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Here’s to the “Good Ole Boys!”


Sunset Party Key WestIt’s All About the “Good Ole Boys”

Dearest Readers:

Today, I am writing to you to share a few isolated, heartbreaking experiences I’ve endured while standing up for my rights and the rights of all women.

While I will not name the organization specifically I’ve fought with and lost, I will say, this organization is nothing but a group of “Good Ole Boys,” who will do nothing but stand tall for the “good of the order…” Whatever that means! The phrase “for the good of the order,” relates to parliamentary procedures, or “Robert’s Rule of Order.” Even the women who have been ‘allowed’ or should I say, “permitted to join” these organizations as a member do believe in the “good of the order.” In the beginning, these women had to make a lot of noise, including a lawsuit, just to join these organizations. Yes, for the “good of the order!”

But? What is a good ole boy? Simple. Perhaps some of you have never heard the expression, “Oh, he’s a good ole boy!” We hear it lots in the South! When I was a child, I didn’t understand the terminology, until we moved in with our grandparents and I could see, my grandfather was most definitely a “good ole boy!” Papa, as we called him, was extremely protective and supportive of his male friends and relatives. After all, “good ole boys” are birds of a feather, and they flock together. Women aren’t appreciated or respected by the “good ole boys!”

Good ole boys believe that women are ‘second-class.’ Women belong in the home. Having them babies and taking care of the house. We were supposed to cook and clean and be quiet!

Although Papa tried to train me in the belief of the “Good Ole Boys,” I chose to be my own woman! I had big dreams. After all, I’m a feminist and so proud of it! Lots of Southerners still believe in the terminology of “Good Ole Boys.” As for this household, we do not practice “Good Ole Boy” terminology.

I should share, I’ve dealt with “good ole boys” all of my life. When I was 15, a “good ole boy” a maternal Uncle, wanted to get a bit friendly with me. He was a Deacon in the Pentecostal Church. He thought it would be fun to go down a dirt road with me and pick blackberries. This road was deserted. No houses. No farms. No one around. How convenient for my uncle. He stopped his truck, moving his hands all over me. I screamed. I cried. No one heard me. Then, I hit him hard right between his legs. He screamed. Cussed. Is this the behavior of a “good ole boy” or a deacon in the church?”

Suddenly his strength was gone. He grabbed himself and moaned. He was hurting.

Good. If you touch me again. I’ll hurt you again!

I jumped out of his truck and ran down the red clay roads. My asthma got the best of me due to the dust flying in my face as I ran. My uncle caught up with me and pushed me into the truck.

“If you touch me again, I’ll hit you harder, exactly where I did before.”

He kept his hands on the steering wheel.

That day, I suppose you can say, a 15-year-old, innocent girl won! My uncle agreed to drive me home, and he said he would not touch me again.

Before I jumped out of his truck to run into the apartment, he said: “If you tell anybody I touched you, they won’t believe you. After all – I’m a deacon in the church!”

If you ever try to touch me again, I’ll hurt you. I wear high heels to church now and I’ll kick you with my high heels! No one’s ever gonna touch me like that again! One day you’ll be gone. I hope you burn in Hell!

Those were the last words I ever spoke to that uncle. Never did I share with my family what he did to me until the day he died. When he died, my mother phoned me, letting me know he was dead and I should come home.

“Home? I’m already at home. I’m not coming to his funeral. I hope he burns in Hell,” I said to her, “And if you are asking me to send flowers, I’ll send black roses!”

I must say, when a woman is touched or groped in a certain way, she never forgets it.

I’ve remained on guard. Never wanting to make a scene.

 

GOOD. OLE. BOYS?

I must say, these organizations organized and managed by a bunch of men, or shall I say, “good ole Southern boys,” probably know I am a writer, well-seasoned and professional. I speak my mind, and I research passionately to know what I communicate. On three occasions I’ve been asked if I would consider writing and editing their newsletters. I laughed. Shook my head and said: “I will not consider doing it as a volunteer, nor will I join “the good of the order,” to be “permitted to write your newsletter. I will only consider it for $600 — monthly, payable in advance.”

Of course, those “good ole boys” laughed. They’d never pay anyone $600 just to write a newsletter! Such are the actions of these antiquated, good ole boys organizations. A woman writing a newsletter? Scandalous isn’t it!

For eight years I’d written newsletters for “good ole boys” organizations. Those newsletters won many awards. I never received anything, with exception of knowing those publications shared important information, keeping the non-profit ‘good ole boys’ clubs well informed. After one decided to censor my newsletter, I resigned. I saw one of their newsletters recently and I laughed. Only two pages, filled with too many typos and grammatical errors. Yes, they needed me to write for them, but I refused to share my talents for free.

I should mention I am a freelance writer and editor, but the “free” in freelance does not mean I am free! While I guarantee I can improve newsletters, especially grammatically, I would not consider ever writing for free again. Not even as a volunteer.

On one occasion I had an experience where one of the men at this “Good ole boys” fraternity wanted to get just a little too close. He spoke to me while running his hand down my right side, just a little too close for comfort. How I regret not making a scene on that night. What I should’ve done is to push him away from my body, and I should’ve screamed so everyone in attendance could see and hear what he was doing. Regretfully, I did not. I conducted myself as a lady. May I never do this again. The next time some drunken man approaches me to get a little close, I plan to hit him exactly where it hurts! This action will no doubt drop him to the floor! And then, he will never attempt to touch me again.

While I’ve had these incidents happen before, my husband has always jumped up and knocked the guy to the ground. While he might be short, when he is angry and sees me threatened, he becomes The Incredible Hulk. He’s knocked many guys down. After this incident, I asked Phil to let me handle it. How I wish I hadn’t! Deciding to file a grievance – a sexual harassment complaint. The good ole boys were not exactly happy with this complaint. Oh well! What I really regret not doing is calling 911 for the police to arrest the culprit on sexual assault! Then, I could file a lawsuit! Sometimes, it just doesn’t pay to conduct myself like Julia Sugarbaker! If this scenario ever happens again – WARNING – I will hit him exactly where it hurts!

Meanwhile, when I was in attendance for different events, each time with my husband, suddenly everyone wanted to know who I was. I smiled, introduced myself to all of those gossipy women and, dare I say it again – “good ole boys,” and I exchanged pleasantries with them. Yes, I noticed people whispering into each other’s ears, and I saw fingers pointed at me. I simply smiled and waved. It was obvious I would get nowhere with my complaint. After all, the “good ole boys” seem to laugh it off and cover their butts. I had nothing to be ashamed of, and I was determined to stand my ground.

Unfortunately, no one would come forward as a witness to what happened. No one wanted to get involved. You probably know the type. My philosophy is – if You see something, you say something, but there are many women who allow their husbands to make those decisions for them. Thank God I am a woman who stands her ground, refusing to allow my husband to make my decisions! My husband supported my complaints 100%, BUT – in the “good ole boys” world, since there were no OTHER witnesses, it is just a He said…She said…and in the ‘good ole boys’ antiquated world, I was treated as second-class!

On another occasion, the same ‘good ole boy’ – drunker and nastier, not to mention obnoxiously LOUD, attempted to humiliate me and a few of my friends. Yes, I filed another complaint!

I was told he would be suspended for a year. He wasn’t. I was told I had to meet with him personally to ‘hash this out.’ I did. All he did was deny. DENY…AND DENY AGAIN! He called me a crybaby.  And he screamed at me so much, verbally abusing me. I crumbled. Yes, I cried. How I wish I hadn’t. I lived with verbal abuse as a child. Anytime someone verbally abuses me, I crumble.

I was told if we did not settle the matter on that night, then I would have to file another complaint with the same committee I filed the ORIGINAL complaint. A vicious cycle! Regretfully, I agreed to disagree.

If I heard it once, I probably heard it about a million times. You are not a member. You do not have the right to file a complaint!

Gee! I was under the impression this was the United States of America.

Not where the “Good ole boys” reside. Yes, the “Good ole boys,” won, only because they are an archaic fraternity who will not step into the 21-First Century. After all, they’re “good ole boys!”

Perhaps I’ll share more about these incidents later, in my blog, or maybe I’ll pitch a few ideas to national women’s magazines! Now, that’s an idea I should consider!

While it is true, I agreed to move forward, I did not agree to stay quiet or to shut my mouth. That is not my style! I shall continue standing up to share my story with others. After all, I am a feminist and a proud woman who will always voice her opinions.

As for the “good ole boys?” Let’s just say; they’re still stuck in the 19th Century!

 

 

 

And Now I Can See! The Adventures of Cataract Surgery


Dearest Readers:

Monday, January 14, 2019, I experienced my first cataract surgery on my left eye. If you’ve never had cataract surgery you might not understand the reasoning. From my observation, I believe eye surgeons prefer doing only one eye at a time. I’m thankful I followed these suggestions.

I remember my grandmother having cataract surgery many years ago. She was admitted to the hospital for a few days, simply because back in those days surgical centers did not exist. If someone needed surgery – into the hospital they went. I remember her cataracts were so large, I could hardly see the blue in her eyes – only a white cloud. I’m happy that now, it is such a quick procedure – something similar to in and out car washes – only of a different type!

Arriving at Physicians’ Eye Surgery Center, I was apprehensive, just like I always am with any surgical procedure. I subscribe to the “what if” club. What if the surgeon’s hand slips. What if there’s an accident and I lose my sight. You probably get the picture now. I worry much too much!

My eye surgery was scheduled for 8:30 am. I should arrive at the surgical center at 7:30 am, according to the person who scheduled my appointment.  We arrived at 7:10. The waiting room was populated with older adults and a few younger adults. Since I will not reveal my age, I was anxious to get this procedure over. My name was called at 7:20 or so, and by 7:30, all prep work was completed.

An IV was hooked up and now I have a gigantic black/red/yellow bruise covering my right wrist. My body does not like needles of any type and I bruise probably like a newborn baby. Inside the surgical area, music played – a soft, light rock from the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s – the classic music I so love to sing. Today was not a singing day, so I found myself listening , while knowing many of the songs. I was so thankful music played. It is so therapeutic for me. 

I met with several nurses and the anesthesia medical doctor, all assured me I would be fine. The procedure was explained. I was reassured I would not be asleep and I had to keep my left eye open. I was told to stare at the bright light. I probably mentioned I was a singer and whenever I am on stage, the bright lights bother my eyes, but today was different. I had to be still. Relaxed. And stare at a bright light. I could not go to sleep because when you sleep your eyes roll backwards and we don’t want that to happen. I really have no clue if I spoke or sang. Hopefully – not, although I am a talented singer!

Rolling me off to surgery, I reminded myself not to sleep. That isn’t a problem with me. SLEEPING is a problem. I have insomnia. The night prior to surgery I couldn’t eat or drink after midnight and I could not sleep! Understand, I’m not a midnight snacker, but I do like to sip water whenever I awaken.

Arriving in the surgical room, I noticed my doctor. “Ah…You’re waiting on me now,” I joked. I’ve never liked to wait on a doctor, although I do realize they have other patients, so I must be patient – even when I am a patient! Notice the word pun?

Within minutes, my left eye stared at a blue light. At least, I think it was blue. I chose to focus on music, so I do not remember the procedure at all. I was told prior by the nurses that it would take approximately 15 minutes. “Ah…” I laughed. “Welcome to In-and-Out Surgery, or maybe Drive-Thru Surgery.”

Minutes later, I was told I was the “Perfect Patient!” 

“That’s good to hear, I listened to music.”

Moments after my comment, I received a list of instructions called Post-Operative Instructions For Cataract Surgery.

*For the first 24-hours after surgery, you should not drive or make important personal or business decisions. Gee, may I watch Lifetime or Hallmark today? I thought to myself anxious to get a cup of coffee now!

*Wear sunglasses provided when you are outside. That’s not a problem. I wear sunglasses on a cloudy day too, and when I walk outside – always. The bright sunshine hurts!

*Wear the clear plastic shield provided while sleeping tonight and continue as directed by surgeon. 

I must say, that plastic shield is not exactly comfortable. I tape it on, covering it with my sleeping mask! In the morning, I’m thankful the tape goes off so easily! One thing I’ve learned is you should not apply night creams before the plastic shield. It slides off if you do!

*Do not rub the operative eye for one week. Always wash your hands with soap and water prior to caring for your eyes. Doesn’t everyone wash their hands before touching their eyes?

I was discharged and back in the car (not driving of course) by 8:45 am! As stated, “In-and-Out Surgery!”

The day after my surgery, I had a doctor’s appointment at 8:45 for a follow up check up. My doctor discovered the eye pressure was high so he prescribed another eye drop to help bring the pressure down. He said he thought the pressure was high due to the steroids in the eye drops I used prior to surgery and afterwards. Yep. I agreed. No doubt! Steroids and I do not get along! I always have some type of side effect.

I mentioned how I could see out of the left eye ok; however, I saw a circular rainbow on Monday. On Tuesday, the eye was still a bit hazy — proud to say, today, I am seeing crystal clear out of that eye!

Today is Thursday; hopefully, my last day not to wear eye makeup. I confess, I did wear makeup yesterday – just no eye makeup! Not even a bit of eye shadow! I look dead without makeup! I feel as if I am naked, and that isn’t something I do. Every day I wear makeup, with exception of this week. My mascara must think I’ve abandoned them!

As you can detect, cataract surgery is an easy surgery for most patients. I am only one. No doubt, I’ll schedule the right eye – when my eye pressure decreases!

And tomorrow – you guessed it – I’m wearing my eye makeup once again! I can’t wait!

 

 

 

Thanksgiving, 2018


Dearest Readers:

I realize this is Thanksgiving week; however, I wanted to share a bit of a touching, sad story. This morning, Wednesday, November 21, 2018, we had to let our precious little 14-year-old+ mini schnauzer go to doggie heaven. Since Monday evening, he deteriorated rather quickly. He ate his dinner. Drank water, and on Tuesday morning, he could hardly walk. I lifted him gently, carried him outside and watched him struggling to stand  just to potty. His legs were like spaghetti. Although he wobbled to stand, he couldn’t.

I watched him all day, noticing he would not move. He lay in his urine, I cleaned him and did all I could. At dinner time, he turned his face away. Refusing to eat, even when I tried to hand feed him. He rested on his side. His breathing was labored and he was lethargic. This was not Mr. Hanks.  

All night long, I watched him. He hadn’t moved at all. I had his favorite pillow next to him. A blanket and a beach towel. No movement. Hank loved pillows and blankets! Early this morning, with no response and no movement, I made a phone call I prayed I would not have to make. I asked the receptionist if the vet would check him over. He would.

Arriving at the veterinary hospital, Hank was examined. His breathing was labored and short, like he had raced, or been on the treadmill with me. Yes, Mr. Hanks the Tank loved the treadmill. He would always jump on it before I could! Hanks truly had a delightful personality when he was happy, which was all of the time with us.

Prior to us adopting him, or maybe it was him adopting us, he lived a life of cruelty when his family member passed away, and the relatives did not want Hank, so they took him to a shelter to euthanize him. Fortunately, he was saved when Schnauzer Rescue of the Carolinas intercepted, saving his life. 

Hanks, the Tank…At Last, he has a happy home!

After we adopted Mr. Hanks, he was a bit reluctant to accept my husband. When I reviewed his papers, I realized his former owner and my husband had the same first name. That’s when I realized in Hank’s eyes, he was fearful of someone named “Phil.” It took us many months to get Hank to stop nipping and biting at Phil. I don’t recall him biting him in over two years. Sometimes, he would rush at him, I suppose to protect me, which he didn’t need to do, and he would place his mouth over Phil’s toe, or foot, growl and walk away. Obviously, he grew up in an abusive family; nevertheless, when I touched him, or moved away, he would grumble and follow me around the house. 

Mr. Hanks the Tank was a special needs schnauzer. All he really needed was for someone to reach him gently, touch and rub him and speak softly to him. In our home, he did not see abuse, only kindness, love, respect and acceptance.

Tomorrow at Thanksgiving, I will give thanks for God providing Mr. Hanks to come into our lives. While I write this, I am crying my heart out over losing him. It was one of the toughest and most heart breaking decisions I’ve made. My animals are my family!

Happy Thanksgiving in Heaven, Mr. Hanks, the Tank. I pray you are with Sir Shakespeare Hemingway, and Prince Marmaduke Shamus. Mommy loves all of you. I give thanks for God sharing our lives for only a while. I love and miss all of you.

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LEARN TO CONTROL YOUR DIABETES, BEFORE IT CONTROLS YOU


Late one evening while watching TV with my husband Phil, I reminded him to check his glucose level. His reply was the usual, ‘I’ll do it later.’ Knowing him as I do, I was frustrated. He has the tendency to procrastinate, so I chose a different approach. “Why don’t you check mine and let’s compare.”

Never did I expect my little psychological game to backfire. Pricking my finger, I waited in anticipation. When the meter flashed 468 on the screen, I laughed. “Something’s wrong with your machine. I do not have Diabetes. I do not have any symptoms. I’m fine.”

“You’re always tired,” my husband said.

“Isn’t everyone? If someone else walked in my shoes, they would be tired too.”

While it was true I was always tired, I suffered from insomnia and never felt rested. I worked ten-hour days at work and at home, working as a professional and moonlighting at night pursuing my writing career. My fingers were not numb, I didn’t suffer from increased thirst, and I certainly did not have unexplained weight loss. My mother had Diabetes so it does run in the family. Unexplained weight gain? Could that be a symptom?

The next morning I visited the doctor’s office, confirming the diagnosis of Type II Diabetes. My glucose level at Dr. Knepper’s office was 362. When he opened the door to discuss my condition, I was in tears. How could this happen to me? I ate properly, at least I thought I did. I did not exercise, and fast food was a part of my weekly meals, due to my crazy work schedule. Dr. Knepper reassured me I could recover and he encouraged me to learn all I could about Diabetes.

“I’m a writer,” I said. “I can become an advocate, if needed.”

Soft spoken and kind, Dr. Knepper nodded. “Let’s take it slow for now. We can get this under control. I want you to focus on your food intake, and what you are eating. Watch carbohydrates, increase your water intake and exercise. Check your glucose level at least three times daily and keep a record of it. I want to see you in three months. We’ll do blood work to see what your A1C level is.”

I had a lot to learn about Type II Diabetes. Leaving his office armed with a handful of prescriptions, a meter, booklets, and a fearful look on my face, I chose to learn all I could about Type II Diabetes.

That afternoon, I performed a Google search, typing in the key word of Diabetes. The wealth of information was informative, especially the web site of the American Diabetes Association, http://www.diabetes.org/home.jsp. I was able to click on information about Type II Diabetes, condition and treatment, a listing of resources, and so much more. Recognizing it was time for me to make a lifestyle change; I started building a plan of attack.

My New Years resolution for 2005 was to join a gym and lose weight. After the diagnosis of Diabetes, I was motivated and determined to change my life. I stopped visiting fast food joints for lunch, choosing to eat fresh vegetables and healthy snacks, instead of chocolate, or desserts. After work, I drove to the gym, worked out, and learned more about proper nutrition. I attended a nutrition class with a Diabetes nutritionist, asked lots of questions, and changed my diet, discovering the art of portion control.

Much to my surprise, I learned that sugar was not necessarily the enemy for people with Diabetes. Portion control, monitoring glucose levels, and limiting carbohydrates were the keys to success for Diabetes management.

Checking my glucose levels three times daily encouraged my husband to monitor his levels. He was diagnosed with Diabetes in 1992 and he rarely monitored or practiced portion control. My determination to get my Diabetes under control encouraged him; however, when his levels were higher than mine were, he was defiant.

“I don’t understand. You had the same thing for dinner that I did, and your levels are lower. It’s not fair,” he said, shaking his hands.

“Portion control,” I teased. “You had seconds. I never clean my plate. You go back for seconds, and you always snack late at night.”

“Whatever,” he grumbled.

Our competitive game of Diabetes management was underway and this time, I was the winner!

Three months later, my doctor was amazed how quickly my A1C level had dropped from 8.5 to 5.4. His goal was ‘6.5, but that could take a year,’ he said to me in February 2005. ‘Now, you’re my new poster child for Diabetes.’

Pleased with how quickly my eating and Diabetes management habits changed, I was still a bit annoyed that I was not losing weight. Inches were falling off of me. In three months I dropped two inches from my chest, four inches from my waistline, and two inches from my hips. My weight failed to drop at all.

“It’s hard for a Diabetic to lose weight, especially if you have insulin resistance,” Dr. Knepper said. “Don’t get discouraged. Your A1C level is great. I’m amazed how quickly you got it under control.”

“Insulin resistance,” I moaned. “Is that why my glucose level is so much higher in the morning?”

“Probably. Keep doing what you are doing, and don’t get discouraged. I’ll see you in three months.”

In June 2005 my position at the university ended when the campus relocated. With the closing of that door, I chose to open a window to my writing career. Now I had a bit of freedom to do what I wanted to do. I walked my dogs every day, worked out three to five times a week, and my weight decreased. By August 2006, I had lost a total of 26 pounds, and many inches. A1C levels were averaging 5.9, cholesterol levels were decreased to a healthier level, and I had more energy and self-confidence. Dr. Knepper was amazed and so proud of me. He had no idea how proud I was. Meanwhile, Phil’s A1C levels continued on a dangerous roller coaster ride. His doctors prescribed additional prescriptions and insulin injections. His reluctance to change his eating habits with portion control inspired me to continue monitoring my eating habits and glucose levels. Horrified of needles, I was determined not to join him. Each time he reached for his injection, I left the room.

Controlling Diabetes is now a lifetime commitment for me. My daily routine is a personal allegiance to educate myself and the public about the proper steps to Control Diabetes. My doctor is pleased with how quickly I was able to get my Diabetes under control. As for myself, I am proud of my new willpower. Before Diabetes, I procrastinated about life, my health, and my writing career. I made excuses for everything. Now, as a Diabetic, I want to do all I can to educate others, while educating myself. Diabetes is not a death sentence, but a way of life. A condition that can be monitored and managed through exercise, proper eating habits, portion control, and modern medicine. I plan to live my life as a healthy diabetic. So can you.

Daily Rituals to Monitor Type 2 Diabetes

  1. Seek professional care. Follow your doctor’s advice and learn all that you can about Type 2 Diabetes.
  2. Monitor glucose levels. I check my levels every morning, afternoon and evening.
  3. Exercise. Take daily walks. You will learn to appreciate the little things in life again – like hearing a chirping bird, saying hello to neighbors, and enjoying the freshness of morning air.
  4. Change your eating habits. Instead of going back for seconds, do not. Learn to eat slower, while enjoying the taste of food.
  5. Get regular physicalGulf Shores, AL 2008 082s. I confess, I did not, until Type 2 Diabetes knocked on my door. Now, I follow the advice of my doctor, and myself.
  6. Do not get discouraged if you have difficulty losing weight. Keep active and have a daily exercise routine.
  7. Visit the web site http://www.diabetes.org/home.jsp and learn all that you can about Diabetes. Knowledge is power.
  8. Diabetes is a lifestyle change, not a restriction of distasteful meals and social restraint.
  9. Think of portion control. Working as a professional photojournalist, there are times when my willpower is put to the test, especially during luncheons or special dinners. When dessert is placed before me, I eat one or two bites and leave the rest. Portion control is the key, not a constraint.
  10. Monitor. Your food intake. Your glucose levels, and your weight. Even a small reduction in weight is better than an increase.

Charleston, West Virginia – Take Me Home Country Roads


Dearest Readers:

Below is an article I wrote years ago about Charleston, WV. Enjoy!

Charleston, West Virginia is an exceptional, first-class meeting facility filled with beautiful scenery, history, and southern charm, befitting the comforts and traditions of most sophisticated cities in West Virginia. “While we do not have the lights of Las Vegas, or the skyscrapers of New York City, what we do have is mountain beauty, Charleston is a walkable, picturesque city, and a safe, friendly environment where people actually smile at you and say hello and they are proud to help you,” said Patricia Bradley-Pitrolo, President/CEO of the Charleston Convention & Visitors Bureau.

“Charleston is a safe, affordable, family friendly city. The beauty and charm make it the ideal consideration for planners who seek the amenities and the pleasures of a majestic setting. Downtown Charleston has plenty of parking, seven hotels with 1,450 rooms, all conveniently located within walking distance of the Charleston Civic Center, Charleston Town Center Mall and more than 30 restaurants,” said Pitrolo. “Five of our downtown hotels provide meeting spaces from 1,200 to 14,600 square feet. The Charleston area has more than 3,500 sleeping rooms in 26 hotels, offering a variety of hospitality options.

Easily accessible, Yeager Airport is only eight minutes from downtown, providing competitive airfares and non-stop flights to 10 major cities. Strategically located within the Interstate systems, I-66, I-77, and I-79, Charleston, WV is positioned within driving distance of many popular destinations, including Charleston, and Myrtle Beach, SC, Nashville, TN and Washington, DC. If traveling by train is a preference, an Amtrak Station is located downtown.

Filled with the landscape of mountain beauty, Charleston offers many popular West Virginia activities, including skiing, world-class Tree Tops Zip Line Canopy Tours, Bridge Walk tours to the New River Gorge, whitewater rafting, ATV trails, golf, hiking, fishing, canoeing, kayaking, and many more adventures for all to enjoy, conveniently located within 90 minutes.

Charleston has many festivals, theaters, concerts, arts shows and all sorts of activities for every age and taste. The International Chili Cook-off was held there in 2009, welcoming people from all over the world.

September – February are considered the best months to book reasonably priced meetings. Since Charleston is a city where walking is encouraged and easy to do, there are many activities that are within walking distances of the civic center and other accommodations. The CVB prides itself in “going above and beyond” to exceed expectations where groups experience higher than expected attendance. Friendly locals go out of their to welcome guests.

“You can walk out the front door of your hotel, right into the Mall and we have a Mayor who cares about conferences and meetings. Creative solutions and personalized service are the key to meeting the individual needs of guests,” said Pitroli. “The Charleston CVB wants to make meetings a success. We can be as hands-on as needed and we stand by our reputation of excellent service at no cost to meeting planners and attendees.”

The largest meeting space is the Convention Center. The Grand Convention Hall contains 52,000 square feet of Class A exhibition space with the availability to accommodate 256 standard booths. The Coliseum offers a total of 30,000 square feet of space and seating for 13,500, thus becoming the premier venue for trade shows, conventions, concerts, sporting and other exciting attractions. The theater in the convention center has seating for 750. The talented culinary team is a perfect fit for an amazing selection of gourmet cuisine.

Shopping and dining is great in Charleston with much to offer. The Charleston Town Center Mall is one of the largest in the East. Downtown Renaissance Village has international cuisine, exclusive stores, and art galleries. The Downtown Capitol Market, an amazing open-air market filled with local and seasonal produce, flowers, specialty shops, butcher and wine shops, seasonal goods, and something for everyone. Browse around for seasonal and local specialties, West Virginia Southern cuisine, chocolates, wine and cheese. Easily accessible with free parking on all four sides of the Market, Capitol Market contains a treasure trove of merchandise, well worth the visit.

Recently completed renovations for Charleston include a $3.5 million renovation to the Haddad Riverfront Park, centrally located in the heart of the city. The CVB uses the park for many outdoor events. This popular destination has a retractable fabric canopy over the park’s seating area, a steel and fabric roof for the permanent stage and another canopy covering the pavilion that overlooks the Kanawha River. The riverfront park has an amphitheater, boat docking and benches located along the river. The park offers “Live on the Levee” concerts every Friday during the summer and the Charleston Symphony performs during the July 4th celebration.

FestivALL, an annual celebration where the city becomes “a work of art” offers sternwheeler rides and music, dance, theater and fun. Each year the popularity of FestivALL increases. In 2009, over 50,000 people attended. Statistics for 2010 are not finalized since the festival was held in June, but the steering committee is quickly making plans for 2011, scheduled for June 17 – 26, 2011.

The Summit Conference Center is a fabulous venue for Charleston. “Our business is well-known in the community and it is one of the best places to hold meetings, banquets, and parties of all kind. We have comfortable and private rooms with up-to-date audiovisual equipment available, including High Speed Internet access and videoconferencing. Our catering department serves a tantalizing array of food that can be at the facility or delivered and served at your favorite off-site location,” said Janet Simpson, Meeting Planner for the Summit Conference Center. Located in downtown Charleston, the Center has six meeting rooms, with a functional space of 5,627 square feet, a large banquet capacity suitable for 100 and the food and customer service are exceptional.

Ramada Plaza Hotel, located on Second Avenue, recently remodeled all boardrooms in 2010. Additional renovations include all new furniture and carpeting in all sleeping rooms and the addition of flat screen TV’s. “We have friendly, caring staff, easy access, free ground level parking, and we are located between two major shopping areas,” said Ann R. Blaylock, Convention Sales Manager. “The property has long-term stay accommodations available, 155 sleeping rooms, 49 non-smoking double beds, 16 smoking double beds, 14 non-smoking kings, 26 business class non-smoking kings, 10 business class non-smoking double beds, 6 suite non-smoking double beds, 10 suite non-smoking kings, 4 suite smoking kings, 8 non-smoking queen efficiency, 2 smoking queen efficiency, 5 non-smoking handicapped kings, 1 smoking handicapped king, with down comforters, duvets, and throws on the end of all beds, with coffeemaker, microwave, mini-fridge, iron/ironing board, blow dryer, morning paper, continental breakfast, plus full kitchens in suites, free wireless Internet access in all sleeping rooms, meeting rooms and wake-up calls, Pay Per View movies and we are a pet friendly hotel.”

“Charleston Civic Center is one of the most flexible facilities in the Mid-Atlantic region,” said Sharon King, Director of Sales, and Marketing. “We focus on conventions offering a facility that can handle exhibit space needs as well as a location that offers big city style, with warmth and ease of a small town. The Civic Center is located downtown within walking distance of five hotels, shopping and restaurants. We embrace the traditions of the Appalachian culture and endeavor always to build new ways of life. The Symphony, museums, shopping and theaters, featuring nationally know performances are only a few of the attractions you will find within the metro valley. The area is rich in culture and recreational amenities.”

The Civic Center Conference complex offers a total of 18 meeting rooms, over 6,500 square feet on the main level of the property. The rooms can provide an intimate atmosphere for meeting and small exhibits. Five executive parlors are located on the main level, providing 3,100 square feet of theater, classroom, or conference seating that can accommodate 900. The Little Theater, updated with new seating, stage, lighting, and curtains is located in the main complex seating 736. The building will undergo new upgrades in 2011. “We are in the process of ‘going green’ recycling as much as possible from paper products, packing and cans. The Charleston Civic Center is located two blocks from the Federal Court House and we are directly across the street from the Charleston Town Center Mall. Within three blocks are Summers and Capitol Streets, considered the main arteries for the downtown area. The Charleston Marriott, The Embassy Suites, and the Holiday Inn Express surround the setting, offering the ability to walk to any of these locations.”

“In-house catering at the Charleston Civic Center follows the philosophy of great service and cuisine,” said King. “Training and supervision of all team members is an important part of our process, ensuring that your event will make the desired impression. An extra bonus is our food costs are well below the national average.”

“During 2008 – 2009, Charleston, WV hosted 76 meetings/conventions and events with a total attendance of 73,000 and an economic impact of $38 million. Fiscal year 2009-2010 saw Charleston host 87 meetings/conventions and events with a total attendance of 116,000 and an economic impact of $39.5 million,” said Pitroli. Average group-based room rates are $115. The beauty and charm of Charleston make it an ideal location for planners seeking the amenities of a sophisticated business urban center and the pleasures of a setting so majestically beautiful and relaxing, can only be found in West Virginia.”

 

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IF YOU GO:

Charleston, WV Convention and Visitors Bureau, http://www.charlestonwv.com/

Charleston Civic Center, http://www.charlestonwvciviccenter.com

Capitol Market, http://www.capitolmarket.net

Kanawha Valley Regional Transportation Authority, http://www.rideonkrt.com/

FestivALL, http://www.festivallcharleston.com/

Ramada Plaza Hotel, www.DiscoverCharlestonWV.com

Summit Conference Center, http://www.summitcenter.com/

Yeager Airport, http://yeagerairport.com/

West Virginia Fairs and Festivals, http://www.wvfairsandfestivals.org/site/

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Barbie Perkins-Cooper is a freelance writer who loves the journey and exploration of hospitality, travel, and health. She works full-time as an editorial photojournalist and has published numerous articles and photographs for regional, health and beauty and travel publications, including the Travel Channel, Buick B Magazine and many more. She is the author of Condition of Limbo and Career Diary of a Photographer. Visit her website www.barbieperkinscooper.com.

In Memory of Chef Shane Whiddon


Good morning to all. If you follow my posts on Facebook and my blog, you will know yesterday was another tragic day in the Holy City of Charleston, SC.

Yesterday, a disgruntled, former employee walked into Virginia’s on King Restaurant with a sick mission on his mind. He reportedly has mental health issues.

Holding a weapon, he told everyone inside the restaurant to get on the floor and exit the building. One woman stated he pointed the weapon on her stomach. He did not shoot her.

Since I write about food and hospitality, I know quite a few chefs within the Lowcountry of Charleston, I researched Virginia’s on King Street Restaurant. At that time, I was able to click on to the website and read. I did not research the chef at that time.

Later, after reports of one person killed and the shooter in critical condition, I rushed back to the website, hoping to discover who the chef was. When I clicked on the site, I discovered it was temporarily unavailable. I realized there was probably only one reason the site was down. Perhaps the chef was the victim killed. Listening to the news reports, the interviews with Sheriff Al Cannon, and the Mayor of Charleston, John Tecklenburg, no one would share the name of the deceased victim or the name of the shooter.

While reports continued, a reputable friend sent me the name of Chef Shane Whiddon. Although he looked familiar to me, I do not recall ever having the privilege to interview him for a story. It is unfortunate that I’ve never eaten at Virginia’s on King Street.

Chef Anthony Shane Whiddon was 37-years-old, leaving a wife and two children.

http://abcnews4.com/news/crime-news/shane-whiddon-chef-at-virginias-on-king-dies-after-shooting-at-charleston-restaurant

I have no details about the shooter with exception that he was a ‘disgruntled former employee’ and he is in critical condition now.

My heart breaks for the family of Chef Shane Whiddon, Shannon, his wife, and their two lovely children. A neighbor of the family has established a Go Fund Me page, hopeful to raise $10,000 to go to the family.

https://www.charlestoncitypaper.com/Eat/archives/2017/08/25/gofundme-campaign-created-to-support-the-family-of-chef-shane-whiddon-virginias-restaurant-homicide-victim

I’ve lived in the Holy City of Charleston for many years. I recall working as an intern at one of the local TV stations when I was in college. One of my responsibilities was to contact all police departments to see if anything was happening so we could be first with the “if it bleeds it leads,” stories. During my internship, the only report I discovered was a fire. No shootings. Killings. Rapes. Robberies. Drug busts…Nothing newsworthy.

I’ve had the honor and pleasure to know many successful chefs as students when I worked at Johnson & Wales University. Many of them are internationally famous, earning many awards for the amazing and tantalizing foods created by their talents, and many of these chefs chose to remain in Charleston. I suppose you could say, I have been blessed. Yes, indeed!

Now, almost daily there is a shooting. Drug busts and robberies. I ask myself: What has happened to the Holy City of Charleston?

Yes. This beautiful city has grown. Reportedly, we have lots of hopeful new residents moving into the lowcountry daily. I suppose with growth comes crimes. Now, we have crimes on a daily basis. I have been told by a number of people about how easy it is to get a weapon in South Carolina. I suppose I’m from the old school and don’t believe in weapons, but — this is South Carolina and in the Holy City, apparently it is rather easy to get a weapon. So sad. And now, another innocent victim is gone, all because a ‘disgruntled former employee walked into a restaurant and killed the chef.’

Since I am active within the hospitality industry, knowing many of the leaders of food and beverage and hospitality, I pray everyone will come together to assist the family of Chef Shane Whiddon. Now, his wife will be a single mom, raising two children who probably will never understand why their daddy was taken away by someone shooting and killing him. Just how do you explain that to a child? Yesterday morning, Chef left his family to go to work, creating delicious Southern foods for the guests at Virginia’s on King Street. He never came home.

Just what do you say when the children ask: “Where’s my daddy? Why can’t he come home to me? I miss my daddy.”

Chef Shane Whiddon was a family man. He had a generous heart and soul. I checked the Go Fund Me site only a moment ago. Contributions raised in only nine hours: $5,280.

No doubt the Holy City of Charleston feels the pain and loss, and so do I.

Such a sad day today. We are expecting more storms this afternoon probably like the torrential storms pouring down while the police officers rushed around to protect our city.  I must say, they did an amazing job yesterday. Makes me proud of our Holy City.

To the family and friends of Chef Shane Whiddon, I am so sorry for your loss. I pray God will guide all of you and give you strength during this traumatic time of grief.

If you would like to contribute to the Go Fund Me page for Chef Shane Whiddon, visit:

https://www.gofundme.com/helping-the-whiddon-family

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Lightning…Thunder…and The Roar Of Chattahoochee Child…


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Dearest Readers:
It is early on a beautiful Sunday morning in Charleston, SC. The weather forecast for today is H-O-T — AGAIN! Reportedly, it is supposed to get to 85. No doubt, it will be another steamy hot day. Stepping outside in the heat of the day is like stepping into a sauna. Yesterday, we had a late storm brewing after we went to bed. I suppose I slept through it, which is something I do not normally do.
Whenever I see lightning, I jump out of my skin, almost. My husband says even when sleeping, I will hear the thunder and lightning and jump or tremble. I do not remember doing it. Just a few days ago, we had a summer storm in the afternoon. I was in route to get my doggies from the groomer. Every time I saw the lightning flash, I jumped, while driving. It isn’t a pretty sight. Just how can a grown woman be so frightened by lightning?
I suppose I should share my story here. If you follow my blog and read a bit of the “Chattahoochee Child” stories I’ve posted, you will understand. During my childhood, I was always the child with an opinion. In my dad’s diary, he wrote, and I quote since he is deceased now: “Barbara is really a child with opinions. She likes to get noticed, and even though she is only five-years-old, she does vocalize her thoughts, rather well.”
Humph! I cannot imagine what he was referring to, but after high school graduation, I have learned to ‘vocalize my thoughts and opinions…’ AND — I DO question authority. I suppose it is the journalist deep inside me. I suppose you could say, during high school I was quiet. I confess I went to six high schools during eighth grade thru graduation. What? Might you say? Most people only go to one high school. It is simple. My family and I moved a lot — like gypsies. So, just when I got comfortable in one high school, off we go to another, so no one really got a chance to get to know me until we moved to Columbus, Georgia. Finally, I was able to attend only one high school for two-and-a-half years until graduation. Figure that out, if you can! Let’s just say, during high school I was considered shy and a wallflower. Heck. I was afraid to get to know anyone and forget the high school boys. All they wanted to get to know was —! Never did I date high school boys. They always had ‘rushing hands,’ and I did not want to have a battle with them. Their libido and testosterone were quite active, so I decided I would not date them.
Since I’m free writing, it is back to my fears of thunder and lightning.
When I was a child, my mother disciplined me constantly. “You ask too many questions,” she said. “Just do what I tell you to do and stop being so opinionated… “You stupid girl. One day I hope you’re struck by lightning…just so you’ll know you shouldn’t say so much or ask so much.”
My mother loved to call me her ‘stupid girl.’ How I hate that description!
I suppose it is easy to say, as a child, I probably had too many opinions, but when lightning occurred, I remember my mother saying, “I hope you get struck by lightning soon.”
Each time I saw lightning, I cringed, sometimes rushing to hide in the closet of my bedroom so I would not see the lightning. When thunder roared, I screamed. Still, to this day, when we have storms I do my best to hide under covers, close the blinds, or stay in a room where I will not notice the roaring sounds and sights of thunder and lightning.
I still hear my mother’s cruel words. If my memory is correct, and I do believe it is when she would say, “Girl, I hope that lightning strikes you down,” I felt as if she had no love within her body for me. The other girls in the family never heard those words, only me. All of my three sisters did whatever our mother ask them to do. As for me, you guessed it. I placed my hands on my hips and I would say, “Why must I do that? Why is it only me that cooks and cleans?”
My mother’s reply: “Stupid girl. Just shut your mouth and do it before I get a switch.”
One of my sisters could not even boil water when she married. The other two, expected the men to do everything. I suppose they got a real ‘wake-up call’ in marriage, and maybe that’s why their marriages did not work out. I haven’t a clue. I do not pry into their lives. Marriage is truly a work-in-progress, every day!
I do know one of my sisters had a brutal marriage. Her husband loved to hit on her, leaving bruises and scratches she attempted to cover up with makeup. In 2002 we drove to Michigan to rescue her and her son from a safe house.
It is easy to observe I was the Cinderella of our family, or maybe I was the ugly stepchild. Regardless, I was the one who did the cleaning, cooking, and housework. My mother continued her verbal and physical abuse after my parent’s divorce. As for me, I could not wait to leave the family. Growing up where abuse is shared like daily activities, I vowed to myself I would break the mold and never behave in such a manner. My children would not grow up afraid of lightning and thunder.
Last night, I woke myself up listening to a voice speaking. Recognizing this was my ‘sleeping voice,’ I heard myself saying:
“Your mama is a whore and a drunk. Just look at that dress she wore tonight to her reunion. A long black dress with a plunging neckline and a low back. Only a whore would wear that.”
My son was seven-years-old when he heard his grandmother describing me. Just like me, he was opinionated. Reportedly, he did not appreciate what his grandmother was saying about me, so he chose to speak up and defend me.
“My mommy is not a whore and she only drinks wine. She is not a drunk. I’ve never seen my mommy drunk. Don’t say those things about her.”
My mother was caring for my son on that night. She promised him they would have a good time. I should’ve known she would pull some of her stunts, but I was hoping I could give her a second chance.
Awakening from the Nightmare, I sat up in bed, remembering the scenario like it was yesterday. I remember when we arrived to pick him up, he was sound asleep. The next morning, a bit early after a night of partying at a high school reunion, my son rushed to me. “Mommy,” he said. “Granny said you were a whore and a drunk. You’re not a whore and a drunk, are you Mommy?”
“No,” I said, scooping him up in my arms. “Mommy is not a whore or a drunk. Please don’t say the word whore.”
“It’s a bad word?” He asked.
“Yes. Whore is a bad word. A very bad word.”
He looked into my eyes.
“Whore is a woman who sleeps with lots of men, and that is not your mommy. I sleep with your daddy only. And I am not a drunk.”
Later, we drove to my mother’s house to confront her and say goodbye. When we arrived, my mother was still in bed. I knocked on her door, then I opened it and let the words fly. I warned my husband to let me handle the situation.
“How could you call me a whore and a drunk?” I asked. “Especially in front of my son. Your grandchild. Just what kind of grandmother are you?”
My mother opened her eyes and struggled to sit up. “I did no such of a thing.”
My son burst into the room. “Yes, you did,” he said, tears falling down his face. “You called my mommy a whore and a drunk. Sorry for saying that word, Mommy, but she did say it!”
I rushed him out of the room. I knew this scenario was getting ugly.
After a verbal battle, I knew I was defeated. My mother would never admit she said those words, nor would she apologize. My husband knocked on the door.
“We’re leaving,” I said. “I cannot tolerate this abuse anymore. It’s bad enough I tolerated her abuse all of my childhood, but to say those things in front of my child is something I will never tolerate. How could you, Mom? How could you be so cruel to him?”
On that morning, as we drove home to Charleston, I decided I would not see my mother again. Arriving home, I had several messages on the answering machine from my mother. I erased them all, not wanting to listen to her cruelties anymore. There comes a time in life when we must cut the cords of abuse. My time was now. I had to protect my child.
Motherhood is never easy. We all have regrets of things we would change, if only we could. We would be more patient and kind. We would not shout, nor would we lose our temper. One rule I kept is the rule of if I am angry, I will walk away. I certainly had times when I saw my mother inside me, and when that occurred, I would go to a window and pray. Just like my maternal grandmother taught me.
As for my mother and I? Rarely did I go back to Columbus, Georgia. I attempted another reunion, stopping by to see my mother. A surprise visit. We stayed for a few minutes and left. We had hotel reservations and another reunion to attend. Neither of us felt welcomed. My mother did not rush to hug me, like other mothers do, nor did she show any affections. Her health was deteriorating and she limped when she walked. Four years later, I phoned her telling her I was coming to Columbus to attempt to ‘bury the hatchet.’
On that visit, we had another shouting match, so I left, in tears. My mother always had a way of getting to me, bringing me down. Making me feel worthless and unlovable. Was I really such a horrible person? After a bit of soul-searching while driving, I recognized I was a good person. My mother refusing to love me was her problem, but as a child and a grown woman, I still craved a mother’s love.
How I wanted and prayed my mother would change, but she did not. In 2000, she suffered a stroke. Her left side was virtually paralyzed. I drove to see her on Mother’s Day, bringing her a gift wrapped box of pearl earrings. She attempted to speak, but only slurred her words. When I opened the box of pearl earrings, she gasped and touched her right ear. I placed the earrings in her ears, and she attempted to smile, her face wrinkling with a scrunched lip and new wrinkles I did not remember.
I never saw her again. She lived in a nursing home for the remainder of her days. I sent letters to her, gifts and when her dentures got broken, I paid for a new set of dentures. On September 11, 2002, she died. A questionable death, to say the least. When my sister phoned in the late afternoon of September 12, her question to me was: “Do you think they’ll do an autopsy?”
Dreadfully ill with bronchial asthma, I did not attend the funeral. The question of “Do you think they’ll do an autopsy?” played in my mind. I made a few phone calls, including a phone call to the coroner’s office, and the nursing home. Never were those calls returned. I suspect the reason for my question was a simple my mother died under questionable circumstances.
Did I want to stir the pot and get these answers? Since I was so ill and weak, I chose to take care of myself since my husband was away on business in Italy. I needed to rest and get well.
Those years and those nightmares of my mother still play in my mind as the dreams did last night. Although my mother was a difficult woman and not exactly mother of the year, she was my mother. I did not hate her. I lost respect for her over the years, and I worked diligently to improve our relationship, but it wasn’t meant to be; nevertheless, the way she died is questionable and I suspect my sister knows the real story. She will not share it. I’ve done enough research to complete my story, “Chattahoochee Child.” I pray my mother is at peace.
I pray I will not have any more nightmares about my mother. They always leave me shaken and heartbroken but today is a new day. Maybe last night’s nightmare was a result of the lightning and thunder? The sun is shining today. Clouds are overcast, but it is another beautiful day and I am certain it will be another steamy day of perspiration (or is it glitter that women release in the heat) while I attempt another day of yard work.
My husband and I plan to work in the back yard of our home today, moving the debris of weeds, tree branches and dead limbs he worked on yesterday. I must say, I’m not looking forward to being in the heat, but once I am outside, I will work hard to get everything thrown away, and if a storm brews, or if I hear lightning, just watch me run to the back door to get to safety. I cannot get over my fear of lightning, regardless what I do or tell myself. After all, it is only lightning. It hasn’t struck me down — YET!