Life Changes

Celebration of 7 Years of Blogging

As of Valentine’s day of 2020, I finished up my 7th year of blogging. It has been a wonderful journey, I had no idea I would still be here writing. I hope this post helps me refocus my need to write and share about West Virginia. This blog was created because of my personal disappointment and anger over comments that were made by national newscasters about my state and the people who call it home in 2013.

That was a long time ago and overall the image outside the state still seems to be about the same, but community members like myself are trying to change that. I am only one voice that is trying to give our state a #Newstory. There are organizations throughout the state that continually try to let the world know that we are working hard to make my State better. One of the organizations that share my passion is The West Virginia Community Development HUB. They continue to share wonderful stories about our progress and efforts to change for the better. I have written for them several times and will continue to share what I think is wonderful about our home.

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Window Mural inside the Golden Rule 

So let’s Celebrate what I have learned over the past seven years and share some of my favorite posts and the ones that readers have liked the best. My favorite may not be the same as my readers but they are good and they mean something to me.

I started my blog on a very cold and snowy afternoon in February 2013. As of today, I have had 242,790 visitors to my site and 91,000 of then stop into this website in 2016. I have written a lot over the 7 years, but only published 279 posts, this post makes 280. I found that my readers love ghost stories and Appalachian history. So I am not surprised that my post The Lost Soul of Loveberry Church is one of my top two posts being viewed 12,670 times. The other is about Marker’s Mark Bourbon and the distillery tour in Loretto Ky. Both seem to strike at the heart of what is wonderful about Appalachian culture. It seems that a story that has a little mystery or myth gets people reading.

St Bernard Church Weston West Virginia

St Bernard Church Weston West Virginia

My favorite stories about my life are read often also but might not reflect the mystic of the mountain state as well. All of the stories I wrote about my experience with the Barnwood Builders are fun but the last one the Completed DIY project and the last visit with the Barnwood Builders, is maybe my favorite. But, the story I am most proud of on the blog is Why a Life of Service is Not a Job but a Lifestyle. Because the post shows my intentional shift in thinking about my future. Now 4 years later I am still living a life of service. I still work for Non-profits and still work in the Community Development field. AmeriCorps changed the direction of my whole life and I am so glad to still be part of their program as a member of the Board of Directors of The Appalachian Forest National Heritage Area and a liaison between the Americorps Service Members, the Staff, and Board of Directors. I hope to continue to part of the National Service for many more years to come.

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25 Americorps members visit me in Barbour County to do tours. 

The best part of my Blog Celebration is that writing often and from the heart has had major benefits for me. I have not only improved my writing and spelling skills, I learned to have my own writer’s voice and be more confident with that voice.  I have found a place where I can share my feelings, be curious, and learn from other bloggers. It has always been a surprise to me that there are others out there that are interested in my stories and take time to read them. WordPress is a place I call home with supportive readers and writers all around me.

The very most important lessons I have learned as a Blogger are

1.”We have Power”! As writers, we have the power to make or break our communities, our country, and our lives. Our stories are a reflection of our beliefs and by sharing those beliefs we influence others to believe the same way. So make sure you are shaping a world that you want to live in.

2. Being creative is a need not an option! For me being creative keeps me from feeling stuck in my life, in my relationships, and in my mind. So Blogging is one of my favorite pressure releases. Some people play sport to relieve stress, I create thoughts and put them on paper to save me from myself. When I can I draw and paint too!

3. I am a change-maker! Because of this blog, I have helped others from all over the world change their way of thinking about my country and state. That would have never happened any other way!

So here is to another seven years of writing and reading. Let the magic of words continue and I hope I still have positive stories to tell you!

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My friends celebrating life with me!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Categories: About me, blogging, celebration, Life Changes, looking back, nostalgic, writing | Tags: , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Change of focus for 2020.

During New Year’s and the last several days, I have spent time reflecting on what I want the New Year to be about. I keep seeing posts and news stories that worry me. I toss and turn at night about the state of our county and our communities. I wonder about the increase in gun violence, hate speech, and intolerance in our country. I have to wonder if all these things are a reflection of the ongoing and frequent ideas of the “You” agenda.  We are bombarded with messages and the younger generation has been raised with the mantras “Take Care of You”, ….”Make Time for You”, … “Your Happiness Matters Most”,..”Heal Yourself”.  Not that I think overall that these are bad ideas. I just wonder if this is another expression of being focused on ourselves and not others. So much so that the larger picture of service, empathy, understanding, and forgiveness are lost.

When we stop as people looking at each other as neighbors and more like enemies, I become unsettled and wonder why it is happening. I often look back at the 1980’s AIDS epidemic and the years following 9/11 terrorist attacks and know that we can come together to combat the injustice that is experienced in the world. We have proven that we can work together for peace and healing, but somehow we are losing the battle to combat hate and intolerance in our own communities and those around the world. In this way, we are losing America’s Humanity.

So what does this all have to do with my New Year and 2020? I am going to move the focus of my life off of me and try to refocus it on others. I am going to make me a less important figure in my life and place others in the center of who I am. I going to make service, love, empathy, and forgiveness the mantras of my year. It is a shift that might need to be taken nationwide.

If for one moment we could have gotten just one of those gunmen to understand forgiveness or empathy in the moments before the shootings, they would have never happened. If for one moment they could have stopped filling their souls and brains with self-aggrandizing statements maybe they would have felt humility and reverence for the lives of others. Maybe if they were not focused on what the world had done to them and felt thankful for what they had, those lives would not have been so easily wasted.

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brothers fishing  Stone Wall Jackson Lake 2019

My goal is to become a better community member, a better neighbor, friend, wife, and mother. To learn to be less the center of my own universe and more about making others universes better. I want to have fewer things and give more. I want to do work that makes our struggling communities succeed and I want to share love, compassion, understanding as I move forward into 2020.

Let’s pray for a more compassionate year for the United States in 2020. img_20191121_155937893_hdr2020.

 

Categories: About me, Change, Life Changes, New Years Eve, New Years Resolution, Uncategorized, work | Tags: , , , , | 6 Comments

Saying Goodbye to 3 years of AmeriCorps Service.

Three years is a long time to volunteer to do anything. In 4 days I will finish my last term as an Appalachian Forest Heritage Area (AFHA) West Virginia,AmeriCorps. In those years I have learned the names of 120 other AmeriCorps serving the state of West Virginia. I have worked for 6 different supervisors at 4 different offices. I have painted 13 murals and finished 3 major projects,one involved removing 6,000 pounds of trash from a 1902 building and building one website for a nonprofit organization. In those years, I served over 5,175 hours,engaged and managed 250 different volunteers who also gave over 2000 hours of of their time to our community.I have traveled to 6 conferences on topics as varied as grant writing to creative place making and BAD buildings. Its been a whirl-wind of work, people and silliness but it is truly the most fun I have had my life. I am sad to say good bye but I am ready to fly towards a future of more service.

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 the Elkins community  during the Martin Luther King Day Celebrations 2017 

 

AmeriCorps has been eye opening in so many ways. Mostly about how much a small group of people can change the future. Those 120 different people worked on 120 different projects and worked on everything from preservation of historical locations to saving brook trout, planning city revitalization projects and helping tourists find a special event to make their trip more meaningful. Some work in the National Forest, some for small historical societies, others fought fires and some worked cleaning up after a 1000 year flood. AmeriCorps is as varied as the people who join, but we are all here with a servants heart.

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Work on Heritage Quilt Squares for down town Elkins.

It is that commitment to making the world a better place that make AmeriCorps members different. Knowing that you made a difference towards saving a endangered species that’s home range is only with in the mountains of West Virginia is powerful for the future of our planet. To save and protect the site of a Civil war battlefield for future generations is to change the course of our countries future. To help to house the poor is to change the course of a life for future generations. All of this is what AmeriCorps do, it is how we make a difference.

wild food cooking at Old Hemlock Foundation

Teaching at the Old Hemlock Foundation 2018

I have been lucky to make new and wonderful friends through my years of service that I would have never had the opportunity to meet any other way. AmeriCorps travel from all over the country to serve. I have served  with people who came from as far away as Alaska and as close as just 50 miles away. We grow as people because of our diversity and different cultural backgrounds. We are every color and every age,we are gay, straight, religious and not, we are from rich families and from poor ones, but still feel the call to serve.

Pancake Breakfast volunteers 2017

Serving breakfast with the Easter Bunny 2018

These three years have helped me explore who I am, what I find important and what I want to do for the rest of my life. It is not often that you are expected to work so hard and think so deeply about the world and yourself all at once.  I have come away a stronger person,who has an even deeper commitment to making this world a better place. I would have never been able to be the leader, change maker, and advocate that I am today without  AmeriCorps. It has changed the whole path of my life and I will never be the same again.

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 “General Store” mural painted for the Barbour County Development Authority 2018 

 

I have been fortunate to have my AmeriCorps service to lead to new  career choice. I have chosen to become a business owner and continue my work in community development. I  will spend the next three years working on the Golden Rule project that you may have seen me write about before. I will be part of a team of workers who will spend those years working on the rehabilitation of the building and creating several businesses in the retail portion of the building. My duties are wide and various. I am working on the liquidation of all the buildings assets currently and will be managing the  sales of over 1,000 items, that will fund redevelopment of the retail space.  Then I will work on business development and creation of a Artist Market for local artist to sell their West Virginia make products. What a wild ride this has been and what a great future I see ahead. I am so thankful that I made the choice to serve the West Virginia Community.

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My home away for home the Golden Rule 2018

Thanks to the AFHA staff and supervisors for the the support and encouragement they offered these last three years. They believe “We Get Things Done” and keep us believing that we can make a difference everyday that we serve. Without them some days I would have pulled my hair out,  I would have given up trying to work with government officials and  lost patience working on grants that take years to see results from. My chosen field of Community Development is sometimes like a slow moving train. We have all the horse power we need to get from here to there but their are days when you just cant get the fire going fast enough for anyone to see any difference in the scenery.  So a shout out to Phyllis, Logan, Alison,Kyle,Sarah, Karen, Cheryl, Dave and Dustin. Thank you all for making these last three years so wonderful. It has made a difference in my life and my future.

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Donating Documents to the Belington Library from the Golden Rule  2019.

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Helping to support the local Parish House Donation Center. 

 

Categories: About me, AmeriCorps, Appalachin Forrest Heritage Area, community service, Golden Rule, Life Changes, Old Hemlock Foundation, volunteering | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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