It’s Fall Y’all!

That’s right, I’m one of those people. Fall is my favorite season. I’ll admit, I don’t care for pumpkin spice beyond being a candle scent, but I really do love fall. There is just something so exciting about the whisper of cooler weather on the wind, the crunch of colorful leaves underfoot, and the feeling of life settling down for winter. And as a naturally cold person, fall fashion brings the most wonderful warm weather gear!

But another thing I love about fall is all the decorations. Everything from pumpkins and mums to ghosts and goblins to big fat turkeys and pilgrims. I’d have it all up August 1st if given my way, but I have compromised with the husband, and wait until September 1st.

So far this year, it has really been a joy to share my love of fall decorating with my youngest. He has really enjoyed helping me decide where all the decorations should go. He especially loved venturing out to the store to help me pick out some new decorations! (In case you all were wondering, A.C. Moore and Hobby Lobby have some pretty good deals on decorations!

On our outing to A.C. Moore, my kiddo was very insistent that we needed this pumpkin shaped basket in our lives. I couldn’t argue.

I’m really looking forward to sharing more fall traditions with my kids as the season goes on. Making pumpkin rolls, planning a big Thanksgiving Feast, watching our Mountaineers on Saturdays, playing in piles of leaves, carving pumpkins…the list could go on forever.

This week was another short post, but with all the above mentioned activities, I’m sure I’ll have plenty more fodder for posts to come! If there is anything you’d like to see me write about, let me know!

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How to Hurdle ‘The Wall’

Guys, it happened again. Another week flew by, and I have nothing to show for it. Don’t get me wrong, I did actually have an entire post almost completed. But last night, I woke up out of a dead sleep and realized that it made absolutely no sense, and that there was no way I could possibly share it with the world in its current state.

So here I am, Sunday morning, drinking my coffee and sitting at my kitchen table (where all my best work is done), trying to think of anything I could write about. But I can’t. I have hit The Wall. I don’t like to call it Writer’s Block, because I find myself writing things. It’s just that, the things I write sound like they came from someone who has hit their head against a wall many times.

Photo by Kaboompics .com from Pexels

Over the years, I have worked on ways to help me hurdle The Wall when I come to it. Today, I thought I could share those ways, while also practicing them. So perhaps next week, dear reader, you will have something of a little more quality to read.

1. Write all the thoughts.

Write whatever pops into your mind. Write, write, write. Messy words, creaky stairs, hot coffee, rainy day. See? It doesn’t have to be pretty and polished. Thoughts are messy, let them be that way on your writing tablet as well. It’s just about getting them out of your brain.

2. Take your messy thoughts, and turn them into poetry.

Or whatever form of short writing you prefer. I’ve always enjoyed poetry.

Waking up, rain drops falling
into my coffee mug, steaming.
Stairs creak, solitude broken,
Good morning world.

See? I’m not even sure I’d call that poetry, but it felt nice to write. Get yourself lined up and stretched out for that hurdle.

3. Get in touch with all the emotions.

I find it difficult to write creatively, or at all, when I am stuck in one mood. A lot of times, I just write one liners in different emotions. Start with whatever you are feeling first, then jump to the complete opposite. Then work your way through the full range of emotions.

The cold rain poured down, mixing with the tears streaming down her face.
The sounds of the festival filled her head, filling her heart with joy.
Rage engulfed her as she listened to him, prattling on as if nothing had happened.

4. Go forth and write.

This is it, this is the last step. This is where you are running straight at that wall, preparing to leap. Go write something! If you are still struggling with getting original ideas out of your head, then don’t worry about it. Write in someone else’s idea. Write a fan fiction. Or write in the style of your favorite author. When I’m feeling low on ideas, I love to adopt Tolkien’s most Hobbit-y voice, and write. It brings me back to why I loved creative writing in the first place.

Still feeling like you are running straight into that wall? I will let you in on the last little secret. You don’t have to jump it like a hurdle at all. It just sounds better when you say it that way.

Start small. Use your poetry, short sentences, paragraph stories, and short stories or fan fictions to build yourself a set of steps. Keep on building until your reach the top of your wall. And then you can jump, and soar off into the wonderful world of writing again.

I hope these ideas can help you. If you have other ways that you break yourself out of a writing slump, comment below! Until next time!

The Anti-Post

Guys, it’s been a week. The kids started back to school this week, which translated to a busy week at work for me. My littlest started pre-school. He hopped on that bus like a pro and a little bit of my heart was ripped out. The garage still hasn’t figured out how/if they can fix the husband’s truck, so we have been juggling everyone’s schedule around one vehicle.

I am tired. This is my post for the week: You get no post for the week.

Go, enjoy your family. Spend time with your loved ones, catch up on sleep, catch up on housework, or reading, or whatever it is you want to do today.

Be Brave

We always tell our kids to be brave, but how often do we follow our own advice? We plod along our own comfortable path day after day, rarely doing anything new or different. But if we don’t branch out and try new paths, we won’t grow. If you continue your same old path day after day, year after year, you will soon enough find your self just going in circles.

But why is it so hard to be brave and try new paths? Is it because we are afraid of failure? Rejection? Most of the time, for me, that’s exactly what it is. Try is the key word, though. Regardless of whether you triumph or fail, you were brave and tried a new path, which helps you grow as a person.

I read an anecdote online the other day that really struck a chord with me:

A girl was trying to teach her younger sister to dive into the pool. The young girl was scared. After several minutes of listening to her older sister try to coax her into the water, she shouted 'But I'm so afraid!'. An older lady who had been watching nearby stood up and said 'Well then be afraid, and do it anyway!'

Isn’t that such great advice? Of course new things can frightening. Depending what it is, yes, it could be risky. But if you never try, how will you know? (I think every mom on the planet has used that line at the dinner table before)

I decided to be brave when I started this blog. This time last year, I was afraid to let anyone see the things I wrote. I was terrified that if I put my voice out there to be heard, I would fail. I was afraid that my words would be met with complete indifference, or worse, be shot down with harsh words.

For me, it has worked out. Everyone reading my blogs so far has been receptive and kind and supportive. It has given me more confidence in the works I create. So I will be brave again. I have decided to post a short story that I have been working on. It’s not finished yet, but I will post sometime before the end of the year.

So I challenge you. This week, think of something you’ve been wanting to do, but have been too afraid to tackle it. It could be a project for work, a personal goal, or even something as simple as trying a new food you’ve been afraid you won’t like. Be afraid, and do it anyway.

Why Nursing is An Awesome Career

I love being a nurse. If you had told me 15 years ago that I would be a nurse, I would have laughed my butt off. I hated blood. I loathed needles. I came close to hyperventilating every time I entered the doctor’s office. I mean, I still like none of those things, but I have grown to tolerate them better.

I did have a brief moment in high school when I considered a career in nursing. One of my best friends had fallen ill and was in the hospital for quite a while. During one of my visits to her, the thought crossed my mind as I watched these bright young women bustling around in their royal blue scrubs, helping save and change the lives of those in their care. I could do this, I thought, I could be a nurse, and help people too. I realized I wanted to help people.

But that moment was very short lived, and I quickly returned to debating between my other top career contenders. I applied to WVU with the intention of going into forensic science, but found myself changing to journalism when it came time to choose my classes.

Some couple months into freshman year, something changed. I can’t remember if I panicked about not being able to find a steady job as a journalist, or if it was the realization that I would make next to nothing in salary, or maybe it was the dawning that journalism wasn’t as much of a ‘helping people’ type job as I wanted. But there I was in my advisor’s office, telling her I wanted to change to pre-nursing.

Fast forward a few years. I had another moment of panic about my life choices. I was struggling with nursing school. It was hard, I felt out of place at all of my clinical sites. The hospital environment stressed me out. And for my community rotation that I had so looked forward to senior year, I was placed in a rural emergency room rather than the health department or a school like some of my classmates.

I had gone to see Mamaw (my best friend’s grandma, but I claimed her as my own) in the hospital. She asked me how nursing school was, and I remember seeing the doubt in her eyes when I responded. She could see right through me. She could see that I wasn’t happy in school, and maybe she wondered if I should really be a nurse. But I was a senior, my promise scholarship was running out, and it was too late to change majors.

I graduated. I got a job in a nursing home. I found out that being a nurse in the nursing home was an entirely different creature than bedside nursing in a hospital. I liked the work. But it grew a little tiresome. Favorite residents died, coworkers were generally unhappy, I felt like I was losing skills from nursing school that I deemed necessary to have as a nurse.

Image by Alexas_Fotos from Pixabay

I decided to change jobs. I was offered two jobs at the same time, both completely different areas of nursing. I took the job on the MedSurg/Trauma floor at the only Level 1 Trauma center in the area. Sometimes I wonder what life would have been like had I taken the other job, but that is another post for another day. I have loved my trauma job, it has taught so much about what it is to be a nurse. The lessons I’ve learned from patients and coworkers there will stay with me forever.

Once I had my youngest child, I decided I wanted a job that was a little more conducive to family life. That is when my current job came into play. Again, it is a completely different type of nursing. And I LOVE it! No, it isn’t bedside nursing. It has even been suggested to me that what I do isn’t “real” nursing. It was not said with any malcontent, but it made me realize that many people don’t understand how diverse the nursing world is.

And that is why I love my nursing career. There are so many options. If I may paraphrase Bubba from Forrest Gump: You can be a floor nurse, an OR nurse, an ICU nurse, an ER nurse. You’ve got your school nurse, public health nurse, nurse educator, wound care nurse, diabetic education nurse…I could go on and on.

What I’m saying is, being a nurse is so much more than wiping butts and handing out medication. And just because you don’t work in a hospital, doesn’t mean you aren’t a real nurse. There is a branch of nursing out there for every nurse. If you want a career where you’ll touch the heart and lives of others, nursing can be for you, even if you hate needles, blood, and guts. Nursing school is hell, but it’s well worth it if it is your calling.

The Importance of Staying Positive

I like to think I am a pretty optimistic person. I like to look on the positive side of issues in my life. Sometimes, I get down and sad just like anyone, but then I sing a verse of Monty Python’s “Always Look On the Bright Side of Life”, chuckle, and cheer back up.

Let me tell y’all a story though! If you read last week’s post about CRF, you know I was so excited to be in my hometown for the best time of the year. My youngest and I went to the snake show where he got to hold all manners of the creepy critters (and of course, he loved it). We made it to the Fireman’s Parade, where he got to ride in a firetruck and had the time of his life.

And then I get a text from my husband: “My truck got hit by lightning. It’s dead. Won’t start. Antenna blew off.”

What. The. Heck?!?! Who has that happen to them? I am still a little flabbergasted by it. And the hubs has work the next day, and the oldest has all-stars baseball this weekend, so this is completely the worst time to be down to one vehicle. I was bummed. I was having to leave the festival right at it’s peak of glory.

As I start my two and half hour journey back to Morgantown, it’s dark and raining–my two least favorite driving conditions. My radio doesn’t want to pick up any stations. Now I’m grumpy, and I don’t have any tunes to dispel the mood. And as I’m driving down the road, lightning flashes around me, illuminating a giant dog shaped black cloud in the sky directly ahead of me.

Fellow Harry Potter fans will get the reference of the Grim. For the everyone else, the Grim is a symbol of death that comes in the form of a big, hairy, black dog. Now, I’m not really a superstitious person, but I will admit that seeing that (as fictional as it is) did not improve my mood in the least.

As I was driving down this dark, rainy, stress-filled road, I began to think. Why am I being so negative? The event that put me in this situation was not anyone’s fault, and was completely unavoidable. And as I thought about more positive things, I pondered why being positive is so important, not just to me, but in general.

For me, being positive is just how I was raised. My grandmother, born into the Great Depression, could remember some pretty terrible times. She remembered not always having enough food, and having to wear flour sacks as school dresses. She lost the love of her life before they made it to their golden years. She watched a son pass away, and another struggle with drug addiction. Yet she remained one the happiest people you could ever meet. And I’m happy to say she passed that trait on to me.

Photo by Binti Malu from Pexels

But there are also health benefits for being positive. Optimism can be a factor in managing and reducing stress levels. That can go on to help provide other health benefits such as increased immune system, better coping skills, and improved cardiovascular health. There is not a ton of research out there that explains why this happens, but enough to show there is a correlation.

We all probably know someone who is a Debbie Downer or a Negative Nancy. The person who could find a rain cloud on a sunny day, and who expects life to kick them at every turn. They have a list of health complaints a mile long. One bad day for them turns into month long strings of bad luck and ill-fated outings.

Now I’m not saying they are making any of it up, or even exaggerating their bad fortune. There are plenty of truly bad situations in life that no amount of positivity can change. But if a person only focuses on the negative things around them, they will see more and more until it seems to be all there is in life. It can be a terrible cycle to get stuck in, and can lead to depression.

Do you ever catch yourself in these negative cycles? Don’t worry, we all do from time to time! But I thought I would include some tips on how to stop the negativity and start the journey of positive thinking!

  1. Identify an area of life that needs the change. Do you always complain about the drive to work? Your lunch? Something at home? Think small, there’s no need to try to change everything at once! (And you’ll be surprised at how positivity seeps into other parts of your life!)
  2. Check your thoughts. Once a day, stop and evaluate what you are thinking at that moment. Is it positive or negative? If it is negative, try to turn it around to something positive. My favorite example is, instead of saying “I have to go to work today”, say “I get to go to work today”.
  3. Write a positive thought journal. It doesn’t have to be much, just jot down a few good things that happened or that you felt that day. And don’t forget to write something nice about yourself.
  4. Practice everyday. Being positive can be tough and can take a lot of work, but it’s all worth it in the end!

As for the end of my story, it all worked out alright. I did miss the fireworks, the 5k, and the pancake breakfast. But I made it back to Richwood in time to see the Grand Parade and to have a wonderful Festivus Day with friends and family.

One of my favorite parts of this year’s festival. Our beloved Lumberjack who stands above our scoreboard had been damaged by winds. He made a debut at the Grand Parade, repaired, improved, and ready for football season! Photo credit to Crystal Spencer.

The Home of My Heart: Richwood, WV

I have mentioned my hometown before, but I think it is time for me to write a post dedicated to it. To be very honest, I could probably write dozens of posts on different subjects about it. But I’ll stick to one for now. My hometown of Richwood, WV, is, in many ways, a typical small West Virginian town. The closure of coal mines brought on hard times, mass exodus, and the ever attention gaining opioid crisis.

For many outsiders and some who have grown up there, it is a good-for-nothing, waste of space and money kind of place. Some think the world would be for the better if it were just wiped off the map.

One of the many picturesque views of my beautiful hometown.

Well, I’m here to tell you about the non-typical side of Richwood. West Virginians are proud people. It’s just who we are. But I have heard more than once, including by my own proud Preston County native husband, that Richwooders are the proudest of the proud in WV.

We are. You’ll know a Richwooder when you see one. We are most likely sporting an orange and black Lumberjack tee shirt (our alma mater). When you ask where we’re from, we answer without hesitation “Richwood”. For many people we may have to describe it’s location a little further, but we leave no doubt in their mind of where we come from.

We will tell you that our band is the Best Band in the Land (and The Pride of Nicholas County). We will tell you we are the Ramp Capital of the World. We will tell you we are the Gateway to the National Forest. We will tell you we are The City That Would Not Die. We will tell you we have the best small town in the world. And we will tell you there is no other place on God’s green Earth that we’d rather live.

And that includes those of us, like myself, who currently live in other cities or states. My heart is in Richwood. My greatest dream is to one day be able to move back. But for now, it remains a dream. So for all Richwooders, local and abroad, there is one time of year that is just for us: Homecoming.

No, not the awkward high school dance that follows the awkward and prolonged football game. Though it does also involve tiaras. Homecoming is one of the many nicknames for the Cherry River Festival that takes place in our beloved hometown at the end of every summer.

We call it that because it is the one time of year when Richwooders near and far come together to celebrate, well, us. It’s the week most class reunions are scheduled. People schedule their vacations, pack up their families, and head back to their roots. Friends of old get together to enjoy all that it means to be from Richwood.

The “Mobswab”, the float that represents the Cherry River Navy (history found here).

The Festival includes carnival style food and rides throughout the entire week. There are events and live music nearly every evening. Friday night involves the Fireman’s Parade–not for the faint of ear. Every available local fire engine roars through town, sirens blaring with candy being thrown out the windows. After the parade, the Festival Queens sit down to autograph their portraits. That was always one of my favorite parts as a young girl. I’m pretty sure I still have every one of those pictures stored somewhere at my parents’ house.

Friday night ends with a fireworks display, lighting the way for the dawn of Saturday. For the athletic at heart, a 5K Walk/Run is held bright and early on Saturday morning. You’ll find me there this year (definitely a first). And after I finish the race, I will wipe away my sweat, loosen my belt, and head on to the annual Lion’s Club Pancake Breakfast where I plan to stuff myself silly.

Runners take their mark at the starting line of the 5K walk/run

Saturday morning hosts the arts and crafts show, as well as the antique car show. The Grand Parade that afternoon is the main event. The streets are packed, the air is filled with the sound of laughter and talking as friends meet up with one another. An excited hush falls over the crowds when we hear the band called to attention at the start of the parade route.

Everyone cheers as our beloved band (and band director, of course) march on by. Trucks, floats, twirlers, and other local marching bands are among those who always join us in the Grand Parade as well. After the parade, friends gather together for one last night of hoo-rahs before they hug and part ways until the following year.

So, why have I chosen now to write this post? Because Festivus Time is upon us! Check out the event list here! Never been to Richwood before? That’s ok, we will welcome you with open arms! Come see what all the commotion is about! Eat at one of our wonderful restaurants (The Chill Out Grill, The Oakford Diner, CB’s Hole in the Wall, and Whistle Punk Grill and Taphouse). Enjoy the beauty, history, and pride that surrounds the Cherry River Festival. Any questions? Comment below!

Having Fun on Two Wheels

Sometimes when I meet new people, they are shocked to find out that I am both a nurse and a fan of motorcycles. I love a good ride on a motorcycle, dirt-bike, or even a 4-wheeler. It’s a jaw dropper when I go on to say that I allow my kids to ride. The first thing out of their mouth is normally: “But it’s so dangerous!”

As a nurse on a trauma floor of a Level 1 Trauma Center, you don’t have to tell me. Over the past 6 years I have seen what an accident on two wheels can do to you. But I also know that, as a general rule, the patients who suffered the worst injuries were not properly geared up, or were under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

Perhaps seeing all that I have would have deterred me from my love of two wheels, except that the love was already rooted deep within me. I grew up riding dirt bikes around on the back roads of Greenbrier County. I awed over pictures of my mother popping wheelies in her younger days. I watched her eyes light up whenever she started up a bike. I watched my brother grin ear to ear whenever he took a mind to go riding. I was doomed to love it from the get go.

While she may not have worn safety gear herself back in the day, my mother never let my brother or I go out without proper gear on.

When I grew up, I fell in love with a man who rode a Harley. Already a nurse at that time, I was cautious to climb on the back of a bike with a stranger. But I saw how important safety was to him, and when I decided to trust him for a ride, I never felt safer.

Now our boys have dirt bikes. Even the little guy has one with a restrained throttle and training wheels. We pounded the basics of safety into their heads before they ever sat on their bikes. They know that those bikes don’t come out of the garage unless they have boots, pants, gloves, chest protectors, and helmets on.

Photo by FlorS Q from Pexels

Obviously, safety lessons continue as they learn to ride. And will continue for as long as I’m around to preach them. I know what bad things can happen when you get on a bike. But I also know the feeling of freedom and pure joy that comes from being out in the open with the wind whipping wildly around you.

Hurry Up, Kate, Life’s Not a Fashion Show

If you were to ask my mom, she would most likely tell you that I am a bit high maintenance. I rarely leave the house without hair and make-up fixed, and I will never go to the store in pajamas. On more than one occasion, this has caused me to run a little late.

I can’t tell you how many times in my life I’ve heard my mother say, “Hurry up, Kate, life’s not a fashion show.” But maybe, for me, it is. I have been told on more than one occasion that I shouldn’t care what anyone else thinks about how I look. And I don’t. I do, however, care what I think. 

My favorite shade of war paint, I mean, lip color.

Let me pause for a moment to assure you that I am no fashionista. My style is basic. Super basic. But I like to present my best self to the world, even if my style is lacking.

Some may say my need for make up in public comes from a lack of self-confidence and low self-esteem. And maybe that’s part of it. I’d like to say I have good self-esteem. But who knows? Maybe I don’t. But I do know that when my hair and make-up are done, and when I have decent clothes on, I feel like I can face the world. It is my war paint. 

Not to compare myself to a prostitute, but there is a scene in Pretty Woman that hits this topic rather perfectly. If you’ve never watched it, warning: spoiler alert (also do yourself a favor and go rent that movie right now!!). In the movie, after Edward’s friend, Stuckey, finds out Vivian is a prostitute, he approaches her and makes her a–ahem–business proposal of sorts. She is left clearly upset by the conversation. Later she confronts Edward, saying that if she had been in her own (hooker) clothing, she could’ve handled the situation and would’ve been prepared to deal with the creep.

I feel the same in my work. I work in an environment where business casual is acceptable as long as it doesn’t interfere with my nursing duties. But if I have a day full of meetings with parents, I wear scrubs. A presentation about STDs or suicide prevention to the students? I wear scrubs. Wake up with a feeling it’s going to be “one of those days” in the clinic? I’m in my scrubs. Scrubs are my war paint for nursing. I hate public speaking in general, but I can step up and talk to high schoolers about uncomfortable medical topics like a pro when I wear my nursing war paint.

Even beyond my workplace, clothing has always been a quiet passion of mine. I used to dream of being a fashion designer. It started with old dress up clothes and sheets and curtains and anything I could get my hands on and could fashion into a dress. Grandma taught me to sew. That was only fuel to the fire. I have made a few articles of clothing for myself and for my daughter. In fact, designing and creating a formal dress is still on my bucket list. 

Photo by EVG photos from Pexels

I feel like I’m starting to stray off course here. My point is that I strive to be in the appropriate outfit with the appropriate make up for every occasion. It’s how I function. It’s how I cope in stressful situations, and it’s my own way of improving my confidence. 

A Trip Through The Cranberry Backcountry

The time is upon us for a summer-fun staple: a bicycle ride through the beautiful Cranberry Backcountry. My family has done this ride every summer for many, many years.

For those of you who do not know, the Cranberry Wilderness Area (or the Backcountry, as it is also known) is a section of the Monongahela National Forest. Motor vehicle access is restricted in areas, one of them being the area where we ride our bicycles.

Our ride takes us down a 16 mile section of gated gravel road that is restricted to forest service vehicles. In the 25 plus years I have ridden there, I have only seen a forest vehicle a small handful of times.

In fact, you can sometimes get 10 miles into the trip before you see anyone at all. For me, that is the best part of it all. On this week’s trip, we only saw two people on horseback during the entire ride through. I was surprised, given that it is a holiday week and the campground past the gate at our trip’s end was fairly full.

The ride can take as much or as little time as you want. The kids (and sometimes my husband) would be happy to peddle through it like a race, but my mom and I are of the same mind. We pack a lunch, take our time, and enjoy the beauty of nature that lies right in our backyard. At a moderate pace, it takes about three hours.

The Dogway Low Water Bridge. This is one of our favorite spots to stop for lunch.

The road meets up with, and then follows along with the Cranberry River for the last 8 or so miles. There are countless beautiful fishing and swimming holes. There are also a handful of shelters and camp sites for anyone who wishes to make a camping trip of it.

A set of picturesque falls lies just off the path. It’s perfect for a quick head dunk on a hot day.

If you like to ride bicycles, or enjoy the great outdoors, I highly suggest this trip for you. Anytime the subject of bikes or camping or fishing comes up with another person, I recommend the Backcountry very early on in the conversation.