Category Archives: family

Blood and Family


misty+mountains

Family means a lot to me.

When my grandfather was alive, my extended family on the Adkins side would often gather at my grandparents’ home. We had a saying, “If you ain’t blood, you ain’t sh*t.” This statement bonded us together by celebrating our relationships, but also was a battlecry to anyone who wasn’t blood kin – a playful jab to those who had married into the family.

That bond quickly disintegrated when my grandfather died. I was five years old. Huge fights erupted between siblings over money and whatever estate my Papa had left behind. I don’t know all the specifics of it. I just remember hiding in the hallway of our house as my mom and dad fought with my uncle. Unfortunately when the dust settled, we were no longer allowed to have contact with my uncle, which also meant cutting ties with his kids, two of my cousins.

My family didn’t learn from past mistakes. A similar pattern arose when my grandmother began losing her battle against alzheimer’s. You see, we’re Appalachian people. Culturally, Appalachians have a deep history of “taking care of our own.” When it comes to family, this dedication is even stronger. My mom cared for my grandmother herself, even bringing Mammy home to live with us for a while. I even helped by dressing Mammy on occasion. A memory burned into my pre-teen mind is of struggling to get her to raise her arms so I could apply deodorant. Regardless of the struggle, pawning her off for someone else, a stranger, to do these things was not a consideration.

For whatever reason, one of my aunts was not happy with the way we were providing for Mammy. She insisted that she could take better care and even accused my mom of stealing money. My mom could no longer take the stress and relented, allowing my aunt to take over caring for Mammy. My aunt didn’t do this for long before placing Mammy in a nursing home without telling the rest of the family. In those days and particularly to an Appalachian family, this was quite a scandal. As one might expect, these actions created another rift in the family, and we were no longer allowed to talk to that particular aunt, my uncle, or their kids – four more cousins lost.

Since I didn’t know anyone on my dad’s side of the family, my extended relations then consisted of one maternal aunt, my uncle, and their three sons. We clung to each other and became much closer, spending every Christmas holiday together, similarly to how the WHOLE family did when both my grandparents were alive. Into early adulthood, when thinking of extended family, I only had one aunt, one uncle, and three cousins, plus a gnawing sense of loss because I knew I had more, but somehow events changed our family motto to mean that even if you’re blood, we will still disown you. This was a huge leap from the days of “if you ain’t blood, you ain’t sh*t.”

Fast forward to 2005. I was working for Amazon in India, and one week before I was supposed to leave, my mom called me with the news that my dad had died of a massive heart attack. At that time Amazon did right by me and spent whatever money was needed to get me back to the U.S. as soon as possible. When I finally landed back in West Virginia, it was a deeply sad time, but I was consoled in the fact that my dad and I had reconciled before he passed. I had finally gotten to the point in my healing that I no longer found it useful to hold onto anger over many of the hurtful things he had done under the influence of alcohol. I even remember placing my hand on his coffin and saying, “I forgive you.”

My dad didn’t have much of a will. The document had been written more than a decade before and had no mention of what he wanted done with his remains. Dad had stated on several occasions that he didn’t want people to make a big deal out of the funeral, preferring that it be informal, and he wanted to be cremated. So, this is what we did. During visitation, my dad was dressed in a button down shirt, jeans, and sneakers. After, he was cremated, and my mom received the ashes.

Life became more confusing at this point. We remembered back to one rather amusing family conversation. My dad had said he wanted his ashes sprinkled in the Ohio River. My mom asked how we were suppose to accomplish this to which he replied, “Wait until it’s dark, drive over the 17th street bridge, and throw me out the window.” We all laughed. This was the only time my dad mentioned such things. My mom thought he had been joking, particularly since we had all laughed about it at the time, so she made no plans to do anything with his ashes except keep them in her living room under a statue of Buddha.

One of my three cousins, the middle child, took issue with this. My mom had passively told the story of the funny discussion regarding the Ohio River. My cousin acted as if he was horribly offended that we were not respecting my dad’s last wishes. Truth was, we weren’t sure what those wishes really were outside of not making a big deal of his funeral and cremating his body. Still, my cousin became angry that we didn’t spread his ashes. I guess he learned well from the lessons taught previously by our estranged uncle and aunt because he stopped talking to my mom, me, and my sisters. He even has all of us blocked on Facebook, as if we don’t exist anymore.

“If you ain’t blood, you ain’t sh*t.” I guess he now considers us sh*t, and I’m down to two cousins. I’m seriously confused by all of this because I had no idea that he thought so highly of my dad. At the same time, I bitterly think, “If he only knew what my dad had been capable of, maybe he wouldn’t be guarding his memory so strongly.”

I’m sad by all of this. The right lessons are not learned, and my family on the Adkins side continues to shrink. I know that this is a huge reason as to why I place such importance on my husband’s family and maintaining all of those relationships. I’m treated differently by them – not in an “if you ain’t blood” way – but since I married into the family, a great deal of importance is placed on me. I chose the family, I don’t love them because of blood. After the wedding, my father-in-law said to me, “Now, you’re not my daughter-in-law, you’re my daughter,” and that’s exactly how I’m treated, with that same level of regard…although I ain’t blood.

Powering through the Pain


hope concept

I had every intention to post the second part of my blog series “My Life Beyond Fat.” Unfortunately, my body had other plans.

I have been having severe abdominal pain for a while and ended up in the emergency room a few nights ago. After ER testing and follow-up ultrasound with my doctor, they confirmed that I have a 3.5 inch mass around my left ovary. The mass consists of two simple cysts and one complex, solid cyst that has the features of an endometrioma. I have a follow up with a specialist on Tuesday, which will probably mean an MRI. If it is confirmed endometrioma, surgery is likely along with a biopsy to confirm that it is benign. Until then, pain management…which means lots of pain meds, chamomile tea, laying around, and reading. It also means that I’m getting seriously behind on writing and editing work. That stuff can wait. I want this orange size thing out of my body!

Thank the Goddess we’re in the Chicago area now, close to family who is helping to take care of me. Wowza. My husband suggested that surely it didn’t hurt that much. I suggested that he stand close enough so I could grab his junk and twist it as hard as I could…then he would know exactly how much it hurt. *wink*

Chicago State of Mind


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My daughter and I have successfully relocated to the Chicago area. My husband will arrive in a little over a week. Although tired, I feel so much more relaxed and content to once again be surrounded by family.

I have an interview for an office job tomorrow. I’m excited for new professional opportunities to help people learn and develop their careers. I just hope it doesn’t take away too much time from my writing.

Speaking of which, I’m reviewing/editing the last chapters of Mining the Dark. I’m going to write some new material for a plot arc, then finish the epilogue. After that, I’ll send the updated manuscript to my hard reviewers, make any necessary remaining edits, then it’s publishing time! So excited to have this novel ready for you all. It’s been much too long since the first book in The Mountain State Vampire Series (The Source (The Mountain State Vampire Series Book 1)). I personally think that Mining the Dark is a better book. I hope you enjoy it, too.

Cheers to positive life changes!

How Depression Made a Top Student a Failure


Depression Just Ahead Green Road Sign with Dramatic Storm Clouds and Sky.

As I stated in my v-log on depression, statistics posted by Huffington Post earlier this year show that 30% of college students report experiencing depression so severe that it disrupts their school work. I mentioned in the video that I was in that 30%.

What’s interesting to me is the timing of things – a couple of days before recording that video, I decided to request my transcripts from my university. Since I quit my day job, I have been asking myself, “What do I want to be when I grow up?” As I started down that line of thought, I requested my transcripts to take a look at where I had been and revisit those subjects I had been so passionate about in my younger years.

When I first started off at college, I was convinced that I wanted to be a print journalist. I even had dreams of being an investigative journalist who uncovered big government scandals in the vein of Watergate. Being a passionate writer, print journalism seemed like a natural choice for careers.

Unfortunately, I quickly became disheartened with what I was learning in my journalism classes. I quickly learned that sensationalism was the order of the day – “if it bleeds, it leads” – and preserving the First Amendment had fallen behind how much ad space you could sell (which in essence, morally ties you to the whims of the corporations who advertise with you).

I was lost. I didn’t know what to do. My vision of my future completely disintegrated under the weight of a capitalist media system which had no regard for someone like me – someone who just wanted to write and seek the truth. This realization coupled with the shock of a failed relationship and struggling with my own identity sent me drowning into an abyss.

I became very depressed. So much so, that I lost interest in writing and researching topics I had previously found interesting. I no longer wanted to be involved with the Society for Professional Journalists. I no longer want to go to my journalism classes. In fact, I no longer wanted to even get out of bed. Since I couldn’t will myself to get out of bed or take a shower, I stopped going to class. My anxiety reared its ugly head. Because I didn’t go to class, I knew I would have to talk to the professors, which caused me so much anxiety that my fight or flight response had me fleeing – in so much that I just avoided the whole situation by continue to be absent. I was close to flunking out of school.

In high school, in all four years, I received all As and one B. During this particularly dismal semester in college, I earned four Fs and one D. It was absolutely humiliating. SO humiliating that this is the first time in my life that I have allowed myself to be this candid about it.

I took time off to really think about which degree would really interest me. Along with writing, I was passionate about social issues and had a somewhat morbid fascination with criminals, serial killers in particular. I also took time to recover from the depression, stress and anxiety – on my own, which wouldn’t be as helpful as I thought.

With these insights, I finally went back to school and changed my major to Sociology, emphasizing criminology and deviant behavior.

The next four years were much different.

To be continued

Yuletide Greetings!


yule-walpaper

Happy holidays to everyone!

My family and I are leaving tomorrow to return to the hills of Appalachia. I’m both excited and saddened. I’m excited to see my family and friends, but I’m also saddened at the prospect of seeing further proof of how much the area has changed. And the change has not always been good.

My heart clenches whenever I return home and see that a beloved business has shut down, natural landscape has been destroyed to build rental and commercial buildings, cleaning efforts have been de-prioritized in some areas, and the nightly news reports lament the growing drug traffic in the cities and shadowy hollers of the hills.

THEN, my spirits are always uplifted at the generosity of Appalachian people, the richness of Appalachian food, and the shared pride in how we have all survived, regardless of how things have changed.

Enjoy your friends and families this holiday season and may your new year be ripe with blessings and abundance.