I have lived in West Virginia for 25 years, and my heart eventually deepened its roots after destiny planted me here. I got married, moved into my husband’s 1870s fixer-upper home in Charles Town and together, we tackled restoring—and improving—it to the handsome folk Victorian it should be. We raised three sons in it, along with dogs and other pets, throughout the years. We hosted countless birthday celebrations, dinner parties, Christmases and extended family gatherings. Nearly every Halloween, we scared the heck out of those brave enough to come through our makeshift haunted houses and scary scenarios.
We watched our sons mature into young men as they explored activities they enjoyed, fell in love, worked different jobs and embraced traditions important to our family. One by one, they left the nest to begin their adult lives with our youngest finishing up college this coming year.
In the past two and a half decades, my husband and I also changed or broadened careers, pursued hobbies and forged a stronger union. We learned life is fleeting, so we better be grateful for the moments we are together. Here recently, we finally started focusing more on our dreams and being mindful about how we spend our time.
I’ve forged some significant relationships during my stay in West-by-God. From work colleagues to neighbors to the volume of folks you meet through your kids’ activities, I’ve made many friends. Fitness endeavors alone have provided an army of pals from my CrossFit tribes to the Mud Dogs to the Bros & Bras.
I began my writing career here, a dream that budded in my teen years and continues to unfold. It has included not only 15 years of columns for The Journal, but hundreds of articles and columns for regional publications, a published short story and my official launch into the world of author.
I first wrote Skyline Higher, a novel exploring the tumultuous world of a young girl entering high school, and I share my own intense experiences from those years at the end of the book. Skyline Higher received strong reviews, and feedback from women of all ages has been especially fulfilling. I next spent several months traversing the eight counties of the Eastern Panhandle photographing and interviewing everyday folks for my two-volume set of Panhandle Portraits. After all my years of publication work where I featured mostly everyday heroes, it was gratifying to showcase a fine sample of West Virginians, a group so often negatively stereotyped. I next released a compilation of my favorite columns titled It Is What It Is. Coming out soon is my second novel, Fifty, Four Ways, an entertaining read about four baseball moms who read Fifty Shades of Grey, set in our very own Eastern Panhandle.
Aside from all the traveling I did for Panhandle Portraits, I feel lucky to have visited or driven through most of West Virginia. My middle son introduced me to the gorgeous Fayette County, where he took me whitewater rafting and gave me a birds-eye view of Bridge Day. Hiking around the New River Gorge is a must if you haven’t been there. He also married the love of his life along the banks of the Gauley River a couple of years ago, providing me with an unforgettable day. My youngest child, through an active baseball career from age six to playing at the collegiate level, has led us throughout the state to small towns, bigger venues and the state capitol, where his image was displayed on a Jumbotron during the state tournament. Plenty of other activities had us in many of West Virginia’s nooks and crannies—and of course, the area we live is chock full of history, recreation and charm.
I can say West Virginia is truly one of the most beautiful places on earth from its rivers to its mountains to its forests to its hollows. The history is a treasure. The people are diverse and mostly, dang friendly.
We’ve made a lot of memories, suffered our losses and disappointments, buried our beloved pets, celebrated life and successes, all right here.
And for my loyal readers—thank you for your kind comments, recognition when we’ve met by chance and support across the years. Please stay in touch through my website and come to my final author appearance at the Jefferson County Museum on Thursday, July 19 at 6:30 p.m.
I’ll miss you, West Virginia. Your country roads will be forever in my heart.
This column was published in The Journal on Sunday, July 8, 2018.
Photos: I have thousands of photos of my years in West Virginia; this is just a small sampling touching on some of my topics.