Someone really did a number on you didn’t they? Some colossal jerk. Perhaps a boss who never valued you even though everyone else could plainly see, and who constantly turned you down for a raise, or possibly someone you considered a good friend threw you under the bus over a few political differences, or that significant other that cheated on you from day one, or any number of things really. I could go on and on. “Well”, those close to you tell you, “don’t let it get to you, Karma will take care of it”.
They are right, you know. I’ve seen it time and time again. Karma does indeed intercede, at some point. Of course, sometimes she takes her sweet time about it. It simply can’t happen soon enough, can it? Patience, it’s a virtue…one I’m kind of short on. Oh, but when she does decide to visit that certain umm…person, how sweet it is! Yes indeed, when Karma comes a callin’ it’s a beautiful thing. Well, unless it’s you she’s calling on, but that’s a different story altogether and one I won’t touch upon now. No, this little rant is about the ones who did you (err, me) wrong!
Yep, Karma, it’s a pretty satisfying thing all right. There’s just one little problem though. It juuuust isn’t quite satisfying enough. Don’t know what I mean? Well, let me tell ya!
That damn Karma girl…a pretty bad chick, overall…always forgets one important aspect when she doles out the punishment. SHE NEVER TELLS THEM WHAT THE PUNISHMENT IS FOR! I mean, really, more often than not, the colossal jerk doesn’t even realize that Karma came a callin’! Oh, poor pitiful, umm…person. This bad thing is happening to them and they just don’t know why. Why, oh why, has such terrible luck befallen them? Oh, they just don’t deserve such cruelty…waaaaah.
YES YOU DO, asshole! You do deserve it, and so much more!Karma, tell them! Come on, girl! What’s wrong with you? Tell them! Tell them why they deserve it! Tell them what they did to you…err me! Tell them it’s payback. Tell them, tell them, come on tell them, dammit!
Ah, but she never does. And that, my good people, is the problem with Karma.
A ray of light piercing the windshield settles on his cheek bathing him in a golden glow. I marvel at how much I love him. The pain, spontaneous and instantaneous, like a knife stuck deep in my heart gripped by the cruel fingers of fate twisting and turning relentlessly, pitches me forward toward white-knuckled fists clinching a death-grip around the wheel. As painful as it is, I know that the magnitude of pain I feel cannot even begin to compare to that which is revealed by the ethereal splash of golden light softly caressing his beautiful face.
In this moment it matters not that my love for him rivals the deepest fathoms of the Atlantic Ocean. It isn’t my love that he longs for with every fiber of his being. I know this, and yet I also know that unlike the love he so longs for, the love I hold for him is constant and eternal. I will never forsake him. I will remain true until my dying breath, unconditionally. Such is a mother’s love, or it should be. It certainly is for me.
A young man’s first true love is a powerful and wondrous thing. I have watched it and marveled from the moment the tiny seed first took root to the moment it’s multicolored and multilayered petals stretched and opened wide, basking gloriously in the life-giving light of love. Now I bear witness as the darkness brought on by the clouds of sorrow and betrayal loom overhead. I watch helplessly as those magnificent petals begin to shrivel and die as the life-sustaining light fades to black. The love is gone. Not his love for her, for it remains constant and unfailing. No, it’s her love for him that has been wrenched so cruelly away. However, unlike him, I know, and have known from the start, that it was never really truly there at all. As lovely as it has been to witness his metamorphosis, I have dreaded this moment and knew it would arrive sooner or later.
A mother knows. I have watched and seen all. From the start I have seen the little signs that indicate that love is only one-sided. I have heard the irritation in the voice, watched the pulling away when hugs are given, noticed the eye rolls, heard the little insults. I see and I know. I like the girl. I always have. I admire her strength, her intelligence, her driving ambition. Yet, I understand that my son was just a passing moment for her. He was simply the one who was convenient. There was attraction there, I realize that. Attraction, however, isn’t love. He was simply the one who would do just fine for all the important events of high school.
I understand all this, but there’s someone very important to me who doesn’t. He doesn’t know what I know, and he cannot see what a mother’s eyes can see. I observe the little flashes of hope that spring forth in his eyes as he tells me she still wants to be friends. I ask him if he truly just wants to be only her friend. He drops his head and says, No. My heart breaks as the light of hope extinguishes from his hazel eyes. Thus is the source of my pain. The pain that is deep, yet still paltry compared to his own.
Suddenly a shadow blankets the windshield. A cloud so rudely interrupts the moment. Uninvited and unwelcome, yet appropriate, I think to myself, as the illuminating golden glow and warmth dissipates from the face of the treasured one beside me.
A tear trickles silently down my cheek.
Am I dreaming? Could I have fallen down the Rabbit hole? The world I knew has vanished and something unrecognizable has taken its place. I’ve somehow found myself in an upside down world. Will someone please tell SpongeBob and Patrick to release me from Opposite Day? Tim Burton, have you pulled me into one of your crazy nightmares?
Shhhh! Don’t scare the little white rabbit. He doesn’t know where to go. Look at him scurrying to and fro. His eyes are wild and dancing with fear. Shhhh! Come here little rabbit, I’ll save you. I’ll tuck you in my sweater pocket and keep you safe from harm. NO!!!! Don’t go there, little rabbit! I know the sign says refuge, but it really isn’t though. The Barons of Chaos have spoken. All that once was sacred is no longer so. Oh! No, little rabbit…why didn’t you listen?
Do you hear that? Ahhhhhhhh!!! Run! Run! It’s the Red Brigade! Hide! Hurry! We must not let them capture us! If they find us in these woods they will take us to their secret leader who will command them to destroy us from the inside out! They will force little bugs down our throats to wreak their havoc within. They will hack into our neurological pathways and find out all that we know! Once they have our knowledge they’ll pump us full of alternative facts until all signs of who we once were will disappear forever. We will be nothing more than members of the Red Brigade. No, we must avoid the Red Brigade at all costs!
We’ve made it to the town square! Someone’s speaking behind that podium positioned front and center. Oh, it’s the Mad Tweeter! He’s giving a speech to his loyal followers. He’s waving his little hands in the air! He’s pointing this way and that, back and forth! He’s yelling and screaming and working them into a frenzy! He’s spotted us! He’s pointing his tiny finger right at us! The crowd has turned toward us and the hate is palpable! Ohhhhhhhhh RUN! They’re coming after us! Run, run for your life!
WOULD SOMEONE PLEASE FIND ALICE! I’ve gotta get outta here!
Exactly what would “Making America Great Again” look like to Kentuckians? I have a pretty good idea it might look a little something like this: investing in entrepreneurial and business development to strengthen Appalachia’s economy; improving the education, knowledge, skills and health of residents; investing in critical infrastructure like broadband, transportation and water/wastewater systems; strengthening community and economic development by leveraging the Appalachian region’s natural and cultural heritage assets; and building the capacity and skills of current and next-generation leaders and organizations to innovate, collaborate and advance community economic development.
If that sounds like an excellent plan to you, you’ll be happy to learn that a move is already underway to accomplish those very things. The Appalachian Regional Commission, whose 2016-2020 strategic plan includes all of the above, is an agency established many years ago which focuses on economic growth in 420 counties throughout the Appalachian region. It encompasses all of West Virginia, parts of Kentucky, Ohio, Tennessee and Virginia among others. It receives the funding to do all this through the federal budget, $119 million.
According to the organization’s website, https://www.arc.gov, each year the commission provides funding for several hundred projects in the Appalachian Region in a wide range of program areas including asset-based development, community infrastructure, education and training, energy, entrepreneurship and business development, health, tourism and development, transportation and highways, telecommunications and more.
One of its programs, Distressed Counties Program, has provided funds for the region’s poorest counties since 1983. Kentucky counties constitute the largest contingency in the program with 37 counties being represented, including my very own county of residence, Powell County. The program began in 1983 by providing badly needed public services like water and wastewater facilities and then in 2000 it expanded to include community workshops and activities to encourage community learning and leadership, as well as a telecommunications and information technology initiative. The technology initiative provides access and infrastructure, education and training, E-commerce, and technology-sector job creation.
An example of how the commission’s health initiative is helping Kentuckians is a program called Bluegrass Child Advocacy Outreach. The program arose out of the high incidence of reported child abuse cases in many counties in Eastern Kentucky. The commission contracted with the Children’s Advocacy Center of the Bluegrass, Inc. to fund the project which is designed to recruit and train physicians so the victims of child sexual abuse receive the medical and psychological treatment they deserve and to provide telemedicine equipment for consultations at remote sites to make more exams and services available to abused children.
A couple of other ways Kentucky is benefiting from the Appalachian Regional Commission is the Kentucky Artisan Heritage Trails program which created a driving tour from I-75 to cultural heritage attractions and artisan businesses that bring in tourists, helping to promote economic growth; and the Kentucky Pride program that was established in 1997 by U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers and Gen. James Bickford to combat Eastern Kentucky’s pollution problems. It helps alleviate problems such as illegal trash dumps and raw sewage from straight pipes and failing septic systems that contaminate streams, all of which deter from Kentucky’s tourism business.
Does this program help the coal miners, you may ask? Why yes it does. They created what they call an “energy blueprint” for Appalachia to provide the framework for the promotion of energy-related job opportunities through the stimulation of sustainable energy production, efficiency and innovation efforts in the region. Let’s face it, folks, we all know that coal is no longer a sustainable energy source and we must move on. Utilizing that knowledge, the commission created a program to, in part, train and educate on energy efficiency, renewable energy and clean fossil energy production. In other words, helping coal miners learn new trades and skills still within the energy field, but outside the dwindling coal industry.
Given all this information, you just may be under the impression that Trump is indeed keeping his promises to the voters of Kentucky, right? Well, sorry to burst your bubble, but you’d better think again. According to an article in USA Today written by Gregory Korte, Trump’s new budget is eliminating hundreds of programs and agencies throughout the country. Of course, this elimination will be time-consuming and cannot be done right away. However, his first budget proposal will eliminate 62 programs and agencies right off the bat.
Have you guessed it yet? Yes, one of the first to be eliminated/cut from government funding is The Appalachian Regional Commission. So, is Trump keeping his promise to his Kentucky voters? Looks like that’s a big fat NO to me!
And the beat goes on…
I open the door and step inside.
Mommy Mommy! You’re home! I missed you! I love you! I’m so glad you’re home! Let me see you! I’m so happy now! Why did you leave me for so long? I love you, I love you, and I love you! I’m going in the other room now Mommy and play, or maybe nap a bit. But I’m happy because I know you are here, just a room away, and I will come in and check from time to time just to make sure you are still here. I know I’m safe when you are home, Mommy. I know I’ll always be taken care of as long as I have you… and I know that you love me too! Mommy, you’re the best and I will love you forever!!!
This is what I come home to every single day. This is what makes my long day at work worthwhile. How did I ever live without him, I wonder. How in the world did I spend my time before he arrived? I just cannot imagine my life without him in it. My whole world has been such a wonderful place since this sweet boy came along.
“How was your day today?”
“Anything you want to talk about?”
“Well…I…okay, son.” I begin preparing dinner for my 18-year-old son.
“What about you my little Biscuit? Are you hungry? Come here and let Mommy see you again!” I pick up my little ball of fluff and bury my cheek in his hair. He kisses my face over and over again. My sweet baby! My little Yorkie! He’s simply the best!
Yep, there’s nothing like the unconditional love of man’s best friend!
As a lifelong resident of Powell County, I know firsthand what kind of people call Eastern Kentucky their home. Many of them are down-to-earth, friendly, and welcoming. Good-hearted people who would give you their last dime if they thought you needed it more than they did. The kind of people who would gladly take you in and provide you with warmth and a good meal to fill your stomach on a cold winter’s day. It is exactly their charitable and easygoing nature that makes the fact that they overwhelmingly voted for Donald Trump all the more gut-wrenching and incomprehensible.
Most of the folks in the mountains of Eastern Kentucky are coal miners or descendants of coal miners, or I should say they were coal miners before the industry came grinding to a virtual halt. Several of them suffer from black lung and fought to no avail for many years to receive benefits from the coal companies to whom they had given so much of themselves. They didn’t ask for a lot, a little help to pay for their medical treatment and a meager income so that they and their families could survive.
Finally, a modicum of relief came in the form of the Affordable Care Act, which mandated a presumption of total disability for any miner who had worked at least 15 years in the mining industry and who suffered from black lung or any other totally disabling respiratory impairment. It also provided automatic entitlement for eligible survivors of miners who had themselves received benefits.
In stepped Kentucky’s Obama-hating politicians who took full advantage of that knowledge and bombarded them with deceitful and continuous propaganda convincing them that ObamaCare was a terrible, horrible thing.
As a result, Eastern Kentuckians were especially fooled by the outright lies propagated by our president-elect during his campaign. Given their situation, it isn’t hard to understand why they would be so gullible. They probably would have voted for Donald Duck if he had promised them the resurrection of the industry that provided them with the only kind of work they know how to do.
Unfortunately, with each passing day that brings to light another outrageous and dangerous move made by Donald Trump, it’s becoming more and more apparent that an animated fictional character actually might have been the better Donald for the job. Some of us have known that all along.
In a recent CNN report in which several Eastern Kentuckians were interviewed regarding their struggles and their decision to vote for Trump, they revealed that they are now worried they may come to regret that decision. Unfortunately, the damage has been done. They will now be forced to live with the consequences of their ill-advised choice. It remains to be seen just what kind of life that will be. If Donald Trump actually keeps his promise to annihilate the Affordable Care Act, I fear the future will be dire indeed for the folks of Eastern Kentucky.
It was the happiest year of my childhood. I wasn’t exactly everyone’s cup of tea. I’m still not, for that matter, forty-one years later. That was the year I found my soulmate. Not in the sense you may be thinking. Not the male female spend forever together variety. No, this was the other soulmate. The one true friend, always there for you, got your back, mess with her and I’ll kick your ass, break her heart and I’ll break your face, kind of soulmate.
I loved that girl! Couldn’t wait to get to school each day. Could barely sit still waiting for those clock hands to signal time for recess! What a blast we had! We two divas, pop princesses, future famous girl band, dancing and singing our hearts out. Belting out the songs we heard on the radio in the good old year of 1975. Nevermind I had a terrible voice; I didn’t know it! We performed as if we were center stage. As if all the record companies in the world were watching and thousands of fans were right there in that moment. We twirled and sang for any and all kids curious enough to watch, but mostly for ourselves. That girl got me. She knew my dream! She knew it because she had it as well. She had that same fire that burned hot inside of me inside of her! She was the only person I had ever met who understood the passion, understood me. No one has since.
Naturally, there came a day when the short time we spent together at school just wasn’t enough. A sleepover was in order! Whose house? It didn’t really matter. I don’t remember how, but we ended up choosing hers. She asked and her parents agreed. I could spend the night the coming weekend. I rushed off the bus in a heightened state of excitement! I bolted through the door yelling, “Mom, Mom, can I stay all night with Cynthia Friday night.” She replied that she didn’t see why not, but we’d have to ask my dad. As soon as he got home, I didn’t waste a second. I remember well the strange look that came across his face. He hesitated for a moment and said, “We’ll see”. I didn’t make much of it. I knew my dad. He was a pushover where I was concerned. He would let me.
My excitement continued throughout the week. The plan was to ride Cynthia’s bus home with her the next day. It was all set. Then came the bad news. It was bedtime. I had barely settled in when my door opened and the light came on. There stood Dad, looking at me with that same expression, maybe even more intense. I waited for him to speak. The pause was much longer this time. I used the opportunity to study his face. He looked pained, somber, conflicted, but mostly distressed. This man, an honest and good man, born in 1928, raised in small-town, Kentucky (population ninety-nine percent a whiter shade of pale) at that moment appeared to be wrestling with some truly diabolical inner demons. At last, he spoke. “I don’t think it’s a good idea. I’d rather you stay home”. Devastated, I whined, “Why?” “I just do. She can spend the night with us.” Well that’s ok then, no big deal. Either way was fine. As long as we were together, where didn’t matter.
Cynthia never spent the night with me. Things changed after that. Sixth grade rolled around and we entered middle school. Fifth graders from three elementary schools merged into one grade. Students were placed in classes alphabetically and we never shared the same class again. For that reason, we drifted apart, lost to each other forever. At least that’s what I tell myself.
The Wall has weakened again. The one that protects the fragile part of me. The one I continually build and rebuild. Every day I place a brick, strengthening the fortress of protection. A small act of kindness here, a glimmer of humanity there. Hope for the human race sparks and spreads slowly throughout my being. Until that one day arrives. The one I have spoken of before. It comes unbidden, unfailingly, time after time to tear it all down once more. At first, a tiny crack. A bit of evil in the world, an act of cruelty, a glimpse into the dark souls of the humans who possess them. The crack widens. A young, innocent child dies of cancer. A dog is doused in lighter fluid and set ablaze to die a horrible death. A goat is thrown from a bridge, a mother bakes her toddler in the oven, terrorists bomb civilians somewhere, a man feeds a live, sweet little puppy to his pet python, a woman scalds a toddler in a bathtub of boiling water then puts him to bed to die a slow painful death form shock and fluid loss. Horrific headlines, one after another. Waves and waves mount, growing taller and taller. Crashing, smashing, bashing the sanctuary wall. Shattering it into a million tiny pieces. Flooding, destroying, washing away happiness. Engulfing all within its rushing, soul crushing, angry roar.