Tag Archives: challenge

Local Paragons IX: Fourth Street Filling Station

Fourth Street Filling Station is quintessential Winston Salem. Whenever someone comes to visit me from out of town. This is the first place I want to take them to eat. It captures the essence of Old Winston and the beauty of modern Winston. The food is just, well, wonderful. If you have a chance to eat on the patio, take it—it’s the way to experience Winston on a deeper and authentic level to which few places can stake a claim. Most recently I had a wrap which I couldn’t eat enough of (rarely do I eat every last bite of something—not even a church mouse would get a morsel off this plate!). But I have never eaten a single dish I didn’t love.

Food: <3 <3 <3 <3 <3                                                      Local Color: <3 <3 <3 <3 <3

Lucy settled in at the table across from Saul. They hadn’t been out in over a week, and when he had suggested meeting at Fourth Street Filling Station, she’d hesitated. Not because of the food—she loved the food, but because of what happened. She hadn’t been back since that night, and as she sat across from Saul watching  stray blossom fall from the tree overhead and land on the table between them, she wondered if it was a good idea.

A smile settled on her tight lips for the first time; she tried to relax though she could still feel her pulse coursing through her bottom lip as she chewed on the inside of it.

“Are you sure you’re okay, Luce?” Saul asked for the second time now.

Lucy was not okay. Her mouth was dry. Her eye had started to twitch.

“I’m fine,” she pulled the water across the table; the scraping sound sounded loud. She took a sip, and looked around the patio. Nothing had changed. The same bricks, unevenly lay across the ground. The koi pond was still stocked with fish fattened by ill-disciplined younger patrons constantly throwing bits of bread into the water in between courses. The trees forming a canopy over the wrought iron trellis deadened the noise from the street so Lucy could vaguely hear the fish splashing. Still, the street noise duly loomed in the back of her skull—beating a rhythm of underlying assault.

“Something is on your mind,” Saul stated. He buttered a piece of bread and handed it to her. She took it, staring at, but not really seeing it. Picking up another piece, Saul buttered another piece for himself, and chewed as he silently studied her from across the table.

“I haven’t been here since it happened.” Lucy’s voice sounded far off. She didn’t even feel like it belonged to her as she spoke.

The screeching on the pavement—tires, rubber burning—it all sounded so loud in her head. Lucy was holding on to his waist—then she wasn’t. Above her was the night sky, blinking back at her. Something wet, sticky and thick rolled down her face. Blood.

People shouted.

Lucy sat up. Her head protested. So did her arm, twisted unnaturally beneath her, but she ignored it as she saw him. Crushed. Bent beneath the twisted metal of the bike. He was motionless. So much blood.

And then the screaming started. It hurt her ears. Who was screaming?

“Lucy!” Saul was trying to get her attention, but Lucy was still screaming—the restaurant was now all staring, silent.

In the next moment, Luzy’s eyes rolled to the top of her head and she would have fallen out of her seat if Saul hadn’t acted quickly. His own chair hit the pavement behind him as he lunged for Lucy, catching and easing her to the ground as she began.

“She’s seizing,” he said, medical training overriding emotions. “Call 9-1-1.” He turned her slightly to the side, and supported her head. There was nothing else he could do.

“Should we do something to keep her from choking?” A waiter asked, squatting next to him, phone in hand.

“She’ll be fine. Just get her to Baptist,” Saul’s authoritative tone was all the man needed. He nodded, and dialed.

Saul looked down at Lucy, wondering what she’d seen in the moments before she’d had her seizure. Hallucinating? Maybe. Definitely not cognizant of her surroundings for three, maybe five minutes. He swallowed hard, looking down at his watch nervously, trying not to worry about the woman he was afraid he may be falling in love with.

Local Paragons VII: The Stocked Pot & Co.

The Stocked Pot & Co. is a cooking school and catering (by Simple Elegance) company located on Jonestown Road in Winston Salem, North Carolina.  ith extensive experience and wide training, the company is renowned for its culinary expertise. My experience at The Stocked Pot couldn’t have been better. I took a class through Amazon Local (they also offer deals through Living Social and Groupon). The class I signed up for was centered on Julia Child’s cooking and the art of sautéing. The chef was knowledgeable, friendly and entertaining and the staff was welcoming and professional. I was particularly impressed by the well rounded knowledge not only of cooking but of the history, nomenclature, motivation and reasoning behind the cookware, styles and reasoning in each dish the chef prepared. This allowed me to learn not only about the way to cook but why certain dishes cooked the way they did—which is important to me. The class I took was a demonstration class and lasted about 2.5 hours and the food was phenomenal. There are other classes—some which are more hands on—on a wide variety of food preparation styles and cooking techniques. I would highly recommend the cooking classes to anyone and would definitely consider them at the top of my catering list given the outcome of the dishes prepared during class.

Food: <3 <3 <3 <3 <3                                                     Local Color: <3 <3 <3

Learning opportunities: <3 <3 <3 <3 <3

Lucy walked into The Stocked Pot fifteen minutes early. The class was scheduled to start at 6:30, but she wanted to be sure she had arrived and was settled before her client arrived. While normally they chose a caterer by more conventional methods, her client had wanted to take this cooking class to vet the possible candidates. Lucy had agreed. After all, the clients were paying and she would get a good meal out of it.

Lucy settled in at a table directly in front of the demonstration area, a small mock kitchen with brightly colored backsplash that greeted her with the effigy “Cooking is fun”.

“Lucy!” the high nosed, nasal voice sounded loud in the small area, but Lucy forced a smile to her face as she stood to greet her client.

“Hello, Janie,” she said, reaching out to shake the other woman’s hand. Janie shook brusquely then pulled her long, dark curls back into a low, loose ponytail at the base of her neck.

“It’s warm today, isn’t it? I’m burning up. This place is cute. I hope the food is as good.”

“I’ve heard good things about it,” Lucy nodded and settled herself back in her seat. “But I certainly hope it’s what you are looking for. I know how important—“

“The food is absolutely essential at this party. After all Monique is retiring and she was one of the best chefs the city ever knew.”

“I understand,” Lucy said. “Would you like some water or tea?”

“Tea, but only if it’s sweet.”

“I’ll get it,” Lucy stood and walked over to the drink station at the back of the long room. As the ice rushed into the glasses, breaking the silence of the room, she pulled in a breath and tried to clear her mind. Tonight was about Janie, but she couldn’t seem to stop thinking about the look on Chris’s face when she took the call from Silas last Sunday. She’d been out with Silas twice since then—and Chris hadn’t met her for coffee as he usually did. The acute sense of loss suffocated her.

“Excuse me,” the voice interrupted her thoughts. “Do you mind?” Lucy looked behind her and saw that several people were waiting to get drinks.

“I’m sorry,” she murmured, then quickly hurried back to her seat.

Janie began to talk. And talk. And talk.

Lucy tried to listen, but her head had begun to ache and nothing seemed to get her attention until the chef got to the front and began to speak. Even then, she didn’t take notes.

Janie, on the other hand, was completely zoned in on everything he had to say. The back of her recipe handouts were filled with notes, and her hand was up in the air with questions every time the chef stopped to take a breath. When she wasn’t speaking to the chef, she was chatting with the people at the table. The smile never left her face, and her nasal laugh filled the small area more than once in her enthusiasm.

“Oh my gosh, Lucy,” Janie exclaimed when the plate of food was settled before them at the end of class. “Is this chicken not to die for? I can’t believe all these sauces—and he fixed all this while talking to us?” She paused to stuff a bit in her mouth, her eyes rolling up to the ceiling as she reveled in gastronomic ecstasy. “Can you imagine what he can do if he’s focused solely on the food?”

“Hmm,” Lucy took a bite and nodded. “So what do you think? Do you want to hire them?”

“Absolutely,” Janie’s plate was nearly empty. Lucy’s stood nearly untouched. “I can’t believe the juiciness. My chicken almost always comes out dry.”

“Great,” Lucy nodded and forced herself to eat the rest of the food—which was phenomenal; if only her mind hadn’t been so preoccupied she might have actually enjoyed the meal. As it was, all she could think about was her growing desire to spend more time with Silas, but how sick it made her that it seemed to be costing her friendship with Chris.

Katie was no help either. It wasn’t something she could really talk about with Chris’s twin sister—it wasn’t really fair to either of them. Lucy’s head pounded.

“Thanks for coming with me,” Janie said, standing from the table. Lucy reached over and took the empty plate from her, stacking it on top of her own.

“Happy to,” Lucy said. “I’m glad it worked out for you.”

Janie nodded, then headed for the door. Lucy threw away their trash, thanked the chef and then followed. She felt bad that she hadn’t been more enthusiastic, but as she started her car she knew she’d make it up to them given the money they would spend in catering when she called later to set up the event later in the week. Her guilt quickly cranked into relief as she started her car and headed for home.

But she didn’t get far.  Having only driven a couple of miles, her car began to sputter, then it gave a great jerk. Lucy yelped as the car heaved and she was barely able to pull into a dark BB&T parking lot before her car gave one final hiss, then died. All she was left with was the silence.

Lucy looked down at her phone, the only light left in this abandoned place. She only had about 15% of her battery left, but lately 15% was not really 15% and there was no telling when it would shut off on her. Knowing that Chris was her best option, since he was only a few miles away, she dialed and hoped he picked up the phone before her phone died.

As the dial back tone shifted, Lucy got her second big shock of the night as a woman’s voice floated through the air waves and into her ear.


“Um,” Lucy was at a loss.

“Hello?” The woman’s voice said again.

“I’m, uh, looking for Chris,” Lucy stuttered.

“He’s indisposed. Can I help?”

“Um,” Lucy’s brain swirled. “No, I guess not. I guess I’ll just call back later.”

“Okay.” Lucy could hear a muffled voice in the background, she presumed it was Chris but though the woman’s voice was faint she could clearly hear her response. “Nothing. It was a wrong number.” Then the line went dead.

Lucy stared at her phone in disbelief. Clearly she had been wrong. Chris didn’t have feelings for her—he’d apparently been…well, she didn’t have time to think about that now. Nor did she have time to figure out why her eyes smarted with tears. She was stranded in a dark parking lot, and she was down to 12%. Maybe TJ could help. She dialed, but it went straight to voicemail. Lucy hung up quickly, not surprised. Feeling frantic, Lucy called Katie—she knew Katie couldn’t help, being an hour away, but hearing her voice might help her feel less panicky. After three battery draining rings, she was left with Katie’s voicemail. This time Lucy left a message, trying to control the panic in her voice, but knowing that with her friend the emotion was clearer despite her rambling.

Lucy looked at her phone, despairing the draining percentage dialed the only other number she could think of.

He picked up on the first ring.


“Silas,” she felt like a small child, but at the moment she was so relieved. “My car broke down and none of my friends are answering their phones. I—I just—“

“Where are you Luce? I’ll be there as soon as I can.”

Lucy breathed a sigh of relief and told him where to find her. He was across town, but would be there soon. She hung up the phone and leaned her head against the seat. The silence didn’t feel quiet as choking now as she waited.

Her phone rang. She looked down at the caller ID, surprised that the device still held a charge—it was Chris. Part of her wanted to ignore it, but that felt juvenile, so she answered.

“Hi, Chris.”

“Lucy. What on earth is wrong? I got a frantic call from Katie saying something about you being stranded somewhere and she can’t get there. She said you weren’t answering your phone. Where are you?”

Lucy looked at her phone, but she didn’t see any missed calls.

“My phone is dying. It must not have picked up Katie’s calls,” Lucy said. “My car broke down. I’m—“

“Where are you?” he insisted. “Why didn’t you call me?”

“Don’t worry about me,” Lucy insisted. “I know you’re busy.” She could still hear the woman’s voice ringing in her ears.

“Lucy where are you?” she could hear the impatience in his voice.

“I’m–“she yelped as a knock on her window interrupted her speech.

“Lucy! What happened!” Chris’s voice was boarding on panic now, but Lucy’s heart had settled firmly back in her chest as she stared into Silas’ winning, warm gaze.

“I’m—“ but she didn’t get to finish. Her phone died. She stared down at the dark screen, wondering what she should do next. Silas waved at her again, so she pushed thoughts of Chris aside for the moment and opened the door.

“One knight in shining armor at your service,” Silas said, bowing deeply at her. Lucy smiled, and swallowed the fear as she stared at the motorcycle parked next to her car. At least she wouldn’t have to hitchhike home—but in retrospect, as she stared down the monstrous machine, perhaps that would have been preferable.

The Artist’s Way Week 1: Monster’s Hall of Fame

My Creative Stifling Monster Hall of Fame

  • Me

Of all the monsters in my life, I am by far the worst. I have been my own worst enemy for as long as I can remember. I have wonderful friends and family who have pretty much always been supportive of my dreams. In fact I can’t remember a single time someone telling me that what I want to do or be was a bad idea or that I might fail. I was the one who decided (as a realist) that writing ‘wouldn’t pay the bills’ and maybe I was listening to main stream society, but I made that decision. I knew I couldn’t—or that I didn’t want to try to live off it and I was good at teaching so Poof! Teaching career. And don’t get me wrong, I love teaching, and I’m a wonderful teacher, most days, but my first love has always been writing. I can’t even remember a time when I wasn’t writing or telling stories. I convinced myself though that it wasn’t viable.

But, what if it could be?

  • A guy who in middle school ranked my “prettiness” on a scale and let’s just say I didn’t measure up to his standards

I know I’m not a super model, but when I was in elementary school I was a confident kid. I was out to conquer the world. I had loads of friends, and I was pretty extroverted. I was the first to make friends with new kids, and never allowed anyone to sit by themselves in the cafeteria. And then Middle school came and I was still that same girl…


I asked a boy to a dance.

And the boy said, “Well, on a scale of ugly to pretty Ashley falls right about here.” It was pretty close to the ugly side.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I am aware that this is one child’s opinion, but I do realize that this is the moment when my personality began to change. I became less extroverted, I was no longer the center of attention (nor was I trying to be the center of attention), and quite frankly I preferred the shadows from there on out. I was ashamed. Not only of my physical appearance, but of what I created and did as well.

As a friend of mine once wisely said, middle school is quite a bitch and it’s a miracle any of us survive. If we could press a fast-forward button and skip ahead we’d all be happier people probably, but none of us would be the same. And quite frankly these experiences are what make us who we are. We can’t divorce ourselves from our pasts, or our past monsters (and quite frankly compared to other people and their monsters, I got off quite easy), but we can learn from them and move forward—fighting to become men and women, artists, we want to be.

  • Q from middle school who either didn’t like more or I perceived that she didn’t like me—either way I felt stifled as an individual and persecuted as a result.

I have always been a teacher’s pet. And maybe that’s why Mrs. Q didn’t like me. Some people don’t like kids who are constantly trying to please adults. But again, it was middle school and by this point, I think I was feeling persecuted by pretty much everyone. Sometimes I wonder if Mrs. Q actually disliked me as much as I felt like she did. I’ll never know though. She passed away not long ago, and I never asked her. Regardless, in her class I didn’t feel free to be creative, or open, which was ironic because many people who had her would say the opposite. They loved her style and how she helped them to open up and become more creative people.

  • My school system

My school system was small and had few resources for creative outlets. We had music and some art, but that was about it. I would have really thrived had I had the opportunity to take a creative writing class or even drama in high school, but I didn’t have that option, and that feels like a shame to me.

  • The NC Voter

For not fighting for the educational system more. For not making it a priority and for taking the wind out of creative outlets in schools and in teachers and in individuals who are trying to fight for these things for students and for the future.

So who are the monsters of your past? Who stifle your creativity? How do you plan to overcome them?

The Artist’s Way: Week 1–Ashley is an Artist?

To live a creative life, we must lose our fear of being wrong.


Recognizing you are a shadow artist.

I never really considered myself an artist. Creative, yes. Unique, absolutely. Quirky, you betcha. But, artist? When I hear the word I think of crayons, colored pencils, watercolors, paints, pottery, you know creators. Dreamers.

I’m more of a realist. A perfectionist.

What I am, I suppose is a shadow artist.

During Nano this year I met a woman who is very sure of who she is. Carenna has a plan; she has a family, she has a career, and she has it all pretty much figured out. So when we, by chance, started communicating again and it came to light that she would be teaching a class on writing, I said sign me up! The primary text we’re using: The Artist Way. And I hesitated—The Artist’s Way? Am I an artist?

Don’t get me wrong, I recognize writing as a kind of art—I’m not separating writing from that, but in a lot of ways calling myself an artist feels almost unauthentic. Except for writing, I don’t have an artistic bone in my body (not for lack of trying—I just don’t have the talent for it). But this course is for writers, so what do I have to lose.

Nothing. And really, as I’m starting to discover, I have a lot to gain including a new perspective, which is what this blog is really about after all.

So over the next 8-12 weeks I’ll be tracking some of the tasks, and activities I go through during my journey down the artist’s way. Some of them are personal, so I won’t post about them, but some are reflective so I will and perhaps, by the end, maybe I won’t be an artist (or maybe I will) but at least I’ll be more secure and will improve as a writer and that certainly is a goal worth pursuing.

Protecting your shadow artist

“Judging your early artistic efforts is artist abuse. This happens in any number of ways: beginning work is measured against the masterworks of other artists; beginning work is exposed to premature criticism, shown to overly critical friends. In short, the fledgling artist behaves with well- practiced masochism. Masochism is an art form long ago mastered, perfected during the years of self- reproach; this habit is the self- hating bludgeon with which a shadow artist can beat himself right back into the shadows.” JULIA CAMERON

In my first activity, Cameron encourages steps toward positive affirmation. So, I wrote 10 times “I, Ashley, am a brilliant and prolific writer,” but as she warns as these affirmations are written the negative will also emerge and instead of burying it inside, I should write them out and deal with it. Though a little uncomfortable, it was a way to pull myself out of denia  l and address underlying issues. I’ve included an image of my admissions, not so that people will negate the negative emotions, but to affirm to myself that they don’t have the power over me I’ve let them have for so long.

Negative beliefs are exactly that: beliefs, not facts. JULIA CAMERON

The next step is to turn them into more positive statements. So, not only did I rewrite the statements, I wrote them in a much stronger penmenship. Cameron encourages to use these affirmations as a conclusion to the morning pages exercises. I hope I can keep up with this for the next 8-12 weeks and really see a difference in how and why I write.

An affirmation is a positive statement of (positive) belief, and if we can become one- tenth as good at positive self- talk as we are at negative self- talk, we will notice an enormous change. JULIA CAMERON

Remember that in order to recover as an artist, you must be willing to be a bad artist. JULIA CAMERON

I don’t do anything unless I can do it well. Accepting that I could be bad at something is hard for me, the perfectionist. How do you put yourself out there knowing you’ll be bad at it?

You take an art class—or like I’m doing next week—a cooking class. My first artist date! Wish me luck!

Never to be Undone?

“Could the young but realize how soon they will become mere walking bundles of habits, they would give more heed to their conduct while in the plastic state. We are spinning our own fates, good or evil, and never to be undone.”

In The App Generation Howard Gardner and Katie Davis make this profound, but rather ominous statement about the generation of youth who are so focused on being virtually connected they may have forgotten what it means to connect in meaningful soul touching ways. Davis and Gardner present some rather alarming research in this book, but I’m not entirely sure I agree with the latter part of the statement.

Every day we spin our own fates—yes. Good or evil, yes. This is the responsibility we have been given. It is a risk we take.


But never to be undone?

I shudder at the thought that once molded I can never be changed.

Is it infinitely harder—of course, but can you teach an old dog new tricks? Yes, you can. If the old dog wants to learn, the old dog can learn but it requires a radical heart change and that is not always possible or wanted, but we should absolutely avoid absolutes and never say never because you just never know what the future holds. And I for one am glad for that. What a boring, and quite frankly depressing place we’d be living in if “never to be undone” was absolutely true.

This is why I’m sometimes disheartened by my profession, though. As Howard and Davis state, “the light hearted version of this attitude is the all-too-familiar question, “will this be on the exam?” the nuts-and-bolts version of is, “just tell us what you want and we will give it to you.” Even tougher, “if you don’t tell us what you want and how to deliver it, we’ll get our parents out after you […] in our terms, the students are searching for the relevant app.”

I want my students to learn, apply, explore and risk something to find and answer and not to regurgitate information or press a button and poof! But education perpetuates this app generation with the overabundance of “accountability”. After a while…a little bit of your soul just starts dying each time you have to sell it to the minds that should be brightened in your room, not dulled.

And it makes me so tired.

We’re about to enter the testing season and it’s suffocating. I always feel like I’ve been shoved down in a box and my task is to get out of the box, but there is a giant hand on the box and the only way I can get out is to push the box on its side—can you do that with a giant hand on top of the box?

Which is why I can’t believe that “never to be undone” is true.

If it is…I’m a part of creating this beast of a generation, unable to take risks and be creative and independent.

If I believe it’s “never to be undone”, I’ll be physically ill. I don’t have a choice about the amount of state testing or having to prepare students for this testing—but I still have autonomy in much of the curriculum and how I present it. I just hope we can, as a culture, see the value beyond just “technology and testing” and get back to the heart of what it means to connect to one another and not just to a device.

It can be undone, but we have to want to undo it.