Saturday, January 30, 2010


Here's what we've been up to...
What started out as a few big, beautiful flakes...

...turned into 6 inches of snow and some beautiful ice! Phil and I took a long walk this morning and here's some of what we saw:

Unfortunately, all that ice caused some damage, too, including uprooted trees (see below) and huge falling branches, which left much of the mountain without power. 

Wish you were here to go sledding with us! It's the best snow I've seen since the blizzard of '93!

Thursday, January 28, 2010


I recently discovered that has documentaries--really good ones (and a few questionable ones).  Most of them are around an hour long and, of course, it's free, so I always like that.  Most of you know that I'm a sucker for true stories, so documentaries are like sirens drawing me in.  

The one I saw recently, Disconnected, was about three college students who voluntarily chose to go at least three weeks (some went five!) without their computers. No email, no Facebook, no typing papers, no using their phones for anything other than calls, and no letting other people read your email to you--nothing. They were in a documentary film class and this was the project they came up with.  Mind you, it was five weeks before finals.  

The documentary was thought-provoking as I watched these college students unplug from their livelihood, the machine they spent most of their days on (I'm not exaggerating). They literally had to go through withdrawal, complete with tears, hair pulling, and rocking back and forth.  They didn't know what to do with themselves. Now, I would be incredibly inconvenienced without a computer, especially in school, so I sympathize with their frustration about that, but to not know what to do with your free time? Yikes. Over the course of the experiment, these students had to learn to go outside, talk to people in person, actually do their homework, and pick up new hobbies.  I was shocked that their worlds had shrunk to the size of a computer screen.

I won't give everything away, but I think the social experiment had the positive effect fasting has--it broke them of relying on something too much.  In disconnecting, these students actually connected to reality much more. If you have an hour are willing to be a little disturbed and fascinated, check out this documentary, and let me know about other hulu documentaries you like. 

P.S. Can anyone explain why my blog is suddenly putting massive spaces between paragraphs?

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Book Recs

Over Christmas I tried to catch up on reading, but also get ahead on my Appalachian Environmental Literature class (yes, you read that right), which requires me to read 9 novels this semester, roughly one a week. So, here's what I've been reading lately, and I have to say that they are qual-i-tay.

Letters to My Daughter by Maya Angelou
I'm not always a Maya Angelou fan (although much of her writing is admittedly brilliant), but this book is excellent. It's short with short chapters, offering life advice to the daughter she never had and consequently to all women. You'll finish the book in less than 2 hours, but her insights and wisdom stay with you much longer.

Girl Meets God by Lauren Winner
I heard Lauren Winner speak last year in Birmingham to a group of teenage girls, so my expectation was that teenagers were her audience. But then my friend recommended this book of hers to me--Winner's memoir--and I haven't been able to put it down. Through honest, experienced, accessible writing, Winner tells her story of conversion from Judaism to Christianity. She's becoming one of the writers I most respect and want to emulate and I recommend this book without reservations.

The rest are books I've read for class:

Strange As This Weather Has Been by Ann Pancake
First of all, how could you not like a book by an author with the last name Pancake? I mean, it tempts me to change my last name. If you had the last name Pancake, you would most certainly be famous...or at least memorable. Anyway, Ann Pancake's book is about coal mining in West Virginia, which lead to mass floods and destruction of that area. It tells the story of Lace, a woman who marries at 18 and bears her husband (3 years younger) four children. The book follows their life of hardship, disaster, survival, and love of their place. An excellent read.

Fair and Tender Ladies by Lee Smith
Lee Smith is one of the heavyweights of Appalachian literature, but unfortunately, I didn't love her book as much as others (including my professor) did. The book is written as a series of letters from the protagonist, Ivy Rowe, a woman growing up at the turn of the century in rural Virginia. It is a fascinating concept that we can learn a person's life story by reading letters they've written, and I've often thought that writing letters (ahem, snail mail) is one of the best ways to write an autobiography. Ivy is a writer, poor, but bright, often impetuous, and always writing. The books is written in the jargon and accent of the Appalachian people, so that takes some getting used to, but also adds authenticity and insights that I otherwise would have missed. I can't say that I didn't like this book, but for me, it was more laborious than others I've read. That being said, I have the utmost respect for Lee Smith and her high place in Appalachian literature and history.

Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver
Barbara Kingsolver is a name many of you will recognize since she has written over 15 books. Kingsolver lives what she writes, living very "green" and writing, not surprisingly, this book with an environmental bent. However, unlike some other environmental books I've read, this one doesn't have such an overt "green" agenda. She writes more about balance in the ecosystem and in our lives, not differentiating between the two. The story is told through three main story lines, reflected in three rotating chapter titles. It follows the lives of a Deanna who lives in the mountains alone as a park ranger, Lusa, who is widowed after her husband's untimely death, and Garnett, a crotchety old man who picks quarrels with his neighbor. This book offers significant insights into the dangers and dissatisfaction of living alone, and promotes community and unity. This is another one I highly recommend--especially to book clubs who can take time to explore the deeper themes of the book. Fair warning: this has been called Kingsolver's "sex book," but it's handled very delicately.

Hannah Coulter by Wendell Berry
Told from the point of view of Hannah Coulter, the book begins with an overview of her life. But somehow, telling her story before she tells it doesn't kill it, but makes the reader curious. After the first overview chapter, Hannah Coulter slows down, telling each detail of her life and how it fits into the bigger picture of what we already know. The writing is brilliant, and Wendell Berry (male) perfectly captures the voice of a woman. There were so many sentences that I read and wished I could remember forever. Reading as a writer and as a reader, I absolutely loved this book.

A Parchment of Leaves by Silas House
This book is a page-turner. I stayed up until 1 a.m. one night finishing it because it was that good. For those of you book clubbers out there, this might need to go in the consideration list. It tells the story of Vine, a Cherokee woman who marries an Appalachian man. Every character who enters the scene is a bit odd--they have a strange look about them, or are more butch than most women, or waspier than most women...or they're just downright creepy. About a third of the way through the book, an event happens that speeds up the page turning, an event that leaves you hanging until the very last page. I know I haven't done the book justice, but I don't want to give too much of it away here. One thing that amazes me, though, is that a male author could so perfectly write in the voice of a female protagonist. Brilliant.

Lost Mountain by Eric Reese
A non-fiction book with an agenda, but rightly so. Eric Reese climbs the same mountain, ironically named Lost Mountain, every month for one year, documenting the devastating changes that happen to it in the process of mountain top removal (a coal mining tactic that involves blasting off the tops of mountains in order to gain fast access to the coal beneath). The book is a narrative, but also includes statistics and stories about the people Reese encounters. The anti-coal company agenda was clear and Reese makes no qualms about it, and while that was annoying at times, it was also enlightening, and mountain top removal is now an issue I can't have the bliss of ignorance about anymore. Oh, and I'm a sucker for true stories, so this book was an easy read for me.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Brian Regan Live

One of my Christmas gifts to Phil was tickets to see Brian Regan Live here in Chattanooga. If you've never heard of Brian Regan, you would be a fool not to go youtube him now. He is probably one of the funniest comedians I have ever heard AND he's clean, which is refreshing. He has his own hour-long show on Comedy Central (so I hear--we don't have cable) and has appeared several times on Letterman. I think I have our friends the Platts to thank for introducing us to him, and we've been youtubing him ever since.

The show was last night and his live performance was fantastic. I mean, really fantastic. His comedic timing was perfect, the way he told a story captivated you, and his gestures and facial expressions, while a bit over the top, were just as funny as the words that came out of his mouth. There's just something really good about laughing hard and not taking life too seriously once in a while. Here's a link to his official website, which includes video clips. Enjoy!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Update on how to help in Haiti

From Lauren, Ryan's sister:

If you would like to contribute directly to the ministries that Ryan and Teresa are sponsored by...the money will get to them and their ministries in Haiti. Ryan does optometry and Teresa is a PA in a small community in Haiti.

Teresa Price c/o Community Christian Church 10001 W. Commercial Boulevard Tamarac, FL 33351

Dr. Ryan Price c/o FCO International, Inc. PO Box 1361 Bloomington, IN 47402

Wednesday, January 13, 2010


My college friend, Ryan Price, and his wife and baby girl live and work in Haiti, where a 7.0 earthquake hit yesterday. Read his blog to hear what's going on over there first hand, and please, please be praying for the thousands who are suffering there. Pray also that relief organizations will be able to arrive soon with supplies and basic necessities. If you are interested in donating to relief organizations that are currently helping in this crisis, go here for more information. Biggest needs right now are water, shelter, and medical needs.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Goat cheese: an introduction

A couple of months ago, my mom decided that it would be "fun" to have a billy goat come for a conjugal visit to the two female goats they have. Enter Buckeye, a very youthful looking billy goat who wasn't quite sure what his role was as a male. Enter male goat #2 who is older and more experienced and voila! both boys suddenly know exactly what to do and get to work making kids. My parents are now owners of two pregnant goats, Daisy and Maggie, who should have at least one kid each by Spring. My 12-year-old sister watched the entire fornicating process with my dad--definitely an easy segway to the birds and the bees talk.

But I can't think about any of this when I eat my new favorite food, goat cheese. I've always been a little skeptical of goat-anything, chalking it up to health food gurus who also feed their children only food with the word "organic" in it. But over Christmas, I had a salad with goat cheese on it and fell in love with the stuff. If you've never had it, it's a very soft cheese, about the consistency of cream cheese, with just a little bite, like sour cream has. It comes in all kinds of flavors, and my favorite so far is mediterranean herb. Delicious. It's great on salads (like the one below) and on crackers.

Here's one of my favorite salads:

Baby spinach leaves
sliced pear
mandarin oranges
honey roasted almond slices (I buy these in a bag at the store)
mediterranean herb (or plain) goat cheese
fruity vinaigrette dressing (I prefer Ken's Healthy Options Raspberry Walnut)


Sunday, January 3, 2010

2010 begins: deliverance at 5,000 feet

On January 1, I found myself reading Psalm 56. I got to that familiar verse: "When I am afraid, I will trust in you. In God, whose Word I praise, in God I trust; I will not be afraid. What can mortal man do to me?" (vs. 3-4) and I remember thinking how much I love those words, but how I wasn't really sure why God led me to those verses that day. I had nothing fearful in front of me, nothing in particular that I was needing to trust Him for.

And then I went on a road trip to North Carolina to spend a girls weekend with one of my best friends, Alisa Worley, before her wedding next weekend. I left around 3:00 in the afternoon and because the normal route to Robbinsville, NC was blocked from a rock slide earlier this fall, Phil and I found an alternative route on google maps that didn't take much longer, which I, of course, sent on to all the other girls who were coming. About 2 hours into the trip, I realized that the route I was taking led me directly up a 5,000-foot mountain. This wouldn't really be a problem except that 2 weeks ago that area had nearly 3 feet of snow and ice. I actually knew about the snow, but figured that it had all been plowed by now and that there wouldn't be any problems.

About 4,000 feet up, I saw the ice. And I treaded lightly and slowly. I had no cell phone reception, no one riding with me, and no 4-wheel-drive. Pretty soon, there was a car in front of me that was spinning its wheels in the ice. I spoke briefly with the driver who said that he was trying to turn around, but was stuck. Since there was nothing I could do for him and I was afraid of stopping my car on the ice lest I go the way his car had, I zigzagged out of that icy patch and began what would be an entire hour of ice and snow patches up and down a 5,000 foot mountain at 20 miles an hour or less, trying not to spin out.

After I passed the car spinning its wheels, I began to shake uncontrollably. It was one of the few moments in my life where I really had no idea what to do. If I tried to turn around, I thought I'd get stuck. If I pulled over, my semi-warm tires would melt into the ice enough and I would be stuck until someone came to tow me out...whenever that might be. If I were to slide, I could go off the mountain (no weren't guard rails). So, I did the only thing I could: I kept driving. And praying.

And then I remembered what I had read earlier that morning: "When I am afraid I will trust in you." I just started praying that sentence over and over again, literally begging God for protection and my life. I later looked up that chapter again and here's how it ends: "For you have delivered me from death and my feet from stumbling, that I may walk before God in the light of life" (vs. 13).

Another girl later told me that she saw a sign saying "2-wheel drive cars not advised past this point." I had missed it entirely. As you may have guessed, however, I made it over the mountain (as did the other girls), but it was by far the most terrifying hour of my life, and I still feel a little shaken up by what felt like a near-death, or at least near-disastrous, experience.

As awful and nightmarish as it was, though, I'm grateful to begin 2010 having to trust in God so desperately. Every once in a while, it's good to remember how small I am, and how every moment I must throw myself on the mercy of the only One who is capable of saving me.