Posted in Our Story

Hurricane Dorian Aftermath

Two weeks ago, Hurricane Dorian passed along South Carolina’s coast late Wednesday night and through Thursday. TJ had off for Labor Day on Monday but a mandatory evacuation order took effect beginning at noon and was lifted on Friday. He went into work for an hour on Tuesday morning to prepare the shop for the storm. Then, he went in on Friday (as soon as roads were cleared) to repair emergency vehicles for the recovery efforts. Not only does he get hazard pay for the time he went in to work under the evacuation order, he also gets paid for the full week. We were thankful to have him home to prepare and it was nice to get a category 2 as our intro hurricane!

We spent Tuesday checking flashlights for batteries and inventorying the pantry. TJ went through the boards for the windows- thankfully we didn’t need them but at this point, Dorian was still a category 5 in the Bahamas. We cleaned up the yard and secured everything in our screened-in porch for the coming force of wind. We even found time to move a locker from the garage to the porch and converted it into a grilling/smoker supply cabinet. After a trip to Home Depot for screws for the boards and BJ’s for water and beer, we were ready. Mr. Dorian was so slow moving that we ended up venturing out Wednesday morning too. I knew we’d get stir crazy, so I wanted to get Annabeth out and moving as much as possible before things got bad. I made a pot of jambalaya and ended the night with a few drinks.

The storm started around midnight and we lost power by 4:30am. T.J. explained to Annabeth, when she woke up, that the storm was causing some bad weather and took out the power for the lights and TV. She declared that she did not like this weather, crossed her arms, and marched away with a “hmph.” We pulled out the camp stove and invited the neighbor over for breakfast tacos. Luckily, we were not hit hard. The day went on with lots of wind and light rain. We had lined sandbags up by the front door because water tends to pool by our front step but we barely collected a puddle there. One street over, a tree fell into the living room. Down our street, some friends had an oak tree fall on their detached garage and buckle the entire structure. Power was restored just after 4pm. I was surprised and thankful that it came back so quickly!

Annabeth getting stir crazy and running through the rain.

We woke up the next morning and T.J. went to get my car out of the back garage. A healthy branch had speared through the roof and ceiling just above the hood of my car! No damage to anything else. We felt pretty fortunate!

Annabeth and I started a game of pick-up-sticks after T.J. went into work. She preferred to attack my piles with all of her pent up energy, so I resorted to gathering all of the large branches and dragging them to the street. I also discovered smilax- a thorny vine that shoots up from the ground and wraps itself around trees or bushes. As I yanked them out of the trees, Annabeth would cheer me on, “Good job, Mom. You are so strong. You can do it!” We caught the attention of the neighbor behind us. We introduced ourselves and he came over to check out our damage. He left us his ladder because the one we have doesn’t reach the roof of the back garage. He even offered his chainsaw and assistance when T.J. got home from work.

What we learned from our first hurricane as a family: We are even more in love with our choice to move to Summerville, SC.

We are happy to trade hurricanes for winter. This was a very mild hurricane and we are well aware of the devastation a stronger storm could bring. Hurricanes bring the community together. T.J. joined a team of strangers to fill sandbags for each other. Our neighbors insisted we come spend the night in their spare bedroom, if we lost power. As soon as the winds began to die down, the neighborhood was buzzing with people checking on each other. Clean up began and it was as if the fences disappeared. It was social hour in the streets and no one was left to pick up alone.

I think it comes down to our personalities fitting in here and the timing within our own lives. We met most of the people on our street within the first few weeks of moving in. T.J. is assistant coach for Annabeth’s tee ball team. The weather is a major factor, even considering the hurricane risk. Our souls are warmed by the temperatures outside. We feel comfortable, like we belong here. T.J. hasn’t felt in place in Colorado since his 20s and I never truly felt welcome. We did not specifically choose South Carolina. We were led here by blind faith. Being far from our family and friends is tough; it really sucks at times. That’s the price we paid to follow our hearts. I would rather miss my family and friends than lose myself.

While I Breathe, I Hope
Posted in Our Story

Hurricane Prep

I just want to send out a quick update. We’ve had some of you asking about our safety as Hurricane Dorian approaches. We are not in a mandatory evacuation zone. The image below shows the zones in our area. We have not even been assigned a zone but our neighborhood is bordered by two. The pink, yellow, and blue zones are under the mandatory evacuation. South Carolina is not flat (like the plains of Colorado) and the landscape varies greatly in this coastal terrain. We are surrounded by lakes and rivers, hence the several different zones. We are fortunate enough to have a massive drainage canal running along the perimeter of our neighborhood too. This has the potential to be a blessing and a curse, if it overflows.

T.J.’s shop is in the pink zone, so he will be home until the order is lifted. He will be going in tomorrow to help ready the shop for the storm. The park where Annabeth plays tee ball and soccer will have fill-your-own sandbags, so he will go there to get some for our house and our neighbor’s house.

We are confident about our decision to stay. Our neighbors will be here to help us if needed. We really did luck out with this house for countless reasons but our neighbors have quickly risen to the top of the list. Our neighborhood is also in an excellent location, even our street is on a high spot. The house is a solid brick ranch on a concrete foundation, so the towering trees around us are really the only concern. We are expecting to see Dorian as a Category 3 hurricane Wednesday into Thursday. That can change at any moment. Last I checked, the storm was moving at 1mph. We expect tons of rain and wind. Our main focus is being prepared to lose power. We stocked up on water, food, and batteries today. I am washing as much laundry as possible and keeping up on cleaning. We do have boards for our windows that were left from the previous owner. I do not think it will be necessary but we do have them. We will put sandbags in front of our door to divert water because we have a low spot right at the front step.

I will keep in touch when possible. Until then, we will be picking up any lose items from our yard and fighting to keep Annabeth entertained. Like caging a wild animal…

Posted in Eats

Colcannon Bake

I love our C.S.A. (Community Supported Agriculture). I know some of you are sick of hearing me talk about it, so I thought I’d start sharing some of the dishes inspired by our weekly boxes. Here are a few reasons why I am addicted to our local C.S.A.:

  • In-season produce picked fresh the day before pick up. This means each bite is vine ripened and coated in nothing other than a little dirt.
  • Supporting local farmers, the land they cultivate, the bees they nourish, and lessening dependence on foreign food
  • Flavor. Fruit and vegetables are not fresh when they ripen in a shipping container. Eating produce that soaks up every drop of sun and soil possible quickly turns into a taste you crave.
  • Experimenting with new recipes and foods we would otherwise pass up for our same old choices. I make it my goal in life to use up every bite of food in the box, which has led us to discover new favorites. And learning to plan for the occasional back-up replacement side when that grilled eggplant tastes like a sour bar of soap.

Colcannon Bake was a result of a random search for a recipe to use up potatoes and cabbage. Basically, it’s a smashed potato and fried cabbage casserole. I had my doubts but the combination of textures and savory flavor made my mouth happy. It does take one and a half hours to cook but that’s mostly while the potatoes boil and the bake time. If this is taken into account, it works well with a planned meal. You can use the open time to mix a salad and prepare your main dish.

Colcannon Bake Recipe

  • 5 medium red potatoes
  • 6T butter, sliced
  • 1/2c plain Greek yogurt, whole or low fat
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 1/4c milk, not that skim garbage but whole/cream/nut is good
  • 1T avocado oil
  • 3c cabbage, shredded
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1t Better than Bouillon, chicken
  • 1/2c sharp white cheddar, shredded
  • salt & pepper
  • garlic powder + smoked paprika or dill + rosemary or Cajun seasoning

Put the potatoes in a pot and fill with water until covered at least an inch. Boil until they slide easily off a fork.

30-45 minutes

Meanwhile, prep ingredients:

Shred cabbage and cheese

Dice the onion

Measure milk and yogurt in same measuring cup. Add in egg and sliced butter. Set aside.

With pan on low heat, mash drained potatoes partially.

Move to a large bowl. Add the milk, yogurt, egg, and butter. Season with salt and pepper. Mash until desired smoothness. Lumpy is our preferred texture.

Preheat oven to 350 F

I’m all about less dirty dishes, so I reused the pot I boiled the potatoes in.

Add oil and onion to pan over medium heat. Cook until onions are translucent.

Add cabbage, bouillon, seasonings and fry until tender.

Combine cabbage and potatoes until evenly distributed but not mushy. Butter or spray a 9″x13″ pan with oil (preferably propellant free).

Bake for 40 minutes and the top is golden brown.

Top with cheese and return to oven until melted.

Serve with extra plain Greek yogurt, chives, or Parmesan cheese.

It turned out a little too dry for us, so I smothered extra plain Greek yogurt on top. I cut back on the milk and yogurt in the mashed potatoes to try and account for extra moisture from the cabbage. Turns out, the cabbage released it’s excess water while it was frying or evaporated in the oven. Make the mashed potatoes the way you like them. My cabbage was not soupy before I added it to the mashed potatoes- it was cooked through with a slight crunch and maintained this texture after baking.

We enjoyed this with smothered pork chops from my Instant Pot but I see it working well with meatloaf, oven-fried chicken, or grilled fish. I will also doctor this next time with diced red bell pepper, finely minced mushrooms, and/or shredded carrot. I love to sneak all sorts of vegetables into every single dish possible. Seriously. I have kale, spinach, mushrooms, and zucchini in the freezer just waiting to be hidden in my next meal.

Posted in Our Story

Summerville Summer

I feel like we haven’t done much this summer, until I scroll through the photos on my phone. We started the season with joining our local CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) instead of rushing to start a garden. That in itself has been an adventure! My new toaster oven/air fryer has certainly been put to work. One of our favorite new snacks is toast with pimento cheese topped with fresh tomato slices. It’s been a long while since I’ve tasted a tomato with such an intense flavor and do not get me started on this Dutch potato bread Annabeth found. We also enjoyed air-fried sweet onions and green tomatoes on burgers, sandwiches, or simply dipped in homemade yogurt ranch. One thing we couldn’t seem to perfect is eggplant. We sadly sent quite a few Fairy Tale eggplants to the compost. Oh well, we’ll try again next year.

Annabeth joined a soccer team! This was the first season with 3-4 year olds for the town recreation, so we all enjoyed trying something new together. From the day we first asked if she was interested, she was more excited to make friends than play soccer. Practices were fun because she got her own ball but as soon as the game started, she lost interest. Let me rephrase that: She lost interest in the ball and channeled all of her focus into making friends. She chased others who were lacking motivation and attacked them with hugs or holding hands. On the first day of practice, she slapped a little girl who refused to hold hands with her. We were later told a story about a bug being on her face but who knows. When we ask why she refuses to go after the ball, she told us that no one is being nice and sharing with her. Tee Ball starts at the end of the month. Maybe having her own chance to hit the ball will spark her interest more than elbowing kids to get to kick a soccer ball.

Uncle Jason came out to spend a week with us in July! Having him there meant more to me than I expected. The moment he got into my car at the airport, I was overwhelmed with emotion. It feels good to be loved. Annabeth savored the entertainment and still calls our guest bedroom “Uncle Jason’s room.” We shared our favorite restaurants with him and spent the weekend in Charleston being tourists. The trip ended with testing out the reverse sear technique on some rib eye cap steaks and loaded baked potatoes (cooked in the Instant Pot and crisped the skin in the air fryer). Dessert was peach cobbler topped with Turkey Hill Triple Vanilla- the brown sugar bourbon vanilla was the perfect touch! We even invited the neighbor who watched Cooper while we were in Charleston to join us. We really enjoyed the horse drawn carriage tour and Patriot’s Point, which we have already planned to do again next time.

It has been too hot for the past few weeks to take a walk most evenings. My favorite time of day was chasing Annabeth on her bike around the neighborhood. I think we’ll be back at it in a couple weeks- things seem to be cooling down. We are still adjusting to our new schedule. TJ gets off work and 3:30pm and it takes him 10 minutes max to get home! Our days seem to fly by and he’s home before we know it. We tried story time at the library on Friday. I don’t know why it took so long for us to get 0.4 miles down the road to check out the county library. We had been there for 3 minutes and Annabeth asked to go sit up front. By herself. Without me. I cried. We’re going to try Toddler Time at the brand new recreation center next! We’ve never had this much freedom with TJ’s schedule and being so far away from things to do. I’m having to retrain my thinking. That’s something I can get used to!

Posted in Adventures

First Family Camping Trip

We decided to take the leap and bring Annabeth camping! T.J. and I have been waiting for a chance to start exploring South Carolina’s 47 state parks. With the furthest being only 4 hours away in the Blue Ridge Mountains and 6 state parks within an hour of our house, we have been looking forward to this for months. That’s right, we’ve got mountains out here. The tallest peak is Mount Mitchell bragging about his 6,683′ stature. Considering that he rises from sea level versus a mile high, perspective is probably not too different from a mountain back in Colorado. We shall see. I’m sure that will be one of our future adventures.

The weekend after Memorial Day, we reserved 2 nights at Givhan’s Ferry State Park. 17 miles and only 25 minutes away. Being so close, we could easily head home in a worst case scenario. Annabeth and I spent all day Friday packing the car. Dad came home and she was pumped to see what all the hype was about. We headed straight there, stopping only for a bag of ice and a pre-dinner taco. The site was described as “hike-in only.” A little scary when booking blindly but it just meant that you couldn’t pull your car straight up to the site. There was a parking lot at the end of the loop and we carried our gear along the sandy path to our site #32. Now that I think about it, that was T.J.’s high school football number.

We set up camp in a pit of sand, cooked chili cheese dogs, and headed to bed. The next morning, we made breakfast burritos and set out to explore the park. Annabeth is a magnet to water, so it’s no surprise that she found the river immediately. Turns out, this state park is located at a bend in the Edisto River. Our camping trip morphed into a water weekend the very moment Annabeth set eyes on the shoreline. We ran into a park ranger who told us that the river was unusually low and we could walk across! T.J. and I took turns letting Annabeth drag us down river. Cooper isn’t fond of being wet, so he sat this one out. People started showing up with elaborate floats and coolers. We found out that alcohol is not allowed in the state park but once you’re in the water, the rules are lifted. One guy plopped his chair and cooler down right on a sand bar and popped a top. It was fun watching groups of people celebrating a birthday carrying an inflated peacock with seating for 6 into the river or college kids tying together inner tubes. They sure did take special care of that rectangular float escorting their precious Natty Light down river.

We could not get Annabeth out of the water. She cheerfully greeted every person she came across and befriended a family who shared a floaty with her. It had been about 4 hours, so T.J. ran back to the campsite to grab lunch supplies. Annabeth graced us with her presence to grab a chip and a sip of water a few times but the river was her home now. The beach started to crowd and Annabeth was wearing thin despite her unaltered enthusiasm. No amount of coaxing could stop the tears that streamed down her face as we pull her away. We ran to the store to look for beach gear, a fresh bag of ice, and a Bojangles fried chicken dinner. We were back in the water less than 2 hours later. Annabeth made a friend within seconds and we sat on the beach until the sun began to set.

S’mores and a camp fire were next up on our camping adventure. Dad enjoyed one with a Reese’s thin peanut butter cup but Annabeth preferred plain graham crackers and a raw marshmallow. I ate mine as God intended. Annabeth made a firm request to sleep in her own tent for the night. We tucked her in and sang ‘Twinkle Twinkle Little Star’ crouched down on our knees. She beamed with pride and confidently sent us away. As Dad and I got ready for bed, she asked for a story that eventually led to her cuddling with us. I am glad she did because my night would have ended in some silent tears if she’d fallen asleep alone in that little orange fox tent.

I wish we’d taken a couple more pictures but the weekend will always warm my heart. T.J. and I have enjoyed camping since before we met. The joining of our camping bins was carried out in a ceremonial fashion. Passing on our love for the outdoors and sharing our first South Carolina camping adventure was the highlight of our summer so far. We are so proud to be a part of your story, Annabeth Elise. You have made our lives the grandest of adventures.

Annabeth taking another opportunity to assert her independence.
Just being silly
Posted in Our Story

Living in a Dream Come True

We are in love with our neighborhood. You guys… I guess I should start saying y’all but I never was able to in the 9 years I spent in Louisiana. I don’t think I will this time either. No one notices because the military and local industry bring people from all over the world to Charleston. It’s been really nice to blend in. We haven’t had a single person comment, “You must not be from around here.”

Back to our neighborhood. You cannot access it without going through a separate neighborhood first. Homes that were built decades later surround our brick ranches from the early 1960s sitting on minimum 1/3 acre lots. It feels like you are entering a magical secret as you pass by houses that consume the land they were built on to reveal our neighborhood situated with nature in mind. Mature towering trees wrap you in their branches and tuck away homes with shutters and front porches that seem to smile. The houses relax on generous plots of green that invite you to open your window and put your hand out to catch the breeze. We even have our own soundtrack that varies with the creatures brought to life by the sun and moon. I would scout out houses before we scheduled a showing to get a feel for the area. I distinctly remember my first impression as my jaw dropped and I whispered to Annabeth, “We have to live here.”

We fell in love with the house instantly. The previous owners lived here for 24 years and the husband’s name was Thomas with middle initial J. The wife had his belongings marked “T.J.” Walking through the front door, you are greeted by a floor to ceiling brick fireplace with a cut out into the kitchen. They added on a stunning sun room plus an oversized screened-in porch that take full advantage of the landscape. The rooms were stuffed with antique furniture and the windows hidden behind lace curtains. The house sat on the market for a few days, which is unusual in this hot market. We see why people could not get past the half bath in the master, smaller closets, and clutter. Instead, we felt the joy and tears that the house remembered. We saw an entire half bath more than we had in Colorado along with almost double the square footage and an attached 1 1/2 car garage! More than that, I was brimming with emotion at the potential memories the house inspired from that very first moment.

We continue to be impressed with this house and the neighborhood. I have discovered a few treasures in my kitchen. The stove is a Jenn-Air with an automatic exhaust vent that separates the burners, which are interchangeable with a griddle, grill grates, and hot stones. It even has built-in grease catchers! I opened the cabinets to find a full spice cabinet, pull out drawers, and a massive lazy susan. T.J. has a garage that not only provides a bedroom for his Iroc but also has enough space to line the walls with cabinets, shelves, and tool boxes. Even filled to the brim, he still has more than enough room to work and walk around his car. Oh, there’s a 20’x24′ detached garage in the backyard too. We plan on converting that into a guest house.

There are 3 entrances to our neighborhood and each one drops you onto a major road that escorts you to a unique area. One takes you past the locally owned Sunrise Bistro, with a man selling boiled peanuts in the parking lot, straight into a shopping center. Another offers 3 options: a direct route across the Ashley River, one to the airport and outlet mall, and the other takes you straight into the historic downtown. Summerville is best known as the birthplace of sweet tea. Prior to the American Revolutionary War, citizens of Charleston and the surrounding plantations spent summers here to escape the harsh season. The last entrance crosses over the beginning of the Sawmill Branch Trail and into the heart of the city, just off the interstate leading into Charleston. The Sawmill Branch Trail is a 6.5 mile 10′ wide paved trail that follows the Sawmill Branch Canal.

Lastly, there are our neighbors. The guy a couple houses down gave us a general lay of the land. Most people are related to someone in the neighborhood. His wife’s parents live on the corner across from his cousin and he has a friendship gate into the backyard of his best friend’s house. He instructed us to keep an eye out for the several bars throughout the neighborhood, as most people have kids but still like to party on occasion. I’m pretty sure his best friend threw a Kentucky Derby party at his backyard bar- complete with a giant outdoor TV. We also have bunches of elderly people mostly living alone. I was with a friend when we saw a man who had fallen at his doorstep. He was significantly injured but she was able to help him into the house while I called dispatch to come check on him because he refused our offer to call an ambulance. We even love our trash service. You pile your yard debris on the curb and it is picked up weekly. Furniture and other bulk garbage are picked up monthly. The service is managed by the city and paid for with your property taxes.

We originally planned on being in the Charleston area for a couple years until we figured out where we’d like to be long term. Turns out, we can’t see ourselves anywhere other than Summerville, SC. Who knows if that will always be true but we love it here more and more each day. T.J. started his new job at Cummins Diesel as a service technician on Monday. It now takes him 5-10 minutes to get to his 7:30am-4pm Monday-Friday job. 2 weeks vacation and insurance benefits were available from the moment he started. He’s excited to be back in the blue collar and eager to pursue his new dream of becoming a technical trainer.

I’m off to paint the sun room a cheery blue while Annabeth follows Dad around tending to the yard and Cooper keeps an eye on those menacing squirrels. Come out for a visit some time. We’ve got a mason jar of sweet tea itching to meet you.

Annabeth in her princess, unicorn, fairy, mermaid, rainbow, grass and dirt bedroom.
Posted in Our Story

Our Little Piece of Heaven

We are officially home owners again! We closed on our house in Summerville, SC on April 12th. We spent 7 weeks in a condo living out of suitcases. The same things we’d brought with us on our road trip from Colorado. I expected it to be trying but I quickly grew to enjoy the simple purpose in each day. The complex was serene with abundant ponds, fountains, and greenery. Then came the landscape crew every morning at 7am blasting leaf blowers. Hmph… There goes our peaceful rental condo. We did enjoy trying a meal kit for the first time, taking Cooper for regular walks, and Dad coming home for lunch. I’m glad we chose to take in the experience rather than focusing on what we were missing; we flourished in the possibilities found within the emptiness.

Needless to say, we have counted the moments to Closing Day on the same hand that we scratch our head with doubt. We have been balancing between hopeful and hopeless so often here lately. Through it all, we were blessed with a good dose of humility. We found ourselves grateful to be in a condo stocked with dishes and towels. It even had a washer and dryer! I pray that we never forget being humbled by our circumstance. In that space, I remember thanking God for my family’s health. Just taking a minute to recognize something we take for granted that in a second could be taken away and turn comfort into chaos. This modern life shoves you onward, so focused on what you should be accomplishing. Take a full 60 seconds to smile at the memories and appreciate your current circumstance.

Annabeth woke up to rain and just had to take it all in!

It has been three weeks since we closed on this house. T.J. and I feel like we’ve won the lottery. We spend our days in the sun room and evenings in the screened-in porch surrounded by our little oasis while Dad tries his hand at grilling with charcoal. I am in a dream come true being able to decorate each room piece by piece. I’ve either 1) had no clue how or 2) not been able to afford or 3) been too cheap to buy anything full price. I still cringe if I pay full price. We have discovered a couple really neat re-purpose and antique markets. Annabeth loves going through the old books, purses, and toys. She’s started her own collection of treasures. I call them bribes because she earns them by staying next to me and only pointing to things that interest her. I’ve been taking my time digging deep to uncover my style.

We are so happy. T.J. is a breath of fresh air. Can you believe I just said that? He changes into shorts and sandals when he gets home from work. (I promise I’ll take a picture of that for you.) I guess he’s been inhaling too much salty sea air with those T-tops down. I’m sure there will be challenges ahead but in this moment, we are enjoying ourselves.

Reclaimed bowling lane coffee table
Posted in Our Story

Backwards Priorities

We officially sold our house in Colorado last week! Just like the last time we unloaded a house, we bought a 1988 Iroc Z Camaro. That’s right, we’ve done it again. I found a gray T-top Iroc with original red interior, original steering wheel, and original wheels. T.J. was clueless to my scheme. I had him convinced that he’d be getting a commuter car similar to the manual transmission 1999 Nissan Altima he sold just before we moved to South Carolina.

To me, it was fate. We have been anticipating this tour of a replica Santa Maria expected to be in Beaufort, SC. We closed on our house in Colorado on March 28th and the ship was arriving on March 29th. The car was only about 20 minutes from the ship, so my plan was to pull up next to the car and reveal my intentions. I found out the night before that the ship had been delayed due to inclement weather and damage to the mast. I panicked and tried to explain that we should still keep our plans to head out there. T.J. was more interested in checking out a car he’d found and finally going into Charleston for the first time. I blurted out that I had found this car. He thought I was joking until I started pulling up photos and repeating the conversation I had with the owner. I saw a tear or two well up in his eyes, even behind those sunglasses.

This repeat car was also symbolic of our growth. We bought the first one (the first one we owned together) a couple months before we jumped into our first total reno house, less than a year before my Mom passed away, and two years prior to giving birth to our long-awaited daughter. In no time, the car started showing signs of the neglect and ignorance it had experienced from previous owners. We had several conversations about the extensive work that needed to be done. I desperately wanted the car as an opportunity for him to let off steam. We moved so far out that it was impossible to get to the gym and I could tell he needed that release. In an attempt to hold onto his youth and independence, the lies started. Annabeth was a newborn at this point and T.J. worked 12 hours 5 days a week. He was home by 5pm and in bed by 7pm. I pumped exclusively for Annabeth and those 14 months passed by in a cloud of sleeplessness. I’ll take this minute to brag about the 43+ gallons of pumped milk that I donated! I honestly wish I’d spent more time wrapped up in my precious baby and less hooked up to that contraption. Anyway, we both struggled that first year.

I want to make it clear that I have been guilty of this exact same thing, even to this day. Not being able to let go. T.J. fought to revive that red Iroc like he was on a mission to maintain his own sense of self. I know my Mom would cringe hearing me say the “S” word but the whole thing was stupid. Every little thing we’d started to renovate on the house sat unfinished, our pillowy financial situation had a new baby sized dent, and free time was a foreign concept. This was no time to talk me into pouring a concrete foundation in the shop so he could begin the endless project of swapping everything but the new exhaust he’d installed on that car.

Things are different now. I never thought I would give a second thought to a sports car, let alone a reminder of those times. Truth is: We need that reminder of where we’ve been to remember how blessed we are to be here now. That goes both ways. Never forget how blessed you were back then either!

We hold our breath as we watch missed intentions pass us by. The loss of outdated dreams and irrelevant desires consumes our sense of success. I am not a failure for neglecting to fulfill each dream I’ve ever had. Dreams are fluid and I am proud that I’ve had the foresight to leave some behind. I fail at that constantly but I try to remember that dreams fill in the gaps of each individual moment. My dream on Friday was to spend the day rummaging through stores for design inspiration for the house we’re closing on this coming Friday. Annabeth made it clear that she needed closeness and a standstill sense of security. In that moment, my dream morphed into a wish for peace in her oversized heart. She built a beach in her bedroom and turned on her nightlight to watch the stars wave across the ceiling. The day was filled with Annabeth clinging to me like dog hair, to the point of hitting her face on my butt as I took a step back to open a door. I fought my disappointment and spent too many moments distracted by the thoughts in my head. All while my dreams were nuzzled under my armpit being ignored.

This new car is a nod to our new life. May our dreams continue to be renewed with every single breath we take. We pray that the smiles it brings come with a little spark of motivation to not repeat the past but treasure it at the same time.

May we never stop discovering our own sense of self in these moments of being present enough to adjust accordingly. To soak up our dreams as they come true right before our eyes.

Posted in Adventures

Magnolia Plantation

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.

Watching the boats go by

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.

Audubon Swamp Selfie

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.

Now I know why visitors to CO think the deer are domesticated.
Posted in Our Story

All Up In Our Business

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.