Sunday, December 22, 2013

Caught Between Two Worlds

I've lived nearly half of my life a 12-hour drive from home. Rick and I moved to Louisville, Kentucky in 1991. I was 24 years old, and we had been married just over a year. At the time, we thought we would be away from home for only a few years -- long enough to finish graduate school. Somehow, we settled into church life, work life, and community life, and nearly 23 years later, we're still there. I say "there" instead of "here" because we're home this week (North Louisiana -- our first home) to celebrate Christmas with our family.

Me at 4 years old
This morning as I got ready for church, I contemplated spending half of my life so far away from our parents and our childhood and college friends. I realized that I live in two different worlds. The inhabitants of one world know the me who was once a little girl. They know that I always liked to sit on the front row in class because I loved school so much. They know that I like to ride my bike and I love cheese pizza. They know that I'm not very good at sports, I'm not fond of alcohol, and I took piano lessons for 10 years. They've eaten at my Mom's house, shared dorm rooms and apartments with me, and held my hand at family funerals.

The inhabitants of the other world have never known me before I was married; they know me as one half of "Rick and Kathy." They know a woman who loves working in the field of education, who likes to hang out at coffee shops, and who enjoys super hero movies.  They have seen me
Me at 46 years old
perform in dinner theaters and skits at church (or performed with me). Most have never met my family, and certainly haven't met my high school and college friends. North Louisiana is a far away place to them, and the only images they have of that world are from "Duck Dynasty" and "Billy the Exterminator."

I feel as if the folks in each of those different worlds know me only half way. They either know the person who grew to 23 years old and got married, or they know the 24+ year old (now 46!) who has been a school librarian for 23 years in Kentucky. I am so grateful for the adventures Rick and I have had in Kentucky and the wonderful opportunities I've had in my career there. I love my Kentucky friends dearly, and will remain their friends for life. Yet, I envy those friends back in Louisiana who have stayed in our hometown and watched their own kids go to Greenacres Middle School and Airline High School, and then on to Louisiana Tech -- all my alma maters! I envy the time they've spent with their families and the positive influences they've been in our hometown. They've seen changes that I only get a glimpse of a few days a year when we visit.

I know I'm not that same little girl who grew up in Bossier City, Louisiana. I've grown and changed and become someone that I hope my family and friends are proud of. But who I am now is a combination of those first 24 years spent in Louisiana and the last 22+ years spent in Kentucky. And I often wish that at least one person could have walked that journey with me from little girl to the woman I am now.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Big Blue Commotion

I am not a sports fan. I don't know much about any particular sport, and I simply do not keep up with any current events surrounding sports. This has never been an issue for me, other than the occasional awkwardness in a group conversation when I just don't have anything to contribute. My friends and family and co-workers know this unique aspect of my personality and accommodate me by not going on and on about sports topics or by poking occasional fun at me when I am clueless about whether March Madness is about football or basketball.

This weekend, my sports cluelessness became an issue.

I arrived at the annual Kentucky Reading Association Conference Friday morning. I registered, checked into my hotel room, and planned which conference sessions to attend. When I stopped by my hotel room later in the day, I noticed that a sheet of paper had been slid under my door suggesting that I allow an extra thirty minutes for checkout the next day due to potentially high volumes of guest traffic. "That's interesting, I thought. We must have really great attendance at the Reading Conference this year."

I proceeded to respond to emails and to look over the next day's conference sessions until time to leave for the evening to attend an event with a friend. I grabbed what I needed and headed to the hotel lobby to make my way to the parking lot across the street. As the elevator doors opened to the lobby, I realized something had changed since I first arrived at the hotel that morning. The entire lobby was filled with people, elbow to elbow, dressed in blue and white. "Well, that's interesting," I thought. As I turned sideways to inch my way to the hotel front door, I heard a band playing outside. Three TV station trucks were parked along the front of the building connected to the hotel. I noticed the name of the building was Rupp Arena. I remembered something about Rupp Arena having to do with sporting events, but I still was unclear about what was happening. Where did all these people come from? How in the world would I get to my car?

After a fifteen minute wait, a policeman motioned me to cross the street to the parking lot. Meanwhile, what seemed like hundreds of others crossed the same street heading in the opposite direction towards Rupp Arena. I felt like I was swimming against a rolling tide and would surely drown!

As I hurried to my car, a colleague hollered my name and caught up with me. I said, "What in the world is going on? Where did all these people come from, and what are they doing here?" She stared at me in disbelief. "Really?" she asked. "Yeah. Is there some sporting event going on? I'm not really a sports person," I replied.

She tried to contain her amazement at my ignorance and explained that the annual "Big Blue Madness" was in full swing, and by the way, "You won't get to where you're going on time, and you probably won't find a parking place when you return."

Boy, was she right! I sat in traffic nearly 45 minutes just trying to get out of the downtown Lexington area. And I was definitely late to meet my friend.

Trying to get back to the hotel was even worse! I hit the downtown area right as Big Blue Madness ended. Swarms of blue-clad fans emptied into the streets. I was amazed at not only the number of people crowding the sidewalks and streets but also at how polite they were. Fans were all smiles as they walked towards their vehicles, autographed posters swinging at their sides. I saw lots of families with cheerleading-clad little girls and blue-shirted future basketball players. I thought, "This world of sports that I've been oblivious to is a really big deal to these Kentucky families."

Suddenly, the irritating blue traffic jam became less of an annoyance and more of an awe-inspiring spectacle that stirred pride in me for being a part of Big Blue Madness, even as a spectator sitting in a car trying to go in the opposite direction of every other Kentucky citizen.

So, now I have a sports story to share in conversations with friends, colleagues, and strangers. "Why, yes. I have been to Big Blue Madness. And it was awesome!"

Monday, July 01, 2013

Thank you, "Wheel of Fortune"!

Just got back from the 8-day trip to Panama for two that I won on "Wheel of Fortune!" It was the BEST vacation I've every had.  Rick and I were able to go on our 23rd wedding anniversary. I'm so grateful for the experience of being on "Wheel of Fortune" and the experience of spending 8 days in beautiful Panama!

Click the links below to read about my experience on the "Wheel of Fortune" episode that was aired November 23, 2012.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Celebrate National Poetry Month

Purchase a copy of  . . . And a Poem to celebrate National Poetry Month! Visit for sample poems (some from this book, some from . . . And a Poem, Too).

Countdown to Elianna!