C B Ranch, Almost Heaven, WV

            “Keep close to Nature’s heart . . . and break clear away, once in a while, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean.”—John Muir


“Wilderness is not a luxury but necessity of the human spirit.”—Edward Abbey


Author’s Note:  This originally began as one piece, but quickly became too long! Therefore, this is part one of a three-part travel series, once more featuring the Greenbrier Valley area of WV.  In this piece, I will focus more on the outdoor attractions, especially those of C B Ranch.  In next week’s piece, I will feature the wide array of dining experiences Lewisburg has to offer.  In the final installation, I will offer snapshots of what can be discovered along the Midland Trail National Scenic Highway.



“Mom, what would you think if I went home with Gigs over Thanksgiving break?”


I was listening to my daughter, Madelyn, on the phone as she talked in her usual rapid-fire manner.


“Listen, her mom invited me to join them. We’d be riding the Amtrak train from near her home in Sylvania, OH to Chicago.  Her mom said we could have Chicago style pizza for Thanksgiving!  How cool is that?”


And just like that, John, my husband of nearly 30 years, and I were childless for Thanksgiving for the first time in 19 years.  At first, I felt a bit sad, but deep in my heart I was happy for Maddie to have the experience. Maddie and Gigs had spent two weekends at our home already this semester of their sophomore year at Bethany College, and thus, I completely understood.  In fact, we often traveled with Maddie over the week of Thanksgiving, as she was growing up, visiting new areas for exploration.  Now it was her turn to sprout her wings and explore without us.


Images of our daughter, Maddie, and her friend, Gigs visiting Chicago with Gigs’ mom, Diana.


Soon enough, John was online and on the hunt for a Thanksgiving getaway for the two of us that would be pocket-friendly, and could be booked at the last minute as we were well into the month of November when Maddie made her announcement.  As we reflected over places to visit, we thought of our recent stay in the Greenbrier Valley area.  It was close—less than a three-hour drive.  Furthermore, it was beautifully situated in the WV Mountains, and the people we encountered were just the nicest.  Why not go back?  We had barely scratched the surface of things to do during our last visit.



On a hiking trail at CB Ranch.


As John searched, he would show me one place, and then ask me to look at another.  Then, he found, “the one.” C B Ranch, located approximately four miles outside of Lewisburg, WV.  It was described as a “rental suite” with its own private entrance and private balcony views of the mountains.  Situated on 100-acre ranch, it offered everything we needed: living room, bedroom, full-bath, coffee-maker (always a must!), microwave, and mini-fridge. The pictures, along with its reasonable price, made it seem nearly too good to be true.  Hmm . . .




We’ve learned, when using sites such a VRBO (Vacation Rentals by Owner), that it is very important to read the client reviews—and the more customer reviews, the more accurate picture you can gain of a potential property.  CB Ranch’s reviews were stellar and filled with comments that appealed to us, such as, privacy, hiking trails, friendly/helpful owners, beautiful views, and so forth.  The more we read, the more we were convinced to give it a try.


C B Ranch owners, Cheryl (foreground) and Brooke (background) with Cowboy, one of their goats that acts more like a dog.  Notice how it appears that Cowboy is smiling in the first picture as he plays with Cheryl.


Cheryl and Robert (Brooke) Bidish, owners of CB Ranch offer a most unique accommodation—the ability to have your own private vacation rental suite (or even primitive camping if desired) while staying on an actively working ranch.  In addition to renting a vacation getaway, CB Ranch is host to numerous horses for which Cheryl and Brooke board and/or offer retirement care.  In fact, you could even bring your own horses when staying at the ranch if desired!

Horses are aplenty at C B Ranch; and, you can even bring your own during your stay!


The ranch is also home to Nigerian Dwarf Goats, Mini La Mancha Goats, Katahdin Sheep, one talkative burro, two ponies (one is still a baby), dogs, cat . . . yes, this is the real deal.  Thus, John and I woke each morning to milky sunlight streaming through the mountain mist as the horses’ tails swished, the burro called, the goats and sheep grazed,  while Cheryl or Brooke, aided by their pet dog, made their morning rounds. There was something so profoundly peaceful about simply sitting and sipping coffee while observing these animals in such a tranquil setting.


While staying at C B Ranch, guests have the ability to regularly interact with all types of animals!


In fact, the entire setting was soul soothing.  John and I consider ourselves “country-dwellers” compared to when we lived in-town, but C B Ranch takes country living to a whole new level.  The stillness at night was rest inducing as were our daytime hikes. C B offers miles of trails for both two and four-legged creatures that offer breath-taking views; and we certainly took advantage of those trails as we hiked/walked the land daily! All that fresh air, the pure spring water to drink daily, and the ability to engage with the all the variety of animal life was truly restorative.  Cheryl and Brooke respected our privacy, but were readily available to share stories of their animals or offer advice/help for not only navigating their property, but also exploring the Lewisburg area.


Some of the sights from trails at C B Ranch.


One area Cheryl and Brooke highly recommended was the Greenbrier River Trail.  I could not help but notice in the suite’s journal (a journal the Bidishs ask that you use to record events of your stay with them) that several visitors to C B Ranch had brought their horses along in order to ride and explore the GRT.  And, why not? With 78 miles of trail, the longest trail in WV and ranked as one of the top ten hiking trails by Backpacker Magazine, the GRT, whose trailhead begins just outside of Lewisburg, is the perfect spot for a wide-range of outdoor enthusiasts.  GRT, a former railroad line, can now be used for biking, hiking, fishing, horseback riding, swimming, camping, as well as snow sports.


Brooke and Cheryl had a couple of hiking sticks at the ready for us to use!


Therefore, we certainly took advantage of C B Ranch’s close proximity to the trail and spent one late morning/early afternoon walking along this beautiful winding, and clearly marked, path.  We trekked three miles out, and three miles back, never tiring of the rushing river, gushing waterfalls, and fresh air on a crisp autumn day.  Afterwards, we made the short trip to Lewisburg for refreshments before heading back to C B Ranch to wash away the trail dirt and clean up for a short drive back into town for dinner.


I kid you not, you should swing by C B Ranch on your next visit to Lewisburg, WV.  You might even get lucky and earn a hug from Cowboy!


If you are looking for the place that is truly “Almost Heaven, WV” for a weekend getaway, or even a weeklong adventure, consider staying at C B Ranch.  You will find the accommodations clean and comfortable, the natural surroundings heavenly, and Cheryl and Brooke Bidish to be gracious, friendly hosts. Their website is easy to find, http://www.cbranch.net, you can find them on Face book and Twitter, or you can directly contact them: cbranch@gmail.comor 304-445-6168.  Tell them Steph simply sent you!  I promise, you won’t regret a moment of your stay!


More scenes of tranquil beauty courtesy of C B Ranch.






Everything you need for a comfortable stay.

Cheryl and Brooke completely respect your privacy.  

Present Moment Flow

“When you are here and now, sitting totally, not jumping ahead, the miracle has happened.  To be in the moment is the miracle.”—Osho


“Life is available only in the present moment.  If you abandon the present moment you cannot live the moments of your daily life deeply.”–Thich Nhat Hanh


“Mrs. Hill, why did you only record a part of our dance? You cut it off!”


Maanasa was laughing as she looked at me from around her computer screen.  Her bright eyes flickered earnestly.  She had been reading about the Tri-State India Association Diwali celebration of which she had been a part, and about which I had most recently written.


“I know I only videoed part of it,” I answered and returned to grading papers.


Maanasa Miriyala smiles for the camera at the TSIA Diwali celebration.


It was lunchtime, and my classroom had become a study hall for those who would rather study, read, and/or begin homework than go to lunch/recess.  Usually, during this time of day, my classroom is fairly quiet with only the crinkling of food wrappers, the clickety-clicks of computer keyboards, the crunching sounds of food being chewed, and the whispers of students conferring over work. However, this was the last day before Thanksgiving break, there were very few students in my room, and no one was pressed with much homework.  Therefore, I had no problem with the on-going conversation.


Maanasa, who had been part of the TSIA celebration, was showing a few of her friends my blog, with special emphasis on her images and dance piece.  She had already spent time correcting spellings of names, which I appreciated; however, she was still in her teasing-critique mode when she lightheartedly made the comment about cutting short the video of her.


“But, there was more!”


“I know.  I cut off all the video recordings after a minute if you would take time to notice other dances that don’t involve you,” I teased back.


“Why?” she queried with a hint of playful indignation.


“Because, if I spent the entire song filming you, or any of the other dances, then I would not have been present in the moment.  I cannot enjoy and remember what I am seeing when I am focused on making a video—a video that wasn’t all that great anyway because I was too far from the stage.  While I wanted to record the event, I also wanted to savor the experience too.”


Maanasa tilted her head from side-to-side, as if truly contemplating my words, then emphatically stated, “Oh, okay then.”


She giggled and resumed talking to her friends as she explained Diwali to them, continuing to show them pictures from my blog.


Maanasa Miriyala dances in the TSIA Diwali celebration.


I’m not sure what possessed me to explain my present-moment-philosophy to Maanasa, but it was the truth.  While I enjoy looking at photographs of past events, I am often terrible about remembering to take pictures unless I am doing it as part of a piece I am writing; and even then, my husband, John, usually has to remind me to take pictures as I often get lost in the moment.   That is not to say, I do not future-think or past-dwell; believe me, I do, but during certain moments, especially those deemed, “special,” I often try to soak in all the goodness as if basking in the sun, rather than use my phone to snap pictures.


Cheryl and Brooke Biddish Ranch, Lewisburg, WV


Likewise, I am often similarly guilty of doing the same thing with social media.  I have friends, and even family, who assume I know something about them because they posted it on a social media site.  When I confess that I have not seen their recent post, I feel both guilty and simultaneously selfish because they have seen that I have posted about something to promote my blog, yoga class, or students without taking time to look at their posts.  Then, I feel compelled to hop on social media and troll all the family and friends I have neglected, but then, I find, I am neglecting the conversation/event going on around me at the time.


It is a vicious cycle it seems to me, balancing the right here, right now moment, with staying connected to the world around me. I observe friends and family who appear to have the ability to successfully sit in social situations holding their phone as they appear to seamlessly navigate what is going on around them with what is occurring on their favorite media outlet.  In fact, I often feel inadequate that I cannot do that. Therefore, I try to be savvier like them, only to find I can neither fully focus on what is occurring around me, nor absorb what is occurring on the screen in front of me.


Cheryl and Brooke Biddish Ranch, Lewisburg, WV


Even before the advent of cell phones (Yes, there was life before then!), I can recall events that I probably should have photographed or videotaped, but did not. There were the routine moments, such as changing my daughter, Madelyn’s, diaper—the way her little arms and legs kicked as she would tried to vocalize along to the songs I sang to her.


Then, there were those silly life moments, such as the “naked baby game,” as John and I affectionately called it.  This was the time period when Maddie was a newly walking toddler, and I would bathe her.  Then, once out of the bathtub, John would be waiting at one end of the hall outside the bathroom with a fuzzy towel.  As I attempted to dry her with another towel, Maddie would  “escape” and run stark naked from me to John as he wrapped her up in a big ol’ towel hug. She would then giggle, wriggle, and writhe her “escape” from him and run back to me. Her antics continued as she ran between the two of us giggling with that infectious toddler hilarity that is only present for a short number of months.


Cheryl and Brooke Biddish Ranch, Lewisburg, WV


There are special moments, even further back, such as the night when I first met John . . .his smile, the way in which he talked to me as if I truly mattered . . .the yellow of his shirt, the way his sleeves were rolled up slightly . . . the sparkle in his eyes . . .


And still, there are older, precious memories with grandparents . . .drinking Tang from a green plastic cup with my Mamaw as we sat and watched the Rockford Files—her big belly laugh so good and pure.  The long fingers of my Papaw proudly wearing the green Ohio University sweatshirt for which I had saved money to buy him as he grabbed my hands, looked straight into my eyes with his ever twinkling, devilment look, as he said, “Now talk without those.” The strong, swollen, sure hands of my Grandmother . . .gripping my own hands tightly, not wanting me to leave her because she would miss me . . .”Stethie, your ol’ Grandmother loves you, you know that . . .”


Cheryl and Brooke Biddish Ranch, Lewisburg, WV


Even earlier . . .the scent of my mom’s Estee Lauder perfume lingering in the air as I followed her around the kitchen, telling her about my day’s events as she let me help (perhaps hinder) her with dinner and laundry . . .the scent of my Dad’s freshly laundered shirt as a I snuggled closer to him on the couch as he read the Christmas story to my siblings and me on Christmas Eve  . . .the good baby scent of each and every one of my siblings as each shared a room with me when they were first born. . .their cooing, calling, or even crying sounds when they woke during night . . the light paddings of my Mom’s feet coming into the room to check on them . . .the warmth of their bodies beside me as I read to them at night . . .the emotional energy of our sibling rivalry and disagreements. . .


Window fans and summer nights

Fireflies flicker through curtain sheers

Sliver of light under closed bedroom door

Whispers and crickets

 Backdrop to sleep


Earth scented walks

 Carpeted with leaves

Red chapped cheeks and hands

Plaid purple jacket with hood

Winds a’blowin up good


Icy street, slip sliding along

“Hop on the Bus, Gus”

Is our favorite go-to-school song


Pungent aroma of spirea

Scenting signs of spring

Phlox creeping purple ‘round

My favorite hill rock sitting spot


Looking in window

Yearning to touch the past

Present moment is here

 Better hold on it while it lasts


Cheryl and Brooke Biddish Ranch, Lewisburg, WV


I am not sure that I will ever be able to successfully navigate between the cyber world and the life occurring around me.  Maybe it is because I was born of another time, but given so many others my age, and older, successfully slide between the two worlds; it must be a personal flaw.  Nonetheless, my thoughts serve as a personal reminder to me, that memories matter, they have real weight and texture; and when one is truly present, more moments are added to the memory quilt of a life.


May this holiday season serve as a reminder that while it is valuable to photograph special moments, it is just as worthwhile to sit back, savor the sights, sounds, scents, touches, and tastes of the day, before the moment slips silently through time, never to occur exactly the same way again.


Cheryl and Brooke Biddish Ranch, Lewisburg, WV







May we be a Light to One Another

“May the supreme light illumine your minds, enlighten your hearts, and strengthen the human bonds in your homes and communities.”—Unknown (As seen on Times of India)







“What a life we have!” I exclaimed to John, my husband of nearly 30 years, as we sat down for a late evening dinner.


It was Saturday, and our workweek had been a whirlwind, but that evening had been spectacular.  I recalled a statement made by one of my friends, Christine, earlier in the day during a lunch get-together and found myself repeating her words to John.


“We are truly blessed.”  Then, I added, “No matter the bills, we are truly blessed.”


Of course, John, being his ever sarcastic, and realist self, retorted, “We’d be a lot more blessed, and could bless ourselves more, if we had everything paid off.”



While John and I do not know the ladies in the picture on the left, they graciously posed for our picture.  Right picture is of one of our former students, Ajay Neginhal, and his beautiful mother, Sapna.


While I felt both the humor and the reality of his comment, I continued to feel contemplative and inspired as we had just left the Tristate India Association’s Diwali celebration held annually at Cabell Midland High School.  As John and I both currently teach in the same school, many of our current and former students were performers in the evening’s festivities.  Additionally, several more students and staff were in the audience. The celebration was lovely, full of displays of generosity, positivity, love, and mutual respect.  I could not help but feel my heart overflowing with hope, optimism, and gratitude in spite of the realities of life.




         Former and current students gathered to celebrate Diwali.  Top to Bottom, then right: Emily Blatt, Naveen Joseph, Angelina Bir, Nishi Chowdhury, Maanasa Miryala, and Heidi Short.

As best I understand it, (I do not claim to be an expert, and I ask forgiveness from readers in advance, if I explain something wrong.) Diwali is a festival of lights celebrated yearly in either October or November, depending upon the Hindu lunar calendar. It is not only celebrated in India, but also in several other countries, including Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, and Fiji to name a few.  Additionally, it is not only commemorated by those of the Hindu faith, but also by Sikhs, Jains, and some Buddhists.  However, it is the basic tenant upon which Diwali symbolizes and honors that persons of all faith backgrounds can agree upon, “victory of light over darkness, good over evil, and knowledge over ignorance.”


          The beautiful Bir family celebrate Diwali and insist on taking pictures with me.

In a world often filled with division, derision, and discord, Diwali appears, based upon my limited understanding, to focus on the sweetness and goodness of life that can be attained through a commitment to faith, family, education, work, and community.  Thus, as I looked around the auditorium and observed people of all faiths, not just Hindu, coming together respectfully and quite joyfully, I could not help but feel encouraged.  Hopeful for not only our daughter, but also for the students John and I have taught, past and present.


These adorable girls dance and celebrate Diwali with their family and friends.





The family-centered atmosphere delighted John and me, and we were especially amused by buoyant and excited children of all ages, vibrantly adorned.  We watched in awe as women of all ages, shapes and sizes, dressed the most vivid colors and sumptuous-looking fabrics, were honored and celebrated. Distinguished and dapper men of all ages, clad in colorful clothing, helped hold babies, patiently delayed performances for family members trying to change costumes, talked with the audience about the importance of giving back to the local community, and even turned up the lights for crying toddlers, who had become suddenly scared, when the house lights were dimmed for the performance.



     Left to right: Dr. Kalpana Miriyala, Dr. Pushpa Joseph, and Dr. Vinod Miriyala at the 2018 Diwali celebration.

Police officers, Tri-state dignitaries, and various community leaders were recognized, honored, or even given donations for their various works of charity.  Abundant, and seemingly endless, trays of what appeared to be traditional Indian foods were offered to guests for an hour or more before the start of celebration. Additionally, after the first song, performers walked off the stage and out into the audience offering small bits of food. Countless hugs, kisses, cheerful greetings, and affirmations could be heard throughout the evening.  I could not help but wish I could bundle all this positivity up, and send it out into the world, allowing it to envelop all of humanity with love and light, peace and patience, and an overall sense of community . . . the, we-are-all-in-this-together sort of attitude.  But alas, I am a sentimental, dreamer . . .



Our student, Maanasa Miriyala, dances in a performance at the 2018 Diwali celebration.



One of narrators of the evening’s festivities, as he defined and explained Diwali to audience members, who, like myself, did not have a background, referred to the famous words attributed to Mahatma Gandhi. He encouraged all in attendance to go out and be a light unto others, living the change we wished to see in the world.  This line, and its variations, is so often quoted, it sometimes falls on deaf ears.



Current students, Angelina Bir and Nishi Chowdhury, dance in a performance during the 2018 Diwali celebration.


On this evening of Diwali, however, my ears listened as Gandhi’s words rained over me. I was bearing witness to one group’s attempt to not only offer light, but also be the change they wished to see in the world. No, they were not trying to convert those of us of other faiths to their faith.  Rather, it felt as if the TSIA was demonstrating the understanding, tolerance, and dialogue that are possible when we concentrate first on the similarities we have with others, rather than focusing on the differences.


It was a beautiful evening with an even more beautiful lesson to be learned.


“From untruth lead us to Truth.

From darkness lead us to Light.

From death lead us to Immortality.

Om Peace, Peace, Peace.”—Brhadaranyaka Upanishad



More pictures from Diwali!




What is Play?

           “Play is the absence of stress.”–Poole

           “It’s okay to be absurd, ridiculous and downright irrational at times; silliness is the sweet syrup that helps us swallow the bitter pills of life.”—Richelle E. Goodrich

           “Mrs. Hill, may we play with the yoga blocks and build “Bob” before we start?”  

           I looked up from the teaching notes I was reviewing to see a fairy-like student of my yoga club imploring me with her large brown eyes.

           “Of course, this is snack time.  We have about ten minutes before we start. Handle them with care please. They are not made of the most sturdy material,” I added with a chuckle, thinking of how the students are known to karate-chop “Bob” after they build him.


Annie with “Bob” in mermaid pose.


           Yoga club is for students, grades 5-8, as well as any staff/faculty members of the school in which I work.  We meet one time per week for an hour and twenty or so minutes after the regular school day. The first 10-15 minutes is an open time to allow students, and any staff members that might also be joining us, to have time to change clothes, enjoy a snack if desired, chat a bit, decompress, and, well, even play before I guide a more formal, but still somewhat not-too-serious, yoga practice.


Annie, Julie, Nicolas, Izzy, Lilly pose with “Bob,” they’re imaginary friend that they build with yoga blocks before yoga club. He is in mermaid pose, they tell me.


           It is during those unstructured moments that students are free to be kids.  I never know exactly what they are going to do during this time, and I am often reminded of my days teaching kindergarten in which my co-workers and I purposely planned time to allow the five and six years old to play with new materials before directing their use in more formal, so-called educational ways. Watching these now 10-13 year old students giggle, play with what they consider fun yoga poses, dance, and, of course, build with yoga blocks to create “Bob,” holding a variation of mermaid yoga pose, makes my soul smile—no matter how tired I am.  I so enjoy seeing kids using their imagination to simply play.


Annie, Nicolas, Izzy, Isabella, and Julie strike their favorite variation of tree pose.


           Recently, a coworker/friend of mine and I were engaged in a quick conversation after school regarding the levels of stress and anxiety we now see in many of our students as well as our own children. It seems as if kids don’t have much free time to play—play without teams, without electronics, without extra curricular lessons . . .. In fact, we drifted off into our own memories of childhood play . . .

           Swing sets and hula-hoops,

           Roller skates and 45-records

           Spinning our favorite beats.


           Badminton, jarts, and croquet,

           Company was over last night–

           Play it our own way now.


           Baseball bat not used for sport,

           Might be a sword or a gun—

           Depending upon the tale spun.


           Stories told, roles assigned;

           Funerals for butterflies and birds—

           You got to be preacher the last time!


           Banana seat bicycle for him,

           Pink Schwinn with

           Flowered basket for her.


           Kick ball in the circle,

           Better not kick the ball in that yard.

           Rules might change, depending on players,

           Hope he doesn’t lose his temper once more.


           Frisbee’s on the roof again

           Why d’ja throw it there?

           Can we make a fort out of that box?


           Summer sun, autumn chill,

           Wintertime stands still.

           Spring car washes,

           Big Red Machine’s on the radio.


           Rook on the porch when it rains.

           Go outside and play.

           Stay until called for supper.

           Childhood memories of long ago.


           I wonder, how many of my students have ever ran around at night in the late spring catching fire-flies as the dew soaks their sneakers?  Do they ever get to ride their bikes around the neighborhood poppin’ wheelies and riding with no hands as the wind whips all around their faces?  What about playing neighborhood pick-up games of kickball, touch football, run-down, or monkey-in-the middle? Have they ever hung out on their front (or back) porch just to watch it rain?  


Banana seat bicycle for him (or her). . .


           What about swinging with head held back until it feels like you’ll puke; and then, laugh at the feeling of butterflies in the stomach?  Or have they experienced that older cousin or neighbor who will play part friend, part devil, and push them on a swing high enough for the pusher to run under?  What about the rush of merry-go-rounds that the biggest kid of the grade pushes as fast as he or she can, then hops on at the very last breath-taking second! Then, there was tetherball, jumping-ropes, marbles, and pick-up-jacks— and all the different ways to define “King” or “Queen” in grade school.


Merry-go-rounds that made kids’ heads spin . . .


           I can even recall, shock of all shocks, going outside on one recess while snow danced down around us.  I clearly remember Mrs. Jones, one of the beloved first grade teachers at my school, leading us (students) around the playground in a hand-held chain, snow gently falling, and calling it a game of “snake.”  There were slicky-slides of all heights, monkey bars of all styles, and even a few gymnastics-like apparatus’ that gradually began to be withdrawn from public and school playgrounds alike, year after year. Like the erosion of one’s favorite beach shoreline, you don’t really notice the changes until you see time-lapse pictures spanning the years, and little by little it is revealed the beachfront ebbing away, in the same way, the notions and toys of childhood play have also ebbed away.


Andrew, a seventh grader at SJCS, “play” with pie, and throws it at my husband, and fellow SJCS faculty member, John.


           To be honest, I suppose I have begun to reach an age of introspection as I begin to identify all the vast change I have witnessed over the decades—especially with regards to “play”.  As a person who, depending upon the definition used, is either the very last of the Baby-Boomer generation, or the very first of Generation-X, the changes of which I have observed, and of which I have experienced first-hand is, at-times, nearly unbelievable.  I cannot image what my parents must feel with their additional two decades of experience. And while change is an inevitable constant, the need for playtime, or at the very least unstructured, down time, I believe, will always be a need for all ages, but especially for kids.


My great niece, Miss Luna, who loves the simple pleasure of play.


          While preparing to write this piece, I found the following quote by Alan W. Watts, “This is the real secret of life—to be completely engaged with what you are doing in the here and now.  And instead of calling it work, realize it is play.” Maybe that is the lesson my yoga club kids were, and are, teaching me.  Play is always available, and is always a choice. It may look differently now, but that doesn’t mean it still can’t be play—it’s all about the attitude brought to it.   Even more so, maybe that’s why my brain “played” with this idea—to beautifully illustrate—that I, too, am playing each week with a screen-full of words, hoping to discover “playmates” in which these words will resonate.


My EW (Elevate Writing) Club “play” with words, like me, each week! The stories they create are certainly playful as they laugh, goof-off, rib one another, share inside jokes, and so forth, in the new form of technological type of play.





Grounded in Gratitude


           “Get yourself grounded and you can navigate even the stormiest roads in peace.”—Steve Goodier



           “But it turns out that people who are grounded and secure don’t change much under stress.  That’s what being grounded means.”—Michael Gruber




“You need grounded,” Amy Vanhorn said to my daughter, Madelyn.  “Get outside. Go barefooted.  Get grounded.”




My husband, John, and I had left immediately on a Friday at the end of our school day at St. Joseph Catholic School, where we both work, in order to make the four-hour drive to Bethany College where Madelyn is attending.  It was Dad’s weekend for our daughter’s sorority, Alpha Xi Delta.  However, Maddie and John had both insisted that I also tag along, and make it a family visit.




Amy VanHorn, and her husband, Keith, had invited us to stay at their home, which is less than a five-minute drive from Bethany.  Amy’s daughter, Eden, is a friend of Maddie and also in the same sorority.  We gratefully accepted this invitation to save the trips and time driving up and down the mountainous, curvy, and car-sickness inducing roads traveling to and from the nearest hotel in Wheeling, WV about 30 minutes away from Bethany.




The week had been exhausting.  John and I are finding that while we still love working during our 5thdecade of life, it seems we are never able to get enough rest.  Our recovery time isn’t what it used to be, and although we still get around six to six and half hours of sleep at night—which used to be plenty in our thirties and forties—it is no longer enough.  Still, we keep pushing through fatigue and forging ahead, ever grateful for our jobs.  Furthermore, that Friday had been filled with Halloween celebrations at our school.  Students were amped, and a large portion of the day was filled with the typically loud, stimulating celebrations that go hand-in-hand with the spirit of the holiday.

Personally, I emotionally struggle with Halloween. I find our society’s obsession with the holiday upside down.  I know, I know, it’s all about fun and frivolity, making me sound like a grumpy old lady. To be certain, I certainly enjoyed the holiday as a young child, but once I hit seventh grade, it was no longer an important event in my life.  However, this holiday has since developed into a multi-million dollar industry with all ages celebrating it for days on end.  Thus, when I look at all the millions of dollars and countless hours spent on candy, costumes, as well as decorations, and when I think of all the other beneficial ways the money and our collective focus could be used, it leaves me feeling not only a bit icky, but conflicted and out-of-sorts.  Therefore, this only added to my level of energy drain.



Upon arriving at Bethany, we stopped by Maddie’s dorm to pick her up before heading to the VanHorn home.  She would be joining us for dinner.  Amy had suggested that we go to Dovetail Fire and Ale in nearby Wellsburg, WV, a local, family-owned and operated restaurant. (Which, by the way, John and I highly recommend!)




“We love to cook, but not on Fridays, especially after an exhausting week like this past one,” Amy explained.




We completely understood, and after hugs, greetings, and an exchange of a few pleasantries, we all hopped in Keith’s new, roomy truck and headed to the restaurant around 8:00 pm.  The restaurant’s atmosphere was comfortable and casual allowing all of us to relax our tired bodies and enjoy each other’s company.


It was during the early minutes of our conversation that Amy began advising Maddie to ground herself outside regularly to fight the stress and anxiety of college life.  I found myself agreeing as my mind drifted to earlier in the week . . .





It was moments before the sun began to rise; the sky had blossomed with a harvest full of fruit colors:  cantaloupes, peaches, and rosy, pink apples. The inky black outlines of the graceful willows in our yard were in the foreground of these expanding colors as birdsong filled in the background.  I stood mesmerized in the open-door area of the garage holding my bags for school.  I breathed in the chill of the crisp air, both of my feet planted firmly on the concrete.  My heart yearned for more time.  Time to watch, time to breathe this moment into my body, time to fully feel all the gratitude of this heavenly touch at the start of my day.  Yet time tick-tocked onward, and I needed to move if I was to make it to school on time.  Thus, the sands of my hourglass slipped through this holy moment, not allowing it to be savored in a manner it so rightly deserved.  I took one more deep breath, drank in the lovely peacefulness, and packed my wares into my vehicle, making my way to school as the moment continued on without my presence.



Amy was right; not only for Maddie, but also for me.  I need grounded. We all benefit from time spent out of doors, but especially me.  My soul, my heart, my spirit needs it, and I have not been making time for it. God is there in nature, whispering soft words of love, understanding, and healing while painting seasonal images of Divine magnificence.




As I awoke Saturday morning, I soaked up all the “grounding” opportunities I could find.  I walked around the VanHorn property listening to the birds, their rooster, the snufflings of their horses, the cluckings of their chickens, and the pitter-patter of a cool, autumn rain.  Later, John and I drank-in the wonder of our daughter and her gentle friend, Ben, as we walked through the continual mist, across Bethany campus, listening to the swishing sounds of our feet traipsing over damp yellow, brown, and red leaves.  Then, we warmed up with coffee made with love by Ms. Linda, campus mom to many, at The Hub, Bethany’s coffee shop.



Afterwards, we parted ways with Ben, and Maddie blessed us with time alone with her as she gave us a personal tour of her daily haunts.  From the Robert Richardson Hall of Science, where Maddie currently takes three different science courses, to the Office of the University President where Maddie works several days per week; and on to the Art Building, where Maddie’s eyes twinkled as she shared several works of her own design as well as works of other students and professors.  I bathed in the gift of each moment.





Finally, we made the journey towards stadium and the tailgating event hosted by her sorority.  The fall air continued to kiss our cheeks, the light rain incessantly baptized us, and joy of time spent with someone you love enveloped us with warmth in spite of the chilly, damp air.


Sounds of music and laughter offered a new backdrop.

Silly smiles. Serious smiles.

Poses held for photographic memoirs.

Sweet, sweet, time.

Grateful heart, overflowing with love and pride.

God’s goodness all around.

Centered by family love.

Surrounded by a Divine embrace.



Blessing abound.

Grounded in the gift of the moment.




P.S.  Thank you, Keith and Amy VanHorn, for taking time from your busy schedules to assist in this much-needed moment.  (I wish I would have thought to have taken your picture while I was there!)

MUCH love and appreciation to our beautiful daughter, Madelyn, for taking time away from her social obligations and course studies to be present with Mom and Dad for a few hours.