Source: Little country store
Kentucky, like many rural places, is peppered with country stores. They were once hopping with business as travelers on their way to work, the next town or, the next state, would stop and get their fuel or fill their belly with a fried bologna and tomato sandwich.
I deterred from my normal stop at a modern gas station with it’s pay-at-the-pump impersonal convenience. With my gas gauge teetering on empty I was certain I wouldn’t make it the 8 miles to town. So I pulled into our neighborhood country store with their marginally higher fuel prices.
An older man with a white and gray beard came out to meet me at the pump. He was dressed in his work clothes complete with his stitched and worn name tag; his ball cap bill, slick with oil from countless adjustments.
“How much?” he asked.
I went inside with my youngest boy, his brothers already off to school for the day, he was sure to get a morning treat. A pack of donuts, maybe more.
We picked our drinks and he held his donuts like a prize and we walked to the counter. With each step the uneven wood floor creaked, worn by thousands of steps. As we waited on my sausage biscuit to warm up, my little guy struck up a conversation with the gentleman who pumped our gas.
“What’s your name?” Little guy said.
“My name? My name is Mark,” the man said.
He told the man his name and the man told us how he shared a first name with my son. He told us that he was named after his grandfather and also a famous writer. After our conversation we made our way back to my car and down the road to Nana’s house.
That encounter made our day a little more rich with humanity, something a a modern pay-at-the-pump convenience store cannot do. I will be stopping at more country stores and mom-n-pop restaurants in my travels because I enjoy getting to know the people who make these places unique. Do you have a favorite little stop? Have you ever been surprised by stopping somewhere you weren’t sure about at first?
A recent adventure has lead me and my family to learn when a setback meets good people, that setback soon melts away and becomes a cherished memory.
Camping. You either love it or hate it. I don’t think there is any in between. I happen to love camping. I love primitive camping and I also like the little mini-homes-on-wheels all lined up in a park somewhere. Some piled in a small pop-up camper some in campers that are nicer than my home, complete with granite countertops and every size and shape in between.
When I was a child my family camped in tents primitive style. My parents woke up, started a fire and boiled water in a percolator pot for coffee, everything was cooked on an open fire, homemade treats were plenty. My husband’s family camped in a camper when he was young, mostly on the riverbank in the middle of nowhere. I used to make fun of him for his more cushioned style of camping, but I have since grown used to having a bed, refrigerator and everything you need all neatly packed up in the big white box we call a camper.
Our most recent trip started like most. I spent Friday baking up a storm. Blueberry muffins, apple hand pies, rice crispy treats and spaghetti for campfire spaghetti sandwiches. We were packed and ready when the kids arrived home from school. Soon my husband was home from work and we were on our way.
We made our way south and up a rather steep hill. My husband decided, since there was a passing lane, he would pass the slower moving camper in front of us. He jokingly asked if it was a Chevy or Ford as we began to speed up and move around it (we drive a Dodge truck). It was another Dodge.
As we reached the top of the hill something began spraying from the front of the truck. The truck began overheating. He found a place to pull off to accommodate our convoy. It was the parking lot of a hydraulics company. It also happened to be directly across the road from a good friend of mine.
As we pulled in and the truck engine resembled an old locomotive; steam rolled out from under the hood in a billowing cloud of antifreeze scented doom. My husband opened the hood to assess the damage. I did the only only natural thing any girl would do in these circumstances, I called my brother. He jumped into action immediately, went to pick up my vehicle incase we needed it to haul the kids to a better location, then he ran to the nearest auto parts store and picked up the new radiator we needed.
I texted my friend who lives across from where we broke down. The kids were worried we wouldn’t make our camping trip and were beginning to panic. I got them out of the truck and took them to an empty grassy lot and played dodge ball, ante over and jump the creek while my husband worked on getting the busted radiator out.
Several people stopped by to see if we were okay. My good friend from the paper, and photographer extraordinaire, stopped when she and her husband were coming back from a photoshoot. She caught me up on news from the newsroom and said I looked happier despite my current circumstances. I am. I’m so much more healthy, the stress headaches, panic attacks and anxiety are almost distant memories.
Soon, I saw my friend coming across the road with her husband, who also happened to have been a mechanic before he acquired a job with the county. We joked about her setting her phone down after my initial “Hello, what are you into?” text and me not just coming over and knocking on the door. Apparently, people still knock on doors, good to know. She kept me and the kids company as we ate our little roadside picnic of lunchables, rice crispy treats and pork rinds. My youngest son immediately made friends with her handing her one pork rind after another, then they played a riotous game of catch.
In no time the truck had a brand-new radiator and we were on our way. We arrived at the campground well after dark, tired and relieved the radiator decided to go out in such a perfect location.
Life is made better when good people come along and lend you a water jug or socket wrench, stop to check on you, keep you company or drive an extra 40 miles to pick up a radiator. I am blessed to have such people in my life.
My desk at home was mostly non-existent. When I had worked from home years ago, I was in a basement office with a makeshift table/desk, an upholstered office chair, baby toys, a comfy rug and soft music. This was where I locked myself away, along with my walking 11 month old son, to do design work.
When I began a full time career in the newsroom I didn’t have a need for my makeshift office/playroom. The newspaper provided a laptop for any weekend writing so my computer and little office/playroom went into hibernation. I did all the big no-nos you should never do with a Mac. I didn’t update, not one single time, for two years.
Because we’re busy (or haven’t felt the force of necessity) we still haven’t fixed the fact that our basement has zero power. Thus, the office is out of order. One afternoon, soon after I put in my two weeks notice at the paper, I brought my iMac upstairs, set it on the only logical surface in my house, an end table. This has been my desk for almost a month. This is where I stayed awake into the wee hours of the morning cursing my neglect of my computer as I tried to update my OS. It is where I typed my last blogpost. It’s where I warned my kids nearly one hundred times “DO NOT TOUCH!”
My friend/boss/farmer had made some purchases at a liquidation sale at a school. He only wanted file cabinets, however, because of the bundling that was done at the sale he found himself the owner of a couple desks he had no need or place for. After taking out a bucket of rotten tomatoes from the grading room I admired one desk with a pencil sharpener mounted on the corner. I love using pencils, there’s something about the sound a No. 2 pencil makes when you are jotting down notes or writing out a grocery list. I know, it’s weird. A really good pencil sharpener is either expensive or hard to come by so when I saw this metal hand cranked Boston KS I was a little excited. I asked him if he would mind parting with the pencil sharpener. He asked if I wanted the whole desk. I didn’t really know I needed a desk, but what the heck. We haggled a little over the price and next thing you know I was bringing the truck back on my next work day to take home a hefty piece of furniture.
My husband knows by now that I can’t pass up a nice piece of old furniture. By no means am I at hoarder status, every piece I’ve brought in has found a nice place in our home. He eventually grows to like, even love, the pieces I’ve brought home. However, it has become our tradition that he complains about unloading it and moving things around to accommodate it. He’s not entirely comfortable with change, poor guy, he didn’t know when we got married that he was marrying a furniture rearranging mastermind.
We moved the living room around a little and set up my new little corner. I stepped back admiring the new living room. The thought struck me that this is a step in the right direction. I needed this more than I knew. I’ve muddled through these last few weeks not really knowing that deep down I’m still trying to find a place. I know I have my place with my family, no one can ever change that. Family and faith have been my rock and my foundation. But my soaring thoughts and ideas need a place to go.
What I guess I’m trying to say is this desk is more than a new piece of furniture in our home. It is a permanent symbol and physical manifestation of me grabbing ahold of something and reclaiming what I knew was always mine, a part of my being I thought I lost: My love of writing and my ability to create. It’s just an old school teacher’s desk with an iMac and a few antique relics, but this is the space where I will take back what is mine, where I can start to feel like me again.
I started this blog nearly five years ago as an outlet for my love of writing and photography. Circumstances happened and life changed as it usually does. I had loads of graphic design skills (ten years worth), a classified job ad and a little luck and I landed a job at a small newspaper as a reporter and page designer. There began a journey that would leave me unraveling my brain one day at a time.
I won’t go in to all the details. Why not? Partly because I live so close to that newspaper. I still work in that county and quite frankly I’m a little scared there isn’t still some sort of backlash waiting for me for my having left the job in the first place.
The photo on the homepage of my blog does not infer that I’m in some sort of legal (or illegal) trouble. My job at the paper never put me in danger at least not the kind that would result in a bullet hole though glass. There were times I was berated, run off the scene of a fire, yelled at and told all I care about was paper sales. I had a creepy semi stalker and a few inmates who knew me, because my name was in the paper. But I rarely felt my life was in danger.
Despite the lack physical danger I was in danger of losing my soul. I had been assigned to things that I would never imagine myself doing. I was put in a position I would have questioned prior to my becoming a community journalist. All in the name of news. When I stood up for myself or questioned the motives behind things, I would be made to feel like I was the one with a problem. Not only did I have to contend with covering certain things outside my comfort zone or even skill level, I was dealing with a narcissistic manager. Again, I can’t divulge too many details, just know when I say I never imagined one person’s behavior and toxicity could cause me to go down a path of self doubt and thinking I was the one who was crazy resulting in mental breakdown.
I wove a web of tangled mess in my head trying to figure it all out. I felt trapped. After months, doctor visits, conversations with family and friends and loving encouragement from my mom and husband I decided to leave. It wasn’t worth it anymore.
I had a hard time landing a position anywhere else. I only wanted part time work because I knew my soul needed some downtime for healing. Unfortunately, the places I knew would be great to work while I pieced myself back together weren’t interested in me, I was way overqualified at this point, to stock shelves in the big box stores or water flowers in the garden center.
Friends came through and I found myself working on their farm. The physical labor is exhilarating. I find myself too busy to think, which in my case is great. I’m home some during the week to spend time with my youngest child and do some of the things I love to do: baking, crafting, photography making music and writing.
Sometimes I feel I’m not cut out for the fast paced 70+ mph highway of a life many seem to be traveling these days. I prefer the old country roads, you know, the ones that make you slow down because the road is gravel and you’ll spin out and slide all over if you don’t. Out in the wilderness, just me, the road, dappled light filtering through an ancient forest.
After two years of dealing with a narcissistic manager, while I piece my life together and figure out what it looks like recovering from newsroom and narcissism I’ll write about it. Writing has always been my best therapy. If you happen to read it and like it that’s great. I’m not here to claim to help anyone, just tell my story and share my journey of flipping my world upside down and changing it from the inside out.
Yep, that’s right, that camera finds the best composition, focuses itself, it adjusts its own exposure, waits for the right clouds to pass in the background and just at the right moment it takes a great picture. At least that’s what I was thinking when yet again I heard that deplorable phrase from yet another close family member (my husband has been one to say this, but quickly learned the error of his ways). I just want to hand them my camera and say here have at it. I want to say that to a lot of people in a lot of situations; here take the machine see if you can produce the same result; here take the computer and the programs and don’t forget to check for typos. I don’t get hurt with comments like these, I just find if funny that people believe it is so simple and easy to produce something that looks nice whether it’s a picture, quilt, great piece of writing or what ever it may be. I admire photographers’ work, writers’ well written literature and all those beautiful things I know somebody has poured their soul into. To all my friends and blogging friends out there whose talents I so greatly enjoy, thanks for the hard work. 🙂
Pictures the camera took:
On a side note we have begun our house building. My husband is so anxious to start framing it. He is going to be working with his friend who is a builder to frame the house. Can you imagine the excitement of a man who loves building things and working tools I can’t name, when he knows he is going to be building his family’s home with his own hands, nail by nail board by board. It’s been like watching a kid before Christmas, he can hardly contain himself.
The other kids “at Christmas” with the giant toys.
I admit it, I am one of those people. The ones that wake up early even on weekends – on purpose. I am ready to tackle the day after my first cup of coffee. I revel in the serenity the birth of a new day brings. I watch sunrises with a thankful heart for new chances and a clean slate. I can’t wait to wake up and know that yesterday is gone with all it’s sorrows, trouble and frustrations. Maybe if you saw a few of these every other morning you could become a morning person too. Maybe not. But this is (besides my family of course) what keeps me going, a clean slate written all over the sky and embodied in the jeweled grasses early everyday.