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For My Sons About a Grandmother, They Never Really Knew.

Today marks one year to the day that I lost my mother, Veda Maxine Lowrey, June 20th 2019. It has been a turbulent year not just because I faced a future without her, but because of all the changes that have happened in the world.  I can’t remember a year in my life that has been so full of worries and changes. I have never cried more in my life.

 

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Veda M Lowrey, Jolynn Lowrey Powers, and Cody A Powers. Summer of 1991

 

 

I wanted to take a moment to tell you about my mother, your Grandmother, and more about my childhood. My mother was born into a large farm family on the eastern side of the Colorado Rockies. In a small community on the edge of Boulder County, Co. called Hygiene in 1930. There were 6 living children and two that passed away before reaching adulthood. She was the youngest living child. They were not wealthy people but the family was close and loving. My mother attended school and graduated from Boulder High School in Boulder County Co. where she met my father. They first met at a school dance. He had moved to  Boulder with his older brother to find a better life from the small town of Dalhart, TX. They married in 1948 and had 4 children. I am the youngest of the four and the one that gave her the most gray in her hair. I am 15 years younger then my next sibling.

 

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Veda Lowrey and Jolynn Lowrey in front of Bill Lowrey’s  house in Broomfield Co

 

 

Your GrandMother was a stay at mother until the unexpected death of my father in 1973. I was 5 years old and nothing can prepare you for the death of your father as a child. But my mother stood true through the storm that rocked our family. My brothers and sister were older attending  High School and College when the even occurred and I am sure that they were more devastated then even I was at the time. The end result was that my mother, the heart and soul of my world, would have to leave her home to work to support me and my siblings. From somewhere down deep she was able to find the courage and support to move forward in her life. Your Grandmother did not drive when your Grandfather died. That all changed very quickly at the time. My Uncle Bob and Aunt Corky (Cordella her sister), supported her through the changes that would come. My uncle took my then 43- year old mother out on a dirt road, out past the Boulder Resivore, and taught her to drive. We had three cars at the time (one was an old Packard 4 door sedan, a Dodge van, and a Plymouth 4 door sedan) and she could not drive any of them; how frustrating that had to be. My Aunt helped her get her name on all the legal documents. Her name was not on our house or cars because she did not have an income… How times have changed. Today, it is expected that I’m on everything your father and I own, working of not!  She was able to get a job at the same plant my Dad and Uncle worked at on the outskirts of Boulder.

Veda M Lowrey age 84

Veda M Lowrey age 84 Rolla Missouri with grandson Christopher Powers

 

Rocky Flats (later Dow Chemical) was a nuclear bomb parts plant creating plutonium triggers for nuclear warheads during the years of the Cold War. My father was a welder at the plant and my Uncle Bob was an inspector. My mother’s first adult job was a cook in the plant’s cafeteria. She would go on to work in the foodservice industry for the remainder of her life. At one point owning her own cafe in the chemical engineering building at the University of Colorado.

 

Veda Lowrey with children Vernon, Bill and Jolynn with grandson Christopher june2017

Veda M Lowrey with sons William Lowrey, Vernon Lowrey daughter JoLynn Lowrey Powers and Grand Son Christopher Powers 2017

 

 

I spent many summers with her at the cafe stocking and cleaning. Spending other time roaming the campus alone. I remember her cooking meals and desserts at home so she could be home with me after school. She only worked from 6 am to 3 pm and headed home by 3:30 pm. I never remember missing dinner with her because of work. She made it a priority to work early mornings. She would often fall asleep in her beloved recliner at 4:30 after a long night and early morning at work. We would make 6 or 8 trays of brownies at least once a week, to sell to the professors on campus.

Sometimes I would help cook the main dishes for the next day’s special. I vividly remember making chicken enchiladas with her rolling the chicken and chilies into the very hot fried corn tortillas then watching her pour the red sauce over them and covering them with foil. The trays were loaded with 50 enchiladas that she would transport to the cafe’ the next day and heat in the oven.

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JoLynn Lowrey Powers eating whipped cream in moms kitchen 

 

She loved to travel to see her sister in Oregon, where we spent 4 or 5 summers. She loved to spend time near the ocean and reading in a camp chair on the campgrounds we stayed in. We had many fun times in the woods whether it was camping with my Aunt and Uncle, taking a picnic near a creek, or in a park. She loved to be outdoors but was not an outdoorswoman. (I totally feel the same way) We often took car trips to mountain towns like Ward, Central City, and Black Hawk before they were gambling towns. She loved to shop at the stores in Estas Park and we rode the train at George Town. You both now have ridden the train.

My time with my mom as a kid was mostly peaceful and quiet. She loved to read and listen to music. She did not seem to mind cooking at home and would often host the whole family to our home for holiday dinners. I remember having 10 and 12 people at a table for birthdays for her and her sisters.

 

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A very happy Veda Lowrey 2017

 

Your Grandmother loved flowers and our yard always had something blooming. She had the most wonderful roses that bloomed all summer. Her favorite was a giant wild yellow rose bush that my father dug up along a road somewhere. The bush grew to well over 6 feet tall and 10 feet wide and was covered in thousands of thorns. She had to a velvety red rose that smelled so sweet. Mom would battle them every year pruning them into shape and enjoying the flowers on our dining table.  She loved to take care of her yard and trees. It was something she got pride from, being alone in a house, in a good part of town, and taking care of it the best she could. I was proud of it too.

 

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Wild Yellow roses. 

 

She loved her Broncos and along with my brothers was a life long fan. I remember the noise that she would make even alone in the living room stopping her feet, whooping, and hollering during the games. She rarely would cuss, but when one of the Broncos receivers missed a pass, it was not past her to say “SHIT” or “DAM” if the ball was dropped.

 

My brother Bill, once told me that my mother was a shy person, reserved and quiet, I had no idea. Because at home she was chatty and loved to talk to her sisters either by phone or in person. She had a few friends that she would see regularly and attend events at school like all parents. She was so open at home I would have never told a friend that she was shy.

 

As I grew up, Mom and I loved and hated each other equally. I was a terrible teenager and she was tired of raising kids. I often felt alone even with her in my life. She could not fill the loss that my father left in me and those feelings were compounded as my brother and sister married and moved away. I was an angry and lonely young woman. We fought and she was harsh and I was a “runner” and spent many years running away from home, staying with friends, or getting kicked out. She could be critical and judgmental and I was hurt often. It took effort for me and her to be close but we tried to find a middle ground. As you age you try to make friends with your parents and I did.

 

We would never see the world the same way but we could share in reading books, loving flowers, listening to all kinds of music and food! We always had food!

Your Grandmother once told me why she never remarried. She said,”It was because she never wanted to be told what to do ever again. She had one boss and that was enough for her.” I often think about her life and see that she never really needed a man. She was content with herself and her family. She was not worried about what other people thought or did. She had what made her happy and that was family and a big dinner table.

 

I often wonder what she would think if she could see us now? Would she laugh that I work in construction surrounded by men, working in dirty clothes, and being my own boss? I think she would!!  I was always playing in the dirt with the boys and she called me bossy more than once. I don’t think she would understand my need for social life and my passion for community development. But, she would support me in taking on the problems in my community. She raised us kids to be strongly opinionated people just like her. To be true to what we thought was right and to work hard to succeed in finding peace in solitude and a loving family.

Veda Maxine Lowrey age 21

Veda Maxine Lowrey age 21

I miss her and often, wishing I could talk to her about the last book I read or how the kids are doing in school. I wish she could have been proud of you boys like I am and known that her love continues to grow in our family like that wild yellow rose bush that she loved.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Categories: About me, ageing, Boulder Colorado, childhood memories, Family, family memories, grandmother, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , | 5 Comments

2020 is Giving Us a Hell of a Ride

I guess everyone feels like these last few months have been like riding in the back of your Dad’s pickup. No seatbelts, no cab, just a bouncy ride in the open air with nothing to restrict or restrain you. Depending on the speed of the ride, it can be a joyful experience or a terrifying one.  It can be smooth and the wind just whips your hair into the corners of your mouth or it can be steep and bumpy where you hold on for dear life trying to keep yourself from bouncing out of the truck altogether. The resounding memory of my rides in those old truck beds is how cold and hard they are. Just like those hard steel  pickup beds, life is just hard right now!

 

During the Pandemic I finished my second trip through 5th grade, I hope all of you are impressed that Christopher and I received straight A’s. It was a team effort and it was hard.

School for Christopher ended the 25th of May, 2020 and I was still working at least 35 hours a week during the shutdown. I worked remotely for one portion of my contract and on a construction site doing punch-out work and painting at a second site the other part of the time. I was also helping Christopher with his remote learning and trying with all my heart to keep him from getting behind on his reading and math. Some days were good and others were terrible. I brought him to tears once and the pandemic brought me to tears a couple of times.

 

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One of 13 rooms with a wall of conduit that I painted before the office is reopened.

 

I also had my hardworking husband home for two solid weeks, working from home and then every evening for the last two months. Let us just say that is was fun and funny at times.

So, the new normal became, feed three people, three meals a day, every day possible. Go to the construction site and paint for two days, then work from home for two days, building a website. along with my projects, I helped Christopher do 5 days of homework over about 4 days. Then try to write my blog and paint on my downtime with whatever that was left.  Friday was my shop with my mask on, use hand sanitizer at the grocery store day, making it the most stressful day of the week. Saturday and Sundays were the days we worked on the remodeling project we started while we were home instead of out in the world  …… Yea,… I’m enjoying all this time off and am feeling bored… aaaaa…”NO!”. We made daily trips to Lowe’s. Some days I would go to bed so tired that at 8 am the next morning I was still tired and I didn’t feel like getting up and doing it again.

 

We actually finished about 85% of that remodeling project in three weeks. We are still working on it, just like we are still social distancing and wearing our masks in the store. We have new work tables to install this weekend.

 

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Tom sanding the hardwood floors of what was the formal living room and turning it into a workspace for both of us. 

 

I am glad school is over and Christopher is allowed to just play in the neighborhood with his friends again. It is so important that they are not totally isolated. This way he has a chance to have some good times during this hard time of staying at home. The kids play the same games we played as kids which makes me smile. They run and scream through the yards playing games of hide and seek after dark and kickball. We all enjoyed a bonfire this weekend from a tree that fell in our yard earlier in the spring.

As I was sitting looking into the flames,(Flames that I know are burning all over America because of the untimely death of George Floyd.) I remembered that life will get back to some kind of normal eventually. We just have to take the time to heal. We need to heal our bodies from the pandemic and our minds from the violence that has taken over our country. We need to take time to heal our countries broken spirit. Today I realize, WE ARE A COUNTRY WITH A BROKEN DREAM, THAT ALL MEN ARE NOT CREATED EQUAL IN AMERICA. It is time to set the broken bones of our country no matter how painful so we can grow and heal and become strong again.

  

Now  West Virginia prepares for the 1.5 to 2.o million Cicadas hatching out over the next few weeks. It makes us wonder if 2020 was the year that everything was supposed to fall apart. Maybe this is our chance to change to grow as people. We can do better to make things better for the little kid bouncing around in the back of that old pick up truck.

Categories: childhood memories, Covid-19, family memories, fires, Graduation, Truck, Uncategorized, work | Tags: , , , , , | 4 Comments

Hex Signs and Barn Quilt Making Guide

The history of the Barn Quilt or Barn Paintings in Appalachia can be traced back over 220 hundred years. If we consider Hex Sign painting, Under Ground Rail Road Quilts  and Barn Quilts all as part of the larger history of using large symbolistic language in folk art.

So if this is true then I have unknowingly blessed communities with my Barn Quilt Murals for years. Meaning, that I am a modern folk artist who uses my  Barn Quilt or Quilt Block murals to educated, bless, and protect families, animals and whole cities.

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Traditional star Hex Sign for good luck on  Lancaster Pa. barn.

Last year I was lucky enough to attend a lecture in Elkins, W.V. about Applachin Folklore in West Virginia. The author of the book “Signs, Cures &Witchery” Gerald C. Milnes included in his book information about the creation of Hex Signs and Barn Paintings as part of the spiritual folk language of the Germanic settlers of our mountain region. It was suggested that Barn Paintings were used as symbols that were thought to bless or protect the barn or farm from witches. Witches were not the mythic creatures of our modern-day imagination but working spiritual powers that could devastate a farm or the community. Witch curses were thought to cause wide ranging problems from fires to cows that would not produce milk. So in this way,  Hex Signs, Barn Quilts, or just large barn paintings were used to ward off evil and protect a family’s source of income.

Milnes states in his book,”Some of the first recorded Hex Signs motifs in West Virginia were the double eagle, star, moon, lilies, compass, hearts, and the tree of life”. With women working with their hands inside the home many of the patterns also were incorporated into utilitarian objects they used every day. Pottery, quilts, wall hangings were also covered with these images of blessings and protection. It is not surprising to think that if you wanted to protect and bless your children a mother would create quilts with these motifs.

As I researched more about the link between the motifs sewn into Southern and Appalachian quilts, the more I understood about the Quaker, Dunkard and the Pennsylvania Dutch communities in and North of West Virginia. With large bodies of evidence, It is amazing to see that the symbolic motifs of ( Hex Signs and folk art) quilts were again used as a device for communication and blessings during the  Civil War ( 1861 -1865). If a West Virginia family was sympathetic with the Union and freedom from slavery they could use quilts hung on porches, fences, and clotheslines as ways to lead escaping slaves across borders to freedom. Many Quaker and Dunkard families made Under Ground Rail Road Quilts helping direct slaves to homes or locations that were safe for them during their escape to the North.  Often the individual blocks on the quilt would tell a story. Often a star pattern would let an escaping slave know to keep traveling North, a boat or train track next on the quilt would be read to mean that a water crossing or train crossing was coming up next on the route. A house or cabin image could mean a safe place to stop. The number of symbolic patterns was used widely and I have included some that we still see today.

Quilt Code

The use of Barn Hex signs then fell out of favor in my region. The formalizing of the local Christian Church system slowly changed worship in the rural mountains. As more people depended on the formal church for their spiritual beliefs and blessings. You see less and less folk art in homes and barns. Although the quilt remained a warm and practical way to decorate and reuse materials. The patterns that were used were often the same or like those from the first homesteaders. These important images passed from generation to generation.

From those pattens came some of the first Barn Quilt Murals. The family that sparked the reintrodution of painting quilt blocks on barns is from Ohio.

“The first official quilt trail was begun in 2001 in Adams County, Ohio. Donna Sue Groves wanted to honor her mother, Maxine, a noted quilter, with a painted quilt square on the family’s barn in Manchester, Ohio”. found on Wikipedia 

From their first Barn Quilt trail, regional trails have sprung up all over the eastern United States. Some are based on traditional patterns and others have included more contemporary images and designs.

I am now in the process of painting my 17th Quilt Block Mural. The reason I do not call them Barn Quilts is they are rarely located on a barn. My Quilt Block Murals hang in more urban areas, not farms. Most have come from the traditional images on Appalanchin quilts often the same as the Underground Rail Road Quilts. They are also often paid for as part of downtown revitalization and are seen as a reintroduction of our culture back into the modern cityscape in the towns of West Virginia.  In this way, my Quilt Block Murals are reintroducing the folk art  back into a culture that had generally forgotten about the traditions of Hex Signs, the Under Ground Rail Road Quilts and barn painting in general.

Barn Quilt and Quilt Block Murals in urban locations and the creation of the trails around them, have unknowingly brought back exactly the things that Hex Signs were once used for over 200 years ago. The tourist dollars that are spent traveling the trails, the community that has been built around them with families creating them, and the beauty of art back in the community are all blessings to the rural towns that have them. I like to think that my creations are a larger blessing to my community where they hang.

So I continue to paint them.  Today I am working on one for my very own home after years of painting them for others. It is a much more contemporary pattern then my normal murals. It is my way of blessing my family and my home. I hope that I can continue to be able to be a Hex Sign Painter/ Barn Quilt Muralist/ Quilt Block painter for many more years to come. As I paint the images I hope that they will continue bring beauty, hope, joy and blessings those who see them.

If you are interested I have attached a link to a helpful website that I used when I was first starting out making the Barn Quilt murals. I have also included a list of alternative supplies that I am now using and a tip on pattern making. So please enjoy making your own Barn Quilts or Quilt Block Murals.

This is an excellent site for the process of making and painting your own murals.

The Helderberg Quilt Barn Trail website

The only addition I would like to make to these instructions is you do not have to use wood for the Barn Quilts unless you want to. I have now begun to use a PVC siding product for my murals. The main reason being the weight of the sign grade MDO plywood. MDO plywood is dense particleboard made with glue and is very heavy at the 8’x 8′ size around 250 pounds, even the smaller 4’X4′ is around 125 lbs. This makes painting and moving the boards very difficult. So I tried and have found success with a thin 1/4 inch PVC siding product and a plastic bonding primer framed with PVC trim. PVC can be much more expensive if you are unable to find the MDO Plywood. In my case almost twice the cost, but it was so much nicer being able to move the murals by myself and so much easier to install. If you chose to use PVC you must use a bonding primer. It will adhere to the plastic and allow a good bond to the paint. The cost is the same as a regular primer.

Also when doing a design for your murals think about location as part of the planning. Size Matters! If you have a mural that hangs 15 feet from the ground don’t plan much detail in the mural. The details of small patterns  get lost and people driving by will have no idea what the image is supposed to be. In reverse it is possible to get great detail in smaller indoor patterns. My current project is in my home on a half door measuring only 28×28 inches. The pattern I have chosen is a complex over and under optical illusion of stripes. I looks good placed where it is viewed close up.

Here is the design guide image and the final image panted on the door to my art studio in Buckhannon, WV. As I paint the pattern changed a few things. As you can see I used the traditional colors of West Virginia with the Navy Blue and Gold with a little contrast with white and blue gray. It is a reflection of the complexity of our state and our people.

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Basic pattern for my home “over-under square” Pattern

 

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Finished Barn Quilt  or Quilt Block in our home. I call it “Over and Under Squares”  JoLynn Powers of Buckhannon WV.The photo doesn’t show the color navey blue very well but you get the idea. 

Just as informal project cost for making a small panel similar to this one.  The painting is 28X28the panel is 36×42.

1 half a sheet of 1/2 plywood                                                                        $16.00 dollars

2  1x2x8 foot boards for front and back trim  these were not furring strips but milled boards                                                                                                               $ 8.00 dollars

a box of wood screws  2 1/4 inches                                                               $ 8.00

1 gallon white interior latex paint used as primer and paint (2) Coats   $18.00 dollars

3 quarts interior latex paint, 1 navy, 1bright yellow 1 blue gray   3×23   $69.00

( I mixed the navy with white to get light blue)

1 roll frogg tape  2inch wide                                                                                $9.00

 

Total just for supplies if you did not have this on hand.  about 128.00 dollars plus paper and pens and time, lots of time~ So now you will have left over paint and maybe some scrap wood that could be used to make smaller ones for free!!

 

 

 

 

Categories: Appalachian Mountains, Barns, Civil War, DIY projects, Folk Art, Hex Signs, home remodeling, murals, Painting, Quilt Trails, quilts, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Save Money Up-Cycle Chairs with Found Fabric.

Tom and I have a thing for old chairs. I’m not sure, every couple finds themselves at furniture stores, yard sales and antique shops discussing how beautiful a chair is, but we do.

So often times I find old chairs that need a little love and update them. Not that we need another chair, but I just can’t walk away from them.  I love well-made chairs or rocking chairs. The first one in the photos below was set out for the trash. It was a small desk chair that was in perfect shape except for needing paint and an updated seat. The other is an accent chair that is made with a spring seat. The chair had been recovered once in the 1980s (my best guess) by the fabric style. A cat had done real damage to the fabric and it was stained and dirty. The arms and legs were in perfect shape and the springs were good.

Over in the last few years, I have learned some tricks that helped me save a ton of money doing recovering the chair myself. I really enjoy making these chairs look updated and ready to use again.

The largest amount of money was saved by finding the fabric used. Yea, you can find lots of nice large pieces of fabric at thrift stores or yard sales that were once used for curtains or bedspreads. The fabric I used on these two chairs was a twin bed duvet cover. I was able to use just the front panel of fabric and saved the back for another project. I purchased the Duvet at the local Goodwill for 4 dollars including tax. I think we ended up with 4 1/2 yards of fabric on each the front and back so a total of 9 yards of fabric for 4 dollars. Over a hundred dollar savings compared to regular new fabric prices.

SUPPLIES NEEDED TO RECOVER A LIVING ROOM CHAIR or SEAT COVER :

Staple Gun and a large pack of staples

Low loft quilt batting

Spray glue

Bottle of clear fabric glue

4 Yards of fabric or more

A flat tip screwdriver usually

50 or more furniture decorative tacks

Foam for a cushion of desk chair

 

Before pulling the chair apart I took the fabric and fitted it to the chair so I could see the pattern. I then measured the back and made sure I would have enough fabric to also cover the back.

 

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test fitting old fabric to the chair.

 

I only removed the back panel of the chair and saved the gimp cord around the panel.  I wanted to make it look like I had recorded the chair. I then covered the front sides and back with quilt batting using a spray-on glue from Elmers.  I sprayed the glue onto the fabric waited 5 minutes until tacky and then unrolled the batting on to the seat and back trimming anything that got too thick and bunched. I then sprayed the back panel and did the same thing trimming inside the gimp cord. This very thin layer of batting smooths the finish of the material if there are lose spots. It also covers any dark material or patterns. So when I cover the chair the blue dots will not show through.

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I also sprayed the glue on the back panel and added the batting. Once everything is dry it is time to stretch the material over the seat of the chair. Starting at the front lip of the seat frame I line the pattern up how I want it and staple the material to the wood frame Pulling the new material up and over the seat. Stopping to staple the material to the back frame after tucking it into the space between the seat and back. Then slowly I mark where the leg goes with an ink pen.  A small slit at the front leg location in the material. measuring how high the armrest comes up from the bottom of the frame to the place it comes out. Then  I make a slit in the material just as long as the base of the armrest. Then slowly I pull the fabric around the armrest and down into the fold around the base of the armrest until it sits nicely and hides any loose edges. Then I staple the fabric onto the frame doing the same on each side.  I go from one side to the other pulling the fabric so that it is stretched tight over the seat.  I fold the extra material back at the corners and tuck under and staple to the frame. Then  I do the same for the back of the chair but leaving some extra fabric in the large fold between seat and back for adjustment when someone sits. I staple the material on the sides and finally arrive at the top part of the wooden frame with no loose material.

Then I spray the back panel covering the gimp with glue also. I place the fabric centered over the panel with 2 inches of extra material around the edge. I smooth the fabric over the glue and let it rest on the kitchen table for about 10 minutes. Then flip the panel over I spray glue on the back of the gimp and some on the back of the old fabric. At each corner, I split the material about 1 inch and then fold the fabric together to make a smooth corner and add a touch of fabric glue ( the thicker clear glue is a squeeze tube) to hold in place. I let dry overnight.

At this point the all the glue is dry and the seat, sides, and seatback are covered with the new fabric. The back panel is ready to be put back in place with decorative tacks.

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The back panel installed with decorative tacks below the gimp cord

I start with the top center tack while the chair is laying forward on its arms. I then smooth out the top and tack the corners pulling them tight just before I set the tack. I work my way down to the bottom and pull those corners down and tight and set those tacks next. I then just follow the gimp cord and try to place my tacks as close to the gimp cord as possible and finish the back panel.

To finish up the chair I go around the small cuts I made to the front and back of each armrest and glue anything that needs tucked in or smoothed out from my cutting.

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The chair looks pretty good! I am super happy that I did not take apart the chair or remove any wooden pieces. It is not perfect and I do have a small tear around one of the arm bases but the glue keeps it looking pretty nice.

The other chair we picked up out of the trash is now a desk chair for my son.

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All I did for this little chair was to remove the seat, sanded and spray painted the body a flat black. I added a new foam cushion to the seat that I attached with spray glue. I cut the foam just a little bit smaller than the wood seat.  I placed the new foam covered seat on the fabric and made sure the fabric reached the wooden back without pulling the fabric tight.  I made sure to have about an inch or two of extra fabric to staple to the wood back. Then I stretch the material lightly over the seat, flip it over and staple the fabric to the back.  I go back and forth with the staples to make sure the stretch is even. If you pull too hard the foam will dimple down and you will have to go back and pull out that staple and reset it. I had to reset two staples from pulling everything to tight but was happy with the results. Then I screw the seat back into the chair. You may have to trim fabric from the cushioned seat to get it out of the way of the screws and now you have two chairs that are looking great again.

My total cost for these to chairs to be recovered and painted:

free desk chair                                            0.00

armchair                                                    18.00

foam for cushion                                       12.00

low loft quilt batting                                   6.00

Fabric                                                             4.00

decorative furniture tacks                         5.00

spray paint                                                    4.00

small spray glue                                           4.00

small bottle fabric glue                               3.00

sanding block                                                4.00

Total price for chairs and recovering       $60.00

This could be less if you have any of these supplies on hand. I only bought the chair, fabric, tacks, low loft quilt batting and fabric glue. I had all the other supplies on hand from other projects.

In comparison, total savings are around 260 dollars.

This accent chair  was 225.00

 

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and this desk chair is 95.00

school house chair

 

Categories: antique, antiques, chairs, DIY projects, furniture, save money, Thrift store finds, Trash to treasure, Uncategorized, up-cycling, upholstery | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

WV The Last Man Standing during Coronavirus Outbreak

Many of us West Virginia Mountaineers shared in a joke or two this last week about why our state was the last to have the Coronavirus reported in our state. But many of us wonder about the underlying truth about why we are just now seeing reported cases. I suspect that we are behind in testing and the lack of a state lab that could process the test is also a factor. I think this should be a wake-up call to many of our government officials. It may sound great to be the last one to identify cases of the Coronavirus but is that actually an indicator of how poorly prepared our state is for future crises.

I don’t want to overlook the fact that my state has advantages for fighting an epidemic. Being rural and with less population-dense communities makes transmission harder. Giving us a huge advantage over large cities like New York City or Washington D.C. Generally we do not live or work in large crowded buildings where people come into close contact with one another. A lot of our labor force works outside and will have fewer exposer situations. We have less gathering places like large theaters, event arenas, or huge shopping malls. We also have less public transportation, restaurants, and smaller schools. We also may spend more time at home than the average American. Overall we have a lot of advantages, so if we also keep cleaning and sanitizing our rate of exposure and contacting the virus could be lower.  But are we prepared for an event like this?

My overall concern is not with just Corona but with a system that was behind in all areas of testing. Last week even our Senator Joe Manchin complained about the lack of available tests. At one point there were only 500 tests in the state… for a population of 1.8 million residents.

The following text is quoted from https://www.wvpublic.org/post/coronavirus-testing-limited-wva-its-population-high-risk-thats-why-we-should-distance

It’s not just testing supplies that are the problem – it’s that the labs don’t have the technology necessary to test. West Virginia’s state lab wasn’t set up until Saturday, March 7th (tests were sent instead to the CDC in Atlanta) and commercial labs didn’t get going until this week. Some hospitals are also hoping to be able to run their own tests soon but for now are having to send them off to external agencies.

So if we are also a state of the elderly, the poor and the sick (ranking number 44 in Nation Health Rankings) what will a poorly reported and tested community experience in the near future?

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Our Communities are generally at high risk and our state is poorly prepared for the situation. Is it likely that we will be hit hard by the Coronavirus? I think it would be unwise to think we were ready for what is about to come to the Mountain State. We have just watched two hospitals close in the last 6 months, hospitals that could be preparing for the future pandemic that we are facing. We have a need for skilled nurses and our rural hospitals are small and under-equipped for a large outbreak. Let us hope that being last will be an advantage for preparation and treatments. Let us hope that our natural lifestyle choices will help to slow the wave just by our love of solitude.

In closing, West Virginia needs a better-prepared system moving forward. We have not even begun to see the darkest days of this outbreak and already we are failing our people. These mistakes are a very hard lesson to learn so late.

Ultimately, I have faith that God hears the Mountaineer on the ridgetop when he calls out to him. I have faith that our mountains and valleys protect us and that we will survive just like all the Mountaineers before us. I have faith that this too will pass.

man in hoodie jacket standing by the cliff

Photo by Simon Migaj on Pexels.com

Categories: About me, Coronavirus, Faith, family health, health, old age, Uncategorized, West Virginia | Tags: , , , , , | 8 Comments

The MLK Public Art Project, Charleston, W.V.

I love to paint, I love murals and I love Dr. Martin Luther King and his message of equality. So, when I found the Facebook post about an open to the public mural painting in our Capital City of Charleston, I knew Christopher and I were going to be there to paint too.

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Painting of Dr. Marting Luther King Jr. 

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Jeff Peirson Scaling the painting to size on the wall. Photo from The Office of Public Art Charleston WV Facebook page. 

This event was so wonderful as an Artist, a Mother, and West Virginian. I am so proud that the work of 60 volunteers will grace the skyline of Charleston for the next couple of decades and will remind people of the ongoing work we have to do in this world to fight for Beauty, Fairness, Love, and Equality.

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Christopher and I work on a section of Martin Luther King’s eye and nose. 

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Some of the volunteers that came to help with the mural and the man who I got paint all over. 

The mural was painted by volunteers in about 4 or 5 hours at the Martin Luther King  Jr. Community Center in downtown Charleston. The image will represent our diversity. The image uses diverse colors, is painted by diverse age groups, colors, shapes, and sexes of people from our state. It will rest on the roof of the community center and display the faces of 1000 diverse individuals in the background.  Each face is a self-portrait of one volunteer that helped to make it come to life.

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Jeff Peirson Director of The Office for Public Art explains how the project will be constructed. 

Under the direction of Jeff Peirson the director of  The Office for Public Art in Charleston, West Virginia. A painting of Dr. King has been blown up and traced onto large sheets of plastic canvas for volunteers to paint on. Using special paint the volunteers filled in numbers sections of the mural, much like a paint by number, but on a huge scale.  Christopher and I painted light purple and some orange over the course of the afternoon. It was amazing to paint an eyeball that was the size of a basketball and a nose that was almost as big as Christopher is tall.

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pieces of the mural displayed together to dry and adding the final coats of paint. From The Office of Public Art Charleston, WV Facebook page. 

 

Then when the sections were left to dry we were encouraged to paint a self-portrait in monochrome shades of purple. Each volunteer tried to paint what they thought they looked like. Christopher was quite unhappy with my drawing and said it looked nothing like me. He explained later that my hair was not right in the drawing or painting.  I did have my hair up and the only hair I had was waving wildly aroung my face, So it only showed part of my hair.

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My pencil self-portrait with hair up. Christopher says it needs more hair.   

Then that evening the large pieces were assembled and the overall look started to come together. There will be a blending of the colors with more paint next. Then about 800 school children will make a self-portrait on the canvas like material to create the background before the final installation is put up in late Aug. The mural should last about 15 years with no need for repairs.

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Christopher with his new friend Mayor of Charleston Amy Shuler Goodwin. 

While Christopher and I  painted we had the pleasure of working on the mural with the Mayor of Charleston, Amy Shuler Goodwin, who spent quite a while talking with Christopher about our state and why we drove 2 hours just to be part of the event. She told me she was so happy to have us come and help make our capital city a more beautiful place.

I loved meeting the people from the community and the Mayor, some were families, some were single men and women, and some were children but most lived nearby.  I even accidentally painted a man’s hand as we crisscrossed the canvas with our brushes and we laughed for several minutes. Christopher made instant friends and played and visited with about 6 other kids his age. It is my hope that sharing these kinds of experiences with him will encourage him to want to be part of a creative community when he grows up.

As the painting time ended we headed back to my car for a picknick near the MLK Jr. Community Center. We talked about how much fun we had and how important it is to share time with new people and how important Dr. King was to all Americans. This day was what Dr. King was teach us all those years ago. A day where all colors and ages come together to share in the joy of being American and creating a better place for us all.

On Aug 21st I am looking forward to the drive down I-64 to finally see our hard work come to life from way above the community center. It was a day I will not forget anytime soon and I hope Christopher has wonderful memories of our painting Dr. King together.

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Categories: Charleston West Virginia, Community Art, community service, Creative Place Making, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., family fun, family memories, Martin Luther King Jr., murals, Painting, The Office of Public Art, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

The Gravedigger and Big Pharmaceuticals

 

I met a gravedigger today but didn’t get his name. We met along the side of the road where he had just finished toping a grave with January clods of mud. We talked about the newly departed, at 31 years of age this man was too young for the darkness of the grave. He informed me that the 1885 cemetery was full and bursting at the seams. “Drugs,” the Gravedigger said, “We can’t fill the seats in the church anymore but we fill the cemetery to overflowing.”

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Mt Olive Church Cemetery Philippi, WV

As I walked along the road past the tiny white church and cemetery, down the curving hill to town, I found more signs of the true plague of Appalachia. The results of a generation who knew nothing of the risks, destruction, and power that a Poppy flower could have.

Along the graveled berm of the road near a hospital, I found the waded remains of a blue latex glove and the unsealed foil wrapper of prescription medication. Suboxone printed clearly in bright blue letters on the label of the wrapper. I knew the name and its use; I had heard it many times on the local news. Even members of my own family have sat at the dining table discussing if this was the answer.

Conversations about heroin, death and opioid addiction are an everyday thing. The statistics flood the television and the internet. We are in a state of addiction and all the struggles that come with it. I take photos of the hospital, the glove and the wrapper and walk back to my car.

 

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Wrapper from the medication Suboxone.

The Gravedigger has finished his job and sits in the cab of his blue pickup as I walk up to his window. I tell him about the trash that I found and he nods his broad heavy head. “No needles this time?” He asks. “No…. not this time”, I say looking at the gravel-covered ground. I think about the needles I have found on the street. I never need to find more. I think about the young man I watched shoot up and about the families I know who have lost parents to the Gravediggers shovel. I finally look back up at the Gravedigger and say “Well, maybe this one will get clean.” The Gravedigger and I both know what I said is a lie. It is false hope about the future of this town.

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Mt Olive Church circ. 1885 Philippi, WV 2020.

He looks up at the little white church through the windshield of the truck and says to me, “It was the faith in God that got our ancestors here, it was faith the kept them in these hills and it is faith that will get them through this, there is no other hope.” I nod my head and say goodbye.

Driving down the hill away from the Church I pass the little hospital. A beautiful new and clean facility where every day they fight for our lives. Where every day they fight this plague with millions less than the Pharmaceutical companies that planted this rotting plague in our mountains.

By the end of the day, I hear on the news that the CEO of a large Pharmaceutical Company gets sentenced to 5 1/2 years in prison for bribery of doctors to prescribe a killer Opioid. 5 years… 5 years, is what the courts thought fit to sentence a man who has not only destroyed one life but also hundreds of thousands of lives. Where is the justice for the fatherless children I know?

He and men like him have drained every county in Appalachia of funds because each dose of Narcan is $150 dollars and each county has to pay for the medication to save hundreds of lives. He has drained my state of families who can raise their own children. We are now the #1 state in the country with grandparents raising their grandchildren. He has brought more crime to small towns as addicts steal to fuel their addiction. He and his company are draining the churches and filling the cemeteries of Appalachia with the young men and women who were supposed to be our leaders. Too many of them ended up meeting the Gravedigger I met today.

There are no easy answers and no easy solutions for the people who live in one of the highest Opioid addicted states. It is one of the problems that each of us who chooses to live here thinks about and wants to change. It is something that I worry about when I think about my 11-year-old and how will we handle his future. It is something my company talks about when they can’t hire a clean and sober employee. It is what the preachers in all the churches preach against and it is what is killing not only the young but the very state I live in. Today was just another day in Appalachia.

 

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A filtered photo of the Mt Olive Church in Philippi WV 2020.

 

Categories: Appalachian Mountains, Cemetaries, drug addicition, family memories, grave digger, Mt Olive Church and Cemetry Barbour County WV, Opiod use, state wide struggle, Uncategorized, West Virginia | Tags: , , , , , , | 7 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

The Trail of Icicles at Audra State Park

 

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Christopher eating an icicle from the overhanging rocks at the Alum Cave Trail at Audra State Park 2019.

Early snows came to West Virginia this year. But this week at Audra State Park we found the perfect day to go hiking on a warm sunny 49-degree day. What we found was magical and my photos do not do justice to the beauty of the thousands of Icicles that form along the Alum Cave Trail in the wintertime.

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icicles forming over the boardwalk at Audra State Park Winter 2019.  

 

I had seen a photo once of the park in wintertime and had always wanted to do a hike along the river after a light snow. With Christopher off from school for the holiday, we headed out without any expectations of what we would find. We waited until about noon to start our hike in one of the state’s smallest parks. Audra State Park borders two counties(Barbour and Upshur) and includes several miles of the Middle Fork River. The park has several picknick sites, two pavilions and offers 67 campsites for guests to enjoy. There are just a few trails that cover the 355 acres of the park. The most popular and most photographed is the boardwalk that passes along the river bank and under a very large and long rock overhang along the Alum Cave Trail. The trip from the parking area to the trailhead and around the small loop is maybe 2.0 miles and is easy except for the very steep staircase that is attached to the boardwalk. There is a larger loop trail that takes you along the river bank for a nice walk of 3.2 miles of easy hiking. Both trails intersect at the boardwalk and return you to the picknick area.

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the very steep staircase to the boardwalk at Audra State Park. 

Christopher and I had not explored much of Audra State Park in the past and the weather was perfect for wandering and taking photos. We hoped to see maybe just a few icicles at the cave that day but were astonished at the amount of ice we came across. We tried the typical route for the hike following the signage at the first fork, we took the lower trail to the boardwalk. As we reached the head of the boardwalk we were met with a huge ice slick that was 15 feet wide and 20 or 25 feet tall. Water was coming over the top of the mountain where the sun was shining and rolling over to the shaded side. This created several layers of thick ice. It was like a small frozen waterfall except across the trail and down to the river. No Crossing Here! We stopped and enjoyed the water and river below for a few minutes, knowing we would have to go around to see the boardwalk.

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Christopher looking at the ice covering the Alum Cave Trail at Audra State Park.

We backtracked and took the upper fork of the trail to the other end of the boardwalk. We often watched the Middle Fork River rumble by and enjoyed the quiet solitude of an empty park. Finally arriving at the top of the very steep staircase at the boardwalk. I was so relieved to see the stairs were not covered in ice. As we descended the steps the ice began to appear….. everywhere. The ice had somehow not gotten on the staircase but flowed all around it. The sidewalls were covered, some of the boardwalk and handrails were covered, the rock faces were covered, the trees and bushes below were covered. Icicles hung from the roof of the cave and froze to the ground all around us. Water gushed from a spring in the back of the cave and water splashed and froze everything but us.

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Middle Fork River at Audra State Park. 

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Ice covers the landing and ramp to the cave portion of the Alum Cave Trail. 

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looking back up the boardwalk ramp to the landing. We had to slide down this portion of the boardwalk at Audra State Park. 

 

Christopher was so amazed at the ice formations that all I can remember him saying the entire time was, “This is AWESOME!…. this is so awesome… can we come back again, Please?” At 11 years old shimmying across the ice-covered boardwalk was fun and exciting, at 51 it was tricky. The handrails along the boardwalk were much-needed support for me to cross the 12-foot sheet of ice going downhill into the cave/rock overhang. It was breathtaking to see the sunshine gleaming through the ice. I loved watching the dripping water drop 20 feet above me. It was one of those moments where you find beauty in nature beyond your imagination.  I just could not capture it adequately with my camera, I am not skilled enough to take backlit photos efficiently. We walked to the spot where the ice flow had blocked our passage and laughed. Then slowly enjoying every minute turned and walked back across the boardwalk.  The return up the ramp to the landing was also one of those moments where you just wonder what you have gotten yourself into. Christopher headed up the ramp first. I figured if he came sliding back down the ramp to me I could stop him, maybe? He made it with no problem. The ice was ruff and dry at this point of the day. So I took a deep breath and started to walk with both hands on the handrail up the ice-covered ramp. Slowly and carefully I walked right up the ramp without a hitch and stepped into the sun on the landing and about slipped. My heart stopped for a minute I am sure. Then we climbed back up that steep staircase to the gravel at the top. I stopped and looked back down at everything we had seen and felt like I was given a gift.

We then headed to the other end of the park and spent some time on the beach section of the river and walked on the frozen sand. Which sounded like a good idea at the time but got very scary very fast. The water makes the sand mushy close to the edge. I didn’t realize this for some reason and just about ended up in the ice-cold river as the sand gave way under the thin frozen crust. My feet sank about a foot before I dragged them free and away from the river’s edge.

Christopher and I headed home about three hours later and stopped for a drink. We talked about when we wanted to go back and made plans to see the rhododendrons in bloom in May. Overall the hike is very easy, the scenery is beautiful and the water is clear. I am not sure I would have enjoyed this as much if we had been surrounded by a lot of people. The trail is very narrow and not level, not graveled or maintained very well. You hike across what seems like a creek bed for several hundred yards on rolled stones so you need some room to move on and off the trail. Otherwise, for a relaxing afternoon in late Dec. I could not think of a better place to spend the day.

 

Categories: Audra State Park, Barbour County, Camping, family fun, family memories, hiking, ice, photo review, State Park activities, Uncategorized, Upshur County West Virginia, West Virginia | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

The Polar Express Travels the Hills of West Virginia

For children of all ages, there is a deep and never-changing love for trains and for stories that give us hope. The story of the Polar Express captivated my two sons’ hearts and mine over 22 years ago when the book was first released and I stumbled on to the book at the local book store. Cody my oldest son, got the book and his first of many silver sleigh bells as a Christmas gift while he was in Kindergarten. We read the book over and over that holiday season. After he returned to school he told everyone about the book. For years after that first Christmas, I was asked to come to his elementary school to read out loud the book that had captured the heart of my oldest son and every child who heard the story of a boy and his lost bell.polar express book

 

Then 17 years later Christopher was born and the tradition of The Polar Express continued with the same book and a small boy. Somewhere along the way, others fell in the love with the story and the movie was made that almost every child today has heard of. I was again asked to come to the elementary school and read allowed the worn and dog eared pages to the children. Soon after the release of the movie, an idea came into the mind of a group of avid train people in Elkins, West Virginia and The Polar Express became a live stage show on the rails in the mountains. With last year’s count of riders being over 30,000 who come each year to spend a couple hours on the train to have a short visit with Santa and be reminded that even the oldest of us can still believe in the spirit of Christmas.

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Christopher and Paige ready to board the Polar Express 2019

This year we were lucky enough to get tickets to take my youngest son and my granddaughter for a ride on the Durbin & Greenbrier Valleys Railroads licensed version of The Polar Express. The tickets sell out around April so it takes a little planning to get them before the Holiday Season. We were encouraged to ride the 7pm train just after dark so the kids could see the holiday lights at the North Pole. the Durbin & Greenbrier runs three trains on most nights one at 5pm one at 7pm and one at 9pm with the later two running in the dark.

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Welcome Center Depot at Elkins West Virginia

The experience is geared so that riders are entertained on the way out to the North Pole (45 mins) with the dancing, singing chefs from the book who serve cookies, and hot chocolate to every passenger. The return trip ( 45mins) is filled with meetings with the Hobo that rides on the roof of the train and a visit with Santa and several elves. Each passenger has their Gold Train ticket punched and is gifted a silver sleigh bell imprinted with the words The Polar Express. The evening ends with the Chefs telling jokes and tossing snowballs around the train car and making fake snow.

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crowds board the Polar Express

Dancing Chef on Polar Express

One of the twenty or so Dancing Chefs

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Tom and Christopher Powers aboard the Polar Express 2019

This trip was a gift to my Granddaughter and it was a special experience that we shared together and will never forget. As we left the train and walked in the dark back to our truck, I realized that my cheeks hurt from all the smiling I had done over the two hours. That I was happy about the holidays for the first time in several years. That I had actually gotten a few precious hours of my childhood back and was so thankful to Santa for my very own silver sleigh bell. At 50 I think I needed to remember that there is always hope and a reason to believe.

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Paige Powers tossing snowballs around train car on the Polar Express

Christopher with santa on the polar express

Christopher talking with Santa on the Polar Express

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My first  Sleighbell  from Santa on the Polar Express 2019

The night ended with two very happy young people who drank hot chocolate ate cookies and met the Santa for maybe the last time before they reach their teens. They bought ornaments to take home and snuggled up together in the back seat laughing and smiling about what they saw and how they could do the whole trip again. Tom and I held hands on the way home, at peace and with happiness in our hearts. It was as if Christmas had come back to us too.

I will always be thankful to author Chris Van Allsburg for his skill in writing and drawing. His story has filled my adult life over and over again with hundreds of wonder-filled children who sat patiently to hear about the train ride to the North Pole. His story has helped to revitalize a small mountain town in West Virginia that had a train, the snow and the wilderness of his story. But most of all he has filled my middle age with memories of happy children and my first silver sleigh bell….. maybe if I am still lucky I will hear it ring for many more years to come.

 

Categories: Chris Van Allsburg, Christmas, Christopher, Elkins West Virginia, Family, family fun, family memories, family traditions, Holidays, Polar Express, trains, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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