Thursday, July 20, 2017

What I'm Not

A morning person

A super hero movie watcher

A cook


A lover of shopping

A mother

A smoker

Easily offended 

An extrovert

A conformist

A drama queen


A wearer of yellow

A coffee, tea, or wine drinker

A fan of Donald Trump

High maintenance

A hip-hop music listener

A girly girl

A minimalist

Afraid of the water


What's something that you are not?

As always, thanks for stopping by!  Have a great day!

Stolen Inspired by Steph's post

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Tuesday Topics (Not on Tuesday) - Nine Games

Yesterday's Tuesday Topic was Nine Games. Not surprisingly, I'm a little late to game.  Whatevs....  Although my summer break is quickly nearing the end, I'm still in easy breezy, summer mode where I say pfft to deadlines and schedules! LOL!  Without further ado, here are my nine favorite games:

Dice with Buddies/Yahtzee

I admit, I'm a bit of a Dice with Buddies addict and have spend probably more time than I care to admit rolling dice.  But, I so enjoy it and much of my enjoyment is that is not language based.  As a speech language pathologist, I deal a lot with language and this  game gives me a nice language break.


This is a game that I liked playing with friends as a teen, but forgot about once I went to college.  I have recently started using Boggle in my therapy with kids at school and I play Boggle with Friends online.  I can't play this game in great quantities, though.  I find it's a language overload.


I have many, many fond memories of playing this classic board game with my neighbors while sitting on the front porch of my childhood home.  This is a game that I continue to play, but now I play with my therapy students.  It's a good game to teach turn taking skills, focus, and social skills (being a good loser and a gracious winner).


This is one of my guilty pleasures that I like to indulge in 3-4 times a year and always when on a cruise.  Do I ever win?  No.  But, I so enjoy the thought that I could potentially win.

Words with Friends/Scrabble

My stepmother introduced me to Scrabble years ago when I would visit her and my father over the summer as a teenager.  The downfall of Scrabble is that games have the potential to be slow and go on for a long time.  I've been playing Words with Friends (generic online knock off of Scrabble) for at least five years. Granted, these games might go on for days or weeks, depending on the frequency of play, but I've embraced the slowness.  Like with Boggle, sometimes I feel like I'm on language overload when I play this game in greater frequency.


When my husband's family gathers together, I always like to play this game with one of my brothers-in-law and whoever else wants to join.  I think the strategy appeals to me.


Again, I think part of my love of this game is that it doesn't involve much language and that gives the language center of my brain a much needed break while being entertained.

Gin Rummy

I haven't played this game in a long time, but it was a favorite of my best friend and I.  When we were in high school, we used to play this during lunch.  We continued to play off and on throughout college. 


I like to play this with my fourth and fifth graders.  This game is great for executive functioning because it requires strategic planning and reasoning.

What's one of your favorite games?  As always, thanks for stopping by.

Linking up with Jen @ Quirky Pickings

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Unflattering Photos I'm Still Glad Were Taken

Sometime last summer, I came across the 2013 article/blog post, So You're Feeling Too Fat To Be Photographed.  The timing of my finding it was uncanny because I was at my all-time heaviest and preparing for an upcoming girl's trip to Las Vegas, a trip where I knew there'd be a lot of picture taking.  

I've been heavy for most of my life and, like the author of the article said, I've had many pictures taken of myself over the years that have made me cringe and some even made me sick to my stomach because my round face, double chin, and pudgy middle were permanently documented for all of eternity.  I couldn't stand that there was photographic evidence of what I really looked like during my heaviest moments and  I feared people might actually look at those pictures and say, "Wow, Ericka really has gained weight" when that's exactly what I had done.

A few weeks ago, during my inaugural trip in my brand new kayak, I snapped a selfie to commemorate the event.  It was a fantastic day.  The weather was marvelous and I loved spending time with my friends on the water.  It was peaceful and relaxing and...  perfect.

After downloading the picture from my GoPro, I cringed as soon as I saw it. Why?  Because, despite the visible happiness that the picture captured on my face, despite the fact that I've lost nearly forty pounds and easily fit in the boat, despite the fact that I was kayaking confidently, I still, still zeroed in on my stomach area, which is my ever-persistent trouble spot and of which I'm terribly self conscious.  I'm also, as I'm about to reveal, very critical of myself, too.   The first words that popped in my head were, "I look like a cow."

Later that evening, something made me remember that article and how it really changed my way of of thinking.  I went out to Vegas with a new attitude and made an effort to be more open to having my picture taken; I embraced the images we captured, despite what I may have looked like in them.  And, in the end, the only one caring about how I looked, about whether I looked fat or not, was me.  My friends didn't care what I looked like; what they cared about was that I was with them as we celebrated H's 40th birthday in Las Vegas. 

I admit, those pictures recorded some incredibly fun times, times full of joy and happiness and laughter, times that I'm incredibly thankful to have preserved in photographs.

That's when I took a second look at my kayaking picture and focused on everything except my love handles.  That picture captured how happy I was in that moment and that is what matters most.

The lesson here is simple - Commemorate your life.  The moments that make up a life will continue regardless of how much you weigh, how wrinkled your face may be, whether you're wearing makeup or not, or how bald you are.  The Kodak moments of your life are worth preserving.

So, having said that, here are a few photographs that aren't the most flattering, in my opinion, but for which I'm still glad were taken:

This is a friend of mine from college, who just happened to be in Louisville in 2016 for the Women's NCAA Basketball Tournament.  This was the first time we had seen each other in over 20 years and we had a such a fun time that afternoon catching up.

This is my immediate family, minus my husband and my maternal grandmother.  It was taken in the summer of 2015 at a family reunion.  I remember thinking, once I saw it, how I wished I could've been in the back row so my size could've been disguised a little bit.  I was very big during that time, but these are my peeps and I'm very thankful for the picture.

Not the most flattering picture or angle, due to my love handles, but this picture is a trophy.  It was taken last October after I had lost around 20 lbs. It's evidence that I lost enough weight to easily be under the weight limit to zipline with my aunt in West Virginia.  

For the record, no one looks good wearing a floatation device.  LOL!  This is my lifelong best friend, her two girls, and myself on a float trip down the Upper New River several years ago.  My best friend wanted to expose her girls to more adventurous activities and we had such a great time that day.

I was hot, sweaty, and experiencing some terrible chaffing (from all the humidity and clothing friction) when this picture was taken, not to mention that I'm not particularly fond of how I look with my hair pulled back.  But, the important thing is that this picture captured a moment that I never thought I'd have.  Never in a million years would I have imagined that I'd ever visit Japan.

I was at my second all-time heaviest when this picture was taken back in 2006.  It took me a long time before I would even show this picture to anyone, but I eventually shifted my focus from how I looked to what this picture represents - my first ever trip to Europe.  

May you always be open and receptive to having your picture taken, to having your moments preserved.  You are worth it.

As always, thanks for stopping by.


Linking up with Penny's Passion

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Recently Read - Vol. 20 (June '17)

June was somewhat of a slow month for in terms of reading, but that's ok.  I had a lot of other things going on in terms of entertainment and activity.  I started three and finished two.  (I'm not giving up on the on third one, yet, so I'm not mentioning it.)  Here's what I read last month:

Hillbilly Elegy by J. D. Vance
Read June 1-8 | Format: Audiobook | My rating: 4.5/5

Think - Memoir of a regular ol' Joe Schmo who overcame many cultural and economic obstacles

Hillbilly Elegy is complex, candid memoir of not only a man, but also of a culture.  In this memoir, the author chronicles his life and the hardships he endured as a descendant of Appalachians, or as he calls them on more than one occasion "hillbillies" or "hill people."  Despite having never lived in the geographical region of Appalachia (Middletown, OH, the author's hometown, is not a part of Appalachia), Vance considers himself an Appalachian and this is something I took particular offense to initially.  

I was born and raised in Appalachia and even though I no longer live there, I spent a quarter of a century in that geographical region.  I feel as if I have earned the right to call myself an Appalachian, a title I wear proudly.  Vance is the descendant of Appalachians; his grandparents, who relocated from Jackson, KY to Ohio before his mother was even born, were Appalachians. I'll be honest, in the beginning I was very put out with him and considered him an imposter. Because of this, it took me a little while to get over it and to fully allow myself to hear what he was trying to express.  What finally softened my stance towards him was acknowledging that although he didn't necessarily grow up in the geographical region, due to the strong influence his grandparents had in his upbringing, he did grow up within the Appalachian culture, the culture his grandparents took with them when they left the hollers of eastern Kentucky.

Anyway, Hillbilly Elegy is not just J. D. Vance's story, which is rather remarkable. It's also a look at troubling mindset that has taken root not only in many Appalachians, but also in many Americans across the country.

This is one of those books that I will read again, but I will do so with the print version.  The audiobook version is fine, especially given the fact the author performed the vocal narration, but there were so many points that Vance made that I wanted to highlight or go back and re-read.

Reaper's Fall by Joanna Wylde
Read June 17-23 | Format: Audiobook | My rating: 4/5

Think - Hard core romance novel meets Sons of Anarchy

As I have mentioned before, sometimes I just get a hankering for a certain type of book that involves a badass alpha male on a Harley.  This is not a book for the faint of heart or the easily offended due to its very explicit sexual nature and language.  The fifth book in the Reapers MC serious, it's not my favorite, but I did enjoy it and I liked it better than the last one. 

Have you read any good books lately?  

Have a great day and thanks for stopping by!

Linking up with:

Friday, July 7, 2017

48 Hours in the Allegheny Highlands of West Virginia (Pt 2)

During our second day in the Allegheny Highlands, my mom and I spent the day exploring two state parks and one National Recreational Area in Tucker and Pendleton Counties.


The first stop of the day was at Blackwater Falls State Park, which is located approximately 40 miles northeast of Elkins, WV in Tucker County near the town of Davis.  The highlight and namesake of the park is Blackwater Falls, whose amber-colored water plummets 62 feet creating one of the most iconic and most photographed sites in West Virginia.  

The "black water" is the result of tannic acid from fallen hemlock and red spruce needles.

In order to get to the falls, we had to walk down a winding set of 200+ stairs to reach the bottom of the gorge.  The view was well worth the hike.


Just a few miles southeast of Blackwater Falls is Canaan Valley.  Canaan Valley is the highest valley east of the Mississippi River and features the first commercial ski area in West Virginia.  Located within this valley is Canaan Valley Resort State Park.

This state park encompasses over 6000 square acres.  Visitors to the park can partake in any number of activities such as golfing, swimming, hiking, biking, clay shooting, or skiing.

Canaan Valley Ski Lodge

Mom and I opted to ride the scenic chairlift to the top of the mountain for a bird's eye view of the immense valley.  On the way up, our view was fairly restricted to the empty chairs before us and the grassy ski slopes underneath us that were dotted with these little yellow flowers.

The view from the top, despite the interfering chairlift equipment and light poles that obscured the view, was quite stunning.  I found it hard to believe that such a wide valley could actually exist in West Virginia, the mountain state.

Some of the visitors chose to walk the two miles down the mountain back to the ski lodge, but my mom and rode back down, making the most of our $7 roundtrip ticket.  It was a perfectly pleasant day, the weather was mild, and the only sound we heard was of the chairlift.  We simply enjoyed the peaceful moment and the lovely view as we descended back to the valley below.


From Canaan Valley, we drove 23 miles southeast into Pendleton County. As we approached the intersection of Route 33 and Route 55, we saw the large crag, known as Seneca Rocks, rise up towards the sky.

Seneca Rocks is a steep, rugged rock face located in the little town of the same name in Pendleton County.  It is one of the most well known landmarks in West Virginia.  

Rising nearly 900 feet above the North Fork River, the magnificent rock formation is supposedly the only "true peak" (a peak only accessible by using technical rock climbing techniques) in the eastern United States.  With 375 major mapped climbing routes ranging in difficulty from 5.0 (easiest) to 5.13 (hardest), Seneca Rocks is very popular with rock climbers.  For climbers who wish to advance their climbing skills, two local climbing schools offer rock climbing trainings for the beginner and the advanced.  

Seeing as how neither my mother or I are climbers, our visit to Seneca Rocks consisted mainly of viewing the majestic formation from the Seneca Rocks Discovery Center, which is located at the base of the Seneca Rocks.

In the teenie town of Seneca Rocks, there are not a lot of amenities.  We saw three dining options - a Subway, Yokum's Restaurant, and the Front Porch Restaurant.  Having read good reviews on TripAdvisor, we decided to give the Front Porch a try.

If you ever find yourself in Seneca Rocks, don't let the exterior of the Front Porch Restaurant discourage you.  The restaurant, located on the second floor, offers good food in an unpretentious environment.  Dining is available both inside and outside on the porch.  If you sit outside on the porch, you get an incredible view as you eat your meal (despite the ugly power line).  I wish I had brought binoculars so I could've watched the climbers scale the steep rock face.

Mom and I both had pizza, which was extremely tasty (even my mother thought so).

Elkins, where we stayed during our visit, is about 36 miles east of Seneca Rocks.  As we drove back, we encountered dozens of motorcyclists.  The area, as we later discovered, is very popular with bikers for the scenic views and the wide, open roads.

Later that night, the view from our hotel (Hampton Inn, Elkins) was once again pretty spectacular.

Know Before You Go

  • Cell  phone service was more readily available in these areas than in the areas we traveled the day before.  But, it was still inconsistent.  I would advise bringing printed directions and a good map just in case  your phone mapping/directions app doesn't work.  
  • Due to the higher elevations, the weather can change drastically.  It's advisable to bring warmer layers that you can easily put on if you need to, especially if you plan to ride the scenic chairlift.
  • Traveling in this part of the state is predominantly on twisting, turning two-lane roads which are not for the faint of heart.  Allow for additional travel time and if you are prone to car sickness, you may want to take the proper precautions.
  • If you plan on making Elkins your home base, be sure to confirm your reservations ahead of time and be sure to let them know if you'll be arriving late.  My mom and I arrived at our first hotel only to find that they had given our room away to someone else because we arrived after 6pm.  Luckily, the Hampton Inn had an available room.  Although Elkins offers many amenities, there are not many hotels to choose from.

Be sure to check out my Part 1 from last week.

As always, thanks for stopping by!  Have a great weekend!
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