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.

Friday, June 19, 2009

My West Virginia Boy

Okay. He's not a boy. He's a man. The man I married 17 years ago this September.

I don't live in WV anymore, but anyone who was born and raised in WV knows it stays in your blood. That's why I'm glad I married a West Virginia Boy. I think God knew I wouldn't have been happy with anybody else.

Things I love about my WV Boy:

1. He can work 40+ hours a week in a white collar job, but still fix anything around my house. He fixed my washer last night and my dryer a few weeks ago. It's great to have someone so handy. I have friends whose husbands are not. That gets expensive.

2. He loves to camp and fish with my son. It's surprising how few kids get to do that nowadays! And he helps coach my son's baseball team every season without complaint, though often it means going straight from the office to stand on the field for another 3 hours!

3. His blood runs blue and old gold, so I know I can never make him angrier than he gets when WVU is losing a football game.

4. He loves WV as much as I do and therefore understands me.

5. WV men make great dads and I know my son will also be a great dad because of the example his father is setting.

Happy Father's Day to my WV Boy!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009


Life is getting kind of hectic with the school year finishing up, recreation baseball ending, and All Star baseball starting. I'm going to take a break for a while from blogging. I'll continue to check on blogs I enjoy reading.

I plan to be back when time is once again on my side.

Enjoy your life!

Friday, April 24, 2009

What I loathe about the Internet

There was a time years ago when people kept their thoughts to themselves. If they thought something bad about someone, they thought it privately. At most they might have shared it with a husband or a friend, but it stopped there.

These days people can say whatever they want and unlimited numbers of people can read about it. There seem to be no consequences for bad behavior.

I'm not sure that's progress.

I enjoy reading other people's blogs. I tend to stick to the ones that talk about being a mom, homeschooling, cooking, and staying home. I enjoy reading about how other people handle struggles I face. I like to read what people think about topics in the news or issues that affect a group that I am in.

What I don't like is reading mean spirited banter from people. I don't like people who use the anonymity of the internet to misbehave or attack other people.

If you are rude or a jerk in real life, it really does come through on your blog, or your facebook, or your tweets.

I suppose the good thing about it is, you can just click away from that page or that item that is offensive.

What I'm afraid will happen eventually, though, is that all this freedom of saying whatever you think about other people, without thought of the consequences, is going to spill over in real life. I think it's already started to.

A good rule I like to follow is, if I wouldn't say it directly to the person I am talking about, I shouldn't put it on the internet.

Talking about yourself, your life, is one thing. Attacking other people or parading your prejudices on your blog is something else. Those kinds of blogs are the ones I try to avoid.

Just makes life more peaceful.

Monday, April 6, 2009

North Georgia

One of my family's favorite places to go is Blue Ridge and McCaysville, Georgia. We spent the day there yesterday and had a great time!

We started going there several years back for the fishing and maybe for the fried pies at Mercier Orchards (plus Mercier has a fantastically clean restroom --- very important to me when traveling away from home --- just in case you want to know!).

We always drive through Blue Ridge and McCaysville and go to Horseshoe Bend Park. My son and husband go fishing. Yesterday, I actually cast a line in the water a couple of times. None of us caught anything, but we did spend some time watching a guy wade out into the Toccoa River first flyfishing and then using a rod and reel. He caught about three fish. My son was a bit jealous. :)

The park has a baseball field too and my son threw some pitches before we headed over to Mercier to grab some pies, apple cider, and a toy flintlock gun for my son. Boys love guns, don't they?

On our way back home, we started to drive through Fort Mountain State Park. We have never been there before and wanted to check it out. We found out it was about 16 miles off the highway, though, so we'll have to save that for another time. It was just getting too late!

I still haven't planned out that camping trip yet. I guess I need to get started with that. Gee, I wonder why I'm dragging my feet?

Oh, I remember, something about sleeping in a TENT!

Monday, March 23, 2009

A funny thing happened down in Georgia . . .

. . . we became a family.

The last week of July/first week of August will mark 16 years for us living in Georgia. The varying dates are because my husband moved down the week before I did because I had to finish my internship in Bluefield.

I try to remember what those young people were thinking way back then. I was 22 and my husband was 24. We had only been married about 10 months. I can hardly remember those people. So much has happened and changed us since then.

I do know we felt limited by options in WV and I do know we saw moving to Georgia as a grand adventure. Not to say we took the decision lightly. We went back and forth about it for MONTHS! We listed pros and cons. We discussed our options. We made ourselves sick talking about it.

And then we jumped.

I had a deal with my husband. I told him I would stay in Georgia for five years and then I wanted to move back to WV.

Truthfully, I wanted to move back to WV after the first month. And I didn't even want to give Georgia a shot.

In fact (and I'll be quite honest here), I wasn't sure our marriage would survive our move to Georgia. We had a hard few years. Yeah, years. It wasn't always talked about, but it was always in the background. I wanted to give up and move back to WV. He thought we should stay and make it work here.

The best piece of advice my mother ever gave me when I called her (you should have seen the long distance phone bills!) and cried and cried about wanting to move back home was this: Your place is with your husband. Your home is with him now.

Yesterday, sitting on the front porch, I thought about all of that. I thought about the years living as a WV Expat in another state. I thought about how much I missed by not living in WV with family. My husband loves WV as much as I do, so it's something we've discussed before.

But what I was watching from my front porch made me realize I wouldn't change a thing. My husband was down in the yard with my son and 5 of my son's friends from the neighborhood. They were playing touch football. It a was beautiful day. It was an even more beautiful moment.

We've had so many experiences here. We've built a life here. I would have never believed it 16 years ago, but Georgia really is our home. I'll always love WV, of course. It's our heritage; it's where our family is. But Georgia is our home.

It's quite a revelation to me that home is where your history is. That's why it was so hard to leave WV. My childhood was there and that was the only history I had.

Now that my husband and I are going on 17 years of marriage, my history is somewhere else.

There are some bittersweet elements to that, but I choose to focus on the sweet.

Friday, March 20, 2009


Now that the weather is warmer, my family and I will spend some time at our favorite place nearby: Red Top Mountain State Park.

It's surrounded by Lake Allatoona and it's a perfect spot to fish, hike, play in the water, or just sit by the lake and soak up the surroundings.

My husband and I stayed in a cabin there the second year we lived in GA. Back then we lived about 45 minutes away from the park. Now we're about 15 minutes away, making it easier to just drive over and spend a couple of hours on the spur of the moment.

This year we are considering going camping there.

In a tent.

My husband and son love to go camping. Usually, they go camping off the Elk River in Webster Springs, WV. That's a spot my husband and his family have been camping at since he was a little boy. It's a beautiful, untouched spot and it's my husband's first choice for any camping excursion.

Hubby and son haven't been there since the summer before my father-in-law passed away. My husband isn't sure when they'll go back there. That place is tied up with memories of his dad and those memories are hard for him to face right now. I'm sure they'll go back there eventually, but maybe not this summer.

I've been to the place where they camp on Elk River, but have only spent a few hours there. The accommodations are primitive. For example, the toilet consists of a hole dug by my father in law with a bottomless bucket and an old toilet seat on top.

Now, I like primitive as a decorating concept, but not as a way of life. So I have not spent the night at Elk. And probably never will. I'll live that joy to the men in my life.

Last summer we camped off the Greenbrier River in Ronceverte. This style of camping was more for me. We stayed at property right by the river owned by my sister-in-law and her husband. They've had the place for years and have equipped it with a building that has running water, with a toilet, shower, and sink. There is also a refrigerator, a stove, and a dryer.

There are no sleeping quarters in that building, but they have their RV parked right beside it. The RV is where we slept while we camped for a few nights.

The RV has a few very comfortable beds, plus the RV has air conditioning if the heat gets to be too much during the day. Honestly, I didn't need the air so much because I'm used to Georgia heat now and sitting under a tree on the hottest WV day feels kind of like heaven to me. Our little pug appreciated the RV, though, and we'd put him in his crate and let him nap when he got tired of running around outside.

So that's my idea of camping, folks. Showers, running water, refrigerators, electricity, and a nice, soft bed.

Kind of like being home.

This year, I stuck my foot in my big, fat mouth by suggesting we go camping a little closer to home when spring came. We are planning to camp in Ronceverte again this summer, but (because of me) we are also planning to camp at Red Top.

In a tent.

Granted, it won't be as primitive as the accommodations on Elk River, but it'll be a whole new way of living for me.

We're only staying a maximum of two nights.

And, if it gets to be too much for me, I'm driving the 15 minutes back to my house and leaving the boys in the tent!

I guess that's another luxury of camping so close to home!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

WV news

West Virginia got hit a couple of times in the media recently. One hit involved a study that placed the state dead last among the happiest states in the country. Another hit came when a West Virginia legislator from Lincoln County, Jeff Eldridge, introduced legislation to ban the sell of Barbies in WV.

My mom tipped me off that our hometown newspaper wrote a good editorial in rebuttal to the stupid assertion that West Virginians are the unhappiest people in the U.S.

I did an independent study recently and determined that studies like the one showing WV is the unhappiest state in the U.S. are a waste of time.

Some people in Lincoln County think that Jeff Eldridge is wasting time by introducing the bill to ban Barbie. According to a quote from the Lincoln Online Journal, he's just interested in making sure girls know there's more to life than a pretty face.

“It isn’t just Barbie,” he said this week. “It is the idea that all a girl has to do to succeed is look pretty. I wanted to emphasize the need for education to succeed in life.”

It looks like he's getting more than he bargained for, what with Jay Leno using the opportunity to make fun of WV and David Letterman wanting him on his show.

The Lincoln Online Journal reports Eldridge won't be going on David Letterman, but I wish he would.

I've thought a lot about this story and I'd like to know what the argument is. Are those giving him such a hard time saying there is no negative impact by allowing our young daughters to emulate Barbie? Of course there is. Young girls suffer from self esteem problems now more than ever. Unfortunately, it's just the tip of the iceberg.

I played with Barbies growing up, but I was surrounded by strong women who looked nothing like the stereotype. Plus, I wasn't bombarded with the perfect body from every magazine cover and television show. I didn't see the waifs all over the movie screen or dancing in videos like young girls see today. And not every woman in my life was obsessed with diet and looks. They had other things to do like live their life.

All of these things have an impact on young girls. Dove built an entire campaign around the problem.

I think Eldridge was making an honest attempt to address the issue. Maybe he could have found a better proposal. Maybe he should have suggested a mentoring program for young WV girls so they could be exposed to real women contributing and making a difference. Maybe he could have helped start a sports program aimed at getting young girls active and keeping them healthy. Maybe going after Barbie wasn't the best thing, but he took a shot.

What bothers me most about this story isn't the fact that Eldridge introduced the legislation, but that the mainstream media used it as another way to take potshots at West Virginia.

Other states have their shares of legislation that seems a little odd or unimportant. A while back a GA lawmaker introduced legislation to make it illegal not to serve sweetened iced tea in a restaurant that is already serving iced tea. (I actually supported that legislation. Unsweetened tea? What's the point?)

WV is an easy target for people and that really makes me angry. Leno went too far. He didn't just take aim at the lawmaker, he took aim at the whole state.

His exact words: "Last week, a West Virginia lawmaker named Jeff Eldridge introduced a bill that would ban the state of West Virginia from selling Barbie dolls. They want to make it illegal to sell Barbie dolls in West Virginia cause they say the dolls give girls unreal expectations. See, apparently in West Virginia, dolls that have all of their teeth are not considered realistic."

That's taking a hit at every West Virginian and promoting a stereotype that hurts the state in more ways than one. Proud West Virginians don't want to be belittled. Teens in the state don't want to be made fun of. This pervasive idea that the state is filled with toothless hillbillies hurts people and can prevent much needed industry from coming into the state.

But what can you expect when the state's own governor takes potshots at his constituents?

Mr. Eldridge, go ahead and rethink the Barbie ban. Seems like people in your area aren't interested. Replace it instead with something more useful.

Ban the transmission of Jay Leno's Tonight Show from coming into the state's TV stations.

Now there's some useful legislation.

** Thanks, A., for the heads up!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

What to do with all those WV postcards

I love to buy postcards when I am in WV. I don't send them to people. I put them on my fridge.

So, after many years living away from the Mountain State, my fridge is cluttered with various postcards showing the New River Gorge Bridge, a pretty mountain road in the fall, or some other site that reminds me of my home state when I am opening the freezer to grab the ice cream.

Oh, I mean reaching for the cut up fruit/yogurt/salad. I'm on a diet. Forget that ice cream stuff.

Anyway, Shannon has a good idea of what to do with all those postcards! She suggests framing them as a great reminder of a place that means a lot to you.

I'm going to frame all of mine and hang them in the living room. At least then they'll stop falling off the freezer door every time I reach for the Turtle Tracks.

Oh, I mean the refrigerator door whenever I reach for the fruit, or yogurt, or salad.

Hee hee.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Newsweek article about WV

My sister sent me the link to an article from Newsweek:

The article mentions several things I have talked about on this blog including the Diane Sawyer report on Central Appalachia and the governor's Come Home to WV program, which the husband of the Evil Twin's Wife works on. Guess I should just call him the Evil Twin, huh, ETW?

From the article:

The larger initiative includes temporarily revamping the state slogan (out: "Wild and Wonderful"; in: "Open for Business!"), plowing money into state universities and pushing through tax breaks to encourage in-state filmmaking.

That sounds like old info, doesn't it? Tell me, ETW, that they are NOT going back to the "Open for Business" stuff!

Maybe they just tacked on new information about the Diane Sawyer piece onto an older article.

It's always a bit disheartening to me to hear how other people perceive WV. It's such a beautiful state, with so many wonderful people!

I do have a problem with Manchin (who I am not a fan of) running down people in Pocahontas County with their Road Kill Cook-Off towards the end of the article. Just because we want people to see the beauty in WV doesn't mean we have to change everything about the state to match some white washed version of the rest of America.

Nor does it mean you have to run down your fellow West Virginians, Governor Manchin, who are probably also registered voters.

Just something to think about.

Thanks, Sis, for the article!

Update: I just read Buzzardbilly's take on the article. She's right on the money, as usual.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Georgia snow

You don't often see the words "Georgia" and "snow" together.

Yesterday we had some snow flurries in our area. Nothing stuck to the ground. There were some icy patches this morning, but not enough to call off school in our county.

The county where my husband works did have more snow. There was a light dusting of snow on the ground when my husband got to work this morning. They called off school in that county and a few others too.

We had just gotten groceries a few days ago, so I had plenty of food in the house when our flurries hit. My husband did run out on Sunday afternoon to pick up a Sunday paper and he said everybody was buying up all the bread and milk in our local Publix.

It made me remember way back in March of 1993 when my husband and I were living in Athens, West Virginia. Hubby was working full time at the local movie theater. I was in my senior year of college and working at the campus candy store (MY FAVORITE JOB EVER!).

It was Friday night (as I remember) and my husband and I were in Lewisburg visiting my sister. We were leaving to go back home. We knew snow was expected, but were clueless about how much. We headed towards Alderson to take the "back way" to Athens, but had to stop because those country roads were solid sheets of ice.

We took the long way instead, going on I-64 from Lewisburg headed to Athens. We weren't on that road long before we realized we were in trouble. My husband could hardly see. The interstate was eerily empty. We pulled off an exit to call my parents' house. Those were the days without cell phones! My parents were at my sister's in Lewisburg, but my brother was home and I told him to expect us in a little bit. We knew there was no way we could make it back to Athens that night.

We had a few harrowing moments, with the car doing a perfect circle on the snowy road, but we finally made it to Sophia and to my parents' house. My mom and dad had quite the drive back to Sophia too when they returned the next day! My dad got stuck on the interstate. My mom accepted a ride from somebody to call for a tow truck. They let her know the interstate was closed. Mom said "You can't close it, my husband's out there!"

Somebody rescued my dad and he and my mom made it back to the house. We were pounded with snow and stuck in that house for several days. My dad walked through tons of snow to get bread, milk, and eggs from the closest convenience store, which wasn't close at all or very convenient for that matter!

We survived the Storm of the Century! That very experience may be one of the reasons I panic slightly when the cupboards are bare, even on the sunniest of days. These days I like to have the following in abundance around here: bread, milk, eggs, butter, tea bags, and TOILET PAPER. I keep all the staples like flour, oil, salt, and yeast in abundance too. And sugar. Don't forget the sugar!

I think with those items we could live quite happily if something unexpectedly kept us from making it to the store.

After a few days, though, I would start missing meat. I might have to send the guys out into the woods behind our house to shoot a squirrel or two. It's been a long time since I've had squirrel gravy.

There's two more words you don't expect to see together. "Squirrel" and "gravy."

I think for the next grocery shopping trip, we'll stock up on chicken and ground beef for the freezer.

Just in case.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009


Here's an update from ABC News about the services being offered to the children who were highlighted on Diane Sawyer's recent report.

The update also mentions the Christian Appalachian Project. I'm still reading up on their website. It does look like they do good work.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Proud Auntie

These are my nephews playing last weekend at the WV Church of God competition. My 12 year old nephew is on the right and won first place in the Strings Plucked Instrumental category. His 19 year old brother is on the left.

We have quite a few talented musicians in our family. The list does not include me, but my brother, sister, brother-in-law, dad, aunt, and all 4 nephews play instruments. My son too is doing great with his guitar lessons! He loves jamming with his cousins when we are visiting WV!

Monday, February 16, 2009

Here we go

I watched A Hidden America: Children of the Mountains, the 20/20 "investigation" a couple of times. I'm going to try to just hit on a few points that made impressions.

I'm not sure of the newsworthiness of this story. There is nothing Diane Sawyer reported on with regards to Central Appalachia that could not be said about other parts of the United States. I wonder if this was some kind of "soul searching" mission for her. She's from Kentucky, although I'm almost certain her Kentucky upbringing was a little different than the upbringing of those she highlighted in her special.

She tries to tie it in awkwardly with the economic stimulus package, but knowing that she did 2 years of research for this broadcast makes you realize that is just an attempt to make it relevant.

Sawyer does bring out some statistics based on the last census. Of the 2.2 million people living in Central Appalachia, about 1/2 a million live in poverty. It is one of the poorest regions in the nation, she states. She says men and women in this area die younger than other Americans. She also mentions that in Central Appalachia there is a documented epidemic of drug addiction, cancer, toothlessness, alcoholism, and depression.

Yeah, toothlessness. Right up there with drug addiction and cancer. In fact, she says Central Appalachia is #1 in the country for toothlessness.

Sawyer seems obsessed with teeth. She points out the tooth problems of the former drug addict, Angel, who is 30 and the mother of three little girls. Angel is on welfare and she and her boyfriend walk 8 miles one way to attend a mandated GED class every day. Angel and her family are living with her mother. Twelve people live in that house. One of Angel's daughters makes her mom pinky promise every night that she won't leave her. The little girl is so worried about her mom leaving that it is heartbreaking.

But Diane Sawyer takes the time to talk about Angel's teeth. I'm thinking teeth might be the least of Angel's concerns at the moment.

Okay. I get it. Pop is bad. Mountain Dew is of the devil. The poor Pepsi company is focused on more than the makers of Oxycontin. Come on, Diane. The problem isn't that they're drinking Mountain Dew. The problem is that they don't brush their teeth or have access to dental care. You can't tell me that city dwellers who suck down Starbucks several times a day wouldn't have the same problem if they didn't have money for veneers or teeth whitening.

She even mentions "Mountain Dew Mouth" in her promo on ABC's The View.

It just seems like a stupid thing to focus on and it seems to miss the point. Focus on the lack of sound nutrition education. Talk more about the need for good dental hygiene. Lay off the Mountain Dew. All of that seemed like a red herring to me.

Sawyer also focuses on a young high school football player, Shawn, who lives in his truck to get away from his toxic family. When I watched his story, I was really rooting for him to get out. Not to get out of Appalachia, but to get away from his family. His mother seems well meaning, but his stepfather is portrayed as an alcoholic. The stepbrother ends up having relations with his 15 year old half-sister. I think getting away from the family is a good idea.

The boy gets a college scholarship, but ends up dropping out. He leaves college because he is overwhelmed, according to Sawyer. Shawn says "I found out I couldn't pay for the college. Had to come home."

I didn't understand this. Sawyer points out that, while Shawn is getting a scholarship, he can't afford the things other kids can afford like "supplies, food, and fun." It makes me wonder why he wasn't able to get some sort of loan to help him through. When I attended college, I received grants, but the majority of my education was paid for with student loans . That's not desirable (my husband and I are, in fact, determined to help our son avoid student loans), but accruing student loans is better than the alternative of no college education.

Shawn's story seems to highlight the lack of information and the lack of support he was offered by his high school and college. I'm wondering if Shawn had some type of counselor to help him through the process. I'm wondering why he wasn't informed about his choices with regards to funding for his education.

I'm a homeschooler and a proponent of homeschooling because I think there is a major breakdown in the public education system. I'll try not to go off on this subject which is near and dear to my heart, but it doesn't surprise me that Shawn struggled with the classes at college. Many students today (whether from central Appalachia or not) have the same issues because public school does not prepare them for the work involved. The work done in today's high schools and the work expected at a college level are miles apart, in my opinion.

I'll refrain from going off on that particular tangent.

It's obvious Shawn had different expectations of school. When Sawyer says he can't afford supplies, food, and fun it just made me wonder why he is going to college. Fun was not in the curriculum at my college. The fact is I didn't have a car on campus. I walked several miles to get to a convenience store if I needed something. I didn't have an endless supply of food in my dorm room. I ate at the cafeteria that my room and board paid for. You can make it through college and sometimes you have to sacrifice. But the sacrifice is worth it. I wish Shawn had someone to tell him that. It's obvious his broken family unit wasn't going to help him with that, so I would have hoped someone at his high school or college (or even Diane Sawyer herself) could have filled the void.

Sawyer focused some on the coal mines too. She never quite conveys what living with coal mining is like. Maybe you can't tell it; you gotta live it. Still I wish she would have given these hard working guys more credit.

She talks about an 18 year old coal miner who is trying to provide for his wife and baby and makes it sound like this kid is on the road to nowhere. No doubt it's a hard life he's chosen, but would working at McDonald's or at a department store be more worthy?

She talks to a group of miners, asking them questions about what it's like to be in the mines. "How dangerous is it?" Stupid question, but typical. She asks about black lung. She says in her voice over that mine officials are just off to the side while she is speaking to the coal miners and that the miners seem to be looking at the mine officials before answering her questions. She's implying, of course, that the miners can't talk freely. Of course they can't. You're speaking to them at work. Those guys standing nearby are their bosses. Does she just say whatever she wants about ABC News?

What Sawyer doesn't say is that coal mining is a valuable industry in Central Appalachia. You can't spend time talking about how horrible it is that people in the area are selling Oxycontin for $120 a pill or how many welfare recipients there are and then turn around and bemoan the one industry in the area that consistently gives people jobs.

I have my issues with the coal industry too. My father worked for a coal company that made him a boss right before they laid all the bosses off. Good times. He was hurt in the mines too, as was my grandfather. My father-in-law lost his leg in the mines. My husband's uncle was killed in the mines. Can things be done to make the conditions better? Yes. And, I may be naive, but I truly believe that is happening. I have no problem with people or agencies staying on top of the coal industry to be sure safety is their number one concern. Coal is necessary. People who mine coal are necessary. You can't throw the baby out with the bathwater.

There has been progress in recent years. The cases of black lung disease are down. I interviewed Dr. Donald Rasmussen, one of the forerunners of study in the black lung area, when I was in college. There will never be a time when black lung disease is eradicated. There will never be a time when mines are 100 percent safe to work in. It's just not going to happen.

Rather than dumping on one of the few industries to offer jobs in that area, how about mentioning that it is one of the few industries in that area? I don't recall Sawyer tapping into that. Someone (who is not credited) mentions that education is valued in the area, but the prevalent mentality is your options are working fast food or in a box store, so why not just skip college and start earning money? She does mention more about what the area needs in the taping of the View. She talks about the stimulus plan.

"You're looking at a huge stimulus package and maybe some jobs for people who don't have college educations. . ." Sawyer says. "What if some of these people could be helped with these jobs? What would it do? What if those jobs that go overseas could come back?"

Again, that's her quote from her appearance on The View and that's the highlight of the story. It didn't make it as part of the 20/20 broadcast. Then she started talking about "Mountain Dew Mouth" again. Okay.

Wouldn't it be wonderful, though, if this economic stimulus package would focus more on jobs and less on everything else? Obama is so concerned about Abraham Lincoln. How about looking to FDR and try to come up with an even Newer Deal? You have the benefit of seeing the problems with the New Deal. Use that history to make it better. Any type of hand up for that area has to offer something effective that will put people to work. Good jobs would solve a lot of problems.

One of the bright spots of the program was hearing from Dee Davis, president of the Center for Rural Strategies. He had the best quote.

"When the banking industry melts down, it's like, 'oh, no, we have a structural problem.' When folks in Appalachia or the inner cities are poor, it's their fault. Why don't they pull themselves up by their boot straps?"

There was value in the report Sawyer put together, but it wasn't honoring in anyway. These people don't want the judgments of others who don't understand the life showered on them. They want what anyone wants. Opportunities and respect.

Of course, this piece was supposed to be about poverty and its effect on kids.

What is more helpful is when those raised in Appalachia choose to highlight the good, along with the struggles. Beckley, West Virginia native Morgan Spurlock did an excellent job with that for his show 30 Days. The third season's first episode was Working in a Coal Mine.

My husband and I watched that show with pride. It showed the hard work. It showed the tough choices. It even showed the lack of opportunity, but it did so in a way that made us proud to be from a West Virginia coal mining background.

Whatever else you say about those living in Appalachia, they're proud.

One of the coal miners Sawyer spoke with reminded me a lot of my father-in-law. Sawyer asks him what he hopes his kids will be one day.

"I don't know," he says. "Anything but a coal miner."

That's what my father-in-law said about his 7 children. He worked in the coal mines. He gave a lot for his job. He dropped out of school in the seventh grade and, while he understood the opportunity that coal would bring his family, he also knew he wanted something better for his kids.

All but one of his 7 children graduated from college. None of them have ever worked in the coal mines.

And every single one of them still have their own teeth.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

I'm going to have to brace myself

I'm a West Virginia girl and I now live in Georgia, so the Appalachian region is definitely near and dear to my heart. I love all things a little bit "country". I can't help myself. I try to be the college educated, sophisticated, suburbanite wife and mom, but I can't quite carry it. I sometimes feel like I should be on a mountain washing clothes on a washboard and cooking on a wood stove. I can't help it. Mountain music makes my heart soar. It's who I am.

That's why the way the mass media portrays people from West Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, and even Georgia gets on my nerves. I swan! These people just don't get it!

So I'm cringing while I'm wondering what Friday night's 20/20 will bring, as Diane Sawyer reports on A Hidden America: Children of the Mountains.

I have my TiVo set to record it, so I will definitely be watching it. I plan to report back on how I feel about it. Diane Sawyer was raised in Kentucky, so I'm hoping it won't be the usual condescending look that is typical of a high powered news organization covering the poverty of those living in the Appalachians.

I'm not trying to bury my head in the sand here. I know there are people who are in need of some type of hand up. I know there are education issues, employment issues, drug issues, poverty issues related to that area. But those issues extend to every single area of these United States. It's not limited to the Appalachian region.

What bothers me is that many of these stories tend to overlook the proud history of those born and bred in these areas. They completely discount it, assuming that the only life worth living is the one that is surrounded by malls, restaurants, and all the other trappings of modern living.

I am touchy about this. We visited a church nearby and I refused to go back to it because they have an outreach program to the "poor deprived children" of West Virginia. I hope those kids benefit from what they are receiving and I assume the church has the best of intentions. So often, though, the result of these charity programs or newscasts is teaching the children and people of these proud and historic communities to be ashamed of their heritage. That helps no one and does a great disservice to the hardworking people who built families and lives in those majestic mountains.

Maybe the best solution is to have people who grew up in these areas give back where it is needed.

Sorry for the "no outsiders" mentality. I suppose I have to work on that.

Anyway, I'll be watching on Friday night and plan to report back.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

West Virginia homeschoolers

This article about homeschooling in my home county of Raleigh County in West Virginia might be of interest to some of you WV homeschoolers.

I think it's funny that the lady from REACH they are talking to starts off one of her quotes with "That's the beauty of homeschooling..." When my son and I are doing schoolwork and we do something that he wouldn't be able to do if he was at a public school, I say "That's the beauty of homeschooling."

I say that quite a bit.

I have never homeschooled in WV, but my sister has been homeschooling in Raleigh County for about 13 years or so. Her oldest son (maybe proud Auntie has mentioned this before) received a full scholarship to Concord University based on the work he did at home, his ACT score, and an essay he wrote competing for the scholarship.

I can't remember who my sister met when my nephew was receiving the scholarship, but whoever it was (a dean of some sort, maybe?) told her that Concord is a very "homeschool friendly" university and that his own children were homeschooled.

I was pretty impressed with that because Concord is not only my alma mater, it's also where I met my husband! Of course that was back in the days when it was just old humble Concord College. ;)

Oh, and I'll also add my nephew took 6 classes last semester and made 5 A's and 1 B!

I think he takes his academic excellence from his Auntie Tina.

Okay. Maybe not.

Just Be There

My oldest sister sang "Just Be There" at my grandmother's funeral. It's a beautiful song that she also sang at her son's homeschool graduation ceremony in June. I found the song online. Follow the link and listen to it when you get the chance.

My grandma loved the song and my sister did an amazing job singing it. I can't believe she made it through the whole song without dissolving into tears, but God really helped her through it.

I'm going to write some more about my trip back home later this week. At some point I intend to stop blogging about my grandmother passing away. I'm not at that point yet. Bear with me.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

She's gone

I had hardly finished my post Friday night when my sister called and said "She's gone."

Now comes the time when life goes on without her.

It's easy to mourn, isn't it? Easy to feel sad about losing someone. It's easy to miss her.

I couldn't sleep Friday night. I couldn't watch TV. Nothing seemed to settle my mind. I read the Bible for a while, remembering a night when I had picked up the Bible to read to her, just a few weeks ago.

She was unsettled that night. Most of the family was with my aunt at a hospital in Charlottesville, VA. My grandma just couldn't rest. She was up and down, worried about my aunt, worried about her own health, struggling with her physical pain. Nothing seemed to comfort her.

I saw her Bible on her nightstand and asked if she wanted me to read some to her. She said I could if I wanted to.

I didn't do a great job. I couldn't find anything to comfort her. I tried Psalms, but nothing seemed to be soothing. I knew it was just my ignorance, but I just couldn't find the right passage. Still I read some, hoping just the familiarity of the King James version would help her.

I really don't know if it did. I guess I was naive to think it would be some magic pill that would take away her pain and worry. I just read a few verses and put it down. She said it helped, but I think she just said that to make me feel better. I remember feeling sad that I couldn't take her misery away from her.

So Friday night was my turn to feel unsettled and a little miserable. I was sad that she died in that hospital. Sad that I didn't see her, couldn't kiss her one last time. I was worried about my family, my parents and siblings. I was thinking about making another trip to WV, another trip to that cemetery, another funeral to get through.

I looked up some scripture online. I picked up my husband's Bible and read. I couldn't find the right passage and it reminded me of that night I had failed her, so I put it down and picked up a book I had been reading all week, The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom.

I read about Corrie, but thought about my grandma. I hoped someone remembered to tell her I loved her, but realized that didn't really matter. I thought about my conversation with my sister.

"She's gone," she said.

"Did you get to see her?" I asked.

"Yeah, but I think she was gone before I got here."

"How did she look?"

"I don't know. She looked okay."

Why did I want to know how she looked? It hadn't even occurred to me to ask, really. It just came out. As I read The Hiding Place I wondered why that had mattered to me at that moment. I wondered why God couldn't help me feel settled about it. I knew she was in heaven. Why was it so hard to accept that she was rejoicing and peaceful and happy?

I was at the place in the book where Corrie finds out Betsie has died. She's standing in the window, hardly able to believe it's her sister the nurses are carrying away. She walks because she doesn't know what to do. She wants to go to the washroom window where she knows the nurses will carry Betsie, but she's afraid. She doesn't want to see her beautiful sister dead on that floor in a row with other discarded people.

I turned around to see Mien running after me. "Corrie, I've looked for you everywhere! Oh, Corrie, come!"
She seized my arm and drew me toward the back of the hospital.
When I saw where she was headed I wrenched my arm free. "I know Mien. I know already."
She didn't seem to hear. She seized me again, led me to the washroom window, and pushed me in ahead of her. In the reeking room stood a nurse. I drew back in alarm, but Mien was behind me.
"This is the sister," Mien said to the nurse.
I turned my head to the side -- I would not look at the bodies that lined the far wall. Mien put an arm around my shoulder and drew me across the room till we were standing above that heartbreaking row.
"Corrie! Do you see her!"
I raised my eyes to Betsie's face. Lord Jesus -- what have You done! Oh, Lord, what are You saying! What are You giving me!
For there lay Betsie, her eyes closed as if in sleep, her face full and young. The care lines, the grief lines, the deep hollows of hunger and disease were simply gone. In front of me was the Betsie of Haarlem, happy and at peace. Stronger! Freer! This was the Betsie of heaven, bursting with joy and health. Even her hair was graciously in place as if an angel had ministered to her.

Reading those words that I have read dozens of times in the last 20 years finally gave me some peace. I may not see the miracle that Corrie saw when she looked at her sister. When I see my grandma at the funeral, she may still look thin and the ravages of her disease may still be visible on her face.

But that earthly body is not what she is any longer. She's released and she's free. It doesn't really matter if she heard me say I love you. It doesn't really matter if she thought she was coming home. Those last few hours, minutes, seconds of her life only matter to those she left behind. We are the ones struggling with the memories, with the decisions that were made, with the sadness and impossibility of these last few months and specifically these last 4 or 5 weeks.

My grandmother is fully alive now. She's reunited with her family. She's with the husband she's been separated from for over 30 years. She's with the daughter who went ahead of her.

She's with the Savior who made it all possible, with the gracious and good God who ordained it all.

And she's settled and she's resting and she's at peace.

Friday, January 30, 2009

My Grandmother

I love hearing my grandmother talk about her life. It's fascinating to me and she has an interesting personality. The subject matter and the storyteller make for great conversation.

She just turned 89 in December, which means that she was 51 when I was born. That was back before "50 was the new 40", so she always looked like an old lady to me. I love it when she takes her pictures out so I can see what she looked like when she was younger. Because I've only known her as an older woman, it's wild to see her as a young girl. It's even more interesting, I think, to see her as a young wife and mother. To see her easy smile, and the way she obviously loved my grandfather, and how proud she was of her kids --- that's what I enjoy the most.

Here she is with my grandpa and my dad, probably more than 60 years ago. I love to look at her beautiful face!

She was the wife of a coal miner and that life wasn't easy. She spent her days taking care of her family. She made ends meet for herself, her husband, and their three kids. My dad says she can squeeze a buffalo nickle until it poops. I believe it. She's a "waste not, want not" type of woman and I love that about her. She is the epitome of matriarch to me and I mean that in a positive way.

She's lived without my grandpa for a very long time. He died when he was 63, more than 30 years ago. She still talks about him with reverence. There was never any question she would marry again. She's told me many times there was no other man she would marry after having been married to the best man for so many years.

My grandma loves her family. She would do anything for us. I have no doubt about that.

Tonight she is surrounded by family in a hospital in Charleston and is not expected to live through the night.

She's had a rough few months, due to pancreatic cancer. Surgery on Monday was supposed to make things easier on her, but it didn't work out. Just like when her daughter passed away a few weeks ago, my family was praying for something different.

Just six days ago, I talked to my grandma. I told her I was praying for her. I told her I loved her. Tonight I asked my sisters to make sure they whispered "Tina loves you" to her. I know she knows. I just want her to hear it one more time. For me, mostly.

My grandma believes in Jesus. She is saved by grace, through faith. She is on her way to heaven. I pray that her husband, her daughter, her parents, her brother, and her sister are there to welcome her with open arms. I'm clinging to that promise hard tonight because my heart is really breaking.

As my grandma always says, if you are a praying person, pray for me. Pray for my family. We are the ones in need of it. My grandma is about to be rejoicing.

Thank you for letting me have her in my life for so long. Welcome her home, Father, and let her know we'll see her soon!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

I really did used to live in WV

But you would never know it these days because it's 32 degrees outside and I want to cry.

My mom and sister who work for public school systems in Raleigh County and Greenbrier County, respectively, were both off work today because of snow, ice, and actual cold weather. I just checked and the temp for where my mom lives is 13 degrees. Now that is cold.

I'm becoming a southern wuss. Last week when we were in WV we went to my sister's house to eat dinner and it was snowing and the roads were getting bad when we left. I came over with my dad instead of driving because it started snowing in the afternoon and I don't drive in the white stuff anymore. My father taught me to drive on slick roads when I was 17, but 20 years makes the details a bit fuzzy.

These days I don't like to drive in the rain. When my son and I were headed back to Georgia on Saturday, we stopped to spend the night in Tennessee because it was raining and getting dark. What a soft life I lead!

Driving back from my sister's house last week was my son's first experience of being in the car (well, a four wheel drive truck, actually) on roads covered with snow and ice. My dad did fishtail at one point, but other than that we were fine.

I guess it's all relative. When my family comes to Georgia in the summer, they talk about how hard it is to breathe with the humidity. The first time my niece came to visit years ago, she was shocked because we don't get the cool down from the mountain breezes at night here. We walked outside to go to the grocery store at around 9 p.m. and she said "It's still hot."

The heat, the humidity, I'm used to that now. I can even sit in the bleachers in 98 degree weather in the sticky heat and blazing sun of a July afternoon and watch my son play baseball, without a great deal of complaining.

What I can't do is drive in the snow or walk through my parents' drafty house on top of that big ol' hill in Midway in the dead of winter without saying brrrrrr.

Bundle up West Virginians! The high tomorrow for my hometown is a chilly 13 degrees. Down here our high will be about 20 degrees warmer, but you can bet I'll have my heat cranked up and will be thinking of you!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Feeling blue

I got home on Sunday afternoon. My wonderful husband had cleaned my house. All I've done the past couple of days is laundry and schooling my son. I haven't even cooked.

I'm feeling a little sad about everything. It's natural to feel sad about my aunt. I regret not having much of a relationship with her the past 15 years or so. I am sad that my grandma is ill and things are not looking up for her. I'm sad that my parents (especially my dad) have to deal with some very difficult decisions and some sleepless nights as my dad spends the majority of his time with my grandma.

I'm just generally blue. It's easy to be away from family when things are going smoothly, but when things are kinda rough, it's hard to be in no position to help whatsoever.

I already talk to my son about trying to stay close to us when he is making life decisions about where to work and raise a family. Once you make that decision to build a life somewhere else, it's hard to unravel it. I hate to think of him having to write a Georgia Expat blog one day to cope with his feelings about being away from family. :)

I know everything will work out. I'm happy to be home in GA, happy to be back to my life. It's just the worry and sadness that are getting to me. Honestly, the worry and sadness would be with me even if I lived in WV closer to family.

There's some things that you can't get away from --- even when you are 500 miles away.

Monday, January 12, 2009

I've been away

My family might have been a bit weird, but my dad, his two sisters, and all their related kin got together at my grandma's every single Christmas as I was growing up. We spent Christmas Eves together and got together on Christmas Day. We spent Thanksgivings together and a lot of other holidays.

We were a close bunch.

It never exactly changed. To this day Christmas Eve finds us at my grandma's house eating and opening a few gifts. Christmas Days have changed. As the kids have gotten married, we tend to go to the in-laws for Christmas Day. But Christmas Eve remains remarkably the same.

This Christmas we had planned to stay home in Georgia. Last Christmas my father-in-law passed away on Dec. 27th. It was a hard Christmas last year, so we wanted to spend a quiet Christmas at home. But plans change. My aunt was diagnosed with cancer in early December and my dad told me it might be her last Christmas. I knew we had to make the trip back home.

We spent a week at Christmas in WV with family. I spent most of my time staying with my grandma (who is 89 and also in ill health) while other family members traveled back and forth to Charlottesville, VA to be with my aunt. She was in the hospital for a few days before traveling back home and dying in hospice care on Jan. 3rd. Her funeral was last Tuesday and my son and I spent last week with family while we all said our goodbyes to my aunt.

She was an amazing woman. She was the Deputy Commissioner of the West Virginia Division of Labor at the time of her death. She was always very work oriented, being promoted to a leadership position at every job she ever had in a short period of time. She was focused and committed. She was a hard worker and many people will remember her as someone who didn't suffer fools gladly.

But she was something else too. Underneath the fire, she was very caring. She would give anything to help a family member or friend. She was too generous for her own good and never really understood how much she was loved.

On a cold, rainy day last Tuesday in Beckley, WV, around 200 people gathered to bid my aunt farewell. Many of those mourners made the trek to the little cemetary in Sophia to say goodbye as she was buried. Family, friends, and co-workers all shared some time to talk about what a great person my aunt was.

Her death was unexpected. We thought something could be done to buy her more time. I think she deserved a better ending, but, as Christians, we leave all of that in the hands of our Lord. I know she's in a happier, pain-free place. That knowledge makes her death easier to take, but in no way makes it easy.

Bye, Fran. I love you.