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Monticello, Small Town, USA


You might’ve seen this post earlier in the week, by Nick James of RoadSnacks, claiming “These Are The 10 Worst Places To Live In Kentucky.”

Before I dip into this topic too quickly, I do want to point out that RoadSnacks does put this disclaimer below their article’s headline: This article is an opinion based on facts and is meant as infotainment. Don’t freak out.

So this is me not freaking out. But, the old adage: ‘There’s no such thing as bad publicity’ never sat well with me. Did it you?

Let me take the topic itself, and more specifically #1 on the list of these Top 10 “worst” cities: Monticello.

Have you been there?

It receives these comments from the RoadSnacks writer:



  • “Population: 6,197
  • When you’re looking at science and data, Monticello is the worst place you can live in Kentucky. Let’s see why.
  • The unemployment rate in Monticello is a sky high 11.4%, which is the 2nd highest in the state. Only folks in Middlesborough, which are unemployed at a 13.1% clip have it worse. Ouch.
  • The average income in Monticello is $20,500. That means 34% of the population is living below the poverty line. Crime isn’t horrible here, but you have a 1 in 40 chance of being the victim of a property crime when you’re within city limits every year.
  • Monticello is located in the southern part of the state, two hours east of Bowling Green. Unless you like to fish, there really isn’t much to do out this way.”

And he utilized the criteria below to form this hypothesis about Monticello( and 9 other cities) in the state of Kentucky:

How we crunched the numbers

“We threw a lot of criteria at this one in order to get the best, most complete results possible…

  • Population Density (The lower the worse – meaning there’s less to do for indoor entertainment)
  • Highest Unemployment Rates
  • Adjusted Median Income (Median income adjusted for the cost of living)
  • High Housing Vacancy Rate
  • Education (Low expenditures per student and high Student Teacher Ratio)”



Just like the Everlasting Gobstopper machine in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, as the machine comes to life and makes that funny noise…Voila! Here is the list they formed at RoadSnacks:

  1. Monticello
  2. Mayfield
  3. Stanton
  4. Flemingsburg
  5. Mount Vernon
  6. Prestonsburg
  7. Campbellsville
  8. Barbourville
  9. Leitchfield
  10. Grayson


To put it simply: it hurts. There’s a lot of connection here for me and my hometown region. It’s hard for me to remain objective. I do admit it’s an economy that STRUGGLES and added business and industry would really help those seeking jobs. And like Monticello, I’ve been to every other city on this list, and I’ve seen (and drawn) comparisons for myself.

James tries to cushion his painful report stating:

Now hold on there. Before you get all riled up and say we’re picking on small town America, that’s not the case. We understand there’s a lot of good in every place. However, according to data (which doesn’t measure things like beauty, ‘friendly people’ and number of fried chicken joints), there are far better options in the state for making a place home.


And my response is simply: While you can’t measure it–beauty, friendliness, and, well, I guess you can measure fried chicken establishments, it doesn’t mean these components don’t make a place less than say a city offering the Mall of America or 23 different Chuck E. Cheese franchises around town.

A place is just a place without people living…breathing…making memories in it. So, infotainment or not, I must always argue against places solely for their large bits of industry, their attractions, and conveniences. If these stories held weight, people would all congregate in NYC, L.A., and Chicago. Wait…I admit many are already doing this. (NYC has seen record numbers in the past 2-3 years in regards to population booms.) But, I still cling to the phrase: bigger isn’t always better.



Small town life is simple. Relaxing. James mentions fishing as the only opportunity in Monticello. Well, yes. Lake Cumberland is a place to fish. It’s one of the largest man-made lakes in the country! But, there’s more. Often these infotainment bits are written by individuals who’ve never left their industry hubs and traveled to said places.

Where was this story compiled? Durham, NC. Home of the South’s only “pseudo ivy” school. It’s comfy. Convenient. Wouldn’t it be nice to have that many jobs? Yes. But, that doesn’t mean every city should mimic the Big 3.

I currently live in Chattanooga. Yes. The one with the tragic shootings recently. But…it’s still a beautiful town. The people (by and large) are kind, soft-spoken, and these numbers aren’t numeric here either. And, I know it would rank higher than towns like Monticello, because of population density and other factors.

But…should we just move from Eastern Kentucky (and small, poor towns) entirely like this guy suggests?

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this issue. Maybe it’s too near and dear to my heart. But, I can’t just let infotainment creep up onto my Facebook feed, tell me not-so-subtly that my hometown stinks,…and is the biggest stinker of them all. Can I?

I’ve written before about small independent schools closing, including Monticello Independent a few years ago. And, I’ve tried to stand by my convictions supporting local economies, jobs, industry, in recent years.

Simply put: infotainment tidbits shouldn’t be our only precursor to forming an opinion, making an uneducated guess.

My solution: go visit the Bottom 10. Bring a notepad. Stay for a bit. (If we can remove the big city blinders, or, “rose-colored glasses” in my case, we might find that people are still people no matter what the zip code. No matter what the smartphone plan. No matter the square footage of their home.)

Monticello exists because of you. Because of me. A place with immeasurable, intrinsic warmth. People like Mayor Jeffrey Edwards, the Wayne County EMS, the City Clerk’s Office, City Council, the Chamber of Commerce, Police, Fire, and Health Departments all working to make a difference. To make it better collectively.

Mission: God loves. Therefore, we love. No matter where we live.

We say ‘Thanks’ to all those who made these 10 towns what they were when they were first formed. And to those still fighting to make them great today, we say, “Keep fighting.”


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1 Thing Disney Got Wrong.


Grace – unmerited favor.

It’s a word that scares a lot of us guys. But, I read it described this way recently. Let me know what you think:

“Grace brings change. And ultimately…heart change that will lead to a change in choices and actions…desires. We need the Holy Spirit to take over our lives to the point that what God wants for us is what we want to do…sanctification…To accomplish this state of holy living, we need God to change our desires from those that are natural to us to those that are natural to him.” (from Napkin Theology)

Additional verses to reiterate – 1 John 3: 9-10.

Summary: The only way to live life to its fullest is under the grace God provides, and only then, will the desires of our heart be truly met.

Someone. Anyone. Call Disney up and tell them that. Especially #9 on this list.


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I’m not alone! (‘8 things that Baffle me’ contd.)


My 8 Things that Baffle Me’ (contd.) and their SUPPORT from sources around the web. Check em out:

1.) Disconnecting from tech is important. Connecting with people is important as well. (Spend time with your people!)

2.) I’m still not completely on-board with this one, but apparently they work: banana hangers.

3.) Disney World, according to Jim Gaffigan. He Agrees! that Disney isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

4.) Not just Nicki Minaj (but pop music industry as a whole) is getting worse…louder (about 1 decibel every 8 years).

5.) Sunscreen burns other peoples’ skin too: read here.

6.) Because we could all use a refresher on roundabouts. No shame.

7.) Primaries!! This site helped me understand the ones closer to my home. I’m sure there’s a site out there for every geographic area.

8.) Flavored chips and its link to illness. It’s science. And…if your stomach hurts like mine does after eating them, I recommend staying away from some of these options, especially #20. Blueberry flavored?

Violet Beauregarde, of Willy Wonka fame, would be proud of that flavor.


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8 Things that Baffle Me.


(LOOK AT THAT GIANT EGG! It’s so hot out there you could fry an egg on the sand!)

Call it a heightened sense of awareness brought on by less structured Summer months – with more time to think and whatnot – but these things have registered (and brought on conundrums) this year. See if your list and mine share any similarities. If you’d like to comment, please do so on this page. I believe, we can have a civil discussion about this list (except #2. My mind is made up on that one!).

Here they are. My 8 Things that Baffle Me (in no particular order):


1.) Why GoGo exists at all (Do we really need high-speed Internet a mile into the sky on some flights that only last 45mins? Can I go without sending that text, watching that movie at least that long? I pray so.)

2.) Banana hangers (Bed Bath & Beyond sells them by the truckload. Guilty: I own one. Does my banana need to be tricked into thinking it’s still hanging on a tree in Ecuador? Is it good to ripen all of the bananas at once? Won’t we just have to eat them even quicker? Hey! What are all of these gnats doing around my bananas. It’s that darn HANGER I bought. Well played, BBB. Well played.)

3.) Disney World (and its presence towards the consumer, the crowds, the Orlando-Kissimmee St. Cloud-I-75 mess, the mice. See you at Harry Potter world this fall?)

4.) Nicki Minaj (a la the majority of music created in the past 5 years. Is Taylor Swift country or isn’t she?)

5.) Why sunscreen burns the skin (Isn’t it supposed to protect us from burns?)

6.) Roundabouts (saw someone going the wrong direction in one earlier this week and…well.)

7.) Primaries (Closed, Open, Semi-Open, Semi-Closed, Blanket, Nonpartisan Blanket, Unified…blah bleh bluh)

8.) Why flavored chips make me sick if eaten on an empty stomach (especially Pringles Sour Cream & Onion. Total nausea.)


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Timeliness. “Is that smoke a good sign?”



I mentioned my vacation a few weeks back. The one where we swam with a Sea Carp. The same week where I followed a fellow vacationer around (unbeknownst to him or me) for almost 9 days and accidentally found him in an unlocked bathroom 1,500 miles from our original destination. Remember that one?

Well, time has a constant tie-in to everything we do on this planet.

I say all of that, because I read this headline last week: Fire breaks out on Royal Caribbean ship.

When you read something like that (and realize it was the ship you traveled on not 2 weeks prior), it puts things in perspective quickly.

Now, I’ve read the article and it looks like the damage was reparable and no one was hurt during the blast, but still…scary nonetheless. Especially since the Freedom of the Seas was a ship just revamped and renovated earlier this year to accommodate 67 more rooms. I’m glad everyone followed protocol and participated in the emergency drill and the one crewman with the injury was treated (and is recovering).



But, this update caused me to think about time as it spins onward and without pause.

It ALL matters. Every bit of it. Time with family and daily stuff and interactions with your favorite (and least favorite) people. Planning a vacation, taking the dog for a walk, and even getting an oil change. All of it matters on the spectrum of your time on this planet.

So we must make it COUNT. We aren’t guaranteed a safe flight, family reunion, or even a long, memory-filled life. But, it’s crazy to not pursue those things, when God gives us another breath to seek them.

The fire could’ve happened when we were on-board the Freedom of the Seas (even though it didn’t). The ship could’ve been stranded for weeks. It could’ve been disastrous. And…even though it didn’t happen that way and we weren’t there when it did…I’m thankful for the perspective it’s offering. The awareness of the here and now.

You might read my words and think this strictly conjecture. I’m reaching for something that’s not there. But, I wouldn’t argue that anyways. It would defeat my whole purpose in telling you TIME is a precious commodity. Don’t wait for something when you can thank God for the ability to go after it straightaway. (I’m taking my own advice here as I type.) What else were we put on this Earth for anyways?

The Great Commission is, verbatim: “GO and MAKE disciples of all nations, BAPTIZING them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and TEACHING them to obey everything I have COMMANDED you.”

That’s it. In summary. The ship didn’t sink, and we weren’t on it. But it doesn’t mean we wait around for the next one to go down either. We gotta move, live, love, and listen to God. Daily.


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The Summer Cold






For 2 weeks, I’ve been in a fistfight with – the Summer Cold.


Related to the Common Cold of Winter months (somehow). The Summer Cold has power and it wields it mightily. For weeks. Precious Summer weeks.

I can attest to its power.


Two Saturdays ago, I blamed it on pollen. HAHA

Chattanooga, TN has the highest pollen index (yes, that’s a real thing) in the nation. And, I’m from southern Kentucky where pollen begats more pollen and the bees even pray for release. But, I blamed pollen. Then, I blamed Chattanooga. Said, “Aw, it’ll go away when it rains.”

Pshaw. It didn’t go away. And, I spent the better part of last Saturday, trying to walk.

My highlight (or lowlight) was a BP gas station.

I had a DVD in my possession and it was due back at a Redbox ASAP. So, I saw the red, metal tube in my periphery, and decided to pull over for gas and return the disc.

I stepped out of the vehicle and a nearby temperature gauge read 96 or something. The sweat beaded on my forehead. My nostrils were red from paper towels, friction. I managed to lift the gas lever, swipe the card, push Unleaded 87. Then, when the tank clicked full, I felt my sore nose again, and my head – close to spontaneous combustion.

I looked longingly towards the Redbox–a distance of only 100 feet–and said to myself, Feet, you can do this, and I sneezed. I stopped dead in my tracks. It’s one of the few times I considered succumbing to an ailment and I’ve had a few (heart surgery, diabetes). But, the feet kept moving somehow. The will to live.

I pushed ‘Return Movie’ and let the machine do its retrieval. For a second, I hallucinated that it struggled in the 100-degree blazes to take the movie from my clammy hands. It chug-chug-chugged but eventually clasped the disc and safely tucked it away, inside its metal heart.

I turned and realized I’d forgotten my shades at home, my vampire moment was coming to fruition. A sunburn could happen in a matter of seconds. But, I found my car’s door. I slid into the seat and clung to its fabric as it did mine. I pulled onto the highway without looking either direction and struggled to locate a Kleenex, somewhere anywhere.

To my surprise (and thanks to God), the vehicle found its way home. I was a happy returnee. Saturday bled into Sunday and now, the next Friday. I believe, with my whole heart, Summer Colds are genuine clingers.

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Who Do I Belong To?

The song is called “To Sand We Return,” and it’s a favorite of mine. Let the words pour over your soul today. Listen to see what God says to you through it. I pray it reaches you as it does me.
To Sand We Return –


Cowering man, a legion of no ones call
Bet it all
Covenant kill, he points to the heavens
Bare with blank stares

Beckoning search in self for his answer
Reckoning, purge, the great fall, the cancer
Settlement comes in wages now he is
Shattered, broke, and all alone

We’ve lost all our control
Our faces fall to the ground
We’re powerless to your voice
Surrender to the sound

What’ll it take to prove our decision’s wrong
Will we fall?
Alone in ourselves there nothing but chaos
Fear end it here

‘Til we concede to drink from the endless
The desert we find ourselves in is hopeless
‘Til we submit and let go the control
We will always be alone

We’ve lost all our control
Our faces fall to the ground
We’re powerless to your voice
Surrender to the sound

We’ve lost all our control
Our faces fall to the ground
And no longer seeming
So shattered, broke and all alone

Who do I belong to?
Not earth, not world
Not evil, not mortals
Not wretches, not horrors

Who do I belong to?
Unchanging, unbreaking
Unfailing, creator
Immortal, eternal

We’ve lost all our control
Our faces fall to the ground
We’re powerless to your voice
Surrender to the sound

We’ve lost all our control
Our faces fall to the ground
We’re powerless to your voice
Surrender to the sound

Who do I belong to?
Not earth, not world
(Surrender to the sound)
Not evil, not mortals
Not wretches, not horrors
(Surrender to the sound)


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Carpe the Carp.



I saw a fish on vacation that made me realize it was closest in personality to me. Not an exotic Mahi Mahi. Nope. Not even a treacherous Barracuda. I am closest in disposition to…yes, that’s right: the Caribbean Sea Carp.

Have you seen one of these before?

They are funny looking. And just plain funny.

They like to get out in the sandy parts of the coral reefs and roll around.

My wife and I brought our goggles and snorkeled on Seven Mile Beach at Grand Cayman last week, and I wanted to see “Bigger Fish” than the ones flapping along the shoreline.

So out I went. No life jacket. No flippers even. The water was SUPER clear. And out about 200 yards there were buoys tied off (and weighed down) to the ocean bottom.

There were sea urchins and prickly things everywhere, so I was cautious not to put my feet down anywhere. My goggles allowed me to see everything resting on the bottom.

Whoseits and whatsits galore.

Then, I spotted the big, beastly tumbler that is the beloved Sea Carp.

He blended into the orangish, golden ocean sand quite well. But, his movements gave him away. As I approached him, he rolled and spun over and over again in pure delight. I put my hand out, and he didn’t even try to swim away like the other (smarter) fish. He just kept spinning, reaching into coral, knocking up sand and making the water dusty. I signaled for Leah to join me out there, but the urchins weren’t too inviting without flippers. So, I paddled around out there as long as I had strength and eventually told the thirty-pound bumbler goodbye.

When I got back to the shoreline, I exaggerated the carp’s size to everyone around us, but I knew what I saw. He was quite the spectacle; his aloofness to all those two-legged giants was quite appealing, I thought.

It got me to thinking about humans. Humans. Our purpose. The way we’re made. It made me smile that the Sea Carp resonated so deeply. He just wanted to enjoy the coral, food, and waves; he let them move him around constantly. I thought he had the right idea. Maybe we shouldn’t fight waves all day, everyday? Maybe rolling around and enjoying what’s set before me isn’t so bad? I appreciate God giving all that He has already.

If I’m like any fish, I’d say this fish in the Caribbean is probably the closest match. I hope I can keep the contentment up and the urge to flee my surroundings down.

Happy Hump Day!

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New Publication.



(artwork representing this story by Christine Stoddard, 2015, now on physical display in Washington, DC).

Hey guys & gals! My new story “Lobster Meat is Sweet” is now available for reading on Story Shack Magazine here. Check it out and let me know what you think. Love y’all! Thanks for reading my stories and supporting my insanity. God bless you this week.