Mountaineers are always...miserable?

Whenever you think of West Virginia, what are some of the first things that come to mind? Aside from the stereotypes and crude jokes (both of which make me cringe), would you think that West Virginia is the most miserable state in America? With slogans like "Mountaineers are always free" and "Wild, Wonderful West Virginia," this may come as a surprise. I know it did for me and let me tell you why...I was born and raised in the beautiful mountain state. My life was not a stereotype; it was a life of simplicity and contentment. I was blessed to be surrounded by family and friends who loved and supported me throughout my many endeavors, from my dance career, academic pursuits and everything in between.

Since growing up in West Virginia, I have lived in several different states along the east coast. What I continue to discover about myself is that the culture in which I grew up is much different than most, and no, I don't mean that most people have teeth and I don't!!! This has never become more clear than since I've become a wife and a mother. Never have I seen or experienced such fusses over weddings, baby showers and the like! Nope, not until I moved away from WV. Where I grew up, yes people celebrated these joyous occasions, but no matter how big or small the event was, the moment was all about celebrating the reason behind the event with those who matteredmost to you.

Whenever I was preparing for Gianna's first birthday party, I quickly found myself sucked into the culture known as over-the-top! I felt that the expectations for the event were set by all of the other first birthday parties the guests had attended up to that point; and I know that I had attended some fancy ones! I had never heard of a smash cake until taking Gianna to a first birthday party! Now don't get me wrong.  I enjoyed every minute of preparation and celebration of my daughter's first birthday! I have absolutely no regrets. The main reason why I have no regrets is because although the party was much more than what I would have done back home before being exposed to such extravagant kiddie parties, I never lost sight of the purpose of the party - to celebrate our daughter's first year with the people who are a special part of her life.

I guess what I am trying to say is that I was absolutely shocked that West Virginia was the most miserable state in the country. The survey measured the physical and emotional well-being of its participants. Well, I may not have much to say about West Virginians' physical well being; my family does have a long history of health issues, such as diabetes and heart problems on both sides. However, I can say as far as emotional well-being is concerned, the West Virginians I grew up with were content people. I don't care if they were some of the "poorest" (by monetary standards), or some of the wealthiest people around, the people I grew up to know and love, live by a solid value system: Be thankful for what you have instead of complaining or worrying about what you don't have. We West Virginians value people, not things! We value spending time with the ones we love, not showing off to keep up with the Joneses. What does this have to do with being a Mommy, you might ask?

My daughter is the first grandchild on both sides. Oh my! That has the potential to cultivate a spoiled child who feels entitled to everything. NOT MY DAUGHTER!!! I enjoy blessing her with gifts and "things" from time to time, but the biggest blessing I want to bestow upon my child is the blessing of knowing what truly matters in life - knowing you are loved and showing love to others! I don't show her love by purchasing a bunch of stuff. Instead I spend quality time with her, sharing the morals and values I was raised on. We laugh together, play together and those precious moments where my daughter looks into my eyes and says, "I love you" are PRICELESS! It didn't take a fancy party for her to feel a deep love for her mother in her precious little  heart!

So long story short, I highly disagree with this survey. We West Virginians may not be the healthiest or wealthiest people around, but we sure do have our priorities in the right place by golly! ;)

“The real issue in life is not how many blessings we have, but what we do with our blessings. Some people have many blessings and hoard them. Some have few and give everything away.” - Mister Fred Rogers