Our adventure this past weekend was to explore Magnolia Plantation, just across the Ashley River from our rental condo. We’ve been excited about this visit since we arrived in town and had planned to go for Annabeth’s birthday. The grounds did not disappoint! I was unimpressed by the plantation house but maybe I was spoiled by the ones in Louisiana.
The property has been in the same family since 1676 and is still managed by their descendants. The gardens have been open to the public since 1870, making it the oldest public garden in America. You could easily spend all day walking the gardens and taking tours. They offer a river boat tour of the rice fields, a tour of the plantation house, the swamp tour, the nature tram, and the award winning slavery to freedom tour.
We were there for over 3 hours and did not nearly see everything. We chose to tour the plantation house because this was TJ’s first ever visit to a plantation! We also did half of the Swamp walk and got to see several alligators, two babies were sunbathing along the path. They offer plenty to do even without the tours.
The petting zoo was adorable! Goats, geese, ducks, peacocks, and deer freely roamed the area. Quarter machines were at the entry with food for them. A small room housed some snakes and there was even a display of poison ivy! I was so excited for Annabeth to see the pasture with 3 mini horses but she could care less. There was a replica of a cargo boat that would have been used at the time to transfer goods down river to the port. The boat was a research project done by a local university using construction methods and materials of that time. We even found a small cemetery that had someone buried as recently as the 90s.
We will be getting a membership, as soon as we are official residents of South Carolina. Please come visit us and we’ll take you! Plus, they’re doing a ladybug release party in July that I cannot wait to take Annabeth to. She gets a box of ladybugs and brings them to her own special place in the garden, then all the kids set them free at the same time! There also doing a Mad Hatter’s Tea Party this coming Saturday… Complete with life-sized chess and flamingo croquet.
On a more personal level, let’s talk about ourselves. Annabeth officially turned 3 on our 3rd day here. T.J. went in for his first day on Monday and took Tuesday off to celebrate. We wanted to go to Magnolia Plantation but the weather was drab and Annabeth had a cough. We went to the credit union to set up a bank account instead. We had breakfast at an adorable cafe. Annabeth got pancakes covered in rainbow sprinkles and didn’t take a single bite. We had dinner at Mellow Mushroom with a peanut butter cookie a la mode. She loved that and I think T.J. has a new favorite pizza restaurant. We were at an extended stay hotel for the first few days and it was in the neighboring lot. He still casually suggests Mellow Mushroom every chance he gets!
T.J. is a Service Estimator for a shop that formerly worked on select trucks and transmissions. They recently opened the doors as a full service shop and will be building a new facility soon. His previous position lumped the job of a foreman, service advisor, and service estimator into one. He was responsible for 19 technicians, roughly 50 regular accounts, plus countless walk-up customers for an operation that ran 24/7/365. His current shop is open Monday-Friday from 8am-5pm. There are 8 technicians and 3 people to take care of his previous responsibilities. They also have a dedicated Human Resources lady! He saw the H.R. representative, that they shared with the entire Rocky Mountain region, maybe once a year. He is stunned but welcomes the change of pace. We are temporarily renting a condo that is 2.5 miles from his office. He comes home for his hour-long lunch! He even got 2 weeks of vacation the very minute he started!
Annabeth thinks everyday is a beach day. She wakes up asking if the sun is out. She is nearly always ready to go. I say that but today is what we call, a sensitive day. We’re staying home to make masterpieces and cuddle. She has bursts of tears when the simplest thing upsets her. She slumps away but makes a u-turn to point at her lower lip poking out and says, “Look, this is my sad face. See it?” She resists my offer to give a hug but whines that she’s cold and asks to be bundled up next to me. I don’t mind. I’ve been taking everyone’s advice and savoring these moments.
As for me, I am in love. I was born in Colorado but I feel like I am really from Louisiana. I grew up there. It is the only place that I feel a strong connection to. I never caught the bug and fell in love with Colorado. I loved being near to my family and I did enjoy the mountains. I just never felt at home there, unless I was in my mother’s house. My soul is a converted Southerner. I catch myself lost in happy thoughts driving down the streets under a canopy of trees and lined with flowers, taking note of historical markers to research when I get home. That is, until Annabeth screams for a snack that I know I’ll later dig out of the car seat. I say a prayer in jest that Cooper sniffs it out before I do.
Culture is unlimited in every direction. The pace is relaxed and stress comes in the form of having too many choices of where to go next. The rain and humidity are revitalizing. I felt Colorado’s weather was harsh- dry, sunny, hot, and cold. I think the soul finds rest in a cloudy day. Colorado is more ideal for vacations than permanent living, in my opinion. Regardless, we are in the right place at the right time for our little family. You could almost feel the tension release from all of us in the first few days here. There are several more factors involved than location. T.J. has the mental capacity and time to participate in his personal life. Annabeth frolics as she walks. Frolic may be an embellished word but not if you could see her skip hop style. I am active and engaged at any given moment. I fall asleep decorating our new house and wake up taking notes from my dreams.
Not a single step to get here has come easily for us but this is the reward. We are at peace. Finally. I never want to paint the picture that this has been a fantasy but I guess it has been a Grimm Brothers style fairy tale. Now that’s embellishment.
Here I am browsing through sectional couches at 10pm after spending a weekend at furniture stores. How do people do this?! I feel like my head is spinning after walking through one store. Granted, Annabeth did have a little too much fun with the remote on one of the mattresses. Adjustable base with massage function in the hands of a toddler really does induce dizziness upon standing. Top it off with constant sitting and standing right back up… Maybe loading up on coffee wasn’t such a great idea.
We feel so blessed to be in this moment. We knew that we had a strong desire to leave Colorado. We honestly had no idea what we did want. How crazy is that? Charleston came up and it was a bit of a disappointment after our Raleigh-Durham letdown. Arriving in a whirlwind of chaos with the looming tickle that we may be making a gigantic mistake, we now wholeheartedly believe we have found home. Maybe for always. We never once considered a coastal area would be somewhere we’d fit in! MeeMaw Jackie is jabbing me in the side with this one. Ha. Take that, Mom. MeeMaw. I’m certain that Annabeth’s love for the sand and sea is a raindrop on her soul sent from her guardian angel.
We have been here for a month. T.J. started his new job on 2/18/2019. We arrived in town the day before. Things have moved so quickly! Now we are under contract on the home of our dreams. Seriously. It’s simply lovely but the path to it was just ugly. I feel like this journey has taken all of our comforts and thrown them out to sea. That house is perfect for you and timing is right to make a smooth transition? Nope. You would be comfortable in Raleigh at this amazing company with a wonderful owner? Not going to happen. Selling an adorable house in Colorado well below market value in a timely manner? That’s going to take 3 failed contracts and over 4 months! If you ever decide to take a risk, on anything really, our advice is to expect and prepare for devastation. Wrap it up with blind hope for unintentional joy and blessings. Sprinkle with faith and prayers for peace of mind.
This move has been so different from anything we’ve ever done. Backwards. We have always decided what we wanted, planned and researched, then it sought out. This time, we recognized our unhappiness and had almost no idea what we were searching for. Throwing expectation out the window is refreshing. Our dream was always to own a piece of property in Colorado with a couple kids (of the goat and human variety), a chicken coop, and a nice big garden. After much discussion and soul-searching, we were able to see that our dream made no sense for our current lives. We blame it on Annabeth. I think the heart of the realization is our new definition of family and fun. We enjoy exploring museums with her. Our new perfect day is throwing together a picnic lunch and seeking the coolest park we can find. We want to be busy with community events and entertain guests in our conveniently located home. Letting go of a dream is painful but creating a new one is magical.
Our house in Colorado will officially be sold on March 28th, pending no further issues. We are set to move into our house here in Summerville the weekend before my birthday. It is more than we would have ever been able to dream up. We are beyond excited. T.J. comes home for lunch every day. We walk around ponds, through flowering bushes, and under blossoming trees at our rental condo. Weekends bring so many options, we can hardly decide where to eat or which attraction we should explore.
Have dreams. But leave some room for those dreams to transform.
We are here in Charleston! We actually haven’t truly been to Charleston yet. Ever. North Charleston and Summerville, but not technically Charleston. We were in Savannah last November and that’s the closest we have ever been to South Carolina until now.
What a wild ride it took to get us here! I wish I had written sooner but we honestly have been going nonstop since Annabeth’s birthday party (which she still talks about constantly). T.J. accepted the position on February 5th, while in Louisiana interviewing at two other separate jobs. We planned a birthday party, packed up the house, and reduced our belongings by at least half in 8 days. Movers arrived early on Valentine’s Day. We knew things had been going too smoothly for comfort… I found T.J. in the garage being told that the original quote was tripled. We went inside for a couple minutes because he was so upset that his fists were clenched. After a call to the guy who built the quote, we found out that they brokered out the move because their crew was stuck in the mountains. We decided to cancel the movers and reschedule with the original company after we arrived in South Carolina. I rushed to Home Depot for a few boxes and we reorganized everything! We went next door to eat dinner with the neighbors, who have become our dearest friends. Then, we hurried in the dark to shove our luggage into the car and head out. We shared a tear-filled goodbye with our friends while we waited for a load of laundry in the dryer. An hour later and it seemed just as damp as before, so we stuffed it in a duffel bag and left.
I didn’t know it was going to feel that way. Driving away from our home and life for the past 5 years was more than bittersweet, it was heart wrenching. T.J. was taking the truck he’d borrowed from his father back to their house while I stopped for gas. I grabbed some stuff out of the back and threw it in the trash. We decided to pack our Hyundai Tucson to the brim and I refuse to drive without a view through the back window, so it had to go. We had already given away so many things. I kid you not, we lined the curb with boxes and furniture for at least a week. We gave away everything we could even vaguely fathom replacing. Eliminating a few items from the car was natural at this point.
I met T.J. at his parent’s house and we all hugged. Annabeth was so excited to see Grandma and Pop Pop. That brought on the tears. I felt like my heart had been ripped out of my chest. I couldn’t breathe. That was the moment I wanted to drive back to our house and pretend none of this was happening.
Next thing I knew, it was 10:20pm and we were on our way to Memphis. We made a stop in Wichita, KS at the best Cracker Barrel I’ve ever been to! I drove through a couple hours of freezing rain while T.J. slept. I needed a rest, so we stopped for gas and I gave T.J. tips on how to drive through freezing rain (not at all like snow, Colorado people!). We pulled out of the gas station and the sky opened up to sun! Seriously!?!
One more stop in Sallisaw, OK at Braum’s Ice Cream and we were halfway to our final destination. We pulled into an old friend’s driveway just before dinner time. I haven’t seen her since 2002. We’ve communicated occasionally through Facebook and she shared a bunch about various places she’s lived when we announced we were looking to leave Colorado. That’s it. There I was with my husband and unruly toddler walking into her house! We ordered pizza on GrubHub and there we were chatting like we’ve been in each other’s lives this entire time. Now let’s talk about ordering food on an app, or even having food delivered to your house at all… It’s been one time in 8 years. We ordered Pudge Bros pizza once when we lived in Henderson and it took over 2 hours to arrive. My neighbor in Hudson just told me today that the grocery store finally delivers, which would be the very first food delivery option the town has ever seen!
Anyway, this was yet another piece of our journey that unexpectedly turned into something special. We often get asked how we could possibly make such a drastic change in our lives. These are the moments that have given us the peace and assurance to move forward. Through all of the fear and uncertainty, our faith has been nurtured by blessings that come when we least expect. A pit stop turned into a renewed friendship. Sunshine bursting through clouds of freezing rain. Uncovering ourselves, our joy and purpose with each step.
Never stop seeking. Do not get stagnant. REFUSE to be in a place that does not inspire your absolute greatest self. We were consumed with stress, debt, and obligation. Now, we are busy unveiling our future happiness. Whatever that may be. We won’t know until we find it!