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december 2012 FREE

brenda lyerly A Heart for the High Country

compton fortuna Helping Feed the Hungry

lynn windmeyer Ada B. & Me

deborah miller Passion for Education

anita gomez For the Love of Animals

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“Remember, if Christmas isn’t found in your heart, you won’t find it under a tree.” - Charlotte Carpenter

publisher Gene Fowler

executive editor Tom Mayer

editor Sherrie Norris 828.264.3612, ext. 251


Merry Christmas

Genevieve Austin Sherry Boone Heather Brandon Danielle Bussone Jesse Campbell Sharon Carlton Bonnie Church Yozette Collins Heather W. Jordan Kellen Moore Kelly Penick Sue Spirit

production & design Jennifer Canosa Meleah Petty Kelsey Steller

advertising Radd Nesbit 828.264.6397, ext. 271

cover photo by Sherrie Norris

Any reproduction of news articles, photographs or advertising artwork is strictly prohibited without permission from management. ŠCopyright 2012 A Mountain Times Publication

10 compton fortuna

12 lynn windmeyer

14 christy welch

15 judy calloway

brenda lyerly


contents 18 deborah miller news bits 7 the silk handkerchief 16 laurel gordon 20 stepping stone of boone 22 mom’s world 24 high country courtesies 30 christmastime on the seine 32

by the book healthy lady young at heart pets beauty holiday recipes a christmas story

34 36 38 42 44 46 48

40 anita gomez DECEMBER 2012 | AAWMAG.COM


editor’s note The year was 1963. Christmas was drawing near, but there was very little holiday spirit around my family home. I was the youngest of four children and another was on the way. Daddy was in the Veteran’s Hospital in Johnson City, Tenn., some 50 miles away, suffering serious complications from a misdiagnosis and the subsequent removal of most of his foot. Mama couldn’t drive and we were at the mercy of others for our sporadic visits to Tennessee. During daddy’s eight-month hospitalization, we had no reliable income. Our maternal “Granny” stayed with us and helped supply our needs as best she could. As the baby girl, I had only visions of baby dolls and toys resting beneath a glittering tree. As time went on, however, even I knew that Santa could not fulfill my wishes. I’m not saying I understood it, because I didn’t. While mama tried to protect her children from worry, it was her faith that sustained and strengthened her. Through the years, I have often thought of the embarrassment it must have caused her each time she asked for groceries on credit at Corbett’s Community Exchange, the store that served our little village so well. But she did it — and Corbett Johnson and his family never turned her down. The week before Christmas, we got to visit daddy at the hospital and attend a party for the patients and their families.



I was given a little green chair that one of the disabled veterans had made during a woodworking class. Oh, sure, it was pretty and I could sit in it just fine, but I just couldn’t figure out how I was actually going to “play” with it. Later that same week, mama bundled us up and took us to church, where friends portrayed Mary and Joseph and baby Jesus, re-enacting the familiar Christmas story, and where later, Santa came to deliver presents. I was in awe — childlike wonder was such a precious thing — as I heard my name called out by the jolly old man in red. Beneath the brightly colored paper was the most beautiful blue-eyed baby doll that I had ever seen. My wish had come true, but I later

learned it didn’t have a thing to do with Santa Claus. We were given bags of candy, fruits and nuts, and as we left the church, walking home in the snow, my fascination reached greater heights than I had known up to that point of my young life. I felt so good about my baby doll, and before the holiday was over, my entire family learned what Christmas was really all about. Neighbors, relatives and church members began pouring into our little brick home, bearing gifts of food and money, and almost everything we needed for a Merry Christmas. Adding to my happiness was the fact that Donna, my new baby doll, fit perfectly into my little green chair. The greatest gift of all arrived later, as my daddy was brought home to spend the day with us. Donna has found her place beneath my Christmas tree nearly every year since she arrived. Once again, she has found her place of honor under the lovely tree gracing my country cabin in the woods, where I call home, along with my dear husband. I have seen many Christmas seasons come and go, many happy and yet others saddened by illness and death, but none compares to that one Christmas long ago. Forty-nine years later, as I reflect upon that special Christmas, I want to say “Thank You” once again to those in the little town of Crossnore who had a hand in making my child-like faith come alive — not only in ‘63, but also every year since.

newsbits&clips The Nutcracker Performance At New Location The Nutcracker Ballet will be performed by Studio K Ballet at the Watauga High School auditorium this year due to renovations currently underway at Farthing Auditorium, its usual venue. The classic holiday favorite will be presented at 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. on Sat., Dec 15 and at 3 p.m. on Sun., Dec. 16. Tickets, at $10 for adults and $8 for children 12 and under, will be available at the door one hour prior to the performance or through Paypal at

Our staff wishes you a great holiday season!

Health & Rehabilitation

· New patients welcome · Office hours by appointment · We file insurance as a courtesy to our patients. · Flexible payment options Robert H. Bridgeman, D.D.S., P.A. Craig Bridgeman, D.M.D. 2348 NC Highway 105 Suite 1, Heritage Court

Boone, NC 28607 (828) 264-7272

211 Milton Brown Heirs Road • Boone 828 264 6720 • DECEMBER 2012 | AAWMAG.COM



Winebarger Wins Photo Contest Local photographer Leda Winebarger was recognized during the annual Watauga County Farm-City Banquet in November following the selection of her photo, “100 Years of Pickin,’ as the winner in the event’s photo contest. Winebarger’s winning photo perfectly illustrates life in the High Country — a pitcher of apple cider accompanied by apples atop a barrel, which sits below an aged apple tree. The image was printed twice and then framed by Mike Hill of Purveyors of Art and Design in Foscoe. One framed image was given to Winebarger at the banquet, where she was officially recognized. The second framed image was raffled by the Watauga County Arts Council, with proceeds benefiting the organization’s programming. In 2011, the Watauga County Arts Council began sponsoring the Arts in Agriculture Award at the annual Farm-City Banquet. This award recognizes a local artist or arts organization that captures the spirit of agriculture in Watauga County.

December Medical Listings



newsbits&clips High Country Cotillion Accepting Registration for Spring Session Registration is now open for spring events at High Country Cotillion. The sessions, which begin in January, help prepare young people to cope with the demands of their social circles of today, while preparing them to succeed tomorrow. High Country Cotillion events are entertaining and active learning experiences through which students meet peers from across the region, enjoy classic and contemporary dance instruction, and practice social skills that are relative to their lives. Cotillion leaders from Appalachian State University and Watauga High School assure that High Country Cotillion is not a stuffy manners class, said owner, Sharon Carlton, as they present instruction through role-playing, skits and games. Events are designed for students from ďŹ fth grade through high school. For more information, visit or call (828) 7731981.

Mon-Fri 9:30-6:00 Saturday 9:30-5:30 Closed on Sunday 205 B Shamrock Square Jefferson, NC (336) 846-9551

Compton Fortuna grew up in Wilkes County and continues to call it home, but she

Since 1997, Compton Fortuna has been helping to feed the High Country through her leadership efforts at the Hunger and Health Coalition. Photos by Sherrie Norris

has had a tremendous impact on her neighboring counties since she began working at the Hunger and Health Coalition. It all started, Compton says, when, as a student at Appalachian State University in pursuit of a sociology degree in 1997, she began volunteering at the food pantry to meet a course requirement. She ended up completing an internship there and upon her college graduation a year later, she accepted a part-time position coordinating volunteers and managing various grants. Eventually, she became assistant director of the agency, but resigned in 2002 upon the birth of her first child. For the following year, she was able to stay at home while completing her master’s degree in business administration at ASU. In 2004, Compton stepped back in as the organization’s interim director, which soon evolved into a permanent position. “I always knew that I liked to help people and that I wanted to work in a job that allowed me to do that,” she says. “My grandmother worked with the food stamp program for 25 years and had always talked to me about the importance of helping those in need — and reminded me that, at any time, I might be the one asking for help.” When Compton first began volunteering at what was then known just as The Hunger Coalition, she says, “It was like something clicked into place in my life and I knew what I wanted to do.” With a chuckle, she says, “I often say that I could never be in a sales position because I love giving things away.” Those who know Compton can attest to the fact that she gives away much more than tangible items to the thousands of clients who come through the agency’s doors on an annual basis. Her compassion for others is evident in the way she responds to their needs and in the way she leads by example for her staff to do the same. During her tenure at the HHC, Compton has been a part of numerous changes, she says. “I have seen it grow from a small food pantry and small pharmacy to where we are today — managing six food assistance programs and a pharmacy that dispenses over 1,200 prescriptions each month — not to mention the clothing and firewood we help distribute,” she says. This time of year is especially busy for Compton, her

Helping Feed The Hungry 10


staff and volunteers, who, at all times, work to fulfill a mission to help relieve poverty and hunger for families and individuals in the High Country who are experiencing economic hardship and food shortages. The HHC team also includes a supportive board of directors, which meets with Compton on a regular basis and is appreciative of the extra efforts that she constantly puts forth. “I don’t think that there are enough complementary words in the English language to describe Compton,” said board member, Guy Rippy. “I think she can best be described by Larry the Cable Guy as a “get ‘er done” person. I’ve never seen showiness or self-aggrandizement, but she always quietly knows where to find it and how to do it and does it in a caring manner.” According to board chair, Joe Bradford, “Compton is active in local, state and national professional nonprofit organizations which serve food banks and health facilities for those in poverty. She has had an active “hands-on” management for the organization, keeping the expenses and costs to a minimum, while delivering an outstanding level of service to the clients for both food and prescriptions drugs,” he said. Whether through the services above, and/or serving as a conduit for referrals to other community resources, Compton and her staff meet emergency needs, while assisting those in need to find a more permanent solution. “As we transition into another season, we are already experiencing increases in the numbers of people needing help,” she says. “We expect the number to continue to rise significantly as winter approaches. Cold weather can both limit available work and increase heating bills.” In an “average” month, she says, the agency helps 1,000 families with food, but the needs escalate this time of year. Fortunately, several seasonal projects help to meet the snowballing affects; they include the annual “Christmas in the Mountains” CD project featuring local musicians (available at more than 70 area locations); The Sharing Tree, in which needs of children, the elderly and their family members are met during the Christmas season by the generosity and concern of area citizens; a Thanksgiving Day dinner hosted by First Baptist Church

The all-female staff at the Hunger and Health Coalition, assisted by some very helpful males on a regular basis, include, left to right, Compton Fortuna, executive director; Crystal Winebarger, director of operations; Kim Winebarger, services and programs coordinator; April Hubbard, food assistance services coordinator; Annette Cochran, pharmacy assistance services coordinator; and Beth Rodriguez, patient assistance coordinator.

of Boone and made possible by local businesses and volunteers, and a community food drive going on through Dec. 31. Regardless of the season, there is always a need at The Hunger and Health Coalition of Boone and its director will do her best to see that all those essentials are met in a warm, compassionate manner. Compton continues to reside in Wilkes County with her husband and three children, ages 10, 7 and 4.

“At home I basically follow my kids from ball fields to dance studios,” she says. “I enjoy cooking, hiking and spending time with my family.”

sherrie norris Editor, All About Women

Tis the Season to Give Looking for the perfect gift? Make a donation in memory or in honor of friends and family. The Hunger and Health Coalition staff will send the honoree an acknowledgement card in recognition of your gift in their name. Here’s what a donation of $100 will provide: 480 pounds of food which equate to 12 boxes of food Food for 30 people 77 prepared meals through the Food Recovery Program Weekend snacks (for 10 months) for 13 preschoolers 53 snack bags for preschool children Any gift, large or small, will help take a bite out of hunger. For more information, call (828) 262-1628, visit 141 Health Center Drive,, or send written correspondence and/or donations to the Health and Hunger Coalition at P.O. Box 1837, Boone, NC 28607. DECEMBER 2012 | AAWMAG.COM


Photo by Yogi Collins

Lynn Windmeyer has found inspiration and creation through the memories and the ‘notions’ her grandmother left behind.

‘Ada B. & Me’

All in the Family

Designing and creating clothing has been a pattern in Lynn Windmeyer’s life. From custom creations for her Barbie dolls to creating her own dance costumes and formals for prom, Lynn’s earliest memories include shopping with her mom and hearing, “We’ll just go home and make it ourselves.” And they did. With her mom a talented seamstress, it stands to reason that Lynn was influenced by her mother’s innovation and skills — enough to pursue a career in design after earning a degree in textile and apparel management. Still, there were other aspects to Lynn’s design approach and her creations that



she couldn’t quite explain. Why, for example, did she shop for fabric by feeling her way down the aisles of fabric bolts? She gained insight in an unlikely place: her paternal grandmother’s funeral. “I honestly didn’t realize how much we had in common until, in the eulogy, my aunt described how my grandma would shop for fabric by how it felt,” Lynn says. Lynn hadn’t been especially close to Ada Bridget Vessell and certainly hadn’t learned her fabric-shopping nuances from her. “She wasn’t the storybook grandma that made you cookies and read you stories,” says Lynn. “She did her own thing. She was very strong and independent and

opinionated. She worked in a shirt factory as a younger woman; she picked up quilting in retirement. She was very bold in her designs, mixing colors and patterns that most people wouldn’t.” After Ada passed away, her family uncovered numerous boxes of fabric, quilt tops and notions that they shared with Lynn. Having grown up in the depression, Ada was an “upcycler” before upcycling was cool and saved anything that might be useful to her sewing. Lynn cherished these treasures that had belonged to her grandmother and sentimentally planned to create items that could be kept in the family.

But, when Lynn and husband Tim, parents of Stella, 4, and Bennett, 1, decided to adopt a child from Uganda, Lynn’s design career and dreams came into hyper-focus. Knowing the financial burden adoption can pose, Lynn was spurred to do something she had meant to do many years: start an at-home design business. “I really felt motivated to figure out what I could do to help supplement toward the adoption,” Lynn says. “Maybe it’s sort of like when you’re pregnant and nesting.” Lynn says she was “really inspired” while going through boxes of her grandmother’s belongings. “I had never even thought of using the things for anything other than to keep them in the family,” she says, “ but I woke up at 3 a.m. one morning and I had all these ideas. I just started creating pillow covers and table runners. It started to come together and the look became cohesive.” So, Lynn’s business, Ada B. & Me, was born. Striking a vintage, unique vibe, her pieces — ranging from kid’s clothing and home accessories to women’s clothing and accessories — include upcycled Tshirts fashioned into tunics or cardigans, painted canvas pillow covers, custom curtain panels and bedding of all sizes. “I love helping people who are on a tight budget get something they love,” Lynn says. “I think sometimes you limit yourself when you’re on a budget. I don’t see the need for that.” And, while her grandmother’s fabrics provide inspiration for many of her creations, Lynn also uses some of the fabric or notions in her works. “I’m very sentimental,” Lynn says. “I think what I’ve come to, is that I’ll keep some of grandma’s things, but I don’t need to hoard it for myself. Other people need to appreciate it, too. She did a lot of work. It’s sad for it to just sit in boxes.” Currently, Ada B. & Me is sold on Etsy (search for “Ada B and Me”). To discuss custom work ideas, options and pricing, e-mail Lynn at

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Christy Welch named Counselor of the Year Christy Welch, left, was recently named the N.C. Elementary School Counselor of the Year. She is pictured with Mabel Elementary School Principal Mark Hagaman. Photo submitted

Mabel School Counselor, Christy Welch, was recently named the 2012-2012 Elementary School Counselor of the Year by the N.C. School Counseling Association. In addition to her duties as a school counselor, Christy is the school testing coordinator and maintains a parent resource center that provides information helpful in coping with the challenges of parenting. She also operates a food pantry for families that cannot provide adequate food at home and a “Pioneer Prom Boutique” to provide less fortunate teens with prom dresses. “She richly deserves the honor,” says Mabel Principal Mark Hagaman. “She has been instrumental in helping provide a safe, happy and nurturing environment for the students of our community. Mrs. Welch is creative and innovative in her approach to students, and her opinion is valued at the local level and beyond.” Christy started at Mabel as an intern and is now in her 11th year as the school’s counselor. She completed her bachelor’s degree at Wingate University, a master’s degree at Appalachian State University and has achieved National Board Certification. Her husband, John, is a member of the Watauga County Board of Education.



The NCSCA offers Counselor of the Year awards for counselors working in elementary school, middle school and high school. The purpose of the awards is to “recognize one outstanding professional on each level who has made a positive impact in their school with students, teachers and parents.” Nominees for the award must be certified school counselors with a master’s degree and at least five years’ experience in the field. They also must have displayed innovation and leadership in their work. Christy is the second counselor in Watauga County Schools to be honored this year. Blowing Rock School Counselor Kelly Baruth was recently named the WCS Counselor of the Year for 2011-12 in the middle school category. Christy was the WCS Counselor of the Year in 2011-12 in the elementary school category. Although designated as elementary or middle school for the purpose of nominations, both Christy and Kelly serve all students in all elementary and middle school grades. “We are both proud and lucky to have them both serving in the Watauga County Schools,” says Student Services Director Clarissa Schmal.

Judy Calloway with the 20 ribbons she won at the 2012 Dixie Classic Fair in Winston-Salem. Photo and story By Jesse Campbell

The Story Behind The Blue Ribbons Three years ago, Judy Calloway of Crumpler travelled with her family to the annual Dixie Classic Fair in Winston-Salem to take in the sights and sounds of one of the state’s biggest attractions. As the numerous blue ribbons and first place entries dazzled price winning selections in the areas of baking, canning, and growing, Judy was struck with a sudden realization. “I started looking around and thought, ‘My grandmother and mother did this,’ and I thought I could do this too,’” she says. From the time she was a little girl, Judy had watched her grandmother in the kitchen canning all sorts of vegetables and sauces in addition to the many culinary delicacies she turned out on a daily basis. She had some time on her hands and decided to put it to good use by entering some of her specialties in the fair’s competitions.

The first year Judy entered, she won first place in the canning category for her pickles and green tomatoes and second place for her pickled watermelon rind. “Since it was my first year, I didn’t do too much because I didn’t think I had a chance,” she says. This year, Judy surpassed all of her expectations as she brought home 20 ribbons from the fair for several entries in numerous categories including food preservation, container grown and cut plants, floriculture and culinary. Some of prize winning creations included a pink germanium (second place), a dahlia (third place), a Red Indian Shot Canna (second place), an about face rose (honorable mention) along with several other selections. This was also Judy’s first year to enter the baking contests. “I learned how to make biscuits from my grandmother who made them a little different,” she says. “I also like to find old timey recipes and add to them.”

Judy won a blue ribbon for her red velvet cake, second place for her oatmeal cookies and third in the yeast biscuit entries. Her new acquired skill as a baker also came a delight to her family. “They expect me to do it everyday now,” she says. Like canning, which she picked up due to the state of the economy, Judy hopes to pass that art — and baking — down to her children and grandchildren. She says that her family members are also due recognition for the tremendous amount of support they gave to her while competing. “If it wasn’t for my husband, Nathan, I don’t know how I would have done it,” she says. “He helped with all of the tagging and taking me down there. He’s such a blessing. We are partners in all of this.”

jesse campbell



The Silk Handkerchief The cold wind pushed little Esta Lee Mitchell along as she hurried down the steep mountain path on her way to school. The five-mile walk gave her plenty of time to think about Christmas. Esta Lee was 8-years-old and had never owned a doll. She wished with all heart that tonight Santa would leave one for her. She didn’t care what kind of doll. Any kind would please her. By the time Esta Lee got to school, snow clouds had gathered. Snow fell all day and by 4 p.m., when school dismissed, the snow was too deep for her to walk home. “Esta Lee, you can spend the night with me,” said her teacher, Mrs. Bradford. “Your mother wouldn’t want you to start home



in this snow. You’d freeze before you got there.” So, that’s what she did. She spent Christmas Eve with her teacher. Mrs. Bradford had two children at home, a boy and a girl. Esta Lee knew that Santa would come to their house and she had great hopes that this would be the year she’d get a doll.  She could hardly wait for morning. After breakfast, the family exchanged gifts.   Esta Lee spotted a beautiful doll by the tree. She didn’t know that any doll could be so pretty — with golden hair, blue eyes and a little mouth that looked as though she was saying, “Hello.” Esta Lee’s heart leaped as Mrs. Bradford stooped down and picked it up.  However, she had to fight back tears when the

teacher turned to her own daughter, and said, “This is for you,” and placed the doll in the other little girl’s arms. Esta Lee was brave and determined not to cry, even when she realized that not one thing had been left under the tree for her. Not an orange, not an apple — nothing! Later in the day, company gave came to visit. They brought gifts, and even a gift for Mr. Bradford. After the guests left, Mr. Bradford said to Esta Lee, “I know how you must feel being away from your family today, child.  I want to give you my gift. This is a silk handkerchief, pure silk. It’s yours to keep.” Esta Lee had never seen silk before. She sat for the longest time smooth-

ing it out and folding it — over and over again. She was happy. This would be one of her treasures. When spring came, the Mitchell family’s only cow tried to get out of the small pasture and tore one of her teats on the fence.  Help was summoned and an area was boarded up around the cow to hold her still so the teat could be repaired. The man said, “I can save this cow for you, but I need something to sew her up with.  I don’t have any cat gut with me.” Mrs. Mitchell looked at Esta Lee and asked, “Do you still have that silk handkerchief Mr. Bradford gave you last Christmas?” “Yes, Mother,” she answered. “Where is it?” her mother asked. “It’s in that little chest of drawers.” This was where she kept her treasures — a few ribbons, a beautiful little rock and the handkerchief. Mrs. Mitchell went inside and quickly returned with the silk handkerchief.  She unraveled the thread and it was used to repair the cow’s torn teat. Did God know in December that this little Smoky Mountain girl’s family would have need for silk thread in the spring?  I believe He did.

Author’s note:

My grandma, Esta Lee Mitchell Morgan, lived in the Great Smoky Mountains as a child and loved to tell stories abut her life in the mountains. This is my favorite story. It happened more than 100 years ago. I love it because it reveals to me why Grandma was the way she was. A more caring person never lived. She would never have let a child spend Christmas Eve in her home without finding a gift the next morning. A stick of candy or a trinket, whatever she had, she would have shared. Several years before she died, Grandma gave me an angel dinner bell and asked that I always ring it on Christmas Day and think of her. I do, but I have to do that in private. I still miss her too much.  

n U sorig 45511 Joi sew

sew AL N I G I R 1586-C Highway 421 S Gateway Center (828) 264-1049 3358 Robin Hood Rd Winston-Salem (336) 760-1121

sherry boone Local writer who shares her personal stories with others in hopes that they, too, will be comforted by some of life’s sweet memories.



With five nephews and four nieces who will be going through the local school system, Deborah Miller will always have a passion for education and for Watauga County schools, in particular. She is pictured here with some of those special youngsters who are very near and dear to her heart. Left to right: Savana Costner, Sierra Costner, Jonathan Bouboulis, Alexander Bouboulis (standing) Logan Costner and William Bouboulis. Photo submitted

Thank you, Deborah Miller After numerous years as a parent volunteer in Watauga County schools followed by eight years on the Watauga County Board of Education, Deborah Miller has decided to retire from public service to spend more time with her family and to prepare for her new role as a grandmother. While it won’t be easy stepping away from the position she says she’s been honored to have filled, Deborah has a plan. “After a break, I hope to get back into the school system to volunteer in the classroom, because I really enjoy working with the children,” she says. “Maybe, I’ll work with children who need additional help in reading, and maybe a little math, but that’s not my strong suit.”



Her strength is, however, rolling up her sleeves and getting involved. When her daughters Ashley and Meghann — both now grown and on their own — were young, Deborah happily helped out in their schools. “I’ve done everything from being room mom to anything that could be done at the school system,” she says. Because of her passion and support for public education, a friend suggested she run for school board. “I had a number of years on the Watauga Education Foundation, so I thought, I’ll try that,” she says. “I was fortunate that members of the community thought I’d do a good job. I was able to bring in a unique

perspective from both a parent standpoint and that of a volunteer.” And it was an effective and respected perspective, too, says Watauga County Schools Superintendent David Kafitz. “Deborah’s desire to ensure a high quality education for every child of Watauga County is the sincere motivation behind her service,” he says. “When you meet her for the first time, you are struck by her generous and hospitable personality — she is welcoming, approachable and easy to converse with from the start.” He describes her interest in others as “sincere and genuine” and one that drives her to serve her community. “I see why members of our community

‘She has demonstrated the highest level of integrity, holds herself to the highest level of ethical and moral service and remains unflappable in her demeanor when faced with challenging situations.’ and the employees of the school system hold her in such great esteem” he says. “She has demonstrated the highest level of integrity, holds herself to the highest level of ethical and moral service and remains unflappable in her demeanor when faced with challenging situations.” Kafitz says that not only is Deborah a “true role model” for himself and all those she works with, but that her conduct sets a high standard for all others, “thusly, raising the quality of the work done by the board and by the school system.” According to Delora Hodges, who has served on the BOE alongside Deborah, “She is a very wise, selfless and thoughtful leader with a strong commitment to excellence.” Delora adds that Deborah is “a very hard worker” who has gone above and beyond what is expected in her role as a school board member, and that as the board chair, has done an exceptional job.

“She always leads with integrity and a strong desire to be fair and transparent,” Delora says. “In making her decisions, Deborah always has Watauga County student’s best interests at heart. I admire her as a leader, fellow school board member and friend.” While the accolades are well deserved, they are hard for Deborah to accept. “I don’t look for celebration,” she says. “I’m just thankful that I was able to serve. Celebration and accolades need to go to the people who are in the classroom every day. They do so much.” With visible emotion, Deborah adds, “We have to be all things to all children in our schools — and our people really step up. The teachers and the assistants and the people who do this are the ones to be celebrated.” And, while she is immensely grateful for the support of her family and her “work family” at Austin & Barnes Funeral Home

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— where she is employed part time as an administrative assistant — Deborah is looking forward to a “low key life” for a bit. Don’t, however, expect her passion for Watauga County schools to wane. “I’ll always have passion,” Deborah says. “I have five nephews and four nieces who will be going through the system. But my passion is for public education beyond my family members. It’s important to me how the school system is run and how we help each child find their education and what they want to do in life. I’ll still have that. It won’t be easy to turn off.” We certainly hope not.

Yozette ‘Yogi’ Collins Mom, television producer/writer, and obsessive internet researcher. Though her name suggests otherwise, she is not (yet) an actual yogi.

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Making a difference through art

Laurel Gordon is trying to spread a message of peace through her art.

Laurel Gordon of Valle Crucis is a self-taught artist, an imaginative soul who is driven by an incredible passion for self-expression through art. Her works are often noted for their unique style, movement, and translucent layering. Laurel has developed an innovative style that blends nature with abstract expressionism. Her use of vibrant colors and textures make her work an excellent choice for the collector. Laurel is accomplished in using traditional methods as well as modern technique. In these times of economic burdens and unstable environments, Laurel has a message that she wants to share: “There is hope for change.” She isn’t running for congress, she says, and she is certainly not the Mother Teresa type. She is just trying to spread her message in a subtle way — through her art. It is through her work that she hopes to evoke emotions of peace and remind people to respect the land. Born in 1964 in Ohio, Laurel went from a shy child to being a teen rebel. She doodled her way through school, but never really took art as more than just a hobby. She had a long career as a massage therapist until it became physically difficult to continue. She eventually accepted her fate, she says, and became a full-time artist. She spent a year experimenting in her small kitchen under poor lighting and on a very small budget. She has little formal training, but she has a vision and the drive to accomplish it.

After years of experimenting, she developed a method that is all her own. Through translucent layers she builds her pieces into three dimensions. One can gaze deeply into her pieces and see underlying colors. Some of her works have paints that change color as light reflects upon it. On the backside of each piece of her work one finds these words, “How can one person possibly change the world? Listen to the leaves in the wind. Breathe. Begin. For it all starts with you.” Laurel believes that each and every one of us can make a difference. She is currently making a difference at the Farm Café in Boone, where her work is currently on exhibit. Half of all proceeds will be donated to the café to assist in feeding people in need of a good, hot meal, she says. She is currently showing in the five following galleries throughout North Carolina: Hands Gallery  Rivercross Market  Main Street Gallery  www.mainstreetgallery.weebly. com Mountain Made Mountain Nest Gallery Of Art And Handcrafts Laurel also writes an inspirational art blog For more information, visit



The Stepping Stone staff, pictured left to right: David Brumfield, CEO and program director; Jaime Dean, counselor; Christy Bryant, lead nurse; Amy Lang, office manager; Christa Capua, COO and clinical director. Photo submitted

Stepping Stone

of Boone

Each year, in the United States, millions of pain sufferers are prescribed medication to treat pain that is either intense or chronic enough that it requires management. While this management is vital, it does create challenges for health-care providers and patients alike, due to the highly addictive nature of prescription pain-relieving drugs such as oxycodone and morphine. Addiction to these opiate medications can sneak up on patients when tolerance to the drug increases, even though the



original pain lingers. This is a community health issue, and when a community looks beyond the stigma of addiction, patients are freer to seek treatment, resulting in a healthier community with, for example, less crime and a reduced impact on the local emergency room. Stepping Stone of Boone, founded by program director David Bromfield, is grounded in the belief that our community needs an alternative drug treatment that is a safe, compassionate, familyfriendly outpatient environment that al-

lows clients to maintain their lives as they seek treatment. Christa Capua, clinical director at Stepping Stone, oversees the counseling treatment that each patient receives and explains why it can be difficult for someone struggling with opiate addiction to seek help. “A lot of people with chronic health problems who have become addicted to the medications are fearful of the stigma of addiction and fearful about seeking treatment,” she says. “I think a lot of peo-

ple let their addiction go on too long because they don’t know what to do.” At Stepping Stone, however, the small staff walks alongside their patients on the journey and creates a safe haven. “The whole staff tries to be on a firstname basis with all patients,” says Christa. “We try to have personal conversations and to have almost a community center feeling so patients really feel comfortable here and know that this won’t be a punitive treatment environment.” It’s this compassionate foundation that boosts the program’s effective treatment. Using both medication to manage withdrawal symptoms, and counseling to deal with the underlying causes of the original addiction, each patient at Stepping Stone has a treatment team working on his/her case and in his/her favor. Additionally, Stepping Stone works to be a more affordable option for opiate addiction treatment than a traditional inpatient facility. By keeping the center small and basic, Stepping Stone’s treatment starts at just $11 a day, likely much less


than the amount spent on drugs to support the addiction, in the first place. With affordable care as one goal, Stepping Stone wants treatment to be within reach for everyone. “Another goal,” says Christa, “is to let women in our community − who are struggling with the stigma − or whose kids or husband are exhibiting changes or chronic health issues and might be taking prescription medications for a long time, know that these are highly addictive medications, and there are options if you find yourself taking too many.” And, since Boone is a small community, Christa stresses that Stepping Stone abides by all HIPAA rules and regulations and completely respects patient’s confidentiality, even going so far as to require visitors to sign confidentiality agreements. “We will never confirm or deny whether someone is a patient,” she says. “In fact, respect for our clients is one reason for our location. No one driving by can see our parking lot.” Stepping Stone of Boone is located at

643-L Greenway Road. For appointments or more information, call (828) 265-7078 or e-mail Hours are 6 a.m. –11a.m. Monday–Friday; 7 a.m. – 9 a.m. Saturday. Walk-ins are welcome on Tuesdays.

Yozette ‘Yogi’ Collins Mom, television producer/writer, and obsessive internet researcher. Though her name suggests otherwise, she is not (yet) an actual yogi.


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Mom’s World

Countdown Time

I can remember my anticipation of the holidays as a child. Time seemed to move immeasurably slow

when waiting for Christmas. Living in Pennsylvania, we frequently had snow prior to school dismissing for the holidays, which meant that sledding and snowmen unfairly signaled the arrival of winter — well before Christmas brought forth its many blessings. While aware of the gifts that were typical of this time of year, I can’t say that that was my overwhelming focus. Of course, I enjoyed the surprises that found their way under our tree and had a list of requested items from Santa. But, I remember the beautiful lights, Christmas Eve church service with my grandparents — and early morning stocking-raiding at my grandparents’ house — as the hallmarks of the holiday. It felt like a gradual build-up of excitement that arose with the beginning of December, with very little connection to shopping or spending. Nowadays, the jack-o-lantern has barely lost its light when the tinsel of holiday displays bombards you, highlighting what gifts you “must” buy early to beat the crowds. Black Friday tempts us with sales too good to pass up. There is a whirlwind of activity and an overt focus on consumerism that crescendos over the first three weeks of December — only to



then bring us to somewhat of a crash (like a post-sugar rush that plummets), on Dec. 26. This holiday time warp seems amplified when you are a child. How do you explain that truly a holiday is six weeks away if the mall displays counter with something completely different? My youngest son, Ben, is now in kindergarten and has clearly honed in on the days of the week and months of the year. He lays his schedule out plainly and matter-of-factly with statements like, “Today is Monday.” “Thursday is in three days.” “Thursday is my soccer game at 5:30, Momma I hope you can come,” followed by, “Sunday is my wrestling day and that’s in six days,” followed by, “December is when my birthday is.” Unfortunately, the abstract concept of time measurement of one month — or two — is beyond his 5-year-old brain, particularly when speaking of his birthday. Days are fathomable. Distinguishing weeks and months is not. In one breath, Ben will say “December is in two months,” and then, “My birthday is next week.” He will ask

repeatedly, “How many days until my birthday?” Then, as if an exclamation, he states, “I will soon be six. De. 7, that’s my birthday.” My husband, who is not a great fan of the over-commercialism of so many holidays, will often declare, “That happens every other year,” to questions about the timing of either Christmas or even Ben’s birthday. Of course, Ben will then approach me and ask with an air of concern, “Daddy’s just kidding, right Momma?” “Of course,” I reply. I’m hoping this year to try to avoid the cultural mania that surrounds Christmas in this day and age. Truthfully, I find the industrial compulsion to spend, oftentimes spending beyond our means, a frightful reality. I would prefer to feel the spirit of the season moving me through the emotions of joy, peace, and giving without insisting that these necessitate a credit card or checkbook. I love to decorate our tree, watch the old versions of “Rudolph,” the Grinch and

Frosty, bake cookies with my kids using my grandmothers’ recipes, and watch my children open their presents. Like any parent, I want to give my kids things they desire and to sustain their belief in the magic of Christmas. Even so, I hope that I can try to instill in my children that creating gifts can be even more meaningful than those bought, and that if we do spend, we will do so with reflection, intention, and within our means. There are many great local artists and locally-owned stores that are worth supporting, as well as many local charities that would welcome donations, time or talents in the holiday season (and year-round). Maybe Ben can help me keep track of how many days I have left for making, baking, donating and yes, I admit, a little bit of spending.

heather jordan, CNM, MSN Comments or questions? 828.737.7711, ext. 253



Brenda Lyerly A Heart for the High Country Brenda Lyerly has made a significant impact upon the High Country since arriving in Banner Elk in 1975 as the bride of native son, Alexander Banner Lyerly. The couple had met in Houston, Texas, while she was in undergraduate school and he was in law school. As the oldest of five children, Brenda was born in Southern Illinois, where she lived until graduating from high school. “I go back regularly to see my 86-year-old mother and other relatives, who still live there,” she says. As a young girl, Brenda aspired to become a flight attendant, a dream she fulfilled for three years with Delta Airlines before returning to college and meeting her future husband. “I had not been out of the Midwest, so being able to travel across the United States was truly a gift for me,” she says. As a newlywed moving to Banner Elk, she says, it took her a while to find her niche through office administration, banking and real estate. “I was trying to find what I wanted to do, but it found me, instead,” she says. Brenda recently retired from Appalachian State University as Senior Associate Director of Admissions with 21 years of service. She worked for 30 years in higher education, including seven years as Dean of Admissions at Lees-McRae College and two years as Enrollment Services Specialist at Mayland Community College. Brenda is now in her first term as mayor of Banner Elk, a role in which she takes great pride. “This is such an honor to be the mayor of a wonderful small town with great quality of life and good, caring people,” she says. “My job is easy because we have a dedicated town manager, Rick Owen, and very efficient staff members,” she says. “There are no partition politics or personal agendas within our town council, which is made up of people who genuinely care about the betterment of Banner Elk. They make me look good.” When asked to describe Brenda’s impact upon Banner Elk, Rick Owen says, “Mayor Lyerly brings to the town a graceful leadership. Her ties to Banner Elk create a true care and concern for the community and its well- being.” Rick says that Brenda sees “the many sides to issues before her and does her part to guide the Town in the right direction.”

Photos by Sherrie Norris

Her involvement in activities and organizations in the area, he says, “helps endorse the positive image of Banner Elk that we all want to see.” Brenda was asked to serve on the Banner Elk Planning Board in the early 1980s, which she did for two years before moving to the town’s board of adjustments. She has served with three different mayors and six town managers. “Since Alec’s family were the Banners and the Lowes who settled in the Elk Valley, I felt an obligation to help with the preservation — and with the future — of this wonderful, historical town,” she says. In 1987, when one of the town council members resigned, she filled the position. When that term ended, she ran, with opposition, for her first elected term. She received the high vote, became mayor pro tem and “proudly served on the council” until her mayoral election in November 2011,” she says. Brenda was encouraged by (the late) Charles VonCanon, who served as Banner Elk’s Mayor for many years, to accompany him to Raleigh to visit legislators and become more involved. “When he retired from politics in 1995, he asked me to take his place on the board of the High Country Council of Governments,” she says. “He taught me so much about networking throughout the state in order to provide the resources needed to make Banner Elk a better place.” “Brenda Lyerly has been a valued member of the High Country Council of Governments (Region D) Executive Board for 17 years and currently serves as chair of the Rural Transportation Advisory Committee, secretary of the council, a member of the HCCOG Advisory Committee and is also a member of the HCCOG’s Hall of Fame,” said Rick Herndon, executive director. “We are appreciative and honored by Brenda’s service to Region D, her commitment to Banner Elk — and the region — and the leadership that she has shown through the years.”

The Town She Serves

Reflecting upon Banner Elk’s growth Brenda says, “There are many talented people in our area, and we have done our best to use their talents to help us along.” “We have established a land use plan and a streetscape plan, which we have followed,” she say, the former, along with the pedestrian plan, nearing completion, are among the town’s recent accomplishments, she says. “We have wonderful brick sidewalks, benches and street lamps and banners for all seasons to line our streets. We have switched to LED lighting, as our town goes greener. We have greenway trails in this plan and plans for extending them. We are doing our best to incorporate bicycle trails and we have a recreation master plan.” The town park, used by locals and visitors alike — with a dog park, a walking track, playgrounds and picnic areas,” she says, also has a band shelter and free concerts on Thursdays in the summer.” Because of the park’s “volume of usage,” Brenda says, there are plans for expansion. In 2000, the Town of Banner Elk received a $350,000 grant from the Clean Water Management Trust Fund to implement storm water management in the downtown area, she says, to be used in conjunction with the master streetscape plan. The system has brought statewide attention to the advanced measures Banner Elk has taken to protect the environment and the Town, a “creative fruition,” she describes, accomplished through the town’s partnership with Wendy Patoprsty from the North Carolina State Cooperative Extension Office. “We have also renovated the sewer plant, upgraded the water system and increased storage capacity, and have completed a stream restoration project,” she says. In 2003, Banner Elk formed a Chamber of Commerce, made up of merchants and interested individual members, “located right at our only traffic light,” she says.

‘I have overcome some fairly big obstacles in my life, as all people do, but it all made me a stronger person.’



The new Banner Elk Elementary School built with energy-saving elements, now in its second academic year, she says, provides all students with laptops and classrooms with smart boards. Among other town developments, Brenda mentions Lowe’s Hardware and a new ambulance station. “Lees-McRae became a four-year college in 1990 and Banner Elk became a second home market with residential development,” she says.

Volunteering From The Heart

Brenda is a member of the board and executive board for the Banner Elk Museum and the Banner Elk Historical Society, which opened in 2007. “I was not involved at the project’s inception, but the town supported this effort, financially,” she says. The museum gathers all of Banner Elk’s history in one place for the educational benefit of school groups and visitors alike, and “a wonderful tool” to help people find information about their relatives. Her long list of volunteer service includes that to the High Country Bank Advisory Board, the foundation board for the Diocese of Charlotte Catholic Church and the Banner Elk Heritage Foundation’s executive board. She and her husband are members of St. Bernadette Catholic Church in Linville, through which she coordinates a monthly meal for 100 at the Hospitality House. Of her volunteer work, she says, none is more important to her than her years of service for the Hospitality House. “In 1995, Kay Borkowski, whose husband was the new chancellor at Appalachian State University, invited a large group of ladies to her home. She told us that no one ever intentionally chooses to be homeless and that it could happen to any of us,” she says, “and that illness and large medical bills or loss of a job or any number of incidents could begin the spiral. Kay formed the Hearts of Hospitality, an auxiliary organization to raise funds for the homeless shelter.” That meeting opened Brenda’s eyes to the plight of the homeless in the High Country —and led to her role as president of “Hearts,” as well as to a seat on the Hospitality House board of directors. She was board chair during the capital campaign to raise the funds for the new facility; she is currently in her fourth two-

year term on the board. “I am amazed at the talented people who end up homeless,” she says. “I feel fortunate to be a part of an organization that helps people in seven counties with the avenues needed to get back on their feet and back into the workforce and into their own home.” Even if people are not homeless, they could be on the edge, Brenda says. “We have a food pantry from where people can take food home to their families. We help people with heating bills and rent when needed,” she says. “Anyone can come for a meal and do their laundry, without being a resident of the Hospitality House.” Times are tough, Brenda says as evidenced by seven families now living at the shelter. “The number of children has made it necessary to add daycare and after-school programs to accommodate the needs,” she says. Brenda is “always amazed” at the generosity of High Country residents. “They open their wallets and they give of their time and talents,” she says. “Those fortunate enough to have more — and are sharing with those who need a hand up — are doing what the Lord expects.”

Importance of Education

Brenda completed her bachelor’s degree at the University of Houston and later, her master’s degree at Appalachian State University at night, while working during the day. She knows the importance of education and is pleased that her career path led her to guide many students to a better future for themselves. “It can be overwhelming for adult students, transfer students, as well as first time freshmen, to gain admission to the right school and find the financial support and personal support they need,” she says. “I still have parents who thank me for helping their son or daughter to get into college.” She is also “regularly thanked” by former students who are now successful business people. “I know these students had the ability to succeed on their own, but sometimes people just need someone to assist them along the way. It is fulfilling to know that I had a part in fulfilling dreams,” she says. Brenda has worked hard to become the

woman she is today. “We do not know where people have been before they arrived at their spot in life now,” she says. “I have overcome some fairly big obstacles in my life, as all people do, but it all made me a stronger person. It is easy to look at someone and presume that they have it so easy.” She feels that it is her duty to “give back,” she says. “I am in a position to be so involved in the community because I am fortunate to have enough to eat and have a warm home. I am not in fear of daily physical and mental abuse, I am in good physical health, and was granted the ability to receive a good education so that I could choose a fulfilling career.” She also has a supportive husband who has inspired her and encouraged her to achieve whatever she chooses to attempt. “Not all people have these blessings. I feel I have an obligation to help others who do not enjoy these same blessings,” she says. While she has received countless commendations for work, Brenda says, her “most coveted achievements” are those students she helped along the way — “and those young employees whom I had an opportunity to mentor as they transitioned from college graduates into working professionals.” Brenda has little time for hobbies, but she loves travelling, music, theatre and collecting (elephants, pottery, art, especially local and Scottish-inspired); cooking and decorating. She has “redone” her home, room-by-room, which is the family’s historic Banner House built in 1860, that sits along Main Street. Brenda also has a real estate license and continues to oversee the rentals and renovations, as needed, of her family’s personal properties. She loves gardening and flowers and belongs to the Blue Ridge and Banner Elk Garden Clubs. “Visual beauty gives me joy, she says.” In addition to her husband, the “loves of my life,” she says, are the couple’s Scottish Terriers, Cooper and Gracie, a continuation of their family’s Scottish heritage, which they hold dear.

sherrie norris Editor, All About Women



In our fast-paced, technology-driven world of instant commu-

High Country Courtesies

Teaching Children to Write Thank You Notes

nication, the classic tradition of handwritten thank you notes has waned. However, thank you notes never go out of style. Upon receiving a gift or an act of kindness, a courteous response expressing gratitude is always the proper and polite thing to do. A special message of appreciation communicated by a hand-written thank you note has long-lasting impact. Not only does a written note show others that their efforts matter — and are appreciated— the gesture of a note also reflects that the sender is indeed a considerate and grateful person as well. Thank you notes can be held, reread and displayed as an enduring reminder of our connection. By teaching children the art of writing these notes notes, we introduce them to a tool for creatively expressing their gratitude that will build positive relationships. The following tips may provide assistance in motivating and teaching children to write thank you notes.

Be a grateful role model. Remember, “More is caught than taught.” Use real-life situations as teaching moments. When receiving a thank you note, express how pleased you are to be acknowledged for your efforts. When writing notes, explain why you want your benefactor to know you appreciate their



kindness. Ask a close relative or family friend who receives your child’s note to reinforce how they valued the child’s words of appreciation. Make sure children know that both male and female adults continue to write thank you notes. Once children can read, send these notes to them regularly, praising them for their contributions and efforts.

Start early. Cultivate an attitude of gratitude in children as soon as they begin to understand gift giving. Until they are able to write, encourage them to dictate notes while you scribe for them. Talk them through the process, explaining that while they hold the gift and talk about what they like most about it, you will write for them. Length is not important; simplicity and sincerity are the guidelines. Have them scribble their “signature” on the note. Include a photo or drawing to further personalize the note.

Make it fun. Write thank you notes as a group activity using interesting materials. For beginning writers, fill-in-the-blank notes are a manageable step. Progress to lined pages with stickers and decorations. Having unique writing instruments and stationery set aside specifically for the occasion makes the assignment all the more a special event. Focus on the gift of appreciation you are sending the benefactor.

Make it timely. The sooner, the better. Consider a policy of saying “Thank you’ before using gifts. Utilize their excitement over gifts to motivate them to respond quickly. When a written note may require more time, an e-mail or phone call can serve as initial acknowledgement, to be followed by a handwritten note when possible. While a prompt response is optimal, know that late recognition is always preferable to no acknowledgement.

Be Real. Understanding that the world today’s children will inherit is technology driven, you might expect that an increasing amount of their communication will be accomplished via wireless technology. While e-mail and text messages are fast and affordable, they are less formal than handwritten notes. When time is of the essence, or when responding to someone who communicates primarily through texting/e-mail (i.e: their friends), these are newly acceptable modes of expressing g gratitude. However, there will be many o occasions warranting hand written thank y notes. By equipping children with the you f fundamental skills of handwritten notes, t they will be prepared to move between the f formal and informal modes with ease. Teaching children the responsibili of graciously reacting to a kindness or ity d deed is a life skill that will serve them well t throughout their personal, business and s social lives. Acknowledgement of kindn ness and generosity fuels a two-way street o respect and esteem, strengthening conof n nections and generating goodwill. In this h holiday season, consider teaching your c children the graces of thank you notes a g that will continue to enrich their lives. gift

Sharon Carlton Sharon Carlton, High Country Courtesies ©2012 Director of High Country Courtesies, writes and speaks on modern etiquette and life skill topics. Conducts customer service workshops, hosts dining etiquette classes, and is Director of High Country Cotillion, a social education program for youth. Contact her at

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On The Seine A Sweet Feast


It’s Christmastime and we’re steaming up the River Seine near Paris on a river ship called the Bizet, delightedly identifying huge balls of mistletoe growing in the trees onshore. We’re still marveling at last night’s breathtaking view of the Eiffel Tower wrapped in white Christmas lights, the Cold Full Moon gleaming in the background. How much better can this get? I’ve dreamed of spending Christmas in some foreign place. Now I’m getting the chance. Onboard we’re treated to a French lesson, a talk on French impressionism, a discussion of French cheeses, and a baking lesson on making galettes de Roix Troix, a special puff pastry cake for Twelfth Night. Hiding in someone’s piece is always a figure of the baby Jesus. We dock in Rouen, visiting the cathedral of Notre Dame, bombed out in World War II, and the spot where Joan of Arc was burned at the stake. We sample the quintessential French Christmas cookie, the macaroon, a chocolate cloud. We’re given larmes du Sainte Joan, teardrops of St. Joan of Arc. At the Rouen Christmas market, we try pain d’epice, a dark-chocolate gingerbread donut, and buy chocolatecovered gingerbread Santas as special gifts for a children’s choir that is to sing for us. Back onboard ship, we’re treated to hot cider and another gingerbread donut. We dock in Vernon where 100 children clamber aboard to sing Christmas carols. They’re angels, but their singing could not be more off-key. They like our gingerbread Santas. We disembark for a home-hosted visit with Nicola and Mireille in their 200-year-old house. They share Christmas tea, quince jelly, langue de chat (cat’s tongue — ladyfingers!) and apple galette. A warm welcome! On Sunday morning we visit the seventh-century Benedictine Abbey of St. Wandrille. It’s Gaudete (Joy) Sunday, so there’s beautiful organ music to accompany the monks’ Gregorian chant. Christmas, for sure. Our final night on the Bizet is the captain’s dinner, with a baked Alaska parade and a program of Christmas carols sung in Polish, Czech/Slovak, English, Portugese, Bulgarian, Romanian, German, Dutch and French by the international wait staff. We put shoes outside our cabins for St. Nicholas’ visit. I get an Eiffel Tower key chain. Big deal. Next morning we disembark; several of us are headed for a three-day post-trip in Provence. We arrive in Aix-en-Provence amid the Christmas bustle: another huge Christmas market and a Santon factory where clay figures of the Holy Family and caricatured village people are created for elaborate manger scenes. We try calissons, the Provencal Christmas cookie, halfmarzipan, half-communion wafer. We visit charming countryside markets, buying bags of herbes du Provence (rosemary, basil, tarragon, and lavender). We chew fig caramels, a special Christmas candy.

At an olive oil festival, we taste many oils and buy ornaments of olive branches decorated with cinnamon and dried fruit. Best of all is the flower market in a city square, with every kind of flower imaginable, for sale. Flowers for the French are a must for Christmas. Evelyne, our leader, shares Christmas customs of southern France. Christmas is a religious celebration, the main event being Reveillon, the Christmas Eve Mass and dinner following. The big dinner includes goose liver, oysters, turkey, smoked salmon, dried apricots and figs, candied fruit, nougats, calissons, olive oil bread, and, last of all, 13 desserts to represent Jesus and the twelve disciples. By the time we bid farewell to France and prepare to fly home for our own Christmas celebrations, we feel we have truly experienced Joyeauxes Fetes, Joyeaux Noel!

sue spirit Writes poetry and essays about nature, spirituality, writing, and travel. She has a little cabin in the mountains.

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‘High Country Headwaters’ An Anthology By High Country Writers High Country Writers has recently published its first anthology, since it was organized in 1995. Net proceeds from the group’s collaborative endeavor —“High Country Headwaters” — will be donated to support Appalachian Regional Libraries, which, like many of throughout the United States, have experienced funding cuts. HCW has also recently donated $1,000 from membership dues to help ameliorate the pain of the cutbacks, targeting the funds specifically to the acquisition of youth books. This prolific writers’ club originated as a romance writers’ group, founded by novelist Maggie Bishop, who placed an ad in a newspaper seeking others interested in writing romance novels. Of the 13 people who responded to her ad, six became founding members and began meeting in the conference room of Boone Town Hall. By 1998, the group had more than 30 members — more than the conference room could accommodate — so the writers began meeting at the Watauga County Public Library, a tradition, which continues today. By that time, members were writing in all genres — mystery, romance, poetry, nonfiction, civil war fiction and non-fiction, young adult fiction, memoir, Appalachian fiction, Appalachian women’s writing, and historical fiction — to name



a sampling. The umbrella of romance writers fell away to include the diversity of its membership and the name High Country Writers was adopted. Presently, HCW boasts 70-plus members of women and men, with backgrounds as diverse as the inhabitants of Boone itself. Membership is open to anyone with a serious desire to write and to publish, as well as persons working in areas of support, such as editing or design. While the majority of HCW members are women, the male membership is alive and thriving. HCW also encourages young writers to become involved. HCW places an emphasis on helping its writers bring their efforts to publication by holding classes and workshops on such topics as manuscript formatting, e-book publishing, writing a query letter, the writer’s voice, and endless other topics invaluable to the aspiring writer. Many of the members have gone on to publish novels, memoirs, books of poetry, newsletters, and professional blogs and several have started their own publishing companies. Well-known and respected authors from across the country are often guests of HCW, discussing with its members their books, myriad aspects of the craft of writing, or the perks and pitfalls of writing, as a career. Member critiques are an important

part of the club’s mission. Once a month, 20 pages of an unpublished manuscript are provided by a member, for which the group meets to offer advice and constructive criticism. While this process may seem intimidating, it is the collective wisdom of the group which helps to ferret out the flaws of a manuscript, finding awkward passages and incongruent plot twists, which often escapes the writer who is hampered by understanding more about the characters and plot than to which the reader is privy. HCW’s first anthology, “High Country Headwaters,” edited by Nora Percival, clearly expresses the diversity of its members through which 31 writers combine their creative insights to produce short stories, poetry, short memoirs and passages of prose totaling 41 original works. The authors appear in alphabetical order with no thematic structure. Although their experiences range widely, the one thing that unifies the group is its strong connection to Western North Carolina and the Appalachian Mountains. Some members are natives while many have relocated from other areas of the country — and the world. They have found their way to this small corner of the globe through different means and motives. Yet, here they are, digging in and setting down roots, searching for ways to express their feelings about


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their new homes, families, friends and neighbors. Some plan to end their lives here, others to begin. What they all share is a desire to belong and to contribute to the communities they have come to embrace and call home. “High Country Headwaters: An Anthology of High Country Writers,” vol. 1, is a window into the creative hearts of this purpose-driven group. Published in time for Christmas, it may be the perfect stocking-stuffer to not only delight the recipient, but also to serve the community by supporting its libraries. The book is available at Black Bear Books in Boone and in paperback and ebook on

Danielle Bussone Danielle Bussone is a writer, an artist and a wellness coach. Visit her blog at

About the Authors High Country Writers is an organization that fosters the growth and creativity of writers of all genres, offering its members support, constructive criticism and professional development. The group meets at 10 a.m. on the second and fourth Thursdays monthly at the Watauga County Library. Guests are welcome. Meetings are cancelled when the Watauga County Schools are closed for inclement weather. For more information about the organization, membership and calendar of events, please visit the HCW website at

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Be Well

Through the Holidays 36


‘Tis the season of handshakes, kisses and hugs … sniffles, coughs and sneezes. Sadly, the only way to avoid colds during the holiday season is to stay away from people who have them. If you touch a surface contaminated by a carrier of the cold virus, that virus is easily transferred into your body. There is no safe place. These hearty viruses can live for hours on door knobs, pencils, phones, skin, forks and spoons.

PURIFY * Wash your hands. Germs are easily spread on shopping carts, door handles and money. Being close to others — when they are sniffling and sneezing — provides an ideal opportunity to pick up their germs and innocently touching your face offers them a free ride into your body, Wash your hands with soap and water and keep a sanitizer in your purse for those times when you can’t wash your hands.

* Kick the bad habit. Tobacco and alcohol negatively impact your immune system.

* Disinfect your environment.

SIMPLIFY * Get your rest. The immune system requires energy to fight back against bugs and bacteria. Take naps and go to bed at a decent hour.

* Cultivate serenity. Stress inhibits the ability of lymphocytes, key immune cells, to proliferate or divide in response to foreign antigens such as viruses; it also squelches the activity of natural killer cells.

FORTIFY * Drink two quarts of water every day. This helps to improve the function of white blood cells and prevents the membranes of the respiratory tract from dehydrating. Try herb teas and/or hot water with some lemon juice and a slice or two of ginger. This is great for a sore throat. Ginger contains the immune-boosting mineral zinc, while lemons are rich in vitamin C.

Wipe down appliances such as telephones and remote controls to avoid infecting others and re-infecting yourself. Change the bed linens and bath towels frequently and use disposable towels in shared bathrooms and in the kitchen.

They are packed with vitamins and minerals that help support the immune system, providing antioxidants and vitamin C.

* Use a humidifier.

* Eat citrus fruits, a good source of vitamin C.

Viruses spread more efficiently in dry, heated air. Reduce their transport by keeping the air humidified.

* Increase vegetables.

If you consume your fruit in juice form, make sure it does not have sugar added,

and use in moderation so as not to elevate sugar levels. Elevated sugar levels negatively impact the immune system.

* Eat garlic and aim for at least a clove a day. Garlic has antibacterial properties and helps the body to ward off viruses. To keep from warding off your loved one, too, chew on some fresh parsley to freshen the breath.

* Eat your mushrooms — or take a mushroom supplement. Mushrooms contain compounds known as alpha and beta glucans. Lab studies are finding that the beta-glucans activate production of T-cells and “natural killer” cells, the ones that fight viral and bacterial infection.

* Eat lean protein. Protein is vital for optimal immune function.

* Eliminate simple sugars. Sugar can inhibit the ability of phagocytes, or white blood cells, to pursue and devour foreign antigens such as viruses and bacteria.

* Avoid dairy and bread. They tend to worsen the congestion during a cold.

* Supplement sensibly. One large study posted on WebMD shows that people with the lowest vitamin D levels report having significantly more cases of cold and flu than those with higher levels. Vitamin D is produced by the body in response to sunlight and is also found in fortified foods such as milk (Always check with your health care professional before making diet and lifestyle changes.)

bonnie church Certified Life and Wellness Coach Author/ columist, motivational speaker Certified Trainer for TLS Weight Loss Solution




Gifts for Men Unless you have been asleep since September, you are aware that holiday gift-giving season is upon us — Christmas and Hanukkah, complete with holiday parties and office gatherings — and you can no longer ignore the men on your list. “But, wait,” you are thinking, “This is a magazine for women.” True, but how many women have no men in their lives? And, ladies, aren’t you tired of struggling to find interesting gifts for husbands, fathers, brothers and sons only to accept defeat and purchase yet another Best Buy or Bass Pro gift card? We expect our men to pick up on our subtle hints about things we would like, yet we tend to go for the easy or convenient when it comes to their gifts. When selecting items for the men in my life, I tend to gravitate toward the useful but fun, the very quirky, or Star Wars stuff. After all, can one ever have too much Star Wars stuff? (Note: That was a trick question. There is no such thing as too much Star Wars stuff.) I like to consider hobbies, favorite bands, movies or television shows and wardrobe needs. My husband, Roger, received an early Christmas gift this year ahead of our trip to Aruba in November – new snorkeling gear. This gift served two purposes. One, he needed a new mask because his old one leaked. Two, we got to go snorkeling in Aruba without his mask leaking. Win, win! Other gifts that I have given Roger during the past year include concert tickets, a Dexter action figure, new putters for disc golf, coasters with album artwork from his favorite band and, yes, a Star Wars tee.



What about the men in your life? Do you have an artist or musician? A beer connoisseur or foodie? Maybe you have a handy man. Perhaps, a sports fanatic. No matter what categories your men fall into, my gift ideas are sure to amuse and delight. For the artist: Surprise him by turning one of his works of art into a T-shirt, note cards or a mug. Or, channel his creative streak with a pair of canvas sneakers that he can design, paint or otherwise make completely his own.

books that answer that question as well as providing exciting project ideas. He might even thank you with your very own duct tape wallet. For the movie buff: Hint, hint — 2012 is the 50th anniversary of Bond, James Bond. Let him relive the iconic series with a coffee table book featuring the exotic locales, villains and gadgets, not to mention the Bond girls. For the musician: Up-cycled goods made from old records will strike the right note – clocks, bowls, coasters and more.

For the beer connoisseur: He will be the toast of the town with specialized beer glasses designed to bring out the flavors of his favorite variety – pilsner, lager, wheat beers or all of the above.

For the sports fanatic: Score a touchdown with vintage goods or artwork from his favorite sport or team.

For the bibliophile: Books are great and all, but wouldn’t he prefer an action figure of his favorite author? Yes, they exist – Charles Dickens, Edgar Allen Poe and more.

For the superhero: Save the day when you pack his lunch in a Superman, Batman or Spiderman (or whoever his favorite hero happens to be) lunch box. If you can find it, one like he had as a child complete with thermos, may bring tears to his eyes.

For the foodie: Does he long to dine on the same foods as his favorite book, move and television characters? A fun, themed cookbook is sure to please – “Game of Thrones and Star Wars” for example. For the geek: There is no shortage of T-shirts to help him embrace his inner geek. But, why not go for something that sets him apart – socks, a belt buckle or a tie — just not a bow tie. For the handyman: What can one do with duct tape? There are numerous

Whether you consider one of my suggestions or seek out your own unique gifts, the men in your life are bound to be impressed by your thoughtfulness and creativity. Happy shopping!

heather brandon Considers life to be one big anthropological field experience. She observes and reports. She enjoys travel, food and wine and adventures with her husband, Roger.

Anita Gomez, a 12-year animal control officer for Watauga County, was named this week the North

Anita Gomez was recently named North Carolina Animal Control Officer of the Year. Photo by Sherrie Norris

For the love of

animals 40


Carolina Animal Control Officer of the Year. The award was presented at the annual meeting of the N.C. Animal and Rabies Control Association and caught the humble worker by surprise. “This is not really my cup of tea, but it was exciting, and I am very flattered,” Gomez said. Gomez was an animal-lover from a young age, but she said her job is as much about human interaction as it is animal interaction. Gomez lived in the High Country until she was in fifth grade, when her dad got a new job and moved the family to Wyoming. There she was surrounded by cattle and horses at her uncle’s ranch. After graduating high school, Gomez lived in Texas before deciding to move back to Watauga County to be closer to family. By then, her parents also had returned to the area to help her grandparents, lifelong residents of Beech Creek. About a year after moving back, Gomez said she spotted an ad in the newspaper for an animal control officer position and started the job in 2000. With a resume that included operating room technician — for humans, not animals — as well as veterinary assistant and employee of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Gomez was well-equipped for animal care and control. As a Watauga County animal control officer, Gomez picks up stray animals, deals with public nuisances and dangerous dogs, quarantines animals to prevent the spread of rabies and mediates animal problems between neighbors. She said she also investigates about three cruelty or neglect reports a week and on occasion has to enter the court system to rectify those situations. But Gomez said she prefers to work with residents through education and support rather than step into the courtroom conflict. “A lot of people think our customer is animals, but our customer is humans,” she said. Joanne Nelson of Vilas, a Watauga Humane Society board member who has fostered several dogs from animal control, said she met Gomez years ago and quickly recognized that she was “the absolute opposite of the dog-catcher stereotype.” “She really cares about the animals, and she really cares about the people, too,”

Nelson said. Proof of Gomez’s care for all living creatures came about five years ago, when she stumbled upon an elderly, blind man living outdoors in a lean-to that had been his home for almost two decades. She found the man in mid-winter while setting traps for feral cats. Gomez took him sandwiches and built up a rapport with the man before offering him a chance to stay in the bedroom of her son, who was gone to college. The man ended up living with Gomez for five years. During that time, he became part of the family, traveling with Gomez some Saturdays to volunteer at the shelter. They got his cataracts fixed before he moved into Deerfield Ridge Assisted Living, where he still gets visits from Gomez. In recent years, Gomez’s work has included assisting heavily with the merger of Animal Care and Control and the Watauga Humane Society for animal sheltering. That involved intense planning and outreach to increase spaying and neutering so that the Humane Society could keep its euthanasia totals low, she said. “It’s not the work of me; it’s the work of the community,” Gomez said. “It’s a joint effort.” Nancy Coffey of Boone said she used to walk dogs and volunteer when Animal Care and Control operated a separate shelter. She said Gomez would do anything in her power to get an animal adopted, including contacting rescue groups, arranging transports and calling friends to foster the pets. Coffey said she felt so strongly that she bragged about Gomez in a letter to the governor, who responded with a letter of commendation for her outstanding work. “She can go into a situation where people are so angry … and she can calm them down so easily,” Coffey said. “You couldn’t find a better person. That is not an easy job, and she has a heart of gold.” Gomez said her work has been a hard and sometimes thankless job, but she is proud to be part of a community that cares. “I’m blessed that I’m able to work in a community that is an animal community, that is full of people who are very supportive of animal control, of the Humane Society, of giving good care to animals, of trying to make a difference,” Gomez said. kellen moore

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With the arrival of winter, we automatically do all we can to keep our families warm and safe, but we also need to remember that our pets need the same basic attention. Mother Nature aids our furry friends in growing thicker coats, but we have a responsibility to nurture our pets through the cold and often harsh months of winter. The following tips, provided by The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, should help us celebrate this special holiday season — and beyond — with our happy pets:

1 Keep your cats inside. Outdoor cats are subject to ruthless conditions, getting lost or stolen and exposed to all that threaten wildlife during these frosty times. 2 Outdoor cats seek warmth under the hood of cars. When the engine starts, it can kill or injure a cat. Bang on your car hood before you start your car as it allows a safe exit to any creature snoozing under it. 3 Keep your dog on its leash and be sure its wearing identification tags. Dogs lose their ability to smell their way home in a frozen environment, which easily results in their losing their way.


Wipe your pet’s extremities when it comes inside from the cold, as paw pads easily bleed or crack from being in the snow or on impacted ice. Also, salt and antifreeze end up on their paws, which, when licked, can cause deadly results.

5 Keep your animals dry. If your pet doesn’t have a thick winter coat, supply a sweater or coverage from the neck to the tail and belly. 6 Never leave your pet alone in the car as your vehicle can become like a refrigerator/freezer, holding cold air in and killing your pet.

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7 Consider indoor paper training for puppies or animals more sensitive to the cold, due to age, illness and/or breed. If your dog is accustomed to venturing out, but is more vulnerable, be sure to accompany them and limit their exposure to the elements. 8 Increase food supply, ensuring ample protein in the diet to keep a healthy body from the inside out. Be sure to keep clean water available and in a location where it won’t freeze.

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9 Clean any spills from your car, remembering that antifreeze kills animals. Propylene glycol is a preferred ingredient over ethylene glycol. For more helpful information to prevent poisoning, visit www. 10 Ensure a warm bed for your pet — off the floor and away from drafts. A warm pillow, blanket and a human touch are vital. For more information, visit www.aspca. org/pet-care/pet-care-tips/cold-weathertips.

Genevieve Austin Genevieve Austin is a mother of one and received her teaching certificate from ASU. She is a writer who is working on her first book, ‘The Toy Box,’ and is also a radio personality, artist, singer and animal advocate.




avoid the circles



Dark circles, commonly occurring beneath the eyes, are considered a menace in the beauty industry, but can easily be treated and often prevented. Lack of sleep, stress, dehydration and simply aging are among the most notable contributing factors to their appearance. As with many conditions relative to good health — and mentioned in this column often — generous amounts of water consumption leading to adequate hydration, will not only help the entire body, but it also has a positive impact on our skin. When our skin is dehydrated, it tends to hold fluid, making the area under the skin swell, thus forming circles. Sleep is also extremely valuable as it allows the body to stabilize itself and the skin to transfer fluids to parts of the body that need it, as a way of self-healing. Natural remedies that can be incorporated into your skin care regimen are simple and easy. Cucumber slices, for example, can assist in decreasing

the appearance of circles, their cooling sensation to the skin helps reduce inflammation and swelling. Just put a few slices underneath the eyes for several minutes and you will be a believer. Tea bags, after they have cooled from use, is another tried-and-true remedy. When placed on dark circles, these bags have been known to reduce swelling and provide soothing results. Chamomile, especially, is known to have soothing properties. So, don’t let those dark circles wreak havoc on your holiday look. Just remember to get adequate sleep, drink plenty of water, keep cucumbers handy and hold on to your teabag. kelly penick Licensed aesthetician 828.773.3587

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Favorite Holiday Recipes from around the high country Coconut Cranberry Bars Joyce Rhymer, Deep Gap 1½ cups graham cracker crumbs ½ cups butter or margarine, melted 1½ cups vanilla or white chips 1½ cups dried cranberries 1 can (14 oz.) sweetened condensed milk 1 cup flaked coconut 1 cup pecan halves Combine cracker crumbs and butter; press into a greased 9” x 13” baking pan. Combine remaining ingredients; mix well. Gently spread over the crust. Bake at 350 for 25-28 minutes, or until edges are golden brown. Cool on a wire rack. Cut into bars. Yield: 3 dozen.

Christmas Cider Jewel Watson Vilas, NC 1 qt. cranberry juice 1 qt. apple cider ½ c brown sugar 2 cinnamon sticks 3 whole cloves dash of nutmeg Mix all ingredients and place in large Dutch oven. Heat slowly. You may add more sugar if you like it sweeter. Pour in punch bowl and serve hot and then enjoy.

Nutty Buddy Pies Glenda Norris, Boone 16 oz. Cool Whip 8 oz. cream cheese, softened 2 cups powdered sugar 2/3 cup peanut butter

Sugared Peanuts

1 cup milk

Hannah Smith Deep Gap

3 Tbs. nuts

1 cup sugar

3 Graham cracker crusts, plain or chocolate

½ cup water

1 tsp. vanilla (optional)

2 cups raw, shelled peanuts

Mix softened cream cheese, peanut butter, and sugar. Blend until smooth. Add milk and Cool Whip. Mix well and pour into the 3 piecrusts. Swirl chocolate syrup and sprinkle with nuts. Freeze pies in gallon-size freezer bags until ready to use.

Bring water and sugar to a boil; add peanuts and cook until water is gone. Bake on cookie sheet at 250 degrees for 30 minutes.

Chocolate syrup

Cranberry Pineapple Salad Della Pruitt, Boone 1 (20 oz.) can crushed pineapple, in juice, undrained 2 pkg. (3 oz.) raspberry Jell-O 1 can (16 oz.) whole berry cranberry sauce 1/3 can chopped walnuts or pecans 1 apple, chopped Drain pineapple, reserving juice. Add enough water to juice to measure 2½ cups. Pour into saucepan and bring to a boil. Add dried gelatin mix; stir 2 minutes until completely dissolved. Stir in pineapple, cranberry sauce, nuts and apple. Refrigerate until it sets up.

Christmas Cheesecake Cookies Karen James Vilas 1/3 cup dark brown sugar, firmly packed 1/2 cup granulated sugar, divided 1 cup all-purpose flour ½ cup chopped walnuts 1/3 cup butter 1 (8-oz.) pkg. cream cheese, at room temperature

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1 egg 1 Tbsp. lemon juice 3 Tbsp. milk, divided 1 tsp. vanilla 1½ Tbsp. green candied cherries, chopped 1½ Tbsp. red candied cherries, chopped 2/3 C. sifted confectioners’ sugar Line an 8-inch pan with aluminum foil coated with butter or nonstick cooking spray. Mix brown sugar with ¼ cup white sugar, flour and walnuts. Stir in butter, using a fork or pastry blender, until crumbly. Remove and set aside 1 cup of the mixture; place remainder in baking pan and press down evenly. Bake in preheated 350° F. oven for 12 -15 minutes, until just starting to brown. Remove from oven and allow to cool slightly. Beat cream cheese and ¼ cup sugar. Add egg, lemon juice, 2 Tbsp. milk and vanilla. Combine well. Add half the red and green cherries and stir until well distributed. Pour mixture onto baked crust. Top with reserved crumbs. Bake for 25 minutes until set and beginning to brown. Remove from oven and allow to cool completely. In a small bowl, stir together the confectioners’ sugar and 1 Tbsp. milk. Spread over the top of the cooled cheesecake, and then sprinkle with remaining red and green cherries. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes and cut into pieces.

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Annie Malone

A Christmas Story A work of fiction by Sherry Boone

The cold wind blew just hard enough to hurry the carolers from house to house. Soon the young people discovered it was difficult to sing as they walked along so they talked quietly as they made their way to the home of special friends, Jed and Martha Parsons. “I hope Jed has a roaring fire going when we get there,” Chase said. “I hope he invites us in to sing. It’s too cold to stand outside,” Annie whispered, as she tugged on her hat. “They will,” Chase answered. “They always do.” Annie Malone was sorry she had accepted Chase’s invitation to sing tonight. It wasn’t the cold weather. She liked cold weather but had recently lost her grandfather and the thought of Christmas without him depressed her. Chase had thought this night would brighten Annie’s spirits, but it had been hard for Annie to sing and he was sorry he had invited her to come along. When the group reached the Parsons’ yard, they began to sing, “We wish you a merry Christmas . . .” Jed and Martha’s grandchildren were spending the night with them. Martha said, “Listen, children, I hear singing.” Danny jumped up and looked out the window as Martha pushed aside the bowl of apples she was peeling. “Grandma, we have carolers. Can we 48


invite them in?” Before she could answer, Jed said, “We sure can, Danny Boy. We shouldn’t let them sing for us out in the cold.” He opened the door and said, “Come on in, young folks, and warm yourselves by the fire. I’ll put on another log.” “Mama,” Jed said, “anyone brave enough to come out on a cold night like this deserves some hot chocolate, don’t you think?” “Would you like to help me, young lady?” Martha asked Annie. Annie followed Martha into the kitchen. “I’m sorry about your grandpa’s passing, Annie.   I’m glad you came tonight,” Martha said. “It’s good to see you.” “Thank you, Mrs. Parsons but I’m afraid I haven’t done much to spread Christmas cheer.” Her blue eyes filled with tears as she took cups from the shelf. “I had the strangest feeling when I entered your home tonight.  It was as though Grandpa was there in the room with me.” “Why is that, dear?” Martha asked. “I don’t know,” Annie answered. “Maybe it’s the Christmas tree or you’re just lonesome tonight,” Martha said. “If I could be sitting with him right now, he’d probably be peeling an apple for me,” Annie said. “He could peel a whole apple without breaking the curl and I used to ask for apples so I could watch him do

that.” “Guess what? I was peeling apples for the children before you young folks walked in,” Martha said. “That’s what reminded you of your grandpa, I bet. It was the aroma of apples.” Martha put her arms around the young girl and said, “Let’s get this chocolate out to our guests before it get cold.” Annie felt the warmth of love in that home. She felt the joy of Christmas as she poured hot chocolate into Martha’s Christmas cups. Chase watched Annie closely as she sipped her hot chocolate. She was a lovely young woman with a beautiful smile and dark curly hair that softly framed her face. This was the first time tonight he had seen the real Annie. After the young folks had sung several carols, Jed asked, “Do you think we’ll have a white Christmas?” Annie’s mind drifted back in time. She thought of the sled her grandpa had given her for Christmas, years ago. She still had it. A scene returned to her memory. “Annie, go out on the porch and see it it’s still snowing.” Grandpa had said. “Grandpa,” she squealed, as she ran back inside. “There’s a sled out there. Is it mine?” “I reckon so,” he answered. “My word, I guess we’ll have to try it out, won’t we?   Get your coat and boots on, child.”

They played in the snow until both were exhausted. Suddenly, Annie was aware of Mr. Parsons’ voice. “What do you think, Annie?” “I’m sorry, think about what?” “The snow.  Do you think we’ll have a white Christmas this year?” “I hope so,” she answered.   “I love snow.” The Parsons’ granddaughter looked at her grandfather and said,  “Grandpa, could you be happy on Christmas morning if you didn’t receive a present — not one single present?” Jed thought a moment and answered, “Oh, yes, sweetheart. I could be happy. The gift God gave us years ago when He sent His Son into the world is enough to keep me happy.” When Jed said that, Annie realized she also had a reason to be happy. “That same joy is within me but I haven’t allowed it to surface since I lost Grandpa,” she thought. Jed asked Chase to please hand him his BIble.  “It’s on the table by the tree.” Chase got up, picked up the old warn Bible and handed it to Mr. Parsons.

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“Sometime during Christmas, I like to read the Christmas story to my grandchildren,” he said. “I feel, for some reason, I’m supposed to read it tonight. Do any of you mind?” “My grandpa did the same thing,” Annie said.  I looked forward to it.” “Good,” Jed said, as he turned the pages and found the verses he wanted to read about the birth of Christ. After he had finished reading, Annie said,”Mr. Parsons, could I ask a favor of you?” “Of course, child.  What is it?” “Would you read to us from the book of Isaiah, Chapter 9,Verse 6? My grandpa always read that verse after he read the Christmas story. It was our tradition.” “I sure will,” Jed said. Then, he opened his Bible, found the scripture and read, “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.” The glow of the fire danced of the solemn faces of each person in the room.  Annie wiped tears from her eyes, took a deep

breath and softly began to sing, “ Jesus, Jesus! There’s just something about that name . . . Kings and kingdoms will all pass away, but there’s something about that name.” No one spoke for a few moments. Then, Martha said, “Thank you, Annie. God blessed you with a beautiful voice.   Was that your grandpa’s favorite song?” “Yes, ma’am, she answered. “He asked me to sing it for him last year.” When the carolers bundled up, said their good-byes and went outside, Chase began to sing,”Joy to the World.” The others joined in and Annie was singing loudest of all. She still missed her grandpa, but her joy had returned.  The spirit of Christmas was in her heart again. Grandpa Malone would have been proud.

sherry boone Local writer who shares her personal stories with others in hopes that they, too, will be comforted by some of life’s sweet memories.

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All About Women December 2012  

All about women of the high country.