This past weekend, I traveled to my hometown of Harlan, Ky, to spend some time with my family. My parents have lived in the same house for nearly 50 years, and they have finally decided that it’s too much house. They spend winters in Florida, anyway, so why not make the move?

They have put the old house on the market, and my brother and I were collecting what stuff we may want to take to our own homes. After having not lived there since my high school years, and returning only yearly as of late, it was really a trip down memory lane.

We took a drive out to the Harlan country club, to view the remains of the clubhouse that recently burned to the ground. As we walked around the grounds of the charred remains and the long-neglected swimming pool, memories washed through my head.

Many, many days of my childhood were spent here, learning to swim, then to dive, usually belly-first, off the diving board. Laying on the hot concrete swathed in baby oil and iodine, prematurely aging my skin while wishing for larger breasts and a boyfriend. Our mothers were golfers, so the best babysitter in town was the lifeguard.

Charging lunches consisting of Mrs. Williams’ ‘minnow cheese, sweet tea and a Hershey bar, my friends and I were left to our own devices for most of the day, no worries about any more harm coming to us than a skinned knee or bad sunburn.

Thursday night was family night at the club, and the lot of us would band together and ride the golf carts around the famously mountainous golf course, scarring each other on the rickety old swinging bridges. After- dark card games kept us occupied while our parents put away copious amounts of liquor, illegal in Harlan County until 2011.

Most of those people have long-since left the mountains of Eastern Kentucky, and my only association of long-ago friends is now through Facebook. I doubt that I will return to Harlan when mom and dad leave for the last time this Fall. Seeing the country club in it’s state of ruin seemed to close a door for me. Saying goodbye isn’t easy. I’ll keep the memories burned in my brain of a carefree childhood and far away friends.

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Ok, so, as some of you know, I am working on writing a children’s picture book. It’s a sweet, uplifting little book that features the newest addition to our family, Chance the dog, as the protagonist.  (Click here to read his blog)

As you also may know, I don’t have kids. Nope, never really wanted them. In fact, at the age of oh, say, 13, I made the announcement that I would never have children. I think this may be because that’s about when I started being big-time rebellious in my teeny-tiny hometown of  Harlan, Ky. and my mother “threatened” me with words I will never forget. “You just WAIT until you have a teenage daughter!” Yes, it was those words, repeated over a period of several years, that convinced me that I would never give her the satisfaction of letting those words come to fruition.    And honestly, I never regretted my decision to remain child-free.  I’ve never been one of those “oh, a baby! Let me hold him,”  kind of people. Take ’em or leave ’em. Shoulder shrug. No big deal.  Ahhh, but I digress…


Now, at 51, I realize that in order to attain interest in my hidden gem, my soon to be discovered blockbuster debut, that I need a platform on which to stand. And that platform better damn well be related to children.  So, having none of my own, and no nieces or nephews in the picture, where am I going to find little ones that will appreciate my genius?

Rewind a couple of months. While checking out children’s picture books at our public library, I asked the librarian if they had a children’s reading program. It just so happens that their reader left in the fall, and they were looking for someone to replace her. Jackpot! Bingo! I gave her my card, the main branch manager called me, and voila– I am now the Tuesday morning reading lady.

So now I have anywhere from 20-40  1 to 3 year olds that single file into my reading room every week, sit attentively at my feet and listen to whatever stories I have picked out for them that week.  Well, being as my book is about a dog, I typically choose at least one book per session that revolves around a dog, and they eat it up!  (They especially like when I use my “voices” to recreate the dialogue  of the different characters.)  Back in Junior high school, I was into storytelling, and won some regional awards for my re-creation of “The Grandfather Tales” stories in competitions. I’ve always been a storyteller, I just needed an audience. Now I have it. A captive audience, but an audience, nonetheless.

So in the process of gaining a “platform” by volunteering at the library, which began as a purely selfish act, I have come to look forward to my time spent with these little ones.  I love to see their faces light up when they recognize a specific creature on the pages. We have fun practicing the sound a frog, or a dog, or a hog makes.  And when they become restless between stories, we stand up and sing and dance, and I like that, too.   It’s funny how things work out that way.

Last weekend I went home to celebrate a major milestone in the lives of my parents–their 60th wedding anniversary! Can you imagine being with one person that long? My brother Jim,  HK and I had planned a private little celebration up at their lake house with good food and champagne.

“Home” to me was Harlan, Ky. , a tiny little town of just over 2000 people. It is nestled in a valley surrounded by the Appalachian mountains, and as a child I spent a lot of time discovering and experiencing all that nature had to offer.  We lived in a quiet neighborhood just on the outskirts of town, with easy access to creeks to splash in and cliffs to climb. When I was 10, Dad built a vacation cabin and a lake on top of Pine Mountain,  about a 30-minute drive from our house.  It was an idyllic setting in which to grow up, riding my pony, hiking all over the mountains and swimming in the cold, stream-fed lake.  One of my favorite places on Pine Mountain was an outcropping of granite that had long before been dubbed “Scenic View”, for it looked far out onto the hills of neighboring Virginia, and on a clear day, you could (I am told), also see North Carolina. I could sit on that rock, legs dangling, for what seemed like hours, taking in the tranquility of the beauty that surrounded me.

Scenic View from Pine Mountain-Before

As the years went by, I went away to school and college in different states,  but often brought friends and boyfriends back home to enjoy our little refuge on the mountain.  Eventually, my trips became fewer and farther apart, until now I find myself only going home once a year, at most. My closest childhood friends have long since moved away, and, quite honestly, after 2 or 3 days there, I find myself bored to tears. I do, however, always make the effort to get back up on the mountain to take a hike and swim.

So last week, HK and I took a hike back in my old stomping grounds. So many memories came rushing back to me. That’s where I got stung by a bunch of hornets. That’s where mom blasted a big old rattlesnake with a shotgun. This is where I used to take my pony swimming… it was a hike down memory lane, and I’m sure i was boring poor HK with all my tales.

As we proceeded down the old dirt road, we came to Scenic View, and hiked to the end of the overhanging boulders.  But we weren’t met with scenic views of neighboring states surrounded by the glory of the Appalachians.  No. What I saw broke my heart. The mountains, my mountains, had been literally raped by mountain top removal. Instead of meandering old-growth forest, we stared out onto naked plateaus where wildlife once took refuge. Now, instead of black bears and deer, there was gigantic machinery and massive scarring.  I’ve known about this dirty mountaintop removal for some time, now, but didn’t really realize how it would impact me personally. As we turned to descend off the rocks, I silently bid adieu to what I prefer to remember as pristine perfection.

As we left Harlan to drive back to my now-home in Atlanta, I was faced with miles of more evidence that what I once took for granted was now changed forever.  It seemed that every mountain was standing helplessly naked, robbed of it’s dignity for the greed of it’s citizens. And I thought to myself, you really can’t go home again. Not to the “home” you remember as a carefree child, the home, that in your eyes will forever remain unchanged and innocent. I won’t go back to that spot on the rocks anymore. It hurts my heart too much.  I’ll try to remember the beauty that I assumed I would never forget.

"Scenic" View-After

It’s Spring! (Even though it feels like summertime here in Atlanta, Ga, at 90 degrees). When I look back over past entries on my site from last spring, I realize that this is a time for rebirth, renewal, and reunions!

So, in a matter of days, I have not one, but two reunions with old fiends- er, I mean friends, to attend!

Saturday, my old buds that I knew back in Harlan, Ky., will descend upon my home here in Atlanta for FIVE days! YIKERS!!!! They are the friends, if you followed my blog last fall, that I met in Sedona for a rendezvous.    So, we had such a good time together on that trip that we agreed to convene here this spring.  (Drunk-talk, you know—who ever thought it would actually come to fruition????)

So Debbie called me a couple of months ago and told me she got her ticket.  Okay…Next up was Bertha.  Alright. It’s a plan, man.

So…about a month ago, I found two old buds from a completely other life (Sewanee Academy–boarding school, after I pulled the shit that Bertha and Debbie know me for.)  Well, as happens when you first reconnect w/ old friends on facebook, we were all squealy and shit (as squealy as you can get on the computer, anyway). Oooohhhh…we HAVE to get together!!! So we contacted another old partner in crime, Martina, who I reconnected w/ last year, and made the plan. Turns out, the only time the 4 of us could get together was the day after Debbie and Bertha leave.

At first, I considered this a slight problem. But having gone over it in my mind, I actually see this as a really cool thing. For one thing, the two groups and I had very different relationships in the past. Bertha and I knew each other since second grade.  We were mutually respectful of one another growing up through the years, but I don’t think that we ever actually told each other that until our Sedona reunion. Debbie? She was actually one of my first partners in crime, (in the 7th and 8th grades) spending the night and sneaking out, meeting boys, smoking cigarettes, until her parents made her go to the county school to get away from “bad influences”.  I didn’t see her after that until that same Sedona trip last year, where we realized that we were still those two little trouble-makers from way back.

Enter my Sewanee peeps. We’ve got Martina, Tracy and Beth. We’re meeting at Martina’s sister’s lakehouse in Tennessee for 3 days. None of us (except me and Martina)  have  seen or talked to each other since 1977.  And even though we only knew each other for a year and a half, we shred a dorm, a bathroom, the mess hall, and daily life together over that time. Since there were only about 30 girls in that dorm, we got to be serious confidants in a short span of time. I anticipate our time together next week to be a completely different dynamic than the Harlan girls, yet I have no idea what to expect.

I do know that i am  feeling the love,  the joy and the excitement of reconnecting with strong women that played a big part of my past, and hoping that they’ll be playing a big part in my future!

So tune in next week for an update. I’ll be posting from my cell over at the State Mental Hospital. (Hmmmm…anybody interested in a time-share at the Betty Ford Clinic??)

omgwtfbbqOhmygod—I may have really done it this time! I may have just set myself up big time! Or not. I don’t know.  I just know that as the date gets closer, my anxiety/anticipation/ self-doubt is keeping me up at night, and when I do sleep, it is fitful and full of bizzaro dream-scenes.  What in the hell is she talking about this time, you ask.  OK, here’s the deal….

Remember last spring, when I totally went outside my comfort zone of the whole if you’re on the other side of the screen. you’re safe? You know, when I drove to Tennessee to meet an old high school bud and spent the night??? I kept wondering if she might be the psycho-bitch from hell?

Well, since then, I have had several more visits with friends that I’ve reconnected with on facebook, (none overnight, I admit), and they have all gone really, really well. Granted, most have been kept to within a reasonably short amount of time (no more than a few hours), and most have been with people I’ve seen in the last, say 15-20 years.

But now–again, ohmygod, now I may have really stretched myself a bit beyond the rational. I  have agreed to a Girlfriends Retreat in Sedona, Arizona!!!!  And wait–there’s more–I haven’t seen Debbie, the girl who invited me, since 8th grade!!!! And Bertha? Not since I got sent off to boarding school my junior year. And Sharon??? (I think that’s her name)—I’ve never met her in my life!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! yyyyyyiiiiiiikkkkeeesss!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

How did this happen? Am I nuts?? Well, blame it on facebook. After these other successful mini-reunions, I got all warm and fuzzy, declairing that now that I’ve turned 50 I’m gonna put myself out there and reconnect.  So when Debbie-who was a really good, maybe my best, friend in 7th and 8th grades “friended” me this spring, I of course accepted her into my “facebook life”.  Again, there is a HUGE saftey net there. After chatting back and forth, we realized that we both shared the love of travel, animals, and nature. More chatting, more clicks on the Like button, and another old friend in common.  Pretty much the same with Bertha, this summer.

When I received a message that Debbie was inviting us to Sedona, i was intrigued. Admittedly, I did not immediately accept her generous offer (she has a time share), but out of curiosity I looked at airfare. Hmmmm…not bad. I’ve always wanted to go to Sedona. I’ve thought a lot about how both Debbie and Bertha were, after reconnecting on fb…WTF??? I did it. I committed.

To 5 days, sharing a bedroom, in a condo with not one, not 2, but 3 other girls!!!!!!!!!!!!

I’m nervous, I’m curious, I’m excited! And I leave this weekend!  Color me crazy or color me brave, just check back next week for an update.