Life in Eastern Kentucky.

Today I’m writing from a place of pure frustration.

I live in the country. I like it here. I live where (other than college) I have lived my entire life. I don’t want to move. These mountains speak to my soul. I want to raise my girls where I was raised.

But it’s not easy.

I live where I have to pay $2-3 a pound for apples that are mealy or have been frozen and rot faster than we can eat them.

I live where the only vegetables I can afford to feed myself or my kids are carrots, broccoli and cauliflower. Greens leafy vegetables are a pipe dream. Asparagus has been known to cost $9 a pound. It’s a 45+ minute drive to any other grocery stores.

I live where I pay $90 a month for my phone and internet, and the internet is unusable. Like everything else, they have a monopoly and don’t care.

I live where the closest movie theater is a hour away. Where you have to travel even farther to do anything with your kids. There are a few playgrounds, but nothing to do in the wintertime.

I asked in a homeschool group for Christmas present ideas last year, that weren’t toys. Numerous people suggested zoo memberships, or dance lessons, or swim lessons, or horseback riding… oh how I wish!! Those are wonderful experience gifts, but the logistics, man.

I live on my families farm. I want to get chicken and goats in the semi-near future. I want to raise my girls fishing in this same pond I grew up fishing in, playing in the wide open spaces. I don’t want to leave that. But I don’t blame the (vast majority) of people who do.

I’m partnering with an organization that’s hoping to bring Broadband to the mountains. And I do think that will help, some. But I pray daily for a revitalization of our area. A revitalization of our culture. I pray for Hope.

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Today my girls are needing more than I can give. When one gets out of my lap, another climbs in. The baby doesn’t want to nap. The 3yo has lots of owies that need coddled. The 5yo always requires more attention. The 7yo is having a rough day, too. They all need their love cup filled, but mine is so empty.  

It’s no ones fault. My pcos is rearing its ugly head, making me an emotional wreck. I have morning sickness nausea and pms mood swings and temper. I broke down crying because the baby won’t sleep. I’m tired constantly. I’m constantly doing something, but none of it fills my cup. 

I don’t know how yo find that balance. When you have 4 little bodies that rely on you for food, for love and affection, for discipline,  it’s very tough. I love my girls to the moon and back, but this job isn’t easy. Yes, I “brought this on myself” as I’m so often told, and I wouldn’t change anything at all, but there are times when I’m just… raw. Empty. Exhausted.

It’s always when my thyroid is out of whack . Patience abounds when I’m in check. My when my diet goes to crap, and my thyroid rears its head, I wish I had the time and a doctor to help. I wish there was a magic pill. I wish I knew how to navigate the POTS, the pcos, the hypo. I muddle through. But on days like today, muddling isn’t enough. 

I hate being cranky with my kids. I hate it. I hate being locked in this cycle. I hate feeling stuck. I hate not knowing how yo full my cup. I hate being locked into this tiny area with no where for me to go to escape for a few minutes. But mostly I hate feeling like I’m not myself. 

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Know Who You Are.

I’m from coal country. To say that our economy has taken a hit over the past few years would be the understatement of the century. Coal has, excuse the pun, fueled our area for decades.

But, as I’m sure most know, the coal industry is dying. I won’t get into the politics of why in this post, but it’s dying.

So what are we to do? When you’re out and about, talking to people you run into in the grocery store, or even on social media, the main complaint is that “they need to do something to get more jobs back here.” I have so many questions about this comment. I know that the person who is saying it (and haven’t we all said it?) means well. I know that they are just as frustrated and as fed up with our little part of the country being overlooked, time and time again. We’re one of the poorest areas in the NATION. Not just the state, but the NATION. Yet, I still can’t get behind the statement.

Who is “they”? What, exactly, do they need to do? How are “they” going to wave their wand and magically get more jobs to appear?

Again, this all goes back to politics. And you know what? I’m not a fan of politics. It’s divisive. It’s a lot of name-calling, blame-gaming, ugly wars that are fought in ivory towers far away from the real world. So, again, I’m not going to delve into the political spectrum of this whole issue.

I’m going to delve into the heart issue.

We are, for the most part, a people that have been here for a while. A long while. My mom (the genealogist of the family, don’t ask me to name names), can trace our family back to the 1790’s (and maybe even later, like I said, don’t ask me) settling in the area. So, for our family to have been here this entire time, we’ve had to have perseverance. We’ve had to have spunk. We’ve had to have pure eastern Kentucky bullheadedness. And that’s exactly what we need to continue to have.

We need to make our way. WE need to pave the path for future generations to make our area relevant again. Coal isn’t going to do that for us anymore. So we need to step up and do it for ourselves.

I can hear you now, scratching your heads, or even getting a little testy with what I’m saying, but stick with me.

I realize that I come with a unique view, and a unique opportunity. I am a 3rd generation quilter. I was raised in the quilt shop that my mother and my grandmother opened on our family farm. I, in turn, am raising my four daughters in that same quilt shop. I have a successful local and internet business. Again, I know I’m lucky in that I already had a venue…. but I think, if we work hard at it, a lot of other people would have venue’s, too.

We have so much talent in these hills. So many true arts. The arts and craft industry is dying across the country. The booming craft festivals I went to as a child with my family are slowly turning into more commercial festivals, or going away completely. No one is passing on their craft to their children anymore. Or, if they are, their children aren’t doing anything with it. This needs to change!

If your grandmother quilts, take a weekend or two and go learn from her.
If your mother knits, take a weekend and go learn from her.
If your Dad makes the best bookshelves around, let him teach you how.                                     If your great Aunt Ida cans all her homegrown vegetables, let her teach you about gardening and canning.

We are a people that have roots that run deep in this area. We have a history of gardening, woodworking, broommaking, candle dipping, sewing, quilting, knitting, crocheting, weaving, canning, and so much more. We are losing our history. We are losing our ties to the area, and we’re moving away in droves. We’re uprooting ourselves, instead of burrowing the roots in deeper.

I don’t have all the answers. I just know that I would love to see more gardening classes, cooking classes, basic sewing classes offered to our teens. We push college, and we’re totally neglecting the every day skills that are solely lacking.
At our quilt shop, we don’t do any clothing alterations. We keep pretty busy doing our own thing, but I have told many a person that if someone would learn how to do alterations, they could make a killing in our small little town. How many other of those skill gaps are there? How many other things from our heritage would be in high demand?

If you aren’t from eastern Kentucky, you can still help. Search us out. Find us on Etsy. Find us on Facebook. Give us your business. If you are from EKY, SHOP LOCAL. I had a customer today who stated several times that she was unaware that anyone was making T-Shirt quilts in the area, until someone pointed her my way. Lack of advertising on my part? Maybe. But I’m so thankful she chose a local shop to spend her money at. It saves us both time and hassle.

Know where you come from. Embrace where you come from. Learn everything you can about where you come from. I think if we, as a whole, strive to do that… we’ll come out okay. But if we continue turning our backs on our heritage, on our ancestors hopes and dreams, I’m not so sure. I hope, for my girls sakes, that we can revitalize eastern Kentucky.

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K is for….!

I try really hard not to get stuck doing “catch up” posts since I very rarely post. But I want to write this down to share with my oldest some day.

K, you are 8 years old.

You are amazing.

You just got this reading thing down pat. I hope you always have this love.  You read to your sisters. You read in the car. You make me so happy. I love seeing you light up when we get books. When our van broke down you climbed into the back seat with your sisters and read them books to keep them calm and pass the time.

You’re so daggone smart. When math doesn’t come as easy as everything else to you, you get so frustrated. Just like your mama.

You are kind and caring to your baby sister. You help me more than you’ll ever know.

You and A don’t always get along. And that’s okay. I think you’ll be close when you’re older, but it does pain me sometimes to see how you treat her, especially knowing how sweet you can be to B or E. You two are polar opposites in so many ways, but she loves and looks up to you SO much.

You love to vacuum, and help with chores in general. You’re itching to sew. I need to sit down and teach you how. You help me so much that Mommy sometimes forgets to give you that one on on time you crave.

You have grown so much from the little girl who used to lose it over things multiple times a day… and you know what? It’s only really been a year or so. You’ll be 8.5 so very soon, I love you so much, and I’m so thankful you made me a Momma. (Photos from last summer when she had short hair and two front teeth Ha!)

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Bind my wandering heart to thee.

I’m a wanderer. I can’t help it, it’s in my genes. I love nothing more than to get in the van (or car) and just… drive. I don’t need a purpose. I just need a good playlist, or a great audiobook, and a ginormous bottle of water.

Spontaneity is a bit harder with four kids, but I still manage to go some now that the baby doesn’t hate her carseat with the fire of a thousand suns. Thankfully my girls are perfectly content with a few Taco Bell $1 cheese roll ups, and other than answering “But where are we going?” a thousand times, and stopping for potty breaks, it’s pretty doable.
The thing is, there’s no real answer to the “Where are we going?” question most times. I usually just say “We’re going on an adventure!” and leave it at that. After reading Sally & Sarah Clarkson’s book “The Life Giving Home,” I started implementing “Saturday Suppers” both as a chance for us girls to get out of the house for supper one day a week, and to give my parents a break (we eat supper over there most days my husband works late).  As summer as traipsed on, Saturday Suppers have been more sporadic and on different days of the week, but its a tradition I hope to keep up with them throughout the years. In doing so, we wander. We take off in one direction and just drive. Sometimes I have a destination in mind. Sometimes I’m just too tired to go far. But regardless, we go.

My Mamaw Jean was this way to an extent, and my Papaw certainly was. I texted my poor husband last week and told him I was taking the girls to town for supper, and then said something along the lines of “You know I can’t sit still, right?” to which he responded “I know.”

It’s not that I’m not content with my day-to-day life. I really am. It’s just that there is something about getting out of the house, getting out into the “wild” but still being in the safe confines of your van, that I just adore. I love exploring Kentucky. I love going to certain areas (I’m looking at you Red River Gorge) over and over again. I’m so thankful that most of the time my hubby is more than willing to trudge along with me on bis days off (I do try to give him Sundays free, ha!). My only regret about having our first child so soon was that we didn’t get to do any traveling together, just the two of us. We were poor as church mice those first few years of our marriage, and so centered around school and work that we didn’t even get to do any fun couple things outside of just living together.

Add in 5 months of bedrest last year, and I may be a bit worse than I used to be.

My girls are always up for an adventure though, and that makes my heart sing.

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Trust is a fickle thing sometimes. It’s something that we think we do, something that we know we ought to do. Yet, we’re filled with doubts, or uncertainty.

My husband and I recently stayed at his parents house, in the mountains of south eastern Kentucky. We left all four (hard for me!) girls with his parents, and hopped in their side by side ATV to go “bear hunting.” In that part of the state, black bear are plentiful, and we were not the only ones out there, driving all over abandoned strip mines that have become four-wheeler and ATV trails. It was during this short escape that I was struck by just how much I love, and trust, my husband.

I trust him with my life. Those sound like such easy words to say, but they’re really hard ones if you really mean it.

Watching him drive the side-by-side (is that even what it’s really called? I don’t even know), over rough terrain, I realized that instead of being nervous, instead of feeling uneasy like I would have with pretty much any other person on the planet, I felt peace. Calm. Enjoyment. We watch a lot of crime drama’s so my brain is always thinking worse case scenario’s and I can hear Moody screaming “CONSTANT VIGILANCE,” so being able to feel at peace with someone is rare for me.

Beyond my personal safety, I also trust him with my heart. We’ve been together for a long, long time. Half of our lives have been spent with each other. Half of our lives. I just felt like that needed to be in bold. He’s been there with me through some of the worst, and most of the best times of my life. He’s the one who makes my heart sing. I may fleetingly doubt him for some imagined thing, but seeing the devotion he has to the girls, and me, makes my kick myself for doubting.

I was struck by how many people I know who have expressed that they don’t feel that way with their partners. “I just don’t trust him.” or “I can’t trust him.” And I feel so sorry for their situation. I don’t know that I could truly love my husband in the way that I do without trusting him. Without feeling that he is the number one constant in my life (other than God), that he’s the rock in the crazy river of life, that he’s the person I yearn to be with. That he is home. I feel all of these things deeply, but if I didn’t trust him, would I feel the same? Would our marriage be the same? Is that what’s wrong with marriages today, even in the church? How do we get that level of trust back? I definitely don’t have the answers… but I think it’s an interesting question to raise. n

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2016, Goodbye

2016 was rough. So rough. So super, super rough. Not just on me, but on a lot of people I love. Lets recap:

  • My husband had three different jobs.
  • I was in the hospital at 24 weeks with a threatened placental abruption for 10 days.
  • I bled from the first of January until I gave birth in April with a very small 2 week break.
  • I had a baby at 33weeks gestation, who then had a 12 day hospital stay, where she couldn’t meet her (very anxious) sisters.
  • The alternator went out in our van. Our heat pump died. Our washing machine died. Three things that can’t really wait to be purchased.
  • I was on bedrest for basically the first 5 months of the year. Then I had a super high needs preemie, who had to have her tongue and lip tie revised.
  • My oldest broke her arm.
  • I have lingering back issues, probably from the 5 months of bedrest.

When you type it all out, I’m not quite sure how we survived the year. I don’t understand how my husband and I are closer than ever, really. I don’t understand how we have the happiest, healthiest 8 month old in the world. Looking at this past year, we shouldn’t be where we are.

But my husband is happy at this job. My business is BOOMING. My babies are healthy, and happy. My house is semi in order. I have a car that runs, a washing machine that cleans (it is part of the recall though, so boooooo there), and heat and air conditioning in my house. Yes, we’re farther in debt than we were. But not as much as we could have been.

God is amazing. That’s the one thing that is really easy to look back over the past 12 months and see. It’s easy (now!!!) to see his hand in everything. At the time, we were floundering. We were drowning. We were crying out for him to PLEASE HELP us. And he was. Oh, he was. But it took a bit to see that. All those job changes led to Carl being better prepared for his job now. Our baby came exactly when she needed, and was perfectly healthy and a BIG size for her gestation.Those hospital stays got us a healthy baby. K’s broken arm was SO minor. My chiropractor is fixing my back slowly. WE ARE ALIVE. We are thriving. God got us through.

We’re not super active in the church right now. It’s a season of life where someone is always sick, or I’m just a paranoid mess about the baby getting sick, or there are chiropractor visits to attend… It’s a season. But even if we don’t make it to church much this year, I hope we can continue to show God to our girls. To preach his goodness, his love, the gospel of Jesus to our babies.

I have hope for 2017. I have faith that it will be amazing. I can’t wait to look back this time next year, and see God’s hand in it.

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