Hillbilly Strong

To say the State of West Virginia has had a rough couple of days would be a massive understatement.

To make a long and extremely depressing story somewhat shorter, suffice it to say we received record rainfall amounts across much of the state, and as a result we had record flooding.

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This is just a glimpse of the widespread destruction and devastation that struck our state.  Over twenty lives have been lost.  Homes were completely wiped out, people have been displaced and are staying in shelters, and everything has been just generally awful in every imaginable way.

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It’s the type of situation that you think only happens in “other” places, to “other” people, but in reality, it happened all around us.  Small communities that we grew up in, that we have vacationed in or simply just driven through on a regular basis have been reduced to so much stinking, muddy, condemned rubble.

We escaped damage, thanks be to God.  Our driveway washed out and there a little water in the low spots of our basement that seeped in through the walls, but that’s it.

But this post isn’t about that.

What I have witnessed over the past few days, besides destruction and loss and devastation, is something I forgot about.  It’s something that is special about this place I live, this place which I catch myself holding in disdain from time to time.  It’s easy to look around, especially in small towns (which is really all WV has), and see all of the stereotypical things that people associate with our state.  As a lifelong resident, I find myself frustrated at times with the small town mentality, the fear of the unknown, and the unwillingness to change.  I lament the poor school systems, and even sometimes wish I could live somewhere else–anywhere else, where the people weren’t so backward and trapped in the past.

And so I forgot.

I forgot that any state is basically just geography, just a place, the boundaries of which were drawn out politically a hundred or so years ago.  The boundaries and shape of a state don’t define its personality any more than a simple snapshot of your face can define your personality.  A state–this state–is defined by the people who live in it.  We, like all humans, have our flaws.  We may be backward and fearful of change.  We may stick obstinately to our small town ways, even in the face of these global times.  Yes, we do have a drug problem here that has arguably reached epidemic status.  We are hicks, and some of us are rednecks, and we may sound funny to you when we speak, and yes, we are hillbillies.

But we are strong.

Like everyone else, along with our faults come an array of qualities that shame the rest of the world.  Over these past few days, I have seen people rally together in a way that I never even knew was possible.  Shelters were set up and donations were pouring in before some people had even been rescued from their homes.  People have taken in complete strangers right into their homes.  We are a poor state, and I know some of the people who have given had little to give, but donations have literally rolled into all of the shelters and staging points.

The National Guard is here, but they can’t keep up with us.

In the midst of this disaster, I am reminded of what this state, at its heart, truly is.  It’s people who take up for each other, and help their neighbor, and give of themselves, even when they have little to give.  The heart of a Mountaineer is as large as the mountains we call home. Some of the people who have been on tv have had some missing teeth, and horrible grammar, and maybe they didn’t really look like the type of person you would associate with a “good” person, but that’s just what they are.  This has reminded me that people are not defined by how they sound or how they look, but rather by their actions.  And the actions of my neighbors over the past few days have served to remind me that it’s okay to be who I am, and it’s okay to be from where I’m from.  It’s okay to be a hillbilly.

In fact, it’s freaking awesome.

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#hillbillystrong

 


 

 

Voluntary Madness

As I sit here in my faithful, if slightly sagging recliner tonight, I am, for the moment, without my husband.

Where is he? At the bar? Working third shift? Coon hunting?

Nope.

He’s currently at the scene of two-car MVA.  That’s motor vehicle accident to the uninitiated.

My husband is part of our local volunteer fire department.  He, and his brothers and sisters, were all just sitting at home a few minutes ago, some probably in bed, when that shrill sound ripped through the evening.  The volunteer firefighter’s pager–a cold, unfeeling thing that dictates much of our lives.

As a teenager, I sometimes held volunteer firefighters in disdain.  Now, as VFF wife, I sometimes catch little snide comment and rolled eyes from people.  I know what they are thinking.  They have envisioned the Barney Fife types who just like strutting around with their pagers and giving people orders.  I guess there are some of those out there, just as there are always bad apples in every basket.

But what I have found is that these are hard-working, courageous men and women who voluntarily give up time away from their families to help others.

My husband spent days away from home while he was getting his certification.  He got further trained to drive the engines, because he is a naturally talented big truck driver.  He trains every Monday evening with his Station.   Mostly, though, he is always ready to literally run out the door and to the rescue of people in need.  It might be late in evening, like now, or it might be one or two in the morning.  Sometimes he’s back in an hour–sometimes not for five or six.

Sometimes he has to comfort people who are afraid, and hurt, and maybe even dying, all while acting as though he himself is not afraid.

He has been “toned out” during cookouts, birthday parties, holidays and family gatherings. He has missed his dinner and eaten a bowl of cereal, or maybe nothing at all because he was too exhausted to eat.

He has made lifelong friends, and so have I.  He has had struggles and frustrations and some scary situations, which he always downplays to me because he knows I worry.  He trusts his brothers and sisters with his life, and holds their lives in his hands.

So, take a minute to be thankful that there are men and women out there like my husband, who don’t do what they do because they are getting paid, or getting glory, or really even getting any recognition at all.  It’s easy to dismiss a volunteer firefighter because he’s the same guy you see mowing his lawn every week, or shopping in Walmart.  But make no mistake–he’s a hero.

And this one here, he’s mine.

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Spoiled (not so) Rotten

You have to be careful when you are talking about other people’s rotten kids.

Even to define what it means to have a “good” kid or a “bad” kid can be tricky.  It’s broad terminology.

Regardless, I couldn’t help but ponder a comment I heard about an obviously “bad” kid who had grown into a bad man.  The comment was that his grandparents had raised him and they had “always bought him anything he wanted.”

There was tons of heavy implication within this comment, laid on with a skill that only the elderly Southern lady possesses.  I, being skilled in interpreting this clandestine dialect, understood what was really being said.  The boy had been “spoiled” by his grandparents and so had turned out to be no good as an adult.

This got me thinking.  Does buying too many things for our children turn them into bad people?  I have always seen the clichéd images of the over-indulged child throughout my life.  The greatest and most recent, of course, being Dudley Dursley.  This is archetype of the “bad” child.  He has too much of everything.  He is bought too much, fed too much, simply given too much. As a result, he (or she) is spoiled.

I’ll be honest.  This comment hit me on a personal level.

I have always been guilty of overbuying.  I’ve never mortgaged my house to buy my kids something, but if it was in the budget and there was something cool they wanted, or even something cool I thought they might like to have, I probably got it for them.

I love technology and gadgets, so we always have the latest iPhones and iPads.  The Boy likes Nike shoes, and I got him a pair.  I guess I just never really thought of it as a big deal.

Now, The Boy is 16.  He got his first job this summer and is working hard.  He does very well in school.  So, we got him a car.  It’s cheap, it’s small, and it’s not at the top of anyone’s dream car list, but it is new, it gets great gas mileage, and it is his.

So I ask, have we been doing things wrong?

If I go by what society (and some family members) tell me, then we have spoiled children.  But the funny thing is, they don’t act like spoiled children.

Obviously, my daughter doesn’t really fit into a simple mold, be it spoiled or not spoiled or anything else, but my son is pretty much a typical 16-year-old boy.  However, I happen to think he is an exceptional 16-year-old boy.

He is compassionate and kind.  Little kids are drawn to him like moths to a flame.  He pretends like this annoys him, but I know he loves them and it brings him joy.  He is one of the most generous people I have ever met.  I honestly don’t think he has a selfish bone in his body. He works hard and is so smart.

I don’t think it is what we buy our kids that makes them who they are.  I think it is what we teach them.  You could buy them things and they could be little brats.  However, you could also buy them things but still demand that they treat people with respect, and do their chores, and behave a certain way.

Ultimately, it really isn’t anyone’s business what you do or don’t buy for your kids.  I think we are all probably guilty of overbuying, especially in this modern age of “stuff.”  But the responsibility of raising respectful, responsible children remains the same.

It seems to me blaming the “stuff” is taking the easy way out.  It’s easy to blame something superficial like “spoiled” rather than say, “his grandmother let him speak disrespectfully to her all of the time” or “he was never responsible for anything around the house.”

So yes, I think you can spoil your children.  But I think you spoil them not by giving them too many material things, but by not giving them enough of what we all need to be decent adults:  discipline.

What do you think?

An Open Letter to Teens

Dear Teens:

You don’t know shit.

Oh, I know, I know.  You think you know everything. I am (not so) sorry to be the one to tell you that, in fact, as I said, you don’t know shit.

Also, no one in this world owes you anything.  Did you get that? NOT. ONE. THING. If you want things, buy them.  That requires money, which requires a job, which generally requires some sort of skill set, along with basic personal hygiene.  Some of you seem to be struggling with this.

It’s all pretty basic.  Take a bath.  Brush your teeth.  Make eye contact when people talk to you.  And, God help us all, smile.  

Here is another pointer for you–learn English.  Like, for real.  I’m not trying to be mean, but you kind of sound like morons.  You can’t spell, you can’t speak, and to be frank, you’re making us look bad in front of the whole world.  Try not to add “uh” to the end of every word, especially if you are doing so in a particularly annoying, whiny voice.  Examples: stop-uh, don’t-uh, look-uh, what-uh. (For those of you struggling to understand, just draw those words out.  Come on now, draw them out niiiiiicccceeee and loooooonnnggg and force the sound through your nose and then tack that “uh” at the end. Got it?)

Lastly, get over yourselves.  Look around.  This may come as a shock to you, but there are other people in the world besides yourselves. Who knew, right? Take a moment to realize that your words and actions might have some effect on someone other than you.

I give you these words in love, because I don’t want to see you make the same mistakes I made as a selfish, stupid teenager.  I want you to realize that there are certain decisions you only get one chance to make. I want you to look around an appreciate the value of the other people in your life.  Some day they might not be there.  And they love you.

We all love you.

P.S. You still don’t know shit, though.

P.P.S. The duck face and the kissy face in every picture look absolutely ridiculous.  Really.  I mean, people are making fun of your behind your back.  It’s that bad.  Stop.  Please.


 

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