I'm Erin Jo. I'm thinking, writing, dreaming, mothering, loving, living, praising, BLESSED to be Fiona to my Shrek and Mommy to my four amazing kiddos.



Shrek is "like an onion with many layers" but has a heart of gold. He's my husband and my friend, and we just get better all the time.



Lily is my first baby and only girl. She's smart, funny, tall and kind. Keeping up with this girl is a challenge and a joy. She's terrific!



Max is one part ogre, two parts lover and all boy! Our little man has a temper but gives the best hugs of anyone I know!



Colby is as ornery as he looks. He flirts shamelessly, even with strangers. He's all mouth and curls and the loudest by far.



Luke is the baby of the family, but holds his own. He's happy and adorable. And he's a terrible sleeper. =)

Tough Times for Everyone

I was walking down the street in Athens yesterday to meet a friend for lunch, and I overheard part of a conversation. Two men, talking about  how “these are tough times for everyone.”

They sure are. I was reminded that we’re living in a very tough economy. Maybe the reasons why I’m not reaching certain milestones as quickly as I thought I might are some of the same reasons why many of us aren’t. I don’t know what it’s like to work for a company that isn’t in a budget crisis. I don’t remember days of plenty. And, what’s more, I am not sure they ever existed for many of the people who live in my region of the country.

I had a lot of time to think on my drive home from work yesterday. I took the very backroad hour-long path to my mom’s house. I’ve only traveled this way twice in the past ten years or so, and the other time was only three or four months ago. Both times, I was bombarded with memories of the way my life used to be. Both times, I felt a sense of “home” and utter amazement for the natural beauty of the hills and trees and dusty country roads, the homesteads and family farms that have been just the same for decades.

And I’m torn. In this world of crazy quickness, materialism, changing ideals: Is this the place to live or the place to flee? Is this where we should be hunkering down or where we should be striving to be more like bigger cities with faster living?

I think I know the answer.

I think that this place, this beautiful Appalachia, has a great deal of poverty. There’s a marked lack of jobs available, even to those of us that have the education and experience to actually move up the “ladders” of professional careers. There’s also no denying a lack of multiculturalism and diversity. There are small town gossips and powerful families whose money talks louder than it should. And there are issues of substance abuse and alcoholism, perhaps higher per capita than one might expect… And none of these are good things.

But wow, is there ever good here. There are farmers who help feed this hungry nation. There are amazing friends and neighbors who help raise your kids to be hard-working, grateful people of faith. There are beautiful barns that stand on land that has seen so much.

Yesterday, every “stranger” in every hamlet tucked into the path I drove waved from their passing vehicle, front stoop and lawnmower. I’m always touched when my kids say, “Who was that mommy?” when I wave to a passing driver. When I admit I don’t know, really, they are just a little confused as to why I’d wave in the first place.

There are whole communities and sister communities and more that will rally at the first sign of tragedy. People here still not only send sympathy cards, but they cook and bake up a storm and deliver it to the homes of the departed. They pay it forward. They shake on “business” deals and keep their word.

And, so, in this land of crazy, where the news seems a little more crazy everyday (Zombie Apocalypse, anyone?), this just might be where it’s at. No, I don’t have a ton of {expensive} summer camp options for my kids this summer. I don’t have a Target or a Macy’s or a Trader Joe’s within 75 miles of my home. I don’t have salary that knocks my socks off or buys me that new van or that house I’d like to build. But I have space. I have history. I have fireflies and grass to not only bare my feet in but to roll in, maybe down a hill or with my hubby. And while I don’t really own any of this land, I have roots. I have places to go, places to be, places to belong and amazing family and friends with whom to share them.

Ironically, later last night, I learned that someone, presumably someone in Miami or someone who has a friend in on the hustle in Miami, hacked into my Paypal account and used my money to buy themselves an iPhone4. It’s fast and sparkly and trendy, I’m sure. And I so pity the person who would be able to enjoy it knowing it was not earned.

So even though my accounts are overdrawn and basically frozen, I’m fine. I feel physically safe. I have so many reasons to be here, in this place, right now. I know, and you know, I think, what’s really important. I see you in your tough time. I raise you mine. If you need a cup of sugar, I’ve got it. I’ve got your back. You don’t have to show me your sparkle for me to know that you shine.

Times are tough for everybody, but those of us who are tough will find the ways to enjoy what we have, to earn what we have. We shall not steal. We shall not covet our neighbor’s ass (or Escalade or in-ground pool or Polaris.)

Life is unfolding as it should. Keep playing your part. Do the next right thing in front of you, and then the one after that. I want to leave this place better than I left it. And we can do it together.

20 Responses

  1. Julie says:

    Very nice! This is the Erin Jo I love to read! You put us right there, feeling what you feel , thinking how you think! Sorry about the PayPal account. I know it will work out though. Love you

  2. Patti Miller says:

    WOW! This needs to be published. It so well says what it’s like to live in our little piece of the world. Yes, it’s true, we don’t have wealth and opportunities of other parts of the country, but the riches we have will never be gone. It always amazes me how you can open up your heart to touch a place in ours! Now; lets find that magazine or publication that can see the value in your words and wisdom.

  3. Karen Rutter says:

    Really nice. I know what you mean. Even though I don’t own any of the places that I really enjoy being, they’re still kind of “mine”, because they belong to the people who count me as being their friend and they welcome me with open arms to share what is theirs. I’m really sorry to hear about the Paypal thing. I hope that gets straightened out soon. I don’t know how some people can get to the end of their day and have to face God and themselves, and be able to be okay with doing something like that. Maybe they don’t.

  4. Rachel says:

    I had that happen with my PayPal account before. They told me not to use the same password for everything because somehow it makes it easier for hackers to get into your account. So now I have atleast three different passwords I use for my online accounts. Good luck!

  5. Nikki Butler says:

    This reminds me of a statement your brother-in-law, Eric, made at a cousin’s wedding reception. We were watching the crowd do-si-do and swing their partners for a square dance and he just shook his head and said, “I don’t know if this is why I left or why I came back.” He may not even remember saying it, but it has always stuck in my mind.

  6. Jessica says:

    Wow, Erin! Everything I feel when I go home to Ohio. I miss all of those things living near a large (compared to Waterford) town and too close to Louisville, where someone being shot is a daily occurrence.

    Thank you for sharing our tiny bit of the world with everyone else! =)

  7. Roberta Pitts says:

    LOVE YOU! I’m sorry for your hacked account. It is so frustrating that people with that kind of intellegence or energy can’t use their power for greater good. I echo everyone’s comments here, but especially Patti’s. This should be pubslised and not just in the Appalachia magazine. This could be an excellent op-ed (I think that is correct) piece in any newspaper or journal across the country! So thankful that I have you and all my SEO friends to help me count my blessings especially ones a couple hours away.

    It is funny I was just telling Matt the other day how I miss the long way to/from OU and wanted to drive it again; to remember the farms, country, trees, etc. It is sad to think I might not remember the way anymore though. I think that’s what prompted it… I want to make sure I don’t forget that awesome and peaceful trip, that part of my life and to maybe make up for not relishing in it enough at the time. Thank you for taking me back!

  8. Anita says:

    Honestly, BEST EVER!!!!! I agree, this should be published. Amazing tribute to ‘wave country.’ 😉 You described your (our) community so well. Truth is kids ARE being raised differently there. There me be few jobs, but there are also few people who do not want to do an honest day’s work if they can find it. THAT is what larger places lack. I have to admit though…. I do enjoy Target, Trader Joe’s, and Macy’s. Loveya Erin. Keep it up!

  9. Stephanie says:

    I had dinner with a college friend last evening and we were laughing about how her son was so excited because he thinks my kids have their own “park” in our backyard. Where he lives in CA, people don’t have backyards with swingsets and trampolines and battery operated 4-wheelers (but he does have the ocean!). She was also telling me they are getting ready to buy their first house for $500,000. A half a million dollars for a 2 bedroom townhouse. Imagine what that would get them here!!! And they struggle from paycheck to paycheck just like we do, but their part of the country is so different than ours. And my friend is so jealous that my kids have grandparents and cousins and God all around them. No, their best friend’s dad isn’t the bassist for John Mayer, but in the big scheme of things, what’s really means more?

    Very well written, I enjoyed reading this.

  10. Candi says:

    I you ever do a book of your blogs, maybe through Shutterfly or something, I want to buy one. These are the things we need to read when we are feeling so frustrated and like we are gaining no ground. Did you read Kelly post about the old neighborhood? I know that each and everyone of my children and the kids in that neighborhood would agree it was the best place in the world to grow up. No of them had things as we were dirt poor but I bet not one of them would have changed a thing about where they lived. These are the riches we have and need to treasure!

  11. Jennifer says:

    By far my favorite blog you have posted, love it!!!!

  12. Faye says:

    Beautifully written! All of the reasons I left and still love Appalachia. Great place to raise children and teach them the things they don’t teach in school. Being in the crazy bustle of California makes me long for the lazy days on Grandma’s porch swing with the box fan blowing, watching Grandma clean strawberries from the neighbor’s garden and going down to the dock every 20 minutes to check on the pole. Being poor in Appalachia still made a person feel richer than being poor in the inner city… At least for me it did.

  13. Courtney says:

    Beautifully written, Erin! We have spent the past seven years of our lives getting college educations and searching for a decent job to move our family back home to Waterford. The task of finding said job wasn’t an easy one. It took YEARS of dedication and hard work for my husband to find a postion that made it possible for us to move back. We could never be as happy as we are here next to our family and friends and this amazing little community. This simple town is the only place I ever want to live.

  14. Jessica Yost says:

    Trying to offer praise and gratitude for all the beauty that surrounds us and is home. Love this piece. My boys always say to me “Mom, I love where we live.” I can’t imagine raising these country boys anywhere else. I hope everything works out with your paypal account:( Thank you for this.

  15. Erin Jo that was a great blog! I couldn’t agree more with you! I always told my Searchers that they were blessed to be born and raised in this community, this state and this country.
    You make me very proud. I look forward to your blogs! This was one of the best!

  16. Holly says:

    You have no idea how true your words are.
    Sending love to you and yours.

  17. Kim Cooper says:

    You hit the nail on the head, sis. Bedtime stories tonight consisted of stories from growing up on the farm. My how rich we were in experiences!! The feel of a baby calf sucking on your hand after feeding them a bottle, the smell of fresh hay, sweet baby kittens and puppies hidden in the barn. Lots of work but also lots of unique experiences! Love ya!

  18. Lucinda (Tilton) Kendall says:

    You are a beautful writer. I enjoy every word. Thank you for this. It was exactly what I needed to read tonight. I miss the simple times. I think I need to get back to that.

  19. Vicki says:

    Sweet Erin, as always, reading this brings tears to my eyes. How beautifully you translate ‘heart’ words onto the written page. Thank you for reminding us of what really – what should – matter. You really do sparkle!

  20. Lorilee Kern says:

    Erin… live my dream….to put into words things others can connect to and embrace….I’m of a time gone by. My life so entwined with yours but on such a different plane…..really, I am your past, and you are my prestent. I feel your pull of the land. I can say my proudest accomplishments is “owning” a piece of Applalchia. I have three times owned…given by the grace of God, my mother encouraging me to work for the PO and my own smarts. I and you can proudly say we live by the standards we were taught as a children….work hard, be honest, love life…..the rest is unknown. I guess that would be called FAITH….Thank you and I’m jelous….

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