Glory Days: A story of Hazard.

Nostalgia has proven to be one of my favorite emotions, and it has the ability to bond large groups of people together, by one common thread. Most of what I write about, as well as the success of many of these articles, can be attributed to one thing: nostalgia. In keeping with that theme, I wanted to tug at the heart strings of my fellow Hazardites, by remembering the “Old Hazard.” The sprawling, bustling, little city that so many of our mothers,fathers,grandparents, aunts and uncles recall in long worn stories, passed down for years. The “Hazard” described in these tales exists only in the minds of the story tellers, but its not lost on those like me, the recipients, who marvel at the wonder of times long gone. We look to it as an example and inspiration. This long gone time was the era when men and women went dancing on Saturday nights. Ladies brought out the bridge tables on designated dates and gambled the night away to the sound of ice clinking in their glasses. Men starched their shirts before going into town, and women never left home without their hats perfectly pinned and hands delicately gloved. There were no “pill problems” to speak of; no such thing as “those who abuse the system,” and the worst anybody could ever do was to be “caught” trying pot. Looking back on these memories, the photographs, the tales and the legends, it’s hard for me to imagine Hazard as this almost fantastical place, but it was. For all it was worth then, it’s worth remembering now.Hazardblog

It is impossible to think, or talk  about Hazard history, without thinking first of Jerry’s Restaurant. Located across from what is now Shell Mart, Jerry’s was opened on November 12, 1968, and it was known as the very first “chain” restaurant to grace the town. The restaurant soon became a local hangout for teenagers and a favorite among locals. Boys would cruise by in their hot rods (67 camaros, 78 z28s, even old Studebakers) and burn their tires, to impress all the beautiful women. Families would clamor to purchase the “J-Boy Boxes”, “Champ Sandwiches,” and “Ground Round-topped with an onion.” Fast food wasn’t supposed to taste as good as Jerry’s, but it did. The strawberry pie was so red and perfect, it’d make your eyes burn and the chocolate fudge sundaes were piled so high and frothy that you’d have to share it, because it was too much for only one person. Cat Sizemore was the owner, with the likes of Big Ernie as the cook, Bobby Riley as manager, and longtime waitress Madelyn Riddle, who knew everyone’s order before they even sat down.

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Many people would make the trip to downtown on the weekend to visit the Family Theater or The Virginian, where movies would cost you 25 to 50 cents. After the movie was over, you could walk to The Sweet Shop and get a spectacular ham salad sandwich with a thick vanilla milk shake. If you were lucky enough, you got to occupy a bar stool by the window so you could admire all the handsome boys who would sit on the rail by The Grand Hotel, to watch the ladies walk past. Boys would usually journey down to the 8-Ball Pool Room, ran by Charley and Johnny Robinson. You would have to produce your “pool card” that was supposed to be signed by your parents. Joining the 8-Ball Pool club was a right of passage, and after you had mastered the art of that establishment, you got to venture on to The Royal Bar where the “experienced” players played and drank beer. Taxi Alley was always full of cab drivers awaiting their next customers.

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Among the many special restaurants in Hazard was Don’s, Gross’s Steak House and The Shamrock. Kids at Don’s would scarf down their hamburgers, so they could look at the comic books up front that were displayed, cleverly, on a revolving wire rack. You could score one for 10-12 cents. Folks would order stew and dumplins by the platter at Gross’s, and The Shamrock was owned by Grapevine and Maggie Whitaker and remained one of the few places were you could drink coffee late into the night. You could go to Rexalls during long hot summers and purchase a lemon sour, but be sure to add salt, or to Fouts drug store for a fountain float. Not lost among these ranks were the Chat n’ Chew, Smiley’s, Bailey’s, and of course, you had to get Nola’s fried chicken and gravy at The Kentucky Inn. Hazard, in those days, had all the charm and sweetness of a small town untouched by commercialism, and was purely owned and operated by the souls who lived and breathed life within those city limits.

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A peak inside Fouts Drug Store on main.

 

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The Shamrock

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Fathers, husbands and boyfriends would come to window shop at Papania’s, Lasslo’s, or Stiles for that perfect piece of jewelry. Little boys would receive their first knives from Davis Hardware, and you bought your first pair of Converse sneakers from Dawahares. You could go down to Scott’s 5 & dime and flip through stacks of records or locate some special toy. Later, this spot would be known as T, G, and Y. George’s shoe store had all the Aigner purses and shoes you could ever want, and whenever you had worn them out, you had to go to Halcombs, across the bridge, to get them repaired. You could go down to Home Office Supply and listen to 45’s, before you could buy them. The place was off limits to many, because it was a teenage haven. Little girls would exclaim over the peaches and cream dresses sold at Tots-n-Teens, and at Christmastime, children would line up to see the window display at Shafter Comb’s store. The Holidays were a magical time, in downtown Hazard, and something that shop keepers and town leaders took a lot of pride in. Lights would be draped over the streets, and the entire strip was transformed into a dream like winter wonderland. Every window showed their best merchandise and everyone was cheerful. By all accounts, those were special days.

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Main Street Hazard 1957

I describe these things as I have read about them on message boards or on stories told on social media. Most have become tributes or oral accounts of these days that escaped us, so long ago. I’ve never walked the streets of downtown Hazard, packed shoulder to shoulder with my fellow citizens. I’ve never had a hamburger at Don’s, or gotten a root beer float at Fout’s Drug store. By the time I was old enough to really remember Hazard as a kid, the five and dime was long gone, Dawahares had moved to high street, and the only restaurant on the strip, that I ever recall, was The North Fork Grill, and even that didn’t last long. My generation will never know that special place our town was then. If you notice, I’ve not really put a name to this era or decade I am talking about, because it seems that it was every decade that preceded the 90’s. Even in the 1980’s, Hazard was busy. We’ve long lost that special, small town feel that lit up Hazard, and made her so special, and dear to our hearts.

As I was driving downtown today, I recognized some of these places from past pictures. Most now are attorney’s offices, random businesses, or just simply left vacant. My own husband works now in the building that was once The Shamrock Restaurant. Hazard has suffered a great blow with the advances of chain restaurants, commercialism, and super companies like Wal-Mart and Lowes. There is no room for small town country stores anymore, and it certainly shows downtown. We no longer have bumper to bumper traffic, you see more people wearing pajamas downtown than you do in your home.

I will always remain adamant that, despite everything, I still love Hazard, and I am always proud to tell people that this is where I am from. Am I a little sad that myself and my children will never get to experience “the Hazard” that so many remember fondly and with such pride? Of course I am. I also remain optimistic that organizations like InVision, and Fantastically Hazard are working hard at re-branding the Queen City and revitalizing downtown into a place we can all be proud of. I remain optimistic that city leaders will put their heads together to think of new and exciting ways to bring positive attention to our town and our area and help make it special again. Lastly, I remain optimistic that there are still sentimental, nostalgic folks out there, like myself, who still see the beauty of things, even though they may just need a little dusting off.

So, this one is to you. I dedicate this piece to those of you who have walked down main street and recall these places in your memory. My childhood didn’t produce those pictures. I am a product of what, I hope, will be described as a displaced generation. I want for my generation to be the only one who won’t have that caliber of memories about this place. Therefore, this piece is also dedicated to those of you who have an opportunity to change that for our children. May they have memories as fond as anyone before us.

Pictures Courtesy of:

wsgs.com

hazardkentucky.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ad Space and Sponsorship Opportunities Available for TBSM

No one is more surprised than I am by the success and well reception of this little blog I started in late August of last year. I started it as a hobby and it is steadily turning into something that is becoming a great tool for our community. I love showcasing the amazing parts and history of Hazard, as well as everything positive about Eastern Kentucky, and so far, the pieces I have written have been extremely well received, and I thank each and every one of you who have liked or shared me on social media, or told a friend about me! You are the reason I keep on doing this, and the exposure has been amazing.

With all of this being said, I have decided that there should be a way for the local businesses in Hazard and Eastern Kentucky to benefit from all the exposure I am getting as a result of the pieces I write. I have available advertising and sponsorship spaces for people who would like their business to appear on the blog for a nominal fee. If you are interested, I can also print you off an analytic page where you can view the kind of exposure and traffic I receive on both the website I own and my social media page for the blog.

This is a leap of faith for me. I never dreamed that anyone would even want to read what I write, but last night as I checked my latest blog post about MC Napier, I discovered that on Facebook alone I had garnered over 3,000 shares and over 10,000 views alone in one day for one post. I would love to be able to promote our local businesses and show people how amazing our little town, and Eastern Kentucky really is!

So, if you are interested, there is a downloadable pdf link you can go to under the “ad and sponsorship” tab in my navigation bar where you can see the dynamics of how purchasing either an ad or sponsorship will work. You may also email me at kimberlychall08@gmail.com for any further questions and information.

-The Bourbon Soaked Mom

Courtney Grubb Hall

MC Napier High School : A Faded History.

 

 

If you are native to Eastern Kentucky, you’ve probably heard of the name MC Napier. Mitchell Campbell- Napier was born in Leslie County Kentucky. He was raised in Perry County in the Yerkes area, and attended the old Hazard Baptist Institute and later earned his education degree in Berea and Richmond. (In those days, Eastern Kentucky University was primarily an institute dedicated to educating teachers.) After graduating in 1917, Napier moved back to Perry County and was named Superintendent of Perry County Schools, by a popular vote.

During War World I there was a severe shortage of educators in Eastern Kentucky. In 1918 alone, there were only 75 teachers, for the nearly 60 schools in Perry County, and their average salary was $35-$40 dollars per month. The school term only ran for five months, and during this period, a “county high school” did not exist. Most students attended grades 1-8 in a one room school building, and the system was in a great amount of debt.

MC Napier’s goal and mission was to improve the conditions and quality of the school systems. he was also determined to improve education in Perry County, in general, and to repay the debt owed by said system. Not only did he repay the debt but he also is credited for making Perry County the first school system in Eastern Kentucky to hold school for a 9 month term and also the first school system to have a 100% enrollment in the KEA. (Kentucky Education Association)

Mr. Napier also helped to gain WPA funds, which provided for a gymnasium in Vicco, Combs grade-school, and Robinson High School. By 1950, there were 301 teachers in Perry County and 109 schools. Teachers had a salary of 200 dollars per month, and there were 9 high school in the county. After 31 years as an inspiration, trail blazer and educator, Napier retired in 1951. MC Napier High School was later erected and named for in his honor.

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Napier students pose on the front steps in the mid 50’s.
Opened in 1953, MC Napier High School is the source of much nostalgia and remembrance for the people of Hazard and Perry County, especially. Many folks around here have received their education there, met their spouses there, spent their teenage years behind those fabled walls and will never forget the lasting legacy that Napier imprinted on their hearts and minds. My own family is not exempt from this class, they too walked the hallowed grounds of MC Napier.

The building is plain brick, your three-story standard bye-gone era high school. The concrete steps still stand outside where many posed for superlatives, or graduation pictures. A tree still looms out front, shading the building from the sun. The walk way now is untouched, the classrooms still littered with text books and educational posters. The main stair well stands uninhabited but haunted with the footsteps of kids hustling to class; the shuffle of a busy school day. Today, Napier is all but abandoned, left to wreck and ruin. A sad testament to a time long ago, but certainly not forgotten.

Who can forget such teachers like the late Newton Combs, who sadly, just recently passed away on January 1st, at the age of 76? Joining the ranks among him were Shirley Caudill, James Stamper, Doug Fugate, Alice Smith, Marvin Combs, Peggy Grigsby, Donna Ison, and of course, the wonderful Vonn Boggs. I’ve had the privilege and opportunity to speak with many alumni and alumna who all spoke of these marvelous educators with such admiration and pride. As I posted a status on my Facebook about seeking out past attendees of Napier and who their favorite teachers were, I was bombarded with emails, personal messages and texts recounting those glory days and how their lives were more inspired and changed by these wonderful teachers, and that old brick building that now stands desolate. If I’ve left anyone out, I apologize, the list was so lengthy that I am afraid if I listed them, we would have no room to talk of anything else.

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Newton Combs, and former Pcc basketball coach and current Hazard High School basketball coach, Alan Holland.

I’m speaking of an era when there were no cell phones, no school shootings. Kids were designated a smoking area outside (that was more crowded than any other place on campus), filled with students who had obtained smoking passes from the forged signatures of their parents. Outside of Mrs. Russel’s classroom was a pay phone, and lunch cost you  25 cents and 3 cents more for extra milk. Central air didn’t exist, and on hot August days, teachers opened windows, ran fans and prayed to god their pupils wouldn’t fall asleep. Paddling was the best and most used form of discipline, and the cheerleaders had to try out in front of the entire school and get voted in by a jury of their peers. Mr Combs. taught “typing,” and there was a shorthand class. Frankie Joe Williams, the math teacher, would freeze you to death, constantly running his fan on top of the filing cabinets. Mrs. Smith was the art teacher and would wait for the girls of the 60’s at the bottom of the steps with a ruler to measure their mini skirts. If the skirt was deemed unsuitable, she’d take you to the home economics room and let out the hem. Peggy Grigsby was your favorite Home Economics teacher, and Kenzie Combs was the long time janitor. The Navajo Princess was beautiful, and she led the marching band in the Homecoming Parade that everybody in the county turned out to watch. Football games were played in Airport Gardens, but back then, it was Napier Field, and Coach Bill Dixon was a NAVAJO. Drums in the distance, hear the warriors cry, we declare war on Hazard High……

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1977 Navajo Cheerleaders

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Speaking of that little rift with Hazard High School, the rivalry was everything, and the most fun you’d ever had. In 2013, the end of an era came in shutting down (the now) Paul Ray Alexander Field. The (former) Napier Field was open in 1960, only a corn field and pasture. Over 300 high school games were played there. Thousands of fans came to spectate, and many memories were made. In the 60’s Napier players such as Jerry Brewer, Jessie Harris, and Calvin Beatty wore that coveted red jersey. In the 70’s, it was Kenny Miller and David Napier, and the 80’s heralded in Larry Napier and Jeffrey Gillum. The MC Napier tradition of winning was continued on throughout the Perry Central era with Al Holland Jr, and Tewayne Willis. Only recently has the tradition on that piece of ground came to a close.

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The 1993 “Fab 5”

The basketball program at Napier had no shortage of wins. Albert Combs in the 70’s ushered in a new era of competition and athleticism. Napier proved to be a major competitor in not only local levels but state levels as well. Tales of all out riots, and graffiti ridden front steps at the hands of the “Dawgs” still fill the message boards, passed down from generation to generation. The Navajo Women’s Basketball team was made famous in the 80’s and 90’s under the direction of Coach Randy Napier and their legacy still lives on to this day. Former students still remember pep rallies outside, shaded by an old oak tree and the air floating with the sounds of THE Navajo war cry. These were the generations that really paved the way and laid the foundation for the true and everlasting rivalry between MC Napier (Now Perry Central) and Hazard High School. The greats, the stuff of legend, the generators of true distinction and lore. Hats off to you, my friends, you created something magical-Do not ever forget it.

In 1995, MC Napier and Dilce Combs were consolidated into Perry Central. The MC Napier Building was utilized as an alternative school to the county school systems until 2005 where it was then closed. In 2007, the building was auctioned off to a private buyer. It still stands today, a reminder of what once was, and a sad eye sore to a once successful, and thriving high school. It’s a shame to see the state of decay the building remains in today. Unused, and unloved, when it is so clear to me, that so many people still adore and appreciate this local piece of Hazard/ Perry County history.

These words were formed from second hand reminiscences. The times and memories surrounding this school are those of the people who experienced it. However, through the stories, messages, and emails, I have received, I know for certain that it was a special thing. I’ve thought quite a while about how to end this piece with something that satisfactorily captures so many people’s feelings, and I always come to the conclusion that words I believe fit best have been written before. I think Mr. Thompson illustrated this type of nostalgia best when he wrote:

“Maybe it meant something. Maybe not, in the long run, but no explanation, no mix of words or music or memories can touch that sense of knowing that you were there and alive in that corner of time and the world. Whatever it meant.”

– Hunter S. Thompson

 

Sources for this blog include:

www.wsgs.com

www.hazard-herald.com

Countless contributors who opened the archives of their hearts to share with me these special tales and tributes. Thank you all so much.

 

 

 

 

 

 

What happens when you are the “friend with kids.”

When I found out I was pregnant, my girlfriends could not believe it. They were so supportive, so excited, so happy. They would go and hit up every buffet in town with me, help me waddle into Babies R Us and pick out nursery decorations, and sit through hours of silly games and bring me countless cute outfits at all my baby showers. Women, tend to run in packs and my pack was ready for the arrival of a little blue bundle. I assured them all that nothing was going to change between us, that I would still see them regularly and it would be all be normal after all the hustle and bustle was over with………

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In a fairy tale world that would all be true. As much as I wish I could say that things stayed the same between all of us, I can’t. Once you have children, and the rest of your friends do not, it changes. Your life is different. It’s not a bad thing, but it’s not the same anymore. Ever. It will never be. For me, it only made my relationships with my friends stronger, because the ones that stick around after you have children are the ones who are true friends. When you can’t go party anymore, or get into meanness, it’s safe to say that you will have some friends that you just will never be close to again. The ones who still want to come see you, play with your babies, visit you in the hospital, those are your friends and always will be. Those are the friends who also realize that they take a backseat in your life now. They will understand that your life has changed and you are going through some heavy stuff, and not only will they understand but they will be there for you through it all. There will also be some revelations on your part. You’ll find that friendship isn’t as carefree and easy as it used to be, however much you want it to be. It’s tough to balance being a Mom and keeping all your friendships intact, just because there truly aren’t enough hours in the day. It’s hard as hell being the friend with kids, trust me.

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Your friends WILL sit through your baby showers and even pretend to have fun.

1: You realize that you aren’t like your friends anymore. Yes, you still love them dearly and yes they will always be your best friends, but you are different from them now. You have to take care of another human being. They have to take care of themselves. I had kids young, and while I was home making bottles, my friends were still out living the lives of 20-somethings. It will never be the same no matter how hard you try. Your life has changed.

2: Hanging out now requires planning, getting a sitter, and fighting tears and looking at pictures on your phone of your children the ENTIRE time you are out. I have been out only a handful of times with my friends since the birth of my kids. It’s a hassle, but sometimes it’s good for you. As much as I love my friends and as much as I love hanging out with them and having fun, all I thought about the entire time was how much I miss my kids and how much I couldn’t wait to get back home to them. No, they hadn’t forgotten about me, but still, as a Mother, are you ever really alone in your thoughts? Your children are ALWAYS with you.

3: Your friends WILL get tired of stories about your kids. THEY WILL. I promise. I talk about my kids ALL THE TIME. They are my life. They are my job. They are what I exist for. My friends, I know, get tired of it. But they bare with me, and thank god I am lucky that they smile and laugh with me and even if they don’t care, they act like they do. That’s a good friend.

4: There will be a lot of promised plans that fall through. I hate this so much, because I would love to be able to see my friends more, but it isn’t realistic. They have busy lives, they have careers, they are a bunch of bad ass women. I have two rug rats that I am constantly trying to tame. Sometimes our schedules just do not match up. It sucks, but they understand it, and so do I.

5: You will have to explain a lot. Your friends have no idea what Enfamil AR is, or a Bumbo, or a Boppy. This is foreign mommy talk to them. You’re going to have to explain what all this crap is if you use it to them in conversation. They also have no clue that you have to feed the baby ever so often, and that there is such a thing as Bordreaux’s Butt Paste.

6:You will miss them, a lot. I do a lot of keeping in touch by social media. It’s sad to see them from the other end of a computer, or have conversations through text message, but anything is better than nothing. When you go from seeing them everyday, basically living together and then seeing them once a month or maybe even less, it’s hard.

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A real friend blows bubbles with your child while clad in Marc Jacobs

I am lucky enough to have understanding friends that love not only me, but my boys too. They drop by and see me whenever they can, and they do everything in their power to keep in touch. I’m fortunate and I know it. If you are like me and are lucky enough to have friends who not only love your new-found status as “the FWK” but help you embrace it and own it, you should thank them every now and them. Remember, if it’s hard for you, then it has to be hard for them too. Being the friend with kids is a weird and funny thing, and it takes some getting used to with all parties involved, but eventually, you will get used to it and before you know it, you’ll be having them over and watching as they let your kids draw all over them, drag them into their rooms to play with their favorite toys and maybe even hold their first ever baby! You will also get a good laugh when their time comes and THEY join you in the ranks as another “friend with kids” and suddenly they understand what it’s all about.

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Kids friendly New Year’s Parties. Part of being friends with a “FWK”
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Another one bites the dust.

 

The Beauty of “The Cousin”

 

Following up my blog post about “The Aunts’ I felt I had to also dedicate one to the first pals of my life. My cousins. I come from a large family. I grew up with no brothers or sisters, but what I lacked in siblings, I made up for in cousins. Cousins. The first friends you ever have. An unbreakable bond that begins before you can remember and continues throughout your entire life. I wouldn’t take anything for mine. They are wild, and funny, and gracious, and I love them all. Each one has their own place in the family, (good or bad) and each brings some certain quirk to the table.

Trouble, and myself are old friends, and I must say that I was first introduced to this old friend by my cousins. As the oldest granddaughter swimming in a pool of mostly boys, I can say that my younger years were rough and ready. I learned quickly how to make up for size by throwing a surprise left hook, could bait a crawl-dad hole like a professional, and was supreme champion in playing “king of the hill.” For a stringy-headed blonde who was toothless, had all knees and elbows and an eternal sunburn, I guess I wasn’t all that bad.

I remember, fondly, endless summers, wading with them in the smooth bedrock of a dirty creek and chasing green snakes in my Grandpa’s garden. We would share sweet strawberries straight from the vine, and take a salt shaker with us when we went to pick  “maters”. I would tumble head first into a pile of freshly raked fall leaves, and be left at their mercy to pick all the ticks from my hair. I’ve been pushed out of a sprawling pine tree too many times to count, and I still have a scar from being thrown off the back of a four wheeler. I think of them still when I smell bug spray, or watch my eldest scramble to catch lightning bugs. All these things I did with them.

As we grew older, we were each the protectors of one another. Once again, the age old sentiment was that, we could say whatever we wanted about each other…..but nobody else was allowed. I’ve been in many scrambles over them, and they over me. Aside from being built-in life long friends, our roots and blood always brought us together in ways that can only be attributed to kinship. There’s always been an unspoken agreement between all of us to see to each other. An understanding that, when the old guard is gone, we are all we will have left of an era gone by.

I owe a lot to them. My sense of adventure, my free spirit, and an uncanny ability to find the quickest way on the receiving end of a long switch that was most likely picked by myself. Kindred spirits is how I would define the love between us. A common ground and shared blood. I love em, still to this day. We sit around my Grandmother’s table and laugh, swap insults, and enjoy being together again, probably united after way too long. It never matters the amount of time that has passed since I’ve seen them, we pick up right were left off.

Now they too have children. Those children play with my children and I see the same pattern starting again. I dread the day when they run in a pack and wreak havoc on everything they touch. I look forward to watching them all grow up, and seeing them enjoy the same simple things we used to when we were wild and free. My only hope is that they are half as mean and twice as smart as we all were, perhaps them I will have a lot less grief and a lot less worry.

With all this mushy stuff being said, long story short, without my cousins, life would have been a lot less interesting, and certainly dull to the point of tears. My cousins, and I am sure the cousins of all of you who read this, were the ones who added lots of color to my life, and made even the most boring things fun. When my boys gets old enough, I hope they experience the same friendship, get into as much trouble and have as much fun as I had with my rough and rowdy bunch.

Love you guys so much, and 15 years later, I am still waiting for you all to clear my name in the accidental death of “Big Red” The Rooster……

 

What I’ve Learned as a Mother to Boys

Growing up, I was absolutely 100% sure I was a Disney Princess. I loved every shade of pink, owned every American Girl doll of the 90’s, and never went without polish on my nails. That’s why when I found out I was pregnant in the summer of 2011, I was so sure that I was having a girl, I had my mother go up to the attic and retrieve every girly toy and trinket she had saved from my childhood. Then I had an ultrasound, and it was confirmed. I would be buying blue. Not only did this happen once, but twice. Twice my poor Mother had to haul all of my little girl junk back up to the attic and let it lay in wait for perhaps another chance to be handed down. I had absolutely no clue what to do with a little boy, and received a quick crash course in everything manly right from the start. I have many friends right now who are expecting, and expecting boys. For all my girly friends that will be carrying home a bundle of blue soon, I will list what I’ve learned so far in my nearly three years of mothering tiny little gentleman.

* Boys are bossy. You always know where you stand with boys. If my sons want something, I know it. Greyson isn’t the least bit shy about telling me my place, what he wants, what he feels and what he thinks.

* Boys are messy. Yeah, I let go of the hope of clean, net, organized home a long time ago. Any given day, if you come to my house, there are toys scattered, something spilled, a mess made to be cleaned up and a lot of fun going on.

Boys will be boys. My oldest loves boobs, knows when he sees a pretty girl, and already knows the devastation caused by flashing an adorable dimple. I’m telling you, somehow, they just have it pre-programmed in them on how to bag a lady…….whether she be 7-or-70. Boys know how to get the girl. My three year old breaks hearts every time I take him out in public. I’m just hoping he slows down by the he hits puberty.

*Boys are constantly in competition. I’ve noticed this with G and his cousins. He can’t be outdone in anything. If someone is getting all the attention, he has to eclipse it. If someone if catching a ball, he has to catch it better. There is always that “one-up” factor.

* Boys are protective. I’ve already had Greyson deck a kid at the library because they took a toy away from his Brother. Boys are just naturally inclined to become protectors. It shows from an early age. G beats his poor brother on the regular, but he watches over him and nobody else is allowed to touch. Hopefully this is always a thing, and of course, vice-versa.

* There is A LOT of pressure. You are raising (presumably) the future head of a family. You are charged with making sure this tiny person grows up, gets an education and can provide for his family. Hello, that is scary as hell. The thought crosses my mind everyday where I ask myself if I am teaching them to be respectful, responsible, well mannered boys. They are (nearly) 3 and 1. Yeah, it’s THAT intense.

Boys will leave you one day. It’s a fact. One day my sons will grow up, fall in love, get married and they will not need Mom anymore. Sure, I’ll always be their Mother, and they will always love me, but I will no longer be the number one woman in their lives. That’s a sad and tough pill for any woman to swallow, but it’s true. We are preparing our sons to give the kind of love that we give them ourselves. I can only hope that I raise mine to be worthy husbands, fathers, and men.

* Sons share a special and unique bond with their mothers. Boys naturally think their mothers hung the moon. When my babies fall and scrape a knee, I’m the one they crave a kiss from to make it all better. When they are sick and feeling nasty, it’s me who they climb in bed with and me who gives them their medicine. A mother is a son’s first kiss, and first love. It’s so important to forge that maternal bond. It’s everything, really.

I love my two sons. There is nothing in the world that I am more proud of than giving birth to the two of them. They are my greatest accomplishment, and I am quiet sure they are the reason I was put on this earth. Even while battling through the endless amounts of leg-gos, hot-wheels, pirate toys and Nerf guns, there is no way I would trade a Barbie or a tea set for any of it. They’ve taught me the beauty of tractors, bulldozers, and how playing in the sand pit can become a perfect day. They’ve opened up my world to sticky fingerprints on the windows, stained rugs, and spaghetti-o kisses. If I ever do have a little girl, I’m positive I wouldn’t have the slightest clue what to do with her. It’s unbelievable the type of person that raising young men can turn you into. For me, it’s been wonderful and eye opening and everything I hoped it would.

 

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Let’s Talk Marriage: From TBSM

 

marriage

Engagement season has officially started, and after opening my social media accounts and seeing many happy ladies proud displaying their sparkling gemstones, I find myself reflecting on my own marriage. Some people are reading this and rolling their eyes, and thinking “yuck.” Well, I used to be one of those seemingly bitter “Debbie Downers” who would frown at all the happy couples displaying their love on Facebook, or twitter, or whatever else kids are using these days. So, let me take a few moments out of the day to discuss what led me down the path of holy matrimony…..

When I was a teenager, it seemed like everyone around me could not wait to get married. “Don’t you ever wonder who you’re going to marry?” “What they are doing at this exact moment?” My friends would ask this, all the time. I would cringe and secretly think, “Good lord, no, if somebody marries me, there has to be something seriously disturbed about them.” When all of my friends were looking down the road for the long term in relationships, I was just trying to get a free meal, or a free movie. I know plenty of girls who get on Pinterest and who have already planned out their dream wedding. They already have an idea what kind of dress they want, what music is to be played, what table settings and themes are to be used. These things are great, but it was just never anything that I contemplated. “But this could be the one!” they’d exclaim, every time I’d go on a date. “Dear lord, I hope not. My life would be misery,” I’d say.

I had witnessed first hand the effects of divorce. The fighting, the nastiness, the tears. I have a lot of sad memories of my parent’s marriage falling apart, and I wanted no part in ever having to go through something like that ever again. I was determined to never let another human being ever have that kind of power over me. I wasn’t much for “love”. Too much vulnerability equated with giving someone that sort of control. I was always one to hold a heavy lock over my emotions, and most importantly my heart. Things just seemed a lot easier and less complicated that way. Everything changed when I met Kyle, who is my now husband. The irony of the situation would also be that I was the friend holding up the torch in honor of never, ever getting married. Independence! Freedom! Never get tied down! I’d chant all these things like I was rallying the troops to go into battle. I was also the first to lower the torch, in favor of exchanging those sacred vows. Yes, I was the first to tie the knot, something my friends thought was oh-so-hilarious, if not slightly weird.

There was no elaborate proposal. There was no fancy dinner. No candle light. Basically it was a mutual agreement that, “Hey, you’re awesome, I really love you, and I sort of never want to part with you, ever. Let’s do this shit.” And honestly…..a week later, we did. I called my Mom that day and told her I was giving her a week to plan a small and intimate wedding, if not, I was heading to the court house. I bought my dress for 90 dollars, and wore baby’s breath and roses in my hair. An ode to a Led Zeppelin song that is also slightly responsible for our marriage, Going to California, you should listen to it. (My floral crown cost more than anything else I had on.) I also wore flip flops that I had had since I was 18. Fancy, I know. My Aunt Kim held the affair in her HUGE house in  “the rich” part of town.

I stressed the idea that everything should be to a minimum, just people we love there to celebrate our happiness. Understated was the idea. I’m a bit of a traditionalist in the sense that I had the belief that nothing else should outshine what the day was really about; our marriage and the love we shared. I stressed this immensely to my wedding planners, who also happened to be “the aunts” (whom I spoke about last blog post) and my Mother. I loved the fact that there was no pressure for us to get married. Nobody whispering in our ears that it was time, or it was the right thing to do. We did it because we loved each other and we wanted to, not because it was expected. Thankfully, we also shared the sentiment that there was no need to spend thousands of dollars on a wedding, a dress, or a party. Everything we needed…. we already had, each other.

Let me say first off, that I am not a flashy person. I scooted gently away from the idea that the wedding day should be mostly about the bride. It should be about everyone, rejoicing in the joining of two families and also being happy for the unity of the couple.Despite the fact that I was terrified of the initial ceremony and making a Princess Diana-esque gaffe, like reversing the order of Kyle’s names, or perhaps even passing out from shyness in reciting my vows, the wedding went off without a hitch. We toasted to our good fortune in having found each other, ate copious amounts of pig and pizza and went home to a bumping after-party, the likes of which had already started and was overflowing into the street at my house before we even got home. It was a good night. A memorable night. I was a “MRS” now. I had to change my name on Facebook!

It is now three years later, and we have added River to the already wild and crazy bunch that we call our family. People told me from the beginning that marriage would be hard, and trying and blah blah blah. It’s been none of those things to me. Marriage has been one of my biggest adventures. I have someone loyal beside me at all times. Someone to wade through all the muck with, laugh with, cry with, and share everything with. Isn’t that what all human beings fundamentally want? A companion and partner in this life? After I met mine, I knew why nobody else ever worked out for me. I believe in soul-mates. I didn’t used to, but believe me, I do now. I won’t get all mushy and gush over it, but I do think that somewhere out there, everyone has somebody that they just get, that they just click with. That’s how I describe my marriage. I simply, just knew.

Now, Kyle and I are just two old farts that sit home and revel in raising our kids. We find the simple things the most rewarding, and we have gotten into our daily routine. He puts up with me constantly reading “Kennedy” books, and I put up with turning up his amp and wailing on his Les Paul…..even when the babies are asleep in bed. We’ve watched every season of House of Cards, Trailer Park Boys, Bob’s Burgers, and (shamefully) The Vampire Diaries. We put records on the record player and enjoy the crackle of an old vinyl. He plays me John Prine and Neil Young on the guitar and I play him Elvis and The Eagles on the piano. We laugh a lot, and have a lot of fun together. The most fun that I’ve ever had with another human being, and how beautiful is it that I get to do that for the rest of my life. In letting go of all the irrational fears I had about letting someone in, I found the sort of happiness that I can only compare to a cheesy romantic comedy. In short, from the girl who never batted an eyelash at the prospect of marriage, I can say with honestly that it is the best decision I’ve ever made for myself. Being married can be terribly amazing when you are wed to the right person. I’m still not sure how I convinced him to marry me. Maybe it was witchcraft. Maybe I used a love potion, but whatever trickery I used, I thank god for it, and for him, on the daily.

Looking back, I am so thankful that we didn’t let the job of planning a wedding, or the pressures of societal norm influence our decision to become man and wife. I think sometimes it’s appropriate to say that some people want the “wedding” and not the marriage. I was the complete opposite. All I wanted was the man, and the marriage. A wedding, to me, was just an added bonus and an excuse to crack open a bottle of top shelf Bourbon. For all you ladies out there, who were like myself, rolling your eyes and claiming me as “another one bites the dust”, I’ll say to you this: It will happen to you when you least expect. That’s the beauty of it all.

 

I love being married. It’s great to find that one special person you can annoy for the rest of your life. -Rida Rudner

 

 

 

 

 

The Beauty of “The Aunt”

 

 

 

 

I found out a few months ago that I am going to be an Auntie again. I am thrilled for my brother and sister in law, and I am counting down the days until July, when my boys get a brand new cousin! I also have my little nephew Trig (I adore him) and a host of sweet baby cousins that I double for as “Aunt Court-Court”. I value the title of Aunt, simply because I know and realize what an important role that is to play in someone’s life. Growing up, it took a village to raise all of “The Jones” brood, and without my three Aunts, I’m not sure that my Mom would have ever gotten me raised. I talk about “The Aunts” as they have come to be known, on a regular basis, and I find myself consulting them in almost everything I do. I have three of them, and each is different. So different that sometimes I wonder how they can all possibly be sisters.

The Fun/Crazy Aunt: This is the Aunt that will act silly, let you watch scary movies, give you copious amounts of Pop and basically do anything your parents won’t allow. I have one of those, and I still like to get in trouble with her ever so often. Now she is  “the fun aunt” to my boys, buying them bath paint I have to scrub from the tub, and allowing my oldest the drink mountain dew whenever he feels like it. For example, when I was ten, she had a sleepover for us that included eating caviar, drinking sparkling grape juice from Champagne flutes, and watching “The Exorcist”. (something my mom would have never let me watch) She would also fill her jacuzzi tub to the brim with scented bubbles and bake us home made peanut butter cookies to eat. We’d go in head first with our bathing suits on. This is also the aunt voted most likely to bail you out of jail……or at the very least, be your first phone call. No judgement, only an ear to listen and a “I’ve been there, done that story” to help you better make your own choices. This is the free spirit, and the one that makes you want to just get out and live a little, because with her you know what life is all about.

The Perfect One: The Aunt that has it all, and has it all together. Lovely, entertaining, and pleasing in every single way. This is the Aunt that you admire, but know there is no way possible that you will ever measure up to. This is also the Aunt who is probably the peace maker in the family, and goes to great lengths to ensure that everyone is happy at all times. I also have one of these. She’s the one that would buy me expensive porcelain dolls for Christmas that I couldn’t wait to tear the paper off of, the one who was patient and understanding with me at a time in my life when nobody else knew what to do with me, and the one who never gave up on the fact that maybe someday I would straighten up. I always look to her for advice about my home, decorating, and entertaining. She’s set the standard in my mind for grace and beauty. She is the one who makes handmade fingerprint ornaments with my boys, throws me the perfect baby showers, and let’s my kids climb and waller all over her very nice and very expensive furniture. Now, she buys me cook books, sends me decor for my home, and spoils my children shamelessly.

The Saint: The Aunt that you know has never made a bad decision in her entire life. The one who is so high up on a pedestal that it’s hard to even see her. Eccentric, funny and honest. This is the Aunt who is the care taker. For everyone. The beacon, the enforcer, the one you “Don’t wanna piss off.” She’s probably the oldest, and wisest and in some ways, the scariest. I have one of these, as well. She is responsible for my love of antiques and all things vintage, and often times I’ve sat in her room and went through all the pretties and trinkets she’s collected over the years. I’ve also sat at the kitchen table for hours to watch her cook, cried and begged my Mom over the telephone to let me stay overnight with her, and played kick-can on the side of the road with her, walking to a tiny church in Lost Creek. This is the Aunt, that no matter how much time has passed, when you see her it’s like it’s been no time at all. She’s the Aunt that takes my boys to throw rocks in the creek, buys them pop-guns, and sends them home decadent home-made chocolate cake to hype them up right before bed time. She’s also the Aunt who is sure to save me a bowl of Chicken and Dumplins every single time she makes them. because she knows that nobody makes em like she does.

The Aunt with Kids: This is your no-nonsense Aunt. She takes enough crap from her own kids to take any crap from you. She will spank you! To you, you are one of her own, there are no blurred lines with her. She is also the Aunt who will call your parents if you need, and probably the one that does most of the disciplining. However, this is also the Aunt that will talk sense into you, the one that thinks of the big picture, and the one that is sensible. This is the Aunt that roots for you to succeed, understands when you make a mistake, and is willing to help pick you back up and dust you off if you fall short.

If you know me personally, you can guess which Aunt fits what bill. They may have my head on a chopping block for writing this, but they know I love them more than anything. I attribute a lot of who I am to them, and I have taken a piece of each of them with me into adulthood. I love how fun and crazy my Aunt Sue is, she inspires me to make the most out of life. I admire my Aunt Kim, and how she makes everything around her more beautiful, and how she is good at literally everything she does. She inspires me to become better in all aspects. I look up to my Aunt Kay,how she always puts her family first, and how she can make everything fun. She reminds me that family is the most important thing in the world. Even my Mom, who obviously isn’t my Aunt, but who doesn’t care to put you in your place, and is always there to pick you up, dust you off, and send you back into the lions den. She makes me see that we all need to look life head on and see things for what they are. I do not claim to know the secrets of the universe, or to even be experienced in the ways of the world, but I feel a little more equipped having had these amazing women in my life for all these years.

My sincere hope is to love and inspire my nephews and nieces like my Aunt did me. So whether you are the fun one, the perfect one, the saint, or the one with kids, be sure to be a good one, because Aunts are just like mothers who are a lot more fun!