West Virginia is Hurting…

This post may be a lot of rambling and jumbled thoughts but after seeing what I saw Sunday, it is very hard to put into words…

44 Counties in our Gorgeous State have been declared National Disasters after what the weather experts are referring to a 1,000 year flood caused by a massive amount of rain last Thursday and Friday.  The damage is unbelievable, even after seeing it with my own eyes I couldn’t believe what I was seeing.

Let’s go back to Thursday evening, we were wrapping up our vacation at the beach, I knew it was raining at home but had no idea how bad it really was.  I was standing in the bathroom with my daughter waiting on her to do her business I took my phone from my purse to browse Facebook, the first thing I saw was “2-4 year old child from Ravenswood swept away in flood waters.”  My heart sank and I knew more than likely it would be one of my husbands patients because he see’s so many of the local children.  He was waiting on us outside the restroom and I showed him the story.  By the time we got to the car his phone was beeping with texts and 20 min later he knew who it was.  “One of my sweetest appreciative little families I see.”  I could hear the hurt in his voice when he said it.  I hurt for him, I hurt for that mother that just lost her young child and for our community.  As I sat by the pool that evening watching my kids and nephews play together I scrolled Facebook and looked at the horror that was unfolding back home.  My best friend who was house sitting for us sent photos of our roof leaking over our laundry room and our yard scattered with leaves and debris but I consider us lucky and blessed.  So many families were losing everything they owned, some even losing each other right in front of their eyes!

Saturday on the way home I knew that I wanted to do something to help but not sure what.  I knew I wanted to turn it into a “teaching moment” for my children so they could see and hopefully grasp how badly others are hurting and how blessed we are to live on a mountain and still have our home and most of all each other.  While traveling North on the WV Turnpike we passed a truck carrying a load of generators, then we passed the tiniest little pickup truck weighed down by a pallet of water, then I looked at Facebook and a friend of mine, Laura, posted about 5 families at the end of her road that didn’t have much before the flood but now truly have nothing.   These families included children, elderly and pets.  I knew then what I wanted to do.  I turned and told my kids that the next morning we were going shopping for supplies and food for these families and driving to Elkview to meet Laura and deliver them all.  I was also texting with a good friend at the time and she wanted to do that too so we made plans to shop and meet up.

Sunday morning I posted on Facebook that I was heading to the store with plans of filling my Pilot with groceries and cleaning supplies and if anyone wanted me to shop and donate for them that I would be happy to do so.  Some donations came in and off to the store we went.  My kids and I filled 3 Shopping Carts at Kroger!  2 at Dollar Tree!  And 1 at Walmart!  I haven’t shopped that much ever I think.  I bought things in 5’s, for the 5 families on Laura’s road.  Spaghetti O’s, Snack Cakes, Pop Tarts, Tuna Snack Kits, AppleSauce, Crackers, and some other things I can’t remember.  Juice Boxes for the children there & bottled water.  Cleaning Supplies, Paper Goods and Pet Food.  And what seems like such a simple little thing got to me… Pillows, we took pillows because they literally did not have a pillow to lay their head on at night.  That’s where it began to hit home with my kids.  I packed everything tightly in my car and off we went.  I met my friend Christina and she followed me and we met Laura off her exit and followed her to Elkview.

We turned down her road and she stopped for a moment to point out to our left the dried line of mud on the hillside.  Looking to my right at this tiny little creek way over the hill it was and still is so hard to comprehend how in the world it turned into such a massive raging creek that high up the hill.  She got back in her car and we continued just a short way up the road and stopped at what used to be or really still is the homes of these 5 families.  I just sat for a few seconds trying to remember to breathe and not cry.  I got out, got my kids out and we began to unload.  Laura told us how an elderly lady lived in the cinder block building that was by the road, the flood waters had been up to the top of her home, she was now staying in what little was left of her neighbor’s mobile home with the 3 families that lived there.  I do not know how in the world it was still standing!  Windows were broken, steps and porches were caked with mud left over when the water receded.  A little further to the left, was small little house where 2 children lived with their parents.  A little girl about my son’s age and a little boy a bit younger.  We continued unloading and talking with the residents there.   They were all very thankful for what we were giving them.  In some form of miracles these homes in ruins had running water!  So we put the bottled water back in the car and continued up the road to give it to others.

Winding up the road we saw throw pillows in the road, gates lodged in tree’s, barns knocked over, yard toys covered with mud, I could really go on and on.  My kids and I drove in silence, listening to Laura’s stories of the people that lived in these homes.  These people are hard working West Virginians who were going on about their lives when in an almost instant everything was taken from them!  People who have worked hard for everything own!  People never given a break in life!  People who would give the shirt off their back to their neighbor!

A couple men stand out in my memory of that day…when we were asking if they needed water.  One, while sitting the heat trying to repair the bridge to his home said “Nah we’ll be okay there’s people who have it worse than us right now, give it to them.”   Another said “Ya I could use a little water, I just gave mine to a lady down the road that didn’t have any.”   This people is what West Virginian’s are like!   We think of others!  We band together and help one another!

“The sun may not always shine in West Virginia, but the people always do” ~ JFK

After we delivered our cases of water, we dropped Laura off at her car so she could go back and help her husband pull the insulation out from under their home.  On our way back home I decided to drive around some more and see how others were helping.The devastation just went on for miles and miles and miles and miles.   People were setting up stations to hand out donations, grilling hot dogs, and trying to comfort others.  It made me think of the Mr Rogers quote below.

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” To this day, especially in times of “disaster,” I remember my mother’s words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers – so many caring people in this world.”            – Fred Rogers

My husband encouraged me to take my camera with me to document everything I saw but once I saw with my own eyes how bad it was, I just couldn’t, I could not bring myself to take photos of this.  I mean I thought, if it were me, standing in my yard, covered in mud in the last pieces of clothing I had, trying to dry out what few possessions that might be salvageable in my yard and then look up and see someone taking a photo of the remains of my life, I would have been upset.  I mean, yes, I get that this all needs to be documented to show future generations and for the news outlets to post, and I know there are many photographers driving the roads daily and taking many photos and posting them.  I just, in my heart, could not bring myself to do so.  So the 3 photos in this blog are the only ones I took.

I ask that you please help West Virginia in any way that you can.  Even if you can’t donate money or items, please say a prayer for the people of great state.  We would pray for you and yours.

Disclosure: I have worked on this email for 4 days…I just couldn’t come up with the words… I am sorry if it is rambling or truly doesn’t make sense, but so much going on in our state right now doesn’t make sense.


A Taste of Summer…Johnson’s Peach Stand…

A few years back on our annual trip to the beach the kids were needing a break so we decided to stop at a roadside peach stand. I am so glad we did, little did I know that hiding in Candor, NC was the worlds best peach dumpling and peach milkshake!!!  From then on  we plan a stop at Johnson’s Peaches on the way to the beach and the way home from the beach!  This past week was our annual trip and it was just a delicious as the first time we stopped there.

Johnson’s Peaches is a family owned roadside fruit and vegetable stand on I-73/220 off Exit 39.  Just at the point on the highway where you need a break and there isn’t many places to stop.

Not only do they offer the peach dumplings & peach milkshakes, but they offer other flavors of milkshakes & sundae’s, and fresh melon cups at their concession area.  At the fruit and veggie stand  you can of course find peaches, but also apples, cucumbers, tomatoes, plums, okra, watermelon, green beans, blueberries, and many other fresh from the farm yumminess!!

There are covered gazebo areas with picnic tables and benches surrounded by beautiful hydrangea bushes that you can sit, take a break and enjoy your warm fresh from the oven peach dumpling.

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A Maternity Session at the Lake

During the rainy month of May outdoor sessions were a challenge to get shot!  On this rainy Tuesday evening I was anxiously watching the weather hoping the approaching storm would miss us or allow us the time to get the session done.

I met Lewis, Caressa, and their Sweet Little Boy Isaiah at Rollins Lake in Evans and had such a great maternity session.  This family just glowed with joy over the anticipation of their little girl Avery.

We first shot by the lake, moved to a field near Millcreek, then to the fishing dock near the entrance.   It was important to Caressa that we get some shots with Isaiah as a family of 3 so I tried my best to keep the attention of a curious little boy who really only wanted to play at the lake and see what the geese were doing.  I think we got some great family shots as well as some shots of the expectant mother and couple.  Thankfully the rain held off until about 15 minutes after we were done so Isaiah could get some play time in on the dock after his hardwork.

I can’t wait to meet Baby Avery next week at her newborn session!

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The Boyce Family

A few weeks ago I had the honor of going to The Boyce Family Farm to capture some memories for them in the form of photos!  I love on location sessions because they let me capture my clients in their own environment and most of all in a place that is special to them!

I have known Jess for a few years and have shot a couple of mini sessions of her adorable boys in the past but this was a first of shooting the entire family.  I truly think Jessica is Wonder Woman disguised as a momma!  She has 4 very busy, but very sweet, little boys, a farm with lots of animals, a foster child and a husband who works crazy hours!  And she manages to keep it all together plus homeschools her littles!

We shot their session in what used to be their cow pasture where some pretty white daisies were growing!

Check out some of my favorites from this family farm session!

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Miss Paisley Grace

A few weeks ago I received an inquiry for a newborn session on a week that I had very limited availability.  We were getting ready to leave for summer camp with my kids and vacation.  I had already told myself not to book anymore sessions because there just wouldn’t be enough time to get everything done, but I always will schedule newborns when possible because they are truly my favorite!  I am so glad I squeezed Miss Paisley Grace in for a session because she rocked it!

Paisley was a great little one who was 14 days new and slept for most of her session minus a few diaper changes.

Before my newborns arrive I try to lay out my outfits, fabric drops, props, etc so that I am ready to go and make the session move along as smoothly as possible.  I had set out an old wooden bucket/planter that I bought a few months prior and tied a belly sash to it.  I have been wanting to use this for a few sessions but haven’t had a baby sleepy enough to do so!   Paisley has no idea how excited I was that I finally got to put it into use!

Here are a few more of my favorites from her session!  Check out those proud new parents!!!  I love seeing how my clients interact with their babies, esp the ones when it’s their first baby.  It’s just so precious and cute!!

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4 Important Men

Picture 517

4 of The Most Important Men in My Life…

In honor of Father’s Day I thought I would dedicate a blog to some of the most important men in my life.   I may talk more about one than the other but all are important in different aspects of my life.

It takes a special man to accept and love someone else’s child unconditionally. That is what my Dad has done. While he may not be my birth father, he is and always will be my Daddy.   He has treated me as his own from the beginning of his relationship with my mom. He has taught me so many lessons about life. I know there is a right and wrong way to wash and dry a car, bet you didn’t’ know you could wash your car the wrong way did ya!? He taught me how to swim, he taught me to make sure regular car maintenance is done or it wont’ run, how to cook some stuff, take your time and go down each and every isle of the grocery store lol, be proud of where you came from, love and respect.   He is 99% of the time the first one I call when something is breaking.   Having him as a Daddy is wonderful, but my kids having him for a Poppy is amazing. The love he has for his grandbabies is adorable, especially Trey.   When we lived in Huntington Trey loved watching for water co backhoes to go down the road to see if they were his Poppy so we could stop and see him and dig some dirt together. “Poppy Dumper” as Trey would say anytime he saw any type of excavating equipment.   Alee loves her Poppy too but she hates facial hair, says it tickles, so lovins from her are rare.


Second would be my Grandfather, I truly could do a whole blog about my adoration for my Papaw. From birth until 2nd grade I lived right next door to him. I was going camping with he and my Mamaw from the time I was 18 months old.   My papaw was one of the hardest working men I know. He grew up having to work hard for everything he had. Papaw was only allowed to go to school until 8th grade and then had to go to work to support the family, but yet is one of the most intelligent men I know.   His knowledge of mechanics, machinery, construction, farming, and so much more is crazy.  My mother and I lived in an apartment over his de-tatched garage and in the summer I would yell out the window at him to come get me and in the winter time I would yell through the furnace vent when I would hear him down below. Papaw would save me two drinks of coffee in his thermos each day and bring it home from work. I stayed with my mamaw each day when my mom was at work. I can still hear the sound of his car backing down the driveway when he would come in from work. He put my first bicycle together, helped me learn to ride without training wheels, taught me to fish, to love the great outdoors, taught me to try and fix something that is broken, not to throw it away.   Scares and amazes me when he licks his fingers and touches a wire to see if it’s “hot.” I can still remember his smell of grease and the stains on his hands that never washed off from work.   One of the hardest things for me to accept and see is that he’s getting older and he is not as strong as he used to be, I am so overprotective of him.  He gets frustrated that he can’t do everything he used to. I wish so much that he could get some of his strength back.  He had a heart attack a few years ago and the fear of losing him was just indescribable. I was ready that night to put a for sale sign in my yard, pack up and move back home. He spoiled me with things money can’t buy, his time, love, & lessons about life.   Papaw is a wonderful Great Grandfather to my babies, especially Trey.  I think Trey is like the son he never really got to have.   He struggles with disappointment that he can’t take him out and teach him to fish and teach him how to fix things because of his health. Trey and Papaw can sit to together for hours in his chair.   They just love being together. Trey watches over him just like I do.  I am so glad they have each other.  Although it has always been hard for him to speak his love, he always showed it with tight hugs and saying “you’re a good’un kid”. I will never forget the first time he actually said “I Love You Too”


Important man #3 in my life, my Father in Law, Ron Greer.   I joke and tell him I am his “favorite daughter in law” lol, well, I’ll will always be the only daughter in law. He treats me like one of his own girls, is always there for us when we need him. I remember when I was in labor with Alee, he and my mother in law were sitting there waiting, I was having some pain and he told Reg “you need to do something, I can’t stand to see her hurting.” My son is his namesake, and he adores him to no end. He was so excited to hear we were having a boy. Trey was due in January and we always joked what would happen if it were snowing because, well, if you know my MIL at all you know she hates SNOW! He was going to come if he had to plow his way down. Crazy enough, it was 70 on the day Trey was born. Alee is the only granddaughter in that family and well, lets just say he is easier on her than the boys lol.   She doesn’t hug him either because of his mustache.   This past Tuesday he and my MIL made a 10-hour drive (5 down & 5 up) to come my Mamaw Johnson’s funeral. That gesture just showed his love more. Ron overcame obstacles in his life growing up that no child should have to. He has become a respected person in his town and is constantly giving back in so many ways from running the youth basketball league, the Santa at the community center, and helping residents with special needs gain some independence through the shelter workshop. He is an all around good man who wants to help out anyone when he can.

And I have learned that I think I have 0 photos of him lol


Important Man #4, I only saved him for last because I have dedicated a blog to my husband in the past.   He is such a great father, husband, son, brother, etc. He works so hard each week at work and at home making sure we have the best and don’t want for anything. He has a love of gadgets, anything Apple, & dreams of owning a Tesla someday. I can’t wait for him to open his father’s day gift. The kids and I made him a book of photos of them pictured at all of his favorite places and places that mean something to his history.   I couldn’t ask for a better man to have, not behind me or in front of me, but by my side in this crazy journey called life!


Please take the time today to tell the Dad’s & Papaw’s in your life how much you love them!

Ellie’s New Family…


Miller 5 WM

“I Was Chosen, I Was Wanted, I Grew in Their Hearts, I was the Missing Piece, I was Loved, I AM ADOPTED”

This is New Miss Ellicyn Ruth Miller!!!

Today this sweet girl is officially part of the wonderful Miller family with whom she has been fostered with the last couple of years.  She has no idea how lucky she is to have been chosen by this family.

Tracy is one of the most caring Dad’s I have met!  He is truly smitten with each of his children.  Holli, well I could go on and on about her for days!  Not only is she one of my very great friends, she is an amazing Mother!!  I have no idea how she keeps it all together, track of everyone and manage to have the most stylishly decorated house and perfect hair and makeup each day.

Tracy and Holli give themselves selfishly to not only their own children, but to children in need of a safe, warm, loving home.   They also are fostering another child too!   Miss Ellie’s new life is going to be magical and she is going to have opportunities, because of the Millers, that she wouldn’t have had otherwise.

Ellie has a Dad & Mom now, a big sister to teach her all the girly things, and 3 Big Brothers to protect her!!  Plus lots of puppy dogs at home too!   Her life will be grand and I pray that someday she realizes what The Miller’s have given her.


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Reflecting on 101 years of Life

Mamaw Johnson 2-22-16Yes, I hear you, “Amanda you said you would start blogging more often and to hold you accountable,”   Well everything has mostly went up in the air into chaos the last 3 weeks!  It was the last week of school so I had PTO responsibilities to tend to, and my kids end of the year activities to attend, took the kids to Pittsburgh and back to watch the Bucco’s play, went back home to visit with my great grandmother who turned 101 on June 5th, and then a week in Columbus with the kids for summer camps!  It will get better and more frequent, please just bear with me!  Sign up to follow my blog please.  It will help increase the traffic to my page.

One week and 5 days ago, my great grandmother Ella Mae Johnson celebrated her 101st birthday.   101!!!!  Holy Crap!!!!  Who lives that long!?!?  She does!!   Her quality of life the last 5 – 6 years has not been anything she would have wanted.  That was hard to see.  She would not have wanted to have lived with in home care like she had, she would not have wanted to have been bed or chair ridden, she would not have wanted to lose her memory.   But she did, she lost her ability to walk on her own, her ability to take herself to the restroom, make her own meals, and know who we were when we were there.

One week to the day after her 101st birthday she took her last breath and went to heaven to be with her late husband and late daughter on what would have been their birthdays!  how crazy was that!  She dies on her husband and daughter’s birthdays.  I can only imagine the celebration they had in heaven Sunday.  I now think that’s why she passed away early that morning so she could get there and get their cakes made and dinner ready for them.

I knew this was coming, have thought it was coming so many times in the 10 years, but I knew for sure when I saw her on her birthday, that would be the last time I would see her alive.  I kissed her head, told her I loved her, and that it was okay to go when she was ready.

We buried mamaw on Tuesday.  I had cried but not REALLY Cried, I had been too busy keeping myself busy.  So Monday night before the service I wanted to edit a poem for her about a Grandmothers hands, well when I started that it turned into a letter to mamaw of some of my favorite memories, and turned into 3 hours of heavy, lose your breath sobbing.

I will share some of those memories with you today and then there will be a 2nd part to the story on a day that I spent with her for a college project.

I hope this takes you to a place in time with a good memory of your grandparents as you read…


“Mamaw this story at the end of this letter made me think of you, I changed it a bit to fit you better, but first I would like to share some memories with you.

The story is about a grandmothers hands. I remember looking at your hands, and you commenting how ugly you thought they were because of your wrinkles and liver spots. I always thought they were beautiful because you were a hardworking woman and those hands told your own story, kind of like the one at the end of this.   

I am so blessed to have lived between both of my grandparents growing up. I could go down my steps, turn left or right, and end up in the loving home of my grandparents or great grandparents who spoiled me rotten every single day!!!  

 I will always remember playing under the quilting rack in the basement while you stitched away. I will always remember in the mornings playing the Bozo Grand Prize game with your butter bowls in the living room and you would just laugh at that ridiculous show, then in the afternoons watching game shows with you. You cooked cakes for me in any color combination I wanted, even one Halloween making a pumpkin one, having a sleepover with you and camping out in the living room floor, working in the garden and eating raw rhubarb as you picked it, and swinging the days away in your glider and swing.

 Your adorable dresses that you always wore because you were such a lady. I remember how shocked I was when I saw you in pants for the first time, yes they were under your dress to protect you from the snakes but you never wore them so I thought it was so silly you would wear them under your dress. Summers were spent stringing beans and canning kraut and tomatoes in the basement kitchen to fill your cellar. While I may never get up the nerve to use a pressure canner like yours because I just knew one day it was gonna blow to the ceiling when it started to whistle, I will always have those memories. You made the best tomato and blackberry dumplins ever!! I have your recipes for those and your pie crust, maybe someday I will be able to make them close to as good as you did.

You would be amazed at the Lily’s and Hosta’s at my house. They are huge!  I told Reg that I wanted to get a Peonies Bush because you always had one and it had the biggest prettiest flowers on it.

 I will never forget the Christmas card you wrote me right after my divorce when you were begging me to move back home. You doubted my strength and were disappointed in me. I sat in the car at the post office and cried while reading it. I hope that I have proved you wrong and made you proud. My marriage is strong mamaw, and I am so happy now.

 You loved my son Trey so much! You called him “mamaws boy”. You always knew who he was, even when you didn’t know me or thought I was my mother, you would know Trey. I remember the first time last fall that you didn’t know who he was, you were hugging him and looked over and said, “who is this sweet little boy”.   He has great memories of you and was always so sweet with you.  

 I wish you‘d been of sound mind to have really gotten to know my daughter Alee Belle, named after your twin sister and your daughter. Geez, mamaw she is a free spirited child! Nothing like me at her age. But I love her for it and I know you would have too.   You always thought she was me when we were at your house. I wish she would’ve known the mamaw Johnson that I knew growing up. She would’ve loved those days in the kitchen with you like I had. She loves to cook and be outside in flowers just like you. I really need you to teach me how braid or “plat” as you called it, her hair. Mamaw she has the craziest curly hair, & you used to always ask where she got the curls from.

 Okay Mamaw, here is the story that started this silly rambling letter. Please just know that I will cherish my memories with you for as long as I live. I am so glad I got to say Good bye to you last week on your birthday, I knew, deep down that it would have been the last time. I love you mamaw and I know you are flying high as our angel.

 “Grandma, some ninety plus years, sat feebly on the porch swing. She didn’t move, just sat with her head down staring at her hands. When I sat down beside her she didn’t acknowledge my presence and the longer I sat I wondered if she was OK.

Not wanting to disturb her but wanting to check on her at the same time, I asked her if she was OK. She raised her head and Looked at me and smiled. ‘Yes, I’m fine, thank you for asking,’  She Said in a clear voice strong.

‘I didn’t mean to disturb you, grandma, but you were just sitting here Staring at your hands and I wanted to make sure you were OK,’ I Explained to her.

 ‘Have you ever looked at your hands,’ she asked.   ‘I mean really looked at your hands?’

 I slowly opened my hands and stared down at them. I turned them

Over, palms up and then palms down. No, I guess I had never really looked at my hands as I tried to figure out the point she was making.

 Grandma smiled and related this story:

 ‘Stop and think for a moment about the hands you have, how they have served you well throughout your years. These hands, though wrinkled shriveled and weak have been the tools I have used all my life to reach out and grab and embrace life.

 ‘They braced and caught my fall when as a toddler I crashed upon the Floor.

They put food in my mouth and clothes on my back.

As a child, my Mother had taught me to fold them in prayer. They tied my shoes and pulled on my boots.

 They wiped my tears and trembled when I buried my child and husband.

‘They have been dirty, scraped and raw, swollen and bent. They were

Uneasy and clumsy when I tried to hold my newborn great great grandchild.

 Decorated with my wedding band they showed the world that I was married and loved someone special.

 They have covered my face, combed my hair, and washed and cleansed the rest of my body. They have been sticky and wet, bent and broken, dried and raw. And to this day when not much of anything else of me works real well; these hands hold me up, lay me down, and again continue to fold in prayer.

 ‘These hands are the mark of where I’ve been and the ruggedness of life.

 But more importantly it will be these hands that God will reach out and take when he leads me home. And with my hands He will lift me to his side and there I will use these hands to touch the face of Christ.”

If you hold your cursor over these photos there is a tidbit about them.


 You see, I was spoiled as a child growing up in-between my grandparents and great grandparents but not with materialistic things, but with love, friendship and play!  They always made time for me through out the busy days of housework and farming.  Those are memories  that can never ever be taken away from me.