Monthly Archives: December 2013

Why I am On (or is it off) the Sugar Wagon


Christmas cookies. What’s not to love?

My husband has recently lost a significant amount of weight. During this time we’ve gone gluten-free and he has gone sugar free. I, on the other hand, haven’t. But I know I should cut back on sugar. My “eye-doctor” told me during the exam. He asked, “What is your cholesterol level?”

Well now that wasn’t really any of his business and I politely told him so.

Then he asked, “How much sugar do you consume every day?’

Now he was really getting personal.

He explained, through visual images, that my eyes had “spots” on them caused by an elevated cholesterol level. Explained he knew this because his wife also is a sugar-holic. Then came the bad news, these spots (my non-technical description) will never, ever go away. They are more like scars. Permanent.


Sugar-filled candy. The peppermint ones are my all time favorite.

Sugar, my friends, caused this. All of those chocolate chip cookies, the brownies, the german chocolate cake while momentarily delicious, was doing a number on me. The doctor went explained that when sugar isn’t burned off during the course of the day it is stored in the liver. The liver converts this sugar into cholesterol. Yes. Cholesterol. This clearly explained why I have such an elevated cholesterol level. Sugar, my friends, is slowly killing me.

And I haven’t even addressed what sugar does to those who have arthritis, or who-like me-have joint pain.

Fast forward to Sunday night, it’s our church Christmas dinner, the beloved has no dessert. I am trying. Really, trying, but there was a coconut cake and I partook. Later I felt guilty. I felt unsupportive. How cruel of me to enjoy a piece of cake while my husband remained so strong. So Sunday night I said, “No more.”

The American Heart Association has specific recommendations regarding the amount of sugar Americans should consume. For women, no more than 100 calories per day, or about 6 teaspoons of sugar. For men, 150 calories per day, or about 9 teaspoons. Here is the link. Just as an FYI, a Coke contains 9 1/3 teaspoons of sugar. As a sugar purist I won’t touch artificial sweeteners. Won’t happen. Can’t make me.


Beware! Tis the season for sugar to wrap her syrupy tendrils around your heart.

Sugar is a sneaky beast. It is everywhere, especially in “low fat” foods. It hides in catsup, is kneaded into bread. Salad dressing contains sugar. I even noticed it in can vegetables for Pete’s sake. Not to mention the bag of dark chocolate M&M’s I love. So my sugar-free vow hasn’t been easy, and I am only in day three!

Monday: In hindsight, getting on the sugar wagon during a full moon isn’t advised; nor is swearing off the sweet stuff during one of your child’s most important times of the school year, final exams. Then there is the holiday baking season. Monday was torture. Not to compare my addiction with other more powerful demons such as alcohol, tobacco, drugs, porn, gambling or shopping, but Monday was rough. I was lethargic. My head hurt. I was hungry. Starving. Regular food did nothing to satisfy my craving.

Tuesday: Tuesday wasn’t much better. My head still hurt and I craved candy. Literally, I wanted to grab a bag of chocolate chips from the counter, rip open the bag and pour the contents into my mouth. I have never felt such emotions regarding food. When I was pregnant years ago I eagerly gave up sugar for over a year. But now, I was weak. Angry, I wondered, how could I be so weak-willed. How did sugar get such a hold on me? I’ve increased my water intake, allowing myself one cup of tea with one teaspoon of unprocessed sugar. Then I immediately drink 6 ounces of water.

Drinking water isn’t for sissies.

Not joking. It is an acquired taste.

By the end of the day my eyes were floating, my head pounding. But by golly, I held firm. Take that sugar!

I still wanted the chocolate. I have never felt so out of control in my life. To keep myself from cheating during the day (I work from home), I literally locked myself in the writing room with just myself, sheets of paper, pencils and a stick of gum. That, my friends, is hard stuff. No phone and certainly no sugary sweets. But I do feel better physically.

Tomorrow is another day. Day three of being on the wagon (it is off the wagon when you stumble). Tomorrow I will feel better, and the next day, and the next. Eventually, my liver will reward me with lower cholesterol. Joint pain will lesson. But I shall wear the scars on my eyes as a reminder to take-and maintain-control of what I eat.

So tell me, what have you struggled to overcome? Please share in the comment section. Your journey may benefit others.

Renea Winchester is the award-winning author of Mountain Memories; True Stories and Half-Truths from Appalachia. Please download her e-book short story collection today. Her first book, In the Garden with Billy: Lessons About Life, Love & Tomatoes earned her a SIBA and GAYA nomination.  In 2014, Mercer University Press will release her next book titled Farming, Friends, and Fried Bologna Sandwiches. Email her through her website at



Posted by on December 18, 2013 in A Glimpse into My Life, Wrinkles and all


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Tis the Season: For Unchristian Behavior

My friends, I must ask, what in the world is going on?

I ask this open-ended question because I am puzzled, worried and sometimes even disgusted at the behavior of people these days. Regular subscribers to my blog will notice that I have been absent from the blogosphere, silently pondering whether I want to continue to feed information about my life for strangers to read. I have grown weary of the emails, and negative words that weigh heavy.

This is the tradeoff authors endure. A public life equals public opinion. Thankfully 99.9 percent of my readers are kind. (Love to y’all). Still, I’ve had to callous my skin during my 10 year journey as an author. And during this journey one of my most important take away points is this:  Every-Single-Person is going through something.





Everyone is going through something, which is why I have had to walk away from some people. Yes, I can understand, be compassionate, and try not to take negativity personally. I also have realized that I can’t love someone into being a better person. Usually, the more I love a negative and toxic person, the more they want to injure me. Why, Dear Ones, do people do that?

What does lashing out accomplish? Does uttering hurtful words at another person offer healing?

I try to be positive, to lend a kind word because-these days-hurtful words are a penny a dozen and kind words require a second mortgage.

Having cancer has taught me life is short. A blink. Why on earth my dear friends would I want to waste my limited breath on anything other than goodness?

Beyond my personal tragedies.

Beyond my concerns.

Beyond my weariness.

I try, to be positive. Because I’ve read the Bible a little bit and not once did I see Jesus being ugly to people. Jesus didn’t hashtag hatefulness. He bled grace, mercy, forgiveness, and love, then He commanded me to be like Him.

Me, a sinner has been ordered to be the best person I can be, to be kind and loving, to show grace when I really want to scream.

Today, I dashed into Target to fill my basket with cold remedies. Final exams are next week which can only mean one thing, a terrible cold for my daughter during the second most important week of school. Minutes later, I was walking to my car when I witnessed what some folk would call a Mexican Standoff. Six, yes six vehicles ranging from Prius to Hummer-size all backed away from their respective parking spaces simultaneously. Every single one. Since we’re in the holiday season one might expect, or hope, at least one of these drivers would extend a little holiday cheer.

One would be wrong.

No one budged. Because I feared being run over, I didn’t budge either. During this time I stood, wondering what God thinks about this behavior. This pushy, hurried, think-only-about-myself-behavior that we don with our winter coats.

Why, my friends, do we act this way? Why?

This parking lot display, which admittedly most people wouldn’t even notice, troubled me. This is supposed to be a happy season? Birthdays are BIG DEALS and December 25th is the biggest birthday of all time. Why my friends, have we taken our eyes off the reason for the season? Why is it so difficult to be the best person we can be every day?

Why are we being pushy? Why are we in twitter fights? Why have we blocked our own family on Facebook (because heaven knows we don’t talk to them face to face…mercy no!) Why are we so unhappy?

I returned home discouraged. Sometimes I think that Jesus gets very sad. That we hurt His feelings, and today I kinda hoped that someone in the parking lot would have extended a little kindness. So after I gave my daughter her medication I asked, Lord, what in the world is wrong with your children? Then a little post came across the Facebook screen. The post didn’t answer my question, but it did give me hope.

Enter Johnny Smith:

Now I don’t know Johnny from Adam’s housecat. I met him the way people find acquaintances these days, through a friend of a Facebook friend. But let me tell you something about Johnny. He gave me hope.

His Facebook post read My Testimony.

Take a moment and look at Johnny’s picture. Look at it closely. You don’t have to share your opinions with me, but I’d bet my non-existent farm you have drawn a conclusion about him based solely on his looks. You’ve already forgotten my words that everyone is going through something. Now read his testimony. johnnypic

I’m writing this testimony for Jesus Christ, not seeking sympathy, praying someone reaches out to Jesus .

A few years ago I had lived most of my life a heathen. Never went to church much. My son had went missing, they found him dead in the woods. Brought back 65lbs in a body bag, he was 190lbs alive .I came home from his funeral, thinking, what kind of God allows this kind of thing to happen? Blaming God. My phone rang, it was a close friend (pee wee) his first words were. “Don’t let this make you turn your back on God.”

I said, “Gotta go, don’t wanna talk about this.”

Went to computer, a friend popped up and said, God loves you Johnny.

“I said, ‘God don’t love nobody’.’”

My friend asked, “Did you love your son?”

“Yes,” I said, “more than anything.”

“Would you have given his life?” my friend asked.

“No I said.”

My friend said, “Well God loved you so much he gave his son’s life for you.”

My response: “Gotta go dont wanna hear it.”

But when I stood up I could only think of God’s word and how much love for me it took to give His son. I raised my hands and asked for forgiveness. Had a strong urge to get to a church when Sunday came around. As we parked the car my heart was pounding. I went on in. Pounding got greater. I got up to leave the building but knew if I went out the door Satan would rule me. I turned went to the altar. Here I am Lord. I’m yours whatever it is you want for me. I felt someone breathing on my neck and shoulder. Turned to look, nobody was there, that I could see. Then the wind hit me in the face, blowing. Kinda scared me, I thought Lord this is you?”

Here’s what the spirit of God said, ‘YOUR TIME HAS COME. ALL YOUR LIFE YOU SAT BACK WHEN I DEALT WITH YOUR HEART. YOU SAW WRONG BEING DONE AND WALKED ON BY. BUT YOU CAME TO ME TODAY, YOU BELONG TO ME NOW AND YOU WILL SERVE ME THE REST OF YOUR DAYS ON EARTH.’ I had a peace go thru my body like I never known…and the man that walked out wasn’t the man that walked in. Amen. That’s when I became his servant.”

Johnny’s friends didn’t have to reach out. I have also learned that sometimes when you are hurting is when you are most alone. But they did. They reached out to him during Johnny’s lowest time and showed him God’s love. They responded to Johnny’s anger with the love of God. So today my friends, if you are stressed, angry, worried, and/or afraid let me say that most of us are too. All of us have felt betrayed, been angry (sometimes at God), felt alone, confused. We’ve said things we are ashamed of. (please ask that person for forgiveness) We’ve hurt people either accidentally, or on purpose. (please ask the person you have hurt for forgiveness). But every single day we all need the little baby in the manger.

God knew this. That is why one day a long, long time ago a tiny baby came into this world on Christmas morning to make you, me, and Johnny Smith, His.

He wants to call us His child.

Thank you for reading and thank you Johnny for letting me share your words with my readers. 

Renea Winchester is the award-winning author of Mountain Memories; True Stories and Half-Truths from Appalachia. Please download her e-book short story collection today. Her first book, In the Garden with Billy: Lessons About Life, Love & Tomatoes earned her a SIBA and GAYA nomination.  In 2014, Mercer University Press will release her next book titled Farming, Friends, and Fried Bologna Sandwiches. Email her through her website at


Posted by on December 12, 2013 in A Glimpse into My Life, Wrinkles and all


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North Carolina White Sweet Potatoes, It’s What’s For Breakfast

Once frost coats the punkin’ and Thanksgiving is behind me, I enjoy sweet potato chips for breakfast every morning. In fact, this blog post was very difficult for me to write. I am in a hurry for breakfast, impatient as I sprinkle cinnamon sugar and snap photos. But I wanted to share this delicious treat with you, my readers. Sweet potato chips can’t be beat. I’m not talking about chips made from yams. No sir. Chips (and fries) made from yams are almost always soggy. Shudder.

I am talking about the rural western North Carolina delicacy, the white sweet potato. My folk bake sweet “taters” in the oven, peel, and serve with a hunk of butter mashed in real good. Back in the day, most western North Carolina folk survived on sweet potatoes, packed them in their lunch pail, ate them with supper. When I learned that Billy Albertson had never tried a white sweet potato-found out that he was a yam man- I was on a one-woman mission to remedy that situation. My dad’s been growing these taters for years. He gets his “slips,” which are the sprouts necessary to grow the potato, from a local boy who lives in the community where Dad grew up. Are they organic and not genetically modified? You bet your life they are.

After introducing Billy Albertson to the white sweet potato, he also fell in love with the tender fleshy meat. So in 2011 we began growing white sweet taters, but had a dickens of a time convincing red clay folk to give them a try. They preferred yams. Now don’t get me wrong, yams (or sweet potatoes) have a place. Yes sir. mash them up real good, add some cinnamon, sprinkle with pecan topping and you’ve got the most delicious dish to grace the Thanksgiving table.

At least that’s my opinion.

Yams are stringy, strong in flavor and should be in a different category when compared to western North Carolina white sweet potatoes.

nov2013 163

Don’t let the ridges fool you folk. Take a peek inside.

Now if you’ll notice in this picture Dad’s white sweet potatoes have a thick dark skin with ridges on the outside.  That scared the red clay folk who were used to thin skinned, orange yams. Billy says the skin is thick on account of the soil, says the dirt is rich because of all that mountain organic matter dad adds (every single year). Billy says red clay grows a thinner skinned potato, and the hotter temperatures make a difference too. Another item of note is the size. White sweet potatoes are small, sometimes growing only as large as your finger. Hence the fancy name “fingerling potatoes.” Those are my favorite for baking. Larger ones are sliced for chips.

When slicing a sweet potato it is best to submerge the coin-shaped-slivers in water, or immediately begin the cooking process. As you see, with the potato on the left, they discolor speedy-quick. But don’t worry, discoloration does not alter the flavor. In fact, I am always worried about a potato that doesn’t darken when sliced. Makes me worry that someone has been tinkering in the gene pool, if you know what I mean.For those who would like to try their hand at making the chips, here is the recipe and a few more photos to guide you through the process:

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2 white sweet potatoes

1 Tablespoon butter (more if potatoes are large)

1-2 Tablespoons Cinnamon Sugar

The Baking Process:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line a cookie sheet with aluminum foil.nov2013 167

Dot sheet with butter and place in oven so butter will melt.

Slice potatoes and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar.

Arrange potato slices on sheet so that they are not touching. Place in oven.

nov2013 172

Notice the shiny potato in this picture? That means it has not baked enough. Give it another 5 to 7 minutes.

Bake 20 minutes, or until slices are no longer soggy. Note baking time depends on how thick you slice potatoes. It may be necessary to remove thinner potatoes early. And yes, it is perfectly acceptable to eat those immediately. Life is short. Why wait?

Remove from oven, place on paper towel which will absorb excess butter.

nov2013 174

Local folk can purchase sweet potatoes from Billy located on Hardscrabble Road. Please note their availability is extremely limited. Once gone it will be November before you see them again.

Have you ever tried a white sweet potato? Please feel free to send me your favorite recipe.

Renea Winchester is the award-winning author of Mountain Memories; True Stories and Half-Truths from Appalachia. Please download her e-book short story collection today. Her first book, In the Garden with Billy: Lessons About Life, Love & Tomatoes earned her a SIBA and GAYA nomination. If you liked this recipe stay tuned. In 2014, Mercer University Press will release her next book titled Farming, Friends, and Fried Bologna Sandwiches. Email her through her website at


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