Thursday, July 2, 2015

The South Carolina That I Love


Angel Oak
Ideas sometimes come from unusual places, or from an unusual combination of places.  At least they do for me.  I’ve been toying with the idea of writing a post about South Carolina for a while now.  I just wasn’t entirely sure what to say.  People far more eloquent than I will ever be have pontificated at length about the goings on in my home state.  I wasn’t even sure if there was anything more to say. 
Then I read this post.  I know it’s a bit of a leap, and I won’t try to explain the whole, long process that got me here.  The short version of it is that Pinky lives in Australia.  I’ve never been to Australia.  I know nothing about it, except that they seem to have the coolest accents in the world, what I’ve seen on TV, and the tiny bits I’ve gleaned from reading Pinky’s blog.  I enjoy reading her take on current events there.  I think it makes for a much more realistic picture of a place to read about a real person’s day to day life there.  It’s at least more interesting than just news stories. 

I believe Pinky has mentioned visiting the US, but I have no idea whether or not she visited any part of the South in general, or South Carolina in particular.  That’s probably one of the biggest reasons I’m writing this post.  I can’t stand the idea of people who’ve never visited South Carolina thinking that recent events are normal, or that we all hold to certain beliefs.  If you’ve never been to South Carolina, I hope I can give you a little glimpse of the good things about us since you’ve certainly had ample opportunity to read the truly horrible things about us.  (I just want to clarify that Pinky said nothing derogatory about the US in general, or South Carolina in particular.  My mind doesn’t always make sense, so I don’t have the clearest explanation for how her post tipped the scale in favor of writing this post.  It just did.)

Table Rock, SC
This paragraph: I know it was naïve of me but the day Barrack Obama was elected president of the United States I went to work, whistling in joy, thinking… well that’s it then folks, no more race problems; the mostpowerful job in the world has just been given to an African American, no onecan be racist now, can they? Hmmm. didn’t quite work out like that didit? I'll bet you cheered that day though, Ms Harper.” especially made me want to write this post.  Yes Pinky, it was very, very naïve of you to think that no one could be racist after that election, but it was a beautiful thought.  Some of the things I heard the day after are things I’m just plain not comfortable writing.  The flip side of that is that he was elected, and so many people celebrated. 

I can’t speak for outside of the South.  I’m not well-traveled, and I’ve lived my entire life in southern states.  I’ve never been “up North”.  But if you’ve visited my blog much at all you know that I’m a South Carolina native, and that I love my home state.  I live in North Carolina now, but still consider myself a South Carolinian.  Nick is a North Carolina native, and we engage in a lot of good natured banter about who comes from the “better” Carolina.  I still love South Carolina, and always will. 
I’m not trying to defend what has happened, and what is happening in South Carolina.  Some things are just indefensible.  But the South Carolina that I love doesn’t consist solely of confederate flag waving racists, and that’s the part I want to share with you.

Folly Beach, SC
Please, please, please do not think for even one moment that I am saying there aren’t problems, and that there isn’t hatred fueled by prejudice.  I know those issues exist.  I’m just saying we don’t all feel that way.  I was fortunate enough to be raised by parents who taught us to see people, not color or ethnicity.  Not all children born and raised in South Carolina are raised this way, but I’d like to think it was more common with my generation than it was with my parents’ generation.  Throughout my life I’ve had the good fortune to meet and befriend a wide variety of people.  I have no idea who my first friends of other races were.  My mom knows this for herself because she started off in segregated schools.  Let that sink in for a minute. 
Most people consider me to be fairly young (I’m in my early 30s, so teenage cashiers never bother to check my ID for anything since I look like an old hag to them, but most adults seem to think of me as being on the younger end of the spectrum), so it’s scary to think that one generation before mine lived part of their childhood with segregation.  The more positive way to look at that is in noting how much has changed just in my parents’ lifetime.  Their children grew up in a world where we didn’t necessarily have to think about race at a young age. 

We’re not all obsessed with the Civil War.  I know there are a lot of Civil War reenactments throughout the South.  There are also a lot of Revolutionary War reenactments.  Personally, I have never understood the appeal.  The noise is deafening.  Every summer you can hear distant cannon fire at my parents’ house (I think that’s actually from a Revolutionary War reenactment).  The noise gets old fast.  I can totally understand the lyrics to ABBA’s “Fernando” when they sing about how “The roar of guns and cannons almost made me cry”.  It gets old.  Fast.  I promise we’re not all issued confederate flags, and that many of us believe their proper place is in museums and history books. 
Now I’m not saying that I don’t find the history of both wars to be fascinating.  I love museums, and I’m a sucker for Civil War movies and Revolutionary War movies.  I just happen to believe they’re history, not something to be re-hashed on a regular basis. 

I feel like I’ve somehow spent a long time talking about the negative aspects of South Carolina when I’ve told you I wanted to write a post about the things I love about my state, so here are the good things:

It’s a beautiful state.  We have gorgeous beaches, beautiful mountains, and great places in between.  In a day’s drive you can easily make it from the mountains to the ocean.  I love the variety.  We’re also home to the Angel Oak, the most beautiful tree I’ve ever seen.

Biscuits & Gravy
We have great weather.  I realize this one is largely a matter of perspective, but I think we have really great weather.  We have fairly mild winters, we mostly stay home when it does snow, and we have long, hot summers great for growing tomatoes, peaches, tea, and lots of berries.  In the spring, summer, and fall we have lots of roadside stands with locally grown produce and hot boiled peanuts.  The opening of the first roadside stands is a much anticipated harbinger of spring. 

Sweet Tea!
Some of the things we’re taught as “Southern Good Manners” are actually really good things.  We grow up being taught that any time anyone in our community (neighborhood, church, work, etc.) has a death in their family we must deliver a casserole and/or baked goods to their home.  It’s mandatory.  It doesn’t matter how much food is already there.  We must deliver ours.  We’re secure in the knowledge that we will always be well fed in times of crisis.  It’s not quite as mandatory, but strongly encouraged, during illness or after surgery, or when someone has a new baby.  It’s just what we do.  We also wave.  A lot.  At everyone.  We wave any time we see our neighbors coming and going.  We wave anytime we pass someone we recognize from pretty much anywhere.  We wave if we think we might recognize someone.  And they wave back.  It’s friendly.  A smiling face and a wave can go a long way toward brightening someone’s day. 
Southern Food and Sweet Tea:  I realize that South Carolina isn’t the only state with southern food, but it’s a huge part of my life.  I love cooking, and I love enjoying things like biscuits and gravy, hush puppies, and of course sweet tea.  You also may have noticed if you’ve visited much before that I really like to end blog posts on a positive note.  For me, sweet tea is a very positive thing.  And South Carolina just happens to be the birthplace of sweet tea.  So yes, my home state has some very serious flaws, but it can also be a place as sweet as our tea.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

The Month of May

I planned to take a little blogging break after finishing the A to Z Challenge in April, I just didn’t plan to take a break for almost the entire month of May. I’m still not sure how it went by so quickly.

We did some projects around the house and yard. I uprooted two bushes in the front yard that I didn’t like. Have you ever uprooted an entire bush? If you haven’t I can’t say that I recommend trying it. If you have, why didn’t you tell me not to?!? Nick took down blinds that needed to be replaced and put up a curtain rod and curtains. It looks nice. We planted quite a few more things in the yard. Nothing terribly exciting, but all things that needed to be done.

She seems to like it here.
On the pet front, we foster failed and adopted Cookie. Dot never warmed up to us, and seemed very happy to leave us once the renovations at the shelter were finished. Cookie, on the other hand, seemed to like our particular brand of craziness.

We thought long and hard about adding a fifth cat to our household. We decided to foster her for a while longer to make sure she did alright with the other cats before adopting her. She fits in well enough, and seems happy here, so we made it official and adopted her last week. 

On paper, adding a fifth cat to our household, and a senior cat at that, probably isn’t considered a great decision, but it’s one we felt very good about. With kitten season upon us, we were really afraid that Cookie would be overlooked at the shelter. She’s gorgeous, sweet, and has a great personality, but the truth of the matter is that older cats seem to be practically invisible next to all of the kittens. We couldn’t let that happen, especially when Cookie seemed like such a great fit at our house.

I feel like I spent a huge part of May at various vet’s offices. Emma had some recurring health issues that popped back up. She had blood work that was way off, and just wasn’t acting quite right. Repeated blood tests showed that the problem was only getting worse, so our regular vet referred us to the specialist group.
Patiently waiting in between blood draws.

We went to the specialist group last year with similar issues and didn’t really get any results. I didn’t care for the vet we saw then, so I was a little nervous about going back there. We ended up with a different vet this time; one that one of my co-workers credits with saving her dog’s life, and who our regular vet says has a good reputation.

I immediately liked her better! She was better with Emma, spent more time with her, and seemed to listen more to what we had to say about Emma’s symptoms. She suggested pursuing advanced testing for Cushing’s Disease, which we did, and it turns out that Emma does have Cushing’s Disease.

You can read more about it here, but the short version is basically that Emma has the pituitary dependent kind, meaning that she has a tiny benign tumor in her pituitary gland that causes her body to basically overdose itself on steroids. Left untreated it can cause liver damage and other issues. The treatment for it is medication to regulate the production.

You can read more about the medication here, but the short version is that it takes a while to get the right dose. Too little doesn’t adequately treat it. Too much causes other, potentially very serious, problems. There’s a fair amount of blood tests involved in the beginning to help determine the right dose. We go on Wednesday for her first round of blood tests since starting the medication. My gut feeling is that her dose will have to be raised a little bit; there’s some definite improvement in her symptoms, but still room for a lot more improvement. We’ll see.

If I let myself think about it too much I get totally freaked out over the fact that Emma technically has a very small brain tumor. She’s been a huge part of my life for the past 12 years, and I hate to think about anything being seriously wrong with her. When reason returns, I’m grateful for the fact that it wasn’t some of the other, much worse things it could have been. And I’m glad it’s a problem with a medical, not surgical, treatment, since that seems like a better choice at her age. She seems happy and seems to be feeling better, which is wonderful.

So what about you? How has the month of May been for you?

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Zoo Membership

I absolutely love going to the zoo.  Riverbanks Zoo and Gardens in Columbia, SC is my favorite.  I’ve been going there since I was a little kid, and every year Nick and I go on or near my birthday.  The zoo is one of my happy places.

Last year we decided to become members.  We bought a fairly low-level membership since it’s just the two of us.  Basically our membership pass allows us both as many regular visits as we’d like, one visit to the holiday lights, access to any members only events, and six guest passes.  It also gives us a discount (usually half off) if we choose to visit other zoos.  It’s good for one year. 
 
We didn’t go as much as we’d hoped to last year since we had a lot of unusual things going on, but we did go for one Members Night Out event, and we were able to use one of our guest passes when my friend Crystal went with me. 
 
After much discussion we decided to renew our membership at the same level when it expired earlier this month.  We anticipate being able to go a few more times this year, and we really enjoyed the Members Night Out.   
 
I think it will be good since we both love the zoo so much, and it’s a great excuse to go since we don’t want to waste our visits.
 
So what about you?  Do you enjoy visiting the zoo?  Would you sign up for a zoo membership?

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Yard

I have an ever-evolving relationship with yard work. As a child, I loved raking leaves. I think this was due in large part to my dad’s genius way of capitalizing on child labor. As a teenager and into my late 20s I hated yard work. I couldn’t understand why people would waste their hard-earned money, and their time, working in the yard. Then we bought our house and had a little yard of our very own.

That’s when my attitude toward yard work began to change. The first spring and summer we were here, I didn’t really do anything with the yard. Nick mostly kept up with cutting the grass. I made a few half-hearted attempts to maintain the flowerbeds that we here when we bought the house, but I’m pretty sure I did more harm than good.

The following year, Nick’s grandmother (GrandMommy) got involved. I think she pitied our poor yard. GrandMommy has a knack for growing things, and a very practical approach to yard work. If she’d even hinted at all of the things we’d eventually be doing in yard back then I’d probably have been tempted to go along with Nick’s idea of concreting everything and calling it a day. Fortunately she didn’t, and we started slow.

The first year GrandMommy got me set up with my first ever herb garden. I think that was brilliant on her part. It was small, and meant that one small part of the yard became something I enjoyed and actually wanted to take care of. It also helped that most of the herbs seemed very easy to grow, and that I love to cook.

After that, we began adding something else in every year. Some years we’ve added a few things. It seems to be a very practical approach; start small, learn as you go, and don’t start so many new things at once that you can’t manage them. We’ve cleaned up and added flower beds, as well as raised beds for growing vegetables. And we’re slowly taking out things that just don’t work for us

With GrandMommy’s help, I’m learning which flowers I like, and how to properly care for them. I find myself enjoying the yard and being proud of how it looks. I’ve come to enjoy the flowers, and now I think the effort involved in growing them is absolutely worth it. I’ve finally had the experience of walking into the backyard and picking fresh vegetables to make for dinner.

It’s still a little early in the season for quite a few things here, but there’s still plenty of color and beauty right now. The azaleas and some of the peonies are blooming. Some of the basil and tomato plants are in the raised beds (with more waiting to be planted), and it’s almost time to plant the squash and zucchini seeds. I’m hoping to do that this weekend.

The biggest change in the yard this year, though, is how much I want to be in it. I want to plant things and fill the yard with colorful flowers. I find myself wanting to plant things and pull weeds when I come home from work. In previous summers, my "reward" for cutting the grass was getting to go inside, the promise to myself that once it was done I didn’t have to do more yard work for a while. This year, even though cutting the grass is hard and sweaty work, I don’t mind it as much. And my "reward" for getting that job done? Planting flowers, pulling weeds, potting little flower arrangements for the porch. I never thought I’d feel that way.

The yard actually wasn’t my original plan for my Y post, but I’ve been spending so much time in lately that it just seemed like the perfect post. And I’m ridiculously pleased with the little potted arrangements on the porch. I love the colors of the pots and the color combinations of the flowers. This is the first time I’ve potted arrangements myself, and I have to say I’m very pleased with the outcome.

So what about you? Do you enjoy working in the yard? Do you have very many things in bloom right now?

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

X-Rated?

I think it’s probably safe to say that X is one of the least looked forward to letters during the A to Z Challenge. Or is it just me? Were any of you looking forward to X? I certainly wasn’t.

This isn’t my first go round with the A to Z Challenge. 2012 is the only year I’ve actually completed the challenge thus far (though I have to say this year is looking promising at this point), so it’s the only time I’ve made it to X. I actually kind of liked my X post that year, and it seemed to be fairly well received, so I thought I’d re-visit the topic this year.

I have to say that I haven’t been as diligent about visiting as many different blogs lately as I have been before, but most of the X-rated things from before still stand for me.

Too much personal information – yes, we’re all sharing a lot about ourselves with a lot of people, but for me there are limits. 

Language – yes, there are times when only a four letter word will do, and I’m no stranger to them, but when the post has more words I wouldn’t be comfortable using in front of my mom or my boss, I’m not inclined to keep reading.

Tone – this is a much more subtle one, but if a blog’s main intent seems to be to educate the illiterate masses (i.e. those of us who aren’t the author of said blog), or to preach a religious doctrine, or to promote a political ideal I tend not to come back.

The only things I can really add this year are blogs that are crammed full of affiliate links. The ones that sort of pose as reviews or just general blogs, but then go on to say how you can’t possibly live without this life-changing dinglehopper (points if you got the reference to The Little Mermaid!). It has improved their life in every way imaginable, and here’s the affiliate link so you can buy your very own with them receiving a small fee, but of course they’d never recommend it just for that reason.

So what is it that makes a blog X-rated for you? What has you clicking the X in the corner to make your exit as quickly as possible?

Monday, April 27, 2015

Welcome Cookie & Dot

We’re foster parents again. It’s only short term, while the cat room at the no-kill shelter is being renovated. There’s a lot of work being done, so all of the kitties had to move out for it, which means Cookie and Dot are our house guests for the next week or so.

Cookie
Dot is very nervous and has decided to take up residence underneath the armoire for the time being. We’re sure she’ll be fine once she’s had a little more time to adjust and get used to being in a new place. And I’ll share a picture as soon as she’s ready for her photo shoot.

Cookie is very friendly and outgoing. She seems perfectly happy to be here, and doesn’t seem to be the least bit concerned about being in a new place. She has been exploring their room and looking out the window. Hopefully Dot will follow her example soon.

We’re looking forward to spending the next week with these lovely ladies and pampering them. 

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Very Cute!

I ended up changing my "day off" during this week of the A to Z Challenge from Sunday to Saturday. We were having some internet issues last night. Too bad it’s too late in the challenge for a post about AT&T, but at least I do have some pictures of very cute fur kids for you. At least they’re a good way to end the weekend.