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October 31, 2008

Floyd Democrats Rally for Obama

4kimx.jpgThe following was published in The Floyd Press on October 30, 2008 and at the FP online HERE.

A Democratic fundraising rally for the Barack Obama/Joe Biden presidential campaign was held at the Sun Hall on Friday night. “The 9th District could prove to play a pivotal role in the November Presidential Election,” said local musician Joel Vendetti, one of the organizers of the grassroots event.

Vendetti, who provided some of the evening’s entertainment and also MC’d, said the goal of the rally was to promote a kind and thoughtful Democratic presence in Floyd, one based on smart politics and not on divisiveness. “The idea is to educate people on the issues so that they can make informed choices on November 4th,” Vendetti said.

Local activist Deborah Baum worked with Vendetti, sending out rally mailings, organizing refreshments, signing up speakers and musical acts, and setting up the hall.2rallygroup.jpg
At the rally, which was free and open to the public, Baum sold Obama/Biden bumper stickers. Behind a booth decorated with red, white, and blue balloons, Floyd Democratic Party Chairperson Kim Chiapetto signed up volunteers to do door-to-door canvassing and to help at the polls on Election Day. Signs for Obama-Biden and Warner were prominent throughout the hall. Flowers donated by the Flower and Gift Shop adorned a long table full of food.

Folk singer Lee Pinkerson warmed up the crowd, playing Bob Dylan’s The Times They are A’Changing and other songs. She was followed by gospel singing from members of Floyd’s New Beginning Christian Church Choir. “What a great feeling to be participating in history,” choir member and New River Community Action Center’s (NRCA) director Tammy Lemons said. Later, the New Beginning group joined Grant Helms and members of The Little River Missionary Baptist Church Choir on stage for more gospel singing. 12gospelgrant.jpg

Local poet Mara Robbins spoke to the crowd about the education the presidential campaign has been providing for her eleven year old daughter, sharing their experiences hearing Obama speak at the October 17th rally in Roanoke. Robbins, who was joined on stage by her daughter, read a poem titled Poet for President and lead the crowd in rousing chant… Say ho! (Ho!) Say hey! (Hey!) … This is the thing we wanted to say … Say true! (True!) Say blue! (Blue!) … Virginia is ready for change that is new… Diplomacy, the Environment, Alternative Energy, Health Care, Education, and Woman’s Rights are some of the issues Robbins said she and her daughter felt hopeful that an Obama administration would address.

Another rally speaker, Vice Chair of the Floyd’s Democratic Party, Nolan Goad told the crowd to “Look around,” referring to the full hall.10kylamara2.jpg “Aren’t you proud to be in Floyd? Aren’t you proud to be a Democrat?” he asked. Goad pointed out that the last time Virginia voted Democrat was in 1964. “This year it can happen again,” he said, urging rally goers to canvas door to door, to talk to their neighbors, and to get out and vote.

At the height of the evening the 130 chairs, donated by Woods Funeral Home for the evening, were filled. Some rally goers stood against the back wall or mingled in the seating aisles. NRCA’s RSVP (Retired and Seniors Volunteer Program) director, Judy Weitzenfeld announced a November 4th fundraising dinner for the program’s transportation service at Floyd Elementary School from 4-7. The fundraiser will be important to maintaining RSVP transportation services, she said.

Mac and Jenny Traynham, fresh from the Friday Night Jamboree, provided some old time country tunes. 7refreshments.jpg Before performing a song titled “You Will Be My Closest Neighbor Up There,” Jenny Traynham said, “We like this song because it’s about loving each other and every one being your neighbor.” The duo was accompanied by Phil Woddail on harmonica.

Fiddle player Mike Mitchell, joined by Blue Moonshine band mate Phil Norman on guitar and Abe Gorsky on mandolin, closed the evening with harmonies set to some foot stomping instrumentation.

Diane Geissler, one of the foot stompers who stayed till the end of the rally, said she enjoyed all the performances, and especially enjoyed the interaction between the speakers and the crowd. Geissler said, “It really was a rally. We rallied around our patriotism.”mm.jpg

Baum said she was thrilled with the turnout and the contagious enthusiasm shown from people from all walks of life for Obama. “It’s amazing how many people called and showed up to help with the rally. We could not have done it without them,” she said.

Photos: 1. Kim Chiapetto. 2. Rally goers eating and socializing. 3. Grant Helms (at the mic) and the Little River Missionary are joined by members of the New Beginning Choir for some hand clapping gospel songs. 5. Poet Mara Robbins and her daughter. 6. Joel Vendetti (right) at the refreshment table with others. 7. Members of Blue Moonshine entertain the hall. Video clips: New Beginning Gospel Choir HERE and Mac and Jenny Traynham singing You'll Be My Closest Neighbor HERE.

October 30, 2008

13 Thursday: Strange Brew

13rug.jpg 1. My friend Jamie Reynolds married Elisha Seigle and changed his name to Jamie Reygle. Recently I received and email from him and noticed he’s now calling himself Jamie Hussein Reygle.

2. My commentary “Does Size Matter: A Vote for Smart Government” appeared with others in a spread of excerpted commentaries in the Sunday Horizon of The Roanoke Times. The collection of election essays, in which 12 out of 13 are pro-Obama, are published in their entirety online HERE.

3. First Colin Powell and now Fonzie, Richie, Andy Griffith, and Opie have all come out to endorse Obama HERE.

4. Things that make me go YIKES posted by Alice Audrey HERE.

5. After more than three years, I feel like my blog is like an overgrown dinosaur and it's only a matter of time before the poles shift and it falls off the face of the earth, becoming extinct.

6. When it comes to the computer, I have to confess to being a hoarder who has emails back into 2006 and hates to delete anything. My disc space is nearly full on both my PC and my laptop, so Joe just gave me a lesson on kilobytes, megabytes, and gigabytes. I’ve started to make some efforts in turning that blue pie back to pink.

7. Is it all in our heads? Why do we think a bowl of noodles looks delicious but a bowl of worms doesn’t?

8. I can see the witch from Snow White (above) standing with her hands on her hips in the pattern on my bedroom rug. I can also see the Queen of hearts (to the right) holding cheerleading pom poms in her hands. qheartsx.jpg

9. Last night Joe and I watched the movie Star*dust.The man who wrote the fairytale the film is based on said when he visited the movie set he felt guilty that something he made up in his head for fun and that took up a paragraph of words (like the pirate ship that sails in the sky collecting lightening) took 100’s of people and millions of dollars to build and bring to life.

10. Which made me feel creepy about all the money and resources that are spent for our mega entertainment and made me wish they’d only make a handful of movies each year and the rest of the time we’d tell stories, watch local plays, and read books.

11. I have a real friend named Steven Strange.

12. Isn’t it ironic that election season comes around the same time as Halloween, with all those creepy Republican campaign ads on TV scaring your kids and pets?

13. Simon says: Click HERE for the Strange Brew soundtrack.

Thursday headquarters is here. My other 13's are here. View more 13 Thursday’s here.

October 29, 2008

Paper Cut

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An unlikely weapon
Empty white paper
A blood sister’s razor
sharp complaint

Red vertical line
on horizontal blue
is a thin excuse
a slow to heal
stinging edit
a poet’s occupational
hazard

October 28, 2008

Where Do Poems Come From?

I. A couple of weeks ago I laid my husband’s yoga mat out in the middle of the yard at night and stretched out on it to do some stargazing. Watching the night sky made me feel timeless, vast and minute at the same time. Then, the phrase WE PUT STARS IN POEMS popped into my mind and became the jumping off point for a stream of consciousness poem. I spoke it out loud, repeating each line as I added new ones. When I had enough lines to convince myself it was a worthwhile poem, I went in the house for paper and a pen.

Writing the poem was a discovery. It wasn’t until it was done and I read it to my writer’s circle that I understood what the poem was about. Loss. Loss of innocence. Loss of culture. Loss of loved ones. Even loss of virginity showed up in this poem. I knew while writing it which lines matched up to the feelings I had while looking at the night sky, and which ones didn’t. The poem came in one giant whoosh of a couple of hours and took me on a wild ride. The next day the feeling was gone and I couldn’t recapture it. The portal that opened to allow the poem to come was closed.

II. A week later I was walking across my living room to shut out a light. As I clicked it off, the phrase “Paper Cut” lit up in my mind like a game show player’s buzzer. “Paper Cut” was the right answer, but what was the question? I recognized it as the title of a poem, but no other information came. For this poem, I had to sit down and brainstorm a word map like an artist would sketch a landscape.

Right away I was pulled by the soft and then hard sounds that made up the words “Paper Cut.” The meaning was intriguing, like an oxymoron, I thought as I considered how such a thin wisp of lightness can actually cut you. I pondered how paper is the tool of a writer and how editorial cuts can sting.

But I was hesitant to write the “Paper Cut” with only a title to go from. It felt like having to mine for a diamond that I knew was in the ground but didn’t know where. I knew it would have to be found and faceted to shine and that the labor would likely be messy. I didn’t want to write the poem, but the way the title came felt like a message from the Muse. A prompt. A directive. A challenge.

So I started from scratch and wrote a poem that got long pretty fast. Extracted from that one, came a second poem. I brought both to my writer’s circle and everyone there thought the first poem was a warm up for the second, and that the second poem, much shorter and sliced to the bone, was a better match for the title. It didn’t carry the emotional weight for me that WE PUT STARS IN POEMS did and I didn’t know how it fit into the body of my work. But it was an interesting exercise, well worthy of the labor.

So where do poems come from? Some you have to look for. Others just come to you.

Post notes: WE PUT STARS IN POEMS can be read HERE. Tomorrow I’ll post Paper Cut. More Where Do Poems Come From HERE.

October 27, 2008

While Visions of Sugar Plums Dance in my Head

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What do you do when you’re at a classical music concert in a front row seat with the lights turned up high and you have a sudden urge to write poetry? You want to pull out paper and pen but the crowd is so quietly absorbed in listening that you could hear the pen drop (which it did).
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What do you do when you’re at a classical music concert and visions of sugar plums, flower petals falling, romances budding, swans gliding, ladies in long dresses fluttering fans, and men in suits politely bowing are floating through your mind, making you want to leap out of your chair and pirouette?
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Mozart, Scarlatti, Handel. Now they’re playing songs named after flowers that bloom in autumn in England. A song sung to break your heart. Then a happy one about a babbling brook. You realize you’ve forgotten yourself, that you’re swaying back and forth, that you’re suddenly self-conscious of your one foot that is tapping and the other swinging back and forth. Never mind a pen. You remember that you promised to take a picture and that you simply must pull out a camera … flash and click.

Post Notes: This successful night of high culture to benefit Floyd's Jacksonville Center for the Arts featured Judy Bevans on harpsichord, Linda Plaut on violin, and the soprano voice of Carolyn Kirby, who I wrote about previously HERE. The food and Château Morrisette wine that followed the concert was as high quality as the music. Thanks to Linda Fallon for organizing the event, the musicians for performing, and everyone who supported it. A video clip is HERE.

October 25, 2008

Young Soprano Reaches Others with Song

ckjpg.jpg~ The following was published in The Floyd Press on October 23, 2008 and online HERE.

The name “Carolyn” came like a premonition to Carolyn Kirby’s mother long before she had children. “It means “great singer,”’ sixteen-year-old Caroline Kirby said. She was sitting with her mother, Leslie Romano, on an outdoor bench, overlooking the family farm where several goats were grazing in an open pasture.

The oldest of six children, Kirby has lived with her family all over the country – Colorado, New Mexico, Idaho, Massachusetts, and Virginia – landing in Floyd from Louisa County in the spring of 2007. Setting down roots in the Coles Knob part of the county, the family strives to live a wholesome and simple lifestyle, which includes homesteading, homeschooling, and book publishing. Kirby’s step-father, Paul Romano has recently written, illustrated, and published a book titled “My Friend Within.” Leslie Romano chronicles the family’s farm life on her blog “Pockets of the Future”. In one entry she describes her eldest daughter as having a “focus on reading classics, writing poetry and singing opera.”

As a Floyd County High School junior and honor student who will be graduating this coming year, the range of Kirby’s voice and her musical accomplishments belie her age. She regularly performs with Opera Unlimited, a summer youth program in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and recently won a Bland Music Competition in Fredericksburg, Virginia. Most recently, Kirby auditioned, along with 800 seniors from all over the state, and was one of 18 second sopranos chosen for Honors Choir. The Choir will be performing at the Homestead Resort in Hot Springs, Virginia, this November. ck2.jpg

Kirby, who will be performing seven songs at a benefit for the Jacksonville Center on Saturday, says that music is universal, and so “it can touch people universally.” She believes that one of the main purposes of music is for making human connections. “Connecting with people’s hearts and souls is more important than winning awards or being famous,” she said. “I’d rather touch someone’s heart than be technically perfect, but technique is important because it allows you to do that,” she added.

Kirby is already touching others through song. Jaws have been known to drop and tears have come to people’s eyes while listening to Kirby sing, her mother explained. Even the family’s first milking cow was smitten by her singing. When Romano was healing from an injury, her daughter took over her milking chores. Singing as she milked, Kirby soon discovered that their red and white cow named Pezra loved classical music, especially Mozart.

From the time that she was a baby, Kirby’s love of music was evident. Sharing a story she learned from her mother, she said, “When I was really little and nothing could stop me from crying, my father sang an African Spiritual and I instantly stopped. My eyes opened wide and I listened.” She remembers singing rounds with her mother and dancing to Enya as a young girl. When she was eight years old and living in Green County, Virginia, Romano enrolled Kirby in her first Community Choir, hoping that her daughter would discover a purpose to focus on.

Although she loved singing in the choir, it wasn’t until Kirby was in 7th grade in Louisa County that she began to feel very strongly about singing. “That was when I knew music was my thing,” she said.

“I had a fabulous teacher. She chose the most beautiful music and made everything fun and exiting,” Kirby continued. At that time, she realized she wanted voice lessons and began working with Frank Johnson, a teacher and choral conductor in Albuquerque. Kirby noted that the Santa Fe Opera, based just north of Albuquerque, is world renowned and that being in an area where so many people knew so much about opera increased her enthusiasm for it.

More recently, Floyd high school Choir teacher Sandra Smith has helped Kirby improve some of the technical aspects of her talent. Under Smith’s guidance Kirby improved her ability to sight sing, a skill she needed for her Honors Choir audition. “She’s very dedicated to her students and is a great pianist,” Kirby said about Smith. Ed Cohn is Kirby’s local voice teacher. Cohn sang with the San Francisco Opera and is currently a co-host of Miracle Farm Bed & Breakfast Spa and Resort in Floyd, which is also a non-profit Sustainable Living Center and Animal Sanctuary.

Kirby sings in five languages (Latin, Italian, English, German, and French). She loves singing opera and is open to wherever that love will take her, but her interests aren’t limited to one style of singing, she said. Her musical influences are as varied as the places she has lived and include Nora Jones; Ella Fitzgerald; Amos Lee; Angela Gheorghiu, a contemporary prominent Romanian operatic soprano; and Hildegard of Bingen the 10th century German abbess, physician, and visionary who composed and staged liturgical dramas, which could be described as distant precursors to opera.

Since she was a young girl, Kirby has written poetry. “Her writing developed before her singing,” Romano said. Kirby’s love of writing and her love of music recently converged when she wrote her first libretto, the script of an operetta (an opera with spoken words). The operetta, called “When Marriage Becomes Necessary,” is designed for children to perform and has a fairytale theme. Kirby is working to improve her piano skills in order to complete the music for it. She’s also interested in learning to play guitar and has been writing folk songs that she hopes will allow her to share her voice even more widely.

With open field acoustics and to the chirping of a grasshopper, Kirby broke out in song. Her resounding voice, which could be described as transcendent, would convince any listener of her talent. It’s a talent that will likely take her far, in whatever musical direction she chooses to pursue.

Post Notes: Carolyn will be singing a selection of baroque opera and country folk songs at Music for An Autumn Evening, a benefit for the Jacksonville Center for the Arts tonight at 7:30 p.m. Judy Bevans on harpsichord and violinist Linda Plaut, both with impressive backgrounds in music, will also be featured. The trio will be performing 17th and 18th century European chamber and dance music. A Champagne and Wine Reception will follow the performance. To hear a video clip of Kirby singing, go HERE.

October 24, 2008

Kissing Bryce

kissingbryce.jpg
Being with my first grandchild, 5 month old Byrce, engages all my senses. I deeply breathe in the scent of him. Come in close to kiss his soft skin. Watch his perfect beauty with a sense of wonder. The sound of his voice melts my heart.
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When I was with him on Tuesday he was lamenting his first minor cold and the coming of baby teeth; he already has two. Even his lament was music to my ears. Listen to him sing it HERE.
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It's no fun getting teeth, having a first cold, AND being sleepy. The lament, complete with wide open yawning, continues HERE.

October 23, 2008

13: The Big O

130.jpg 1. Fellow poet, Scrabble player and Floyd Spoken Word participant, Chelsea Adams took the words right out of my mouth and put them down in an eloquent order for THIS Roanoke Times commentary about Pro-life vs. Pro-choice. It’s well worth the read.

2. My spell check is like a far right fundamentalist Republican robocall because whenever I type the name Obama it suggests I say Osama instead.

3. Typing the word Obama reminded me of the story I recently did for the Floyd Press about a talented teenager who sings Opera. So many of my stories this spring and summer seemed to focus on outstanding women like, Kari Kovick, Rosemary Wyman, Mara Robbins, Tenley Weaver, and Pam Cadmus. More recently they have been about talented young people like Abraham Cherrix, The Junior Jamboree players, Rowan Chantal, and now Carolyn Kirby.

4. Whenever I type OPERA (which is rare) my mind confuses it with the word with OPRAH.

5. I called Mara to ask if she do some poetry performance at the Floyd Democratic Rally this Friday. I didn’t expect her to answer and was all ready to leave a message and when I heard “Hello Colleen.” For a few seconds I was shocked and flattered to think that her answering machine message was "Hello Colleen."

6. Now you can have your own Saturday Night Live Sarah Palin skit game HERE. Move your mouse around and click all over. The place is boobie trapped with spoof.

7. It was so refreshing to see Barack and a relaxed McCain in the same place making jokes about each other that really were funny. See HERE.

8. It’s true. Barack Obama is Irish. See HERE. His ancestors came from the same county some of mine did HERE.

9. The social scientist in me loves to study human nature, take informal surveys and document life. I like to track the progress we’re making with tolerance and equality, and so I intuitively make a note to myself of minority representation and the ratio of women to men at events or in books and other print media. When I drive the 25 mile stretch to Christiansburg for errands a couple of times a month, I like to keep track of things like: the ratio of those wearing seat belts and not, how many commuters are driving alone or not, or how many are driving trucks and SUV’s as opposed to small gas efficient cars.

10. Recently I made the Christiansburg trip with a paper and pen nearby and kept tallies of election yard signs. Being from a largely Republican area, I was surprised at how even the score was – McCain 10 to Obama 8. But if the two of the houses I saw with Democratic signs for Boucher and Warner posted in their yards had added one for Obama, it would have been a dead even tie. (Note: on the seven mile ride from my house to town, the tally of Obama to McCain signs is even).

11. I saw feminist and founder of Ms. Magazine Gloria Steinem on Oprah this week. She said something very wise in reference to her husband’s death that reminded me how loosely we use the word depression these days: "In depression, nothing matters. In sadness and grief, everything matters. Everything was more poignant."

12. And here’s what Steinem (who thinks that Sarah Palin is like Phyllis Schlafly, only younger) said about orgasms when she turned 70: "You put on a pair of jeans and realize they're older than most people in the United States. And you remember things from your childhood but not necessarily from the day before. That's when you start to think that remembering something right away is as good as an orgasm."

13. Do you think THIS photo has been photo-shopped? And if not could the article in question be part of THIS shopping spree?

Thursday headquarters is here. My other 13's are here. View more 13 Thursday’s here.

October 22, 2008

Big Changes Around Here

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This is the time of year when there are big changes around here. Not only do the trees along the Blue Ridge Parkway light up in blaze of color, but cars, trucks, and motorcycles stream up and down the road to see them.
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I live down one of those wooded dirt roads tucked away off the Parkway and regularly drive up to the Saddle or the Rocky Knob overlook, just a few miles from my house, to watch the moonrise, the sunset, or just to get the perspective that I can only get under a big sky.
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Since we moved here in 1991, the Parkway has been an important part of our lives. Before we were married Joe and I went to the Parkway to exchange our yearly vows in a ceremony we called “United Untied.” In 1997, when we did decide to marry, we had the wedding ceremony at the Parkway Saddle and our reception party at the Chateau Morrisette.
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At any other time of year, I barely see another vehicle on my short trips up to the Parkway overlooks. This weekend, while Joe was teaching meditation, getting us firewood, and playing soccer, I went on an apple picking and photography outing with a Wall Resident client who was staying with us over the weekend. I did not own the road, could not pull over at every whim for every spectacular scene. The overlooks were packed with hikers, family picnickers, nature lovers, tourists, Hokies, and family reunion goers.
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After taking in and photographing the views, my friend and I headed down to the Rock Castle Gorge trail to the same abandoned orchard where Joe and I went in the spring to see the blossoms and where we go every fall to pick apples. We found the trees were full of fruit high up in branches, so I picked up a stick and started whacking like the big bad wolf trying to shake down a little pig.
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The moral of this story is apple crisp for everyone.

Post notes: See the apple orchard in spring bloom HERE.
And apple picking with Joe in a past year is HERE.

October 21, 2008

*****

We put stars in poems
like we name subdivisions
after lakes that aren’t there
like we name football teams
after Indian tribes
and put animal ornaments
on sprinkler wet lawns
while polar bears drown
and sea otters become extinct

We put stars in poems
like we sprinkle salt on summer corn
but in the winter eat it out cans
We punch holes in black paper
hold it up to the light
We turn thermostats on
to make imaginary fire

We put stars in poems
like we put tomahawks in museums
and put quarters in the juke box
and pinball machines
like we put fireflies in jars
and peanut butter with jelly

Because we remember
when we were children
and laid in the grass
watching clouds

Because we remember
when we were teenagers
and had boyfriends who told us
that sex felt like heroin
without the addiction

Because we remember
when we were flower children
and watched them spill like a river
and the big dipper fell
off the milky way counter
after we ate peyote
and watched Barberella
at the drive-inn movie

Because poems with stars
aren’t like those with cicadas
They don’t cause migraines
or push an agenda
They open our eyes
like brushed on mascara
They flutter and blink
They fall

We put stars in poems
because we lost one of our parents
who followed two of our brothers
and we like to pretend
that the night sky is a city
and if we give good directions
they might come home
for Thanksgiving this year

We put stars in poems
like Hans Christian Anderson
put a nightingale song
in a story about an emperor
who came from China
Because e e cummings
makes poem constellations
that look like petals
falling from a rose

We put stars in poems
because it’s better than saying
your eyes are like pools
and violets are blue
because the S sounds good with the T
and it rhymes with guitar and cinnabar
We like the way the R ripples out

We put stars in poems
because they glow in the dark
but aren’t made of plastic
because it’s better
than putting poems in stars
because it makes our grandchildren
giggle to see them
because we don’t know how to live
without them

We put stars in poems
because they make our poems better
because we believe they’re still there
even when we are not

~ Colleen Redman 10/08

October 20, 2008

Melissa the Barista and Mars the MC Ring in the Third Anniversary of Floyd’s Spoken Word

jchessoct.jpgA couple plays a game of Shogi, a man works at his laptop, a tourist stretches out on the Café Del Sol comfy couch reading a book to the sound of barista Melissa grinding coffee beans for lattes.

Young, soon-to-be thirteen years old Mars, a frequent spoken word open mic participant, offers to be the evening’s MC because the cafe owner and host, Sally, was at a singing engagement a few doors down at the Floyd Country Store.

Mars welcomes the crowd to the third anniversary of the spoken word in Floyd and then, as the blender becomes silent, he kicks off the entertainment with a poem about a tree full of apples swinging and agreeing in the breeze. I sit between the gaps of the knobby roots … he reads.marsoctss.jpg

Abraham Wolf is writing fervently in between Japanese chess turns. When his name is called from the sign-up sheet, he shares his impromptu on the spot poem about all the things he saw on the café table.

There's a poem by Steve titled "Why all the Cursing" and one by Rosemary called “Girl Jumps Off Rope Swing.”

I read my latest, a poem with a title like Prince’s name (five asterisks *****) about why poets like to write poems with stars in them. Using my poetic political license I then read a few punch lines from my blog. The one about imagining women of power (other than Sarah Palin) winking while giving speeches – like Condi Rice, Margaret Thatcher, and Janet Reno – got some good laughs.

The laughing continues with Cheryl, a storyteller and former public school teacher who tells a humorous story about when she taught Mars. DSC08347.jpg He comes back from the bathroom when she was in the middle of the story. Surprised to hear his name being mentioned, he sheepishly says, “Is that you, Miss Spangler?”

Greg reads a poem and tells a story of a recent medical close call. He says he’s arrived at a point in his life where he no longer feels the need to “seize the day” but has decided slow down and simply embrace each one.

Newcomer Rowan charms us with her reading of four original poems. At the end of the night I ask her how she found her way to the Spoken Word. rc.jpgShe explains that she had just walked in the café to work on her poems and saw the Spoken Word announcement sign on the door and so stayed to participate.

Rose Cherrix also tells a story, one about approaching a stranger in the café and the friendly interaction that followed. She reads a poem in honor of the third anniversary, titled “Spoken Word.” My parents always said … Speak when spoken to … Now that I am a parent … I do not say that to my children … I want to hear what they say … I want to know them … She leaves us with an address of a young woman she knows who has Hodgkin’s Disease, the same kind of cancer that her son Abraham bravely battled. “Go to her mom’s blog (helpmegan.org) and leave a comment. They really need the support,” Rose says.

Photos: 1. Abraham and friend. 2. Mars MC's. 3. Rowan reads. 4. Rose reads. Hear Sally sing HERE. Scroll down HERE for more Spoken Word photos and stories.

October 18, 2008

Living Vicariously Through Mara at an Obama Rally

obgroup.jpg I was doing home respite care for a Wall Residences client, so I let my friend Mara stand in the rain in a line that wound around the Roanoke Civic Center to hear Barack Obama for me. She called periodically with updates.

She was with her soon-to-be 11 year old daughter Kyla, who took the day off from school for the historic event. Mara describes Kyla as a “Vivacious (Or was that salacious? The connection wasn’t great) Democrat” who has demanded to stay up late each night of the debates. ob4.jpg

“We just got in. The stadium is 90% filled and people are still coming in,” she said at 12:15. She and Kyla arrived at the coliseum when doors opened at 10:00. Her sister Anna arrived just a little earlier and had saved them a spot in line. Mara said the line was the longest she had ever waited through. Barack was due to speak at 12:30.

The next update I got was at 2:30 and was more in depth and pitched with excitement. She said: “Boucher introduced Jim Webb and Webb introduced Obama. Rosemary was texting us and told me that Emma (her daughter) shook Barack’s hand! I think we saw her on the floor. It was crowded. We, on the other hand, got to see the back of Barack’s head a lot, but we might be on the news because the TV cameras were facing right at us. The best part, and the part that Kyla really loved, was when Barack promised to make college affordable for everyone who serves. Not just in the Military or the Peace Corp but in kitchens for the homeless or at schools. ‘I see a lot of young people here…. I know you’re not a special interest group!” Obama said…”kob.jpg

By the end of the rally Kyla was fully decked out with an Obama T-shirt, a button, and hat. Birthday presents, her mother said. After the rally when Kyla and her mother were in a restaurant, some older women commented on Kyla’s Obama attire. One of the women remembered when she was Kyla’s age and skipped school to see JFK when he came to Roanoke during his presidential campaign!

A van load of women friends who went to the rally have yet to report in. Later, I saw my friends, Michele and her son Preston, dancing Go-Bama on the 6:00 News and heard that another Floyd friend, Mama Lizardo, also shook Obama’s hand.

Post notes: Meanwhile I’ve been following British journalist for The Guardian Gary Younge’s daily postings on the election from Roanoke. It's worth checking out HERE. And HERE is the Roanoke Times write-up of the event. Phone photos above are courtesy of a friend of Mara's whose email address is parrothead. Happy Birthday to Kyla and to Emma's friend Delie, who also got to shake Obama's hand.

October 17, 2008

Colorful Sampling of Fashion Benefits Floyd Fund

The following was published in The Floyd Press on October 16, 2008
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1. Attendees of last Saturday’s Charity Fashion Show and Silent Auction had a bright and breezy autumn day to enjoy a colorful sampling of some of Floyd’s finest fashions.
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2. Tammy Lemons (pictured right), Area Director of The New River Community Action Center (NRCA), said proceeds from the benefit event will go to The Floyd Emergency Fund, an NRCA program that assists families in need pay for rent, electric, water, heating oil, medical prescriptions, and gas. Held in conjunction with Poverty Awareness Month, the event came “just in time for winter,” Lemons said, referring to the high cost of home heating and the troubled economy.
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3. Pat Shelor, who has served for many years on the NRCA board of directors and is a current member of the NRCA advisory board, came up with the fashion show idea and organized the event. “It’s a win-win,” Shelor said. The fundraiser promotes shopping locally, offers an enjoyable activity in a lawn party setting, and raises money for a worthy cause.
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4. The gardens behind the home of Tom and Jeanie O’Neill and The Jeanie O’Neill Studio provided a festive backdrop for the fall fashion show. Host, Jeanie O’Neill also MC’d the event, describing the fashion ensembles and citing which local stores they came from as the models made their way to a gazebo stage. O’Neill’s own one-of-a-kind handmade bags and fashions from her Boutique shop were also showcased.
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5. Fashions represented on the day’s grassy runway ranged from period pieces, provided by Floyd Antiques, to stylishly thrifty Angels in the Attic outfits. Abraham Cherrix said the Floyd Antiques’ tailed tuxedo he wore was made in 1910. His black and white patent dress shoes were provided by McCabes Clothing Store, as were other men’s fashions of the day. Other stores represented included The Meadows, Little Dress Shop, and The Floyd Country Store.
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6. Attendees and volunteer models browsed through the silent auction items or enjoyed cider and hot stew under lawn furniture umbrellas, while NRCA advisory board member Bobbi Shoemaker announced door prize winners at the mic. Sue Nunn, who modeled clothing from The Meadows, won a box of chocolates from Nancy’s Candy Store. Another fashion show attendee won a Crooked Road T-shirt.
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7. Lemons said she was grateful for the efforts of the fashion show volunteers, calling them “invaluable.” Shelor said she would like to see the event become an annual fundraiser.
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8. An evening fashion show serving wine and appetizers was scheduled to follow the daytime show.

Photos -- Just some of those taken that day: 1. Fashion show attendees socializing under lawn chair umbrellas. 2. NRCA area director, Tammy Lemons served cider to models and fashion show attendees. 3. Sally Johnson started the show with an outfit that cost under $20 from Angels in the Attic. 4. Jeanie O’Neil introduced each model by describing what they were wearing and telling the audience what local shop their outfits came from. 5. Coriander Woodruff and Bethlehem Cherrix stroll in their period attire, provided by Floyd Antiques on Locust Street. 6. Barb Gillespie in one of her several changes, wearing Jeanie O’Neill from head to toe and carrying one of O’Neill’s signature designer bags. O’Neill pointed out that many of the shoes she sells are made from recycled tires. 7. Lorrie Morris models a complete ensemble. Everything from her socks to her hat came from The Meadows. 8. Kay Gordon said she first wore her red Angels in the Attic gown to the Friday Night Jamboree when a friend offered to make a donation to the charity of her choice if she would. More recently, Gordon found matching red pantaloons to complete her look, also from Angels in the Attic. She estimated her outfit to have cost about $15.

October 16, 2008

13: The Check in Account

13notebx.jpg1. Everyone knows that Poets are born and not made in school. This is true also of painters, sculptors, and musicians. Something that is essential can’t be taught; it can only be given, earned, or formulated in a manner to mysterious to be picked apart and redesigned for the next person. ~ So says Mary Oliver in the beginning paragraph of her book, A Poetry Handbook: A Prose Guide to Understanding and Writing Poetry.

2. Relationships are like bank accounts. Over the years you can accrue a lot of interest through honest communication and quality time spent together. But if you continue to draw from your investment without making regular deposits of loving interaction you can end up squandering the riches you’ve already earned.

3. Staying current is a good currency to use in healthy relationships.

4. My note taking habit is to separate projects I’m working on by taking notes on one subject in the front of my notebook and notes on another in the back of my notebook. Eventually my notes meet each other in the middle and I know it’s time to get a new notebook.

5. Palin speaks Orwellian HERE. To John McCain’s credit HERE. Although, it should be noted that the flame McCain is trying to put out is one he started and enlisted Palin to fan.

6. There’s a new TV commercial where allergy suffers who aren’t taking the new and improved allergy medication are shown going around with signs on their backs that say “Drowsiness May Occur.” “I want a sign like that too, I said to Joe.

7. I took Joe’s yoga mat outside at night and laid on it in the grass to watch the stars because star and moon gazing brings the poetry out in me. Because poems with stars aren’t like those with cicadas …They don’t cause migraines or push agendas … They open our eyes like brushed on mascara … They flutter and blink … They fall …

8. While participating in a recent Woman’s Dialogue, in which the subject was POWER, I realized that the word begins with a POW and ends with EEERRRR, a hard hitting word with an engine to drive it.

9. Maybe that’s why POWER is so often associated with POWER OVER rather than personal empowerment and the ability to get things done and make things happen.

10. Here’s something I learned this week: You can’t judge an event by what is happening in the moment but only by what happens after it’s over, and over time. Real learning can be far reaching. It takes time to ripple and settle.

11. Since becoming unleashed – retiring from full-time foster care and writing at home as much as I want to – I’ve been living on unscripted instinct, like a creature. It took a couple of years for most of the “shoulds” and imposed structure to fall away. I’m no longer trying to improve myself. I don’t pray for things to be any different than they are. I’m okay with doing just what I find myself doing and with shlelping around in my house clothes writing stories and poetry like a nutty professor in a lab.

12. Not surprising, THIS is my latest theme song.

13. I also learned this: I’m easy to please because I’m already pleased, but sometimes I need to be reminded.

Thursday headquarters is here. My other 13's are here. View more 13 Thursday’s here.

October 14, 2008

The Autumn Leaf That Wouldn’t Fall

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1. Hesitation
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2. Tenacious Persistence
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3. Unshakable Perseverance

October 13, 2008

From the Mouths of Republicans II

A couple of weeks ago I posted a series of comments made by Republican commentators and politicians questioning John McCain’s choice of Sarah Palin for his running mate. While both Republicans and non-Repulbicans have been questioning Palin’s qualifications, when it comes to McCain they are primarily concerned about his volatile temper and his lack of impulse control, as the comments below (all made by conservatives) verify.

"His temper would place this country at risk in international affairs, and the world perhaps in danger. In my mind, it should disqualify him." Former New Hampshire Republican Senator Bob Smith.

"John has made a pact with the devil," says Lincoln Chafee, the former GOP senator, who has been appalled at his one-time colleague's readiness to sacrifice principle for power. Chafee and McCain were the only Republicans to vote against the Bush tax cuts. They locked arms in opposition to drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. And they worked together in the "Gang of 14," which blocked some of Bush's worst judges from the federal bench. "On all three — sadly, sadly, sadly — McCain has flip-flopped," Chafee says. And forget all the "Country First" sloganeering, he adds. "McCain is putting himself first. He's putting himself first in blinking neon lights."

"I think the straight talk is gone. I think he's pandering to the Christian right. That's some straight talk from me." ~ Bob Eleveld, former Kent County Republican chairman who led McCain's West Michigan campaign in 2000.

“The thought of his being President sends a cold chill down my spine. He is erratic. He is hotheaded. He loses his temper, and he worries me.” ~ Senator Thad Cochran, shortly before endorsing McCain.

"He is not the McCain I endorsed. He keeps saying, 'Who is Barack Obama?' I would ask the question, 'Who is John McCain?' because his campaign has become rather disappointing to me. I'm disappointed in the tenor and the personal attacks on the part of the McCain campaign, when he ought to be talking about the issues." ~ Former Republican Governor William Milliken

“He will make Cheney look like Gandhi.” ~ Conservative Pat Robertson

"He is a vicious person. Nearly all the Republican senators endorsed Bush because they knew McCain from serving with him in the Senate. They so disliked him that they wouldn't support him. They have been on the hard end of his behavior. I think he is not fit to be president.” ~ Former Republican Congressman John LeBoutillier.

"It's been a very difficult thing for me because I've never endorsed a Democrat before...but sometimes in life you come to a juncture where it's very clear the national interest trumps party discipline.” ~ Former Iowa Republican Congressman Jim Leach

Post Notes: Take a look at this disturbing video on John McCain’s rage as reported by Democrats and Republicans HERE and THIS one where conservative columnist David Brooks says that Sarah Palin represents a fatal cancer to the Republican Party and explains why.

October 11, 2008

Recently Scene

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1. A Peter Pan Complex
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2. For the Birds
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3. October Surprise
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4. Pink Floyd is Turning Red

October 10, 2008

A Floyd Business Goes Green

6wrfront.jpg ~The following was published in The Floyd Press on October 9, 2008.

Wall Residences has a new address. The Floyd business has been providing residential foster care placement for individuals with disabilities since 1995. After thirteen years of operation, the business has grown to include a total of 40 employees, 140 family providers (14 of those are in Floyd), and 277 individuals being served. In late September the agency’s founders, Jack Wall and Kamala Bauers, moved their offices out of their Huckleberry Ridge Road home and into a new building on Franklin Pike Road. By October 1st their office staff was back to work in new offices, even as last minute construction continued.

But this is not an ordinary office building with ordinary office rooms. Its aesthetics and architectural appeal are obvious as soon as one steps through the timber-framed gabled entrance and into the brightly spacious foyer, where a Crenshaw Lighting fixture hangs. The building’s uniqueness as a model for green construction is apparent by the large Photovoltaic solar panels on the back roof, situated above a large outdoor patio that looks out onto a mountain view.

The 4,700 square foot building has been generating interest from curious neighbors, interviewers, and environmentalists since construction first began in the fall of 2007. 2foyer1.jpg Built with energy efficient, sustainable, and non-polluting technologies, it’s the first building in the area that is LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Gold certified. It will be heated and cooled using Geothermal technology, which takes advantage of the earth’s constant temperature just below its surface.

“We’re flushing our toilets with rainwater,” Bauers, a licensed social worker and the sister of a sibling with special needs, said. In the basement, she pointed out an 8,000 gallon cistern for collecting rainwater, used for watering plants and flushing toilets. Across from the cistern is a station of battery packets, where collected sunlight from the solar panels is converted into electricity and stored. “This would make a good class trip for school children,” Bauers noted.

On the ground floor, the focal point of the agency’s conference room is a long wooden table made by Phoenix Hardwoods. Under the table top there are a series of electrical outlets for plugging in laptops. There’s a flat monitor screen on the wall. Wall Residences is the 3rd local business to be on Citizens fiber optics, Bauers said.

Adjacent to the conference room is a staff kitchen. Among the common kitchen items and appliances there is a single unit energy efficient machine that combines washing and drying clothes in the same drum space. “These are becoming common in Europe where people need to save space,” Bauers said. 3tble.jpg

Why a washer and dryer in an office building? Rather than use throw-away paper products, all towels and napkins will be washable cloth. There is also a shower on the premises. Some of the counter tops are made from granite from the New River. Brightly colored tiles in the bathroom are made from recycled glass. Containers for recycling waste materials will be located in a laundry room-size space in the basement, and there are plans for a composting system in the kitchen.

The upkeep of the building and grounds will provide jobs for some of Wall’s foster resident clients, as evidenced by the Floyd man who arrived with his service provider for his first day of work shredding paper, greeting Bauers as he passed by.

Office space accommodates 12 office employees. Throughout the building natural sunlight shines in through reflecting solar tubes, which work more efficiently than skylights. One room provides space for Wall’s son David, the general contractor who will be developing an Eco-community on the 78 acre property. Wall’s other son, Derrick, manages The Hotel Floyd in town, also owned by Wall and Bauers. The hotel incorporates green products and technologies but is not LEED certified.

“We wanted to demonstrate that building green is doable and can be beautiful,” Bauers said about the Wall Residences building. When asked about the motivation for going to such lengths to build green, Bauers said she felt it was her responsibility. She paraphrased a line from the Bible, her motto: “From those to whom much is given, much is expected.”1kamback.jpg

Wall cited Thomas Friedman’s latest book – Hot, Flat, and Crowded: Why We Need a Green Revolution and How it Can Renew America – as making the case for the environmental revolution needed to keep up with the world’s growing demands for resources. “We need to do more than change the kind of light bulbs we use,” he said.

Wall, who was director of Mental Retardation Services for two Virginia Community Service Boards before heading up Wall Residences, recently attended the annual Commonwealth of Virginia Energy and Sustainability Conference in Richmond. Another Floyd resident, Billy Weizenfeld, executive director of AECP (the Association of Environment and Conservation Professionals) also attended. Wall credits Weizenfeld for putting him in touch with many of the right people, whose knowledge helped during the green building project.

At the conference, top contractors, architects, policy makers, and others came together and participated in presentations on energy efficient technologies and sustainability. Governor Kaine spoke at the event, saying “Government has to set the example.” As part of his commitment to energy efficiency in Virginia, the Governor recently mandated that every new state building be LEEDS certified.

“It cost more initially to build with energy efficient technology but it’s an investment and you get the return in the future,” Wall explained. He believes that building with sustainable and non polluting technologies has to take-off the way automobile efficiency is starting to. Pointing out that a house built today will be around for the next 100 years, Wall said “It’s a lot easier to build energy efficient than it is to retrofit an existing building.”

Now that their business offices are no longer located in their home, Bauers says she intends to reclaim her home life, but when asked if she is enjoying having her house back, she answered, “I don’t know yet.” With all the activity, excitement, and work of moving, she hasn’t been home enough to know.

Post note: This is the agency I worked for for nine years, providing foster care for an adult with disabilities and still work for part time. That's Kamala pictured in the last shot.

October 9, 2008

13 Thursday: Only Kidding

13card.jpg1. Our dog Jasmine lies around while deer come in the yard and eat from our garden, like I let the answering machine pick-up because I don’t want to bother answering the phone.

2. I can’t help wondering if I had been jogging instead of blogging these last 3 years how fit I might be now.

3. Instead of twiddling my thumbs, I’d rather be popping bubble wrap.

4. After seeing Sarah Palin winking into the TV camera during the Vice Presidential debate, I wondered what the responses would have been if Geraldine Ferrari winked during her VP debate in 1984. Then I started imagining other women in positions of power winking. What would it be like if Condi Rice started winking? Could Margaret Thatcher have gotten away with it? How about Janet Reno?

5. So, isn’t winking like crossing your fingers behind your back?

6. A major British newspaper recently sent a reporter to Roanoke, (just down the mountain from us) to see what real swing state people think about the election. The results are HERE. Thanks to Blue Country Magic for posting the link. More voices from Roanoke on the election are HERE.

7. Bridget Bardot, 74 year old activist and one time sex symbol movie star recently said that Sarah Palin was a disgrace to women. Bardot, who heads up an animal rights group, implored Palin not to compare herself to dogs, referring to Palin’s depiction of herself as a pit-bull wearing lipstick. She said, "I know them well and I can assure you that no pit-bull, no dog, nor any other animal for that matter is as dangerous as you are.”

8. Tina Fey did not write the above line, nor did it come from Amy Poehler and Seth Meyers’ SNL Weekend Update of the fake news. It’s true. Bardot actually said it.

9. I wrote this line and it’s also true: I was getting kind of tired of being Joe’s secretary and giving him pat answers when he checks in to see who has called him. So the last time he called home and asked “did I get any messages?” I answered jokingly: “Yeah. Your mother called. She wants you back.”

10. Forclosure? The Bermuda Triangle? What would we do on Thursday without the 13 Thursday meme game prompting us to visit blogging friends, new and old? We found out last week when no one showed up at the TT hub to host the game. So people added their new links to Sept 24th edition and proceeded to play, acting like nothing was different.

11. Actor Will Arnett is married to SNL’s Amy Pohler. His Wikipedia bio says: "He and Amy have two dogs, Hank and Gerald." His wife’s Wikipedia Bio says: "They live in New York City and have two dogs, Toby and Elliott."

12. Does that mean that they really have four dogs or that someone is holding crossed fingers behind their back?

13. It's almost THIS time of year again. Can you guess which one is me?

Thursday headquarters is here. My other 13's are here. View more 13 Thursday’s here. #154

October 8, 2008

The October Porch Vacation

potat.jpgMud on potatoes dries to dirt in the sun, spilling from a bucket like a cornucopia overflowed. In the garden, a few tomatoes struggle to turn red but only make it to bright orange – the same color as the potted mums on the porch table, a $3 grocery store purchase for October’s yearly anniversary.

The dog is lapping water from her bowl. A muffled dishwasher hum from the kitchen, like the breeze that hushes through the trees, promises a crisp new beginning. Crickets hang on, drone a fading song, as I fill an empty notebook page with words. Then, lifting my eyes, I watch an oak leaf in mid air rocking like a cradle as it silently floats to the ground.

Post note: No produce was harmed in the making of this post and the just-dug potatoes shown are all natural and un-posed.

October 7, 2008

Fitness Training in Floyd

rowancloseupx.gif ~ The following appeared in The Floyd Press on September 18, 2008.

Having a Personal Fitness Trainer isn't just for city dwellers or celebrities like Oprah. Floyd native, Rowan Chantal recently received certification as a Personal Trainer from the American College of Sports Medicine and has set up shop at The Floyd Fitness Center. Chantal, a Blue Mountain School Alumni and a 2003 Floyd High School graduate, also has a degree in Physical Education from Berea College in Kentucky.

The youngest of five brothers in a family of talented athletes, Chantal broke from the family tradition of playing baseball to play soccer in high school. Excelling at the sport, he earned MVP and Floyd Press Player of the Year for soccer in his senior year.

Inspired by his older brothers Santosha, an actor and builder of set designs in Chicago, and Kamal, a Physician's Assistant at the Orthopedic Center in Lynchburg, Chantal planned to pursue his duel interests in Drama and Athletic Training at Berea. It wasn't long before his interests converged and his dramatic talents were channeled into teaching.

Berea is a small college dedicated to providing full scholarship education to promising students regardless of their financial means. The school requires that each student fulfill a minimum of ten hours a week in service jobs on campus or in the community. Chantal's first work exchange position involved creating and implementing physical education lesson plans for elementary school students at a nearby school. It was through that job that he discovered his love of teaching.

When an injury sidelined his soccer career at Berea, Chantal turned to his interest in personal fitness and stepped up his weight training routine. The results were impressive. His physical appearance modeled what good fitness training can do and soon he had other students asking him to create fitness programs for them.

"Part of the reason I got into this because I saw so many people at the gym working-out incorrectly," he explained.

A Fitness program under Chantal's direction takes into account form, safety, and best ways to achieve the best results. rccurls2x.jpg It begins with a consultation to determine a client's goals. The consultation is followed by a review of dietary and lifestyle habits and an introduction to the exercise machines that will be used. Fitness testing to see where a client is at and to track improvements is also conducted. Testing involves weighing, assessing body fat, taking body measurements, and taking pulse and respiratory rates before after exercise.

With a realistic approach to health, Chantal's upbeat personality adds to his effectiveness as a trainer. During a recent consultation with a prospective client he said, "Don't deprive yourself of the foods you love, just use them in moderation." He recommends having high protein snacks on hand, such as trail mix or hard boiled eggs. "Most protein bars have a lot of sugar in them. Eggs have good fat," he said.

His workout programs include cardiovascular exercises and full body weight lifting regiments. "Whatever your goals are - whether they are to build muscle mass, to get lean and toned, be better at your sport, put on or lose weight - I can help," Chantal said. "I like to help people set and meet goals," he added.

Being fit is a key factor to living an active life, Chantal explained, and he is proof of that. He divides his time providing fitness training with a landscaping job. Recently he returned to Blue Mountain School to coach a summer soccer camp. More recently, he has signed on to be the head soccer coach at Floyd High School.

Committed to healthy living, Chantal believes that fitness training is one of the best preventative medicine practices for physical and mental health. "It's great for relieving stress relief and it feels good too," he said. ~ Colleen Redman

Note: Rowan can be reached at rowanchantal_10@hotmail.com

October 6, 2008

Citizen Activism

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I stumbled upon this scene, a constructive use of a weekend afternoon, while in town for my writer’s circle on Sunday. After hearing from a friend in the Café Del Sol that some people were holding up Obama signs in the Courthouse parking lot, I jogged down to see for myself.
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In the five minutes I was there, I witnessed a sale and a couple of horns honking in support. I snapped a few pictures, and before leaving, I bought four Obama for President bumper stickers, which I shared with the other three women who attended the writer’s circle. I think they forgave me for being late.

Note: There is a Democratic Rally planned for Friday October 24, 6 p.m. at Floyd’s Sun Music Hall. Musicians and special guests will be featured.

October 5, 2008

Does Size Really Matter? – A Vote for Smart Government

Imagine where our country would be today with energy independence if Ronald Reagan hadn’t torn down the Photovoltaic solar panels that Jimmy Carter put on the White House and if he hadn't followed that by racking up one of the biggest deficits in history.

Imagine where we’d be now with energy independence if Vice President and environmentalist Al Gore, who won the popular vote in 2000, had become president instead of George W. Bush who was so stuck in the past that he invaded Iraq at the expense of the real task at hand and then went on to top Reagan’s record high deficit.

Since I’ve been a voting adult, I have heard the constant derogatory variations of labels put to Democrats by Republicans, such as “tax and spend and bleeding heart liberals.” But in my lifetime it’s been Republicans who have not been fiscally wise and Democrats – like Clinton nationally and Mark Warner locally – who have balanced our budgets.

When I first registered to vote in my hometown state of Massachusetts, I registered as an Independent. Today, as a Virginian, I consider myself a fiscally conservative Independent who votes Democrat because they represent my views on Civil Rights, Labor Rights, Women’s Rights, Human Rights, and Environmental Protections better than their counterpart. So when someone tries to pin the “liberal” label on me without any wiggle room, I find it limiting and oppressive.

The “liberal” name calling that Rush Limbaugh and others like him have modeled over the years has worked to stop constructive debate and further divide Americans. Crying over what Limbaugh characterizes the “liberal media” and “elitist” Democrats is, in my mind, a linguistic gimmick meant to take pot shots at those who demonstrate thoughtful intelligence or simply have differing views. If Democrats are so “elitist,” how is it they are the party that has consistently stood up for blue collar and middle class families while Republicans have largely championed corporate America?

We continue to hear conservatives spout the Reaganomic’s refrain, ‘get government off our backs.” But Reagan’s economic policies (sometimes referred to as “trickle down economics”) were so questionable that his Vice President, George H. Bush, at one time called them “Voodoo economics.” Many have faulted Reagan for ignoring poverty and social justice issues while the rich got richer during his presidency. Some Economists believe his economic policies contributed to the Savings and Loan scandal, another big taxpayer bailout.

The banking crisis and bailout we’re facing today could be viewed as example of what smaller government gets us. John McCain and most Republicans consistently vote against regulations in the name of “smaller government,” wrongly thinking that businesses will regulate themselves. Privatization is the party line cure-all that most Republicans tout, but all too often it ends up paving the way for an inroad to monopoly and corruption.

The response to Hurricane Katrina is another example of what small government can translate into. FEMA was known to be a solid agency under Clinton. When George W. Bush got into power, he deemed it something of an entitlement program, demoted its status, and allowed inexperienced cronies to run it. The rest is (shameful) history.

And so, this fiscally conservative Independent will vote Democrat once again. I trust that Obama will not entangle us in a costly and unnecessary war, and that he would not have packaged and marketed the reasons for war by tying them to charged but false claims (such as that Iraq had something to do with 9/11). I trust that under his leadership we will make real progress on energy independence through sustainable and non-polluting sources, and that the drunken sailor-like chants of Drill Baby Drill that we heard at the Republican National Convention will fade into the background.

With an Obama administration, I’ll feel assured that my civil rights and my rights to privacy won’t be re-written and that government will indeed get off my back when it comes to those cherished rights.

In the end, it isn’t about the outdated labels we pin on each other, or what new labels we give ourselves and wear like sound bites (like Maverick). Whether government is small or big isn’t the pertinent concern. I want a government that is smart. I believe electing Obama is the first step in that direction. ~ Colleen Redman

Note: The above was published in part in the Roanoke Times on October 26th and in its entirety at their online site HERE.

October 3, 2008

I Know What Bryce Likes

brrockx.jpg You’ve heard the saying “Girls Rock? In my case it was literally true. Not in the musical sense, but in the banging back and forth against the back of a couch, or a in the car to the tune of my siblings complaining. I’ve outgrown most of my big motion rocking with the help of rocking chairs and by training my compulsion to be in constant motion down to one shaking foot. Even so, chairs that don’t move are useless to me, which is why my friend Jayn once gifted me with one of my all-time favorite Christmas presents: a swinging rope chair from Twin Oaks that she traded for her pottery at a craft fair. She had one in her house and I was known to chase children out of it in order to have it for myself. The one she gave me hangs in my living room today.

The swinging rope chair in my living room was my son Dylan’s favorite chair too, and when he moved into a cabin that he, Josh, and Joe built on the property, I gifted him with one. Now his chair hangs from the back deck porch at his family home in Roanoke. Someone who lives there likes it as much as we do.

See the boy in action HERE. I bet you can’t not smile at the sight of his delight.

October 1, 2008

13: Google the Yellow Brick Road

13bike.jpg 1. This is the time of year I like to sunbathe on the porch because it’s cool enough to soak it up. Letting all that good warmth and Vitamin D penetrate my skin makes me feel like a solar voltaic panel storing sun for the winter.

2. Golden parachutes? How about being fired and fined instead?

3. While Joe and I were visiting my Asheville potter son Josh last week, we watched the first presidential debate with him at one of his friend’s house. Our favorite part was when McCain talked about the bracelet he was wearing and then Obama showed his and said “I have a bracelet too.” McCain’s bracelet was given to him by mother who lost her son in Iraq and who asked him to make sure her son didn’t die in vain. Obama’s was also given to him by a mother who lost a son in Iraq. She wanted him to make sure no other mother would have to go through what she did.

4. While in downtown Marshall, I saw a shop called MY SISTER’S PLACE, but my mind added two little strokes to the L in the word PLACE and I saw it as MY SISTER’S PEACE.

5. Josh recently had to update his resume for a ClaySpace press packet, but he’s been so busy with the tasks at hand that he forgot some of the shows he’s done past year. “I had to google myself to find out what I’ve been doing,” he said.

6. I think Josh, whose father is English, has a Cockney Rhyming Slang gene. The lingo he uses fascinates me to the point that I write it down when I hear it. This past weekend I learned that “spitting game” had something to do with a pick-up line and that calling someone a “bag of hammers” was another way of saying they were screwed-up.

7. At his BFA thesis show in December of 2006, Josh’s eight foot handmade brick wall art installation with the word INDIVIDUAL stamped on each brick conveyed that a single person isn’t as powerful as when they join together with others and build community. Another installation at that show was an interactive piece made of bricks stamped with the word COMMUNITY, which people moved around during the show. Some took the COMMUNITY bricks home after getting Josh to sign them. See one HERE.

8. Josh has a friend who, on two different occasions, tried to take a brick home to Arizona, but each time the brick was confiscated by airport security.

9. But you can mail a brick "as is" without any packaging, as blogger Naomi found out when Josh mailed her an unwrapped brick with her address written on the surface.

10. I have to wonder if Josh was the first person to mail a single brick.

11. I google Josh’s name when I want to find out what he’s been up to, too. Most recently I found THIS photo of him presenting a COMMUNITY brick to fellow North Carolina potter and pottery blogger Michael Kline. After that, I found THIS blog with another picture of Josh on it. It was authored by Rob Cartelli, a potter who took the two month Penland class on woodfiring clay made of local materials that Josh assistant taught this past spring.

12. We take bricks for granted, but the oldest ones found date back to 7,500 B.C., and from Josh I became aware of how important they have been to civilization, as this excerpt from a story I wrote for the Floyd Press called Building Community in Floyd says: Josh opened my eyes more fully to the role clay has played in human survival when he stated that the conceptual basis for his BFA Show was a pipe, a vessel, and a brick and then explained the significance of early ceramics: a pipe moves water and sewer, a vessel stores and transports food, and brick is used to make shelter. More HERE.

13. And then there is THIS. Do you remember it?

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