A Bit of Culture Shock

Virginia Farmland - Photo by Allison Profeta

Virginia Farmland – Photo by Allison Profeta

Before I moved, people warned me that I would have “culture shock” here in the South.  Not just Northerners either.  I still have people here in Virginia who, after asking where I’m from, respond with “Wow!  Must be a huge difference for you!”

But if I’m being honest, it really wasn’t and I really didn’t feel as if I experienced any type of culture shock.  That’s not to say there aren’t differences, but the most glaring differences were welcomed and played a role in our decision to leave New York.  So I guess that contributes to my not being shocked by them, or feeling out of place.  The complete and utter lack of traffic, for example, is fine.  It was a bit shocking at first, in that my husband and I met each other at home in varying states of giddiness for the first few months after our arrival.  “I did not experience a single moment of traffic!”  “Neither did I!  And I drove three towns away!!!”  We’d practically dance across the kitchen.

Until this weekend, I thought perhaps that the mountains were the most shocking part of our move here, in the sense that I am not quite used to them being there despite it being over a year since our arrival.  It still hasn’t sunk in that there are no beaches here, and I find myself, more and more, staring at those mountains.  Since our move they’ve served as a breathtaking backdrop, scenery so foreign and amazing that I haven’t stopped feeling in awe of their proximity.  However, I don’t feel at all comfortable about navigating them.  People call them by their names and I dumbly nod, pretending to know which one they speak of, but seriously . . . no clue.  Each one looks the same to me and if they have names I’d really like for them to throw on some name tags so we can get to know one another.

Now though I do know what it is like to experience culture shock, luckily in small doses.  It’s definitely there and there’s no denying it.

A few weeks ago I interviewed a farmer who took me out to some remote areas of his farm.  The first part of this expedition that surprised me was that we had to leave the property we were on, cross a road, and go through someone’s backyard to get to this other section of his land.  Me being the city slicker that I am, I was a little surprised that his land was “cut up” in that manner.  I pictured farms the way they appeared in the aerial stock photos from my elementary school text books, each in neat square blocks un-bisected by rocky roads.  More than that though, was the brief moment of fear I felt after climbing into the farmer’s golf cart.

Let me preface this by saying the farmer was the sweetest, gentlest soul you could ever hope to meet.  That didn’t stop me from experiencing a quickening of my pulse and a moment of questioning my sanity when he pulled that golf cart out onto a dirt road.  In my mind I thought that if he were to kill me and feed me to some zombie cows, nobody would ever know.  Where I come from, you don’t get in a stranger’s golf cart and go for a ride into a wooded area.  Where I come from, wooded areas are where the bodies are found.  So, while jotting notes on the various subjects he and I discussed, I also mentally noted to myself that my pen would first take out an eye and then pop a testicle should his intentions turn nefarious.  They never did, and as we headed back to the main section of his farm I noted that I was far from home and things were, happily, different here.

Then, this weekend.  Once again, I am on a farm.  This time with a friend.  The farmer indicates that we should travel to another section and that we will need a vehicle to get there.  The three of us start walking and, as we go, he is looking around at various vehicles and noting why he is unable to take one or another.  He finally says “We’ll take an ATV.  I’ve gotten up to 5 people on one of those things.”  We continue to follow him.  I did hear him say “ATV” but I have zero experience with an ATV, and the only other experience I ever had travelling across a farm with a farmer, was beside him in a golf cart.  I was happy to skip off behind this farmer and head towards what I comfortably assumed was a golf cart type vehicle.

No.  It was an ATV.  And I am an idiot. Notice below the difference between a golf cart and an ATV:

Rugged ATV

Rugged ATV

Sissy golf cart

Sissy golf cart

I am, in no way, suggesting that the first farmer was a sissy.  He was old enough to be my grandfather and has certainly earned the right to travel by golf cart.  He also has a dog that jumps onto the cart with him for long distances.  I labeled it “Sissy golf cart” because when I caught sight of the ATV as we approached, and it sunk into my head meat that the farmer seriously intended for my friend and I to hop onto it for a jaunt across his farm, I was hoping that at some point he would realize the impracticality of his ways and instead find a golf cart somewhere.  Anywhere.  Because holy crap he can’t really mean for me to get on this thing, can he?!

I stood there staring at the ATV, which looked exactly like the one pictured above, except that it was covered in dried dirt and was beat up a bit and showed all the signs of having been rode hard and put up wet and I don’t really know what that means but I need for you to understand that this thing was rugged.  And not a golf cart.

He indicated that my friend and I should deposit our things into the shallow wooden box that was strapped onto the ATV in front of the handlebars.  I slid my tote bag off my shoulder and laid it in the box, while my friend laid a camera and tripod across it, along with her bags.  I started to make my way to the back of the ATV because I wanted a moment or two to myself to try to figure out how I was getting on the thing without anyone seeing me standing there trying to figure out how to get on the thing.  I peered at the back tires and quickly walked back to the front of it to put my pocketbook and sweater in the box before it was time to start motoring and one or both ended up caught in the tire and pulling me down to a bloody death in the Virginia soil.

My friend and I made our way to the back of the ATV.  I should note here, for the record, that I am short.  That means that the back of the ATV, where that metal grate is in the picture above, came up to about my waist.  I stood, staring, and thinking that the best way to climb onto this thing would be to lift my right leg and throw my right knee up onto the ATV, climb up onto the back on all fours, then stick my legs out straight, facing the back, with my back to the driver.  In my head, at that second, it seemed the only logical way to climb aboard.

Seriously.  I was going to climb on all fours.  On an ATV.  Sort of like Tawny Kitane in the Whitesnake video, but I guarantee nothing sexy about it.  Clumsy, yes.  Sexy, nope.

As I took a step towards the ATV, and ultimately towards utter humiliation, the farmer threw his arm out and said “Let me show you how you’re going to get on this thing.”  I’d like to think that he saw abject horror tippy toe its way across the irises of my eyes.  I’d like to think it was that, and nothing in my body language indicated that I was about to mount this thing like it was a mechanical bull and sit on it BACKWARDS, which caused him to save himself from the abject horror of witnessing those antics and throw his arm out to stop me and teach me how to properly climb onto an ATV.  Yeah.  I’m going to keep thinking it was the first scenario.

What he indicated was that all I had to do to climb aboard is lift my left leg, in quite a genteel manner, and, for lack of a better term, side saddle the thing on the piece of plastic just above the wheel.  The hump, if you will, above the wheel.  I had to sit on the wheel hump.  Side saddle.

Relieved, I hopped right on and my friend did the same on the other side, while the farmer lifted a leg over and started her up.  I felt confident at this moment.  I felt like Scarlett O’Hara astride a stallion.  It was a very freeing feeling.

And then we took off.

It’s clear to me now that the rate of speed at which he took off is indicative of him being confident that he had two people behind him who were ATV literate.  Two people, experienced with riding an ATV side-saddle, probably would have handled that take off just fine.  However, someone who in any way gets on an ATV and calls it “side-saddle” and tosses her hair like a haughty Scarlett O’Hara, is not ATV literate.  I think at this point we can all agree that we’re surprised she’s literate at all.

The good news is I did not fall off.  My head, and really my entire upper body, jerked backward for a terrifying moment but I scrambled and grabbed the metal grate beneath me and held on for dear, dear life.  No longer was I Scarlett, trotting happily across the fields of Tara on a gentle steed.  I was just me, grasping for something to hold onto as we made our way across really bumpy terrain.  Super, super bumpy terrain.  Like, where the hell did all of these bumps come from because I could have sworn this was a flat field?!*

As we sped across the farm – oh yes, we were speeding.  No, I don’t know what the speed limit is on that particular farm, but I assure you we exceeded it.  Anyway, as we rocketed across the farm, I glanced over at my friend.  She’s lived in Virginia for quite some time now, and prior to that traveled quite a bit.  I would call her worldly, especially when compared to a rube like me.  She sat there in the most regal way.  Her curly hair gently bounced in the breeze, whereas mine was, by all indications, straight up in the air and swirling like cotton candy around my skull.  She held her legs up ever so daintily so as not to get them caught in the wheel she sat above.

It was then that I realized I had my legs almost jammed up the ass of the farmer.

In my fright over our warp speed start out of the gate, I had not only grabbed the metal grate I was sitting on, but I had also, unconsciously, turned my entire body inward towards the driver and pressed any of my limbs that I felt risked being mangled right up against him.  I tried to adjust my legs, but we were moving so fast that I just couldn’t seem to peel them free, and so they stayed.  Crammed up his ass and against his leg.  Not at all awkward.

In the midst of trying to stay alive, I again heard that familiar voice questioning the sanity of this journey into parts unknown with a stranger at the helm of a death mobile.  I did, for a moment, try to remember if I had at any point given my husband the name of the farm I was visiting, and more importantly, will he remember it when he calls in a missing person report to the police?  Because yes, this farmer could take me and my friend to a remote part of his farm and kill us and feed us to his zombie chickens.  I had relinquished my only defensive weapon, my pen, when I handed over my tote bag.

That thought quickly vanished, mostly because this farmer was as pleasant and gentle as the first, but also because I saw a bug whiz by my face and I didn’t want to end up like Goldie Hawn’s character in the movie “Overboard” and have a bug hurled down my throat.  I made sure my mouth was closed, which is good, because otherwise it would have dropped to the ground when we passed Huckleberry Finn.  I shit you not.  A young boy appeared out of the brush, right after we whizzed past SHEEP AND GOATS, and walked past us on the dirt road with a fishing pole in his hand.  My friend waved.  I stared, my eyes watering because they were agape and the wind was battering them.

We made it to our destination.  I dismounted.  With grace, I might add.  Well, my legs didn’t give out when my feet hit the ground.  So yeah, graceful.  From there we had a lovely time with the farmer.  He shared his time and knowledge with us and I even got to hang out with some chickens.  When it was time to leave, and get back on the theme park ride ATV, I felt much more confident.  I even managed to keep my legs unglued from the side of the farmer, much to his relief I am sure.

So yes, there’s a little bit of culture shock now and then.  Luckily enough though, so far everyone who has volunteered to ride along with me on this journey is welcoming, and awesome, and kind.  A lot of them seem fine with playing tour guide for me now and then.  As scary as the ride sometimes can be, it’s also very freeing to, now and again, feel a bit of horror and trust enough in myself and in those around me to believe I won’t end up murdered in the woods and fed to zombies.

I might even have fun.

* Wow.  Having re-read that paragraph, I’d like to note, for anyone analyzing this piece for a Lit or Psych class, that this is the paragraph that will most likely support your thesis about scary farm rides being a metaphor for scary life changes.  Just saying.

 

 

Frogs Feel Green

image

We are lucky to have an amazing local organization called Project Grows, where my 2 year old son met a frog for the first time in April of this year.  He watched it in the water.  He sat beside it on the side of its pond.  It even sat somewhat patiently when he slowly reached out and touched the frog’s back.  Then, an instant later, it was gone in a flash, leaping back into its murky home.

This morning, Jackson found a dollar and the following conversation took place:

ME: Are you going to buy something with your money?

JACKSON: Yes.

M: What are you going to buy?

J: Frog.

M: A frog?

J: Yes.

M:  What will the frog do?

J: Eat.

M:  Eat?  What will he eat?

J:  Candy.

M: Candy?!  Frogs eat bugs!

J (laughing): Nooooo!  Frog.  Hop.  Wawa.

M: The frog will hop in the water?

J: Yes!

M: Did you touch a frog?

J: Yes!

M: What did it feel like?

J:  Um. Green.

Catching Up

depression, life, motherhood, food shopping, toddlers

This is what food shopping looks like with a 2 year old. – Photo by Allison Profeta

It’s been a little while since I’ve posted.  I’ve been busy with my newest project, Staunton Insider.  So far, a little over a month in, it’s been exciting, informative, and inspiring.  I fall more in love with Staunton each day.

So here is what I’ve been up to the past month or so:

  • The above photo is a glimpse into my every day.  It’s a trip to the grocery store to pick up a few things.  That’s my 8 year old off to the side, waiting to jump in and help if he can.  That’s my two year old on the floor.  Can you tell he’s two?  Please note, he’s not crying or throwing a fit.  No.  Just laying down.  Because sometimes, floor happens.
  • I think what annoys me most at times like this is that it is OK for him to lay on the floor in the middle of the grocery store.  At worst, he might get an exasperated stare from a cranky old lady.  At best though, and much more likely, he’ll get a kindly glance, a soft chuckle, and I’ll probably hear a remark as the shopper passes.  Something along the lines of “My daughter used to do the same thing” or “I remember those days” or “He must be 2.”  However, it is not socially acceptable for me to lay in the middle of the grocery store floor.  I can’t quit life for a moment to feel the cool tiles against my cheek and the soft hum from some behind the scenes ventilation system that can only be heard in the minuscule space between one’s ear and the hard floor of the cleaning aisle of my local grocery store.  I admit, I’m weirdly jealous of his careless abandon.
  • That is exactly what I felt like doing when I heard that Robin Williams killed himself.  I am not one to go to pieces when famous people die.  I express remorse and feel sympathy for his/her family.  But typically, the death of someone I don’t know is merely sad in a periphery way.  Death is sad, no matter what.  Death that is at least six degrees of Kevin Bacon away from me is not something that starts me crying.  When it really started to sink in that this man killed himself, it felt like the time my brother and I were playing on the see saw at our local park and he decided to go play on the slide, without telling me, and his weight had been the only thing suspending me in mid-air.  He jumped up and ran away and I dropped from my great height and did not have the presence of mind to stop my own fall with my feet so I came down hard on the concrete.  (Yes kids, back when I was growing up we played on concrete.)  It is as if the wind was sucked out of my lungs by some invisible, heavy duty wet-vac, my mouth left opening and shutting with nothing but dry, limp balloons for lungs that had no energy left to power my voice.  It is scary to think that a man who could have received help from the best of the best in medical treatment, couldn’t hold on any longer.
  • A lot of people have expressed that they are shocked someone who made so many people laugh must have been so sad to commit such a desperate, pained act.  That’s not the part that upset me.  I get that comedians can’t always be funny and that the joy they bring to others can be a source of torture for them.  The part that scares me is seeing someone who had access to the kind of help that the rest of us only dream about and say “If I had a bit more money . . .” or “If my health insurance were better . . . ”  When Ritchie Valens and Buddy Holly and the Big Bopper died, the date was dubbed “the day the music died.”  When Robin Williams couldn’t hold on any longer, it felt like the day hope died.  I’m so sad for both him and his family and everyone who suffers in silence.
  • On a more political note, but not any less depressing (wow, sorry about being such a downer!) my heart broke to hear that Dominion Gas has proposed a pipeline to be installed right through the George Washington National Forest and this beautiful Shenandoah Valley.  I can’t understand how anyone could be in favor of potentially ruining, forever ruining, this amazing land.  The pipeline, allegedly, will be for transporting fracked natural gas to our shore line, but Dominion is claiming they will not be shipping it over seas.  They don’t plan on shipping it overseas, but they claim it is very beneficial for our country to do so, so I imagine it won’t be long before they do it as well.  The pipeline is creating zero jobs in the area, according to Dominion, because they contract its construction out to out-of-state workers.  Plus they are taking landowners’ rights away through the use of eminent domain, which means they can just take land for the pipeline against the will of the landowner, but the landowner has to continue to pay taxes on it.  I could go on and on forever about all the reasons why this is disturbing and scary but for now I will leave with you with this image of the two proposed routes (they have abandoned the initial route for the more northern one closer to the city of Staunton).  You can also view images of what happened when a pipeline failed and exploded in Virginia in 2008, another reason why the community is so concerned about ANOTHER pipeline.  And if you’re in the mood for a sardonic laugh, read here the details of a lawsuit filed by Exxon Mobil Chairman and CEO Rex Tillerson, who is strongly in favor of fracking . . . except when it’s anywhere near HIS property.  Ready to voice your opposition?  Please sign this petition.
  • On a happier note, I am back at school hoping to finally finish my degree in Creative Writing, with a focus on non-fiction writing.  One of the benefits of making a metric shit-ton LOT less money than I did when I had a 9 to 5 job, is that I qualified for some financial aid to finish up my college education.  So far it’s been inspiring and eye-opening and everything I hoped for in my quest to focus more on my writing career.  If you’re in the mood, you can click here to read a memoir piece I had to write for an assignment.

That’s all for now.  I hope to keep more on top of writing here and continuing to use this space as a creative outlet and place to share.  XO

 

 

 

 

 

Launching a New Website – Staunton Insider

www.StauntonInsider.com

July 1, 2014 will mark one year since I left behind Long Island and found myself in Staunton, Virginia.  The only place I ever visited in Staunton prior to packing up a few belongings and arriving for good was the very house we rented.  We had never even spent the night in the town.  We knew no one.

July 1, 2014 marks the end of the most tumultuous year of my life.  My family and I left behind the only home we ever knew.  We left behind family and friends and co-workers, many of whom we still can’t speak of without choking up, tears smarting our eyes.   For many, many other personal reasons this year has been difficult in very profound, life-changing ways.

July 1, 2014 also marks the end of one of the most extraordinary years of my life.  For with the lows, there are highs.  This year is the first one I’ve spent home with my children since becoming a mother.  While I’ve discovered that working from home is so much more difficult than I ever anticipated, I’ve also discovered how very much I’ve missed my boys.  We’ve learned so much here about living more intentional lives, about making do with what is around us and available to us, about putting more care and thought into how we treat the earth and each other.  All of this we can attribute to the amazing people here in Staunton who welcomed us, accepted us, and offered to us their friendship.

July 1, 2014 is the one year anniversary of my attempt to make a living doing what I love.  I arrived in Staunton, Virginia pen in hand, ready to commit myself to writing, in one form or another, for a living.  Along the way, over the past year, I grew brave enough to also take up photography as a serious pursuit rather than something I only listed as a hobby for so many years.  I found the courage to seek out stories, and tell them.  I want people to see and feel and taste and smell and hear along with me on my journey.  When people ask me what I do for a living, I answer “I’m a writer and photographer.”  I say it out loud.  And lately, I’m saying it with more clarity, more confidence.

So it is only fitting then that July 1, 2014 will mark not just the end of our first year in Staunton, Virginia, not just the beginning of our second year here, but the launch of an exciting next step in my career.  I deeply believe that if I’ve learned anything from our time here in Staunton, it is that I must always move ahead with bravery and sculpt my dreams into reality with my own two hands.

July 1, 2104, I am excited to launch my brand new webzine titled “Staunton Insider.”  Found at www.stauntoninsider.com, Staunton Insider will be bringing you the stories of the people and businesses waiting to welcome you to Staunton, Virginia.  Aimed at tourists and residents alike, Staunton Insider will feature articles and stories that bring to life the amazing goodness found in our town.  Below are examples of upcoming features:

  • People of Staunton – telling the unique stories of Staunton residents and/or business owners.  Will include a special feature spotlighting notables buried in historic Thorn Rose Cemetery.
  • Inside Staunton Businesses – presenting inside, in-depth features of what it is like to visit particular businesses.
  • Living Well in Staunton – fun interviews with Staunton City employees to get inside tips (lifehacks!) and fun stories about the city of Staunton.   Spotlights on local charities, how to get involved, and what profound experiences you can have volunteering.

Upcoming plans include a comprehensive calendar of events that will help visitors and residents alike find events, attractions, and businesses which offer activities and/or specials that appeal to their needs.  I’ll also be working to expand coverage of local artists and musicians, both established and up and coming.

I hope you will join me on this exciting new venture!  I can’t wait for you to find yourself as smitten with Staunton, Virginia as I am!

To stay updated about our launch and to hear about all the exciting features to come in our first issue, please follow these links:

Like us on Facebook

Follow us on Twitter

Follow us on Instagram

Head over to Staunton Insider and subscribe so you never miss a new article.

I will still be blogging here on Allison Road, sharing personal snippets and behind the scenes peeks at my work!  Thank you for all of your support!

Harmony Moon Mini-Green Festival – Staunton, VA

In downtown Staunon, Virginia, nestled between the Visitor’s Center and Cranberry’s Grocery and Eatery, you’ll find Sally Scime waiting to welcome you to Harmony Moon.

Harmony Moon - Photo by Allison Profeta

Harmony Moon – Photo by Allison Profeta

I first met Sally when I stopped in to find out more about the mini-green festival being hosted by Harmony Moon on Saturday June 28th, from 1 – 4 PM in celebration of the shop’s 18th birthday.  Sally’s pleasant, welcoming voice and calm demeanor fits right in with Harmony Moon’s mission to help people live gentler lives.  The store is chock full of items that promote green living, health and wellness, fair trade items from around the world, as well as all things devoted to helping you de-stress.  There is also a really cool children’s section stocked with beautiful books and earth-friendly toys.

Sally and I chatted a bit about the mini-green festival.  In honor of Harmony Moon’s 18th year in business (and 2nd year here in Staunton), Sally invited area vendors and small business owners to Harmony Moon to share their information with her customers at a small community party in an effort to “connect folks with an interest in health/wellness, sustainable living, etc. with the resources in the community that support those ideals.”

When Sally purchased the store in 1999, she was working full time as a management consultant, and only ran the shop part time.  But in 2001, the book “The Cultural Creatives: How 50 Million People Are Changing the World” inspired Sally to seek out conscious-driven consumers who care not just about improving their own health and well-being, but about the impact they make on the world around them.  Sally says, “I consider Harmony Moon to be a ‘lifestyle store’ for people who are not only trying to be the best that they can be but who are also interested in doing what’s right for their community and in making the world a better place for everyone.”

I asked Sally what brought her to Staunton and she told me a story that probably resonates with small retail business owners across the country.  For 16 years Harmony Moon could be found in Alexandria, VA, a bustling suburb of Washington, D.C, where it was known as “Mindful Hands.”  Alexandria’s historic downtown area seemed the perfect fit for the store’s boutique, specialty vibe.

Sadly, the downtown area started welcoming large chain stores.  Sally confided, “I survived two recessions now.  One in 2001 and the one that began in 2007.  And each one felt like a punch to the gut.  And you don’t get back what you lost.”

The downtown landscape changed, as did the type of consumers who shopped there.  More and more, Sally found herself faced with shoppers who wanted her to match the deep discounts promoted by the large box stores that were filling up the downtown area.

So, Sally made her way to downtown Staunton, Virginia.  Where, she says, she has found a warm, welcoming community of people who support her ideals, believe in small business, and strive to preserve their downtown area as a community of independent business owners.  Her mini-green fest is a way of bringing together members from that community in celebration.

Three Reasons to Visit:

  • You are in search of unusual or original hand-designed and hand-crafted gifts.
  • You aren’t able to travel the world right now, but would like to bring some small piece of it into your home.
  • You are on vacation and already feel as if you need a vacation.  Stop in for some serenity.  It’s free.

 Where to find Harmony Moon:

The Biggest Hero in Staunton

The other day, at my 8 year old’s Little League game, I was lucky enough to witness an extraordinary moment.  My son plays on a team with a 10 year old boy named Baxter.  Baxter’s 11 year old brother, Tripp, was born with a form of dwarfism known as Spondyloepiphyseal dysplasia congenita or SED.  I can’t pronounce that name for you, but it rolls right off the tongue of Tripp’s mom.

Coach Talking to Tripp - Photo taken by Allison Profeta

Coach Talking to Tripp – Photo taken by Allison Profeta

The coach of the team and Tripp’s mom arranged for Tripp to throw out the first pitch of the last regularly scheduled game of the season.  In the photo above, the coach is letting Tripp know what is about to happen.   You see, Tripp is in that scooter because he is recovering from a series of major surgeries.  The first was to stabilize his neck, and the second two were to reconstruct both of his hips.  He was in a full body cast for months and is still recovering, rebuilding his strength, and receiving physical therapy.  Each surgery and follow up requires a long trip to Delaware, where his surgeons and specialists are located.

The coach let Tripp know that he wanted Tripp to walk from the sideline to the pitcher’s mound using his walker, throw out the first pitch, then walk all the way back.  Tripp’s mom was hesitant.  She was unsure that he would have the strength, after that long walk, to take one hand off of his walker long enough to throw the pitch.  Tripp piped up with a confident “I’ll do it!” so his mom stepped back.

And he did it.

Tripp Rises - Photo by Allison Profeta

Tripp Rises – Photo by Allison Profeta

Flanked by his best friend and his mom, Tripp rose out of his scooter as his name was announced over the PA.  Everyone clapped as he slowly made his way to the mound.

Walking Out to the Mound - Photo by Allison Profeta

Walking Out to the Mound – Photo by Allison Profeta

This short walk that most of us do without thinking twice, was visibly arduous for Tripp.  His walker got stuck in the dirt more than once.  He never asked for help.  He never faltered.

Once out there, his younger brother, Baxter, handed him the ball.  Baxter frequently catches for the team, and he was suited up for this game.  The opposing team lined up along the third base line.  Our team, many of them friends with Baxter and Tripp, took a knee behind the pitcher’s mound and removed their caps.

Brothers - Photo by Allison Profeta

Brothers – Photo by Allison Profeta

The coach leaned in and exchanged words meant just for him and Tripp.  He pointed at home plate.  I’d seen him do the same thing dozens of times to each of the kids on his team.  Tripp’s pitch was no different.

Throw it Home, Tripp - Photo by Allison Profeta

Throw it Home, Tripp – Photo by Allison Profeta

Tripp moved his walker aside and threw in the first pitch, while teammates and spectators applauded.  After, the coach gave him a ball signed by everyone on the team.

Applause - Photo by Allison Profeta

Applause – Photo by Allison Profeta

Then he made the long trek back.  He was visibly tired, and remarked to his mom, “You better not make me walk again today.  Or for the rest of the week!”  Step after step, he made his way across the infield to his scooter.

Walking Back - Photo by Allison Profeta

Walking Back – Photo by Allison Profeta

Seeing this, witnessing this boy’s public triumph over personal adversity, will forever be an experience for which I am thankful.  That night I asked Tripp’s mom if I could write about it and share with everyone how difficult this was for Tripp.  She in turn shared with me emails that she saved from when Tripp was born.  You see, in addition to being born with dwarfism, Tripp was also two months premature.  Upon his birth, Tripp’s grandmother (Jamie’s mom) started sending out emails to friends and family keeping them posted on Tripp’s health and continual ups and downs.

The emails are fraught with uncertainty.  From day to day, Tripp took one step forward and two steps back.  Always, her mother maintained an upbeat tone and continuously asked loved ones to keep him in their prayers.

Jamie spent hours at the hospital, crying as she watched her son suffer, celebrating when she saw her son’s smiles, rallying when she wanted answers from nurses and doctors.  And these emails, it turns out, are just a small taste of the battles fought and conquered so far in Tripp’s 11 years.

For his first 8 years, the family didn’t even have a definitive name for his form of dwarfism.  Originally he was thought to have a form of dwarfism that is always fatal in infancy.  The day he turned a year and a day the doctors were able to rule that out since there had never been a documented case of anyone with that form of dwarfism surviving past the age of 1.  Eventually doctors thought he had SED, but the test for SED had not yet been approved.  The test was still in the “testing” stage, so it was not covered by insurance.  Unable to afford the thousands of dollars needed to pay for the test, the family lived for years only assuming he had that form of dwarfism.  After the test was approved and covered, they were finally able to find out it was absolutely SED.

Here he is though.  Walking tall, unafraid to conquer that pitcher’s mound.  Our community rose to applaud him and celebrate him, and in the process reminded me of the importance of neighbors and friends.  The day to day moments of our lives that we witness play out across the expanse of our front lawns, or over the fences of our back yards, or while meeting down at the park, bring all of us together in triumph and tragedy.  Watching one family’s moment of triumph is an incredible, humbling honor.  For we all hope for the same celebration and support in the moments when a life lived with shadows comes around to see the sun.

As I was writing this, and looking over my photos (all of which were taken with my phone – what a day to NOT have my camera on hand – ugh!), my 8 year old came in and looked over my shoulder.  “Is that Tripp walking?” he asked.  When I replied “Yes,” he broke out in a huge grin and threw a celebratory fist pump into the air.

I knew exactly how he felt.  Tripp is the biggest hero we’ve ever met.

Exhausted, Tripp backs up to sit in his scooter as his brother Baxter is warming up in the background. - Photo by Allison Profeta

Exhausted, Tripp backs up to sit in his scooter as his brother Baxter is warming up in the background. – Photo by Allison Profeta

 

 

Spring (So Far) in Staunton, Virginia

Heart-Shaped Puddle

Heart-Shaped Puddle – Photo by Allison Profeta

Spring so far in Staunton has been short-lived.  It took a long (looooooooong) time for it to get here.  Just two weeks ago we had below freezing temps for two days/nights.  I guess that is why each day that gets into the 70’s is one to be savored and recognized.  I find myself facing the sun, tilting my head back, closing my eyes, and opening my mouth a bit hoping to taste the Spring air.

Here are some photographs so far from our first Spring in Staunton, Virginia:

Blowing Bubbles - First Day of Spring - Photo by Allison Profeta

Blowing Bubbles – First Day of Spring – Photo by Allison Profeta

Brothers - Photo by Allison Profeta

Brothers – Photo by Allison Profeta

Blowing Bubbles (From Maya's Photo Shoot) - Photo by Allison Profeta

Blowing Bubbles (From Maya’s Photo Shoot) – Photo by Allison Profeta

Little League at Sunset - Photo by Allison Profeta

Little League at Sunset – Photo by Allison Profeta

Dandelion Wish - Photo by Allison Profeta

Dandelion Wish – Photo by Allison Profeta

Carpet of Flowers - Photo by Allison Profeta

Carpet of Flowers – Photo by Allison Profeta

 

 

They Say Bread is Life

Homemade Bread - Photo by Allison Profeta

Homemade Bread – Photo by Allison Profeta

It’s difficult to watch someone suffer.  I never seem to find the right words, especially when a friend is a long way away.  I want to spring into action and get in the car and drive to where I need to be in order to fix things.

But that isn’t a possibility right now.

I listen and oftentimes I cry and we text and message and life keeps moving . . . and it doesn’t seem like enough.

So this post is for friends who suffer.  I don’t have the answers to a lot of things, but if there is one thing I do know how to do – it is feed my feelings.  When I discovered this bread recipe I jumped all over it.  It seemed very straightforward and the accompanying pictures were helpful.  To my surprise, the finished product actually came out looking exactly the way the loaves were supposed to look.  I haven’t bought a loaf of bread since.

I’m not a baker.  I love to cook, and have always found the act of cooking to be therapeutic.  Baking?  Can’t stand it.  It’s too precise.  All that measuring, all those extra dishes to wash . . . it just sucks all the fun out of cooking.

So why am I recommending baking two loaves of bread to my friends who are struggling right now?

Because there is something meditative and soothing about this recipe.  Yes, you have to measure carefully.  But then you get to rest for an hour as the dough slowly doubles.

Return to the kitchen to punch down the dough and shape into two balls that then rest for 10 more minutes.  You should sit with a cup of hot chocolate.

Shape the dough into two loaves (follow this advice on how to do it – it’s like folding a huge, yeasty envelope) and allow them to rest for another 30 minutes.  Go put your feet up and watch an episode of your favorite show.  (I’ve been binge watching Louie when I can’t sleep.)

Come back to your bread and pop the loaves into the oven for 30 minutes of filling your home with the smell of love, and goodness, and comfort.  You should read a book while this happens.

When the timer goes off, remove the loaves from the oven and completely ignore anyone (including the recipe author) fool enough to tell you to allow them to cool for a few minutes in the pan.  No.  You pop those crusty babies right out onto a cutting board and use an oven mitt to hold it while you slice into it with a large serrated knife.  Ease a thick slice onto a plate and immediately put at LEAST two slices of butter onto it.

Stand and watch the butter melt.  You should hug yourself while it soaks into your bread.  I know that sounds silly.  Do it anyway.

Now.  Go find the most comfortable seat in your home and eat your slice of bread.  It’s OK if your eyes roll into the back of your head with your first bite.  Don’t fight that.

I recommend baking two loaves of bread to anyone fighting depression or anxiety because the steps are small enough that they won’t overwhelm you but the process is long enough that it will get you through a large chunk of your day.  I recommend it because afterwards you will have something warm and soothing to enjoy.  I recommend it because you can take hunks of bread with you to work or with you to the bathroom (if you’re hiding from kids) for the rest of the week and each time you enjoy a slice you can think to yourself “I did this.  I put one foot in front of the other and I did this.  I nourished my soul and my palate and my tummy and my nose and my hands.  I kneaded and measured and folded and baked.  I did it.”

The next time you feel as if you may not get through the day, or feel alone, or feel lost . . . bake two loaves of bread.  And save some for me.  Because I will be there for you.

This is Childhood

Childhood - Photo by Allison Profeta

Childhood – Photo by Allison Profeta

This is childhood.

The first warm day after weeks of arctic cold and one (hopefully) last huge snow storm.

Charging from a homemade fort into the bright light of a sunny afternoon.

Toy guns blazing, ready to chase down the bad guys that might be lurking around any nearby corner.

Pumping your little legs as hard as you can in order to keep up with your older brothers.

Free to run.

This moment is childhood – frozen in one frame.

“Flores Para Los Muertos . . . “*

Thorn Rose Cemetary - Photo by Allison Profeta

Thornrose Cemetery – Photo by Allison Profeta

A friend of mine asked if I would take her daughter out to shoot some photos for a project she needed to complete for a college photography course.  I suggested local Thornrose Cemetery.  I’ve driven past it so many times since being here in Staunton, and it looked so gorgeous, but I hadn’t yet had a chance to explore.  Lucky for me they thought it was a good idea as well.  It was so fun to join her – I felt like a college kid again myself for several moments during our excursion.  Here are some photos I managed to take.

They really don’t do the cemetery justice.  I could spend several days there exploring.  I don’t know why I find cemeteries so peaceful, especially since I am so fearful of death.  I think I’m just fascinated by the stonework and the stories.  Because ultimately, when we’re gone, our story is all we leave behind.

Our Sally - Photo by Allison Profeta

Our Sally – Photo by Allison Profeta

Behind this small, white tombstone stands a large monument to Sally’s father.  General John Echols was a Confederate Army general who, after the war, settled in Virginia and died here in Staunton.  It was the “Our Sally” that caught my eye.  She was no other Sally, just theirs.  It made me think of my own boys, and how there is no other Tucker, or Garrett, or Jackson . . . . just mine.

Forever Children - Photo by Allison Profeta

Forever Children – Photo by Allison Profeta

His little knickers and her little bonnet.

What Was Right and Good - Photo by Allison Profeta

What Was Right and Good – Photo by Allison Profeta

There was no other information on Mr. Larner.  But his story was a good one.

I can’t wait to go back once the weather warms up!

* Shoutout to A Streetcar Named Desire