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:

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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