Sunday, September 2, 2007

Learning Southernese

OK, so maybe I'm not cut out for this blogging-thing after all! It seems that real bloggers post a lot more writing than I seem to be doing. My daughter-in-law who has two little boys and a new home in a new city seems to be much more prolific than I when it comes to blogging. She is, however, what I call an "RCP" (Recovering Career Person). Rachel has recently become a full-time stay-at-home mom, and is just learning the wonders of actually having the time and energy not only to spend quality time with her family, but to indulge herself with a little "me time" also. She has become quite the photographer and blogger at I love seeing the pictures of their family and reading about the fun things they are doing and learning in their new home in Tucson.

And so I'm thinking--what might people want to know about what we are doing here in South Carolina? I loved relaying information and pictures from Ireland when Michael and The Boys were on their golfing trip. I had lots of fun sorting through the many pictures I took of Gabby, Molly, and David's visit, of course, and I'm sure more of those will show up on the website one of these days. But since all of my family and old friends are "Yankees", maybe you all would like to know something about how we're learning to be Southerners.

One of our biggest challenges has been learning to speak what I call "Southernese". Lots of one syllable words here are pronounced with at least a two-syllable--or more--inflection. "Like" and "this" roll slowly off the tongue and become "lii-iike" and thii-iss". My first name now has three syllables: "Jay-Ann-Net", and Michael is "Ma-ahh-Kuul". Sweet Tea ( a true staple of life here in the South) has not two, but four syllables: "suh-weet tay-ee". Of course, dropping a syllable is also a part of Southernese--Coca Cola is "co cola" here in the Low Country. I haven't figured out the syllables on "purtinear" yet, but I do know that it means something like being close to whatever I asked about. ("I'm "purtinear" done with this beer--y'all want 'nother?")

Don't get me wrong...I love living in the South. For the most part, the food is fabulous as my broadening body can attest. Before moving here, I ate sweet potatoes with a little brown sugar stirred in and marshmallows on top for Thanksgiving dinner. This past year I have eaten sweet potato chips, fries, salad, pie and an assortment of sweet potato casseroles with pecans (pee-cans, not pe-chans) all over the top. The seafood is awesome here in Murrells Inlet, the self-advertised "Seafood Capital of South Carolina". Fresh grouper and shrimp are plentiful and reasonably-priced, and it wouldn't be Monday at the Dead Dog Saloon without a couple of pounds of cold peel-and-eats with our friend Pete's more-horseradish-than-ketchup-sauce! And we are no longer on a quest for the world's best onion rings--now we are searching for the best lump crabcakes. So far Frank's Outback in Pawley's Island is at the top of the list.

My real Southern friends--those who were raised in the South--are appalled that I still have not developed a taste for grits. My friend Priscilla keeps trying to tell me how good the Shrimp and Grits are at various restaurants, but I can't help thinking that it is a waste of perfectly good shrimp to mix them with grits! "Frogmore Stew" sounded perfectly awful--I couldn't see liking frog of any kind in my stew, let alone "more frog". Ever the adventurous one, however, I was pleased to discover that "frogmore stew" is actually a wonderful sort of Southern "Bouillabaisse" made with fresh shrimp, hot sausages, red potatoes and fresh corn-on-the-cob. (Must use the cob, too--very important!)Every good Southern cook has their handed-down-for-generations recipe for frogmore stew and for "bog". When I first heard of "bog", I expected something with cranberries--as from a cranberry bog. Bog here, however, proved to be another sort of stew made with chicken, sausage, and rice. There are as many ways to make bog and frogmore stew as there are Southern ladies--and each one is convinced their family's recipe is the best!

She Crab soup has been a delightful discovery, though I've yet to find anyone who can tell me what makes a "she-crab" better than a "he-crab" for this creamy rich soup. Grouper bites are a staple of any good appetizer menu, as are oysters any way, shape or form. I love oysters any way I can get them, but Michael still adamantly refuses to eat them. Those of you who know him well remember his rule: he eats nothing that in its' natural state was a "filter". That, of course leaves out oysters, clams, liver, etc. 'Seems to me he is missing out on some very good taste treats, but that's his loss.

Of course, real Low Country food is fried. Fried fish, fried apples, fried green tomatoes (Yum!), fried green beans (questionable), fried dill pickles (no thanks!), and of course the ever-present fried hush puppies. I'm firmly convinced there is no redeeming value to a hush puppy--but gosh, they sure taste good with honey butter! Along with okra and collard greens, I have discovered "chow-chow", for which there are also hundreds of recipes, each with its own special "secret" ingredient. It is a sort of relish made with cabbage, onions, green and red peppers, spices, and lots of salt. It is traditionally served atop a bowl of pinto beans, but I prefer to pile it on my hot dog. It's sort of like sauerkraut, but not really--similar, yet different! And did you know that in the South hot dogs are always served with cole slaw? Not on the side, you understand--on the hot dog! Quite tasty, actually! And I was nearly thrown off the Plantation one day when I suggested that Hellman's mayonnaise might be just as good as Duke's Mayonnaise. What was I thinking??!

And finally, let me assure you that all males are not named "Bubba" here in our new home, and not all women have double first names like Mary Elizabeth or Laura Sue. Southern hospitality is alive and well, and I must say it is rather nice to be called "Mam", and I don't even mind when one of the "good ol' boys" calls me "Baby Doll"! Somehow it seems just fine coupled with his fine "southern gentleman" manners. I do think the phrase I like most and have found most helpful is "y'all"--it just works so nicely into any social setting. Whether it is the kids at school, or the members at the club, or Michael, "y'all" just seems to fit. But then y'all knew that--din't ya?

Friday, August 24, 2007

Late Night Ramblings

Today was not such a good day. Sad news about loved ones has reached us, and I am sodden with melancholy tonight. I awakened at 3:00 this morning with dark feelings that I could not seem to shake. We had received news last night that another of our family members has been diagnosed with breast cancer. Early stages. We expect a good prognosis. Still scary.

Michael has three brothers. Of the four wives of those brothers, two have been stricken with this vile disease. Are these the statistics now I wonder? Is it the fate of two out of every four women to develop breast cancer? A little research tells me that the actual numbers are not quite this high, but I consider the number of women I know both casually and intimately that are affected by it, and think the "stats" may be wrong.

Why these two younger-than-I vibrant ladies and not me? Do I just have good genes? Have I taken better care of myself? (I know the answer to that one--NOT!) Am I just lucky? (Most likely.) Or perhaps I truly am blessed. (If so, I don't know why.) I can't possibly answer that question tonight, and I doubt if I'll have any more insight tomorrow. I just know that sometimes we get laden with worries and woes about our everyday lives and the lives of those close to us and we lose sight of the real picture. The stresses of our day-to-day existence begin to weigh us down. And then a couple of days like yesterday and today come along, and I am humbled by my self-absorption. Shame on me.

Today more sad news. We received word that the son of one of our oldest, dearest friends had passed away. The young man's life has always been a struggle, and tonight we pray that he is at last at peace. And we pray that his parents, our friends, will finally have some peace as well. Their lives have not been smooth these past few years, and though they are many, many miles away, I long to hold them and in some small way comfort them. Hopefully they feel our love and know that we grieve with them.

And so the sadness lingers on tonight. I am sad that my friends are feeling the most intense loss of all, the loss of a child. I am sad that my sisters-in-law whom we love so much have to cope with disease and the unknown. I am sad that I am not closer to any of them to hold their hand or to cry with them, or perhaps to just make them smile. Why is it that sorrow is so easy to express and yet so hard to tell? (Does that make sense to anyone except me? Probably not. It was just a thought that came to me and wanted to get out.)

Tonight I want to sleep. All night. No bad thoughts. No bad dreams. No dark melancholia. No 3:00 AM wanderings. But first I want my friends and loved ones who are hurting--and also my friends and loved ones who are happy and content this night to know that I love them and share their pain, their fear, their sorrow, their joy, their peace. From the haunting beauty here in the Low country of South Carolina to the plains of the Midwest and the mountains and deserts of the West, please know that this night I am reaching out to you all. It is true that the words we most want to say are difficult to find sometimes. Their journey begins far, far away in the heart. But Dear Ones, just know that they are there, nestled up against the love.

Love and Blessings to you all.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Sunday Night Reflections

I have found that it is very difficult to blog with tears in your eyes! Those of you who know me best are surely not surprised that it has taken me this long to post my reflections on the past couple of weeks. Oh, I started several times, but the tears always got in my way! I wondered more than once "where is the good in goodbye?"! Then today as I sat down at the computer I realized just how lucky I am to have something that makes goodbye so hard.

We had such a wonderful time with Molly, Gabby, and David these past two weeks--our days were full of sunshine, and we made the most of them. We spent lots of time at the beach, of course, but also enjoyed many of the other treasures of this area, and thoroughly enjoyed just being together.

Although the beach was definitely our favorite place, we also did lots of other things. At Gabby's constant prompting, Papa took her and Molly fishing at a couple of different ponds. No fish were caught, but not due to a lack of effort! We decided that it was too hot even for fish! The turtles, however, were most interested in Gabby's spinner bait, and she enjoyed luring them to the dock and feeding them her Life cereal. At one time she counted 20 turtles of various sizes in the water at her feet.

We all played golf one day at Wachesaw Plantation. Gabby is quite the little golfer! She wowed us all with some of her drives, but we laughed at how she really just wanted to hit it into the sand bunkers! And like her Grandmother, her putting technique could use some work! My nickname may be "Walkin Putt", but Gabby's might be "Runnin' Putt"! Molly, as always, only wants to hit off the tee box, then pick the ball up and go to the next tee! Her attention span hasn't improved much when it comes to golf. After some time with Michael on the lesson tee, David's swing has now gone from a 3 or 4-plane swing to the preferred one-plane swing--some of the time! He hit some great shots and we termed the lesson a success when we completed the 18th hole and no one was hurt nor were any windows broken--at least none that we know of!

We spent one day visiting historic Charleston and Fort Sumter, where the first shots of the Civil War were fired. David loves history, and we all really enjoyed the boat trip through Charleston Harbor out to the fort. Gabby seemed quite enthralled by the guns and cannons at the fort, and loved spotting dolphins in the harbor. Because it was so very hot, we drove through downtown Charleston and viewed the old lovely mansions from the comfort of the air-conditioned car. I'm not sure any of us would have survived the recommended walking tour! We'll save that for another trip. Also saved for another time was the visit to Hampton Plantation and the miles-long dirt road to the St. James Santee Church --just too hot! The cool breezes of the beach kept calling to us!

We made two visits to Brookgreen Gardens. Even though it was a bit hot and steamy, the beauty of the grounds, the sculptures, the wildlife, and of course the magnificent live oaks deserved more than one visit. We took the boat excursion and learned all about rice growing and the history of the four plantations that make up the 9,000 acres that are Brookgreen Gardens today. Every time I go there, I marvel at the vision of Archer and Anna Hyatt Huntington to have made that and Huntington Beach such a treasure for future generations to enjoy.

Our last day at the beach was a spectacular one: The tide was going out when we got there, and the seas were quite calm. Gabby and David spent hours in the water discovering clams, trying to catch fish with their hands, and digging giant snails. We all marveled at an extremely large Horseshoe crab that came to visit as the two of them sat in the shallows. Horseshoe crabs are so amazing--they are literally unchanged for 500 million years--truly living fossils! We all felt as if we had been blessed to have witnessed one just swimming along, checking things out, inspecting the beach.

Early Wednesday morning all three got on a plane and headed to Atlanta, then home to Utah and Seattle. Of course the silence is deafening around here and I've been in a blue funk since--but I keep reminding myself not to cry because it is over, but to smile because it happened! We look forward now to having the other children come for a visit, and we can introduce them, too, to the wonders of the Low Country.

And I'm thinking tonight that missing someone gets easier every day because even though it's one day further from the last time you saw each other, it's one day closer to the next time you will. And someone, I don't remember who, once told me that "love is missing someone whenever you're apart, but somehow feeling warm inside because you're close in heart. " I miss all of them, but I feel very close in heart to my family tonight. Love and blessings to you all!

Friday, August 10, 2007

Carolina Girls!

Gabby and her Mom have always been a joy to photograph and today I give thanks for the wonders of digital photography! I can just keep snapping and snapping and sometimes some of the most magical things appear! Gabby on the beach at Huntington State Park is a joy to behold. Despite the unfortunate encounter with a not-so-friendly jellyfish, she is so at home in the waters of the Atlantic and on this beach. Her curious nature and love of all living things makes my heart sing.

Of all the lovely places that our lives have taken us, this unspoiled beach in South Carolina may be the place we were supposed to be all along. Who could have guessed that the road through South Dakota, Nebraska, Utah, California, Washington, and Colorado was going to lead us here? But my heart is happy here in the warm salt air, and after only a year, it so feels like home. My only regret is that our family is not closer to spend more time with us. But we are thankful for these wonderful days with Molly and Gabby, and now David has come to join the fun! Soon Chad, Rachel, and the boys will pay us a visit, and perhaps even Jason and Brayden will get to come before too many months go by. So this week we will appreciate the sunstreaked faces of those loved ones that are here enjoying the beauty of the Lowcountry!

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Changing and Not-So-Changing Things

Although I know that change is really the only constant thing in our lives, it occurred to me as I watched my girls at the beach yesterday, that some things do indeed never change. They both have always loved all things associated with water. Like her mother before her, Gabby is on swim team and dive team, and she truly seems more at home near and in the water than anywhere else. Both Molly and Gabby swam before they walked--always underwater, with eyes wide open, and big smiles on their faces!

Gabby has always been fascinated by the creatures of the sea, and is able to discuss at length the habits of whales, dolphins, and shellfish galore! She is always coming up with one interesting fact or another about life in the Deep. (How much do you all know about the "Moon Snail"? Gabby will definitely fill you in on anything you would like to know about their rather vicious habits!) Yesterday she learned to ride the waves on a wave rider and on a boogie board. Her enthusiasm and determination to master both was a delight to watch. And isn't it great that just digging in the sand still holds such appeal for children and adults alike?

So I'm thinking this morning about changing things and not-so-changing things: Little blond girls in the water; little blond girls building sand castles; little blond girls riding waves on boards, rafts, tubes, and water skis; and even though little blond girls may be grow up and no longer be blond, they still embrace that magical love of all things associated with water. And, of course, one other thing that never changes--Molly on the phone! Could we really have survived a life without the ever-present cell phone? But truly, sitting on this beautiful South Carolina beach I felt more than ever that the past, present, and future mingle and pull us backward, forward, or fix us in the present. We really are made up of layers.

Friday, August 3, 2007

The Girls are Here!

I am happy to report that Molly and Gabby arrived last night--on time, and with all their luggage! What a surprise, after all of the horror stories I've heard (and Michael has experienced) in recent days about airline travel! We were thrilled to see them--it has been February in Wyoming since we have been together. Much too long. And the temperature is over 100 degrees warmer today than it was on that Groundhog Day. Seriously! The morning that Brayden was born it was 20 below zero. Today it is 85. You all know I love Wyoming and the West, but I must say, I prefer the 85 degrees, even with the humidity!

As I write this, it is 10:30 on Friday morning, and I have the car packed with the beach chairs, towels and coolers. Unfortunately, you can see from the photo that Miss Gabrielle appears to be on Seattle time. She and Bunny are still snoozing soundly. I did manage to awaken her mother, though, and surely Ms Gabby will arise soon. We are going to spend some time at the beach today, although the afternoon showers that seem to appear all too regularly this time of year promise to grace us with their presence a bit earlier than usual.

Michael is working today, of course, but we will get him to the beach one day soon, too. David arrives next Wednesday. We are so excited to have at least some of our family with us. We are anxious to show them the beauty and the rich history of this wonderful new state that we now call home. I'll try to keep you all posted with pictures throughout the next couple of weeks!

Monday, July 30, 2007

Sunset on the 18th at Doonbeg

I love this picture of some of the boys on the 18th hole at Doonbeg. It was late in the evening--around 9:30 PM, and the beauty of the setting sun reflecting off the sea onto the green takes my breath away. Nelson appears to be contemplating something very serious. Now it could be that he had just missed a putt, or he could be just waiting for their 4th to finally finish putting, or--I'll let you all decide your own interpretation of the picture. Whatever it is--it is beautiful, and I believe it is a good representation of The Boys' entire journey to Ireland. The beauty, the history, the fellowship of the game are all reflected here in the late evening shadows.

Their return Saturday night was smooth and uneventful. Boys, luggage, and clubs all arrived in Myrtle Beach intact and on time. They were all a bit tired, of course, but their wind-burned faces were smiling and happy. I know for Michael it was the trip of a lifetime. They couldn't say enough about the quality of the hotels they stayed in, the kindness and delightful spirit of the Irish people, and most of all the marvelous golf courses. They were blessed with a few days of wonderful weather early in the week, but they also experienced the true blustery winds and rains for which Irish golf is so famous. You know it is said that it only rains twice a year in Ireland: August through April and May through July! But our Wachesaw Warriors are proud to say that they never quit--through howling wind and pelting raindrops. (Except for four who finally gave up the last two holes in the squall at Old Head--but those four shall remain nameless here and their secret is forever safe!)

Michael has the most beautiful pictures documenting each day's golf course and the countryside, including castles and ruins aplenty for me to ogle over! He promises to compile a CD of the very best ones and I'm encouraging him to write a brief commentary for each one. (Do any of you really think Michael could be "brief" about something he is so passionate about?!) But truly, I would love for you all to see them. I'm not sure that any other place could have so much beauty and history as does this Land of the Leprechauns.

Molly and Gabby are coming later this week for a two-week visit, and David is coming to join them next week. We are excited to see at least some of our family, and will be surely posting some pictures of their first visit to South Carolina! I hope you all are keeping up with Chad, Rachel, Jake and Brodie via Rachel's blog. She's got some pretty cute pictures of the boys and their new home in Tucson.