Posted in Our Story

Time to speak up

My Mom was fiercely passionate about being a friend to all of God’s children without discrimination. She was born to an American father and a Japanese mother 14 years after World War II ended. 14 years after Japanese Americans were released from concentration camps in the United States. Her eyes would shift to the floor, as her jaw clenched, when she would recall the out lashings of hate she experienced as a child. Bless her for choosing to mold that pain into a steadfast mission of passing on a perspective of inclusion. Recalling my colorful childhood, I never would have imagined my narrow impression of race was naive. Until I moved to Louisiana.

I made a friend the year before I left Baton Rouge who left an imprint on my heart that has yet to fade. She is to blame for my self-confidence and inclination to fight. I insisted she come over to my house and get ready for an evening out. This took days of convincing her that she was welcome in my parent’s home, which I found comical knowing my Mom’s opinions. But when I saw her in her car giving herself a pep talk before walking up the driveway to my house… She was terrified to knock on the door. She was filled with fear to even be stepping foot in my yard. When my Mom reached out to embrace her, I swear the color drained from her face. She told me that her instincts kicked in and she braced herself for my Mom to hit her. And that is why Black Lives Matter to me. Her friendship went beyond any other relationship I have ever had. I regret one thing about leaving Louisiana and it is missing out on being a part of her life.

I worked for community corrections in Denver before I started my current career path as a jester in Annabeth’s court. The inmates of color never seemed to relax in the chair and accept the care being provided. Knuckles wrapped around the arm rest and eyes analyzing each movement, as if anticipating an ambush. Now that’s not to say that white people didn’t get nervous too. The minority inmates had a gentleness that reminded me of a child longing to be loved by someone who causes them immense pain. There was an expectation that they would receive lesser quality or even harmful care. I would talk to them and look them in the eyes. Smile and ask what their children’s names were when tears streamed down their faces because they missed their families. Yes, all lives matter but black lives are hurting. They are scared because they run into people who treat them less than human on a regular basis.

In Colorado, I saw this translate to the Hispanic community too. So. Much. Racism. Here’s where I start to deviate. The “All Lives Matter” slogan is ignorant and redundant, in my opinion. All Lives Matter is EXACTLY the point that the protestors are trying to make. You certainly cannot sum up an entire explanation in a catchy phrase but they are voicing their discontent for people of color being treated as if they DO NOT matter. I’m going to put this in the best way that my white privilege status allows: I hate nothing more than when a mother scoffs at my struggle as an exclusive pumper. She breastfed and her circumstance protected her from the reality I survived for 14 months. Maybe there were extenuating circumstances. Maybe pumping came easily for others. Maybe I used drugs. Maybe I had an arrest record. But why think less of me? Should my trauma be marginalized because you can relate on one aspect of my story? Try a little empathy. Nothing should matter except the fact that I endured something difficult. Give me a hug! What if you were in countless situations when someone put you in a box with a single glance and proceeded to act on hate? Whether it be because of skin color, gender, orientation, status, or even that guy who keeps cooking fish in the microwave, we should all be banding together to support every single person who encounters discrimination.

Racism exists across the board on varying levels for every single one of us. If you claim to see past skin color, then let’s get fired up when we see injustice and take a stand. Keep a color-coded chart of each incident and let me know how lopsided that rainbow looks. Regardless of the murderer or victim’s race, we should be outraged. If you aren’t comfortable speaking up for Black Lives Matter, start a campaign to enforce stricter repercussions for our community defenders who have a history of abusing their power. (By the way, this entire situation should make you uncomfortable.) Speak out against the unions that protect officers who prove time and time again that they are not dedicated to protecting the citizens they serve. Be aware of local events and commit to being perceptive when you are in public. Showing support can be as simple as witnessing a nasty comment and offering an unsolicited kind word. Be human. We are here to love and be loved. Give the rest to God.

Posted in Our Story

Time Flies

Quarantine started the week of St Patrick’s Day for us here in South Carolina. I greeted the stay at home order with a list of projects. I pulled out my can of paint and finished painting my exterior doors that were abruptly abandoned when summer came early last year. The screened in porch has been redecorated with a comfy new lounge area. Yard cleanup was in full force back in March. I pruned my hydrangeas and watch with pride as they are now blooming fabulously. Walking out in my pajamas to empty coffee grounds on the bare branches has been rewarded with rich periwinkle blossoms. We even accepted the challenge of pool maintenance by installing a small above ground pool for Annabeth. The neighbors brought the Easter Bunny to life by filling and hiding eggs for Annabeth twice! We shared a social distancing Easter dinner by setting up tables on either side of the fence and feasting. My birthday was so special! Fresh picked strawberries from a neighbor in the morning, a driveway donut surprise in the afternoon, and a fish taco carport dinner next door.

But I lost my steam a couple weeks ago. I spent the first few weeks supporting local restaurants but as the scale crept up, I started May out by committing to cooking meals again. I feel glued to the cutting board and buried under the repeating dirty dishes. T.J. works 2pm-midnight, so I pack 2 meals for him in the morning to get him through the long shift. We eat a late breakfast together, then Annabeth and I eat lunch and dinner without him. Annabeth may be a challenging kid but she is an excellent eater. Grilled fish, steamed broccoli, cherry tomatoes, and salad are her favorite foods at the moment. Fresh fruit of any kind is a treat for her. I dream of ordering a cheese pizza while mindlessly chopping every vegetable in the kitchen for her meal like deja vu. “Mom, do we have any brussel sprouts? You never make brussel sprouts any more!” I know, my struggle is real. I would much rather be playing outside with her waiting on delivery than in the kitchen for hours alone! I wish we were busy with flag football, reading & painting with the hog at Charles Towne (an active excavation site), yoga at the library, storytime at the local indoor play place, discovery beach walks, and scouting antique stores. Instead, I glare at the cans of paint in my bedroom as I defy all opportunities to be productive. I am throwing an adult sized tantrum. It’s time to pull out the paint brushes and get back to it, I guess. But first, I’m off to slice and roast some zuchinni for Annabeth’s lunch.

Posted in Our Story

Untitled (intentionally)

I’ve been struggling with myself lately. My sister called in the middle of the day last week simply to be heard. Her words could have been my own. “I no longer have my own identity.” Living 1,690 miles away from her, I jumped on my Amazon app to find the perfect item capable of reviving her sense of self. What did I find? Mama Bear paraphernalia, kitchen gadgets, wine accessories, and relaxation goodies. All things that I am certain we could scroll through for hours finding quite a few to add to our wish lists. Not a single one I found related to my sister as a person outside of her current circumstance. Not one. I found junk to help her unwind from a rough day with 2 toddlers. Practical stuff for her obligations as a cook and homemaker. I saw a pair of earrings that struck me as her style but I didn’t even click on them. Being a Mom to my own 3 year old, I know better than to gift her another reason for her baby to tug at her body or to serve as a reminder for how long it has been since an escape AKA date night. There I was helpless in my effort to bring her comfort and left with a growing awareness of my own detachment from who I formerly knew as myself.

I just keep thinking: I am beginning to comprehend what motivated my Mom. I know that if she were here, I would be grateful for her in a more complex way now that I have a feisty minion of my own. Since she is no longer a resident of this Earth, I have been blessed with a newfound bond to her. The complication of our relationship has never been a secret and I think that friction would have held up a wall as long as she was alive. In a strange twist, her death blasted a pathway between us. Without her persistent pull to rescue me from repeating her fears, I can see her and I believe she is finally able to see me. With every step I come closer to uncovering who she was, I see a woman tangled in the veils of being a wife and torn from herself by the ever changing obligations as a mother. I’ve spoken frankly to the people closest to her throughout the progressing phases of her life.  Had those people been able to share stories of her with each other, they’d uncover a stranger too. She buried who she was under layers of other people’s expectations. She lost sight of herself and became obsessed with “properly” filling her roles.

The fear of falling into the grooves worn by her path remains my challenge, even without her presence. Ironically, the traits that gave her the most grief bring me comfort. Let me clarify. Given the choice and without a drop of hesitation, I would take her as a grandmother to my daughter over her absence. I am here attempting to brighten this situation similar to the way she would turn to the seemingly defeated party and offer solace. My sister and I are in her shoes. Lost. Not just because my barely size 6 foot would be swallowed by her size 9 clogs but a ‘disappearing from my own reflection in the mirror’ kind of lost. As I bantered with my sister, “No one told us it would be like this!” Lonely and alone. Sounds redundant but being lonely and alone are not identical. Alone is being without someone else. Lonely is not having companionship. I am more often than not lonely while sitting right next to my husband. Not alone, just lonely. Same goes for being with my daughter. Not alone, just lonely and lost in my own skin.

You are not alone. I am here in South Carolina crawling through the trenches with you. You are virtually not alone. I call you all to lift up your fellow Mamas. She’s that sexy lady using her forearms to push the buggy while coaxing a grumpy mini human to be pleased with the samples of popped pea crisps- baked, not fried. That one next to you with her previously silky hair twisted atop her head as a display of her altered priorities. I think we can all find a comfortable venue to provide support and connect with others in similar situations. Unlike my former self, I am unfazed replying to my daughter asking what I’d like to do with the confident reply, “Bang my head against the wall.” The passing Mom snickered with full eye contact and whispered, “I’m right there with you.” She was hunched over a buggy filled with carefully curated picks. Her new life’s passion- selecting the ideal items for her family based on research, financial responsibility, and social influence. Be her friend. For that moment in passing, a season of tee ball, or a continued comradery through traded date nights and excited Ladies’ Nights painting wall decor. Not just fellow moms but anyone within your reach who is fighting a battle familiar to you. I’m pretty sure we can all find another in a related uncharted territory carving out a path while recreating their own sense of self.

I tease about volunteering to teach an unconventional maternity class about your life after giving birth. Becoming a mother did not come naturally to me and I did not cope gracefully with the introduction of my daughter. I believe that many parents experience some degree of postpartum depression and we should acknowledge the impact of adjusting to these phases in our lives. We all are moving through unique reactions to the situations life throws at us. I am continually recovering from an evolving dynamic in my family since my mother’s passing in 2014. Through recent stories of my Mom, I see her as a proud and loving person for the first time in my life. Her death also sparked the loss of my Dad, as I knew him. He disassociated from the remaining family unit and I am sadly accepting his new occasional presence in my life. As a result, I have no where to go home to. My house is suddenly the primary home in my life. Even married and with a kid, I envisioned ultimately going home to my parent’s house as I worked in the background to create a home of my own. Hosting holidays in my house feels more like playing pretend than warmly welcoming friends and family to celebrate in a cozy established home. I took for granted how blessed I was to be under one roof with the people I’ve shared a lifetime of memories with in a house that held an irreplaceable familiarity. It’s awkward to be in this place building my own young family’s memories without the ability to recharge in the embrace of a home filled with the memories that formed me.

Take a full deep breath and give yourself grace. The journey to conquering our circumstance is swimming with every facet of emotion. You may be stepping in some ugly stuff right now or basking in the warmth of your season. Take a second to absorb the fluid onward motion of your life. I spent too much of Annabeth’s first years swallowed by the depressing state I found myself in. But perspective certainly is everything. I am not slipping further away from me. There is nothing to let go of because I have taken the reins and I am transforming day by day, allowing the heartache to stretch me to seek a fresh perspective that will propel me through my next phase in life. Simply making the decision to no longer regret growing apart from who I once was gives me the grace to fall in love with myself all over again. I am not a shell of my former self, disappearing with each role I take on. I am blessed by the challenges that are carving depth and strength into my character.

Bring on that Mama Bear mug! I am beaming proud of that chunk of myself who gets to be a Mom. I will connect with my situations on a more personal level and take advantage of the endless moments that serve as opportunities to define me. I will develop my own expectations of the roles I fill and mindfully immerse my being into all aspects of who I am. I am Momma. I am a wife. I am a neighbor and a friend. Enjoying my circumstance is loving who I am being molded into along the way.

Posted in Our Story

Fall into Winter

The holidays consumed us this year. Intentionally. T.J.’s schedule allows us to be a family and we are basking in the time we have together. Annabeth’s tee ball league ended just before Halloween. T.J. volunteered to play catch with the kids at first practice and was assistant coach from then on. I giggled as I watched preschoolers more fascinated with the red dirt and bugs than T.J.’s attempts to corral them into fielding the ball. The big news: We made our first friends through some chatting on the bleachers! T.J. and I cannot remember the last time we made a new friend that wasn’t via work or school. How sad. Honestly, our sweet neighbors in Hudson are the last friends we can remember making. I’m not sure if that was their choice or just victims of circumstance.

Our last couple months were filled with dancing in the booths of Taco Bell and Raising Cane’s, peeing in the backyard, playing with Barbie dolls, and a developing obsession with Disney+. Annabeth chose to go as Shazam for Halloween, after failed attempts to convince her that Moana/Maui/Hei Hei or Ariel/King Triton/Sebastian were superior choices. She corrected anyone who guessed she was Shazam saying, “We are Shazam FAMILY.” We now pray over dinner with our hands stacked and end it with, “Shazam!” instead of an Amen. We made it to a Fall Festival at the park and Hocus Pocus movie that followed but cold temps brought us home early. It’s rough when your 71 degree sunshine drops into a chilling 48! We also found the cutest Harvest Festival put on by neighboring churches and joined our new friends from tee ball in the fun. The kids jumped in a bouncy house, decorated mini pumpkins, joined in on a cake walk, got tattoos and sno cones, and played countless games for treats. We also joined them for Trick-or-Treating on Halloween because our neighborhood is over 55 years old and so are most of it’s residents. We did see one large group hopping on and off a hayride pulled by an ATV stopping at the few houses that were lit up as we visited a couple of the neighbors we know before heading home for the night.

The first weekend in November, we surprised Annabeth with Disney On Ice at the North Charleston Coliseum. I was proud of myself for remembering to get her dressed in costume for the event. There is no greater shame than Annabeth’s reaction to being the only one not dressed properly for the occasion, especially when it comes to a princess theme. We had her convinced we were getting ready for dinner at Cane’s, so she was stoked when we revealed that ice skating Disney princesses were a part of the evening. T.J. and I ended up being surprised at how much we enjoyed the performance. Annabeth was on the edge of her seat nearly the entire time! Win, win for all. Despite the distraction, the promise of Cane’s stood fast. Chicken and crinkle cut fries drenched in Cane’s sauce were the ultimate finale for our Southern Belle in training.

The following weekend we spent at the Coastal Carolina Fair, which was held at an event park just 4 miles from our house. It was nicely organized and we set our sights on the 2 sections designated for kiddie rides. My eyes brimmed with tears as she braved going on her first ride all by herself! The only ride we went on together was the Ferris Wheel. Annabeth will never let Dad live down forgetting the cheese sauce for her first ever curly fries. Man, oh man. She was so disappointed. She refused to eat them no matter how many ketchup drenched potatoes Dad offered.

T.J.’s 38th birthday was on November 23rd. (I get to tease him about his impending 40th birthday next year!) Let me tell you, hunting for a gift for Daddy was tough. Annabeth and I wanted to get these tennis shoes he has been keeping his eye on. We waited for the perfect time to make the trek down to the Tanger Outlets only to discover that they were sold out of his size! I panicked and Annabeth was in tears. We scrambled through Costco searching for a last minute gift when Annabeth excitedly exclaimed, “The Queen’s tea, Mom!” She jabbered on about how much Dad loves the Queen’s tea and just had to wrap it up for his birthday. “The Queen’s tea will be perfect for Dad,” she demanded. Amused by her enthusiasm, I eventually locked my eyes on the purple box with a crown on the label. Crown Royal: The Queen’s Tea. You should have seen Annabeth beam with pride when she handed him that present! The best part is, I can’t remember the last time he had Crown. We ended the day by having our new friends over for lasagna and cheesecake.

We finished off November with Thanksgiving at our neighbor’s house. T.J. smoked a gorgeous brined turkey stuffed with onions, oranges, and apples. We made the mistake of slathering our last one with a compound butter. Needless to say, we learned why you should lift the skin and rub butter directly onto the meat. My stomach can hardly contain its contents at the sight of a featherless bird. I will not be massaging a headless turkey under a dermal sheet any time soon. My biggest feat to date is using a wooden spoon to shove cornbread stuffing into the carcass last Thanksgiving! It was a lovely meal and we were so grateful to be able to share it with our neighbor. She watches Annabeth on occasion and we check on her puppies when needed. The value of friendship surely has increased with age.

This year has brought a revived focus on thankfulness. We are sad to be a 3.5 hour plane ride away from our friends and family in Colorado but South Carolina has been so good for us. We feel alive here. This place, this circumstance has refreshed our souls and opened our hearts.

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 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 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.