Friday, October 30, 2009

it was so great to come home to these guys




Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Kentucky Chronicles - Day 4

This'll have to be quick, since checkout's in an hour. Maybe I'll post part II tonight.

Spent Sunday night at the Combs Motel in Hazard. Combs is a huge name in Kentucky, and while I understand not all Combs are alike, let's just say Mr. Combs' comments about the Civil Rights Movement reminded me that not everyone thinks progress is progress. That's all I'll say.

Well, and that I ate at Applebee's twice on Sunday -- and not even different Applebee's, the same one. I don't know whether that says more about me, or Hazard.

Monday morning, I went to the Perry County Library in Hazard and photocopied $5 worth of information on the area and era I'm interested in. Then I hopped in my car and drove a few hours to Pineville, where I spent the night near Cumberland Gap at Pine Mountain State Park Resort.

The area is gorgeous and I drove and hiked through areas that made me want to breathe deeply.

I'm headed north toward Lexington today -- might go halfway or so. Tomorrow at 1 I have an interview with Linda (a former Combs!) in the genealogy section of the History Museum. I'm hoping she can round out her cousin's perspective a little.

At least her cousin had some awesome gourds on display.

You bet I coveted the horn. Plan on making one next year now. Save me a long piece if you've got one.

Monday, October 26, 2009

The Kentucky Chronicles - Day 3

People take cemeteries seriously here. Lots of cemeteries, lots of gravestones, and most of them with flags or bright flowers. They're especially stunning in the fall.

And look! There's where Daniel Boone's buried! Well, except for his head, which the nice man who buried him decided to set in plaster, and is now on display in the Kentucky History Museum.

Okay, it's more complicated than that. In fact, it's almost confusing. Daniel Boone was buried in an unmarked grave next to his wife Rebekah in 1820. Their graves were unmarked until the 1830's when they were exhumed and taken to Frankfort, the capitol of Kentucky.

However, the Boone family supposedly didn't really want them exhumed, so they quietly let the remains of another, mistaken unmarked slave grave be moved.

So, in 1983, when a forensic expert examined the crude plaster cast made at the time of Boone's reburial, he announced "Boy, this could really be the skull of a Negro."

Uh, yeah. Awkward comment.

So, the plaster cast of the skull buried there tells us it's not actually Daniel Boone buried there? Okay, folks. Show's over. Go about your business.


I would post more tonight, but I've spent an hour and a half uploading pictures from my camera. Show's over for this girl, too, for now. Will try to post again the a.m. if I'm not otherwise inspired.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

The Kentucky Chronicles – Day 2

Spent the day in Frankfort, viewing exhibits at the Kentucky History Museum, watching a presentation on “Haints in the Holler,” and conversing with locals.

Conversing with locals was probably the most fruitful, as I learned about race relations, stories passed down by Grandma, clothes sewn from grain bags, and Berea College. I was really tempted to get this local couple’s contact info, but I got shy. I should’ve pursued it. They said they’d invite me to dinner at their house in Harrodsburg, but they were traveling through eastern Kentucky themselves for the week. Promise to self: get contact info of next helpful local I meet.

“Haints in the Holler” was a gooby little presentation that had interesting information about superstition in Appalachia. I videotaped it, with their permission, so I can catch some of the phrases and ideas and show it to Dane and Aubrey. Funnily enough, they sang “There was an old lady all skin and bones… oo-oo-oo-oo-oo… she lived down by the old graveyard… oo-oo-oo-oo-oo...” etc. Dane and Aubrey have been singing that for weeks! They learned it in school and have been circling the kitchen table singing it over and over.

My local couple mentioned the separate white and black mining camps without any prompting from me. They actually hadn’t heard about the camps until recently – because they lived in Ashland, KY, (a-ha!), which they say wasn’t a very diverse Appalachian town. When I asked if they thought racial tensions existed, they said they of course hadn’t seen them, but imagined there must have been, simply because they were kept separate.

When I finally left the museum around 3 PM, I headed southeast toward Natural Bridges State Park Resort. The park has hundreds of arches and bridges – sort of like what’s famous in Arches National Monument in Utah – and I’m going to hike and tram it tomorrow. Looking forward to that.

I’m not staying in the park, though. Here’s a little story I wrote about staying in Clay City instead.



The hotel owner stepped out the lobby in his brown bathrobe. Barefoot, he descended the steps, his knobby white toes curling over each ledge as he made his way down.

“Whatcha need, hon?” he asked, his dark hair ruffling a bit in the breeze. It’s no wonder I thought he looked like an aged Bo or Luke Duke. I am, after all, in the heart of fictional Hazzard County, Kentucky. And, even though I want my stereotypes and prejudices to go away, here they come up when I’m talking to a guy at work in his terrycloth bathrobe.

“Do you have any vacancies?” I ask, trying not to look at how well his robe is belted shut.

“Just got one,” he says, as he turns his body toward Room 9. The sky is sprinkling a little rain and he’s got customers there he’s settling in.

“Let me go up to National Bridge State Park and see if they’ve got anything,” I say. “That’s where I’m headed tomorrow.” It’s 4 o’clock, and I’m probably cutting it close, but it seems worth a try.

“Well, good luck,” he says, squinting. “Take my number and call for that room if you need it. It’s the busiest time of year here with the trees changing color and all – I’ve been full every night.”

That must be why he can afford to do business in his bathrobe.

I get his business card, drive 15 miles southeast, discover there’s one room at the lodge, but it’s a hundred dollars more than Robe Man’s hotel – and I just plan to read and write tonight anyway.

I call him fast as I can and reserve his last room.

“Okay, darlin’. You’ll be in Room 1,” he says. “I’ll leave your key there with the credit card slip for us to settle up in the morning. I’m heading out now for dinner and drinks and dancing – and I have no idea when I’ll be back…”

I smile to myself as I turn off my cell, partly because I’m staying at the last cheap room near the park— but mostly because even though I haven’t seen a restaurant or bar for miles and miles out here (for all I know it’s a “dry” county), I know of a hotel owner who’ll be out cutting a rug somewhere.

And even though I can’t imagine where that would be, of course I picture his hair flapping side to side as his knobby white feet shuffle him around some dimly lit dance floor – in his robe.


Took a nap at 6 PM, ate a grilled turkey sandwich and Heath Bar Crunch Blizzard at DQ, and read and wrote in my room until 11:37 local time.

Wrote a couple character background worksheets for my book, 3 postcards for my kids, including one horse haiku, and the above journal entry.

Read the opening essays in Confronting Appalachian Stereotypes: Back Talk from an American Region. This book’s a little scary. Stereotypical characters can create excellent tension and drama in a narrative. Don’t want to think too hard about what I’m doing – don’t want to be ignorant and cruel though.

I bought that book at the museum; also bought Bloodroot: Reflections on Place By Appalachian Women Writers. I read that while at Soapstone (it was a library book) and I loved it. It’s perfect to own it – it gives an intense sense of the daily lives of people living in the region and era I’m writing about.

Still haven’t turned on the TV, even though it’s been tempting. Am committed to letting creativity come to me in the silence of my room. Wasn’t even able to connect to the internet today – wonder what I’m missing!

Resting up for tomorrow now. Need to be on the tram up to see a natural arch at 10 AM and then drive to Hazard for some upclose research. Hope to meet a helpful librarian tomorrow or Monday who can tell me what sort of school options mountain folk had in the 50s and 60s, what race relations were like (especially the mining camps), how many houses could exist in a holler (and how close they were to each other), and how long folks could go way up in those isolated places without contact with anyone from town…

Friday, October 23, 2009

The Kentucky Chronicles - Day 1

Dear Dane and Aubrey,

I arrived in Lexington today at 6 PM (that's 3 PM time in Ashland) and I was amazed to see the greenest, lushest vast expanse of fields ever. Lexington is known for its horse racing and training -- and you wouldn't believe how many fields and horses and stables and race tracks there are around here!

Even at the airport, the place is filled with giant photos of horses and fields, and when you walk out to your car there are bronze statues of famous fast horses and their jockeys. The Kentucky Derby is THE biggest horse race around - and people here are proud of it. Even the street that takes you out of the airport is named Man o War, named after one of the most famous race horses in history. Someday we should look that up together.

When I left the airport, I drove to the state's capitol, Frankfort, where tomorrow I'll research Appalachian life. Appalachian mountain life has very little to do with this Lexington horse life, so it'll be a real change of pace. To learn what I need to learn in Frankfort, I'll be at the Thomas D. Clark Center for Kentucky History, using the Martin F. Schmidt Research Library, photocopying pictures and information about hollers and gaps and mountain homes and schools and transportation for mountain people in the 1950s and 60s. I'm also going to try to learn about race relations -- between whites and blacks -- in that region and era.

This is probably enough info for now. You're probably interested in my hotel room, though, so I'll tell you it looks like most of the others we've ever stayed in, but GUESS WHAT? I'm not going to turn on my TV! I'm going to write and read and research my brains out.

Love and miss you both so much. Give Daddy a hug and kiss for me - and tell Mema thanks for spending last week with us, and to drive home safely tomorrow.

Love, Mom

P.S. Tomorrow I plan to take more pictures to post on the blog for you to see...

Thursday, October 22, 2009


It seems to be getting more and more challenging to sit down and post a blog these days. Perhaps it's because we bought the house, moved in, remodeled the kitchen (well, that should be present tense), and then tried to live life as normal in between. Seems that the blog gets the shaft, though. And that just aint right!

So, this little entry is just an attempt to pick up business as usual again with the blog and write down the stuff that's simply going to be a record of our lives when Dane and Aubrey look through it in the years to come.

*Dane, Aubrey and I got our H1N1 nasal sniffs yesterday. Aubrey seems to get everything that comes through town, in general, and the Flu took out the two of us for nearly a month last year. It was painful, miserable -- see this post -- so I decided to try a vaccine for a regular strand of Flu virus and N1H1. Dane hasn't ever been hit too hard, but I decided to go for the three of us. Mick has to handle his separately, due to his work schedule and his diabetes.

*Both kids are in soccer right now, wrapping up a 6 week season with the Y. Playing for last year's coaches, Toph (Dane) and Scott (Aubs). Dane's particularly liking Defense - because "you stay back and just boot the ball down the field" and Aubrey still likes most every position. She seems to have come to a greater understanding this week of the joy of a passing game.

*I'm flying to Lexington, KY, tomorrow morning to research what life was like in the hills and hollers of Eastern Kentucky back in the late 50s, early 60s. I'm still working on the first draft of my novel. I've gotten some early encouragement from an editor - and it's the work that got me into my residency at Soapstone - but I've been a little paralyzed with all the transitions of the last couple years, as well as the fact that I hadn't been to my setting. Time to give that up, though, and get my arse there. I have plans to research at the Genealogical and Historical Societies in Frankfort (and interview two people there), stay in Hazard, lodge in Pine Mountain State Park, and listen to a talk on "Haints in the Holler." Other than that, I mostly plan to listen to the dialect, eat the food in diners, and look up, look down, and breathe a lot of everything.

*We've had house guests for nearly two weeks: Jan and Mike were here for about 5 days (following 4 days of Strep throat for Aubrey), and my Mom came for a week the night Mike and Jan left. This was all for Dane's birthday, lucky boy.

*My mom's been helping me figure out my crazy yard, with its dying English Laurels, overgrown bushes, and abundant yard waste. With the help of a consultant, we've now got a plan. It might not go into effect immediately -- in fact, I haven't even had time to tell Mick what the consultant said! -- but it gives us a greater overall vision for this sweet little plot of land.

*Dane and Aubrey still have plenty of places to dig in this yard. Overheard conversation yesterday: Dane with much enthusiasm, met with equal enthusiasm, "Let's pretend we're professional diggers and this is our first job in Ashland!" It looks like they're making a ditch.

*We still ride or bike to school every day. This is a fabulously convenient location.

*The kids are taking after-school classes for 6 weeks. Dane's taking Tennis and Pottery, hour-long classes per week. Aubrey's taking Beading and Pottery, also an hour each per week -- and, because I'm helping out with the Sewing class, Aubrey's sitting in on that, too. She made a terrific little stuffed pumpkin yesterday. Dane would sew, too, but Tennis is at the same time.

*Dane started half-hour Guitar lessons at the Y twice a week. He's learned E chord, A and D, I think.

*The kitchen's nearly done -- just in need of trim (when will THAT happen???) and cabinetry set up in the adjacent laundry room. It is so spectacularly fabulous to have it nearly completed, and it's BEAUTIFUL. My living room is equally beautiful now, and FURNISHED! We had it ceiling high in boxes for June, July and August, but I finally bought furniture for it, and it's a cozy little haven now. I know it's REALLY MEAN to say all that and not post pictures. But I don't have any yet. I'll have to get right on that. Um, after Kentucky...

Okay, I'm feeling like a better blogger now. It may not have all been interesting, but at least it's DONE for another day.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Today might be Dane's birthday and all (see post below),
but let's not forget how awesome Dave Lane is, folks.
This is the sort of picture Mick and Dave
email back and forth all day.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

oh, yeah!

bowling with buddies

pre-partying with grammy and grand-dad

wooping it up with the 'rents and pink-headed sister

bubble gum ice cream - the reynolds ice cream of choice, natch.

ready to rock - thanks to parents and both sets of grandparents

werewolf cupcakes, man.

the birthday boy.

happy 9th birthday, rocco. we love that you insist long hair is 'you,' that everybody who meets you wants to be your friend, that you play your heart out at any sport you play, and that you give really, really good hugs.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Happy Anniversary, Hot Stuff

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

20th Reunion Pre-Funk
Held at The Ram (so fitting - Go Rams!) in Puyallup, Friday night
This isn't a very clear picture above, but it needs to be in here because it shows exactly how Mick spent the evening at my Unofficial Pre-Funk. He's there with Tanya and Brian Hope. Tanya graduated with my class and married her older brother Ty's best friend (class of '87), Brian Hope. (Brian was also my first boyfriend in high school, and we like to laugh about that.)
Tanya didn't plan to go to the reunion, so when Mick found that out he sent Brian a note: "Brian, why aren't you going to our 20-year reunion???" Of course, the reason that's funny is because it was neither Mick's nor Brian's reunion, but they're two guys who would act like it was. Brian wrote back that he was bummed they'd be missing it, and that maybe he could talk Tanya into going to the unofficial one on Friday night.
So, there they are above, sitting and being silly for the evening. Mick introduced himself a couple times as "Jo-Jo" from Rogers, feigning surprise when no one recognized him. And then generally had fun joking around with Brian and Tanya and Karen at that table. (I didn't sit with them -- I had too many people to run around and catch up with! Karen did too, actually, so she wasn't always there. Tanya, on the other hand, was very comfortable sitting like a queen at her throne waiting for people to come to her!) The other guy in the picture above is Steve Oberhofer; I sang with him in Choir. He now lives in Hawaii and loves it.

Tonsil check.

My two best friends ever.

Yeah, I brought the creepy guy.

Tracy Wolmacher, Brandi Bilby and Christine German. Brandi used to be the totally hot stuff babe on campus; Chris and Tracy were these tiny little cute girls that were always together on campus, walking super close with their heads together, giggling with their hands over their mouths.

Gary Sarlund. The only thing that's different about Gare-Bear is that he's got a goatee and his shoulders are a little broader. Even the tuck of snuff in his lower lip is the same. And that's what we all love about Gary -- he's the totally loyal, totally sweet, huggy happy fella we can all count on. Now Gary's an electrician like his dad, married, and has a little boy he says is already smarter than him. See? What's there not to love about a fella like that?

With Mike Peters. It was so much fun to see Mike. I swear he was about 5 inches shorter in school. He says he was always 6 foot, but I think he must've slouched or something back then. Mike reminded me that he came to my house once after a Key Club meeting and knocked at the front door. When Don opened it, Mike said, "Hey, is Anjie home?" and Don looked at his watch and said, "Do you know what time it is?" Mike looked at his watch and said, "Uh, yeah, 9 o'clock?" And Don said, "Yeah, 9 o'clock on a school night," and turned poor Mike away! This was a sweetie-pie good boy Key Clubber Cross Country Runner -- and he never came back!

I told Don that story and he says he feels awful now. I took that to mean Mike was welcome to swing by their house any time he wanted to now, and I told him so the next night. Ha ha.

This is Jay Hansen. Not a close friend at all in high school, but a nice enough guy. The end.

Christina Mendoza arranged the Pre-Funk at The Ram.

Larry Aegerter and his awesome wife, Tammy. Between the two of them they have six (maybe seven?) kids and seem to have a really strong marriage. Larry's still totally tough and adorable, a marial arts master and contractor with the military; Tammy stays home and homeschools their kids. She's currently waiting for her second kidney transplant.

We love Cheese! Jason "Cheese" Bisig here with Karen and me. We used to have all kinds of fun with Jason and Buddy (he didn't show) in Jazz Choir. They were totally obnoxious but loveable and we used to ride around in Jay's little Manza. In junior high, Jason used to come over and we'd stand on my grandparents' motorhome in the driveway and shoot baskets. He was a super fun pal to have.

Jason, Gary and Karen.

Here I am flanked by two amazing sopranos, Karen (left) and Carrie Chappel.

Karen, me and Carrie again. It was funny, I got to briefly meet Carrie's 10-year-old daughter Elena earlier that night. She stood next to her mom, saying, "Heh heh, they have Buttface Beer here. Heh heh. Buttface beer." Now, of course, that's a little gross and all, etc., etc., but the funny thing is that she acted exactly like Carrie would've acted as a kid! I met Carrie in 8th grade and she was always doing some sort of "Heh heh" kind of thing. Meeting Elena totally cracked me up.

Aw, here we are with our buddy Colin, a.k.a. C-Train.

C-Train and Cheese.

With Dori Johnson. Dori and I played junior high sports together - and then she got pregnant and we lived two very different lives. (Hi Dori!) I've come into recent contact with her again, though, and am really enjoying her. She's been a mother more than half her life, which is totally trippy, and parts of her life have been very complicated. Through it, I'm amazed at how her perspective has developed so fully. She has A LOT of brilliant things to say. She's educated herself on political issues, and takes some really amazing stands -- on health care especially. She writes them on a blog, and I admire her thoughtfulness and her articulate writing.
Maybe that's what's so much fun about a 20-year reunion: we can rehash the ways we used to be, and revel in the ways those 20 years have shaped us in unexpected and exciting ways.
I still have to post pics from the official reunion - but I'll do that tomorrow. Or the next day. Or the next...
Oh, and I'll totally try to use the word totally as much as possible. It is, after all, flashback to 1989 time.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Seewer Love

The day before my 20th high school reunion (yeah, I'll get to that later!) I arranged to visit my Aunt Sharon and my cousin Lane. I brought my mom along, too. (Far right.)

Aunt Sharon (left, above) is my dad's only sibling, and Lane (in the middle next to me) is her only child. So, Lane and I grew up the only children in our families - and the only two grandchildren on the Seewer side. That worked in our favor - especially in regard to Grandma Nancy, who gave us loads and loads and loads of love and attention.

In a period of three years, back in the early 90s, my Aunt Sharon lost her brother (my dad, to colon cancer), her mother (to heartbreak and old age) and her father (to stomach cancer). Those were hard years for her and she did a lot of rallying that about wore her out.

In light of that, I can't tell you how great it was too hook up with her and have SO MUCH FUN. She's got a sharp sense of humor. In fact, she and Mom realized they had a lot to laugh about when they discovered that they each dated my dad's roommate, Rich, back in the day. They've known each other for 40 years now and this was the first they'd confided that in anyone. To have seen their faces when Aunt Sharon pulled out the old picture of old Rich was priceless.

Seeing Lane was really wonderful too. Lane has four boys (the littlest one was taking a nap while this photo was shot) and she leads a busy life, to say the least.

In addition to having four active boys, two of them have Ushers II Syndrome, which is a disease that results in full deafness and blindness by the age of 18. It's very rare and few advancements have been made - although both boys have cochlear implants, which help significantly - so she and her husband Todd have set up the Hear See Hope Foundation in search of a cure. They also have to fight hard to create the optimum learning environment for their kids in school. They've been featured on KING 5, they have a Board of Directors full of movers and shakers, hold huge fundraising events, and are absolutely remarkable parents who work as a powerful and loving team. I can't even tell you how great my admiration for them is.

And Dane and Aubrey had a blast playing with the cousins.

I've been home for a week now, but can't you tell? I'm still feelin' the Seewer Love.