This morning my daughter and husband arose while the sun was still asleep, while snow still blanketed the earth; they lit out for a new tradition… shopping. They hit the malls, not because the prices are slashed (they really are not), not because they have long shopping list (we don’t spend a lot during Christmas); they hit the road because the trip is “quality time.”
Insert eye roll. The dog and I have our own quality time. We call it “hold up in the warm and cozy bed.”
This year, many small-businessmen (and women) are spreading the word about Small Business Saturday. Tomorrow, small business owners are asking shoppers to step away from the malls, the chains, the big box stores and visit local, independently-owned stores. Of course this is a cause I’m happy to get behind.
Recently, I spoke to a group of authors and was asked, “is your book on Amazon?” Of course it is, all titles are on Amazon. However, traditionally published authors shudder at this question. Do you know that author’s receive zero money (not one red cent) from used books sold on Amazon?
I stood for a moment, speechless. “I like to shop locally,” she said with a smile.
So why then, would I ever send a reader to the local bookstore?
Because it is the local merchant who is the cornerstone of the community. The Indie Bookstore knows what you like to read. The local restaurant treats you like family. The boutique clothing store wants to build a community where everyone can come and shop. Indie Bookstores are personal shoppers. Most local restaurants will cook something (off menu) just for you. Use them. But the relationship goes further than that, locally owned businesses care about you, they really do.
Here’s a revelation: Walmart doesn’t give a hang about you, neither does Amazon. But a small business in your town cares about you, the consumer. They care that your property taxes are going through the roof. A mom and pop’s sandwich store cares that you are on a limited income (because they are on a limited income also). Small businesses employ your children, they pay local taxes, they support the soccer team and hold fundraisers when someone needs a kidney transplant. And for those who think big-box retailers do the same well honey, I am not so certain about that. What I do know with certainty is that I have a relationship, a friendship, with every small businessman and woman I patronize.
They ask about my next book.
They ask about my momma, about the sick, and hungry.
They hold canned food drives.
They collect books, and coats, and toys for the needy.
They pray for me, and for my family.
They have a cake for me on my birthday. (Thank you Cat).
They make me feel like I matter, like I am more than just a number.
They want my business and they show me that I am appreciated.
Those are just a few reasons why I stayed curled up tight in the bed this morning as the beloveds pointed to vehicle toward the mall. Join me in stepping out tomorrow and visiting a local independently-owned small business.
Renea Winchester is the award-winning author of Mountain Memories; True Stories and Half-Truths from Appalachia. 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 www.reneawinchester.com
Although there are no images in my latest book, Mountain Memories: True Stories and Half-Truths From Appalachia, here are pictures of the people behind the true stories. Order a copy of Mountain Memories here.
Renea Winchester’ is an award-winning author whose people are from Rabun County, Georgia and Indian Creek, North Carolina, which is now part of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. In the early 1900′s the Winchesters traveled to Western North Carolina where they put down roots. Renea still grows the same corn her great-grandfather grew. Visit her at www.reneawinchester.com
Dear readers and gardening friends,
I am thrilled to announce that Patty is the winner!
And for those who didn’t win. Don’t despair. 2013 will bring another contest, or two, as well as the release of In the Kitchen with Billy: Farming, Fords & Fried Bologna Sandwiches. Merry Christmas to all.
Renea Winchester is an award winning author. In 2012, Make Your Mark Publishing released her book, Stress-free Marketing Practical Advice for the Newly Published Author available on Kindle and paperback. In the Garden with Billy earned her a SIBA and GAYA nomination. She is currently working on her first novel.
I imagine that Daniel Day-Lewis locked himself into a room filled with history books and stopped reading only to practice walking with an elongated lope after being chosen to play President Abraham Lincoln in Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln. Lewis not only delivers a flawless performance, he is the President during a time when rivers of blood flow upon America’s own soil.
Throughout this movie, Lincoln’s 6 foot 4 frame bends beneath the weight of the obstacles he faces: a Democratic Party firmly against his Emancipation Proclamation, a Republican Party seeking peace, and his wife, Mary Todd Lincoln who is still mourning the death of her son. Madame President, as she reminds Thaddeus Stevens, is an opinionated woman with a keen eye for the backdoor deals and party politics on both sides of the issues facing her husband.
No wonder Madame President is cursed with headaches. She is morning the loss of her son and aware of the stakes facing the nation, her husband, and her own children.
Francis Preston Blair, played by Hal Holbrook, is a force who demands the President’s attention. He wants a peace treaty and is working to bring delegates from the southern confederacy to Washington to meet with the President. An act that should either party discover, would ruin both the possibility of peace and the passage of the Emancipation Proclamation Amendment.
As delegates from the southern confederacy travel to meet the President, Secretary of State William Seward, believing that the Emancipation Proclamation Amendment and peace are both impossible, enlists Robert Latham, WN Bilbo, and Richard Schell on a secret mission to sway Democrats to vote for the President’s Proclamation. Time is fleeting. Spring is coming and with it, the season of war. The trio embarks on this journey. Actors John Hawkes, James Spader, and Tim Blake Nelson deliver the backdoor deals with a comedic value that lighten the mood of the movie.
The President’s son, Robert Todd Lincoln, arrives from his studies and once again lobbies his father to enlist. Madame President fears she will lose all of her son. In an attempt to sway Robert and show him the harsh reality of war, President Lincoln takes him to a military hospital where young Robert resolves to be more than a “nothing.”
Inside chambers, the war between the parties escalates. After filling the chambers with newspaper reporters, the Democratic Party challenges Alexander Stephens, played by Jackie Earle Haley, to taunt Thaddeus Stevens into saying that all men are equal. Stephens, who believes that the negro is not equal, challenges the usually outspoken, Stevens. Warning that should the Proclamation pass the negro would demand representation in the House, the right to vote, or could possibly even hold public office. Democrats warned the Proclamation would open the door to women voting as well. Stevens, sensing a trap holds firm to his belief in the law.
With regard to the actual vote on the Amendment, Spielberg leaves little room to argue. Announcing each vote either for or against the proclamation, moviegoers need only do a little research to confirm the facts. Lincoln not only delivers recounts the facts leading up to the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation, it offers a glimpse into the life of President Abraham Lincoln, and the struggles he faced both personally and politically. The actors in Lincoln deliver a stunning performance. The storyline leaves viewers wanting to know more about these men who shaped our history. 10 stars for a brilliant must-see movie. This movie is scheduled for release the second week of November, 2012.
Renea Winchester is an award-winning author. Learn more about her work at www.reneawinchester.com
Daniel Day-Lewis Abraham Lincoln
Tommy Lee Jones Thaddeus Stevens
Sally Field Mary Todd Lincoln
David Strathaim Secretary of State William Seward
Hal Holbrook Francis Preston Blair
John Hawkes Robert Latham
James Spader WN Bilbo
Tim Blake Nelson Richard Schell
Jackie Earle Haley Alexander Stephens
Joseph Gordon-Levitt Robert Todd Lincoln
Many factors influenced our family decision to accept a foreign exchange student into our home: the desire to expose our daughter to someone from another country; and the hope of showing the student that Americans are great people.
Apparently, Americans aren’t well liked in France (or in other countries for that matter).
“When I was in high school I spent the summer in France,” my friend, Kelle said when I told her we were opening our home.
“Yeah, but that was when everyone liked American’s,” Gary interjected.
His comments gave me pause, and strengthened my resolve to provide the best darn example of life as an American. For those reading this in other countries, please do not judge all Americans based on what a few “stupid tourists” do, or the decisions politicians make. American’s are hard-working and just like you, trying to do the best we can with what we have.
Being a good example starts at home, literally. With my stepson’s room now empty, I filled the thumb tack holes, sanded the walls, and applied a thick coat of paint, then scrubbed and waxed the floor. Loosing count of the hours spent refurbishing the room, what mattered was providing a warm and cozy environment.
1 Week Before
The week before Lucie’s arrival, Mother Nature spikes a fever. Temperatures climb to 106 degrees. My lawn withers to dust. So much for making a good impression by having a lush green lawn, I return to the bedroom, clean the windows, remove the screens and give them a good scrubbing while making a mental note to clean the front porch. There is still a stack of firewood in the corner, and three bushel of October beans waiting.
I also realize Lucie’s room needs a dresser. I locate a suitable piece of furniture in the basement. There is plenty of time to refinish this, I thought. After lugging the piece onto the front porch and beginning the project, I quickly realize my limitations and drag the piece to the end of the driveway where I tape a FREE sign on the handle. I’ll use something else.
3 Days Before
I have made progress with the October beans. I now have one bushel. Taking the shelled beans upstairs where I lay them flat on the pool table, I instruct Jamie that in “no uncertain terms” should Lucie go upstairs in the “dump everything” zone.
Serious attempt at housecleaning begins.
2 Days Before
The beloved and I are sitting at the kitchen table, a table he built with his own hands years ago. As he runs his fingers across the dull finish, I read his thoughts.
“Go ahead; I know you want to re-finish the table.”
“Where’s the paint stripper?” is his reply.
Leaving him to his project, I work on the living room and realize that I live in the dirtiest house in America. Where did all of these teeny tiny spider webs come from?
1 Day to Go
I receive an email from Lucie. She is traveling from the West Coast of France. Her trip to the US will be a long one. She boards a train, travels for 9 hours, arrives in Paris and then waits for the plane to bring her to America.
I secretly hope we live up to her expectations.
It is on this day that the main heat pump decides to croak. My beloved. Genius. Fixer of all things believes he can repair it. Orders a part then returns to sanding the table (indoors) while I focus on scrubbing my teenager’s bathroom that she insists she has cleaned.
My fifteen-year-old has also cleaned her room. Translation: she has scooped up all of her clothing, dirty-or-not, and deposited it into the laundry room. I tell the 15 year-old to put down her iPod. She can shell beans and listen to music simultaneously.
“Learn to do two things at once!”
I am a bit on the edge.
After appointing her Chief bean-sheller, I brave my office. Quickly, becoming sidetracked by hand-written notes that, at the time of their creation, I knew their importance; I waste a solid hour googling people to figure out who they are and end up tossing most of the notes.
Shave dog…with dull shears. Photo says it all.
Eat dinner in living room on tailgate table we use at the football games. Realize how cool this eating arrangement is and accept that this may be how Lucie eats her first American meal.
11 pm: 1 Day to go
Beloved sands table and applies 2nd layer of varnish.
We are both too excited to sleep.
Day of Arrival
5 am: awake to the sound of beloved sanding table, then the fragrance of varnish.
Secretly haul copious amounts of trash to the church dumpster. Make mental note to increase offering this week.
Wipe down the walls, and wooden baseboard surfaces. More spiders in kitchen. Amazed that they survived the sanding process.
Mop floor. THREE TIMES.
Tie dog to banister. She is excitedly making every step I make, shedding short hair with each step.
Begin waxing wood floor. One glance at the clock is all it takes for me to realize that the rest of the house will NOT be ready. I am very discouraged. I am a bad American who can’t even keep a clean house.
Help 15-year-old daughter assemble scrapbook for Lucie and kindly suggest she actually cleans her room because Lucie may want to sleep in one of the two beds she has.
Begin the “cram and close” cleaning method. Instruct Jamie that Lucie is forbidden from entering the laundry room and shouldn’t open the closet either.
Leave for airport disappointed that I did not accomplish everything. Forget GPS unit.
We are all excited. Even though we realize the impossibility of perfection, we want everything to be “perfect” for Lucie. We aren’t a typical American family. We don’t watch a lot of television, hang our clothes out to dry on a line, and grow most of our own food. We sit down every single night to dinner as a family, hold hands and say the blessing.
We love her! Instantly. From the moment I see her my heart (and eyes) overflow with love. I can’t imagine the emotions she has felt leaving her family and traveling so far just to visit America. What a risk she has taken? I think about the other students, how nervous they must have been. None of these students knew each other. They aren’t from the same area. Their only commonality is their ability to speak the same language. I pray for these students and for the host families. I hope the hosts realize that they represent the United States of America and work as hard as I will to show her what is good about this country.
Once she settled into her new home (for the month of July) Lucie’s first US meal was homemade pizza and made-from-scratch chocolate chip cookies. Gooey, sweet and filled with love.
Welcome to America, Lucie!
”This we know – the Earth does not belong to man – man belongs to the Earth. This we know. All things are connected like the blood which unites one family. All things are connected.” ~Chief Seattle
And it is this relationship that requires of us, whether we know it or not, to live every day with an understanding that each day is no less earth day than the day before. I fear we too often set aside government-sanctioned days to feel good about something without any real practical application from us. Earth is not a holiday to be honored; Earth is a sacred gift of creation to be cherished every moment, every day without end. I hope never to break fellowship with earth, nor to do anything that strains our sacred relationship… In this I know I have failures to correct…
When our country and our politicians approve and laud Contained Animal Feeding Operations and hail human-manufactured chemical fertilizers and pesticides as the preferred way to “protect’ the soil and “feed the world”, then feel good about setting aside one day as the official “Earth Day”, we have become the ultimate charlatan. The given earth is grounded in life-filled and life-giving soil by nature. When we replenish naturally, she recreates. When we take and offer back lifeless manmade substitutes, namely oil-based chemicals, we cannot long expect her to recreate healthily.
If we’re going to honor Earth, we’re going to have to do so in the very local places that we know, on the land beneath our feet. If we do not begin again at home to know the Earth, to care for and replenish her provisions, then all our strivings beyond may be too abstract. The deepest pleasures of fellowship within relationship involve being in touch, literally maintaining contact.
Place then your hands in the soil, receive her provisions and return to the ground that which nature would give back, namely the life that comes from death and decay. Darkness has its good work to do. One of the gardener’s principle pleasures is in witnessing the light draw life again and again from out of the dark.
With this fantastic electronic age, comes the ability to stumble upon someone who makes my gardening attempts, seem futile.
I don’t recall how Brian and I became facebook friends. I only know that he is the ultimate knower and lover of this planet. Realizing that Brian weaves words far better than I, I’ll let him do the talking…
I want to live close
to the ground around me, daughter and wife alongside–
who cultivate and gather
while the seasons
give of their native wealth.
I’m an 8th grade school counselor, a writer, a subsistence farmer, a father, and a grateful husband
From time to time, Brian will be popping into blogthefarm. Here he will feed us nourishment poured out from his very soul. Let us welcome him with open hearts. We begin, appropriately, with an April Shower.
The rain has brought new
chartreuse leaves to the trees,
emerald green to the grass,
pastel shades to native shrubs.
in solitary awareness,
their melodies tucked in with the clouds
until sunrays lay hands on the meadow.
Remember to comment on this or any blog and be registered for the free Botanical Interests Heirloom Tomato seed giveaway. Thank you Brian for your words!