HerKentucky Welcomes Shannon Ralph

I am so excited that my friend and sorority sister Shannon -- whom we recently threw an unconventional candlelight -- will be joining the HerKentucky team! Shannon, an Owensboro native and Transylvania alumna, lives in Minneapolis with her partner (soon to be wife!) and their three kids. You can read more about Shannon's adventures on her blog, Chronicles of a Clueless Mom. I guarantee she'll make you laugh! -- HCW

My name is Shannon Ralph and I am a Kentuckian by birth and a Minnesotan by happenstance. I have lived in Minnesota for almost seventeen years. No matter how acclimated I have become to the hearty Midwest, I can't help my redneck roots showing on occasion. Like the way my carefully crafted Midwestern temperament can go from stoic to curse-flinging hillbilly white trash in 0.5 seconds flat if you make me mad. Or the way I don't give a rip about baseball or hockey, but cheer for my Kentucky boys every March with a devotion somewhat akin to a rabid wolverine. Or the way I like a good game of poker better than I like most people. Or the way gravy and biscuits (or cornmeal crusted anything) make my heart sing.  Or the way, no matter how many decades I spend in Minnesota, I still shake my head at the idiots driving their trucks out on frozen lakes and mutter under my breath, “Bless their little hearts.”
In Louisville this week.

I guess what I am trying to say is that once Kentucky gets into your soul, there is no shaking it loose. No matter how long you are away from the Bluegrass State, there is no twelve-step program to rid yourself of the all-encompassing desire to drink bourbon and deep-fry vegetables. You can't pray the blue away.

This week, my partner, three children and I are visiting my hometown of Owensboro. I am trying to introduce my pale, pasty little winter-weary children to the joys of Kentucky life. So far, I have heard a litany of  “God, it's hot!” and “My armpits stink!” and “People here eat sheep?!” I am beginning to wonder if it is possible to foster an appreciation for Kentucky in someone not born and raised here. Perhaps—just maybe—one must be infected as an infant for the sickness that is Kentucky to grow and fester inside as it has grown and festered inside of me.

I drive down the streets of Owensboro and smell the air, thick with the aromas of barbecue and sweat, and I feel nostalgic for a simpler life. I feel a calmness—a sluggishness even—that I do not often experience in the hustle and bustle of Minneapolis. Life moves at a slower pace here—due partly to heat-induced partial paralysis, I am pretty sure. Yes, it is definitely hot. And humid. I am desperately fighting the urge to shower four times a day. I am telling myself, “Just succumb to the sweat.  Be at peace with the sweat. Become the sweat.” It's a tough battle to wage after being in Minnesota for so long.

Lucas explores his roots.
If I allow myself to think about it, I get a bit misty-eyed that my children are not Kentuckians. They are not even Southerners, which is an even harder pill to swallow. They are Midwesterners. I am raising my children in a region so far removed from my beloved South that they are practically Canadians.

The weird thing, however, is that I am really okay with it. I have created a family and a home and a life up north that I adore. When I think of “home” now, I picture my little house in Minneapolis filled to the brim with the people I love. Kentucky is where I am from—Kentucky is who I am—but Minnesota is  home.

I guess there is some truth to what they say: You really can't go home again. Though Kentucky may never again be my home, I'll always carry a part of it with me. It is in my soul. It is in the blue blood I bleed. It is in my refusal to give up “hell yeah, y'all” in deference to the mild-mannered “oh yah, you betcha.” It made me who I am.

I am a Kentuckian.

Hell yeah, y'all.