Emma June Grosskopf Mask

This week, I’m offering a commentary on a few of the articles I wrote for this issue, so you can see the sort of chaos that goes through my brain. A behind-the-scenes feature, if you will. It’s almost like 3 columns in 1. How did you get so lucky?

We Didn’t Start the Fire

Let’s talk first about Augusta native and firefighter Forrest Moreland. The closest experience I ever had to a real, no-kidding fire was in college. A cheap Bic cigarette lighter exploded on my friend Shamira’s desk in her dorm room, and the desk caught on fire.

Our reactions were not cool in the face of fire, let me just tell you that.

My friend Joel dumped the last of his Four Loko on it. The fire went out, and the desk was sticky, and Joel, Shamira and I needed therapy after that.

So, imagine me thinking about the exploding cigarette lighter and the Four Loko while Forrest is telling me about a literal wall of fire chasing him down. And he called it “a fun experience.”

I thought to myself, “Did you try pouring Four Loko on it, Forrest? It worked for us.”

Did I say that? Um, no. I am a professional, thank you very much.

In all honesty, hats off to him. I couldn’t deal with a wimpy dorm room flame, and he spent the summer in California fighting actual fires. “Impressed” doesn’t even begin to explain how I feel about that.

(Side bar: can you even imagine how hard it is to talk to a person who fights forest fires whose name is Forrest and not make a dumb joke? Not once? Someone give me a medal right. Now.)

Gym Class Heroes

I headed to John J. Cornwell last week to talk to the folks with the WVU Extension Service’s Family Nutrition Program (with funds from SNAP-Ed–yes, that is a mouthful), who were painting the blacktop with ideas on how to exercise creatively for kids. Now, I’m going to be honest. I was not a fan of gym. My move as a youth was to forge a note from my mom to get me out of P.E. Some days it was a migraine, some days it was a twisted ankle (adding in a limp for dramatic effect, of course) and some days it was the vague (but ever-popular) “lady problems.”

Works every time.

But the activities that the gals were painting on the blacktop were actually fun: yoga poses, hopscotch, bear crawls, you name it. That’s so much more fun than “hey guys, go run 14 laps around the blacktop and we’ll call that a mile.” That wasn’t a mile; that was cruel and unusual punishment.

The kids at J.J.C. (and Springfield–Green Spring, and soon, Capon Bridge) are going to have a delightful time with their P.E. and recess with these stenciled activities. I mean, yoga on the blacktop? If I had started that at a young age, maybe I’d be able to do more poses than the Corpse Pose.

 (That’s the one where you lay down. Namaste, everyone.)

Step into Christmas

Last week, I also made my way over to check out the Toys from the Heart program and chat at Rebecca Arnold. She led me through the house, describing her process when it comes to organizing the toys and getting ready for Christmas.

Christmas. Isn’t that crazy to think about? To quote an old Peanuts VHS tape I grew up watching around the holidays: “It’s not even Thanksgiving yet!”

But walking into the house and seeing all of those toys and hearing how thorough Ms. Arnold was with her attention to detail, it reminded me that even though this Christmas is probably going to look a little different, the message is all the same. There’s a lot of need in the community, and the work she and the other Toys from the Heart volunteers do is going to make lots of kids’ Christmases very, very merry.

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