Thanksgiving

I was finally able to go down to the beach this past Thanksgiving weekend, and it was very difficult to come back.  For Thanksgiving this year I made reservations for a traditional meal for my mom and myself at a restaurant.  She lives about an hour from the beach where I used to live, so I picked her up on the way down.  First thing I had to do when driving into North Carolina was to pick up a Cheerwine in a glass bottle.  It’s the good stuff!

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The dinner we ate was very good, and we had enough leftovers that we ate on for two days.  My aunt came down Thanksgiving night and stayed the weekend with us.  Per southern tradition, I drove the ladies to Belk to shop for Black Friday.

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After shopping, they wanted to relax and find NCIS on TV.  I met up with my friend, Dave, and headed to the beach.  It was perfect weather, and the entire time I’m questioning why I am still in WV.  The beach has always calmed me, and I am seriously planning on moving back.  These photos are from Pawley’s Island.

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Even though I grew up in the mountains, I am a beach girl at heart.  I convinced mom to have our Christmas at the beach house, just so I can go back sooner.

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Dave and I have been friends for ten years now.  It took a minute to figure it out, and I didn’t realize it had been so long.  It was really nice to see him over the weekend.  Later that night I took mom and my aunt to watch him play, and they really enjoyed it.  They wouldn’t go on their own to watch musicians play, but since they had such a good time that may change.  The venue had rocking chairs outside, and they sat out there to listen.  My aunt asked me if he knew the theme song for NCIS.  He probably does just from his mom watching marathons of it all the time.   She was serious when she asked me.  Two of her dogs are named after Ziva and Abby.

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I originally planned to leave SC on Saturday so I could have one day to relax before work on Monday.  I pack up mom and my aunt in her car for their trip an hour north.  I made lunch plans with Dave and Jacqui, so I packed everything up in my car and turned off stuff in the house before I left.  I fully expected to start my roadtrip back north after lunch.

Getting two best friends together who haven’t seen each other in a long time created a long lunch!  We all met at Murrells Inlet, and I finally made the decision that I was not going to be leaving SC that day.  Why would I leave if it wasn’t really necessary?

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I promise that Jacqui’s son was excited to see me!

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Murrells Inlet on Saturday.

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Dave took this picture at the Inlet.  It really turned out beautiful.  I really need to get a new phone.  His pictures turned out so much better than mine.

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It was wonderful catching up with my friends and having an afternoon/evening on the Inlet.  Later that night, Dave and I went to see another friend play with his band.  Getting up that next morning was rough though.  The last thing I wanted to do was drive 8 plus hours north in rain and holiday traffic.  Thankfully, I have satellite radio and I jam out (horribly) to the 90’s channel.  The 90’s were great!  One of my first songs, awesome!

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Yes, I get looks while I drive during my concert.  I sing all out, and I know it looks hilarious.  How else am I supposed to stay awake and alert for that long?  Sometimes I laugh at myself while I drive, because I know it is humorous.  Really I laugh at myself all the time, not only when driving.

I’m excited for Christmas now, since I will be heading back to the beach!

PittStop Lindyhop

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This weekend was the PittStop lindyhop in Pittsburgh, and I was extremely excited to attend with the WVU Swing Club!  wpid-imag4356.jpg

This is my first lindy exchange, and I have really been looking forward to it. When I got to the venue, it was definitely overwhelming and a bit intimidating. Everyone was such good dancers.  It took me a good 45 minutes to jump into the fun, but that is due to my own social awkwardness.   This was Friday night’s dance at the venue.

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The venue was impressive.  Friday night was The Boilermaker Jazz Band at the Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hall.  I will probably visit the museum at the Memorial Hall on another date.  What I could see during the dance looked pretty cool.  This is the Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hall below.

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At 1 am it was Miss Freddye’s Blues Band at the Pittsburgh Opera.  That dance lasted until 5 am, but I left early to get some sleep.  Saturday afternoon was a casual dance back at the Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hall.  This older gentleman was trying to teach me his Charleston moves.  I wanted to ask how old he was, because he looked as if he would have been in his 80’s!  I hope I am be-bopping around at that age, and dancing with all the younger dancers.  He was yelling the upcoming moves in my ear, and all I could think was to not kick him in the shins!  This is us lindy hopping.

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Later that night we went back to the venue for the Gordon Webster 9-Piece Band.  I really enjoyed this band.  We took a big group photo from Saturday night, and it includes those of us who came from WVU and friends.

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The picture below is of my roommates for the weekend.

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I wish I had taken more pictures, but I was dancing the whole time!  We did walk to get something to eat, and passed this older gentleman feeding the birds.  He said, “I get in trouble if they catch me doing this”.  He was adorable, as I think most senior citizens are adorable.

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I had such a great time this past weekend.  The only thing I would have changed is to have a certain friend with us, but he is currently in California.  He needs to move back.  I have new swing moves I want to work on and master.

My next lindy exchange is the Lindy Focus in Asheville, NC at the end of December.  I’m hoping to meet up with my friend from high school for a bit, since this is my hometown.  This would be you, Ti!

 

Finn and Apples

Last weekend, I noticed a Facebook post on my friend’s page regarding a workday on their apple orchard.  I didn’t have plans that day, so I messaged that I would gladly come out and help.  I know nothing of working on an apple orchard, but I do have a little knowledge of plants from from working on my papow’s nursery.  I was looking forward to learning a bit about apple orchards.  I ended up making a collard green and bean soup the day prior, and brought some to share.  Hopefully it was tasty!

My friend has an extremely sweet American Bulldog named Finn, who weighs more than me.  He is such a sweet dog, and he likes to have your full attention by constantly loving on you!

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The only problem is the apple trees are on a hill, and I almost rolled down the hill many many times during the day due to Finn being affectionate.  I’m pretty sure it was amusing to watch me trying to keep him out of my way while working, keeping myself from rolling down the hill, and me actually trying to accomplish some work.  I think a picture of this hilariousness is somewhere floating around.

Here he is waiting for us to bring gravel up the hill.  I wish I could have loaded him up in the car that evening and taken him home.

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I didn’t mean for this post to be completely about the adorable Finn, but it seems to have veered in that direction.

The reason I was even helping out was due to damage from these little rodents called voles.  I have never heard of them before, but they seem to enjoy orchards.  We had to replace the hay around the trees with gravel, in hopes they wouldn’t burrow beneath the trees and create more damage.

I really feel for my friends, because I know they have worked really hard on this orchard for the spring.

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I said I would come back my next free weekend to help some more.  This upcoming weekend is the PittStop Lindyhop in Pittsburgh and then Thanksgiving, but hopefully I will have free time sometime soon.  I had a refreshing day helping on the orchard, and it freed my mind of things for a while.  I will leave you will one of my favorite pictures of Finn carrying a big stick.  I think I may need a dog.

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My cat, George, is awesome….but cats are not the same.  George looks at me as if I am ruining his day by breathing in the same room as him.

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Growing up with a Vietnam Veteran as a Dad

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I became aware of what being a veteran meant at a very young age.  Coming from a big military family, I enjoyed listening to all their stories.  Even if some were a bit embellished, and they were winking at me while telling them.  The picture above is my dad while in Japan getting ready to return from Vietnam.  My father was drafted right out of high school by the US Army, and sent to Vietnam with the other young men at the time.

His father would talk with me for hours about his time overseas during WWII, and I did many school papers on his experiences.  I would plop down on the couch beside him, and we would immediately get started with the personalized history lesson.  Note: It never really happened as the school history books claim…history books have definitely been whitewashed.

The following story happened when I was in the third grade.

I vividly remember Dad poking the fire in the stove one night.  I leaned down and tried to give him a hug while I cheerfully said, “Happy Veteran’s Day”.  This is the exact moment I knew the Vietnam War was different than the others.

He looked up at me, and his eyes had this wide intense and scary look to them.  He then barked, “Don’t ever say that to me”.  Of course, the light from the fire on his face made it even scarier.  The look in his eyes, well…it is hard to explain exactly how they came across.  At that young age, I saw my father look straight through me with a fiery vacant and piercing hate.  My Dad was not behind those ice blue daggers, and I instantly knew it.  We were inches apart, and I started crying as I got back up.  He returned his gaze to the fire, and didn’t come back to the present for quite a while.

My mother immediately told him that I didn’t know, and that I was trying to be sweet.  He never responded back to her.  She then told me about the Vietnam War, and also how Dad was treated once he returned home.  Of course, she came in my room and told me this, not in front of him.  I have been on the receiving end of that look since, but I also have tried to avoid situations where it would come out.  I would just leave the situation when it would return- even if I got in trouble by walking off.  I wouldn’t say Happy Veteran’s Day to him again until 2009.

I felt it was about time for me to try again.  My brother convinced him to go to the VA Hospital for old war  injuries, and he surprisingly likes our VA.  You read that correctly, he finally went to take care of injuries decades after the war.

I called Dad up in 2009, and told him, “I don’t care if you get mad at me, I am telling you Happy Veteran’s Day”.  I told him how much I loved him, and how proud I was of his service.  He didn’t understand why I thought he would get mad at me, and I recalled that night back in the 80’s.  He apologized, and said he has no recollection of me even saying that to him – much less his reaction.  Why would he remember?

That wasn’t my Dad who responded back to the younger me.  He thanked me, and apologized once again.  I am crying at this moment, and told him he had no reason to say he was sorry.  Just writing this, I am tearing up because it was such an emotional conversation for both of us.

Looking back, I clearly see symptoms of PTSD throughout his life.  Things that I thought were normal, later to find not the case.  I won’t go into detail for my father’s privacy.  I still do not talk about the war with him, but my brother (also a veteran) says that he has started opening up to him.  Which makes me happy.  My mom told me what she knew of his service, and just that is brutal.

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Dad worked as a search and rescue paramedic and fireman when he came home.  He also went back to racing stock cars.  The above picture is what he had at the head of his bunk while in the service.  Family photos….and Richard Petty, Ralph Earnhardt, and others dirt track racing.

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He is definitely a wild mountain man, especially in his younger days.  As he has aged, he has become a wise mountain man.  Don’t get me wrong though, he still has the wild in him!  Maybe this is where I get my wild streak.

Growing up, my male friends would refer to him as Obi-Wan.  I think he secretly liked his nickname.  I wish I was able to get him to dress as Obi-Wan for Halloween.

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I love my father immensely.  It amuses me to see the fear in his eyes when he was holding me in my baby pictures.  He had no idea what to do with raising a daughter.  He was a strict father and pretty old school when it came to gender roles.  I couldn’t date until I was 16, never have a boy in my room under his roof, cutting my hair was frowned upon, wasn’t allowed to work on the tobacco farm, I did the inside chores (my brother did outside chores), and we all worked in the garden.  I think he wanted what most parents want for their kids- to do better than they did in life.  He always encouraged my love for family history.

He has taught me to always remember how I was raised.  In fact, he told me many times during my wild days to, “act how I was raised”.  It makes me laugh now, because he was way wilder than I was…I think.  He also told me many times to “stay in your lane, and your lane only” while trying to teach me to drive.

For a father who was lost on what a daughter would be interested in doing, he did a great job of teaching me a wide spectrum of things.  I spent many days at the airport, just watching aircraft take off and land; he would explain how to do any job that he was working on at the time.  When I would visit him at the race shop, he would take me around and explain everything to me about what was being built and why.  He would bring me to the shop to watch them test the engines.  He would just load me into the car whenever he did something.  It was fine with me, because he did some pretty cool stuff! 

It makes me laugh because he is so dated in his thinking of gender roles for women.  When I graduated college, he didn’t understand why I didn’t get a secretary or elementary teaching job.  In his mind, that is what females should do for employment.  Those are great professions for those who want to have those as careers, but not for me.  Plus, I despise the term secretary.

He showed me a world of adventure, outdoors, and service-orientated careers, like firemen, medics, and policemen.  It is amusing to me that the daughter he raised is still expected to be the stereotypical southern woman.  It used to aggravate me, but not anymore.  He isn’t going to change in his thinking, and I’m not either….so I just find the humor in it.

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Happy Veteran’s Day to my wonderful father, who really did a superb job raising an independent and intelligent daughter.  I am just as proud of his military service, his accomplishments, and his crazy life experiences as he is in mine.  I think the best qualities of him include his desire to always be kind to people, and to take up for those who can’t do it for themselves.

His experiences in, and after, Vietnam shaped the rest of his life.  It shaped my life, too.  Having him as a father has given me a lot of patience with veterans.  I know everyone experiences war differently, and it also attaches to each soul differently.  Yet saying that, I find similarities.  I would see these men who were the same age as my own father in the long term Community Living Center at the VA Hospital.  Some were cranky, some still dirty old men, and some so quiet that I never heard them speak- and I was there everyday.

I had confidence interacting with them due to my father.  The silence, unexplained anger and hatred, extreme mood swings, walking the perimeter of the house/campsite for hours after dark, alcoholism and the act of hiding it, waking up in the night from nightmares, intensity… the list could go on and on, but I would watch Dad experience all of these. I was able to be a better caregiver for those men and women, because of my unconditional love and compassion for my father.  I am not claiming to understand any of it, because I don’t.  Hopefully, I am explaining this to where it makes sense.  I am fully aware my attempt to write about this is probably a jibber jabbering mess.

I am sorry that Dad had to go though those experiences.  The scars my father carries created something good within me, and I truly thank him for this.

Thank you for your service, Dad.

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