Fishing for a memory: Thoughtful Thursday

May 29, 2014

It has been a rough few days. This past Monday marked the 5 year anniversary of my brother Brandon’s death. I cry sporadicly throughout the day. I honestly thought I was coping better, but I guess I was just holding it all in. Last night, I found a box of photos and I sobbed.

My late brother Brandon 

We took my son fishing on Memorial Day. Gabriel is just 4, and we are teaching him to cast his own rod. My brother Brandon loved fishing, and I hated it. I have dozens of childhood memories about fishing with Brandon. I have grown to enjoy fishing (well truthfully I just tolerate it better). Fishing reminds me of him, and I am sure he is watching over me (laughing hysterically at my poor fishing skills).

Gabe learning to cast with a bobber and weight. 

Great fishing attire? lol 

Gabe loves to fish, or at least he loves the idea of fishing. I finally purchased his first real rod and reel set. Jeremy attached a weight and a bobber, and he practices casting into the pond. His next lesson will be with worms (ewww!). When he is comfortable using a worm, he will advance to having his own hook. There is a pond on the farm which makes it easier for him to practice.

I wish Brandon was here to help teach Gabe, he would have loved his nephews. I was just a few weeks pregnant with Gabe when Brandon died, and he didn’t know he  was going to be an uncle.

Gabe and I go fishing for fish, but we also go fishing for memories. We are making new memories together, but I also get to recall memories from my childhood. I remember a freckle faced little brother who liked to chase his sister with his catch of the day.

Does it really get easier? How did you cope with losing someone you love? Do you participate in activities as a way to remember them?

Gabe and Jeremy reeling in a fish last fall

PinkLouLou Hair and Makeup: Wedding Wednesday

May 21, 2014

Last week, I blogged about my experience wedding dress shopping and winning a giveaway from Twirl Boutique. The giveaway included a hair and makeup session from PinkLouLou Design Studio before I tried on wedding dresses. It might seem silly, but it really helped in the decision making process. I felt more confident, and I could picture what I would look like on my wedding day.

Allison, the owner and “Director of Glitter” after she finished my hair and makeup

I wish I had taken a photo of myself before I walked in. My hair is naturally curly, and I blow dry it as infrequently as possible. I took a shower, applied some hair product, and left with a damp head of hair. Allison is really a miracle worker. I was absolutely amazed at how flawlessly she styled my hair. I rarely wear my hair up for formal events, and I decided to let her try something different.

I’m amazed, that is actually my hair.  

After she finished my hair but before she started my makeup.
I didn’t give her much guidance with my hair or makeup. I was in the mood to try something different, so I let her work her magic. 
Allison was sweet and genuine. We chatted while she “dolled” me up. I discovered she is a blogger too, and was even part of American Blogger. Her personality made the experience so much more enjoyable. It can be awkward when someone you don’t know is doing your hair and makeup for the first time, she helped make the experience fun.  

It was the first time I ever had airbrush makeup, and it made my skin look as flawless as possible for a 33 year old. I don’t wear tons of makeup, and Allison gave me a very natural look.

I would not hesitate to hire or recommend Allison for any special occasion that would require hair and makeup. She is located in Lexington, Kentucky, but services most of Central Kentucky. It was a wonderful experience, and I loved meeting Allison.

Here are a  few hair and makeup tips for your big day:

  • Don’t try out any new facial products or makeup in the weeks leading up to your wedding. You could have a reaction and it can take your skin time to adjust to new products. You don’t need a break out on your big day!
  • Hire someone to do your hair and makeup, or find someone reliable to do it for you. You shouldn’t stress about doing your own hair and makeup on your big day. You deserve a little free time to enjoy being pampered. 
  • Don’t try out new hairstyles or makeup on your wedding day. My sister paid someone to do her hair for her senior prom, it turned out horrific. I drove down to redo her hair and makeup (along with several of her friends), it was a stressful experience for both of us. If you want to try something new, make sure to do a trial run several days in advance. 
  • Don’t be afraid to experiment with new hairstyles or makeup trends BEFORE the wedding. Pinterest is a great way to find hair and makeup ideas. Find something that flatters you and your dress. 

Any suggestions for upcoming Wedding Wednesday pieces? I would love to hear suggestions.

Happy Wedding Wednesday,

A reporter’s nightmare

May 7, 2014
I kept repeating what my therapist had told me, “Take a deep slow breath and exhale while counting to three.” I was filled with every negative emotion; I felt anxious, weak, nauseous, fearful, overcome, helpless, terrified, and consumed. The two mile car ride from my grandparents house to the scene of the car accident felt more like twenty miles.
It started with a cell phone call from my editor Ed. He asked if I knew how to get to Bingham Town Cemetery Road. My reply, “What’s going on?” Ed told me that there was a bad head-on car collision with injuries on Highway 223, there were ambulances in route, and a car was on fire. A head-on accident such as this is always shocking to learn of, especially in your hometown; those involved and suffering from injuries may choose to rightly seek justice and pursue legal action against the negligent party at fault.
The house phone rings in 3, 2, 1…. I tell Ed I will cover it, start to grab my camera bag, and ask one of grandparents to drive me down close to the wreck and drop me off.
I heard my grandmother say, “Sallie has been in a car accident where?”

Sallie at my Sister’s wedding last fall

My heart sank, I knew where she was.
Working as a reporter for my hometown newspaper, I knew that eventually I would have to cover an event involving someone I knew. I just wasn’t emotionally prepared for this.
Time stopped for a second, and I froze out of fear. I couldn’t figure out what I needed to do. Everyone was talking but I heard nothing, and I kept repeating, “Not again.”
Five years ago this month, I received a phone call that changed my life forever. My cousin called to tell me that my brother Brandon had been murdered.
“Get in the car,” I screamed. My Grandfather looked at me with a baffled expression. I just yelled a little louder, “Take me to her.” He was completely oblivious to what happened, but obliged.
He said,”What do you think your gonna do when you get there? It isn’t like we can do anything.” I realized he had no clue what was going on. “I don’t know if Sallie is okay, a car was on fire and she was hit head on.” I tried to explain.
I felt his foot press the accelerator and we surged forward.

My son Gabe on the left, Sallie’s son Riley
on the right, taken the day after her accident

The only thing I knew to do was pray, but I couldn’t find the composure to coherently do that.

Thousands of memories flickered through my mind like a highlight reel. I had taken her to basketball games, helped to get her ready for prom, celebrated the birth of our son’s just two weeks apart, and every moment in between flooded my thoughts.

All I kept thinking was, “Please God let her be okay.”

Traffic was stopped on the two lane road just like I had presumed, and we couldn’t get near the accident. When my grandfather slowed down, I got out of the car and I ran.

The first thing I saw was a car still on fire, and people everywhere. Firefighters, police, and EMS were roaming the scene of the accident. I struggled to find someone I knew, and I was almost too terrified to look.

Most mom’s can recognize the sound of their own baby crying, well clearly I could recognize my cousin Sallie. It was a painful cry, but she was crying. Sallie was alive, and obviously hurting. I hated to see her hurt, but it was a relief.
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I cried, and I tried to catch my breath.

They were loading her on the backboard, and I got close enough to touch her shoulder. I said, “I love you and I am glad you are ok.”

Once I realized she was alive, I went to work. It was the only thing I could do. The scene of the accident made me realize how grateful I should be, it could have been a serious tragedy.

Sallie was flown from the hospital to a trauma center for a femur fracture.
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Everyone involved in the accident survived. A lot of people have told us that we might want to consider filing a personal injury case but for now we are focusing on Sallie’s recovery.

Some friends of ours who live in Illinois have a son who was recently involved in a similar situation and they have decided to take legal action against the other driver. The last time we spoke, they had reached out to a car accident attorney in Illinois and we are now waiting to hear back from whether or not their son might be entitled to any compensation. No matter what happens, I just hope justice is done.
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We still are unsure of what caused the accident, but I have a few pieces of advice applicable to any situation.

  • Wear your seat belt.
  • Slow down.
  • Don’t text and drive.
  • Hug your family and friends, and remind them you that you love them.

Life passes too quickly to be in a hurry, and it can end without notice.

This is one week that I wish I didn’t have photos on the front page of the newspaper.

Car accidents can have devastating consequences, but they can also take a huge toll on your finances. If you would like legal advice regarding how to go about filing for compensation to cover the expenses of a car accident, go to

Happy Wise Wednesday,

Thoughtful Thursday: How does your garden grow?

April 24, 2014

Some of my most vivid memories from growing up are from summers in my Mamaw Cole’s garden. We cut up old dresses, these were to tie the tomato plants to wooden tobacco stakes. She did this to keep the plants from falling over from the weight of the tomatoes.
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I carried pails of Miracle-Gro that we mixed to pour on her plants. I picked green beans, removed the strings, broke, and occasionally I strung them up to dry in the sun. I hoed potatoes, and I was occasionally surprised by a hiding snake. I loved life on the farm, and the memories I made with her.

I always hoped to give my son similar experiences. Growing up on a farm and understanding where my food came helped to keep me grounded. It also helped to keep me in shape, I didn’t lay on the couch all summer or watch too much television.

A photo I took of Jeremy’s farm converted to watercolor with the Waterlogue app

My house in Lexington didn’t have room for a real garden, so instead I landscaped. I planted evergreens, shrubs, and an abundance of hydrangeas, even as a toddler Gabe would follow me around with a watering can.

This year, Gabe and I are helping my fiance Jeremy put on a full garden on his farm. Gabe was so excited to plant something he referred to as “magic beans”. Gabe helped plant potatoes, beans, onions, tomatoes, and cabbage so far. Gabe is like most four year old boys, he loves to play in the dirt. We let him participate as much as possible digging holes, dropping seeds, setting plants, and covering things up with dirt.

When we drive by the garden, he yells, “Mom, look the “ta-toes” are growing.”

Gardening also teaches important life lessons, you get out, what you put into it.

I look forward to working in the garden with Gabe.
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We have a few more things to be planted, and whole summer to cultivate.

I don’t want to wish away summer, but I am looking forward to fresh sweet corn, vine ripened tomatoes, and juicy watermelons.

What is your most vivid childhood memory? Did you ever plant a garden or did you plant one this year? What is your favorite vegetable?
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Happy Thoughtful Thursday,

The Butt Stops Here: Proposed Smoking Bans

February 26, 2014

My hometown has raised a few eyebrows because of the proposed extensive smoking ban. The ban would make it illegal to smoke in/around public places and businesses. Hopefully, more people will make the switch from cigarettes to vapes. Using premium e liquids vendors like Nasty Juice can make the transition very easy. Personally, I would like to high five anyone who proposed such an ordinance. As a writer/journalist/blogger, I wholeheartedly believe in constitutional rights. Smokers have been in an uproar because the ordinance prohibits their constitutional “right” to smoke, but what about my constitutional “right” to breathe clean air?

In live in a town where it isn’t common to bump into a small child that smells as if they had been chain smoking a carton of cigarettes. Who is protecting that child’s constitutional rights and health? Children shouldn’t be plagued with asthma and bronchitis because their caregivers choose to smoke. Why doesn’t someone propose an ordinance to protect children? Adults can walk away or ask someone not to smoke, but what about an infant or child? States have banned cell phone usage and/or texting in automobiles, why can’t you make smoking in an enclosed space with a minor a fineable offense?
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As controversial as smoking can be, there is no denying how difficult it must be to quit. Fortunately, nowadays there are safer alternatives to smoking such as vaping that can make it somewhat easier to quit over a gradual period. E-cigarettes that rely on e-liquids such as those in the Keep it 100 range, allow smokers to get their nicotine fix while being exposed to far less harmful chemicals. Correspondingly, a friend of mine is actually in the process of stopping smoking and has found that vaping has made the transition much easier. Thanks to the wide range of vape deals out there, she was able to get some vaping products at an affordable price. Conquering an addiction is all about changing your behavior and if vaping can help someone to give up smoking for good, then it should definitely be taken seriously.

Nonetheless, we must still think of the effects second hand smoke can have on our children. What is the definition of child abuse?
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Merriam-Webster defines child abuse as a crime of inflicting physical or emotional injury on a child. According to a study published in The American Journal of Public Health, 50 percent of infants who had mothers that smoke would be hospitalized for respiratory infections in the first year of life. Smoking can also cause a predisposition for asthma and worsen asthma related symptoms.

Public smoking bans are great and help provide clean air, but are they protecting those that need protected?
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Banning all cigarette and smoking tobacco usage is unconstitutional, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to protect children from the effects of second-hand smoke. Maybe smokers should also realize the health impacts on themselves and others around them as they put the flame to their cigarette and look into smoking alternatives for quitting. If you’re thinking of quitting, read this.

Happy Wellness Wednesday,

Real Poverty, Real Problems: Poverty Impacts Knox County Youth

February 20, 2014

In December, the Kentucky Youth Advocates released the KIDS COUNT County Data Book for Kentucky. The data book is a part of a study conducted by the national Annie E. Casey Foundation, which works to improve the lives of disadvantaged children. It is no shock that 1 out of every 4 children in Kentucky live in poverty. Did you realize that the poverty rate in Knox County is nearly double the statewide average? According to the study approximately 1 out of every 2 students live in a household with incomes below poverty level. Knox County was ranked 116th (of Kentucky’s 120 counties) for overall child wellbeing for the entire state. Neighboring Counties Bell, Clay, and Harlan also did not score well, ranking 113th, 120th, and 106th respectively.

The study focused on four key areas: economic security, education, health, and family and community. Economic security results were based upon four key areas: number of children living in poverty, teens who are not enrolled in school and are not working, parental employment rate, and higher home rental burden. Statewide, only Martin County had a higher percentage of children living in poverty than Knox County, at an estimated 56.3 percent. It was calculated that 65% of Knox County residents spend more than 30% of their income on housing costs to include rent or mortgage and utilities.
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Ultimately, Knox was ranked 117th for economic security in this study. The study also raised a number of issues about the existing Social Security benefits system. For example, the majority of families claimed to be unaware of provisions for children and Social Security survivors benefits that can be claimed by bereaved families. A similar sense of confusion also seems to surround eligibility for Social Security Disability payments. In case you were not already aware, in order to qualify for Social Security disability benefits, you must have held qualifying employment for a certain period of time.
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Moreover, as the resources on the Crest SSD website explain, in addition to work credits, you must also be able to prove that you suffer from a totally disabling condition that prevents you from working. Consequently, more resources need to be made available that can point vulnerable families in the direction of financial support during times of crisis. Financial problems can be worrying and people can often be too embarassed to look for help. However, there is always help and advice available. For example, those who require help can seek support. Those needing advice could get advice on saving or even investing. For families who want more financial security, there is always the option of investing in cryptocurrencies. Perhaps some people could even look into getting a Mycelium Wallet to manage their Bitcoin. This could help families to have more financial stability in the future.

The education rankings were rated using the percentage of children enrolled in preschool, 4th graders’ proficiency in reading, 8th graders’ proficiency math, and percentage of high school students graduating on time. These four factors placed Knox County 120th in the education rankings. The numbers are not based solely upon Knox County Public School students, but also included Barbourville Independent and Corbin Independent students. Kentucky public preschool programs have rigid requirements for enrollment. Three year olds must have a demonstrated disability or developmental delay to enroll in a County preschool program, while four year olds without disabilities or delays must meet income requirements. Head Start has similar but less rigid requirements, yet 80% of 3 and 4 year olds in Knox County are not enrolled in a preschool program. Knox County School District Preschool Coordinator Charlotte McCoy stated that, “In more affluent counties such as Oldham County, parents pay for private preschool for the children who do not qualify for public preschool. In Knox County, where the poverty rate is much higher, the parents are not able to afford the luxury of private preschool.” It can be difficult for children to catch up to other students when they essentially start behind. McCoy further stated that, “Research such as the Perry Preschool Project has shown that a quality preschool program has a significant impact on future educational success. Preschool addresses the five domains of child development: social, cognitive, adaptive, motor, and communication.
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Any potential delays in the five developmental domains are usually already identified and the child has already began to receive intervention in preschool for the delays.” Children who are given access to preschool programs are better prepared to start kindergarten. The only solution is expanded preschool access; the majority of Knox County families are unable to pay for preschool programs.

While nearly 66% of 4th graders were not proficient in reading, and 72% of 8th graders were not proficient in math, the study pointed out that on-time high school graduation rates were much higher than expected. Roughly 12% of Knox County high school students did not graduate on time, which is a much smaller percentage compared to many other counties with greater reading and math proficiencies. This implies that either students are making significant improvements in high school, or students are graduating with minimal proficiency. The result is students are unprepared to successfully start college and require remedial coursework if they even enroll.

The highest ranking for Knox came in the category of health with a rank of 87th in that category. While the Knox County teen pregnancy rate is still very high compared to other counties, and an estimated 38% of women smoked during her pregnancy; Knox children fared better in other subcategories of health. Enough struggling women were able to go to a pregnancy center to help with their unplanned pregnancy. County wide there were fewer low-birthweight babies and fewer childhood asthma-related hospital admissions. Bell County had one of the highest rates for childhood inpatient hospitalizations for asthma related symptoms.

The final category of the study was Family and Community. Knox County ranked 107th. Factors taken into account were: percentage of children living in a high poverty area, percentage of birth mothers having a high school degree, number of children living with someone other than a first degree relative, and youth incarceration rates. All children in Knox County regardless of family income live in a high poverty area. Knox County Public School District falls under a Community Eligibility Option for free breakfast and lunch. This helps local families by ensuring that school age children receive two healthy meals a day during the school year, and allowing parents to stretch their food budget.
Data for the entire U.S. is available at The site enables users to access data not included on the study, and you can view countywide data as well as data by school district. The Kentucky data is available in PDF format on the web at
The statistics are disparaging. What does the future hold for the children of Knox County?

Random Acts of Kindness Week and Photography Giveaway

February 11, 2014

Did you know that starts Random Acts of Kindness Week?  Has anyone surprised you by paying for your lunch or leaving a kind note?

I don’t think you should need an incentive to perform a Random Act of Kindness, but this week I am going to offer you an incentive.  I am going to giveaway a 1 hour photo session with 15-20 edited images on a CD with print release to one lucky reader for doing a (not so) Random Act of Kindness.

 We should be kind to each other everyday, but everyone needs a little inspiration now and then.  The entry details are below and I look forward to hearing about the Random Acts of Kindness that are completed over the next week.

On February 17th, I will let Rafflecopter randomly choose one lucky winner.

“Unexpected kindness is the most powerful, least costly, and most underrated agent of human change.”
-Bob Kerry, 1943 
Happy Making Smiles Monday,