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

cropped-arthur-ravenel-bridge

 

Lightning…Thunder…and The Roar Of Chattahoochee Child…


cropped-cropped-arthur-ravenel-bridge.jpg

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!

Hiking My Dreams at Grotto Falls:


Dearest Readers:

A few years ago, I wrote this story, managing to get it published many times. I’m hopeful you will enjoy the story as much as I did writing it, and hiking at Grotto Falls. If you are ever in Gatlinburg, treat yourself to this fabulous hike.

Hiking My Dreams at Grotto Falls:

In June 2005, I kissed the corporate world of America goodbye. Tired of planning and coordinating events, answering to corporate rules and schedules, I decided it was time to follow my dreams.

So, off my husband and I go to Gatlinburg, Tennessee where I’ve scheduled my first research trip for my new career as a travel writer. While driving through the mountains, we discover a sign. Grotto Falls just ahead. I tap Phil on the shoulders. “Let’s stop and take a hike. Phil looks at my feet, still embraced in sandals. “Don’t you think you should change your shoes?” He asked.

Reluctantly, I rush to the back seat to get my socks and sneakers, furious that he is still telling me what to do. His controlling nature is about to get the best of me, but I take it in my stride. With digital cameras ready, we stroll up the mountain as a slight rain kisses our faces with raindrops. At first, we could stand under the trees and not get wet. The more we plunge into the falls, the wetter we get. Taking our time while gasping for breath, I shoot several photographs, continuing our ‘easy’ hike. Decaying trees, fungus and moss, along with the thickness of the woods make interesting images revealing a story my fingers itch to write.

heading-towards-grotto-falls-we-discover-the-first-tease

Our first tease of a waterfall at Grotto Falls.

 

What seems to be an endless walk going nowhere takes us at least an hour just to see the first tease of the falls! Stopping at this trickle of water, we are revitalized. With this first tease of rushing water, the falls can’t be much further! Now, the rain isn’t just kissing my face, I’m drowning, at least my face is, and I look more like a raccoon with blackened eyes than a human. When we started this excursion, rain was only a slight mist, refreshing and cool, now my hair is sopping wet and sticky from hair spray. I must look like a squirrel, but I dare not ask my husband. I wipe the rain pouring down my face. My hands are covered with black mascara. Phil stops to remind me to be careful; he was concerned I might fall. He knows what a clumsy woman I am walking on hardwood floors, or simply walking. My knees are weak from years of dancing on stage, but I was determined to show him, and I finally snapped if he didn’t hush, I’d make certain he fell, or slipped, or something—! Breathless, but determined, I refuse to go back. I enjoy a nice hike, but this was almost torture, not to mention, what would happen IF one of us fell, or managed to get bitten by wild animals on the prowl! My dream was to see a bear in the woods. We never saw any wildlife!

A family of hikers, dressed with back packs, sticks and bottles of water in their hands meet us on the narrow, slippery path. I look at the tiny boy drinking from a bottle riding on his father’s shoulders. I can almost taste the moistness as he gulps the water bottle dry. “Hello,” I say, wishing they’d offer us a bottle of water. We move closer to the edge. The softness of the path moves under my feet. I look down, thinking if I fell, the doorways of Hell would open up and swallow me.

second-tease-of-grotto-falls

The second “tease” of an upcoming waterfall — or — is THIS the waterfall?

That’s when I realize rules are made for a reason, and some rules should be followed, like the rules of hiking. Be prepared – we were not. Carry equipment – like first aid kits, bottled water, and wear good hiking shoes. Sneakers are comfortable and they certainly beat sandals during a hike, but some rules should be followed! What would happen if Phil or I were bitten by a snake, or if my spaghetti like ankles give out? What if I broke a leg? Some rules, even those made by the Corporate World, should be followed!

Phil nods to the family asking, “How much longer?” The small boy atop his father’s shoulders whimpers, “A long, long, LONG ways!” His father snickers.

“Thanks,” I say, sarcasm spilling over. “Appreciate that.”

Phil scrutinizes me as I lean on a tree stump. “You okay?”

Huffing and puffing, wishing I had my inhaler I nod. “OK. Let’s go.”

“Take a break,” he responds, listening to the wheezing in my chest. “You’ve got your inhaler with you. Right?”

My look says it all. Knowing me as he does, I can almost read his mind. I’m certain he’s thinking, ‘Your inhaler is in the car. You should’ve remembered it!’

Furious with him, I think about the edge of the cliff, wishing to move him closer. The sarcasm returns to my voice and I ask, ‘Did you remember your cell phone?’

He pats his hip, removes the cell phone. “No service.”

“Great. Just what will we do if I fall, or get bitten by a bear?”

The endless path to nowhere continues as we plunge our bodies forward.

“I think someone lied to us,” Phil says cynically. There’s nothing ahead.”

“I’m not stopping. If there’s a waterfall here, I intend to find it.”moving-closer-to-the-falls

Another ‘trickle’ of a waterfall

 

Phil grows more irritated with me every moment. Perhaps he doesn’t like this determined woman I am now. Corporate America has changed me for the better in many ways.

I think about the conversation I had with the girls at the office on my last day of work. Phil had called numerous times that day, and I threatened to throw him overboard when we rode the rapids.

“Look over here,” I said, leaning over a bit. “If someone wanted to get rid of somebody, this would be the perfect place. I bet it goes all the way down to Hell. Who’d know?”

“Eventually it would smell. You trying to tell me something?” He asks, lifting his eyebrows suspiciously at me.

“No, just thinking out loud. Suppose it’s the writer inside me, asking those what if questions.”

“Whatever. Let’s go. Time’s wasting.”

Reluctantly I stretch my aching legs.

“You wanna go back to the car?” He smirks.

Another group of hikers meets us. I’m in hopes they found the falls. One of the ladies in this group holds a wooden stick.

“You’ve got a while still,” she says, inhaling deep. “About two more miles.”

The guy next to her punches her on the shoulder.

“You are kidding, aren’t you?” I ask.

The group laughs.

Phil and I continue the pursuit. Now, he’s gasping for breath too as we climb steeper, placing our feet carefully along the slippery mud puddles. The rain is torrential now, as if someone turned a water faucet on high. My hair no longer feels like cotton candy with syrup on it. It is soft, as if the rain has washed all chemicals and mousse away.

What seems to take forever, a stroll all the way to the Heavens feels like it was hours away. My arthritic knees ache, but I am determined. I will not be defeated, even if it is the last adventure I complete in my lifetime. I inhale, exhale, stretch my legs, and plunge higher. I hear the sound of water. “It’s just the rain running down the mountain,” I say to Phil. We hear the sounds of falling water and move closer. The falls are just ahead. I feel a sense of accomplishment! Glancing at my sneakers, I discover my legs, socks, and sneakers are covered with mud.

“Thank goodness we have a washer and dryer at the cabin,” I said. “My socks and shoes were white this morning.”

Startled at my determination, Phil sees the new and improved me standing before him. Excited to see the world as a new adventure, I’m energized, like the non-stop Energizer bunny. I grab my camera, zooming in to capture the pure, flowing, sparkling falls. This is heaven. I wipe the splashing water from my eyes, unaware if it is rain, or my tears.

img_0032

Our first view of Grotto Falls, Gatlinburg, TN

 

waterfall

Beautiful, breathtaking Grotto Falls, Gatlinburg, TN

IF YOU GO:

  1. Don’t break hiking rules. Carry a backpack with supplies, first aid.
  2. Be prepared for steep hills, slippery rocks, and tree roots.
  3. Wear hiking shoes. Sneakers work, but hiking boots recommended.
  4. Carry a camera. The view is well worth the hike.
  5. Bottled water recommended. You will get thirsty as you climb higher!

For more information about Grotto Falls, visit the web site: www.southeasternoutdoors.com/public-lands/national-parks/smoky-mountains/grotto-falls.html

Photo credit: Barbie Perkins-Cooper

Barbie Perkins Cooper is a talented, award-winning writer of travel guides, screenplays, fiction, non-fiction, plays, and numerous articles for regional, trade and travel publications.  In her spare time, she enjoys photography, boat riding, relaxing on the beaches of South Carolina, and listening to good music, especially jazz and hiking.

 

 

Hello Four Walls – I’ve Been Kidnapped ByThe Noro Virus Kidnapped Me


Dearest Readers:

I planned to share this story about three or four days ago; however, this noro virus had other ideas.

Saturday, April 16, 2016 began as a beautiful, sunshiny day. One of the beauties of living in South Carolina I appreciate the scenes, beaches, scents and flowers, especially at spring time. I rushed around the house in anticipation of a shopping trip with new friends. While riding in the back seat of their spacious truck, I commented about what a beautiful day it was to spend time with new friends. Little did I know how quickly things can change.

Walking around the shopping center, I walked into a shoe store. Phil found a gorgeous pair of sandals for me. He wanted me to try them on, I declined. My forehead was dripping with beats of sweat, or as I like to say, “my glitter is showing.”

“I feel strange,” I whispered to him. “I think I’ll go outside and sit down at one of those benches.”

Ever so slowly I made my way and sat down. Now, my entire face was covered with sweat, along with my neck. Phil commented while touching my forehead. I tried to laugh, mentioning something about maybe I’m having those ‘hot flashes’ now that all my friends complain about.

I’ve never had a hot flash. My friends describe them as a quick, burning flash of heat that rises from your toenails to your head. The only place I was hot was my forehead, covered with beads of perspiration, or as I like to say, ‘I do not sweat, I glisten with sparkles.’ Today, I could not joke or make silliness about how ‘strange’ I felt. The beads of ‘sparkles’ continued to soak my forehead. My hair was soaked, along with my neckline. My fingers were shivering. One moment – my body felt as if I was standing in a sauna. The next moment, I was standing inside an igloo. Just what was this feeling? I was sitting on a bench in the bright sunshine. Temperatures outside were warm but not hot enough to make me dripping with my little sparkles.

Our friends saw me sitting at the bench with Phil. They suggested we might find a restaurant, eat an early lunch and I would probably feel better. I agreed.

Sitting down at the restaurant, my body was shivering now. I read the menu, ordered coffee and a salad and waited to feel better; nevertheless, the strange sensation overwhelmed me.

Moments later, my stomach regurgitated. I projectile vomited everything that was inside of my stomach. At least I thought. Phil wiped my blouse, placed a napkin on my forehead and I attempted to stand up, to get to the restroom. Fortunately, I made it to the restroom before my entire stomach exploded. I breathed deeply…Inhaled…Breathed again…

What is wrong with me? My hands were shaking. My legs felt like spaghetti. This was not going to be a good day for me.

I flushed my face with cold water, noticing how pale and deathly I looked. I sat down in a chair at the ladies restroom and waited for the color to return, or to see if I was swimming in a sea of nausea again.

Returning to the table, my stomach regurgitated once again. I was mortified. In my entire life I have never thrown up in public. Deciding that I was much too weak to shop, I suggested going to the car and resting while everyone shopped. How I wanted to slip under the table and crawl under the floor so nobody could see me. Phil got our friend’s car key and walked with me. The walk to the car, usually an easy and short journey for me appeared to be miles away.

“I can’t make it to the car. Find me a wheelchair, please.” Phil sat me down at a bench. Moments later, he returned with a wheelchair. A $10.00 fee at the shopping center, even with an emergency. I fell into the wheelchair and off we went. Riding in the wheelchair reminded me of my ride in a pace car at Bristol race track. G-force of nausea captured me again, although this time, I kept everything down. I had a nasty taste of stale coffee in my mouth. Phil offered me a mint. I sucked on it, hoping to feel better.

Slipping into the truck, Phil rolled the windows down so I would feel a breeze. I was shivering still. He took the key, locked the car and off he went. My stomach gurgled, so I opened the door to the truck. The burglar alarm screamed. Now, if I did regurgitate in the parking area, everyone would see. Phil returned, wanting to know why I opened the door.

“If I throw up again, I do not want to do it all over his new, beautiful vehicle.”

Phil apologized, leaving the key with me! Thank goodness. If I had to make a spectacle of myself, I wanted it to be when EMS came to get me, in the event I needed to go to the hospital. Today was not the day I wanted to enter a place and be remembered. I simply wanted to crawl through the woodwork and die, if today was the day I left this earth.

What was to be a splendid day of shopping was one of the sickest days of my entire life. I thought it was related to a migraine headache, but this was much worse.

Cutting our plans short, we got home before dark. I apologized to our friends, hoping they would understand I was really sick and not faking this dreadful illness. I remember bathing and crawling my way to bed. About 8:45 pm, stomach cramps and a gurgling stomach awoke me. I rushed to the bathroom, only this time I was not nauseated. I was suffering from some of the worst diarrhea a human could endure. The constant waves of diarrhea reminded me of a riptide, washing over me keeping me awake all night long. I battled with this manic stomach illness until 8:15 the next morning, a total of 12 long, painful and weak hours. The riptide of diarrhea forced me to take three additional baths before the sickness eased. I kept asking my body how it could explode with such illness when nothing was inside of my stomach.

Today is Friday, April 22. Still, I feel incredibly weak. Phil got sick on Tuesday at work, arriving home before lunchtime. Every morning I told myself I could do the laundry…Or, I could cook a meal…If I tried, I could vacuum. Once, I attempted to get the vacuum cleaner, only to decide I was much too weak – still. I managed to wash the clothes that I wore when I was so sick on Saturday, washing them twice just to make certain the fabrics were clean and sanitized.

No, I haven’t exactly tracked my food intake since I’m a member of Weight Watchers. This week I’ve eaten only small bites of food, or a small can of soup. Our Friday night date – let’s just say, it was postponed! Every doctor’s appointment had to be postponed, along with my weekly weigh-in at Weight Watchers. I was contagious. I would not share this illness with anyone!

When Phil arrived home on Tuesday, I noticed how white his face was. Neither of us wanted food or liquids. We placed our pups in the breakfast room and away we went, to separate bedrooms to ease the illness. For two days, both of us camped out in the den, moving only when Mother Nature called. I suppose we were quite a silly pair together. Neither of us feeling strong enough to care for the other.

My head continues to spin and hurt from this virus. The noro virus whips all of the strength a body has. No appetite. No strength to walk or care for yourself. I Googled stomach virus, discovering norovirus.

The symptoms of Norovirus include:

Nausea & Vomiting – my vomiting felt like I was projectile vomiting my entire stomach.

 

Fever & Chills – one moment my head is covered with sweat. The next moment, I shivered.

 Migraines – Daily I’ve awoken with a bad headache.

 Stomach Cramps – reminding me of the severe cramps I suffered before menopause.

 Sore Muscles – my husband suffered with sore muscles. The only sore muscles I have are in my throat and stomach.

 Urine Changes – surprisingly, my urine was a bright yellow. Normally, clear, that is how I knew I was dehydrated.

 Dry, Parched Mouth – I still have chapped lips and a dry mouth. To resolve this, I am drinking more Gator Ade.

 Increased Heart Rate – I didn’t notice this. What I have felt is the inability to walk well. I have clung to the walls in my home whenever I feel “strange” again. Suddenly the lyrics of “Hello Walls” are changing and my weakened body is saying: “Hello walls. Thank God you’re here today…Just to hold me and keep my feet from falling from all this pain….”

 Several of my friends suggested I should get to the doctor immediately. Just how does one get to a doctor’s office when she is so ill? Friends suggested they would take me. I declined. I did not want to contaminate anyone! No doubt this norovirus could result in someone losing friendships. I cherish my friends, so I refused to let them do anything for me.

 Today I do feel better and I am hopeful I can style my hair and wear makeup today. To those who know me, they realize I am never seen in public without makeup. Not so this week. I haven’t left my house at all, until Friday. My face is naked now, but I feel confident after writing this, I will smile again and attempt makeup. Who knows If I will succeed. I suppose you will just have to wait to read my next post – that is WHEN I am well. This virus kidnapped me, only no one would pay the ransom. Another side effect I’ve had – a lack of cognitive abilities. Attempting to answer a question on the phone, or to discuss how I really feel…let’s just say – I’ve struggled to speak with intelligence. Let’s don’t even discuss my keyboarding skills now. I keep telling myself this too shall pass.

 UPDATE: Sunday, April 24, 2016, I wore makeup yesterday and today. Happy Days are here again…I have no idea when I will be able to sing again!

 Yes…This Too Shall Pass…I’ll be so happy when I can be well and strong enough to get myself to the beach. Weather forecast say it has been a beautiful, picture perfect beach week, but don’t ask me. All I’ve seen is people walking by the side of the road and four walls. Lots of walls! I did manage to clip roses from my rose bush. They are helping me to see that life is out there and soon, I will be strong again. I hope!

 This

Too

Shall

Pass!

 

Welcome to My Pity Party


Dearest Readers:

Have you ever had a time where you could not shake your mood? No. Matter. What? I’ve had more than a few weeks like this. Tuesday, December 15, 2015, everything came to a standstill. Losing my temper, I recognized I needed to inhale. Exhale. Breathe.

On that date, I got up in a dreadful mood from so many nights without sleep. I counted the days until Christmas – only ten days away. No, this wasn’t the Christmas blues – just a time of physical exhaustion and stress triggered by the torrential storms we had in Charleston in October. Still, my home wasn’t well. The leaks from the skylights appeared to be growing with a science project of mold, mildew, and ugliness I wished to erase. I decided we should decorate our Christmas tree in the den this year, not the traditional place in the living room.

Negative thoughts ate away inside of me. My stomach was twisted in knots; at least, it felt like it. Christmas music helped a little, although I still had moments where I wanted to scream. Still,  the moodiness left a bad taste, an emotional feeling of absolute depression, clouding every thought and mood. Looking at the calendar again, I realized December 19th would soon be here, only now, I could not celebrate my dad’s birthday with him. This year he and his identical twin brother would celebrate 101 years of life. I lost my dad on July 6, 1999. He lost his identical twin brother long before I was born, or even thought about. How I wish I could reach out to him – just to wish him a Happy Birthday.

This year I could not shake my mood. I jotted down things I should be happy about, and then I added an additional listing of things I wish I could change. “No wonder I’m so depressed. The things I wish I could change are longer than the happiness list. Not a good sign. Meanwhile, the phone rang, almost constantly – a nauseating ringing of telemarketers and scam phone calls that refused to leave me alone. I’m certain you’ve probably received your share of these calls. One call said ‘unavailable,’ another was ‘unknown caller,’ and another said ‘government.’ I listened to all of them, never speaking as a robot call said ‘this is your third and final call. You owe the IRS…’ I laughed. Just what is this? We are on the Do Not Call list. Honestly, I think when you sign up again [for perhaps the 10th time] with the Do Not Call list, there must be a way these companies are getting our phone numbers, just so they can aggravate us! Another caller was a guy. He expressed the following, “Congratulations…You’ve won!”

Okay, I’ll play his little game. I listened as he shared that we were the winners of a contest we recently signed up for. “News to me,” I breathed. “We haven’t signed up for anything except the Do Not Call list!”

“F$%# you,” he said. I hung up, daring him to call back.

Without a doubt, this was one of the worst days I’ve had in a long time. “I suppose this day is my pity party day,” I shouted to the walls inside my house.

My poor husband was greeted at the door by a woman almost half out of my mind. Grief. Sadness. Tears. All of the ingredients for a pity party.

Although I tried to shake this strange mood, I could not. Defeated, I took a leisurely bath, having a soft, quiet discussion with myself, recognizing I was behaving in the same manner of my mother. ‘This has to stop.’

After the bubble bath, I approached my husband again, only, this time, I apologized for being such a monster. “It’s so unlike me to be this way,” I cried. “I’m so worried about the house. I wish I could make all of this go away.”

Phil hugged me. I kissed him and went to bed. I prayed for God to listen to me. Much to my surprise, I whispered, “God, are you there? Do you hear me? Are you testing me? I need you.”

The next morning, my mood was better, although I failed to sleep well. After two cups of coffee, the phone rang. I checked caller ID. The caller was listed. It was a phone call from a church. That’s unusual.  I answered it. The caller was a recording, mentioning scriptures from the Holy Bible. I suppose God is telling me something. I listened to the entire conversation, recognizing I’ve never had a phone call this — EVER! I  suppose God was listening to me and now He is encouraging me to get a grip. Be the person you know you can be, not the person you lived with as a child. 

A few minutes later, while praying, the phone rang again. My best friend was on the line. She was recovering from another kidney surgery. I asked how she was progressing. She was in route to work. Still weak and having a bit of pain, I listened to her while recognizing how selfish and insensitive I had been.

Why? Simple. All of the stress I’ve endured will ease when the house is finally repaired. I will be able to get myself out of this house and the stress. As for my friend, she was fighting to get well. To have healthy kidneys. She is my best friend. Every day I pray for her and for a miracle to happen in her life.

“How foolish I have been,” I said aloud after we hung up. “I can change my mood. I can do something pro-active to feed good thoughts, and I can move to get away from the stress, if only for a few hours.

My friend is fighting just to get stronger. She’s like the energizer bunny, always bouncing back.

As for me – I’ve been a fool. I have to remind myself of the old clichés I say to myself normally when depression kidnaps me.

“This too shall pass.”

“It’s when things seem worse, you mustn’t quit.”

“Life is like a box of chocolates…You never know what you’re gonna get.”

“Stupid is as stupid does.”

One of my favorite quotes is “Once you replace negative thoughts with positive ones, you’ll start having positive results.”

Yes, I knew better. I am a strong woman. Normally, I can talk myself out of these situations. I suppose today is an eye-opener to me. A day to be thankful I am still alive. A day to breathe in and breathe out. A day to give thanks. I still have a home. I have a warm bed to sleep in, even when the four dogs take over the bed, and I have a good man to live with me and to love me, even when the devil of depression kicks in wanting me to have another pity party. Little things. These amazing little moments that help keep me focused. Little moments when my personality shines as I smile at someone. Little moments when I greet a complete stranger.

I cannot walk in the shoes of my mother, [nor do I want to] and I must promise myself that next time – when the monsters of depression torment me, I must move and force myself to get dressed, to smile and to appreciate life’s precious moments.

I must get dressed every day, and not stay in pajamas — ALL DAY LONG!

These actions are not who I am. I must remind myself that I should take care of myself. I must appreciate life, with all of its blessings and with all of the tests that can easily defeat us. I will not be defeated. Today is a new day.

Next time, I plan to take a nice long walk on the beach, to remind me I am blessed! No doubt, the beauty of the ocean, the sand between my toes, the warmth of sunshine, and the Pelicans flying along the waters will bless me with reassurance that life is to be lived, every day — even when the gloominess of a pity party attempts to ruffle my feathers.

 

 

 

 

My Thoughts About The New Weight Watchers…


My thoughts regarding “Oprah” and the changes are simply this: Those of us who are overweight have had difficulty with belief in ourselves…We have the tendency to cater to ourselves via comfort foods, sweets…temptations…etc…when we should be caring about ourselves. Instead of negative thoughts and “I’m done with Weight Watchers” posts, what we should do is say this — “We are good…We are worthy…We are strong…and together…We Can Do This!” I have the tendency for depression, and when I am depressed, nothing will stop me from eating bad things. Thru Weight Watchers, I’ve seen changes — in myself…my faith…my belief…I am strong…I’ve made loyal friends with several members at our meetings. I am blessed! Maybe I am beautiful…Maybe I truly believe in ME — now! Thank you, Weight Watchers. I believe change is good. Without change, we cannot grow. If we do not grow, we do not find success, happiness and belief in ourselves. Just my two cents worth for today! BELIEVE!!!

I’ve been a member of Weight Watchers since 2011. Four years. During my four year journey, I’ve seen changes. I am one who believes in life we ALWAYS have changes. Weight Watchers has been around for 50 years now, through many changes – everyone of these changes is for the better! I’m one of the rare people who truly believe life is all about change. Without ‘change’ we cannot grow. If we do not grow, we are not successful. So, you ask — what is the BIG DEAL with the changes at Weight Watchers.

Honestly, I cannot answer those questions. My meeting is on Thursday of every week. It is my “Weight Watchers” day. I plan my schedules around this day. No doctor’s appointments…meetings, etc. on this date. After our meeting three of us go out to lunch – to do what most great friends do together — to talk…to get to know one another…to build friendships! To support!

At the moment, people who are members of Weight Watchers are FREAKING out! On social media sites, they are asking, “what are the changes?” And — “why are they changing things?”

I suppose they want someone to tell them ahead of time about the changes. News Flash – people — Weight Watchers, their leaders and those who work for Weight Watchers are FABULOUS about keeping secrets!

No, Weight Watchers is not a secret society. They are there to help us; nevertheless, there are many changes rolling out this week. ALL of these CHANGES are to build a better Weight Watchers for all of us to succeed. They DO want US TO SUCCEED! By now, you’ve probably heard millions of complaints about the new plan…”It isn’t working…I can’t log in…” And — “Why did they change something that isn’t broken?”

Correct me IF I’m mistaken, but Weight Watchers is interested in the self-worth of a person…not only is it a corporation established to help those who are struggling to lose weight…Weight Watchers is helping us to BELIEVE IN OURSELVES!

We’ve had discussions about Belief. Self Discovery…and How We Can Break the Plateaus. Activity…Mind Over Matter…How to Cope With The Holidays and Social Events…and so on. All of these weekly discussions are building us to truly find the person we want to be. None of this is related to Oprah Winfrey. These “changes” were in the works earlier this year, not when Oprah signed on.

Speaking only for myself, Weight Watchers has changed my life for the better. Yes, I am eating healthier. I am more active – able to walk the Arthur Ravenel, Jr. Bridge…able to dance and to sing. I have found a new and better person previously locked away, deep inside my soul. In March, 2011, Jennifer Hudson was the spokesperson. I was struggling to lose more weight, and I kept telling myself — “One day, I plan to walk that bridge.” For those of you who do not know, that bridge [Arthur Ravenel, Jr. Bridge] opened in July 2005. Just WHEN would I walk it?

In 2011, my life changed for the better, and I feel confident that the New and Improved Weight Watchers 2016 will lead the way for me to embrace the change and get going with my weight loss. After all, I have goals (secret goals) I will not share – yet. Hopefully soon, I might share a few of those goals on my site.

Today, I will go on record to say – Hello, 2016 — it is ready, and it is time for me to move on with my writing and my story, “Chattahoochee Child,” and it is time for me to get moving more with Weight Watchers. Many members are throwing their hands in the air, as if to say — “I’m done.” The question they should answer is this — as a member of Weight Watchers — online, or a weekly member who attends meetings — are you really ready to give up on yourself? Think about it. Change is good. I embrace it!