Monday, November 21, 2011


One of the things I love about being back in West Virginia is my husband and I can visit all those special places couples have. The place we met, the place we married, the place we went to that time when we did that thing . . . Special places that we never had time to visit when we were living 500 miles away and spending every second we visited driving to see family.

Athens, West Virginia, will always have a special place in my heart. Not only is it the home of my alma mater, Concord University, but it's also the place I met my husband. We had our first apartment together in Princeton after we got married. Then a few months later moved back to campus in the "married apartments", because I was still a student at Concord and the rent was dirt cheap!

Over the 16 years we lived in Georgia, I often asked if we could drive to Athens as we passed the exit off I-77 on our way home to Georgia. What could be more convenient? Well, you know men. What's the point of going a few miles out of our way and losing an hour or two just to stroll down memory lane? I can think of two times we actually took the exit and visited our old stomping grounds. They were hurried trips to quickly drive through the campus and get back on the interstate for the 8 hour drive back to Georgia.

This weekend the weather was nice. I had been in the house ALL WEEK LONG. I was a bit stir crazy. I asked my husband if he felt like going for a ride somewhere. I suggested a few places, but he chose the place he knew I wouldn't say no to -- Athens!

It's not even quite an hour from Beckley, so the drive was quick. As soon as we pulled off the exit, the memories started flooding back. Driving into Athens, we talked about how we used to walk to the Deli-Mart. There is a cemetery in town that Gary and I walked to sometimes. It's just a pretty, peaceful area.

Some things have changed. They have a CVS, but the post office is still there where we had our first post office box as husband and wife --- awww! Gino's is still there. Gary's best friend worked there during college and late night pizzas were awesome! Now I have to take a Zantac when I eat pizza after 4 p.m. Thanks, old age.

We saw the old apartment where I lived and the old apartment where Gary lived. We saw the place we met. It used to be the Sweet Shop, a little restaurant right across from campus with the BEST hot fudge cake I have ever had. Now it's just an empty building.

The campus itself was beautiful, as usual. It's aptly nicknamed "The Campus Beautiful". There were a couple of new buildings. The place where our apartment was is now a parking lot. Kind of sad, but I commuted to Concord for a semester and I can tell you, they needed the parking spaces! The campus was deserted, since Thanksgiving is this week, but it was kind of nice to have it all to ourselves. We walked around a bit and tried to get into the Arts Center, where both Gary and I took so many of our classes and Gary had his Senior Art Show. It was locked, of course. We saw our old college dorms. They were just the same.

After we drove around Athens, we drove to Princeton and saw our first apartment. We drove to Mercer Mall too. It was such a fun visit and it was nice to have just an hour's drive back home after a day spent reliving our beginning!

One thing I regret is not taking a camera. What was I thinking? But we'll be back soon. Probably in the spring when the campus looks particularly beautiful! In a few months, I'll be ready to drive down memory lane again.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Catching up on the last 2 years

It has been forever since I've blogged on here. I've thought about just scrapping it, but when you like to write, you write. Since I already have a platform, might as well use it.

I started this West Virginia Expat blog because I was a WV native living out of state and I wanted a way to keep myself identified as a West Virginian. I wanted to write about issues specific to West Virginia. I also wanted a place where former (and even current) West Virginians could read about things about their home state and maybe make friends with other WV Expats.

But life gets away from you sometimes. Homeschooling a middle schooler is quite different from homeschooling an elementary schooler. I got busier. I was less able to focus on writing about life as a WV Expat and more involved in living that life. Then something C-R-A-Z-Y happened. We moved back to West Virginia.

The opportunity was completely unexpected and not at all sought after. I have mentioned on this blog before that we seriously tried to move back to WV one time in our 16 years in Georgia. My husband actively sought out job opportunities, drove to WV for interviews, and was offered a position. It took us about a day to figure out that position wasn't right for the family. It was a heartbreaking decision. Seriously.

After turning down that position, we stopped trying. We decided to just enjoy life where we were. We liked Georgia, after all. We were really happy there and we coped fine with the details of living 500 miles away from family. We even said to each other that the only way we'd move back to West Virginia was if something just fell into our laps.

Two years later, almost to the day, we received a call about a position in my home county. The call was unsolicited. We weren't looking to move. He wasn't looking for a new position. He had a good job in Georgia. We owned our own home. We were satisfied.

But calls like that don't happen every day. We talked about it and decided we would just let it play out and see what happened. Three weeks later we loaded up a moving van and headed to the hills. We have been back in West Virginia since November of 2009 and sometimes I still can't believe it. Often I still can't believe it.

Two years ago I was living in Georgia, homeschooling a 6th grader. Now I am living in West Virginia and my 8th grader just started back to public school in August. Needless to say, I've got some time on my hands.

My intention is to use this blog for its original purpose. I am no longer a Georgia resident, but I do still feel like a WV Expat. You can't spend the majority of your adult life in another state without feeling a bit changed.

The grass is always greener on the other side, so I will tell you that this move has not been without its sacrifices, its heartaches, and its regrets. I'm going to try to expand on those in greater detail, as time allows.

We moved back to West Virginia just in time for one of its worst winters in years. Last winter was no picnic either for someone who has spent 16 years in the Deep South. We're working on the end of October and I'm making plans to settle in for another blast of cold weather, so I imagine I will have some time to put into this blog.

We're back in West Virginia. We are figuring on staying here. And I'll be writing about everything all of that entails. Some of it's good, some of it's bad, some of it's ugly, but some of it is really beautiful.

More to come.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Our summer trip to WV

Our two week vacation to WV this summer was fun, but a little sad too.

First off, it was the first time I have visited home since my grandma's funeral. I know this will sound strange, but my grandma wasn't part of my daily life. So, while I've mourned and missed her, I haven't had to fill a void she left, because I didn't see her every day. I felt the void on the trip to WV, though. There was no need to go over to her house and visit. No phone calls to make to see if she wanted to eat at the Chinese restaurant with us or go to Tracy's (a country store we visit). I could really feel her absence.

Another sad thing is my husband couldn't make the trip with us. His company had a huge open house for their reps the week after we left. There was no way he could take the time to visit family. While my son and I were having a great time, my husband was working extra hours and stressing about everything that had to get done. I felt guilty about that and it didn't feel like a family vacation, with 1/3 of my family missing.

On the upside, we had a family reunion. That was fun. We went to see Seussical the Musical at Theatre West Virginia at Grandview State Park. That was really great. Next year we have to go see Honey in the Rock and the Hatfields & McCoys.

We also spent some time at Little Beaver State Park. I hadn't been there for years and it was fun to go with my mom and Evan and back again with Evan and three of my nephews. My mom actually went on the swings with Evan and that was fun to watch. She's such a kid at heart! Evan and my nephews went fishing. It was a beautiful, cool evening. I sometimes forget how beautiful WV can be on those summer evenings.

We had a birthday cookout for my mom at my sister's house in Ronceverte. I love Greenbrier County. It's just fantastic there. My sister has a great house with land and a terrific view. We had a great time.

I had a nice visit with my mother-in-law. I tried to find a place for Evan to fish there, but when it comes to Nicholas County, I am out of my element. That's why we definitely need Dad around to show us the good spots!

All in all, it was a good trip. I'm already making plans for next summer that include camping and a visit to the West Virginia State Fair.

We haven't been to the Fair for years and I thought it would be nice to go there with my family. My sister works for the Fair administrative office from June until the Fair is over and my niece, nephew, and this year even my brother-in-law got in on the action working at different little kiosks during the Fair. It's such a huge part of their lives and it would be fun to be in on that just a bit. There's no way I'm working there, though!

That's how we spent our vacation in West Virginia. It was a great time of family and fun!

Monday, July 27, 2009

I love my almost 12 year old boy!

Like most moms, I have enjoyed EVERY single stage of my son's life. Baby days? Loved them! Terrible twos? Weren't so terrible! Preschool age? Fantastic? And on and on and on.

Now my son will soon be 12 (GASP!) and it's a shock to my system, thinking that I will teaching a middle schooler this fall.

But I adore my middle schooler and one of the advantages of having an almost 12 year old is he is very intelligent, capable, and willing to take something I dread and turn it into something I'm looking forward to.

We leave for WV on Thursday. My husband isn't making the trip with us. I haven't been looking forward to the drive or the 2 week visit without him.

This morning, Evan asked me what time we were leaving on Thursday and where we were going to stop along the way. Those questions caused some anxiety, so I turned it all over to him.

He is busy planning our trip right now. He's been to WV and back at least 2 times every year for the past 12 years, so he knows the good places to stop for gas and the restaurants where we like to eat.

My stipulations:

1. I'm not leaving the house any earlier than 9:45 a.m. That way we'll get to spend some time with hubby before we go. I won't feel rushed and crazy. And, hopefully, we'll miss crazy morning rush hour traffic.

2. I'm not driving the easiest, fastest way to get out of GA. In the past month we have driven up 75 North towards Tennessee about a million times and I'm sick of the road. I am driving north on 41 and hoping for the best. Hee hee.

3. I have to stop and get peaches for my mother and my mother-in-law. If any other family member sees this post and wants peaches, you better call me before I leave on Thursday.

4. If I want to stop at a convenience store for a raisin ugly, I will. If I see a sign for a Civil War cemetery, I'm going to stop and look. It's not a race. I'm not a Nascar driver. I'm going to drive like a little old lady on a Sunday afternoon! So grin and bear it! Actually, my son will have no problem with this. If my husband was with us, it would be a different story.

So it's mostly in Evan's hands now and his enthusiasm for planning our journey is contagious! The drive up to WV can be tedious and annoying, but Evan and I are both determined to make it F-U-N!

See you soon, Mountain State!

Monday, July 13, 2009


In a couple of weeks I am heading up to West Virginia for a family reunion and to spend some time with my family and my mother-in-law.

It'll just be me and my son driving up. My husband has used several vacation days for my son's All star state tournament and upcoming world series. Plus he has some big doings at work coming up in August and can't get away.

He suggested I wait until late September and we can all go up together, because he knows how much I dislike driving to WV by myself. It's a tempting offer, but I don't want to miss the family reunion and I want to spend some time with my mom before she starts back to work at the end of August (she's a kindergarten teacher's aide for Raleigh County).

I've made the trip numerous times over the last 16 years without hubby, so you'd think I would be used to it. Based on experience, however, here's what the next two weeks before I head up to WV will involve:

1. I will be a bundle of nerves and they will overwhelm whatever excitement I may feel about visiting family.

2. I will say "Maybe I just won't go" about six hundred times.

3. I will cook and cook and cook, unable to forget the fact that my hubby will be eating mostly fast food for the 2 weeks I will be away from home. I'll consider freezing meals, but won't end up doing it.

4. I will make a list of "honey do" things I'd like for hubby to work on while I am gone and a couple of days before my departure will tell him just "forget it, relax, enjoy yourself. I'll be on vacation, you shouldn't be doing this stuff!"

5. I'll think about just meeting my parents halfway and letting my son go with them, so I can come back home and keep my hubby company.

6. I'll clean the house and it will be cleaner than it is on a day-to-day basis around here. I'll wish I could spend some time in my house with it this clean.

7. I'll get everything packed up, be on my way out the door, and the nerves will get so bad I'll have gastrointestinal issues for the whole drive to WV.

After I arrive in WV, I'll have a blast. The days will pass much too quickly and in no time I'll be making the return trip, wishing I could stay in WV just a bit longer.

In an effort to assuage my nerves, here are some things I am looking forward to when I go to WV:

1. Visiting the Amish Barn! Buying new cross-stitch projects.

2. Walking with my mom at the walking track that is now on the football field of her old high school. I'm hoping my mom can help resuscitate my slowly dying exercise program!

3. Seeing my assorted relatives and spending time with them.

4. Going to Lake Stephens!

5. Going to Bluestone!

6. Spending a beautiful Saturday at a family reunion!

7. Actually seeing my mother on her birthday for the first time in YEARS!

Wow! It's working. I'm starting to get excited about going. I'll have to revisit this list a few times in the next couple of weeks!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

July 4th

I didn't post on the 4th because we spent part of the day in Ringgold, GA with my son playing his first game in the state tournament. That tournament ended last night and the Acworth Warriors placed 2nd! I was so proud of the team.

I didn't cook out on the 4th because we weren't sure how many games our team would play that day, but we did participate in what I think is the best part of Independence Day ---- The FIREWORKS!

We went to see the city of Woodstock's fireworks. Acworth's fireworks are fine too, I'm sure, but we started watching Woodstock's fireworks when we lived there years ago and it's become a tradition when we're in town for the 4th. So off we went to stake out our spot at the Lowe's parking lot.

We left at 7:30 p.m. to get a good spot. Plenty early enough, we thought, but we were surprised to see how many people were already staked out for the festivities. We drove by the liquor store and saw about 20 people setting up chairs. I thought that was a dumb place to set up, but after we got stuck for about an hour in the quagmire of the Lowe's parking lot after the fireworks were over, we realized the genius of the liquor store location.

On top of that, there is a very relevant, hip, and happening church right across from Lowe's in the old K-mart building. (I miss K-mart!) That church was having a big party in the parking lot, waving people in to park, serving food, boasting on the loudspeakers about their bathroom access, and playing music really, really loudly.

We had to listen to their music all evening. U2, Bruce Springsteen, Nat King Cole, and other music I didn't even recognize were the soundtrack to my family's fireworks outing. Thanks, rock and roll church. You almost ruined my night. Even during firework time, they blasted their tunes to show how cool and "non-religious" they are. It made me envy the happy people at the liquor store.

Still it was a good night. The fireworks display was awesome. Even the wait to get out of the parking lot didn't spoil the night.

When I was growing up, fireworks and the 4th of July went hand in hand. We would load up in the van and go to Hills Department store. I remember my dad putting me on top of the van so I could see better. Maybe that actually happened. Maybe not. Regardless it was always one of my favorite times.
Hills isn't there anymore. Sad, because it wasn't only a part of my life on the 4th. It was a big part of my childhood, with the popcorn and the Coke freezes, and the countless Barbie dolls I saw and wanted. The time I got lost and some random guy took me to the customer service counter so they could page my mom and my sister made fun of me for being scared. Buying my Holly Hobbie mug for the express purpose of drinking hot chocolate. The time when I was a teenager and my mom, my sister, and I were in line waiting for popcorn and we heard a bullet come through the front of the window and we ran back into the store, but my sister just fell on the ground too afraid to move. I'm not sure it was actually a bullet. I think it was a rock that a car had kicked up and it had hit the window. Still watching my super cool teenaged sister on the ground in fear was kind of payback for her making fun of me when I was only about 7 and lost in Hills.

Yep. Good memories.

I hope those are the kinds of memories my son is holding onto when we drive down to see the fireworks in Woodstock. Even if he remembers the slight annoyance of the loud music, his big memory will be of anticipation, playing catch in the parking lot while waiting for dusk, and the awesome display of fireworks that capped off a great Independence Day.

I'll tell him the story about his Aunt Sherri being scared of the rock that hit the window at Hills too. That memory should live on.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Sweet Victory

It's not surprising that one of the dads on my son's All Star team is a Georgia Bulldog fan --- we are in Bulldog country, after all. Still it says something about him --- he's a jerk, for instance --- that he decides to wear a specific shirt to last night's game.

We have WV stickers on our van and on our car. Most people who know us well know that we are from WV. This guy is an observant fellow, so I know he knew we are from WV. The red shirt he wore last night had "BEAT WVU" on the front of it. On the back it continued, "and the couch burning hillbillies they brought with them."

It is, of course, a shirt from the 2006 Sugar Bowl that WVU played against Georgia. The game where WVU BEAT UGA 38 to 35.

Now I don't claim to be the most brilliant person in the world, but I am smart enough to not wear a shirt bragging about a victory that NEVER HAPPENED.

I was gracious last night for the sake of our boys' team unity, but, with regards to that UGA lovin' dad and in the words of my late father-in-law, I know who he is and I know what he is.

On the upside our kids won last night 8 to 3 and are playing in the Georgia Dizzy Dean State B Tournament tonight! My husband, son, and I came home and celebrated the victory by burning a couch in the back yard.

Not really.

Thanks to my sister for sending me this West Virginia video to remind me that where I come from is a pretty swell place and being able to claim West Virginia as my home state is worth the occasional ribbing from sore losers.