A Sunny Sunday Snapshot

The mid-day sun filtered through the leaves and rested on top of the van as we wound our way down Sand Lick road.  Hand-me-down skirt clad and hair twisted into a braid, I was headed to Sunday Mass at St. Paul’s.

St. Paul’s is a small church on the outskirts of McKee that was started by Father Beiting (CAP’s founder) himself.  It stands inconspicuously next to the road and is a church and a meeting hall all rolled into one little building.

In many ways it is similar to Good Shepherd, the church that was closest to me in McCreary County.  They are both decidedly casual churches.  Whenever I describe Good Shepherd church to anyone, I always tell them the story of the day that the lady got up and started squishing bugs in the middle of the service, at which point the pastor stopped and said “Must you squish bugs during my homily?”

That’s why it was so funny when I visited McCreary and Good Shepherd this past fall.  There was a new pastor, but the church was still its same ol’ converted garage self.  And in the middle of the service, it happened again!  A lady in the front of the church started squashing bugs and the pastor stopped his homily to tell her that she did not need to squish the bugs because the birds would eat them.  The heads of my church-going companions all turned down the row and smiled at me knowingly.  What were the chances that the bug-squishing episode would have happened for a second time right at the weekend when I happened to be there?  Life is a funny thing.

St. Paul’s, while having the advantage of being in an actual church instead of a garage, has the same very casual feel to it.  In fact, a lot of my fellow Catholics don’t like to go there because of it.  Mass is supposed to start at 11:45, but it’s not unusual for it to start at 12.  The little kids play with toys in the sitting area directly behind the chapel during Mass.  There is no one to do the music, so the only music during the Mass consists of one song – the first verse of which is used for the processional and the second verse of which is used for the recessional.  There are no strong singers in the congregation, so the verses are stumbled through with hesitant off-key voices.  People will get up during Mass to go back into the kitchen and check the food that is cooking for the lunch that is to be served directly after church.

When I first came to Kentucky, I didn’t like this casual type of church.  In fact, in McCreary, I chose to drive to a church that was farther away to avoid it.  But, here, now that I am more acquainted with Kentucky and its ways, I felt myself wanting to attend this casual little church.

Yeah, I feel really awkward there.  Everybody knows everybody and I definitely feel like the outsider.  I didn’t even eat the lunch with them at first because I felt so out of place.  But one day one of the ladies of the church invited me to join them, so I did.  And yes, I do like things to be punctual, but there is something endearing about a church that will wait to start because they know that a certain person is running late.  And I’ve come to accept this casual manner as a part of the Kentucky life.  It’s a cultural experience.

I explained the character of this little church to Ruth as I drove to St. Paul’s on this sunny Sunday.  As we pulled into the parking lot, white balloons tied to the step railings announced that this was a special day.  Two of the young folks were going to have their first communion!

We popped our legs out of the van, climbed the steps, and walked into the church.  The usual t-shirt and jean wearing congregants had put on their best for this special occasion.  Several extra family members, hands itching for their cameras at their sides, were present.

As the Mass opened with the two first communicants coming down the aisle, I started to feel the joy of this special occasion.  One, an energetic little girl with veiled brown hair and white dress; the other, a more subdued little boy with a button-up shirt color coded to match the outfits of his family members sitting in the front pew.

For this special occasion, a couple of musical folks had come from St. Paul’s sister parish in Berea to play the music.  So the usually quiet church echoed with the sounds of joyful voices and a carefully strummed guitar.

A camera man, apparently, had also come for this special occasion.  A large man with three cameras hanging around his neck to choose from, he positioned himself in a side aisle and snapped pictures all through the Mass.

And then came the reading.  The readings are often one of my favorite parts of the Mass at St. Paul’s because they are usually read by a little boy with a clear reading voice and a wonderfully Kentuckian southern accent.

And then, of course, that all important moment, when the little boy and girl came forward to partake of the Eucharist for the first time.

It was a very special, sweet little occasion for the church, and I was glad to be there.

I was, of course, even more glad when I went to lunch, where I had (holy cow pies!) three different desserts.  Why three?  Well, I couldn’t not have chocolate.  So I had to have a brownie.  And the cupcakes looked really tasty and cute.  So I had to have a cupcake.  And I had planned for that to be it.  But then, they started cutting into the cakes (yes, plural).  And one of the cakes was an ice cream cake.  And I couldn’t NOT have ice cream cake.  So I had some ice cream cake.  Mmmmmmmm.  You know life is good when you get to eat three desserts in one day.

Yeah, St. Paul’s can be awkward and aggravatingly casual sometimes.  Kind of like when I was walking back from communion and three-camera -guy had his camera up and pointing at my face.

But it can also be winsome and wonderfully sweet.  Kind of like a little boy and girl timidly going up for their first communion, scriptures read in a youthful southern accent, and ice cream cake.


Like a hand out the window in the wind

“Is it time?”

“It’s time!”

Five pairs of feet scattered out of their respective sofas and armchairs to get ready.

It was  Wednesday.  Which meant that it was dollar ice cream day at Big Hill.  Which meant that we were getting ice cream and paying a visit to good ‘ol Flat Rock.

We piled into the van, rolled the windows down, and popped some Mitch Barrett into the CD player.

As the native Kentuckian sang in our ears, we wound our way through Sand Gap, past Fill-ups, and on to Big Hill, a stretch of road that cuts through mountains and opens to views of the divided mountain’s whole  and uncut brothers.  The wind through the windows smelled of a cool late-spring evening, and the fresh green of the leaves almost seemed to sit in the seat beside me.

Ice Cream!  So many flavor options…but I, of course, am all about the traditional chocolate.  Our new short-termer Ruth uses her time waiting in line to search for Kentucky foods recommended by Clarence:  pickled bologna and potted meat.  She buys some bologna, but decides against the potted meat.

Anna goes for the surprise flavor ice cream option.  She takes a lick at her ice cream cone and considers the list of flavors.  She gives her guess across the counter, and the cashier laughs.

“Nope.  How’d you guess those if you thought that it tasted minty?”

“I don’t know.  What is it?”

“I’m not going to tell you!  You have to guess it!”


Anna heads back to study the list of flavors again.

Ice cream cones all in hand, we pile back into the van and go on back up Big Hill, where we turn off on the notorious Burnt Ridge road.  Skinny, winding, and steep-sloped, it is home to Flat Rock.

We ditch the van and walk down to the rock.  Close to the road, it is a common destination for tourists, wanderers, and punk kids with nothing better to do with their time.  Brightly colored graffiti covers the rock, but the view is beautiful once you look up.  We sit on the rock which feels unexpectedly warm,  a remnant of the sun that is rapidly leaving the sky.

As I sit cross-legged in the twilight, as I wander down the roads with my hand out the window in the wind, I am reminded of the first time that I realized that Kentucky was growing on me.

And as much as I hate to admit it, as much as I hate to be torn between two loves, I realized on this night – I do love Kentucky.  I love the hills in the distance, the curves in the road, the music that grows up from the rocks, and a people that values relationships over productivity (as annoying as that might sometimes be).

I’ve always fought this love – and I find trouble writing it out even now – but…

I can love Kentucky without loving home any less.

I’ve been worrying a lot lately.  About where I should go.  About what I should do.  About what other people might want me to do.

But I think that I might find the answers to my worries more easily if I spent more time like a hand out the window in the wind, enjoying the ride and letting the wind whip me where it will.

Note:  When I titled this blog post, it struck me that it seemed like a familiar title.  I had a suspicion as to where it might have came from.  So, I headed over to my friend/fellow CAP person Erin’s blog and I found it there.  And as it is about community in the Jackson House as well, I decided that I would be happy to share titles with it.  So, thank you in advance, Erin, for letting me steal your title (of course, I know that you stole it from an outside source as well, so why not continue to share the love?).  Oh, and here’s some Mitch Barrett for y’all to listen to: 


Kentucky Adventures (or…#kentuckyadventures)

My housemate Shelby always labels her Kentuckian social media posts with #kentuckyadventures.  This is my blog post version of #kentuckyadventures, a.k.a. a blog post in which I briefly cover Kentucky happenings that I had meant to write about, but never got around to.  So here goes!

1. In the Garden of Gethsemani (#monks #peace #Easter)

The Abbey of Gethsemani in New Haven, Kentucky was once home to Thomas Merton.  It is also a very special place to one of my old housemates, Janet.  She would always go on a weekend retreat at Gethsemani whenever she was in Kentucky and her love of Gethsemani is what made me add a visit to the Abbey onto my Kentucket list (which is kind of like a bucket list, but is a list of things to do before you leave Kentucky).  And, on Easter weekend, I finally got to go.  It is a very peaceful place.  While there my housemate Anna and I went to a prayer service and took a hike through the woods that was peppered with various statues, the last of which is a beautiful depiction of Jesus’ agony in the garden.  It was a lovely day.


2. Bettin’ on the Ponies (#Keeneland #horses #sunburn #Annagotsorich)

Another item on my Kentucket list was to attend a legit Kentucky horse race.  And so we did!  It was crowded, we all got sunburned, and you can’t see the racing very well from the cheap seats, but it was an experience that I’m glad I got to have.  Plus, Anna placed some bets and won 20 cents.  Woot!  Woot!  I didn’t place any bets, but maybe I should have.  I could have won 50 cents.

Keeneland 2015

3.  Saved from a Watery Death (#CampAJ #canoes #trashcanbuddy)

With the warm weather came the desire for a good ol’ canoe cruise on the lake at Camp AJ.  So, I went on two separate occasions.  On one of these trips, I saved a trash can from a watery death by fishing it out of the water and then proceeding to canoe around the lake with it in the passenger seat.  I also got rained on and didn’t care…because  NATURE ROCKS and it was a durn beautiful day!

Canoeing at Camp AJ

4.  Pride Cometh Before the Deluge (#trash #gross #whattheheck)

We have a garbage shed at the Jackson House.  It is a disgusting shed that we keep our trash cans in and that people have also been treating like a trash can by throwing things haphazardly into it.  It was basically a big fat mess in there.  So I decided to clean it out.  As I pulled junk out of the shed and organized it into piles, I gave myself a mental pat on the back.  This was a job that had been needing to be done for quite some time.  I deserve a gold star for this, I thought to myself.  And then I picked up a heavy bag of junk, and it scraped over what I thought was a scrap piece of PVC pipe under some junk insulation on the floor.  And then water started pouring out of the pipe and all over the floor.  And I couldn’t find the water turn-off (because it’s in the woods…who’da thunk it?).  That’s what I get for patting myself on the back.

But, anyway, the shed’s clean now!  (But, why, oh why, does that pipe exist?  And why is it standing up in the middle of the floor in the shed?  Oh, the mysteries of life.)

5. Teen-ie Boppers Return (#campsick #creepy-crawlies #funfunfun)

The second round of the three-part teen retreats took place last month.  This time around, the teens were trying out to become junior counselors this summer at Camp AJ.  So, we got to have the jolly-good-fun experience of pretending to be campers while the teens pretended to be counselors, telling us what to do and directing us when we were naughty.  Basically, I got to play a lot of games.  We then had the teens write resumes and get interviewed by the Mighty Leaders of Camp AJ (a.k.a. Liz.  And Mike).  Besides the fact that I saw my first nasty Kentucky snake while on the trails and that I found my first nasty Kentucky tick on my leg when I got home, it was an awesome weekend.  It made me miss camp, a feeling which I labeled as “campsick” (which is rather like “homesick”).  Luckily, however, I will get to cure my bout of campsickness at camp for a couple of weeks this summer (something that I thought that I wasn’t going to get to do this year).  Hurray!

Teen Retreat 2015

6.  Waterfall Weekend (#cumberlandfalls #yahoofalls #anglinfalls #waterwatereverywhere)

Last weekend we paid a visit to my old Kentucky home:  The McCreary House.  While there, we revisited the beautiful Cumberland Falls and the beautiful Yahoo Falls.  The weather was perfect for hiking.  Once back home in Jackson County, we visited Anglin Falls.  The trees were beautiful.  The flowers were blooming.  The waterfalls were flowing.  The company was chattin’.  Life was good.

Anglin Falls 2015


7. Cows.  ‘Nuff said.  (#ilovebeingslobbered)

This weekend, Anna took us to visit her Aunt’s dairy farm.  As I sat eating the dinner that her Aunt had prepared (hamburgers, corn, and cheese) and looked around the walls of her house, which were peppered with cross-stitch pictures, I started to get a funny feeling.  When I walked out to the milk house and they told me that they were currently milking thirty head of cattle, that feeling came again.  When we went out to the pasture and the critters surrounded us and licked our pant legs and our boots, that feeling came again:  THIS WAS MY HOUSE!  EXCEPT IT WAS THE KENTUCKY VERSION!  How exciting!  The Kentucky version of my house also had a building where they made cheese.  Cool.  I love cheese!

On a side note, I can’t help but mention that as we were getting ready to head out the door to drive to the farm, Kristina came out “ready to go” in a dress and high-heeled sandals.  We, of course, dissuaded her from wearing such a get-up to visit a barn.  But, on second thought, I think that maybe it would have been better if I had said nothing.  Because it would have been really funny to watch her pick through the manure in her high-heeled sandals.  And Anna’s Aunt’s family would have had something to laugh about after we left.  Oh, missed opportunities.

On that note, I will leave you with a picture of my beautiful Susie.