Saturday, December 31, 2011

Slow Down!

It's the last day of 2011 and I am sitting here at the kitchen table wondering where did the year go. Time passes so quickly, it seems like just yesterday that we were anxiously awaiting the dawn of a new millenium and yet we have greeted eleven new years since.

I chuckle out loud to myself this morning reflecting upon that landmark New Year of 2000. At the time, we were making preparations and taking precautions for what many feared would cause computers to crash, power grids to fail and chaos to ensue. Even the most grounded of us found ourselves watching anxiously as the New Year dawned far away in lands like Samoa. News services had reporters stationed around the globe, covering the events as the millenium arrived in all of the time zones of the world. By the time that the ball dropped in Times Square, most of the doomsayers amongst us had relinquished and decided to enjoy a few cocktails and cheerfully mark the transition from old to new with the traditional count down; 10, 9, 8, ...

Recollections of the unnecessary dread is not my only source of humor when reflecting on the days leading up to the new millenium. Not by a long shot in fact. The root of my cackling this morning lies primarily within the "Legend of The Tygarts Valley Lions Club Baby New Year." Back in the day, before becoming a Transplant in The Land of Palm Trees, this guy lived in a quaint little hamlet surrounded by mountains in West Virginia. In those days, I was an active member of the coolest Lions Club in the world, the Tygarts Valley Lions Club (we didn't sell brooms or light bulbs but we did give away tens of thousands of dollars annually to needy causes within the valley). Each year, prior to Christmas, the club would gather, with their lovely wives/significant-others (sometimes "insignificant-others" in memory of Billy) and celebrate the holiday season complete with an always humorous visit from Santa. Usually a Santa who was fortified by the nectar affectionately known as Lion Juice. In 1999, however, the powers to be decided to center the entertainment portion of the party around a visit from Father Time and Baby New Years rather than the traditional Jolly Old Elf.

What happened that night is still quite allegorical. In honor and deference to the upcoming New Years Eve I will share with you the "myth" as it is still told today by many of those who were at the party that night. The story goes, that yours truly, played the role of Baby New Year being ushered into the party riding in a wheelbarrow driven by Father Time. The story recounts that Baby New Years was dressed in nothing but a diaper and drinking Lion Juice out of a latex nipple equipped baby bottle. There are still reports circulating throughout the Tygart Valley that prior to his appearance greeting the revelers Baby New Years was left alone in the kitchen area of the lodge, adjacent to the main room where the party was ongoing, to prepare for his appearance and introduction. At some point, before donning his neat snow white diaper the kitchen door swung open and the wife of one of the Lions, a renowned local optometrist, who happened to be MY optometrist, walked into the kitchen not knowing that baby New Years was standing there butt-naked preparing to "tidy up" for his big debut. Of course, this story was and remains legendary, much like reported sightings of the Lochness Monster and Big Foot. I don't believe it ever occurred. There is no video proof and no documented evidence. Thank goodness that camera phone technology wouldn't come along for a couple more years or your beloved blogger would be a YouTube sensation. There is only testimony from those in attendance and their affidavit is called into question due to the extreme lack of temperance exhibited at the gala that evening.

Like most legends, the retelling of this fable becomes embellished as the story is repeated throughout time. My theory is that those who claim to have witnessed the fictitious event had their conciousness somehow altered, maybe by some type of parasite that had tainted the orange juice in the grog that they were enjoying. At any rate, it makes for a very humorous recollection from the past. Hopefully as you celebrate and revel the passing of 2011 and the dawn of 2012 the New Year will find you surrounded by somebody you love and in the company of a fully clothed Baby New Year. I hear the effects of seeing him in an unclad fashion is quite memorable. Happy New Years To All, From The Land of Palm Trees.
Disclaimer: I do realize that this story could likely go viral.

Friday, December 30, 2011

It's All Over Until Next Year!

I imagine that I would be challenged to find one person reading this expose that can't relate to it's theme. We all must experience the same sad, sinking and blue kind of feeling that creeps up on you sometime between sundown on Christmas Day and daybreak of December 26th. An emotion that sweeps over you like a brisk late December wind. The stark realization that the weeks of anticipation and preparation, the entire Advent process has culminated. For those of us in the middle years of our lives, we reflect on the comfortable feeling that the holiday provided, maybe the intimacy and closeness to our Savior that we experienced at a candlelight service celebrating the ultimate Christmas Gift given to us by God. To a youngster, the climax of the Season is marked by a heap of colorful wrapping paper and torn box tops strewn throughout the family room. Whatever the age, most of us experience what can best be labeled as a bit of "post-holiday letdown" around this time of the year.

This Christmas the usual day after Christmas blahs were tempered somewhat by the excitement and anticipation of a holiday visit from my sister and her family from West Virginia. Our holiday preparations and decking our halls with Christmas finery took on a whole new meaning this year thanks to a planned and sadly, too rare, house full of "family from out-of-town" here in vacation land. Since moving South to the Land of Palm Trees five years ago, we had never had the pleasure of Christmas visitors, which in many ways is very surprising. In each of the previous four years we would pack up our car on the day after Christmas and brave the snow and cold temperatures of wintertime in order to be with those we love the most at Christmas. Needless to say, when we floated invitations to all of our West Virginia relatives during the late months of Summer and announced that this year our plans would bring us "home for the holidays" at Thanksgiving time rather than Christmas, we were thrilled beyond belief when my sister accepted the offer and scheduled a trip to the "sunny South" for the week between Christmas and New Years.

The usual excitement of the days and weeks leading up to Christmas this year was kicked up a notch or two and we were excited to finally have members of our family see and experience our home decorated for Christmas. When we lived in West Virginia we always enjoyed the time that we hosted Christmas eve parties and visits from Michelles parents and sister as well as the holiday visits from my sister and before my parents passed away, my parents. But each year at Christmas there was always some degree of sadness that the ones we love would once again have to rely on a picture of our beloved Christmas Tree. Other than having warmer and usually drier weather, Christmas in the Lowcountry isn't any more special than Christmas in the mountains of West Virginia, but we have noticed some subtle differences in traditions and celebrations.

Obviously here the weather is conducive to Christmas not being celebrated principally as an indoor sport. In the Lowcountry, company and families often enjoy backyard barbecues, fires in the fire pit out back and oyster roasts in the evenings after Christmas leading up to the New Years holiday.

Also, the Southern traditions surrounding Christmas decor are significantly different from what we were used to from our childhood Christmas's at home. In the Lowcountry tasteful decorators make use of more greenery in decorating their homes, with magnolia, pine and mistletoe paired with beautiful and dazzling ribbons and bows. Facades of pastel-colored southern homes decorated with greenery, bows and ribbons are lit more with spotlights than icicle lights, and you see many more homes that employ the use of the larger, old-fashioned, colored lights that my wife likes to refer to as "Charlie Brown lights." Another peculiar contrast that we have noted when comparing Christmas here in vacation land with Christmas at home in the mountains, families arriving at Christmas Eve services on the family golf cart rather than the snow-covered SUV.

Of course everything that has resulted in Charleston being included as one of the top three tourist destinations in the World makes Charleston a great place to come and "play" during Christmas break.

The South Carolina Aquarium is always a favorite stop.

The beautiful Charleston Harbor and the Ravenel Bridge provides an interesting background for a family picture.

JD and Noah learn how to use the Joggling Board to "court" Charleston style from a veteran Charleston tour guide.

Needless to say, this was a Christmas to remember, thanks to a much appreciated visit from my sister along with her husband and daughter. We know all to well what a sacrifice it was for them to pack up and head out on the road just hours after celebrating Christmas around their Christmas Tree to come and be with us in our home at Christmas. But that's what makes families family, those little sacrifices that we do for those that we love and care about. Sadly, as I put the finishing touches on this blog post, that old familiar empty and slightly sad feeling is permeating my core, even though I escaped the usual day after Christmas blahs it is now apparent that I will still get to experience that post-holiday letdown after all. As I sit here in the quiet of the morning, humming to myself, Another Auld Lang Syne, (auld lang syne is a Scottish noun meaning "good times past") I am sad, but grateful and I remember a phrase that my brother often repeated to my father when it was time for family visits to end, "if I never came to visit, I wouldn't have to leave" and I am reminded that the time spent together with your family, however limited, is priceless and more valuable than gold.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas From The Land of Palm Trees

And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed. (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.) And all went to be taxed, everyone into his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David) To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child. And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,

"Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men."

And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us. And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger. And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child. And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds. But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Saturday Night Oysters, And Oooooh What A View!!!

If you have been a reader of this here little blog for anytime at all you probably know that I am a HUGE fan of Bowens Island Restaurant. I just think that Mr. Robert Barber (can you say proprietor, errr captain of the whole shindig) may be the smartest man in the world, if not the luckiest. But seriously, how could you not love this place?

My oldest son JD, asked as I was placing an order at the bar for a glass of Cabernet, "does Cabernet go with oysters?" To which I replied, "don't know, but it does pair well with a great sunset."

But we did eventually get around to the oysters. Some like them steamed, just give me an oyster knife and some hot sauce, please.

And some like them fried with a hush puppie or two.

But most of all, I like the atmosphere. Since Robert re-built in style we no longer eat in the dock house which was actually just inches above the surface of the creek that produces some of the best oysters in the world, but even the new digs, which by the way is an architectural masterpiece, can best be described as "haute fishcamp". I remember taking a management class back in college, and the professor talked about how some businesses were very successful driving the absolute wrong way up a one way street. That is Bowens brand. As far as restaraunts go, you won't find many "right things" going on at Bowens Island, except great fried seafood and steamed oysters, an owner who always comes by for a visit, a bar tender who doubles as a cashier and inserts just the right amount of sarcasm into his conversations to let you know "he gets it", and of course, the best sunsets in the world. Yep, forget about all the awards, you can google the place and read all about the awards, and forget about restaurants that rely on following the manual in creating their brand, the sign on the wall says it all about Bowens Island, "people either like it, or they don't." I tend to like it.

Monday, December 19, 2011

I'm Just Not The One In Control

For the most part I avoid publishing deep and philosophical thoughts within this blog, as I have said before, "that's just not the kind of blog that this is meant to be." But occasionally God grabs me around the neck, and gives me a good shaking, to remind me that it's not about me, and I am definitely not the one steering the ship. Personally, this has been a tough couple of weeks for me, nothing public or serious, but let's just say, the livin' ain't been exactly eeeezzzzzyy. I don't know where it leads or what outcomes are on the horizon. Obviously when we are at crossroads in our lives there are consequences that result, no matter which fork we choose, that is what makes life such a challenge. But these three photographs taken in sequence this past Saturday night on James Island near Folly Beach at one of my favorite spots in the world, Bowens Island Restaurant remind me that regardless where I go, God is Great and invites me to take him along for the ride. Enjoy the photographs and hopefully you will find the same encouragement from them
as well.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Christmas On Broadway

Michelle and I got all dressed up Friday evening and headed to Broadway for a Holiday Season night on the town. Well, it actually wasn't Broadway in the literal sense, but for Charlestonians at Christmas, The Charleston Music Hall Christmas Show produced by Jennifer and Brad Moranz is a reasonable facsimile. In fact, Jennifer and Brad's productions are so Broadway-esque that you might just forget that you are actually in the Holy City. The duo has been bringing Broadway quality entertainment to Charleston since 1995 when according to Jennifer, quoted in an interview published in Lowcountry Leaders in 2009, “We were certainly destined to land here. We came here with a great opportunity in store and even after that we’ve been able to keep our dreams alive.”

Jennifer and Brad both have stellar musical entertainment pedigrees, she danced in the original Broadway production of "42nd Street" after a stint high-kicking as one of the world famous Radio City Music Hall Rockettes in New York City. The mister has an impressive list of Broadway stage and television appearances to his credit. We were sooooo impressed with the production, the lighting was UNBELIEVABLE and the set transported you into a winter wonderland, and the show from beginning to end exceeded our expectations.

Of course, the production is only half of the story of our Friday night holiday outing. The Charleston Music Hall provides a grand venue for any production, and add the Christmas decorations and what you end up with is a classic concert hall teeming with an abundance of Christmas Spirit. Adding to the fun we finished off our night out in style with a late evening dinner at 39 Rue De Jean, a quaint French spot located litterally across the alley from the Music Hall. My good friend Lisa from Charleston Treasures published a review on Rue a couple of weeks ago, check it out here.

Michelle ordered the French Onion Soup that looked fabulous.

And I started out with les plateaux de fromage, or for you non-French speaking people, a plate of cheese. Actually, don't be fooled, stealing a line from Home Alone, after all it is Christmas, I am what the French call les incompetents. Once again, translated, "me no know no French."

And of course we finished off our dinner at the French Cafe with a couple of burgers and fries. OK, at least my burger had roguefort cheese and the fries were actually pommes frites, tasty little fries seasoned with sea-salt. Yumm!

But seriously if you have the opportunity to see the Charleston Christmas Show, by all means, do it. You will thank me for the tip, From The Land of Palm Trees.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Christmas in Dixie

The "Dome of Delight" has been in control of the weather machine around the Lowcountry this week and consequently I have been blessed with a great weather week to be off from work. Playing golf in shorts was a treat this week but the words, "it sure doesn't feel like Christmas" flow off the tongue quite readily when the temps are in the mid-70's. You won't hear me complain though, actually it reminds me of the weather that we had for the first two years we lived here, back in '07 and '08.

Late yesterday afternoon, just before dusk, Michelle and I took a walk around the neighborhood, to help burn off the extra calories we have been tempted with lately as well as to check out the many tastefully decorated houses on our streets. As a child, one of the most exciting Christmas activities was when mom and dad would load us into the car to drive around town looking at the Christmas decorations. That same spirit obviously pervaded our souls yesterday afternoon as we strolled along the streets absorbed in the greenery and christmas ribbons displayed. It was like taking a walk through the pages of Southern Living, White Gables really has some tasteful residents who know how to deck the halls.

On our walk we enjoyed the traditional.

Lime green bows are very popular this year, we saw them used in several ensembles.

The section of row-houses near the entrance to White Gables reminds me of a southern version of Dicken's Village with the gas lights and piazzas bedazzled with greens and reds.

There were snowmen and soldiers.

We saw palm trees and flower boxes

Magnolia trees with lights, ornaments and presents.

But most of all we marveled at the creativity of our neighbors, the way that they have integrated natural plant and landscaping features into their holiday displays with ferns, magnolias and the camelias that are blooming this time of the year. Hopefully you enjoyed this afternoon walk about as well. What were your favorites? Do you have any Christmas decorations that have special meanings? Wherever you are today, Merry Christmas from Dixie and The Land of Palm Trees.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Tis The Season... For Memories

This past week marked the anniversary of my mother's birthday and as always, it is a time of the year when my daily thoughts are flooded with memories of her. Not just because December was her birth month, but also because of the Christmas Season and her all-out love for everything about Christmas. My mom embodied the spirit of Christmas, and she didn't just enjoy the season, she embraced it year round. Mom's Advent Calendar wasn't merely a month of anticipation. No, not at all, her preparations for Christmas took place during the entire year. This all probably accounts for why Christmas is such a special time of the year for me.

It is only natural that I am a complete romantic when it comes to Christmas music. I flat out love it, all types, not just the classics from Bing, Andy Williams, Perry Como and Nat King Cole but also some of the contemporary tunes that seem to hit the charts annually. I presume that my affinity for the music finds it roots in the music's ability to trigger many great and magical memories from my childhood Christmas times. Even though I have thousands of generalized memories of Christmas' past and nearly every holiday tune I hear on the radio reminds me of "that year when..." there are two Christmas songs that are different for me, much different in fact. No they aren't iconic melodies like White Christmas or Silent Night, they aren't songs that I learned by heart in grade school either. These two songs represent to me exactly what novelist; Emily Giffin was talking about in her novel Something Borrowed : "songs and smells will bring you back to a moment in time more than anything else. It's amazing how much can be conjured with a few notes or a solitary whiff of a room." I am not talking about being reminded of a period in your life, nor is it merely about nostalgia or pining for days gone by. I am talking about a moment when you are actually transported through time momentarily to a place and time where you heard this song years before. An experience that conjures feelings which are as real and concrete as that day years ago, a vivid recall of an event, the people, the place and the occasion. It is a transformative feeling and then as spontaneously as it occurs, it exits, leaving you with an extreme feeling of happiness and appreciation for the past. Scientists who study memory refer to the phenomenon as "autobiographical memory" or a memory system consiting of episodes recollected from ones past, based upon a combination of personal experiences, objects, places, events, and people as well as their general knowledge base of facts surrounding the memory.

The first song that prompts this memory for me is Feliz Navidad, the original version by Jose Feliciani. I know, it's quite cheesy but let me explain. The year was 1970 and I was 8 years old and in the third grade. This was a time before 24-hour cable news and really before the proliferation of FM radio. Radio stations did not dedicate an entire six weeks of programming to Christmas music, but the pop stations would mix newly released novelty Christmas songs into their limited playlist. One of the songs being played on the radio in the weeks leading up to Christmas was Feliz Navidad. It was catchy, a song that you could sing along with and for the most part have no earthly idea what the heck you were singing, until the chorus when you would blare out, "I wanna wish you a Merry Christmas..." My transformational experience of autobiographical memory with this song places me in my darkened bedroom, dimly lit by the soft but all so familiar glow of the blue Christmas lights hung outside of my bedroom window. I am lying in bed listening to the local AM radio station on my transistor radio. I am way too excited to go to sleep, you see, it is Christmas Eve Eve. I desire to fall asleep because when I wake up it will be Christmas Eve morning, the second most exciting day of the year, and the LONGEST day in history. As the chorus of the song nears, I can feel myself ready to bust out of my skin with anticipation. Then, it is gone, the vivid recollection that is, I still have a warm memory but for a couple of seconds, that seemed like several minutes I realize that indeed, I was there, if but for a moment I was back in my twin bed eagerly awaiting the arrival of Christmas.

The other song that has the ability to transport me into the past, is a compilation produced by some of the most popular British Pop Stars of the day. Musically speaking, the song was ground-breaking in many aspects. The super group of stars called themselves Bandaid and their cause was famine relief in Ethiopia. The song became number one on the charts that year, 1984. Who could ever forget Boy George crooning, "and in our world of plenty, we can spread a smile of joy," or the rough and commanding vocals of Irish superstar Bono as he urges, "well tonight thank God it's them instead of you." The backbeat is compliments of Phil Collins, drummer from the band Genesis, the video of the song was a made for MTV success and the result was a contemporary holiday blockbuster.

This song, like Feliz Navidad, has taken me out of the present to a Christmas past as well. This time, it is December 6, 1984. I had just completed my final class at West Virginia University School of Pharmacy and all that stood between me and my degree was final exams. That afternoon after class I hurried back to my apartment, loaded the last few boxes into my Ford Escort, locked the door and turned my keys in at the office, marking the end of a chapter in my young life. I made the drive to my parent's house, where I would be living for 3 weeks before moving out again to begin my first job as a pharmacist. I was excited to be going home for Christmas, but I was also somewhat melancholy about leaving the carefree college lifestyle behind. Arriving at home, I was greeted by my father, who was all smiles and I heard my mom yell from the kitchen, "welcome home." After unpacking the car I joined my dad at the kitchen table, the nerve center of this Christmas house. Dad was working a crossword puzzle, one of his favorite pastimes and of course, mom was busy with a batch of her famous peanut butter fudge. The kitchen smelled sweet and heavenly, the house was warm, too warm indeed, but it was home, it was comfortable. The collection of Christmas cards received were hung perfectly along the door frame leading from the kitchen into the living room. The entire house, inside and out, was all decked out for Christmas. This house, this refuge was never as completely a home as it was during Christmas time. The small stereo that resided under the kitchen cabinets on the countertop was tuned to WFGM, the local FM radio station and the now familiar bells introducing the hot new Christmas song, "Do They Know It's Christmas," began to ring out from the speakers. I don't think that it was the song so much as the intense feeling of relief knowing that I had completed a phase of my life preparing me for my professional life and adulthood, but as I sat there reflecting on the lyrics of the song, the comfort of being home for the holidays overtook me and I was totally immersed in holiday cheer. It was comfortable, it felt right, I was in a good place. No, I was in a perfect place. That feeling, that day, that experience was and remains quintessentially Christmas to me.

Since that day I have received blessings in my life to numerous to inventory within this piece. I have said goodbye to both of mom and dad and now I live hundreds of miles from my boyhood home, here in The Land of Palm Trees. Several decorations inherited from my parents adorn the shelves and walls of my home now to remind me of those special holidays of my younger days. But occasionally, I will hear the combined voices of Bandaid and if but for a short time I am back at that kitchen table full of Christmas comfort and the excitement of things to come, still singing, "It's Christmas time, there's no need to be afraid."

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Tis The Season, For A Parade

There is never a shortage of entertainment options in the Holy City, and that is never any more evident than at Christmas. One of the best web sites that I have found dedicated to information about spending the holidays in Charleston, South Carolina is Christmas in Charleston. This site is a resource not only for the tourist planning a holiday visit to the city, but also a great place for Charlestonians looking for a complete listing of holiday events. Of course the beaches, the harbor, rivers and creeks provide tons of action especially during warmer months, but last weekend the Charleston Waterfront was the place to be for Christmas related activities as well.

Charleston Boat Parade 2011, YouTube ceciljohn09

Everybody loves a parade, especially at Christmas. That ages old axiom certainly applies to this guy, in fact, I am a sucker for a great holiday parade. I don't have a formal bucket list, which is hard to believe since I am a bonafide list-making machine, but if I did have one then a trip to NYC for the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade would be near the top of the list, right alongside being a recreational boat owner. I guess it is somewhat appropriate that these two items are side-by-side on my list, that way when my sons are finished with college and are securely employed they can provide both for dear old Dad.

Speaking of boats and Christmas parades, the Annual Charleston Christmas Parade of Boats featured above in the video has been an elusive holiday happening for us since our first Christmas in The Land of Palm Trees
back in 2007. It seems as if each year we have managed to miss the spectacle, but I am happy to report that the streak has ended this year. Last weekend featured near perfect weather here in the Lowcountry and the opportunity to head downtown Saturday evening to the waterfront to take in our first ever Parade of Boats. Even though the Saturday afternoon temps were in the 70's as the sun set the thermometer took a plunge into the low 50's prompting my wife to pose the familiar question, "how could someplace with all of this sand and palm trees seem so cold?" In reality, it wasn't that cold but from our vantage point perched on a seawall beside the Charleston Harbor, near the pineapple fountain at Waterfront Park in Charleston the constant stiff wind off of the Atlantic provided the chill in the air that made this Christmas parade seem like a Christmas parade. Thanks to the hot coffee and cocoa we were warmed a bit, but gloves and a cap would have been appreciated.

Due to variables such as wind, tide and waves a parade of boats tends to operate on a much less predictable timetable than your average parade on land, so we probably spent a little more time harborside waiting in the wind than we needed to, although had we arrived any later then we would not have had a prime spot on the seawall to view the lightshow as it sailed past. There were thousands of spectators gathered along the waterfront from Mount Pleasant to the Battery and the parade and it's colorful boats of all sizes delivered as expected. I must admit however that from the sounds of music blaring from the boats and the scenes of boat passengers dancing on deck under the stars this is one parade where the parade participants definitely have more fun than those gathered to watch. Maybe one of these years I will be fortunate enough to experience the Annual Christmas Parade of Boats from the water as opposed to beside the water.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Boxwoods Look Particularly Nice This Time of The Year!

Late fall in The Lowcountry is a very diverse time of the year, climatologically speaking. The daily range of temperature can be quite broad from the upper thirties overnight and into the early morning hours only to rise into the mid-to-upper sixties during the height of the day. By the time late fall arrives most of the flowers of spring and summer have retired for the season, but that doesn't mean that the Lowcountry landscape becomes brown and grey. Some of the evergreens that flourish in this sub-tropical climate show off their richest greens of the year during the crisp cool weather of late November and early December. In fact, throughout the Spring and Summer the beautiful flowers and flowering trees and shrubs steal most of the thunder from the evergreens but once the oleander and confederate roses have tucked away for their winter nap the boxwood and short-leaf pines become vibrant with color.

Charleston is home to some lovely formal gardens and the boxwood plays a major role in shaping and framing many of the gardens. You can really see the English influence within area gardens this time of the year when some of the more tropical vegetation enters dormancy.

I enjoy this time of the year, the mild winter temps provide a great opportunity to do what I enjoy most of all, spend a couple of hours walking and golfing. Usually a long sleeve golf polo with a sweater vest is all that is required for a comfortable round of golf on a Lowcountry golf course. Today was one of those days, and I couldn't help but notice how nice the trimmed boxwood hedges fronting the homes that border the golf club appeared today. Nor could I miss the majestic shortleaf pine trees that line most of the fairways. This tree is healthiest at the top where the pine cones cling to the boughs like ornaments on a Christmas Tree. And the contrast of the deep green colored pine leaves against the powder blue late November sky seems to animate the pine needles as they whisper in the slight autumn breeze. Mine is a rare glimpse of life in a beach town after the heat, humidity and tourists glistening in the summer sun have all gone for the season. Oh sure, Charleston is a tourist destination the year around, especially during the Holidays but away from the Historic District of the downtown those of us who live in The Land of Palm Trees are enjoying the eight months of awesomeness when the pace slows down a bit and the Boxwood turns that lovely shade of dark lime green. Seasons Greetings to you and yours From The Land of Palm Trees.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Over The River and Through The Woods, Well Sort Of

Happy Thanksgiving Everybody! Thanksgiving is one of my favorite days of the year, and why not? Family, pumpkin pie, Christmas Parades on television, good food, pumpkin pie, football games, and, oh did I say pumpkin pie? I have so many fond memories of Thanksgiving from my childhood. Thanksgiving at my maternal grandparents home was always an event, eating at the large dining room table in shifts due to the huge group of family members assembled, dozens of pumpkin and pecan pies stockpiled in the pantry room off of the kitchen, and the best mashed potatoes and gravy I have ever eaten.

Back in those days, my mother and father would load us up in the family sedan of the day, Oldsmobiles usually, and off we would head in a haze of blue smoke from my fathers cigars and my mothers Winstons. A couple of hours later and a dizzying headache from the second hand smoke and we had arrived. Grandmothers house was utter Valhala to me. My grandfather was the proprietor of the local grocery store and meat market, so the house was always stocked with Pop Tarts.

The excitement for the holiday began to set in days before the big trip and culminated with the two hour drive, over the river (through a real covered bridge) and through the woods, well actually the Monongahela National Forest, was all that was involved, and a whole lot of twisting mountain roads of course.

This year for the first time since moving to the Lowcountry five years ago, my family has made the trip over the river, several of them and through the woods to my wifes parents home in West Virginia. Actually, the heavy traffic on I-77 was more of a challenge than the rivers and woods, especially on the "number one travel day of the year." I am sure that the trip will provide cherished memories for the entire family, and I am really looking forward to the family time, the pumpkin pie, the good food, the pumpkin pie, watching parades, pumpkin pie....

I hope you have a great holiday, and have the opportunity to enjoy your family, no matter whether you are at Grandmother's house in the woods or on a sandy beach From The Land of Palm Trees. Have a blessed Thanksgiving.

Sunday, November 20, 2011


Back in the early 1970's singer/songwriter Carly Simon did a song called "Anticipation". She is said to have written the song while she was waiting for a date with fellow singer/songwriter Cat Stevens. The song isn't so memorable because of Carly Simon or her production of the music, but instead the song stands out because Heinz Ketchup used the song for the better part of two decades in commercials and advertisements. Who can forget those television ads? In my mind I can still see the screen, with the camera focused on a large dollup of tomato bliss hanging so steadily to the bottle top, defying gravity and the aggressive shaking of the bottle. A singular event happening in a commercial EXACTLY the same way it happens to the consumer whom the commercial is targeting. Talk about truth in advertising.

This weekend my family is whole and gathered for a rare pre-Thanksgiving weekend at home, together. We are preparing to honor a tradition that has previously been reserved for the weekend after Thanksgiving, but due to some scheduling conflicts and circumstance we won't all be together the weekend after Thanksgiving so we have shifted the much anticipated ritual of decorating the family Christmas tree to this weekend. Anticipated? Why yes! I am sure many families have similar traditions but for us, decorating the Christmas tree(s) in our home has become a very symbolic and meaningful ritual, and there are a couple of reasons why we anticipate this task. First of all, traditionally each year on our family vacation we will search out a gift shop or Christmas store and we will individually choose an ornament for ourselves that has some kind of special significance and personalization to us. Then when we decorate our family tree the very first ornament hung each year is our new ornament. As each family member chooses their spot and hangs their ornament they step back and silently admire the jewel for what it means to them. Secondly, each year Michelle buys ornaments for the boys that are hand-painted and personalized with their names and the year, those are presented and hung next. Then culminating months of anticipation my wife opens a tote and begins to choose and hand out ornaments for each of us to hang. There is an unwritten roll of who hangs which ornaments during the process, of course we each hang our previous years personal ornaments, but there are other special ornaments as well. As Michelle digs deeper into the totes we begin to reminisce about keepsakes that hung on our parents and grandparents trees, or ornaments that were given to us by friends. Some are ornaments that were handmade by all of us at various stages of our lives. This year, I anticipate hanging an ornament given to us by our old neighbor, Joe, who presented us with an ornament commemorating his year as National Commander of the American Legion. Sadly, Joe passed away last Spring but he will carry on, like the soldier he is, on our tree and in our hearts. Finally, we will place the hand-made angel topper on the tree made with love by my mother many years ago. As you can see, our annual ritual of decorating the tree marks a very special time for our family.

Christmas is such a time of anticipation. For those who are Christians, the holiday signifies a time of advent or anticipation of the coming of our Savior. From a secular standpoint, Christmas focuses on waiting for the night that Santa and his reindeer descend upon your home with gifts for all. Gladly, our family has always been able to focus on the true meaning of Christmas but yet incorporate the magic and wonder of Santa and his elves into the celebration. As the children get older we are probably de-emphasizing the secular aspect of the holiday, but Michelle and I anticipate the day when the magic of Santa and the nearly uncontainable anticipation by a small child awaiting a visit from the jolly old elf once again permeates our household at Christmas, but for the next 10 20 years or so, were fine being called mom and dad as opposed to anticipating the titles of granma and granpa.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Lime-Cilantro Chicken Soup

As promised today it is back to easy livin', and what better way to be livin' easy than with a bowl of hot chicken soup on a cool November evening? A couple of days ago I made a tasty chicken enchillada dish with white sauce. The recipe also suggested a cilantro garnish, but since I think cilantro is a bit overplayed these days, just my opinion, I decided to leave it out. Well, my wife grieved over the missing cilantro, so in order to make her happy, I searched out and found another recipe that included cilantro as a named main ingredient.

Historic Summerville DREAM has a Third Thursday Celebration each month and November's theme was "Shop Like The Dickens" and all around Historic Summerville's shops, restaurants and bars were costumed actors portraying the people of London during the time of Charles Dickens and his most beloved character Ebenezer Scrooge. There were carolers, brass quartets, and even old Fezziwig was out and about.

The Shops were all decked out for the kickoff of the Holiday Season, and DREAM was sponsoring a window display contest among the merchants. Each store featured various special offers on their finery, and in every business open-house rules persisted with complimentary snacks and refreshments. One of the shoppes was even offering Pepppermint Stick Martinis. Michelle and I enjoyed the music, the atmosphere and a cookie and pastry here and there but what we really enjoyed were the window dressings.

After a couple of hours in Hutchinson Square and on Short Central we decided to head for the house and a bowl of hot soup. As planned, the soup was just perfect to warm us up after being out in the chilly evening open air. The recipe for the soup came from Rachel Ray (click here for the recipe) and was tasty, but the next time I make the soup I will cut back on the peppers. I like hot and spicy and this soup bordered on too hot for me and I know that the heat was too much for my wife, she doesn't hide her distaste well. I do recommend this soup, with a little hint of lime and the wholesome taste of chicken and garlic it provides a perfect broth to warm you on a cool November night, the Dickens you say!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

What Would You Say?

Anybody who knows me well knows that I have lots of opinions. My opinions are based upon the philosophies and principles that serve as a compass to guide me on my way through life. I am always willing to enter a political discussion or debate, feel comfortable enough about my religious beliefs and my faith to discuss it and justify it whenever I am exposed to one of "those" type of conversations and well when it comes to sports and college football and basketball teams, well, my objectivity goes flying out the stinkin' window, Let's Gooooooooo.... Mountaineers, enough said. But seriously, the point is, Got Opinion, Not Afraid To Share It!!! But, From The Land of Palm Trees is not "that kind" of blog. It is by desire(mine) and design(mine as well) a lifestyles blog about easy livin' in vacation land. Here I purposely avoid politics, religion, and too a degree, college sports. I want this blog to be light and enjoyable, informative yet entertaining. Occasionally, I will write a serious piece that contemplates the deeper meaning of life, but for the most part one of the guiding principles in my life is don't take yourself so seriously so I try and trust that axiom as it applies to this work.

I suppose that with today's contribution I am potentially going down a slippery slope, but I promise, it needs to be said and tomorrow or whenever I get around to publishing my next piece, it will be back to easy livin'.

Something happens along life's path from Pampers and Pull Ups to Depends and Chux Pads that changes ones perspective on their own mortality. I am sure that it is different for everybody, you know, some random event or series of events in one's life occurs to make them start realizing that they really aren't ten foot tall and bullet-proof and that it's time to start thinking about life in terms of it being a 10K race that requires endurance and the discipline to pace yourself rather than a 100 yard-dash. The point is, at some point each one of us either will or has come to be more acutely aware that our life on earth is finite, rather than infinite. To take it one-step further, there are times when we are reminded just how fragile our own lives are and how precariously we sometimes straddle the line when it comes to our health and well being. Some of us experience sudden and unexpected accidents that place our lives in grave danger, some of us experience a more subtle and slowly developing series of declining health events that lead to a surgery or some other procedure that requires us to sign a consent form acknowledging that we could not walk away from this party. In either case, it causes one to pause and reflect, if but for a moment.

This week I experienced a recurrence of Atrial Fib, a scary sounding but as far as heart ailments go a fairly benign inconvenience. I did however have to seek the assistance of my cardiologist and he promptly scheduled me for an electro-cardioversion procedure which I had, obviously, successfully performed yesterday. Now since this was my second ride on the bull, I knew what to expect, and I knew that after a very relaxing and deep sleep compliments of the drug cocktail provided by the anesthesiologist I would wake up with a normal sinus rhythm, the feeling that a mule kicked me in the chest from the muscle contractions due to the shock and a sore tongue from biting the crap out of it at the point of electrification. And, I am happy to report that it happened just that way. But in the hours leading up to the procedure, the time spent alone thinking about not only the procedure and its potential success but also my overall health and challenges that have caused the Atrial Fib to occur, I was reminded of my own mortality. Knowing that I would be lying on a table numbed and sedated by a powerful drug and that I would undergo a procedure that basically causes my heart to stop and re-start again is, well, a little bit unnerving.

As my wife and I were leaving the house yesterday afternoon, I reminded her of some important information regarding the "business" of our life in the event that something would happen to go wrong. I gave her careful and well thought out instructions that would make things a little simpler for her to deal with "things." I provided her with numbers to call, people to consult, etc. etc. etc. As we made the drive I began to think, even though my faith allowed me to feel unafraid, I began to think, if I died today, what would I want to say about it?

First and foremost, I thought about my family and what I wanted them to know. And of course, at the top of that list were my wife, Michelle and my two sons, whom I love more than anything in this earthly world, J.D. and Noah.

I would want my sons to know how proud I am of them, of who and what they are, of the courage they have to make good choices in a world that is full of temptation and opportunities to make bad choices. I would want them to know that I am sorry for the times that I wasn't the best dad in the world and of course that I was sorry for the times that my words, actions, or punishments might have hurt them. I would say to them with full confidence, that one day, you will be a wonderful father yourself and there will be times when you are sorrowful for having to be firm and demanding with your son or daughter, but know that you are developing greatness and excellence in them that will prepare them for the world and not only their time on earth, but their everlasting life. I would say to them, I know there have been times when you have questioned, why do I try so hard to please him, my dad? I want you both to know, not only have you tried hard to please me, you ALWAYS have pleased me. I would want to say to them how sorry I am that they will have to experience young adulthood without their father, and how sorry I am that I won't get to enjoy watching you become a man, a husband, a father and even a grandfather.

To my wife, I would say, "don't worry, be strong and carry on." I would want her to know that I regretted being grumpy and mean when I was, and would want her to remember the times when it was clear to her that I loved and cherished her. I would want to tell her, don't be afraid to ask for help when you need it, there are lots of people available to help you, but don't be afraid to stand up strong and proud and take a chance on your own, with God's help you can do it.

To my brother and sister, I would want to say, thank you for all that you have ever done for me. I could never imagine having a brother and sister any more perfect than either of you. I am sorry for the times that my pride and desire to not be treated like the kid brother caused me to assert myself in the face of your benevolence and protectiveness, but know that I have been driven by a force deep within, rooted in love, respect and admiration for the two of you to always try and win your acceptance and affirmations. I would also say to them, although I know I wouldn't need to, please serve as my proxy and watch over my sons and my wife. And above all, don't talk bad about me at family gatherings. Tis funny, but true.

And to the rest of the relatives, friends, co-workers, acquaintances, and people who have mattered in my life, I would simply say Thank You. Thank you for being a friend when it mattered. My life has been blessed with having great people around, you were part of that blessing. Some of you are as close to my heart and I love you like family, you know who you are. To all of you I would say, celebrate me and my association with you if it is memorable, forget the bad things and times that were ugly or when I let you down. And above all, don't wait until it's too late to say the things that you need to say to those that matter.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Star Struck

So often when I sit down to publish a post From The Land of Palm Trees I feel a compelling need to explain that this blog is a lifestyles blog with the purpose of sharing with my readers what life is like for a year round resident of an area where many folks may spend a week or two of vacation every year and then return home with memories and perspectives that are relative to their little stitch in time spent here in "vacation land." While the Lowcountry is now home to me, Charleston serves as a mere destination to many people, some famous and some not so famous. Sometimes the rich and famous come here to be married or to attend a wedding, sometimes the stars and starlets come to spend a couple days at a home that they may own. It is sometimes fun to hang out in my backyard on a Thursday afternoon and watch citation and lear jets coming and going all the while playing a game of imagination as to who they may be dropping off or picking up.

A couple of weeks ago People Magazine covered a high profile wedding that was held over the weekend in the Holy City, Eva Amurri, the daughter of Susan Sarandon chose to be married in a "very Southern City with a very Southern style wedding." And what motivated this famous couple to be hitched in Charleston? Amurri says something to the effect that they wanted to be married someplace with a lot of history, a lot of natural beauty and in a location that will be as it is today for a long time so, get this, "we can bring our children back here and tell them this is where we got married."

It's not uncommon to see former Miami Dolphins Quarterback Dan Marino or current Dallas Cowboys QB Tony Romo on one of the golf courses around Charleston. A couple of years ago I was exploring King Street in Historic Charleston, and I decided to take a break on a bench across the street from Saks when Reese Witherspoon and her entourage walked right past me on the sidewalk. Witherspoon herself was married in Charleston back in the late 90's, although that marriage has been disposed of, and she made the news back in 2006 when she left Hollywood behind and enrolled her children in public schools in Charleston.

Just this past Summer Charleston twitter accounts lit up like the Griswalds house at Christmas when teen sensation Taylor Swift and her posse took to the downtown shopping district. Taylor spent several days at a private residence on the Isle of Palms and then blogged about her Lowcountry Experience on her personal blog.

Celebrity sightings aren't all that unique to a city named by Conde' Nast as one of the worlds best destinations, as in whole wide world. What is remarkable to me, and what I feel deserves the attention of one of my amateur literary rants is the number of celebrities and noteworthies that choose to call the Lowcountry home. I began to think about this as a blog feature a couple of days ago when I was sharing some information about Charleston's music scene with a new friend who along with her husband form a gritty upstart rock/stomprock/blues duo, Blackwater Mojo.

The music scene in Charleston is really surrealistic. For instance, former Hootie and The Blowfish front-man and current CMA award winner, Darius Rucker not only calls Sullivans Island home, he was born and raised in Charleston. Darius' former band-mate, Hootie guitar player Mark Bryan also calls Charleston home. Yeah, these guys sell out venues like the Coliseum or the Family Circle Cup Stadium for their "homecoming" shows, but it's not odd to "bump" into these guys livin' the easy life in Charleston, say for instance on an NFL Football Sunday at The King Street Grille or on the fairways at Charleston National, or how about this, at a stoplight in the car next to yours.

There are other musicians who are nationally relevant that base their lives off of the stage in and around Charleston. The members of the band NEEDTOBREATHE, currently on tour with Taylor Swift, also come home to the Lowcountry. In fact, I have been a fan of Needtobreathe for quite some time and a couple of weeks ago I was surprised to hear on XM Radio as I was driving home from work the DJ talking about the band and saying, these guys just moved their homes and studios to Summerville, South Carolina about a year ago. Wow, Summerville as in the burb I live in. Heck, I don't even have to leave my neighborhood to experience music fame.One of them, Eddie Bush, guitarist from One Flew South also calls "the Gables" home.

Speaking of celebs in the neighborhood, a couple of years ago my youngest son Noah had a great experience when he watched his favorite Major League baseball player Brett Gardner win a World Series Championship with the New York Yankees then a week later knocked on his door a couple of blocks over and said Trick or Treat. The Gardners are in the process of leaving White Gables, but I understand they are staying in Summerville. And then you have one of the most visible and publicly available celebs, funny guy and 80's Icon Bill Murray is so ingrained into the Charleston community that everybody has a Bill Murray sighting story. Bill's son attends a local high school that is a rival of my son's school, and last year during football season while I was working at an athletic booster concession Bill came by, stood in line and ordered up "one of those burgers and a little potatoe salad please." As I skillfully flipped his burger onto a bun and slopped some tator salad on a chinet plate I was tempted to steal one of his lines from Caddyshack, "hey Lama, how bout a little something, you know for da effort."

I did this piece at the risk of making it read like a supermarket tabloid, but I think the stories told here, sort of underscore why the Charleston Area has won so many "destination awards" lately. Quite honestly, people who could live anywhere in the world, choose to live here, and for good reason, here at 730am on November 16th I am sitting on my front porch in a t-shirt and shorts writing a blog. One of my new neighbors who just relocated here from Indiana just walked past and stopped to say, simply stated, "this is heavenly." Yep, I think so and so does Bill and Brett and Darius and Reese and... Well you get the idea, strangely though, it's not like the picture of "celebrity" that you see on Lifestyles of The Rich and Famous or even on the celebrity tour that you experienced out in California, No, not like that at all. Here, these people are just Charlestonians, just your neighbors famous people you bump into at the store, in a local dining spot or at a ballgame. That's the kind of place the Lowcountry represents and why when I talk to friends that are tired of the weather or just love being on vacation in the Lowcountry I tell them, living here "ain't by invitation only." Oh yeah, we have touristy and trendy, exotic and pricey resorts, but we also have lower costs of living, inexpensive housing, less costly transportation costs and a 75 degree day in November and December isn't a once a month occurrence. That is why I love livin' From The Land of Palm Trees and if I can do it, you can too.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Maybe I'm Wrong, But I Think I'm Right!

OK, you might just as well say, "I knew it was bound to happen." Nearly three years ago when I started working at Bon Secours St. Francis Hospital here in Charleston I met a fellow pharmacist who was looking forward to retirement with great anticipation. Rick would passionately talk about "his big day" and all of the ways that he intended to spend his time once the daily rigors of full time employment were behind him. Initially, I tried to cajole Rick into having second thoughts about his decision. My efforts were dubious and selfish, because I had developed quite an affinity to our 6 AM coffee conversations. Rick is a great conversationist, is well read and intelligent. I would estimate that Rick has a very cerebral personality. Of course he would debate, if not all out dispute that characterization. His British lineage is apparent in his humor and his love for literature and art. All in all, Rick is a neat guy.

Anyhow, in the weeks leading up to retirement day Rick would become very loquacious while talking about all of the things that would occupy his days of leisure as a retiree. Rick spoke of reading the hundreds of books that he had accumulated in his lifetime, mentioned re-establishing his home art studio, talked of morning crossword puzzles, and bragged that he would do yard work and then just rest. Oh, and also, at the top of his list, sleeping in. I secretly chuckled to myself over that one, unless I was totally wrong about my friend Rick, I could tell he was an early riser. I just didn't see the act of sleeping in being a dominant characteristic of Mr. Rick's world. Being an avid blogger, and in consideration that Rick was a fan of From The Land of Palm Trees, I suggested that he begin to blog. Rick had done a guest spot for me once and I also had read some of his writing. I thought he might combine his artwork with his writing skills and create a likeable blog. For whatever reason, Rick didn't seem to take the bait and I was shocked yet somewhat gratified when several weeks ago Rick contacted me for technical assistance with designing his blog, Maybe I'm Wrong.

Lately my blogging efforts have been, well let's just say that I have experienced a case of writer's block. Several ideas for pieces have been discarded before the outline or rough draft stage on the basis of them just not developing into something that I thought my readers would find interesting. I have also taken some heat for constantly bragging about my life here in Paradise; the great weather and beautiful surroundings, and even though that is what From The Land of Palm Trees is all about I want to give my readers, who may have a perception about life in the Lowcountry based upon a weeks vacation, a perspective of what it is like to live here year round. I guess I am sensitive to what others might think while reading my work. As a result, and also due to my being occupied with other aspects and inconveniences of the real world, my recent blogging has been sluggish at best.

Once again, I guess I should have known it was bound to happen, It seems that my old friend Mr. Rick is hitting his stride with his blog and honestly me thinks he is doing a better job at what I do than what I do. That's ok though, I know my deficit of creativity is temporary and in the meantime I really enjoy that I now have Rick's work to look forward to on a daily basis along with many of the other blogs that are on my daily reading list. In the meantime, I hope my readers will be tolerant of my sluggishness and while they are waiting for me to return to form that they will check out Maybe I'm Wrong, and with that recommendation I think that maybe I'm right, you will love his style.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Can I Get A Re-Do?

I am a mildy fanatical football fan. No I don't drive around town with a mini-flag attached to my vehicle, flopping in the wind, and I don't wear my team logo to church, but I do enjoy watching the game. On Friday morning, as I enjoyed "my slow start," the weekend lay on the horizon with loads of football opportunity. It could have been a real big deal, you know as in Anchor Man "big deal."

I guess I should have seen it coming on Friday evening after driving all the way up to Sumter to watch my son's high school team play in the first round of the SCISA High School Football Playoffs only to witness a drubbing for the Northwood Academy Chargers at the hands of Thomas Sumter Academy. If it wasn't clear to me at that point, it began to come into focus as I joined several fellow Lowcountry Mountaineers at Mad River on Market Street downtown and our beloved WVU Mountaineers fumbled the day away, and more than likely their last Big East Conference Championship and a BCS Bowl appearance.

But hey, all was not lost. I had a big crock full of homemade potato soup, a fire on the back patio and the Gamecocks playing Arkansas to look forward to. Not to mention, Roll Tide, fellow Marion County in West Virginia Native Nick Saban coaching in the "game of the century." An opportunity, at least, for somebody whom I share a loose connection to defeat the corndog eating Bayou Bengals of LSU.

Well, if you are the most remote of all football fans, you know by now I achieved a goose egg of sorts, but Oh wait, I forgot I still have Sunday, the Redskins and the Steelers, my two teams. What??? Oh yeah, my luck, the Redskins are terrible this year, AGAIN, and the Steelers play their nemesis the Ravens. But there is always hope, right?

Friday, November 4, 2011

Slow Starts

This morning I have the opportunity for a slow start to my day. This is a rarity in a life subjugated by the business of being a father to a busy high-school sophomore. My approach to morning is really a tale of two lives, both involve hectic and busy daybreaks. On the one hand, during my seven days of working as a midnight shift hospital pharmacist, the early morning hours from O-dark-thirty until shift change time at 0700 are usually dominated by the preparation of pre-op meds, early rising pulmonologists rounding in the ICU and a rush hour dash against the traffic on scenic highway 61 towards the home front and a slightly overdue rendezvous with my pillow. While, on the other hand, on my seven days off, my daybreak hours are spent serving as a school bus driver taking my turn in the White Gables to Northwood Academy carpool. I might add that the carpool riders consist of a 4-year old kindergarten student, his second-grade sister and my usually tired and grumpy sophomore. Leading up to the stint as driver of the bus, I get to play drill-sergeant as I wrangle Noah out of bed and remind him a thousand times not to forget his lunch that is on the counter nor his one-hundred pounds of football gear for after-school football practice. So this morning, thanks to a day off from school so that the Northwood Academy Staff could attend a SCISA conference I enjoyed a rare slow start to the day.

It was somewhat soothing and reinvigorating to slowly savor a cup of freshly brewed coffee in the recliner while listening to the classical guitar playlist on my Ipod and perusing my daily blog list (you should visit some of the blogs on my list, you will enjoy them for sure) in the warmth of the dimly lit family room.

As the sun started to peek through the clouds I decided to move to the front piazza for a little front porch sittin'. It is a cool and breezy morning here in the Lowcountry so my fleece felt especially good this morning, and a little lap blanket was fine as well. One of the books I am currently reading is a novel of historical fiction, "Ashes of Roses and War" a story by a West Virginia novelist that commemorates the spirit of pioneering women who survived the Civil War by nurturing and nursing their families in the Allegheny Mountains before, during and after the War. The songbirds were busy this morning, visiting the feeders that I have recently began to stock for the season with sunflower seeds and other little delicacies for my feathered morning visitors, so I mightily enjoyed watching and listening to them as I cruised through a couple of chapters of my book. I completed this scarce, but propitious respite by quickly scanning one of my favorite periodicals, Charleston Magazine.

Noah will be out of bed soon, so I am sure that my "slow start" will turn in to a slightly quicker pace by mid-morning, but hey, I can't complain. I am actually looking forward to spending the day with him before dropping him off later this afternoon to catch the football team bus to Thomas Sumter Academy for some Friday Nite Lights, SCISA playoff style. His sophomore football season could end this evening with a playoff loss, or it could continue for yet another week, such is the uncertainty of high school football in November. One thing is for certain though, I am prepared to face the day, thanks to a slow start, some hot coffee, a little classical guitar and a good book. Ahhh, the livin' is easy From The Land of Palm Trees.