Wednesday, July 17, 2024

My Appalachian Elegy

Have you ever considered how the place where you grew up continues to shape you, even if you’ve moved far away and never returned? With the recent announcement of a Vice-Presidential Candidate from Ohio with roots in Kentucky, much discussion has centered around his 2016 memoir, Hillbilly Elegy. I read the book and watched the Netflix docu-drama adaptation. Opinions about it are polarized; some love it, others hate it. Many of my friends, who also have deep Southern Appalachian roots, have strong feelings about it. If nothing else, it has sparked some great discussions.

Having grown up in the mountains of Appalachia, I understand the term “hillbilly” in a way not everyone does. Some parts of Hillbilly Elegy resonated with me, while others did not. I’ve also lived in various parts of the country, and I believe some of the themes in Hillbilly Elegy—poverty, dysfunctional family dynamics, and educational challenges—are not unique to Appalachia. This is an important point to make. Similarly, strong family connections are not exclusive to the region nor are they present in every Appalachian family.

My Appalachian family wasn’t wealthy, large, or particularly close-knit, though I knew many who were. My parents weren’t uneducated nor scholars. Our family has faced struggles with addiction, but it didn’t touch my life directly. My personal hillbilly elegy would be quite different. This is the challenge when an individual’s story is seen as representative of a larger group.

Despite my Appalachian roots, most of my adult life has been spent far from those hills and the Blue Ridge Mountains. I’m now a flatlander, more coastal than mountain. The cultures are as much the same as they are different, and my ears are more accustomed to the Carolina Low Country drawl than the twang of my mountain roots. I have moments when I deeply miss my hometown, lifelong friends, and the region. But I also cherish seeing Spanish moss blowing in the breeze or a palm tree against a Carolina blue sky. These experiences are equal parts of who I am, blending to shape my identity.

Yes, the deep, unique, and rich culture of Appalachia is part of my soul, but it’s mixed with so many other life experiences. None of us can fully claim to know all the facets of what it means to be a hillbilly.

Signed, Southern Flatland Mountain Girl

Friday, July 5, 2024

Convertibles in the South

Who doesn’t love a spin in a convertible? I find it to be hugely stress-relieving and calming. But for those of you in other parts of the world who prep and put your convertibles to bed in the fall for a good six months or more until convertible weather returns, we in the South have a different routine.

Where I live, we enjoy a convertible season that lasts pretty much nine to ten months. The “off months” for us are not during the cold, winter months. Instead, our top-up time is in the dead of summer. Personally, I have been known to drive in freezing weather with the top down, wearing a heavy coat with the heater blasting. However, when it starts to feel like the backside of Satan’s toaster oven, there isn’t enough AC to keep that top down. I will keep the top down and the AC flowing until I could cook a lasagna in the passenger seat. But after that, it is no longer convertible season. I. Can’t. Roll.

So, for the next couple of months, my top-down days will be missed and very limited (maybe left for a few nighttime rides).  Though, this is a good time to tweak some of the "work in progress" and maintenance that comes with driving a vintage a new clutch. I am counting down the days until I can feel that air in my hair again! Y’all up north, just know I am envying your summer rides!

Until the cooler days return, I'll be dreaming of my next top-down adventure!

Monday, June 17, 2024

Rediscovering My Voice...

I wrote my first blog post of 2024 yesterday. It wasn’t deep and it wasn’t long. It was just the marking of a celebration for someone I love. But, in so many ways, it was much more. 

For years, writing was my sanctuary. I found solace in the rhythm of my thoughts flowing onto paper, the tap-tap-tap of keys as my ideas took shape. My blog was a personal haven where I could share insights, stories, and snippets of my life with a supportive community. Eventually, it even led to a paid position as a columnist, and I held a secret dream of writing the great Southern Novel one day. However, an unexpected turn of events led to a hiatus from writing. After a long break, I finally found my way back to the keyboard to share, though not so frequently. 

 As I struggled to keep the muse fed and the words flowing someone used my own blog to try to assassinate my character. It wasn't just a nasty comment by an anonymous online person, casual jab, teasing remark, or even my words. Harmless clip art, I shared as an accent to a post that discussed my personal financial journey, which was a common theme, were presented in court. Now mind you, the post – words - (in full) was not presented. But the clipart from this post was used to paint me as someone I was not. Someone who knew how much writing meant to me used it as a weapon to attempt to hurt me, and I am sure make me stop. And stop, I did. I pulled away from writing on my blog except on rare occasions. 

Fast forward several years and I would, from time to time, write a post and think of jumping back into the words until a few months ago, when someone very near and dear to me ridiculed my blog, my writing, my use of social media. The blog that once represented my voice, my history, my faith became a source of embarrassment and hurt. The sting of their judgment was sharp. I often tell myself that I shouldn't care what others think, especially when it comes to something as personal as my creative expression; but reality is different. The criticism and mockery cut deep, especially coming from someone I love - someone whose opinion mattered to me. I had hoped for support, maybe even pride in my accomplishments, but instead, I was met with ridicule and reopening of long sealed scars. 

In the aftermath, I stopped writing. The blog that had been a canvas for my thoughts and experiences lay dormant and made private, hiding almost 20 years of my life. I pulled in my personal social media use, making previously public presences private, as I felt vulnerable. I withdrew, silencing the words that had once been better than therapy. The fear of judgment, of having my words twisted and used against me, was paralyzing. Each time I considered returning to my blog, the memories of those hurtful experiences would resurface, and I'd retreat further away from the keyboard. 

But I missed the cathartic release that writing provided. I missed the community of readers who found value in my words, who connected with my stories. Slowly, I am rebuilding my confidence. It isn’t easy. I must remind myself that my blog is my space, a reflection of my journey, thoughts, and creativity. I am starting small, rediscovering the joy of writing without the pressure of an audience. 

I decided to reclaim my blog. Sharing my story—this story—for me. To anyone who has faced similar challenges, know that your voice matters. It's easy to say we shouldn't care what others think, but it's okay to acknowledge that their opinions can hurt, especially when they come from those we love. However, it's crucial to remember that their views do not diminish your worth, the value of your creative expression, or your story. 

Rediscovering my passion for writing is a journey and I don’t know where it will go. My blog is once again a space where I can be unapologetically myself…whoever that is in this season of life. It is a place where I hope I can share my truths and connect with others who find solace or humor in my experiences, my wins, my losses, my adventures, and who knows what else. I hope that by sharing this experience, I can inspire others to reclaim their voices, to continue creating despite the setbacks, and to find pride in their unique stories. Writing is more than just putting words on a page; it's a reflection of your path. No one should ever have the power to take that away from you.

Sunday, June 16, 2024

Birthdays and Bourbon

This week my husband is celebrating a milestone birthday so, of course, he needed a party. It is easy when kids are little to come up with an idea or theme for a party but big people can be harder to plan for! 

He has a hobby...bourbon. He is not a heavy drinker as one might suspect of an individual whose hobby is "bourbon". Over the last year he began formally studying bourbon.  Yes, and if you didn't know, there are courses and classes you can take just on this particular subject.  He is enrolled in a program to become a Certified Bourbon Steward.  So, to say we have quite the growing bourbon collection might be an understatement, but that is a topic for another day.  As well,  he has a growing circle of "Bourbon Nerds" that he loves to get together with so a Bourbon Tasting Party it was!

We brought in an expert to lead the tasting and do somewhat of an abbreviated version of her Introductory Course.  By the way, if you are looking for some expert advice, look no further than Bourbon at Tiffany's.  It was such a fun night and I think a good time was had by all!  If you would like to see more about the party or my husband, check him out at DHB and His Bourbons.  Happy Birthday, sweet man!