear again. I no longer shop in the plus size clothing department. My stamina has returned to an amazing level of satisfaction, I am no longer taking diabetic medication, one less cholesterol pill, and I no longer take stomach medicine. I am sleeping better at night, rising earlier in the morning with more energy.  I am enjoying working longer hours in our vegetable garden, and also enjoying every minute of life to the fullest.

With this zest for life also came challenges, both negative and positive. Our world was forever changed by the horrifying word, cancer. My husband was diagnosed with stage two cancer one year ago this month. However, God is good and His grace is abundant. My husband returned to the doctor for a six month check up just last week and was given a clean bill of health. It was a journey…a rough and scary journey along the way, but a journey that was also filled with many life lessons. We were reminded to take each day one day at a time, breath deeply, don’t look back and say what if, remain positive, seek God’s guidance in all things and all decisions, and just keep walking and breathing life’s precious joys both big and small.

early mornings

Life is a journey…

On a more positive note, just before my husband received his diagnosis, I signed a contract to write a text-book for two courses that I teach. It was a scary moment to sign the contract stating that I could have the nearly four page text written within the year, but I decided that I would not allow this opportunity to pass me by. With my signed contract also came excitement, dreams, fears, joys, worries, and rigorous deadlines. I wrote with a fire and passion about what I wanted to teach my students…I was motivated! Writing the textbook was also a journey. A journey of early mornings, late nights, revisions, proofreading, researching, writing, praying, re-writing, praying some more, decisions, predictions, and many long hours sitting at my desk with a blank page opened on the computer awaiting to be filled with inspiring research-based information of how to teach reading and language arts. One day at a time, one page at a time the pages begin to fill and the final submission was emailed to the editor only a couple of weeks ago. I am excited to receive my copies in upcoming weeks, but also excited to have time to blog again!!

Today, I find myself reflecting on the past with gratitude. I am thankful for my husband’s health, the incredible opportunity and experience of writing a textbook that I can use to guide and teach my students the process of teaching reading and writing as I once taught it with passion as an elementary teacher. I am thankful for the bountiful garden that He has blessed us with, our family and our health, and the joys of life. I am thankful for the breath that I take. I know that each breath I inhale is an opportunity to experience the wonderful joys of living another day on God’s precious earth simple and clean, yet full of passion and daily opportunities that I want to cease. Don’t let time pass you by without getting up and living. Life is compared to a vapor on water…it passes very quickly.

Remember, slow down and take the time to enjoy the small things in life, vibrant blooming flowers, majestic oceans, serene sunsets, fabulous sunrises, and enjoy and cherish moments with family. Engulf yourself with positive thoughts and surround yourself with positive people. Embrace opportunities to improve yourself, your health, your peace of mind, and above all your spiritual self.

the journey begins

Enjoy a sunset…

Feel free to leave comments. Also, check back in upcoming days. I will be posting a delicious acorn squash taco salad very soon that I am sure you will love!

rosestwo

Take time to smell the roses…

 

 

Living in the Appalachian Mountains

Courtesy of Jonathan Bowling

Elk captured on our son, Jonathan Bowling’s, trail camera behind our house. @copyright Healthier Me Simple and Clean.

Many people believe that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I have been overheard many times making this statement when referring to the beauty of the Appalachian Mountains. I am also a believer that not only is beauty found within the eye of the beholder, but also that success lies within the desire of the believer.

Recently I read an article about life in the Appalachian Mountains that lingered in my thoughts, with a mix of emotions hovering over and within me. Life in Appalachia was portrayed with gloom and despair, thus leaving the reader with a feeling of hopelessness. The article implied that people who were born into poverty didn’t have a choice to live otherwise. The picture that was painted was a stereotypical view of Appalachia that many have and continue to exploit to gain popularity whether it be an audience for their blog, for social media publicity, money, or their name in lights. What the author of this very derogatory article neglected to divulge were the joys of growing up in the Appalachian Mountains.

Over the years authors, filmmakers, and actors in Hollywood have profited through exploitation of Appalachia choosing to focus on what small towns “don’t” have. Films have been made with careful selection of the poorest part of towns carefully and intentionally divulging only dilapidated buildings, rather than new structures, or renovated buildings that houses independent thriving businesses. Many times the focus is often on poor housing in small towns rather than homes that proudly stand boasting beautiful manicured lawns, hardy vegetable gardens, luscious rolling green mountains, blooming flowers, and carefully trimmed hedges and trees. When the media chooses to focus on the negative aspects, or poverty, which by the way exists in all towns whether they’re large or small…the reader is left with a gloomy feeling of sorrow, despair and almost a feeling of doom.

Appalachian people are often-times portrayed as being illiterate, undereducated, and ignorant people who are less fortunate than those living elsewhere. Manchester, located in Clay County, is a small town in Appalachia where I grew up, raised my family, and still reside today has been recently been accused of being one of the hardest places to grow up in the United States, as well as being a community where citizens are expected to have a shorter lifespan than those living elsewhere. I find both of these statements to be misleading, offensive, and also stereotypical. I find myself smiling when I reflect on my childhood. I don’t recall life being a hardship, doom, gloomy, unhappy time in my life. Today, I enjoy sharing my memories of growing up in Kentucky through stories, both oral and written.

My memories are filled with fun escapades of playing outside, working in the garden, helping can fruits and vegetables, listening to countless stories told to me by my grandparents, afternoons sitting in the shade with family just enjoying the serenity of the mountains, playing with cousins, enjoying wonderful cooked meals from the vegetables that we raised, and learning wonderful skills from my mother and grandmother. We didn’t live within city limits, and still do not. We were raised in a rural community that enjoyed farming. My grandparents had a small store that was often referred to as the heart of our little community. Many of my family members still reside in this same neighborhood. I was raised to know that I had choices, and also to believe that I could be anything that I wanted to be. I was encouraged to always try to better myself by reading, learning, working hard, and also by believing in myself.

I was raised in one of the poorest parts of the state of Kentucky. What? We grew up poor! No one told me that! I wasn’t aware that we grew up in a poverty-stricken area. No, again, I was raised to dream and dream big! I could be anything that I wanted to be. I could be a mother, I could be a Christian, I could be a teacher, I could be an author, I could be whatever I chose to be! I was taught good moral values, about Jesus, how to work the land to feed my family, how to always believe in myself, to be proud of my heritage, to have a plan for my future, and if I got knocked down…get back up!  Instead of profiting from negative doom, gloom, and despair…I prefer to divulge the wonders of the Appalachian Mountains, the joys, the beauty, the opportunities, growth, success, and the wonderful mountains that I am proud to call home.

Again, I was never told that we were poor, or that we lived in an impoverished area, and never told that I couldn’t better myself. As a public school teacher, I always passed this same advice to my students. I always encouraged my students year after year that they could be anything that they wanted to be, to reach for the stars, to believe in themselves as I too believed in them. Today, as a college professor, I am still relaying that same positive message.

Many might say that small Appalachian towns have nothing to offer. I disagree. So, what does our small county of Clay have to offer? The beauty of the mountains, rich farm soil, beautiful pastures for livestock to graze, farm fresh eggs, distinguished schools, top-rated teachers, private Christian schools, a multitude of welcoming churches, book clubs, a well stocked public library, quilting clubs, pumpkin patches, ATV rides, elk hunts, successful local authors, artists, parks, employment at the federal prison, kayaking, fishing, local shopping, home cooked meals at locally owned restaurants, farmers’ markets, Main Street markets, grass-fed beef, fresh venison, beautiful walking trails, beautiful homes, friendly people, smiles, and a welcoming environment. One valuable opportunity that goes unmentioned in many articles about our small town of Manchester is the opportunity to complete a college degree at Eastern Kentucky University, which is located within city limits. These are only a few things that residents and visitors have to enjoy. Again, beauty lies within the eye of the beholder, happiness with the heart of the dreamer, and success within the heart and desire of the believer.

I have been asked many times over the years why I haven’t moved…but my answer is and will always remain the same…”I can’t imagine growing up or living anywhere else than in the beautiful Kentucky mountains. As the title of my first book states, Kentucky is…The Mountains I Call Home.”

book 1

Divine Appointments

With clouds hanging low in the sky this morning and the peaceful sounds of the dove cooing, and echoing over awakening mountains…I find myself in a melancholy kind of mood. I’m not sure, but I think several events that occurred in the past two weeks have helped me to arrive at this level of emotions this morning. Yes, it’s been an eventful couple of weeks. Not that it’s been a particularly sad, unhappy, or over zealous events, but nevertheless weeks of events that others might find to be insignificant or may not give any thought to all. I don’t know, maybe I think too deeply, or maybe I react differently than some. It wouldn’t be the first time that I’ve been accused of, “reading too much” into things. Maybe, it’s the poet within me that ignites my senses. Maybe…I am an over-thinker, maybe I over react, or maybe…I am becoming more receptive of what the Lord is trying to impress upon me or instill within me. Nevertheless, I think I’ll enjoy the mix of emotions that fill my cup this morning.

chickens

To say the last couple of weeks were busy is an understatement. My daily planner has been overflowing with appointments. Urgent appointments to work on taxes as the deadline swiftly approaches. Scheduled appointments with advisees worrying about their upcoming schedules and anticipated graduation dates, appointments with colleagues to discuss students, curriculum, and more, appointments with students who desire to enter the Education Program, and the most important appointments of all…the ultimate appointed daily time of prayer with our Lord, Jesus Christ. Over time, I have found that keeping this daily appointment helps make all of the other appointments more meaningful, purposeful, and cohesive. And then there’s those divine appointments that often seem to spring up from know where! Or do they? Was it a by chance meeting? Did I just happen to be in the right place at the right time? Was I supposed to be there? What do you think? Were those divine appointments predestined, or were they by chance?

Over the past few years I have come to believe and have arrived at the decision that time is precious. Time is one thing that we cannot get back. With time, there are no do-overs! Thus, we must make the most of every precious moment that we are blessed with. I have arrived at another conclusion through various moments and gentle reminders within my spirit that it’s not about me, or us. It’s about helping others, being a positive beacon in the dark times that others might be enduring, it’s about Him, and about living a happy and appreciative life so there are no regrets. This has led me to the belief that all meetings/appointments whether they are planned or unexpected, in a professional setting, or if it’s in the checkout line at the grocery store can be a positive experience, thus, divine appointments.

So, how do I define divine appointments? Divine appointments do not have a criteria per say. Divine appointments can be the student whom I speak with that is struggling to pass a very important test. A divine appointment can be a friend who needs to be encouraged. A divine appointment can be the lady behind you in the checkout lane who is struggling with finances, or the loss of a loved one. A divine appointment can be simply the stranger that you meet in the frozen food aisle who is in search of a friendly face or a smile. A divine appointment can be that someone you meet who is unsure of the world around them. A divine appointment can be an elderly parent who needs to be reassured that their life was purposeful and that they did a great job raising their children. A divine appointment can be a colleague who needs a simple pat on the back or a hug. A divine appointment can be the young lady who has checked out thousands of dollars of groceries to bitter impatient customers and would like to have a kind word. A divine appointment can even be the person who is trying to pull into traffic, but others have left unnoticed. Divine appointments have been defined with a variety of definitions by many people over the years. However, my definition of divine appointments is simply an opportune meeting with another, whether it is scheduled or by chance, that allows you spread cheer, love, joy, kindness, a positive attitude, while also showing the love of God.

As a professor, I am continually encouraging my students to reflect on their week. So, as I enjoy the taste of my favorite coffee this morning, the sounds of the mountains coming alive, the purposeful crowing of our roosters, the soft snoring of my canine friend, Freckles, who is napping by my feet, and a little “me” time…I find myself following my own advice by reflecting over the past two weeks, while also thinking about the divine appointments that I have had, and whispering a prayer for those whom I have had the pleasure of encountering through those divine appointments, and also counting my blessings. I find myself questioning my self as well. Have I truly enjoyed the time that I have been blessed with and what more can I do for others? With reflections of days gone by and visions of the days ahead of me…I feel excited, inspired, and look forward to the moments and days and opportunities that lay ahead of me, as well as the divine appointments that await me.

From the mountains of Kentucky…be blessed and enjoy the divine appointments that you encounter. Feel free to leave comments as I enjoy hearing from each of you.

Ten Achievable Goals that helped Improve My Year and My Life!

Do you find yourself making New Year’s resolutions year after year that you simply do not keep? If so, don’t feel bad, because you are not alone. Making and breaking resolutions is a common practice among a large majority of people whom I surveyed. Many of the people I surveyed had similar responses when asked about the resolutions or goals they had previously made and also previously neglected. Some of the neglected goals included; lose twenty or more pounds, exercise more, read twenty or more books per year, organize my entire house, save more money, shop less, spend less time on my phone, watch less television, pray more, go to church every Sunday, eat healthier, floss my teeth everyday, and the list goes on and on. I must admit, I too, have made and neglected several of the above resolutions in the past. It’s hard to believe that it’s already the time of year to set new goals. But first, before setting new goals, we must reflect on previous goals.

As the year comes to a close I find myself browsing my memories of the year 2016. I also find myself reviewing my goals that I wrote down in December of 2015. Had I achieved them? Had I tried to achieve them? Did I veer off the path? As I reviewed each goal that I had carefully chosen and written down I felt a sense of satisfaction. I had worked hard to attain my goals. Did I ever fall, or fail? Yes, I had worked hard, and yes, I had veered off the path several times. However, I had gotten back up, and dusted myself off and resumed the path that I had mapped out for myself. Had I achieved all of my goals? I achieved some of them, but made progress with all of them. Some of my goals are still a work in progress, but nevertheless I am progressing. What were my goals? How did I and how do I maintain my desire to achieve them? What was my plan? I am anxious to share my ideas with you so that you too can set realistic and achievable goals to help improve your year and your life.

Nearly six years ago while trying to decide what goals to set for myself I realized that the goals that I had previously set, and previously neglected, we’re not realistic goals. My goals were too large! I should have set more manageable goals. Was this possible? My mind immediately rewound and replayed my voice. I could hear myself encouraging my first grade students. I could visualize myself explaining to six-year olds how to set realistic goals. For example, I had students whose goal was to read “big chapter” books. I encouraged them to set mini-goals to read small books first. When they achieved this goal, set another goal to read lengthier books, then advance to small chapter books, and finally begin reading their desired “big chapter” books. So, the decision was made. I would try to follow my own advice that I gave my first, fifth, and sixth grade students when setting their goals. I would begin by setting smaller more achievable goals.

It worked! I had made it through an entire year and had made progress with each goal that I had set. I felt really good about myself and was more encouraged, positive, and better able to deal with stress on those days when I felt the urge to cheat on my diet, spend a little extra on myself, etc. I was also able to resume my plan and move forward on the path that would lead to achievement. The goals that I set actually helped change my year, and have improved my life every year thereafter. I now find myself repeating this story to many of the students that I advise each semester in an effort to encourage them and to also help them learn to set realistic and achievable goals that are meaningful and will change their life as well. What are these goals? I’m excited to share them with you so that you too can make positive changes in your life.

  1. First and foremost, start the day with prayer and meditation as well as a little “me” time. I enjoy walking my dog early in the mornings. This gives me the opportunity to gain exercise, pray, meditate, plan, reflect, visualize, dream, and also appreciate nature, while allowing my canine friend to gain her exercise. Me time can be walking on the treadmill, enjoying a quiet cup of coffee, yoga, a long hot bath, or relaxing on the porch. Wherever your happy place may be…take the time to pamper yourself and focus on you every day, even if it’s just fifteen minutes. I have found that me time promotes peace, tranquility, and a positive attitude, all of which will help you reach your desired goals.
  2. Stop dieting! What? That’s right, stop dieting! Simply make better food choices. I achieved this goal by eating less processed foods, less restaurant food, meal prepping, and also planning my meals. Drink less soda and more water. Replace at least one unhealthy item with a healthy item. For example, replace white sugar with stevia or honey. Bake foods instead of frying them. Replace white bread with whole grain bread. Decrease salt and increase black pepper. Replace cream based dressings with oil based dressings. Eat Greek yogurt instead of regular yogurt. Eat crunchy veggies and fruit instead of chips. This list could go on for pages. Do you have to make all of the above changes? The answer is no. Simply, select one or a couple that you feel would make your diet more healthy. Once you’ve become accustomed to this change you might find that you will have a greater desire to replace more unhealthy foods with healthy ones. Take the step to reducing your intake of unhealthy foods. Remember, your journey begins with a single step and a single choice.
  3. Random acts of kindness are a wonderful way to promote happiness and encouragement while also helping to promote unity of mankind. Have you ever been in the checkout line with two items and find yourself behind someone with a full cart of items. Did you feel the dread of standing in line while the person in front of you prepared to checkout the large number of items and use the hand full of coupons they were clutching? I’ve been there too. Have you been on the receiving end when that person with the loaded cart offered to allow you to check out your two items ahead of her? I have been there as well. Do you remember that wonderful feeling that you felt as you quickly checked out and made your way to the exit? It was a warm and nice feeling. It served to remind you that there are still nice people in the world. How about the feeling that you felt when your waiter explained that your meal has already been paid for? Whether it’s a smile, kind word, encouraging word, paid meal, advancement in a long line, or tiny token of thoughtfulness…each are random acts of kindness that we all enjoy, and that often come when we need them the most. It’s an even greater feeling to be on the giving side of the random act of kindness. I challenge you to shake that veteran’s hand and thank him/her for their service. I challenge you to allow the person with fewer items than you to check out before you. I challenge you to smile or tell the cashier who doesn’t seem to be very talkative to have a blessed or wonderful day. Buy the person behind you lunch, or a cup of coffee. Leave a kind note in a colleagues mailbox or on their door. This list could go on and on. The possibilities are limitless. Above all, be an encourager not a “discourager.”

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    A gift I received as a result of a random act of kindness. I’ll treasure it always.

  4. Read every day, but don’t focus on reading a large number of books in a year. Simply set a goal to read at least twenty minutes per day. This will keep your mind fresh, be a healthy change from television or your electronic device(s), while also helping you to learn something new everyday. Remember, we’re never too old to learn. Reading improves the memory, thought process, and also is a wonderful form of entertainment. In today’s technological society reading is more convenient than ever before which limits your excuses to not read. You can achieve your desired reading goal by reading on your smart phone, tablet, kindle, in a magazine, newspaper, blog post, or my favorite…a good old-fashioned book! Reading for twenty minutes each day will also help you spend that quality time with  yourself that we all need and deserve.
  5. Make time for family and friends. I have come to realize that time does not slow down, for anyone or anything. It truly feels that time is passing more swiftly than ever before. Do you ever think about how eager you were to grow up when you were a child? I’ve thought about this often over the years and have advised my young students as well as my children and grandchildren to slow down and enjoy being a child. We are a child for a short time and an adult the remainder of our lives. Time is something that we cannot get back once it is gone. Make the most of it and enjoy time with family and friends. Plan to have dinner together, road trips, family night, visit each other, go out to lunch, have coffee together, go shopping, or simply sit on the front porch (without our smart phones) and enjoy conversation with them. This can include your immediate family, extended family, and or friends. Don’t take time for granted…make time for family and friends.
  6. So, you want to save a little money? We’ve all made this resolution or set this goal, and all of us have also ended up breaking this resolution or not meeting our goal. I decided several years ago to cut corners on unnecessary spending by watching for bargains, clipping coupons, and also use digital coupons. I also decided to take my lunch to work to avoid buying lunch or spending money in the cafeteria for food that ended up being tossing in the garbage, or consume unhealthy food that I did not need. The result was a smaller grocery bill each week, a few more dollars in my purse at the end of the week, and feeling of satisfaction. Whether it was one dollar or ten dollars each week the savings were added to my makeshift bank, which started as a simple zip-lock bag, and quickly grew to a small storage container. This year my savings were used for various things. I used part of it to help with our remodeling project, to pay my granddaughter who likes to earn a little extra money by dusting, walking my dog, or vacuuming the inside of my jeep. I had a nice little Christmas savings as well. Did I veer off of the path, did I stumble, lose sight of my goal, or go on a spending spree? Well, I didn’t go on random spending sprees, but I did enjoy a few shopping trips…but I am always on the lookout for bargains. Did I eat out for lunch? Of course I did occasionally as it was a great way of spending quality time with family, colleagues, and or friends. We all need to indulge occasionally, but it’s important to not fall into a pattern of indulging on a regular basis. It was a great feeling to have my extra savings available when I needed it without having to dip into budgeted money, or our savings account. I look forward to exceeding last years’ savings this year through the same simple steps. I challenge you…take a cup of coffee with you instead of buying that specialty coffee everyday. Make that specialty coffee a special event, take a friend out for coffee occasionally and spend quality time with them while enjoying your favorite cappuccino.

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    I enjoy an occasional cup of coffee from our local coffee shop.

  7. Exercise more, yeah this is one that most of us make year after year. Year after year we start with a zest and a made up mind, but also year after year we lose that fire and determination and fall into a rut once again. Nearly six years ago, I began working toward this goal in various ways that has helped improve my health and also helped me to achieve my goal, as well as maintain my weight after losing seventy pounds. What did I do? I simply set realistic small goals for myself. These goals included walking my dog daily, even when it was snowing or raining. Parking farther away from the store, even when it’s snowing or raining. Using the elliptical daily, even if it’s just fifteen minutes per day. I have also worn a fitbit for the last three years and tracked my daily steps. Boy, was this an eye opener! I have worked hard to ensure that I am actually getting up and moving every hour. There are hours during the day that I cannot get up and move, such as during my commute to and from work. However, I find this great “me” time, time to listen to an audio book, time to do breathing exercises, and also time to pray, meditate and reflect on the day or plan for the next day. Exercising more can include going to the gym, going to zumba class, or running in the park. But, let’s face it…with the demands of our jobs and the fast paced world we live in, these are not always an option. Instead, take time each day to achieve your goal in small manageable as well as realistic goals. Get up and move everyday!

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    I track my steps using a fitbit.

  8. Get organized! This is a goal that I too have several failed attempts. It is now a work in progress and I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. How did I do it? One area at a time is how I started this goal and have maintained my progress. Also, with each mini-goal, I use the three-step process. I make sure that I have a container for donations or sell items, items you wish to keep, and a container for unwanted items to toss. I began my organized journey with the linen closet. I was amazed how much soap, deodorant, air fresheners and many more items I found while cleaning this small space. I bought enough one dollar plastic bins to line the shelves and labeled each so everyone in the family knew where to put items away. Labeling has helped me maintain a clutter free and organized linen closet. Once a month for a year I have worked to de-clutter and organize an area of our home, and once a month or more for a year I have tossed, donated, or sold the excess items and organized the things that I chose to keep. I love  having less clutter and more organization as well as space. My home is still a work in progress, but there is a significant less amount to organize and de-clutter than there was last year! Cha-ching…another realistic goal achieved!
  9. Grow a plant! Yes, I just said that…grow a plant! I love working in our vegetable garden and my herbs. Fresh vegetables are much healthier for you than veggies purchased at the store and are less expensive. I enjoy being able to have fresh basil, chives, oregano, and stevia at my fingertips. Fresh herbs are very expensive in the grocery store, and you either have too many or not enough. Will you be required to grow a large garden to have fresh herbs, tomatoes, or cucumbers? No, you can simply have small  bed, box, flower pots, or a small raised bed. Tomatoes, cabbage, lettuce, and onions make a wonderful addition to flower gardens and doesn’t require a lot of space or upkeep. Growing your own herbs and vegetables can also help contribute to a healthier diet. Herbs can also be grown inside, so there’s no reason to deny yourself the pleasure of fresh thyme. Find a herb or plant that doesn’t require high maintenance and will live in your desired location. I have found that thyme is a very easy herb to grow. It requires nothing more than watering, and of course an occasional pruning. I don’t find this difficult as I love cooking with thyme. It’s a great addition to eggs, meats, soups, and much more. Whether you choose to grow a single plant, a window box herb garden, raised bed, flower bed, or a full-scale garden…nurture your plants with tender loving care, make a simple plant journal, record their progress, what worked and what didn’t work, take pictures of their growth, take pride in your plants. It’s a great feeling to watch something that you’ve planted or repotted, nurtured, and enjoyed grow into a fully mature plant. It’s an even better feeling to reap the rewards of their fruit, spice, taste, beauty and or simply their wonderful addition to your home. Caring for your plant(s) is also a wonderful opportunity to spend quality time with yourself, or your family

    nanny's herbs

    I love being able to clip fresh herbs from my herb box.

  10. Make a blessing jar. This was an idea given to me by my Sunday school teacher. Last year was the first year that I had set this small, but significant goal. I simply took a container that I already had to use for my jar. I used a small crock that a previous student bought me. It was the perfect container to add and collect my daily blessings. Several people decorated jars, boxes and other various containers. This is how it works; Simply, find a container or make one,  at the end of each day write down something positive that has happened during the day. Trust me, even on those days when everything seems to be going wrong…you can find something positive to be thankful for. The object is to find positive things in your life and to take focus off of the negative things, which happens to all of us. The plan is to open your blessing jar on New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day and revisit and read each blessing that you wrote down. It’s a great way to reflect, remember, count your blessings, while also promoting a positive frame of mind. I challenge you to try it…go ahead and begin today counting your blessings.
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    My blessing jar

     

    In review, these are the realistic goals that has helped improve years for me including 2015, had a major impact on my health, happiness, and my family as well as my life; make a blessing jar, grow a plant, get organized, save a little extra money, make time for family and friends, read every day, stop dieting and most of all make time for yourself! These are only suggestions, and not scientifically proven, but goals that helped me have a better quality of life. What are you waiting for? Today is already the second day of the new year! Have you set your goals? Are your goals realistic? Revisit the goals that you’ve already set to ensure they are realistic and achievable goals. If you’ve not set your goals yet…take that first step of your journey to achieve your resolutions, or your goals! Remember, your journey to a better life begins with a single step. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about my New Year’s goals and resolutions. Please feel free to leave your feedback. I’m interested in your goals and how you achieved them. God bless and have a wonderful 2017!

 

 

Counting My Blessings…

There is one thing that is certain…life is uncertain. Every day is filled with surprises, some are welcomed while others are not. But through the years I have learned to take life one day at a time. I have learned not to dwell on the past as we no longer live there. I have learned to not depend on the future as we never know our day of departure from this life. However, I have found that reflecting, not dwelling on the past, is a healthy practice to achieve peace and contentment. I have also found that setting goals, but not solely relying on those goals, but working one day at a time to achieve them has brought me much happiness, and I wasn’t devastated when I had to veer off the path occasionally.

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Enjoying the morning reflecting on the past…briefly visiting plans for the future.

Saturday mornings are usually a time of rest, relaxation, and reflection for me. These are mornings that I enjoy a cup of coffee, the sounds of our small farm waking up. Roosters crowing their good mornings from their roost, the puppies barking from the puppy pen, and the rain softly tapping on the windows. This particular morning I am enjoying the beginning of Christmas break. Our tree is up and decorated, shopping is finished, packages are wrapped, and the turkey and ham await our dinner in the freezer. Christmas break isn’t just loved and appreciated by the students at UC, but also loved and appreciated by the professors and all of the staff and administration as well. Christmas break allow us time to rest, relax, reflect, plan, prepare, and above all to enjoy time with our families.

With the days of a busy semester behind me and plans for the upcoming semester hovering above me…I find myself this morning counting my blessings. Yes, it’s been a busy semester. Yes, it came with challenges and yes, I learned much from life’s experiences, as well as from colleagues and students. No, life hasn’t been perfect. It’s been anything but perfect. However, as I think about others who are facing so much heartache from the loss of their loved ones, sickness’ that are ravaging their bodies, traumatic stress from  horrible addictions of their loved ones, loss, failure, and much more…I, although not living in a perfect world, am blessed.

Our immediate family hasn’t suffered the loss of an immediate loved one during the year 2016, we have homes to protect us and house our families, we have food to feed and nourish our bodies, we have clothes and shoes to protect us from the elements, jobs that provide for our families, churches where we worship freely, and the saving grace of God that fills our hearts. Our family also gained a new addition this year. We greeted and welcomed our fifth grandchild into our family.

Was life perfect? No, it was anything but perfect. There were stressful days, hurtful days, heartache, loss, sleepless nights, hard work, sadness, anger, and many other realities real emotions that visit everyone. However, I have learned over the years to take each day one day at a time, live each to its fullest as these are days that we will never be able to live again, pray hard, learn from the experience(s), move forward, get up when we get knocked down, be thankful for what we have, and expect better days ahead. So, as I enjoy the warmth of the fire in the fireplace I find myself reflecting on the past and briefly revisiting plans for the future…I find myself being thankful for past days, weeks, months, and years, and the experiences that each provided, whether they were happy, sad, good or bad…each of them has helped to mold me into who I am today.

I hope you’ve enjoyed browsing my memories and sharing one of my special days. Please, feel free to leave your comments and visit again. If you enjoy healthy delicious sweet snacks, feel free to check out Random Acts of Kindness & Clean Almond Joy Bites… for a delicious holiday, or any day treat. Merry Christmas and God bless from our house to yours.  image