Tag Archives: lisa minney

The Cover of the First Issue - September 2007

Two-Lane Livin’ – Bright Star, Beat-up Car

In the beginning it felt like a newborn child that needed protected, nourished, defended, promoted. And like any child, it grew in its own way, expanding and developing in beyond our plans and expectations, demanding more and more of our time and attention.

Launching an independent magazine–or any small business for that matter–is much like birthing a child. Your life becomes that child which often demands your constant attention. It surprises you with needs and situations you did not expect or plan for, keeps you up at night often.

This child does not really care about your business plan, or your dreams for its future. She becomes what she will, of her own fruition, becomes a living, breathing character influenced by those who support her, befriend her, embrace her, nourish her.

And like any child, you hope that your creation will grow healthy and strong, will flourish and shine brightly. You hope that she will become a mature, responsible, functioning adult that at some point, will not demand so much of your time.

Time.

Ten years can fly by in an instant, but you feel every second of it in your bones, see the life sucked from you in every dry wrinkle and sag. A decade gives you perspective, and time to learn and mature.

With Two-Lane Livin’ Magazine, ten years means hauling heavy loads home from Parkersburg more than 120 times in all seasons of weather. Ten years means delivering magazines over ten Thanksgiving breaks, ten Christmas breaks, ten wedding anniversary weekends. For Frank and I, ten years of Two-Lane Livin’ has been a decade of scheduling our lives around this child’s rigid monthly deadline–me a week every month tied to the desk, him a week every month on the road.

We have loved Two-Lane Livin’ like a child. I birthed her from nine months of planning and from the very first issue she had a life of her own. (All copies were gone in three days.) From the beginning she was more than we had ever hoped for, and quite often more than we could handle. In ten years, we have never been able to solicit enough advertising revenue to produce enough copies to meet reader demand.

Our popular girl wanted to go farther than we ever imagined, into twice the number of counties we originally planned, twice the mileage on delivery vehicles, twice the time delivering. Strangers and friends volunteered to help get the monthly issue circulated into their own areas.  Writers from across the state began offering to write for us. We never planned to offer subscriptions, but in response to demand, reached 18 states and two countries outside the U.S.

For ten years, Two-Lane Livin’ has been a bright star shining from, in, and for central West Virginia. I believe that. I truly do.

Bright stars burn quickly.

I have come to believe that small businesses in West Virginia age in dog years–seven years of aging for every year of existence. The amount of energy, dedication, creativity, strategy, problem solving, and work required to get a small business up and running and to keep it running smoothly ages it prematurely.

(This month on my birthday, I hit the big Five-O. Perhaps it’s not the magazine that has aged, perhaps it’s just me.)

I thought retiring Two-Lane Livin’ would feel like killing my child. Instead, I find it’s more like giving up a beat-up but beloved car that has almost 300,000 miles and no longer holds third gear. She’s dented and has a slight oil leak; smells of newsprint, fast food, and hay. But boy we’ve had some fantastic adventures together.

Two-Lane Livin’ has been good to us, and has been a wonderful experience. But our time with her has come to an end. In dog years, she’s more than 70 years old.

Thanks for reading. Thanks for being with us during this Two-Lane experience, for being fellow witnesses to the life of our creation, our child, our dependable car…

Our shining star.

Two-Lane Livin’ Magazine
September 2007-December 2017

(P.S. We will be maintaining the twolanelivin.com web site, and will, over time, be making all issues of Two-Lane Livin’ available as flipbooks and featuring favorite articles we encounter in the process. To keep up with those developments, you can sign up for our email newsletter in the form at the right of this page.)

Ten Years of Two-Lane Livin’ Magazine

When we created Two-Lane Livin’ Magazine ten years ago, I had just spent a little over three years as a newspaper reporter in Calhoun County. For that time, I was up to my ears in news, events, controversy, and opinion. When we started Two-Lane Livin‘, I had two main guidelines for the magazine: nothing controversial, and no copies of past issues piling up around the house. I wanted the magazine to entertain, to educate, to have something to interest almost anyone, to leave the reader feeling satisfied and perhaps uplifted or refreshed.

For the past ten years, it has been no problem getting rid of copies and not having leftovers pile up in the house. But ten years–120 issues–without getting too controversial-that’s a challenge. It was almost impossible (and quite exhausting, I think, on the columnist) to present a column on the environment. We ran a piece on Global Warming once, and lost an advertiser. Over the last ten years, there were so many times I wanted to share my thoughts on an issue, but felt restrained by our mandate to remain non-controversial.

I know in the past ten years, I have written often about my garden or what I might view from our back porch. Sometimes, these are the only topics I can think of that don’t carry a controversy. But even then it’s easy to wander into the issues relating to our food and our lands. For ten years we have worked with other columnists to celebrate our lives here, to educate and empower readers, to look on the bright side of our lives. Folks seem to have no problem continually complaining. But try putting on a happy face for an entire decade. That, my dearies, is difficult.

When celebrating a milestone like a ten year anniversary, you have to look back and wonder if what you have been doing has made any difference. Can we celebrate our lives by ignoring what is happening around us? Or is it important to provide a venue that allows us to briefly take reprieve from the frustrations and controversies of our lives? I have been chastised more than once for not using this magazine as a venue to take a stance on life-changing issues in our state and our nation. Controversy is easily more intriguing and dramatic sometimes, but I still believe that we need venues that allow us to disconnect from all the negatives, and focus on the simpler, happier things in life.

It’s difficult for me. Over the past years, I have developed a love/hate relationship with West Virginia, and I have discovered that self-reliance and farm life are hard work. Running a small business isn’t a picnic either. My people skills (or lack thereof) have managed to get us blacklisted by a small city, a festival committee, and a college. We’ve blown motors in two vehicles hauling the magazines home from the printer, and I’ve gone from no glasses to reading glasses to bifocals. In February of this year, our web site was hacked by terrorists in Indonesia. I am amazed at the things that can happen. Sometimes it’s hard to stay happy.

But I still believe, after ten years, that Two-Lane Livin’ Magazine is needed. There needs to be a medium available that isn’t plugged in, isn’t linked, isn’t news, isn’t opinionated, isn’t manipulated, isn’t spouting hate, violence, controversy, disaster, politics. A venue where lessons are linked to memory and story and simply making use of what you’ve got. A place where I (and others) can remind myself (and you) of some of the great features and stories and possibilities of two-lane life.

I watched the snapping turtle having lunch yesterday, slowly rising up out of the water to bite the stems of the plants at the water’s edge, then pulling the plant under water to finish it off. I watched a young hawk roost in a dead tree this morning in the rain, feathers all ruffled up with crows cursing him nearby. Last night the crickets and katydids and bullfrogs filled the blackness of the valley and I looked up to see the Milky Way, intricate and multi-dimensional and immensely beautiful above me. I wonder how often that glory is there above me and I simply don’t look up to see it.

Here’s to ten years, insect song, snapping turtles, the hills, and the stars above. Thanks for reading and sharing Two-Lane Livin’ and joining us on this two-lane journey.

Lying Fallow: June 2017 in Two-Lane Livin’

(This is my 2017 installment of “Two Lane for Life” from the June issue of Two-Lane Livin’ Magazine. You can view the entire issue as a digital flipbook via twolanelivin.com.)

As we grow near to Two-Lane Livin’s 10th birthday, I have been looking back through our early archives. And though I am old enough to reflect on nearly five decades of life, only the last ten years have been recorded in a monthly publication I can look back upon.

When we launched the magazine, I was so excited about gardening and canning, learning how to be healthier and more self-reliant. I was thrilled to welcome chickens and bees to our family, was stockpiling seeds and lamp oil and teaching myself to sew and crochet.

Somehow, I thought this “back to the land” mindset was going to simplify my life. I look back at all that now and laugh.

When it comes to farming and gardening, I have found that it is quite easy to over do it. I have learned, truly, moderation is key. But baby chicks can be purchased in bulk, in fact, when ordering, you must purchase at least a dozen.  One more tray of spring plants can produce another thirty or more pounds of tomatoes. One more row or seed packet of beans can double or triple the bushels of beans that need strung in the fall.

A ten year old oregano patch can spread to cover more than eight square feet. Mature perennials need divided. Fences eventually need mending, spades sharpened, hives and pens need maintained.

All the projects I was so excited about ten years ago, I now know, are work. Work, and time. And though I knew back then and was not afraid of the work, I sorely underestimated the amount of time truly required.

Gardens, bees, chickens, fields, these things do not wait. They do not wait until you have time, do not wait until you are ready. Weeds need pulled, beans need picked, hay needs cut. Bees swarm. Eggs, water, and feed need dealt with more than once a day.

There was a time when we had more than 30 chickens, and planted more than 100 tomato plants and six rows of beans.

For two people? Insanity is what that is.

These days, my sewing machine is packed away, as are my crochet needles, my pressure canner. And though June is upon us, we have not planted a garden this year. The pantry is still filled with jars from previous years, and we still get near a dozen eggs a day from our small flock of aging hens. We have four bee hives, but three of them are swarms we caught this spring.

We can certainly take a break from gardening this year, but it feels shameful to not have a garden. I feel shame, and I feel a loss. A loss of a chance to fill more jars, a loss of the mornings pulling weeds and smashing stink bugs. A loss not to wander out again in the evenings sweating in the late day sun and swatting at deer flies. In many ways, gardeners are slaves to their gardens–you weed and water when it’s needed, pick and harvest when it’s ready. But at the same time, a garden is nourishing, not just to the body, but to the soul.

In some ways, I feel like we’re taking the summer off. Like we’re cheating, or being lazy.

Of course, we still have asparagus, garlic, horseradish, mushrooms in the perennial beds, and thyme, oregano, lemon balm, sage, and chives in the herb garden.

Won’t we miss fresh produce? I don’t think so. I have learned that someone will inevitably grow too many cucumbers and squash, and will bring some to the library or the local mom and pop store. Heirloom tomatoes will find their way to the local farmer’s markets.

What will I do with the extra  summer days that for the last ten years have been spent tilling and canning? I hope I don’t waste it on facebook. I hope to work on other things, like moderation and maintenance. My approach to simple living ten years ago wasn’t simple at all. I was so excited about getting started, I didn’t really think about the upkeep. But you have to think about upkeep, or you won’t be able to keep up. Over the past ten years, we have fallen behind.

Where to store empty canning jars, or tomato stakes not in use? Do we really need all those plant trays? I’m going to sharpen my hoe before I ever use it again, and I’m going to spend more time in the back porch swing, watching the grass grow.

So this summer, our garden will be lying fallow, a term used to describe land tilled and plowed but left unseeded. Some farmers do this to raise the fertility in the soil. I wonder what lying fallow will do for us, the humans that tend the garden, what fertility might rise in our lives and souls–if any. Perhaps I will find a way to combine simple living and self-reliance. But it hasn’t happened so far.

Lisa is an Assistant Librarian at Gilmer Public Library & recently received her MFA in Creative Writing.  For details on her workshops and speaking availability, visit Lhayesminney.net.

What is Empathy? What is Love?

(This column is from the August 2016 edition of Two-Lane Livin’ Magazine. You can find the digital edition of the magazine online at www.twolanelivin.com)

With the way things have been going in this country lately, it should come as no surprise that as I come into my final semester of graduate school, I find myself studying the themes of empathy and love.  Obviously, our nation is lacking, and I have actually found research, studies that prove it. A long running survey of the level of empathy in our nation shows a 40% drop in empathy over the last 37 years. Those of us who are older than 37 can surely say we have seen the effects of this decline.

But what is empathy? What is love? Ask ten different people, and you will get ten different answers. How can we understand what we are lacking if we don’t understand what these terms mean? Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another without judgment. Can you see how a shortage of this ability ends up on your evening nightly news?

Love is the will to invest in someone or something else for your own or another’s spiritual benefit. Perfect love is mutually beneficial.  Love is not some indefinable emotion that makes us crazy. Love is an action, an investment in not only ourselves, but in others. Other people, pets, environments, communities.

I recently found myself in a discussion of tolerance among a group of people, one of whom kept flicking his cigarette butts on the sidewalk as he pontificated about the hatred that seems to have erupted in our culture. We discussed the roots of hatred; a lack of understanding, a lack of empathy, a lack of respect.  Once he agreed with those as roots of hatred, I thought of an example: “Just as you hate the environment and the custodian.”

Harsh? Perhaps. Accurate? Yes, I believe so. If hatred comes from a lack of empathy, a lack of understanding, a lack of respect, then every careless, thoughtless action we take can be another wave of suffering for someone or something else. Neglect is lack of care, and without empathy (understanding others) and love (investing in others) we have become a nation of neglect. No wonder we find ourselves arguing over which lives matter.

Life matters. Love matters.

I myself have a hard time with empathy.  It’s the “without judgment” part that gives me such a hard time. But, if we are making judgments, we cannot truly understand and share the feelings of another, now can we? I have a hard time with difficult people, which I suppose, likely makes me a difficult person in my own right. But, when I asked a wise woman how she deals with difficult people, she replied, “Bless them, then release them.” In other words, extend love and empathy, and then move on. It is not up to us to judge, to fix, to enlighten those we cannot find empathy for.  For our own well being, we can extend love to them, and then move on. We do not have to allow frustration, anger, hatred, grow within us.

How many of us dispense love as a reward, and not as an investment? How many of us actively love our community or the environment around us? There are those who believe our sole purpose on this earth is to love one another-to invest in one another for the greater good.  Look at the community parks around you, most of them built or established 50 years ago. Look at the festivals that were established. Our parents and grandparents were people who loved their community.

Since the terrible flooding in West Virginia last month, I have been hooked on the stories that have been coming out of the recovering regions. They are all terrible and sad, but one story hit me hard. A couple, very aware of the nearby creek, prepared for high water.  They were responsible and caring for their animals, their vehicles, and moved and secured what they could. But it wasn’t enough. They had to flee, and their bee hives, chicken coop, home, cars, camper, were all underwater. Their hives and tens of thousands of bees were washed away, and their birds, secured in their coop, all drown. I thought of our bee hives, our hens, our home, garden, all gone-and I sobbed.  It is easy to judge those who live on the water. Why do they live there? Don’t they pay attention when it rains? But like this couple, we live near water, and we know its typical behavior. I could not judge them for being naïve, or ignorant. I could not judge them for being unaware. I knew, like us, they tried to be responsible, tried to do all the right things, and still lost all. My sobbing was empathy. I could understand and feel her devastation because that loophole of judgment no longer kept me from feeling.

How sad it takes such horrible events for us to also see love. Love as an investment. Love as an action. Neighbors helping neighbors; those with little donating time, money and supplies to those who have nothing. People investing in others’ lives, other communities, in others’ survival.  When tragedy takes away all you have, we are reminded how important-and how effective-love is.  When all else is washed away, love is what carries us through.

I am old enough to remember a time when this country had more empathy. A time when the word LOVE was on t-shirts, candles, hats, Frisbees. A time when the hit song rang out, “All you need is love.” I remember when the term “trickle-down economics” was hot, and talking money, love or empathy, it seems like very little trickles down any more.

This world needs more love, less judgment. Until then, we can have no empathy for each other, for the planet and environment around us. Where do you invest your love? Facebook? Television? How harshly do you judge those you do not understand? When was the last time you actually felt the feelings of another?

Love is an action, one we have to practice in all modes of our lives in order to have empathy in our lives and to nurture our collective spirits.  There was a time when peace and love were trendy topics, a time when they were active elements in our society. It’s time to activate them again.

  Lisa is currently working on her MFA in Creative Writing. Visit http://www.Lhayesminney.net.

That’s 56 in Dog Years… 96 issues of Two-Lane Livin’

“We are all victims of the imagination in this country. The American Dream may sometimes seem like a dirty joke these days, but it was internalized long ago by our fevered little minds and it remains to haunt us as we fumble with the unglamorous pennies of life….”
American Author, Seymour Krim

One of the requirements of getting a MFA (Master of Fine Arts) in Creative Writing is reading. Lots and lots of reading. Because I am specializing in Creative Nonfiction, a majority of my homework includes essays. I also prefer American writers because I enjoy getting glimpses of our cultural past, our cultural history.

Seymour Krim’s essay, “For my Brothers and Sisters in the Failure Business” was written in the mid-1970’s as a call out to others who like him, had come to mid-life without a plan or settled profession. “We know all along,” he says of himself and those like him, “that time is squeezing us into a corner while we mentally rocket to each new star that flares across our sky, and yet we can’t help ourselves.” He explains, “We still have an epic longing to be more than what we are.”

When I was young, and people asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I could never decide. One day I wanted to be one thing, and the next day something else. Seymour Krim felt the same challenge, he wanted to be everything. There were too many options to choose just one. But he was surprised when he was 51 and someone referred to him as a “failure.” He realized that in America, it is “your work or role that gives you your definition in our society, and the thousands upon thousands of people who I believe are like me are those who have never found the professional skin to fit the riot in their souls. Many never will.”

Just arriving at mid-life myself, I find myself thinking I should have had some kind of plan. I didn’t. My parents had a general plan for me which included going to college and getting a real job, but along the way I just seemed to bounce from one opportunity to the next, with recovery from downfalls in between. Like Seymour Krim, I mentally rocket to new stars that flare across my sky, and I can’t help myself. The longest I’ve ever kept a job is four years. Next month, this magazine will be eight years old.

Like Seymour and myself, Two-Lane Livin’ is also a failure by American standards. It isn’t the picture of what a successful magazine should be. It isn’t glossy, it isn’t newsworthy, isn’t the image of professionalism. It’s back woods, it’s rural, it’s grassroots. It’s something “professional” publishers and marketers look down upon as rugged and unpolished. In fact, if you travel into the urban depths of Charleston, Morgantown or Huntington, chances are, folks have never even heard of it. Certainly no big city folks have yet stepped up to help support it. They want glossy. They want mobile.

But just look at the stars I’ve chased since we launched this magazine: organic gardening, canning, quilting, crocheting, local foods, keeping chickens, keeping bees, growing mushrooms, forest foraging, herbal remedies, teaching… And now I chase my MFA. For what purpose? I can’t explain. Like Seymour Krim, I can’t help myself. I have an epic longing to me more than what I am.

When we launched the magazine, I wanted Two-Lane Livin’ to be more than what it was. I wanted it to be online, mobile, supported by educational venues and tourist destinations and corporate sponsors and recognized state wide. I wanted it to have a bright white cover stock and a section for discussions and I wanted to incorporate every star that flashed across our publishing sky. I wanted it to be all it could be and I wanted the world to recognize how fantastic it really is. I dream big. I also am disappointed often.

But also like Seymour, “my decision to aim at the stars has been a conscious one.” I still aim for the stars. But I know now that this magazine in only one star in the sky, and frankly, it’s not shining so brightly for me these days. In fact, with these wet, rainy days – I’m not too thrilled with rural life much lately either. Mud, blight, mildew. Even my favorite places are dank and damp. It’s hard to appreciate the stars when you’re standing calf-deep in mud.

Following the “big storm” of July, we were without phone service for ten days. If you happened to call and got the message that our phone had been disconnected (as some callers did apparently) rest assured it was not by any fault of ours. And here I am, facing tomorrow’smagazine deadline, and we haven’t had internet for fifteen days and still don’t. All my early tomatoes are blighting and have bottom rot, and our washer has gone on the fritz. There’s not much I can do about any of it but shrug. In the end, it’s all rotten tomatoes, and none of it really matters in the long run.

These are the times when I feel that epic longing. That need to believe that at some point in my life all this hard work, all this struggle will all come together for some kind of… I don’t know, resolution. I feel a longing for a life traditionally successful, a life with paved sidewalks, and 9 to 5. I think about my home town, Marietta Ohio, and of movie theaters and shopping malls and Saturday sidewalk sales. I think of places where there is no mud, where free wifi is a block away, and I can get a hot submarine sandwich and a cold chocolate milkshake delivered to my door while the appliance repair man fixes the washer in the basement.

And I can hear some of you now, saying, “if that’s how you feel, then why don’t you just go back where you came from?!” I’ve heard it said before to me, I’ve heard it said to others, and I exactly know the type of person to say it. And then I’ve also heard folks sit around and wonder why people are leaving the state by the hundreds each year. I’ve thought about this, hard and often. I’ve also heard, “it’s like this anywhere you go.” And as someone who has been other places – I know that’s not quite so. The state’s broadband access (or lack thereof, or sale of but then not providing of) and the state school board (don’t EVEN get me started) are enough to make me beat my head on a wall.

While there are times, plenty of times, when I recognize that rural life is a simpler life, there are also times when it seems to me that everything here is so daggone complicated. And all the while I feel this epic longing to make myself, our magazine, our community, our state – MORE than what we are. Some folks seem so resistant to the idea. Some folks would rather we just went back to where we came from. It’s no wonder so many of us do. There’s less mud.

There’s a name for people like Seymour, like me, for the thousands of others like us. We’re called “romantics.” We believe, if we keep plugging along, bouncing from one project to the next, following one path and then another, that at some point in the future, all those paths will come together and everything will work out just fine. In fact, some of literature’s greatest stories are those in which a romantic hero never gives up on his quest and in the end rides off into the sunset. Of course, for thousands out there, the end of the quest never comes. And those stories are some of the greatest in literature as well.

So, here’s to eight years in print. It is my true romantic hope that it has meant something and reaches others who can’t find a skin to fit the riot in their souls. Here’s to the failures and the flops and the nontraditional achievers who don’t look much like a success. Here’s to those with an epic longing to do more, be more, than what they are. Aim for the stars. The worst you can do is land in the mud.