Links of Love
7 Ways Girls Can Make a Difference
Are you looking for ways to help your daughter become more others-centered?
Consider the following links of love to push your girl to start noticing the big ‘ol world that surrounds her.
1. Participate in a craft related project that helps others through Craft Hope (http://www.crafthope.com/).
2. Sew a blanket for Project Linus (http://www.projectlinus.org/).
3. Log on the Hands on Asheville-Buncombe to find a local volunteer project (http://www.handsonasheville.org/).
4. Visit Generation On and read service stories of kids and teens changing the world (http://www.generationon.org/teens/service-stories).
5. Send love through the mail through Color a Smile (http://www.colorasmile.org/).
6. Watch a short video clip from Dove (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ei6JvK0W60I), and then discuss how you can promote real beauty with your friends.
7. Join a letter writing team to encourage soldiers (http://soldiersangels.org/).
Amy writes for both print and online publications. Amy spends her mornings teaching sassy, high school students in Western North Carolina and her afternoons attempting to correct her two daughters’ newly aquired Southern accents. Find more of Amy at http://amylsullivan.blogspot.com.
In preparing for this Girls Today! issue, I did some reading on the subject of media and cultural influences on girls (and boys) and came away with a strong sense of the dilemmas today’s parents face in trying to raise children in the current environment.
There are many influences on kids, of course. And the interactions among genetics, the culture as reflected in media, school, peers, teachers, as well as parenting styles ultimately determine how much kids will find themselves swayed by negative images or, instead, hopefully, determine their own individual paths.
So, what choices do parents have in a world that many studies show is increasingly sexualized, commercialized and manipulative of ever younger children? For me, a primary task is to turn off the TV and computer for most of the day and evening. Find outdoor activities and groups (like Girls on the Run, Scouting, etc.) that foster a sense of strength, self-esteem and individuality.
My two school-age grandkids are involved in a group called TAASC which takes them on hiking and rock climbing trips (that’s my granddaughter on the cover!); teaches them water and wilderness safety and survival skills and basically keeps them involved in activities where resourcefulness and cooperation are both necessary.
They don’t have much time to worry about what new brands of clothes they “should” be wearing, or what the latest tween/teen idols are up to that they should mimic; If they even know them!
Parenting is never easy and with more single parent homes it is certainly difficult to monitor and manage their time in healthy ways. Yet, there are resources in every community that parents (and grandparents) can access.
These kids growing up today are the next generation who will run the future businesses and governments; it is imperative that we raise them to think critically, have inner strength and integrity. They are the ones who will improve and evolve the culture for the next generations… or not.
And another reminder about our online survey. We’ve gotten quite a lot of response and are pleased with the suggestions for future content. It is also helpful for us to know where you pick up your copies, what content is most interesting and useful to you.
The demographic information (It’s anonymous!) helps prospective advertisers understand who our readers are… whether you are the customer/client they are hoping to reach. So, go to wncwoman.com and take 5-10 minutes to help us. THANKS!
By: Kristine Madera
As a rite of passage for a girl to a woman, the process doesn’t get any more literal than her first menstrual period. The run-up, I recall, started in the 5th grade, when, after an inciting incident that to this day remains a mystery, the three teachers (all women) in our grade let the boys out to play football, herded us into a classroom, and, under pain of suspension, warned us not to tell the boys what they were about to say. It seemed like we were about to be initiated into some secret society or, at least, receive a profound insight channeled from the goddess Athena.
But no, we got a scolding talk on menstruation and why it was a private, borderline shameful thing that should never be discussed with a boy and only whispered about as we commiserated over cramps during PE class. There was a hurried demonstration of how pads worked, with the performing teacher sneaking glances over her shoulder as if the principal might burst in any second and cuff her. There was a mumbled implication that “the curse” was connected to pregnancy, but that made most of us roll our eyes because a few of the girls with hippie parents had already spilled the beans on how babies were made. Then they rushed us back to our various classrooms with another warning to keep our mouths closed, before letting the boys in. Who, by the way, didn’t give a wit about what we learned. Did I mention that they let them all go outside to play football?
The actual Event was a non-event as well. My mom, being responsible, had all the supplies on hand, and I suffered the cramps in silence like the daughter of Athena, goddess warrior, all the while wondering what was supposed to happen next. There was an aural shift in my future, or at least a bump up in bra size, but for all the energy expended to prepare a girl for The Event, most of us, who compared stories, agreed it was a let down.
Years later, when I was a Peace Corps’ Volunteer in Papua, New Guinea, we learned about the traditional initiation rites of girls into womanhood. They varied from tribe to tribe, but, at her first menses the girl, much like my fifth grade class, was told of the tribal taboos and restrictions surrounding menstruation. Generally, she was required to recuse herself to a private shelter away from family and village. Food might be delivered or she might cook for herself, but she could never cook for men. Older women staying with her, at least that first time, told her stories from the ancients and taught her about the magic of women, the secret songs that helped plants grow and babies thrive, and love spells that tamed a warrior’s heart. A formal initiation might involve ritual tattooing or piercing and included a feast by the family or even the whole village to commemorate The Event. Some of the other female volunteers denounced this ritual separation as a restriction imposed by men fearful of a perfectly natural bodily function. I think it was the brainchild of a very wise woman; who wouldn’t want a monthly week off to catch up on sleep and have food delivered? It’s like having a regular personal retreat.
The difference between this instruction and mine, besides the opportunity to camp out, was that the traditional method is a true initiation, while mine was a rite of passage or coming of age. There is a key difference between them. All mark the passage from one stage of maturity to the next, from the freedoms and restrictions of one age to the privileges and responsibilities of another and the matriculation from a particular social group into a different relationship with the world. This last little bit, movement into a different wordly relationship marks the difference.
Traditional initiation moves from one cohesive social group into the embrace of another. Think of the Jewish Bat Mitzvah or Bar Mitzvah, the achievement of which marks an adolescent leaving the ways of a child and being enfolded into the community of adults waiting to support her or him. Initiation is also applied to things such as sororities, fraternities, and societies like the Freemasons, where a person moves from being an outsider to belonging to the community. Rites of passage in our society are movement away from the fold—a protected, naïve, and childlike state—toward separation to hone the skills of independence and self-reliance so prized in American culture.
I’m not dissing independence and self-reliance. But there are consequences to promoting the separation of coming-of-age at the expense of the inclusiveness and community building of initiation. National values aside, people, especially adolescents and children, hunger for community and the challenge of proving themselves worthy of inclusion. If you doubt this, look at the activities that kids initiate themselves into when they are old enough to self-select: drugs, alcohol, gangs, tattooing and piercings, bullying, sex and pregnancy, and the list goes on.
In the Babemba tribe of South Africa, when a person acts out irresponsibly or unjustly, she is placed in the center of the village. All work stops, and village members encircle her and tell her all the kind, thoughtful things she has done, all her good qualities, her strengths, and the positive ways she has impacted them. This may continue for days until all that can be said has been said and they welcome the accused back into the tribe with a feast in her honor. This intervention is rarely needed, I would guess, because telling the tribal members what is right about them is a regular part of life.
Imagine how a rite of passage like a girl’s first period would be if, rather than general commiseration and a discussion about which pain medication is best for cramps, the girl was surrounded by her mother, older sisters, cousins, family friends, and all the older women in her life who told her about the beautiful qualities already seeded within her, and that they will support her in blossoming into a woman. Then, a girl’s day out for lunch or a mani-pedi or the chance to find their personal and collective rhythms in an all-women’s drum circle.
Transitions such as the death of a pet, learning how to lose (and win) gracefully, switching schools, surviving a divorce, watching a best friend move away, all the bumps and bruises of childhood, through the big markers of teens—driving, dating, graduating— may comprise the adolescent’s journey. Here are four things we can do to add supportive kernels of initiation to empower our children to find their strengths, embrace the risks of growing up, and find those elders in their lives to provide a soft, supportive place to land.
Witness their strengths: If you’ve been paying attention to your child, you have seen amazing moments of wisdom, compassion, strength and qualities like friendliness, courage, selflessness, and so on. Remember these, and use them to show your child that she already has the ability to survive her passage. If your child has impulse or anger issues, or is prone to bullying, don’t be afraid to call them out, and prove that such behavior is not who they really are.
Let them feel what’s real: Grief, disappointment, fear, and such are hard emotions for anyone, and no one likes to see their child hurting. Helping your child to recognize hard feelings, to feel them, breathe through them (remember Grandmother’s sage advice of ten breaths to cool the flare of anger?) and let them go, teaches kids not to be afraid of them. Felt emotions pass, but those same emotions denied or unfelt turn into helplessness and powerlessness. Let them feel the highs of victory, too. Don’t dampen natural exuberance by warning them that greater joys bring deeper sorrows or that their joy will make someone else feel bad.
Be honest: Nothing kills trust (or self-confidence) like a lie. Santa Claus aside, kids know when you are lying. You don’t have to spill all the details of a serious illness, but to say Mom’s on vacation when she’s really in the hospital makes it appear that you don’t feel the child is strong enough to handle real life. Be age appropriate in what you disclose, but be honest.
Build the tribe: The nuclear family is a relatively new social convention, as is the tendency to live isolated from extended family. Build a network of trustworthy elders—friends, relatives, babysitters, and others—that your child knows is part of her extended support system. Children and teens need elders who have no direct authority over them to help sort through things that they don’t want on their permanent record of family history. You can build this tribe early in your child’s mind. As a friend puts her wee ones to bed each night, she lists all the people who love them—family, friends, and even people living far away who the kids rarely see—so they grow up with a network of available love spanning much farther than their everyday world.
As a last note, if an intervention is necessary for a child who has forgotten her core beauty and strength and has initiated herself into a path of self-destruction, try the intensive Babemba method. Ask all of the people in her circle of love to remind her of her kindness, her courage, the magnificent qualities that make up who she truly is beneath the behavior, and then feast her with pizza back into the fold.
If this is counterintuitive as a parenting strategy, then consider these words of Nelson Mandela, a man who sought to live a grand peace when so many were advocating a grand war: Thinking too well of people allows them to behave better than they otherwise would.
Kristine Madera is an Asheville-based speaker, writer and Certified Clinical Hypnotist & Hypno-Coach who helps people get out of their own way and on to the life of their dreams. Find out more at www.MindWiseHypnosis.com. She is also the co-author of How to Meditate with Your Dog: An Introduction to Meditation for Dog Lovers.
Women Making Music Possible
By: Peggy Ratusz
With so much happening, good and bad in the world outside, it can be challenging to believe that life is not a big competition. Businesses of all kinds are doing their best to stay afloat in these interesting and challenging times. Music venues, in particular, are reinventing the way they entice audiences. There are theme nights, discounted tickets, earlier starting times, and later starting times, all to attract a certain demographic.
As a musician, I know all too well the challenges that come with filling my calendar with play dates, versus my role as a music booker looking for artists to fill dates open on the venue’s calendar. Hanging out on both sides of the fence has allowed me a unique, dual perspective that I would not have had the opportunity to experience otherwise.
As I continue to hang out on both sides of said fence, my education revolves around what works and what doesn’t. As a music maker, the proverbial red tape and heartache that comes with soliciting gigs sometimes get me down. High profile gigs are few and far between for me, and I consider any high profile performance one where people sit and listen.
Expenses involved in getting gigs, i.e., phone bills, home office supplies, web hosting fees, car fuel and repairs, postage, photo shoots, gear, networking, and advertising are daunting. For venues, the overhead involved in equipment upkeep, advertising, promoting, employing staff, and stocking shelves to elicit patronage is also extremely daunting. The amount of energy and time it takes to do both successfully and continuously is challenging.
A relatively new opportunity for hardworking, independent musicians, a bonus if you will, is the House Concert. The premise is simple: regular folks who love live, original music and enjoy throwing parties in their homes, send out invitations to a select list of family and friends to partake in scrumptious food, spirits and a little night music. Invitees donate money to the musicians who entertain them.
Asheville has been fortunate to find a number of hosts for this not-for-profit, invitation-only party approach to offering live, original music. Here are four caring, organized, and enthusiastic women working separately and together (with nary a worry about competing with one another), who provide hard working independent musicians an additional avenue to pursue dreams, broaden fan bases, and fill touring schedules.
Nestled in a wooded North Asheville rural-feeling neighborhood, Blue Mountain House Concert Series, hosted by resident and child psychologist Julie Maccarin, provides a panoramic view of the Blue Ridge Mountains from the spacious bohemian-styled living room where the concerts take place. A wrap around deck and screened in porch provide additional seating when weather permits. Capitalizing on the beauty of this backdrop, her house concerts begin just as the sun sets over the mountains. The acoustics are so perfect that most of the performers play without amplification. She organizes these parties for 50 friends and friends’ of friends. They start off with a potluck supper for guests to mingle and meet the performers. The donations made to the musicians and the money they make through sales of their CDs is enough to get them to the next leg of their tour. Past performers include Contemporary Folk musicians such as David Wilcox, Sara Hickman, Vance Gilbert, Cliff Eberhardt, Al Pettiway and Amy White, Billy Jonas and Free Planet Radio. Musicians in different stages of their careers leave feeling blessed to be given a chance to play Asheville when traditional music venues haven’t been able to accommodate them. Her first private party concert of 2012 is March 10th featuring Folk/Old Time independent music group, Still on the Hill hailing from the Ozarks.
Julie’s love of music started before her college years. In her earnest intent to attend as many Rock and Folk concerts as she could while attending Boston University, the list of famous musicians she literally accidentally met, befriended, or dated is long. She met Taj Mahal at an ice cream parlor, invited him and his friends to her house, and remained buddies for many years. She met a guy named Crazy Larry LaRue at Boston’s renowned Psychedelic Super Market who was the stage manager for Blood, Sweat and Tears; through him, met Tim Buckley whom she dated on and off for several years. Her relationship with Tim gave her the opportunity to shake hands with Janis Joplin, for goodness sake! She was friends with the Paul Butterfield Blues Band. I could continue, but she would say I’m bragging.
Suffice to say, it’s no wonder she’s been hosting House Concerts since 2009. She’s fulfilling part of her life’s purpose, and paying homage to the colorful characters she met during college and graduate school. As her third year begins, she’s poised to offer an eclectic mix of mostly acoustic, mostly solo and duo Contemporary Folk artists. To find outstanding musicians to entertain her friends, she attends the Southeast Regional Folk Alliance Conference and the Swannanoa Gathering.
A culmination of Julie’s dedication to music and the children she helps overcome hardships in her work as a psychologist, is evidenced in her all-original children’s music CD, Little One. We thank Julie for creating music that heals and for opening her home and heart to like-minded independent artists whose lives she’s enhanced.
While talking to Betty Friedrichsen by phone one morning in mid-December last year, she was in the middle of baking homemade Christmas cookies for her friends and family, using a collection of old recipes she’d never tried before. This labor of love, this risk she was taking (some baker’s might say) comes from an innate desire to find new ways to share something tasty with the people she loves.
As our phone interview began, she explained that at age seven she started classical piano training and played throughout her teens. After graduating high school in San Antonio, Texas in 1971, she was accepted to the University of Houston. In her quest to find friends, she walked by a coffeehouse on campus where she heard a musician baring his soul, beckoning her to enter. The domino effect from that one act sparked a romance between Betty and music promoting and production.
A girl named Dalis Allen ran the place; when Betty asked how she could become part of the scene, Dalis told her that all she had to do was want to. During that time, she became acquainted with and befriended future household names like Guy Clark, Townes Van Zandt, Willie Nelson, and Jimmy Buffet, all part of the Houston scene. All the while, she nurtured an enduring relationship with Dalis. They met another girl, Jackie, DJ at a prominent Houston radio station, and for a while after college, the three of them ran their own music booking agency.
Betty ended up marrying and moving to Germany and then to Miami, Florida. Dalis went to work for the Post Office, and Jackie stayed in the music realm, moving to California and joining a well-known booking agency. Betty and Dalis stayed in touch and Dalis stayed connected to the music scene, so much so that she is the producer of the now infamous Kerrville Folk Music Festival.
In 1999, after Betty’s beloved husband passed away, Dalis went to Miami as part of a Kerrville Music Cruise in conjunction with the South Florida Folk Festival. Hanging out with Dalis allowed Betty to meet the organizers, passengers, and musicians on the cruise. Very soon afterwards, the bug to get involved in music-related projects bit again.
Volunteering for the South Florida Folk Festival led Betty to her stint as Volunteer Coordinator, which led to her becoming director and organizer of the festival’s songwriter competition which, much to her delight, returned her to some of the musicians she had heard and or booked back in Houston!
In 2001, a colleague introduced Betty to the world of House Concerts. As the domino-effect continued, she moved to the Asheville area six years ago and immediately began hosting House Concerts, one per month under the moniker Betty’s Place.
Last year, she became Co-Director of the Southeast Regional Folk Alliance Conference. With all the work that goes into that position, yet still desiring to regularly host House Concerts, she joined hands with sister music lover, and former Asheville House Concerts on the Hill coordinator, Kelle Olwyler (also profiled here) and BK House Concerts was christened. Together they’ve exposed each other to musicians they would not have known and expanded the genres they book, one every other month.
With their combined list of invitees, their reputation for hosting notables and under-the-radar, standout independent performers is big enough so that any style of music they feature is guaranteed to sellout. It grows through word of mouth.
As her journey continues to unfold, Betty finds her dreams realized at every turn. Years ago she promised herself to fulfill a three-fold wish: to live on the beach, to live in the mountains, and to live in France, all the while continuing her efforts to support independent musicians and uplift her respective community. As you see, she can check off two locations and aims to pursue the third in coming years. She can rest assured that the House Concert options in WNC she spearheaded will endure, keeping those endless dominos rollin’ on down the line.
The stress so many of us endure takes a toll on our bodies and spirits. For Louise Baker, her body’s stress is relieved by her chiropractor, and her spirit is renewed through promoting independent musicians.
Louise Baker and her husband Don started the Mountain Spirit Coffeehouse Concert series in 2004. Like all the motivated and astounding women in this feature, Louise was driven to better her community through music, based on her personal passion for playing and creating music.
Growing up in Boston, she played in a Peter, Paul, and Mary-type trio 1960’s and 70’s. They mostly played coffeehouses and church coffeehouses. She remembers playing at Harvard Square’s Nameless Coffeehouse, still in existence, with pride and inspired light.
The Bakers moved to Asheville in 2001 and joined the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Asheville. In no time at all, Louise sized up the space inside and begin her tactical process of convincing the church board to allow her to host live music concerts. Larger portions of the ticket sale proceeds would go to the artists, a small remainder would go directly to the church, and profits from baked goods would go to church-supported charities. She would ask volunteers to bake goodies to sell and help provide and operate sound equipment. Consequently, members and friends readily answered.
David LaMotte, noted folk artist with a sizeable draw in the area, was their first booking. I attended the show in the fellowship hall and found a seat only because I arrived very early. While the powers that be from UU church gave them a three-month trial, after seven years Louise and Don have not looked back.
They’ve come a long way since that first concert with a homemade stage, borrowed lamps hanging from the rafters by bungee cords, and metal folding chairs. Don and Louise did not know early artists LaMotte, Chuck Brodsky and Amy White and Al Pettiway. Each musician enthusiastically agreed to perform to help the series grow. Concerts now take place in the larger sanctuary with cushioned seats, ideal sound equipment, and professional lighting.
They have hosted a mix of local, regional, national, and internationally known independent folk artists such as Pierce Pettis, Bill Staines, Chris Rosser, Annie Lalley and Joe Ebel. Folk rock duo, The Kennedys have performed and so have Celtic artists Robin Bullock and Jamie Laval. Soliciting these draws is easy; after all, Asheville is a destination location for music and art. Capitalizing on that and offering these singer songwriters a guaranteed audience is paramount to their vision.
Their concerts take place on the second Sunday of the month at 7 p.m. and have been a godsend for touring independent minstrels performing on the House Concert, college, and church coffeehouse circuits. Affordable ticket prices and discounts for students in an atmosphere where music lovers attend solely for the intimate listening experience is an exciting way for fans to hear and meet their favorites and purchase autographed CDs. Don and Louise have built such a stellar reputation that their need to solicit independent musicians greatly diminished. Since they both work full time, this is truly a labor of love. Only the church, church-supported charities and the independent artists profit from the concerts.
Louise and Don see no end to what they’ve built right here, right now, and right down the street. Don’t wait, though; go renew your mountain spirit! www.uuasheville.org/coffeehouse
Kelle Olwyler’s father, an accomplished pianist and guitarist, handed her a guitar when she was seven. Because of her tiny hands and fingers, he taught her bar chords and, as years passed, she figured out the rest herself and began to compose. Their relationship was closer than close because of their shared love of music. No wonder, since he sang and played to her while she was still in the womb!
While Dad was fixed on Jazz and the old classics and could barely stand to listen to the World Music she grew to love, he inspired and nurtured her natural talent and they co-authored many songs. When Kelle was a baby, her parents moved to Mexico where she lived until the age of sixteen. She remembers fondly the evenings they played and sang together after supper. Though her dad encouraged her to get on-stage as a solo performer, her fear was too much to overcome and she found herself a closet musician and songwriter.
Her mom left Mexico after a divorce; at age 17, Kelle went to live with her in Dallas, Texas. Her father, for the most part, remained in Mexico.
For a short time he lived in California where his current band broke up while touring the United States. He began managing the music careers of notable musicians such as Chris Williamson and rubbed elbows with the likes of Bill Graham of the Filmore and Jerry Garcia. Inspired by his ability to orchestrate and uplift the careers of his artists, Kelle’s latent desire to follow in his footsteps bubbled after moving to the Asheville area eleven years ago. She registered for classes at the Swannanoa Gathering and fell in love with the music of several artists she met there.
The wheels turned and while talking with friends about her desire to host House Concerts for the musicians she met at the gatherings, the couple offered up their fabulous home off Elk Mountain Scenic Highway. Kelle spent the next three years booking a plethora of acts at House Concerts on the Hill, a.k.a. Elk Mountain Series. An estimated one thousand people attended their House Concerts before the series closed after the couple moved from the area.
Simultaneously, she put the word out to several women songwriters and poets about forming a group to meet monthly at each others’ homes to eat, drink, play music, talk, sing, listen, and provide safe critiques of each other’s material. Consequently The Song Sisters was born and, as a member, I can tell you that it was a much needed jumping off point in my own songwriting education and experience. I credit the group Kelle started for introducing me to lifelong friends and for helping me formulate a writing ethic. An added benefit of being part of the group is the songwriting workshops she organized and offered to members, facilitated by award-winning tunesmiths such as Craig Caruthers and Steve Seskin, both Nashville songwriters that she met through the Swannanoa Gathering.
Currently, as Co-Coordinator of the BK House Concert series, she and Betty Friedrichsen (profiled above) continue to provide a much needed and sought after opportunity for touring, independent artists to play in our beloved WNC.
Unsung Heroines are appropriate labels for Kelle, Betty, Louise, and Julie. Their cooperation in making sure that their events do not fall on the same evening reveals a camaraderie rare in this selfish world. They open their hearts and homes for the love of music, nothing more. As Kelle so eloquently states, “Hosting House Concerts is like preparing a beautiful meal for the people you love. You cook it up, set it out on the table, then sit back and observe the joy on their faces because you know it tastes so good.”
For more information on upcoming performances, check out www.bkhouseconcerts.com
Peggy Ratusz is a songstress, writer and vocal coach. firstname.lastname@example.org www.reverbnation.com/peggyratusz
The Gift that Grew
As the February issue of WNC Woman Magazine was going to press, the walls of Helios Warriors’ new space were going up! It was exciting to watch as one big “room” was partitioned into multi-function areas for the Helios’ staff and clients. After the volunteer building crew finished their work, the volunteer painting crew took over.
A big Thank you to Stephen Houpis, his partner Barbara Earle, Helios Board member Deborah Copp and her husband Nelson and veteran Sam Fain for spending a weekend helping us paint the base colors on all the walls. We couldn’t have met deadline without all of you!
Finally we could envision how welcoming the space would feel to the veterans who will come here for treatment for the physical and emotional pain they are dealing with.
You know how it feels when you have been working on a project for a good while, but haven’t gotten to the really “fun” part yet? For Lyna and Barb, the “fun” work could begin: Lyna could work her faux painting magic on the walls and Barb could begin to make the space cozy and functional with furniture and décor!
And this is where we’ll leave you…knowing that by press time for this March edition of WNC Woman, the Room Makeover Gift & Project that began back in September (when the woman who won the Room Makeover re-gifted it to a non-profit that helps our nation’s veterans) is finally completed!
A celebration is planned for March 7th, and you are invited! Please read the details in the invitation below! We’d love to see you there!
Lyna Farkas, Barb Burless, and Sandi Tomlin-Sutker (editor/publisher of WNC Woman) are grateful for the opportunity to combine their talents and energy with the generous donations of several sponsors to create a space which will enhance the healing process for the Veterans who are treated at “Helios Warriors.”
And, watch for the April issue of WNC Woman when we’ll reveal the beautiful results with photos and honor all the sponsors.
By: Maureen McDonnell, RN
I think I’ll spare myself the embarrassment and not share with you the nickname my friends gave me in high school as a result of my digestive problems (hint, think: Blazing Saddles). I now know that the diet of my youth—which consisted of: bologna sandwiches on Wonder Bread, soda, milk and Twinkies—was at the root of my problem. But I sure didn’t know that then. All I knew was that the constant bloating and gas were sources of embarrassment and pain!
Seems I wasn’t alone in my GI discomfort. It is estimated that 116 million Americans suffer from upper digestive tract disorders including acid reflux, indigestion, GERD and heartburn Another 40 million have lower digestive tract problems including Irritable Bowel Syndrome, colitis, diverticulitis, constipation and diarrhea; Inflammatory Bowel Syndromes ( Crohns and Ulcerative Colitis ) affect another 1.5 million.
Although I studied the anatomy and some physiology of the GI tract while in a four-year nursing university, it wasn’t until years later that I began to understand just how significant the digestive tract was to proper immune function, one’s mental status and overall health. I found it astounding when I met Dr. Michael Gershon, MD (professor of anatomy and cell biology at New York’s Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center and author of the book The Second Brain) and heard him state that the largest concentration of the mood-stabilizing neurotransmitter Serotonin was located in the gut. I was even more surprised to learn while working with children with autism that a very high percentage of the immune system is headquartered in the gut. To the delight of many parents of children on the autism spectrum, addressing gut issues often brings about tremendous improvements in a child’s cognitive skills, behavior and general health.
I had no idea for most of my life (including many years as a nurse) that when the digestive system is malfunctioning, it is unable to properly assimilate and absorb the nutrients the brain and body require for optimal health. As Pam Ferro, RN, (a nurse who for years has been helping children with autism heal by addressing their gut related issues) recently wrote in an international magazine article: “The inability to properly digest foods has a dramatic and far-reaching negative impact on all bodily processes, and, therefore, on how a person thinks, feels, and functions.”
This is why physicians of the past (before the pharmaceutical industry hijacked the medical system) as well as some wise and knowledgeable healers today such as Chinese Medicine and Ayurveda practitioners know to begin their investigation into the cause of illness by first looking at their patients diet and digestion.
The GI tract: Parts and Function
The GI tract is divided into the upper section (which consists of the mouth, esophagus, stomach and duodenum) and the lower half (which is made up of the small intestines and large intestines or colon). The process of digestion involves complicated chemical and biological interactions that happen at every step along this 30 foot tract.
It turns out enzymes and the acid present in saliva, as well as the highly acidic environment of the stomach (PH 4) are important first defense mechanisms that the digestive tract uses to kill off invading pathogenic organisms. Hydrochloric acid and pepsin are usually in abundance when we are young and then begin to decline as we age. Decreased amounts of these acids compromise proper digestion and lower our defense against bacteria and other germs. Pharmaceutical companies have spent a lot of money promoting the idea that taking proton pump inhibitors, and H2 blockers (such as Pepsid AC, Prilosec, Zantac) is the key to minimizing symptoms such as heartburn, indigestion and GERD. However, physicians such as Dr. Mercola, and many other naturally-oriented doctors now understand that these disturbances are often caused by too little stomach acid, not too much. As one physician recently remarked to the audience at a health conference, “acid reflux is not due to too much acid, it’s just in the wrong place” (hence heartburn from stomach acid regurgitating into the esophagus).
Joseph Mercola, MD wrote in a recent article on his website, “Digestive aids like hydrochloric acid (HCL), enzymes and probiotics can actually be powerful tools to maintain a more acidic and beneficial environment in your stomach and intestines that will help your digestive system work optimally.” For more information on the stomach acid issue, Dr. Mercola recommends reading Dr. Jonathan Wright’s excellent book Your Stomach: What is Really Making You Miserable and What to Do About It
Heal the Gut, Heal the Body
After working for years in hospitals and witnessing the ineffectiveness of many of the medications used to treat chronic illnesses including GI disturbances, in my mid 20’s I began the process of changing my diet. I started out by eliminating most processed foods including white flour products, most forms of sugar and meat. My symptoms improved somewhat, but I had a long way to go before my GI tract issues resolved completely.
It wasn’t until my 30’s when I began working with Sidney Baker, MD, (a graduate of Yale Medical School, pediatrician and co-founder of the Defeat Autism Now! Movement) that I began to learn about other factors that influenced digestion. Dr. Baker taught me about the role yeast overgrowth (caused by eating too much sugar, recurrent use of antibiotics and stress) played in symptoms such as gas, bloating, weakened immunity, fatigue and mental fogginess. He was also an expert in identifying and treating parasistes (which had somehow taken up residence in my GI tract!) and the critical role probiotics (good friendly bacteria) played in both GI and overall health. Dr. Baker taught me about food allergies by explaining that if you eat foods you are sensitive (or allergic to) an immune response can ensue (antibodies form) which in turn weakens your overall immune system’s ability to defend itself.
As his nurse and lucky recipient of Dr. Baker’s brilliance and tutelage, my digestive problems resolved and subsequently my overall health improved. I then made a personal pledge to continue to learn as much as I could about digestion in order to help others heal from this modern-day malady.
Eventually, I discovered information on the importance of digestive enzymes (which assist in the breaking down of food, and absorption of nutrients). Although they remain intact when food is raw, enzymes are easily destroyed by heating and cooking. Our pancreas also manufactures enzymes, but if it is overwhelmed with a high carbohydrate diet, it falls down on the job. I used to think the only factor in health was choosing high quality foods, and of course that is essential. But health is not just dependent on what you eat, but on what you digest and absorb. Enzymes such as proteases which break down protein and lipases which break down fats play major roles in digestion and overall health. Until clients can tolerate a diet that contains more raw foods, and or fresh- squeezed organic vegetable juices, I often recommend a comprehensive digestive enzyme such as those made by Houston Enzymes.com. These are to be taken with each meal (after the first few bites of food.) After starting digestive enzymes, many individuals report a decrease in bloating, gas, fatigue and improved mental clarity.
Another area to explore if gas, bloating and other signs of poor digestion persist is IgG (immunoglobulin) food allergies or sensitivities as these can often be a relevant piece of the puzzle. Some individuals find eliminating the common culprits (such as dairy, gluten, soy, eggs, sugar, etc) for a period of 10 days or 2 weeks and then reintroducing them one at a time, to be an effective and inexpensive way of identifying if one, or several of the foods may be causing symptoms. Another option (which is more expensive but can be very helpful) is having a specialty lab (such as Genova Diagnostics here in Asheville) perform an IgG food panel. This is a blood test that must be ordered by a physician. It is helpful in pin-pointing which foods may be causing delayed reactions (meaning you eat a certain food one day, and one or two days later, you experience bloating, skin rashes, fatigue, headaches, weight gain, etc).
In more recent years, I discovered I was sensitive to gluten (the protein in wheat, barley, some oats and rye). Once I eliminated it from my diet, I witnessed additional positive changes in my health including increased energy. For some individuals, gluten becomes an irritant to the gut membrane, leading to inflammation and intestinal permeability or leaky gut syndrome.
Lastly, about a year ago I was lucky enough to come across information on proper food combining which encourages not eating protein and carbohydrates at the same meal and eating fruits alone. More information on this technique in future articles
Changing my diet (which included avoiding gluten, using better food combining principles, , avoiding foods I tested positive for in an IgG blood profile), getting rid of yeast, killing that lovely parasite and adding a few supplements ( digestive enzymes, probiotics, Omega 3 fish oil and a good multi) did the trick for me. Suffice it to say, that even though I don’t adhere to a strict regimen 100% of the time, the nickname assigned to me during my youth is no longer relevant.
I know changing your diet and finding the right supplements specific for your needs can be a bit daunting. But, if you have GI symptoms, I would strongly recommend investigating this approach with a naturally oriented physician and trying some or all of the suggestions below. As one local Ayurvedic Practitioner (John Immel of JoyfulBelly.com in Weaverville) said to me in a recent interview: “The digestive tract is both a pathway that can cause great harm to the body, but it also holds the greatest potential for healing.”
Tips for Improving Digestion.
Sit and relax during meals. Eat slowly and chew your food thoroughly. Digestion actually begins with the simple but important act of chewing and the release of enzymes contained in your saliva.
Avoid processed foods which can weaken your immune system by triggering the release of antibodies. Try to purchase as many organically-grown foods as possible to minimize your exposure to chemicals.
If you have gas after meals, try not drinking liquids with your meals (especially milk). Instead consume adequate fluids (mostly water) in between meals.
Try adding a comprehensive digestive enzyme taken after the first few bites of food with each meal. Although the pancreas is supposed to be the main supplier of digestive enzymes (along with raw food), the pancreas gets overworked in high-carb diets, causing it to decrease its production of enzymes.
Probiotics may be the single most important supplement to take in supporting the health of the GI tract. They not only crowd out bad organisms such as yeast and bad bacteria, they also increase immune function in the intestines, can help protect against food poisoning, synthesize B vitamins, regulate bowel movements, limit bacteria that produce cancer causing nitrates and help eliminate toxins.
In addition to chewing food well and relaxing during meal times, sipping a strong cup of organic peppermint or ginger tea after a meal can be quite helpful in easing digestive discomfort.
We digest big meals better in the middle of the day than we do at night. This is a tough one for me, because I LOVE going out for dinner. But eating our largest meal at mid-day and consuming a lighter meal later in the day is actually more in line with the natural rhythm of digestion. Eating close to bedtime is also not recommended as the body needs to regenerate overnight, not digest food.
The worst foods for digestive health are sugar and processed carbohydrates including pasta, breads, cookies, cereals, etc. If you crave carbs and sugary foods, or have taken several courses of antibiotics, see if your doctor or natural health care provider will test to see if yeast overgrowth (also called Candida) is an issue. Stool test kits from Genova Labs (GenovaDiagnostics.com) will provide a comprehensive overview of the status of your digestive tract and check for yeast, parasites, good friendly bacteria and nasty pathogenic organisms. Information on Candida detection and treatment can be found at www.wncwoman.com, June 2011 issue.
If you suspect a particular food may be at the root of the problem, try the elimination diet explained above. Additionally, progressive labs will do testing for IgG food allergies or sensitivities. The typical allergic reaction is IgE mediated (meaning it causes an immediate reaction. You eat a shrimp and get a hive). However, IgG food sensitivities are much harder to track as they cause a delayed reaction. You drink milk and 2 days later you might be bloated or have a headache. Or you eat soy one day and the next day you are tired.
Gluten, which is the sticky protein in wheat, barley, most oats and rye can be very problematic for some and cause symptoms ranging from headaches, fatigue, bloating and gas, all the way to mild and or severe depression and other mental health conditions. An article which discusses the problems caused by gluten, scientific research substantiating the benefits to some of removing it from one’s diet, as well as practical steps for cooking without it can be found at www.sokhop.com/why-is-everyone-going-gluten-free-296S.
For lower GI issues, such as IBS, in addition to the above mentioned recommendations, you might add a high quality source of Omega 3 (like fish oil) as this will help reduce inflammation.
And always remember: “The Road to Good Health is paved with Good Intestines”
Email Maureen at email@example.com
By: Cathy Larson Sky
I’m sitting on the funky orange Victorian sofa in the living room of a pink house perched on a stone-terraced hill above the town of Spruce Pine, North Carolina. Indigo De Souza, musician and songwriter, lives here with her mother, the artist-entrepreneur-chef-designer Kim Oberhammer. Kim and Indigo’s home is a kinetic event, a work in progress. Today a long swag of multi-colored shag hangs above the archway into the dining room, transforming the place into a combination of a Luau Hut and Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are. I have asked Indigo to describe the way song lyrics come to her; she shrugs, and then responds in her poised, gentle manner.
“People always ask me about that. I have no idea. I don’t even really think about it while it’s happening. I just write and write and then once I’m done I play the song. That’s how it goes.”
He folds up his mobile home, a cardboard box,
Or at least what’s left of it.
He shines your shoes, you throw him some money and walk away,
Without saying anything,
Don’t choke on that silver spoon in your throat,
And don’t trip ‘cause this life of yours is a game of jumping rope.
Row, row, row by row swiftly down the streets,
Feet of a wealthy business man, life is but a dream,
Twinkle twinkle of your car,
How I wonder if you’re really happy.
This song Lampshade on the Sun comes from Indigo’s quiet rage about how “really rich people can walk right by homeless people and that the plane can’t be even, because one of them has to be really poor and the other one has to be rich. In Asheville there’s this one man that sits there and he doesn’t have any legs and he just sits there all day. I just saw this picture in my head: this man walking by in a suit. He could have been rich or not, but he just looked . . . completely opposite.”
Indigo De Souza is not your typical, topical singer-songwriter. She is a girl of fourteen who started guitar lessons at the age of nine and wrote her first song as soon as she learned her first three chords. Indigo made her first demo when she was eleven, the same year she entered an annual singer-songwriter contest at the Little Switzerland Café, just off the Blue Ridge Parkway, competing with twenty adults.
“I know I was scared, because I’d never played in front of anyone before,” she says, remembering that summer night. “I know that they were all looking at me. They all stopped what they were doing and looked because I’m sure it was surprising to see a child, so when I was onstage I was rather nervous, but I got second place. I remember that’s when I had that first little glimmer of hope, because I didn’t know if I was actually good or not but I went up and did it, and I won something and that seemed like it meant something.”
Indigo’s winning song that night was Phantom Dreamer. “It was about falling asleep and going off with a phantom,” she says. “I wasn’t really sure what it was, but I liked the word. And he took me to a place that was perfect. And then waking and wishing I could go back.”
Phantom Dreamer may be the result of Indigo’s love for the works of Edgar Allen Poe. It also seems like a reflection of the tensions she faces learning to grow and become her self in a politically and religiously conservative mountain mining town. She moved with her Mom from Bethel, Connecticut, to Mitchell County, North Carolina, when she was seven years old.
“I just don’t feel that this is the place I’m supposed to be, especially with everything I am and everything that I want to be. Other than my Mom being creative, and knowing people at Penland (famous local Fine Arts School where mom Kim works as a chef and an artist) and at Arthur Morgan School, the people and the town don’t help me at all with creative things.”
Indigo’s early childhood included time in various alternative schools, so she’s had vacations from public education. But it was her middle school experience at Arthur Morgan School, enjoying holistic education in the embracing mountains of the Celo Community that cemented Indigo’s determination to find her own path. She grins, remembering her idyllic time there.
“It was the best thing that ever happened to me. I feel like, maybe before Arthur Morgan School, I wasn’t who I am yet. But when I went there, you can’t do anything that anyone will judge you for, because you’re just there and you do what you want to do and you are who you are.”
Now Indigo is back in public school, a freshman at Mitchell High. It is not an easy place for a young woman of budding conscience:
“I think I’ve grown up having an opinion. I always have facts or ideas or philosophies to back it up. While people at my school definitely have opinions, they don’t always have the facts to back them up, which frustrates me . . . The biggest thing that bothers me about that school is the fact that everyone seems to want to be the same. You walk in the bathroom every day, and there’s a bunch of girls in Hollister shirts straightening or curling their hair. It’s a hard world to be in when you’re someone like me who is completely herself and is fine with it. I’m known as that kid who’s different, the kid that’s weird, or the one that doesn’t pretend to be someone else. To some people that’s a good thing and to other people, that’s a bad thing.”
Indigo’s pilgrim spirit shines through more lyrics from Lampshade on the Sun:
I walk down the hallways of a place to learn, but all I learn is I don’t have a place.
He writes a book of things he’d like to say, and reads it through his face.
I am a simple thing, who walks a line of pure recycled time,
I am a universe within this sullen mind.
Row, row, row by row people sit in seats,
Watching a wealthy business man chatter faulty grief.
Twinkle, twinkle of your eyes, how I wonder if you’re really trying.
A deep breath, and Indigo takes her new Gibson Sunburst from its case. The room is filled with dancing light reflected from its brilliant surface. For a moment we sit in silence, admiring the pearl inlay on the neck. It is a dream instrument with a clear bright sound. Indigo has already made the guitar her best friend. Her playing is deft and surprising, shaded with rhythmic variation and sophisticated phrasing.
Where does this gift come from? You wonder, listening. When Indigo’s Brazilian dad, a Bossa nova guitarist, set up his microphone, she enjoyed singing into it when she was barely past toddlerhood. Her mom realized that there was something there right from the start, and took nine-year-old Indigo to study guitar with accomplished multi-instrumentalist Rhonda Gouge of Ledger, North Carolina.
“I remember that my fingers hurt so much and I wouldn’t dare complain, because she just had this way about her. You just had to keep going till the end of the lesson,” says Indigo. “Then I would go out to the car and complain and complain to Mom.” But Kim kept pushing, urging her to persevere. Indigo admits to a dislike for structure but also says that every hour she practiced when she didn’t want to has paid off. “It always seemed to do me good.”
These days Indigo is self-taught, using guitar tutorials she finds on YouTube to learn arrangements. Her use of techno tools is prodigious. She tells me that she’s going to be recording with Garage Band and giggles when I ask her who else is in the band. Turns out Garage Band is a Mac application that does everything a complex synth did way back when. A white Star Wars looking device hovers by her laptop; she explains that it’s a Snowball mic, good for recording.
Doors seem to open for this young musician when she puts her talent to the test. Last summer, she recorded her second demo with renowned bassist Steve Bailey in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Bailey, a tennis buddy of her Uncle Erik, was blasé about listening to her as a favor to his friend. Jaded with similar experiences, he spoke to his wife at home and said “I’ll call you if it’s anything good, but I don’t think it will be.”
“I played for him,” smiles Indigo. “He got on the phone to his wife, and she showed up a few minutes later.”
What is she going to do with her demos? “Not much,” says Indigo. “It’s hard when you do something when you were smaller and then grow up and write new songs. My voice definitely doesn’t sound like it did when I was eleven. I knew my whole view on what those songs should have been when I wrote them, but that personally changed. I don’t want to release what isn’t me anymore to everybody.”
Indigo’s trajectory, you feel, just won’t quit. Right now she’s honing her craft, studying voice and performance skills with Asheville musician Peggy Ratusz, who performs with the band Daddy LongLegs. It’s like her life at home with Mom: change is a constant she can ride with. A little bit of hard work, added to maybe some magic and dreams blend smoothly with reality. The Irish call this approach to life driaocht, enchantment.
Speaking of her mom, Indigo recalls, “I remember that she made a fairy house out of glass bottles in our back yard that was big enough so I could stand up and it would be above my head. I was little, of course, but it was one of the best things. I just remember all the light coming through it.”
Indigo can be found on Facebook. She often performs in open mic events at the Firestorm Café and the Westville Pub in Asheville.
Cathy Larson Sky writes novels, poems and freelance articles and holds an MA in Folklore from UNC Chapel Hill. A performer and teacher of Irish traditional fiddling, she currently lives in Spruce Pine, North Carolina. Visit her at: cathylarsonsky.blogspot.com
Branching Out in Life through Branching Out Wood Works
By: Roberta Binder
Sometimes, it is amazing the twists and turns our lives take when we pay attention and listen to what our innate wisdom tells us. In the early 1970s, Elana Kann attended the University of Wisconsin, enrolled in an independent study course focused on how people learn. Along with her research, she felt it would be helpful to take classes in the education department. She made an interesting discovery: the professors were teaching students how to teach – but not how students learn!
This line of education ran totally contrary to her independent studies, and she found herself arguing with the professors to no avail. At this juncture, Elana decided that formal university classes were not where she was going for her education. The book most influential in her decision was Deschooling Society, by Ivan Illich, in which he wrote about alternatives to schools that included creating learning networks. His theories inspired Elana, and she continues to invoke his premise to this day.
Out of the formal education system and with little money, Elana moved into a collective house with a group of friends and secured a job at a daycare center. This was in the ‘70s and the height of the Women’s Movement in Madison. The women who lived in the collective published a women’s newspaper and everyone participated in the decisions, writing, art work, photography, interviews, layout, and sales. This was a rewarding learning opportunity for Elana and became a valued lifelong experience.
Although she had very little in the way of furnishings for her living space and a small salary from her job, she had the creative drive to be resourceful which led her to the lumber yard a few blocks away. Gathering scraps and asking questions, Elana created a crude lamp, and then found fabric to fashion a lampshade. To cover her bare window, she strung together wood strips, added a pulley, and made a functioning window shade.
Growing up in Indiana, Elana found an outlet for her love of creative exploration by traveling by train each week, starting at age eight, to take classes at the Art Institute in Chicago. These studies, and a love of learning and thinking things through, inspired her to expand her early wood creations into designs which, although somewhat crude, were delightfully practical.
Friends saw her work, and asked her to create lamps and window shades for them. Soon, Elana received an invitation to a craft fair with her lamps and shades; though still crude, they were appropriate for the times and quickly sold.
Along the way, she met another woman interested in woodworking. To further explore their growing talents and expanding education, they started driving school buses which gave them five hours midday to set up shop and learn together. They told friends, “We will make anything you want out of wood. We can’t guarantee it will be good, but we will not charge for our time, only for materials because this will be our learning.”
The two soon gathered books for resources, asked woodworker friends many questions, and befriended the hardware store owner, all harkening back to the learning networks that inspired Elana in her university studies. The owner became a very good friend and patient teacher. He always greeted the women with his full attention, even when involved with another customer, and happily taught them about finishes, veneer, tools, and so much more. Others were also happy to be effective in teaching them while watching them absorb knowledge and grow in their skills.
They learned that, “We are ALL teachers; we humans were born to learn and to share what we know.”
More than once, the two women, when invited to a party, tired of the party chit chat and ended up underneath a table with sketchbooks to study how the pieces fit together and sketch why that worked. From that information, they figured out how to use their sketches in their workshop. “It got to be a joke with friends and sometimes people joined us under the furniture just to hang out and relish our enthusiasm. It was a lot of fun… this was how we learned,” Elana says with a chuckle as she remembers.
“By my late twenties, my work was becoming steadily more complex. I got involved with a group of seven who decided to open a storefront business with a shop in the back.” It became the Seven Circles Collective and was located on a main street of Madison, Wisconsin’s, Near East Side. Elana continued, “We did everything: fine furniture, cabinetry, building decks, house additions, sandboxes – whatever came in the door.” The group was still learning; some were more advanced than others and a few were apprentices. “When someone called to ask if we made beds, chairs (which are the hardest), or dressers, we always answered
In fact, they trained themselves to always say “Yes!” on the phone confidently, and, “When can we meet with you?” After they hung up, they groaned “Argggh – we never did that before! What are we going to do?!?” Off to the library they went for books and to study so that when the client meeting time arrived they were confident and familiar with the request. When they needed help beyond their book learning or collective knowledge, they found someone to teach them, discovering that instructors at the local technical college were happy to informally provide valuable information. They always filled the orders to customer satisfaction. “Although the learning curve slowed us down… we always provided good quality in the finished project. We just had to pace ourselves to include the learning process.”
Elana became one of the senior members in the collective and was honored to have several pieces of her custom furniture included in the national publication Fine Woodworking magazine’s yearly book of best work. This inspired her to keep moving forward and supported her conviction that she was on her right track.
In the late 1970s, Elana got a hankering to help build a house. Again she put out the word within her community and soon an opportunity surfaced in Celo, North Carolina, near Mt. Mitchell. A week later, she purchased a van, packed her tools, and headed off to the rural largely-Quaker community. She happily lived there for eight months as one of three on the house crew. “Mountains were all around… it was beautiful,” Elana reminisces. She made lasting friendships in the community, including with the woman whose house she helped build. When the project was completed, she returned to Madison with North Carolina planted in a special corner of her heart.
“Life has taken many turns for me. I was making furniture that basically consisted of flat surfaces such as tables and bookshelves. Quietly, at first, the woods started talking to me saying, ‘We want to be contoured, we want to show our grain structure, we want to come out of the flat surface and you can help us.’ The woods wanted me to help them express what they held inside,” Elana notes, her eyes glinting with the excitement of the challenge these new ideas presented.
Once back in Madison, Elana felt a restless stir and realized she wanted to live in a new part of the country. Once again, she packed her van with tools, belongings, and a makeshift bed to begin her new adventures in Portland, Oregon, heading to wherever the road took her. When she ran out of money, she stopped and, with her woodworking talents, easily found a job, worked awhile and was soon back on the road. At the end of the year, she returned to Portland, went to work in a cabinet shop, and on the side made her own custom furniture and three-dimensional wall sculptures. A large body of her furniture and sculptures can be found in homes of happy collectors in the Madison, Wisconsin, and Portland, Oregon areas today.
Soon, another year of change arrived. Elana married, and she and her husband moved to Asheville to be closer to his family. It was time for Elana to build a studio and settle into a more stable work space and the couple planned to adopt a child. They bought two acres, and Elana’s parents purchased two-plus adjoining acres to possibly build their own house some day. Nearby, in a quiet wooded location where the noise of her tools would not bother anyone, Elana built a magical studio with the help of her husband and two of her longtime friends, including the woman with whom she first learned woodworking. The energies of positive inspiration radiate from her studio. Elana had some of her wood sculptures hanging in Asheville area galleries, but most of her time was involved with the restoration of the farmhouse on the property, a massive job that took six years. The marriage did not survive the chaos; however, Elana continued the work and still lives on the property.
One day, Elana’s mother found an article on co-housing (a community concept originally from Denmark), and they both realized that it would be a perfect utilization of their combined four-plus acres. With Elana and her parents as developers; Elana as Project Manager; new friend Bill Fleming as mentor, functional co-developer, and engineer; and a group of buyers participating in the design and marketing phases, along with years of learning and work, the land evolved into a twenty-four townhouse eco-community. Completed in 1998, Westwood remains an outstanding example of energy efficient, eco-conscious co-housing.
Always looking forward to raising a child, Elana realized that her time had come. As a single mother after adopting her daughter, Elana put her woodworking plans on hold. She turned to her editing and publishing skills, using the experience she gained in her years in the collaborative house back in Wisconsin and the Women’s Movement publication she helped create. What amazing circles our lives create. Her daughter now in her teens, Elana has returned to listening to the voices of the wood and bringing their stories into creation.
“My head is full of shapes, and my hands turn those shapes into tangible form when I make mosaic wood sculptures. I imagine endless variations on what the shapes can do,” Elana expresses with great joy on her website. She finds that a visual language emerges as she combines the clients’ themes and esthetic tastes with the shapes in her mind and then executes that story in the undulation of the selected wood. Each piece is a glorious sculpture individual and alive. “… The shapes become metaphors which allow me to explore and express our inquiry more deeply than with words,” she continues.
Along the way, Elana has come to realize that “. . . not everything needs that little slip of paper from a university that says you know how to do something. There are a lot of fields where what matters is what you do and what people can see in your work.” From there, people will judge the quality of your work and that alone makes or breaks a career. We agreed that it is more important to follow your passion. If that passion requires or leads you to a college education, then that is the path to take; if not, find the teachers and mentors who will direct you on your path to your passion.
Elana has listened to the wood, and, in addition to amazing sculptures, she creates many other useful space-saving ideas including lofts, bike racks, and furniture items. Branching Out Woodworks is her talent and her passion. She concludes, “I’m very glad to have found something that has become a life-long love – working with wood. I’m grateful that I can once again, 25 years after I first moved to this area to do this work, continue to bring my woodworking into new life with my re-debut in Asheville.”
Enjoy’s Elana portfolio at BranchingOutWoodworks.com and she extends an invitation to all to attend the her re-debut here in Asheville at Merrimon Family Chiropractic, 338 Merrimon Ave., 5:00 – 7:00 p.m. Saturday 10 March 2012.
Roberta Binder is a Writer, Photographer and Editor who enjoys working with authors to bring their words to life: RobertaEdits.com. As a Feng Shui Master, she encourages Peace and Balance for Body, Mind and Spirit in client’s homes and businesses throughout WNC: SacredEarthWisdom.com and Facebook page Facebook.com/AshevilleFengShuiMaster featuring wit and wisdom.
By: Joan Harrison
What is it about Spring?
The uplifted moments,
The deeper breaths.
Hope throwing back the covers,
Despair swept out the door.
There is a new fragrance in the air
So much better than dryer sheets.
There are new dreams being born
But the thrill that never fades
The moment not forgotten
Is the movement of ground,
The peeking of the sprout:
Crocus pop-ups overnight,
Hellebore appearing through the snow.
Daffodil soldiers announcing a parade to come.
As the fern unfurls
And the little brown jugs
Appear on the forest floor,
The human heart finds renewal
And love, once more reigns
For a season.
By: Mary Ickes
Voices from the Trail of Tears by Vicki Rozema
Considering the brutal reality of removing 16,500 (approximately) Cherokee Native Americans from the Southeast to Oklahoma within six months, Ms. Rozema’s mere two judgments against the United States are the perspective of a professional historian, not those of an outraged observer. She certainly had plenty of opportunity to include a few more well-deserved judgments. In her preface, Ms. Rozema includes a general history of forced Indian removal followed by a comprehensive history of Cherokee removal in the Introduction. Before each chapter, she reiterates just enough to place the voice into proper perspective.
Presidents George Washington through John Quincy Adams relegated Native American removal to state governments, resulting in thousands of people driven from Northern and Southern states in the 1820s and early 1830s. Congress, on May 28, 1830, passed President Andrew Jackson’s Indian Removal Act, mandating the removal of all Native Americans to West of the Mississippi and delegating the War Department to negotiate tribal treaties. Negotiations with 20 wealthy and influential Cherokees produced the Treaty of New Echota, selling Cherokee land for $5 million. Congress ratified the treaty on May 23, 1836, giving the Cherokee Nation two years to voluntarily abandon Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina, and Tennessee. About 1,700 Cherokees voluntarily moved before the deadline; for their peers, duped into believing that the treaty didn’t exist, the Trail of Tears began on May 23, 1838, with the arrival of Major General Winfield Scott and 2,000 soldiers.
Beginning in Georgia, soldiers . . . picked them up in the road, in the field, anywhere they found them, part of a family at a time, and carried them to the post. At gunpoint, they forced families from their homes, permitting no time to grab even the necessities. As the soldiers progressed toward the nearest temporary fort, built for the removal process, their prisoners slept on the ground unprotected from the elements. Their collection finally large enough, the soldiers herded the Cherokees to the nearest fort to await removal to Tennessee’s Ross Landing (now Chattanooga) or to Gunter’s Landing. On June 6, 1838, Scott’s men, again at gunpoint, forced the first 800 Cherokees onto flimsy flatboats to cross the Tennessee River and begin their march to Oklahoma. Another 876 Cherokees followed in mid-June, 1,072 a few days later.
Because a record-breaking drought made river travel impossible, Scott’s order to stop removal forced thousands of Cherokees in the forts and camps to cope with hunger, military brutality, and disease. Dr. Daniel Butler, camp doctor, estimated that 2,000 Cherokees died before travel resumed on September 1. On December 12, 1838, the final Cherokee detachment crossed the Tennessee River. Traveling with a group of 1,118 people departing in early
November, Dr. Butler estimated that . . . between four thousand and forty-six hundred died in the camps or on the trail.
From what must have been overwhelming possibilities, Ms. Rozema gleaned Cherokee, Protestor, and Military voices that clearly define all aspects of the removal.
I Hope My Bones Will Not be Deserted by You (1821 and 1829), the first chapter, includes the poignant speech of Cherokee Elder Womankiller, over 80 years old, urging tribal approval of a law sentencing to death Cherokees selling their land: My Children, Permit me to call you so as I am an old man, and has [sic] lived a long time, watching the well being of this Nation. I love your lives, and wish our people to increase on the land of our fathers. Womankiller assures them that elders long gone would have supported a law that . . . will not kill the innocent but the guilty. He acknowledges that his audience would never willingly desert his grave, but . . . I am indeed told that the Government of the U States will spoil their treaties with us and sink our National Council under their feet. It may be so, but it shall not be with our consent, or by the misconduct of our people. . . . My feeble limits will not allow me to stand longer.
Protestor Reverend Daniel Butrick, a missionary assigned to the Cherokees twenty years before Jackson’s bill, speaks in A Year of Spiritual Darkness (June and December 1838), excerpts from his journals. From their mission in Brainerd, Tennessee, Rev. Butrick and his wife visited the camps to help reunite families, to battle rampant disease (including dysentery and consumption), and to protest military brutality. He reports that the Cherokee . . . were obliged to live very much like brute animals; and during their travels were obliged at night to lie down on the naked ground, in the open air, exposed to wind and rain, and herd together, men, women and children, like droves of hogs, and in this way, many are hastening to a premature grave.
Crossings at Ross Landing were equally brutal: The first company sent down the river . . . were, it appears, literally crammed into . . . a flat bottom boat, 100 feet long, 20 feet wide, and two stories high, fastened to an old steam boat. This was so filled that the timbers began to crack and give way, and the boat was on the point of sinking. . . . Who would think of crowding men, women and children, sick and well . . . together . . . with little if any more room or accommodations than would be allowed to swine taken to market?
In early November, Rev. Butrick and his wife emigrated to Oklahoma with 1,029 Cherokee people. After the harrowing Ross Landing crossing, they embarked on the northern route through Tennessee, Kentucky, Illinois, Missouri, and Arkansas. Deep snow across the states and ice on the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers halted all travel: In all these detachments, comprising about 8,000 souls, there is now a vast amount of sickness, and many deaths. Six have died within a short time in Maj. [James] Brown’s company [the detachment immediately ahead of Butrick] and in this detachment . . . there are more or less affected with sickness in almost every tent; and yet all are houseless and homeless in a strange land, and in a cold region exposed to weather almost unknown in their native country. But they are prisoners. His faith wavering, Butrick rails against the United States Government: For what crime . . . was this whole nation doomed to this perpetual death? This almost unheard of suffering?
That this book would have a surprise ending seemed unlikely, but what a jolt! If Not Rejoicing, At Least in Comfort, excerpts from General Scott’s memoirs, portray him as a loving Moses shepherding his adoring followers to utopia. He condescends to acknowledge that The Cherokee were an interesting people – the greater number of Christians, and many as civilized as their neighbors of the white race. Most of the Georgians, half of his army, vowed . . . never to return without having killed at least one Indian because . . . hereditary animosity caused the Georgians to forget, or, at least, to deny, that a Cherokee was a human being. Since seven of every ten Georgians are Christian ministers, Scott expects the Christian element on both sides to prevail in goodwill and kindness.
Scott’s General Orders or the Address to the Troops command . . . every possible kindness, compatible with the necessity of removal . . . so they will flock to us for food. Kindness failing, they will definitely come . . . if we get possession of the women and children first, or first capture the men, then, in either case, the outstanding members of the same families will readily come in on the assurance of forgiveness and kind treatment. (Many Cherokee families never reunited.) In Ms. Rozema’s Appendix 2, Scott’s complete General Orders indicates what else is . . . compatible with the necessity of removal: Corn, oats, fodder and other forage, also beef cattle, belonging to the Indians to be removed, will be taken possession of by the proper departments of the Staff, as wanted, for the regular consumption of the Army.
In extracts from his address to the . . . Cherokee people remaining in North Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee, and Alabama . . . Scott promises that, within a month, all remaining Cherokees will be . . . in motion to join their brethren in the far west. Deaths and bloodshed will be entirely their fault: Think of this my Cherokee Brethren! I am an old warrior, and have been present at many a scene of slaughter, but spare me, I beseech you, the horror of witnessing the destruction of the Cherokees. Furthermore, Cherokees voluntarily leaving for Ross Landing . . . will find food for all . . . and . . . in comfort be transported to your new homes according to the terms of the treaty.
Scott lauds the Georgians who . . . distinguished themselves by their humanity and tenderness and himself, because In a few days, without shedding a drop of blood . . . the Indians of North Carolina, Georgia and Tennessee were collected into a camp twelve miles long and four miles wide . . . that is well placed by water and shade. Scott admits that the three June detachments are suffering from the drought, but the people in his camps are content and healthy because he . . . caused the few sick to be well attended by good physicians. Finally, an into-the-sunset Western ending . . . he [referring to himself] followed up the movement nearly to the junction of the Ohio and Mississippi, where he gave his parting blessing to a people who had long shared his affectionate cares. He has reason to believe that, on the whole, their condition has been improved by transportation.
That chapter, Reading Friends, had me checking the cover to confirm that I was still reading the correct book. That Scott’s self-glorifying memoirs referred to the same genocide that Womankiller predicted and sent Rev. Butrick into unholy wrath was beyond my comprehension. I muttered deprecations – I’m not yet a professional historian like Ms. Rozema – through the previous chapters, but nothing impressed on me the greedy despotism of Jackson’s government and the Cherokee’s torment and torture as did Scott’s glib perspective.
As I said before, Ms. Rozema chose her voices well.
Ms. Rozema’s previous Cherokee books are: Footsteps of the Cherokee: A Guide to the Eastern Homelands of the Cherokee Nation (1995), recipient of the Award of Merit from the Tennessee Historical Commissions, and Cherokee Voices: Early Accounts of Cherokee Life in the East (2002). She is working on her Ph. D. dissertation at the University of Tennessee, in Knoxville entitled, Coveted Lands: Transportation, Agriculture, and Mining Before and After Cherokee Removal. An accomplished photographer, she has been published in Birds and Bloom, Southern Living, and Blue Ridge Country. For more background and to view her photos, please visit: VickiRozema.com