Remember The Hunger Games? Well, the Future Doesn’t Look Anything Like That!

 

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Katrina Smith-Johnson at Walmart with Mask April 2020

So do you remember when The Hunger Games came out in theaters and everyone was impressed with its colorful images of the future? The bold hair colors and clothes that were on fire but didn’t burn you. The different districts that were so very strange and unique. Yea, well the future doesn’t look like that at all.

 

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Peeta and Katniss members of district 12 male and female volunteers and tributes for the Hunger Games. 

 

The future is people wearing homemade cotton face masks with little pink and purple flowers made from the material your mother made a dress from last summer or maybe a bedspread. The color of your hair is likely faded, graying and might be growing out. Your beards are not trimmed but full, wavey and unkempt from a month of growth with no wear to go. You certainly are not wearing a fancy hat with your mask. You need to be able to change or replace that mask without touching your hair or face.

Hand holding is forbidden. Katniss from the Huger Games would never think of slipping her hand into a man’s hand these days. It’s no secret we are not allowing touching or even hugs. We talk through clear plastic shields or glass windows at stores and nursing homes. We see nurses flip up their splash shields only when the room has been cleared. We wear gloves everywhere and toss them out every chance we get. Sometimes they even cover our raw skin from scrubbing and sanitizing too much.

 

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tributes and volunteers  for the Hunger Games

 

 

We have no volunteers to fight this battle, we find no tributes to call on. We only have the highly trained staff of doctors and nurses that are willing to fight. We have Fireman, Policeman, and EMTs who are choosing weapons, but they look nothing like a gun or bow.

Our list of the dead doesn’t show in the sky projected over the wilderness so everyone can keep track. Instead, we follow the accounts of the death toll in the large cities on the TV. We are glued to every report. In this futuristic drama, the woods are your safe haven and at times the only escape from the overcrowding and spreading germs of the huge cities.

It seems everyone has enough to eat. Although, I have found myself wondering if we would kill each other over toilet paper and paper towels. I know I would have been willing to stand in a line to get hand sanitizer and bleach.

But the biggest difference of all is we are at home. We are warm, with fresh running water, with wifi and TV. We are not shipping off to some foreign land to fight for our lives. The war will be won at home watching, praying, washing and scrubbing to save our lives.

This pandemic seems to be won by West Virginia, (681 cases at our peak of infection) and we are doing the winning by living the life we enjoy. We have always loved being at home, living in small towns, playing outdoors and working outside. It seems that being a mountaineer has its advantages in these trying times.

Who knew that a small mining state that struggles with money issues is the winner of the Corna-19 games. That men and women that hunt and fish are actually the best suited to take care of their state and people. For today my state is better off than Hollywood, New York City and many people know it.

Such strange times for me and my family…..as we continue to pray, wash and scrub our way into a new future.

 

 

 

 

 

Categories: Appalachian Mountains, childhood memories, Country life, Covid-19, family health, fishing, health, Hunger Games, Hunting, rural life, sickness, West Virginia | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 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.

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Photo by Simon Migaj on Pexels.com

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

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

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

A Dutch Baby or the Puffy Pancake for Breakfast

A Dutch Baby (Puffy Pancake or the Hootanany) is my son’s favorite kind of pancake for breakfast. He even makes them on his own at 11 now. This custard-based oven pancake is simple to make and looks fantastic coming out of the oven. We often top the pancake with fresh fruit like bananas, strawberries or chocolate syrup with nuts.  You can add any topping you like because the pancake has a light flavor and is firm but not crispy even when browned on the edges.

 

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A Fresh Dutch Baby out of the oven ready to top. 

 

This simple yet yummy pastry serves 4 and takes 20 mins in the oven at 450 deg.

3 large eggs

1/2 cup milk

1/2 cup flour

3 Tbsp sugar

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp vanilla

1 Tbsp melted butter

1 heavy spray of cooking spray

Toppings: Berries, chocolate syrup, nuts, powdered sugar, shredded cheese, cooked apples, peanut butter or anything.

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In a mixing bowl combine eggs, flour, milk, sugar, vanilla, and salt. blend until smooth. While mixing batter preheat oven to 450 and prepare a deep-dish pie pan or cast-iron skillet. Spray pie pan with cooking spray and put one teaspoon of butter in the pan. Heat in microwave for 35 seconds until butter is melted. Swirl the butter around the bottom of the pan and then pour in pancake batter. Place the pie pan in a hot oven and bake 20 minutes. Do not open the oven during cooking. Dutch Baby will grow up the sides of the pan and turn a rich golden brown. Let cool slightly before adding toppings or cutting to serve. The texture of the cooked pancake is like a flan or custard, soft, flexible and the edges are foldable even when dark brown.  They will fall slightly while cooling due to the air in the eggs. If you want to serve the pancake as a dessert at the table, top with filling and then cut after showing off the beauty of the rolled edges. For a county style breakfast cut and serve then top with fruit and syrup.

I actually learned how to make this pancake in Junior High school home-economics class when school was still teaching life skills and have loved it for over 35 years, just changing what I top it with.

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Categories: breakfast food, cakes and family deserts, Chocolate, country cooking, eggs, pancakes, strawberries, Valintines | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 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

The Golden Rule Under Construction #2

The first line of my recent press release about the Golden Rule said,” The Future of the Golden Rule is in Sight”. That was amazing to write and is exciting to watch. So if you have been following me long you know about the wonderful building the company I work for is the process of redeveloping. If you are new here, let me take a moment to explain just a bit about the Golden Rule.

I work for a housing and community developer called, Woodlands Development Group, who in the spring of 2018 bought a historic 3 story brick furniture store warehouse-type building in the small town of Belington, WV. The Golden Rule building was built in 1903 and was owned by the Shinn family until the late 1980s and was sold to a man who used it for storage. Left to decay the community of Belington wanted to save the building and its history. Woodlands Development Group got involved and bought the building with grant funds from the second owner and arranged the financing of over 3 million dollars to redevelop the Golden Rule into a mixed-use building. The plan includes 10 apartments on the top two floors and a cafe and retail space on the first floor. I have been working on the building in several different capacities for two years and am now working on business development and marketing for the building’s future. She is my greatest work joy and I hope to be part of her future for many years to come. This is my home away from home!

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Basement of the Golden Rule before image

JoLynn Powers working at the Golden Rule.

So my portion of the project finished just a few weeks ago. The building was finally empty after around 4, sixty-yard dumpsters and around 13,000 pounds of trash removal. We found storage for the truckloads of antiques that were not sold at several events so they can be used as decor for the first floor in the future. We (my AmeriCorps volunteers and I ) demolished hundreds of feet of shelves, flooring, ceiling tile and drywall. So construction contractors can turn the building around.

I finished my contract year with the knowledge that my work was not done but going to be different this year. So now I get to sit back and watch others build a brighter future for this building.

So far crews have cut huge wholes in the three floors for the elevator shaft and fire escape stairwell. They have excavated into the basement to remove dirt and rubble to get ready to pour new stairwell landing pads.

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 Crews get the dirt out of the basement of the Golden Rule.

They have begun the framing of the walls inside each apartment and have had time to remove the breezeway that lead to the storage shed. These are before and after photos. You couldn’t see the breezeway from the back due to all the brush and trees.

The Americorps crews that helped me clean out the upper stories are back working on clearing out the basement and rafters of the third floor this spring. They are working to get the building ready for roofing contractors, and the electrical contractors.

It is only a few weeks into construction but changes are visible and teams of more people are working together to get things done. I am excited and so hopeful for the people who get to live and work in this building. I know Tom and I have our own plans to be part of the retail space in the near future, so I hope my involvement continues even after the Golden Rule reopens. This year I am happy to be helping in the development of the businesses, the build-out of the retail space and who knows what else to make sure this project gets off the ground running. 

If you want to see more about the Golden Rule and the first steps in our process of redevelopment you can click here Golden Rule #1. There are many other posts about this and my AmeriCorps service that shares my love for this building and what I get to do for a living. 

Categories: About me, AmeriCorps, Barbour County, Belington, WV, Golden Rule, historic locations, Historic Preservation, Redevelopment projects, rural life, West Virginia History, Woodlands Development Group | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 2 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

2019 Learning to be Free.

I think 2019 was the year I finally grew up. I think maturity came even when it was unwanted. As I look back over the year I see where I really grew a lot and where I struggled. I can’t believe that in a matter of 12 months I have started my own business, changed offices twice, lost my mother to Alzheimer’s, took a major vacation, ended up in the hospital for migraines, made another epic Halloween costume and almost figured out the State of West Virginia’s tax system.

Jolynns Steam Punk Halloween costume

2019 Stockert Youth Center Haunted House. Homemade costumes are the best.

Of course, starting a business was stressful and at times frustrating. It took over ninety days for me to get my business license and when I did get it they sent it to the wrong address and I had to contact the state about the error. Then wait a few more days to get the corrected license. All while trying to pay my quarterly taxes. All I can say is congratulations to anyone who has survived the first year of becoming self-employed.  My first year was a never-ending mess. I think I will do better next year! The taxes paid and now if I can just find a good accountant to do our federal income taxes I will say whoo hoo another year done!

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watching my Philippi Gate Way project get installed in Aug 2019

While working for 3 different organizations I did have three different desks in three different offices in two different counties. This is not a good thing and I would not recommend it to anyone. Things get left at one office while you are working at another one, people have no idea where you are or when you plan to come back. I officially will only have one office and one desk next year and one phone number. That alone is reducing the stress I feel just thinking about it.

My work on the Golden Rule is finished until fall. I will miss this Grand Old Girl for a few months and then begin the work of designing the buildout of the retail space. I am helping with fixtures, layout, displays and the general look and feel of the space. This is actually pretty close to the work that I did just after college. It should be fun to put on my interior design hat again.

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Back view of the Golden Rule after cleaning up the brush.

 

I also lost my 87-year-old mother this summer while I was working at the Golden Rule. My brother called while I was loading Items for donation into a truck to tell me that she had aspirated. Its when you inhale something you shouldn’t and it causes damage to the lungs. When that happens instead of bruising and swelling alone the lungs fill with fluid and eventually if the damage is severe enough you end up with phenomena. In my mothers’ case, she was weak being taken over by Alzheimer’s and had so many other issues the lungs filled up within hours and she passed away in my brothers’ arms before any of us could get to her. It was shocking and expected all at once. My brother made arrangements for her burial with my father in Colorado when we all could gather together to say goodbye. She died on West Virginia Day, June 23rd, the same day that West Virginia gained its independence from the State of Virginia, that is a date I will never forget.

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My mothers’ memorial tattoo 2019 

In trying to allow myself time to morn and still work I did something totally crazy. I got a tattoo. A large one on my back that is a memorial for her. Then two days later I found myself having to say farewell to another friend who had been in town for a month and was heading home. I was just overwhelmed with all of the feelings of loss that I had. I just wanted everyone I love to stop leaving and ended up in tears in the front seat of my car. I should have just driven home that day but I just went to work and headed to a meeting. Within hours I was being driven to the hospital for a very painful headache that made my vision blur. I am not sure what they gave me that day but I was so drunk from the medication that I was not able to drive and my oldest son came to take me home. I slept for hours and hours and he was relieved to know I was going to be ok. I now know that I need to learn to vet my feelings better, I also need to rest sometimes. I need to take better care of ME!

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My Friend Dominic Piacentini summer blueberry picking 2019 

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JoLynn Powers working in the basement of the Golden Rule Building 2019

We then planned a huge trip to Colorado to inturn my mother’s ashes and take a few much needed days off. The trip was wonderful and the sightseeing we did brought me in contact with a large group of high school friends and family members I had not seen in several years. It was an eye-opening trip and I think the little angry girl that I had been most of my life finally was left totally behind in the mountains of Colorado. I finally had outgrown my home town, found out how much I am loved, found comfort in old friendships and felt free for the first time in my enter life. I was finally who I was intended to be.

 

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Visiting with my dear friend Natalie summer 2019

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View of Glenwood Springs Colorado summer 2019

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View of Glenwood Springs Co. from the Valley below 2019.

This new feeling of freedom has continued for several months and has helped me grow. I spent time working with Christopher’s fundraiser Haunted House again just after we returned home. With Toms’s help, I put together a wonderful steampunk ringleader costume. A mixture of old and new items and lots of hot glue. I spent the weekend working at the door of the haunted house and helping to clean up the huge mess the next day. I won a costume contest at work dressed up for Christophers School party, and trick or treated with the kids. It was worth every minute I spent one making the costume.  Next year’s costume is already in the works and is planned to be much scarier and less human. I am thinking of a smoking dragon… if all goes well.

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Christopher Powers and Jolynn Powers 5th grade Halloween Party 2019

Then the year ended on a very positive note. I have been asked to become an employee of the Barbour County Development Authority in West Virginia. After two years of working with them on community development work, I am now going to be a member of the Staff and continue as a Contractor/ Consultant on a couple of projects for other companies.

Finally, I have found my place in the world and I feel free to pursue every dream that I ever had. It is exciting to be in charge of my future and surround myself with the work I love. I hope in 2020 I can accomplish even more and make the communities I work in prosper as well!

Welcome to Philippi sign in dark

Holiday Lights on the Gateway Project Murals and planter Christmas 2019. My new job for the County starts Jan 2020. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Categories: About me, ageing, Death, dreams, Family, Friendship, friendships, grandma, hobbies, Memorial, Memories, photo review, traveling, year end review | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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