Help a family this holiday season

As I type this, I’m still basking in the glow of an excellent Thanksgiving. I didn’t know what to expect going in — except I knew it would be different with my family scattered here and there. Different turned out to be excellent. We were nonstop and in six short days shared Thanksgiving, moved my son into his first home, decorated for Christmas, squeezed in Charlie Brown, Frosty and the Grinch, celebrated my daughter turning 18 and went ice skating. I’m exhausted and my house is a wreck, but my heart is full. Continue...

Transportation equals opportunity

Thank goodness I looked down at my gas gauge! When I saw the words “0 miles to empty” glaring up at me, I was thankful I could see a gas station up ahead. I have a couple of bad driving habits. Nearly running out of gas is one of them. When the “50 miles to empty” warning sounded, maybe my sunroof was open or the music was turned up. I never heard it. I heard a story last week that makes me incredibly thankful and a little embarrassed that I can just zip around with little thought about fuel. I was at The Free Clinics where I learned about a man who walks four hours to and from Mills River to get his medication each month. Four hours! I can’t imagine walking four hours to get medication every time I needed it, especially if it were a monthly prescription. But you and I have a friend and neighbor who does. Click here to continue...

Critical issues affect local kids

Last month, the Children & Family Resource Center hosted a dinner conversation for local pediatricians and family practice doctors to talk about what they were seeing firsthand as some of the biggest concerns for children and families in Henderson County. Several pediatricians and doctors (representing all three pediatric practices in Henderson County, Blue Ridge Community Health Services, the Health Department and two family practices) and our team of early childhood professionals discussed what concerned doctors most often found parents struggling with (outside of health concerns that caused their visit to the doctor’s office), and what trends in child development they were witnessing. Click here to continue...

Getting Energized by Reaching Out

I stared at the register in shock — $58 for three meals a day for five days. I’m under $4 per meal! Cha-ching. When my kids lived at home, I was easily $100 to $200 north of that. I skipped out to the car, not caring about the summer afternoon downpour. I texted my friends to share the news. Maybe there is a silver lining in an empty nest! I’ve recently enjoyed a week of what I’ll call “community action” on behalf of Henderson County’s children. This stuff just energizes me! The Chamber of Commerce and the Henderson County Vision Alumni Association hosted a conversation about the need for affordable housing in Henderson County. In a nutshell, an affordable home for a family earning a median income ($42,478) in Henderson County is $158,423, or $1,024 in monthly costs. Monthly costs for housing include mortgage (or rent) plus utilities. However, the median price for a house in Henderson County is $210,000. We have a supply problem. The city manager recently reported only about 32 homes for sale in the county listed below $200,000. And the likelihood of finding an affordable rental in Henderson County is also slim. I’m glad to see our community concerned about this issue. The city continues to convene local leaders, nonprofits, real estate development, homeowners and renters to work on solutions. Later in the week, the United Way convened a group of agency leaders to talk about healthy youth behaviors and the work we are doing in our community to promote protective factors for young people, like improving parent engagement, positive parenting practices and increasing connectedness...

Bouquets of Sharpened Pencils

“I would send you a bouquet of newly sharpened pencils if I knew your name and address.” It’s a line from the movie “You’ve Got Mail,” a late ’90s movie I can’t help but watch whenever I see that it’s on. Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks star in this cute little love story about a relationship that started in an online chatroom back in the days when internet access was still via dial-up. I thought of bouquets of sharpened pencils because it’s almost back-to-school time, and, like many parents, I just spent the weekend buying new school supplies that are sure to keep my daughter organized and focused all year long. I love this time of year. It’s kind of like a mid-year reboot — full of promise, the anticipation of crisp fall air (and football), and a head full of dreams about how organized I’m going to be — new pencils, new paper, new colored pens and folders! Bliss! More than 1,000 local boys and girls will walk into their first day of kindergarten before month’s end. And several of our year-round schools are already underway. If recent statistics hold true, we’ll know two things about students in Henderson County this year: • More than half will be considered “not ready” for school on day one of kindergarten. • More than half in all grades will qualify for the free and reduced meals program. If you’re like most people, you may be wondering, “What does ‘being ready’ mean?” The truth is, there is not a nice, clean checklist. Young children develop at their own speed and learn as...

New chapter in life confronts me

It’s so cliché. I want to roll my eyes when I hear it, but for some reason I can only nod in agreement. And I even too often hear it tumbling out of my own mouth into the ears of mothers of young children: “They grow up fast.” When I wrote my first column, my firstborn was about to graduate from high school and leave home. This time, it’s my baby-baby flying the coop. My oldest leaving only slightly prepared me for this. I’m engulfed with grief. I find myself perfectly fine one second and sobbing the next. In fact, just recently I walked into the salon for a pedicure and was placed in the chair beside a longtime member of my church family. She excitedly asked how my kids were doing, and it was like she turned on a faucet behind my eyes. It’s a chapter of my life closing long before I feel ready for it; and at the same time, I couldn’t be happier or more proud. My daughter will spend her senior year of high school studying piano at the North Carolina School of the Arts, and I feel blessed beyond words that she has this opportunity. Here in the South, clichés about raising kids roll easily off our tongues. Here are some I’ve found to be true: • “Grow like a weed.” Children do grow fast, especially in the first years of life. From the moment you were born up to age 3, your brain made 700 new neural connections every second! Your environment and the interaction you had with the adults in your...