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.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Ahh, November!!!

Wow! November, Halloween is over and we are at the threshold of the Holiday Season. Our friends to the North, like us, are busy preparing for the season, and unlike us have already experienced a blast or two of winter weather to remind them of things to come. While we have experienced some cool spells and some less than average temperatures here in the Lowcountry, overall the October weather has been perfect. The first few weeks of November are always special times for me since moving to Charleston. It was Veteran's Day weekend back in 2006 when my family came to Charleston on a fact finding mission to look at schools, homes, and job markets first hand. We had been playing with the idea of relocating somewhere in the Lowcountry, and had looked squarely at the Bluffton area for months, but the area surrounding Charleston kept popping up on my research radar, and while we were very familiar with Bluffton from our many years of vacation at Hilton Head Island, we decided to take a look at Charleston before making a decision. I booked a suite at Wild Dunes on the Isle of Palms and as we rolled down I-26 past the North Areas of Summerville and North Charleston and approached the merge onto I-526 we were greeted by the deep blue not a cloud in the sky look of November in the Lowcountry, a day much like today, sunny and upper 60's. Well the experience ended up being similar to new car shopping, as soon as the dealer gets you into the convertible with leather seats and surround sound the minivan with optional luggage rack just doesn't seem so exciting. Charleston ended up becoming the convertible on the lot beside the minivan with genuine imitation wood grain trim on the dash.

After a bit more insight into why November has a special feel for me here in the Lowcountry let me get back on track to why this time of the year is so special not only to me but also to people like Eva Amurri, the daughter of actress Susan Sarandon who was married this past weekend in Historic Charleston. For me, the first of November marks the start of the winter golf season, a reminder that Thanksgiving and Christmas are just around the corner and the Holiday Festival of Lights at James Island County Park will soon be in full swing much to the chagrin of my good friend and co-worker Rick who lives in the James Island neighborhood and has to deal with the nasty traffic that invades his domain during the light season.

While most of my friends from up North have finally stopped talking about their stroke of luck by hitting it just right and having the perfect weather week during their annual summertime week at the beach (they just don't realize that every week is pretty nice here) and have begun to look online for houses and cottages for next year's pilgrimage, we are looking forward to those late fall and early winter walks and bike rides on the sand at Sullivan's Island or Folly Beach. Of course, back yard oyster roasts and enjoying a hot cup of coffee wrapped in a blanket on the back patio in front of a nice fire in the chimnea after spending the day Christmas shopping under the palms on King Street are pretty special too. It's true, to really understand what it is like to live in an area that many consider "vacation land" you have to spend some time here outside of traditional vacation time. Like in November for instance.

When the sky is just a little more blue

When the sunsets are a little more romantic

When the Confederate Rose in my backyard is blooming

And looking forward to the Camellias in January

I am feeling pretty lucky today, From The Land of Palm Trees.