Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Where Did I Park my Car?

Having worked the same place for the past 6 years - teleworking from home, I always knew where my car was parked. I could reliably find it in my driveway in the same spot. I did not even have to think about where it was. My only issue was remembering where I left it in airports, large malls, and occasionally at the grocery store. 

Suddenly I never know where my car is. Because I have street parking where, I park in a different place every time I come home. To make it more sporting, I live on a corner. It is not unusual for me to come out of my front door, turn to the left, knowing my car is just across the street, only realize, that no, that was yesterday at lunch. Last evening I parked it around the corner. 

It is the same at work, I am in a fairly large parking lot with unassigned parking. Where you park is based on when you arrive. Often when I return from lunch I join the other cars that are double parked at the end of one of the rows due to a full lot. I come to the parking lot and often find myself on the back right side, only to realize that I had parked up front. Worse yet, I had walked past my car as I entered the lot.

When we bought my car there was a small "discussion" over color. I wanted a dark gray, but my DH insisted on a light blue. I find the blue offensive, but at that time, he wore me down, and I gave in. Now everyday I find myself driving a car that reminds me of the color rinse they used to put on an old lady's hair when she went to the "Beauty Parlor". To make matters worse it is the most popular color of the model car I drive. Something else, I never fail to point out to my DH.

Naturally out of the hundred or so cars in the parking lot at work, there is a car, make, model, and color exactly like mine -surprisingly only one. I have attempted to get in this car several times. Once the only thing that stopped me was a jacket on the back seat I did not recognize. I am often frustrated when my key fob will not open the car's door, only to realize, once again, it is the wrong car. 

One afternoon I was walking to the parking lot with a nice Captain who is often in and out of the President's office. As we approached the lot he went to his car - the other light blue one. I laughed, "So you are the one who drive's the car that is a twin to mine? I cannot tell you how many times I have tried to get into your car."

He just laughed, "Probably no more than I have tried to get into yours." 

We exchanged pleasantries and he got in his car. As I went in search of mine I wondered to myself if that God awful color was his first choice or was a gray one not available.

Monday, March 28, 2016

The Rug - Stored and Restored

Many years ago, in a former life, we had two very nice Chinese style oriental rugs. When I got  ready to move to Charleston, I dug one out of the attic and dragged it into den. Naturally there wasn't enough room to spread it out but I unrolled enough of it to see that the colors were what I remembered.

Naturally there was a long discussion my DH and myself about the rug and its condition. He had totally forgotten about the rugs - not that we had a need for them, the last time we had one on the floor was in the room formerly know as my dining room.

Fast forward a week or two. I had moved into my apartment and every thing looked nice and uncluttered with the bare wood floors. I had measured the rug and not only was it going to cover wall to wall in my living area, it was going to make the place look much smaller. He had unrolled the rug and found that the white edges were discolored and there were several large spots in the deep blue center area where the color was almost bleached out.

That suited me fine. I was sure the rug was ruined, the blues did not match my color scheme, and now I had Marshall who was chewing on everything and I could imagine the fun he would have with the fringed end of the rug. Life was good.

Meanwhile my DH had come across a highly recommended rug restoration place in Columbia. Knowing the rug's serious issues, when he asked if I thought he should carry the rug to them, I agreed simply to get an expert to tell him it was hopeless.

He called me and told me he had spoken with them, sent them pictures of the rug, and explained the problems. They had called back saying that they could dye the bleached spots to match the rest of rug (that was something did often) and cleaning the rug would probably return the edge to a brighter white. Great, but they had not seen the rug. 

I started back tracking with my DH."You know I measured and that rug is going to go from wall to wall in here. It may make it look very small."

A few days later he called back thrilled that initial washing of the rug had brightened the colors. As soon as it dried then they could dye the spots. I continued my subtle campaign,"It dawned on me yesterday that Marshall is going to chew on that fringe. He could easily ruin it."

A week later he called back. There was some bad news, the way the rug had been stored had caused it have some rather bad creases in it and the backing was messed up. The good news was that the dye job had made the spots totally disappear. I questioned whether the rug was ruined due to the creases?

My DH answered, "No, the rug people said it will take some doing to get the creases out but they will eventually get to a place where they are 'hardly' noticeable". Besides we have come this far. I do not want to stop now and you want the rug." 

"Well to be honest, I don't know. There is the issue of Marshall . . ."

"I discussed that with them and they showed me how to simply tape the fringe beneath the ends of the rug using a type of residue free duct tape."

Long story short - the rug was delivered to my apartment by my DH and it was installed, although not without some differences of opinion. The 'creases' were actually several 3 to 4 stiff ridges. And they were not in places where I could put a heavy piece of furniture to flatten them out.

That was a Sunday. Monday I came home from work and found Marshall had decided to use the rug as a pee pad. This was insult to injury. And it was not issue I even considered. I cleaned it up and tried not to trip over the oriental ridge line that ran from the edge of the rug under my coffee table.

By Wednesday, Marshall had peed on the rug again. The rug made the room look small, the colors were  wrong, it didn't fit, and now Marshall had deemed it his personal pee pad (it was beginning to un-house train him). I started moving all the furniture, piece by piece, and was able to slide the rug out and roll it as well as the pad up. After some finagling I stored the rug under the guest bed and the pad under my bed.

I did not say anything to my DH. The next two trips he made to Charleston, he did not come to the apartment. Then last Thursday he came to pick me up. He had been sitting down for a good 10 minutes when he finally said, "Wait, where's the rug?" 

I briefly explained how many times I had tripped over the creases, how it barely fit, and most of all Marshall's penchant for it. He wasn't happy but it did not put up a fight, nor did he offer to take it home.

So now instead of the rug being stored in the attic, and not being used, it has been "restored", only to be tucked under my bed. Who knows my next Charleston abode may be a better fit for the rug and Marshall may be a little more manageable - probably not but I can be optimistic.  

Friday, March 25, 2016

"No Vacancy" in the Holy City

Yes, unfortunately, Charleston has been named Number 1 City to Travel to in America. Thanks, but we do not need this. The city is popular enough. Mini vans marked with out of state plates clog the narrow streets as their occupants look for an elusive parking space. The sidewalks at the market are jammed with fanny packing Yankee tourists lined up for carriage rides looking for the "old timey" Charleston they have read about.

Yes, the economy runs on the tourists (and the often forgotten Boeing, Volvo, and Mercedes). But we are full - as in "No Vacancy" for a while. Every time I find a great "little place" to eat, it is no time before it is written up in some foodie journal, soon swamped with tourists, and I find it impossible to get in. There is such an influx of people that it is not, like many cities, where if you wait a few weeks, the blush will be off the bloom and the "foodies" will move on to the newest best thing. There are too many more coming in who are looking for a good place to eat. Even with all the fine eating establishments, we still have to wait for seats.

Worse yet, when they read about the city and/or visit it - they want to live here. Now rents are sky high as is availability of housing. My apartment hunt in December showed me that. Traffic is insane. I work with folks who commute from Summerville, a straight 20 mile drive down the interstate that now takes them 90 minutes each way. Just crossing the Ravenel Bridge and going east of the Cooper river can take 45 minutes to get to Mt. Pleasant (yes, that same place one can see across the harbor.)

One asks why I was willing to live in an old refurbished iron foundry on the dodgy side of Meeting Street, on the edge of gentrification? Simple - a 7 minute commute to the Citadel against traffic on King Street with a left on Huger. This spares me the stress of road rage, the loss of time, and allows me to run home at lunch, walk the pups, and still have 20 minutes or so to do whatever else I need to do. 

But, I digress a lot. Charleston is referred to as the "Holy City". The guides on the Carriage Tours, as well as snippets on the web, will opine that the moniker refers to the many steeples one can see in the Charleston skyline. Au contraire mon frere - it refers to the freedom of religion that Charleston has traditionally offered its citizens. If one were to look at the churches of all those steeples and the many other places of worship, one would find that aside from the numerous Episcopal churches the city is home to most of the standard protestant churches, Catholic, Greek Orthodox, Jewish Synagogues, Huguenot, Circular, Unitarian, and more. And, if one were to look further, they would see that most of these churches in the older part of the city (on the southern part of the peninsula) date back to the early days of the city itself.  The city of has always welcomed freedom of religion. And in true religious freedom, it has never been a pious place. 

So I guess, in true Charleston style and graciousness, we welcome those who worship the city herself. If she is to be truly the "Holy City" and open to free thinking and worship, it would be hypocritical to deny the tourists the same. Now when it comes to the cruise ships . . . don't get me started.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

She's Old - Like You

Do I look like I really care? That was what my alter ego, that little evil self that sits on my left shoulder was telling me, as I smiled and said, "Fine, and you?" This was in response to an inquiry from a young lady standing on the sidewalk. Her over bleached blond hair was pulled back in a bandanna, her t-shirt had some weird saying on it, and her jeans were torn in that designer way. 

I was getting out of my car, trying to balance a large birthday cake, a small bag of groceries, my purse, another shopping bag, and a diet coke. Normally, my response and smile would suffice, and if not, my arms full of bags, as I got out of my car, obviously trying to get to my apartment before I either dropped a cake, spilled a diet coke, spilled my purse, or any combination of these - would tell any polite person I was in no position to chat. But, oh no, this was not the case.

The young lady came around the car and entered my personal space. At this point I was trying to close the car as I fumbled for my key fob to lock the car. "I've seen you on the street, but where do you live, if I may ask?" she inquired.

Not wanting to go down a rabbit hole, I motioned across the street and replied, "In that building."

"Oh, well, my mother needs to move. How much is a one bedroom apartment?"

Avoiding the cost of rent, I explained I did not know because I had a two bedroom. By this time, I was hoping she would notice my arms full and my body language that was anything but indicating I wanted to stay for tea. But, no.

She continued, "You see my mother has lived here for eleven years and now they are going to throw her out, not raise her rent, just throw her out. And just because this South African with some big job moved in above us and was willing to pay a lot more."

This is when I realized she was slurring her words, was holding a cup, and her eyes indicated she was a little more than slightly inebriated. She continued her rant about how unfair it was. I agreed that I was sure her mother was upset but I was also sure there were other places she could move and suggested some rent control apartments for older people in the North Central area. (I knew about these from my extensive home search in December.)

At this point she said, "Well you can understand, she's old, about your age - at least you look about her age, and moving will be difficult for her. Change at her age is not easy. Besides she has her pride, she doesn't want to be thrown out of her home and neighborhood. You know how is for old people."

I had to rethink my approach here. As I re-balanced my load, thought about my serious need of an adult beverage to debate on her level, given her total state of inebriation, I decided to try to detach. "Well, this neighborhood is going through gentrification and it is unfortunate that when that happens, people who have lived here for many years, but do not own their homes are going to be displaced. Those who are not, are going to see their rent increased. I can remember when I was in college the gentrification line was at Calhoun street, now it has moved this far up the peninsula."

I smiled and moved across the street, hoping to leave her. Of course she followed. "My boy friend and I are trying to take care of her. We pay everything for her and her savings can just pay the rent. And, now just because that South African has moved in . . . and what was that word you used?"


"Yes, gentrification. Just throw people out. You see my mother has lived here for eleven years and now they are going to throw her out, not raise her rent, just throw her out."

Yep, I was down the hole following a white rabbit who was late for a tea party. Why me Lord?

"My name's Elizabeth by the way," she said as she followed me to the door to my building.

Meanwhile, I was trying to decide at what point to be rude and just end this. Then she said, "My boyfriend and I have thought about leaving Charleston and moving somewhere and buying some land - somewhere like Orangeburg."

Before my mind engaged I said, "I'm from Orangeburg." 

"Oh, could you recommend a church. My boyfriend and I cannot get married, it is a long story and  I will not take your time with that," (thamk you Jesus!),"but I figure the best way to meet people is at church."

To end the madness, I said, "I cannot help you there, I was not really affiliated with a church, but there are many churches there and I am sure you can easily find one that you would like."

As I got to the outer door to my apartment I started to enter my door code but decided to wait until she left before doing so. She finally took the hint. "Well, I did not mean take up so much of your time. I realize you need to get your bags inside. It's been nice talking with you. But my mother is going to be thrown out for no reason. You know that South African moved in."

Once again I told her how sorry  I  was, I hoped she had a nice evening, turned, entered the door code, and safely went inside the building. Well, so much for my feeling young and open minded. I had just been put in my place by an inebriated bleached blond young lady. And, to think I have never signed up for AARP nor do I wear sensible shoes!

Monday, March 21, 2016

Tell Me It's A Nightmare, Please!!!

Please tell me I am having a nightmare and will awake to find the witch is dead and everything is in color! In my dream I walked into a gas station to find that a liter of water costs more than a liter of gas. Mercurys and Oldsmobiles have joined Studebakers as a line of cars no longer made. 

But worse, I may be looking at a leader of the free world from a group made up of a woman who was willing to publicly "stand by her man" while she climbed her way to the top as a model for young women, a right winged Christian evangelical whose face brings to mind the Penguin in the Batman series, a reality show host with a bad spray tan, a horrible hair cut, and a reputation for shady deals, or a septuagenarian socialist.

I feel my only choice is to dig up all the mayonnaise jars in the back yard, burn my driver's license, bank cards, and county library card, learn how to speak Dutch, pack the pups up and move to Aruba.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Killed by a Coke

Diet Coke is a killer. Any one who truly knows me would say these five words coming from my mouth were pure blasphemy. Questions would be made about aliens removing my soul and possessing my body. Given, for many, many years I was up to five Lime Diet Cokes a day (now I only drink one or two) one would know that simple math combined with the fact I am alive and doing fairly well, would negate any sap sucking, yellow belly, kill joy scientist trying to say it is bad for you. 

I have a policy of not looking at the ingredients of any food that I know would fall off the "Ideal Food Pyramid", helicopter parents avoid, and are banned by mothers who would never let their children to have Pop Tarts.In other words, as long as I am ignorant of the ingredients in all the so called "junk" food that keeps me going, it will not hurt me. I can rationalize anything for example, a package of Pillsbury Chocolate Chip Cookie dough has 16 servings and with each serving having 160 calories, the whole damn package only has 2560 calories. This is EXACTLY the same amount of calories in a half gallon of Blue Bell Dutch Chocolate (16 servings @ 160 each). So pick your poison. And  let's face it, we all have our "poison" that we seek when life sucks, the world has peed on us, and things are going south. But, I digress.

As for Lime Diet Coke, it has 2 calories per serving. Of course the ingredients read like a random science experiment gone wrong in chemistry class. (ie it is Greek to me): Carbonated water, caramel coloring, artificial sweetener (aspartame), phosphoric acid, potassium benzoate (to protect taste), sodium (40mg), natural flavors, citric acid, caffeine.

So what's the killer? Carbonated water, that's what.It didn't kill me, it killed my Nikon Camera. Seems a Diet Coke was spilled into the bag I carry with me everywhere. The bag I always put my camera in so I'll have it should I spot something interesting

By the time I realized what had happened the back LCD screen was completely fogged over - from the inside. The battery was wet, both memory cards were wet, and I was in shock. After some quick research I learned that the best thing is to fill a zip loc bag with rice and seal the camera in it for several days. Time will tell, but I am not encouraged, chances of recovery of slim.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Down the Google Rabbit Hole

I awoke yesterday and found myself in something akin to a Steven King movie, just without the popcorn, the large Diet Coke, and an Exit door. As usual, my first action while still in bed, after I removed my pups from my face (telling me "Good Morning, It's another wonderful  day! Can we go  for a  walk now? Can we? Can we? ) was to get my phone and turn my 5:30  alarm off before the obnoxiously merry tune started, Then I checked my email. Well, I tried to check my email. I could not open it. Phones can be temperamental so I dismissed that, climbed out of bed, and took the pups on their morning constitutional.

After that was done, they were fed, and I had made my first cup of iced cappuccino I sat down at my laptop to start my morning pre-shower ritual. First - check email. This is where the black hole began. A blue and white Google screen came up and simply said, "We have detected an issue with your Google Account and it has been deleted." I immediately went to a clean Google search screen, entered the Gmail url and entered my username. It said, “No account found with that email address. Please try again.

I "Googled" 'Deleted Gmail account'.  This is where the white rabbit and the Cheshire cat appeared. Not only was my email gone, so were my contacts, my blogs, my pictures, and anything else I had connected with Google. In other words I no longer existed. And,I only had, at most, 48 hours, to figure out how to recover it before the Lords at Google deleted it forever and there was no getting back through the Looking Glass.

Quickly, I logged into my Blogs, they no longer existed. There was no link to my picture, no way to access Picasa nor my contacts that were attached to my email. And, one of my laptops is a Chromebook that only works off the Google Cloud so it had just become a Tea Tray.

Next I "Googled" 'How do I recover my Google account?' And - yes- I found myself at the Tea Party. Basically I saw entry after entry of horror stories from folks like me who found themselves greeted with this message. To make it worse, the Google forum, started with, "This will not be easy, but there is a 15 step process. Start with this url . . ." (Hell, AA only has 12 steps!)

So, I entered the url, prayed to the gods of the internet and waited. The first question: Your username - done. It moved to No. 2 (this was encouraging). Second question: Last exact date you were able to log into your account: - done, day before. It moved to No.3 (I finally breathed - there was hope.) Then the Queen of Hearts appeared - What was the date you first opened your Google account?

Are they sh*%%*$3 me? Going back to the forum they suggested to go back to earlier email accounts and check for the initial email from Google congratulating me on my new account. No problem - except there was a problem - both my old Yahoo and Hotmail accounts had gone through changes and only retained the past 24 months of emails. 

I contacted my DH and my daughter. Could they go back through their emails and see the date of the earliest email they had received from my Gmail account? After looking, my DH texted me he had Gmails from me back to 2006. Then, he texted, that the dates were in the fall of 2005 and he remembered I got my Gmail account before Google went "live" with the program. In other words, I was one of their first users (among many thousands I am sure). His guess was summer of 2005. Great - the summer has three months in it.

I took a deep breath and entered "August 2005". 12 questions to go and the forum had said that they would include - the 3 addresses you email most often, and other questions only you could answer. This not bode well.

Then there was a light at the end of the tunnel - a Log In screen appeared with my username asking me to create a new password. I carefully did so, and I was back among the living. I checked my contacts, pictures, saved folders, blogs, etc. It was all there, as if it had been a bad dream. 

Being anal about my photography, I back up my regular laptop redundantly to 2 external hard drives, as well as the cloud. Now I will back up my email and contacts. Google is the best thing since sliced bread and Google is the worse thing since the mankind discovered sugar. Can we live without it, not very well. My only advice - back it up and, for God's sake find out the date (month/year) you first opened your account and you should be OK. If you can get to step 3, you will be home.

I also learned that there should have been a backup that texted me to my phone or emailed a third party (in this case my daughter) advising of this issue. At that point I would have been given the chance to change my password and the hulla-balloo would have been avoided. However, in my case, I never got the warning and the account went down in 18 hours.

Off the grid is one thing, off Google is a nightmare - like it or not.

Monday, March 14, 2016

They Just Can't Help It

I witnessed something last week that in my 56 years, I have never seen. Not that I have seen and heard everything, but in my little world this made no sense. 

Like, in most organizations, they celebrate birthdays at my new job. One of the ladies on the hall, who is known or her desserts shows up with some calorie laden rich concoction. She is southern to the bone, has been around forever, and, no doubt, knows where all the bodies are buried. In lieu of a standard birthday cake Denise, the birthday girl, had requested Banana Pudding. And so it was - no cake, but a large dish of rich yellow pudding.

Everyone on the President's extended team had been notified and no doubt showed up. There were plates, napkins, and spoons for everyone. As we stood around and enjoyed the delicious southern delicacy, the tradition of birthdays was explained to me. This is such a big deal, enjoying whatever dessert is provided, that they could read off everyones name and date of their birth, noting how long it would be until our next gathering.

A good time was had by all. It only lasted ten minutes or so. Toward the end I noticed two of my coworkers (who had been at the College for many years) standing there with no dessert. They had abstained. I wasn't the only one who noticed. One of the guys said, "Yall don't want any?"

They both smiled and passed.

Then another co-worker started,"You cannot be on a diet." Noting that both of them were petite women.

Finally one laughed nervously and said, "I don't care for banana pudding."

The room became still. "How can you not like banana pudding?" Have you ever had banana pudding?" "What's wrong with banana pudding?"

After some, stammering, one of them said, "It's the wafers. Don't they get soggy? They just don't look appetizing."

Being polite southerners, we assured them that it was OK even though we tried to persuade them otherwise. 

As they walked out of the room, one guy asked one of the women, "Your telling neither me your Mama nor your Grandmama ever fixed banana pudding for you." Once again she said, "No."

"Where in the world are you from?" 

Both of them responded, "New Jersey."

"Oh lord, bless your heart. You can't help it. But there is still a chance for redemption here," one of my co-workers laughed. 

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Oh Poo!!!

I have always been a good neighbor when it came to my pups. I am proud to say that thanks to a spray bottle of water and their intense dislike to having their face sprayed every time they rudely bark at any noise in the hall, they are much quieter. I keep them in their crates when  I have company, especially when I know that my guests are not "dog people". And, most of all, when I walk them, I always have my puppy poop bags to quickly scoop up their "business" as we make our way along the sidewalks and in the parks on our daily constitutionals. 

This past Monday the three of us were out at 5:45. It was a lovely morning. Looking down Columbus Street, the Ravenel Bridge was bathed in pink and orange as the sun rose. As we walked up the street, we had to work our way around the Herbie Curbies. Monday is trash pick up day and everyone has their containers out on the sidewalks ready to be emptied by the city trucks that make their way early in the morning. 

As I came down Nassau, I slipped one of the poop bags into one of the bins lined up with all the others. The city side walks in the neighbor hood are not wide and when you add the trash containers with the trees planted in the walkways, it is an obstacle course at best. But such it city life.

Fast forward Thursday afternoon. We were making our way back down Nassau from a nice stroll to Wragg Park on Ann Street. From across the way, this older lady shouted at me, "Mam, mam, this is yours." I looked over to see her holding a plastic grocery bag.

"Excuse me, " I said in total confusion.

"You put this in my trash can Monday morning. You know when you were walking your dogs real early. Thought I didn't see, huh?"

I just continued looking at her baffled.

"It's your dog's poo. You put your dog's poo in my trash can. I don't put poo in my trash can. Here it is," she held up the grocery bag. "Come get it and put it in your own trash can, not mind."

I gathered my wits, trying to figure if I had just committed a most offend-able sin or this lady was bat shit crazy. Looking both ways, I crossed the street. Naturally, I apologized profusely and assured her there was no intention on my part to offend her. "With Monday being trash day and the containers being on the street and full, I assumed it was better to dispose of the bag in a proper container knowing it was going to be taken away in a matter of hours."

"I don't put poo in my trash can, " she repeated in a not so friendly tone."I put it this bag for you."

I could see the striped design of my bag through the thin grocery store bag. Now, I was offended. When I took the bag from her, she said, "Now go put that in your own trash."

As I walked off hundreds of thoughts went through my head. - Did she fear that the trash men would judge her, should they find "poo" in her trash? Had I committed an unpardonable sin, placing something in a neighbor's trash can that was already on the curb the morning of trash pick up? Should I have offered her the option of not picking up after my pups and thereby avoiding everyones' trash cans? Given it was Thursday, that meant she had held on to the offending matter for four days. Now that was a woman with a mission. (I wondered if she had not seen me, if she would have kept it past the next Monday. Thinking back on it, yep, she would.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Should I Go or Should I Stay

Hard to believe but my college 35th class reunion is this May. Full disclosure - I have only attended one in the past 35 years and I think that was my 10th. My DH did not enjoy it and I, at the time, did not enjoy it having to balance catching up with my friends and holding his hand.

Looking back on the years I can see a clear pattern. As a thirty-something with two kids, I thought, why would I want to go? After all it would not be fun without him. My friends called and asked me to join them. I begged off with weak excuses - no babysitter, a child's dance recital, everything short of "I had to wash my hair".  

Then it became, I would like to go - but in my forties how do you explain, "Oh, yes, I'm here by myself but my marriage is fine. He just doesn't do social well." I guess that is better than,"He finds you dull and boring." So once again I stayed home for fear of the unknown and what others would think.

Still the invitations continued. Year after year, I regretted and spent weeks later hearing all about the fun I missed. And, with it the relationships I lost. The ties that slipped away. 

The next stage was - I want to go . . . and by myself is fine. But, the logistics were weird. Are you the third wheel, thrown in with the divorcees, the "groups"- since there is no "plus one", Did I travel by myself and just get a room in Charleston for the weekend, or just a night. I knew there would be adult beverages and large times so driving home was a non-starter. I settled for meeting friends for lunches and dinners around the reunion dates. Even those were friendly but dry events on my side. Still it didn't suit.

Then this year a friend called and asked, "You are coming aren't you?" There was not a second thought. No "Should I go or should I stay?" I signed up for it all - the Brunch, the Big Affair, the Private Party. Then the questions started,"Will your DH be there?" It was very easy to say no. Of course, it was not so easy to explain why he was not coming. (Why don't folks just take 'No' and let it lie?)  Yes, I live in Charleston, no he does not. Yes, I like it here, no he did not want to move, No we are not divorced. 

My slightly graying hair, the small lines "of experience" around my eyes, sagging neck, and other middle age miseries don't worry me. I know I will not be alone. There will be a majority of us looking at those who invested in trainers, surgeons, and estheticianes to show up looking young, as if anyone is going to say, "Wow, look how good she looks", without thinking with pea green envy - "No one but a freak would look like that at our age."  

I just do not want to spend a good portion of the evening explaining my life. Maybe I should just make up a story. Something like, "Well, he does consulting work, something with the government. He really cannot talk about it. He travels a lot. I learned a while back not to ask a lot of questions. He just told me not to worry." 

Then I'll change the subject. After a few cocktails, I might add - "Did you know that Oxi Clean doesn't always get blood stains out? I have the hardest time getting them out of his tux. For some reason he often seems to get his tux torn and bloody. Honestly, I often wonder what he really does?"

All that aside, this all begs to ask, what the Hell will I wear. Now that is where I truly need the Fairy God Mother to show up. The Hell with the excuses about my DH, my mindless friends concerned only with their wrinkle free, sag-less, firm ass bodies, I need something decent to wear that dances that fine line between young enough to be in style but old enough to show I know better than to dress like a teenager. I need something that hides every fault, enhances what few good features I may have, is the right color (whatever the Hell that is), is affordable, available, and in my size. Basically, I need a miracle in this department.

Yep, the least of my problems is explaining where my DH is, as if someone cares. 

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Sage Instructions for the Southern Soul

Living alone has its perks. Perhaps Mama's quick reply,"Oh, sweet heart, I would never want to live with anyone again," when I suggested she should find some dapper gentleman to keep her company were smarter than I originally thought. I often feared she was lonely. But, as always, Mama proffered wise advice.

Now, don't get me wrong, my Mama was always one to offer sage instructions for the southern soul. As a child and young lady, I often had to interpret her instructions, words, and warnings making sure they were truly lessons from her heart passing on maternal experience and not lines quoted from Gone With the Wind (which often times they could be). In her mind chivalry was never dead, women should always be smarter than men, know they are, but never ever let the men know. Always wear a slip, never show up as an invited guest without a bread and butter gift, and don't let twenty four hours pass without writing a proper note.

Given her condition when she started waxing etiquette, often this would go in one ear and out the other, like the sound of Charlie Brown's teacher - wanh, wanh, wanh, wanh wanh, since it was the same over and over. Every once in a while some gem would catch my attention. One I will never forget was her comment, "Now when you find a nice looking young man from a good family, you know, like 'our kind of people'. who is in the medical profession, that's when you say to yourself -  'Now he can put his shoes under my bed any time he wants to." You just never knew. But I digress.

Back to living alone. Balancing a split life - the one in Charleston, by myself with my new job that I really enjoy, working with folks I admire, living a simple life with my two pups and then the rest of my world back in Orangeburg where my DH still lives in our house with all our "worldly" goods. 

Let's recap here:

My place:

  • Usually very clean, uncluttered
  • Decorated as I want and I can rearrange the furniture on a whim
  • The bed made up each morning so I return home to a neat bedroom each evening
  • Kitchen counter tops that still have plenty of open real estate 
  • A kitchen table that is free and clear
  • Dinner is ready when I want to eat, no one complains about the food, and if I want cheese and crackers for dinner there is no comment
  • I can see the Ravenel Bridge from my corner
  • King Street is two blocks away
  • Furniture where it was when we moved in 20 something years ago, easy to replace when vacuuming - find the dents in the rug
  • Kitchen table- rumor has it that the top is solid granite, wouldn't know since one cannot see it
  • Counter tops that are utilized to the max (ie covered)
  • Commode seat - in up position
  • I can no longer walk in my home office since it has become the overflow for anything that does not have any other place to fall on the floor
  • The room formerly known as my dining room is still that 
  • And there is still a seedling growing out of the middle step of the front stoop
Yep, Mama spoke wise words. Two households may not be as "stressful" as many of my friends feared. In fact, two households could strengthen this marriage. 

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

It Takes a Long Pull to Get There

The afternoon of Mother's Day in 1981 I changed out of my long white formal gown, carefully wrapped up the dozen red roses I had carried earlier that day (as a southern girl I still have every corsage, bouquet, or single stem ever given to me since I was three), packed the remainder of my college belongings into my 1975 Gremlin and left Charleston. I had just graduated from the College of Charleston and was doing something  I swore I would never do - leave Charleston. But love is a true narcotic and my future DH had a job in Atlanta and the sirens were calling me there.

Fast forward 35 years, 2 children, 1 grandchild, several careers, and I finally find myself where I wanted to be that May afternoon - back in Charleston. It has been quite the circuitous route. 

All this came home to me this morning at the break of dawn as I walked the pups on our morning constitutional. In the distance, the fog horn from the harbor reminded me I was just blocks from the water. Looking down Columbus street I have a great view of the Ravenel Bridge - that new structure that replaced the frightening John P. Grace bridge that only the grace of God saved most of me and my college friends as we made our way across its 1929 rickety grates at all hours of the early morning on our way back from large times on the beach. But, I digress.

As I walked past one of the old single houses on the street, I heard an old geechee voice exclaim, "Lawd child, you can't be fah real. Ain't no man gwanna take you serious."

A cook passed me dressed in his white uniform riding his bicycle on his way to one of the many kitchens here in the Holy City. A student or two made their way down the middle of the empty street on skate boards to school. We crossed the street to avoid the yellow house half way down the block that had the less than friendly pit bull in the yard.

And from the dark down the block coming toward me I heard the familiar baritone voice that often greeted us as we made our way along Nassau Street. This morning he was singing, "Old man river, he just keeps . . ."

Yes, I'm back in Charleston. And it is wonderful, especially in the morning before the traffic and tourists overtake the city. Right now, "The fish are jumpin and the cotton is high!"

Monday, March 7, 2016

We All Love Our Southern Mothers - Eventually

Yesterday would have been my mother's 83rd birthday. Like most southern women, I had that love, hate, ignore, love relationship with her. As a baby we all dearly love our mothers what else do we know?

Then we start to age and the truth starts to rear its ugly head. Southern mothers dote on you as a child, dressing you as they did their Shirley Temple doll. Well, in my case it was in gingham and ric-rac that I swore led to most of the ills in my life and finally my road into therapy. In reality, they were expertly handmade dresses that not every mother had the skill to make. It was a practical way to dress a little girl who was growing quickly. Looking back on family photos, the dresses were not the precious smocked bishop dresses my granddaughter now wears, but they were cute, well made, and the appropriate thing for a four or five year old to wear in the early 1960's.

Years later, my brother and I were dealing with a raging alcoholic totally out of control. Every time the phone rang you never knew what it foretold. It could be mother dear, sober, calling to chat. It could be some unintelligible very southern accent trying to explain something that made no sense. Often it was my brother telling me of another "crisis" we had to deal with. Or, worse case, it would be some stranger informing me they had my mother and I needed to come get her. 

One can only deal with that stress for so long until you realize that the counselors are right - if she is not going to help herself - you cannot save her. So I walked away. For several years, I ignored her. We had no contact. If I could not save her, I did not need to have my life go down the drain with her. And, yes, it was hard to explain to family and friends why I had nothing to do with my mother.

Then drawing on that inner strength that all southern women have (if they decide to use it), she emerged sober, healthy, remorseful, asking forgiveness, and ready to live the rest of her life. That was the good news - Mama was back. Of course, once again, my life was complicated - Mama was back.

Even though we spent time together, there were the phone calls to instill guilt that came if there had been several days without any communication, "Well, I just wanted to make sure you were OK." or "I know you are so busy, but . .. " and always, "I just wanted to let you know that Mary Johnson died. The funeral is Tuesday. I know you do not have time to go, but figured you would want to hear it from me."

She was there to help me with the girls before they were old enough to take care of themselves. Looking back on it, our visits those last years of her life were an inspiration to me, watching this lady live her second life, helping anyone she could, thankful for every day she had, always telling me she was lucky to be here. Watching her walk with her four foot eight inch body slightly crooked to the left due to the bone breaks from the many falls while she had her proclivity with the bottle, was quite humorous but it never slowed her down. Learning (quickly) that anywhere she went in town required a circuitous route that included a trip past our house. And, if a car was there unexpectedly there would be the phone call. "I happened to be going out your way, and saw . . ."

When Cokie Roberts wrote her wonderful book, We Are Our Mothers' Daughters I found it frightening at first. Was I going to be like this to my daughters? But looking back on her life, I can only hope that I can have that zeal for life, that appreciation for every day, the unapologetic southern female disposition, and the love for my family that my Mama did. 

Now I have to read the obituaries myself to learn who died since Mama is no longer here to keep me apprised. 

As most of you know I wrote about my very southern mother in Sterling Silver and Dollar Stores.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

A Deal for Dinner for my Readers

OK, several days ago I posted about my first foray into the "fresh meals sent to your home" (Gourmet Chef in a Big Box). It was a success for me. Even though I love to cook, have every gadget, pot, pan, dish, utensil, special plate, bowl, knife, rare spice, oil, pepper, salt, and vinegar one could dream of on their counter, in the pantry, or shelved in the cabinet, I still find myself looking in the refrigerator saying, "What the Hell am I going to fix for supper?"

And, not just that. I find myself at the grocer staring at the meats, vegetables, and dairy saying the same mantra, "What the Hell am I going to fix for dinner?" Yes, I have cookbooks. I have probably 100 really good cookbooks at home and I have brought my 20 favorites with me to Charleston. Lord knows that is no excuse, I have Google. But still I come home from work - tired, hungry, staring at the 'fridge as if that stainless appliance were going to utter some grand word of wisdom, "Yes, my dear, tonight you shall have  . . ."

Thanks to Groupon and a moment of weakness, I ordered 3 meals from Hello Fresh. Yes, there are several of these services around. I cannot speak for the others. I am sure they are as good. I do know Jamie Oliver is associated with HF. I posted in detail about my preparing first meal here. And this is what the final product looked like.

Pork chops, Roasted Pears, Collards, and Shallot Cream sauce.

I also photographed the second but did not post it. Here is the results of that:

Korean-Style Beef Stir Fry w/ Broccolini, Brown Rice, and Sesame

Rarely do I suggest, tout, support, or encourage my readers to try something, but this case is a little different. The meals for two are a gracious plenty for two. This service is not cheap, however, the discount code below will give you $40 off your first order which makes it a deal. Just make sure you go in several days after you have placed your order and cancel future orders (unless you wish to continue the service at the regular price).  I personally cannot afford this service but for $40 off - it is a bargain, just make sure you cancel the automatic the deliveries after the initial one.

For $39.00 you can get 3 entire fresh meals (for 2) shipped directly to your home. I do not know about you, but $13 for a dinner for 2 for one of these menus is economical, budget pleasing, and almost stress free - ie a no brainer. (I had leftovers for 1.5 meals each and the remaining meals stayed fresh for almost a week before I prepared them.) There are family menus also for a little more. 

Go here:  Hello Fresh

And enter this code: 6W8VXW

Think of it as your refrigerator saying, "My dear, tonight you shall have  . . ."

Still Here, Still Crazy

Alas gentle readers I have not forgotten you. I have started and aborted four posts this week. There was the tale of the oriental rug that I thought was a good idea to bring from home to my new place. Well, that was until my DH got involved, it went to a rug restoration place, there were issues . . . it went downhill from there. I'm still trying to wordsmith that one without using terms that would make my dear Aunt Kat scold me, my Aunty proud, and my DH not very happy with me.

Then there was the post about the joy of being an 18 month old when the world is your oyster, your life is innocent, and you are as cute as a bug. Of course I am describing my dear little Loulou who goes around with a large bow in her hair that she now demands at all times. And, being an opinionated little one (wonder where that DNA came from?) insists on choosing the bow herself so it may or may not match her outfit. Yes, pink goes with red stripes. But, bragging on the brightest child in the world, your grandchild bores others, I know.

Then there is the growing relationship between the two pups. Or rather, Ellie's tolerance of Marshall. The two have been tossed back and forth between Charleston and Orangeburg lately due to chaos over my trying to get my car serviced. I had it done with our hometown mechanics. Parts were an issue. My having DH's car a bit longer than was planned became such an inconvenience while having the service work done by our mechanics like my DH insisted soon became "You have to find your own service people in Charleston." Wow, and avoid the round robin of vehicles as well as multiple trips up and down the road? 

And, there was the issue of the last of my "Hello Fresh" meals when I failed to read ALL the directions before starting preparing the meal. The best I can say there is - don't do that at home.

So, I am still here. My life goes on as usual - never in a straight line. Stay tuned.