This blog is where I can pour out my heart with my longing for God.

Posts tagged ‘spring’

The Old Paths: A Manic March

**This was originally published in a similar form in The Stokes News on March 21, 2013. When the publishers changed websites a few years back, all links to archived articles were tragically lost. I am attempting to republish in my blog all of my columns that once appeared in the newspaper. I have updated this column to reflect life in 2016.

March--hello--spring

I have always told people that June was my favorite month. Yes, yes, I’m biased because June is my birth month. But I’m wondering if I might have to change my favorite month to March. With the madness of March, you wouldn’t think it appeals to me, but it does.

March madnessThe term “March Madness” is technically a reference to the intensity of the NCAA basketball tournament and the conference tournaments that lead into it.
But the phrase also pretty much sums up my life in March for the past several years.

In fact, this year’s March is downright manic. There is so much going on that you barely have time to breathe and sit a spell. (You, too, huh?)

Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that Easter comes in March this year. Most of us identify Easter with April, but every so often it hits in late March. That makes for a much busier month.

Add to that the fact that it’s time for my hubster’s adult baseball team to start practicing. Since my son is now on that team—having graduated from high school baseball—you will probably find me headed to practices as I did on the old paths of his childhood baseball career. Opening Day of the season is in early April, so March is preparation month. (My sportswriter friend Dennis says the sanctity of the first day of the Major League Baseball season demands proper-noun-like capital letters: Opening Day. I have taken the liberty of using the caps for my family’s season-opener as well.)

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My son Elijah batting for the Twins adult baseball team in 2015.

Let’s throw something else into the mix—Daylight Saving Time. On the old paths, DST started the first Sunday in April. But the U.S. government passed an energy bill in 2005 which changed all of that. Since 2007, DST has begun the second Sunday in March.

That may not seem like such a big deal, but since it takes a few weeks for most people to physically acclimate to the time change, it is an especially huge deal this year with such a busy March. Many of us may feel draggy, blah, sleepy, even sick once we spring forward on March 13. Yes, our bodies’ circadian rhythms are so delicate that a mere hour’s change affects us in myriad ways—even resulting in more heart attacks and auto accidents the first few weeks after the time change. (Let’s don’t claim that—okay?)DST--Frodo

So just when we need that extra energy—to start running the kids to baseball, softball and soccer practices; to fill out our tournament brackets and get pumped over “one-and-done” basketball games; to start dying ye old Easter eggs and plan the family Easter gathering—we are zapped, slammed, run over by a time truck that took an hour of our sleep.

But lest we become despondent, let’s look at the joy that is March. The energy-sapping time change has given us more time in the evening after work to throw ball with the kids, start tilling up the garden spot, sit out on the porch and feast our eyes on the forsythia.

Then there’s St. Patrick’s Day—a holiday I am particularly partial to, given my love for Ireland and for St. Patrick, that phenomenal man of God who evangelized the Emerald Isle. We don the springlike green clothing and playfully pinch party-poopers who refuse the wearin’ o’ the green. We eat corned beef and cabbage followed by doughnuts or cookies decorated with green icing. Some drink green beer and Irish dance in parades and Celtic festivals.

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My kids and I at our 2014 March 4-H meeting!

And if that’s not enough joy for you, there’s that most excellent and bodacious day of the year—the vernal equinox. Before you wrinkle your brow, let’s put it in simpler terms—THE FIRST DAY OF SPRING!

I would lobby to make this a government holiday and give everyone the day off. We should celebrate the day we cross the line into more light than darkness. “Equinox” is the word for the day of the year that the periods of daylight and dark are equal. “Ver” is the Latin word for spring, so we arrive at the “vernal equinox” when hours of light begin to outnumber the dark…..until the autumnal equinox in September.Spring--1st day

We should all wake up rejoicing on this day—the cold winter has ended, buds are sighted on the trees, early flowers are blooming, days are steadily warmer on the average. We need a day off to drink in this nectar of nature’s new life, to sip this ambrosia of nodding yellow daffodils and cheerful red tulips, to lap up every last morsel of morning birdsong and evening peeper sounds from the creek.

Who’s with me? Let’s march on Washington! (It’d be nice to see the cherry blossoms anyway, wouldn’t it?)

And this year, we get the added bonus of Easter in this manic month of March—a celebration of spiritual resurrection paralleling nature’s resurrection. In the midst of it all, we figuratively hold our breaths for the beauty that is to come: azaleas, redbud trees, dogwoods, lilacs and more. No wonder I have spring fever all winter long!

Yep, March is closing in on June as my favorite month. I could do without the chilly gales and blustery breezes, but there’s much else to be thankful for.DSCN2611

I have always said spring is such an evanescent and fleeting season that we must savor every second of it before it’s gone. The British poet A. E. Housman was only 20 when he realized the poignancy of how quickly spring is past. He penned a poem called “Loveliest of Trees” in which he speculated that he may only have 50 years of life left. And so he wrote:

“And since to look at things in bloom

Fifty springs are little room

About the woodlands I will go

To see the cherry hung with snow.”

No matter how busy this manic March finds you—watching basketball, perfecting the Easter cantata, practicing baseball—don’t forget to get out into the woods and imbibe the essence of spring before it’s gone.DSCN2609

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The Old Paths: Fight the Winter Blahs

**This was originally published in a similar form in The Stokes News on February 28, 2008. When the publishers changed websites a few years back, all links to archived articles were tragically lost. I am attempting to republish in my blog all of my columns that once appeared in the newspaper. Although much of this info is dated by now, there are still universal truths to be gained by reading it.

winter blahsIf you’re like me, you’re starting to notice the days getting longer and some daffodils prematurely pushing up through February’s hard ground. I actually saw a bird taking a bath in my birdbath today and nearly freaked out; I’ve never seen one do that in the 14 years we’ve lived here! And when I parked behind London Elementary School a few evenings ago, I heard croaking down at the creek—do they call them “peepers” maybe? The sound made me long for spring which is indeed right around the corner. Signs everywhere are pointing to my favorite season!

But until then I’m still working my way through the winter blahs. I’ve found some great ways to beat them. “American Idol” came back on in January, and that sure has helped. (I agree with those of you who say there is to be no idol before God, so yes, the title of that show bothers me. However, my family and I enjoy hearing excellent singing and critiquing below-par singing!)

A friend of mine declared vehemently in the fall that he would NOT watch such a cheesy show as “American Idol,” but I’ve heard he’s on the couch every Tuesday and Wednesday night as he boos Simon or agrees with Paula and Randy. He even headed up a “Fantasy Idol” draft. I’m quite impressed with the labor he went to—cutting out pictures of the Top 24 and working out an elaborate point system. My fantasy football season may have gone sour, but so far, I’m at the top of the leader board in the “American Idol” league! (Eat your heart out, Stokes News employees who beat me at Fantasy Football!)

My favorite-ever "American Idol" David Cook was on the show in 2008 when this column was originally published.

My favorite-ever “American Idol” David Cook was on the show in 2008 when this column was originally published.

Another excellent way of beating the late winter blahs is to have friends and/or family TV sessions to watch ACC basketball. It’s not quite as much fun as the World Series or football season was in my den, but it’s much better than watching “The Weather Channel” 24/7. (Then again, maybe not. How I love that weather stuff!) Somehow I have failed in my job as a mother—the fruit of my labors having produced two Carolina fans. It makes for interesting times when the Duke or NC State fans in our family get riled up. It’s a pretty even split around here.

However, my favorite way to attack those winter blahs is to get out into the community and be active. I enjoyed seeing so many of you at the South Stokes basketball games. And I must confess I was always disappointed during the varsity games. That gym should’ve been packed out instead of half-empty!

“I don’t have anyone playing on the teams,” you may say. Neither did I. Neither did Margie Dunlap or Carol Wiles. Horace and Brenda Boles stayed long after their granddaughter finished playing. Don and Nancy Lester could be counted on to hang around way past the time their relative played. The point is that it was great fun to watch, whether or not you had anyone playing. The sense of community unity was heartening as all races, creeds and genders pulled together for the common goal—a Saura victory.

For many years, my kids and I missed very few ballgames at my alma mater, South Stokes High!

For many years, my kids and I missed very few ballgames at my alma mater, South Stokes High!

Remember the days of Kenny Dennard when there was standing room only in the gym? They tell me the whole town came out to watch on the old paths of the 1920’s and ’30’s when the likes of my grandmother, Reny Richardson Smith, led Walnut Cove High School to victory. Athletics has always been a great common denominator for the varied types of people who inhabit our town and county. I encourage you to come out to watch your local teams whether or not you have a vested interest. You’ll find someone you know there in the bleachers, you’ll see some kid playing that you recognize and you’ll find that the winter blahs are lost in the cries of “Defense!” or “Let’s go, Sauras!”

I found the same camaraderie in London Gym this winter. How encouraged I was to be forced to stand at the door one night last week because the bleachers were jam-packed full! All to watch eight- and nine-year-olds play. That’s the spirit!

Even the little kids' games are exciting at London Gym! And it's free until tournament time.

Even the little kids’ games are exciting at London Gym! And it’s free until tournament time.

These kids are the future of our town, our county, our world. Watching them learn to play as a team, to be gracious in victory or loss, to compete with as much determination as Alan Iverson or Tim Duncan—this warms the heart, chasing away winter’s chill. And I doubt Iverson or Duncan goes running into Grandma’s arms after the game or high-fives Grandpa to be congratulated on the lay-up that finally went in! I’d rather be in London Gym during tournament week than at an NBA arena.

And it's not just boys. Girls play, too!

And it’s not just boys. Girls play, too!

I sat in that gym a lot this winter, often contemplating its rich history. I thought of the marvelous teams London High School must have had back in the day. Not discounting those incredible teams I have heard tell of, I was nonetheless encouraged now to see children of all races playing together on that floor. What a different world our children are growing up in—not perfect by any means, but coming along slowly but surely in the area of race relations.

Yes, I still get a chill when I hear the part of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s speech that says, “I have a dream that one day. . .little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.” Perhaps I am privileged enough to be able to see the dawning of that day, even on basketball courts in crowded gyms.

Children of different races play together at London Gym—something that would have been unheard of even 50 years ago.

Children of different races play together at London Gym—something that would have been unheard of even 50 years ago.

So how are your winter blahs now? Mine are rapidly disappearing in the warmth of what I’ve experienced this winter. Next year, take my advice and experience community unity with me. Support the children who will one day be your doctors, nurses, teachers, firefighters, accountants, etc. Basketball may be almost over, but early season baseball is just around the bend. Put on your earmuffs and scarves, grab the blanket and get out of the house. You’ll soon find that the winter blahs are old news and that spring has sprung once more.

Tournament season in the Walnut Cove Youth Basketball League starts this coming Saturday, February 27, 2016. Come watch these kids play; I promise you won’t be disappointed. We had a nail-biter there just last night!

The Old Paths: Walnut Cove’s Communist Training Camp

(First published in 2007 as “Walnut Cove past leads through shady territory” in The Stokes News under the name of “Leslie Bray Evans”)

Me with a small portion of Mrs. Binkley's daffodils which still bloom on the property.

Me with a small portion of Mrs. Binkley’s daffodils which still bloom on the property.

One of the “old paths” in the Cove leads through some pretty shady territory. I never promised you all sunshiny paths, did I?! Did you know there was a Communist training school in Walnut Cove in the 1940’s and ’50’s?

In the late ’30’s, William and Eleanore Hoagland Binkley purchased around 50 acres of land off Pine Hall Road. Mr. Binkley, affectionately known as “Bink” to his wife, was a lawyer from Lewisville who occasionally substituted at Pine Hall School. Mrs. Binkley, a very proper lady educated at Strasbourg University in Russia,* hailed from the Chicago area. It was speculated that this childless couple came to Walnut Cove because its rural location was an excellent hiding place for their agenda–to promote Russian-style Communism in the U.S., in hopes of a complete takeover.

The Binkleys lived for approximately four years in first a tent and later a slab building while improving their property. When J.D. Bray (my grandfather) moved his family next door in ’44, the Binkleys were well-established, living in a cozy log cabin and later in a comfortable modern home. Mrs. Binkley worked at Pellcare Nursing Home in Walkertown and would honk the horn of her vehicle–in later years, a yellow ’57 Chevy–as she neared her property each afternoon. Neighbors whispered that this was a signal to let her husband know it was she and not a stranger.

According to a decades-old article from a Greensboro newspaper, which detailed an FBI investigation of the alleged Communist complex, the Binkleys were conducting Communist training seminars at their farm, with perhaps 10-20 people in attendance at each session. My uncle Sam Bray vows to this day that Mrs. Binkley once introduced him to a young man who later became a much admired leader in the national spotlight. “The Little Red Schoolhouse,” as the training school was called, included singing, as heard by the Bray family as they worked in the fields nearby.

According to Mrs. Binkley’s father, who occasionally visited, the training agenda even included how to kill someone with a simple lead pencil. After he leaked information to neighbors about the the Binkleys’ Communist ties, Mr. Hoagland was never again seen, thus leading to unfounded gossip that he was “conveniently disposed of.” Bink himself was often gone to Tennessee for months at a time; locals speculated that he was a Union organizer, working for the AFL-CIO.

My husband in the bamboo forest planted by the Binkleys.

My husband in the bamboo forest planted by the Binkleys.

People of different races visited the Binkleys, and supposedly Bink held meetings at a Walnut Cove church in a failed attempt to organize area minorities. It was a common Communist practice in the mid-1900’s to reach out to oppressed minorities in an effort to recruit new members.

My daddy, Tom Bray, remembers a book that stood on the Binkley bookshelf–Why Russia Won’t Attack This Year. A picture of the Russian Revolution emblem–the hammer and the sickle–hung nearby. Once Bink was helping dig a grave in the Forest Chapel United Methodist Church graveyard when an area funeral home director drove up and loudly asked, “Where’s that ole Communist who lives around here?” Neighborhood men pointed down into the grave where Bink stood, shoveling dirt.

Grandpa Bray was eventually enlisted by the FBI as an informant, logging license plate numbers of visitors to the Binkley farm. It was usually after dark when FBI agents would quietly arrive at the Bray farm, parking at a nearby tobacco barn. Grandpa Bray would walk up to meet them and sit inside their car to give them information he had collected. A family friend who worked as a secretary for the FBI’s Washington, DC office, confided that she once stumbled across the file of an FBI operative with the name “J.D. Bray” on it!

I would love to know when and why the Binkleys planted bamboo in the mid-1900's.

I would love to know when and why the Binkleys planted bamboo in the mid-1900’s.

The Binkleys were ahead of their time in many ways. They advertised their shrub farm in The Progressive Farmer magazine. The exact name has been forgotten, but it was reminiscent of “Tulip Poplar Farm.” The Binkleys recycled, reusing everything they could–long before “going green” was hip. Mrs. Binkley warned people that white bread was a carcinogen–long before health enthusiasts popularized that claim.

The Binkleys were always kind to the Brays. Mrs. Binkley once cared for my daddy when he had a backset of the measles. When Bink saw Daddy shooting down at the creek one day, he called him “a regular Nimrod.” My cousin Tana and I would play dress-up and walk down to visit Mrs. Binkley, who would welcome us as if we were the grandest of ladies and suggest we all have a tea party!

Whichever family got the mail first from the top of the long driveway would put the other’s mail in a notch in a huge oak tree still standing in the Bray yard. How the Bray beagles would growl when Bink walked up to check for mail! Even after years of seeing him daily, those dogs never befriended Bink, so he carried a stick to fend them off.

This old tree--under which my family still holds cookouts and covered dish dinners--is the very one the Binkleys and Brays used to put their mail in the mid-1900's.

This old tree–under which my family still holds cookouts and covered dish dinners–is the very one the Binkleys and Brays used for their mail delivery in the mid-1900’s. The notch has now closed up and is very high on the tree trunk.

The Binkleys were, however, very fond of animals. They had trick goats, rabbits, red hogs, tame squirrels, geese, etc. Their dozens of cats ate out of the owners’ plates and were free to come and go into the house via cat holes that would slam loudly as the Bray dogs chased them! The Binkleys did not allow hunting on their property but did occasionally kill a goat to eat. The graves of two particular pet goats, Billy and Nancy, are still visible on their property. Neighbors called Bink “The Rabbit Man.” It was rumored that he put secret messages into the ears of his rabbits then shipped them all over the country.

More plantings from the Binkleys in the mid-20th century.

More plantings from the Binkleys in the mid-20th century.

When Duke Power began buying land in the ’60’s, they bought out the Binkleys. Before they moved out of the county, the Binkleys told Daddy to feel free to take whatever they left behind, including papers that detailed their beliefs. Duke Power used the Binkley home to house workers while building their steam station, but in the early ’80’s, the Binkley complex was bulldozed to the ground–destroying all evidence of a Communist training school that once existed down a shadowy old path in the Cove….**

*Strasbourg University is located in France, so perhaps the family’s memories of Mrs. Binkley’s education are faulty. I assume she attended the University in France and perhaps did some traveling in Russia during that time.

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Mrs. Binkley’s periwinkle now covers acres of ground on her old property.

**Editor’s Note: Today the Binkley property still adjoins the Bray farm, which is now owned by my parents. It still belongs to Duke Energy but is leased by my daddy for recreational purposes. The property is especially beautiful in springtime when Mrs. Binkley’s daffodils still bloom–the old-timey ones that give off such a fragrant perfume. Some even have double blooms. The periwinkle she planted perhaps more than 70 years ago has spread to cover the woodland ground with its delicate bluish-purple flowers. My family takes walks down there to see the beauty of the blooms each spring.

My children especially love the bamboo forest. Yes, it’s true–a small forest of bamboo, towering high into the sky, grows there where the Binkleys planted it long, long ago. Magnolia trees still flourish, along with the pampas grass the couple planted in the mid-1900s. The old animal graveyard is invisible to my eyes, but my daddy can still locate it. The beautiful cabins and outbuildings are gone, but both Daddy and Mama can take you to where the steps to them were located.

Who knows what plots to take over the United States were hatched on this very property?

Who knows what plots to take over the United States were hatched on this very property?

I am haunted to this day by the tragic loss of the painstakingly-built structures on the Binkley property. Duke Power made the heartless decision to raze it all to ground level for no reason that I can see, except to clear themselves from any liability. When they first bulldozed it, I assumed they were going to use the land for something. Yet 40 years later, it lies unused by that company–just as uninhabited as it was when the Binkleys took their last look at their little haven deep in the woods–a waste of what was once beautiful.

I long to find someone who can tell me more about this mysterious couple who were tried in a court of law for their Communist sympathies and activity. Google will take you to the documents from the court proceedings. (Type in “Junius Scales,” “Communist” and “Binkley,” and the records should show up.) But not much else exists to verify that William and Eleanore Binkley ever existed. My family and I, however, can assure you that they did.

***Here is an article detailing Mrs. Binkley’s death in Florida in 1991. This makes her sound like a hero. I figure that I would’ve liked her ideals a lot—aside from the Communist stuff.

https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1755&dat=19910417&id=TTgeAAAAIBAJ&sjid=Pb8EAAAAIBAJ&pg=6688%2C1474107&hl=en

***Here is a short article about the Communist training camp held on the Binkley farm. It is in the bottom lefthand corner and is about a Mr. Scales.

http://fultonhistory.com/Newspapers%2023/Jamestown%20NY%20Post%20Journal/Jamestown%20NY%20Post%20Journal%201955/Jamestown%20NY%20Post%20Journal%201955%20-%201206.pdf

Daffodils spread for acres on the old Binkley property.

Daffodils spread for acres on the old Binkley property.

The Old Paths: The Sap Is Rising

*This was published in The Stokes News in 2009 in my regular column, “The Old Paths.” Due to the fact that all Internet links were broken to our old articles when Civitas Media switched websites, I am slowly but surely posting all of my old columns in my blog so that they will be archived as they SHOULD’VE been on the newspaper website.

bradford pear blossom--Jones

Photo by a former student of mine, Angel Smith Jones, of Madison.

The ground beneath my Bradford pears in the front yard looks as if it is covered with snow. The blooms are already gone, although spring is only a few weeks old. My sunshine-yellow daffodils are holding on valiantly, perhaps knowing all the while that multicolored tulips are waiting in the wings to upstage them.

Redbuds next doorI hold my breath, waiting to exhale when the redbud trees burst into full bloom in the still shorn and forlorn forest. The dogwoods will be close on their heels. It’s not hard to spy the infant leaves still curled up in the arms of tree branches all over the woodlands of Stokes.

You might say the sap is rising.

If you attended South Stokes High School during the reign of Principal Vernon Kimbro, you’ll never again hear that saying—the sap is rising—without thinking of him. Just like “It’s snowing in Pinnacle,” the sap is rising evokes a reaction, a grin and perhaps, fond memories.

Saura

I went into “The Red Rooster” back in the fall and there sat two South Stokes alumnae, Kim Harger Christie and Felicia Cooper. They told me I should do a column on “The sap is rising.” I assured them I already had it planned for spring.

After “Snow in Pinnacle” was published, I attended a county commissioners meeting where my old pal Jimmy Via, now a principal himself, and another friend, Keith Jackson, encouraged me to write a “sap is rising” column. Others followed suit in an attempt to relive a collective memory. Shannon Fenner, my general manager, even told me that Principal Sherrill Doby continued the “sap is rising” tradition after Mr. Kimbro was gone.

Even if you didn’t attend South Stokes under the headship of Mr. Kimbro or Mr. Doby, I’ll bet you can identify with the subject matter. I guarantee you the “sap” phenomenon is universal and occurred at King High School, the Walnut Cove Colored School and up at Francisco School as well as Timbuktu High and Moscow Prep.

The sap rises everywhere.

One of my favorite old baseball movies is “It Happens Every Spring.” Yes, baseball happens every spring, but so does something else. The male of most species begins looking toward the female of the same species with that speculative look in his eye. The female begins to notice that she’s being noticed and lets it be noticed that she notices the notice.

young man's fancySprings turns a young man’s fancy, the old cliché goes. The actual quotation is “In the spring, a young man’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love” and comes from a poem called “Locksley Hall” by Alfred, Lord Tennyson. Ole Lord Al sure knew what he was talking about.

And Mr. Kimbro obviously agreed.

Some time around late March or even early April, students at South Stokes inevitably awaited the click of the intercom which would bring our principal’s voice. It wouldn’t be the Student Council president or school secretary but the big man himself.

And then we knew. And we giggled. And we eyed each other furtively and with some embarrassment as we sat primly at our desks. And we listened to the traditional springtime speech.

Mr. Kimbro would remind us that the sap is rising, not only in the trees outside but in young hearts all over the school. He admonished us to be careful what behavior we engaged in behind the lockers, in the bus parking lot, in the front lobby. He warned the young men to keep their hands to themselves and the young ladies to make sure that the gentlemen did.

There would be no smooching at the smoking area, no cuddling between classes, no liplocking in the library, no caressing in the cafeteria. Mr. Kimbro knew that Emma Racine deFleur was correct when she wrote, “In springtime, love is carried on the breeze.”

Let me tell you about the birds and the bees and the flowers and the trees the moon and the stars and a thing called loveNature has always been a point of reference when it comes to love. “Let me tell you ‘bout the birds and the bees and the flowers and the trees and the moon up above. . .and a thing called love.” Mr. Kimbro definitely took the tree analogy and went with it. He was right.

In late winter/early spring, the sap begins to make its run up the tree. This nourishing liquid of stored sugars is carried by a specialized vascular system up, up, up the tree to the leaves to help them mature.

As the wood ages, it doesn’t transport the sap anymore. It is called heartwood and gives support to the still-growing part of the tree, helping to hold it upright. The actual wood that carries sap is called sapwood and surrounds the older heartwood. The sapwood seems to be the most active wood, but it could never function if not held up by the solid, stable heartwood.

heartwood

Mr. Kimbro was our heartwood, giving us solid advice to benefit us and keep us safe when all we headstrong “sapwood” teenagers could hear was what comedian Robin Williams heard when he said, “Spring is nature’s way of saying, ‘Let’s party!’”

Christopher Morley, a writer in the early to mid-1900’s, penned, “April prepares her green traffic light and the world thinks GO.” When April arrived on the South Stokes campus, it was we students who were thinking GO and Mr. Kimbro who was wisely saying, “STOP!”

It’s April again, and the sap is indeed rising. We may be older, but the siren song of spring beckons to us all. May we all enjoy the beauty and hope that the season brings even as we fondly remember the words of our esteemed principal, Vernon Kimbro. What I’d give to hear the click of the intercom and his distinctive voice telling us all, “The sap is rising!”

heart on wood

Staycation #1–Pilot Knob Inn!

DSCN0329*With the rising cost of everything, including vacations, many people are opting to vacate closer to home. We call this new phenomenon the “staycation.” You stay near home but still get a vacation. I am doing a series of blog posts about fascinating places to visit that aren’t too far away from my home. (And if you live far away from me, you might want to consider taking a real vacation to come here and see these wonderful places!)DSCN0320

Each winter–around Valentine’s Day, conveniently enough–I begin to get itchy feet. By then, Ole Man Winter has been hanging around for a few months, and spring fever is already starting to sprout in my heart. Summer vacation past is WAY past, and summer vacation future seems eons away.

So what is the solution to this winter doldrums dilemma? SIMPLE! I bug the hubster until he takes me somewhere. Because we save our money for longer vacations in late summer, we have to find somewhere nearby to go in mid-February.

In 2012, I heard from a friend about a B & B that was only a half hour away from home–Pilot Knob Inn. We tried it out and were so pleased with our one-night “Valentine’s Getaway” stay that we took another trip there in 2013–this time in early March. Once again, we enjoyed our respite at this quaint, romantic retreat at the foot of Pilot Mountain–“Mount Pilot” for you Andy Griffith fans.

A view of the Knob

On the drive north up Highway 52, you are greeted by the looming knob that looks as though it could’ve been a volcano long ago. Before long, you’re off the highway at the Pilot Mountain State Park exit and nearly immediately turning into a secluded driveway. Not far up the driveway, you will begin to see rustic old tobacco barns. Just a part of the landscape? No! These are cabins for lodging.

The first year, we stayed in Cabin 4 which was further removed from the lodge and breakfast room than Cabin 1 where we stayed this year. Both had front porches with rockers–his and hers. I found Cabin 4 to be preferable because it had a balcony off the back of the upstairs loft bedroom.

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This is Cabin 4 where we stayed in Feb. 2012–more private but farther from the breakfast room. You could still walk it, but we two lazybones drove–ha ha!

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Here is Cabin 1 where we stayed this past March. It is very near the breakfast room–an easy walk!

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There is a neat stack of firewood on the front porch for that romantic fire in the stone fireplace later!
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The hubster has no problem relaxing on the front porch!

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The view from my upstairs balcony at Cabin 4 last year!

Both were furnished in a style reminiscent of the West–Montana, Wyoming and such. Both had a cozy sitting room downstairs with a couch, a couple of chairs, a small TV. For the cooler months, there is a stone fireplace with a free stack of wood on the front porch.

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The downstairs living area of the tobacco barn cabin–very cozy!

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You can see there are various means of entertainment in the room.

The hubster and I sat at the small table in the downstairs room and ate a takeout meal from a restaurant in the nearby town of Pilot Mountain. There are many choices of tasty food at various restaurants in the downtown section that is only a mile or so away.

For a late night snack of popcorn or whatever trips your culinary trigger, there are a small microwave and mini-fridge. For the early morning caffeine enthusiast, there is a coffeemaker with packs of coffee, tea, sugar, etc.

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We shared a cozy little dinner right here. Sweet memories. . .

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I don’t do coffee, but there is plenty here for those who do.

I can forgo late-night snacks or TV (although we did select a videocassette from the breakfast area to watch on the cabin’s VCR)–as long as I get to enjoy the Jacuzzi. Aaaahhhh. . .the Jacuzzi! Both cabins had roomy ones that worked well, although I liked the one in Cabin 4 better–easier for me to get in and out of.

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Jacuzzi in Cabin 1 this year–nice, big, fluffy towels nearby!

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The Jacuzzi in Cabin 4 last year–I preferred this one, although both were great!

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Me being my silly self in the shower (which I loved–just not fully clothed–ha ha!).

Up a flight of stairs was our sleeping quarters–a spacious loft. Again, the Out West theme predominated. How I loved lying in bed and watching the flat-screen TV (not a luxury I have at home). Since we only stayed one night, we didn’t avail ourselves of the storage areas–a wardrobe and chest at the foot of the bed. I loved the heavy-duty wood of all the furnishings.

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I want a wardrobe like this at home!

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Lying in bed watching TV is a rare treat for us. The upstairs loft was supremely cozy.

I did, however, avail myself of the Wifi. As a free-lance writer and columnist for my local newspaper, I need constant access to the Internet, so I was happy to have good online service. (And of course, I wanted to brag a little about my great staycation on Facebook!)

We found the large bed (king or queen? I can’t remember! Maybe king in Cabin 4 and queen in Cabin 1?) to be super-duper comfy, with great pillows and high thread count sheets. And I didn’t even break my neck going downstairs to use the potty in the middle of the night–ha ha! (Yes, I am used to having a bathroom on the same floor of my bedroom, but this was no big deal in the coziness of this loft bedroom.)

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That’s Superman there on the bed–enjoying his staycation in pure leisure.

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Who knew that the tobacco barns I grew up working in would one day function as romantic getaway cabins–ha ha!

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Me in total peace in my big ole bed in Cabin 4 last year. You can see how the furniture differs slightly from cabin to cabin.

I like to sleep late on vacations, but the temptation of a delicious breakfast was enough to lure me from the plush bed fairly early–8:45! And we even made it down to the breakfast room before they quit serving at 9:30. It was well worth every second of sleep I lost! And you paid no extra for it–price included in lodging rate.

The first year we ate at a table for two near the large open fireplace. This year we ate at the windowed wall that looks out at the swimming pool and right at Pilot Knob. Great views but an even greater breakfast!

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Our Valentine’s getaway breakfast by the fireplace last year.

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This year we got a table by the big window; it was occupied last year.

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The breakfast room is full of interesting local memorabilia and pictures–a lovely place.

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Love the high ceiling and glassed-in wall of the breakfast room!

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On both trips, we stayed on a Sunday night. Not many people in the breakfast room on a winter’s Monday morning!

We began with fruits, muffins, yogurt, cereal and other goodies at the well-stocked tables to the side. While we ate that, our orders were being cooked in the nearby kitchen. Eggs any way you like them, bacon, sausage, toast, Belgian waffles and MORE! The waitress (Kathy or Cathy?) was super-friendly and pleasantly conversational. One of the owners, Jennifer, helped us out the first year and was just as amiable and sweet.

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Looking at this good fruit and such makes me hungry right now!

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Believe me, breakfast is a veritable feast, with something for everyone!

They had t-shirts and such for sale (I regret not buying a tie-dyed one), and we settled up our bill right after breakfast in the kitchen. The atmosphere was casual and down-home. Some owners at places I’ve been are all uptight, wanting you to pay upfront before you even step inside your room. Not these folks. True Southern hospitality.

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From the swimming pool area, looking back at the breakfast room.

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The view from the window of our breakfast room.

Since I’m from the region, I didn’t take advantage of the cool places to visit in the area–Hanging Rock State Park, Pilot Mountain State Park, Mount Airy (the real Mayberry–Snappy Lunch and all), the Blue Ridge Parkway. I was satisfied to hike to the Swinging Bridge and enjoy the stream in the March sunshine. I was pleased just to sit by the lake and daydream of the spring to come. I was happy just to chillax in the gazebo across from my cabin and read a good book while enjoying the view of the daffodils just beginning to show their pretty yellow heads.

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A real swinger on a swinging bridge! The hike to it is very easy to manage.

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The nearby lake on a late winter’s day. . .

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Guests can canoe on the lake if they please. We did not but would like to one day.

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Dreaming at the lake on a Sunday afternoon. . .

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I enjoyed some quiet time reading a book at the gazebo across the road from Cabin 1.

We have not stayed in any of the suites or the Love Shack or either of the two cabins that allow pets. But the two tobacco cabins that we lodged in were just perfect for us. And the price was very reasonable for such a place and meal.

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This is a larger, private hideaway near the main lodge. There are several options for lodging here.

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The Love Shack has such an interesting vibe to it. It has a great view of the mountain.

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This is a luxurious suite at the main lodge. The ones there are more expensive but full of luxuries.

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This is the Yadkin Valley Honeymoon Cabin at the main lodge. It has gas logs and the biggest Jacuzzi of all!

I long to go back there for more than just one night–to be able to escape the demands of life and meditate on the Lord while enjoying His beautiful creation there at the base of the regal mountain knob. Maybe when the last of the five kids is grown or when they are between sports seasons.

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But for now, I will fondly recall the two trips I took to Pilot Knob Inn–the mini-staycations with the beloved hubster, the escape into an oh-so-brief hermitude, the peace of a cabin in the woods where God seemed just a little nearer in the quietness of the retreat.

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For information on prices and further details, visit http://www.pilotknobinn.com/

Into the light. . .

spring-forwardBlustery cold wind and the threat of snow the first week of March, sun and unseasonable warmth predicted for the second. This weather whiplash makes a body do a double-take. But if you find yourself feeling out of sorts in the coming weeks, it may not be the weather. It could be the time change.

Yep, it’s that time of year again–the time to SPRING FORWARD into Daylight Saving Time. In the wee hours of Sunday, March 10, you will lose an hour of sleep. But for the next eight months or so, you will have gained an hour of light each day. (Well, I suppose it all depends on when you get up, doesn’t it? Your life may not change at all, but the clock will.)

We owe it all to an Englishman who made the first real push for Daylight Saving Time (not “Savings”) in the early 1900’s. He was an avid golfer who wanted to be able to take advantage of an extra hour of light. His DST idea never really caught on.

Saving-DaylightThe real beginning of DST was in 1918 during World War I–for the purpose of saving energy–but it wasn’t a popular idea. It faded away only to resurface in World War II. During the ‘50s and ‘60s, different regions could do whatever they wished as far as observing DST or not.

Because of this freedom of choice, at one point in history, a 35-mile trip from a small town in West Virginia to another town in Ohio meant resetting one’s watch seven times! Finally, in 1966, DST became standard practice legally.victory--daylight-savings-time

Most areas of our country observe the time change. Some have been granted exemptions: Hawaii, Puerto Rico, Guam, the Virgin Islands, American Samoa and much of Arizona.

Be that as it may, DST is an annual fact of life for us, whether or not we want to spring ahead. Another given is that the change will probably affect most of us physiologically. Science has proven this conclusively, so get ready. I’ve always noticed that I feel draggy for a few days after the change, a little “out-of-sorts,” somewhat lethargic. I’ll bet some of you feel this apathy and exhaustion, too.

One explanation is that our bodies have their own clocks—something called our circadian rhythms. When the body’s clock is interfered with, bodily functions will naturally be affected. Take heart–the first few days are usually the worst. However, a disruption in our circadian rhythms can cause problems for a few weeks or until the natural rhythms of our bodies are reset and humming along in the new beat of life.

Princess Bride--daylight-savings-time-15355The time change can even be dangerous. Studies show that there is an increase in heart attacks immediately after we spring forward, as opposed to a decrease when we fall back in November. The number of traffic accidents also jumps up for a few days after the time change in March. (Once we acclimate to the switch, traffic accidents actually decrease, studies say.)

Here are some good tips I have found that help me adjust, since my body seems especially affected by changes in light. For some reason, standing in bright light early in the morning speeds up the regulation of the body’s clock. Some experts recommend limiting strenuous work for a couple of days after the change. (I’m okay with that; how ’bout you?!) Keeping a light schedule and driving less are also smart ideas.

Just think–it won’t be long before we should be sweet and energetic again after a few days of orneriness and slothfulness! And the added advantage is that we can stay outside longer at night after a hard day at work! YES! I am a DST kind of gal.daylight-savings-time-cartoon1

But just why do we need to make the time change each spring? I’ve always heard that we make the switch to conserve energy. In reality, studies haven’t proven conclusively that this is true. In fact, DST may increase energy use. People tend to do more driving with the extra hour of light. They golf and shop more. They even grill out more often. Just because we may not have to turn on the lights until later at night doesn’t mean we aren’t using more gasoline and/or power.

Despite the indications that DST may not avail us in the energy realm, I must admit that I heartily anticipate the extra hour in the evening. Isn’t it thrilling to be outside at 9 p.m. in June while the sun is still up? Yes, I always dread losing that hour of sleep when we make the switch, but it seems worth it to have the light. And when autumn comes, I never look forward to going back to “real” time.

In a sense, though, it’s all an illusion. Moving the clock forward seems to increase the light, but technically that’s not true at all. We still have the same number of daylight hours as if we had left the time the same. It merely increases our time frame–and therefore our opportunities–to enjoy the light.

And how we love the light! I believe that God–who is the Light of the World–created us to be creatures of the light.

Light works wonders for the body. Many people get SAD when the light begins to decrease in the fall. And that has a double meaning: sad as in despondent and SAD as in Seasonal Affective Disorder—a negative physical/mental disturbance caused by the loss of daylight. So doesn’t it seem logical that an increase in light would make our bodies react positively?

It sure works out that way for me. Can you deny the lilt in your step when the March days begin to tease us with springtime? Don’t you feel even more joyful to be alive on such days? It makes me think of a Robert Louis Stevenson poem I have often read to my children. It’s called “Happy Thought” and is very short: “The world is so full of a number of things, I’m sure we should all be as happy as kings.”

As the Cowardly Lion says in “The Wizard of Oz,” “Ain’t it the truth? Ain’t it the truth?”

That’s the way I feel, and I hope you do, too. The economy may still look dismal and politics are a mess, but when life gives us lemons, join me and let’s make some collective lemonade. We have eight long months ahead of us to enjoy an extra hour of light each evening. And spring arrives in just few days. I say, “Bring on the light!”spring is coming--purple

Your springtime is coming

Sometimes in the midst of summer’s heat, there comes a day like today–a day that seems to be set out of time. The humidity is suddenly incredibly low. Skies are the vivid blue of early autumn rather than the diluted blue of midsummer. The air is fanned by a gentle breeze that remains cool throughout this rare day when late June temperatures have plummeted from the mid-90s to the upper 70s.

When I awakened this morning and saw the type of day I had been given, I felt a special essence surrounding it. I was mentally transported to late September when summer’s heat gives way to pleasing temperatures. My 14-year-old daughter Abigail must’ve felt the same thing. She kept repeating, “It feels like fall!”

Even now at 8:08 p.m., I sit on the deck and marvel at the stellar beauty of the day. Little birds peck in my flowerbeds near me and chirp merrily. The begonia given to me by my precious Aunt Audrey last fall delights my eyes with its pinkish-red blooms. I think of how I wondered if it would live until spring when she placed it in my care last October.

But somehow–despite my tendency to let summer’s leftover hanging baskets die inside throughout the winter–this lovely begonia survived. And now it blossoms luxuriously, lending beauty to my summer days on the deck.

You know what? I feel like that begonia now. And I feel in my Spirit that many of you readers do, too.

You’ve been through troubles and trials in your life and you’ve wondered if you would make it through the long winter that seemed to linger. Sometimes the days felt mighty cold, and you would’ve given anything for a little warmth. You woke up many mornings to a gray sky of life and prayed the sun would somehow break through your circumstances. Maybe you are still there.

Well, guess what? Our God will never fail us or abandon us (Hebrews 13:5). Hang on a little longer; your springtime will come. God is intrinsically a God of redemption, renewal, revival, regeneration, restoration, refreshing. He wants to renew YOU, restore YOU, regenerate YOU, refresh YOU, revive YOU, redeem YOU.

Just like the begonia that struggled to make it inside a house when it longed for the outdoors, that often suffered from lack of water due to the dry winter air inside, that needed more sunlight than it could get through my bedroom window–you, too, will once again feel the refreshing spring air, soak in the spring rains, flourish in the light of the abundant sun.

Maybe you have already come through that dark winter and are currently being refreshed by your springtime season. Then reach out to help and encourage others who still linger in winter’s chill. That’s why I’m writing this to you.

Do I have trials and tribulations? Sure do. Are things perfect in my situation? Of course not–this world is not Utopia. Do I worry sometimes and feel gray? Yep.

But despite these things, I feel like the begonia. Today, I have been so overwhelmed by the magnitude of the gratitude I feel toward God that I had no way to express it. I have a peace I have never had before, a love for people that oozes out of me until I don’t know what to do sometimes, a confidence in the favor of God in my life that I never knew until I came out of that dark winter of 2007-10 (yep, that long).

If you haven’t gotten there yet, HOLD ON! Our God is indeed faithful and true. His plans for you are of peace and for you to have a good end. Praise Him even when the results seems to be negative. Contact me and I’ll praise Him with you and encourage you.

Some of you don’t feel that you deserve to be happy. Admit it; you don’t. You feel that you have failed God so much in the past that you don’t merit the good things He wants to bless you with.

Hate to tell you this, but guess what? You DON’T deserve the blessings. Neither do I. But our God delights to bless His children. Quit thinking you’re not worthy; that can chain up your blessings. Sure, we’re unworthy in ourselves, but the blood of Jesus has made us worthy.

So, yes, because of Christ’s sacrifice, you do deserve the happiness He desires to pour upon you. You got divorced, you say? You spent some years seeking fulfillment through alcohol or drugs? So you tell me you had sex before marriage or maybe even with someone else while you were married? You hurt somebody really badly in the past? You gossiped relentlessly about a brother or sister in Christ? You had a bad attitude a lot of the time while your children were little?

Okay, join the ex-sinners’ club; come have a seat on the front row with me and most everyone else in the world. We’ve all been there, done something similar to that in some degree.

Did you repent? Are you not committing that act(s) today? Are you working diligently, with God’s help, on your attitude? Are you trusting God to fully deliver you from any addiction that lingers?

Then move on and enjoy the life you’ve been given by God. What’s done is done, and you can’t go back and undo it. And if you feel that because of the mess you made, you really shouldn’t be happy now, then think again.

Our redeeming God doesn’t want you in sackcloth and ashes for the rest of your life. He doesn’t expect you to figuratively wear widow’s weeds forever because of your dark past.

But a word of warning from one who knows: SOME PEOPLE, ESPECIALLY SELF-RIGHTEOUS CHRISTIANS OR THE ONES YOU HURT BY YOUR PAST BEHAVIOR, DO NOT WANT TO SEE YOU HAPPY AND THRIVING. Shocker, huh?

There will be those–yes, Christians primarily–who think you smile too much “after what you did and how you behaved back then!” They want to see you pay the price, be miserable, hurt on and on. I was told by a friend of mine once that a woman I knew from church years ago gets so angry when she sees me in public and I am so full of joy; she thinks I should remain in sorrow for some of my actions of the past.

That is not God’s way. If only she knew how many nights I cried myself to sleep, how many days I wondered if the sun would ever shine again, how many times even now that I hurt with longing to be with my kids when they go to their dad’s house periodically, she might be satisfied with the degree of my pain.

I even overheard a “Christian” the other day on a cell phone, talking to someone who has obviously been done wrong by somebody else. That “counselor” was telling the person not to worry–that the bad person would “get theirs.” Even if they seem to be prospering right now, the “Christian” said, never fear–they’ll get what’s coming to them. The tone was very vindictive.

Yes, unless we repent, we will reap what we sow. But should we as Christians be so vengeful as to wish somebody would “get theirs”? I think not. But this Christian obviously wants someone to pay a heavy price.

If I spent the rest of my life bemoaning the less-than-satisfying way my life turned out and/or the sins I committed, then I would be of no use whatsoever to the Kingdom of God. He has set me free from my past, given me a present that is so full of joy and peace I want to explode, and promised me a glorious future with Him.

I know I’m talking to somebody who is nodding their head right now, saying, “YEAH! I know exactly what she means!” Get back up, shake yourself, commit your future to God and move on. Quit living in the realm of shame, you redeemed person you! Get your smile back. Laugh a little.

About two to three years ago, I realized that I was laughing again. I had not been aware of the fact that I had spent the last few years before that not laughing much at all. And it hit me that my laugh was now totally different. It was louder, full of bubbling joy, frequent. I honestly think I laugh more than anyone I know. I would even startle myself when I would burst into laughter at commissioners’ meetings while covering them for the newspaper when Stanley Smith would say something funny.

And I knew then that God had restored my joy–nay, even doubled it from before those dark winter years. Like the begonia on my deck, I am flourishing, and God’s favor follows me. Life won’t be perfect from here on out in this fallen world, but I have the assurance that my GOD will work ALL things (even bad ones) together for my good (Romans 8:28).

He’ll do the same for you. Hold on to God’s promises–YOUR SPRINGTIME IS COMING!

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