|These children are real. This photo is from a Shot@Life observation trip to Uganda.|
Dear Senator… Belle goes to the “Hill”
Big Red Shoes and Tiny Little Hats
|Three of my very slender fingers fit in this tiny little hat|
My son weighed 7 pounds and 8 ounces when he was born 2 weeks shy of his due date. I was terrified I would hurt him, and he seemed so small. He weighed nearly 4 times what some of the super premie babies born or transferred to the University of Kentucky Chandler Medical Center do. I can’t imagine having a baby that small and having to watch them fight for survival. It would heartbreaking. Thankfully Ronald McDonald Houses across the country provide a warm shower, cozy bed, and a hot meal to families of children who are hospitalized due to prematurity, illness, or injury. They help make the day a little brighter and easier, for so many families who are clinging to hope.
|Some of the women from our organization, Bluegrass Junior Womans Club and the only clown I would ever be around|
|A candid of me chopping veggies for soup, I diced nearly an entire bag of onions|
We cooked dinner for the residents of the house. It always great when you can watch a large group of woman work successfully together. The club chose Rachel Ray’s Chicken Orzo Soup
“It’s not how much we give but how much love we put into giving.”
― Mother Teresa
Salt on a birds tail…
When I was younger my Paw (maternal grandfather, for those know don’t know me) would tease me about random things. I guess he never realized that telling a very curious and independent six year old tall tales might interrupt their evening and summer.
I grew up in rural southeastern Kentucky. I ran barefoot in the field, played in the “creek”, and I caught “craw dads” with my brother. I played with cousins and I was always the “boss”. I was the oldest of 7 grandchildren and 4 siblings. My curly blonde hair made it easy for me to convince my great grandmother and grandparents to be at my beckon call. I was rotten, and they made me that way. Apparently, I once called my grandparents without my parents knowledge (or permission) and had them drive 2+ hours to pick me up in Virginia. I wish I could remember the look on my parents and grandparents face when they pulled in the driveway to pick me up. I loved my childhood and growing up in a small town.
My grandparents live on the side of a mountain that overlooks the main road. We spent most of our summer afternoons outside under the shade trees watching the cars pass. My mom had taken my great grandmother shopping, and I stayed behind with my Maw and Paw. It was a hot and humid, July 3rd. Paw use to tease us. He would tell me that if you put salt on a birds tail, they couldn’t fly away. I must have been obsessed with trying to catch a bird (or any other animal). I couldn’t convince Paw to get me the salt or maybe I didn’t ask, I can’t recall. I’m not sure what exactly goes through the mind of a 6 year old. I do know, I went into the house alone to get salt. It wasn’t a good idea.
Maw kept the salt and pepper shakers in the upper cabinet next to the stove. I must have been too lazy to pull a chair over (or I wanted the opportunity to climb), so I opened a lower cabinet door and managed to stand on the countertop. Okay, so we all know this story isn’t going to end well. I don’t recall exactly what happened to make me fall. They assumed I tried to catch myself, which isn’t a good combo when falling from 3+ feet onto a hardwood floor with skinny little arms. I do remember looking at my mangled arm and thinking “boy am I gonna be in trouble”.
I know everyone is thinking, that had to hurt. I’m not sure that I should be thankful but luckily (or unluckily) the severity of my fracture had cut off circulation to my arm. I couldn’t feel anything. I guess that might be why, I thought I was having a bad dream. I was scared to death. I ran through the house, crawled into my grandparents bed, and covered up to hide. Luckily, Maw had heard a thump inside the house and came to look for me. She found me, crying and terrified in her bed.
Paw heard a scream from inside the house and came running. Maw was hysterical and my arm was a mess. They wrapped me in a blanket and we were about to start a very long series of emergency room stops on our way to the University of Kentucky hospital. I was scared and hurting, but I was also about to experience my first random act of kindness by a stranger. It was a monumental experience in my life and you will have to stay tuned for the rest of the story…
Leaving Harlan Alive
You’ll Never Leave Harlan Alive is one of my favorite songs performed by Brad Paisley (and I am still ticked he did not perform it the last time I saw him at Rupp Arena). It has special meaning to me. It is about the long and hard road that many coal miners in Harlan, Kentucky (and across this region) face. I am proud to be a coal miners daughter, granddaughter, great granddaughter (and niece, better not forget my uncle Mike). I was born because my grandfather left Harlan alive.
Most of the nation became familiar with Harlan, Kentucky not from a Brad Paisley song but from the television show Justified. Who doesn’t love a little US Marshall Raylan Givens? Although Harlan and its residents aren’t portrayed in the most flattering light, it brought attention to an area I hold dear to my heart. Nearly 13% of the employed population in Harlan works for the Coal industry. They are plagued with the same problems that much of southeastern Kentucky is ridden with. A lack of jobs, poverty, and drugs are just a few of the socioeconomic disadvantage which trouble a beautiful mountainous landscape.
I have the utmost respect for coal miners, especially those who work in some of the harshest conditions possible just to provide a basic existence for their families. They often struggle day in and day out just to “make ends meet” and they never give up. Mining isn’t a safe profession either. I have heard the gossip down in the mining camps following an accident, and seen the worry consume them, hoping it wasn’t one of their own. It was a realistic fear for many mining families, which often had grandfathers, fathers, brothers, siblings, cousins, etc. working in the same mine.
|Coal Miners memorial Harlan Kentucky|
I can’t and won’t take sides in the great debate about the coal industry in Kentucky. My grandfather suffers from Black Lung and melanoma, a lifetime in the mines is hard on the body. Mining kept my family in existence. Mining still helps sustain many families across the region. Why would you take away the job openings of those willing to work? Especially in counties such as Harlan where according to the US census bureau 31% of residents live below poverty level , which is double the poverty average for the entire state. It is even more heartbreaking that half of those residents live on much, much less than poverty level income.
“Overcoming poverty is not a task of charity, it is an act of justice. Like Slavery and Apartheid, poverty is not natural. It is man-made and it can be overcome and eradicated by the actions of human beings. Sometimes it falls on a generation to be great. YOU can be that great generation. Let your greatness blossom.”
I can remember as a child traveling the winding road up KY highway 119 once a month to visit my family in Harlan. It was a long and often car sick ridden trip for a young child. My great grandparents George Sr and Lucy Peace, and I believe their parents too are buried on a hillside in rural Harlan Kentucky. They never left Harlan alive. I have been back very few times since their death. My grandfather left for another mining camp in Kay Jay, Kentucky, where he lives to this day. I think the only time he left was for his tour in the Korean War. His body weakened and damaged from years in the coal mines, but forever grateful that he provided a home for his family. My dad worked very briefly in the mines, and we lived in rural southwest Virginia while he did. He is now a successful barber in Knox County, Kentucky.
|My grandparents, George Jr. and Norma Logan Peace|
I’m proud to be a coal miner’s daughter. It isn’t often highly regarded a profession, but how many people sacrifice their health and safety to provide a very meager existence? My grandfather isn’t a rich man by worldly means, but he worked hard, loves God, taught me to harm no other living creature (unless you plan to eat it) and is genuinely kind to all that he meets. It isn’t be hard to be proud to be a coal miners (grand) daughter when you have a grandfather like him, and especially since he left Harlan alive!
It’s never too late…
I think I have spent most of my life focusing on how things were suppose to go instead of letting them progress as they should. I have actually spent the last few years of my life focusing on what I “should” have done instead of realizing how far I have came. Every decision I have ever made has led me to where I am now and I have been given some incredible opportunities recently. I am wholeheartedly excited to be joining the United Nations Foundation Shot@Life team and working on vaccination advocacy. My journey has just begun with them, and I have already met some incredible and inspirational women. I am counting the days til I get to join in them in Washington, D.C. I wouldn’t have this opportunity if it wasn’t for my friends from Bluegrass Junior Woman’s Club who encouraged me to apply and the women at the General Federation of Women’s Clubs in D.C. for choosing me. There are days that I look at some of the bio’s of other women, and I am so grateful for being chosen. I think this journey could open some new doors for me and I hope I can inspire others to follow their dreams. We may not see it in the moment, but the timing is always perfect.
One important thing we all should remember is dream big! We should surround ourselves with other individuals who dream big, people that drive and inspire us. A few years ago I walked into a the Beaumont Centre Clubhouse to my first meeting with the Bluegrass Junior Woman’s Club and it changed my life. I had always loved community service and helping others, but these women inspired me. I am so grateful for the women I meet through the organization and I am so proud to be part of such a wonderful group. My sponsor was Beth Cramer, and even after she moved away I still keep in touch. I gained a best friend who I adore more like a sister, Brittney Wells and her lovely momma too! I wouldn’t have made it through the months following my brothers death if it wasn’t for Brittney, Lauren, and Renae. I could never truly express the gratitude and love I have for the women of the club. If you read my blog and live in the Lexington, Kentucky area, come join us for a meeting! Santa’s Shoppers, Habitat for Humanity, the Ronald McDonald House of Lexington, the Children’s Advocacy Center, and Bluegrass Domestic Violence are just a few of the many organizations that have benefited from the hard work of those involved in the club. If you don’t live in Lexington, check out the General Federation of Women’s Clubs website and find a club in your area! Change begins with you!
Hope everyone had a blessed and peaceful Sunday!