Breathing Moment: I miss the snow.

I grew up in the mountains where winter meant school would be punctuated by snow vacations. We went to bed on some nights when snow was predicted almost as excited as on Christmas Eve. And when dawn broke on a frozen white world, we couldn’t wait to get outside, sledding and snowball fighting and snowman-building. One of my favorite things to do actually came a few days after when the snow had formed a thick crust on top. Since we usually got several inches at a time, it was fun to try to walk on top of the snow. We’d compete to see who could take the most steps before falling through. As I was quite light back in those days, I was pretty good at this game. That probably wouldn’t be the case now.

Of course, now I don’t actually live in a place where you’d expect a lot of snow. For snow to fall in Eastern North Carolina, the humidity must be just right, the temperature must fall to freezing during a front, the heat miser must make a deal with the cold miser and everyone in town must leave their freezer doors open at the same time. Well, it seems that way, anyway. If we’re lucky, we see half an inch of snow maybe once a year.

I miss those snow days. The last snow day I really remember was in 2000 when I lived in Hillsborough and was six months pregnant with my first child. My husband and I were literally snowed in for several days by two storms. The snow was so deep we didn’t have a prayer of getting out of our driveway, and I would not be kept inside, although my husband worried about me falling on an icy patch. To this day I’m so glad I didn’t stay inside. I’m glad I got out and enjoyed that snow, even though we had to eat macaroni and cheese for several days because we couldn’t get to the store and the power went out and we had to burn a lot of firewood to keep warm.

If it snows near you, get out in it. Let the snow insulate you from the rest of the world for a day or two. Enjoy the sensation of not having to be somewhere, of having more time. Make a snowball. Build a snowman. Get wet and cold and then go inside and peel your soaked jeans off and put new ones on. That’s one of the most wonderful sensations ever! Then make yourself a cup of hot chocolate and sit by a fire, if you have a fireplace. If not, try sitting close to the heat register of your furnace. Breathe.

There’s something about being cold that makes us appreciate the heat more.

The Paths of the Heart (and a HONEOWP update), plus WINTER SOLSTICE only nine days away!

I’ve just come back from a long breathing moment. A vacation of sorts. We spent several days in Chapel Hill, N.C., while my boys went to lacrosse camp. While they were in camp, I tromped around the University of North Carolina’s campus in the hundred degree heat, dripping with sweat. And I loved every minute of it.

I graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill way back in the early nineties. I still remember the first time I set foot on that campus. It was in the spring and I was either a junior or senior in high school. My high school newspaper The Broadcaster had received several awards, including one for a story I wrote. The awards presentation itself is forgettable. But the moment I saw UNC is not. I fell wholeheartedly in love and I knew I wanted to go there more than anything else.

I still love that school. I spent six years there, walking every path it had. I know it like the back of my hand. I met my husband there, I got my first real job there in the R.B. House Undergraduate Library. Every step I made on that campus is part of my heart and I can walk them every day if I just close my eyes.

From Chapel Hill, I went home. The mountains of North Carolina. I walked the streets of my old hometown, Brevard, which has changed way more than UNC. But if I look close, I can find my footprints on the old sidewalks. Many of the storefronts are the same, although the shops behind them are vastly different. There is no dime store or Book Nook. The library I worked in for six years has moved to a much larger facility down the street. The movie theater is still there, as is the McDonald’s. And although Varner’s drugstore has a different name, the grilled cheese still melts on my tongue.

Those are the paths of my heart that run deepest. As I listened to a bluegrass band playing on Main Street, I looked at the sidewalk and remembered the times I’d walked or ridden my bike right over that same spot. I drove past my best friend’s house and remembered the hours I’d spent there with her, dreaming and talking, laughing and making messes in the kitchen. And I drove past the first house I ever called home. I looked right at the windows that used to look in on me as I slept during my youngest years.

We all have these paths in our heart. I cherish mine, even though the paths I walk most are the ones on the surface. I always know the deeper ones are there, and I can get to them whenever the pangs of homesickness strike.

Forgive the sentimentality of this post. I am, at heart, a romantic, so I can’t really help it. 🙂

HONEOWP Update: $25 donated to Bite-Back, Shark and Marine Conservation. August charity, continuing in the vein of beach conservation, is Oceana: Protecting the World’s Oceans. If you’re taking a beach trip this August, breathe in the salt air and think about what the world would be like if the water became too polluted to be near, or if the wildlife of the oceans were wiped out. If you’ve enjoyed the beaches at all this summer, consider giving something back to either of these charities.

WINTER SOLSTICE COUNTDOWN: Nine days!

EDIT: Oops. Turns out Bite-Back doesn’t take direct donations. So I purchased something from their shop and made July’s donation to Oceana, instead. My apologies for not reading their website more closely!

My Take on the Royal Wedding, My Mom and HONEOWP

Did you watch it? Were you one of the first to see Kate’s dress? Were you hanging on to every word of their vows? Did you hold your breath until they kissed?

If you answered yes to most of the above, you’re a true romantic, kind of like me. (I was NOT awake to claim to be one of the first to see her dress.) We were supposed to leave for Maryland Friday morning, and my poor husband had to wait impatiently for Kate and Wills to kiss before he could get me out the door! I still haven’t watched the whole wedding, but I did fast forward to the good parts. I was very happy for the two lovebirds and I wish them the best. Kate has big shoes to fill, but I think she’s up to the job.

Now on to my HONEOWP charity. As you know, my April donation will be a wedding gift to the royal couple (see HONEOWP and the Royal Wedding), and I haven’t received my April statement yet. I’ve thought long and hard about this month’s charity. May is a special month for love in my heart. Sixteen years ago this month I was getting ready to start my own married life. My daughter was born in May. And this time of the year is symbolic of new beginnings.

But mostly when I think of May, I think of my mother. (You know, that little holiday called “Mother’s Day”.) If there’s one thing my mother loves, it’s animals. She always has. I remember her feeding squirrels pounds and pounds of peanuts and birdseed when I was growing up, and she’s now very sensitive to the plight of unwanted pets. So, in honor of my mother, this month’s royalties will be donated to Best Friends Animal Society. I love you, Mama!

As usual, I’ll let you know as soon as I get my royalty statement. I’m hoping for a jump in sales as a result of a Lyrical Press ad in Woman’s Day magazine a couple of months ago, but we’ll see. I’m sure Prince William and Princess Catherine are waiting with baited breath!

HONEOWP and the Royal Wedding

How does my humble HONEOWP movement affect the royal wedding of Prince William and Miss Catherine Middleton? Well, it probably won’t have much effect. After all, I’ve only managed to donate the minimum to all the charities I’ve selected so far. However, because the royal couple has asked for donations to charities instead of gifts, I’ve decided to take part in my own small way. This month, my HONEOWP charity is Earthwatch, one of the charities chosen by the couple as part of their royal wedding fund. For more information on Earthwatch, visit their website here: Earthwatch Institute. For more information on William and Catherine’s charitable choices, check this out: Royal Wedding Charity Fund.

Why is the royal wedding of so much interest to me when I live in America, where we supposedly have no royalty? Because of the morning in July 1981 when my mother woke me early enough to watch a fuzzy picture on television of a beautiful young woman marrying a prince. I was eleven years old and I had no idea what tragedy awaited that seemingly happy couple. I only saw a real live girl marrying her prince. Just like a fairytale.

Will I wake my 3-year-old daughter to watch Catherine walk down the aisle with William? Probably not. I will record it to watch with her later, though. She won’t fully comprehend what she’s watching, just as I didn’t, but it will be one of those moments we can share. I still remember that morning with my mother, and I can hope that my daughter will someday treasure the memory of watching this royal wedding as much as I do the wedding of Prince William’s mother, Princess Diana. Maybe she’ll feel like she’s watching a real live fairytale, just like I did.

Of course, we all know fairytales don’t exist outside books. But those of us who have been lucky enough to find our princes know that even if there’s no “happily ever after”, there’s still a lot of happiness to be had.

Happy Halloween


I’ve always loved Halloween. When I was a kid, I was always a princess. You remember those costumes from the dime store? (Remember the dime store?)

I grew up in the mountains of North Carolina and October was what it should be. A slight chill in the air, leaves rustling on the ground and dark early…like by five-thirty. None of this waiting around until six or six-thirty to see dusk. By five-thirty darkness had fallen and Maple Street (because that’s where everybody went to trick-or-treat) was full of kids.

The candy was great, but what I really remember was the sense of adventure from behind that cheap plastic mask held to my head by a slim piece of elastic. I remember my breath fogging up the inside of the nostrils and struggling to see through the eyeholes that didn’t quite match up to my eyes. I always felt that the real ghosts and goblins hovered somewhere just out of sight. My hand clinging to my father’s on one side and my little brother’s on the other side, I’d listen for them, but all I heard was the cheap satiny material of my long princess “gown” brushing against my blue-jeaned legs.

If I could turn my head fast enough, though, would I see the headless horseman ready to toss his grinning pumpkin head at me? Or a witch with a green face and a wart on her nose cackling from behind a tree? Or just a wispy white ghost … surely that.

I try to remember these things now. Trick or treating is much different. I’m on the other end of the state and quite often All Hallow’s Eve is muggy and warm. We usually spend our evening in the parking lot of the local church instead of going from house to house and my kids’ costumes are much better than my dime store princess costumes. But I know they feel that same thrill of being outside in the dark, that anticipation and feeling that just around the corner adventure might wait…

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On a different note, my friend Ellen Meister’s new and highly anticipated novel THE OTHER LIFE is now available for pre-order on Amazon. Here’s a link, if you want to take advantage: THE OTHER LIFE. I have read both of Ellen’s other novels with a great deal of enjoyment, and I can’t wait for January 20, 2011!