Monday, November 14, 2016

All that is left is the Big Red Bow and the Trees

I have opined about the Season Noel creeping in before Halloween. However now that Halloween is in the rear view mirror, we are about to enter full Holiday Mode. We haven't yet reached warp speed but we are definitely in second gear.

Here is my check list of things that once checked off, it's all over but the arrival of the Big man himself.

  • The middle of the Costco store is full of toys
  • One can find Egg Nog in their local dairy case
  • The Hallmark Channel goes to Holiday Movies 24/7
  • Sirius/FM starts their Holiday music stations
  • There are those car commercials that show cars in the snow with a Big Red bow on top.
  • Christmas Trees arrive at Lowe's (the local stands come much later with fresher trees)
  • There is a display of Claxton fruit cakes in the grocery store.
  • You see colorful lights on that one house in the neighborhood that is always decorated first
  • You cannot watch TV with seeing a Toy-r-Us commercial.
  • And the tree arrives at Rockefeller Center.
By my count I am at 8 out of 10. The engine is revving and we just hit 3rd gear.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

The Newest Chapter in the Saga of the Trees

As many of you know one the ongoing feuds in our humble household has been over the color (or not) of the Christmas Tree lights. The girls and I favor white, while my DH thinks they should be multi-colored. If you have followed me through the years you no doubt remember The history of the Light Issue. And just when I thought it could get no worse, my DH found lights that twinkled and blinked and it became The Nightmare of Lights.

But just like Ground Hog Day all over again, each year we seem to repeat the same scenario. It always starts on the Friday after Thanksgiving with the annual Christmas Tree hunt. Agreeing on the type of tree we want is the first hurdle. Over the years most have been been Leland Cypress. One year we had a Blue Ice Pine. Then there was the year my DH decided we had to have a Noble Fir - the "It" tree that year, only to be bested by our daughter in Texas.

After the variety is settled we move onto the discussion of  our different opinions of size - I generally think it makes sense to have one that is lower than our ceilings - just saying. But eventually, we agree on a tree that has enough trunk at the bottom to fit into a stand, no "holes" in the side of it, is well shaped, and fits in the den.

That is the easy part. This is where the counseling and therapy comes in. First there is the annual debate over colored vs. white lights. Then there is the question of the number of strings. My DH has never met a string of Christmas Tree lights he did not like.

After we have survived the lights there is the matter of the balls and decorations. Even though we have copious quantities of lovely blown glass ornaments (that are always safely wrapped and stored each year so they will survive to see another tree) each year my DH always seems to add to the collection.  It may be a new star or he may replace the angel on top. Or there was the one year he went all out and I came home to find real glass icicles on each branch and a Geo Synchronous Orbital Satellite (Star) atop our Holiday tree.

This year we will add yet another change. Many years ago I got irritated at the rest of the family and got my own tree. I proudly placed it in the dining room and carefully selected the ornaments I wanted on it. That year I only used celestial ornaments, a few other glass balls, and then I added light colored organza that I wrapped loosely around the tree threading it through the branches. The effect was magical I must say. The rest of the family accused me of breaking rank and causing angst and discord. That was the last time I had my own tree. Well, it was until this year.

I have 10 foot ceilings. There are plenty of white lights for me to borrow from the treasure trove of decorations in the attic. Once again I can carefully go through and select ornaments I want to use. We have collected so many over the years, we never use them all on any one tree. I may even be able to pull the Peacock feathers I used one year or the organza (if I can still find it). 

So there will be two Christmas trees. This should bring peace to the world and joy to the family. When I go back home, I can enjoy the tree however my DH has chosen to decorate it - icicles and all. I will have mine. And, as a peace offering I will not even ask for the Geo Synchronous Orbital Satellite (Star) he so dearly loves. 

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

American has Spoken

America has spoken, well at least those who exercised their civic right to vote. I hope those who wanted to see a President Trump are at ease. Remember this is someone who did not know how many amendments there were to the Constitution (27). Or how to pronounce the name of a Book in the Bible "Second Corinthians" not "Corinthians Two".  As my Daddy said, "'Tis best to be quite and thought dumb than speak and leave no doubt." But then many people who know him, including several biographers, commented that he doesn't read, he gets all his news from television ,

But, as history shows, men change when the mantle of the office is lowered on their shoulders. Even with the House and the Senate on his side, he has to play in the sandbox, something he doesn't do very well. He ran on promises to repeal Ombamacare, yet many of the unemployed (or underemployed) white middle class voters that put him in office are insured only because of this program and government subsidies that go with it. He promised to build a wall between us and Mexico, something that is reminiscent of the middle ages. 

For someone who last night spoke soberly about wanting to reunite America, Muslins are in fear since he talked about making them register. He made it very clear what he thought of Latinos. As a woman, I have become a second class citizen. After all in his eyes, I am part of a gender who is rated on a scale of 1-10, can be "grabbed" at any time, and best not eat too much.

But the following are a few of his characters traits that scare me personally:

  • He thrives on attention and media coverage
  • He wasn't honest enough to release his tax returns 
  • When threatened or challenged (like in debates) he lashed out as an adolescent, using terms like "nasty women", "crooked", and criminal" 
  • He has no filter and is quick to say anything, even comments he knows are blatantly wrong but knows once they are in-bedded in his people's minds - the Genie doesn't go back into the bottle
  • He does not listen when offered advice or seek the wisdom of those with experience
  • He only speaks calmly and sanely when he is restrained by a written speech on a teleprompter
We can always hope (and pray) that he will rise to the office and serve all Americans. That he will find his win sobering. And, most of all, he will realize this is so much larger that just Donald Trump.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Happy as a Church Mouse in the Holy City

Did I ever mention that I love living in Charleston? As in downtown, well, on the peninsula at least. Now that North King, an area that was totally off limits to any decent soul when I was in college (in the "olden days") is the hot area, I am living just two blocks away from the "place to be" these days. Albeit on the dodgy side on Meeting, but still a mere two blocks from some of the some best restaurants and bars in the gastronomic world. But I digress.

There is an ongoing discussion/ debate at work over the best place to live. No doubt rents are much less, often half, if one chooses to live in North Charleston, a ways out West Ashley, or past the connector in Mt Pleasant. The only issue is the commute. Coming from Mt. Pleasant can take as much as hour with heavy traffic (often stop and go) through Mt. Pleasant then on the bridge. Driving in from North Charleston, I-26 is a parking lot, often taking 30-45 minutes IF there is no accident. West Ashley is no better given the traffic on Hwy 17.

So coming in those folks have to leave 45 minutes to hour early to make sure they are not late to work and then dread the commute home. While, I have a 5 minute commute - against traffic, 7 minutes if I hit the lights. I go home most days at lunch to walk the pups.

This is a luxury that cost me dearly but one I am willing to pay for. Every time I question the amount I pay in rent, I think about my co-workers who arrive in the morning complaining about the traffic and dread their commutes home. Then I no longer second guess my decision.

When I first moved down here my thought was - if I was going to live in Charleston, I wanted to LIVE in Charleston. I like being able to walk downtown. And going out to dinner at night is just a matter of blocks. And if it gets late, I am just a $5 Uber ride home.

So I am poor but living a rich life. After all it is where your priorities are and mine are in the quality of my life. I may change my mind, or the cost of rent down here may change it for me, but for now I am happy with a short, stress free commute and living downtown.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Our Choice Tomorrow Effects More Than Just US

I'm generally not a religious person and I cannot decide whether this year's presidential election has justified my conviction or will drive me to promise my soul to save our nation. I grew up in a Republican home, as in Goldwater Republican, but as I have grown older and watched our government change, my personal views have changed. 

Yes, all three choices are flawed. Gov. Johnson is not ready for prime time, but I would vote for Gov Bill Weld any day. Please explain to me why he is second on the ticket? - truly one of the great mysteries of the world. Hillary cannot get past her reputation but she has more experience on the national stage that anyone I know. She is a known quantity. 

Then we come to Mr. Trump. I don't even know where to start. How could I even start to support someone who demeans women, minorities, and those with disabilities. (And we have videos of him making the statements to those effects, most on TV.)  He is so thin skinned he lashes out on Twitter like a petulant six year old. Someone who touts he is going to change the economy yet his businesses are a house of cards. He touts he is worth much more than he is and is not honest enough to release his tax returns for fear that the truth will be shown.

He runs on the plank he will create jobs and boost the economy, yet closer look at his history shows that he is known for hiring foreign workers for his resorts in Florida (when there is a suitable local workforce available) because he can pay them less. He has a trail of 100's of small businesses that he hired as contractors but never paid. 

Even his party, the GOP, have stayed away from him as if he had some disease. Think about it, of all the living Presidents, Democrat and Republican, not one has come out to support him. No well known Republicans are ever seen on stage with him. Ted Cruz may mention his support but he is never seen holding hands with the  man. If his own party cannot support him, doesn't that say something.

Then let's look at the Foundations. Trump's Foundation is under Federal investigation (but this investigation has not garnered very much press at all) for mis-use of funds. Basically he used funds from the foundation for personal needs - like paying fines for his businesses, etc. But very little has been  paid out to charities or for good. Then there is the Clinton Foundation. Yes, they have been accused of "Pay for Play" but somehow no one can connect the dots they so badly want to. And the good that Foundation has done across the Globe is incredible.

Yes, Clinton was either incredibly stupid or ignorant to use a personal server. However, being cleared by an FBI investigation is not enough. So in the last weeks before the election the FBI releases a letter that there may have been some emails that they have not seen that may be related to Clinton. This is despite the practice of the Justice Department that they never do anything within 90 days of the election that could be seen as influencing the vote. Only to release a second letter 72 hours before election day saying nothing was there. 

I listen to the BBC and foreign leaders are both befuddled that America is seriously considering someone like Trump, and even worse, he may be elected leader of the free world. (If he is, I seriously doubt the Presidency of the United States will be known as the "Leader of the Free World" any longer.) This is a somber thing to take into consideration when making our choice tomorrow.

There is a movement to "Throw the Bums Out" and I can fully understand that and am beginning to think the US Constitution needs to be amended to add term limits for Congress. However, throwing "the bums out" by electing a bigot narcissistic embarrassing ill prepared stooge is not going to help move our country forward. Personally that is a knee jerk reaction. 

If our alternative is a well prepared candidate, albeit flawed and not well liked, but someone who already has established relations on the world stage, consider the options. The rest of the world is not saying, "Oh lord look at their choices, neither are qualified." It is more like, "The Americans seriously cannot be considering electing that man."

All this said, America is great because we have our constitution.  I am a firm believer that it is every American's right to vote their conscious - as long as they vote. However if you do not vote, as far as I am concerned, you have no right to make a comment, a snipe, a complaint about the President for the next four years. If you were so complacent you could not make it to the polls, then keep your mouth shut keep your feelings to yourself after the votes of those who did exercise their rights are counted. 

But just remember it is not just the good of our country that is at stake tomorrow. Our choice could effect the entire world. After all only one candidate has said that he is not scared to use nuclear weapons and would allow even more countries to have them.  

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Our Winning Season at The Citadel

I grew up in a big football family. My uncle played for Swanee (The University of the South). My grandparents did not miss a home game. Now one must understand that this was in the late 1950's. The University of the South is located on the edge of the mountains in the middle of Tennessee. The Domain (as the campus is known) is one of the prettiest places I have ever been, all 10,000 or something acres of it. My grandparents lived in the country between Bennettsville and Bleheim, SC. That trip was 475 miles, a 10 hour drive back then. 

At home my grandparents followed college and pro-football weekly until they passed away. My parents graduated from Wake Forest and would go to Winston-Salem for games. Finally my father adopted the University of South Carolina as his "team" since it was only a 45 minute drive. He had a parking place and 6 seats on the front row of the upper deck. And for years through rain, sleet, the cold, and the heat we went to the Carolina games to watch the team lose and come home defeated only to pack-up the following Saturday and try again. It is pretty bad when the team's slogan was "Wait Until Next Year".  

Two things my father always wanted was a grandson (the IVth) and to see Carolina have a winning season. My nephew Will was born in the fall of 2000, the year Carolina had their shining season. Daddy passed away in December 'nough said.

So I was brought up in the world of Division I Football - the big leagues of the SEC and ACC. Where ESPN would host Sports Center in the parking lot. It was not unusual for the games to be televised nationally and everyone was waiting for the weekly national rankings to come out and scrambling for a major Bowl invitation. But it was also the world of big money, huge crowds, players who were going pro, and the "us" and "thems". Yes, everyone had fun tailgating and watching the game but one got lost in the huge crowds moving like large herds of wilder beasts to and from the stadium The traffic just getting out of the incredibly large parking lots could take hours. 

Then I came to work for the Citadel and found a breath of fresh air. The Citadel is a Division 1-AA school and a member of the Southern Conference. Last year the school tied for the Southern Conference Championship. Naturally another college came and offered our coach a better deal and he moved on. After interviewing many coaches, the college decided to move one of the assistant coaches up to the Head role. Well, it was a wise decision.

Yesterday afternoon The Citadel clenched the Southern Conference Championship, albeit in overtime, beating Samford at homecoming. So we are headed to the playoffs with a 9-0 season, something the school has never had. But it is not the winning team that thrills me. It is the feeling of being a part of "real" football. My being in the President's Office has nothing to do with it. 

The Citadel has an alumni following like no other. Johnson Hagood Stadium is relatively new with terraces and suites. Unlike Williams Bryce (USC's stadium) that holds 80,000 screaming fans, Johnson Hagood has total seating for 20,000. (This year only 16,000 due to some issues with part of the stands.) On game day, yes there is traffic but cars are parked in campus parking lots, on the neighborhood streets, in designated spots for those who pay for or merit them. Locals arrive in golf carts or walk from their homes. Tailgating is everywhere, all about. There is a true feeling of community. 

The corps marching in and sitting together brings out a sentimental feeling for many. The band with its drum and bag pipes is hard to miss. One can easily make their way around the stadium grounds to find any party they are looking for. Some would say it is "small time". I would beg to differ. To me this is true football. Citadel students, alumni, and fans are not lost in the many tens of thousands attending an event. They are a community that come to enjoy the game and cheer their team. 

This is not a commercial enterprise. Oh, sure we need to make money any way we can. The alumni are not just loyal they are generous. No doubt one reason is that they are part of it. Unlike the big leagues where one needs to cough up $25,000 or more to garner a parking place in some lot within walking distance and a promise of seats, and those who can "only" give $5,000 are promised tickets to "several" of the home games, the Citadel is only so big. Therefore, everything is much more accessible to everyone.

Yes one can purchase a nice suite located on the 6th level of the stadium with limited access, catered food, and open bar (in most). I'm sure the Brigadier Foundation offers memberships that gives one better access, parking, and seats. But with a stadium that only seats 20,000, everyone is closer to the field. You know these cadets are playing for the love of the game. Oh, over the years several have gone to the pros. But this is football for the game itself. 

So yesterday's victory was more special because the community of The Citadel can revel in it together. It is just a better experience when it is a smaller enterprise. One really feels a part of it. The win is more heartfelt. 

So we are off to the play-offs with a new coach, a winning team, and an elated alumni. Perhaps the Holidays have started early after all.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Just a week ago I was lamenting about the early onslaught of  Christmas when Halloween had yet to be over. But I have rethought that. After all a woman is free to change her mind (and her hair color) at any time she wishes. 

This week Sirius started one of their many Holiday music channels. A few holiday commercials are beginning to peak through the loathsome campaign ads we are all so tired of being berated with every time we turn on the TV. Store shelves are decked with holiday decorations as orange and black morph into red and green. 

The Hallmark channel is now running Christmas movies 24/7. I find it interesting that they call them "Christmas Movies" and have "Countdown to Christmas" with no apologies. Apparently they do not feel bound by PC restrictions.  Not that I wish to tread on anyone's feelings but I find this refreshing. After all the Christians are celebrating the birth of Christ and, although I will not get into my personal thoughts on religion, it should be a free world for everyone to worship as they please and respect our friends and neighbors who may be different. I never criticize my Jewish friends when they celebrate their holy days or the Hindu or Muslims, etc.  But I digress.

I find myself watching these kitschy Christmas movies over and over. No, they are not award winning. And the plot is usually the same - girl meets boy, girl likes boy, somehow there is a disagreement but in the last 15 minutes all will be settled and love will conquer all. There is always snow. There is never sex (I assume all the children arrived via United Parcel.)

My DH told me once if I watched enough of these movies all my brains would be turned to mush. Even worse, my daughter walked in the other night and said, "Oh, God, seriously Mama? You are definitely turning into your mother. She used to watch that 'stuff' all the time."

The sounds of Christmas (aka the Holidays) bring a certain joy to my heart. As I found myself singing along to my first Christmas song on the radio, it dawned on me - why I am fighting this? Why not embrace it and enjoy the spirit longer than just the 28 or so days between Thanksgiving and Christmas? After all how many Christmas seasons do I have left? A sad thought, but in middle age I must face the truth and revel in the memories of Christmases past, appreciate every Christmas present I have, and anticipate with the excitement of a young child Christmas future. 

No, I have not forgotten Thanksgiving, the red headed step child of the holidays. It fits nicely in there, still one of my favorite days of the year. Now instead of "waiting" until Thanksgiving to start celebrating, I can embrace the joy of Thanksgiving as part of the Grand Holiday Season. 

So as of today I am in the holiday spirit. I feel free to play holiday songs in my car and on my iPad. I have already started buying Christmas gifts, planning where the tree will go, and watching that "stuff" on TV.  Say what you want to, it's a free world (at least until Wednesday morning). I plan to embrace the holiday season and get the most out of it. Why should I wait until November 25th to enjoy that magical feeling of all the little things that bring back so many wonderful memories of Christmases past? 

Friday, November 4, 2016

The age of Madeline

As one can imagine, a rental housing office has a regular cast of characters coming in and out. And Q.G. Hampton Rentals and Housing Co. was no exception. The characters included an 80 year old widow, "Miss" Ella, who is still living in the house that she and her late husband, Howard, raised their family. Wade promised her he would never tear it down or make her move out. He keeps it livable and comfortable for her, biding his time knowing that the valuable piece of real estate will be available at some time in the future.

There is Terse (as is Reginald Beauregard Jackson III) who drives a late model BMW, dresses as if he is out of GQ, and lives in the penthouse of one of Wade's newer fancy high rises. He is a regular visitor to the office around the 2nd of the month to pay his rent that is usually in arrears. Even though he lives on a trust account funded by his Dad (ie Reginald Beauregard Jackson, Jr.), obviously it is not enough to get him to the end of the month to pay his rent.

On this particular morning, being the beginning of the month the office was fairly busy. Buzz and Larry, the two maintenance men, had stopped by to get the daily list of work and issues that need to be tended to. 

The Eldridge twins were in to pay their rent, which they always paid in cash - in ten dollar bills - $450. These ladies Flora and Cora were identical twin sisters who still dressed alike. They had lived together every day of their 70 years, never marrying. Rumor was, they never dated. Quite a curious pair.

"Miss" Ella walked in thrilled to see that Buzz and Larry were still there. "Boys, the screens in my front windows have fallen out once again. Do you think you can find time to drop by? Maybe around noon?" Buzz and Larry quickly assured her they would be there, knowing she would have plates of her famous chicken salad sandwiches and tomatoes from her garden waiting for them on the kitchen table. "Miss" Ella always got good service from the maintenance crew.

As "Miss" Ella walked out, a blond haired slight thing of a young girl entered, no more than 25 years old. Everyone in the office, stopped and turned toward the door. "Hi," she started in a very southern accent, "I'm Maisy Ruth Jackson and I'm looking for an apartment. My brother Terse recommended you. I hope you have something." Naturally, Bunny stepped forward, introduced herself and offered her a chair in her office.

Buzz looked over at Della, the lady who handled the front desk. "Lordly, Wade only has one Penthouse, where is Bunny going to put her?"

Della replied, "No sweat, you know Bunny always comes through."

It wasn't anytime before Maisy Ruth and Bunny walked out of the office. "Della will you pull out a rental packet, the keys, and a map for that unit on Spring Street. Maisy Ruth says that is where she would like to live."

Knowing they had Terse's habits in mind, Bunny just smiled before anyone could say anything, "We looked at everything available."

Maisy Ruth thanked Bunny, said good bye, and left the office on her way to the unit on Spring Street. Larry went to the window. "I've seen everything now. That there Jackson is driving what looks like a 7 or 8 year old Accord. What's wrong with this picture?" 

"Now y'all behave yourselves. You know families are made up of all sorts. I'm sure she will be a lovely tenant."

"Speaking of lovely tenants," Della said as the door opened and a gentlemen who only lacked a horse to look like the Marlboro man sauntered in. At the same time, Bunny and Della, both looking star struck said, "Why, what can I do for you sir?" 

"Well ladies, seems I need a place to live. And I was told this was the place to come."

"Yes sir we try our best to serve. Come in my office and let's find out what we might have that will suit your needs," Bunny said as she led the way. "Oh and I'm Bunny, I'm sorry where are my manners."

"Sam, mam, Sam Peters." Suddenly things were looking up. Why nothing this good ever came up as a match on her profile.

"Well Mr. Peters. . ."

"Oh, its just Sam."

"Well then Sam, what are you looking for in particular?"

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Advantage of Being Frumpy in the Age of Gentrification

I have spent the past several weeks searching (in vain) for that perfect place south of Broad Street for just a pittance. People in Hell want ice water and I can always dream. For years as a child I heard my mother tell us, as her misty eyes looked far away, (she always did have a flair for the dramatic) that one of the happiest times of her life was when she and my father lived in a quaint carriage house behind one of the larger homes on Broad Street. This was while he was in pharmacy school. You would have thought from her recollections that they enjoyed the SOB lifestyle of never ending garden parties, white glove teas, and formal dinners. I doubt it, however, I did look up the address and it is indeed a quaint carriage house. But I digress.

Of course everyone in Charleston is looking for this ideal address so if and when this unicorn of a property should appear - its availability usually vanishes into the mist before one can even contact the owner. After all, according to the CDRA, 41 people move to Charleston every day. Granted many of them want the super deluxe (very expensive) high end apartments that have recently been developed in large new buildings downtown. But I want to live in an older property with high ceilings, hardwood floors, excessive coats of paint on the trim, doors that are not flush, and all the other unique features that are the charm of old Charleston. 

The peninsula of Charleston is divided into different neighborhoods, each with their own character. Currently I live in South Eastside, the area originally planned as Hampstead Village in 1789. It was known as an early Charleston suburb, although these days it is squarely in the middle of the peninsula south of Hampton Park and Wagener Terrace. It was home of one of Charleston's most noted artisans, wrought iron mastersmith Philip Simmons. It also home to the Cigar Factory, an 1882 cotton mill that was later used to produce and export tobacco products and today has been restored to a lovely multi-use building of restaurants, event venues, and businesses (including the home the well known magazine "Garden and Gun").
As I walk the pups I am always looking at the different houses - some that have recently been redone and restored - some not so much. There are many places that are not in good shape and are on city blocks that I find sketchy. So I was most surprised when I found several apartments in some of these "sketchy" areas, in buildings not well kept, being advertised for rents well over what I was paying. This scared me, if this was the rent they were getting, how much was my rent going to rise? After all as gentrification moves in, rents always go up. 

I live in an old iron work factory circa 1880 called "The Foundry". In the 1940s it was turned into apartments. By 2015, when an investment company bought the building, the units were old, not well kept, and pretty much trashed. As each lease ended they went in and gutted the unit and redid it. There are only 12 units in the old 2 story brick building. All are 1 bedroom units except for 2 - 2 bedroom units, 1 of which is mine. And my unit was the last one redone and I was the first tenant to move it. With exposed brick, granite counters, wood floors, and tile in the bath it makes for a right nice place. 

The idea of leaving did not thrill me but I was not going to pay some absorbent rate to live in this neighborhood and I knew my very reasonable rent was going to be raised exponentially.  But try as I might I could not find another place. It looked as if I may end up in 1 bedroom or pay more for a smaller (not nearly as nice) 2 bedroom. Finally I asked for the new lease to see what the 2017 rent was going to be. At least I would know what money I was talking about.

Much to my chagrin the increase was extremely reasonable. Nope, I am not going anywhere this year. It was such a pleasant surprise.  Maybe being a responsible frumpy middle age lady does have its advantages. Funny when they have investors, insurance people, etc. they always ask if they can show my unit. I should be the ideal tenant, not that they take that into consideration.