Talking to Your Kids in a "Situation"

After I shared my story about having an Ependymoma (that's fancy-speak for brain tumor in my 4th ventricle), the most asked question was "how did you talk to your kids about this" or "how did your kids handle this" or "how did you get your kids through this"? I'm not an expert or a psychologist, so this is just our parenting, and you'll probably disagree or want to do it differently.


We have a 9 year old, a 7 year old, and a turned-5-the-week-after-my-surgery year old.  I think that the most important part about talking to your children in the face of a less than ideal situation is knowing them.  I am not a fan of the "Family Meeting" style of crisis address where everyone is put into a room and provided with a prepared speech and allowed to ask questions because I don't think that it's fair to each child's unique needs.  I do think, however, you need to tell each child within moments of each other and ensure that they know there's an ongoing open dialogue.

My 9 year old son has a tremendous need to see and understand everything.  We don't hide things from our children, although we do guide them through and try to listen to their needs.  He's always been very intuitive about how much information he needs, and he needs a lot more than my other two kids.  He retains information from everywhere, so it's important for us to talk to him and let him ask questions.  He wrote a whole list of questions for the neurosurgeon, and when we told him I was starting radiation, he wanted to know if I would get another tumor from the treatment- he remembered hearing that radiation could cause tumors after the nuclear fiasco in Japan.  It was important for us to listen to him to know how much information he had, and what exactly he was thinking.

That's another note, though.  While we knew up front that post-surgical radiation was likely, we didn't provide all the details at once.  Even though our 9 year old is savvy and intelligent and likes information, we gave him manageable pieces of information.  Dealing with an illness, or other crisis, is kind of like the proverbial "eating an elephant", and you need to do it one bite at a time.  Overwhelming even the most emotionally mature child with too much information just gives them too much, and they can't digest it or logically approach each piece.  We started with the information that there was an object in my brain that shouldn't be there, and the term he'd hear was "tumor", and that it needed to be removed.  We explained we had an excellent surgeon and that I'd be staying in the hospital for some time while I recovered.  We didn't make promises about a number of days or tell him the potential for things going wrong, because there were far too many.  We decided that once I woke up, my husband would be able to address those issues that actually mattered, like "mommy is slow when she speaks and very slow when she walks".  Also, I'm not going to lie, ending on a high note isn't a bad idea.  We followed the QandA with "bonus- you get to hang out with your awesome Uncle all day while mommy's at surgery", which I'm pretty sure made a big difference.  We believe in reflexive questions, and make sure that we don't over-provide information, but rather answer questions concisely and allow him to follow-up if he'd like additional details.

Our 7 year old, on the other hand, is incredibly sensitive.  He doesn't want information.  We've given him small bites of information and allowed him to ask questions to get more information, but he doesn't typically want to know.  He is the one who needed me to wear a hat or scarf to cover my scars while my stitches were still in and who would sweetly come into my room and confirm "You're going to be better one day, right?"  It was the only information he wanted, and all he needed to know.  We had to force some information on him, like some of the scarier terminology that he'd be hearing, and unfortunately I messed this up.  In trying not to push him too hard, I didn't realize how daft and insensitive other adults would be (and you can leave angry comments on that below- but it's nicer wording than I want to use).  People would take it upon themselves to come up and ask incredibly detailed and inappropriate questions about my health IN FRONT OF MY KIDS.  Just to clarify, that's a totally jerk move.  Asking "could she die during surgery" or "will she be able to talk and walk" or talking about "what's going to happen to the kids if she leaves to get treatment for six weeks, won't that be horrible for them?" is:
a) none of your business
b) wildly inappropriate, and
c) a totally jerkface move
especially when you're forcing a child to confront a truth again and again that they want to hide from.  Grown-up conversations are appropriate in grown-up only areas only.  I waited too long to force some of the terms on my 7 year old and ended up doing damage control.  One of the most important lessons I learned from him was to tell him that he had the right to tell anyone, even an adult or a teacher, anytime that he didn't want to talk about me being sick, and if they persisted, he was allowed to yell, kick, scream, and walk away without worrying about being rude or in trouble.

Our 5 year old turned 5 a week after my surgery.  We provided her with basic facts, the terms she might hear, and checked to see if she had questions.  She didn't.  Then we told her that she got to stay with her uncle the day of my surgery, that her favorite (and only!) Auntie was coming to visit while I was in the hospital, and that her BFF and her mom would be coming to visit, too.  Mommy having surgery became the most awesome thing in the world.  She still comes in to pet my head and tell me I'm her beautiful mommy "even if I'm bald".  I adore that :)

So, in conclusion:
1) Provide your children with the individualized amount of information that they need.  Don't make promises you can't keep when answering.
2) Make sure you introduce the vocabulary of your situation so that so that someone else doesn't do it for you
3) Keep checking in, asking if the kids have questions
4) Provide the information they need to get them through the current step of the process, don't make them try to process a situation that will take months (or years) in one conversation
5) Empower them to deal with others.  They are allowed and entitled to deal with the situation and their emotions in a way that is self-honoring, and if that means telling others to butt out, it's okay.  Let them know some safe people to talk with- they may not want to talk to a sick parent, or a second parent may be unavailable, especially if they're acting as caregiver.  Give them grandma's number on speed dial, a close family friend they're comfortable with, or a godparent who can step in confidently and deal with your child's insecurities or questions in the manner they need.

As a last note, I think that being mentally ready to talk to your kids is helpful, too.  It was important that we didn't just tell our kids not to panic, but that we actually were not panicking.  That meant getting to a place mentally where we were okay really quickly, and as I've mentioned before, our faith helped with that, but whatever you need to do to get there, it's important.  I realize this whole post probably makes me seem really far-out there in terms of my beliefs about kids, but I don't think kids are dumb, they know when you're actually okay and when you're lying to them.

At the end of the day, though, when you're faced with a really difficult situation with your children, whether it's a divorce, an illness, a death in the family, it's all about the continuing process of building trust between them and you.  You're going to do the best that you possibly can, and you're probably going to screw something up royally, too.  They will love you tomorrow.  You will love them, too.  Next time, you'll try not to screw up the same thing.  In the course of a lifetime, most of the crisis we face eventually smooth out to blips in the radar in retrospect, and if you can do your best in the moment, then that's a really good thing.

If you'd like to read some experts on this subject, not just my "Kids are intelligent individuals" rant, here's some suggestions for various "Situations" that you might encounter:
Talking to Kids About Cancer- The Dana Farber Institute
Straight Talk to Kids- NYU Cancer Institute
Talking to Kids About Death- National Institutes of Health
How to Help Your Child Grieve- Focus on the Family
Six Tips for Talking to Your Kids About Divorce- Psychology Today
Tips for Talking to Kids About Terminal Illness- Huffington Post


2013 Music at the Marina


Music at the Marina is back! Once again, this family-fun event is taking place at Leesylvania State Park on June 29th, 2013. Starting at 7pm, this season’s entertainment features the United States Navy Band Country Current, who offer a universally pleasing mix of bluegrass music and country twang. Music at the Marina has something for everyone this summer: live music, food, kid-friendly activities, and fireworks. It’s sure to please the whole family.

This year's entertainment is unlike anything previously seen at Music at the Marina, for the United States Navy premiere bluegrass and country ensemble, Country Current, will be playing one night only, June 29. Founded in 1973 by the well-known Bill Emerson, the band boasts a long line of prestigious musical talent, and has been providing entertainment to various audiences for close to 40 years. Country Current makes a point to reach out to communities across the country and Music at the Marina is no exception.

Holding true to tradition, Music at the Marina is taking place at Leesylvania State Park, located right next the Potomac River. Leesylvania State Park is part of the Virginia Association for Parks, a non-profit group that works hard to promote community events within Virginia parks. Located in Prince William County, Leesylvania Park is a great setting to hold this community sponsored event, Music at the Marina.

Music at the Marina is an exciting event for the whole family. With music and activities to occupy all ages, this night of music and community fun is not to be missed. Music at the Marina is free, thanks to Steve’s Auto Repair and Friends of Leesylvania State Park. Both sponsors are providing various prizes to win throughout the night. Located in Woodbridge, Steve’s Auto Repair “is glad to once again be part of this great event and relishes the opportunity to help those within the area enjoy good music and family-centered fun
Submitted Event 


Guest Post: A Red, White, and Blue Breakfast Celebration!

A Red, White, and Blue Breakfast Celebration!
Breakfast is a big deal in our house. A slice of toast or a glass of juice just won’t cut it. And you can forget skipping it! That just wouldn’t fly (or be healthy) with our group of five, especially on the weekend.  Instead, breakfast usually looks like a veggie omelet with whole wheat toast and a side of fresh fruit, a fruit smoothie with a bowl of steel cut oats and a dollop of natural peanut butter, or a bowl of Greek yogurt topped with homemade granola and fresh berries. See, I told you that it was a big deal!
Since breakfast tends to be a big production anyway, I like to center a lot of our family celebrations around the first meal of the day. It is fun, a little unexpected, and it starts our morning out on a happy note. Most people think of celebrating July 4th over the grill with hot dogs, hamburgers, deviled eggs, and lots of creamy salads. While I love a good cookout, I challenge you to mix things up a bit this year and try some fun, festive, and HEALTHY alternatives. Breakfast is a great place to start!  Experiment by incorporating some familiar, but healthy, alternatives such as whole wheat waffles instead of those “Lego my Eggos” and plain Greek yogurt instead of the popular blue yogurt tubes. With some fresh fruit to dress everything up and a few festive accessories, you will be well on your way to celebrating a happy, healthy July 4th with your family.
A couple of years ago I put together a Red, White, and Blue July 4th breakfast celebration for our family. I included some of our favorite healthy breakfast staples and “blinged” them up a bit with some simple and festive accessories.
Our menu included: whole wheat waffles with pure maple syrup; fresh fruit salad (sliced strawberries, blueberries, and bananas); Greek yogurt parfaits topped with homemade granola; and homemade pumpkin muffins with a swirl of vanilla yogurt on top. Don’t worry; the gumballs were just for decoration!
It was a HUGE hit with our kids. We started our day with a healthy AND festive breakfast together and we had fun.  

Recipe links:
Sarah Young resides in Prince William County with her husband and three young children. Sarah is a full-time mother, Certified Health Education Specialist, healthy living advocate, and the creator of Health Wise Home, an online resource that focuses on educating, empowering, and inspiring others to help build a healthier future. In her spare time, she enjoys running, hiking, gardening, being outside, and spending time with her family.
For healthy recipes, information, and inspiration you can follow Sarah and Health Wise Home on Facebook and at her blog, https://www.facebook.com/HealthWiseHome and http://healthwisehome.wordpress.com/ .

Featured Organization Friday: Preemies Today Collections

Preemies Today is a 501c3 non-profit based out of our DC Metro Area that "advocates for the needs of families experiencing the traumatic event of a premature birth."  The group does advocacy, outreach, teaching, and more!  One way you can get involved is by helping out with their NICU baby shower item collection! If you've ever had a preemie, and still have some of their clothing lying around, this might be just the place for it to go!

Preemies Today is collecting donations for local NICU baby showers
Used and New preemie and newborn clothing and items in good condition accepted (examples include toys, books, baby monitors) Mother's items (i.e. nursing covers) and toys for older siblings of preemies 
No recalled items or used carseats please
Contact MorgenMacDonald@preemiestoday.org for pick-up or drop-off arrangements

You can learn more about the services and support offered by Preemies Today by visiting their website, or connecting with them via Facebook or Twitter.
PwcMoms.com is committed to sharing information with our readers, and we are happy to feature your informational cause, charity, non-profit, etc.  We do not feature individual family, school, or sports team fundraising efforts, unless they are in conjunction with an official charity or non-profit.  We're happy to help you raise awareness, though, so please email us if you'd like to get details or let us know about your cause! 


Fundraiser Idea: Chipotle Mexican Grill

This isn't a sponsored post- Chipotle just got in touch with me about their fundraiser nights, and I had flashbacks to PTA and trying really hard to find things that would offer us some serious return on investment for the time we had to spend publicizing, printing, and drumming up interest!  50% of your group's sales is nothing to scoff at! 

From Chipotle:

While most companies offer only about 15% for fundraisers, our fundraiser nights are extremely popular because we donate 50% of any orders placed by customers that come in to support your group! Organizations usually apply on our website to request to host a fundraiser with us. 

Our fundraisers are held on Sundays, Mondays, or Tuesdays from 5-8PM and the process is easy: 

  • Respond with the month you are looking to have a fundraiser night with us
  • Chipotle will send you a few available dates to choose from
  • When a date is set, a flyer file is created and e-mailed to you to promote the event
  • The night of the fundraiser any customer that comes in between 5-8PM and shows the cashier they are there for your group (by showing a hard copy flyer or the file on their phone or just by verbally telling the cashier) will have 50% of their order donated to your organization
  • The next day we will communicate the amount raised and you will receive a check within 6 weeks
Please note: the fundraiser can only be held at 1 location (not multiple stores) and no promotion can be done outside/inside the store on the day of the event. We are also not able to post or pass out any kind of flyers, brochures, etc. in the store at any time. More information can be found on our website!
50% is a great cut for your fundraiser, and don't forget, while I don't typically post individual fundraisers on the Facebook page because there are so many, you can submit these to our calendar! Be sure to include a link for people to download your flier, and invite the community out for burritos!


Prince William Health District

Serves Residents of Prince William County, and the Cities of Manassas and Manassas Park
(MANASSAS, Va.) — The Prince William Health District recently introduced an updated visual identity, including a new logo, to support its visibility within the community. The new branding campaign is designed to promote the various and diverse services that the Prince William Health District provides to those in the greater Prince William area.
Health Director Dr. Alison Ansher says, “We serve the residents of the cities of Manassas and Manassas Park, as well as Prince William County. Prince William Health District does so many things for our community, yet many people either don’t know who we are or don’t understand what we do. We’re hoping this new initiative will help everyone know that we are available to all residents in the greater Prince William area.”
The Prince William Health District is one of 35 health districts in the state. It is part of the Virginia Department of Health, headquartered in Richmond. It operates in cooperation with the jurisdictions of Prince William County and the cities of Manassas and Manassas Park, and receives a portion of its operational funding from them. The Prince William Health District embraces its vision of “A Community of Healthy People and a Healthy Environment” and is dedicated to promoting optimum wellness, preventing illness, responding to emergencies, and protecting the environment and health of its residents. Some of the services the Prince William Health District provides include:
  • Investigation, Diagnosis and Treatment of Communicable Disease
  • Immunizations
  • Restaurant and Pool Permitting and Inspections
  • Water Quality Protection
  • Dental Services for Children and Seniors
  • Women, Infants and Children (WIC) Nutritional Services
  • Registration of Death Certificates
  • Response to Public Health Emergencies
    Services are provided at locations throughout the community. For more information about the Prince William Health District, view the attached fact sheet or visit http://www.vdh.virginia.gov/LHD/PrinceWilliam. You can also follow the Health District on Twitter @PrinceWilliamHD or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/PrinceWilliamHealthDistrict.
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The Prince William Health District is dedicated to promoting optimum wellness, preventing illness, responding to emergencies and protecting the environment and health of our residents.
What Does Public Health Look Like in the Prince William Health District?
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The Prince William Health District works to promote public health in many ways:
Public Health is the science of protecting and improving the health of entire populations
through promotion of healthy lifestyles, disease and injury prevention and detection and control of infectious diseases. Our population includes Prince William County, Manassas City and Manassas Park, and it is our vision that this will be a community of healthy people and a healthy environment.
Unlike clinical professionals, who focus primarily on treating individuals after they become sick or injured, as public health professionals we try to prevent problems from happening or recurring by implementing educational programs, recommending policies, administering services and conducting research. We work with local, regional and national partners to limit health disparities and promote healthcare equity, quality and accessibility.
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We monitor the health status of the community.
This includes tracking trends in health indicators such as vaccination rates among children.
We conduct primary and secondary research on various public health issues.
Research ranges from communitywide health assessments to studies on specific topics like breast cancer awareness.
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We implement evidence-based health prevention strategies.
We promote initiatives including worksite wellness and breastfeeding programs, among others.
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We provide leadership and instruction on emerging health issues.
Spearheading efforts in the community to address issues ranging from the flu to childhood obesity.
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We detect, investigate and appropriately address reportable communicable diseases in the community. Examples include foodborne and other gastrointestinal diseases, respiratory illnesses and sexually transmitted infections.
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We promote healthy behaviors through education and counseling.
This encompasses anything from hand-washing practices to preconception health education for better birth outcomes.
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We supply nutrition education, healthy foods and breastfeeding support for Women, Infants & Children. The WIC program encourages healthy pregnancy outcomes, healthy eating and general better health.
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We offer immunizations, dental care and health screenings and referrals to other systems, programs and clinics when necessary.
We work with local health providers and social service departments to ensure that patients receive coordinated care.
We train for and plan responses to a wide range of health threats and emergencies. Recent examples include our response to the H1N1 pandemic and natural disasters.
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We foster safe and healthful physical environments.
Activities include inspecting onsite sewage ground water, encouraging Chesapeake Bay protection and more.
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We ensure food and water safety.
We ensure compliance with regulations or laws by inspecting restaurants, hotels and care facilities.
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We limit, prevent and alleviate environmental hazards.
This includes assisting in the repair of failing septic systems, handling chemical spills and promoting preparedness.
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We partner with community organizations to support systemic solutions to health concerns.
We co-lead the Live Well! Coalition, a variety of organizations and agencies dedicated to preventing chronic disease.
For more information about the Prince William Health District, visit


Guest Post: Fork in the Road

Once again I find myself at a fork in the road. Has this happened to you? I can go this way for this end result, or I can go this way for this result. Both have their good and bad sides. Both benefit everyone, but ultimately you choose the one you feel slightly outweighs the other.

This has been about 83.76% of my thought process for the past 2 months.

I found myself no longer in a paying, away from home, working environment. We had enough savings to keep the kids in preschool for about another month so I could look for another job. So I looked ... and looked ... and looked. The closest thing I got was a form emailed letter saying that my application had been received, they keep resumes and applications on file for a year, and if something that met my skills opened up, they would contact me.  Thanks. I was in HR.  I know what that means. And no one goes back through resumes and past applications.

The time came to take the kids out of school. We told their teachers, cleaned out their cubbies, and at the very last minute, Grandma stepped up with a check to cover the next 4 weeks. Enough time for them to (almost) finish out the school year. So I kept looking for a paying job. And looking, and looking, and looking.

Then I thought ... it costs so much to keep the kids in preschool/daycare. For the past 18 months I worked 50 hours a week (on a slow week) in the office, then replied to every email, every phone call, every request from a customer on nights and weekends, I had software at my house that allowed me to run the office from home in case there was a power outage, or other such issue that rendered us helpless, and was stressed to the point of physical health issues, mental health issues, and ultimately I was "replaced" because I wasn't reliable nor was I committed enough because I needed to miss work on occasion when my kids were sick. No lie. I wasn't reliable, I wasn't committed, and I wasn't an asset any longer. WOW!
Yes, these are of me sitting on the concrete floor of the warehouse garage, sorting through massive amounts of invoices that were logged, filed, and recorded incorrectly.

Adding, tallying, and reconciling years worth of purchases that were a total jumble of a mess.

All the while, I’m sitting on an industrial grade floor mat. Wow ... Just imagine what my work ethic would have been like if I had only been committed to my job.

So ... tomorrow I will once again be a full time Mommy, chef, nurse, maid, play mate, teacher, and wife. I played this role for 18 months right after my baby GG was born prematurely, and I loved it. We found ourselves in a money crunch and needed a little extra to get by. We’re out of that pickle now; we’re wiser and know where our priorities lay. Don't get me wrong, the extra money would still be nice, but not at the detriment of my health or my family's health and well being.  But on the same token, the thought of paying someone my entire paycheck to baby-sit my kids is silly to me.

 Soapy water painting is a lot of fun.

This counts as a bath ... right?

Finding that balance of mommy, woman, wife, daughter, sister, aunt, niece, and friend will be both fun and hard. I have glorious plans for how we'll spend the next year and a half until my oldest is eligible for Kindergarten in the fall of 2014.  Here's what I see us doing... 

I'll wake up at 6:30 every morning and ride my exercise bike while watching the news. This gives me a little alone time before the kids wake up, and starts the day off right. If the kids aren't up by 7:00, I'll open their door and go downstairs to have coffee and watch the Today Show until they wake up and come down. Breakfast will follow, and then we'll sit down at the computer and see what activities are available for us for the day. I'm hoping for a lot of free field trips, petting zoos, library visits, picking fruits, and kid seminars at local craft and home improvement stores. Between activities away from home, we'll send time doing creative learning activities. I bought each child a notebook, and we'll pick a letter a week to focus on. We'll cut pictures out of the paper and magazines that represent that letter and glue them into our books. We'll practice writing those letters and studying the sounds. When the weather permits, we'll be outside as much as possible, either working in our small backyard garden, swimming in the neighborhood pool, or learning to ride our bicycles and roller skates. Each meal will be a learning activity too.  We'll learn where our food comes from, how to clean it and cook it and what tastes great.

In addition to the notebooks I bought for the kids, I also bought one for me. Each night, after they have gone to bed, I'm going to write down what we did that day, leaving them a journal of all the fun adventures.

Plans aren't always followed through on. Supper is on the table, but the family was engrossed in a new movie, so supper waited. 

My little Sous Chef.

Our first two heirloom tomatoes of the season.

Tomato blooms for the cherry tomatoes.

I'm very excited to be starting this new chapter of my life. I've been on both sides of the working Mommy fence, and, like I said before, there are plusses and minuses to each. I have two or three very good friends who are FANTASTIC Mommies and have zero interest in being home all day with their kids. They find they are much better parents because they work out of the home in a paying employment position. I, on the other hand, find that too stressful. I need and want to snuggle, teach, explore, and experience this time with my babies. I need to not feel pressured and fearful of losing that paid position if my child is sick and needs me. Pretty soon they'll be teenagers, and I'll look back at my journal of the time we spent together and I'm sure I'll cry happy tears and longing tears for their sweet days of childhood. But for me, I would rather look back and sweetly remember the days in the sprinkler, the snowmen, the fall leaves, and the new spring gardens, than to look back and realize that I was sitting in a boardroom while my kids laughed and ran and climbed, and discovered the world.

So here's to skinned knees, "why" a thousand times a day, "She hit me", "Don't jump on the furniture!", baseballs through windows, butterfly kisses, bedtime stories, watching the stars at night, "He's looking at me", the occasional chocolate for breakfast, "I want GranMa!", secretly learning our ABC's, and 123's while playing games, and all the sweet moments to come. 

Cheers, y'all.
About The Author: I'm a new (again) stay at home mom. My kids are 4.5 and 3. A boy and a girl who are 18 months apart. I have my bachelors degree in English from George Mason, but I've worked with numbers most of my life as either a financial manager, or other such accounting type role. I'm 39, married to a fireman, we have 2 huge dogs, Stella and Homer, we live in Manassas, but I could throw a stone and it would land in Bristow. I have a fear of birds, yet I buy bird feeders and bird seed. I can't stand stink bugs, cicadas, or Zombies. I have a gluten intolerance, I'm overweight, I don't enjoy to diet or exercise, and I have watched General Hospital (off and on) since I was in 4th grade. We have a cat named Kevin, and a gigantic goldfish who's name is either Iron Man, or Captain America, and since I can't remember, I call him "fish". I drink boxed wine because I can buy it cheap and in bulk. I believe that little girls should have dresses that twirl, and little boys should learn from day one to open doors for girls. I just learned about 3 months ago that it's no longer "proper" to double space at the end of a sentence. I decorated my kitchen around a platter I got for Christmas one year. I'm happiest in my kitchen, in my garden, and while writing. I'm originally from NC, and my older sister and her family are still there. My father lives in Shenandoah county, my mother passed away from cancer in 1996, and my stepmother just passed away in April from complications to liver failure. I'm a ridiculous Daddy's Girl, I was a total Tom-Boy, and I have a handed-down love of British cars.

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