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 Adventures

Beach Refresh

What do you do when you have a few free days in the coldest month of the year? Go to the beach, of course! That honestly had more to do with hotel prices and unexpected time off. We twisted the need for some family time before Dad starts his new job into an early celebration for Annabeth’s upcoming birthday. I found a hotel for $52/night and we were off to explore Myrtle Beach for our first time.

T.J. gave his 2 week notice to Cummins at the end of January. They do not allow employees on their way out to perform repairs in fear of sabotage or subpar work. His district manager even told him that this is “going to be a very long 2 weeks” for him. Instead of letting him go, he worked as a janitor for an entire week while the remaining techs sat around without a single truck in the shop. He contacted HR on the Monday following and was informed that they have no knowledge of his termination of employment. So, he sat down and insisted that the paperwork be filed before he continue to paint lines on the shop floor. I hate to use the phrase but that place truly is a shit show. They had no Branch Manager and no Shop Manager. The truck shop was run solely by a Foreman who had been reluctantly promoted a few months prior, just before the Shop Manager was fired. Once the paperwork was completed, HR informed them that common practice is to let the employee go but his Foreman and District Manager would not. T.J. walked out on Tuesday after an 8 hour day of waiting on them to give him instruction and did not return. When he stopped by to pick up his toolbox, he found out that corporate fired all but one employee in the parts department without notice and gave them one week’s pay. The remaining employee was immediately required to work 10-12 hour days and cover the duties of 5 employees by herself. Cummins has taken a nose dive from their esteemed perch in T.J.’s realm of respect. This is not only a result of his experience as an employee but the refusal to support their pickup truck engines in any aspect.

I had already been peeking at hotels along the coast to surprise Annabeth and T.J. and take advantage of the off season. Recognizing his deflated posture, I jumped to book a well deserved mini escape. We woke up Wednesday morning, packed our bags, and followed Hwy 17 to Myrtle Beach. Check in wasn’t until 4pm, so we made a stop at an Irish Pub for lunch. Best. Food. Ever. Just passing by, it looks like an unassuming biker bar connected to a bright blue tattoo parlor. I’ve always found it strange that there’s a billboard above advertising the best Irish food around. Now I know why. We pulled in and the front of the bar actually faces the parking lot, so from the street all you see is the smoking deck. T.J. had the prime rib sandwich with an addicting horseradish sauce and I shared a corned beef, cabbage, and mashed potato plate with Annabeth. Perfect beginning to our little refresh.

We arrived at the hotel promptly for check in. The excitement began with a goodie bag for Cooper with treats and poop bags, a coupon book, and our room key gave us access to a movie rental box. Dad wanted to rest for a bit but Annabeth was naked before he had the chance to close his eyes. I wiggled her into her swimsuit and we corralled her towards the dunes as she greeted each and every stranger, “I am going to the beach!” She jumped with joyous anticipation and did not slow down until she reached the water. At which point, she pulled me into the ocean approaching the freezing cold waves with a willingness to be drawn into them. She took breaks on her belly imitating a mermaid as the water lapped around her singing giggles. Attempts to lure her away from the water with a search for seashells was a fail, so our path back to the hotel was tearful.

T.J. and I have never been able to envision ourselves as regulars at the beach but this trip pushed us over the edge. We had genuine fun. Even in the off season, there were plenty of restaurants and entertainment options open. We went on the Sky Wheel right on the boardwalk along the beach. Our hotel even offered us a coupon for one free admission! The attendants gave us an extra go-round since we were the only ones on the ride. Wonder Works Museum was a gigantic hit for all three of us. We are eager to go back there. I was expecting the food to be average due to it being a tourist town with few visitors but we enjoyed every meal. We had the most authentic Mexican food since we’ve been here at the cutest Taqueria in downtown Georgetown while browsing a listing for a house built in 1775 on land once owned by a signer of the Declaration of Independence. We may have also tossed around the idea of investing in a condo at one of the adorable beach resorts.

I spent the drive back home babbling about how our 3 night stay transformed my detest for sand&sea into a glimmer of the serenity we formerly sought in the Rocky Mountains. Buckets of memories were made in that short trip. T.J. taught himself how to swim- from flailing to a nearly smooth glide. Annabeth (with a life vest on) swam unassisted across the entire pool! Typically, I spend the entire trip agonizing over how each grain of sand goes that extra mile to find its way into items I didn’t even bring with us to the beach! Instead, I was making a list to prepare a grab-and-go beach gear bag for future exploration. What an interesting parallel to Dad’s return to Penske. A dreaded experience turned refreshingly hopeful.

As I recall the defeating emotions of our transition from Colorado to South Carolina, I am thankful for the resilience we’ve acquired through that painful process. Our leaps of faith have since been taken blindly with open arms. The reward is an immeasurable sense of comfort in the most uncertain situations. We believe this approach sets you up for a future filled with wonder and wander. May you stray from the predictable and catch yourself with a grin that oozes from a joyful heart.

Posted in Adventures

New Year New/Old Job

T.J. is making a comeback as a Maintenance Supervisor for Penske Truck Lease. I am less than enthusiastic about this but T.J. is hopeful. Annabeth’s first years on this planet were tough for me. T.J.’s shop manager was injured a couple of months after Annabeth was born and he was thrown into the position. Zero recognition. Zero compensation. They even demanded that he account for his time repairing trucks to cover the time he spent managing the shop. This meant that he had to do 8 hours worth of repairs plus his management responsibilities every single day in a max of 8 hours! Depending on weather, he would spend up to 2 hours on his commute each way. He was announced as the next Maintenance Supervisor with no consent from him and told that they did not even expect him to be able to fulfill the responsibilities. This also meant 10 hour work days that turned into 16 hour days during the month of December. When I say that he nearly missed Annabeth’s first Christmas, I am not exaggerating. He was coming home at 5pm, going to sleep at 7pm, and waking up at 3am on a good day. I was an exclusive pumping new Mom isolated in a 794 square foot house in a rural town of about 1,500 residents.

Here we are in a new circumstance and T.J. is ready to put back on the Penske hat. I pray this will not be a repeat of the past. Those were the darkest years of my life and one of the main reasons we moved to South Carolina. We are in a different world now. The shop is 5 miles away from our house and T.J. has a fresh perspective to address some of the issues that were within his control. Fingers crossed that the new management makes this job nothing like it was back in Colorado.

January was busy for Annabeth too! We took her to the Pirate and Mermaid event at Magnolia Gardens after swim lessons one Saturday. Dad even made her a pirate hat to complete her requested “Bad Guy Pirate Mermaid” costume. She even got to make her own sea shell necklace. We had a great time and plan on getting a membership the next time we go. They have regular events that are perfect for Annabeth plus it’s a must see place for visitors! Come on down to see America’s Oldest Formal Gardens, a plantation, and a swamp.

The flowers are blooming and we are going to get up to 81° today for the first time since Fall. Bugs come with the warmer weather and Annabeth’s shrieks of terror can be heard down the block. That doesn’t stop me from pushing her outside with a water bottle and insisting she play outside. Maybe I should convince her that I hate when she plays outside… I bet I wouldn’t be able to keep her away from the backdoor.

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