All summer long my husband, Sam, and friend Sandy shared a box of fresh, organically grown veggies each week as a member of a CSA (community supported agriculture).
Ron Gagliano (see profile of him in June 2010 on wncwoman.com) is an old friend from the days when we were both in the clothing business.What a surprise it was to learn that he’d become a local farmer in recent years, creating Bee Tree Farm near Mars Hill. But then, he was just following in the footsteps of his Italian grandfather!
If you’re not familiar with a CSA, it’s a great way for farmers to be assured of a market for their produce, and get much-needed capital up front for seeds, etc. As subscribers, we pre-paid for a season’s worth of produce; then we picked up a big box each week from the tailgate market, or sometimes from the farm itself. Early in the season lettuces and various greens predominated.
As the season went by the offerings were broccoli, cauliflower, beans, tomatoes, herbs, cukes, squash and recently a big succulent watermelon. Because Ron, being Italian, loves to cook, he also makes his own tomato sauces and pestos and jams so every couple of weeks he’d surprise us with one of those.
It has been a truly rich experience; we dried a lot of herbs and even froze several bags of chopped tomatoes that will be the base for soups and sauces this winter… yum.
And it’s not just the food, although knowing it was picked that morning, knowing who grew it and how was important. But, in many ways the best was being part of a community, supporting local farms and farmers (when we get to the market on Saturday morning, we see breads and cheeses and flowers and veggies from other local producers, along with home-grown music too). And I just learned that Appleberry Cove Farm (one of our Madison County advertisers, pg 39) sells goat milk for pets… what a great idea!
If you have already read through the magazine this month, you know about a number of small farmers (many of them women) who are part of this growing, dynamic movement. The farm tour sponsored by ASAP featured 41 farms this year. And it’s very timely that this movement is gaining momentum: did you know that since 2005, North Carolina has led the nation in loss of farms and farmland.
It’s vital that we support these up and coming farmers and there are many, many ways to do that. Join a CSA; buy produce directly from them at tailgate markets; purchase produce in stores that buy local; eat at restaurants that feature locally grown or ask your favorite places to do so.
And just think of the benefits to your health and your taste buds!
For Women That Are Precious in God’s Eyes
By: Lorri Gifford
It has been such a lovely journey getting to explore all of the wonderful support that is offered by the ABCCM (Asheville Buncombe Community Christian Ministry). Over the past four or five months, each experience has touched me in ways that go beyond words. Through this adventure I continually marveled at the amazing work this organization is doing in Asheville. I also began to ask myself how much the career path I had chosen (reading tarot cards) was giving back to others. On the morning of my final tour, I was shown yet another phenomenal ABCCM facility—as well as the answer to my question.
I arrived at Steadfast House on a Tuesday morning, travel mug and notebook in hand, for an interview with Director Millie Hershenson. Steadfast House is located in a residential neighborhood near downtown Asheville and is a home for women veterans and other women who have been in abusive relationships, have substance abuse problems, mental health issues, or suicidal tendencies.
Steadfast house has capacity for 26 single women and 7 mothers with children. Of the 26 beds available for single women, 10 are for female veterans and are always kept free for veterans. Steadfast is not an emergency facility. It is a longer-term facility that helps to create permanent life changes. Veterans are welcome to stay for up to two years, and civilian women are welcome for up to one year.
Women that come are either unemployed and can’t pay their bills, homeless, or underemployed (employed, but not making enough money to pay their bills). The majority of female veterans come straight from the VA hospital. Civilian women that come to Steadfast House get referrals from HelpMate (a domestic violence shelter) or local emergency homeless shelters.
If a woman at Steadfast House is not working or going to school she must be part of the Day Program. Volunteer work is part of the requirement of this program. This could include anything from help around the house, to yard work, to work at an outside association. Caseworkers at Steadfast House check to see if she is eligible for the Work First program (administered by Buncombe County Social Services) which assists with training, work experience, and supportive casework to enable a woman to become self-sufficient and self-supporting. Work First also provides assistance with childcare.
Mothers that live at Steadfast House are required to attend mom’s meetings & parenting classes weekly. These women learn to establish trust with caseworkers, feel safe with other families, and build trust with other women in a community filled with God’s love.
Classes are offered at the House and all of the women are encouraged to pay their debts and start a savings account. They are each supported in working out a budget. Steadfast House utilizes On Track Financial Education and Counseling, whose educators come to the house each Monday. Each woman is required to meet with her case manager once each week and if she is in a substance-abuse program, she is expected to attend AA or NA meetings. The program also offers “Spiritual Mentors.” These mentors are women in the community that spend time with Steadfast residents.
If you find yourself with a free evening here or there, one of the biggest needs at Steadfast House is volunteers for evening childcare so that the women can take evening classes. Cook teams are also needed (groups of people willing to cook and serve meals, or precook and drop off meals).
“It is about rules and guidelines at Steadfast, but it’s more about the women’s lives.”
Millie Hershenson has been the director of Steadfast House since October 2010. She candidly admitted that when she first arrived there was a “heavy” feeling at Steadfast House and that the women seemed to have “a fear of doing something wrong.” As a result, Millie helped develop the “Heart” program. This program has changed the original vibe of Steadfast House from being all about the rules, to being about each woman’s strengths. The intent of Steadfast House is to help women find their “trigger points” or what causes relapses.
When I asked Millie what the biggest need at Steadfast House was, she laughed and said “I’m gonna dream big and say a three-door commercial refrigerator.”
Other items needed
at Steadfast House:
Paper products, plates, cups, napkins, toilet paper, paper towels, cleaning supplies, new twin fitted sheets, powdered washing detergent, and quart-size zip-lock bags.
to Steadfast House:
Millie’s journey started in 1993 when she got divorced, which pushed her into finding a job. As a single mom, she interviewed for the position of the Director of a shelter for battered women in Lenoir, NC, where she worked for two years. During that time she “met an amazing man” and remarried. In 1995 she accepted a position in Shelby, NC with The Cleveland County Abuse Prevention Council and was with them for ten years.
Her evolution began in 2005 when she went on the Walk to Emmaus.
The Walk to Emmaus is a spiritual renewal program. The intention of the program is to strengthen the local church through the development of Christian disciples and leaders. By examining the model of Christ’s service to others, the program encourages becoming “a servant of all.”
The Walk to Emmaus experience begins with a 72-hour weekend comprised of talks by both clergy and non-clergy on the themes of God’s grace, Christian disciplines, and what it means to be the church. The course is filled with prayer, meditation, worship, and daily Holy Communion. Men and women attend separate weekends.
Needless to say, when Millie came back from the weekend, she felt changed. At the time she felt that God was calling her to go back to school. She took a leap of faith and quit her job.
For three years she attended school, a very challenging time. Her mom passed away and she and her family lost their house. Everything she knew was being stripped away. Millie began questioning whether she made the right choice, and in 2006 she decided to go back to work. She found a job at the Waynesville First Methodist Church and worked there until it was downsized a couple of years later. After that she began working full time at the Community Kitchen in Canton, then came to ABCCM this past October.
Because of her education she can now be more “hands on” with women needing help. She learned the value of ministry and understands now why she went through everything she did to come back to the same field of work, to be “a servant for all.” Millie LOVES that Steadfast House is part of her life.
“I would not be able to work here if I had not gone back to school. I realized that true ministry is being right in the middle of the need. I share my faith. I pray with the ladies. I witness to them. They have value. They have worth. They are precious in God’s eyes.”
Little did I know that as Millie finished saying that, I was about to be shown that what I do has value and worth and was also precious in God’s eyes. As we were sitting there, I asked if there was a woman I could speak with that would be willing to share her success story for this article. Millie smiled, “I have the perfect person. Let me give her a call.”
As she was about to leave a voice message, there was a knock at the door and a woman came in. It turned out to be Angela—the woman Millie was calling. As I was introduced to her, Angela looked at me quizzically and asked “Have we met somewhere before?” At first we couldn’t figure it out. Then suddenly she said, “I know where it was! I got a reading from you a few weeks ago. I just want to thank you! That reading really helped me and showed me that I was on the right track.”
The time we had spent together created a gift for both of us. God showed up through Angela to tell me that the work I am doing is of value and for that I am grateful.
We would like to share Angela’s story, to show the intrinsic value of Steadfast House.
Angela was born to a mother who was an addict and a father who was a dealer. Her father was, in fact, in prison the day she arrived in this world. Angela remained in the custody of her mother until she was three. At that time her mom, while angry, threw a cast iron skillet at Angela and broke her arm. She was then put in the care of her grandparents and stayed with them on and off for five years.
When Angela was eight her mom got clean for the first time and remarried. Her new husband was an alcoholic and her mom started using again within a year. Angela was molested by her stepdad from the ages of nine to eleven. Around that time, her mom got to the point where she couldn’t “hit” herself with the needle, so she taught her daughter how to inject the heroin for her.
At 13 Angela got pregnant. She had an abortion and the same day started getting high and shooting heroin (a derivative of morphine). The next time her father got out of prison he made sure she was supplied with dope because he was a dealer. The reason: he could make sure she got “clean” dope .
At 15 Angela got pregnant again. This time she didn’t realize it until it was too late. She had the child and gave the child to her mom and stepdad, then moved in with her father. While living with him she learned how to sell, cook, and use.
In high school she met a guy that she briefly dated. He wasn’t a user but he died in an automobile accident soon after they were together. At 19 she got pregnant with her deceased boyfriend’s best friend. She got married, was put on methadone, and had her son. Two years later she became pregnant again, with a daughter, and continued to use on and off. The pain meds she was put on after her pregnancies would lead her back to drugs.
She left her children and husband and moved back in with her dad and sold, delivered, and did drugs. She started working at a strip club and did some prostitution. One of her clients broke her nose and dislocated her shoulder.
Her father once again went to prison and got out.
“I went from Texas to Maine and picked up dope with my daddy.”
Angela’s wake-up call came on January 7, 2008. She went on a drug run for her father. At the time, he wasn’t able to go, so he sent one of his main dealers with Angela. Together they took delivery of the package. Because Angela always got her supply out of her dad’s stash, she removed 14 baggies of heroin from this package and put it in the pocket of her coat. As they stopped at an intersection, gunmen attacked them. The shooters knew about the dope.
The dealer she was with was shot in the neck and died. Angela was shot in the side and in the arm. She passed out and woke up in the hospital.
The bullet hit her spleen and grazed her stomach. She had emergency surgery and was in the hospital for six months. During her stay she was put into an induced coma to help her through withdrawals. Without it, she would have thrashed around too much. Given the state of her injuries, that was the only option to insure her recovery in a timely manner.
The detectives investigating Angela’s accident found the 14 baggies of heroin in her pocket, so she was charged as she left the hospital. Now past the withdrawal symptoms, Angela did not go back to using. During the court case she briefly stayed with her ex-husband. She started going to NA (Narcotics Anonymous) meetings to help her court case. The heart-wrenching stories she heard at the meetings inspired her to keep going for reasons other than the court case.
She was charged with selling and distribution and was sentenced to two years in jail. Her first year was in a facility in Raleigh and her second in Swannanoa. When she first got to Swannanoa she wanted to leave and go back home (Raleigh area). One morning she woke up in the mountains and something shifted.
During her incarceration, her mom died from a drug-related incident.
While in jail she heard about Steadfast House. During the last six months of her sentence she was given a phone interview. One month before leaving Swannanoa she found out that she was accepted.
On February 10th, 2011, she went straight to Steadfast House. Angela quickly completed every class and passed every drug test. She says that Steadfast was the best thing that ever happened. Ironically, after she had been at Steadfast House for two weeks, her dad was arrested again. If Angela had returned to live with him after prison instead of entering Steadfast House, she would have ended up in the prison system again, as an accessory.
Angela has completed her program and moved out of Steadfast House, but continues to go in each day to help out as one of their Resident Assistants. She also attends four NA meetings per week.
“This has become a new life for me. My children feel safer now with me than they ever have. The people at Steadfast House are amazing and want to help heal you. If they can’t help you, they find someone that can. They loved me regardless of my past. I do not have to go through the struggles myself. Steadfast will help you no matter where you’ve been or who you are. Millie and all of the caseworkers helped me experience love and sisterhood for the first time in my life.”
At Steadfast House, women like Angela are taught to understand their story rather than passively endure it. All of the women are treated with dignity and respect. The rules that are incorporated there are meant to support the structure of a well-run home/household. It is a total re-education.
The women are taught to believe that they have value and worth and are precious in God’s eyes.
Imagine a world where we all believed that.
Lorri Gifford has been reading Tarot Cards since 1986. While living in California, she worked at The Chopra Center for Well-being as their Spa Director and a Lead Educator. In 2009 her intuition guided her to move to Asheville. Lorri enjoys writing, giving readings, coaching, and helping others develop and deepen their intuition. She can be reached at readingswithlorri.com or 828.505.4485.
It begins in winter
sitting with a novel,
a cup of tea,
warm by the woodstove.
I imagine their serious faces
studying their catalogues
so many vegetables, so many varieties.
I live in other’s lives
while they make choices
driving past them in the fields
I smell the damp soil
as they guide their tillers,
plow their rows.
I see them kneeling
in the hot sun
making miniscule holes
that will grow
into the food I eat.
I leisurely walk
to cool off at the river.
I view their bodies
streaming with sweat,
Their nimble fingers
weeding, staking, harvesting
as I walk by erect,
grateful for their toil,
the vegetables picked for me.
Midsummer and into autumn,
I sometimes see them
hands on hips or spread wide
gazing into their fields.
I try to envision
their farmer’s dreams,
from such labor.
We delight in the bounty
begun so many months ago
soon to start again.
are planting, picking, and planning for their farm’s futures… and they’ve got other things in common, too.
By: Maggie Cramer
“It’s a great equalizing force, doing what we do,” says Margaret McGinnis about being a woman involved in agriculture. “We all farm, we all get sunburned, we all sweat the same.”
McGinnis owns and operates Fork Mountain Farm in Marshall with her husband, Tim Charles. “We weren’t seeing each other and wanted to do something to spend our days together,” she shares about their decision to begin farming after leaving their other careers behind (hers as a clothing store owner, his as a research analyst). “Food is our number one love, so farming simply came out of our love of food!”
Although they bought their property 16 years ago, they began growing produce for the public around 2004-2005. Unbeknownst to McGinnis, both of her farming milestones were also milestones for women farmers in general here in WNC.
According to the USDA, from 1992-1997, the number of principle female farm operators in our region grew from 882 to 1,164. By 2007, that number had grown to 1,473. The number is likely even higher now; the next agricultural census will be conducted in 2012. In the same vein, the USDA reports that the number of male principle farm operators decreased by about one percent from ’92 to ‘07.
In McGinnis’s case, she works as a team with her husband to grow almost every vegetable imaginable—from tomatoes to beans, lettuce to peas—as well as fruits, herbs, and flowers. “We grow some unusual varieties of winter squash,” McGinnis says, adding, “We try to specialize in heirloom, French, and Italian varieties of our crops.” Not only does that please her husband, who is part Italian, but it also pleases area restaurants, like Bouchon and Posana, that buy from the farm for their menus.
Her hard work continues away from the fields, too, as president of the Weaverville Tailgate Market, which she rallied troops to start three years ago. “Shoppers there are using the market to educate their children about where their food comes from, which is really fun to see,” she shares.
As an educator of more than 20 years, engaging children with the source of their food is also exciting for Rita Stepp of J.H. Stepp Farm’s Hillcrest Orchard in Hendersonville. “The delight and amazement in the eyes of children when they see apples growing on trees and pick their own for the first time, never loses its thrill for me,” she says. While Stepp is reluctant to call herself a “farmer,” she retired from teaching in 2004 (coincidentally around the time McGinnis started her operation) to help develop, coordinate, and initiate the farm’s educational/children’s program full time. Her youngest daughter, April, began bringing school groups to the orchard for tours in 2003 after recognizing the benefits for the farm.
“Agritourism has become a major dimension of agriculture,” Stepp notes. Their pick-your-own operation has grown over the years to become a major part of their business. School groups, families, and all visitors can pick their own apples, of course, as well as peaches and pumpkins, and travel through a corn maze and soybean path.
Stepp’s husband, Mike, and his family have farmed for decades in Henderson County. Mike’s father, J.H. Stepp (who’s 91), has grown apples for seven decades. Today, the entire family is involved. Mike’s sister, Sonya Stepp Hollingsworth, also farms the 40-acre operation. “Right now, we have four generations who love the farm and what it represents,” Stepp says. She’s excited that those four generations include her daughters and that it looks like women will be the farm’s future.
Stepp has seen the USDA figures play out away from her own farm, too. “A tremendous resource in farming is getting involved in trade associations, meeting and talking with other farmers to learn how they operate, along with the new trends they’re seeing,” she says. “In these groups are women farmers who mostly have chosen to go this route after another career. They’re well-educated and hard-working women who are determined to be successful and make a difference. Their love for the land and the products they grow are evident in the presentations they give.” Stepp adds that they’re a resilient group—farming is not for the faint of heart.
Meg Lunsford knows that to be true. “In the beginning, we started farming 15 acres with borrowed equipment and only grew vegetables by hand,” she explains of her family operation. “One year, our borrowed irrigation pump didn’t work. We had to take a large water cooler and a cup and water 3,000 cabbage plants by hand to save them from a dry spell!” Lunsford owns and operates Lunsford Farms in Hendersonville, a fruit, vegetable, hay, Angus beef, and pork operation, with her husband and son, Kevin and Jacob. They’ve increased their acreage from 15 to 200 since their start, and they now have the equipment they need to ensure that watering 3,000 plants by hand won’t happen again.
Like McGinnis, Stepp, and the women Stepp meets at trade events, Lunsford had a career prior to starting what she calls her “farm adventure.” In fact, she still holds a fulltime job today, which allows her to provide for her family when farming can’t. But, as Stepp notes, women farmers are a hard-working bunch. And Lunsford doesn’t mind doing what it takes.
“After a long day at my job, I get to lose myself in the labors of the farm (seeding, plowing, laying plastic, cultivating, attending farmers’ tailgate markets),” she shares. She also handles marketing for the farm, fills online farmstore orders, and attends trainings in the off-season to help the farm be more productive, safer, and stay ahead of the curve.
She acknowledges that it takes a special woman to take hold of a farm at any capacity and run with it, and that in her case, she has an amazing team beside her. “It’s exciting to see women take on a stronger presence in farming and be able to work hand-in-hand in what has been such a male-dominated career. I’m blessed to work beside my husband and son. We are a team.” She concludes, “Everyone can add so much to the future of agriculture.”
The Local Food Movement
All three farmers credit a strengthening of the local food movement with the success of their operations.
“Each year, it’s exciting to see the movement continue to grow and grow,” says Lunsford. “We’ve found that our farm friends are extremely loyal and dedicated to purchasing local. They know they’re getting the freshest produce available.” She adds: “Now with an increased popularity of farmers markets and people being able to have the convenience of weekly produce baskets (CSAs), consumers have more control than ever of their food purchases.”
“The local food movement has given a boost to our farming community,” echoes Stepp. “Even though our guests come from a wide geographical area, many local residents are frequent visitors to the farm. The locals have been extremely positive about getting fresh-picked produce that is of better quality and supports a local farmer, and they enjoy meeting and talking with the farmers who grow their food.”
Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project, or ASAP, has been behind a decade-long Local Food Campaign to bring awareness to the movement here in Western North Carolina. ASAP’s executive director, Charlie Jackson, sees just what McGinnis, Stepp, and Lunsford see: It’s working.
“There are more farms doing more things than ever before in our area, and more per capita than just about any place in the country,” he notes. “Businesses are opening to feature local ingredients. Farms are expanding and new farms starting operation. And farmers are trying new things.” It all works, Jackson says, “because we’re choosing to eat local and be a part of a transparent food system where farms have the support they need to keep farming, entrepreneurs can invest in local food ventures, and we have fresh foods.”
ASAP’s work over the last decade has focused on helping make sure that farms in the Southern Appalachians can continue operating. The nonprofit’s mission is to help local farms thrive, link farmers to markets and supporters, and build healthy communities through connections to local food.
They work to accomplish that mission by providing marketing assistance and training to area farmers, connecting area chefs and foodservice buyers at schools and hospitals with the farmers who best suit their needs, and leading a Local Food Campaign. All three farms mentioned here have taken advantage of ASAP’s offerings, including attending their Marketing Opportunities for Farmers Conference (MOFF) and utilizing their funds to create signage and other marketing materials for their farms.
The Local Food Guide, a free print and online directory of the area’s family farms, farmers’ tailgate markets, and businesses that use local agricultural products (online at buyappalachian.org) is one element of their Local Food Campaign. Their campaign also includes the Appalachian Grown™ (AG) branding and certification program. ASAP created the AG logo as a tool to help shoppers easily identify authentically local food. Find it on fresh produce and packaging, as well as displayed by participating grocers, restaurants, and other businesses. When you see the logo, you can feel confident that the farm products were grown or raised right here in Western North Carolina and the Southern Appalachians, and that your purchase helps to support our local economy.
ASAP’s Growing Minds Program takes their work to area schools to foster the next generation of local food supporters. The program provides resources and training to farmers, teachers, chefs, school nutrition staff, parents, and other community members to encourage schools to provide the experiential education that will ensure children know where their food comes from and develop lifelong healthy eating habits. Part of that hands-on work includes cooking demonstrations that introduce children to the wonders of locally grown foods.
In addition, ASAP organizes Asheville City Market and coordinates the Mountain Tailgate Market Association, a network of 22 tailgate markets in eight counties throughout Western North Carolina, to provide locations for farmers to sell their products and for you to purchase locally grown foods while meeting and engaging with growers. Every summer, the organization also hosts the Family Farm Tour—a weekend where WNC farms open to the public and offer enriching on-farm experiences.
Find These Farmers
To hear more of the stories of these farmers and directly support them…
Say hello to McGinnis and her husband of Fork Mountain Farm at the Madison County Farmers & Artisans Markets Saturdays in Mars Hill and at the Weaverville Tailgate Market Wednesdays. Also enjoy their veggies on the menus of area restaurants like Posana, Fiore’s, and Bouchon. They can be reached at 828-649-3373.
Find Lunsford Farm products at the Saluda Tailgate Market on Fridays and the Henderson County Tailgate Market and Mills River Tailgate Market Saturdays. You can also buy direct from the farm at the Lunsford Farmers Market at Tryon Mountain Hardware Store in Lynn, and order weekly farm boxes through their online farm store. Visit lunsfordfarms.net for all the details.
Be a part of JH Stepp Farms Hillcrest Orchard 41st season and visit the Stepp Family to pick your own or purchase just-picked apples, pumpkins, peaches and more. Their 22 varieties of apples mature from mid-August through October, with peaches from the end of July through August, several varieties of grapes at the end of August, and pumpkins in October. The farm is located at 221 Stepp Orchard Drive in Hendersonville. You can also find their apples at the NC Apple Festival coming up Labor Day weekend. Find more information, plus recipes, at steppapples.com.
Maggie Cramer is ASAP’s communications coordinator. She can be reached at
828-236-1282 ext 113 or
By: Rebecca Chaplin
Can we become healthier as we age? I think so. Consider an expanded notion of health to be the integration of body, mind, and spirit. I notice that I become more integrated with each passing year. How about you? With this definition of health, we all have an increased chance for health as we age, regardless of our ‘health conditions.’
I interviewed women from their 30s to 100s who believe this too. A common thread among these women was that embodiment—through physical activity—was a key to feeling greater vitality, ease, clarity, and connection.
Renee Mastrangelo 33, serves as the director of the Lakeview Senior Center in Black Mountain. She knows that she is aging along with the seniors. I joined Renee and participants for their weekly Tuesday hike. Renee likes to hike, exercise with weights, practice yoga, and run. She said that being active helps her to “accept aging.” As we walked down the path with a group of eight seniors, her next statement made a lot of sense. “It’s also a great way for me to be social and involved in the community.” Renee’s fun-loving spirit is clear when she declares her message to other women, “Find the exercise that you enjoy. Don’t do any activity that you do not like.”
Sharon Bigger, 38, interacts with elders daily, both as a Registered Nurse with Hospice and as Expressive Arts Educator with Bloom Consulting. She enjoys power walking with her dog, cycling, yoga, and dance. When I asked her if she was interested in an interview as one in the 4th decade she said that although she is 38, she feels like 40. I was curious about this answer, so she explained, “Bring it on! I look forward to my 40s.” Sharon added, “This really is a new awareness. It’s because I am active that I feel good about aging. I have an affirming connection with women who are older than I am. Women are valuable at all ages.”
Sharon reiterates Renee’s perspective about being connected to community through physical activity in her statement, “I feel more connected to things and people around me when I am exercising. I hardly ever think of what I am doing as exercise and that makes it more fun! As I age, I am feeling more powerful in my body and I am in the best shape I have ever been in…I feel like I have more energy now than I did in my late 20s. Exercise also helps me to be mentally clearer. I figure things out and my brain works better on its own while I am moving.” This exemplifies the sacred synchronicity between the mind and body when in movement.
Sharon also brought forward the idea that exercise should be fun. Her message to other women, “Find a way to move that moves you. And do it. When I think about exercise, it does not sound appealing,” she said, “it sounds like a chore. But once I found [ways to move that I enjoyed] I looked forward to it and my body started to crave it… it feels a lot better than sitting on the couch!” Sharon and Renee are conscious of their aging and aware of the positive vitality that is available through being embodied.
Sajit Greene, Expressive Arts Therapist and owner of Soul Vision Consulting, is 54. Sajit stays active with activities that bring her pleasure such as dancing, hiking, walking the dog, having sex, and learning through practices like Alexander Technique.
Sajit boldly shares that her life has improved with increased physical activity. “When I was younger I was depressed and disconnected from my body. I’ve gotten more and more comfortable with my body as I have aged. It is not as if the aging process has done that. As I have matured, I have gained more body awareness and done a lot of inner work with body image and body hatred and studied body/mind practices. I’ve learned to use my body in a more efficient way with greater alignment. “I feel more alive and invigorated. When I move, it expands my sense of space and I feel more connected to the world around me. So there is definitely a spiritual component.”
Sajit speaks to the more subtle and perhaps most powerful benefit of being active with the statement, “My life force energy does not have an age. [Being active] helps me to get in touch with the ageless part of me. The physical body changes but the life force feels even more powerful than when I was younger. If I find myself thinking about the ways that I am changing physically, then I shift my energy to pay attention to my core energy which feels bright, alive, and ageless.” Her closing message to other women: “When we express that core energy—from the inside out, we are all beautiful. The power and beauty of life force energy radiates through and it transcends the physical appearance.”
Brenda Bagwell is also 54, and recently moved to Black Mountain from Florida. She hikes, exercises at Cheshire, does aerobics, and walks for transportation.
Brenda strikes an emotional cord when she says that “The best part [of being active] is psychological/ emotional well-being. Hiking and exercise are the highlights of my week! It is a key thing in my life. As I get older I have to do more to stay strong and keep my heart and bones strong.” Brenda reiterates that it is important to make exercise meaningful to YOU. “I love to do it in a group, because I will always push myself a little further in a group. I also like to exercise alone.”
A wise woman on the path, Brenda states, “It is never too late. Start small and just do it. The benefits are too large to disregard it. You don’t have to do it alone.”
Sandi Ratcliffe is 66. I could see the happiness in her face as she spoke about her recent retirement. Sandi appreciates Feldenkrais, tennis, and walking her dog. She includes 20 minutes of sit-ups and stretches five days a week.
Sandi glows brightly when she speaks to her preferred activity, walking her dog. “Having a dog is a wonderful thing. I have Rheumatoid Arthritis, so tennis may not always be an option—but walking will be. I see this as a very important part of getting older. I get a lot of exercise, especially when walking uphill. Another benefit of walking my dog is that I meet people. Having a dog and a regular walking schedule has made all the difference in the world. I’ve always worked really hard, but now I am retired and I have time!” I notice her positive view of retirement as a time for cultivating health. I love it!
Claudia Nix is 66 and owner of Liberty Bikes. Her humble, smart, and compassionate presence and her commitment to empowering physical activity among all ages inspire all who meet her. Claudia enjoys gardening, walking, hiking, bike riding, yoga, and stretching. She also used to teach dance.
Claudia explains that being physically active has helped her to “be fit and to recover more easily in the times I’ve been sick or gone through surgery. Being active has helped me to overcome things more quickly.” Like Sandi, Claudia speaks to the value of physical activity as a form of medicine. “Being physical was therapeutic as I recovered from breast surgery. It helped me to not concentrate on myself and how I felt. It helped me to transcend pain – as long as you don’t over do it…” Sound, wise advice! Claudia suggests starting where you are – no matter how small! “Just do it! Don’t care how small it is – start with crawling.” She shares a story of a woman who started with crawling and is now in great shape. “It’s never too late to start – and have fun!”
Jo Hall, 76 is another example of improved health and vitality with age. Jo is also committed to helping others through project EMMA. She leads exercise classes at dining sites across Buncombe County. A former employee of the YWCA in Asheville, Jo continues to enjoy water aerobics, pump, Silver Sneakers, and Silver Splash. “Exercise has helped me manage my diabetes. I have also lost weight and my joints are not as sore.” Yes! Jo is also getting healthier with age.
I met Doreen Plaisance at a Feldenkrais class at Asheville Movement Center. She proudly states her age as “one month shy of 81.” Doreen enjoys Feldenkrais, yoga, Pilates, aerobics, and weight lifting.
Doreen is a picture of vitality. She recognizes that the benefits to her are dual: “…physical as well as mental. I am able to play with grandchildren and to volunteer. I don’t want to get ‘old’. ‘Older’ – yes. ‘Old’ – no. I don’t feel well if I don’t exercise.”
Last, but certainly not least, is my friend Grace Goodell. Grace lives in Hendersonville and will be 103 in late August. She does pool therapy once a week and works her legs on a special machine for 20 minutes, five times a week. Laughing, she says she takes the weekend off.
Grace has led an active life. When she was younger she played golf because it made her “feel good.” “I feel it is necessary to keep active as long as I can — I want my son to join a gym,” she laughs. Grace gets to the core of the matter, saying, “I think that the most important thing is a good attitude. You have to think there will always be something good that comes of it. In the water, I am able to walk and that feels wonderful. Health is the big thing!” We talk about how she wants to bake an apple pie with the first apples from Hendersonville, and she gives me a great recipe for a chilled zucchini-apple soup. For a woman who cannot walk well, she sure does get around with astute mental, spiritual, and physical energy. When I asked Grace where I should take her picture, she said, “Can I sit here? What can I say, I’m lazy.” Once again she laughs, bubbling with vitality. Grace is hardly lazy. As we bring our conversation to a close she reminds me that I may live to be 100, too.
I have an idea — Let’s go ahead and age. Let’s create an aging revolution and be the most positive images of aging in the world. Let’s proudly own our age, health, and vitality. Let’s own our wisdom and continue to explore our wondrous bodies! Rather than wanting to hold onto the past or slow things down to stop the aging process — let’s go ahead and revel in the power and possibilities of now!
A tremendous well of vitality awaits as we discover our personal recipe for movement and we move with awareness. Fortunately we live in a place where this perspective is honored. Are you interested in expanding your experience of being physically active? Join us for one or more of the free events during Active Aging Week, September 25 – October 1. We are offering walks, health expos, education, and more. Events will take place in Buncombe, Madison, Henderson, and Transylvania counties. Expand your experience with Active Aging Week! Visit activeagingweekwnc.org or call me at 828-251-7438.
Rebecca Chaplin is committed to being a visionary of the new world with the honor of serving as an Aging Program Specialist with the Area Agency on Aging, at the Land-of-Sky Regional Council. She also maintains a private practice.
By: Concha Wilkinson
Creativity has always been a way of life for me. It just comes naturally and seems to be a guiding force in my life. Whether drawing, painting or sewing, it’s what makes my heart sing. A career in art started for me as a fashion illustrator. I spent years illustrating for newspaper ads for Belk department stores in Charlotte and eventually took on free lance jobs for illustration and design. Like everything else in life, art seems to evolve and go through cycles. Eventually this kind of work no longer satisfied my creative urge, it simply became a mundane job.
Not knowing which direction I wanted to go with art, I stepped away from it for a while. When I moved to Asheville almost 20 years ago, I was barely painting at all. I spent as much time as I could out in Nature, which eventually brought me back to painting. As I hiked through woods, and waded through streams, the awesome sight of light filtering through trees became my inspiration. Everything was art. I realized how Nature paints itself everywhere with its spectacular array of colors and shapes. And so I began to paint again, yet not in the same way as I once did. Painting and creating were now a spiritual expression for me. I was no longer separate from my art. I was the art as well as the artist.
I began making three dimensional objects into art by painting and embellishing them with found objects. As Art can take many forms, I’ve experimented for many years with various media including watercolors, oils, acrylics and pastels. But there’s something about mixed media that fascinates me. Combining old or discarded objects that are no longer useable to create a piece of art is like watching something being born.
Such things as leaves and acorns or twigs began to fill my studio. Eventually bottle caps, cans lids and old vases from thrift stores joined the collection along with broken jewelry which I couldn’t bear to part with. Crumpled foil paper and pages of outdated magazines with their glossy, colorful pages began stacking up on my studio shelves. I began asking my friends to save bottles, can lids and more. And so the “Art” of Recycling was born! It seems the more I create, the more things I find that can be used for this three- dimensional art. Recycle bins and thrift stores often contain items that become little treasures for me as I never know where they will be used or how they will contribute to the overall piece of art. It’s a humbling reminder for me: as in art, so it is in life. We never know what we can become.
In addition to being a full time artist, Concha teaches the ‘ART’ OF RECYCLING art and craft classes and workshops—finely crafted art using recycled materials. These classes promote self expression, finding your inner artist, and the simple joy of creating.
For more information on classes / workshop schedules and fees, visit www.paintingonpurpose.com or call 828 273-1375. Her work can also be seen in Mountain Made in the Grove arcade.
By: Erika Schneider
Ninety-three million miles away hardly seems local, yet it is a wondrous paradox that our natural systems are sustained by the sun. The stories of Darci DeWulf, Annie Ritota, and Chris Owen, women who have been at the forefront of the local food movement, tell of their experiences in bringing solar energy to their work.
You know that behind the name LoafChild Bakery there must be a woman with a great sense of humor. Darci DeWulf is not only witty, but resourceful and hard-working, starting each day well before the sun rises. Humbly, she credits “good luck and just staying open to possibilities” for enabling her family to enjoy a simple, yet very rewarding lifestyle, running a home-based business in Marshall, NC.
Darci is grateful to have her roots set deep in these mountains, having moved frequently as a child. She came to the area years ago to work as a rafting guide on the French Broad River, and knew that she would be making it home. The region’s natural beauty and rich musical culture were major attractions for both her and husband, Dimitri. However, she says “You can’t beat the local food community,” and it is within the increasingly popular tailgate market culture that she created opportunities for herself and others.
I have to credit Darci for one of the best responses I’ve heard yet, when I asked what motivated her to go solar on her farm. “Solar is a lot more exciting than siding!” she said with a great laugh, and then went on to tell of the homestead that she and Dimitri have built together over the past 16 years. Carved into a rambling hillside, their place is an organic maze of raised beds filled with fresh vegetables and cutting flowers, geodesic and production-scale greenhouses, and goats. In the middle of this haven sits their home, sporting a solar hot water system, one of their first priorities (yes, even over siding) for upgrading the old house after settling in. In 2008, a third collector was added to support a retrofitted, built-up, radiant floor-heating system. “Solar hot water is amazing,” said Dimitri. “We’ve saved a ton of propane.”
Now, thanks to a Tobacco Trust Fund Commission Alternative Energy Grant, they are also producing solar electricity. The 4.23 kW photovoltaic system produces almost twice the eight kilowatt hours a day of electricity that the DeWulfs use in their growing operations and home-based business. A buy-all, sell-all system, grid connected with French Broad EMC, and a generating partner with NC GreenPower, the system produces an income stream for the farm, while contributing significantly to the off-set of carbon dioxide and other pollutants.
The design of the ground-mounted racking system (which Dimitri built himself to save costs and to participate in the installation) is one of the most interesting around. It fits incredibly well on the site, taking advantage of a kudzu-covered clearing for full southern-exposure. Dimitri also ran the trenching for the underground wiring, integrating it under clay-packed tire steps that reclaimed erosion channels forming on the land.
Innate resourcefulness yields a land-based livelihood for Darci and Dimitri and their homeschooled children, Cade and Marijka. In addition to their baked goods, they grow a variety of plant-starts, cut flowers, and vegetables. “We try to be as low-impact as possible and keep it low- key. We know what we need to get by and like keeping it simple, and especially enjoyable,” Darci said.
Interestingly enough, Darci started doing market several years ago as a way to get some “time away” during a period when she was home all the time with young children. Over the next five years, she established a thriving business . In fact, Dimitri recently left his job in construction to work along with her. The market business is a means to keep the family home and together. Home-schooling the kids has worked really well as they learn from being part of the operations. “Baking time is motherhood!” she says. Open time allows for free play and Darci marvels at the extent of their imagination. “There’s magic about it. It’s chaotic, strange, and energetic. That’s our house, our family.”
These are the folks that hide Spiderman at the Mars Hill Tailgate Market, and create limerick contests for fun. After eight years of helping to establish that market, “We are on people’s grocery list.” Darci loves the flexibility this offers; it allows her to produce “on a whim.” The baked goods vary according to the seasonal availability of fruits and berries, but one ingredient is always savorable; easy-going joy.
You can find LoafChild goodies at the following markets: Mars Hill on Saturdays, Marshall on Sundays, West Asheville on Tuesdays, and Weaverville on Wednesdays.
Annie Ritota credits her gift for delicious food to her mother, who “took cooking to a different level,” creating meals that nourished the family and evidently got into their genetic makeup—all seven children turned out to be fabulous family cooks. However, for Annie, preparing and serving food became her passion and profession.
After repeatedly hearing from friends that she should open a restaurant, Annie started catering in Colorado and then ran a very successful restaurant in Greenville, SC. “Annie’s” became known for its healthy, vegetarian food and as a community gathering place. Then, nine years later, her path crossed with Joe’s, a fourth-generation Italian baker, and they moved to Sylva in WNC. Together, they operated a bakery out of their home for three years until it became apparent that it was time for another go at running a restaurant.
Annie’s passion for all-natural ingredients and her propensity for making people feel “at home” fused delightfully with Joe’s incredible connection to bread and his business sense gleaned from growing up in a family bakery. This led to a partnership in which they have room to be creative and to play off each other’s complementary skills. Annie’s Naturally Bakery became the heart of the small mountain community, and their artisan-baked goods known throughout the region. Then several large grocers (including Ingles, Whole Foods, Earth Fare, and Fresh Market) contracted for their products. The need for a centralized baking facility to serve this market became evident.
An exhaustive search with their business partner, John Fisher, led to a large space in the revived Blue Ridge Business Center in Asheville. Formerly the vacated Square-D manufacturing facility, its renovation included extensive efficiency improvements. After more than a year of planning and making the big move—with only one day’s downtime—Annie’s Naturally Bakery has been baking in their new facility since March. In doing so, they are playing a significant role in the local economy and are leading the way in sustainability efforts.
Working in the bakery are about thirty new employees, and a team of eleven continues to run the Sylva cafe where Annie still makes her favorite soups every Monday. Job creation is partly what made their business plan an ideal fit for the Natural Capital Investment Fund, which provides financing to “small and emerging natural-resource-based businesses that will advance sustainable economic development and have a positive impact on human health and the natural environment.” Annie’s undisputedly does all that!
It could be favorably said that Annie plays the role of Mother to the fortunate staff at the bakery and café. One employee, Ryan Anderson, told how she made sandwiches for everyone the first day he began in the office, and that she’s always taking care of everyone. Annie herself said that helping new employees grow and mature is an extremely gratifying part of her work. Annie is a great business woman with a very concentrated and focused vision, Ryan added.
Indeed, holding that vision has led to great ventures for Annie. She attributes her success to the people that she serves, saying that Asheville is an incredibly supportive community, and to teamwork. “It takes loving what you do, believing in it, and having supportive people around you, for it all to work at the end of the day. Everyone has to come together in support of the goal.”
As for their sustainability initiatives, Annie and Joe are excited about their increased efficiency in their new location; distribution from a central location, efficient lighting, natural-gas-fired ovens, and low-VOC materials make their operations much greener. The six-collector solar thermal system installed on the roof of the building has the greatest impact on their carbon footprint, cranking out up to 240,000 BTUs on a sunny day, heating water to wash the equipment in their bakery. They plan to install a solar electric system in the future to offset their electrical usage as well.
Participating in the Organic Bread Flour Project (an initiative to make locally-sourced organic wheat more available) also means that their operations will leave less of an impact on the Earth. Annie says the consortium of bakers, including LoafChild, is coming together to create what they need to be more sustainable in this region.
Fittingly, a powerful staff adorned with preserved loaves, cell phones, and other remarkable objects, rests near Annie’s working space. A totem of her work and partnership with Joe, it is a reminder that she indeed carries the Staff of Life into the world, and it is a better place for it.
Since her children were allergic to cow’s milk, Chris Owen turned to mothers of kids of a different kind— goats! Now, her eldest son, Cullen, has grown into a young adult and the family has established one of the region’s most reputable goat-cheese dairies, Spinning Spider Creamery. At the head of a quiet valley in Madison County, the family starts the day milking about 85 does and ends the day the same way. And in between, they produce some of the best goat cheese around.
“Stackhouse,” named the number one goat cheese in the South , embodies Chris’ dedication to the art and science of cheese-making. A bloomy rind with a layer of organic apple-wood-ash, it is the result of diligent “reverse-engineering.” Knowing what she wanted the cheese to be, Chris worked the process and chemistry backwards, adjusting and troubleshooting until she achieved the results she wanted. The creative challenge keeps Chris intrigued as a cheese-maker, while a strong work ethic and keen business sense have led to her success.
Major credit is also due to her family, as they all serve an integral part in keeping things going. Homeschooling and a strong involvement with 4-H, has enabled the three sons to be engaged in everything from milking to birthing; they’ve developed their own areas of specialty. During the Spring’s farm tour, Silas masterfully demonstrated herding with the border collie he has worked to train. Recently, at the American Dairy Goat Association’s National Show, 13-year-old Morgan was recognized as the Overall Junior Youth Exhibitor, while Cullen served as a Judge. Testimony to the whole family, Cassandra, one of their goats of seven years, won the show’s Reserve National Champion for Saanens. This prestigious award was a ten-year-goal, according to Chris, and it was very rewarding. “We knew we had good goats” she said proudly.
The pedigree of Spinning Spider’s herd is the result of careful breeding and management. This aspect of the business is a job in itself, and Chris sees that offspring from the farm can be sold for a higher premium as the goats prove themselves. That all of this started when Cullen was given a baby goat at age ten, is hard to imagine.
While Chris describes the growth of the Creamery as “organic” it is undoubtedly due to being proactive and strategic as well. Their first chevre was sold for the 4-H Goat Club, but realizing there was a market in Asheville, they became licensed and wrote a business plan with the help of Mountain Microenterprise, now Mountain Bizworks. Jeff, Chris’s husband, who works as a Christmas Tree Specialist with the Extension Service, built the milking parlor and kitchen. A grant from WNC Ag Options allowed for an aging-cooler to be built, and the kitchen expanded. Another grant supported an equipment upgrade to a 200-gallon pasteurizing tank from the Netherlands. “It is so well-engineered,” says Chris and forms the heart of their commercial cheese-making.
Pasteurization requires hot water, and lots of it. When it was determined that the boiler would need to be upgraded as well, the opportunity to bring in solar presented itself. A six-collector solar hot-water system was designed to pre-heat water for the tank, and it efficiently brings the water up to 145 degrees Fahrenheit. Since the process requires 185-degree water, the back-up boiler then makes up the difference. Solar heating will save a tremendous amount of propane, reducing fuel-related environmental damage, as well as operating costs. Funding from Farm Bureau’s Farm Energy Efficiency Project Grant helped Jeff and Chris to go solar. A unique feature in the system was designed to save water. In the previous set-up, the hot water following pasteurization was lost down the drain, but the new design sends the water to a 120-gallon storage tank where it can be used in the kitchen for washing equipment. If the water still holds more heat than can be used, it is circulated through a buried dump load to shed the heat. As milk is pasteurized every three days, the savings in energy and water from this system will be huge.
Operating with the least impact on their environment is of great importance at Spinning Spider. “We do the best we can,” says Chris. From purchasing their goat feed from the Tennessee Farmer’s Co-op, to keeping the herd in balance with the pasture, decisions are made with the goal of being efficient. Ultimately, producing the highest quality product in accountability to the people who purchase their cheese is the measure of their efforts.
Spinning Spider cheeses are available at five different tailgate markets in the Asheville area and in Greenville, SC, as well as through several stores and in finer restaurants in the region. Chris says they consciously made the decision to stay local, and gratefully acknowledges the work of ASAP, the Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project, in creating the dynamic local food movement that WNC is renown for.
Working as the Outreach Coordinator for Sundance Power Systems, Erika Schneider enjoys celebrating the stories of those who create community and a better world. A mother of two teenage girls, her hope is to educate and inspire people to live more lightly and joyously on this amazing planet.
Women’s Weight Issues… they go deeper than the numbers on the scale
By: Maureen McDonnell, RN
After reading the wonderful articles in last month’s issue of WNC Woman on body image (which highlighted the distorted views of beauty perpetuated by the media and how those images negatively impact our self-perception), I found myself awkwardly and unsuccessfully trying to squeeze into a tight-fitting dress in preparation for an upcoming wedding. What a contrast… one side of my brain completely understands and rebukes the destructive nature of advertisers who seek to undermine our self worth by pushing us to look a certain way. On the other hand, I was mad with my post-menopausal body for no longer being able to fit into a size 6 dress! This juxtaposition forced me to ask: is there a middle of the road attitude in which I embrace my body’s unique form, yet remain conscious of my health by eating a nutritious diet that allows me to obtain and maintain a weight that feels right to me?
There is no doubt that weight is a complex issue and there are no simple answers. Years ago, when I first started a nutritional counseling company, I would tell my clients that losing weight could be accomplished by applying two simple strategies: listening to your body and eating organic whole foods. Although I still believe that advice to be valid, I now know my recommendations were a bit naive and that there are many additional variables to consider including insulin levels, estrogen dominance or progesterone deficiency, levels of the hormones: cortisol, leptin and ghrelin, hypothyroidism, insomnia, poor food combining, gut health and food allergies. These factors, as well as many other physical conditions can also play a role in a woman’s inability to obtain and maintain a healthy weight.
Additionally, beyond all the physiological conditions, Sunny Kruger, the director of Alliance for Weight Loss here in Asheville (ad page 21), encourages her weight loss clients to identify their source of hunger by examining areas of their lives in which they may not be satisfied. After speaking with Sunny at length, I came to realize the hunger she is referring to has less to do with the body and food, and more to do with the unmet needs of the individual’s mind and or spirit.
So, in addition to providing guidelines for healthy eating, Sunny assists women in taking a deeper journey into their hunger by investigating what aspects of their life (work, family, relationships, etc.) might be toxic, thereby preventing them from achieving ultimate health and an optimal weight. Sunny finds when women undergo this type of self-exploration, they often create balance in their lives, their relationship with food shifts and weight loss happens naturally.
“Losing the weight is the easy part,” says Sunny. “Information on healthy eating abounds in books and on the internet.” Getting to the core of the hunger, however, and seeing what areas of a women’s life are unfulfilled or unsatisfied is where the real solutions for sustained weight loss lie. When a woman uncovers and heals these aspects of her life Sunny finds, “there is no better authority on what to eat and how to maintain a healthy body, than the woman herself.”
The Price of the Obesity Epidemic
In addition to recognizing the tremendous value of going deeper into our hunger issues and the importance of feeling good about ourselves at any size or shape, we as a nation need to be aware of the fact that major weight gain threatens our health and well being. There are over 20 diseases and chronic conditions directly related to being overweight and the CDC reported in a study from 2009 that the direct and indirect cost of obesity is around 147 billion dollars annually.
Here are some new and startling statistics from the recently released obesity report issued by the Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation:
- Adult onset obesity rose in 16 US states over the past year. Not one state decreased
- Twelve US states now have obesity rates over 30%
- Just 4 years ago, only one state had an obesity rate over 30%
- Obesity rates exceed 25% in more than two thirds of US states.Mississippi had the highest rate of obesity (34.4%)
- Colorado was the only state with a rate below 20% and next year will probably be above
- Adult diabetes rates increased in 11 states and in Washington, DC in the past year; in 8 states, more than 10% of adults now have type-2 diabetes.
- High School dropouts have the highest rates of obesity.
How did this happen:
Instead of focusing too much time and energy on examining how we as a nation got to this place where overall, 75% of Americans adults and nearly one-third of children and teens are currently obese or overweight, suffice it say that our sedentary lifestyles, combined with inadequate public health and agricultural policies, food companies focused on profit instead of people’s health and an ill-equipped and ill-informed health care system all contributed to the current state. The good news is: individually we can find our way out of the obesity epidemic and back to optimal health.
Like Sunny Kruger, Dr. Richard Schaffer, MD offers sound and practical solutions to those battling excessive weight at his centers (MD Wellness & Weight Management) located in South Asheville and Greensboro, NC (ad page 11). Having had his own life-long struggle with weight, and after many years of feeling unfulfilled as a physician working in mainstream hospital settings and practices, he decided to focus on his passion for helping patients achieve healthier lifestyles and optimal weight. As opposed to using drugs, counting calories or even offering the wildly popular HCG, Dr. Schaffer meets with his clients for an extensive hour-long first visit to get to know the whole individual. He also takes his clients grocery shopping so they can obtain first hand practical knowledge on reading labels and other ways to work the shopping experience to their health advantage. And how about a medical doctor who comes to your home and guides you through the process of cleaning out the junk in your cupboards and shows you how to prepare healthy meals?
Dr. Schaffer does not consider himself to be “in the weight loss business.” Instead, he assists his clients in building awareness around food, making healthier lifestyle choices, feeling empowered and obtaining sustainable behavioral changes to assist them in achieving and sustaining a healthy weight. Of course you’ll have to meet him yourself to see if you agree, but after encountering this friendly, down-to-earth and knowledgeable physician, I couldn’t help but thinking: WNC now has our very own version of Dr. Oz!
In summary I’m not going to wear that tight-fitting size 6 dress to the wedding next week after all and I’m not beating myself up about it. I’m practicing positive self-talk and finding new ways to love and appreciate my body at the age and shape it’s in. On the other hand, in my attempt to find that middle-of-the-road approach (not obsessing, but also not forgetting the value of optimal health), I am following the guidelines I’ve listed below by watching my intake of foods that spike the release of insulin, drinking more water, increasing fiber, taking time to exercise regularly and practicing the art of self-love and acceptance.
10 Common Sense Tips for Achieving a Healthy Weight:
- Stabilize blood sugar levels by eliminating foods that spike an extreme blood sugar/insulin reaction. Basically this means consuming organic sources of protein, vegetables, nuts, seeds and a limited number of whole grains and whole fruits. It also means avoiding sugar-laden or white, highly processed foods (bread, bagels, cookies, pastries, soda, breakfast cereals, white rice, fruit juices etc) Refined carbs quickly break down to sugar, increase insulin levels and can lead to insulin resistance. Many health experts agree that insulin resistance is the main underlying cause of many chronic diseases including type-2 diabetes, obesity, and heart disease.
- Drink plenty of pure filtered water (6-8 glasses) in between meals, not with meals
- Consume healthy sources of good fats including organic virgin olive oil (not the best oil to use when cooking though) and organic coconut oil (can be used for baking, cooking and frying) Avoid trans fats (found in many foods, margarine, some vegetable oils). Fats are good sources of energy especially when going on a lower carb diet. Other sources of healthy fat: organic raw nuts, organic butter from grass fed cows, grass fed beef, nut oils and avocados. Another great fat is found in Omega-3-rich fish oil. Good fats do not trigger insulin (the hormone that tells the body to store fat). Insulin is triggered by sugar-laden foods, fruit juices, wine, processed and whole grains and other carbs.
- Consume adequate sources and amounts of fiber (at least 25gms per day). Fiber acts like a “toothbrush” to help cleanse the colon of toxins. It also helps you feel full so you tend to eat less. Fiber is found in the skins of fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds, whole grains and freshly ground flax seeds
- Keep fructose to below 25gms per day (if very overweight, reduce that to 10-15gms per day). According to Dr. Mercola, MD, Fructose is the number one source of calories in the US, and this ingredient, primarily in the form of high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), hides in so many processed foods and beverages, it can be near impossible to avoid unless you alter your shopping and cooking habits. By avoiding processed foods in general, and focusing instead on whole, preferably locally-grown organic foods, you can plow your way through one of the greatest dietary obstacles there is today.
- According to researchers: Dr. Robert Lustig and Dr. Richard Johnson:
- “Fructose is metabolized differently from glucose, with the majority being turned directly into fat;
- it tricks your body into gaining weight by fooling your metabolism, as it turns off your body’s appetite-control system. Fructose does not appropriately stimulate insulin, which in turn does not suppress ghrelin (the “hunger hormone”) and doesn’t stimulate leptin (the “satiety hormone”), which together result in your eating more and developing insulin resistance;
- rapidly leads to weight gain and abdominal obesity (“beer belly”), decreased HDL, increased LDL, elevated triglycerides, elevated blood sugar, and high blood pressure—i.e., classic metabolic syndrome;
- over time leads to insulin resistance, which is not only an underlying factor of type-2 diabetes and heart disease, but also many cancers.”
- Identify sources of hunger that may have to do with areas of your life that are not satisfied or fulfilled (thank you, Sunny Kruger).
- Pay attention to the quality of your foods, avoiding processed food and going with organic unprocessed versions when possible.
- Incorporate some form of cardio exercise into your overall health and wellness, weight loss program.
- This one kills me to say it, but wine also raises blood sugar levels, which can lead to insulin resistance and the cascade of health problems that stem from that.
- Practice the 80/20 rule described in the book The Body Ecology Diet by Donna Gates: when you are 80% full, stop eating!
Maureen McDonnell has been a registered nurse for 34 years (in the fields of: childbirth education, labor and delivery, clinical nutrition, and pediatrics.) She provides private health consultations at her office in Weaverville, NC and can be reached via email for an appointment (MauraHealth@aol.com) or call 609-240-1315. Maureen and her husband H Hanson have five grandkids and feel blessed to be living in the beautiful mountains of WNC.
By: Jonna Rae Bartges
As Managing Director of the iconic Asheville Community Theatre (ACT) for the past two years, and for a stint from 2003-2006, Susan Harper has one ironclad rule.
“All the drama,” she says emphatically, “happens on the stage!”
She’s quick to explain she’s not talking about her all-woman staff, a dedicated team of professionals who eagerly tackle everything from running the box office to making actors fly to tracking down 100 fifties-era suits and dresses for the musical, Guys and Dolls. Rather, she’s talking about the frequently herculean effort it takes to coordinate hundreds of volunteers who donate nearly 30,000 hours each season to create some Broadway-caliber entertainment in these mountains.
“We take the business of running ACT seriously,” said Susan. “Our staff members have to be centered, and stay professional. ‘No drama’ doesn’t mean ‘no passion.’ We just stay very calm and treat everyone with respect and set high expectations.” That atmosphere, according to Susan, not only defuses any backstage drama – it raises each performance, and the army of volunteers’ skills and self-confidence, to a whole new level.
ACT, which has become the oldest continuously operating theatre in Asheville (and one of the oldest community theatres in the nation) had an unassuming beginning. In June of 1946, a brief blurb in the Social News section of the city’s paper invited anyone interested in starting a community theater to gather the next evening. Two short months later, the group’s premiere performance in the old city auditorium was the Appalachian tale of witches and ill-fated love, Dark of the Moon.
The very next year, a young Charlton Heston and wife Lydia Clark came to ACT to direct Tennessee Williams’ The Glass Menagerie.
Through the decades, the energetic, eclectic group continued to grow, taking up residency in the William Randolph School Auditorium, receiving a tax-exempt status as an educational organization, then moving next door to the old Paramount Theatre on College Street.
In 1966 ACT took over direction of the Tanglewood Children’s Theatre, then transformed a former beer warehouse on Biltmore Avenue into Thomas Wolfe Playhouse. While the community’s support was solid, the dilapidated building was not, and the city eventually condemned the old warehouse. ACT launched a fundraising drive for a new location.
On August 4, 1972, ACT celebrated the opening night of Camelot in its new permanent home at 35 Walnut Street. Two decades later, Charlton Heston and Lydia Clark returned to mark the 20th anniversary of the Walnut Street theater with a performance of Love Letters.
Through 65 years of growth and evolution, the one constant for ACT is its loyal core of volunteers and supporters.
At least part of the reason for that loyalty and enthusiasm, said Susan, is the way ACT keeps expanding its programs. In the mid-80’s it debuted Second Stage, a reader’s theatre forum for new and challenging works. To beef-up community outreach, in 1993 Second Stage spawned The Autumn Players to put on events in schools, care facilities, and other locations throughout the area. In 2002 ACT again expanded its repertoire by opening 35below, a black box theatre space, with David Sedaris’ The Santaland Diaries.
Last year, ACT added production classes for kids from ages 6 through 14, giving them the complete experience of creating sets, coordinating technical demands, and performing on the main stage.
With a graduate degree in Arts Management, Susan is enthusiastic about all aspects of the theater but one. “I would not audition for an on-stage role if you paid me a ton of money,” she said emphatically.
Although she shuns the spotlight for herself, she has a keen sense of what will work on stage. “I was warned not to shoot for heavy dramas in heavy times,” Susan said, “so it was a bit of a risk putting RENT on the schedule last season. It was edgy for community theatre, but it doubled attendance.”
Because of that success, Susan is enthusiastic about having Chicago on the bill for the coming year, along with To Kill a Mockingbird. “This year is the anniversary of the publication of the book,” Susan said. “It’s a heavy piece of literature, but it’s one of those iconic ones that will probably do very well.”
With Susan at the helm, the Board and staff are working on stabilizing ACT for the future. While they have seen a 7% rise in ticket sales in this economy, major donations and sponsorships are down.
“To stabilize ACT for the future, we need to focus on operations and building audience – our product is good. It is important to us to be open and welcoming. We want this 65-year-old institution to be here for another 65 years.”
When it is pointed out that ACT has an all woman staff, Susan’s serious expression surrenders to a grin. “Well, all our directors for the coming year are men,” she said. She doesn’t really think of her team as being all women. “These are just the best people for the job,” she said.
A Wisconsin native, she and her husband, who crafts furniture, lived in Arizona before moving to Camden, SC, where they lived for 20 years.
“Camden was too hot even when it was cold,” Susan lamented. The couple discovered the Asheville area, began visiting frequently, and finally moved up here for good in 2003.
Program Director, Education Director, and Volunteer Coordinator Janna Hoekema is part psychologist, part social director, part camp counselor, and all enthusiasm. “Our volunteers are the heart of everything we do here,” Janna, a former schoolteacher, said. “When they come to an orientation, or if they just stop by ACT one afternoon, I want to welcome them and find out what they’re interested in doing. Then I spread the word to the right manager. Each volunteer becomes part of our community, and lasting friendships begin here.”
Janna’s quick to point out that there’s no “typical” volunteer, and she’s seen unlikely transformations take place in people, regardless of age or prior theater experience. She coordinates the ACT camp program, and said it’s common to see youngsters start to discover their strengths through theater.
“There was one little boy – he was about five – and he refused to get on stage his first summer at the Tanglewood camp,” Janna said. “He was in tears, he was so terrified. Then the next year, we couldn’t get him off the stage. He’s been with us five years now, and he’s morphed from being painfully shy into an outgoing leader.“ Auditioning for a role, or volunteering in any aspect of the theater, Janna said, is also a quick way for newcomers to the area to find a welcoming “family.”
Through the years, a pattern has developed for each of the usually seven shows a season ACT produces. About a third of the volunteers for each production are long-time veterans, whether they’re on the stage, or creating it. One third are completely new to ACT, and are learning as they go. And the last third have been involved in just a few productions. No matter which third of the pie they’re on, everyone comes together in the spirit of community. New friendships are formed, old ones are celebrated, and Broadway-worthy shows are presented to a thrilled audience time and time again.
“We have a very loyal core of people making this truly a community endeavor,” Susan said. “We have the behind-the-scenes volunteers, the people working with the camps, and our season-ticket-holders. All of our actors are volunteers; they have day jobs like being a dentist or running a bed and breakfast, teaching school or working in a deli.”
Technical Director Jill Summers was one of those community volunteers who tasted what ACT offered, loved it, and ended up staying.
“I was a scenic design major in college,” Jill said. “By senior year I’d taken all the classes I needed, and I saw a great opportunity with ACT. I talked them into creating their first internship, and spent several days a week working on sets.”
Jill selected her major thinking she’d be a designer, but she tried it, hated it, and discovered instead that she loved technical direction. She tackled every aspect of the job with enthusiasm, even running to Lowes to buy plywood for sets, and lashing the 4‘ x 8’ panels to the roof of her car for the drive back to ACT.
“Just a few weeks before graduation the technical director decided he wanted to retire, so I became his assistant,” Jill said. She was soon promoted to the vacated director position because “they knew I could do the job for them.”
The biggest challenge in creating the actors’ backgrounds for each production, Jill says, is finding the designers. “We have to make up a lot of it as we go,” she said. It’s not that there aren’t talented designers in the Asheville area – the trick is finding ones who can donate their time, talent, and passion to the theater.
One of the treasured ACT traditions, Jill said, is the big tech potluck before every new production. “It’s a chance for people to get to know each other, to meet or renew old friendships.” Another time-honored tradition is striking the set, or removing all traces of the production’s background, immediately after the final curtain falls.
“Tech people are not sentimental,” Jill said. “The actors can be sobbing and carrying off set pieces they want to keep as souvenirs—but my crew is just eager to get rid of everything from the old show and get started on the new one.”
Not all the drama of the mid-80s production of Peter Pan happened on the stage. While the young actress playing Wendy Darling was delivering her lines, she was also falling in love with her co-star. Wendy, who was played by Lori Hilliard, not only ended up marrying Peter Pan – she also ended up playing Mrs. Darling 25 years later when the popular musical extravaganza returned to the ACT stage in the 2009-10 season. Lori has another role with ACT – she’s currently the staff Administrative Assistant – but the curtain is coming down on that one. The native Ashevillian, also president of the Junior League, just accepted a job this fall teaching theater at the new Charles T. Koontz intermediate school.
“I’ve been with ACT for 29 years acting, directing, and doing just about every job,” Lori said. “But now I’ll have a unique opportunity to get youngsters excited about theater. And of course, I’ll still volunteer here.”
Box Office Manager Cindy Ellis volunteered for a few years when one of the executive team members went out on maternity leave in 2009. “I was asked to fill in,” Cindy said, “and I told them, ‘Sure!’” In her two years as part of the ACT staff, Cindy also volunteered at Leicester Elementary School. With her infectious enthusiasm, and her PhD in education, Cindy was scooped up by the school, and offered a full time position as a special education teacher. She, like Lori, pledges to continue to volunteer at ACT.
Tamara Sparacino, Business Manager, and Deborah Austin, Costume Manager, are also frequently wearing other hats. Both women jump in as needed, whether it’s working the box office, painting sets, or helping with volunteer orientation.
Even with the pending exit of two of her key staff members, Susan knows the show must go on.
“We’re always looking for more actors and volunteers,” she said. “We hold open auditions eight or nine weeks before each production. Check our website for the schedule.” Susan’s passion for the theater – our theater – is contagious. It’s not just a stage. It’s an important part of the magic that makes Asheville… Asheville.
Find out when to audition for an upcoming ACT production, or make a donation, at ashevilletheatre.org.
Jonna Rae Bartges is the author of Psychic or Psychotic? Memoirs of a Happy Medium, and a frequent contributor to WNC Woman. Visit her website at jonnarae.com
By: Mary Ickes
When searching for complex and compelling stories, Reading Friends, look no farther than these slice-of-life gems, Ms. Black’s first collection. I suggest a quick read-through for an overview, followed by studious re-reading in whatever order the stories appeal to you. I returned to Tableaux Vivant followed by If I Loved You, still my favorites. As the definition of slice of life dictates, the plots explore people in everyday circumstances.
Jack Snyder drives his daughter Lila to meet her first seeing-eye dog ; at her invitation, Jeremy Piper visits Zoe, his daughter he estranged thirteen years earlier. Claire, a widow still in denial three years after losing her husband to cancer, yearns for the life of Heidi who lost only her leg to cancer. Cliff purchases a country cottage, because he wants . . . to die somewhere beautiful. Jean, his wife, finds new life in the cottage long before his death. Cancer victim Ruth tackles familial dilemmas that her impending death contrives. An eleven-year-old protagonist, whose father has left home, befriends Harriet Elliot who announces, “My father tells me I’m a princess.” Kate, an embittered divorcee traveling in Italy, returns to the cathedral that she and her ex-husband visited forty years earlier. A mother, still coping with the death of her only sibling during grade school, counsels her teenage son after his best friend dies in a car accident. An aging portraitist, struggling to capture her subject’s aura, ponders love’s complexities.
As in real life, intertwining subplots could easily be main plots.
A man descending into dementia . . . sees himself leaving. . . . And he is grieving, for himself. A womanizer resents his ex-wife becoming a woman who would have held his interest. Parents agonize about moving their severely brain-damaged son to a medical facility.
Ms. Black transforms these dark, depressing topics into a veritable feast for perceptive readers. Every story is life straight-on, with nary a hint of the melodramatic or maudlin. Characters in denial are well aware of their defects — and the solutions. A divorced couple bond as they never could during their marriage. A father reproaches himself that . . . he’s gone about this all wrong. What happens next depends on each reader’s perspective, but rays of hope, however weak, shine through most of the stories.
Ms. Black’s writing, whatever the topic, is sublime. May-December marriage: The fifteen years between them had opened up as if blossoming, fifteen full-petal roses, expanding beyond what she had ever imagined possible . . . . Family life: Looking back, it seems like a dance, a four-person minuet comprised of steps toward and steps away, approaches and retreats, ending , finally, with each of them standing entirely alone. Old age: Death, which used to seem so remote, now feels
. . . as though it is everywhere, like the universally disliked relative who arrives early to every gathering and shows no discernible sign of ever going home.
The title story If I Loved You, with bullying pared down to bare essentials, is the most effective. I’ve read war stories, with hundreds dead, that left me less irate than the new neighbor proclaiming to the hapless couple next door that he will separate their properties with a six-foot fence of . . . solid wood . . . with no space or light between the slats. I re-read Gaining Ground only to confirm my initial impression that this was the collection’s least remarkable story. Though her situation deserves sympathy, the protagonist lacks the depth, intelligence, and sensitivity of her peers in the other stories.
The duty of a slice-of-life author is writing stories that readers perceive through their own experiences and relationships, making unanimous agreement impossible, but discussions lively. I’ve progressed from detesting Cliff, for subjecting family stability to his wanderlust, to considering him a pathetic old man. Who knows? I may grow to like him.
Not until the third time through the History of the World, did I decide that Kate deserved sympathy – maybe.
If you disagree with my conclusions, then Ms. Black has more than fulfilled her duty. If you are so eager to sympathize with Cliff that you can barely finish your initial read-through before returning to him, great. If you sob through an entire box of tissues with Kate in Italy, good for you. If you consider Gaining Ground to be the collection’s jewel, hooray!
And when you discuss these stories at your book club, good luck!
Robin Black graduated from the Warren Wilson MFA Program for Writers and has appeared at Malaprops in Asheville. The Chicago Tribune,
O. Magazine, and the San Francisco Tribune acclaimed If I Loved You, I Would Tell You This. Ms. Black states in her Bio that her writing is very much influenced by her belief that the most compelling act of creativity in which we all participate is the daily manufacture of hope.
Mary Ickes is curious which story you, Reading Friends, read first on your second reading. Her e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org.