From the Bluegrass to the Pacific (There and Back Again)

Today, I’m flying to Seattle for a short visit with friends and family. I was born in Seattle and some of my mother’s family still live there. My son married a Seattle girl and that was a double blessing, because I’ve had an excuse to return to the region and visit one of the most beautiful areas in the continental U.S.

My son and his wife are relocating to Kentucky, thus the reason for this trip. I get to make the journey, too. We plan to take full advantage of this opportunity to see places we’ve never seen. And we’ll be looking for dog-friendly places, since Gusto will be with us. As you can see, he’s happy to be included.

After we leave Seattle, we’ll head to Oregon, where we’ll stay a couple of days then head down the Pacific Coast, hoping to visit some new places we’ve never seen. I plan to post pictures and thoughts here and on Facebook, documenting this trip so my friends and family can see these places with us. Not like being there, I know. But hopefully it won’t be as bad as sitting through a long slide show of vacay pics with the neighbors. After all, if it’s boring, you can leave. I’ll try not to be boring and in any case, it’ll be short. Usually.

So thanks for stopping by and I hope you’ll drop back in during this series of blogposts. You can follow this blog or friend me on Facebook or like my Facebook author page to keep up with what I hope will be an interesting trip. In any case, I’d love to hear from you regarding your favorite Western or Midwestern stops, especially if you know of any dog-friendly places along the way.

The Big Four Bridge and Hillbilly Tea!

The last Thursday of June followed huge thunderstorms rolling through our area, dumping several inches of rain on the Bluegrass. Along with a hefty helping of lightning. I got up this morning and checked our yard for fallen trees. Always glad to see them still standing.

I hope your summer is a grand one, filled with happy memories. I’ve walked across the Ohio River on the Big Four Bridge, with my youngest son, Todd. Once a railroad bridge, it’s now refurbished as a pedestrian and bicycle bridge. It adorns the new Riverfront Park in downtown Louisville. It’s free and lots of fun. Good exercise, too. I applaud Metro Louisville for their efforts.

We visited a restaurant downtown called Hillbilly Tea, located in an old warehouse. They serve some fantastic teas, and something called bamboo ash biscuits. If you can get past the gray color of the biscuit, I think you’ll enjoy the taste.

A couple of weeks ago, I interviewed a favorite author, Fay Lamb, regarding her new release, Stalking Willow. I gave away a print copy of her book to Debbie Malone, then a couple of weeks later, Linda Hillenbrand won the ebook copy. I love giving things away, especially since I enjoyed this book so much. By the way––you can read my review of Stalking Willow here.

I hope your summer is measuring out fun for you. If not, maybe you need to go out and find it. Take some time off or spend a Saturday out roaming around. Visit places of interest, historical sites, or museums. Walk along a riverbank in the quiet of the afternoon, or relax by the pool. Spend time with your family and take lots of pictures. Remember to relax and enjoy life a little. Sunshine seems to make everything better.

Thanks for stopping by and if I don’t see you before then, Happy 4th of July!

Modern Day "Loaves & Fishes" Story

Received via email from Carolyn Gabor:

I recently started working for a friend who is Activities Director at a nursing home. On my first day, I was humbled by the very poor conditions of the residents. Some of them are so poor. Most of them rarely or never have a visitor come to see them. My friend told me that six of these residents were the poorest of poor. Some get around 40 dollars a month to spend for clothes, extras and personal items, but these six do not get that. They get nothing at all. One only has two shirts in her closet.
Christmas donations were down this year, and although St. X school, DePaul School, Home Instead and a few other organizations had helped out with gifts, there would not be enough for all the residents to have a gift for Christmas. My friend had put up an angel tree in the nursing home, and many workers adopted a resident to buy a gift for them, but these workers get paid very little, and many are also poor themselves, so the need was still great. To make matters worse, during this time, the State of Kentucky closed down another nursing home in Louisville, and over 20 new residents were sent to this home, adding to the number of residents in need.
When I heard this, I told my friend not to worry. “God knows, and He will provide gifts for all the residents.” I posted a message on my facebook status, asking people to give. I sent a text message to all of my friends in my phone address book and made phone calls. Several people responded and 8 people were able to help over 30 residents by providing gifts. One even sent gifts all the way from Illinois.
When my daughter Jessica came home from college, I took her with me to visit the nursing home. The director and I began talking about how we needed to start getting donations. We intended to knock on doors and solicit businesses in the area. Jessica said she would help.
My friend was very concerned, because Christmas was less than two weeks away. She worried that there would not be enough for the residents. Once again, I assured her not to worry. God would provide and it was going to come easily.
That day, a friend of mine came to drop off her gifts at the nursing home. When she heard of the need, she immediately got on the phone, called her husband and friends and promised to return bearing gifts.
The next day the activities director went out and received donations from businesses and a couple of area churches. My daughter Jessica started her search by talking to her father and her grandmother, who asked her to write an email explaining the need. Jessica wrote the email and sent it off to her grandmother, Gaye. Gaye forwarded the email to her church group. That email caught the attention of a man who called me and asked if he could give the residents gift cards (anonymously) and asked if he could include a Christian card with the gifts. I immediately said yes. He went on to say, his Bible study group had been looking for a family to help. When he saw the email from Jessica, he was so moved, he knew this was the family they were meant to help. The men’s bible study group provided eight 25 dollar gift cards. The caller told me he wanted to personally give 100 dollar gift cards to the six residents who did not have anything. He brought them over that very day.
The next day, “Anonymous” called me again. He had a friend who also wanted to donate gift cards, and other gift items. He said they would meet me at the nursing home on Tuesday. In the meantime, I received a call from Gaye who said she could donate 100 dollars if we could do the shopping. A few days later, Gaye sent me a message. Her friend Helen saw the email and wanted to donate to help the residents of the nursing home. She would bring 100 dollars to the nursing home that very morning. On the Tuesday morning before Christmas, I went to the home to meet with “Anonymous,” his friend, and Helen. I brought the 100 dollars from Gaye.
When I got to the nursing home, my friend Cathy showed up with 4 large totes and a large box full of lotions, shower gels, music CDs, games, puzzle books, brushes, combs, tins of cookies, sugar free candy, blankets, jewelry, and many more gifts. She and her husband Terry had collected these gifts, along with money to buy gifts for the residents.
While she was there, “Anonymous” arrived with his friend Jerry, who owns several stores. Jerry gave twenty 20-dollar gift cards, 80 ceramic angels, 50 large hand lotions, and gift bags. While they were there, the man prayed for us, for the nursing home residents, and for Jessica. I could see how moved Jerry was and he asked if he could do more. I said we could use some additional gift bags. He asked if we could use socks. We said yes, the residents loved new socks and could always use them. He promised to return.
Meanwhile, one of the resident’s family members arrived with two more gifts and also gave 100 dollars. While she was there, yet another visitor came in with 14 sets of hand knitted shawls and lap blankets. As soon as she’d left, “Anonymous” and Jerry returned with over 250 pairs of soft fuzzy socks for the women and black sport socks for the men. They also had a large box of gift bags.
My friend, who is normally very professional, was overwhelmed and tearfully exclaimed, “This reminds me of the miracle of the loaves and fishes.”
I called my husband Jim and daughter Jessica to tell them the good news and Jessica said, “This reminds me of the miracle of the loaves and fishes.”
God provides and with His provision, there are no limits! Every resident at the nursing home will not only have a gift for Christmas, they will have an abundance of gifts. God is awesome!

Remember those less fortunate. You too can bring a smile to someone’s face. And when you do, your own heart is warmed by God’s grace. 

I Speak the Language

“Ah can do south.” I drawled out the words, giving south two syllables, as it was meant to be spoken. I was responding to a comment that my accent was not so prevalent. (Sorry about the rhymes, it was an accident.)

Originally from West Tennessee, I spent the last…ah…few years in Louisville, Kentucky. My first day here, Bobby Kennedy was shot. You do the math.

I tend to match the speech of those I am with. My mother was a Northwesterner who married a Southern good ole boy and for a few years, our family bounced back and forth between Southern California and West Tennessee, so you could say I grew up “accent challenged.”

When I break out into Southern Drawl around my friends from Kentucky, it never fails to get at least a chuckle, but when I go home to West Tennessee, no one notices my speech. If you live in Louisville—pronounced Loo-uh-vul by the way—you hear it all. You can usually tell what part of Kentucky someone hails from, just by listening to them talk. Eastern Kentuckians, for instance, have a very distinctive accent.

I remember my first experience with the “native tongue” of Kentucky, when I overheard two neighbors talking about turning farty. Sounds like a bad word, but they were actually talking about the number that follows thirty-nine. It didn’t take long for me to settle in. Far miles down the road meant that something was 4 miles away. 1425 Elmwood Court was far-teen twenty-five Elmwood Cart. A small amount of translation was all it took.

When translating local colloquialisms to the written page, I tend to run into trouble. I like to know how a character pronounces words, but an editor usually doesn’t like to see it.

“Ah was comin’ acrost the Miz-sippy Rivah on a Sad-dy afternoon”, is a little difficult to read. It reads more easily as, “I was coming across the Mississippi River on a Saturday afternoon.” You still get the feel of the southern accent, but without all the interruptions.

Feelin’ fair t’ middlin’, Feeling fair to middling. Use colloquialisms with correct spelling and the reader doesn’t stumble, but they get the idea.

If it causes the tongue to stumble, or slows down the reader, it is usually unacceptable. A fellow writer and excellent teacher gave me very good advice. Limit the accent to the first time or two the character speaks and then let the reader take over. If you keep the same speech pattern, without supplying all those accents and broken words, the reader is aware of the difference and it makes for a smoother read.

There are definite exceptions to this rule. I can’t imagine reading the Grapes of Wrath any other way, but I guess if you are on par with Hemingway, you can get away with most anything.